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The 3 keys to higher customer satisfaction

When you engage employees at an emotional level, provide continuous learning, they will want to stay longer with your company and will deliver better customer experiences. While at Microsoft, Dee Nilles was able to drive down the number of dissatisfied customers within 60 days by 17% just by focusing on the three key factors for great customer experiences through the Centrical platform. She explains how in this post.

By: Dee Nilles, Business Program Director, Centrical

The 3 keys to higher customer satisfaction


The customer experience reality

Customer experience is the #1 focus for many companies. Some think they’re doing well. Others believe much improvement is needed. And then there are those convinced they’re doing just fine. Interestingly, many will rate themselves higher than competitors if asked. However, the reality is that customers’ expectations are changing as fast as technology. And that demands that continuous improvements and investments need to be considered to meet those expectations and deliver a great customer experience.

That said, it’s important to recognize there’s more to great a customer experience than how quickly the phone is answered or the speed an email or chat is responded to. To be clear, those are worth monitoring as it can indicate if staffing levels are right as well as the general efficiency of your organization.

NPS is for everyone

Net Promoter Scores (NPS) scores are not just related to your customer service division. They’re impacted by every aspect, every part of your business. For example, if a salesperson fails to return a call, or the website goes down without a notification of the problem, the cumulative result is customers are impacted. And their experience deteriorates. Everyone in an organization is accountable for NPS. It’s useful to measure them, display them for all to see, and look for improvements every day.

This post looks at the three factors that are most important to customers when they are engaged with a company.  Based on substantive analysis done during my work at Microsoft directing customer service activities for its Consumer Support Operation, it became abundantly clear that when measuring the co-efficient associated to a customers’ overall experience, these are the three critical factors, in order of importance:

1.   Issue Resolution had the highest co-efficient of .89 on overall customer satisfaction

2.   Agent satisfaction (how satisfied were you with the person you spoke to) came in at .42

3.   Product/service, recorded .29. This measured how satisfied customers were using the product/service.

If you make these three areas a key focus, you’ll have a better chance to keep up with customers’ expectations, retain them, and upsell to them. Fortunately, it’s not all that difficult to do that. Let me explain.

Knowledge is power to resolve issues

You cannot resolve every single customer issue. Sometimes what the customer wants is just unrealistic or beyond your capabilities. The question should be: Can you still have a satisfied customer even when you cannot resolve the issue? Most people in your position will say “yes.” In truth, it’ll vary. If you can make every customer happy, issue resolved or not, your CSAT/NPS target will be 100%. But we can’t so it won’t be.

The key influences on Issue resolution usually come down to two areas; knowledge and behavior. Knowledge is power. You need it to give your employees continuous knowledge that is engaging, helpful, and “right sized.” Today, more people learn from Google and YouTube, than in weeks of classroom training. It’s short, precise, just-in-time, and just the right amount of information on a topic or task. This is also known as microlearning.

Training is seen in most businesses as a task; something that must be done, not an enablement tool. It’s important to create a culture of learning by recognizing and rewarding knowledge consumption, adoption, and compliance.  When you make training a “personalized journey” and attach to it a sense of accomplishment, you’re going to get improved knowledge retention that will show in your better resolution rates.

Tenure of employees also helps with issue resolution.  No matter how great your knowledgebase is at providing proposed solutions, experienced employees make a bigger impact. Employees who’ve been with you the longest, usually have a higher resolution rate because they’ve learned the tips and tricks of the business over time. And that’s one reason why most companies have an incubation period for new employees, or “step” targets, before they fully engage with customers. Retention is a direct reference to your company’s overall reputation. Employees who are not engaged, recognized, rewarded, or valued, are less likely to stay with your company.

Let me share with you the solutions used while I was at Microsoft.

