Yoo-hoo, Over Here, It’s the Voice of the Customer: Do You Compute?

In a recent article in HRmagazine.co.uk, Helen Murray laments the plight of call centre agents who have to listen to the same old customer complaints over and over again.

Too true.

Then she goes on to argue that this is because many companies don’t have the processes or solutions to appreciate the customer’s perspective.

Not true.

Many of the points that Helen Murray makes are valid and pertinent to a consideration of how to improve customer service. Listening to the “Voice of the Customer” will reveal invaluable information about how to improve strategy, service and products. Good organisations will use the means at their disposal to gather information from a wide range of sources including social media, call centre calls, forums, and digital and traditional correspondence. Many organisations are not doing this and are missing out on opportunities to learn and advance from a better understanding of what they are doing right and wrong in the eyes of their customers.

But there we part company.

Helen Murray works for an organisation that provides software which amongst other things will translate the content of call centre conversations into text form so that its semantic content can be analysed easily and comprehensively. Her solution to the problem of not understanding what customers think is to use software to capture the voice of the customer.

I wouldn’t disagree with her suggestion that software can help in understanding the big picture of how customers feel about an organisation. But to go from presenting the problem that customer contact centres contain large amounts of valuable untapped business information, to a solution that leaps clean over the middle man to an automated system is, frankly, bonkers.

Companies already have the dedicated use of the most superbly programmed, acutely sensitive, customer voice receptors and analysts available: their front-line staff.

Why on earth would you fork out for a software solution when you already pay handsomely to have real, live people answering the phones to your customers? Why are so many companies failing to capitalise on the evident intelligence stacked up in the brains of the people in their contact centres?

Perhaps for the same reason that upward communication systems are rarely effectively developed in organisations. Being open to the views of front-line staff requires confidence, maturity, and clarity of vision in both the executive and at all levels of leadership. Maybe a change in the flow of information represents a considerable cultural shift and seems to threaten existing authority structures.

Sometimes a bright spark will start the process off and the inevitable initial wave of information collected includes a multitude of ideas, complaints and requests about all aspects of the organisation. Without careful management and long term commitment, managers become quickly overwhelmed with these newly raised problems and expectations and so the whole process is rapidly pared down or abandoned as an exercise that just seemed to increase dissatisfaction.

It’s probably also because we all love a simple solution. It is far more palatable to be offered a one-stop, hands-off answer to our problems. How much easier and more comfortable it is to buy an off-the-shelf technological answer to the problem and be done with it. No messy human complexity, no major change, and yes, you’re right, no complete solution.

But this is a mistake, and not only because it doesn’t give us the most insightful information on what our customers are thinking. To use a software approach to resolve the problem of a lack of information about what customers are saying means the organisation misses out on a golden opportunity to engage the workforce.

So much evidence points to a clear link between a happy, engaged workforce and happy customers that it would be madness to try to find a solution that didn’t involve and engage customer service employees. Getting our customer service staff involved in feeding back problems and helping to design the organisation so that they are resolved is a perfect opportunity to increase motivation and customer satisfaction together.  (A previous blogpost examined this link in more detail http://bit.ly/igpYvl )

Helen Murray herself points out that retention rates are poor for customer call centre staff and argues that organisations should pay more attention to the well-being of their front-line staff. I couldn’t agree more. But the best answer to the combination of low morale and lack of feedback on the customer voice is to gear up employee involvement and communication with a view to improving both customer and employee satisfaction. Otherwise it is just half a job done.

I am not arguing against the use of software to analyse the customer voice, nor that it has no additional value. I don’t think either of these things are true. But the immediate solution is already in our hands. Times are hard, people are supremely adapted to understanding the emotions and problems of others and an engaged workforce is worth its weight in gold.

Go on: talk to your staff.

Links

1. Original article in www.HRMagazine.co.uk    http://bit.ly/z0Q1tq

2.  Article on customer satisfaction/ employee engagement link http://bit.ly/igpYvl

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4 Comments to “Yoo-hoo, Over Here, It’s the Voice of the Customer: Do You Compute?”

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