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Tue, Jun 15, 2010

Talent Strategies

Building Customer Loyalty Through Skills Training

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In my last post, I outlined one of the reasons why Monster made the decision to move from outsourcing to in-sourcing our customer service function. (Hint: For global service companies, there’s no room for creativity when outsourcing across a language barrier and our customers need creative muscle.)

Here’s another big reason why we made the leap: Education and training matter when it comes to delivering high quality customer service. It’s an investment that can reap big time reward because it allows you to fill your organization with people who are just as committed as you are. How much retention and loyalty do you think you’ll find in an outsourced model?

As someone who has managed outsourced call centers, I know that most of these firms have a high turnover rate and limited training programs. Yet when it comes right down to it, companies don’t engage emotionally with their customers—people do. So how smart is it to put so much trust in a group of people who are your front-line defense to building customer loyalty?

If you want to create a satisfied customer, then you have to fill your company with satisfied employees. Today, every person who picks up the phone on behalf of Monster is a Monster employee. We’ve numbered the skills – some 540 – that our agents have at their disposal while interacting with our customers to solve a particular problem.

Each one of those skills has an associated knowledge database tied to it and our agents are trained in each and every one of them. With an 8-week training schedule and ongoing education programs (we’ve built entry-level positions into a formal career ladder for advancement in the company), Monster is making a long-term commitment to each one of our new hires that says ‘we value you’ and in return ‘you value our customers.’

When looking at an outsourced versus in-sourced model, people tend to look at the wrong metric: Cost per call. Far too often it may appear to be low but what you don’t realize is that it took three calls before the customer got their issue resolved. Is that a satisfied customer? No. Did you significantly lower your operating costs? No on that one too.

Here at Monster we’re very focused on first-time call resolution – if I answer the phone or email quickly and get it resolved during the initial point of contact, a customer is satisfied and I’ve only taken the call once. It’s a self-enforcing operational performance metric.

A customer’s impression of your company can be made in as little as a 30 second phone call. But did it add or take away value? In order to recruit and hire the best for customer service jobs you have to maintain the function in-house – because an outsourced vendor isn’t your asset – you’re simply renting it.

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