The Importance of Quality Interactions

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, Technology Marketing Corporation  |  March 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

There was a time, before the advent of the Internet, when upsetting a single customer was believed to be the equivalent of losing ten customers, because the typical person with a poor experience would share their experience with others. But, as social media has evolved, the ramifications of a single poor experience can be far greater, as customers have shown, when they are upset, they don’t hesitate to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (News - Alert) and a host of other services to flame the company and transaction in question. Yet, in such an environment there are companies continuing to shop for customer service agencies and BPO shops based on price alone. There are many stories of companies getting burned because they think about short-term profit and not the long-term damage poor quality can cause an organization.

To learn more, I reached out to Chris Coles, President & CEO of HyperQuality (News - Alert), which focuses on helping its customers provide optimal quality experience over the phone, email and chat. The company also analyzes accents and cultural issues with agents in India and other countries. Our interaction provides solid information on how an important providing quality interaction is to customers.

How has contact center quality changed these past few years?

The focus has expanded from agent performance to gaining customer insight from the calls to drive both a targeted coaching process for agent performance and business process improvements. New technologies, such as speech analytics, allow a larger percentage of interactions to be analyzed, and those calls that are most valuable to be evaluated by a person are flagged. This expanded insight increases the contact center’s importance and delivers stronger ROI to the business.

How has the move to international contact center agents affected quality?

International centers have brought both benefits and new challenges. Leveraging new talent pools for hiring has enabled broader customer service phone support. However, these centers have, at times, experienced language and understanding challenges.

How strong is the correlation between customer interaction quality and sales/customer retention?

The quality of interaction, as determined by the customer (and not simply metrics of the company), is generally quite important in the customer’s consideration of repeat purchases. Assuming the purchase is not simply about lowest price, the customer experience is the most important factor after “expectation met or exceeded” in the context of the product or service.

What is the biggest mistake you have seen customers make?

The biggest mistake customers often make in a call to a contact center is failing to document the details of their interactions. A customer should always note the agent’s name or number, the time of the call, the number and the substance of the conversation for future reference. This is powerful information if further calls are needed on the same issue, as it empowers customers to alert the new agents that this is a repeat call on the same issue.

What has been the biggest surprise you have found in the contact center space?

The frequent lack of connection between contact center metrics and the customer experience, as defined by customer satisfaction. In order to make the contact center valuable, it is crucial to have processes and technology in place to ensure that customer interaction results match up with customer satisfaction scores, or tell businesses why they are different.  Additionally, some companies have a stated customer service strategy, but aren’t willing to make the investment to provide service consistent with that strategy. This is often evident to the customer base.

How should companies measure ROI on their contact center spend?

ROI comes from several benefits, depending on the processes handled within the contact center. For sale centers, it is from sales conversion rates and customer base expansion. For collections centers, it comes from reduced debt write-offs and increased past due collections. For customer service centers, it is based on customer retention, cross-selling and reduced sales returns.

How can management be best prepared to provide the best possible service in their organizations going forward?

Develop a complete quality ecosystem around business processes that includes using the customer insight gained in their contact center interactions to drive process improvements as well as better agent performance.

Rich Tehrani is CEO of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi