To build new technologies your frontline employees will use and trust — tools that will actually improve the customer experience — you need to ask for their feedback at every stage of development.
For example, at Verizon we recently developed and introduced two new technologies to our call centers. The first was Mobile Coach, an app that compiles service rep performance metrics in real-time so that call center supervisors can engage with their teams more quickly.
Mobile Coach represents a big change for call center team supervisors. In the past, their job was largely retroactive. They’d evaluate representative performance based on end-of-day metrics, and because their management tools were accessible through a PC on their desk, they were away from their teams for big portions of the workday. They’d often have to dedicate time to listening to hours of recorded calls to assess the tone, feel, and flow of
sample of their reps’ customer interactions hours, if not days, after the call had ended.
Mobile Coach has changed that. The tablet-based tool gives the supervisor the ability to freely move about their team all day long, accessing all of their tools using the screen in their hand. They can see how their team members are performing while simultaneously and seamlessly providing real-time coaching.
The second technology we’ve introduced is called Rep Guidance, a desktop solution for reps that helps foster more intelligent, better-informed conversations with customers. Rep Guidance helps our reps get our customers’ details right the very first time. By showing a rep a clear picture of who is on the other end of the line or computer screen, our frontline can engage in more fluid conversations that are more valuable to the customer. This translates to more accurate solutions and reduced time on the phone for our customers.
For example, a common problem that customers encounter when contacting support, inside and outside our industry, is expecting to reach one department but instead reaching another. This isn’t only frustrating for our customers, but for our representatives as well. By creating new smarter data views alongside our frontline employees, we felt very confident we could begin to solve for this age-old “intending to reach department X, but ending up at department Y” breakdown. One department can solve the vast majority of common questions and concerns. And because the customer’s contact history is now easily visible by the rep, we’re making it easier by reducing the need for customers to reprise their questions or concerns.
But we knew these tools wouldn’t work if they didn’t fit our customer service team’s needs. So to help develop these new tools, we recruited over 90 frontline call center supervisors and customer representatives to help our tech team shape Mobile Coach and Rep Guidance. We knew that they’d only use the tools — and get the most out of them — if they felt they could trust them.
The key word there is “trust.” My team and I have learned that whenever you are introducing a new process or technology, there is trust to be gained and trust to be lost. I’ll be candid; in the past we’ve implemented new technologies and have heard crickets in the call centers. We then had to focus our efforts on communicating the tool’s value to drive usage. From experiences like these, it’s become vividly apparent that when introducing new technology, engagement can be a proxy for trust. The employee’s voice is core to improving both. Inviting feedback is good, but having the end-user actually help build it takes engagement to another level.
The IT development and operations teams hit the road visiting call centers across the nation inviting supervisors and reps alike to kickoff sessions, where a we collectively explored new tools screen-by-screen and gathered feedback idea-by-idea. We also invited some reps to join our technology development team, despite not having a traditional tech development background. We needed their understanding of the customer experience.
These two tools aren’t static solutions; our reps are contributing to their improvement all the time. For instance, during a recent panel session, representatives suggested building in auto-launch functionality for account reviews. They felt this change would encourage them to use the feature and that they’d be able to complete an account review earlier in the contact. The team implemented the change and the results were spot-on with the recommendation. Sometimes the feedback can be something as simple as using colors vs. icons, or a bullet format vs. a long-form format for talking points. No matter how simple or how technical the recommendation, all feedback is being taken in and considered.
We’re starting to see encouraging results. We’re finding that more real-time coaching is translating into lasting learning moments. Our representatives are learning how to identify customer signals faster and more accurately than before. For instance, during a pilot phase of Mobile Coach, we saw a 10 percent increase in close rate and a 10 percent increase in first call resolutions. Coaching sessions have nearly tripled from 1.5 conversations per rep per month to four. Reps also seem happy with these results. We surveyed 2,700 call center employees following the implementation of the new tools and 88% felt the technology was headed in the right direction.
The technology we use is good; but that’s just table stakes in our industry. Using the technology to generate meaningful insights and enabling our frontline to take action with those insights is what really makes the difference. And that isn’t possible without frontline feedback.