We know what good looks like, right?

My idea of customer service centres around the principle of excellence. Many things must contribute to excellent service, right across the business. Every team, every department and every individual must have customer at the heart of what they do. The recent Ombudsman Service report paints a graphic and painful picture of how we’re not getting this right in too many areas.

Every service operating model should have customer growth, retention, referral and advocacy at its core. It must be “All About The Customer”. If we’re striving for service excellence, one of the primary vehicles for delivering excellence is One Contact Resolution (OCR).

When I ask contact centre managers and leaders about what their contact centre’s main goal is, they come out with the same answers, almost every time. I use the term answers loosely, they’re buzz words, spin, waffle. They may delight some managers and execs or look good in a text book but to the people who really matter – customers, they’re meaningless. I hear terms such as “we aim to service customers, delight customers, exceed customer expectations, resolve customer calls, operate in an effective and efficient manner, sell to customers and bring new customers to the business”. These are at best sound bites, they’re certainly not meaningful objectives, ideals or goals.

The benefits of OCR are massive and easy to articulate:

1. Higher customer sat
2. Fewer contacts
3. Increased upsell
4. Enhanced brand reputation
5. Higher propensity to refer
6. Greater Agent / CSR sat
7. Lower support costs

Conflicting goals and processes, coupled with lack of agent / Customer Service Representative (CSR) knowledge or training are some of the obstacles to achieving success with any OCR programme.

The classic conflict is a contact centre claiming to focus on OCR yet there’s a hard Average Handle Time (AHT) / Average Call Duration (ACD) target in play. The balance must be struck. It’s pointless having a 3 minute ACD / AHT if there’s not a chance in hell of resolving the majority of your issues on the first touch. You must choose which is more important. Giving customers a poor experience by kicking them off the phone at the first opportunity will bite you and damage your business. Let’s be realistic, you’ll never solve every issue on first contact but you will resolve a significant number, making the effort well worth it.

To measure OCR, you must define “Resolve or Fix.” When tracking metrics of any kind, you need to clearly define what you’re measuring. At the end of the day, you get what you inspect.

For OCR, what does good look like? What constitutes a fix or a resolution? How do you define a customer issue? Did you resolve a faulty phone line, but leave a broadband fault in play? Resolve a delivery query but fail to place the hardware order? Define issues, problem by problem or a set of issues, before you start to measure and improve OCR performance.

Two key challenges to One Contact Resolution success are your people and your customers. When looking at OCR, you may find it hard to manage your success if you have a customer base with a low level of knowledge or experience. Depending on your industry, service or product, your customer’s understanding of that service or product will impact the length of time it takes for your (CSR) to resolve the issue. If you sell technical services, software or equipment to a B2B or sys admin base, your customer interaction will be less challenging. However, if you’re providing technical solutions and services to consumers, the challenge will be greater and the learning curve will be steeper, making the time to resolve longer.

The technical knowledge of your CSR’s is critical to delivering an excellent customer experience (CX). The investment you make in initial and ongoing training, development and mentoring for your teams will make an incredible and quantifiable difference to your OCR levels. This is especially true where you’re supporting a technical service, product or solution. Hopefully your leadership team gets the benefit of that investment but all too often, particularly where CX is seen as a cost centre, investment in quality training and effective people development is a nice to have or simply not an option. Businesses take that approach at their peril. It’s outdated, backward and you can rest assured that your competitors will get there if you don’t. All too often I see businesses piling them high and paying them cheap. Throwing resource at a CX problem is very rarely the answer.

Self Service is too often forgotten in the CX world. Many customers would much prefer to go to your website to resolve an issue or address a query. Waiting on hold or navigating a complex IVR (no matter how simple we think it appears) is frustrating and off putting to customers. Provide the tools on your website to help them resolve issues first time and call queues drop whilst customer satisfaction rises. Customers who do end up calling, therefore, are often those who couldn’t resolve the issue and present more complex problems that could be harder to resolve on the first call. At this point, your training and back end CSR tools come into their own.

I had the privilege of experiencing a UK business where exceptional customer service, backed by incredible self-serve tools, was paramount in delivering advocacy, growth and success. Unfortunately as leaders changed, the value of self-serve, along with pretty much everything touched upon in this article was lost on those who took over. Self-serve was ripped out. All contact was channelled via the telephone, leading to long wait times, repeat contacts and massive levels of dis-sat. Service was delivered by the book, or more appropriately by the Workbook. This company went from the top of the pile in customer experience delivery to the absolute rock bottom in a relatively short period of time. If you allow spreadsheets to set the tone of customer service, delivered by managers more comfortable with their heads buried in screens rather than on the floor, or engaging with customers and staff and seeing, feeling, inspecting and smelling the operation, you’re cruising for trouble. Guaranteed!
We’ve all seen and experienced bad customer service. We all know what good looks like. Not all of us know how to deliver “good” but honestly, it’s not entirely rocket science. It’s about heart, belief, engagement, inspecting and doing. Simples. Right?

Experience surpasses mere knowledge!