The Ch4 fly-on-the-wall documentary The Call Centre, on our screens last month provided great entertainment for viewers but also highlighted the high pressured sales environment that exists in call centres and the challenges managers face ensuring their agents not only can sell but also they have the right attitude towards customers.
Call centre advisors act as ambassadors for a company’s brand and uphold its reputation – they are often the only interaction a company has with its customers, so it is critical they perform well.
Managers must have confidence they have the right people in place do this important role as the wrong people with bad attitudes is very risky and potentially damaging in terms of losing customers, impacting on reputation and brand and, of course, profits.
But in a highly pressurised call centre environment, how do managers ensure their advisors provide a consistently good level of customer service? More importantly, how do they develop ‘outstanding’ advisors that will provide a superior level of customer service that could differentiate a company from its competitors?
Making call centres – the hub of service excellence
One of the key challenges many managers face is engaging their teams who are under tremendous pressure. Inbound call-waiting targets are posted up on team ‘scoreboards’, diverse enquiries have to be answered promptly, the advisors need in-depth knowledge about a range of products and services and be able to handle difficult customers in a consistently professional and calm manner. Employee turnover in call centres can be high – it is not an easy job.
Agents need a high level of competency and knowledge and they need to be fully engaged and motivated and consistently give high quality customer service. As depicted in The Call Centre, the boss ‘Nev’ invested a great deal in training as well as activities and incentives to engage and motivate his teams. But even with training, managers are really in the dark about how their agents handle customers – they can’t observe them on every call.
Competency-based employee assessments
Most manager want to have greater confidence in their advisors and one way of achieving this it through the introduction of employee assessments that test and measure the skills, knowledge and confidence of advisors in work-based scenarios. Such assessments will reveal how they perform and how they behave when handling customers and importantly identify areas of risk such as unacceptable behaviour.
The assessments test and measure advisors in realistic ‘on the job’ scenarios by taking them through a series of situational judgement questions and asking them what they would do in certain situations, such as handling a customer complaint. The answers reveal the likely decisions and actions of an employee, as well as how they apply their knowledge when performing their jobs. The results highlight knowledge gaps and any unacceptable behaviour or risky giving managers a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of every individual.
We have partnered with a training company specialising in call centre advisor training, to launch a new assessment to improve advisor performance and behaviour when handling customers. Based around 12 key behavioural competencies, the assessment focuses on key areas such as how customer services advisors present themselves to customers, how they listen and respond to customers, customer objections and complaints and how they listen and respond to customers and address their needs.
The assessment is designed to supplement and enhance existing training and assessment programs for advisors, as it will accurately identify skills gaps and specific training needs and give managers a true insight into the performance and behaviour of their advisors. It also ensures the right training and coaching interventions are in place for each advisor, help eradicate any unacceptable behaviour that could put the company’s reputation at risk.
Cultivating ‘outstanding’ call centre advisors is a challenge, however, it is not impossible. The key to winning and keeping customers is by 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.