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“There is nothing worse than feeling like you are just another number, so I try to be as human and sincere as possible when people call in!”
I started in the Group benefits Contact Centre in May of 2010. As for my early Voice of the Customer (VOC) results, I was kind of scared of the program and didn’t want to check my results, but after a few months I started to really find it very helpful and started checking every morning. It is really nice to get feedback from the callers, and if they make a comment you can definitely take it as a constructive criticism. Even if you get a bad review, it motivates you to be more careful and try to get better results on every call. I can attribute my VOC improvement over the past year to a few things.
I have made a conscious effort to take the time to listen to callers to solve their problems to the best of my ability. I try to be as sincere as possible and make sure I can help them in one call, whether that call lasts 30 seconds or ten minutes. I know that when I call a call centre, I don’t want to speak to someone who acts like I am just another number or feel as though I am being rushed off the line and my call isn’t important. There is nothing worse than feeling like you are just another number, so I try to be as human and sincere as possible when people call in!
Another reason is the support I receive from my leaders. At first when I started working from home, I thought that I would not have the support I had when I was working in the office, but I was mistaken. It is so nice to be working and get a little instant message or phone call from my supervisor, even if it is just to say hello and ask how my day is going! That effort really makes a big difference when you’re working alone all day, and it is so nice to know that even though you’re not physically in an office working with others that there is someone there who is making sure everything is alright and going smoothly for you. Also, knowing that you can send a quick message and get support very quickly is reassuring. I really appreciate how supportive all of my leaders have been while I made this transition from working in the office to working from home.
When I made a mistake I would write it down and post a note on my computer so it was always in my sight and I would be sure not to make that mistake again. I also decided not to take every call so personally – when I started this job, if I got a bad call I would be very upset and it would bother me for the rest of the day and affect my other calls. Now I just try my best to be friendly and helpful, and I feel much more confident in my abilities after being here for a few years. Also, the feedback and coaching available to me is very helpful. It is so constructive to see when a mistake is made so it doesn’t happen again. It really is a confidence boost to check your chart in the morning and see only positive results.
“The skill of active listening to fully understand what my customers needed also helped me improve my VoC results greatly this year..”
The 2012 SQM year is a source of great pride for me. In 2011, I struggled to make comfortable connections with my callers. My Voice of the Customer (VoC) results suffered and were well below expected levels. Fast forward only one year and my results are now among the very top of the entire Call Centre team. I see my results daily and I must say that my pride hasn’t worn off. Writing this story gave me the opportunity to do something I hadn’t done yet, which was to actually think about all the changes I made that allowed me to make such an amazing improvement.
It didn’t just happen. I am quite self-driven and I just wasn’t satisfied with my VoC performance. I had to really get honest with myself about what was holding me back and I had to make the decision to get down and dirty and make the changes I needed to make. I just wasn’t going to let myself or my team down. My supervisor worked with me to help me better understand my role; from not only a technical perspective, but from a soft skills, human perspective, as well. I learned that what I was delivering was only part of the picture. What the member would remember was how I delivered my message and the human connection I was able to make with them. This included such skills as positivity, compassion and empathy. I previously had been so zeroed in on finding an answer that I didn’t give much attention to the all-important human aspect.
I wouldn’t have been able to make these shifts without perseverance and patience. Patience not only in myself to realize that sometimes I would slip in my efforts, but also patience and understanding for my customers. I would often forget that my customer didn’t have the subject matter knowledge that I did. Now I was reminding myself that I was that information and support life-line for them. I understood my CCR purpose. Applying these new skills had me straying outside my comfort zone and it made me nervous to say the least. I didn’t give up. It actually did not take long for me to see that the more I stretched out of that zone, the easier the call became, in large part because of the rapport I was now able to create. I was changing my VoC history.
The skill of active listening to fully understand what my customers needed also helped me improve my VoC results greatly this year. Last year, I shied away from probing too much. I would rely on what my caller told me at the outset of the call in order to understand their question. I was for some reason nervous about asking probing questions and as a result, I often skimmed the surface in resolving their issue, or, I missed it altogether. Through coaching I learned that I can only truly help my customer if I really have a good understanding of the issue. Without that common ground, I wasn’t helping my customer and I wasn’t doing my job.
