Response Design Corporation:Creating the Uncommon Call Center
Kathryn's Uncommon Call Center Blog
May 31, 2008 12:46 PM
Categories: Customer Experience 
Agent Behavior Makes a Difference

I received an email from a friend the other day describing her recent customer experience. The last line stopped me dead in my tracks because of my recent work on defining quality agent behaviors. My friend said:

Agents really make a difference. Without her, my bloodpressure would still be 180 over 140.

The agent worked for a credit card company. My friend had to call because after her husband died the credit card company closed his account and sent his $102 balance immediately to a collection agency. My friend admits she was anything but calm when she finally got through to the agent. She felt insulted that the credit card company treated her like a deadbeat after her family's long, good history with the credit card.

According to my friend, the agent handled the situation very well. My friend really wanted the agent to say the Company was the deadbeat for acting this way. Through it all, the agent remained calm and pleasant and never turned on her company. The agent ended the call with a heartfelt expression of sympathy for my friend's loss. In the end, my friend had only one small complaint... the agent could have spent a little more time emphasizing the family's value to the company.

So, how often do emotionally charged situations happen in your call center? How prepared are your agents to behave in a way that helps the customer on all levels? Do your agents have the motivation to treat each customer as an individual and the energy to follow through to satisfaction?

Do your agents make a difference? How many stories could you tell about the heros in your call center?

Entry logged at 12:46 PM
May 29, 2008 01:33 PM
Categories: Management 
Enhancing interdepartmental interactions

Now that we know product quality is higher with better interdepartmental interactions what can we do to enhance those interdepartmental relationships? As you read the research results below think through your customer contact organization and how you might encourage the innovation, decentralize the decision-making and structure rewards to accomplish the desired result. Sometimes we get so caught up on the immediacy of our customer contact that we forget to reward the individuals who do take the time to sense and respond to product or service improvement opportunities. So many great opportunities stay locked up in our people because either there is no mechanism to capture the idea or else our people are frustrated. They've communicated before but no action was ever taken (at least none that they know of).

"There are a number of actions that managers can take to enhance interdepartmental interactions. Specifically, positive interdepartmental interactions appear to require a certain level of risk taking by senior managers and a willingness to accept occasional failures of new organizational processes as being a normal part of business. In the absence of such a willingness to take calculated risks, employees are likely to be reluctant to try innovative ideas and might prefer to stay within their designated task areas and not be involved in the overall process. The relationships between an organization's reward system orientation, selected structural issues (such as decentralized decision making), and interdepartmental interactions appear to be strong, suggesting that reward structures and systems should take into account the contributions of individuals in sensing and responding to innovative quality processes. Similarly, empowering employees in the lower levels of the organization by decentralizing decision making appears to help reduce conflicts and improve interdepartmental connectedness. Decision-making responsibilities seem to help employees become goal focused and develop networks necessary to achieve the stated goals" (Menon, Jaworski, Kohli, 1997).

What success have you had in enhancing your interdepartmental interactions?

Ajay Menon, Bernard J Jaworski, Ajay K Kohli. (1997). Product quality: Impact of interdepartmental interactions. Academy of Marketing Science. Journal, 25(3), 187-200. Retrieved May 28, 2008, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 12606198).

Entry logged at 01:33 PM
May 28, 2008 11:12 AM
Categories: Management 
The link between interdepartmental interactions and product quality

A great research study shows that there is a relationship between the interdepartmental interactions and product quality. We've known this for quite some time in the customer contact arena. The call center agents talk to more customers in one day than do any other employees the rest of the year. Yet, how many of us have the sytems in place that allow these agents to communicate what the customer is telling them? Here's what the study says:

"...the results of this study suggest that the relationship between interdepartmental interactions and product quality is strong. Thus, managers should implement interventions that increase interdepartmental connectedness-particularly in turbulent environments.

For instance, managers must carefully develop programs and incentives aimed at fostering cooperations among various functional units. Allowing greater decision-making authority to the line functions and breaking down functional silos or strict departmental structures will help build cooperative environment and, in turn, improve communications between key constituents. Such improved communications will assist companies deliver high-quality goods and services" (Menon, Jaworski, Kohli, 1997).

In the competitive market we face today, can any of us afford to have our silos dictate poor product quality?

What are others doing to help facilitate this cross-functional interaction? What programs or incentives are you using to foster cooperation? Are you allowing greater decision-making authority? We'd love to hear what you are doing.

