In summary, the most common cause of spread is believed to be airborne by inhaling virus particles exhaled into the environment. The infectious dose of a virus is the amount of virus a person needs to be exposed to in order to establish an infection. We currently do not know the infectious dose for SARS-CoV-2. Estimates range from a few hundred to a few thousand virus particles. One virus particle will not cause an infection. To be infected one must exceed the infectious dose by either being exposed to a cough or a sneeze. Absent coughs or sneezes, under normal activity one must be exposed to the virus over time to exceed the infectious dose.
This post draws ocorn the foundation of the first to discuss the implications of the pandemic on the customer experience.
Modern day customer experiences exist in a finely tuned ecosystem, where the dramatic changes as a result of the pandemic have off set the delicate balance, causing problems from supply chain disruptions to an immediate shift away from in-person channels.
Furthermore, the pandemic represents what I call a moment of truth regarding the relationship with customers. Moments of truth are specific experiences of high importance, where a customer either forms or changes their opinion of a brand in meaningful and lasting ways. How brands respond to moments of truth, particularly in this time of global crisis, will strengthen or weaken the customers’ relationship to the brand.
Moments of truth are specific experiences of high
importance, where a customer either forms or changes
their opinion of a brand in meaningful or lasting ways.
Customers are stressed. They feel uncertainty, fear and, frankly, exhaustion. Ongoing concern for personal safety, education of children, and the well being of loved ones is exhausting. This uncertainty and fear drives customers to seek shelter from resources they trust. Brands which become a trusted resource, which provide comfort, true comfort, in the face of this crisis have an opportunity to not only do the right thing, but cement their customers’ relationship with the brand. On the other hand, brands which fail to do so, risk destruction of their customer relationships.
Care for all Stakeholders
Perhaps the most important way brands can respond to the moment of truth presented by this crisis is showing true care for stakeholders in the brand: customers, employees, and the community.
Care for Customers
Brands must communicate care for customers. Drawing on a personal example, March of 2020 was a particularly worrisome time for me. At that time, the Seattle area was considered one of the epicenters of the outbreak, mandatory stay at home orders where being introduced – fear ruled – fear driven by uncertainty; uncertainty with respect to the safety of myself and loved ones; uncertainty with respect to the financial future; uncertainty with respect to the state of the entire globe.
Amidst all this uncertainty and fear I received an email from Citigroup entitled “Covid-19. Let us know if we can help.” It communicated personal care for me, encouraged alternative channel use: online, mobile and 24/7 contact center assistance, and contained links to CDC guidance.
A week later the campaign continued with an update on the actions Citigroup was implementing based on the pandemic; again, educating me to digital tools available, offering personal assistance if needed.
Two and a half months later, in June, I received an email expressing “heartfelt thanks” for adapting to changes and remaining loyal. It described ways Citigroup was assisting with a variety of COVID-19 relief, specifically introducing a partnership with celebrity chef Jose Anres’ World Central Kitchen Campaign distributing meals in low-income neighborhoods in big cities like New York, and monitoring the globe for food shortages elsewhere. This not only demonstrated care for me personally, but care for the community.
Care for Communities
Citigroup’s donations to the World Central Kitchen campaign is one example of care for our communities. There are countless examples of brands offering community support.
- A beer brewery, Brewdog, shifted production away from beer to hand sanitizer.
- A Spanish sports retailer donated scuba masks to hospitals.
- EBay offered free services to small business forced to switch from brick-and-mortar to ecommerce to keep their small business afloat – pledging $100 million in support of this endeavor.
Care for Employees
Employees are important. They animate the brand and drive customer loyalty – particularly in moments of truth like these. Research has determined that in many retail and service environments, there is a positive correlation between employee satisfaction and employee retention as well as customer loyalty. They are not immune from the fear and the stress of this crisis. Additionally, frontline employees spend all their time in the brand-customer interface. They are the personal representatives of the brand.
Additionally, given these front-line employees spend the majority of their time in the brand-customer interface, they tend to have a level of understanding about the customer experience that management often misses.
As a result, it is incumbent on brands to attend to the stresses employees are under, demonstrate concern, and develop communication channels for employees to feed customer experience intelligence to management.
