There are several approaches that companies take with their customer service:
- Necessary evil. This is when they figure they have to have it (by expectation or regulation).
- A cost of doing business. Companies take this approach when they still take orders online and need to provide some support for returns, etc. This is a transactional approach.
- An opportunity to build the brand and the business. Companies take this approach to cross-sell and build lifetime customers.
Intellectually, most contact center execs would like to see themselves as in the third category. But, doing so presents an amazing challenge in terms of culture and money. This article talks about what some companies have done to use their contact center to gain market share.
Though we normally think of a company’s culture as an internal issue, it does influence how it treats its customers. Think about the last time you contacted a bank versus a tech company. Or, a legacy firm versus a start-up. Whether or not it is by design, these are different customer experiences. That’s the company’s culture at work.
The article describes how Dollar Shave Club consciously brings their culture to their contact center. They are linking the image they portray in their ads to their customer service. The goal is to extend their brand to every touch point with prospects and subscribers.
The article draws a dichotomy between scripted (implied: boring) and unscripted (implied: exciting). I don’t buy this. There are plenty of unscripted contact centers that are not very exciting.
Another issue is really how much judgment the agents have and how this affects how you select them. When agents are heavily scripted and following a decision tree, they don’t get to use much judgment, but they need to be very conscientious. When agents are unscripted, judgment is much more important. When you add the culture component, then you must ensure that the person’s personality fits your organization. Each of these represents a different set of attributes that you need to consider when recruiting and hiring.
Interestingly, it takes more training to get people to execute a culture in an unscripted call center than to follow rules in a scripted one. I would imagine that this training also has a lot to do with the limits (or lack thereof) of the customer interactions and indoctrinating the culture into the reps. This leads to a more consistent (or controlled, as Zappos says) customer experience, even without scripts.
The ROI calculation of the extreme customer contact centers described in the article is pretty straight forward.
1) What are the additional costs in spending 7 weeks to train reps versus 2-3 weeks? The additional thought here is whether the training cost per seat per year is the same, factoring in turnover rates. If unscripted agents stay long longer, then maybe the training doesn’t cost that much more. You can reduce the training time and turnover with valid selection procedures.
2) How many more reps do you need in an unscripted center, which will lead to longer handle times? If this approach leads to more first call resolutions, then some of the costs will be mitigated. If unscripted call lead to more variance in your handle times, how do you accurately schedule agents?
3) Does this approach lead to more sales and/or the development of customers for life? The key word here is more. If scripted service leads to the same amount of sales, then the extra investment in unscripted training and FTEs is not worth it. It’s easy to say that the unscripted approach feels better, but that doesn’t pay the bills. You need to track the impact on sales (or at least conversions). Note that the most of the companies cited in the article using unscripted calls are living off of investor money rather than revenue.
Your contact center is an extension of your business model and culture. Be mindful of how they impact the strategy behind your center. Most importantly, keep focused on the steak and not the wow sizzle.
For more information on the link between culture, selection, and your contact center, contact Warren Bobrow.