News & Insight

Q&A With Ted Nardin, STARTEK Ideal Dialogue Expert

The Science of Dialogue: STARTEK’s Dialogue Expert, Ted Nardin, discusses the future of contact centers

Ted NardinHuman dialogue science is the future of contact centers. Genuine human dialogue has a more powerful influence over customer experience outcomes than all other factors combined. This powerful human element can make or break your customer brands. Effective human dialogue is not bound by global geography, culture or language.

Q1. Ted, can you provide a little background on yourself as well as STARTEK’s Ideal Dialogue?
A1. I’ve been working in customer care senior leadership roles for 25 years. That includes implementing performance management systems, QA and leadership development. I began in restaurant and retail and had great mentors; I’ve seen the transformation of the customer support industry over the last thirty years which led me to pursue my own processes and the creation of our Ideal Dialogue programs.
Q2: You have a Chief Research Officer, Dr. Keaten. Tell us a bit about him.
A2: One of the first things I did was to bring in Jim (Dr. James Keaten) who’s served globally as an international consultant to contact centers in India, Central America and the Philippines. He’s a professor of communication studies, whose research includes the relationship between communicative disposition, computer mediated communication, and intercultural communication. He also has a Ph.D. in communication and statistics as well as post-doctoral work at Harvard University in intercultural studies.
Q3: It sounds like Dr. Keaten would be excited to apply communication research to this industry. What are some “aha” moments early in your research work together?
A3. After consulting with hundreds of companies around the world and analyzing thousands of conversations, we found something astonishing. It didn’t matter what country the agent was in, nor what language was being spoken, because the patterns of CSAT scores were the same. There were always agents who were consistently scoring high in CSAT while others were not able to, on the exact same call type.
This was found across not only different countries, but different industries using similar customer service training methods. We knew that there had to be something else going on with these engagement specialists who consistently secured the higher CSAT scores.
Q4. That’s astonishing. What did the company do with this surprising research insight?
A4. We knew we had to drill down and find out what factors were influencing the outcomes of the specialist getting the high CSAT scores. We realized that it did not matter what the issue was coming into the contact center; if the customer’s interaction ended on a high note, the customer would give them a higher CSAT score.
The engagement specialist was somehow able to influence the disposition of the customer that left them feeling positive. They left the interaction feeling satisfied due to how the specialist engaged with them. In other words, the engagement specialist had the ability to change the customer’s mood by the end of the call. Overnight, we went from a research firm to a training firm.
“It did not matter what country the client was in, nor what language was being spoken – one engagement specialists was getting low CSAT scores, the other getting perfect scores across the board. The one’s getting higher results were able to influence the disposition of the customer that somehow left them feeling positive.”
Q5: Ideal Dialogue was a training firm for contact centers, not just a research arm? The training in contact centers has been fairly consistent over the last 30 years: identifying situations, learning technology resolutions, mirroring the customer, empathizing with the customer, reading scripted responses. What does STARTEK’s Ideal Dialogue do that’s transformative?
A5: Once we controlled for several variables (ex. call type) we determined that a critical difference between the specialist getting the low scores, and the ones getting perfect scores, was the ability to connect with the customer and engage in genuine dialogue, regardless of what the issue was or why the customer initiated a conversation with the contact center.
We knew when onboarding a company that we had to start with, “We are going to teach you how to be great communicators.” And selling that to contact centers – some whose margins are in the tenths of a cent in offshore locations – that was going to be a real challenge.
Q6: Let’s say you have a telco or retail customer; how is Ideal Dialogue implemented?
A6: We usually identify the company’s goals and objectives, and not just improving the customer experience. This includes multichannel and omnichannel, AI and bots in the contact center and social. Whatever the objectives are the companies we engage with must be willing to put complete trust in their frontline. If they don’t allow this, we won’t be able to transform their organizations.
“Companies who are willing to embrace cultural change don’t stop at their frontline. They allow us to train the executives, managers and supervisors as well, creating a culture of communication. In fact, we suggest starting with them.”
Q7: That certainly makes sense for these industries. What’s the first milestone in gaining your client’s trust and what happens after the first baby steps?
A7: Once their specialists are trained in the art of Ideal Dialogue, we’re able to provide a proof-of-concept early in the game with our ability to analyze their calls in our science lab, in complete isolation. We can demonstrate to the client that dialogue conversations garnered higher CSAT scores versus those that were scripted. Once they see that, they are more willing to embrace further cultural change.
Q8: What does further cultural change look like and how does it impact hiring practices and training protocols?
A8: We often get asked this question. Yes, you can hire to the skills, but then what do you do if you have hundreds or thousands of existing agents? Especially what does a client do if they have agents who have been with them for many years? We in fact start with transforming the skills and culture of the organization that is then ready to accept the new breed of candidates who come through via dialogue assessments.

About STARTEK’s Ideal Dialogue

Want to learn more about how STARTEK’s Ideal Dialogue can transform your organization? Contact Kristen Kuyatt at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)