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Driving customer equity by empowering and training call center agents

Experts Peppers and Rogers offer advice on call center agent job satisfaction, and how well-paid, well-trained call center agents can contribute to building long-term customer equity.

I see building customer equity as being largely the responsibility of the call center. How can we drive our call center agents to build long-term customer equity? Can we justify paying them well if they're part of a bigger equity goal on the balance sheet? Or, is it intense training that can help make agents more effective as part of our long-term goals?
This is a great way to ask a question, because it really shows that we cannot just do something that makes money this quarter and expect that also to deliver real shareholder returns over the long haul as well. So we often see companies that are doing things in the short term that are really destroying customer equity in the long term. And part of that destruction comes from making employees unhappy. We can't really expect customers to trust our company until the employees do.

So when we start looking at what call center agents have to do and how we can leverage them to build customer equity, I think we have to really look at how we are rewarding them, but not just how we are rewarding them with money. Are we making it a rewarding place to work? At companies where the philosophy has been changed from "solve the customer's problem as efficiently as you can and then get off the phone and move on so you can accommodate as many calls as you can in an hour," to "instructing those call center agents to handling problems in the first call, giving them the equipment and the data to be able to do that," we see a significant reduction in the rate of turnover and churn in those employees. So not only does that make for better and more dedicated employees with longer experience, but it reduces cost to the bottom line, because we do not have to recruit and train new agents all the time. So I think we can make some justification for paying them at least a little better, and paying them well.

But I think we also need good training, and that training comes not just in being able to answer any kind of public question or query or complaint that comes along, but also in making sure that our call center agents have access to all kinds of information about the calling customer, about our company, about the solutions we can provide. In other words, we need to engage those reps and we also need to enable them. We have to give them the tools they need to get the job done, and we have to give a philosophy and a culture that makes it the type of thing they want to do.

Hear more in Creating Customer Value, a SearchCRM.com monthly podcast series with Peppers and Rogers.

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