Article by Jodi Beuder, MHI Global, Originally published in Business2Community
Featuring Zappos and TELUS International
Here’s what we know about customers and your business’s bottom line: retaining existing customers is less expensive than wooing new ones. How do businesses keep their customers loyal to their brand or product? By providing quality customer experiences that incentivize customers to stick with you.
According to an article in Harvard Business Review, you don’t have to do a dog and pony show to satisfy customers, you simply must ensure you’re not providing them with negative customer experiences and giving them reasons to defect.
Contact agents are on the front line of customer service delivery so training is especially important to ensure consistent, efficient and quality customer experiences. The challenge associated with contact centers is they often experience high turnover and low morale. In all our years of working with various contact centers, we have found that when an organization is attentive to creating a respectful, engaging culture, it is less likely to experience excessive turnover and low spirits.
Essentially if your company wants to retain customers, it must also work to retain employees. Happy employees often leads to happy customers. Think Zappos and TELUS International. Both companies are good examples of focusing as much on their company culture and, by extension, customer loyalty. If you’re thinking that your contact center is too small and doesn’t have the budget of Zappos and TELUS, there are still a number of ways you can create an atmosphere of respect, inspiration, and growth without breaking the bank. Let’s look at a few.
- Soft Skills — Before your agent can sell, diagnose, or troubleshoot, he or she must first possess some basic etiquette skills. Customers are more likely to respond favorably if they feel they can trust the person they are interacting with. Manners, tone and personalization of message are all soft skills that go a long way to providing quality customer experiences. Training your agent on developing these skills should include: how to remain calm when interacting with challenging customers, being honest when talking about deadlines or offers so as to avoid over promising and under delivering, and thanking the customer at the end of the call. Of course, this list can be expanded, but focusing on the basics ensures a baseline, quality interaction each and every time.
- Active Listening — Training agents in the art of active listening pays off quickly. When agents actively listen, they are better able to identify the source of the customer’s frustration and seek to find a quick and appropriate resolution. When customers feel that they are truly being heard they feel more trust with the agent and tend to articulate their needs more clearly. Some of the attributes of active listening include attentiveness, responsiveness and perceptiveness.
- Authenticity — When agents are allowed to “keep it real” with customers, often the outcomes are positive and employees and customers feel more satisfied. More and more customers are shunning canned messages and “saccharine” interactions with agents. Empowering agents to be authentic requires training, particularly if they’ve been previously trained to always repeat boilerplate messages. TELUS International has had great success with giving agents the authority to service customers as they see fit through their “Moment of Truth” program, which empowers agents to go “off script” and solve the customer’s issues the best way they see fit. Of course, this program is successful in part because agents are required to document their decision making processes so that managers can evaluate their efforts and results.
- Quality Assurance — There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to companies that have effective quality assurance programs. Zappos created a Full-Circle Feedback program that is made up of five components. These include:
- Service observations
- Calibrations checks
- Sharing great call successes
- Net promoter score feedback
The win-win of a strong quality assurance program is that it creates a culture of care and celebrates the successes of employees based on delivering excellent customer service. It makes sense that Zappos is a sought after company to work for and is viewed so favorably by customers.
Developing a company culture that fosters teamwork, celebrates success, and encourages personal and professional growth creates an environment that allows agents to deliver quality customer experiences. Creating such a workplace doesn’t necessarily require a big budget, but it does require planning and support from the top down. When employees feel respected in their workplace, they are more likely to deliver customer experiences that foster loyalty. When all is said and done, what’s good for the employee is good for the customer.