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Improving customer support and general attitude to customers

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Improving customer support and general attitude to customers

I've just posted a rather long post, some of which I think is also relevant here.

http://portal.f9.net.uk/central/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7334&start=2

The short version is a suggestion about how the CS might be improved. The long version provides context, so might be worth reading by anyone who sees any potential in the list below.


  • A service status announcement as the first thing everyone hears when phone up.
  • A clear "Press [1] to ...." style phone system that always connects the user to a person
  • Teams structured around that phone system. ie. For every final branch of that phone system, a team who primarily deal with that type of enquiry.
  • Mentoring
  • Staff rotation between teams on a semi-random basis - so CS staff become increasing aware and experienced in all aspects of customer support, whilst be primarily focused on "one thing at a time".
  • Team members who are experts, and have time to pass that experience onto the rest of the team. But where being an expert does not mean you are tied to staying with that team. In fact such people should be rotated around.

A little clarification, and some further ideas for those who haven't read the original post...

The service announcment is simply a way of reducing the call waiting time for people when issues arise.

The teams idea is basically so that we as customers know when phoning up, that the person we speak to is going to reasonably knowledgable.

The teams are also a way of knowing that the phone system has done it's job. After all, there's no point having a "press [1] to..." style phone system if it makes no difference which CS agent you end up speaking to. (how many companies have you phoned for example that insist you enter your customer number on your telephone keypad, then when you get to speak to someone, the first thing they do is ask for your customer reference number?)

One thing I have thought of since posting my original message in the other forum is what happens when one team is busy and others are quiet. I think this is where the phone system needs to be REALLY intelligent. Staff should need to login to the phone system (keyfobs work best). Then the phone system needs to be aware of which "team" that person is currently working on, but also which teams that person has previously worked on. When calls come in, the primary team take calls, but if calls are stacking up and someone who previously has worked on that team is free, the call is directed to them. If someone is free, but hasn't worked on that team at some point - they DON'T get the call and it remains in the queue until someone with experience can take the call. Calls from an agent's "primary" support area take priority so that they are no overwhelmed by calls from "other" areas. If the phone system could somehow also incorporate a person's proficiency in a particular area too, that could only help. (Maybe some bit of logic that says that only people of >40% proficiency on "other" teams can take calls -- people on primary teams with <25% proficiency can only take calls if someone else is shadowing the call, etc.).

The list of skill and proficiencies should be independant of the list of teams. ie team should be defined as the list of proficiencies associated with it. That way teams could be restructured as business needs change.

Constant staff rotation (not a formal "you've been on <that> team for 3.7 months, time to move you on) should mean that there is an increasing base of staff who can take calls from their list of "secondary" areas -- again, shorter call queues. Equally staff should be asked to rotate around, not forced to. If they wish to stay, they should have that choice. Of course they should be reasked after a certain period, and eventually forced if they continually refuse 3 or 4 attempts to rotate them. (ie any staff member who can't see the advantage to the rotataion probably shouldn't be working under that system, but any manager who can't see the advantage to keeping their staff happy probably shouldn't be managing).

Yes, it's a complicated process. And yes, I'm sure it's expensive. But knowing that customers will be dealt with quickly and by the "right" person must surely provide cost savings for the F9 CS centre. Shorter queues, etc.

Of course the first things that should be done is ask the CS staff if they think it's a good idea. The second thing would be to ask the CS staff of ways to improve it.

Of course F9 have just bought a new phone system and even if my ideas are REALLY good - unless that new phone system can do it - I can't see F9 reinvesting in a new phone system so soon after purchasing another.

Maybe all this is already in place, I've not needed to phone up in quite a while. So I am not aware of the functionality of the phone system. But from comments elsewhere, the current customer support side of things is obviously flawed.
1 REPLY
Pendragon
Rising Star
Posts: 425
Thanks: 3
Fixes: 1
Registered: 07-04-2007

Improving customer support and general attitude to customers

Quote
One thing I have thought of since posting my original message in the other forum is what happens when one team is busy and others are quiet. I think this is where the phone system needs to be REALLY intelligent. Staff should need to login to the phone system (keyfobs work best). Then the phone system needs to be aware of which "team" that person is currently working on, but also which teams that person has previously worked on. When calls come in, the primary team take calls, but if calls are stacking up and someone who previously has worked on that team is free, the call is directed to them. If someone is free, but hasn't worked on that team at some point - they DON'T get the call and it remains in the queue until someone with experience can take the call. Calls from an agent's "primary" support area take priority so that they are no overwhelmed by calls from "other" areas. If the phone system could somehow also incorporate a person's proficiency in a particular area too, that could only help. (Maybe some bit of logic that says that only people of >40% proficiency on "other" teams can take calls -- people on primary teams with <25% proficiency can only take calls if someone else is shadowing the call, etc.).

During my time with a large insurance company it was my brief to introduce a new telephone system (the year 2000 thing and all that).

The system I had installed did all that you suggested as long as the ‘Script Writer’ and ‘Call Centre Manager’ worked together.

The script writer (i.e. me) wrote the scripts that dictated ‘how’ the call was handled and ‘where’ the call ended up.
The ‘how’ dictated how long the caller received ‘ring back’, what music they received, which messages and how often etc.
The ‘where’ dictated to which agent the call ended up depending on such things as where the call came from (the STD code), the waiting times, the key-press’s input and the expected destination the caller perceived was the best destination for their call.

The manager’s roll was the training of the agents and setting their ‘Skill Sets’. Each agent would be allocated a skill set and a number based on their comprehension of that skill. An agent could have more than one skill set. The number against that skill set dictated if a call should reach them as a priory (placed in their own queue) or if they should only be used during busy periods when their own queue was quiet.

This worked so well in the call centre most of the other departments (including the IT helpdesk) all asked to be added to the scripting software and included in the ‘loop’.

So yes it can be done, but you need the cooperation of your staff and you need qualified personal that understand the complexities of call handling and routing to make it work.

Regards, Colin.