Your Call Center is a Brand Experience
Originally published: 05.01.17 by Tom Merriott
If your marketing proclaims you to be the expert, the doctor, the professional, then your call center should reflect that brand
You have probably spent a lot of time thinking about your company’s brand. The font, the colors, the overall look, how it makes you feel, how customers might react, how it will look in different advertising, how it will look on a truck. All of this is normal consideration as you attempt to build your brands and differentiate yourselves from your competition in the residential home service industry.
All of that time, money and ffort is spent with one real goal in mind: When a customer needs service, they call your business.
So how much time have you put in to thinking about what happens if they do call? What does your company sound like? What do they stand for? This is one of the most neglected areas in the industry today and it needs to change.
If you don’t believe me, mystery call your own shop. Borrow a phone from a friend, have an address and a problem ready and see how easy it is to book a call with your company.
If the customer service representatives (CSRs) will recognize your voice, have the friend make the call with you listening in and feel free to load them up with some of the common objections you know are out there in the market.
Do this a couple of times with different people and different service addresses. Don’t let your CSRs book a call without saying, “I need to think about it,” or “I need to check with my spouse,” at least once. If your people aren’t fighting to book the call, then they need to understand the value of each potential appointment.
You might be tempted to get upset with the results, but this is your fault if you haven’t defined your company’s experience. For example: If all of your marketing proclaims you to be the expert, the doctor, the professional, then your call center should reflect that brand.
Calls should be handled calmly and with complete expertise. The experience should be the same every time you call no matter what time of the day or year. Is that the situation?
If the answer is no, then it’s time to get to work.
First, define your brand experience over the phone. This is what you want to be known for or what you want your customers to feel when they call. Think about the best customer service experiences you’ve ever had: What made them stick out? Was it the scripting or the attitude of the person with whom you were dealing?
More than likely, it was the attitude, because we remember how people make us feel rather than the exact words they use. If that’s the case, what do you need to do to make sure your people are making your customers feel good?
People get stuck on this point, because they think their company phone voice needs to be false and cheery. That isn’t exactly correct. Most of your customers are upset when they call. Something in their home isn’t working like it is supposed to and now they’re most likely going to spend unplanned money.
You need to make sure your people are sensitive to that at the beginning of the call and once the problem is explained to them, sincere empathy is the best response.
After that, what matters is easing the customer’s anxiety by letting them know they have called the experts and you fix these problems every day. Here is where a great attitude shines through on the phone.
If your people believe that you are the best company to meet the customer’s needs and you provide them with a great work environment, they will project that during the conversation.
Remember when I asked how great customer service experiences made you feel? If your team believes in your company and loves working for you, then the customer will naturally want to be a part of whatever makes your team feel that way.
We all have a deep desire to be a part of greatness; this is one of the basic reasons popular things are popular. I recently had an impressive phone interaction with a company I use at my home.
When I hung up, I immediately thought how happy I was to be associated with that organization and how smart I was for finding them to do my work. After some thought, it really boiled down to the professional attitude delivered over the phone.
Someone at that company put real thought into their telephonic branding. So, I called back and asked if I could talk to someone in charge. After taking me through an extremely well-thought-out potential upset customer process, I let them know I was calling to compliment whoever oversaw the customer experience.
The CSR responded, “Oh, that’s our owner. Would you like him to give you a call?”
Once Bill and I spoke, he told me things turned around a year ago when he ran a call himself and the customer complained that his office staff seemed unhappy. When Bill asked for more detail, all she could say was that she felt like she was bothering them with her call.
That is the point where he decided how his company sounded on the phone mattered and he needed to get to work.
Rather than storm back to the office ranting and raving about things changing or threatening people’s employment, this man knew it started with him.
Bill started by making a list of what constituted his dream customer service experience and then he boiled it down into something his team could understand.
With the full knowledge that I was going to use them in an article, here are the concepts he focuses on:
- Part of the family
He called them his “Three Ps,” and these are what his business uses to define how their customers will be treated when they call. These concepts have been in play for a while, so he has detailed examples for each “P,” but the point of this isn’t to give you his method — it’s to get you to define your own. Start by writing down how you would like your company to be perceived. Take a look at your company name, your branding, how you fit in your market and make sure it all lines up. As a way to double-check your thinking, run it past family and friends to make sure you are clear and coming across as intended.
Next, explain this to your team. Get their input on how you can accomplish this goal and idea for ensuring that it stays consistent. Talk about the experience as much as possible so it is top of mind for everyone in the company; here is where you are looking for total buy in from your people.
Bill told me that some of the explanations changed once he ran it through his team. Some of them struggled with the professional part of his vision, so he set out to prove how good they were to his own people. The more emphasis you put on this, the better it will be.
This should be a constant thread in your company’s training and every day operation. The team that works for Bill has clear direction and a defined way to measure the service they are delivering.
And finally, don’t be afraid to ask your customers about this part of your operation. You tend to put so much focus on how you are performing in the field, you often completely ignore the telephonic end of things.
Customer feedback and your own monitoring will keep you operating at a best-in-class level and ensure your call center delivers the exact brand experience you define.