I’ve always been an advocate of meeting customers in their preferred channel; meeting them where they are today and delivering a seamless experience. Obviously, over the recent decades there has been a migration from in-person channels to increasing self-directed, alternative channels. The pandemic has immediately accelerated this shift. Be it telehealth, online banking, in-home instruction of our children, or a restaurant delivering through UberEats, providers of all types now face increasing pressure to bring their business to their customers’ homes.
Emotional Well Being
As observed earlier, this pandemic is a moment of truth between many brands and their customers. In our experience, customers primarily want three things from a provider: 1) empathy, 2) care/concern for their needs, and 3) competence. We see this constantly. Customers want to do business with brands that empathize with them, care about their needs, and are capable of satisfying those needs in a competent manner. Brands that seek to attend to the emotional needs of their customers during this moment of truth will earn the loyalty and positive word-of-mouth of their customers.
In-Person Precautions and Mitigation Strategies
While the pandemic has accelerated an ongoing transition to alternative channels, some industries require an in-person experience. Based on current science, in-person interactions can be relatively safe if followed within CDC and public health guidance outlined in the first part of this series:
- Physical Distancing: Estimates of exposure time all assume close personal contact. Physical distancing decreases the likelihood of receiving an infectious dose by putting space between ourselves and others – current recommendations are 6 feet.
Furthermore, many in-person transactions can now be done touch free. I recently had to rent a car, and was pleased to meet the rental attendant outside holding a tablet. The attendant took down all my information, I never had to touch or sign anything. In a different transaction, requiring a signature, I was offered a single use pen to keep.
- Masks: Masks are a core tool to provide physical distancing between individuals. Masks do not primarily act as a filter for the wearer, but suppress the amount of droplets an infected person can spread into the space around them. This reduces the risk that others will exceed the infectious dose of the virus.
- Ventilation: Well ventilated areas disperse virus particles making it less likely a dose exceeds the infectious limits. Like my car rental agency, brands should endeavor to provide well ventilated spaces for employees and customers to interact – not only to protect customers but employees as well.
- Length of Exposure: Finally, brands should design service encounters to be as time efficient as possible. Again, the CDC advises a 15-minute exposure limit for close personal contact. Social distancing through physical distance, masks, and ventilation should increase this safe exposure limit. However, strategies should be implemented to make service encounters as brief as possible. For example, if you require information from your customers as part of the service interaction, collect this required information online or over the phone prior to an appointment. This could help to make customers and employees safer and more comfortable.
- Hand Washing & Sanitizer: Hand washing and sanitization is the primary defense against transfer infections.
Putting it All Together
Putting all this together, let’s look at an industry Kinesis has the most experience with. Kinesis’ largest practice is in the banking and financial services industry. Recently the American Bankers Association (ABA) released the results of an industry survey regarding publically announced responses of US banks to the pandemic. 
Many banks are applying some of the concepts discussed above in creative ways. A review of a random selection of banks reveals the following responses ranked from most common to least common:
- Enhanced deep cleaning and disinfecting of work spaces;
- Implementing social distancing in work spaces, including branches;
- Encouraging use of alternative delivery channels, such as mobile and internet banking;
- Personalized assistance to customers negatively impacted by the pandemic;
- Increased donations to charity/ partnering with the local community to mitigate the effects of the pandemic;
- Allowing employees to work remotely if possible;
- Limiting access to branches (closing branch lobbies, limiting hours, appointment only banking);
- Paid time off for employees to self-quarantine or to care of school age children;
- Rotating schedules of customer-facing staff to reduce risk (one institution has applied a 10 days on 10 days off policy); and
- Educating customers of pandemic related fraud/scams.
 Geddes, Linda. “Does a high viral load or infectious dose make covid-19 worse?” newscientist.com, March 27, 2020. Web May 14, 2020.
 “America’s Banks Are Here to Help: The Industry Responds to the Coronavirus.” ABA.com, April 29, 2020. Web. May 19 2020.
As bank contact centers transition from service hubs to sales centers. It is instructive to investigate which service attributes and behaviors will yield the most ROI in terms of driving sales through the contact center channel.
Beyond the attributes measured in the previous post, Kinesis also performed mystery shop observations of specific behaviors across six institutions with national scope to determine their relationship to purchase intent.
While the importance of a good first impression is true, across the four greeting behaviors measured, there does not appear to any significant differences between shops with positive purchase intent and shops with negative purchase intent.
|Greeting||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Greet by identifying the name of the institution||99%||97%|
|Greet by identifying themselves||100%||97%|
|Ask how they could assist||100%||98%|
This is mostly due to the high rate of performance across these greeting behaviors. Greetings are strong across all shops regardless of purchase intent.