I encourage anyone who is struggling with VoC to not throw in the towel, but instead to take ownership for the quality of customer service you are providing. Your supervisors want to support you and see you succeed but ultimately you have to bring your own willingness and resolve to the table, every single day, to make the shifts you want to make.
“She has shown a keen interest in listening to her own customer calls to identify opportunities for improvement..”
This nominee greatly improved her World Class calls from 2011 to 2012. This is an impressive accomplishment worthy of recognition. At the beginning of this past year her focus began somewhat distracted. She proactively identified this opportunity and has been openly seeking improvement. She is highly receptive to feedback and implements suggestions immediately. She has shown a keen interest in listening to her own customer calls to identify opportunities for improvement. From her discoveries, she has created best practices to help her professionally and efficiently navigate through calls. She has quickly positioned herself as a leader and is now recognized for her excellent customer service soft skills and product knowledge. She is extremely personable and approaches each customer with a positive demeanor and an upbeat attitude. She consistently keeps the customer’s experience at the top of her mind and articulates her willingness to help on each call. She has expressed that her goal is to treat each customer as she would like to be treated. She takes ownership and accountability for every interaction with each customer ending her calls on a positive note.
These attributes definitely contribute towards her success in providing our customers with world class service. I have witnessed her initiative and dedication to growth and development. She has taken on other roles within our center and as a result, has expanded her customer service knowledge. She shares this knowledge openly and is now also sought out by other leaders as a resource to help mentor our newly hired employees. As her supervisor I can attest to her continuous effort and dedication to delivering a positive experience to our customers. I believe it is behavior like this that influences others to create elevated customer service experiences.
“Takes her time during the call to ensure callers felt heard, cared for and helped..”
I would like to nominate CSR for recognition as a customer service representative with excellent world class improvement scores. During the previous measurement period (October 1, 2010-September 30, 2011) she had fallen into the fourth quartile for her world class percentage. In early 2012, she and her team lead had noticed a slow steady drop in her SQM scores. There was no immediate concern as scores can fluctuate month to month and she maintains excellent internally measured quality. Over a few months period of time she became more concerned as her SQM scores were not improving and once again expressed her concerns regarding the scores to myself and her team lead. As a team, we met to discuss her performance, brainstorm ideas of why there was a slow but steady decline and try to come up with an action plan. This CSR approached the situation with a strong desire to improve her performance, increase her SQM scores and member satisfaction. She was open to feedback and was willing to work closely with myself and her team lead to identify the heart of the issue and make the necessary adjustments to her workflow.
I asked that she and her team lead begin to meet on a weekly basis to evaluate what was happening with her scores, to identify areas of possible improvement, find where immediate changes could be made and build a long-term plan. During their weekly meetings, she and her team lead listened to her previous calls to identify areas of improvement. They focused on quality over quantity, taking a member centered approach by having the CSR own each issue a member presented and strive to resolve that issue in one interaction. She was asked to control her call flow and take her time during the call to ensure callers felt heard, cared for and helped. In addition to her overall call flow and member centered approach, they were also able to identify an area of improvement with her vocal tone during her calls. Using more inflection to her voice and adding a smile to her tone made a world of difference. she also worked with her team lead on adding the appropriate amount of business and human interaction during her call flow which has built excellent rapport with her callers.
This was a team effort with a strong desire on the nominee’s part to want success and to service her customers to the highest level. There was a conscious effort on her part and a strong desire to improve her performance. She was open to feedback and was not afraid to reflect on herself and accept the areas that she needed to change. As a team, we were able to work together to identify the areas of possible improvement and implement the steps needed to support her during this process. All of her hard work and self-reflection paid off. She is now in the first quartile for world class and is a Certified World Class Representative based on SQM’s criteria.
“I stopped thinking ahead and instead focused on handling one call at a time..”
