This week we caught up with Graham Frost, an industry veteran with a passion for customer service.
Graham is one of a select group of customer service experts that have spent a large part of their career in front line customer-facing roles. He knows which managers got the best out of him, and he knows how to get the best out of a team of people himself. Nowadays he helps other people to create better, happier, more productive teams, and works with The WOW! Awards to help businesses reward their people for great customer service.
We asked Graham what 5 tips would he would suggest for achieving an effective contact centre.
Training is not the answer (on it’s own)
Graham spends a lot of his time helping contact centres to improve their service levels. Often he’ll be brought in to run some training for the advisors and it sets alarm bells ringing when the team leaders or managers don’t attend that training or change any processes to take into account what the advisors have learned.
“You can see an uplift in performance for a few weeks, or even a few months, but if the management haven’t picked up the new processes then nothing will change in the long run.” says Graham
If you have ever watched Super Nanny – a programme where parents and troublesome children are given support with a testing situation, you will know that the parents start off thinking that it is the children that need to change, but ultimately it is the change in the parents’ behaviour that drives results.
Team leaders and managers need to attend regular training alongside their teams, and then work with the teams to implement process changes and reporting mechanisms that align to the training.
Don’t let your best advisor become your worst team leader
In the contact centre industry it is very common for advisors to be promoted to team leaders and team leaders to be promoted to managers as a rite of passage. However, what makes a great advisor doesn’t necessarily make a good team leader or manager. Time, effort and coaching has to go into making this transition successful.
“Often great advisors are given the option of an increase in pay to become a team leader, and why wouldn’t they take it?” says Graham. ”But without any management training and ongoing support they realise the new role isn’t what they expected and bad habits creep in.”
Potential team leaders and managers of the future should be trained in their new role before they take it on so they are prepared and skilled to support their new team.
Welcome new starters to the workplace
Contact centres can be veryhierarchical, with those at the team leader or manager level having started their careers as advisors. With the lack of manager training we looked at in the previous point there can be a temptation for team leaders or managers to say “this is how I was treated when I joined, so why should it be any different for you?”
Anyone who remembers school will recall the older kids telling the younger kids to get used to it “you have it easy compared to when I started!” It is essential to break this cycle in the workplace.
Graham advises companies to focus heavily on their welcome programme. ”Ensure that your new team members feel like they are are joining a family and have all the tools they need to succeed. New members shouldn’t feel like they have to prove themselves before they can be accepted.”
Back to the floor
There is a change in culture going on in customer service. No longer is the contact centre an off-shoot of the real business. Boards and particularly CFO’s that see the contact centre as a profit centre change their attitudes to how customer service is resourced and reported on.
Graham discussed his experience in Metro Bank, particularly the head-office branch in Holborn, London. ”The experience is like a 5 star hotel, and you wouldn’t be amazed to see the Chairman of the company serving customers and getting feedback first hand.”
From the top level of the business you need to punch through the perma-frost of middle management to get to the real story – what advisors really think, and what customers are really telling them.
“The Queen could quite easily think the entire world smells of fresh paint,” says Graham. “Make sure you’re impression of your own business isn’t the same.”
Burn the scripts
In an organisation where you have many thousands of customer interactions a day and a high proportion of new advisors it can be tempting to mandate scripts for your teams to use.
“I had a customer who was requiring advisors to use the same script for every caller 150 times a day,” says Graham. “The advisors’ morale was at its lowest – there was no motivation for them to engage their brain.”
“It is fine to have some guiding principles for what needs to be discussed, and in Financial Services there are mandated terms that need to be covered, but beyond that give your advisors the freedom to be human and express themselves.” suggests Graham.
Many thanks to Graham for taking the time to speak with us here on the blog. For more information on Graham’s consulting and training services for the customer service industry visit his blog. You can also follow Graham on Twitter at @grafrost.
We are always on the look out for fantastic insight into the industry. If you work in customer services as an advisor, team leader, manager or director then we’d love to tell your story.
For more information on how NewVoiceMedia helps organisations to amaze their customers when they call them just visit our ContactWorld page.