When an elderly customer called our Spokane, Washington, customer service center, agitated with her XFINITY remote control, the agent on the call knew just what to do.
“The customer was in tears, saying that her sight isn’t as good as it used to be,” recalls Michele Gifford, Operations Manager for the Liberty Lake Center of Excellence in Spokane and Head of the Accessibility Support Team, which hires agents in part for their empathy and patience. “Our agent recognized her frustration and gently shifted the conversation toward our big-button remote. We told her we’d send it to her for free, and she breathed this huge sigh of relief. She said she couldn’t believe that we had thought of customers like her.”
Providing great service for our customers is good business. Consultant group Walker Information predicts that customer experience will matter more to consumers than price and product by 2020.
We are continuing to take it to the next level with a companywide initiative to transform the Comcast customer experience. The initiative includes the launch of five new customer service centers across the country, each tailored to address specific customer concerns, such as accessibility. The Spokane center is one of our newest facilities, opened in mid-September 2016.
“We get to interact with people and make an impact every day. We understand that our customers trust us to solve problems that nobody else could, and we do everything we can to earn that trust.”
Alan Price | Senior Director of Customer Care, Comcast’s Liberty Lake Center of Excellence
SPEAKING OUR CUSTOMERS’ LANGUAGE
We designed each center from the ground up to create a new, more innovative environment focused on customer service. In the case of our Spokane center — which houses our dedicated Accessibility Support Team — we’ve invested in equipment, training, and technologies to help us better serve the unique needs of customers with disabilities. The investments reflect our commitment to integrating accessible design thinking throughout Comcast NBCUniversal, from our products and services to the desktops of our customer support representatives.
Agents on the team are trained to work with a variety of accessibility tools — including text telephones and screen readers — so that they can communicate more efficiently with disabled customers. Given that the team supports accessible products and features such as the XFINITY X1 talking guide, voice remote, and closed captioning, it’s only natural that our agents have access to the tools our customers use day in and day out.
The right disposition matters too.
“We seek people who are sensitive and patient,” says Michele. “It can be challenging to relay the appropriate actions for visually or hearing-impaired customers when working to fix a problem. Rather than saying no to this customer, we train our agents to say, ‘Let’s pause for a moment and try a different route.’ We want to guide customers versus telling them what to do.”
To make the experience smoother, agents have access to live equipment and TV screens, allowing them to walk through the service steps themselves while talking with the customer. “We prefer the customer experience to be organic,” explains Alan Price, Senior Director of Customer Care at the Spokane center. “We don’t want agents reading from a script.”
An agent’s perceptiveness and hands-on approach can delight customers in unexpected ways. We saw this firsthand when a customer with Parkinson’s disease called the center to ask for assistance.
“The customer had trouble speaking in longer sentences, so our agent boiled down the conversation to as many yes-or-no questions as possible, along with questions that required three- or four-word responses,” Alan says. “When I spoke to the customer later, he started choking up. He said he hadn’t been self-conscious or uncomfortable at all. He was so thankful for the experience.”
NO STONE UNTURNED
Our accessibility team is just one of many dedicated support teams throughout our Centers of Excellence. In addition to accessibility, our Spokane center helps customers manage their XFINITY Home products and services. Other teams specialize in bilingual support, the XFINITY X1 operating system, and equipment repair. This specialization has allowed our agents to become experts in one or two areas rather than jacks-of-all-trades. In turn, they’re able to share this specialized knowledge with customers and resolve problems more quickly.
We’ve also invested in creating a healthy, happy work culture, which we believe is an incubator for good service. Our 80,000-square-foot Spokane facility features an open-air floor plan with plenty of windows, lounge areas for meetings, and amenities such as on-site fitness centers and fresh food markets — all intended to make work feel less like work. The center is in a region with a skilled workforce and a high quality of life, including easy access to ski resorts, lakes, rivers, mountains, and more.
The idea? Everything matters in providing great customer service — from the people we hire to the buildings they work in. We’ve followed a similar approach in siting and building our other centers, which are in Charleston, South Carolina; Fort Collins, Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Tucson, Arizona.
The results since the centers first opened have been significant. In February 2017, 88% of customers who called our Accessibility Support Team rated the experience as positive — three percentage points higher than our already ambitious target. Both this and our first-call resolution score (80% in February) have steadily improved since the opening of the Spokane facility.
Just as important, customers say they’re delighted with the renewed customer focus. “We get high-fives all the time,” Alan says. “Customers at the end of calls are asking for members of our leadership team and telling us how good the experience was. This isn’t something you typically see.”
It’s also created a sense of community among our employees, who enjoy connecting with customers on a human level and solving real problems.
“Our agents are inspired just from the interaction with our customers,” Alan says. “We get to interact with people and make an impact every day. We understand that our customers trust us to solve problems that nobody else could, and we do everything we can to earn that trust.”
Average calls per day processed by the Accessibility Support Team at the Liberty Lake Center of Excellence
Members of our Accessibility Support Team tell us how it feels to help level the playing field for customers with disabilities.
“It’s remarkably fulfilling to work with our most unique customers. What we’re doing may seem small to us, but it has a tremendous impact on our customers’ lives.”
“It feels like I’m part of something greater than myself. I love that Comcast is forging ahead in a field that’s been severely neglected in most markets and is finding new approaches to improve the customer experience. This is something future generations will benefit from.”
“The little things make a big difference for our customers. We’re never in a hurry to get off the phone. We can screen-share with customers who don’t know a lot about technology. We’re empowered to resolve the issue the right way, which feels great.”
Tammy Lynn Smith