Customer Service Commitment Leadership Snicker Factor
It has been SQM's experience that when we ask senior leaders about their customer service commitment, they say they are highly committed to becoming a world-class call center for customer service delivery.
However, in most cases, senior call center leaders' words for their world-class customer service commitment meet the criteria of the snicker factor. The reason for the snicker factor is that it is easy to say you're committed to achieving world-class customer service but challenging to act on a commitment level to achieve and maintain world-class customer service.
At SQM, we define world-class customer service when the call center's First Call Resolution (FCR) performance is 80% or higher. The FCR percentage is based on the customer's judgment of whether or not their call was resolved on the first call. Unfortunately, very few call centers perform at the world-class level for FCR performance. For example, only 5% of the 500 North American leading call centers benchmarked by SQM are performing at the world-class FCR level.
Furthermore, for every 1% improvement in FCR, there is a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction. Moreover, FCR is the highest correlated metric of all call center internal or external metrics to customer satisfaction (Csat). Put simply, FCR and call resolution are the strongest drivers for delivering great customer service. Therefore, you can make a strong business case that FCR is a proxy for world-class customer service.
Ask yourself if your senior leadership team is committed to achieving world-class FCR call center performance. It has been SQM's experience that the best way to determine the commitment level of the senior leadership team with regards to achieving world-class customer service performance is to ask both managers and agents. This can be done through an employee survey question about the senior leadership team's commitment to achieving world-class customer service performance.
By asking both agents and managers the same type of question about world-class customer service senior leadership commitment, you might discover that the way agents see world class customer service could be different from how managers see it. For example, in many cases, managers overrate their performance commitment, and agents underrate management's commitment.
Another point of interest is that agents are typically a more reliable and accurate source for determining senior leadership's commitment to achieving world-class customer service performance.
Tips for Achieving World Class Customer Service Commitment
Is your call center performing at a world-class Voice of the Customer (VoC) FCR level as defined by SQM's standards? The starting point for the world-class customer journey is to understand how you are performing and how large of a gap exists between your call center's FCR performance level and a world-class call center's VoC FCR performance level. The insights from this analysis can be used for developing a customer service improvement plan that senior leadership can commit to implementing.
SQM's CX research data reveals that 92% of company executives agree that improving customer experience (CX) is essential. However, given call center senior leaders' struggle to assess accurately, identify opportunities to improve CX, and deliver a world-class CX, we thought it would be helpful to share SQM's experience about the differences between Outside-In and Inside-Out CX operating practices.
CX operating practices can be an Outside-In or an Inside-Out approach. The difference is the Outside-In CX operating practices are based on the customer's perspective. Conversely, the Inside-Out CX operating practices are based on the organization's perspective.
Many call center senior leaders believe that their primary CX operating practices are an Outside-In approach. However, based on SQM's extensive experience evaluating organizations' CX operating practices, we believe that only 25% use Outside-In CX operating practices. In reality, most organizations are somewhere between the Outside-In and Inside-Out CX operating practices with a high skew (75%) towards Inside-Out.
In world-class call centers, all employees strive to provide the highest standards of quality and service from the customer's perspective. These call centers use the customer's experience to evaluate how well they are doing in every aspect of the call center. Also, people, processes, and technology are designed with the customer in mind (e.g., outside-in CX operating practices).
In world-class call centers, everything revolves around ensuring the customer's call is resolved on the first call and that they are very satisfied (top box response). This is a huge departure from having the call center focus on the traditional metrics such as service levels, productivity, costs, and sales.
A typical pattern shared by world-class call centers is that achieving and maintaining world-class FCR performance is viewed as their number one priority. Furthermore, world-class FCR performing call centers use their vision and mission statements as a guide to determine what to work on as well as whether or not future initiatives will help them reinforce the call center's vision and mission purpose.
One of the most important and challenging things to do is terminate managers and agents who are not committed and/or unwilling to commit to world class FCR performance. SQM research shows that very few managers or agents are terminated due to their poor customer service performance. The main reason for this is that managers and agents, in many cases, are not measured and/or held accountable for their customer service performance.
If you have a serious commitment to perform at the world class level, you need to have the right managers and agents to achieve that objective. Therefore, the assumption is, before you terminate managers and agents, you have to put them on a performance improvement plan and attempt to provide them with coaching opportunities to improve their customer service performance.
If you have made a serious attempt to help an employee improve, yet they have not improved, then a viable option is to terminate poor customer service (e.g., FCR, Csat) performers. SQM's experience has shown that for some call centers, focusing on the bottom 10% of agent performers (either by helping them improve or terminating them) can significantly improve FCR and Csat performance within 90 days.
Interestingly, no typical pattern is seen in terms of lack of commitment to improving customer service performance. The lack of commitment can take place from the agent to the VP level. However, when managers and agents are terminated for their customer service performance, it sends a thunderous message to the call center about how vital customer service is to the entire organization. On the flip side, when poor customer service is tolerated, and managers and agents are not terminated, it creates an unhealthy call center working environment. Moreover, it fostered a feeling that senior leadership is not committed to achieving world class customer service.
Some concerns terminating employees will be it cost too much in terms of a severance payout. However, severance payout tends to be much lower than the cost of not achieving high FCR or having customers stop doing business with the organization due to their call center experience. A best practice is to "be slow to hire and quick to fire." Make your hiring choices carefully and deliberately but don't belabor the decision to terminate.