Pipeline Publishing, Volume 4, Issue 2
This Month's Issue:
Keeping Customers
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Tit for Tat: Meeting Customer Expectations

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what is being presented; in fact, the customer might be in strong agreement. Attitude simply indicates whether the customer, at this specific instant, seems agreeable, resistant, or indifferent. A customer with a skeptical temperament needs proof, and a company representative might mistakenly think the customer is resistant to what is being presented; when, in fact, the customer might be in strong agreement.”

Winning the Negotiation

Every interaction of a Contact Center with a customer is an instance of a negotiation between CSR and customer. The customer always wants a particular outcome before they call. Sometimes this is nebulous, such as ‘I want satisfaction’, but quite frequently it is very specific. “I think this phone is broken because it is a defective phone and they (the SP) is going to give me a new replacement.” The style of ‘play’ chosen by the calling customer may vary. Some are polite and cajoling, using good will and reason to gain the desired outcome (the new phone). Others are argumentative and confrontational. ‘You did me wrong and I am determined to make you suffer before I force you to give up a new phone or lose me as a customer.’ On the other hand, the Service Provider agent has two goals. (1) Close every interaction with a happy or at least satisfied customer. (2) Do so with as little expense and impact to the company as possible. The CSR must negotiate the smallest effort on the part of the company or least expensive giveaway that still leaves the customer satisfied. How do you determine if that customer really needs a new phone and how do you get them to take a new phone or service that includes a new facility service up-sell with it? Clearly this is not a job in which you would rationally put a low-skilled, minimum-pay or least-bid contract labor pool.

This is a problem in game theory [see earlier articles where we introduced game theory to OSS design.] While this negotiation does not exactly correspond to the prisoner’s dilemma, it does bare striking similarities. It is probably in the class of problems that mathematicians call “folk theorem”. As a game, it is possible to mathematically represent good and bad outcomes and run simulations using different strategies for the different players. Later, we will provide some simplified strategies that frequently win, but first recognize that a ‘process’ however well designed, is not an interactive game with varying strategies and the ability and necessity of the players to alter their behavior based on observation of past player behavior and speculation about future behavior. It is really important that this be driven home. A process implies a systematic, predictable behavior on the part of all participants. A process does not assume or

allow for the players to deliberately sabotage the process… and still expect winning outcomes over the long haul.

This point is important because current best practice and indeed almost all Operations today are governed by “processes.” [Indeed, Six Sigma is all about defined processes.] Example process: “Accept call, gather information, classify problem, if solvable with available information or practice, give this to the customer, or else determine what role/group to transfer the call in the next step.” A script used by a contact center agent is a form of process. “Say this, than this, if answer is yes, say this, if not transfer.” Each group or role has a process to follow and each role/group interacts with another via transfer of one process to another – resulting in a complex but completely pre-determined set of steps. Example” “Customer calls Contact Center, Contact Center classifies problem and transfers ticket to Service Operations Center, SOC determines corrective action and tasks NOC engineer with corrective action. CC informs customer that the issue is resolved and closes ticket.” This is not a negotiation. Only in the well formed company, where everyone cooperates and always fulfills expectations, does a process lead to success.

This game/negotiation treatment applies, not just in customer to agent interactions, but even inside companies, because people are always involved, and every transfer is a negotiation. That’s because different people behave in different and specific ways - not just that they are good or bad employees. Sometimes the act of fulfilling a predetermined process step is a virtual negotiation between an employee and their employee-internalized representation the aggregate company itself; sometimes it is a SOC agent blaming a NOC agent for not responding before their break time. At any instance in the process, is the employee player happy or sad, aggressive or cooperative? This results in incidents taking “bad branches” in what are believed to be otherwise correct processes. But it is the fixed-process approach that is lacking. Bayes Theorem states Truth is the probability of the data given the probability of the model. If the approach is wrong, you cannot fix it with more elaborate processes - trying to fix the process results in the trap of the Copernican view of the universe: circles within circles, within circles. Or processes within processes within processes.

A rigid process looks very much like a game that only succeeds with the application of the “grim trigger”.

“Grim trigger is a strategy which punishes an opponent for any deviation from some certain behavior. So, all of the players of the game first must have a certain feasible

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