Reimagining the call centre

by | Sep 1, 2013 | Assorted

Admittedly, the title of this piece sounds a little like a performance art show but what it really means, is going back to the drawing board – and putting some ingenuity and imagination back into the call centre.

If we think of any issue, problem or general inquiry we’d like to make, face to face doesn’t exactly spring to mind. The truth is, if we need to find something out, we either go online or we pick up the telephone and dial someone-tell-me-what’s-going-on.

But what we are faced with on the other side, are pseudo-human robots that don’t seem to understand or listen to anything we are saying. It causes frustration to say the least, but this isn’t just our frustration… being a robot doesn’t offer much job satisfaction either.

For starters, let’s try to imagine a call centre without verbatim scripts.

Verbatim call centre scripts are the death of real, human emotion.

It seems highly unnatural to script a conversation between two people unless it’s in a movie – so why we are we so comfortable with forcing it upon the current call centre employee. And going further, how do we expect that employee to be successful in his/her interactions with customers

The alternative:

What about a non-verbatim, guided interaction model?

Like a script, the model equips Call Centre Agents to successfully interact with the customers on the other end of the phone. How it differs is that instead of handing out reams of verbatim scripts to agents, the non-verbatim model is used in training.

Important parts of the conversation or offering as well as emotional triggers are linked to corresponding graphics. These graphics and key conversation elements are then presented during the training process, and agents are made aware of what they need to say, but not restricted by how exactly they should say it.

Instead, each employee understands the key points that they need to convey in a conversation, they understand the mechanics of how to escalate and resolve matters, and of course they understand the ideal way a conversation should go.

But they are able to use that guide, as well as their own charisma and personal flair when they interact with a customer. And they can adapt their tone and phrasing as the customer changes, instead of frantically paging through a script with option blocks that don’t pertain to a particular conversation…

Now let’s imagine that targets aren’t only based on speed and volume.

Speed and volume relate only to physical service delivery. They also don’t encourage an employee to be exceptional, but rather to be robotic in their interactions in order to reach impossible targets.

For example, if you had to process a certain amount of claims in a day, and you only have so many hours, are you going to waste time asking the caller anything other than the questions that appear in front of you. Furthermore, you aren’t being paid to improve his/her mood, but if the call lasts less than 3 minutes, you’re on track to achieving your target, because you need to process x amount of claims before the end of the day.

But what if you were allowed to show empathy, and to actually listen to the customer, instead of just hear them. What if you were encouraged to speak to them in a more human way, and the amount of time you spent with each customer was irrelevant, as long as each customer felt valued and understood.

This is what experience measurement is about. It focuses on the key pillars that a company wishes to uphold, and as this is unique for each brand/company – measurement and research starts from the ground up.

It’s about understanding that physical service delivery and emotional brand engagement are interrelated. One cannot meet the speed target for instance, by neglecting the customer’s sense of being cared for or worse, their trust in the agent they are speaking to and by extension the brand itself.

Experience measurement understands the balance of the physical and emotional, its effect on financial return and most importantly – customer loyalty.

In our experience

With the nature of our business, we are constantly launching into research, which relies in part on telephonic interviews and surveys.

Even though we aren’t trying to sell anything, or assist people with their queries, one still has to keep the customer interested, focused and most of all trusting in the fact that we simply doing research and nothing more.

What we found with verbatim scripts is that while agents are launching into a monologue of information just after saying hello, the person on the other end is already planning their excuse for why they can’t. The reason being that there is absolutely no link between them, and the connection one would have from a telephone conversation with a friend or colleague is lost, because people don’t talk to each other in scripts – so it just feels uncomfortable.

With non-verbatim interaction guidance, it’s so interesting to watch 3 or 4 separate call centre staff in action. They each have their own little tricks and tools to keep people interested and engaged. They are able to think on their feet, produce accurate and quick replies to queries or questions, and for the most part, they are able to turn a “no, I don’t want to participate” into a “yes, I do have a minute”.

By incorporating the survey into their conversation with the respondent, answers flow and nothing feels forced into option blocks and scripted interactions. No pseudo-human robots, no flapping papers and no awkward and uncomfortable restrictions. Honestly, it works, and it works well.

On a larger scale

Obviously Rome wasn’t built in a day, but here are some things to consider:

Replace verbatim scripts with Visual, or written guides. It might take some adjustment, but it’s far more reliable in the long run, and it doesn’t restrict customers or employees. This means more customer satisfaction, and as a result, higher employee satisfaction.

Implement experience measurement as opposed to more traditional, purely service deliver based measurement. It incorporates emotional reactions and engagement, as well as service delivery so you won’t be losing value, but adding more. It also seems like a far more accurate target and measurement system for human beings, as we base so many of our decisions on our emotions and gut feel.

So would you consider it?

To find out more about Customer Experience Toolkits, and other out-of-the box solutions, click here.


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