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Why the voice of the customer is crying out to be heard.

“If my call is so ****ing important, why are you keeping me waiting!”

According to a new survey by the consumer group Which? being informed that your call is “valuable” while waiting for an agent, came top of the list of most annoying traits.

Nearly half of those surveyed stated that a reassurance such as this was most likely to make their blood boil, followed by being directed to the company's website, and then apologies for all operators being busy.

Richard Headland, editor of Which? magazine commented: "If these drive you round the bend, vote with your feet and take your custom elsewhere. The best companies know the value of answering your call quickly."

His response was a little harsh, as even the most efficient of call centres can’t legislate for every eventuality. Even so, you can envisage the scene up and down the country; managers and team leaders haranguing their agents to reduce their Average Handling Time in order to increase Speed of Response.

But before anyone cracks that whip too hard, it’s worth considering the whole picture.

Speed of Response is unquestionably important, but it’s only part of delivering the best possible customer experience. The truth is that a customer will more than likely forget about the waiting time, if their problem or query is resolved at the first time of asking. Equally, reducing AHT can lead to bad practices, while a longer interaction can actually enhance brand loyalty.

Which is why the Voice of the Customer (VoC) needs to be heard.

The Voice of the Customer reaches the parts, that pure efficiency metrics simply cannot.

While efficiency metrics will always have their place in the call centre, they simply cannot highlight customer issues at the level that VoC can.

VoC delivers real-time feedback from real-life customer experiences in a far more meaningful way. Hearing the actual words of the customer describing their personal experience is incredibly powerful, both in helping to measure the performance of agents and for training purposes.

It enables you to coach agents with a powerful programme that simply cannot be replicated by classroom-based coaching. This spontaneity also means that it registers far more deeply with the agent being coached, and as a result is more likely to be remembered and acted upon.

Real-time feedback is also priceless in helping to improve service levels across the board.

It helps identify the bottom performers, so that you can focus your training efforts. It’s also impartial as it is based on actual customer feedback rather than third-party monitoring. And perhaps most importantly, it identifies issues at a call centre agent level with clear instructions from the customer on how agents can improve.

If your customers don’t know what good service is, who does?

Today you have the tools to capture the true Voice of the Customer through a variety of methods, with IVR surveys being by far the best. (For the full picture see The essential guide to using VoC to improve agent performance.)

When implemented correctly as part of a comprehensive Call Centre Surveys and Insights programme and collected in a timely manner, the quality of the information and the insight VoC delivers is of the very highest calibre and absolutely invaluable for workforce engagement management.

VoC empowers you with the means to measure, manage and reward agent performance, while facilitating service recovery and enhancing the complete customer experience.

By all means apologise for keeping a customer waiting, but if you truly feel that their input is “valuable”, then let their voice be heard.