Ask a Broadband Expert - Customer Support
A veteran of technical support and customer service, Jason Young has been with ZCorum since 1999 and serves as Vice President of Support Services. In that role he manages ZCorum’s call centers, including a staff that supports data, voice and video end users, as well as a team of engineers. With a boatload of experience, plus degrees in computer science business administration, he knows the business from top to bottom. But, it is his ability to relate to the customer and inspire his teams to excellence in serving that customer that has earned him the accolades he receives.
We sat down with Jason to get his unique insight into why his support teams are always receiving high marks from customers.
What do you find is the one thing customers hate the most about calling customer service?
That would definitely have to be speaking to an auto attendant instead of a live person. We answer the phone with live people for that reason. No one likes to be taken through what can seem like an endless loop of unanswered questions.
In your white paper, you talk about having a plan of action for your teams. How important is a plan of action for customer support?
A plan of action is necessary even before the first call happens in the call center. You have to be able to put procedures in place that will allow you to anticipate what may happen. We all know that anything can happen in call centers! And when it does you have to have plans in place to handle those out of the ordinary things with patience and confidence. You have to ensure that your customers are the priority and that you’re providing the best customer service possible even when things get a little crazy. A plan that everyone is aware of and acts on is the key factor.
Support reps have to be able to handle all customer types. What are some tips on dealing with a novice user?
The biggest key to novice users is patience, patience, patience. You have to be able to put yourself in their shoes. Everyone is a novice at something, if not right now, they have been at some time in their lives. For example, when I went to buy makeup for my wife for a gift, I know the girl at the make-up counter thought I was an idiot but she helped me nicely anyway. In our call centers, we teach agents to identify with a subject that they know the least about so that they are able to understand and can relate to how novice users feel when they are calling in.
What about senior citizens? More and more seniors have computers now and are using them. So the patience rule applies to seniors as well. Though to be honest, there are some seniors who are more capable of resolving their issues than I am! But one thing with seniors that I’ve noticed is they really like speaking with familiar voices when they call.
Do you have customer support agents that only deal with special users like these?
We certainly have agents who are better than others at handling customers like these although there are no agents that only deal with these types of users. We believe that agents need to be as versatile as possible because we never know when they may have to handle something unexpected. However it is a common practice for us to transfer a caller to another rep that is known for exceptional handling of certain types of callers, such as novices or seniors.
Do you teach skills based on the types of callers that will be calling in and what the common calls consist of?
In our initial training, call center agents are introduced to company procedures and “how things work”. This provides the agent with the ability to understand what help they’ll be expected to provide. We do want to make sure that agents are able to handle different types of customers and we allow them to participate in various scenarios that are re-enactments of calls. We have some good laughs during this time, but this helps agents become prepared for what is to come. There are certainly other items introduced, but these are the most common.
Technology changes so fast these days, how important is it for customer support agents to participate in ongoing training?
On-going training is imperative. It seems like new and different customer technology requests pour in every week, sometimes it seems like every day. If you don’t log these new requests and address the training of these requests, you find yourself behind very quickly. You have to try to stay in front of emerging trends to be effective. This takes constant vigilance and being aware of new technological advances, new trends, new devices and new software.
It’s been a practice with some support providers to limit the support rep to a time limit and penalize them if they stay on the phone too long with a customer. What’s your take on that?
Those centers have the wrong idea of what great customer service is. The best approach is to stay on the call until the issue is resolved no matter how long it takes. This not only improves customer satisfaction, but it also drastically increases first time resolution, which in turn improves the queue by reducing repeat callers, and when customer complaints are down everyone benefits.
For the rep to own the problem and stay with it until it’s resolved is an A-1 priority to giving the customers the feeling that their concerns matter. It’s essential to providing quality service. Taking ownership of an issue builds confidence and assures customers that their issues will be resolved. Going the extra mile is necessary.
Let me ask you about ZCorum's scope of support. If a subscriber calls support and wants assistance with connecting a Blu-ray player wirelessly, is that something that ZCorum reps can handle? I mean it’s not really a broadband issue at all.
We certainly can! We support all types of devices on the home network. We even provide cable tv support as well as internet support. It is very important to understand that the days of the one desktop computer in the home are over. Customers use their broadband service for many devices and expect the service to work with all devices. They actually look forward to receiving assistance and being able to call one number instead of having to call multiple numbers for assistance.
One last question Jason...How do you measure customer satisfaction in your call centers?
I think the use of surveys can measure customer satisfaction in various ways, but the questions have to be specific to the types of customers that a call center supports. And once you have the right questions you have to have an effective means of getting the surveys out to the customers whether it is by email, text message, etc.
You should also have a strong quality assurance team that is proactively monitoring and reviewing calls to identify issues before they become problems.
Utilizing the many call metrics that are gathered throughout the call process can also be analyzed to give you an accurate snapshot of customer satisfaction. Understanding the metrics of first time resolution, hold time, and abandon rates of calls, can provide info on whether these items are displaying favorably. Most often if they are, then your customers are likely to be satisfied and complaints are going to decline. And that’s what a good customer support team is really aiming for.
Want to learn more about how to provide the best possible support for your subscribers. Download this free white paper: Best Practices for Providing Uncompromising Broadband Support.
About the Author: Marsha Hemmerich
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