Advocacy and the Customer Experience

In many organizations their own systems, processes and procedures doom the ‘Customer Experience’ to be substandard. The contact center often acts as if their mandate was to protect the company from its customers. Multiple transfers, long hold times, recapturing customer information, restating company policies all can contribute to a negative customer experience.

But what if the contact center agent was the customers’ advocate within your company? After all, who knows the company better: its policies, systems, processes and protocols?

What if instead of , “thank you for calling ABC Inc., my name is John, can I have your account number?’ we heard, “Hello my name is John and I will be your advocate in helping you resolve your inquiry today to your satisfaction. How can I assist you?”

What would you think?, How would this make you feel?…Well I suspect that once you got off the floor, you might think that just maybe here was a different kind of contact center.

It was Maya Angelou that said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We cannot underestimate the power of a positive feeling towards our contact center, our company or our brand. Nor can we disregard the damage and erosion that can be caused by negative feelings. If we are advocates we can influence these feelings and support the customer experience.

What if the advocate was actually and meaningfully empowered to help resolve your issue? What if the outsourcer you employed would take financial responsibility for this empowerment if the client didn’t agree with it?

What could this approach do to your Customer Satisfaction, Customer Loyalty, repurchase, churn and the entire Customer Experience?

Could it be that the contact center could resolve more issues, faster and ultimately cheaper? Of course we will all need to overcome skepticism, not just our own, managements, but also that of our agents and most importantly our customers. Customers and Operators alike have become quite jaded…

“Your call is important to us…please hold”
“How can I help you?”
“In order to serve you better”

All of these have become late night talk show punch lines.

If we truly become advocates, our customers will spend the balance of the call waiting for the ‘other shoe to drop’. Over time and with repetition our customers will appreciate that our advocacy approach is borne out of our sincere and genuine desire to help them. What a novel concept, Customer Service that ‘serves the customer’.

Of course I feel a little like the boy who pointed out that the Emperor had no clothes on or perhaps more appropriately like Tom Cruise in the movie “the Color of Money” whose contrarian re-visioning of the sports agent industry was wildly applauded by all for his strategy and who was all but, run out of the business by the same people.

Can this happen? Can we serve? Can we be advocates?
Each of us must answer this question, but some have already begun this journey.

If we wish to take this path what are steps we must take?

First identify all of the barriers or potential barriers that limit an agent’s ability to be an advocate: this includes at least some of the following: Systems, Processes, procedures, policies, technologies, hiring, training, management, goals, objectives, quality assurance, forecasting, scheduling to name only a partial list. In fact you need to reassess every aspect of an agent’s interaction with the company and ensure that all contact points are aligned to empower the agent and allow them to serve the customer.

Certainly there will be challenges, but there can also be huge rewards:
• Vertical leading loyalty,
• Near 100% CSAT,
• Cost reductions…yes reductions,
• Significantly reduced staff turnover,
• Significantly improved customer loyalty,
• Significantly improved employee morale,

We need courage to embark on this journey and it will not always be easy. But what of merit is easy? The choice is yours…I have made my choice.

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