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Improve Customer and Employee Experience - One Individual at a Time
Discarding a Defensive Attitude
“I stopped the excuses and improved one day at a time..”
How was I able to improve my World Class Call results over the last 12 months? The answer is pretty easy actually. Prior to last year, I was not receptive to feedback. When my supervisor would meet with me and provide me with feedback and constructive criticism, I would get very defensive. I believed that I didn’t need another person’s advice to get better. I was answering the customer’s questions and that’s it, my calls were not personal.
This attitude got me nowhere. I was not meeting my objectives and was disappointed with my results. This year I decided to do better, to be better. My supervisor and I had discussions about my goals and what I wanted to achieve and I knew that I had to work harder to get there. We listened to some of my calls together and I was open to her feedback. I did not always agree, but I understood what she was saying and took all of her feedback in a constructive manner. All of the advice that has been given since then has been put to good use. One of the main tools I have focused on using is positive positioning and I have been incorporating it in all of my calls. I take the time to tell the customers all of the options which are available to them and sometimes it’s as easy as simplifying the answer to their question. I listen to them and I always try to bring positive points out of negative situations. Sometimes, when it can change the issue around, I will find a way to help them by going totally ‘outside the box’ with the solution. It might take some more time on the call, but the end result is worth it as the member is satisfied with my service and this is a direct reflection on the company. I have also worked hard at personalizing my calls. Sometimes, simple acknowledgements such as: thank you, have a good trip or even, happy birthday, can make all the difference between a somewhat satisfied customer and a very satisfied one. I really try to understand the customer’s perception and do what I can to ensure that it is a good one.
Bottom line is, in order to improve my customer satisfaction results and get more World Class calls, I worked on myself. I stopped with the excuses and improved one day at a time. I have never been asked to be the best, but simply to do my best. Now I can easily say that every day I give my best and provide excellent customer service to our members. This has directly reflected in my results by improving my World Class Call results compared to last year. You don’t have to be perfect to succeed, but there are always areas for improvement. I learned that the hard way and now that I have grasped that understanding, I am getting better and learning something new every day. I maintain a positive attitude and keep smiling, knowing that with the momentum I have right now, I will definitely be one of our WCC Certified representatives when the end of the new SQM year comes.
Creating Individual Development Plan
“She now tries to keep the caller on the line while explaining what she is doing..”
She increased her scores from 2009 to 2010. Her focus had been on improving her overall results. In fact, she had improved her Calls Resolved, CSR Customer Satisfaction and Call Center Customer Satisfaction. During our coaching sessions we developed an Individual Development Plan which helped her to focus on what she could do to improve her SQM results and then we discussed what actions and/or behaviors she needed to adjust to realize her goals. For example, her hold time was pretty high. She began to understand that by putting the caller on hold, the caller might not have felt that she valued their time. She now tries to keep the caller on the line while explaining what she is doing. This has helped her connection with her callers because they feel they are part of the process and/or they know what is going on. She also focused on the length of her calls. Instead of keeping the caller on the phone while she documented information, she gathered the information needed and completed the documentation after the call ended. She not only improved her World Class Call results, but also her internal audits. She increased her opportunities to show our members the value of their benefits. She is very proud of her results and feels they have boosted her confidence to next level of servicing our customers!
Relating to Other People’s Problems
“I do know that my compassion for people has really grown….”
I am pleased to nominate this CSR for the World Class Calls Improvement award. In 2009, it was disheartening for her to get survey results and she felt like she was unlucky with which customers that were surveyed -‘the luck of the draw’. Well, month after month, we talked about ways we could influence certain aspects of the call. She certainly found her stride, and it shows, in her average year-to-date CSR Sat, FCR and Top 5 Metrics. She has improved in every measure of SQM. Here is a quote from her, "I do know that my compassion for people has really grown because of what I have been going through recently with my friend who has terminal cancer. My thought behind every call I get is that everyone has a story or everyone is going through their own difficulties. The way I deal with each call can really have a positive impact or negative impact on their situation in that moment. So I guess it comes down to being more customer focused and remembering that this is one of our key strategies."
