Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is Customer Service the deciding factor as to which companies succeed or fail in this economic downturn?

Just received my copy of the Call Center Openings & Expansions Report from King White at Site Selection Group and for the first time I can remember there are no new builds or expansions in Canada. Nor are there any in India either for that matter.

The numbers show a dramatic slowdown in the job creation with 2,930 net new jobs created- down almost 70% from a year ago, of those 2,560 are located outside of North America. The majority of the increases occur ed in the outsource BPO sector with new centers in the Philippines and expansions at home.

2,143 jobs were displaced in 16 contact centers in US and Canada in January.

The fact that the market is tightening up isn't a surprise to anyone. We are bombarded by horror stories in the media every time we listen to the radio, watch or read the news. What is surprising to me at least is how resilient the contact center industry is proving to be.

In January 598,000 workers in the US and 129,000 workers in Canada lost their jobs. That adds up to a staggering 727,000 people looking for work. Yet in a sector much maligned the net of hiring and firings were about break-even. That's a lot better than the banks or automakers fared.

Now its possible that the axe just hasn't fallen yet as job cuts work through organization and the customer facing call and contact center positions are just coming into the cross-hairs.

Or maybe organizations are recognizing that in a downturn where cash is king, getting a customer to part with their cash is becoming increasingly difficult. Good service, as infrequent as it often is may just be the key to prying open the purses and wallets of customers. Service can be a key differentiator between organizations.

In tough times we all choose between alternatives, buy this, pass on that, maybe later or not at all. In days of plenty we would have bought it all. So how will and I make decisions? I postulate that increasingly the service we receive will be viewed as a part of the purchase or transaction. When customers view the customer service experience inherent with making that purchase as a part of the buying experience and capable of increasing purchase satisfaction, then savvy companies and organizations will embrace true customer advocacy, and all of our customer service experiences will become significantly more effective, more efficient and above all more enjoyable.

Of course this may just be me looking for a silver lining...but it is a happy thought.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Be careful what you wish for

They say you need to be careful what you wish for because it just might come true. Well just a few days ago I was discussing our new business pipeline with my team and we wondered exactly where our meals would be coming from in March. I wished out loud then that "it would be wonderful, if we could just close client x,y and/or z". Then we secured a new engagement with that client. We celebrated, then we secured another client and another. All in the space of a few days. Downturn, what downturn. My concern over too little business quickly became how do we ensure the quality of what we do for our clients with this additional work. So much for a recession.

The solution to the problem is, as always, is to deliver superior service and to exceed the customers expectations. We have brought on-board additional resources to help us meet our requirements and exceed what is expected of us.

Exceed expectations, delight your clients, Make the client the star within their own organization and always give more than is expected and you will be judged by your accomplishments and by your network of friends and fans.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Customer Satisfaction Surveys for Contact Centers

I was recently asked about considerations and best practices for customer satisfaction surveys and I realized that customer satisfaction surveys are one of the most challenging activities for contact center management to sell to the rest of the organization. Often other executives rely on omnibus corporate satisfaction surveys, which can be great for assessing brand satisfaction, but do little to tell you how the contact center is impacting on the overall brand and customer experience.

To be effective within a contact center assessment environment, customer satisfaction surveys must focus on a specific interaction with the contact center rather than be generic opinion poll on the organization. A survey completed within 48 hours of a contact is ideal. The key elements that generally the survey should address will generally include three areas:




Access will deal with timeliness of answer, service hours, hold times, transfers etc. Professionalism will relate directly to the agent...were they professional, courteous, did you feel they were genuinely trying to assist you. Satisfaction should surface satisfaction on a few different levels: were they satisfied with the call outcome ( some people we simply cannot help, due to policies, procedures or their expectations), with the agents effort and with the overall experience. This latter segment can easily be addressed through a top-box and/or net promoter style impact on intentions to refer type of question. All of this can be developed in a 10-14 questions survey and can even be shorted with some of the content being rotated based upon the calendar month or period.

You should also look at the channel(s) you employ to deliver of complete the survey. Web and email surveys can be the most cost effective and post call automated phone surveys can be very appealing, but both suffer from an increased percentage of self selection than occurs in phone surveys. This self selection can skew the survey results.

We generally recommend establishing a baseline with live voice surveys and the move to an automated format once the variance between the two channels is established. Phone surveys are generally repeated once annually thereafter. It is valuable to align your internal and external satisfaction measure (QA and CSAT) as they both strive to measure how well we are doing meeting our customers needs. A study we conducted found up to a 30% variance between internal and external sat measures. Let me know if you would like a copy of this document.

Friday, February 6, 2009

AllTop- a Great Resource

I was speaking with Deborah from and we discussed using LinkedIn and specifically a note I send to all new connections and she mentioned the high ranking this blog has on for Customer Service and I was blown away. I had previously kicked the habit of checking my own rankings long ago when I realised there were a million plus more interesting or relevant sites.

I checked out and there this blog was...above the fold!. What I also discovered was that there are a lot of really excellent customer service blogs out there. If you haven't visited Alltop, do yourself a favor and check out their 'magazine rack' of blogs, it is truly incredible.

I also recommend Deborah's LinkedIn article at

Thursday, February 5, 2009

January Issue of Customer Reach®, now available

Ten times a year The Taylor Reach Group, Inc. (TRG) publishes our call and contact center newsletter Customer Reach®. The January issue marks our 6th year of publishing the newsletter. This issue was sent out to 10, 488 senior call and contact center executive around the globe. Customer Reach® has been described by Frost & Sullivan as “A great newsletter” and by other industry leaders as “the best contact center newsletter out there". A readership study indicated that more than 54% of Customer Reach® readers implemented change in their contact centers based on what they first read about in Customer Reach®.

In this months issue we address creating community and the value of small talk, Dells' recent move to offer premium domestic call center support services, and a review of the recent IQPC Call Center Summit in Orlando Florida. In addition we feature call center news and views from around the globe.

We welcome your input, comments and suggestions on how we can improve our publication. So please email your feedback to us at

Colin Taylor