In this episode of the podcast Distribution Talk, Jason Bader has a far-reaching conversation with Martha Brooke. Martha briefly touches on how Interaction Metrics measures and improves the customer experience; then, Jason narrows in on call center training. Martha explains that customer service is a subset of customer experience and discusses how to evaluate and elevate call center interactions based on four key dimensions: Efficiency, Information, Connection, and Differentiation; within each dimension, there are usually several elements.

Martha Brooke and Jason Bader -- a call center training playbook

Case Study Explored:

Martha and Jason dissect a distribution company that sought to improve its inside sales customer service. The client achieved a 50% improvement in performance over a six month period, highlighting the necessity for employing programs, not just one-and-done call center training projects. Listeners interested in discussing the customer experience can contact Martha here.

Call Center Training Episode Summarized:

  • What do Interaction Metrics’ clients have in common? They are all serious about the customer experience, of which customer service and call center training are critical components. Martha says, “When the customer thinks about their experience, they wonder if you have the right inventory. Will the product arrive on time?” “If you didn’t have it in stock, were there alternates? What’s the quality of your website? What about the portal? There’s almost nothing about a company that’s not customer experience.”
  • Martha and Jason discuss a program that started by surveying customers and employees to assess customer service perceptions. The metric came in at 54 on a scale of 0 to 100, indicating a clear need for improvement.
  • This led to a program involving recorded call analysis and call center training workshops. The Interaction Metrics’ solution included setting the criteria for what constituted great customer service for this specific distributor and establishing a Playbook for how interactions (email and call) should unfold.

Highlights from the Conversation:

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Martha: “Often with customer service, there is no objectivity. When we say, “I know it when I see it” or make other subjective evaluations like, “I like him, or I don’t like him,” it’s not scientific, and it’s not useful. Most importantly, subjectivity doesn’t help customer service reps improve their game.

Customer service criteria are going to be different for every company. But for all companies, there are four dimensions to customer service. The first one is Efficiency—did you value the customer’s time? The second is Information—did you answer their questions? The third is Connection—Did you sound like you were listening? And the fourth dimension is what we call Differentiation or pop—were you exceptional in some way, or did you sound like any call center anywhere?”

Martha:“For most customer service interactions, Information has an outsize impact because the customer isn’t calling to jabber, no of course not, they are calling to get answers.

The customer wants to know things like: What inventory do you have? When will you get something in stock if you don’t have it in? Can you expedite it? What are some alternatives? When can you get those other options?”  Martha continues by explaining how Information is evaluated and how it is specific to each client.

Martha and Jason emphasize the importance of natural and authentic communication, including using the customer’s name and affirming language.

Jason: “Where would a greeting fall in? Do you get points for saying their name?”

Martha: “Usually, that’s a part of connection. And it happens right away when the customer is, from the outset, judging whether they will enjoy talking with the rep. Another example of connection would be what we call listening or affirming words. Generally, we’re looking for affirming or listening words to happen two or three times in a short conversation or four or five times in a long conversation. In our call center training, we focus on finding what’s natural. What are natural words for reps to use?” And our Playbooks emphasize word choices that make sense for specific contexts.

Efficiency is crucial, especially when putting customers on hold, requiring clear explanations and estimated hold times.

Martha: “Sometimes, you need to put the customer on hold, right?”

Jason: “Yeah. That’s not good from the customer’s perspective. So, there’s got to be a way to do it professionally.”

Martha: “The rep should clearly say something like, ‘I need to put you on hold to check our inventory, and it will take about XYZ minutes.’ All too often, without solid call center training, we hear reps talking or whistling to themselves while they look things up. And sometimes, you’ll hear the customer say, ‘Are you there?’ Customers appreciate being told why they’re being put on hold, and how long it will take.”

Martha highlights the positive impact of scoring on performance improvement and the role of material incentives.

Martha: “Scoring always improves performance. It’s human nature. If you know you’re getting a score from an objective third-party, you’re incentivized to perform better, especially if there is a material incentive for your performance.”

Jason: “I know you did workshops, and you did some individual coaching. What was the reaction? What about the individuals who were caught with a poor score? How did they react to coaching and scrutiny?”

Martha: “In general, it was it was very, very positive. The reps appreciated getting that kind of attention. In general, from the reps, there was this sense that they matter because they were being invested in.”

Continuous Training for Improvement:

Martha and Jason discuss continuous call center training for improvement, as well as periodic evaluations and quarterly programs for sustained positive changes in customer service.

Jason: “What else do you think is important for call training programs?”

Martha: “We encourage clients to do programs. I recommend a quarterly program at minimum. That way, you have a Customer Experience Dashboard that makes everything abundantly clear. Our dashboards filter down to location, reps, particular calls and emails.

Call center training programs don’t have to be daily to be effective, but there needs to be a commitment to an objective, expert third-party view.  There are many methods like surveys, interviews, call scoring, and email scoring that can be used to measure objectively. But the main point is that the only gains that matter are ones you can prove scientifically. Unless you have data scientists on staff you need a third-party to do this for you. “

interactive dashboard showing results of call center training at Interaction Metrics

Click on the image for an interactive Customer Experience Dashboard example.

To read the entire transcript of the podcast, go here.


Interested in customer service or call center training? Get in touch!


Categories: Customer Service Evaluation
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