Last year, I was very disappointed that I did not achieve world class certification. In 2012, I desperately wanted to improve not only for myself but for my team. It took a lot of hard work, trial and error, one on one mentoring and learning how to ask clarifying questions. For 2012, my primary focus was resolving my member’s needs. I stopped thinking ahead and instead focused on handling one call at a time. I have always been empathetic and heartfelt; yet my challenge was learning to listen effectively and ask pertinent clarifying questions, which showed I understood the caller’s needs.
Proactively, I took action and sought ways to resolve my stumbling blocks. To start, I requested training to improve my critical thinking and listening skills. Through this process, I learned how to better represent my member’s voice and resolve their calls. I wanted the member to hear the smile in my voice, and absorb my positive ‘can do’ attitude. I tried different techniques and confirmed what worked best for me. The most helpful, was treating each caller as I desire to be treated. My goals became reality through the constant support and encouragement from my team leads and supervisors. I fine-tuned the knowledge my team provided and found ways to apply it with an open and receptive attitude. By trying to improve, I had built the member’s confidence in my response; and built confidence in myself. By putting the member first, I learned to proactively resolve my member’s needs. In the end, they appreciated that I took the time to walk a mile in their shoes, and took the time to personalize each call.
“The customer’s perception of Scotiabank’s service was completely transformed following her interaction with the nominee..”
This nominee was initially hired as a contract staff in February 2010 to provide support to Scotiabank’s retail and small business customers. She quickly demonstrated her commitment to delivering exceptional customer service and was subsequently made permanent in May of the same year. She is a dedicated, results oriented employee who is always seeking the best solution to satisfy her customer needs.
This year she was committed to improving her World Class certification by focussing on improving her customer engagement. Consequently, several customer commendations were received from customers for the service she provided throughout the year. One customer in particular called into the centre quite irate and disappointed with the service received from the Bank. The customer attempted to process a payment to a competitor credit card using a Scotiabank cheque. She received a call from the competitor bank advising her that her account would incur late fees and additional interest charges as the payment she claims to have sent for processing was never received by the competitor bank. When the nominee received the customer’s call, she successfully resolved the issue within the same day by following up with the relevant mid office personnel at Scotiabank. The customer’s perception of Scotiabank’s service was completely transformed following her interaction with the nominee. The customer commented on the nominee’s outstanding service and her ability to efficiently resolve the issue which exceeded all the customer’s expectations. The nominee, no doubt, created a memorable customer experience as the customer called just to ensure the nominee’s supervisor was aware of the interaction and was duly recognized for same. This nominee was promoted in May 2012 following her consistent demonstration of outstanding customer service and her dedication to fostering the same behavior by her colleagues through continuous peer coaching.
“As she examined the purpose of the survey program, her perspective changed..”
It started with one call, a very unhappy customer and some rather unflattering customer feedback. At first, this nominee rejected the SQM survey comments. With 12 years of call center experience, a division mentor role and a career filled with accolades and achievement, she felt that this could just be one of those members. But then she listened to the call recording, “I listened and I didn’t like what I heard. That’s not me. That’s not the customer service I expect from myself.” That one call gnawed at her. She started looking at her performance a little more critically. Time passed and she began to see the issue. She found herself looking at the service she received from others and that is when everything changed. As she examined the purpose of the survey program, her perspective changed:
I used to see the survey as a way to evaluate me – not the customer’s experience. I was defensive. After some extremely poor experiences of my own, however, I began to see the audits as the only true opportunity a customer has to rate a company’s performance. The customer isn’t concerned with why a claim is denied or why she has to wait on hold. She just expects their issue to be resolved – that’s it. No excuses. I realized that it’s not about me. It’s about them. And that’s when it clicked.
This revelation changed her approach and her member feedback improved immediately. A customer raved:
I am very satisfied because she was very knowledgeable. The things she did not know right off the top of her head she asked me to hold for a very short period of time and went and checked on to make sure she had all the correct information. She was very personable and did a really good job. I would highly love to get this person back every time I call.