With respect to broader service behaviors, the behaviors with the largest gaps between shops with positive purchase intent and those with negative purchase intent are: suggesting additional products and asking for the business (each with about 2 times as many shoppers who experience positive purchase intent observing these behaviors compared to shoppers who experience negative purchase intent). Use name, use of understandable descriptions and clarity of speech round out the next three.
Hold & Transfer Behaviors
When the shopper was placed on hold, five behaviors were measured. Of these, giving an estimate of how long the customer will be on hold, and returning if the hold time exceed the original estimate to advice of the status of the call were the behaviors with the strongest relationship to purchase intent. Again, both with about 2 times as many shoppers who experienced positive purchase intent observing these behaviors compared to shoppers who experienced negative purchase intent.
Additionally, five transfer behaviors were measured. Of these, the behavior with the strongest relationship to purchase intent by far is returning to explain any delay after 60 seconds. With five times as many shoppers who reported positive purchase intent observing this behavior relative to those who reported negative purchase intent.
Finally, at the conclusion of the call, asking how else the agent could be of assistance and thanking the shopper for choosing the institution were the two behaviors with the strongest relationship to purchase intent.
Of the behaviors measured, a couple of common themes tend to be present in the behaviors with strong relationships to purchase intent. The behaviors with strong relationships to purchase intent tend to deal with the themes of personalized service and valuing the customer.
These behaviors with strong relationships to purchase intent group into these two themes as follows:
- If transfer hold time exceeds 60 seconds, explain delay and ask if customer wants to continue (this behavior 5 times more likely in shops with positive purchase intent compared to negative)
- Give estimate of hold time (2.1 times more frequent in shops with positive purchase intent compared to negative)
- If hold exceeds estimate, return with status update (1.8 times more frequent)
- If transfer, stay on line until completed (1.6 times)
- Use of name (1.5 times)
- Ask how else could assist (1.5 times)
- Suggest additional products or services (2.1 times more frequent in shops with positive purchase intent)
- Ask for business (1.9 times)
- Thanks for choosing the institution (1.5 times)
To maximize purchase intent, focus agents on behaviors which personalize the service in an empathetic manner (care for the customer and their needs) and value their business.
Historically, bank contact centers have served primarily as service hubs, serving customers who call for information or are seeking assistance dealing with a problem in need of resolution. As banks continue to transition into an omni-channel model where customers can interact with the institution across a broad spectrum of channels, the contact center is transitioning into a sales hub, where customers who have researched a product online may still want to speak with a person prior to completing the purchase. As a result, contact center agents will require a new set of sales skills.
To help understand some of the new skill sets required of contact center agents as they transition from a service to sales role, Kinesis conducted mystery shops of six institutions with national scope to identify what customer experience attributes will yield the most ROI in supporting this sales role.
Our conclusion is customers want empathy and competence. They want agents who both care about their needs and can satisfy those needs.
Kinesis performed an analysis of purchase intent to identify the attributes with the most potential for ROI in supporting a sales role. We asked shoppers to rate the experience across a spectrum of service attributes on a 5-point scale where 1 is poor and 5 is excellent; as well assigning a purchase intent rating on a similar 5-point scale. We then cross tabulated the results by purchase intent to identify which attributes have the largest gap between shops which reported positive purchase intent and those which reported negative purchase intent.
Confidence in the Agent, valuing as a customer, interest in helping and explain the products in understandable terms are the four attributes with largest gaps between shops with positive purchase intent and negative, followed by professionalism and job knowledge. Friendliness/courtesy was the attribute with the smallest gap. While friendliness is important, when it comes to driving purchase intent, the attributes with the largest gaps are those related to care and competence. Customers want agents who care about their needs, and are capable of delivering on those needs.
Previously, we also explored the relationship of specific sales and service behaviors to purchase intent.
