Customer Service Excellence – Whats holding you back?

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A recent survey by Which?[i] found that BT, TalkTalk and Scottish Power operate the UK’s worst call centres. Which? surveyed 7,000 consumers who ranked these companies based on staff knowledge, phone menu system, politeness, helpfulness and waiting times.


BT, TalkTalk and Scottish Power all scored an overall rating of just one star. In comparison Ovo Energy, NFU Mutual, Zen Internet and First Direct topped the survey all receiving five stars.  In today’s competitive world where people vote with their feet and stop buying goods and services if they receive poor customer service, there is a great deal of pressure to ensure call centre staff are the best they can be.


They need to not only provide the right advice to customers but also deliver excellent service levels consistently, and, as they are often the only contact that a customer, they have the power to make or break a business. Yet many companies, despite spending a lot on training and having comprehensive Learning and Development tools and processes in place can still find their staff making errors in the way they deal with customer queries or complaints.


The solution isn’t always immediately obvious and simply providing more training or one to one coaching won’t deliver any real improvement unless the root causes of why this is happening are uncovered. These are more often than not the result of one of the following three situations:


1. People don’t truly understand what they’ve been “told”


Typically one root cause is that giving people knowledge does not mean that they truly understand how, when and why they should use it. After all, the typical multiple choice questionnaire handed out at the end of a training course, can only really measure the ability to select the right answer from a list of possible answers more often than not.  It does not and cannot identify if a person truly understands in what specific circumstance they should apply their new knowledge.


2. People are 100% confident they do know and they do understand – when in fact they don’t.


This root cause is insidious and is often the most damaging because it’s very hard to uncover. It’s further compounded by the fact that people will come to work believing they’re doing a great job. They will wholeheartedly believe that the advice or response they’ve given to a customer query is the right one and they will be happy and confident that they’ve followed the correct company process and procedure along the way.


When asked to attend a training or refresher course people can wrongly believe they already know and understand well, which in turn makes them approach the course with the wrong motivation; a desire and intent to simply “get through it and tick the boxes”, rather than with a genuine interest or agenda for re-examining the subject and challenging their own understanding and experiences.


3. The tools and resources provided are not used to best advantage


Most organisations make significant investment in Learning and Development Systems, tools, materials and expertise and many have made an even greater investment in organising, maintaining and syndicating industry and “Corporate Knowledge” via a central Knowledge Management System.


However these may not be designed or presented in the best way for the end user to get the most out of them. The information provided via the Intranet or Knowledge Management solution may be excellent but if the people it’s designed to help, find it difficult, cumbersome, time consuming or intimidating to find, they simply won’t use it all.


The solution


Central to winning and keeping customers is delivering a consistently high performance of service to customers that will turn them into loyal fans and identifying and addressing risky and unacceptable behaviour before it becomes a problem. Whilst this is challenging it’s not impossible.


To achieve customer service excellence and uncover the root causes of behaviour on the job companies need to start by looking not at what people know but rather identifying specifically what it is they don’t understand. They can do this using employee assessments designed test and measure advisors in realistic ‘on the job’ situations. The results will highlight knowledge gaps and unacceptable behaviour giving managers a clear picture of strengths and weaknesses of every individual.


Once gaps in understanding have been identified, companies can design specific interventions, avoiding the one-size fits all approach to training and provide appropriate learning media and resources to address it.


In today’s competitive business environment it’s vital for companies to get it right when it comes to customer service and really understanding what staff know and how they apply this knowledge on the job is the key to achieving this.


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Amanda Green

By Amanda Green

Amanda Green,

Principal Consultant

As Principal Consultant for Cognisco, Amanda provides consultancy to a wide range of public sector, multi-national and blue-chip clients to help them explore employee knowledge, behaviour, attitudes and confidence. Amanda utilises various methodologies for the assessment and reduction of behavioural characteristics indicative of violations and non-compliant work behaviour.

Amanda works with clients and associates to design and deliver bespoke assessment solutions and interventions and evaluate the results, in terms of ROI. Clients include: John Lewis, Network Rail, QinetiQ, BP, Centrica, Eurostar, and Heathrow Express to name a few.

Amanda utilises various methodologies for the assessment and reduction of behavioural characteristics indicative of violations and non-compliant work behaviour. She has recently designed and implemented programmes to embed work-based safety and compliance in a number of sectors, including: munitions, retail, transport, financial and medical. These projects included the development of situational judgement tests to evaluate understanding, confidence and likely behaviour, in given situations. These approaches have proved highly effective in identifying behavioural indicators of risk and provide a platform for targeted interventions.

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