Customer Advocate: Why We Changed Our Customer Service Titles

Jordan Hooker June 3, 2015 About YourCause
In March our Customer Service Team began a discussion about what quality customer service looks like. Over the last year, we’ve implemented what we call our Voice of the Customer (VoC) rating, by which we evaluate the quality of our customer service team’s interactions with employees and non-profits. This process has helped us identify some of the areas we can improve but also helps us recognize the areas in which our team is doing well. Through some trial and error, we have settled on measuring our team on 4 metrics – Correct Information, First-Contact Resolution, Clarity, and Mannerism.

A Broken System

Customer Service hotlines are notorious for providing low-quality customer service. I bet as you read that last sentence, you remembered a bad experience reaching out to a support line. Just this week, I was on-hold for 35 minutes with my Internet service provider while the agent tried to “locate” a supervisor.

I’ve often wondered, even before beginning my career, why companies can’t seem to figure out what quality customer service is and accomplish it. Ultimately I think it comes down to a few factors, one of the primary being the professional satisfaction of customer service agents.

I know a few of the issues off the top of my head – low pay, long (sometimes odd) work hours, angry callers, and monotony. Customer service agents often feel disconnected from the culture of a company as they are tied down to a phone. In addition, they don’t feel ownership of what they do – they simply communicate information they’ve been handed and move on to the next interaction. All of these conditions result in a typically unhappy employee, and unhappy employees regularly deliver unsatisfactory results. We’ve known this for years, but overall I don’t see much progress being made to change this attitude.

YourCause prides itself on ingenuity – we like to solve problems in creative ways. A few months ago as I watched our customer service team work through a few challenging weeks, I started asking why we weren’t being ingenious about how we help our customer service team provide quality customer service.

Owning It

I won’t forget the first time I had one of those “ah-ha” moments in my career. I had been in a job about 6 months when the company I was working for tasked me with building and launching a new service to our clients. Until that point I had struggled to find significance in the work I was doing on a day-to-day basis. But this project brought it all into focus.

Over the next two months, I thought about this project constantly. I considered the ins-and-outs, tested various scenarios, and spent hours in front of white boards mapping out the processes we would use to make the service successful. At the end of those two months, the project launched and I got the chance to watch my work in action.

I enjoyed that project the most because I owned it. It was entrusted to me and I never lost sight of that. In my opinion, that is one of the keys to success for our customer service team – if they own what they do and feel that their contribution is valuable, they will do their work well.

Customer Advocates

In early April, we made the official change of titles from Customer Service Agent to Customer Advocate. This may seem superficial, but I’m convinced it plays a significant part in changing mindset. Our Customer Advocates are not your run-of-the-mill customer service call center agents, passing along information but not truly making an impact on the way end-users utilize the employee engagement programs of their respective employers.

Over the next few months we will be investing significant time in helping our Advocates own what they do. That looks like:

  1. Creating a culture of ownership – how can we help our Advocates find value in the work that they do so they “own” their support queue?
  2. Training them to better understand how to assist employees, retirees and NPOs – how can our Advocates come alongside end-users to help them understand the features of the system and the most valuable way to participate in employee engagement programs?
  3. Empowering them to go above and beyond where they see a need – how can they be creative about solving problems for our end-users?

First-Reply and Resolution times will always be important, and we won’t lose sight of that. But at the end of the day we need quality and quantity – the two go hand-in-hand in making our team into the best in the business. For that to occur, we must change the negative mindset that seems inherent to customer service teams.

We’re ready for the challenge.