When you provide on-the-job training and professional development training, you are conveying the message to your employees that you’re interested in providing them with opportunities to perform at optimal levels and committed to preparing them for future career opportunities. In simpler terms, by doing this you say that you care about them as people. When employees feel you are investing in their performance and career, this naturally creates engagement, increases loyalty to the brand, and they will want to go above and beyond in their performance.

So, start off engaging your employees at a whole new level. Microsoft’s contact centers used Centrical, which proved to be a powerful tool to engage agents at an emotional level to change behaviors, improve performance, develop skills, and drive better customer experiences all in a fun and interactive way.

The Centrical platform helps with Issue Resolution because it:

•     Creates a journey of learning – which provides a culture of continuous learning and growth;

•     Recognizes everyone for completion and compliance of the knowledge;

•     Creates mastery in knowing and handling customers’ issues;

•     Provides the right information at the right time for the right reason; and,

•     Increases the tenure of your employees and lets you retain that experience.

Happy employees = happy agents

There’s a direct link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Happy employees’ equal happy customers. Unhappy employees tend to lead to unhappy customers. It’s not quite as simple as that but, as a generalization, it’s not too far off.

Employee satisfaction is a driving factor behind customer satisfaction. Employee interactions set the tone for a positive or negative customer experience. When employees aren’t happy at work, their interactions with customers can, and almost always will, suffer. Over the course of time, this can have serious repercussions for a business.

Employees that are spending their entire shifts serving customers are the ones being yelled at when something doesn’t go their way.  These employees are the face of your company.  It can be a thankless job, and it’s only made worse when the employees are treated like pawns in a game of chess.

From my own experience, it’s a great benefit to find a solution that will drive engagement. It serves to have your employees feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves, more than a component to a metric. There is a real need to give recognition for doing the “right things” on a consistent basis. If you do right by your employees, they will do right for you, your company, and, importantly, your customers.

With Centrical, Microsoft was able to:

·       Reward and recognize individuals and teams for doing the right thing for the customer;

·       Reduce attrition and absenteeism because employees felt a part of something bigger than themselves;

·       Engaged employees at an emotional level so they had a vested interest in their customers experiences;

·       Created a culture of “inclusiveness” by providing regular communication and updates on the business and decisions;

·       Provided control of something outside the transactional and repetitious work of handling customer interactions;

·       Provided a solid and engaging process to Change Management;

·       Ability to provide incentives (points, badges, coins) to everyone, not just top performers; and,

·       Create a progressive and personal journey with purpose and recognition.

The Agent’s Influence

When asking customers “how satisfied are you with the products or services you purchased”, Microsoft learned quickly how much this related to “Agent Satisfaction.” If they loved the agent, they loved the product, and vice versa.

Focusing on how your employees handle product or service questions, how they respond, and react directly impacts how your customers feel about your product or services.  This basically underscores the importance of issue resolution and agent satisfaction.

The more you enable your employees in “how” they deliver bad news, policy/procedure requirements, and educate the customer, the more you can directly influence this aspect of a customer’s experience. All companies I have done work with have some sort of delivering the bad news or handling difficult customers training. It usually starts with “show empathy,” “let them vent,” and then focus on “what you can do versus what you can’t do”.” It certainly makes sense. But can you apply this successfully?

In this instance, Centrical was used to provide real-life scenarios. Most training is about “if this happens” and theoretical topics. With Centrical, we were able to educate and practice using mock call simulations. This built confidence and tripled the actual application of the new information by the employees. Agents were managed through the platform on “educating the customer” as one of the key company values.  Making sure every customer learned something new about a product or service, so they were able to get more value from them. This was measured by having a self-select option which can be a little dicey in results. Still, every employee said doing this made it be top of mind for each and every one of their customer interactions.


When you engage employees at an emotional level, provide continuous learning, they will want to stay longer with your company and will deliver better customer experiences.  While at Microsoft, I was able to drive down the number of dissatisfied customers within 60 days by 17% just by focusing on the three key factors for great customer experiences through the Centrical platform. I was so impressed with the platform’s performance that I now work for the company.

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