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What are the most common causes of contact centre mistakes?

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7th Jun 2015
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Often, the only contact customers have with a company is through their call centre or customer services team, so it’s crucial that staff deliver a good service at all times.

However, some call centres are failing do this, according to a recent Which? survey which revealed the UK’s worst call centres. The consumer champion surveyed 7,000 consumers who ranked companies based on staff knowledge, phone menu system, politeness, helpfulness and waiting times. They found that BT, TalkTalk and Scottish Power operate the UK’s worst call centres, with an overall score of just one star. In contrast Ovo Energy, NFU Mutual, Zen Internet and First Direct topped the survey all receiving five stars.

As well as unwanted negative press coverage, poor customer services can lead to the loss of customers and damage a company’s reputation.

Call centre staff are therefore under intense pressure not only to provide the right advice to customers but to deliver excellent service levels consistently. Yet many companies, despite spending a lot on training and having comprehensive learning and development tools and processes in place, can still find that their employees make errors when handling customer queries or complaints.

The solution to improving their performance isn’t obvious. Simply providing more training or one to one coaching won’t deliver any real improvement unless the root causes of why this is happening mistakes are happening are uncovered. More often than not, errors are made as a result of one of the following three situations:

1. People don’t truly understand all aspects of their role

Typically one root cause is that giving people knowledge does not mean that they truly understand how, when and why they should use it. After all, the typical multiple choice questionnaire handed out at the end of a training course, can only really measure the ability to select the right answer from a list of possible answers more often than not.  It does not and cannot identify if a person truly understands in what specific circumstance they should apply their new knowledge.

2. Misplaced confidence

Many people come to work believing they’re doing a great job. They will wholeheartedly think the advice they’ve given to a customer is the right one and they will be happy and confident that they’ve followed the correct company processes and procedures along the way.

When asked to attend a training or refresher course people can wrongly believe they already know and understand well, which in turn makes them approach the course with the wrong motivation; a desire and intent to simply “get through it and tick the boxes”, rather than with a genuine interest or agenda for re-examining the subject and challenging their own understanding and experiences.

3. Problems with learning and development tools

Most organisations make significant investment in learning and development systems, tools, materials and expertise and many have made an even greater investment in organising, maintaining and syndicating industry and 'corporate knowledge' via a central knowledge management system.

However, these may not be designed or presented in the best way for the end user to get the most out of them. The information provided via the Intranet or Knowledge Management solution may be excellent but if the people it’s designed to help, find it difficult, cumbersome, time consuming or intimidating to find, they simply won’t use it all.

The solution

Central to winning and keeping customers is delivering a consistently high performance of service to customers that will turn them into loyal fans and identifying and addressing risky and unacceptable behaviour before it becomes a problem. Whilst this is challenging it’s not impossible.

To achieve customer service excellence and uncover the root causes of behaviour on the job companies need to start by looking not at what people know but rather identifying specifically what it is they don’t understand.

They can do this using employee assessments designed test and measure advisors in realistic ‘on the job’ situations. The results will highlight knowledge gaps and unacceptable behaviour giving managers a clear picture of strengths and weaknesses of every individual.

Once gaps in understanding have been identified, companies can design specific interventions, avoiding the one-size fits all approach to training and provide appropriate learning media and resources to address it.

Companies that do this will be rewarded with a customer services department they can be proud of who will consistently achieve customer service excellence – winning and keeping customers along the way.

Amanda Green is principal consultant at Cognisco.

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