In the first of a series of blogs from Colin Hay, an ex-military man and newly appointed VP Sales, UK at Puzzel (formely known as Intelecom), we look at what contact centres can learn from the army when it comes to creating a customer engagement centre using a five-step methodology.
Contact centres, like the Army, are ultimately all about people: dealing with challenges and solving problems. OK, so while being in a contact centre is not life-threatening, agents are on the front-line with nowhere to hide. The way they handle customers and prospects can make or break a situation – with no going back.
Weak leadership and poor morale among the troops can spell disaster in action, in the same way customers will pick up on unhappy agents – ultimately affecting service levels.
Here is a five-step methodology that focuses on the inner psychology and workings of a front-line operation to ensure every contact centre is well armed and ready for action:
- Motivating people and the implementing a GRILDAR approach:
- Goal – agents need to have clear goals for themselves and to understand how they support the bigger, common or team goal
- Role – everyone in the contact centre should understand the role they are playing to achieve those all important metrics, be it 97% customer satisfaction or 85% first contact resolution (FCR), in the same way that some soldiers might operate the radio to keep communications going and others provide the food to keep the troops marching
- Involve – agents perform better when they feel they are involved in making the contact centre a success. Managers should ask for input from staff with specialist knowledge and skills to get the most out of them and the contact centre
- Listen – before changing the way you do things, listen to what agents say. As the people on the front-line, they are likely to know better than you how something will work in practice. Give direction but allow agents to think for themselves. Do they really have to come back to you every time they want to give a customer a refund (potentially putting the already unhappy consumer on hold yet again)?
- Delegate – a classic military pillar, delegation is about giving people motivation based around the concept of trust. Supervisors should entrust their agents to answer enquiries and interact with customers because they have the expertise to understand the tone of a voice, keep a cool head and determine the quality of the customer experience
- Accountability – in the contact centre, there are metrics to hit, so make everyone accountable but foster a sense of achievement when individuals and the team succeeds
- Reward – live by the mantra ‘praise in public, discipline in private’ and you won’t go wrong when it comes to motivating people, whether in the Army or in modern contact centres. Today’s consumers want to spend money when they like, how they like and they demand instant attention and satisfaction. This puts pressure on agents and sometimes they will get it wrong but chastise them behind closed doors. Embarrassing them in front of their colleagues will do nothing for their morale and you will lose the respect of the whole team. This is bad for staff retention and service levels.
- Create positive surroundings – They say an army marches on its stomach and something very similar applies to agents when it comes to their work environment. Are chairs comfortable? Is the office warm enough? Do staff have enough breaks and nourishing food in the canteen? Comfort leads to happier staff and happier customers.
- Strike the right work/life balance – Build flexibility into schedules and ways of working in the contact centre. Ask agents what works for them. You might be surprised to find out that some people welcome the opportunity to work more in the evening or at weekends to accommodate other family or study commitments. What about the high-performing, valuable agent who has a sick relative? Why not allow them to work from home? Technology makes it an easy option. Make schedules right for agents and it will be right for the contact centre and for customers.
- Right training – you wouldn’t expect soldiers to be sent to a war zone without training them to use equipment so why would you put agents in the firing line without the right support? The right training in a fun environment boosts confidence and performance and ensures agents are up and running in no time.
- Let technology be the enabler – today’s military relies on modern weaponry as well as fitness and training to engage with the enemy. The contact centre should follow suit and take advantage of the latest cloud-based contact centre solutions to drive consistent and automated processes, accelerate response times and have a complete view of the customer to deliver the best possible, personalised service.
Moving Towards a Customer Engagement Centre
Just as modern military operations are moving towards peacekeeping practices, contact centres are switching to multi-channel customer engagement centres. Once again, it is about having the right people, with the right training, in the right place to handle customer service enquiries, regardless of the channel used or the situation that arises. This is where technology should be a unifying enabler and with a cloud-based contact centre software, such as Puzzel organisations are able to:
- Aggregate social media posts using advance functionality for queuing, routing and service levels regardless of communication channel
- Assign posts and create filtered queues to allow specially trained agents to speed up replies and avoid negative social media noise caused by slow response times
- Prioritize key influencers and important customers
- Integrate with CRM, other database and media archive solutions to store customer and conversation details
- Provide multi-skilled agents with a total view of a customer’s interaction with the organisation regardless of channel, thereby providing the ability to identify individual customer needs and business development opportunities to up-sell or cross-sell.
In the next blog in this series from the front-line, we will take a look at the outside-in view, i.e, the customer’s perspective and what the contact centre can learn from the army about process, communication, quality and discipline.