Improving customer service can be as difficult as solving a complex puzzle. Even with all the right performance management pieces in place—robust call center training programs, regular QA reviews, and employee engagement initiatives—many customer service leaders can’t figure out how to crack the code.
The problem for some of these organizations isn’t a lack of concern or effort on the part of leadership. It’s a lack of transparency on the contact center floor. When customer service agents operate in the dark, with no sense of the impact they’re making on customers, they can’t see their way to the next level of performance (much less the highest levels they can achieve).
The truth is, keeping VoC data from agents costs brands dearly. It drives up contact center attrition, and it reduces opportunities to build loyalty and sales.
If your instinct is to keep customer feedback under wraps, it’s worth considering what you have to gain. We’ve seen it firsthand among our clients. Making the leap to transparency can change the contact center culture, create a new class of brand “superheroes,” and drive customer satisfaction through the roof.
Below, we’ll outline the three biggest arguments for withholding customer feedback from agents and why these arguments don’t hold water.
Argument #1: “Customer surveys are irrelevant to agents and have no real value.”
This is 100% true if you’re talking about traditional customer satisfaction and NPS® surveys. Most CSATs are sent to customers days later (an eternity for a busy agent handling hundreds of contacts per week), and/or they’re not specific to the interaction. These types of surveys have far more value for company leaders, who need a 30,000-foot view to set goals and refine CX strategies, than they do for the average front-line employee.
Then there’s agent-level feedback, a different creature entirely. Because these survey requests are sent to customers within minutes of an interaction and are designed to capture the fine details, they have tremendous value for agents and the entire contact center operation. Agents know exactly how they’ve performed while the interaction is still fresh, and the data give supervisors and QA reviewers the insights they need to optimize their time and drive performance more effectively.
“Zappos is currently piloting a new program in its contact center in which agents can log into a portal and view a live stream of customer feedback specific to them, collected via surveys, comments and ratings after each interaction. By sharing this feedback with agents, Zappos has been able to leverage the VoC to improve service processes.
The results were immediate. ‘About a week after we introduced the feedback portal to agents, we saw a noticeable uptick in service scores. Agents were logging in and finding the feedback relevant and helpful—and when employees see the voice of their customer, they’re more receptive to constructive criticism,” says [Zappos’ Customer Experience Strategist Jessica] Hall. ‘For agents, it wasn’t about pleasing their manager; it was about not letting their customers down.’”
Argument #2: “Sharing feedback with agents will interrupt their workflow and reduce productivity.”
This is something we hear a lot, and it’s a reasonable concern. But you can easily set up a feedback stream that doesn’t flood agents with confusing or distracting data points. Although our Stella Connect clients do provide a link-back to the full CRM ticket, what agents see at a glance in their dashboards and on the group leaderboards is very simple: star rating, comment, and reward.
These three data points are just enough to keep agents informed so they can self-correct and motivated to do their best. The net effect is higher productivity, not lower. If you’re focused on getting the most out of every agent, no other performance management tool or workplace incentive can hold a candle to an agent-level VoC program.
Argument #3: “Sharing negative feedback with agents kills motivation and morale.”
Quite frankly, the opposite is true. Front-line feedback is designed to empower agents to take ownership of the service experience they deliver, and they’re eager to do just that. When there is bad news, agents take it in stride—not just because the positive comments and ratings offset the negative, but because each critical response presents a golden opportunity to improve without the annoying or dreaded tap on the shoulder.
In fact, nothing drives down motivation and morale like a performance management program that relies entirely on internal customer service metrics and the subjective opinions of managers and QA team leaders. Traditional QA reviews, for example, might be based on one or two random contacts that are shared with agents days later. When the calls aren’t representative of overall performance (which is usually the case), or agents don’t agree with reviewers’ assessments, agents leave feeling embittered and less invested in their jobs.
The truth is, a customer service agent’s #1 concern is how the customer defines quality and whether the experience lives up to that standard. The more agents know about what they could be doing better from the customer’s standpoint, the more effective and valuable they’ll become. And the faster their star ratings and morale will climb.
To Become a Customer Service Leader, You Must Share VoC Data on the Front Line
Your customer service agents are the face of your brand. They are the relationship builders who give customers reasons to reward your brand with repeat purchases and enduring loyalty. If your agents don’t know what the customer expects, experiences, or feels, they have neither the fuel nor the drive to go the extra mile on the customer’s behalf—something leading brands’ customer service teams do all day, every day.