November 16 2011

Operating a Customer-Focused Contact Center

Tom Feeney, Safelite® President and CEO

Operating a Customer-Focused Contact Center
Guest writer: Brian O’Mara, Safelite AutoGlass®, Vice President of National Contact Centers

Safelite AutoGlass® is a multi-faceted vehicle glass and claims management service organization that operates five contact centers handling 15 million calls per year. The contact centers are ISO-certified and boast an average speed to answer of 11 seconds, 88 percent of all calls answered within 20 seconds or less, and an abandon rate of less than 3 percent. Following are our strategies to create customer-focused contact centers.

Hire for Talent and Create an Empowering Training Program

At Safelite AutoGlass, our contact centers are staffed by professional Customer Service Representatives (CSRs). We are committed to having our people answer our 800 sales calls live– there is no outsourcing and no automated recordings.

Our hiring philosophy is to hire for personality and train for skill; it is a philosophy that serves us well. Efforts are focused on finding talented people that exhibit self-discipline, ambition, compassion and empathy. These “soft skills” are more important than text or mechanics that can be developed in a training lab.

Safelite uses a targeted selection process that was developed by internal and external experts. The focus is on thorough, fact-based identification of the behavioral traits and the use of multiple, trained interviewers. Interviewers use techniques that seek to identify past behavior as a predictor of future behavior and performance.

Once hired, training for CSRs includes a two-week program. The goal is to help them build confidence and affirmation that they can do what they need to do to serve the customer. Some call centers place too much burden on the CSR, not providing the systems that allow them to succeed. Safelite invests in a sophisticated Internet-based system called the Safelite University to manage calls and seamlessly integrate with insurance companies as well as our technician scheduling system.

The first week is instructor-led classroom training. This includes interactive practice with the Internet-based system. Potential CSRs are then tested for retention before the second week of training, which consists of taking live calls with a sales coordinator close by to assist as needed. Ongoing assessment along the way helps identify gaps in knowledge so they can be address quickly. Once they are comfortable, they are then introduced into the official call center. Easing them into the system in this controlled environment ensures they are ready to take customer calls professionally and courteously.

Among the training CSRs receive is an easy-to-remember system for remembering how to delight clients. We call it “The Five Bs”:
1. Be Sure
2. Be Helpful
3. Be Sympathetic
4. Be Honest
5. Be Appreciative

Sophisticated Systems, Personal Touch

Safelite University supports the philosophies in which CSRs are trained so that the practices are enforced right from their desktops and easy to use. It replaces all written materials including frequently used phone numbers, FAQs, internal information, and so on. In fact, Safelite University earned the Outstanding Human Performance Award from the International Society for Performance Improvement. The platform received recognition as part of the Award of Excellence Program, which showcases excellence in the field of human performance technology.

The online Safelite University is a better solution as opposed to outdated catalogs or binders that are hard to search for needed answers. This results in a better experience for the customer as well – they are not inconvenienced while CSRs research answers to their questions. With the digital format, it is updated daily so information is always fresh.

In addition to empowering CSRs with Safelite University, we staff one coach to every 18 full-time equivalent CSR. Coaches are readily available to provide support as calls come in and they provide frequent real-time feedback on performance. All calls are recorded so on a regular basis, a coach will review them with the CSR to identify strengths and areas for improvement. They review voice volume, tone and pace in addition to how calls are managed. They are performed at random so a CSR does not know when they may be reviewed, which means they are encouraged to always perform at their highest ability.

As a checkpoint, quality assessment teams also audits calls at random to calibrate between what the coach observes and an independent, unbiased observer.

As simple as it seems, the environment has a big impact on performance. Safelite has gone to great lengths to create conducive work stations with natural light, clean spaces, attractive walls and carpet. What is good for the employee influences the customer experience.

All of these elements together support simplicity so that the CSRs’ personalities can come out while serving customers.

Rewarding Success

A strong employee engagement and incentive program must be in place. While Safelite’s compensation model rewards top customer service performers based on quality, not volume, there are also many award programs in place to recognize and celebrate these individuals. The Excellence in Service award is given to CSRs when a customer writes in with a compliment. As these awards add up, employees earn points that can be used for discounts in groceries, apparel, gas, movies, and electronics through our Safelite Reward Program. Those who earn the most Excellence in Service awards become part of the “Hall of Fame” where their photos are framed in our lobby.

Our parent company, Belron®, which has a presence in 32 countries, also has an international Excellence in Customer Service Award for which we nominate our best CSRs.

It’s also important to recognize the simple things. When CSRs celebrate service anniversaries and letters of praise from customers, they receive a helium balloon at their desk – a little gesture that means so much to them (and brightens up the call center space).

Make It Work For You

The bottom line is that CSRs must feel appreciated in order for them to deliver customer delight. This can be achieved by giving them the tools to succeed, communicating to them what success looks like and celebrating it daily.

Unfortunately, the call center industry has become cost-focused. This sacrifices the customer experience. How each company implements this process may vary, but the model is the same everywhere. Happy employees make happy customers.

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