Saturday, 26 November 2016

7 lessons of how to run the best call center – the Zappos way

Many in India wouldn’t have heard about Zappos, the shoes to clothing to accessories eCommerce site. While they made great strides in their shoe business – being the pioneers, what made Zappos really famous and noted was the customer service deeply embedded within the company culture. Getting the right company culture, driving customer service and T&D have been the buzzwords at Zappos driven largely by a continuous focus by the top management, particularly Tony hsieh. Long before others introduced a returns policy, Zappos ran one – Starting at 30 days to ultimately reaching 365 days! Imagine a 365 day return policy on goods bought! While this put a tremendous strain on logistics & warehousing, it went a long way in boosting the customer lifetime value.

However, in this blog I will restrict myself to only the call center’s role in driving & contributing to the overall success of the Zappos brand 

1. Don’t outsource your call center to 3rd parties-
The questions as a business owner you need to ask are– Will the call center executive respond in the right tone & mood to a late night call from an irate customer who just tried out your product or service and is unhappy. Will they be able to assuage the customer or maybe reward them out of turn for giving such valuable feedback? Etc etc.

While getting through to the right person itself has become a tedious task in call centers these days, problem resolution is still uncertain. Unless the call center understands the context of the customer, the responses would not be appropriate. Say – The customer is irate with a particular order which he received and the executive realizes that giving a discount or a special offer might solve the issue then and there. Making this practice standard might lead to fraud but selective usage would lead to customer delight.

2.Don’t read out from a scrip-
I have often called up my Internet service provider and realized that the executives are trained to ask the first 2-3 questions without listening to what I have to say. Have you rebooted your router? Can you access the ISP’s URL...and it goes on. It’s important to be frank and clear with customers & be able to connect with them rather than act like a robot – goes a long way in boosting customer lifetime value. Ideally, designing the right IVR can get all the basic information communicated to the call center executive before the call connects with the customer.

3.Your call center is part of your core team
Network, Connection, Workshop, Teamwork
This goes without saying. If the person receiving the call on the company’s behalf doesn’t feel part of the team, it will reflect in lax response, poor service & disgruntled customers.

4.Be always available
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24/7 available customer service – Given the cost constraints, most businesses have resorted to playing an automated voice for all calls during odd hours, even the banking industry. When most of the transactions with your bank have moved online, customer are calling only if they have some specific unresolvable problem. Then why can’t these calls be handled by a human?
We at Ozonetel believed in always being available, right from the start, one of a few in our industry to have a 24 x 7 Call & Network operations center.

5.  Monitor the right metrics

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AHT, FCR, SLAs have become common terminology in the call center industry. But are they the right metrics you need to follow? You could be a business which can offer multiple services to a customer with numerous opportunities to interact in the future. Would you want to treat such a customer, who might have a high LTV, with short pre-scripted interactions?

6. Train, Train, Train

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Do you have re-training program in place for your customer service execs? Do they have a larger picture of what is happening in the business? How often are they imparted with knowledge about the products & services of the company?
Zappos would train every new employee for 4 weeks. Call center execs went for another additional 3 weeks in addition to trainings on leadership, motivation & productivity. 

7. Locate your call center in the right city
Cost is an important parameter to consider while setting up a call center, but a service mentality & availability of a work force is an equal or more important point to consider.

I couldn’t help but paste verbatim Tony hsieh’s comments on why the phone continues to be an important communication tool – There’s a lot of buzz these days about social media and “integration marketing.” Our belief is that as unsexy and low-tech as it may sound, the telephone is one of the best branding devices out there.”
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