Attributes of Customer-Obsessed Telecommunications Teams
Telecommunications is a fickle, challenging industry -- find out what traits customer service experts agree your agents must possess to keep your customers smiling.
Top learnings from this article:
- For support reps to be effective team members, they need to possess a problem-solving focus.
- It’s nearly impossible to build trust when employees can sense dishonesty.
- Teams who understand their purpose inside and out work better together.
- Lighthearted challenges can actually assist teams in reaching their goals.
- AI automation can not only improve the customer service experience, but the agent experience too.
It’s not easy being a telecommunications company these days. Customers are fickler than ever, switching brands at the drop of a hat (or a drop in service, for that matter). With huge teams serving enormous customer bases, telco customer service can be an overwhelming, stressful place to be.
But they don’t have to be.
Customer service experts across the globe shout from the rooftops about customer obsession, and it’s time that we stop and listen. We enlisted a few such experts and asked them for their insight into attributes of the best customer-obsessed telecommunications teams they’ve worked with. Renee Evenson, author of nine customer service books and telecommunications customer service consultant, and Donna Earl, internationally recognised customer service speaker, business educator and consultant, executive coach and author, and our COO and customer service automation expert Sarah Al-Hussaini give their insight into the most important attributes of customer-obsessed telecommunications teams. Let’s take a look.
1. Customer-obsessed teams have a strong problem-solving focus
Customer-obsessed support personnel must possess a problem-solving focus in order to achieve customer satisfaction. Because their job entails interacting with customers most of the time, and most of those customers will need help, the employee’s desire to problem solve is a key factor in their success and happiness in that role. Of course, the employee must also have effective communication skills and resiliency, but being obsessed with solving customer problems is key.
I worked with a telecommunications company with extremely nice and polite employees, however they lack the follow-through and desire to truly solve problems, leaving customers frustrated with a lack of issue resolution. Although employees got along well with each other, as individuals, they lacked a problem-solving focus. One employee, Cheryl, stood out on the team: her home-baked goodies were a treat for team breaks. However her constant distress over customers calling in with concerns and problems spilled over into break time and created a drag on team morale. I recommended Cheryl be moved into an inside role where her sweet nature was better suited for informing customers of plan options. While the team missed her sweet baked goods at break time, they didn’t miss her constant distress when customers called with concerns, complaints or frustration because they needed support assistance.
Take away >> Support reps spend more time interacting with customers (usually to resolve complaints or when customer needs help utilising product or service). Therefore, for support reps to be effective team members, they need a problem-solving focus so their customers will be happy, and the fellow team members will feel like everyone on the team is focused on supporting customers. This is particularly important for telecommunications customer service teams, whose customers are often quite emotionally charged when calling in to report, for example, service disruptions, due to the fundamental need for services telcos provide, like mobile, landlines, and home WiFi. Speaking to a representative who takes charge to solve their problem will result in happier, satisfied customers.
2. Customer-obsessed teams communicate openly and foster trust.
Susan manages a team of employees for a telecommunications company. She has built an exceptional team whose achievements are always in the top 1% of corporate expectations. When she was first promoted, I worked with her on team development. Unsure of how her team members would react to her now that she was their new boss, the first thing we worked on was establishing open and honest communication to build a cohesive team. When the team was communicating well with one another, we built on that and set the same expectation for dealing with customers. Susan sets high expectations that includes requiring her team to always communicate honestly with each other and with customers.
Take away >> People know when someone is not being honest. When that happens, it is nearly impossible to build trust. When you foster an honest, trusting relationship with your customers, they are likely to be loyal to your company.
3. Customer-obsessed teams are resilient
I worked with a manager of a telecommunications company to evaluate his support team members. We found a few who were good problem solvers and dedicated to resolving customer issues, they lacked resilience. They burned out after a morning of dealing with customer issues and with frustrated customers.
I reminded the manager that customers call support when they need help and have a problem. Hence members of a customer-obsessed support team cannot burn out when dealing with customers, they have to maintain resilience and not let customer frustration get them down. Otherwise they’ll burn out and their negativity will weigh down the team.
Take away >> Burn out can be a serious issue for telecommunications customer service teams, particularly during peak times or a regional service disruption. Although team members interact primarily with customers, a burned out attitude is contagious and can bring down the whole team. Customer-obsessed support teams are composed of resilient employees.
4. Customer-obsessed teams have a strongly defined purpose.
After successfully working with a team to build effective communication, I took part in a team meeting to create a customer-focused team mission statement that defined who they are, how their customers are to be treated, and what they want to achieve. After they agreed on their mission, I challenged them to set team goals.
