A few years ago, the NTTA made a strategic decision to put its money where its mission statement was – implementing a dynamic “Voice of the Customer” (VOC) initiative that has since had a Texas-sized impact on agent performance, customer satisfaction and the company’s bottom line.
“[We wanted to] synchronize with customers and measure performance through their eyes,” says John Bannerman, Assistant Director of the NTTA’s Contact Center. “Our goal was to transform our culture to fully embrace our mission statement in becoming a truly customer-centric organization. It has become more than a mission statement to us – it is the way we treat our customers and each other.”
Turning Customers into Coaches
The key component driving the NTTA’s VOC initiative is a unique and potent customer experience/performance management solution called Customer Driven Management (CDM), developed by Tamer Partners Corporation (www.tamerpartners.com). Using this new tool, the contact center is able to cleanly capture and analyze detailed customer feedback across all contact channels right after an interaction, thus arming the NTTA with timely employee-specific scores and commentary that can be used to continuously improve performance.
Here’s how it works: Following an interaction with one of the NTTA’s agents, the customer receives an email asking them to provide “advice” to the agent about service they provided. The customer clicks on a link to access the survey, which features questions about things like the agent’s skills/knowledge, courtesy/professionalism and ability to efficiently resolve the issue at hand. But this is not your everyday generic customer satisfaction survey application. What sets CDM apart is its customization; the NTTA is able to create “Individual Action Surveys” that ask for customer feedback on particular areas that each agent is working on.
In essence, CDM has turned the NTTA’s customers into coaches, says Bannerman.
“CDM not only provides feedback directly to the service representative from the customer; it also adapts to the unique skills of each representative and seeks feedback from each customer to directly guide the employee on their specific opportunities for improvement. Our customers are now directly coaching employees on all areas of improvement including listening skills, empathy, call control and energy, to name a few.”
The NTTA has programmed the CDM system to provide alerts whenever a customer scores an agent either very high or very low, thus enabling supervisors to identify issues as they arise as well as to praise/recognize agents whenever they receive accolades.
CDM stores all customer responses including scores/ratings, yes/no responses, and text comments. The NTTA’s supervisors and managers can view and report on all surveys and responses for their team. Each of the center’s agents has access to their personal feedback in the CDM system, as well.
Lower Headcount, Higher Performance on the Frontline
The NTTA hasn’t handed its entire QA function over to its customers. The contact center’s internal quality monitoring staff still evaluate recorded calls to ensure that agents are providing accurate information and complying with established policies and procedures.
Still and all, Bannerman says that efficacy of the CDM solution has eliminated the need to hire four additional frontline managers. He adds that the supervisor-to-agent ratio has increased from 1:12 to 1:17 without sacrificing the level of coaching/support.
Of course, the VOC initiative isn’t all about managerial headcount reduction; it’s about providing a forever better level of service. Since implementing the initiative, the NTTA has seen agents’ quality and productivity results improve significantly. “We’ve found that the best opportunity for frontline change was putting our customers in charge,” says Bannerman. He points out that CDM scores and feedback are used not only during quality monitoring coaching sessions but also in annual agent evaluations and action plans. As much as 50% of the feedback during an agent’s annual review comes directly from customers. “Customers are effectively managing the quality of their future service experience by coaching and developing employees to meet their needs and expectations.”
And that’s just fine by the employees, Bannerman says.
“Agents love the VOC initiative, particularly CDM. They get far more [positive] feedback from customers than a supervisor would have time to provide for their entire team on a daily basis. This provides encouragement and motivation [for agents] to continue doing things well, and makes them more willing to accept suggestions for improvement.”
It also apparently makes them want to stick around longer.
“As a result of consistent positive feedback from customers, our attrition rate is 12% annually, which by contact center standards, is very low.”
NTTA – the Big Picture:
Location: Plano, TX
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri 7am-7pm; Sat 9am-5:30pm
Number of agents: 152
Products/services provided/supported: Account maintenance, toll tag acquisition and general customer service
Channels handled: Phone, IVR, email, web self-service, and store front
What’s so great about them? They’ve vastly improved agent performance, the customer experience and the bottom line via a highly dynamic “Voice of the Customer” initiative.