Cross Tabulation By Purchase Intent
|Greeting||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Greet by identifying the name of the institution||99%||97%|
|Greet by identifying themselves||100%||97%|
|Ask how they could assist||100%||98%|
|Hold||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Ask permission to be placed on hold first||85%||73%|
|Give the reason for being placed on hold||100%||88%|
|Give an estimate of how long you would be on hold||56%||27%|
|If the actual hold time exceeded the estimate, representative returned to the call to of the status||88%||50%|
|Thank for holding upon returning||96%||81%|
|Transfer||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Explain the reason for the transfer||99%||98%|
|Ask permission to transfer||84%||65%|
|Stay on the line until the transfer was answered by another representative||53%||33%|
|If hold time exceeded 60 seconds, return to explain delay and ask if you want to continue to hold.||35%||7%|
|Service||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Use name at least once during the call||66%||44%|
|Use proper grammar||11%||96%|
|Allow customer to speak first and finish your thought||99%||93%|
|Clarify all requests prior to processing the transaction||100%||80%|
|Maintain a friendly demeanor and pleasant voice throughout the call||100%||91%|
|Describe products or services in a manner that was easy to understand||100%||70%|
|Suggest additional products and/or services||71%||34%|
|Avoid bank jargon or other technical financial terms||100%||95%|
|Ask for business||88%||47%|
|Conclusion||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Thank for calling||98%||92%|
|Ask how else they could assist||95%||65%|
|Thank for choosing the institution||92%||66%|
|Mean Attribute Ratings||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Interest in Helping||4.9||3.8|
|Explaining products in understandable terms||5.0||3.9|
|Level of confidence in the representative||4.9||3.2|
|Valuing as a customer||4.9||3.5|
Increasingly banks must operate in a multi-channel environment. While the changing role of the branch, combined with automated channels such as online and mobile, are getting a lot of attention, there remains a key role for the contact center in delivering an effective customer experience. Central to this key role is designing an effective customer experience, comprised of the right sales and service behaviors – those which influence customer attitudes and behaviors in a profitable way yielding the most return on investment.
To provide direction with respect to what sales and service behaviors will yield the most return on investment, Kinesis conducted a series of mystery shops to identify which sales and service behaviors have the most influence on purchase intent. In addition to observing specific sales and service behaviors, mystery shoppers were also asked to rate how the call would have influenced their purchase intent if they had been a real customer. This purchase intent rating was then used as means of calculating the strength of the relationship between each behavior and purchase intent.
To determine the relationship between these service attributes and purchase intent, the data for these different studies was cross-tabulated by the purchase intent rating and subjected to significance testing. [i]
When the percentage of calls in which purchase intent significantly increased is tested against the percentage of calls where purchase intent significantly decreased, nearly all the sales and service attributes are statistically significant at or above a 95% confidence level.
|Significantly Increased||Significantly Decreased||Test Statistic|
|Explanations easy to understand||99%||45%||9.0|
|When thanked, respond graciously||98%||42%||8.5|
|Friendly demeanor / pleasant voice||100%||60%||8.4|
|Express appreciation for interest / thank you for business||92%||20%||8.3|
|Ask probing questions||79%||10%||6.4|
|Offer further assistance||85%||25%||6.2|
|Speak clearly and avoid bank jargon||98%||68%||5.8|
|Listen attentively to your needs||80%||25%||5.3|
|Mention other bank product||99%||75%||5.3|
|Invite you to visit branch||64%||10%||4.6|
|Explain the value of banking with bank||57%||5%||4.4|
|Offer to mail material / mention website||66%||20%||4.3|
|Ask your name||68%||25%||3.8|
|Ask for your business / close the sale||57%||21%||2.9|
|If no one available to assist you, offered options||100%||0%||2.2|
The differences between the highest and lowest purchase intent for product knowledge and ease to understanding explanations are the most significant, while a professional greeting is the least significant.
Dividing these behaviors into rough quartiles and comparing them side-by-side, reveals some interesting observations:
Explanations easy to understand
When thanked, respond graciously
Friendly demeanor / pleasant voice
Express appreciation for interest / thank you for business
Ask probing questions
Offer further assistance
Speak clearly and avoid bank jargon
When thanked, employee respond graciously
|Listen attentively to your needs
Mention other bank product
Invite you to visit branch
Explain the value of banking with bank
Offer to mail material / mention website
|Ask your name
Ask for your business / close the sale
If no one available to assist you, offered options
The attributes with the most significant differences between high and low purchase intent ratings appear to be those associated with reliability and empathy. It appears mystery shoppers valued such “core” attributes as product knowledge or interest/enthusiasm for the customer. They seem to be less concerned with more peripheral service attributes, such as asking for names, etc. Influencing purchase intent is not as simple as merely using the customer’s name or answering the phone within a short period of time. Rather it is a much more challenging undertaking of being competent in your job and having the customer’s best interests at heart.
