If your agents are cherry-picking customers to survey, you have a human behaviour problem, not a technology problem

Sarah Lubbe, Head of Sales and Marketing, Smoke Customer Intelligence (PTY) Ltd

Often, your contact centre is your most prominent point of contact for your customers. It is the area of your business that handles everything from new sales to queries and customer service. At the same time, it can be an area where the cost to serve can be relatively high, thanks to the dependence on human resource. A contact centre's high level of customer interaction, combined with its reliance on multiple process and resources, means that it is an important area to not only manage customer service but optimise operations. Therefore the contact centre is the ideal place to gather customer feedback. 

How can VOC be used within contact centres? 

Contact Centres tend to be an environment tightly managed through operational controls, with processes focussed on answering more calls more often and handling customer queries the first time. This operational focus can sometimes lead to an environment when quantity takes preference over quality – and this is the first place where VOC data comes in handy. 

The ability to match operational metrics such as call duration with customer satisfaction, for example, allows one to determine the ideal handling time per call. This balance may be wholly different to a purely functional view of more calls more often. Finding the ideal call length that both meets resource restrictions while at the same time creating satisfaction will have a knock-on effect in terms of repeat calls and overall customer loyalty. In order to drive such operational balance, agents must be measured on both operational and feedback metrics. Studies have shown that asking for feedback using an Agent satisfaction (CSAT) question directly after the call correlates highly with the actual customer satisfaction at that point in time. Further, customers can separate their opinion of the service delivered by the agent from their overall satisfaction with the outcome of the interaction or the brand itself. This means that even if the result of the call was negative for the customer, the agent should still be measured on delivering excellent service. 

For many organisations, the contact centre acts as a catchment for service failures up and down the value chain. For example, if a parcel is delivered late in online retail, the contact centre will likely receive the complaint call. Similarly, for example, should a banking customer be unable to transact or an insurance customer wish to lodge a claim, the interactions are likely to be handled by the contact centre. By understanding the drivers of dissatisfaction in the contact centre, VOC measurement can highlight areas of improvement in departments throughout the organisation. For this reason alone, gathering satisfaction metrics in the contact centre is incredibly useful. 

How can VOC be gathered in a Contact Centre? 

Post-call voice surveys are undoubtedly the most effective way of gathering customer feedback after a call. A post-call survey is a recorded survey that plays once the call between the agent and customer is complete. Customers use their dial pad to select the rating they wish to leave per question and, in some solutions, are asked to leave a voice message. Across all survey channels, post-call voice surveys receive the highest response rate, with most contact centres comfortably exceeding 60% response rates (with many reaching closer than 80% response rates. The reasons for such high response rates are threefold: 

  1. The customer has a fresh recollection of the service received during the call, and as such, is more likely to want to give feedback (this is true for positive, negative and neutral feedback). 
  2. Customers have learnt that agents are measured by such surveys and feel an obligation to share their insights. 
  3. Customers experience the survey as part of the overall call and find them far less invasive than receiving an email or SMS a few hours after the call. This psychology means that most customers are open to leaving feedback. 

All these factors culminate in voice surveys being arguably the best channel via which to gather feedback at scale within a contact centre. 

Manual vs Auto transfer – the human behaviour problem Post call voice surveys work in one of two ways. The telephony platform automatically routes the customer into the survey once the agent hangs up, or the agent manually transfers the call once the conversation is concluded. Many seeking to implement a voice survey are concerned that should the agent need to transfer the call into the survey, they will reserve this for only satisfied customers, thus skewing results. This is, of course, a reality; however, the very same behaviour is evident in an automatic transfer. In this scenario, the system automatically sends the customer to the survey once the agents hang up, but those looking to cherry-pick simply hang on until the customer hangs up, thus avoiding the survey entirely. The truth is that if an agent wants to game the system and bias their results, they will – regardless of the technological option in place. 

How to manage agent behaviour to get the most out of VOC technology When it comes to ensuring that the maximum number of customers get offered the opportunity to provide feedback, it is more about incentivising agents to buy into the process than about using punitive techniques to enforce compliance. 

Below are recommended strategies to adopt: 

  1. The best way to encourage agent participation is to adopt a proper change management process that shares the new process and the rationale and motivation behind collecting data. It is important to emphasise that the feedback is not being gathered to "catch out" performance but instead to improve the systems, processes and methods in which customers are serviced. 
  2. Offer recognition (or reward) for the agent (or team) that receives the highest score by the number of responses. It is important to tie both scoring and number of responses together when using this measure for recognition since using scores on their own can encourage instead of discourage cherry-picking of happy customers; 
  3. Another great positive reinforcement technique is to implement a celebrate system where agents receive an email or SMS every time they receive a high score, and the aggregate these results to use as recognition for the most 10 out of 10's, as an example. 
  4. A useful KPI for agents is the percentage of calls transferred into the survey. Setting the target at 80% or higher is a useful way of managing behaviour. 
  5. As a failsafe, transferring into the survey can be included in the QA process. With this technique, any call that was not transferred to the survey results in an automatic failure. This is perhaps the most punitive of the methods to encourage agents to adopt customer feedback as part of their daily practice but can be used effectively. 

Gathering and understanding customer feedback within your contact centre has a plethora of valuable applications, and is also arguably the easiest form of Voice of the Customer to implement.

About the author
Sarah Lubbe