Appreciating Each Customer Contact
“Her focus on doing the right thing for each customer exemplifies our customer care objective..”
Our nominee is a hard worker who is dedicated to providing an enhanced customer experience during each and every contact she makes with the customer. She works well with her peers and celebrates her team’s successes. She has a positive attitude and takes every opportunity to appreciate each customer she comes in contact with. One of the challenges for her late last year was her First Call Resolution scores.
Her manager asked her to come up with one thing that she would do differently on all her calls that would have an immediate impact on customers. She put herself in the customers’ shoes and then analyzed the customers’ expectations. An example of feedback I commonly hear from customers is, ‘I was promised a call back and no one ever called me back’. This was something that she decided to change for all customers that she spoke with.
As a billing consultant, one of the key issues that she struggled with was the fact that the customers did not see any changes to their bills until the next bill was generated and sometimes they were skeptical. She started offering call backs to customers when she felt they were hesitant on the resolution that she had provided. Most of the customers found this very surprising, but what surprised them even more was that she did follow up to confirm if everything was okay on their bills.
Back in the month of May, she received a commendation from a customer who was extremely impressed with her customer service. This customer had called in multiple times before and was hesitant from the ‘get go’. This was his second call of the day to get clarification on his invoice (he had called in before and was transferred without being notified). When she got this call the customer was very upset and wanted to speak to a manager. She acknowledged the customer’s frustration and assured him that she would not transfer him, but rather, assist him with any questions he may have. By assuring the customer and demonstrating a willingness to assist, she was able to resolve his concern. She then called the customer back the following month to make sure he understood his new invoice.
While reporting to me, she has demonstrated excellence when dealing with customers. Her focus on doing the right thing for each customer exemplifies our customer care objective. We salute her and thank her for making a difference.
Personifying First Call Resolution
“She attributes her achievement to listening more and talking less..”
At last year’s World Class CSR banquet, our nominee heard the story about a CSR who had achieved 100% World Class certification. From that moment on, she made it her personal mission to strive for that achievement for herself to provide that level of excellence for our customers. In 2009, she had earned a high percentage level on her World Class performance, but not being content with that level she went on to achieve an even higher percentage level of performance for CSR Csat, Call Center Satisfaction and Call Resolution.
She truly personifies first call resolution through listening, giving all her attention to every caller and making sure she has addressed their concerns. By doing this she was able to reach a remarkable achievement. It is very difficult to reach that level of satisfaction. We discuss her results every month and she learns from every customer interaction. In the past, she would sometimes get hooked in her desire to make a situation right. Now, she attributes her achievement to listening more and talking less. She really tunes in to what the customer needs and wants, so that she can acknowledge and act on it. This has had a tremendous impact on our customer’s satisfaction.
Understanding Customer Retention Impact
“I end the call in such a way that I remind them what we discussed or resolved..”
He has increased his World Class percentage from the last certification period. Recently he won an internal award for his Voice of Customer surveys. He understands that his interaction with each of his callers has a direct impact on retaining customer loyalty. He also truly appreciates the important role that the Voice of the Customer has within our organization.
This is what he had to say about his main focus during this certification period, "I always ensure I meet my caller’s needs thus supporting member satisfaction and first call resolution. I completely respond to the member’s needs (voiced and not), I confirm the reason they called, I end the call in such a way that I remind them what we discussed or resolved, as well as giving the caller an opportunity to ask if they had any additional questions not yet addressed."
In the comment section on his SQM Report Card, common themes used by his callers to describe their experience with him include: knowledgeable, informative, thorough, answered all questions, efficient, clear and concise, professional, courteous, friendly, good listener and goes the extra mile. Our callers recognize the customer service he provides often exceeds their expectations.
