Brand Ambassador – You’re Fired!!

Call Centre Helper is one of my favourite online business magazines – every week it delivers at least one golden nugget to my mental business-thinking inbox and this week was no exception…

Check out this article by Martin Jukes of Mpathy Plus

Martin is talking about the future of the Contact Centre Advisor (CCA) and how the role will change in the future as technological enhancements enable customers to self-serve to their hearts content, perhaps to the point where the job of a CCA will become totally redundant

This of course, is not new news – automation of a customer’s experience with the birth of self-serve is actually yesterday’s fish & chip wrappings. And let’s face it, it makes sense to take advantage of technological advancements that make it easy for a customer to get what they want at a click of a button, wouldn’t you agree? And that’s exactly the point.I’ve never believed this would ever happen (not in my lifetime anyway) and Martin and I are clearly on the same page. The article explains exactly how the role of the Brand Ambassador will evolve, as all things AI (artificial intelligence) take over the day to dayrunning of a frontline operation, where simple and straightforward actions (once only possible to complete by engaging ‘in the moment’ with a real live operator) will be done and dusted by the customer themselves, quick as a flash.

All the quick and easy, straightforward enquiries, questions, problems or issues will be covered off with automated responses that ensure that PME (Positive Memorable Experience) is achieved in an instant – and in today’s fast-paced, quick-fix, snap-happy world, that’s what we want. Immediate gratification and right-NOW contentment helps us to get on with being busy, living our very busy lives, doing lots of busy things amongst the busyness of 21st century life, right?

However, what the article goes on to explain – just as we’ve been banging on about here in FIT for quite some time now – is that the role of the CCA, far from becoming obsolete, will become even more vital, even more complex and sophisticated the more automated the customer experience becomes. Because when (not ‘if’) the customer has to engage for real with our Brand Ambassadors it will be at the point where all attempts to self-serve or automate a response or sort the problem in an artificially intelligent manner would’ve failed – and potentially, miserably so!

So, our frontline staff will need to be far more skilled and adept at dealing with truly difficult calls and callers than they’ve ever had to be in the past. It’s likely that our customer or prospect is at near-breaking point by the time they eventually speak with a ‘real’ person, when emotions are likely to be frayed and tempers at the end of their tethers. These Brand Ambassadors will require a degree of emotional intelligence and have rapport skills that would make the hearts of Daniel Goleman or Bandler & Grinder swell with pride, because they’re going to need to read their emotionally-charged customer like a perfectly written book!

Given the fact that we only have between 4 and 14 seconds to create a positive first impression when we communicate over the ‘phone (unlike when we’re face-to-face and have between 4 and 34 seconds to positively impact someone’s impression of us) AND given the fact that we never get a second chance to create that great first impression, our frontline staff will have to work doubly as hard to build that rapport, empathy and trust from the outset, won’t they?

Add to this tricky situation the fact that 84% of a customer’s experience is emotional and we potentially have a hot potato on a burning BBQ to handle more often than we currently experience when customers have a problem they want sorting. So it’s worth having a few tips and tricks up your sleeve to put out that furious furnace… and when it flares up as we head into this crazy world of AI in the not-too-distant future:

FIT’s Handy Hints for putting out the FIRE!

  1. Always allow the bubble to deflate FIRST – use verbal nods and acknowledgments to let the customer know you’re paying attention and really listening to them, because when they can’t see you, you lose 55% of your ability to positively impact their experience, so they don’t know for sure whether you’re really giving them all your focus and undivided care…and they need to know you are – especially if they’re ‘going off on one!’
  2. Use the customer’s name to both build rapport and take control of the call – but be careful with overuse &/or over-familiarity (it’s always wise to err on the side of caution and refer to the customer formally, unless they’ve specifically told you to call them by their first name)
  3. Focus on what you CAN do before focusing on what you CAN’T do – it’s a normal human reaction to ‘defend your corner’ by over-explaining or justifying the problem and highlighting the negative as a result. Say YES before saying NO; give the GOOD NEWS before giving the BAD and focus through the windscreen, rather than the rear-view mirror e.g. “I can certainly refer your situation to our Customer Resolutions Team immediately and arrange for my colleague to call you before the end of today, as I don’t personally deal with your Account – is that OK with you (customer name)?”
  4. Take full responsibility, accountability and ownership for the situation – even if the company is not at fault, you can still apologise on behalf of the company or the department or your colleague for how the customer feels about the situation e.g. “Firstly (customer name), on behalf of our Accounts Team I do apologise that you’ve had this experience and I’ll certainly look into this matter for you straightaway” OR “Thank you for your feedback (customer name) and I’m so sorry that you feel this way – let me take care of this for you and look into the matter immediately”. Apologising for how a customer feels about the situation does NOT constitute admittance or blame of the situation – it does in fact say a lot about YOU and your humility in this situation.
  5. Create conversation, not interrogation by asking questions in a simple straightforward way that make it easy for the customer to answer. Remember the all-powerful TED Principle to ensure a conversational tone e.g. “TELL me….” “EXPLAIN….” “DESCRIBE…” and use the Defining Question to get to the core of the matter in a succinct way e.g. “…What SPECIFICALLY…. EXACTLY…. PRECISELY…. REALISTICALLY … ACTUALLY …. USUALLY …. NORMALLY… etc”
  6. Last impressions are lasting, so always ensure you end the conversation on a positive note – thanking the customer for bringing the matter to your attention and more importantly, giving you the opportunity to put things right or at least, set a plan of remedial action in place, is a really smart thing to do when concluding on a difficult call.

Remember – as Maya Angelou taught us “people will forget what you say to them, they’ll forget what you do for them (even if you are a real GEM and Go the Extra Mile) but they will NEVER EVER forget how you make them FEEL” – and, my dear readers, no amount of sophisticated AI can ever replace THAT particular FACT!

Until next time, keep FIT!

PS. Here’s that link to this week’s Call Centre Helper article again – enjoy the read!

Hello... I'm Marie Cross

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