You've painstakingly crafted your brand, your organisation lives and breathes its values, and customers are responding to its message. Protecting that brand image is now paramount. As business booms, so does the need to establish processes to interact with customers, secure feedback, answer questions and resolve issues. You need a contact centre. Whether your approach is home grown or outsourced, it’s imperative to institute an engagement strategy and to measure how effectively the contact centre is maintaining your brand image and recovering unhappy customers.

After all, loyalty is your currency. Yes, vouchers and gift cards can demonstrate that you value feedback and that you are willing to acknowledge bad experiences and provide some recompense. However, many consumers simply want to know that your organisation cares about their concerns and acts upon them.

As you evaluate your own contact centre or consider partners for outsourcing, keep in mind three criteria to inform decisions: 

1) Be Responsive

Negative experiences impact a customer’s willingness to return, which impedes the future relationship (revenues). When a frustrated customer wants to tell you about their bad experience, your brand needs to be available to listen. To this end, your organisation must have effective workforce management and agent engagement measures.

KPI: Service Level is a measure of how quickly customers are served and Abandonment Rate measures customers who were unable to engage you. If agents are connecting with customers 80% of the time in less than 20 seconds, and no more than 5% of consumers abandon their call, then you have hit a solid performance level for engaging with customers.

2) Make resolution a priority

An apology for a poor service experience is not a differentiator - everyone does it. Your customers are looking for a connection. Resolution requires that customers feel they’ve been heard and had a great resolution. Without that, customers may defect to a competitor.

KPI: First Call Resolution measures the percentage of customer contacts that ended in resolution at time of engagement (no follow-up required). Strive for this number to exceed 90%. Using a post-call automated survey that specifically asks the customer, “Are you satisfied with the proposed resolution?” will help you evaluate your resolution activities and options. First Call Resolution should match customer sentiment on resolution offered to be in the sweet spot.

3) Trust your best talent with customer relationships

Service agents are brand ambassadors and must be up to the challenge. Highly skilled, trained and motivated agents need only apply. As mentioned, customers expect responsiveness, a personalised connection and action. They also expect their service agents to be highly knowledgeable and empowered to resolve issues. Remember that customers have already had one poor experience – they should not be set up to potentially encounter a second one.

KPI: Ensure every customer service associate has completed and passed with top marks all available customer-handling and tool-utilisation training. 100% complete = Certification. Strive to ensure 100% of agents remain certified at all times when facing customers.

Contact centres are fertile ground for the expression of positive customer experience and the championship of customer concerns. If you've not given a contact centre strategy correct thought, you could be tarnishing your brand dramatically, and without measurement you may not know it.

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Ryan Stewart is the General Manager, Market Force Center of Excellence in Winnipeg and oversees customer surveys and contact centre services in Winnipeg, leveraging experience at companies like Sears and Staples. His mission? Deliver operational excellence to our clients.