[i] Significance testing determines if any differences observed are the result of actual differences in the populations measured rather than the result of normal variation. Without getting into too much detail, significance testing produces a test statistic to determine the probability that differences observed are statistically significant. A test statistic above 1.96 equates to a 95% confidence level, which means there is a 95% chance any differences observed are the result of actual differences in the populations measured rather than normal variation. For all practical purposes a test statistic over 3.1 means there is 100% chance the differences observed are statistically significant (although in reality the probability never reaches 100%). Finally, in interpreting the following analysis, it is important note that test statistics are not lineal. A test statistic of two is not twice as significant as a test statistic of one. The influence on significance decreases as the test statistic increases. However, the test statistic does give us an opportunity to rank the service attributes by their statistical significance.
What service attributes from your agents drive customer loyalty?
To answer this question, Kinesis conducted surveys of people who had recently called a contact center. Impressions of the customer experience with particular attention to the performance of the agent were collected across a variety of attributes. In order to determine the relationship of these attributes to customer loyalty, we identified each customer as a promoter or detractor as a result of the call, according to the Net Promoter methodology. Net Promoter is generally accepted as a strong proxy measurement for loyalty, and serves as the basis for evaluating the relationship of these attributes to customer loyalty.
It’s the People
Not surprisingly, the performance of the individual agent weighs heavily on customer loyalty. The average overall impression rating (on a 5-point scale) of the agent is 1.4 times higher in calls where the customer was identified as a promoter (4.9) compared to those identified as detractors (3.5).
Further evidence of the importance of the agent can be found in a comparison of the specific attributes ratings for promoters compared to detractors.
As Result of Call
As Result of Call
|Took Ownership of Call||4.9||3.2|
|Confidence in Agent||4.9||3.3|
|Value as a Customer||4.8||3.6|
|Interest in Helping||4.9||3.8|
|Use of Understandable Terms||5.0||3.7|
The agent taking ownership of the call and the confidence the customer had in the agent are both 1.5 times stronger in calls where the customer is a promoter as a result of the call, compared to calls where they are a detractor.
Own the Call
What does ownership of the call mean?
Ownership of the call was defined in this survey as the extent to which the agent appeared to be the voice of the company, took responsibility for the customer’s concerns, showed a desire to be of assistance, and advised of possible solutions and assured resolution.
Every time a company and a customer interact, the customer learns something about the company, and adjusts their behavior based on what they learn. When customers encounter a contact center agent who owns the call, they learn that the company, through the agent, cares about their needs, wants to help resolve the need, and will stay engaged until the need is met. Customers respond to this information with an increased desire to positively spread word of mouth, a behavior strongly correlated to customer loyalty.
What are some of the ways you take ownership of the call?
What impresses customers positively as a result of a call to your call center?
To answer this question, Kinesis conducted research into the efficacy of the bank contact center sales process by observing a battery of sales and service behaviors through the use of mystery shoppers. The objective of this study was to identify which sales and service behaviors drive purchase intent. (See the insert below for a description of the methodology).
The table at the end of this post shows the relative frequency in which each behavior was observed in shops where the shopper reported positive purchase intent as a result of the call, compared to shops with negative purchase intent.
The seven behaviors with the strongest relationship to purchase intent are:
- Invite to visit a branch
- If on hold, thank for waiting
- Express appreciation for interest/thank for business
- Offer further assistance
- Mention/refer to website
- Listen attentively to your needs
- Offer to send material
Each of these behaviors is at least three times more likely to be present in shops with positive purchase intent compared to those with negative purchase intent.
Two observations jump out from this first group of behaviors:
First, integration of other channels into the sales process appears to drive purchase intent. Inviting the shopper to visit a branch was observed 6.4 times more frequently in shops with positive purchase intent compared to negative. The branch still has a role in the sales process; other research consistently points to the convenience of branch location as a driver of selection of a primary financial institution. If contact centers leverage the branch during the sales process, they have a significantly better chance to advance the sale. Additionally, when the agent incorporated the website into the sales presentation, they also have a better chance of advancing the sale. Mentioning the website was 3.3 times more likely to be present in shops with positive purchase intent compared to negative.
