By now, you have all heard that customer service is the first point of contact for members, students, and potential students. You have also heard that the College’s Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) have consistently earned a high rating from respondents. The College conducts quarterly research to gauge the effectiveness of services being provided by the Customer Service Centre.
Since launching the Customer Satisfaction Tracking Study five years ago, CSRs have received a rating of 90 per cent and over from respondents who said they were satisfied with the College’s customer service. Achieving these high numbers has not been by accident. It has occurred because of extensive training and continual monitoring. The training of new customer service staff is primarily conducted by Kwasi Forson, Manager of Quality Assurance and Training, who joined the College in 2007.
“With the Centre expanding, it was important to have clear guidelines of what was expected by CSRs when taking a call, and how a call should be handled,” says Kwasi. “We expanded the original guidelines being used at the time to include ‘soft skills’, the part that relates to customer service.”
The guidelines are really a score card divided into two parts – the technical skills and the soft skills. Kwasi refers to these as the skeleton and the muscles and sinews, respectively. Examples of technical skills include the greeting and how a call is concluded, the quality of the notes CSRs must make for every customer contact they engage in, and accuracy in processing transactions such as enrolling in courses or scheduling examinations. Examples of soft skills relate to the things that turn a call into a conversation.
How are the guidelines a score card? This is where the continual monitoring comes in. All Customer Service Centre calls that go through the queue are recorded. Calls are then randomly selected by supervisors and managers for review. Calls are scored based on the guidelines set out on the score card. Every month, each CSR has a minimum of four calls evaluated.
“As part of the training, a CSR is given the Quality Assurance booklet, and for every line item on the score card, there is a definition of what it means and what is expected from the CSRs, and there are examples when necessary,” explains Kwasi about how the calls are scored.
For example, one item is the assurance statement, an acknowledgment that the CSR is ready and willing to assist the caller. This is an important component of the ‘soft skills’ section of the score card. And, “sure” is not an acceptable assurance statement when a customer makes a request, such as enrolling into a course.
“In casual conversation, ‘sure’ is fine. But when you’re in a business conversation where you’re representing OREA, it’s important that a certain level of professionalism be maintained by our representative,” says Kwasi. “An acceptable statement is ‘I would be happy to help you with that’. This says to the customer ‘I am ready to help you’.”
CSR training is three weeks and covers such topics as OREA systems, the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, product knowledge, history of OREA, and how to communicate with customers effectively. There is a lot of role playing, review of previous calls, and hands-on practice on the CRM. Training is followed by ICU – intensive coaching unit.
“It’s 10 business days where a CSR is on the phone and has access to a lot of direct feedback. For the first day, a senior CSR will sit with them as they take the calls. If they need help, they can place the customer on hold, professionally, and ask for assistance. For the rest of the week, a team lead or a manager will listen to many of their calls and give them feedback. There is a lot of evaluation during this time,” says Kwasi.
It is important to emphasize two things. First, the feedback/evaluation is remediative. Second, the CSRs do not have a script, other than the greeting, the introduction, the offer of assistance, and a professional closing. The assurance statements are guidelines of what CSRs should say in certain situations and a reminder to respond in clear and complete sentences. So when callers contact a CSR from the College, they are interacting with real people who are committed to providing assistance.
Of course, no one expects the CSRs to know everything about everything. What is expected is that the CSRs be committed to finding the answers and providing solutions. And they do!