Why customer care matters most around holidays

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Corporate America is teeming at this time of year with seasonal employees and temps who handle anything from annual benefits enrollment tasks in call centers to filling holiday shopping orders as Santa’s little helpers.

These contingent workforces aim to provide callers with satisfying customer-service experiences from afar, but that’s not always the case. If they’re not properly treated or trained, then everyone can expect a very different outcome.

Scott Kendrick of speech analytics company CallMiner suggests five critical solutions built around sentiment analysis and speech or voice analytic tools to avoid any pitfalls. They include the following:

1) Training. “There’s a tendency to shorten the training cycles for the influx of temporary employees, particularly in retail, as if they are considered just to be order takers,” Kendrick explains. He says it’s important to treat these part-time employees the same as tenured and permanent staffers and not skimp on educating them about the products they’re selling or processes and policies. “Failure to do so can result in repeat calls or general dissatisfaction,” he adds. Mindful of the pressure to quickly get large contingent workforces up and running during peak seasons, he notes that voice analytics enabled a client to reduce its training process to two weeks from six across the board, not just for temporary employees. Analytic tools pinpoint competencies or areas that trainees need to improve on, replacing long feedback cycles associated with a reliance on manual methods of performance monitoring. “They get a near real-time reading on how well trainees are performing,” Kendrick says.

2) Quality monitoring. Leveraging technology and tools like a voice analytic system can quickly identify and correct problems new call-center agents might be having, according to Kendrick. He says automation will improve quality assurance monitoring in coaching these employees, save time during busy seasons and elevate customer engagement. It also can track areas in which agents are performing well, providing appropriate feedback and accolades to encourage strong performance. He says coaching employees needs to be thorough and consistent across the workforce throughout the year.

3) Educational value. Another important element is ensuring that all staffers, from agents to executives, have a full understanding of how voice analytics works and the value that this type of technology provides. With regard to the latter point, Kendrick says there’s no longer a reliance on small random samples, which offer an incomplete glimpse of employee performance. When supervisors monitor only a few calls per agent per month, he cautions that it’s statistically invalid and subjective. But he says an ability to analyze calls across the board generates “a much more accurate representation of how the agents are performing.” That means performance no longer will be influenced by subjectivity that might change from one supervisor to the next, or relationships that people have within the workplace.

4) Instant feedback. The quicker agents receive direct feedback and access to analytics on how they’re performing, the faster they can take corrective action without middlemen and lag times. Kendrick says another benefit of an automated scoring approach is it creates some element of gamification. “The agents could see how they’re performing in various competencies versus their peers,” he says, noting that it serves as motivation and generates competition. Speeding the flow of feedback to agents on the floor without burdening supervisors with having to filter that information or review a high volume of calls during peak times will improve the call center’s operational efficiency. Analysts in the tech space refer to this concept as “pervasive insight” or “pervasive business intelligence,” whose objective he says is to broadly distribute critical data and feedback across the organization to drive quicker decisions and action.

5) Incentives. To help manage growing seasonal demand, Kendrick says it’s important that the pool of incentives increase in proportion to higher head counts so that there’s an opportunity for all employees, including temporary employees, to reap the rewards of good performance.

When applying analytic tools to open enrollment, Kendrick says using technology to gain deeper insight into what is being said between the benefit provider and employee who is enrolling will result in a “significantly smoother” process.

Brokers or advisers who deal with call-center operations can ensure that the right technology tools and procedures are in place to resolve all inquiries as well as possible within the first call and that effective customer service is being achieved, he adds.

“Without being able to understand what is being said across all conversations, as well as analyze and aggregate that data and trend it,” Kendrick explains, “it’s difficult to determine how to better service those employees.

Technology tools also can pay dividends from an overall talent management standpoint for retailers and others that are about to enter their busiest season of the year.

For example, if the principles of performance management for full-timers are applied to everyone, then Kendrick says “there’s an opportunity for those temporary staff members to potentially outperform some folks that may be on the permanent staff.” That means when staff swells around the winter holidays, employer can identify and recruit top performers within the contingency workforce and promote them to full-time staff.

One CallMiner client that was able to reap all these benefits associated with voice analytics is TradeGlobal, a full-service e-commerce provider and business process outsourcer. With the help of this technology, the company identified a myriad of customer service issues, and in some cases, even lost business. TradeGlobal found this approach particularly useful when working with millennials, which Kendrick describes as “a generation that really likes to have accurate and timely feedback and a clear path for advancement.”

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Employee engagement Employee turnover Employee benefits Workforce management