Measure Customer Service Quality, Not Just Call Time

The call time report is an often misunderstood customer service call center report. Too many customer service managers place too much emphasis on reports focusing the number of phone calls or the amount of time spent on phone calls. Phone call reports need to be taken in context because they offer no indication on the quality of service.

Let’s face it. Long calls, don’t necessarily mean bad service, I’ve seen superstar customer support people spend hours on the phone with a customer resolving a customer issue. This is a good thing, we need to encourage engagement in our teams and taking the time needed to solve the problem. I’ve also seen the other hand where individuals not comfortable with an issue will take much longer than needed to solve the problem, resulting in longer phone calls.

Measure Quality, Not Call Time

Call center metrics today, too often, are too focused on usage of equipment and not enough on helping customers. That’s probably why customer service today is measured in customer satisfaction and not customer loyalty. Zappos, the online retailer, has a reputation for awesome customer service and customer loyalty, without resorting to your traditional phone call metrics.

There are only 4 metrics questions you ever need to ask your customers. Zappos takes a unique approach to measuring their customer service work. Zappos doesn’t measure call times, in fact, they often tout stories about 6-hour support calls and have even sent inquiring customers to a competitor because they were out of stock in a particular item.

Zappos understands that customer service is much more than measuring call times or the number of phone calls an agent takes. If you are focused on calls times and discuss that with your team members, you’re not focused on the customer. Fortunately, real customer service, customer-focused, quality-based metrics aren’t hard.

The only 4 customer service metric questions you ever need to ask (call time is not one).

Customer-focused quality metrics are the gateway to great customer experience. Customers are looking for problems solved and not as much for a specific amount of time on the phone. Successful customer service is about creating great customer experiences where customers come away with a renewed sense of value from working with you, looking forward to work with you again, and willing and wanting to share about you with everyone they know. You don’t get that from a call time report.

You can follow the Zappos quality model and find how effectively you’re serving by focusing metrics around these 4 key questions (notice that call time is not included in any of these):

Question 1: On a scale from 1 – 10: How likely would you be to recommend Zappos to a friend or family member?

Question 2: On a scale from 1 – 10: How likely would you be to request the person you spoke with again?

Question 3: On a scale from 1 – 10: How likely would you be to recommend this person to a friend or co-worker?

Question 4: On a scale from 1 – 10: If you owned your own business, how likely would you be to try and hire the person you spoke with?

Don’t throw out the call time report and other metrics. They can still be valuable.

Traditional call center metrics are valuable, in the right context. Call center metrics are part of the key to great customer service. Since great customer service and awesome customer experiences involve having team members available to work with customers, that’s where traditional metrics comes in, they give you an idea of where you need to staff people.

Call time reports shouldn’t be the primary measure of employee performance because they don’t give a full scope of the actual service being done. Instead, customer service and call center managers can implement the following practices for utilizing call time reports:

- Review long-term call times (over 1 month is best since shorter times lend to inaccurate information).

- Get average times for your entire team (compare only employees working similar shift hours).

For team members with statistically significant higher call times, review longer phone calls and look for potential issues causing slower service responses.

Incorporate findings into your on-going regular individual employee training, but not specifically pointing out that the training is being done because of longer times.
Why? Because you don’t want to have discourage employees from taking the time to help customers. You’re only addressing long call times if there is a legitimate need to address it. Good service is not a legitimate reason. That’s what you hope for.

The next time you see the call time report, take a minute and think about what it really means. There’s a lot of good, quality customer service taking place in those precious minutes.

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Is Customer Service the New Marketing?

The line between customer service and marketing is becoming blurred, and some companies are even counting service as a marketing expense. Although in the past there were definitive marketing and customer service “departments,” it makes sense to acknowledge their relationship and interaction for the overall good of the company. An investment in service, and the training to support it, is a profitable investment for a company to make. Funds invested in customer support provide a much larger return. Some companies have really taken this to heart, which even has some asking: Is customer service the new marketing?

