Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Elements of Success for Call Centers

The Ascent Group has published a white paper and detail report for those with the money to pay for the report. The report is the result of Ascent selecting companies that exhibit high levels of satisfaction. They based their selection of companies on rankings from ACSI, J.D. Power or other third parties (of which no others were named). They culled out the best practices and summarized them in their report. Since I have supported the ACSI as a reputable independent measure of customer satisfaction, and the Ascent Group appears to be acting independently (without bias), the results have value.

The report lists five prevalent (their words) underlying traits that were pervasive among all the companies. These traits are discussed in the following paragraphs.

1. Corporate Culture or Vision - Having a well-defined vision seems to give employees a clear road map of how to act and treat customers as well as colleagues. I recently was a member of a doctoral student whose dissertation topic was to determine if the vision of a founder of a start-up company was an important component of the success of the company. He found that sustaining the vision of the founder was, indeed, an important component of success.

2. Data Mining and CRM Tactics - They are suggesting that companies who are using data mining in combination with the tactical use of CRM are finding better ways to enhance the customer experience. Harrah's Entertainment is used as an example of how a company can use their CRM efforts as a more economical way to compete with lavish attractions or new facilities by their competitors. The CRM effort was combined with a data warehouse that collected patron information in all their properties. From this strategy they have increased their market segmentation and customer profiling. which is leading to a strong brand identity.

3. Actively Measuring Customer Satisfaction and Expectations - All the industry leaders paid a great deal of attention to the customer satisfaction measurements. Some of the companies also looked for dissatisfying situations in order to proactively eliminate them. My experience supports this approach of measuring dissatisfaction as well as satisfaction. The truth is that more customers leave from dissatisfaction than being lured away by other companies. Many companies are their own worst enemies and they don't know it because they focus their attention on the satisfiers and ignore (or unaware) of the dissatisfiers.

4. Hiring the Right Employees - This is so obvious that it requires little explanation. One statement that most would agree with is that employees are the face of the company. The best strategy for a call center to use is to hire the right employees and train them well. When the employees can believe in the company's vision and can be themselves, they become advocates of the company and form the basis of a winning team.

5. Extensive Training - Training is one of the key ingredients in optimizing call center performance. As my previous blogs indicate average handling time (AHT) is not something you want to minimize; rather it is something that you want to optimize. Optimization comes through extensive training. Some companies see this as an investment in quality and see it as a cost. Ritz-Carlton hotels provide 310 hours of training the first year. I find it amazing that companies will cut training budgets especially the on-going training. The assumption must be for these companies that once trained is enough. Using that logic, there is no need for management education after the initial training. Obviously, I don't agree.

The bottom line is this report makes sense. These five factors continue to appear in the literature and on the blogs of the many call center consultants. This attention adds to the credibility of these five factors. The report lists 12 other lesser characteristics, most of which seem equally relevant although not as important. I would stick with these five.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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