How to Implement Effective Call Ownership to Improve Your Customer Service

Published on:

June 3, 2021

Girl outside standing outside with a kiosk phone making a phone call.

What do you think customers value the most in customer service experiences?

Good phone manners? Empathy? Active listening skills?

All these matter, but the research suggests the primary driver of outstanding customer service experiences is ownership. On the other end of the scale, the same study states that the primary driver of negative customer service experiences is a lack of willingness or ability to take ownership.

That’s why we’re talking call ownership today. We’ll be covering:

  • What is call ownership?
  • Why is call ownership important?
  • How to create a culture of ownership in your business
  • How do you take ownership of a call

What is Call Ownership?

Let’s look at a typical negative customer service experience.

A customer has a minor issue with a product. They can’t find the answer they need on your site, so they call you. Employee A takes the call but they’re not sure of the answer, so they say they’ll chase it up and get back to them. They email the relevant department later that day, but they’re on holiday the following day for a week.

Employee B covers their work. The relevant department has emailed them back after a couple of days but Employee B doesn’t know who the information is for.

The customer has called back and spoken to Employee C in the meantime, who also didn’t know the answer. They offer to contact the relevant department again, but the customer is frustrated and asks to escalate it to management as what was a minor issue is now a complaint.

You can see how frustrating the experience would have been for the customer. All they wanted was a quick and simple resolution. Although all the employees involved had great phone skills, they were lacking in one key ingredient — call ownership.

Had any of the employees taken ownership of the call, the customer’s issue would have been resolved much faster and left them with a better overall customer experience

As you can see from the example, call ownership can be defined simply as:

“Call advisors taking ownership of customer queries and issues so they can be resolved more promptly and deliver a better customer experience.”

Why is Call Ownership Important?

Our example above should make it simple why call ownership is so vital for any business where customers can contact them via the phone. Without call ownership, you’ll be delivering a poor customer service experience — and we’ve written all about the cost of bad customer service previously.

Many businesses forget just how vital the phone is as a communication channel for their business in an increasingly digitized world. The reality is, studies show the phone remains the second most common method of communication, following email in first place.

The same study looked at the expected benefits customers associate with using different channels of communication. The phone was associated with the following benefits more than any other communication channel:

  • Friendliness and approachability
  • Ease of communication
  • A good customer experience
  • Ability to easily register a complaint
  • Having a complaint resolved quickly
  • Quick answers to complex questions
  • Getting detailed/expert answers

As you can see, almost all of these benefits revolve around responsiveness, which is a key factor within call ownership.

Businesses who empower their employees to be able to meet these expectations and take ownership of calls will deliver better customer service experiences. This is vital as customer service is key to business growth. Here’s some quick statistics to drive home this point:

  • 72% of customers expect businesses to understand their needs and be treated as unique individuals.
  • 66% of customers will switch brands if they feel they’re not being treated as an individual.
  • 73% of customers stay loyal to brands thanks to friendly customer service advisors.
  • 77% of customers will tell others about a positive brand experience.
  • 67% of customers will pay more for a better customer service experience.
  • 50% of customers increase purchasing with a brand after a positive experience. 

What all this means is putting a focus on delivering a great customer experience by prioritising call ownership can increase your customer retention rate, customer loyalty, customer lifetime value, as well as improve your word-of-mouth marketing.

It’s not just your customers who benefit either. Your employees do too. Companies that invest in customer experience see employee engagement rates increase by around 20% on average. Engaged employees are more likely to deliver better service, with 87% of employees who are happy with their jobs saying they’re willing to work extremely hard for customers. 

All this to say, call ownership is vital for businesses. But it isn’t implemented at an individual level. It all starts with a culture of ownership.

How to Create a Culture of Call Ownership in Your Business

Call ownership is everyone’s responsibility. After all, a burned out, stressed out employee is far less likely to want to take ownership over a customer’s query than an engaged, empowered employee.

That’s why call ownership needs to start with the leaders of the business. Once these foundations are in place, you can implement the changes that allow and encourage individual employees to take ownership of calls.

You can implement a culture of ownership in your business by:

  • Changing the hierarchy mindset
  • A safe environment
  • Training and resources on your services or products
  • Excellent internal communications

We’ll look at each briefly.

