Recently, our CEO Matthew Vallance published a great blog about getting emotional with your customers – where he attempted to explain that mapping the emotions of your customers needn’t necessarily be an exercise in futility, but can potentially impact your business’ bottom line and top line growth. In the blog was a great story about how an agent picked up on cues in the conversation with an Amazon customer which started as a joke made by the customer about the agent’s  name ‘Thor’ by asking if he can be Odin – Thor’s father in Norse mythology. Not missing a beat, the agent responds as if he were a Norse God and the customer responds in kind, creating a bizarre role-play where they not only continue speaking as if they are Gods, they resolve the dispute over the package – and even manage to blame Thor’s brother Loki for misplacing the parcel!

It is almost a certainty that the agent’s response was not part of the training and quality framework, but it was spot on for that customer. Now, if this call was scored using your existing quality matrix – how would it have fared? Does your matrix give your quality team sufficient scope to recognise a call that has gone ‘off piste’ but still slam dunked on the service experience? If it doesn’t, you have missed one of the key reasons we measure quality in the first place – it is about the experience a customer has during their interaction with you, not the other way around – something I call “The Experience Factor”.

Deliver Customer Service Worthy of Your Brand

Consider the following data:

  • It takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative experience. (Parature)
  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report)
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.  (McKinsey)

Consistently high service standards will strengthen your customer experience and build life time value, however, you need to build a relationship and deliver consistent brand experiences for that to occur. Organisations attempt to do this through deploying appropriate branding messages and relevant communication channels for customers to reach them. However, when that customer chooses to contact you, the experience you deliver has to match their expectations about the perceived relationship with your business. In other words, brand expectations created as a result of your marketing efforts greatly influence customer expectations about your service.

But isn’t that just great – here is a genuine opportunity to influence customer thinking and behaviour through delivering a customer service that is worthy of your brand. However, the general trend I’ve observed is for customer service practitioners to drive ‘transformational customer service’ through significant spend on nifty self-help gadgets and costly interaction tools –many developed and deployed with no clear thinking about the customer need . Of course, there are a number of fantastic solutions out there, however I find the best transformational tools are ones which prioritise customer needs, and measures the interactions to analyse whether those needs have been fulfilled. And this is where ‘quality’ can works its magic.

Measure What Matters in Quality

I have come across many quality models and frameworks with differing metrics for success and almost without fail, when I ask the question “so what difference does this score make to your customer’s experience?”, I am met with stoic silence or uneasy foot shuffling . But rare is the occasion I hear a response along the lines of ‘this quality score informs us what the customer expects when they contact us and how we are delivering against that expectation.’ That is what quality assessments should focus on – ensuring that you are delivering the experience that your customers want. You may already be forming objections in your mind, so let me use a real example to make my point.

At HGS, we deliver services for some of the world’s leading Consumer Goods companies. For a global Consumer Goods brand, we have devised an ingenious way to measure ‘quality’ of our consumer interactions. Mystery shopping exercises are held thrice a year by independent third parties which assess ‘overall customer experience’ – this includes everything from the quality of the IVR messaging to the quality of the print on the letter that the customer may receive to level of customer satisfaction with the agent. It also analyses the simple yet essential question of, “Did the experience meet your expectation from this brand.” And lastly, it benchmarks our client’s customer experience scores with of other competitors in the sector.

Since 2007, we have consistently seen our customer experience scores improve for the client while outpacing competitors in its sector. This exercise became the ultimate metric of success for the operation, a basis for agent incentives as well as all quality monitoring.

So, what’s the lesson here?

Ultimately, callers don’t care about most of the things that our traditional quality forms measure – introductions, closings, and cutely phrased but monotonous solution summaries offering no closure. They only care about whether the experience of that interaction met their expectations. Remember, most of the time, they would have preferred not to have had a reason to contact you in the first place!

Of course, we will always have to measure certain elements to derive training needs and coaching for agents. However, if you do not have a simple query “What is the Experience Factor score?” as part of your assessment, you are unlikely to stay focused on the true reason why we should be measuring quality in the first place and putting in wasted, costly and frustrating effort.

Stay focused on what your callers expect to ensure you shape your recruitment, training and coaching around it.

The results will speak for themselves.

Nick SteinNick Stein
Transformation Director,  HGS Europe
Nick is Transformation Director for leading business process outsourcing provider, HGS Europe. Nick has over 15 years of experience in the delivery of complex, multi-channel and multi-national customer service operations for clients across FMCG/CPG, Finance, Automotive, Health and Government sectors.  He  combines hands on operational expertise with stake holder management, creative solution design and acute commercial acumen, translating business priorities into solutions that deliver tangible results.

After joining HGS in 2000 he rose through the ranks to assume front-line operational roles in organisations for the likes of Unilever, Lloyds, HMV and Post Office, being awarded ‘Employee of the Year’ on two separate occasions.   Notably he was Operations Manager for the award winning Unilever Consumer Careline and was a key figure in the set-up and delivery of HGS’s European offices in Hamburg, Paris, Rotterdam and Rome for HGS.

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