Secondly, the balance of these key behaviors all revolve around personal attention (thank for waiting on hold, offing further assistance, listening attentively, offer to send material) and interest in the customer’s business (express appreciation or thank for business).
Nine more behaviors were at least twice as likely to be present in shops with positive purchase intent:
- Product knowledge
- Ask for name
- Ask for your business/close the sale
- If on hold, check back in 1 minute
- When thanked respond graciously
- Ask probing questions
- Explanations easy to understand
- Explain the value of banking with bank
- Thank for calling
The themes most common in this second group of behaviors that appear to influence purchase intent are competence (product knowledge, easy to understand explanations), personal attention (asking name, checking back on hold, probing of needs) and interest in the customer’s business (ask for business, express value, thank for calling).
So…what drives purchase intent as a result of a call to a contact center? Integrating other channels into the conversation, and sincerely expressing interest in the customer broadly drive purchase intent.
Frequency Behavior Observed in Shops with Increased and Decreased Purchase Intent:
|Invite to visit a branch||64%||10%|
|If on hold, thanked for waiting||97%||20%|
|Express appreciation for interest / thank you for business||92%||20%|
|Offer further assistance||85%||25%|
|Mention/refer to website||66%||20%|
|Listen attentively to your needs||80%||25%|
|Offer to send material||97%||31%|
|Ask for name||68%||25%|
|Ask for your business/close the sale||76%||32%|
|If on hold, check back in 1 minute||94%||40%|
|When thanked respond graciously||98%||42%|
|Ask probing questions||94%||42%|
|Explanations easy to understand||99%||45%|
|Explain the value of banking with bank||88%||43%|
|Thank for calling||99%||50%|
|Friendly demeanor / pleasant voice||100%||60%|
|Avoid bank jargon||98%||68%|
|Mention other bank product||99%||75%|
|Wait for response before placed on hold||100%||80%|
|Demonstrate understanding of question||100%||81%|
|Answered in 3 rings||99%||88%|
To evaluate the state of the in-branch sales process, Kinesis mystery shopped five banks with significant North American footprints. Among the objectives of the study were to:
1) Define the sales process among different institutions.
2) Evaluate the effectiveness of specific sales behaviors.
Shoppers were asked a mixture of closed-ended questions to evaluate the presence or frequency of specific behaviors, and open-ended questions to gather the qualitative impressions of these behaviors on the shoppers – in short the how and why behind how the shopper felt. Finally, to provide a basis to evaluate the effectiveness of each sales behavior, shoppers were asked to rate their purchase intent as a result of the visit. This purchase intent rating was then used as a means of evaluating what behaviors tend to be present when positive purchase intent is reported as opposed to negative purchase intent.
Author: Julia Chang, Staff Writer, Sales & Marketing Magazine
Reprinted from the Sales & Marketing Magazine
Cheer Up: Improve your reps’ job satisfaction to reduce turnover – and raise sales
When the economy soured and the number of sales jobs shrunk, managers had little incentive to improve job satisfaction. But with the market getting stronger, managers could find themselves dealing with flight risks: According to a recent survey by job site CareerBuilder.com, four in 10 sales professionals plan to look for better jobs in 2004.
Internal unrest can lead to low morale, and smart managers will work to mitigate discontent.
“You’ve got to catch dissatisfaction quickly,” says Jim Campbell, president of Performance Unlimited, a sales coaching and training firm based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Even if you have one person who’s unhappy, it spreads. It’s the whole rotten-apple-spoils-the-barrel thing.”
Campbell recalls one recent client who suffered from a bad case of employee dissatisfaction. The client, a bank, was having problems with its 11-member internal sales and service department, whose job it was to train branch tellers and loan officers to sell new services. The department had recently expanded, but there was no unity among new and veteran members; a few even made it clear they were looking for new jobs. The bank’s performance was going south, and the manager was told he had to turn it around it around in six months – or lose his job.
Through team-building training, Campbell focused on topics like communication skills, creating a well-functioning team, and the effect of attitude on performance. Additionally, he held follow-up sessions for several weeks afterward to see how these new skills were being executed. He also individually coached the manager on his motivational and performance management skills. Team unity improved, and even those most vocal about their unhappiness stayed on. “They actually wanted to be part of the team, they just didn’t know how,” Campbell says, “They finally saw they could accomplish more in a team than as individuals.”
