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Management / Why you need to transform your call center into a customer hub

Why you need to transform your call center into a customer hub

Imagine a situation: your Internet stops working and you have to call your provider’s customer service center to sort it out. You reluctantly pick up the phone, dial a number and hear: “Your call is very important to us, please stay on the line and we will be with you shortly”. So you wait 5, 10, 15 minutes, listening to the same irritating music. The voice that keeps reassuring you, “your call is very important” comes across more and more like a joke. Sound familiar? Probably ,but the other side of this issue, is one of stretched call centers with limited staffing resources facing an overwhelming amount of calls?

Despite these challenges, Jason Roberts, head of Knowhow customer contact center believes there is a way of making a call to a customer contact center a pleasant, rather than frustrating, experience.

First of all, the change of mindset starts from changing the terminology. “We build a contact center around the average handling time and I’m yet to speak to a customer who wants to be treated in an ‘average’ way or a colleague who wants to deliver an ‘average’ service,” explains Roberts. “So my mantra is around changing from a negative measurement of handling time to a more positive one with a mindset of ‘appropriate’ handling time that enables an appropriate conversation with an appropriate and reasonable resolution.”

He also thinks that it’s important to move from transactional to relationship management: “Call centers are transactional items that are built around taking the call and moving it on. The relationship is something that’s going to be built with a customer. So moving away from a call center or a customer contact center, to becoming the customer hub of any business, making the customers the voice of the business. ”

Jason Roberts believes that the way to achieve that ambition is to divert a big chunk of customer services to digital channels like an app, social media, website or web chat: “The reason why contact centers would push the web chat piece, is that actually it’s more efficient and instead of one colleague – one call, you can do several chats at the same time. It’s more efficient, buying you the room to invest in better customer service”.

Roberts thinks that if there was a ‘perfect journey’ through digital channels, the customer contact center would get fewer complaints, if any. “The customer would have added value to their journey with us. For instance, when you have a problem on your laptop, one of our guys can step in, have a look at that laptop with you and co-browse with you on your laptop and get the problem fixed remotely. It used to be the work of the IT team, but it’s now something that our customer centers do and do well. The conversation then becomes a loyalty piece and that’s where the value of support service comes from,” says Roberts.

“We are not a sales center, we are here to support the customer looking to get the deal through on the website, potentially there may be an offer in their basket but our purpose is to help them consider alternative offers and be on hand with advice. The guys are not on commission; they are here to provide a service and to help the customer with whatever they need. That’s what it’s about, it’s about that relationship,” says Roberts.

However, he adds, to get that level of quality engagement and conversation with the customer, it’s important to invest in hiring and developing the right talent. A job at a call center should not be seen as a transitional one, but rather as a career path:  “We are in the process of increasing the quality of our team for the future, by advertising to a different talent pool with more experienced colleagues joining us than we would normally take on. We are also going to increase the base salary for all of our staff who are on our entry level package, to make sure we can invest in and develop their skills here, rather then them potentially moving within 12 months to another provider.”

Another key factor that allows a call center to become a customer hub is looking closely at the role of the people within it, thinks Roberts: “Give staff more freedom and when you can’t find an answer in a decision tree, then share the problem through a conversation with an intelligent and eloquent colleague to give you the solution.”

This approach has already paid off, just within the last six months, Knowhow’s customer service center has received several awards and recognition including the “Committed to People Development” award, “New Employer Apprentice” award, and winner of the “Disability at Work” campaign.

And last, but not least, Jason Roberts, thinks that the principle of “brilliant basics” should always be applied: giving the customer what you promised to give, on the day that you said you’d give it and with a quality and standard that they expect. He says that even though it sounds really simple, often these principles are forgotten and only once they are applied will “a customer no longer be considered as an output of the business, but actually they become an input to the business and an input to all customer decisions going forward.”

To hear more about customer hubs, join Jason Roberts at the Customer Focus Summit in London on the 23d of May.

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