The HotLine Magazine Archives
For The Profession of Cloud/SaaS Product Support
By Mikael Blaisdell

To the Company, the basic purpose of the contact center is to increase long-term profitability through customer retention. On the other end of that relationship, the customer’s basic metric is simply: “Quickly connect me to a courteous, competent representative who will completely resolve my problem in the shortest amount of time.” The customer uses that metric in every interaction with you to answer the unspoken retention question: “Do I want to continue to do business with these people?” You need to connect to the same metric in every decision you make about your center. Let’s take a closer look at its elements.”Quickly connect me…” I know they mean well, but companies that begin their canned on-hold messages with: “Your call is very important to us …” just blew it. The customer instantly thinks: “If that was true, you wouldn’t be playing the same stupid message to me that all the other companies do.” How quickly does quickly have to be? That depends on the customer, the industry, the severity of the issue, etc., and to answer that question, you’ve got to talk to your customers. Keep in mind that while speed is important, how fast the call was answered is only a part of the customer’s retention decision.

…to a courteous, competent representative…” The agent that greets me with: “Good morning, Mr. Blaisdell, my name is ——, how can I help you today?” has already made a very good start in impressing me. They’ve let me know that they value my time in the process of establishing the rapport with me that will make the call much easier for all concerned. (Even if the center doesn’t have the telephony capability to pick up my name ahead of time, the rep can still send that signal of respect in the opening seconds of the interaction — and should.) The opening phase is always about rapport: I want to know that I am important to you, and the way I’ll find that out is in the consistent pattern of how I’m treated from beginning to end of each interaction. If I’m forced to deal with an agent who doesn’t know me or their own product well enough to help me solve the problem, then I’ll automatically conclude that I’m not important to that company at all.

…who will completely resolve my problem…” I don’t expect the agent to instantly diagnose and solve every issue during the first call. I’ve been around the high technology industry for many years; there are some glitches that almost seem to be determined to be unresolveable. I do expect the agent to keep me informed as to progress, and to suggest temporary work-arounds in the interim. Show me that you care about the impact this problem is having on my business or life by the way you communicate with me. Make some gesture to compensate me if it was your error that caused the problem. I want this to be a relationship; show me that you see it the same way and also want it to continue.

…in the shortest amount of time.” Severity is a key factor here. If you had a sudden surge of high-priority issues elsewhere, tell me that and re-set my expectations about the new resolution target. Don’t make me call back and repeat my woes to someone else, that’s not respecting me or my time.

The above metric is about your profitability over the long term. Your customer contact center strategy, process, people and technology all need to be focused on successfully maintaining the customer relationships as such through every single interaction. You need to be able to tie every decision you make affecting the center directly back to that basic metric; if you can’t, it’s time to take a closer look.

If you blow it on one interaction, will I dump you? That depends on a number of factors, but in most cases, while I might be mad, I’m willing to get over it. But if you consistently send me the message that you don’t care about our relationship, and one of your competitors convinces me that they do; you’ll lose.

May 18, 2007