Don't Call it a Call Center - A Next Caller Interview with Jeremy Watkin


Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR, one of the most respected outsource providers. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional.  He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.  Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership.  Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.


Why are call centers still relevant in today’s age of social media?

Call Centers are irrelevant in this day and age, but thankfully “Contact Centers” aren’t. That single change in word really points to the way contact centers have evolved along with technology and the growing needs and preferences of both businesses and customers. While phone is still king, email, chat, social media, and SMS are definitely gaining steam and the evolution is far from over. That being said, supporting customers over the phone is still a much more effective channel for clear communication and de escalation of customers.


How do you ensure a frictionless customer experience?

This starts with contact centers realizing just how important their role is in the overall customer experience. Many interactions with customers occur because there is friction in the customer experience. Observations gained on the front lines from talking directly with customers along with feedback from customer surveys is a gold mine of insight for reducing friction in the customer experience. Customer service needs to work with all other departments in the organization to make sure those insights are shared and acted upon. This must become a regular discipline.


What are your largest challenges in providing excellent call center service?

From the perspective of the agents, the largest challenge is having the tools, training, resources and support to solve problems. The better leadership does at putting those things in place and having enough engaged customer service professionals to answer the calls, the better customer service will be. From a leadership standpoint, the temptation is to live in “fire fighting mode” all of the time and never step back and find ways to become more efficient and really improve customer service.


How does knowing more about your caller improve the call experience, both for the customer and for the agent?

In a contact center, the more you know about your caller BEFORE they call, the less you have to ask them during the call. Looking up an account and verifying the caller’s name and number takes a minute on a good call. I’ve listened to calls where english wasn’t the primary language and it took several minutes just to look up the account. When you talk about reducing handle times by minutes there is real cost savings associated with that. Besides that, what customer actually wants to spend any more time than they have to talking to customer service? You should see improvement in customer satisfaction as well.


In one word, what is your guiding value for your call center(s)?

People! Focus on your people first. As a leader, you should embody the same great customer service skills that you expect from your agents on every customer interaction. Listen to them, learn what frustrates them and do something to improve that. That will absolutely trickle down to customers.