Ajay Menon, Bernard J Jaworski, Ajay K Kohli. (1997). Product quality: Impact of interdepartmental interactions. Academy of Marketing Science. Journal, 25(3), 187-200. Retrieved May 28, 2008, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 12606198).

Entry logged at 11:12 AM
May 27, 2008 03:59 PM
Categories: Customer Experience 
Integrating the Internet Experience

In the early days of the Internet, companies typically formed a separate “skunk works” organization to build, test, and manage the Internet channel. This was a costly decision. As the Internet channel grew, there was little to no coordination between this channel and other customer-facing channels. The customer experience suffered greatly. Most of us recognize this mistake when we order something from the Internet and then call a company to ask a question about our order. Most companies “forgot” that these channels should be seamless to the customer. A customer should be able to purchase something through any channel, return it through any channel, and ask for service through any channel. The company should view the customer holistically, not as separate pieces depending on what channel they choose to interact through.

I remember dealing with a large company that was starting to build customer portals on their site. They were building a knowledge management database (for FAQs) along with publishing the customer’s specific help desk database so customers would have an easier time diagnosing, tracking, and solving their individual problems. There were immense issues to deal with. The company realized that the same products had multiple names – many times different from country to country. Prior to the Internet, all product promotion and sales were local. Now they were international – any customer could access any part of the Internet. Another issue was brought to light as the company formatted the help desk tickets to publish. They found that in the customer’s history were embedded technicians’ comments concerning the personality of the customer. It seemed the technicians were often venting their frustrations, concerns, and anger by commenting in the notes of the company's service history. Needless to say, the company had to launch a major clean up of the database as well as establishing the standard operating procedure of what could / should be documented in a ticket.

What challenges have you faced as your company has started to integrate the internet into the customer's experience?

Entry logged at 03:59 PM
May 22, 2008 11:29 AM
Categories: Miscellaneous 
The Kindness of People

As you may have noticed we are holding a free monthly discussion (see for details). This month (June 5) the topic is attendance management. I asked a question on one of my business networks (LinkedIn) to get some insights on what people are grappling with when it comes to this topic.

I have been impressed with how giving busy people are with their time. I have gotten great responses, great questions, great feedback, and one gentleman went out of his way to introduce me to another gentleman he felt had some innovative practices in this area.

This reminds me to be continually aware of how I can help people. For example,

I got an email this morning from a business associate who has a friend looking for a consulting project. My first reaction was, "No, I don't know of anything off hand." Then I thought about what it would take to "pay it forward." To help this person in the same way that people have helped me.

Isn't that the essence of good business? Isn't that the reason for networking? We give, we receive, we pay it forward so others can succeed just as we do. I only hope I can remember this the next time I think I am to busy to invest a couple of minutes to help another business contact.

Thanks everyone for the wonderful lesson.

Entry logged at 11:29 AM
May 21, 2008 02:34 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous 
Business Networking - Useful?

I have just started down the long road of Internet business networking. Yes, it takes diligence but I have seen good results. Jobs are posted and people are matched. I've asked questions and gotten great answers. I've made good contacts with people that I would have otherwise never met.

What experiences have you had? Are you part of any networks you would recommend? Do you have any hints to make the experience more useful?

I am part of:
LinkedIn (
Fastpitch (,
Plaxo Pulse (

If you haven't tried it and want to have access to good people, this is definitely one way to go.

Here is a link to a whole bevy of business blogs. While you will need to sort through them, it certainly gives you a view of what's available:

Entry logged at 02:34 PM
May 21, 2008 12:39 PM
Categories: Management 
Satisfying the Right Customer

Customer value is a very important factor for a customer contact operation. Companies have to constantly attract and retain loyal customers thus increasing the lifetime value of their customers. In their 1995 article, Why Satisfied Customers Defect, Jones and Sasser describe how companies can increase customer loyalty by focusing on “completely satisfied customers” and targeting “right” versus “wrong” customers (Jones & Sasser, 1995). In the following quote, Jones and Sasser discuss how the “top box” satisfaction score (on a customer satisfaction survey) drives exponential loyalty. Their discussion of the “commodity” products and services is a critical one. For example, think of the consumer products in groceries. Can these customers be loyal to a higher priced brand and lured away from buying discounted “off” brands based on period coupon campaigns? According to Jones and Sasser, under certain circumstances instances, yes.

Completely loyal customers are – to a surprising degree much more loyal than satisfied customers. To put it another way, any drop from total satisfaction results in a major drop in loyalty. The same applies to commodity businesses with thin profit margins; the potential returns on initiatives to increase satisfaction in such businesses can be as high as the return on initiatives in more profitable businesses. In fact, attempts to create complete customer satisfaction in commodity industries will often raise the product or service out of the commodity category. In most instances, totally satisfying the members of the targeted customer group should be a top priority (Jones & Sasser, 1995).

