How to use behavioral economics in the call center

August 11, 2010

Recently, the Harvard Business Review and blog had a fascinating article entitled “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers” that was written by three executives (Matt Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman) from the Corporate Executive Board. In the article and accompanied blog post, the authors noted how many customer representatives are taught to use a checklist mentality when interacting with customers in order to be consistent. However and all to often, this tailored and low effort approach turns customer interactions into robotic interactions that fail to build customer loyalty.

How to use behavioral economics in the call center
Enter “behavioral economics” or “experience engineering.” According to the authors, such techniques rely on careful language choices to frame answers in the best possible way and its both calculated and anticipatory. Some examples of these techniques include the following:

  • Avoid using negative language such as “can’t,” “won’t” or “that’s our policy.”
  • Use alternative positioning where you learn some basic information about a customer during the interaction and then you use that information to reframe a not-so-great option into an acceptable option.
  • Find a less-desirable option and use it to create a mental anchor. This will then make the best alternative seem much more acceptable to the customer.
  • Determine if your customer is a “thinker”,” a “controller,” an “entertainer” or a “feeler” and then tailor a response accordingly.
  • Instead of saying “you can’t do XXXX until you do XXXX,” say something similar to “let me walk you through the steps in order to do XXXX.”
  • Instead of saying “you should bring the item into a repair shop”,” say something to the effect that you will “pass the customer’s feedback to the XXXX department” or “recommend the customer bring the bicycle to the shop.”
  • Tell you front-line customers to just “make it easy” in order to give them a solid foundation from which they can take action from.
  • Don’t tell your customer service representatives to exceed customer expectations as this will likely create confusion, waste both their time and effort and lead to potentially costly giveaways.

The authors further pointed out that the ultimate goal for all of these techniques is to create loyal customers by solving their problems quickly and efficiently. Moreover and at the end of the blog post about their full article, the authors noted that behavioral economics seems to work in their experiments but they also added that such approaches can walk a very fine ethical line.

Hence, we want to know what you our readers think – especially those of you who work for call centers or BPOs: Are the behavioral economics techniques described above savvy service or customer manipulation? Have you tried similar approaches in your call center or BPO and have they worked? Let us know what you think and what experiences your organization may have had with behavioral economic type of techniques.


One Response to “How to use behavioral economics in the call center”

  1. Contact Bridge on August 17th, 2010 6:57 am

    Good info.

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