Customer Service Culture Leads the Agent Experience, Customer Satisfaction and Call Center Performance

Highlights

  • Research finds that an explicitly defined customer service culture highly correlates to the agent experience and key agent performance measures including engagement, productivity and tenure.
  • Research also finds that achieving a high-performance agent experience is a precursor to achieving Customer Experience objectives. Employee advocates create customer advocates.
  • A strong corporate ethos that aligns employee engagement with customer and company objectives delivers a significant and sustained boost to financial performance.
  • It's a simple pathway. Corporate culture advances employee engagement which improves customer satisfaction and drives company financial objectives.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Culture isn't something you do, it's who you are. And when customer service representatives or contact center agents become a part of an explicitly defined growth culture, they excel in delivering differentiated customer experiences and essential company objectives.

Research performed for the Customer Service Excellence Report found several culture-driven performance results. Contact and call center organizations operating with an intentional corporate ethos achieved:

  • 27 percent higher customer satisfaction (CSAT) than those who did not
  • 32 percent higher Customer Retention than those who did not, and
  • 21 percent lower staff turnover than those who did not

Research shows contact and call centers with intentional corporate cultures achieve 27% higher customer satisfaction, 32% higher customer retention and 21% lower agent turnover.

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You instantly know a high-performance customer service culture when you see it.

You see a shift in staff purpose – from a job defined by a paycheck and mostly ineffectual perks to a passion inspired by purpose and meaning. People want something for themselves that is bigger than their job.

You see a shift in company behaviors – from an ill-defined working environment which inherently promotes behaviors such as power, politics or fear, to a consciously defined working environment that creates a safe, inspirational and empowered workplace where employees apply discretionary energy to customers and company objectives. Anybody who contributes can succeed and thrive.

The company ethos leads staff productivity and company profits, making it the onramp to business outcomes and financial performance.

According to The Culture Engine by Chris Edmonds, companies who achieve this success also achieve 40 percent gains in employee engagement, 40 percent gains in customer ratings and 35 percent gains in profits in less than 18 months of starting their mandate.

Similar research from Gallup found that businesses in the top quartile of engagement, when compared to those in the bottom quartile, achieved 17 percent higher staff productivity and 21 percent higher company profitability. However, Gallup also found that more than 70 percent of staff are "not engaged" or "actively disengaged." That's why an Agent Experience program needs an intentional culture.

Customer Service Culture Benefits

The Agent Experience

Most call or contact center organizations do the bare minimum when it comes to creating a rewarding agent experience. That results in lower engagement, decreased productivity, higher turnover and lower customer satisfaction scores.

On the flip side, engaged customer service representatives are enthusiastic about their role and their service. Their passion is contagious. It rubs off on other agents and customers. But this doesn't occur by happenstance. It occurs from a deliberate agent experience program that begins with feedback and evolves with measurement and refinement.

Getting staff feedback isn't a semi-annual exercise that uses surveys to acquire large data dumps. It's a continuous process that gathers a steady stream of feedback through conversation, collaboration, empowerment and periodic short-form surveys. The collective information is consolidated and used to quickly resolve impediments and improve or redefine how work gets done.

Agent Experience programs work best when executives and front-line managers, not HR, own the program. They work even better when a peer group of agents is charged with ideation, prioritization and recommending the solutions to solve challenges.

From my experience, most first-time adopters focus on improvements such as workplace design, process redesign, compensation management and software that improves the agent experience. If done well, these will elevate staff satisfaction. But that's not the goal and doesn't produce nearly the same results. Sure, these things are necessary but they're table stakes.

The goal is active employee engagement, not passive satisfaction. The goal is contact center staff who think like owners, are passionate about their job, motivated to help customers and don't relent until those customers feel the same way they do.

What's needed is a more socially engineered workplace built on the four pillars of a corporate culture strategy. I've found that adopting a startup mindset can accelerate customer service transformation. Startups have fewer reservations to alter the status quo, show less patience for sacred cows and are more willing to try new things. That's why they move fast, race past barriers, innovate and iterate, and get results.

Engagement Scoring Methods

Achieving a growth culture is an iterative process so a purpose-built measurement system is needed. My three favorites are Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), Employee Satisfaction Index (ESI) and the Gallup employee engagement survey.

Employee Net Promoter Score asks the employee one simple question – on a scale from 0 to 10 how likely are they are to recommend the company as an employer. Respondents are classified as Detractors (scores 0-6), Passives (7-8) or Promoters (9-10). eNPS is generally the preferred employee engagement method for companies that use Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure customer engagement.

eNPS is built on a single question where ESI is built on three questions.

  1. How satisfied are you with your current workplace?
  2. How well does your current workplace meet your expectations?
  3. How close is your current workplace to the ideal one?

The questions are answered on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is the lowest and 10 is the highest. The score is calculated as [((question mean value ÷ 3) – 1) ÷ 9] * 100. That means the score will be between 0 and 100.

Gallup's method is called a Q12 survey. As the name suggest it includes 12 questions that are scored from 1 to 5. It's a great method but a bit more complex than the others.

From Employee Engagement to Financial Results

Employee engagement is inextricably linked to the corporate ethos. Once agent engagement is measured and trending it's important to also correlate its impact to agent performance and company financial measures.

Below are three categories with some of the common performance measures used by Johnny Grow.

  • Agent Performance: Measure eNPS, ESI or Gallup and correlate to staff productivity, absenteeism, turnover and volume of complaints or grievances. Staff productivity measures vary but may include things like incidents per agent; closed cases per period; up-sell conversions; and earned revenue.
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): Correlate employee engagement with CSAT, NPS and customer loyalty participation. If you measure the Customer Experience, it will provide the most meaningful correlation.
  • Company Performance. Correlate employee engagement with increases in sales, Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and customer retention. We often add items such as sales velocity and RFM (Recency Frequency Monetary) in this category.

We use dashboards to put a spotlight on the above metrics and also illustrate the measures with trends and variances to slated objectives.

Call Center Agent Experience Dashboard