Off Center
Every time I talk to long-time colleague Gerry Barber – a man whose sparkling contact center management and consulting career spans three decades – I learn something new about customer care and see things from a fresh perspective.

Gerry currently directs Deloitte’s CallCenter in Nashville, Tenn., where he has used his years of expertise and insight to drive continuous improvement and help set Deloitte apart from its competitors – and most other contact center organizations, for that matter.

I ran into Gerry at a conference in New Orleans last summer, where he told me his center was – not surprisingly – doing some cool and innovative things. I told him I wanted details, and that I would likely blab about them in writing at some point. Always eager to help the collective contact center industry raise the bar and rethink norms, Gerry happily agreed to speak to me on the record.

Here’s everything I asked, and – more importantly – how he responded.  

GL: Deloitte states that it aims to sustain a culture of “distinctive service”. Is this just a buzz phrase, or does it truly have teeth? What’s Deloitte CallCenter’s definition of   “distinctive service”, and how is it measured and promoted within the contact center and to your internal customer base?

GB: Deloitte’s focus on distinctive service is evident and ingrained in our CallCenter vision statement, training materials and in the metrics we use to run our centers. In our CallCenter, the definition of distinctive service actually starts with the internal customers we serve. Our customers help us define distinctive service through the positive comments they provide in our customer satisfaction survey responses. With this said, to us distinctive service is the art of delivering knowledge the customer can use, providing solutions that give peace of mind, and delivering service that is beyond expectations.

GL: I am intrigued by your center’s “Wall of Distinction” that you mentioned. Please explain what the Wall is exactly, why you created it, and how your analysts get on it.

GB: The Wall of Distinction was created to recognize consistency in delivering distinctive service. The criteria for securing a place on the wall is to achieve high customer satisfaction survey scores in addition to receiving a high number of specific customer compliments. An analyst will remain on the wall for a period of six months based on their performance during the past six months. We update the wall twice yearly: in October (during Customer Service Week), and again in April. 

GL: Do your analysts receive other related awards/recognition when they attain “Wall” status?

GB: We celebrate our analysts’ success in delivering distinctive service in several ways.  Daily, we circulate an email to all CallCenter personnel listing all of the positive customer compliments we’ve received the previous day. In the email, we include the name of the analyst along with the customer’s comment that identifies how the analyst delivered distinctive service.  On a monthly basis, we again review all of our customer compliments and I send a congratulatory note to those analysts receiving the highest number of customer compliments during the month; some analysts will receive monetary awards.

Our quality recognition program has evolved organically over time. Along the way, analysts’ comments have enhanced these programs shaping what we do today. 

GL: Your center has a somewhat unique quality scoring model in place. Please briefly describe the model and explain the reasons behind it.

GB: We wanted a monitoring program that encourages continuous improvement. For our needs, none of the standard approaches seem to drive performance – not the 100-point scale, nor the “check the boxes” approach, nor averaging scores. In our model, we’ve removed the idea of numeric scores. We’ve also resisted averaging scores for the collective call.  Rather we look for a set of “quality targets” across each of the four distinct and separate contact quality attributes. These four attributes include: 1) Call Ownership; 2) Communications and Courtesy; 3) Documentation; and 4) Resolution Effectiveness. Then, based on what we find within the context of the call, we determine if (in each of the four quality attribute areas) the analyst “missed the targets”, was “approaching the targets”, “met the targets”, or delivered distinctive service (exceeded targets).

Our quality team then looks at the percentage of instances, over time, that the analyst was either on target or surpassed the target. It is also important to understand and document where the analyst missed targets and where they can make improvements. Our goal for our analysts is to have 80% or more of their monitored calls “on target or above”, with no more than 5% of calls at “missed targets”. This is how we gauge individual analyst improvement.

Our analysts are coached daily but work with their team leader/coach twice monthly to review quality monitoring results. Most importantly, our analysts are given time off the phones to review their monitored calls prior to their coaching sessions.

Our analysts have bought into the process in a big way. They seem to have better insight as to what it takes to deliver distinctive service. We’ve also seen a movement on the part of analysts to do significant self-coaching.

GL: You’ve mentioned that your center has been exploring “unique ways to mix up random monitoring”. Could you please elaborate?

GB: Our quality team monitors a minimum of five random calls per month. One example I can share is that we asked each analyst to select one recent call that they felt surpassed our stated service targets. Our quality team then included this call as one of the five monthly quality monitoring calls. It was interesting to review these calls to see if the analyst had a solid understanding of what it takes to “exceed targets”. The calls indicated which analysts required more coaching and helped us better define what distinctive service looks like. 

GL: What impact has your “distinctive service” had on such things as customer satisfaction, first-call resolution, analyst engagement/retention, and operations costs?

GB: On a seven point customer survey scale, we have moved the bar on customer satisfaction consistently over the past three years. First-call resolution has also significantly improved year over year.

Regarding agent engagement and retention, our analyst engagement scores are among the highest within the Deloitte US Firms.

And best of all, over the past three years while service delivery has greatly improved, our cost of delivering support service has significantly decreased. Better service at a lower cost has been the result.

GL: Is there anything else you would like to add, Gerry?

GB: Yes. One secret ingredient to our success is the collaboration and inclusion produced by our continuous quality program.  In addition to the analysts’ role I mentioned earlier, our team leaders are measured on their team’s success. They are also measured on the amount of time they spend coaching for continuous improvement, which should be about 60% of their work day. And as mentioned, our analysts participate in the process by reviewing the same quality sampling as our service quality team and team leaders do.

Deloitte CallCenter – the Big Picture:
Location: Three centers: Tennessee, India, and California
Hours of operation: 24 x 7
Number of agents: Approximately 170
Products/services provided: Deliver a number of support-type services, including IT support,
business application support and HR benefits support, to name a few.
Channels handled: Phone, email, self-service
What’s so great about them? They sustain a culture of “distinctive service” – highlighted by a unique and comprehensive quality monitoring initiative as well as an employee rewards/recognition program that centers almost entirely around customer satisfaction ratings and feedback.