The Value of Customer Experience, Quantified
by Peter Kriss
Intuitively, most people recognize the value of a great customer experience. Brands that deliver them are ones that we want to interact with as customers — that we become loyal to, and that we recommend to our friends and family. But as executives leading businesses, the value of delivering such an experience is often a lot less clear, because it can be hard to quantify. Rationales for focusing on customer experience tend to be driven by a gut belief that it’s just “the right thing to do.” The problem with this is that often, whether experience is a priority or not simply becomes a battle of opinions.
How American Express Transformed Its Call Centers
by Jim Bush
In the not-so-distant past, it was standard practice in customer service to hire only those candidates who knew how to follow scripts, were familiar with the necessary technology, and had several years’ experience in another call center.
But a few years ago, American Express reexamined its call-center strategy. We recognized that the people in our call centers are the front line of our business and interact with customers every day. We also recognized that customers know instantly when a service professional really cares, is listening, and takes accountability for addressing their needs. We began to ask ourselves whether we were taking the right approach to hiring.
To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home
Nicholas Bloom and graduate student James Liang, who is also a cofounder of the Chinese travel website Ctrip, gave the staff at Ctrip’s call center the opportunity to volunteer to work from home for nine months. Half the volunteers were allowed to telecommute; the rest remained in the office as a control group. Survey responses and performance data collected at the conclusion of the study revealed that, in comparison with the employees who came into the office, the at-home workers were not only happier and less likely to quit but also more productive.
A Significant Improvement in Performance
After a group of Ctrip service reps were sent home to do their work, they consistently completed more calls than their counterparts who remained in the call center.
Don’t Take Calls, Make Contact
by Lior Arussy
I recently audited the customer call center operated by one of the largest U.S. airlines, and I was dumbstruck by what I found. The center’s “Platinum” line, dedicated to the airline’s best customers, automatically disconnected callers who had been on hold for 59 minutes. When I asked the manager why the system had been programmed that way, he sheepishly admitted that his compensation was based on the average time required to handle customers’ calls—including the time they spent on hold—and hanging up on callers was the only way to hit his targets. Moreover, he explained, customers who spent an hour on hold were always incensed, and the agents wanted to avoid talking with them.
"Move the call center to headquarters. Companies usually place their call centers in distant locales where labor rates are cheap. Not surprisingly, the centers receive little management attention."
— Lior Arussy, President of Strativity Group