Monthly Archives: June 2016

Call Centre bashing must stop.

As consumers our expectations are too high. We demand too much. And we are too quick to point the finger.

And when things go wrong, it’s easy to complain, moan, up-sticks and move to another supplier.

It feels good to cheer when organisations are hit with fines and we revel telling them directly what we think of them.

Consumers’ frustrations are well documented. Results from a quick Google search will show the latest multi-million pound fine from a regulator to yet another big player, a host of complaints (in some cases over a million), mediocre league table standings and poor overall consumer ratings.

It’s bleak. We think it’s the same old story. Nothing changes. It’s unacceptable. They must do better.

We have become accustomed to this mind-set, and whilst it has pushed all call centres to meet the needs of the ever demanding consumer, it has to stop.

The call centre industry is critical to the success of brands and the economy as a whole; companies both large and small have pioneered the advancement of new technologies and they have some of the most enthusiastic and driven people, doing their absolute best for their customers, all hours of the day, every day of the week.

Sadly there is also much frustration within the industry.

These frustrations are hard to understand unless you actually work in or are associated with it, but speak to anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you they’re working day and night to improve metrics and KPI’s, and investing heavily to meet and exceed consumer expectations. You will genuinely be overcome by their enthusiasm and commitment.

So where do their frustrations come from?

Technology and data innovations mean that call centres are supported by increasingly optimised and refined systems and processes.

Happy workforces are promoted through positive and flexible working environments, and engaging training and development.

Together all of these things should enable call centres and their staff to flourish, to meet company objectives and most importantly, to provide excellent customer experiences, every time across every touchpoint.

The problem is that this isn’t working.

Call centres continue to be frustrated with their KPI’s, metrics and most importantly their customer experience scores, and the negativity from consumers, regulators and the press.

The source of their frustrations often comes from results not significantly improving, despite the significant investments they’re making to meet consumer expectations.

So why isn’t it working?

We believe that the problems of poor/average satisfaction levels, low NPS scores, reputational impact and league table standings that call centres think they face are not actually the problem, but are in fact the symptoms of deeper root causes.

Call centres (understandably) try to address these symptoms and improve these results, by providing more training to their people, implementing technology solutions or further refining processes. But this doesn’t provide the desired results, and when measures don’t improve again, they resort to doing more of the same thing, because they think addressing the symptoms will resolve it.

This is what we call the reiteration relapse – trying to solve the symptoms with: More training. More systems. More people. More refining of processes. More investment.

So if the scores and satisfaction are only symptoms, what actually are the root causes that are driving this perceived need for More?

1. Recall does not mean understanding – assessing the quantity of the training provided or recall levels doesn’t help organisations succeed. Staff may recall the facts when tested and appear highly capable, but unless they understand how and when to apply the knowledge in practice, will result in consistent errors and a perceived need for even more training

2. Confidence is often misplaced – typically 30% of people in organisations have misplaced confidence in their capability and understanding. These people drive risk into the business because although they think they are doing the right thing, they continuously make incorrect or misjudged decisions, and influence others in the process

3. More usually means less – more training often becomes less effective as those that have heard it before switch off, and valuable training resources are not used effectively or to support specific needs

4. Infrastructure can be misaligned – the success of processes and systems wholly rely on the people who are tasked with implementing, managing and using them, and yet unless these are built with the current capability of the workforce in mind, they are likely to not have the desired results no matter how often they are refined.

So what’s missing from existing ‘solutions’?

People Insight.

Without insight into what each person and team understands about the training they have been provided, the processes in place, their likely behaviour and where the specific gaps are in their understanding; call centres will continue (enthusiastically) failing to address the symptoms.

Understanding holds the key. Instead of benchmarking and correlating data based on how many people have been through a course and how many passed it; call centres must seek out data on who actually understood the training/refresher/process/system brief. We are all guilty of forgetting that knowledge is not the same as understanding. We might know that x is correct when we are being tested on it, but then when we are back at our desks, on the phone, are under pressure and have a difficult caller/situation to deal with, we may not understand how best to apply our knowledge effectively. And that is when consistently small errors in judgement, escalate and compound over time into larger problems.

Often people then try to mask their gaps in understanding, capability or competence with overconfidence. Overconfidence is generally accepted by most organisations, right up until the organisation is hit with a multi-million pound fine, receive poor consumer satisfaction scores with increasing negativity surrounding them. This risk of overconfidence is huge. Our evidence suggests that as much as 30% of any workforce is driving the wrong behaviours and practices through overconfidence. This is likely to spread beyond the 30% because they influence others who might be less confident or new to the role. Without a view of mis/understanding across your workforce it’s really difficult to spot who these people are.

You then have individuals who are competent, capable and confident. These are your leaders. You may know who some of these people are, but it is unlikely that you know the exact 20% of your workforce without People Insight. And whilst these 20% are your champions, they become really frustrated having to go through the same training and support resources as everyone else. This means they are likely to switch off and may even become complacent.

That leaves the 50% of your workforce who have very specific and varied development needs. They do not pose a significant risk to your KPI’s or objectives but they do need tailored support. This doesn’t mean you need to invest vast sums into individual support per person though. Usually all the resources required are already embedded into the organisation, you simply need a view of who needs which bit of it the most and a way of deploying that specific resource effectively. In our experience, when you meet the specific development needs of your 50%, it creates more leaders and enables the 20% to expand and the 30% to reduce.

People Insight enables the alignment of your existing infrastructure. With this insight, organisations can build and refine processes based on the behaviours, capability and competence of their existing workforce. Organisations also know which existing support resources need to be deployed to whom, at what time and in what preferred format.

From a strategic perspective, at the CxO level, they now have a critical view of their workforce and this means they can build, refine and ensure the strategy they put in place can truly be achieved.

Ultimately call centres need to add a People Insight component into their existing ‘solutions’. This will dramatically help them improve their internal and external KPI’s, improve customer experience and reduce the risk of fines and untoward media and consumer attention.

People Insight results in improved workforce engagement and buy-in, it empowers leaders’ confidence and equips them with the tools they need to support staffs’ specific needs as well as helping them to identify, manage and mitigate likely issues before they escalate.

Not only will customer satisfaction scores improve, call centres will be able to evidence the efficacy of their existing training and L&D investment and accurately target where it is placed.

Without People Insight call centres will remain in the reiteration relapse and they’ll keep getting bashed for it.