When they were finished, I complimented them on setting goals that were higher than the corporate expectations. They felt proud and assured me they would meet their goals. Their manager begins each meeting by reviewing their mission statement and discussing goal achievement. That helps everyone to stay focused.
Take away >> Telecommunications customer service often requires agents to store a massive amount of information in their brains. Making sure that their objectives and goals are clear and straightforward can ensure the team maintains a strongly defined purpose. When this happens, teams will be one huge step closer toward achieving their goals.
5. Customer-obsessed teams support and challenge each other
After working with James, a call centre manager, on team development specifically in the area of building a supportive, cohesive team, I visited his office to observe his team in action. I noticed one of the team members, Brian, asking a coworker if she needed help. Another coworker challenged the team to a one-day contest to see who had the best daily sales. She did this in a lighthearted manner and as I listened to the team banter back and forth, challenging one another, I felt certain they would surpass their goals.
Take away >> When telecommunications customer service teams support one another, their job satisfaction increases and they work together in a more cohesive manner to achieve and surpass company goals.
6. Customer-obsessed teams embrace the application of AI in telecommunications
When our client Telia, a large European telecommunications company, was facing the 2019 Ice Hockey season for which they owned the sole rights, they turned to us for help. Their team was always inundated with customer service cases during peak times, and hockey season is one long peak time in Sweden and Finland, where the company operates.
Using their mountains of historical customer service data, we worked with Telia to identify their most common customer queries, and set to training the AI on those cases. Once the AI was confident on how to handle those common cases, we first deployed augmentation in the form of suggested responses. These responses gave Telia’s agents superpowers, helping them fly through common customer requests by simply clicking the best response of the options the AI presented them, which appeared beside their customer chat. This had the bonus effect of further training the AI on the best agent responses.
As a result of testing out the application of this AI automation, the telecommunications company was able to automate an impressive 30 percent of its customer service cases -- saving them an incredible 34,000 hours of customer service floor time per year. That’s the equivalent of an 18-person team! This then freed up Telia’s human agents to concentrate on the more complex and rewarding cases that would bring true customer satisfaction and happiness.
Take away >> AI automation gives telecommunications teams the gift of breathing room, freeing them from boring, repetitive tasks and allowing them to put their focus where it can really make a difference in customer interactions. The end result is not only happier customers, but happier, speedier, more effective agents.
7. Customer-obsessed teams have excellent communication skills
Employees in customer support roles must communicate effectively to customers to first understand the reason the customer is contacting the company, and then address any customer issues, concerns, or problems. This requires individuals who are hired for their ability to listen completely and hear the customer out. The customer support representative must understand why the customer is calling first. Then, the representative must communicate a solution or resource for the customer in a manner the customer can clearly comprehend. The end goal of the contact is for the customer to be happily using the company’s product or service.
I recently worked with a smaller organisation to review the customer service practices of their support team. One team member in particular, Roger, had excellent technical skills and problem-solving skills, however, his communication skills left many customers confused and more frustrated. Customers and other teams complained to his manager, Ray, about Roger’s lack of communication skills with customers.
I worked with the team on effective customer contact skills, and had an individual coaching session with Roger. He freely admitted he hated interacting with customers, although he loved the technical aspect of the job. I worked with Roger on more customer friendly wording for most frequent customer issues. I also recommended to Ray that Roger be moved to a role (for example internal consultant to other customer support representatives) where his technical expertise would be an asset, and team members with excellent communication skills would interact directly with customers. A winning solution for the team with a goal of customer obsessed problem solving and customer service!
Take away >> Particularly in telecommunications customer service, where upselling is a huge part of the job, it is important to ensure that any agents interacting with your customers have excellent communication skills. The ones that don’t should be moved to a non-customer-facing role where their skills are better highlighted.
As we can see, customer obsession doesn’t require a huge shift in mindset or daily actions. Rather, it’s the sum of small adjustments in habits and attitudes -- along with some handy AI-fueled help -- that can make a big difference to otherwise overwhelmed telecommunications support teams.
Renée Evenson is a business consultant and writer specializing in organizational psychology in the workplace—the roles and behaviors between customers, employees, and management. Please visit Renée’s website www.reneeevenson.com, where you read excerpts of her books.
Donna Earl provides customer service training for service desks, tech support and engineers. She works globally with organizations to help engineers and service desks provide outstanding customer service and user satisfaction. She’s a non-technical person, so relates to the frustrated end user and also the agent overwhelmed by an 8 hour day at the screen. To relax she looks out on San Francisco Bay, or plays a vintage mini pachinko game at her desk. Donna is a connoisseur of great customer service and understands it takes an evolved human to provide it. Her idea of a good time is teaching customer service. www.HelpDeskCoach.com
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