Louis Ross

A collection of best practices and lessons learned – hope you find a pro tip or two you can use!

Leading WFH Teams

Did you lose your remote control? During Covid-geddon 2020 a lot of companies had to shift employees to work from home to adhere to Covid requirements. I had to move 50 employees home to work in 1 week in March 2020. I was immediately asked:

Aren’t you concerned about productivity, quality, and morale?

My answer was simply “no.” We already measured all these metrics and I was confident they would remain high, or get even higher. How could that be? Because WFH (work from home) scenarios amplify what’s already in place. If you, the CX Team Leader, already measure and communicate the expectations of each person in how they produce (and at what quality level) each day and week, then working from home is just more of the same. It’s highly likely all the systems are cloud based SaaS, so log in securely and take the next call. Productivity gets a bump of about 2-5% because agents are no longer walking to meetings, talking so much to their cubicle neighbors, etc. We saw a 4% increase the month we moved the team home. Which brings me to the other metric that is super important: morale. Morale gets a little bump because agents are no longer commuting, can wear their PJs (there’s no camera on a voice call for CSRs), and other reasons. But these morale boosters can quickly be lost if CX Leaders don’t measure their team with quick (1-2 questions) polls and lots of informal “stand up” meetings (now the camera is on) to read body language, ask questions, and see how the agents are doing. Recognize top achievers in not only productivity and quality, but subjective actions like supportive conversations, cheering teammates on, or that amazing feedback an agent received on a CSAT survey.

A lot was learned about WFH during the crazy year that was 2020. If a CX Leader doesn’t already define, measure, and communicate what CX greatness looks like, WFH will only expose that deficiency. Remote or not, the Leader has to point to the picture they want to see, to make it appear.

Build a scalable CX system

(How to build a highly effective and responsive 24/7 customer support system/team)

If you lead the Customer Service/CX function for your company, your customers expect:

  • Quick solutions to their issues (high first contact resolution)
  • An agent available when they contact (no/low hold times)
  • A satisfying user experience (or I’ll tell my friends!)

The CEO/C-Suite really expects one thing: provide great service (achieve what the customers expect) for less cost, year over year. To make that happen, you have to build a foundation that will grow with the business (scale) and cost less as a percentage of revenue as the revenues grow.

Here’s how to do it.

The five major components to building scalable customer service are:

  • Knowledge management
  • Process improvement
  • Workforce management
  • Operations analysis
  • Operations leadership

High level, here’s how these five building blocks are paramount to great service and how to build them. When the company is small, you’ll have to do all/most of this. As revenues/number of customers grow, you’ll have to add managers of these areas to build each component deeply.

Knowledge management – think of it this way: garbage in, garbage out. You can have the nicest CSR in the world, but if the information that CSR has is wrong, the service will be bad. All questions that are coming in to the company need great answers. The answers must satisfy the users and build brand. The secret sauce here is to leverage your investment in this great information in a self serve helpcenter for your users.  Measurables include FCR (first contact resolution), CSAT (customer satisfaction scores), and NPS (net promotor scores).

Process improvement – this is where CS can really help a company get better. How the app works or order is fulfilled is critical and users/customers contact a company when something doesn’t work right. CS must categorize and prioritize this feedback to keep the business improving the corresponding processes. A good business analyst needs to document internal and customer facing processes so CS can answer customers’ questions. A problem well defined is half solved and this is where solutions are made. And, the right tools must be in place; a world class CRM with help center functionality must be properly installed and maintained.

Workforce management – running Customer Service means having great people to answer contacts. Payroll isn’t cheap, so it’s critical to make the most of this investment. Forecasting is critical and scheduling, including adherence, is of course required. Measuring productivity/utilization is a must have – how would you ever know if you need to hire more? Software can help, and good coordinators are needed to make sure the right number of people are in the right place at the right time. Without good planning, forecasting, analysis and execution here, costs can quickly spiral out of control.

Operations analysis – so much analysis is needed in CS, and this is where the alphabet soup is thick: FCR, CSAT, NPS, ASA, AHT, ATR, ACW, and more – all the KPIs that are indicators of performance. And these indicators optimally should be built into a dynamic dashboard that leadership can access at any time to see how the team is doing. Throw in cost per contact, channel mix, and missed calls, and more – this analysis is vital to identifying where there is opportunity to do more with less.

Operations leadership – these are the leaders of people. CS is about people and bringing all that information and skill to each contact. This is the role most people think of in a “call center”. The other foundational pieces have to be in place for these leaders and their teams of agents to do a great job. A servant leadership style goes a long way.

The Head of CS who successfully builds these foundational blocks will be able to scale the business and handle growth as it comes. It’s tempting to just “hire agents” and try to take the calls/chats/emails as they come in, but that action is a short term band aid that will lead to frustration. The other pieces must be in place so that the agents can be excellent interacting with customers. Identify the top 10 contact drivers, write great answers/processes for these issues, document in the helpcenter, and train agents to efficiently handle these contacts – be excellent at what you do most. Then measure and set goals for constant improvement. These are the foundational keys for scalable, excellent service.