Illustration by Nicolas Vicent

Trust is the most critical factor when it comes to choosing an online backup service. Customers rely on the provider’s solutions to protect their digital lives, so their expectations are understandably high for performance, reliability and security. But the key to customer confidence lies with the human factor. Each interaction with the company’s customer-facing staff can help to bolster or undermine its credibility.

At Carbonite, it is a responsibility that is not taken lightly. The company is well-known for its reliable, secure and easy-to-use backup software for individuals and small businesses. In the past few years, though, its contact center has taken center stage for enhancements that have transformed the business into a world-class customer care organization. The customer care operation was recently recognized by the American Business Awards with 11 Stevie Awards in various customer service and contact center categories, and a 2016 People’s Choice Stevie Award for Favorite Customer Service, Computer Software (100-plus employees).

Carbonite’s remarkable transformation began less than three years ago when VP of Customer Care Robert Frost joined the company. Frost, winner of the 2016 Gold Stevie Award for Contact Center Leader of the Year, was immediately excited by opportunities for driving improvements in the business. “We had a great team, but the results weren’t showing what they were capable of,” he recalls. Led by Frost, the team embarked upon a continuous improvement journey that focused on multiple phases: boosting customer satisfaction ratings from good to great; delivering a better experience to employees and customers; converting the customer care operation from a cost center into a revenue generator; and driving a more efficient support model.

An Employee-First Culture Supports Change

At the foundation of successful change lies a strong employee-centric culture. Frost, who began his career as an agent, has firsthand knowledge of what it takes to motivate and engage employees in a contact center environment. “Our No. 1 goal is customer satisfaction, and the most impactful way to reach that is through satisfied employees,” he says. “We want to create an incredible place to work for our employees, but at the same time, we hold them accountable for delivering elite results. The combination of those two things—accountability and reward—is the core of our culture.”

The contact center’s first step toward a highly engaged, performance-driven culture was to revamp the hiring process to attract and select candidates who were a good fit for the environment and who had the best potential for success. For Carbonite, the ideal frontline agent is someone who performs well in a team environment, displays intellectual curiosity about technology, is passionate about helping people, is patient and, above all, demonstrates integrity. Frost believes that being located in central Maine provides the contact center with a great advantage for finding those qualities. “The people here, just by their nature, are incredibly kind, thoughtful and patient,” he says. “They’re vested in helping our customers to be successful.”

Employee-friendly policies and practices also were put into place. For instance, the quality monitoring program was redesigned to focus on opportunities for learning and improvement, rather than getting dinged for errors. Training, likewise, was upgraded and expanded to provide agents with ongoing skills enhancement and advanced technical training in their profession.

Frost believes that management should continually demonstrate to employees the value that they bring to the organization. In addition to frequent celebratory events to acknowledge and thank staff for their hard work, the center has several formal recognition and award programs focused on customer-centric performance.

“It’s the people who take the phone calls and answer chats and email that ultimately determine our success,” he says. “It’s critical that our staff enjoy working here and that they feel that they contribute to the mission. Focusing on that has helped us to yield the majority of our results.”

Customer-Centric Continuous Improvement

The impact of the initial employee-centric culture change was immediate. Customer satisfaction ratings jumped from 78% to 94% in just a few months. “Every operational and service delivery employee contributed to that,” Frost says. While proud of his team’s accomplishment, with 6% of the customer base still not fully satisfied, he felt that there was more work to be done.

Enter the Carbonite Service Recovery Unit (CSRU). Frost’s concept was to create a team of top-performing agents that would act as the customer’s advocate. The team examines every negative customer satisfaction rating—they analyze the case, listen to the call recording and review the survey feedback. They determine what went wrong and then they reach out to the customer to try to resolve the issue. “We try to reach every customer,” he says “While not everybody responds, the vast majority do—and of those customers, more than 80% are significantly more satisfied than when they left the original feedback.”

The CSRU’s efforts are the first step in a continuous improvement process. Everything that is learned from the experience—opportunities to improve products, policies, processes or training—is then reviewed, planned and executed.

“We continually evolve our policies and processes, and update our technology, training and knowledge base based on feedback from those customers—both from the survey and when we re-engage them,” Frost says. “We have essentially stamped out dissatisfaction with Carbonite’s technical support.”

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