This is evident in calls transferred to a supervisor complimenting him on his outstanding customer service. Direct feedback from our callers include: He was very prompt with answers to my questions; displayed a clear understanding and was extremely efficient; I was very happy with the friendly and immediate assistance I received; he really listened and was very patient; he made me feel so important; he is the best rep ever; I’m just ecstatic; he was fabulous; he was so patient and so professional, I really appreciated that; he went beyond what a normal Customer Service Representative does; I was impressed; I used to work in a Customer Service industry so I do understand what you go through.
Embracing Quality Customer Care
“She has focused on implementing recommended concepts on each interaction….”
In the last year, our nominee has had the most profound improvement in her customer interaction results and in her ability to balance the expectations that our customers and organization have of frontline agents. Watching her grow and develop her customer service skills over the past year has been a pleasure for me, both as her manager for the brief time she has reported to me and as a senior coach at our site.
She is committed to embracing quality customer care on every interaction, every day, which is evident in her amazing improvement on her SQM customer survey results. With the help of her managers, she has focused on implementing recommended concepts on each interaction that she has with her customers. Many of the techniques that she and her manager worked on to help improve her customers’ experiences were really focused on leveraging the recommended skills while also focusing on how she could respect their time and make herself more available to her customers. The weekly benchmarking of her results with her manager, along with listening to one of her calls every two weeks and then debriefing with her manager, have helped her become more aware of the little things she could do to make a big difference in her customer interactions. She learned and implemented that communicating with the customer about the live hold would help her better manage the customer’s expectations about live hold. Her learning made a difference in how the customers reacted to the hold and also helped her become more efficient and accountable to her customers. This was further enhanced by her ability to ensure that she was actively listening to her customer’s verbal queues and information before responding and asking for clarification. These techniques ensured that she was creating positive defining moments with her customers and that she was respecting their time while getting to the root issues so she could resolve issues quickly and accurately for them. She is now very proficient in handling any call type. She is utilizing these techniques and focusing on displaying that she cares to her customers through her positive, calm tone and word choice.
If you ask her what is the key to excellent customer service, she will tell you it is to demonstrate interest and concern by listening attentively, projecting a willingness to help and conveying respect. She is very modest about what she has accomplished in the past year and will tell you that she hasn’t done anything spectacular other than listen, acknowledge and do her job. In my observations of how she deals with her clients I also note that she never loses her patience with customers, no matter how they are and ensures that her customers have a productive outcome from their interaction. I am impressed with how she will now use affirmation and assurance statements in her calls to reduce any negative feedback or impressions that the customer may have of our organization’s services or representatives. This further supports why I have received feedback from her customers which says that she is patient with them and that they feel that she genuinely cares about their situation.
One of our valued customers had this to say about this agent after she had the pleasure of speaking with her: "I was very satisfied with her customer service; she was able to answer every question that I had. She was extremely courteous and knowledgeable; this was the best service I have had with any customer service agent ever!" She remains dedicated to excellence in customer service today, and we will continue to work together to help her achieve her goals. I would like to share that when she was told she was SQM certified and was being nominated as one of the most improved agents she responded with, “I will continue to help all my customers to the best of my ability every time!” This just shows how she approaches each situation and how even little changes can help make a difference in how our customers perceive us as representatives and as their service providers.
Striving for Customer Service Perfection
“She put herself in the customers’ shoes..”
When it comes to customer service, our nominee is a perfectionist. She doesn’t accept poor service from anyone, especially herself. So when she learned she missed certification last year she asked, “How could this happen?” She knew that she always answered the customers’ questions accurately. She was efficient, accurate, and despite being relatively new to our organization, a good CSR. She blamed customers, the organization, resources, computer applications, etc. until finally settling on the main problem – herself. After reflecting for a few days, she had another conversation with her supervisor. They discussed why she was not consistently achieving World Class rated calls. She left the conversation disappointed but determined.
She discovered the main problem was her approach. Yes, she answered the customers’ questions accurately and specifically, but that’s all she answered – their questions. She was looking at customer service as a customer service representative, not a customer. And that’s when it all changed. From that moment on, she put herself in the customers’ shoes. She asked herself, what do they need to know but don’t know to ask? She started asking the customer questions. Immediately, she saw improved scores and an increase in compliments from her customers. Not only did she receive more recognition, but she also started feeling a stronger sense of pride about the job she was doing.
