quality managementRecently, Mary Barra, the new CEO of US automaker General Motors, made the news for dropping into her company’s contact center, popping on a headset and listening to customer calls for 30 minutes. In one of the news stories, the General Motors spokespeople claimed that Barra plans to repeat her contact center visits to perform more ad hoc quality management.

Why did she do it? Consumers have expressed a great deal of frustration with General Motors over a massive recall and Barra’s contact center visits seem designed to show a caring face to the public, as well as to demonstrate that the company cares about customer experience. But, it shouldn’t take a company under siege to get top executives to pay greater attention to the customer care organization. For years, industry analysts have been advising C-level executives to go to their company’s contact centers and sit in on a shift, listen to actual customer calls and get a real- world sense of the problems both their customers and their contact center agents face. Contact center managers and VPs have also urged their superiors to experience life in the trenches. And for years, most C-level executives have studiously ignored this advice.

The problem is not necessarily that these executives don’t want to know what is going on in their contact centers or in their customer base; more likely, the issue is simply scarce time. These executives most likely always prioritize other work tasks as more pressing than scheduling the time to go to a contact center to actually spend several hours working the phones and hearing from customers.

At a recent customer service conference that I attended, one contact center manager shared a highly resourceful method he used to get around executives’ reticence to spend time in the contact center. Thinking of the old saying, “if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain,” this contact center manager decided to bring the contact center to the executives. Using his contact center’s interaction recording system and its speech analytics tool, the manager identified a good sample of calls, both positive and negative, that had come in that week. He chose 30 minutes of calls and then put those calls on small iPods. He then distributed the MP3 players to the top executives and asked them to listen to the calls while they were on the treadmill or exercising. The stratagem worked and the executives, who didn’t need to deviate from their typical work schedule, actually listened to the calls. And they requested that they get their iPods refilled with new calls to listen to every quarter.

The point of the story is not so much that one must be tricky to get executives interested in the contact center. The executives are already interested. The point is to take the idea of reducing customer effort and apply it to your own organization. Make it easy for your employees (and executives) and they are much more likely to do what is best for the organization.

To find out about more ways you can improve the quality of the customer experience at your company, check out the white paper titled, ‘Eight Ways to Boost Workforce Efficiency and Quality with Continuous Workforce Optimization.’

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