by Rosanne D’Ausilio,
I’m not just talking about call centers here. All technical
support or help desk personnel are included as well. As a matter
of fact, anyone who is in the customer service business period.
With continued focus on customer satisfaction, customer
retention, and lifetime value of the customer, it is no surprise
that contact center operations continue to increase in
importance as the primary hub of a customer’s experience.
the customer, the person on the other end of the phone is the
company. The contact center is still the most common way that
customers get in touch with businesses. In fact, Gartner reports
92% of all contact is through the center. And it’s been reported
that 70% to 90% of what happens with customers is driven by
human nature, having nothing to do with technology. State of the
art technology is a necessity today, but it is meant to enable
human endeavors, not to disable them.
I often talk about taking customer service and ‘kicking it up a
notch.’ In the food industry, the word ‘lagniappe’ is often
used. Its definition is “a small present given to a customer
with a purchase. For example, when you go to the bakery and buy
a dozen donuts or bagels, you oftentimes get a ‘free’ one or a
baker’s dozen. That’s what customer service should be
about--giving the customer more than they expected! Let’s bring
lagniappe into the contact center industry.
If we’re going to speak about world class customer service,
let’s have a working definition it so we’re all on the same
page. Customer service is those activities provided by a
company’s employees that enhance the ability of a customer to
realize the full potential value of a product or service before
and after the sale is made, thereby leading to satisfaction and
Let’s look at the first W which is Why?
The state of customer service today is not good, be it over the
phone or self service. Because 92% of people feel their call
experience is important in shaping the image of a company, this
reinforces the importance of centers in branding the image of
In a Mobius Management Systems Survey, here’s what happened
because of poor customer service:
60% cancelled accounts with banks
36% changed insurance providers
40% changed telephone companies
35% changed credit card providers
375 changed Internet service providers
Are you one of these statistics? I certainly am.
In a study done by Purdue University and BenchmarkPortal.com, in
answer to (1) how did agents satisfy your needs and handle the
call, and (2) based on any negative experience, would you stop
using this company in the future? the findings reveal a strong
correlation between the participant’s age and the tendency to
stop using the company after a bad experience.
What does this mean? Younger participants were less tolerant and
more likely to move to the competition. People over 65 were
found to be more demanding than those in middle age.
What can you do? Give younger callers a ‘wow’
experience--maintain their loyalty. People over 36 probably have
more of an ‘emotional bank account’ with the company they are
dealing with–maybe had some good experience and therefore are
more willing to ‘forgive.’
In a recent study (CRM Magazine/PeopleSoft Web Seminar on How
Usability Helps to Drive a Profitable Contact Center), the
number of applications required for agents to access customer
3.7% just 1
81.5% 2 – 5
7.4% 5 – 10
7.4% more than 10
As you can see, the majority of applications are 2 - 5. The
goal, of course, is to link every point of contact to one
central location for a customer-centric, synchronized approach
satisfying customer experiences with every interaction.
Strategies for success for world class service should include:
Handle requests through the customers’ choice of medium
Be brief and clear
Reduce back and forth communications (especially in writing,
i.e., email, kick it up to a phone call if it goes beyond two)
Delight the customer
What do we mean by delighting the customer?
Inform and educate them
Establish your expertise and professionalism
Diffuse upset, anger, when and if necessary
Escalate, if required
Take Ownership of the call
Remember we’re still on the first W – the Why. Today’s pressures
on agents are different than in the past. They are asked to
handle more customer, more volume, more complex and/or
complicated calls. After all if we could handle our issues with
self service, we probably would not call. But if we tried self
service and it didn’t work, now we’re upset and it’s an
escalated call from the get go.
They’re asked to provide more information, do it faster and be
available and accessible. But they are to lower costs, generate
revenue, incorporate new technologies, ensure closure and
commitment, deliver ‘great’ service and when? Yesterday, of
As a matter of fact the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has
said that the causes of death for people under 65 are:
21% - environment – war, accidents, crimes
9% - health care system – doctors, hospitals, medications
17% - human biology – not because of lifestyle
53% - because of the way people choose to live their lives!!!
This is the good news and the bad news. It’s bad news because
it’s more than half. However, the good news is that this is
something we can do something about, it’s about choice.
The #2 W is Who should be trained?
We suggest front line agents/representatives, supervisors, team
lads, managers, assistant managers, internal customers and other
departments – anyone who is a touch point so that they can learn
to speak the same language, and more importantly, not be in an
adversarial position, but rather, together they are serving the
external customer or end user.
The #3 W is Where should the training take place?
Offsite vs. onsite, and there are advantages and disadvantages
Certainly it is most cost effective to have training on site.
However, distractions are rampant as is the participant’s
availability to a person or problem.
Offsite is more costly. However, there are no distractions and
the participants are unavailable to other departments, their
managers, or any issues. I believe there is psychic value in
taking people away from their work stations and off site to
acknowledge the touch jobs they have.
The #4 W is What should be included in any training?
We believe the following modules provide a robust, powerful, and
succinct training curriculum:
Quality Customer Service
Interaction/Role Play Service with a Smile
Further suggested is university certification to up the ante.
The more professionally you treat your employees, the more
professionally they will treat your customers.
The #5 W is When
We say for new hires, monthly, ongoing, consistently, whenever
change occurs, when stressors increase, and as needed.
We further suggest that each employee get a minimum of 24 hours
per year of ongoing training, spread out over time for the most
absorption. We divide our trainings into two four hour sessions
per day and deliver 6 days per employee. Therefore, 30 people
can participate in the training per day. If there has been no
ongoing training, we do four days once a month for four months
and then a session three months later, and then another three
months later. In this manner, training is customized, in real
time, and can address whatever challenges are presented when
About the Author
ROSANNE D'AUSILIO, Ph.D., industrial psychologist, President
of Human Technologies Global, ‘champion for the human’ is an
expert in customer service. She authors 3 best sellers, “Wake Up
Your Call Center: Humanize Your Interaction Hub,” Customer
Service and the Human Experience, and Lay Your Cards on the
Table: 52 Ways to Stack Your Personal Deck,
www.human-technologies.com. and a free ‘tips’ newsletter on How
To Kick Your Customer Service Up A Notch at