Perhaps “new” marketing gives the wrong impression of what’s really happening. While customer service and marketing are both essential aspects of a business and always will be, it could be said that they are becoming more integrated. In fact, sales and other departments are also internalizing customer service and realizing that it must be present in every aspect of business interaction – both internal and external. Service has expanded beyond a separate department or a call center, and more and more companies are allocating the funds needed to make it part of their culture.

An outstanding example of this is Zappos.com, recognized as a service role model. It leads the pack in demonstrating that customer service is not a burden or just another expense, but an opportunity to expand marketing efforts through an amazing customer experience. By providing this level of service, they are hoping for two outcomes. First is the loyalty of the customers themselves. Because of the outstanding service they receive, they will return again and again, translating that loyalty into more business. And, beyond customer loyalty comes evangelism. Zappos.com hopes to compel customers to evangelize the company, spreading great stories about its customer service. When they make a promise, they keep it – and that keeps customers coming back as well as sharing word-of-mouth marketing. In this way, the commitment to service is a direct boost to its marketing efforts.

Another company that uses customer service as a major marketing strategy is Ace Hardware. It has found a way to thrive in spite of the fact that it is not only competing with other local hardware stores, but also larger stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot and others. Ace is smart and has figured out how to survive in the era of big box stores. It isn’t by outspending the competition on advertising, or promising the lowest prices. They aim to provide amazing service – the best in the business. And it works! The company is not just surviving, it’s thriving, by delivering high-level customer service.

The companies mentioned here that strive to provide amazing service receive in return a valuable reward – customer loyalty. The customers keep coming back, and what’s more, they tell others about their experiences. Customer service as a marketing strategy makes sense, so promise and deliver an exceptional experience. It’s one of the best investments you can make.

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Why Do Businesses Need to Take Customer Service Seriously?

Most of us believe that our businesses exist for profit. Indeed, we do. But keeping this as a sole mindset may be detrimental to our enterprises in the long run.

We must understand that for our businesses to be able to sustainably exist for the long haul, we must endeavor to add value to the lives of our customers. We have to remember that consumers purchase our goods and services to solve their pressing needs. They don’t do it because they justwant us to earn profit.

Gearing for the long haul means building dynamic and productive relationships with the markets we serve. This means listening to customer insights, understanding their needs, and even thinking ahead of them to be able to provide unique and relevant solutions.

We see, the operative words in building a long lasting business enterprise are relationship andsolutions.

These two words exhibit the core ingredients in providing exemplary customer service: the kind of service that is relevant, useful, and important to the market that we do business with.

What is customer service?

For businesses, customer service really is putting on the customers’ shoes. It is a practice that ensures customers experience unique and personalized connection with the brand from beginning till the end of every transaction. Customer service is about how we help develop the consumers’ personal relationship with the goods and services that we provide.

It is how we design our products or conduct our services in a manner that may ease their problems and concerns. It is providing value and offering solutions.

Simply put, customer service is how we design the consumers’ journey from information gathering, purchase, and post purchase, to be as easy as possible, as pleasant and productive as possible.

In a nutshell, customer service is about the consumers’ total experience with our brands and services.

Why invest in customer service?

Having the biggest and the latest product is no longer an edge in today’s hyper competitive market. The trap of having the better mouse trap can be lethal to businesses. This is why, we need to uniquely define our brands and services to stand out – or at least survive in the arena.

Some businesses believe that adopting the latest technology may be the answer. Some think that having a deep pocket to splurge on marketing would save the day. These myopic senses, however, may lead them down the lion’s pit.

A cost efficient and relevant business differentiator may lie on plain and simple good ol’ customer service.

We have listed below five of the many reasons why businesses should invest in good customer service:

The age of human to human business

We’ve also been customers at some point in our lives. We know that it is not cool to talk to a robot on the other line, telling us that our calls are important… but we have to wait… and wait… and wait… until the robot talks to us again. Or after a long automated spiel and garble-y canned ads, we’re told, to speak to an operator, press zero.

