Time to liberate your call centres from NPS?

More than two-thirds of Fortune 1000 companies measure NPS.

The metrics can cover relationship and transactional levels. Surveys are triggered for the opening of an account, an in-branch visit, a cab ride or browsing a website.

And while Head Office is increasingly able to count the CX beans (at least for those customers who answer surveys), it’s fair to say in Australia - where we're based - NPS has not significantly improved in nearly two decades of the ‘One Number’.

As an experiment, switch to a new service. It doesn’t matter which one. Then use a call centre to resolve an issue. We’ll wait... And that’s the point. You know the calls going to be painful — even excruciating. The agent can’t find your details, they can’t solve your problem and you are passed to another department. You start all over again.

And when the screaming stops, an IVR survey asks how you feel. You can’t give a minus score.

The saga would be laughable if it weren’t commonplace, expensive and if the casualty of the conversation were not a human employee, trapped between an irate customer and inside-out service design.

Such call handlers have no control over the experience they’re charged with and measured on delivering. They didn’t create the silos that don’t interrelate. They didn’t procure the IT that can’t transfer warm calls or highlight relevant details over several months of a problem’s journey. They don’t set Average Handling Times too short to hear the customer properly. They don’t write scripts with irrelevant sign-offs, compulsory sales pitches and hidden offers to be triggered only if the customer says a magic word.

They didn’t design the experience that makes you suspect the company’s not really engaging with you.

And, whatever score you give, the company IS STILL NOT engaging with you. Central teams at HQ are way back in the engagement process, whilst customer-facing teams are hamstrung: all responsibility, no rights.

HR is a secret weapon. But if their remit is serving HQ and merely incentivising support staff with free lunches – with the expectation that it will satisfy their needs enough to meet Head Office targets – the results might be disappointing. Enabling and supporting staff by giving them the power to guide their own parameters – ones that really satisfy customers – now that’s job satisfaction.

This means bringing in soft skills, creative problem-solving and expert communication. It means fiercely advocating against the shackles of micro-measurement so people can connect with other people. It means unpacking Employee and Customer Experience with experts who can help you lead the transformation, working backwards from the customer-interface to the centre, improving EX, CX and NPS in the process.

Enabling and supporting staff by giving them the power to guide their own parameters - ones that really satisfy customers - now that's job satisfaction.

HR could be a William Wallace-like character in this narrative; demanding liberty and justice for the call centre. It’s a role that few adopt, in Australia or globally. I’ve just switched telco providers. If this model – of a customer-facing employee driving the decisions of my supplier HQ - was implemented sooner rather than later, it would save me and my next call-handler a world of pain.

In the event that you’re experiencing increased staff churn, call-centre complaints and long customer hold times, now is the time to address it head-on.

Listening to frontline staff challenges is a good place to start. Anonymous feedback loops or confidential conversations tend to provide the most transparency.

The critical next step is grouping challenges to uncover the problem behind the problem. Then prioritising those insights into actions that deliver the largest payback to customers and employees from the bottom up. And finally rolling out changes – easy, right?

About Damian Kernahan

 Damian Kernahan

Damian is the CEO of Proto Partners. To help Australian organisations keep more of their brand promises, Proto Partners pioneered the introduction of Service Design to Australian business back in 2008.

Proto is considered Australia’s leading expert on Growth as a Service, Service Design and Innovation and Customer Experience Management. The Proto team have written extensively for Fast Thinking magazine and co-founded the Australian Service Design Network. Our keynotes, Service Design Intensives and consulting provide clear growth strategies for brands and organisations that want to successfully transform their customers experience and in doing so transform their organisations growth trajectory.

Now, with a growing team, Proto work with some of Australia’s largest organisations to help them understand their customers and then help design a superior service and customer experience.

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