January 17, 2013

Great Customer Service Starts with a Happy Agent


Call centers have gotten such a bad reputation because companies shifted their focus from the customer to the cost. The concern with reducing costs has motivated companies to outsource customer service and support. Unfortunately, due to the language barrier and the inflexibility of following a script, most customers have found call center customer support to be highly unsatisfactory.

The reason? Well, some companies have simply lost sight of the customer.  In a quest for efficiency and productivity, companies have engineered their customer support processes for themselves instead of the customer. So, when they design their interactive voice response (IVR) or customer relationship management (CRM) system, they are designing it for their convenience.

“They ultimately make it difficult to do business with them and therefore, the entire process of dealing with the agent is really company focused not customer focused,” Brian Griggs, director of business development, Canon Information Technology Services (CITS) told TechZone360 in an exclusive interview.

These days, companies are concerned with efficiency and the economy; therefore, they are trying to squeeze in as much as they can. Additionally, the majority of call centers today are focused on the agent having a pre-determined call time goal rather than trying to actually hit that goal.

Canon USA Inc., a provider of consumer, business-to-business and industrial digital imaging solutions, has focused on making the customer’s needs a primary objective and making Canon’s needs secondary.  

“We changed our focus a number of years ago to be even more focused on customer satisfaction. Now, we tell our agents to take care of the customer and get it right the first time. So, instead of having a seven minute talk time goal and a customer having to call three times in 21 minutes, if it’s going to take 21 minutes, take the time to resolve it and get the first contact resolution that the customer expects,” explained Lori Fraser, director of human resources at Canon Information Technology Services (CITS).

As different manufacturers produce similar products, Canon has recognized the value of the support entity, whether its service or the contact center. Canon has invested in that focus because it knows that in most cases, the only time a customer is going to associate a person with that product or that company is when they call the call center. 

Image via Shutterstock

“Canon recognizes the value of our agents. We realize that if our agents take care of our customers, they are not only going to solve the issue that they have today, but through that conversation they are going to build loyalty to the Canon brand,” said Doris Higginbotham, president, CITS .

That investment in customer support is really an investment in helping the customer get the most out of the product. “It’s more than just buying a camera, printer, or copier, it’s really an investment in helping the customer get the absolute best experience out of their purchase,” said Griggs.

In this day and age, customers want knowledgeable, technical individuals, but they also want someone that is kind, patient and happy. Canon realized a few years ago that if its employees are happy, they will make their customers happy.

“We spent a lot of time, energy and resources to make sure that our employees do feel a part of the Canon family. We communicate everything that we possibly can, so they feel like they are a part of the organization,” said Fraser.

In addition, before Canon launches a new product or introduces new processes, its agents are involved from the very beginning to give their feedback so that Canon can build the tools that work for them. “It’s really engaging our employees, making them feel valued, making them feel important,” she added.

“In 2013, a core focus for us this year is to reduce the customer effort wherever we can to just make it easy for them to reach out to us, whether it’s to self-serve on the Web or to actually contact us via email, chat, phone, social media,” Fraser added.

This year, Canon plans to continue to innovate its business - another area where it’s constantly working hard to ensure that it’s providing its customers with what they want today as well as in the future.  The company is specifically focused on listening to its customers more carefully and trying to anticipate changing customer interactions.

 “We have a lot of respect for our agents who have to deal with all of the different personalities and the behaviors that are going to come through on that phone line,” said Fraser. “They’ve got the toughest job here.”




Edited by Allison Boccamazzo



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