Customers have expressed satisfaction based on their conversations with her and this has resulted in an increase from last year’s score! She is more confident in both her approach and the level of service she provides. She passes along this service ethic to our trainees as part of her new role as a division mentor. She has truly earned her distinction of World Class Certified.
Adding the Personal Touch
“She has been able to adapt verbal skills that ensure the customer has a positive experience..”
As this CSR’s supervisor, I consistently hear the care she gives each of her customers. In our business, you are dealing with an unfortunate situation where you need to gather details in order to process the claim yet create a positive customer experience. By treating her customer as a person and not a policy or a process, she has been able to increase her World Class calls this year. She recognizes that connecting positively with the customer is one of the most important parts of the job, "The personal touch to calls rather than a process", as she so perfectly puts it. With her moving to the call center environment just less than 2 years ago, it was a learning curve to now exhibit care, help and empathy, verbally over the phone versus face-to-face.
In reviewing SQM surveys and listening to calls, she has been able to adapt verbal skills that ensure the customer has a positive experience and that they are being treated with respect. She recognizes her customers’ needs whether it’s efficiently gathering the details and setting up the claim so the caller can carry on with their day, or spending time listening to the caller who wants to converse; it’s the personal touch. An example of her care is when she answered a call from a very distraught customer. Concerned for this customer’s safety, she contacted the local authorities who went by the residence and provided assistance to the customer.
Leaving the Negativity Behind
“This pact to go the extra mile would help me more than I could ever imagine..”
In 2009, I was not a World Class certified representative. I acknowledge that, unfortunately, my focus just wasn’t where it should have been – our customers. I was leaving the call center on maternity leave in the middle of the year. Before leaving, I had formulated the plan that once my leave ended, I was not coming back to the call center. Knowing I was going to leave, subconsciously I wasn’t performing to my full potential. I wasn’t giving the World Class service that I had always displayed to our customers in the past. My customers deserved to have my full attention. While on maternity leave, I had gone through some drastic life changes and was forced to shift my priorities and put complete focus on my personal life. I also made the decision to come back to work earlier than I had anticipated. Digging deep, I knew with all of the tough changes in my life, I needed to do some hard work on my attitude. All the negativity in my life had to be left behind. I made a promise to myself, I was going to start fresh and give each and every customer my full attention. This pact to go the extra mile would help me more than I could ever imagine.
The first change I made was to actually listen to my customer. I would paraphrase the customer’s question right back to them. This definitely ensured I was focused at all times. I also started explaining things differently. I started talking to customers, using language that made sense to them.
The second change I made was when I understood that when I was speaking to customers, I never really gave them more information than they were expecting. At that time, it didn’t occur to me that by providing the appropriate extra information meant they would not need to call back – first call resolution!
I recognized that some customers may have questions that they don’t ask because they can’t verbalize their thoughts on some of the difficult topics. The third change I implemented was adding empathy to my conversations with my customers. I really struggled with that in the past. It can be difficult to show empathy to a customer when you don’t see them face-to-face. When I tried to convey a feeling of empathy, it felt like I wasn’t being sincere. Luckily, once I made the decision to really listen to the customer and to show my empathy, everything seemed to fall into place naturally. Knowing how I had to live through my own struggles, I could recognize that everyone has tough events to deal with. This was a big realization moment for me.
Before I left the workplace for my maternity leave, my World Class percentage was lower than I wanted. When I came back from my maternity leave and with the changes I implemented, I immediately noticed an amazing positive change in my SQM World Class results. This fueled my passion to continue on the path of exceptional customer service. At the end of this SQM year, I can truly say how very proud I am that I have improved my SQM World Class results. I have no plans to look back on my less than stellar results.
Recently, I have been rewarded with the opportunity to mentor colleagues on my team that are struggling with their customer service results. I am now a full time Learning and Development Specialist with our call center. It is up and away from here!