Mantra of Customer Service – The ABCs of COBs

Customer service reps received higher ratings when showing emotions with clients. Read more on how to improve your team and

This guest article was written by Dan Leubitz who is the CTO of INNITEL telecom. 

Customer service, it must be the absolute mantra of any company doing business in today’s Forex/Binary marketplace that has even the slightest hope of survival. Think about it for a second – in the global financial marketplace, what differentiators do companies really have left to set themselves apart from their competition?

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If a company banks on price as their lead selling point then they’re already too far behind. They’ve lost before they even started. In a crowded market, prices will have been pushed down and set by the ones that got there first as businesses jockey to position themselves into the sweet spot between affordability and an ideal profit margin.

The only question that remains for a price-driven business is how much margin they are willing to lose in order to undercut their competition. For others, margins Dan Leubitzmight already be so tight that competing on price is simply not an option.

The honest fact is that in today’s Binary/Forex world, a company’s ability to provide customer service over and above that of their competitors is likely one of the only things keeping those customers from jumping ship and going to another provider.

For many in the financial industry, this puts call center employees on the front line of the battle to keep customers. As customers contact call centers with questions and concerns, and sales agents make outbound calls to try to secure new business, these agents are uniquely positioned to put your company’s commitment to superior customer service front and center in a customer’s or sales lead’s mind.

As a result, many companies seek to take complete control of the customer/agent relationship. Scripts are developed to ensure that each agent is saying the same thing to each customer; to ensure that each customer has the same customer service experience regardless of the agent they’ve contacted that day.

While it is easy to see the merit in such a strategy at first glance, it does not account for what can happen when you empower agents to do great things on their own. It doesn’t open the door to the possibility of your agents deviating from the script and using their own judgment and evaluation of each conversation to provide an experience over and above what the script would have allowed.

Think back to the last frustrating customer service experience you had. It was likely exacerbated by the fact that the agent on the phone was incapable of seeing your problem as uniquely yours. You and your call were nothing more than another trip through a process flow chart for that agent as each response led to another question.

Close your eyes tight enough and you could almost see the agent flipping through script books to determine how the company wanted your issue handled. Listen hard enough and sometimes you can actually hear those pages turning.

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Researchers agree that allowing agents the freedom to orient themselves to the needs of their customers and then to act independently on those needs produces higher levels of customer satisfaction than when agents are required to stay on-script at all times.

A piece of research coming out of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign titled “The Impact of Call Center Employees’ Customer Orientation Behaviors on Service Quality” defines and quantifies these moments, known as COBs.

The authors break COBs down into five key categories:
(a) Anticipating customer requests
(b) Offering explanations/justifications
(c) Educating the customer
(d) Providing emotional support
(e) Offering personalized information to the customer

For each, they examined the use of COBs in specific customer service situations and the net effect on the situation’s outcome. And what was that net effect? The entire thing can be summarized in one sentence:

Customer orientation behaviors led to customers rating their service experiences and satisfaction with these companies higher.

When agents were allowed to independently anticipate the needs of the customers that they were working with, to show empathy, and to capitalize on opportunities to educate their customers, those customers rated the service they received as high quality. The experience felt customized and personalized. They were customers; not just numbers.

Putting it another way, every piece of customer service advice you’ve read for the past decade is still accurate. You can put as many layers of technology into your customer service infrastructure as you want but unless the human factor is present, trained, and empowered, you are bound for mediocrity at best and abject failure at worst. And at a time when every customer has a voice with potentially global reach through social media, customer service failures are to be avoided at all costs.

Telecommunication and call center management software run in a hosted PBX environment is ideally placed to help ensure the adoption and execution of COBs throughout corporate call centers. Innovative software solutions that integrate into top CRM suites function as more than just an automated call distribution system. Predictive dialers are true call center management software solutions. These products integrate into the call center itself, managing call volumes for incoming and outgoing calls while simultaneously ensuring that each customer or sales lead finds a human voice on the other end of the phone rather than silence or hold music.

And when you give call center managers the ability to drop into a call and listen or to give coaching to an agent in real time via instant message, you add another invaluable layer to the organization’s overall ability to properly serve its customers.

We know from experience that call center automation running on hosted PBXs, predictive dialers, and click to call solutions can drastically increase a call center’s production levels, especially when properly integrated with the call center’s CRM. The next step in this evolution, and a step of vital importance, will be to ensure that call center agents have the necessary tools at their disposal to ensure complete customer orientation.

Recognition of, and training for, customer orientation behaviors now will ensure that the gains realized by intelligent call center automation are not lost as dissatisfied customers seek out other vendors that are more in tune with their needs.

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