Off Center
When it comes to social customer care (providing service and support via social media channels), there are two key practices that contact centers must embrace: 1) monitoring; and 2) monitoring.

No, I haven’t been drinking, and no, there isn’t an echo embedded in my blog. The truth is, I didn’t actually repeat myself in the statement above.

Now, before you recommend that I seek inpatient mental health/substance abuse treatment, allow me to explain.

Monitoring in social customer care takes two distinctly different though equally important forms. The first entails the contact center monitoring the social landscape to see what’s being said to and about the brand (and then deciding who to engage with). The second entails the contact center’s Quality Assurance team/specialist monitoring agents' 'social' interactions to make sure the agents are engaging with the right people and providing the right responses.

The first type of monitoring is essentially a radar screen; the second type of monitoring is essentially a safety net. The first type picks up on which customers (or anti-customers) require attention and assistance; the second type makes sure the attention and assistance provided doesn’t suck.

Having a powerful social media monitoring tool that enables agents to quickly spot and respond to customers via Twitter and Facebook is great, but it doesn’t mean much if those agents, when responding…
  • misspell every other word
  • misuse or ignore most punctuation
  • provide incomplete – or completely incorrect – information
  • show about as much tact and empathy as a Kardashian.
  • fail to invite the customer to continue his/her verbal evisceration of the company and the agent offline and out of public view.
All of those scary bullet items above can be avoided – or at least minimized – when there’s a formal QA process in place for social media customer contacts. Now, if you’re thinking your QA and supervisory staff are too busy to carefully monitor and evaluate agents’ Twitter/Facebook interactions with customers (and provide follow-up coaching), then what the Zuckerberg are you thinking even offering such channels as contact options? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again, and again): If your contact center isn’t ready to monitor a particular contact channel, then it isn’t ready to HANDLE that channel.

Customers don’t applaud organizations for merely being progressive. If Toyota came out with a new automobile that ran on garbage but that had a 20% chance of exploding when you put the key in the ignition, customers’ response wouldn’t be, “Deadly, yes, but I might make it across the country on just banana peels!”

Social customer care is still new enough where organizations offering it are considered progressive. If your contact center is one such organization, are your customers applauding the strong and consistent social service and support your agents are providing, or is your center overlooking the quality component and losing too many customers to explosions?  

For more insights (and some irreverence) on Social Customer Care, be sure to check out my blog post, “Beginner’s Guide to Social Customer Care”. Also, my book, Full Contact, contains a chapter in which best (or at least pretty good) practices in Social Customer Care are covered.

In this age of social media, sound bytes and ADHD, people love quick and catchy stats. Unfortunately, in the contact center and customer care space, there seem to be only a handful of snazzy stats in circulation. The same ones just keep getting regurgitated over and over (yes, that’s redundant), especially on Twitter.

This is perplexing considering how dynamic customer care is and how much contact centers have evolved. It’s actually worse than perplexing – it’s depressing. Every time I see someone tweeting the old chestnut , “Satisfied customers tell only 3 people about their experience, while dissatisfied customers tell 8-10 people” (or some variation of this), a part of my soul dies. I even wept a little just now while typing that stat.

Rather than just complain about the lack of statistical variety being promoted by self-proclaimed customer experience experts in the Twittersphere, I aim to remedy the situation. Following are several fresh and captivating stats about customer care and contact centers that I believe you and everybody else will feel compelled to talk and tweet about:

  • 86% of customers would be willing to pay more for better customer service. 100% of contact center managers would be willing to pay more for even mediocre customer service.  

  • 70% of contact centers list Average Handle Time among their key performance metrics at the agent level. Of those centers, 100% need a clue.

  • Only 17% of contact centers really mean it when they say “Your call is very important to us”. Of the remaining centers, 38% feel “Your call is somewhat important to us”, 24% feel “It’s surprising how unimportant your call is to us”, and 21% feel “It’s hilarious that you are still holding for a live agent.”

  • 73% of contact center managers claim to know how to accurately measure First-Call Resolution. The remaining 27% of managers are telling the truth.

  • Engaged customer service agents are 35% more likely to provide a positive customer experience than are customer service agents who are already married.

  • The top three criteria contact center managers consider when selecting work-at-home agents are: 1) Past performance; 2) ability to work independently; and 3) body odor.

  • Every time a caller must provide his/her name and account number to an agent after having just provided that exact same information via the IVR system, a puppy dies.

  • 97% of contact center agents fantasize daily about sending a hungry Bengal tiger to the home of abusive callers. The remaining 3% of agents fantasize daily about sending a hungry Siberian Tiger.

  • 81% of contact center agents are empowered to do exactly what their managers and supervisors tell them.

  • Each year, over 150 customer care professionals die from overexposure to acronyms.

