Inside the Quality-First Contact Center

Social Awareness

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A lot of people in our field are repeating the same social media content. That's OK. The problem is the people who aren't.


This year I've been trying to #rampup my #socialmedia game, especially on Twitter (@callzilla and @nealtopf). I've learned a few things (including hashtag speak).

First, I've realized how strangely appealing and addictive Twitter is. It really taps into my psychology. I get a rush out of adding followers and seeing my words re-tweeted.

Second, it sure takes a lot of time to do it right. I don't think it's wasted time. I've made some fantastic contacts and friends, added followers and paid significantly more attention to what others in our field are saying. Staying current in the customer care world today means more than attending an industry event every quarter or getting a magazine subscription. Things change minute to minute in the Twitter-verse.

Third, I've been astounded to discover how many people in the customer care business are saying the same good things. There is a steady stream of tweets, blogs and white papers saying that customer experience is important, that employee engagement is important, that technology is moving quickly, and that the changing landscape is OK as long as we meet customers on their preferred channels and leave them satisfied. I also believe that it is so much easier to retweet a quote then to really offer an opinion on things. Even with the homogenous nature of the content, there are still some that publish controversial opinions, yet very few of these are ever questioned.



It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to customers. But treating customers well, without exception, does represent tremendous cost.


 

A recent example: Very respected @huffingtonpost contributor Ebong Eka posted a Top 5 article on Improving Customer Service and Sales. He recommended great ideas, but he wrote these words that troubled me:

“Good customer service doesn’t cost anything” and “Good customer service doesn’t have an additional incremental cost.”

I tweeted my vehement disagreement that customer service costs an inordinate amount of money, from salaries, recruiting, hiring, and most importantly, training, QA’ing, and coaching, and even then, as an industry we’re barely scratching the surface of quality care of our customers.

To Eka’s credit, he responded and clarified that he meant it doesn’t cost anything to be nice to customers, which of course is true. But treating customers well, without exception, does represent tremendous cost. And it is terribly surprising that our Twitter community didn’t question this. As an industry, sadly, we still somewhat operate under a sheep mentality.

Wrong focus

So why is the field still in such a mess? Too many communications channels still seem underserved, too many employees still aren't engaged, and too many customers are still getting screwed.

The problem is not the people who are producing the same social media content. The problem is with the companies that aren't.



If they can't drive down the cost per contact numbers down far enough, they think the sky is falling. Callzilla has had clients like that.


It starts with the bean counters at client companies. They've been trained to view customer service as a cost center. So their goal is always to push down costs as far as possible. The key metrics for them are cost per contact and average handling time. If they can't drive those numbers down far enough, they think the sky is falling. We've had clients like that at Callzilla.

Cost center or revenue center?

What the bean counters and the bigwigs don't understand is that we resolve a lot of problems for them the very first time we have contact with their customers. We produce a high level of customer satisfaction. We help foster loyalty among customers who had an incentive to take their business elsewhere. We keep them in a recurring purchase mode.

From that perspective, a contact center is a revenue center.

While the problem may start with the clients, it is amplified by contact-center operators who fail to show that they are delivering higher customer lifetime value. When you stack the cost of customer care against the future revenue from satisfied customers, you realize that good customer care only helps the bottom line.



So why is our industry still in such a mess? Too many employees still aren't engaged, and too many customers are still getting screwed.


Most contact center managers get it. They know they need more staff. They know they should be allowed to talk longer on the phone and engage the customer over a longer period of time. They need to do a better job of getting other stakeholders to see the light.

Changing the game

So it's a good thing when we keep spreading the word on social media. There are some people who are really good at conveying that message. I'll continue to forward it and add my own spin.

Right now it still feels like we are a minority. But I think we're making a dent. If we keep repeating the message, eventually we'll change the game. -Neal


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Topics: Social Media Customer Service