We’ve also experienced how to be excited to use a new product only to be welcomed by a thick book of users’ manual (or log-on to this complicated site to start enjoying our services!).

Those scenarios are often frustrating, we wished we never purchased these goods or services at all!

Albeit the advancement of digital and telecommunications technology, as humans, we still prefer to talk to another warm blooded human. Similarly, a human voice, any human interaction for that matter, is priceless to our customers.

Humanizing our services creates a strong brand affinity among our customers. They can put a face to a brand or service, they know that they are being listened to. And they know that someone will understand them – beyond algorithms and codes.

After the digital explosion in the past years, customers have become exhausted by cold automation. They need to interact with humans. And this need, once wisely addressed, will provide businesses with opportunities to make a difference.

Approach clutter with personalized service

While most brands aimlessly busy themselves trumpeting how good they are, it is about the right time to step back and look at how our business should really make sense to the customers. Let us take time to understand them and their needs and find ways to make sense to them.

As we know in marketing, anything that is not relevant to the consumers does not add value to the product or service. Touting them will just add to the noise and clutter.

Capturing the right market means linking with them and building a mutually beneficial relationship. We are called to approach the market with personalized service.

Mass producing may have been the pill to progress in the past century but this may no longer be the case today. Customers need to feel special and unique, thus we also have to design our goods, services, and processes to be such.

By personalizing our approach to business, customers will return our efforts by being loyal to our brands. Customer loyalty means better business for us.

Attract more customers with focus and attention

Given the unique requirements of our customers, we need to ensure that we provide them with specialized goods and services.

To attract more patrons, we need to focus and put extra attention to their distinctive needs and wants.

As mentioned above, we need to be relevant to the customers’ lives to be able to do business with them. This is where good customer service comes in.

What are our ways to hear them out? Are we providing them total solutions? Are our products and services easy to use and the answer to their needs? Are we making their lives easier? Are we providing them value?

Are the services we provide fast and convenient? Are the queues fast moving? Are our websites user friendly? Are our call center agents knowledgeable, do they listen actively?

Most customers, when hunting for new products and services look for these factors. For all we know, they may have been disgruntled clients of our competitors who look to be paid attention to.

Paying attention to the market and providing them exemplary service may be beneficial in gaining more customers.

Love thy own

Good customer service may also be about retaining profitable customers. We know that this client base may provide us with repeat purchases and may even influence their circles to do business with us.

Some studies have shown that by keeping our customers happy, we can keep doing business with them sustainably. In fact, a study suggests that by increasing our loyal customer base, we may be able to increase steady revenue as well.

Happy customers tend to purchase more, and may, in fact, provide us important insights on how we may improve our business relationship with them. Talk about free insights on product usage, logistics, etc.

Loving our own by providing good customer service will keep us from chasing flighty birds in the bush.

Of course, it can also be about cost

Investing in good customer service may also be about cost. Doing this may save us from spending too much in marketing and new customer acquisition – which may ring up to four times the price.

By integrating good customer experience in our products and services at the onset, we may avoid costly returns and repairs. We may also lessen frustration which can usually cause longer term damage to our brands.

We’ve heard of several horror stories where brands needed to spend millions and millions just to appease angry customers. This may have been avoided if a customer-centric mindset prevailed.

If we wish to establish a good customer service system, the investment need not to be complicated and expensive. We can turn to our frontline employees, gather their experience, and farm ideas from them on how to better serve our clients.

For businesses to thrive and be competitive in today’s environment, customer service must be taken seriously. We must ensure that our customers experience unique and personalized connection with us. We must provide our customers the right environment to develop close affinity to brands.

Why we need customer service? It is an important differentiator to make our brands stand out from the clutter and attract more customers, retain our loyal clients, and save us on millions on sales and marketing cost.

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