Calibration Sessions

One of the best, most valuable activities you can ever do with your people are “calibration sessions”.

In call centers, you listen to some recorded calls (it’s also great if you have “screen shadowing” where you can watch exactly what was present on the service rep’s screen) with some reps, a manager or two, someone from your Quality Assurance team & yourself. Invite someone from Training.

You all listen to the same call at the same time & each person writes down their observations (good stuff, bad stuff, missed opportunities, etc.) & then you have an open discussion.

It’s important, essential, MANDATORY that EVERYONE be on the same page with regard to meeting, and exceeding, customer expectations.

It’s necessary that YOU know your stuff, as good as or better than your own people.

You will be shocked at how differently people will view the same call.

(For non-call Centers, see how you can review or observe the same transaction or work unit being processed.)

In my experiences, I’ve found the reps themselves (the really-good ones) to be the “best” at this & the harshest critics.

(“Best” in terms of being on the same page as me.)

Quality Assurance people were (usually) focused on processes & procedures & not as customer-focused as I would like.

Surprisingly so, managers & trainers normally turned out to be the least adept at these exercises.

(These were MY experiences…based on the past & do NOT reflect on, nor guarantee, future returns or performance.

FYI, mutual fund disclaimer.)

Lemme review 2 incidents that were most notable for me…

The first one is when I attended one of the many calibration sessions that my SiteWide Monitoring Unit would regularly conduct with the CitiPhone teams.

One of my managers, Renee DeLeon Sanchez, led the session as we had 3 reps, a call monitor & the Team Leader (for illustration purposes only, we’ll call her “Rosemary”).

The taped call originated from a branch’s CBC phone (Citicard Banking Center…ATM) as an elderly lady could not get cash from her Checking account.

Apparently, the screen was displaying a code, let’s say, “SF 92”.

(Note: Our ATMS used to display codes to customers for “SF/systems failures” & “DF/device failures”.

I eventually got Systems to display stuff in clear, understandable English (or Spanish, as the case may be) when a function couldn’t be performed.

Previous to that, every SF & DF code forced the customer to pick up the auto-dialer phone so we could translate the code & explain it to the customer.)

It was a Monday morning when the customer picked up the CBC phone & asked what “SF 92” meant.

The rep tells her that she has exceeded her daily cash withdrawal limit & around midnight tonight, the system will refresh itself with a new limit. She could come back tomorrow (Tuesday) & withdraw cash.

The customer accepted that answer & hung up.

Simple call, right?

Not exactly.

The first 2 reps absolutely crucified the rep on the call for delivering terrible service.

“Should have better explained what ‘exceeded your daily cash withdrawal limit’ actually meant. The lady withdrew $500 on Friday evening & another $500 on Saturday. Her request for more cash on Monday would’ve exceeded the $1000 per account per business day limit as Friday evening’s & Saturday’s withdrawals all count toward “business day Monday”.”

The next rep added, “She could have easily helped the customer by transferring $ from her Checking to Saving acct and then have the lady withdraw the $ from Savings. Each account has its own ATM cash withdrawal limit.”

Both reps agreed that it was a very poor call.

I added another observation. “She could have referred the customer into the branch to see a teller. There are no cash withdrawal limits when they’re performed with a teller. She could’ve gotten her cash with no need to come back.”

Then, we go to “Rosemary” next for her observation.

Her own 2 reps & I have already said it was a horrible call.

“I think it was a very good call!”

I almost dropped dead. Everyone in the group got this really strange look on their faces.

“She answered the customer’s question on what the code meant.”

*long pause*

“You gotta be kidding me, Rosemary. She did absolutely nothing to help. She didn’t even explain how the customer exceeded her limit. And now the old lady has to come back tomorrow while she could easily have gotten her money 2 different ways!”

But she was serious.

I felt it was incumbent to give a little speech about “satisfying a customers true need” vs. “answering questions”.

I had to ask her 4 times what the customer’s true need was that day. Why did she go to the ATM in the first place? Was she doing a survey about ATM error codes? If this was your Grandma, is this what you would have done?”

I was flabbergasted.

I almost felt like apologizing to the reps for having her as a manager…I was so embarrassed & mortified.

Afterwards, I decided between speaking at length with Rosemary or getting her Director involved so she could coach her & provide guidance.

I decided on the latter course of action.

After speaking with her Director (who was just about as clueless as Rosemary), I repeatedly banged my head against the hardest concrete wall I could find.

Over & over.

The next day, I sat with Rosemary up on her hill & we talked. Nicely. She actually apologized, but that wasn’t the point. I wasn’t disappointed that she did something wrong…I was shocked that she didn’t know any better.

Second example…

We gathered the whole CitiPhone leadership in the Board Room to listen to a call.

The wife on a joint account called about getting a call from her telephone company about not paying her monthly bill. She says that her husband pays all the bills on Citibanking OnLine.

What happened was that he paid Visa twice, for 2 different amounts, one of which matched the amount of the phone bill.

No big deal. Stop the “wrong payment” to Visa & pay the phone company.

Case resolved in less than 2 minutes.

Instead, she refused to help the wife because her husband authorized the payments, not her. (Note: As a joint signer, she has EVERY right to the account, including taking all the money & closing it, even without her husband’s knowledge!)

But the rep refused to help her.

The rep told her to tell her husband to call us when he gets home from work. The wife is on the verge of tears!!!

(At least, the rep could’ve initiated a 3-way call with the wife & the husband, got the husband’s OK, fixed everything & the couple would’ve been happy.)

You can clearly hear the wife’s broken voice as she’s worried that the phone company is going to shut off their service, etc..

But the rep does nothing, other than to tell her to have her husband call us tonight. Not call us now, call us tonight.

Don’t do it for the wife which she easily could & should have done.

Don’t establish a conference call to get everyone on the line & resolve this.

The call is over.

They go around the room…there must be 35-40 managers & Directors there.

“Good call”

“Very good call”

After ~20 people weigh in, they come to me.

“I’ll withhold judgment until the end!”

Everyone says it was a good or very good call. Everyone.

“This is one of the worst calls I’ve ever heard! Forget about all the mistakes she made…pls raise your hand if you heard the wife almost burst out crying.

“Raise your hand!”

40 hands go up.

“The Customer was almost sobbing! How the hell could that ever be a good call? Who are we here to serve?!?”

I reviewed all the mistakes & made sure that the Citibanking OnLine management team corrected the insane procedures they’re teaching these reps. I stressed that despite that, she still could have conferenced in the customer & verified him. And he would be comfortable that this was really Citi calling since his wife initiated the original call & she’s still on the line!

“This is exactly why our service is not close to where it should be.

“Who here actually cares more about the customer than anything or anyone else?”

No one other than me dared raise their hand.

“But, you’re Mike”, I heard.

I gave them “the look…not the one to kill, but the one that your parents gave you when you disappointed them.

Again, I took the opportunity to review why we’re in business & actually said that we should change our name back to  “Customer Service” from CitiPhone so we don’t forget what our mission is.

It’s SOOOO important that you hold some sort of calibration session (use a complicated or difficult situation, be it a call or application or form or whatever) to see how your people, your managers & the organization feel about delivering exception quality service.

Anybody can handle the easy stuff. Customers appreciate it most when you can resolve problems for them or handle an unusual situation.

That’s how you prove their true worth to your customers, be they external or internal.

And, by no means, assume that everyone knows the right thing to do, much less, actually does it each & every time.


As always, thank you so much for listening!

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