Customer Care in Your Call Center

By Gary Dupont

In many organizations, the customer focus is relatively straightforward: provide substandard service to your customers and they will ultimately leave to go to your competition. The concept of providing exceptional service should be easily recognized. Let’s face it, replacing lost clients is a costly endeavor.

Clients are a teleservice company’s most valuable asset. Client retention is essential to ensure long-term financial viability. The “customer service techniques” we have used in the past are no longer sufficient. Simply providing dedicated access points for premier clients and dedicated account teams for problem resolution is no longer enough to sustain client loyalty.

Contact center managers must be aware that clients are becoming more savvy and that clients are the ones in the power position. Everyone in the organization, including upper management, must be committed to three things: (1) creating a “customer service culture” throughout the enterprise, (2) embracing change, and (3) encouraging thinking outside the box to meet individual client needs. Since this a process, it must evolve over time.

This article will touch on current and future initiatives that we at MSI (MASCO Services Inc.) use to measure and create change in order to enhance the customer care experience:

  • External “Benchmarking Studies”: Since we were unable to find any benchmarking studies (similar to Jon Anton’s Benchmark Portal) that include telemessaging companies, MSI created a set of criteria to measure ourselves against other hospital telemessaging call centers in the Boston area. We contract with independent market research firms to measure such indices such as speed of answer, tone of service, time to process the call, and accuracy.
  • Remote Monitoring: An outside vendor performs daily audio quality audits and provides daily feedback to the contact center manager. The manager then uses the information to coach the representatives. The ATSI standards are applied to all calls.
  • Internal Service Observations: Call center managers perform monthly audio/visual monitoring of each customer service representative (CSR). An online grading form is used to apply all ATSI quality standards to this process. A representative scorecard including monitoring scores and other individual metrics is produced and reviewed with each representative.
  • CSR Self-Review: CSRs listen to several of their calls recorded at random, rate the calls, and discuss their impressions with the contact center manager. We have found this to be an extremely useful tool.
  • Spot Checks and Mystery Calling Program: An outside contractor makes calls at random and rates the handling of the call.
  • Client Surveys: Several times a year, we survey our clients verbally and in writing. We want to ensure client loyalty and verify that our service remains at a high level so we solicit views, gather feedback, assess future requirements, and rate complaint resolution.
  • Clients have the option of taking the survey online, via email, or by hard copy. Responses are sent directly to an outside firm where they are tabulated. We also conduct verbal surveys. Negative comments are dealt with expeditiously and follow-up is conducted with the client.
  • Project Implementation Teams: Whenever we have a new campaign, major initiative, or client we make every effort to involve a staff member from each shift throughout the process. His or her insight is often invaluable.
  • Incentive Program: Quarterly, CSRs in good standing are eligible for a monetary payout up to $600. The scorecard used with the program consists of two global measures: one of them is always service level plus individual representative metrics such as productivity, quality, and schedule adherence.
  • Client Problem Resolution: Clients are provided escalation procedures to resolve issues and to facilitate the communication flow in both directions. We want to “close the loop” and track follow-up steps.
  • Pre-Employment Testing: MSI uses the ATSI pre-employment testing program in conjunction with targeted interviewing techniques. We plan to add a client service aptitude component soon.
  • Training: A comprehensive initial training program has been developed that includes online exams and HIPAA training. The process is measurable and tangible. After 60 days, all associates go through “Service Excellence and Patient Sensitivity Training.”

Changing organizational culture is evolutionary and occurs each time we make contact with a client. The dynamics of that interaction reinforces the culture. Each component mentioned in this article is based on basic customer service concepts. We look to strengthen our relationships with our CSRs, our current clients, and our prospective clients.

The shift from traditional customer service to a customer-focused organization reinforces behaviors centered on the customer and their needs. Over time, the transition to a customer-focused organization will yield competitive advantages in the marketplace.

[From Connection Magazine September 2004]