The next quote challenges us to understand that it is not only satisfying a customer that is important in driving customer value. It is a matter of satisfying the right customer. Are we targeting the right customer to satisfy? Are we marketing to the customer that will bring us higher lifetime value? Jones and Sasser speak of the “expensive mistake” of retaining the wrong customer. This financial mistake is the fact that the value of the wrong customer is much lower than the value of the right customer.

Very poor service or products are not the only cause – and may not even be the main cause – of high dissatisfaction. Often the company has attracted the wrong customers or has an inadequate process for turning around the right customers when they have a bad experience. Customers typically fall into one of two categories: the right customers, or target group, whom the company should be able to serve well and profitably, and the wrong customers, whose needs it cannot profitably serve. Having the wrong customers is the result of a flawed process for attracting or obtaining customer. The company that retains difficult-to-serve, chronically unhappy customers is making an expensive long-term mistake” (Jones & Sasser, 1995).

Each of us must consider how to completely satisfy the right customer in order to drive loyalty and increase customer lifetime value.

Jones, T. O. & Sasser, W. E Jr. (2005). Why Satisfied Customers Defect, Harvard Business Review. November – December, 88-99.

Entry logged at 12:39 PM
May 19, 2008 12:22 PM
Categories: Management 
The Business Impact of Customer Service Values

Values that are internalized (and not just published) guide each of us through decisions and change. I just recently watched a program on PBS about the Marines During the program they continually talked about the Marine value system. One comment in particular caught my attention. The commentator said Marines are trained to evaluate their values not so much by what they do when everyone is looking but what they do when no one is around. Honor, courage, and commitment are to guide the Marine in every decision he makes no matter what the circumstances and no matter who is looking.

It is important for companies to have well-defined and internalized values. When all the citizens of an organization hold the same values, decisions and behavior are consistent even when the circumstances are not.

Two companies’ very different customer value systems were exposed recently by the national press.

The first was a casino in Philadelphia. A man walks into the casino, plays the slots, and wins over $100,000. However when he goes to collect his winnings, casino management informs him that they are not going to pay him because his “win” is the mistake of their computer system. There was a public outcry and ultimately the casino paid.

The second incident was the customer service debacle of Jet Blue, the airline differentiating itself from the competition based on how customer friendly it is. In contrast to the casino response, Jet Blue immediately apologized, admitted fault, started a change process, and proactively documented a customer bill of rights. In the bill of rights, Jet Blue promises compensation for poor service. Jet Blue went so far as to retroactively award all the customers inconvenienced the previous week (prior to the bill of rights documentation).

It is obvious that the two companies mentioned above had very different values concerning how they treat customers, especially in “non-standard” situations. Although currently unreported, we can assume that the long-term impact of their differing values will be very different as well.

Entry logged at 12:22 PM
May 16, 2008 12:51 PM
Categories: Measurement 
Free Call Center Metrics Survey

Participants Wanted

We have updated our free call center metrics survey. When we get enough data in the database we will produce a report for all contributors. You can download the survey from the site before taking it. For those of you ready to take the metric survey, here is the link. It is now updated and ready to go.


Entry logged at 12:51 PM
May 16, 2008 12:43 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous 
Contact Center Performance Forum

Join our New, Free Peer-to-Peer Forum

The Contact Center Performance Forum helps an enterprise improve the performance of its contact center by participating in and listening to the dialogue of experienced professionals.

Free events, discussion groups, questions and answers.

We'd love to see you there! Come check us out!


Entry logged at 12:43 PM
May 16, 2008 12:40 PM
Categories: Human Resource 
Free Attendance Management Web Discussion

Attendance Management

Join us for a free Webinar on June 5

Discussion of how to manage attendance in the contact center.
Title: Attendance Management
Date: Thursday, June 5, 2008
Time: 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM EDT

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista

Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.3.9 (Panther®) or newer

Entry logged at 12:40 PM
May 16, 2008 12:36 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous 

I know that I have been missing for almost a year now. I got consumed with a consulting project and developing a new call center elearning product. I am going to try to be more faithful. My desire is to now share with you some of the research I've been doing for the training. Please stay in touch. I am really going to! Let me know what you would like to hear about. Have any questions you would like for me to answer. I'll be glad to dig it out for you.

Entry logged at 12:36 PM
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