Edition 03

How to turn your call center into a value center

25th September 2009 By Fredrik Abildtrup no comments

In a lot of discussions I have with clients and potential customers one question always comes up - why are the call centers merely regarded as cost centers?

In my view the call centers are:

  • Customer relations centers
  • Customer retention centers
  • Revenue growth centers

How can you explain to your management the value of what you do? How can you prove the added value that you provide to the company?

Let me elaborate on this topic in the following paragraphs.

The conventional method  of showing numbers adhering to budget or effectiveness figures in delivering service to your customers, seldom works as intended.

In my experience the strongest arguments come from the customer himself.  With the feedback from your customers, you get an insight  into what your customers feel about your company and your products, but more importantly you also get data on the customer experiences of your services and the individual customer service agents who  provided them.

This information can be transformed into business intelligence for management and actionable intelligence for employees in different areas of your organization.

So where do you start? The first step is, if you haven’t done it already, a satisfaction measurement program.  There are some important key points to consider here:

  • Use the right measurement methodology.
    The method of contact will help you choose which survey to use. Use post-call surveys to evaluate telephonic experiences and email/web surveys if the customer contacts you via an electronic channel. But be aware that you get the best and most accurate data by using an immediate post-call survey. By utilizing this methodology you get an evaluation of the interaction immediately thereafter, and thus get an unbiased feedback on qualitative and quantitative data. According to scientific research, analyses from evaluations that come from delayed survey programs have several biases. A delayed survey for a service call will be an evaluation of the customer’s ability to recall the experience days or months after the interaction. This kind of evaluation however, can be used to asses other types of interaction, i.e. the shipping process or handling of invoicing.
  • Collect the right kind of data from your customers.
    Do not measure too many things. There is a limit to how many questions you can ask based on a four minute call center experience. But then again, in my experience you can get the information you need from 8 to 10 questions. It is better to keep the design of the surveys to the point, and instead have different questionnaires for different customer interactions. But remember, there must be a subset of questions that are the same across different questionnaires in order to track satisfaction over time, as well as maintaining the ability to compare and benchmark across different functions.
  • Use the right scale
    Use an appropriate scale when asking your customers. Use a scale where there is room to allow correct statistical analysis and where there is room for the customers to rate the experience i.e. a 1to9 scale. A bigger scale normally also gives a better spread of answers, which in turn also makes the graphs fluctuate more and thus provides the reports a more dynamic character. This is especially important when working with your call center employees.
  • Know how to obtain actionable feedback.
    The design of the surveys must reflect your goals in the company, but also embrace your customer focus and that you are easy to do business with. This means that the information you collect must NOT be just interesting to know or what your management wants to hear. The intelligence you get from the right designed evaluation program drives the organization and provides information that the organization can act upon to enhance the customer experience, drive sales or retain customers. The call center is an effective intelligence associate in its own right, but an even stronger intelligence partner when collecting additional data beyond its own needs.
  • Use the results for behavioral change or process improvements.
    The key point of gathering the voice of your customer is to use the data for improving your customer experiences. This is not to be taken lightly, but if the design of the evaluation program is done right, the data collected is ready for use right after the customer has been surveyed. Remember, that when showing the results of the survey, the best is to show it at the different levels of the organization, which can have a direct influence and act on it . It is so frustrating for a call center employee to see results that they themselves cannot change. That kind of result is for management to alter. By utilizing the collected data, you will be able to increase sales, reduce churn and increase the customer satisfaction.

No one can doubt the value of your customer’s feedback. This is why a well constructed satisfaction measurement program provides you with a set of tools to prove your value and contribution to your organization.  With this data in your hands you can tell the company what your customers are saying and what value you bring to the top and bottom-line.

About the author: Fredrik Abildtrup

Fredrik Abildtrup is the CEO of TeleFaction. He is a seasoned customer experience and Return on Behavior specialist. Currently he is responsible for the growth and internationalization of TeleFaction. Moreover he assists TeleFaction clients in improving customer loyalty, reducing churn and increase cross-sales across customer service contact points. TeleFaction primarily caters to European businesses in the telecom, financial services, energy, travel and transport industries.

He has many years of  business experience, primarily in sales and management. Most recently as the Division Exeuctive with T-Systems Denmark, a sister company to Deutsche Telekom, where he was responsible for more than 100 employees.

Fredrik Abildtrup graduated from the Copenhagen Business School with a degree in International Marketing and Management. Moreover he has a master’s degree in International Business obtained via the CEMS-programme at the Universität zu St. Gallen in Switzerland.

Visit: TeleFaction.com

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