Since February 2012, this nominee has been World Class Certified each month and concluded the certification period with a very high average. She credits her success to her focus on listening and understanding the customer’s need, rather than trying to resolve the issue the caller presents and moving on to the next: “I listen so much more intently now than ever before.”
Life was good, and then opportunity knocked again. Midway into 2012, she was selected to participate in a skill development opportunity as a CSR Liaison for the Customer Service SQM Review Committee. While on the team that relatively few CSRs know exist, she came to understand VSP’s commitment to world-class customer service:
I had no idea how much time, energy and effort went into the program. What I once believed was just an evaluation tool, I now see as the backbone of what VSP stands for. The commitment we show to our customers became tangible and real. This is serious business. It really makes me feel so proud of the company I represent.
Because of her experience with customer service and her work with the committee, she had the opportunity to visit each of the Customer Service team meetings in September and relay the role of SQM and its importance to VSP:
CSRs had so many questions and I don’t think they truly understood just how committed our company is to ensuring each customer receives the best possible service on every call. After making these presentations, I feel like the CSRs have a much better understanding of VSP’s expectations of them and how dedicated VSP is to both our members and our employees.
I wish I could quantify the transformation that took place with this CSR. She provides incredible customer service for each of her callers. She constantly researches and works with business partners throughout the organization to ensure that she resolves her customers’ needs. She is a leader within her team who continually forwards tips and information to her colleagues. Her service is truly world class.
“She decided her most important objective was to work on her relationships with her callers..”
This CSR had a challenging year in 2011 both professionally and personally. At the beginning of the year, she and I met and jointly created her development plan for the year. She is our most improved CSR in the call center! This nominee has been a CSR with us for 13 years. She aspires to become a CSR that handles both phone calls and claims processing; these positions are highly sought after.
First, she needed to improve her performance to be successful in her current role and competitive to reach her goal. She said she didn’t want to leave her CSR position because she loved working with her callers. So, together, we looked at her SQM scores and her other performance goals. She decided her most important objective was to work on her relationships with her callers. She focused all her efforts into making sure she was giving the best service she could while showing her callers she cared. She worked on understanding her caller’s needs and resolving their issue on the first phone call. If she told someone she would call them back later that afternoon, she kept her word. She was diligent about remaining current on call center changes to policies and procedures to assure she gave correct information on every call. She not only improved her relationships with her callers, she also improved her overall performance. She is on her way to becoming a hybrid CSR and she knows that by improving her caller’s experience she will be a more competitive candidate. I am very proud of the hard work and determination she has demonstrated to become a better CSR for herself and VSP.
“I started thinking about how I would like a call to go if I was the one calling in for assistance..”
I began my career at Sun Life Financial in the Call Centre almost 2 years ago. Going into this job I had 4 years of previous call centre experience but never had I dealt with retirement products, not even in my own life experiences. There was so much to learn and I was extremely nervous to start taking calls after training. Each day did become easier but there was still a lot to learn and skills to develop. My first year, I was lucky enough to just make the cut to be a World Class Certified Representative. It came down to my very last survey! Had it not been rated World Class I would not have been certified. Imagine that! This frightened me as customer service has always been so important to me. Not being a World Class Certified Representative was not an option for me! I remember coming into work and my supervisor was smiling ear to ear with the news that my last survey came in and I did it, I was officially World Class Certified! All my hard work in that first year paid off. I was very proud of my accomplishment! Being World Class Certified was the boost of confidence that I really needed to get to steer me in the right direction.
This year just making that cut, for me, would not be option. It was my goal to be consistently over the target. I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t going to be in the same position as the prior year stressing over whether or not I was going to be certified. As I said, in my mind, not being certified is not an option for me! I started thinking about how I was handling my calls. Was I really listening to my customer? Was I demonstrating empathy where necessary? Was I expressing how I was going to help them resolve their call? Was I being as polite as I could be? Although I could comfortably answer yes to those questions I knew that deep down I could be doing better.