Change the Hierarchy Mindset

Many businesses are still stuck in the command-and-control management hierarchy. But it doesn’t work. There’s a reason the market leading companies are the market leaders and it’s because they’re leaving this dated mindset behind and instead becoming learning organisations.

These organisations are bottom-up organisational structures where communications and ideas can flow freely. For call ownership, this means customer-facing staff are truly valued. Their opinions are heard and their suggestions on important changes that could benefit the customer service experience are implemented.

You can see how this organisational structure can help engage employees and ultimately encourage them to take ownership of problems as they know they are valued and supported within the company.

A Safe Environment

Closely linked to the above, employees will be reluctant to take ownership of a problem if they feel like there’s likely to be negative consequences for it. You need to create an environment wherein if an employee takes a risk, they’re not worried about it. They know they have the support they need.

Training and Resources

In our example earlier on, we said the employee didn’t know the answer. How easily could the issue have been avoided had they already known the answer to the customer’s query!

This is why it’s so important to invest in training for your employees. Your employees should be trained and have regular refresher training in your products or services, as well as customer service skills training. This allows them to be the experts of your brand so when queries do crop up, they’re confident and happy to take ownership of them.

Alongside this training, your employees should also have clear, easily accessible resources so they can quickly find answers to less common queries. Knowledge shouldn’t be ring-fenced by particular departments, but shared among all.

Excellent Internal Communications

Many customer service staff are held back by a lack of effective internal communications. They don’t have the latest information they need to deliver the best service to your customers.

Improving your internal communications allows important information to flow freely throughout your business so anyone who might need it has it quickly. 

How do you Take Ownership of a Call?

Once these foundations are in place to allow for a culture of ownership within your business, you can move onto individual call ownership.

There’s a couple of key ingredients when it comes to call ownership and they’re as follows: 

  • Listen
  • Reassure the customer
  • Make their problem your problem
  • Give choices
  • Follow up

It Starts With Listening

It sounds obvious, but call ownership starts by hearing out your customers. Active listening skills and questioning techniques can help you get to the root of customer queries and issues more efficiently.

Reassure the Customer

Once you’ve heard the problem, summarise it to ensure you’ve understood it. Then reassure the customer that you’re there to help them. You can do this with simple call ownership statements such as:

  • “I understand the problem. I’m going to help you find a solution.”
  • “I’m sorry you’ve had this experience. I’m going to do my best to resolve it for you.”
  • “That’s a good question. I can help you find the answer to that.”

All these call ownership statements help reassure the customer, you’re there for them and ready to help as best you can.

Make Their Problem Your Problem

Intrinsically linked with the above is the idea of making the customer’s problem your own problem. Without this vital step, you’ll struggle to truly take ownership of calls.

You can make this easier through customer empathy. This idea refers to understanding a customer’s unique needs and desires by putting yourself in their shoes. Being more empathetic can help you look at issues from your customer’s perspective and help motivate you into giving the best help possible.

Give Choices

It’s so easy to follow the customer service phone script, but it isn’t always what customers need.

You may well need some more time to answer a difficult query or deal with a complicated complaint where there’s no clear guidelines on it. You can take ownership of this part of the call by explaining the various options you can provide and letting the customer pick. For example, you could offer to put them on hold while you chase up the query now or get back to them on email or phone later.

This flexibility empowers both you and the customer.

Follow Up

A hugely important part of call ownership isn’t just taking ownership during that one call, but actually following up what you say you’ll do.

If you’ve said you’ll find out and email, then make sure you do. If you’ve said you’ll call back at a certain time, make the time to do it. Whatever it is, ensure you follow up the problem you’ve taken ownership over. Don’t just leave it to someone else.

Following this call ownership process allows for more responsive and positive customer service experiences and ultimately allows businesses to improve their overall customer experience.

Improve Your Call Ownership

Call ownership is a foundation of good customer service and a vital phone skill. But call ownership isn’t only implemented at an individual level, but by creating a culture of ownership within businesses.

This is just one of the many facets of our business improvement programme that we address. Find out more about it.

About Paul Freudenberg

Paul Freudenberg is a business productivity coach and consultant with a focus on operational excellence delivering improved profitability and business performance, and Founder of Awardaroo in 2005. Paul has set the mission of Awardaroo to help raise UK Business Productivity from one of the lowest in the G7 to one of the highest by 2030. Connect on LinkedIn

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