Five Steps for Reinventing your Customer Service and Call Center Philosophy in Turbulent Economic Times

Darryl Flores

Cutbacks on marketing and staffing are the natural reactions of companies during a recession. Most companies react this way.

But, on the other hand, historical evidence proves that companies have been born and others have thrived during a recession.

Companies did not do this by cutting back the spending on advertising and staff. Procter and Gamble has never cut spending during a recession. Hewlett Packard and Microsoft were born during depressions and recessions.

For the customer service and call center industries, this should be a sign that we have the ability to set our organizations up to prosper during "these economic times" through the re-invention of our service philosophy. Customers are not going away; they are, however, more in tune with finding the better value. As a result, returning customers are more precious than ever.

The Customer Experience Numbers Don’t Lie

Business Week’s 2009 Customer Service Champs (non-automaker) continue to thrive despite the current conditions. Amazon, USAA, Zappos, JetBlue and others use their customer experience to attract, retain and build the loyalty of their valued customers.

Coupling the current economic conditions with the speed in which tales of negative customer experiences travel should entice organizations to leverage service opportunities to propel them to the strata of customer service of the Zappos and USAAs of the world.

Generally speaking, we know what to do. Most of us even know how to do it.

We Are All Customers

Don’t we know how we would like to be treated? So why don’t we treat our customers this way?

The solution often lies with the willingness of us as champions of customer service to spread its virtues. It lies within our ability to saturate our organizations and call centers with the how and whys of promoting this extraordinary approach. It lies within our ability to facilitate change management throughout our companies and buck the status quo.

Are you up to the challenge? It takes gumption (insert any other euphemism for…ahem…courage) to go through with it. There are several steps to formulate a processed approach:

1. Find an executive to help you champion your cause. Most organizations have at least one leader who "get’s it." The one with a higher-level thinking. The one you want to grow up to be like. If you’re willing to do the work and show the ROI of enhancing your customers’ experience, your executive champion can plant the seeds amongst the rest of the leadership.

2. Empower your call center. Discuss with your call center representatives, supervisors and managers the flexibility they have to truly take care of the customer. Give your call center representatives examples of times when the old call center approach could have been done differently.

3. Engage your training department. Challenge them to develop refresher classes that focus on customer service...the enhanced version.

4. Revisit the call center metrics you manage to. OK, I know this can cause great debate, but I stand by the notion that you track many call center metrics and manage to only a few. That’s code for: Quit managing your call center representatives to Average Handle Time!

Don’t show it to your call center representatives, don’t send it to your call center supervisors. Monitor it and identify trends and coaching opportunities, but don’t make the daily numbers public!

5. Revisit processes in your call center. Review any touch-point your customer has with your organization. Do they make sense? Would you want to do business with your company. Ask yourself what would impress you.

All of this will completely fail if you don’t truly believe in the benefits of re-inventing customer service. So get ready! It’s time to drink the Kool-Aid!

Imagine if every customer service and call center organization drank it. It gives me goosebumps!

First published on Call Center IQ.