Happy employees yield more business. Campbell’s client saw the number of new loans and additional services sold increase following training, because employees were more enthusiastic in their training of branch workers. “In doing interviews with clients, we definitely see a link between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction,” says Eric Larse, Managing Member of Kinesis, a market research firm based in Seattle, that specializes in the customer experience. But, he says, an employee satisfaction culture has to start at the top. “It’s a strategic issue that rests at the highest levels of the organization.”
Reprinted from Call Center Magazine
May 6, 2002
Companies must keep tight control of budgets but not spending enough on agent training could cost them more in the long run. Here’s how to balance training dollars…
Imagine: You have call centers, print catalogs, an e-commerce Web site and retail outlets. And you just invested in a mega-million dollar CRM package.
But do agents know what is on your Web site, in your catalogs, and what sales are happening in your stores? Do agents and support reps know the contents and have access to your Web site’s FAQ?
If they don’t, then they should be brought up to speed. So says Peter Gurney, managing partner with Kinesis (Seattle, WA), who recommends that you train agents about your channels, how they interrelate and how they affect the total customer experience.
Too many companies do not train agents on other channels, resulting in a disjointed image of the company, missed sales opportunities and frustrated customers.
Sometimes customers call asking about a Web offer or a store sale, but the agents have no clue what they are talking about. And that will annoy customers and embarrass agents.
If customers go to a store, chances are someone there will know about your company’s Web site, catalog and call center. Web sites will have store locations and telephone numbers.
Gurney’s former firm, Service Intelligence, performed a mystery audit of several leading companies’ support desks in 1997 (as cited in the October 1997 issue of Call Center Magazine, “Keeping Your Support Center Afloat”). The audit found that many reps did not have the right answers and could not answer questions even though the answers were in the employer’s on-line FAQ. Little has improved since then, he notes.
“Call centers are not taking the customer experience across the channels but customers are channel-independent,” Gurney explains.
By: Lynne Taddeo
Several converging trends suggest that it is time to begin thinking seriously about live chat as a crucial component of the customer experience. Consider the following:
This year, Gartner estimates that 25% of all customer interactions will take place via Web-based communications (including email, live chat, web callback, etc.). By 2003, Forrester estimates this number at 56%.
- At a time in which customer loyalty continues to elude online merchants, companies are finding that “superior online customer service has emerged as a key and – in many cases – the only means for businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition.” In fact, Bizrate reports that consumers cited “quality of customer support [as] the single most important factor driving repeat online sales, outstripping factors such as on-time delivery, ease of ordering, selection, and even price by healthy margins.”
- Many consumers persist in their desire for a human element in the online experience. Yankelovich finds that 63 percent of people online say they won’t buy anything until there is more human interaction involved.” And a study by NFO Interactive found that nearly 35 percent of Internet shoppers said they would purchase a greater volume of products online if they could speak with a CSR at the time of their purchasing decision.”
- Online chat is a more efficient medium than telephone: 1-800-Flowers reports that chat agents can handle four concurrent customers within about six minutes. Telephone inquiries average three minutes per call, thus half as efficient.
Thus, at a time when Web-based communications are becoming an ever greater part of the customer experience, when companies have the power to differentiate themselves by the quality of their customer service, and when consumers are clambering for a human touch in the online world, live chat offers an exciting and operationally efficient medium through which companies can connect with customers.
Corporations are catching on to the potential of live chat. Currently, only 2 out of 130 sites in a recent study offer live chat as an option. Yet IDC predicts that 70% of large corporations will install instant messaging software during the next 12 months and Yankee Group states that “live online interaction is the most frequently cited option among features to be added to corporate web sites in the next 12 months”. Retail sites that have initiated chat and personal shopper options include Polo.com, NeimanMarcus.com, Nordstrom.com, Ashford.com, Talbots.com, LandsEnd.com, EddieBauer.com, and REI.com.
