Building Trust in the Contact Centre – Stephen Pace, CEO SJS Solutions, discuses why the contact centre is missing out the most important part of successful relationships – TRUST
With more companies using the contact centre for front-end customer engagement than ever before (it is estimated that there are between 3 and 4 million contact centre workers in North America alone 1), the relationship between clients and their customers is increasingly dependent on the capacity of the contact centre to respond to customer needs efficiently, informatively and professionally.
With an increasing focus today on personalised service, there is much scope, then, to not only take and deliver information efficiently, but also to build a brand’s relationship with its customers on an individual basis. Friendly, efficient and informative customer service will ensure long-term brand loyalty and encourage word-of-mouth recommendation. So how can contact centres improve their reputation and increase customer loyalty by building meaningful rapport with customers?
Have attitudes to customer service changed?
The most important factor is a committed, well-informed and professional tone on the phone, which comes from long-term, happy and motivated employees. But is the contact centre and their technology vendors delivering a working environment that sustains the levels of employee satisfaction required to drive productive, long term relationships? Employee absence and attrition levels are a good indicator of wellbeing and satisfaction within contact centres.
Industry research over the last few years has shown that agent attrition and absenteeism remains high in the outsourcing industry. A recent report from ContactBabel shows that there is a very wide spread of attrition rates across the industry, with almost one third having to manage attrition in excess of 30 percent.
If staff turnover and absenteeism is this high across all markets (and increasing), this suggests a lack of commitment in the workplace, translating to a lack of trust between agent and customer, employee and agent. This is supported by a recent report, ‘American Express Global Customer Service Barometer’ conducted by Ebiquity for American Express 2 which measured customer satisfaction levels and opinions worldwide. Internationally, the study shows that despite the fact that brands increasingly rely on contact centres to engage with their customers, the majority of consumers in many western cultures (particularly France, the Netherlands, Germany and Canada) believe that company attitudes to customer services have not changed at all, and in the USA, 68% of consumers feel that either companies’ attitudes to customer service have not changed, or that they actually pay less attention to customer service than they used to.
Furthermore, 68% of consumers globally believe companies don’t do anything to keep their business.
Too often customer service agents convey a tone that can mean they simply do not care about the customer or their issue. Centre managers know it, agents know it and the customer knows it too. Many steps have been taken to improve employee motivation and customer satisfaction: “fun” themed days for employees, customer satisfaction surveys, the changing of account managers and stringent VoE monitoring.
I wonder, though, whether we are missing the single most important part of any productive and successful relationship.