Stephen Haighton, Vice President, Sales Northern Europe, Chordiant (now part of Pegasystems), looks at the relationship between call centre staff and customer satisfaction and discusses how technology can form a foundation to help improve both.
Poor customer service is endemic to the insurance industry which has long prioritised customer acquisition over retention. This has significantly impacted on both customer and employee churn.
Staff morale is in large part dependent on their ability to not only service existing customers but also close sales with new customers. Generally speaking, if staff are happy, customer service levels will be improved and employee and customer retention will be higher.
Equally, when call centre staff are unhappy, customer service levels fall, leading to high customer and employee churn. With companies increasingly focused on customer retention and maximising Customer Lifetime Value - that is the long term value of each customer as an individual - the call centre and the wellbeing of its staff has never been more important.
Successful customer retention and cross- and up-selling requires staff to have a complete view of their customers. This means that the call centre operatives need to have a comprehensive view of a customer’s history, past behaviour and likes/dislikes when conversing with them.
It is only when this Single Customer View is accessible that they will be able to provide a high level of customer service which is tailored to the individual. In this way, call centre staff are able to offer products which are targeted to a consumers individual needs, thereby increasing the chances of effective cross- and up-sell. In order to achieve this Single Customer View, and ensure staff are able to do their job and be rewarded accordingly, companies must invest in customer experience technologies that support their staff and equip them with the right tools to carry out their job effectively.
Intelligent conversation management technology is one such tool and allows companies to amalgamate all information held on a customer so call centre operatives can achieve a Single Customer View and converse with them appropriately in real-time. This is a significant step away from the scripted and transactional conversations traditionally used by call centre staff which historically fail to meet customers needs.
Next-Best-Action technology in particular can help to ensure that call centre staff hold relevant and meaningful conversations in which each customer is treated appropriately and uniquely. Because conversations are based on an individual customer’s profile, even the most inexperienced members of staff are better able to hold appropriate conversations by looking at detailed guidance and recommendations to find the right proposition for the customer.
Technology that proactively guides call centre operatives in this way will increase the ability of staff to build a rapport with the customer and improve up- and cross-sell success rates, thereby increasing employee morale.
Similarly, a call centre environment where customer interaction is positive and where cross and up-sell opportunities are maximised will not only support staff retention but also customer lifetime value and in turn an insurers bottom line.
Of course, technology alone is not enough and must be supported by rewarding successful operatives and boosting morale through achievable targets and bonus schemes. However, when successfully combined with tailored reward schemes, technology can act as the critical foundation to success and retention of both staff and customers.
For many insurers this will involve a significant U-turn from their traditional acquisition based strategies, however, as customers increasingly look to service as a key differentiator in a market saturated with price-based marketing, it is one which will improve both employee and customer retention and generate significant ROI in the process.
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