Consumers enjoy live chat for the immediacy, intimacy, and convenience it offers. Browsers can easily obtain complex information from a customer service representative with a few clicks of the mouse. Our research revealed that many consumers prefer chat to telephone if asking intimate questions such as querying a retail representative on the cut of a garment or how sizes run. Chat offers the “immediate gratification” that analysts regard as fundamental to the appeal of the Web. And at a time when most home users continue to connect to the Internet via their single home phone line, the ability to communicate with a representative without having to log off the web to place a phone call is much more convenient. Even for those with multiple phone lines, Broadband or DSL, chat response times are often faster and far more appealing than the prospect of dialing a contact center, navigating through a VRU, and waiting for a representative to take one’s call. Moreover, live chat provides representatives the opportunity to build customer relationships with each interaction by giving customers “what they want, when they want it and how they want it.” Representatives can immediately push client-driven content directly to the customer’s desktop in a way, which is meaningful, tailored, and compelling.
Yet as with any current communication medium open to today’s consumers, companies must establish service and performance standards to ensure that representatives take advantage of the relationship-building potential of live chat without bungling the opportunity. In establishing these standards, keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Respond Fast. The Web experience is all about immediacy and consumers unflaggingly demonstrate that they hate delays and will go elsewhere if forced to wait too long. Simple queries should be answered within 30-60 seconds, while up to 120 seconds of wait time is acceptable for customers asking more complex questions. If fully answering the customer’s question will take longer than two minutes, set the appropriate expectation with the user by explaining that you are happy to research their question, but it may take up to x minutes to fully address
- Provide meaningful and pertinent information. Live chat provides representatives with the opportunity to “wow” their customers with detailed, meaningful, and confidently delivered product information. Yet it is equally important to answer the customer’s question in a concise and relevant manner. Avoid the pratfall of barraging chat customers with product information that is ancillary to their original request.
- Respect the customer’s choice of medium. One of the best practices to emerge this year is Eddie Bauer’s commitment to let the customer choose which medium they want to utilize and to provide superior customer service without attempting to move the customer to a more automated and cost-effective channel. I recently engaged with a live chat representative who offered to help me find the product I was looking for at a rather high-end retailer’s site. Anticipating appropriate screens pushed to my desktop, which detailed my product options, I was acutely disappointed to be directed to the site’s search engine for self-service. Customers engage live chat for a reason. They either can’t find the information they are looking for or require more detailed and tailored assistance. Respect their choice of medium and fulfill their needs through the channel they have chosen.
- Proper grammar, spelling and courtesies are compulsory. Customers will easily form a poor impression of a company whose agents cannot spell or follow the rules of proper usage. Although chat is a fast-paced medium, attention to such details is crucial. In addition, agents must use proper courtesies such as thanking the customer for their interest, etc.
- Continually update site FAQs to eliminate redundancy. Web customers generally prefer self-service and will answer their own questions if possible. By updating site FAQ’s to reflect common chat queries, companies can eliminate redundancy and allow chat agents to focus on complex inquiries and genuine human personalization.
- Offer live chat to all users. Although chat is a more time-efficient medium than telephone, there is a human cost to its usage. For this reason, many sites are considering offering live chat only to their most valuable customers. While this strategy may be invisible in the short-term, we believe that it will backfire in the long run. With the growing ubiquity of instant messaging and the growth of live chat on retail sites, customer expectations will rise and consumers will eventually demand live chat. In addition, customers are “catching on” to CRM-based personalization efforts, which often result in high-net worth customers’ calls being answered promptly while “less valuable” customers suffer long delays. While similar tools can customize Web-site options to only offer high-touch service to the most valuable customers, such tactics are offensive to ordinary consumers, jeopardize customer acquisition efforts and damage brand image.
- Finally, monitor chat agents’ interactions to ensure consistent quality. While customers crave a human touch in today’s web-based commerce, it is precisely the human element of chat that can leave your organization vulnerable to miscues. It is advisable to monitor a sample of your chat agents’ interactions to assess user-perceived speed, ensure consistency to basic protocols (spelling, grammar, courtesy), test product knowledge, and gauge responsiveness to customer requests. Third-party assessments may be preferable, as they prevent supervisor bias and provide an objective view of how your organization is viewed from the outside.
Multi-channel customer service offers companies unprecedented opportunity to develop profitable and long-term relationships with their customers. Customers who take advantage of multiple touch points are known to spend more with those organizations – Eddie Bauer reported that the value of clients utilizing multiple touch points does not increase in a linear fashion, but exponentially. And at a time when customers seek live human communication to enrich the web experience, “live chat provides the highest level of customer touch . . . to every Web visitor”. By taking advantage of this medium and practicing the above, companies will be poised to significantly enrich their overall customer experience, resulting in greater retention and revenue.