13th November 2017 5 minute read
Andy Moorhouse is Head of Insight at Blue Sky Performance Improvement, a subsidiary of the Capita Group that is skilled in people transformation and training. We asked him, what are the good behaviours agents demonstrate over the phone that deliver the highest CSAT scores?
I’ve spent years listening to and analysing thousands of contact centre calls to tease out the agent behaviours that secure the highest customer satisfaction levels. These behaviours shift over time, and they can vary from sector to sector. Yet when you crunch the numbers, there are always five key things agents can do when talking to customers that ensure the greatest chance of sending them away happy.
1) An appropriate acknowledgment
This isn’t false empathy, saying “I’m so sorry this has happened to you”. Surprisingly, empathy doesn’t drive satisfaction levels as much as organisations think. Neither does apologising endlessly. What actually makes a difference is an appropriate acknowledgement of the customer emotion, because this means you’ve listened and understood. If the customer is frustrated, you acknowledge their frustration. On problem calls, you want an acknowledgement that matches the mood the customer is in and the issue they need addressed. You don’t just want an automatic “so sorry”.
From there you can quickly segue into an offer of reassurance: “don’t worry, I can fix that for you”. It’s both a personal and an unprompted reassurance that as an agent, you’re going to own this and get it sorted. Which leads us to…
2) Demonstrating accountability
This is a demonstration of how you are going to solve this problem – how you’re going to ‘own’ the enquiry. So for example, if it was an IT issue it might be, “what I’m going to do now is look at the settings, then I’ll be able to understand what’s gone wrong, and then I can find the quickest way of getting this fixed”. Let’s be really clear, this isn’t just signposting. Demonstrating ownership is when your agents explain how they are going to address the issue.
On paper, you can sometimes have agents who may not be top performers because they spend too long on calls and don’t meet the AHT targets. But for the customer, those agents are the standout performers because they are absolutely owning the issue, taking control, and not stopping until they get a resolution.
We’ve carried out research involving over 9000 customer service agents from 63 clue-chip organisations, and failure to demonstrate ownership is the biggest predictor of a very dissatisfied (CSAT1) customer experience. As far as CSAT figures are concerned, “owning it” eats empathy for breakfast.
3) A concise explanation
This is a relatively intuitive yet still misunderstood behaviour that makes an impact on the experience. When you look at the data, what helps hit those CSAT targets is the agent’s ability to explain things to customers, at the right level and tailored to their needs and understanding.
On the lowest-scoring calls it’s just information overload – masses of technical detail the customer hasn’t asked for, doesn’t need, and probably can’t understand, but that makes the agent feel better because they’ve demonstrated their competence and expertise on the subject. But that’s not what’s right for the customer.
4) Clarity of timescale
In particular the timescale of the next steps. Imagine your home shopping hasn’t arrived. You’re waiting at home and the contact centre agent states, “don’t worry, I’ve spoken to the store and they’ll be in touch soon.” How soon? Two minutes? “Oh no, not as quickly as that”. Four hours? “No, sooner than that”. Right, so somewhere between two minutes and four hours. How is that meant to help me?
I think contact centres have only started to nail this in the last few years. We used to measure whether the agent clarified the next step and timescale, and most people did OK. But actually they are two discrete behaviours and need to be treated as such. Clarifying the next step, is “someone will phone you”, but the timescale on that step is “someone will absolutely phone you within ten minutes”. That’s very different and delivers a completely different CSAT score.
5) Labour inclusion
This is one we’ve done a lot of work on recently. It’s more related to field work than contact centres, but it’s still interesting. As an example, water companies send out quality testers whose job it is to do random checks within customers’ homes to make sure the water is the right quality. To do this they have to leave the tap running for a couple of minutes to get it cold enough before they can carry out the test.
So you have testers knocking on customers’ doors saying “I need to test your water”. They stand there at the sink with the tap running for several minutes, not saying a word while the customer looks on. Then they say, “right that’s all done” and off they go. This leaves the customer thinking, “what is this person doing? Why are they just standing there running water down my sink?”
We call it Labour Inclusion, or in less fancy language, “what I’m going to do now”. It’s the process of explaining why I’m at your front door, the process I’m going to follow, that the reason I’m doing it is to make sure the water is the right temperature before I take a sample.
How much better is that?
For more of Andy's insights, check out the November 2017 edition of Intelligence - find it at our Intelligence report hub.