  • 50% of managers feel their contact center is highly unprepared to handle social customer care; the remaining 50% do too.  

  • The three people that satisfied customers tell about their experience are Sue Johnson, Dave Winthrop, and Bud Carter. All three are tired of hearing about these experiences.

  • 42% of contact center managers say they will not hire an agent applicant unless said applicant has a pulse and/or can work at least one weekend shift a month.

  • Four out of five agents represent 80% of all agents. In contrast, the remaining agents represent only 20% of all agents.

  • The average agent-to-supervisor ratio in contact centers is 20:1. The odds that this is enough to provide agents with the coaching and support they need to succeed is 2000:1.

  • 100% of managers destined for greatness and wealth purchase a copy of the Full Contact e-book. 0% of managers understand why the author of said e-book looks so angry and aggressive in the photo on the book cover.

I’ve always been the sensitive, nostalgic type. I’ve been known to get weepy while reminiscing about events that occurred only a few months or even weeks earlier. In fact, just last night I teared up at the thought of a delicious sandwich I had eaten the previous day. I’m not well – but I guess I don’t really have to tell you that if you’ve been reading my blog posts for any amount of time. 

With today’s post marking the one-year anniversary of my Off Center Blog, you can probably imagine the level of nostalgia I’m currently experiencing. Over the past 52 weeks, my blog and I have been through a lot of words together – a few of which have even linked together to make some sense and stir some action.

But what I’m feeling even more than nostalgia is appreciation – appreciation for all of you who have taken the time to peruse at least some of my odd ramblings and playfully irreverent advice over the past 12 months. I am especially appreciative of those among you who actually subscribe to Off Center – you daring individuals who willingly invite my words into your email inbox each week without fear of the consequences. Apparently, you aren’t all that well either.

I thought it would be fun to re-post my inaugural Off Center piece – the very words I shared with the online world almost exactly 365 days ago when I launched my blog and company. This way you can see if I’ve stayed true to what I originally promised to bring to the table.

And with that, I present to you the post that started this whole Off Center thing (along with a special offer at the end, so make sure you scroll all the way down!)...

I know what you do for a living. And I’m here to alleviate your pain.

I know that you work in or around a place that gets inundated by thousands of customers every day – each demanding friendly, professional and efficient service without mistakes. A place that, by its very nature, retains staff about as well as Detroit retains residents. A place that C-level managers understand and respect about as much as they do public golf courses or flying coach.

I’ve written about contact center management for over 16 years. In that time, I’ve conducted comprehensive research on just about every customer care topic under the sun. I’ve interviewed thousands of industry experts, and hundreds of so-called industry experts. I’ve coaxed dozens of managers, supervisors and agents off of tall bridges and window ledges during their center’s peak season. And I can’t even remember how many contact center conferences I’ve attended and spoken at. (I attribute such memory loss to the fact that I have access to the people who provide the drink tickets at conference receptions.)

Just as you probably never planned on managing, consulting or providing solutions to a contact center when you were young, I never planned on researching and writing about them. But here we are, so together let’s learn a little, shake things up and have some fun.

Every week until I run out of words, lose what remains of my mind, or get arrested, I will blog about key topics, trends and challenges in customer service and contact center management. Be warned: What you’ll get from me is not your typical clean, safe, clichéd corporate-speak. That’s just not “how I do”. I come from the school of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, write it down”.  Now, this is not to say that I will be attacking contact center vendors and other industry figures or constantly complaining about the state of the industry, but it’s not to say that I won’t be, either.

For those of you who used to read and actually liked my contact center humor column, In Your Ear – which was published by ICMI for years and years until the government intervened – Off Center will be like coming home again. I will employ much of the same satire and parody in poking fun at – while simultaneously paying tribute to – your mad and marvelous profession.

For those of you who never read In Your Ear or who have never even heard of me, I forgive you, and invite you to come along for what promises to be a rather irreverent and wild ride.

And for those of you who read but didn’t like In Your Ear or me, well, I never liked you either.

In upcoming installments of Off Center, I will actually start writing about hot topics/trends/challenges in customer service and contact center management rather than just write about how I’m going to write about them, as I did here. But hey, Off Center is the sort of thing you have to ease into to avoid causing any irreversible damage to your cerebral cortex or career.

See you next Friday!

SPECIAL ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OFFER: From now until the end of July, take a gargantuan 50% off the regular price of my ebook, Full Contact: Contact Center Practices & Strategies that Make an Impact. (The official ebook of the U.S. Olympic Call Center Team.)  
To learn more about the Full Contact ebook and download it, go to: Be sure to enter the following discount code to get your 50% off: anniversary1

Thanks to all of you who have contributed to Off Center's rapid growth over the past year!

Warm regards,

Greg Levin
Founder & Principal