Concepts in Modern Call Center Management: A Discussion with Hunter Business COO Nedra Sadorf

Nedra Sadorf

Nedra Sadorf, COO of Hunter Business, is an expert in driving business results through processed based solutions in the call center environment. In this interview Sadorf talks about acting on the Voice of the Customer within the call center and the importance of understanding, measuring and implementing meaningful action around prioritized customer needs. Sadorf shares the latest tools and methodologies for operating a more efficient call center environment.

What are the 10 core elements of the B2B Voice of the Customer (VOC) landscape?

"Voice of the Customer" has come to be used in reference to a wide variety of techniques and programs. In general, they all have some aspect of soliciting input and feedback from customers in common. However, the methodologies, goals and applications vary from surveys to understand customer needs, to focus groups for new products and to complaint analytics.

Hunter’s Voice of the Customer Landscape reviews the 10 incarnations of Voice of the Customer programs that are most relevant and impactful to driving business results for B2B organizations.

The 10 core elements are divided into two groups: the five strategic voice of the customer techniques, focused on soliciting relationship-based insights from the customer and driving strategic partnerships; and the five transactional voice of the customer techniques, focused on understanding and improving the customer experience at the point of interaction.

The five strategic voice of the customer techniques include:

  • Account Level Loyalty
  • Executive Sponsorship Programs
  • Customer Advisory Groups
  • Customer Buying Behavior/Defection Analysis
  • Competency Model Development

The five transactional voice of the customer techniques include:

  • Customer Call Center Dashboards
  • Employee Point of Call Center Idea Center
  • Offering Development (QFD)
  • Profiling and Customer Segmentation
  • Campaign Development and Targeting

Implemented with appropriate methodology and metrics, each of these Voice of the Customer techniques are proven to drive enhanced customer relationships, increased loyalty and improved business results for the companies making the investment in understanding and acting upon the Voice of the Customer.

What is economically rationalized customer insight?

Many companies are spending significant sums of money on customer insight and voice of the customer. In fact, Maritz research reports that fully half of the Fortune 1,000 are each spending more than $5 million annually on some form of customer feedback. Unfortunately, 80 percent of these companies report they are doing little to act on the customer feedback they are collecting.

To ensure that spending on customer insight is truly an investment, requires 1) assuring that relevant action is taken based on the customer feedback and 2) the incremental revenue (or share or profitability) driven by that action, which represents a positive ROI against the investment in both the customer insight and the action.

How does a company score its current Voice of the Customer to customer experience linkage?

"The customer is the most important asset" is more than a slogan for top-performing companies. For truly customer-centric organizations, the principles of asset management that have been in place for capital and fixed assets have been translated and applied to the customer asset.

In other words, these best-in-class customer-centric organizations have linked their customer investments to their strategies; quantified the current "inventory" of their customer assets, understood the "working condition" of each of these assets and deployed asset maintenance and improvement actions to ensure the viability of their customer assets.

Hunter’s seven-stage Customer Asset Management Assessment is modeled on traditional Asset Management models, revised to apply to the unique characteristics of customer asset management. The Assessment is constructed as a stage-gate model, in which companies should successfully complete each stage prior to launching the next. The assessment identifies the specific areas of gap for an organization in understanding and delivering on customer experience, and facilitates prioritization of improvement actions.

What do you see as the biggest workforce management issue facing call centers today?

Customer experience is most defined and informed via the interaction customers have with our employees. The work by Harvard in the early 1980s on the Service Profit Chain further quantified the relationship between employee loyalty and its critical impact on customer loyalty.

Engaging the employees in the call center and arming call center employees with an understanding of customer requirements remain top priorities for ensuring the call center is leveraged as an asset for improved customer relationships and driving business results.

What kind of performance measurements for the call center are the most effective?

The majority of performance measurements in the call center today are "efficiency" metrics. These performance measurements and metrics are focused on wait times, abandon rates, first call resolution, etc.

While these performance measurements are important, the most effective performance measurements we can use are those that incorporate qualitative feedback directly from the customer—performance measurements that provide insights into the "effectiveness" of call center operations. How well are we building customer relationships? How satisfied is the customer with the treatment and engagement they have with the call center representative? How does the customer rate the overall experience?

Building visibility of call center metrics directly to the call center agents and representatives allows them to have direct accountability for serving the customer. Giving the call center’s customer feedback to quality assessment groups and supervisors helps to build coaching and support systems for call center representatives that enable them to continuously improve their support to customers, one of the more effective performance measurement tactics.

Considering the economic climate, what is the number one challenge you see facing call centers today?

In an environment of declining resources, the tendency is towards reducing costs. It is paramount in the face of these pressures to ensure that support to the customer and the customer experience is not diminished in ways that would adversely impact customers or cause further defection.

As a result, understanding and prioritizing those elements of the customer experience, which truly are most important to the customer, is critical. Resources are not available to try and "be all things to all people." Resources must be allocated to those aspects of customer experience that drive the customer’s future buying decision.

Interview by Blake Landau, publisher