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Tom Hoffman | June 12, 2012

Moving the Contact Center in the Right Direction

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FarmVille_logo.pngOne of the biggest problems with contact centers is the inordinate amount of focus that's placed on efficiency. Many agents are instructed and incented to close out calls quickly, often without fully resolving a customer's issue or delivering a satisfactory experience. Last week while I attended Call Center Week in Las Vegas, I came across an example of where customer service should be headed.

In early 2009, Zynga Inc., a leading provider of social game services, hired TELUS International to manage customer service for players of all of its games, including FarmVille, Zynga Poker, CityVille, CastleVille, and Hidden Chronicles. The contract, which began with a 30-person pilot, got off to a rough start.

Within the first few months of the deal, TELUS was far too focused on the productivity of its agents, including measurements around Average Handle Time (AHT) and other efficiency metrics. However, that didn't translate into meeting the needs of Zynga's players. "Ramon (Icasiano, vice president of player advocacy & service at Zynga) let us know that we needed to delight their players," says Jeffrey Puritt, president of TELUS International, who joined Icasiano in discussing the evolution of the deal with me.

As part of their shift away from an efficiency focus to player satisfaction, TELUS agents received extensive training to improve their knowledge of the specific games they support. Not only does this help to deeply familiarize agents with how the games are played and the features involved, it also helps them to understand the games from a player's perspective.

"When a FarmVille player says they lost their cow, there's an emotional connection," says Icasiano.

TELUS now provides customer service on 25 to 30 Zynga games, including games that are played on Facebook, Google+, Apple, and Android. This represents tens of millions of interactions between TELUS agents and Zynga players. Zynga now has 292 million active monthly users that combine to play 2 billion minutes of games across various platforms each day.

Icasiano says he's much happier with the level of customer service that TELUS now provides Zynga's players. And while Zynga applies a number of metrics to gauge TELUS' performance, including Net Promoter Score, customer satisfaction, agent ratings, and customer resolution, the company places a great deal of emphasis on player feedback, says Icasiano.

"In this (gaming) industry you get unambiguous feedback," says Icasiano. "Either an agent delighted a player (and achieved a score of 9 or 10 out of 10) or you didn't. You need to hit a home run every time."

It's been a real learning experience for TELUS, says Puritt. "A moment of truth with a customer won't occur with agents that are working off scripts," says Puritt. "They need to make an emotional connection with the player and come up with creative solutions to solving their issues."

Changing the way the contact center operates and interacts with customers also means changing the mindset within the contact center. "Fewer interactions mean happier players," says Puritt. "This means less focus on the number of transactions handled by the contact center, which is almost antithetical for an outsourcer."

What I found particularly refreshing in my discussion with Puritt and Icasiano was the candor they shared regarding the initial problems with the way that customer service was being delivered, the dialogue that ensued to identify and rectify the problems at hand, and how TELUS has adapted to meet and even exceed the expectations of Zynga and its players. Contact centers need to be agile and responsive to meet the needs and expectations of today's demanding multichannel customer. Those contact centers that take the steps needed to do so position themselves to delight their customers and strengthen their businesses.

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