Customers and call center employees are frequently envisioned as the houses of Montague and Capulet, eternally struggling against each other. Customers constantly complain about poor treatment, hold times, and unhelpful staff. Employees describe these jobs as the worst they’ve ever had, facing the full brunt of customer wrath. As a result, call centers average annual turnover rates above 40%, while customer loyalty numbers continue to decline.
Call centers average annual turnover rates north of 40% and customer loyalty numbers continue to decline. Focus on your employees to start to right the ship. [Click to Tweet!]
Corporations act as Tybalt, provoking both sides and allowing these conditions to fester. Some companies treat call center personnel as scapegoats for poor customer loyalty. Other companies will blame the customer for any misunderstanding. In either case, businesses often view call centers as a cost to be trimmed as much as possible, forcing customers into self-service programs without adequate consideration of the consequences.
Just as the Capulets tried to keep Juliet from her Romeo, service centers frequently layer on rules and processes which keep specialists from meeting customers’ expectations. As employees are given stricter guidelines and less freedom to connect as humans, the condition continues to deteriorate. A report by Gartner and HBR says the cost of a live service contact has increased 38% over a five-year period, while turnover among customer service reps has increased 26%. Over a similar period, customer loyalty has declined 8%.
Except loyalty is not a zero-sum game within customer experience. There are numerous Romeos and Juliets on both sides of the equation waiting to enrich the experience for each other, if given the autonomy to do so. Allowing this relationship to flourish will increase sales, as satisfied customers spend double that of unsatisfied customers. It will also reduce costs; it is estimated that fully half of call center employee turnover is due to preventable customer issues. Eliminating these issues will lower staffing costs at least five percent by reducing acquisition and training expenses. These numbers bolster a Willis Towers Watson study showing companies with highly engaged and enabled employees have 4.4 times the net profit margin of companies without.
How does a company extricate itself from this costly and destructive spiral?
Act more like Friar Laurence, reconciling the two families to help the love of customers and employees blossom. Authorizing front line staff to solve problems in creative ways makes them feel empowered and creates a fulfilling experience for the customer. This is the strategy of customer experience leaders such as Virgin and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, two companies famous for their “Employees first, customers second” mottos.
But you don’t have to be as bold as Richard Branson or as cunning as Friar Laurence to use this advice. Consider the recent example of a national tax service provider which needed to address the twin problems of high turnover at their call centers and slipping customer satisfaction. They decided to pilot a program to increase workforce engagement. Focusing more attention on recruiting, performance management and employee support ultimately paid dividends. The provider cut call center staff attrition by 75%, while customer experience scores increased 11%.
You will need to gather feedback from your employees and measure the results. It is best practice to use a combination of metrics, such as employee NPS and questions relating to employee opportunities and relationships. Good sampling is key; an annual employee survey is not enough! Adding monthly (or more frequent) pulse surveys will allow your company to identify trends and be more responsive to issues. Unilever recently adopted this strategy and credited the change for increased employee engagement.
Romeo and Juliet had its iconic ending – “A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life” – but it is best to leave the tragedies to Shakespeare. So, when developing your business case for customer experience, learn from the mistakes of the Veronese families. Remember to consider the mutually beneficial relationship between customer and employee loyalty!
We recently published the Centriam CX Money Map, a guide to the majority of the financial benefits a customer experience program provides. We have been discussing the twelve drivers contained in that document in a series on our blog. For further information, download the Money Map and stay tuned to the blog for discussion of the other main drivers.