I started thinking about how I would like a call to go if I was the one calling in for assistance. I would want the person on the other end to express that they understood my issue and that they were there to help. After thinking this through and applying my newfound insight, I started noticing a huge difference on how I was speaking to our customers. I began answering the phone with a bubbly tone of voice and a smile on my face. I ensured that I was being polite and using my manners, saying please and thank you when appropriate. As soon as the member would express the reason for their call I would paraphrase it back to them to acknowledge that I heard what they needed and that I also understood. Then I would state my willingness to assist by saying things like “I can most definitely assist you with that today”, and, ”Absolutely, I will take care of doing that for you”. I started realizing that it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it! Positive words are the key.
Sometimes I have to deliver ‘bad’ news’ (it’s inevitable), but I found in using positive wording, empathetic tones and stating what I can do, I was able to turn these calls into great member experiences. The World Class calls started coming in month after month. I was feeling great and there was no way I was going to stop what I was doing, it was working! My Supervisor also provided me with the opportunity to mentor new hires. This was a turning point in lifting my confidence. I also had the opportunity to listen to calls and do some coaching with my peers. This was an amazing way to really live and breathe extraordinary Customer Service!
Along with changes to the way I was handling my calls my supervisor was also doing a great job supporting me along the way. She noticed the change in my calls and would frequently compliment me on how polite I was on the phone. She knew I was passionate about my job and passionate about creating a pleasant member experience on each and every call, and my SQM results were proving it. My colleagues were noticing too and commenting on my politeness and how nice I was on the phones. It was great to get this feedback from co-workers.
My supervisor had a senior representative sit with me to listen to my calls as my call length appeared to be high. I was still struggling with confidence in the knowledge category because I was so afraid I would give the wrong information and impact a member’s experience negatively. The representative that sat with me identified that I was handling my calls perfectly! He encouraged me by observing that I know what I am doing and to stop second guessing myself. This was the major boost in self-esteem that really helped me to know that I am doing a good job. I began second guessing myself less and less and sure enough my call time improved.
I can confidently say that confidence is no longer an issue for me! I am proud to be working in an environment where I can be part of resolving customers’ concerns and help them to achieve peace of mind. It is very rewarding to see a survey come in with a comment like, “She was very informative, very helpful. She was very polite, helpful and just answered all my questions and put my mind at rest”. Those comments continue to be another huge part of the motivation that keeps me focused on providing the best service I possibly can. I am proud to say that this year it did not come down to my last survey. I worked hard to reach my goals to ensure this would not be a concern. My hard work and dedication has increased my World Class rating and I can proudly say that I am a World Class Certified Representative for 2012!
“Though she was very humbled by this accomplishment and kept it quiet, her team wouldn’t let it go unnoticed..”
It is with great pleasure that I nominate this CSR for the World Class Call Improvement Award. Wow! What accomplishments she achieved this last year. Each caller was ‘very satisfied’ with her; each person said she resolved the reason for their call and each caller said they definitely would probably continue to use our company’s products and services. At the beginning of this certification period, she declared her goal to achieve 100% on all her surveys. She has a strong desire to provide World Class Customer Service, as well as, achieve first call resolution and caller satisfaction on each call. How did she accomplish this? She incorporated the following elements into her call handling:
In the comment section on her SQM Report Card, common themes used by her callers to describe their experience with her include: knowledgeable, efficient, friendly and helpful. She takes great pride when she reads the comments on her surveys. Examples include:
She was very helpful and went above and beyond what I was calling about. She helped me review some benefits as well as locate a doctor and re-set my password for VSP online service. She was very helpful. I was impressed. Some of the best customer service I’ve had lately. She was extremely courteous, knowledgeable and patient. I didn’t get the feeling she was trying to rush me off the line. She was everything you would want. She was extremely courteous, very knowledgeable and patient. You should give some consideration to increasing that young lady’s salary because she is a credit to your organization. She stuck with me the whole time, very easy to work with, very friendly. She took care of me and solved my problems. I didn’t have to do it myself. She was very helpful and pleasant to work with. Thank you very much.
Though she was very humbled by this accomplishment and kept it quiet, her team wouldn’t let it go unnoticed. To celebrate, her team decorated her desk; each wrote her a note and gave her a big congratulations balloon and flowers.