Blocking and Tackling: 6 Rules for Contact Center Success
September 03, 2019
By: Paul Chaney
This post — part two of our Expert Interview Series — features Thom San Filippo, Vice President of Customer Service and Experience Design, Dow Jones.
Blocking and tackling. It’s a football term that refers to the unglamorous roles played by those on the offensive and defensive lines, but which are critically important to the success of the team.
It’s also a term used in business to describe the fundamental skills necessary to function well — and that includes the business of customer service in the contact center.
For Thom San Filippo, vice president of customer service and experience design at Dow Jones, blocking and tackling means getting back to the basics to ensure success.
“When we work on the next big project, whatever it is, over time we get far away from the core of what we do,” San Filippo said in an interview. “It’s things like hitting service levels, understanding what customer satisfaction survey results look like, asking whether you’ve changed any of the processes in the contact center, and checking on what you rolled out.”
With that in mind, San Filippo shared the following rules for contact center blocking and tackling basics:
Rule #1: Take Time to Get It Right
“Every time you launch a new project or technology and see how it works, when do you come back and review it and make course corrections?” he asked. “A lot of times, because you have multiple priorities, you just don’t.”
He cited the following example:
“We rolled out chatbots in February, but by April, emails were through the roof. People were not getting the help they needed. Even though the containment rate was great in the chatbot, we drove up emails by seven percent, and no one noticed.”
San Filippo then described another scenario where he was given a project on a Thursday afternoon that had to go live the following Monday morning and have everyone trained the same day.
“You move forward with that,” he said, “but four months in no one had gone back to say, ‘Can we tighten up those processes that we rolled out the first day?'”
San Filippo described the struggle between such forward movement and taking time to adjust as “get it done versus do it right.”
“Sometimes, those things fight with one another,” he said.
Based on his experience, he advises contact center managers to give their teams time to make process and quality improvements before getting too far into the project.
Rule #2: Balance Tech with Human Assistance
Contact center blocking and tackling also means finding the right balance between the use of technology and agent interaction.
“Even with the advent of A.I. and chatbots, the simple answer is its still human contact, and you have to get back to that,” he said. “A lot of it isn’t glamorous, but it’s the foundation you need to make sure you’re treating customers well.”
While some would assert that the use of technology will lead to a reduction in the need for agents, San Filippo doesn’t see it that way.
“I think there’s a place for all the technology, but for our customer base I don’t see ever us going away from human beings entirely,” he said. “Technology is great for fast low-hanging fruit — it works well on an IVR or doing simple transactions on chatbots and such — and what that leaves is a specialized, dedicated agent in its place. You’re getting rid of the easy work but, inevitably, you’re spending more for a better-trained high-touch agent to have behind the scenes.”
Rule #3: Give Teams Authority to Ask Questions
“Everyone on the team is allowed to review every metric in their department that we judge them on,” San Filippo said. “They can ask why and come back with changes they would recommend to move the needle on customer satisfaction.”
Metrics aren’t the only element team members can review but customer interactions as well.
“We have experience architects throughout the business who review every interaction,” he said. “Are interactions easy and purposeful, and do we know the next question customers will ask?”
Rule #4: Equip Agents to Offer High Caliber Service
Agents have a better handle on customer needs and wants, said San Filippo. Therefore, one of management’s main tasks is to equip those agents with the knowledge and skills necessary to offer a high caliber of service.
Rule #5: Don’t Chase the Shiny New Thing
“All the cool stuff out there we all want — new technologies and such — must be a means to an end,” according to San Filippo. “It’s one-to-one human interaction that makes the real difference, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.”
Rule #6: Make the Customer the Center of Every Decision
San Filippo’s last blocking and tackling rule: Make the customer the center of every decision.
“It’s amazing how many meetings I have where people don’t start with who’s your customer and what are they inclined to do?” he said. “Every decision should start with the customer and then work its way outwards from there.”
For Thom San Filippo, the essence of customer service success in the contact center lies with the basics — blocking and tackling. That includes taking time to make necessary adjustments, balancing technology with agent interactions, giving teams the authority to ask questions, equipping agents to offer quality service, not being distracted by the latest tech, and, most of all, keeping the customer at the center of every decision.
If you need help in any of those areas, turn to an outsourcer that understands the importance of getting back to basics: Transparent BPO. We specialize in providing customized solutions, quality service, and transparency you can trust. Give us a call today to learn how we can help you.