An Advice Column Only for
Contact Center Managers
Last month Dina Vance, Senior Vice President for Ulysses Learning, gave readers sound advice on ways to help contact center reps deliver your desired customer experience. Her advice prompted this month’s reader question: How do you find and keep reps who love delivering a standout customer experience in the first place? Once again, we think Dina’s insights hit the mark!
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Q: I really liked the suggestions you gave last month to help our team develop into “unconsciously competent” (love that) reps who easily and consistently deliver our targeted customer experience. But that makes me wonder, how do we find reps who want to do this type of work in the first place and how do we keep them?
Our featured expert for this month’s question is: Dina Vance
Senior Vice President, Managing Director North America
A: For as long as I’ve been in the contact center space, including my early years as a frontline manager, I have worked diligently to find the best combination of strategies and tactics to attract, engage, train, and retain reps. And I believe when we have more of the “right” reps on the team, they strengthen our contact center operation in ways that make it easier to achieve our business objectives. Plus, we all know that agents who embrace the spirit of service form the foundation for achieving a real competitive edge.
Here’s one combination of strategies and tactics to help find and retain reps who can deliver your customer experience. These have worked for me and many of the clients I’ve had the honor of serving over the years. I hope you find the following suggestions helpful and thank you for your question!
1) Be able to clearly describe the type of customer service experience you desire. It’s not enough to say that you want to attract or create great people to provide great service to your customers. Make sure you clarify and provide plenty of concrete examples of the type of customer experiences most meaningful to your operation. For many organizations the best team members are those who know how to treat a customer on the phone with respect, show an understanding of the customer’s issues or needs, and answer questions accurately and consistently. Some contact centers want reps who know how to make the customer feel special and even a bit pampered. Define your desired experience, remembering to take the time to define the behaviors you want your reps to put into action to create that experience. You have to be descriptive and really break it down to this level of detail.
2) Be on the lookout for the right attitude. When you begin to interview prospective reps, you want to get a sense for how that person operates in life. There was a discussion I had a number of years ago with Hank Kearney, a longtime client and friend, that is just as relevant today. Hank talked about the importance of looking closely at what a candidate does outside of their job. He looks for people who are volunteers, involved in civic associations, youth organizations, sports teams, and other non-profits or special causes. From his experience, these people tended to be more concerned about details and doing the right thing. I’ll also add this recommendation: make sure that you ask your job candidates to tell you about a time when they went beyond the normal call of duty to serve someone else. The best candidates have an instinctive desire to help others.
3) Create a culture that supports your vision. Experts agree that once you’ve got the right people, you have to foster and promote an environment that allows them to do what they do best. Give them the tools they need to do their jobs and then remove the roadblocks that get in their way. I cannot stress enough the influence of your managers, at all levels, on your customers’ experience of your company. Every manager is a role model. When they treat others with courtesy, professionalism, and fairness, which are all elements of emotional intelligence leadership, it sets the stage for how your reps will treat your customers.
4) Support the culture with the right processes and metrics. I have found that this is an area in which many call centers still struggle. You must make sure your actions and processes support your customer experience. For example, there are a number of contact center leaders who are revolutionizing their quality assurance initiatives to measure the degree to which reps are exhibiting the behaviors defined for creating a positive, memorable customer experience. Executives from these centers are not just looking at average handle time or first call resolution, additionally, they are looking at and measuring what reps say and do to help make the customer feel respected, cared for, well-informed, or any of the other attributes defined as being essential to creating their targeted customer experience. Their work is impressive and I’m honored to be supporting them. These behavioral metrics and the training around rep performance to achieve high marks is truly groundbreaking.
5) Reward to reinforce desired behaviors. There’s a compelling dialogue in our industry today that if you have the right people on your team, they will motivate themselves and each other. I agree with that to an extent, however, even the most service-focused rep appreciates a small gesture of kindness or appreciation. When a manager leaves a small note on a rep’s desk that cites a very specific example of how that rep made their day, that matters. When they tell a rep how much they appreciate them and how they serve others, that shows the rep that someone is paying attention to what they’re doing and recognizing their contribution. But whatever you do, make sure you don’t overcomplicate your rewards and recognition program by installing too many program bells and whistles. They become cumbersome and unmotivating. Keep it simple, heartfelt, and meaningful.
Thanks again for posing this important question. When we hire and retain reps that connect to our mission and deliver on the promise of our customer experience, they cement relationships with customers who will tell others about your company. They are absolutely essential to your contact center now…and in the future.
This month’s featured expert is…
Senior Vice President, Managing Director, North America
In her current capacity with Ulysses Learning, Dina is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company and also serves as the chief client relationship executive, working with Fortune 100 clients and other progressive organizations to redefine the way customers are cared for. Under her leadership, Ulysses has become well known for its work in transforming customer service, sales and coaching cultures through the development of emotional intelligence or “EQ” so that Judgment@WorkTM can be confidently, consistently and expertly applied on every call. The company has special expertise in serving the insurance, utilities and financial services industries.
Before joining Ulysses in 1999, Dina was responsible for the ground-level startup of two contact centers which led to her accepting a role as call center lead consultant and division manager for an international bank training organization.
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UlyssesLearningwas founded in 1995 as a joint venture with Northwestern University’s Learning Sciences department and continues to bring clients new, innovative enhancements to its industry-leading training. Contact centers achieve profound business results, ahead of schedule, with Ulysses Learnings’ artful blend of patented simulation-based e-learning, facilitated exercises, coaching and tools, that redefine the way customers are cared for and transform customer service, sales, and coaching cultures. Ulysses has the only training proven to build emotional intelligence or “EQ” so that Judgment@WorkTM can be confidently, consistently, and expertly applied on every call.
Ulysses Learning is a recent recipient of the Gold Stevie© Award for best contact center customer service training.