Contact centers today have a lot of moving parts that need to be supervised. They need to ensure that call queues don’t get too long, wait times don’t creep up, average handle time (AHT) is kept under control, script elements are followed and sales goals – if there are any – are met. Today, they also need to monitor and measure the customer experience to ensure that it’s smooth. It’s called reducing customer effort.
Customer effort, according to David Blackwell -- owner and president of BPA Quality and writing in a recent blog post -- is the amount of effort or work that a customer has to go through in order to do business with you. In essence, he says, the easier you make it for your customer to become a customer, and remain one, the more you will have a better relationship with your customer. Customers today are frustrated by the need to make repeat calls to resolve issues, being treated like a new customer each time they call, and going through a painful, repetitive song and dance when they reach out to customer support organizations. Any company that makes it faster and easier for customers to transact business or get answers will have a competitive edge over other companies.
Many times, companies have great plans for the customer journey…all on paper or in a PowerPoint presentation. At the point where the rubber meets the road, however – when dealing with lower-level personnel such as contact center agents, delivery people, field service personnel or help desk employees – the grand plan breaks down into a million pieces of bureaucracy, incompetence and customer frustration. In recounting a recent move that required lots of phone calls to vendors, Blackwell noted that while employees at each of the companies were excellent, things started to go wrong was when it came time to deliver the products or services that had been purchases.
“In my case I experienced long hold times, agents who seemed have no understanding of my frustration and whose only response was to explain what had gone wrong,” wrote Blackwell. “Each step of the way I felt my blood pressure rising. Each time I had to be the one to push for a resolution that would fix the situation to my satisfaction. My customer effort was incredibly high.”
When attempting to reduce customer effort, it’s not enough to simply map the journey and hope everything goes well. Companies need to ensure that efforts to make things easy for the customer are happening at all levels, and this may require extensive quality monitoring. In many cases, it’s a matter of empowering workers who deal directly with customers to take action that helps resolve issues quickly rather than boxing them into a situation in which they can only parrot the company line.
“You should ask if your policies, procedures, training and methods make life easier or more difficult for the customer, then empower your agents to do just that,” wrote Blackwell.