‘Mystery callers’ have been used for a long time by companies wishing to measure the customer service provided by their employees. The technique – in which monitors ‘pose’ as ordinary customers in order to gauge the level of service provided by customer service staff – was originally used in the education, healthcare and banking sectors and has since become extremely widespread in retail areas such as restaurants and fast food chains, shops, hotels and cinemas. Call centres can also benefit by using ‘mystery callers’ to evaluate the present level of customer service, as well as help organisations identify common customer issues and complaints. Here are some of the ways in which using a mystery caller can improve your call centre.
1. First point of contact. Many organisations underestimate the importance of having properly trained and professional call centre staff to handle customer enquiries. A phone call made to an advisor is often the first point of contact between a company and its customer and, as the saying goes, first impressions count. A single enquiry that’s poorly or rudely handled might be enough to ensure the caller takes their business elsewhere next time. Similarly, if under-trained agents have to pass on enquiries to someone else, this is a waste of time and resources and is liable to leave customers frustrated. By replicating the first-time caller experience with many different agents, mystery callers can identify whether an organisation is making the right kind of first impression with customers.
2. Waiting times. It’s no surprise that people generally don’t like to be kept on hold for long periods when they call about a customer enquiry – and if it’s a complaint, the caller is likely to be even more annoyed by the time they get through to an agent. However, at the same time surveys show that most people are prepared to wait longer if it means their call is handled professionally and effectively once it’s answered. Mystery callers can be used not only to survey average waiting times but also to evaluate whether the wait is acceptable or not, based upon how the call is subsequently handled.
3. Knowledge and problem-solving. Call centre agents these days need to be far more than courteous – they also need to be able to provide in-depth answers to a wide range of customer enquiries. Customers are more likely to use the internet for general enquiries or to research how to resolve an issue they’re having. If they pick up the phone and call a customer advisor, it means their issue is likely to be more complex and require greater knowledge on the part of the agent. Mystery callers will help your organisation spot areas where specialist knowledge is lacking and more training needs to be given.
4. Over-scripting. A tell-tale sign of under-trained employees is when they are encouraged to rely on a corporate script in handling enquiries. Callers will pick up on this type of response immediately and may get annoyed if they feel their unique customer issue is to be treated the same way as a thousand others. Even when you’ve got competent and knowledgeable agents handling calls, responses can still sound over-scripted rather than natural. If over-scripting is a problem identified by your mystery callers, you will need to implement training to strike a balance between consistency and flexibility.
5. Service integration. Customers today are increasingly engaging with organisations across a range of communication platforms including email, telephone, website or mobile platforms. The most sophisticated call centres – or ‘contact centres’ as they’re increasingly referred to – can provide advisors with software and technology that allows them to check customer history seamlessly across platforms in order to more quickly identify and resolve issues. Mystery callers can test the limits of how effective your organisation is at handling cross-platform issues and whether agents are suitably trained to make the most of the new technology.
Handling customer enquiries effectively at the first point of contact is simply good business sense. By identifying common problems and issues, mystery callers can be extremely useful for organisations and agents themselves, helping both become more responsive to customer needs. Employing mystery callers also reduces the time managers and senior agents must spend monitoring calls themselves, freeing them up for more important tasks. It’s no mystery why mystery callers can improve your call centre!