Calling Customer Service

Call centres: a necessary evil, or a vital ingredient in the provision of outstanding customer care? Sadly, for most people their response will be coloured by recent experiences. Call an organisation which has put time and effort into designing a call centre which puts customers first and the experience can boost the image of the company. On the other hand… well we probably don’t need to go there!

The two extremes were vividly demonstrated to this writer within the past week. In the first call, over a period of ten minutes numerous buttons were punched, menus navigated and messages listened to before the final ‘we’re too busy to take your call’ message resulted in the call being terminated by the organisation. Quite frankly, if you are too busy to take the call then say so at the outset rather than some time into the experience. Furthermore, whilst I know that you have lots of information on your website, if the answer I was looking for had been there then I wouldn’t have needed to make the call in the first place. So there is no point in stringing things along by telling me over and over again that your website is packed with helpful information.

The second call was quite different. About to order something online, the next day delivery option didn’t seem to be available so a call was made to see what the possibilities were. The call was answered promptly; the agent was friendly and chatty, was obviously looking to build a relationship and when the problem was explained they went out of their way to offer an acceptable solution. Yes the call took 25 minutes when it probably could have been over in half that time but at the end of the day the business not only confirmed a sale, they have gained a loyal customer who will positively recommend them to friends and family.

Positive experiences like this don’t just happen by accident. Building a call centre which genuinely puts customers first and delivers exceptional levels of customer service requires effort. It starts with an understanding of likely customer requirements and then develops systems and trains employees to meet those needs. Moreover, it requires an organisation which puts customer service at heart of its strategy. After all, there is no point in having great customer service representatives if they are let down by product development or delivery or accounting. Similarly, there is no point in encouraging call handlers to build relationships if they are targeted on the number of calls answered.

But the core of a successful call centre has to be a well-designed multi-call handling package. Whilst the exact specification will depend on the business, common features include the ability to handle multiple calls simultaneously, programmable call handling pathways and pre-announcement of calls. Voice messages and push button options can be added as required as can additional features such as offering a call back as soon as an agent becomes available.

Even with these, call centre managers know that one of the keys to success is the ability to flex call pathways as required in response to customer demand. Having the ability to quickly and easily re-program the way in which calls are allocated to representatives will greatly enhance the chance of answering as many calls as possible quickly and efficiently.

At the end of the day, customer service comes down to a state of mind, to the desire to anticipate needs and deliver excellence. For many customers your call centre is your business. Well-designed, it can build loyalty and positive experiences which will continue to benefit you in years to come.

Written by Alison