June Newsletter Results
Listening Skills Number One Issue Identified by Management
By Sherry Redden Evans
Voted #1 Skill.
In the June issue of our Service Matters Newsletter, we asked our readers: From a management point of view, what is the number one service skill that your staff struggles with? The response was overwhelming and the number one training issue identified was Listening Skills.
The roadblocks mentioned that kept service representatives from applying good listening skills were:
- Reps do not take the time to listen to the problem and they jump to conclusions.
- Reps rushing due to average talk and handle time.
- Lack of the ability to listen with empathy.
Several respondents commented that listening is more of a trait and especially listening with empathy which prompted the follow-up question; Do you think listening skills can be learned or is listening a trait, (i.e.- are some representatives not able to become good listeners); or are some representatives just not "willing" to develop good listening skills? (Of course we know that listening is a skill and skills can be learned through the appropriate training.)
Once again talk time metrics was identified as the main reason representatives did not take the time to listen or to listen with empathy.
This was a surprise to our research team that management identified talk time metrics as a major roadblock to listening skills (we certainly hear this concern when coaching representatives, but not often from managers.)
That changed the focus of this article from reviewing the importance of listening skills and empathy to discussing our thoughts on average talk times. And believe me it is a touchy subject.
As a former manager of a 100+ seat service center myself, I understand how important (and required) metrics are to a service/support department. When working with management teams, I often caution them to not get so caught up in the numbers of talk time or using the statistical reports as the primary tool for managing a service group.
I suggest that we reward behavior not numbers. Many times I have seen representatives rewarded simply for "making the numbers" versus overall quality of the service delivered. And I've seen the morale of the rest of the team plummet because they know how the "rewarded rep" made those numbers. And how many unhappy, upset customers called back.
There are plenty of representatives who can make the numbers, but not necessarily take care of the customer's needs. This will have a negative impact on the overall profitability of your organization and the culture of the service department team.
Representatives who feel their jobs are completely dependent on making the numbers verses the quality of service delivered are very expensive (and damaging) to the organization.
It is a FACT: on average 25% of callers will call back to verify or "answer shop" if they feel they were rushed or they feel the representative didn't take the time to "connect" with them to build credibility, confidence and rapport.
When the focus is primarily on talk time I believe that this leads to undesirable behaviors and those behaviors become bad work habits. And that can be very time consuming to management and costly to the organization.
- Talk time should not be the main focus of departmental goals published to the representatives.
- A focus on talk time encourages representatives to assume and jump to conclusions for the sake of time.
- 25% of customers who feel rushed will call back which impacts the organization's bottom line.
- A rushed caller now feels the need to "answer shop". If they receive the same rep on the call back, the caller hangs up and calls again. Think about how this skews the departmental numbers.
- Shift the focus to behaviors and ownership
- Reward behavior, not high scores.
- Rewarding simply for "making the numbers" versus overall quality of the service delivered encourages call backs and dissatisfied customers.
- Managing by numbers only; you lose the human element.
If you attempt to manage by the numbers only; the human element for both the customer and the representative are lost. We create a dysfunctional culture within the department. The "super stars" receiving the most rewards and recognition are probably not the best members of your team. It takes a lot more than "a quick smile" to deliver exceptional service and solve problems, right?