Impact Learning Systems


Customer Service Starts With Your Staff Peggy Carlaw

retention whitepaper Customer Service Starts With Your StaffI just read an inter­est­ing arti­cle in Inc. by Tali Yahalom called "How to Improve Your Company's Cus­tomer Ser­vice." In it, she says that improv­ing your cus­tomer ser­vice starts with your staff. She then goes on to talk about estab­lish­ing ser­vice lev­els, using online tools like CRM sys­tems, etc. I agree with Tali. These all pale in com­par­i­son to her first point: hav­ing the right peo­ple talk­ing with cus­tomers and the right peo­ple in front-line super­vi­sory positions.

We're a train­ing com­pany and I'd like to put a plug in for our train­ing but really, just as impor­tant as train­ing, is hir­ing the right peo­ple. If your rep­re­sen­ta­tives and man­agers have pos­i­tive, upbeat, customer-focused atti­tudes, train­ing is easy!

Too often we see com­pa­nies skimp on hourly wages for reps and super­vi­sors or rush through the hir­ing process and expect that train­ing will make super­stars out of every­one. Nope. Sorry. What we see from our end when we deal with com­pa­nies like this, is hun­dreds of dol­lars (OK…tens of thou­sands some­times) rolling out the door due to turnover. The wrong peo­ple are hired and they either wash out dur­ing train­ing or they make it through to the call floor where they make their cus­tomers, man­agers, and co-workers mis­er­able. A few weeks or months later, they're gone. And the com­pany is out the cost of hir­ing, train­ing, and pos­si­bly the loss of a few customers.

If this sounds familiar:

  • Cre­ate a pro­file of your ideal rep­re­sen­ta­tive based on the stel­lar per­form­ers you cur­rently employ. What skills do they have? How do they demon­strate their customer-focused attitude?
  • Review your hir­ing prac­tices. Are you pay­ing a fair wage for this type of work in your area? How do you assess appli­cants? Do you need to use test­ing? If so, what kind? Test your cur­rent employ­ees to iden­tify scor­ing ranges across your high and low performers.
  • Track the results of your new pro­file and processes and adjust as needed.

Read­ers: If you have tips to share with oth­ers on inter­view­ing tech­niques or hir­ing assess­ments for call cen­ter agents or super­vi­sors, please leave a reply below.

Down­load the Impact White Paper:

DOWNLOAD the Impact Learn­ing Sys­tem White Paper, "Best Prac­tices for Reduc­ing Turnover"

Peggy Car­law is the founder of Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, a lead­ing train­ing com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in improv­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions between front-line employ­ees and cus­tomers. Peggy is co-author of sev­eral books pub­lished by McGraw-Hill, includ­ing Man­ag­ing and Moti­vat­ing Con­tact Cen­ter Employ­ees and The Big Book of Cus­tomer Ser­vice Train­ing Games.
3 Customer Service Starts With Your Staff
Peggy Carlaw
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  • Theresa Her­stad

    My ques­tion inspired by this blog post is this: Why do major cor­po­ra­tions still con­sider call cen­ter reps to be noth­ing more than a head on the phone? Too many peo­ple I know, and I am included in that group, feel that the major wire­less car­rier we rep­re­sent (or have rep­re­sented) does not care about the peo­ple who answer the phones.

    And does it occur to large cor­po­ra­tions that in call cen­ter envi­ron­ments, where peo­ple (even the really good ones) loose jobs on a fre­quent basis, that per­for­mance cer­tifi­cates or even gift cards are less valu­able than job security?

  • Peggy Car­law

    Theresa, you're right. While some com­pa­nies have seen the light and con­sider their employ­ees as the valu­able assets that they are, some call cen­ters still don't treat their employ­ees very well.…and we're on a mis­sion to change that! The com­pany exec­u­tives often look at call cen­ter met­rics such as aver­age speed of answer, talk time, sales rev­enue, etc. to mea­sure the per­for­mance of the cen­ter and then look at ways to incre­men­tally drive costs down with­out adversely affect­ing sales or cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. That's fair enough. Every­one wants to have a prof­itable busi­ness or department.

    How­ever, one of the prime dri­vers of cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion (hence cus­tomer loy­alty, repeat sales, refer­rals, etc.) is employee sat­is­fac­tion. If employ­ees are treated well and moti­vated by a higher cause (no, pizza doesn’t qual­ify), they’re more likely to come to work excited about serv­ing their cus­tomers or offer­ing them great pack­ages that will pro­vide reduce their cost or some­how improve their life.

    Why aren’t employ­ees treated bet­ter? One of the things I really like about call cen­ters is that almost any­one can start on the phones and if they do well, they’re pro­moted to team lead, then super­vi­sor, and on up in the com­pany. The prob­lem, I’ve observed, is that unless call cen­ter reps have had train­ing in super­vi­sory skills or had a men­tor in their past, they tend to super­vise as they were par­ented. Unfor­tu­nately, for many this means a lot of yelling, focus­ing on mis­takes, and belit­tling of reps. I can’t tell you the num­ber of good reps I’ve seen leave—even though they love their customers—solely because of the way they were treated.

    So how are we try­ing to change all this? By offer­ing a train­ing pro­gram specif­i­cally for use in busy sales, ser­vice, and sup­port cen­ters. It’s called Mak­ing It Hap­pen and it teaches coaches how to cre­ate a pos­i­tive, inspir­ing work envi­ron­ment and build a top-performing team. Of all the pro­grams we sell, it’s my favorite one because it changes so many lives: Coaches feel com­pe­tent in lead­ing their reps, reps are inspired to strive to reach their goals, and cus­tomers ben­e­fit by receiv­ing bet­ter ser­vice, and the com­pany ben­e­fits in terms of cost sav­ings from reduced turnover and improved oper­a­tional effi­ciency. What’s not to love about that

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