The Number One Customer Service Mistake: Lack of Collaboration

By Alton Martin and Scott Casson

One critical mistake in handling customer service calls could be the determining factor behind a majority of customer complaints. When a company receives low customer satisfaction scores, there is a tendency to blame its outsource call center. However, the company itself may be just as responsible if it doesn’t adequately listen to the call center agents, who have a direct pulse on customers’ needs.

A lack of collaboration between organizations and their call centers is one of the most overlooked issues driving poor customer service today, and both parties are at fault. Minor tweaks can make a world of difference and help organizations and their call centers turn things around quickly while developing top-notch customer service.

All too often, organizations fall into a series of common pitfalls when it comes to working with call centers. Call centers can often be viewed as the “tail of the dog,” and typically the organization’s departments do not pay enough attention to what their customers need or want. More often than not, customer feedback is considered after the fact and not integrated into the product quality assurance process. When this happens, it is often the call center that takes the hit. A majority of organizations believe that poor customer service scores are driven solely by the attitude of the call center agent. However, if the organization is not providing an adequate, clear solution to the problem, call center agents cannot appropriately address the needs of the organization’s customers.

Collaboration between the organization and its call center drives the issues that need to be addressed successfully on the first touch. As a result, the organization will see satisfaction scores improve and costs lowered due to fewer problems. To facilitate that, three strategies can help bridge the communication gap between organizations and their call centers:

1. Encourage Organizations to Listen and Communicate: Call centers are a portal for customer feedback and can often reflect quality assurance problems with the product or service. Taking this type of feedback seriously and implementing action based on the information adds value for the organization and their customers as well. Organized, structured, and ongoing feedback sessions between organizations and their outsource call centers should be conducted on a regular basis, not just when things go badly.

2. Recognize and Integrate Contributions: Mutual respect can go a long way. Call center personnel should be recognized for their contributions and efforts in helping the organization’s operation run smoothly. Individuals who possess “close to the customer” experiences should be recognized and rewarded for their hard work.

3. Upgrade and Utilize Technology Tools: Organizations and their call centers should be adequately equipped with tools to help their collaboration run smoothly. There are a variety of technologies on the market that will significantly facilitate a consistent and efficient handshake between an organization and its call center, such as:

  • Knowledge Management (KM) Systems are helpful to connect the call center to the client organization by creating a series of reports on what is occurring with the client’s customers. The ability to quickly identify and proactively correct common customer issues keeps call center expenses down and customer satisfaction scores high.
  • Rules-Based Workflow Management Systems help with the back-and-forth communication necessary to satisfy a customer’s request. Companies are turning to these systems to give call center agents the ability to identify the department responsible for assisting with a request (e.g., accounting), note the request, and then simply route the request to the appropriate person within the identified department in the client’s organization.
  • Marquee-Based Displays allow real-time information to be provided to call center agents, ensuring that correct and timely communication is passed on to the customer.

Achieving high customer satisfaction is not the sole responsibility of either the organization or its call center but the result of a successful, communicative effort of both parties. Implementing these three strategies can ensure that an organization can act upon important customer feedback from its outsource call center and improve overall success.

Alton Martin is the CEO and Scott Casson is the director of technologies at COPC Inc.

[From Connection Magazine September 2009]

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