Netflix, Inc. provides subscription video on demand to viewers around the world – and so far in 2015 it’s # 1 in terms of subscribers/hours of content viewed/overall customer satisfaction. Netflix has one of the best customer service ratings of any online retail corporation in America. They have lots of happy customers – turn a healthy profit – and do it while operating their Customer Service & Support Contact Centers in some very progressive ways.
When a Netflix customer reaches out to one of their Contact Centers (a mix of Netflix & contracted employees) they’re greeted by Customer Support Representatives (CSRs) who are free to introduce themselves as “captains” on the “good ship Netflix” welcoming callers to the “Netflix Temple of Knowledge”.
Netflix believes that great customer service comes from their “Freedom & Responsibility” culture. Brent Wickens (Netflix’s vice president of global customer support) said in a recent interview: “CSRs have the responsibility to solve the customer’s problem and the freedom is to do it their own way.”
The Netflix “Freedom & Responsibility” approach to their Contact Center culture consists of 6 key elements:
Hire For Personality/Job Fit/Soft Skills
Netflix makes an upfront effort to hire individuals with the right Personality/Job Fit/Soft Skill Traits. The company looks for Contact Center employees who are smart, friendly, enthusiastic, helpful, energetic, reliable, mature, and self motivated. People who can be genuine Brand Ambassadors – connecting, relating, assuring, troubleshooting, and solving problems in order to keep subscribers happy & loyal.
In a recent Harvard Business Review Article Patty McCord (Chief Talent Officer at Netflix 1998/2012) is quoted as saying: “If you’re careful to hire people who will put the company’s interests first, 97% of your employees will do the right thing.”
Market Based Compensation
Market based compensation systems align pay with the outside local labor market. In order to attract & retain top talent Netflix positions the hourly wages paid to its CSRs at the high end of market norms where their Contact Centers are located – anywhere from $13.50 to $14.50 to start – plus bonus/incentives/inexpensive benefits/decent health care coverage.
Consumers are always complaining about robotic CSRs who refuse to deviate from a script. One way that Netflix delights its customers is by not forcing its CSRs to follow that many rules. CSRs don’t work off of scripts or an array of menu options. Apart from asking all customers to take part in a one question survey at the end of the call or text chat they can say pretty much whatever they want.
“We really allow support agents to be themselves,” Brent Wickens stated in his recent interview. “They’re not restricted in any way. We don’t want our agents feeling like they have to say something that’s scripted or feel hurried.”
Since CSRs are most likely the only Netflix employees that users will ever speak to – the company wants it to be a personal experience that customers look back on positively. CSRs are allowed to joke with customers – to talk about movies – and to take as much time on each call as they want. The goal is a strong emphasis on positivity & empathy – and the freedom for the CSR & customer to relate to each other like genuine people having a real conversation.
There’s no pressure to get a customer who calls to add a service or buy a more expensive plan – and if someone wants to cancel their subscription CSRs don’t push to have that person continue with the service.
If the people you hire to deal directly with your customers don’t have the authority (or the resources) to ensure a positive customer experience it’s virtually certain that they won’t be able to deliver superior service & support. Netflix empowers its CSRs with the ability & autonomy to provide the best service possible. CSRs are encouraged to solve a customer’s problem without transferring the caller to a Supervisor or another department.
Netflix first invests in creating a well trained CSR workforce that feels comfortable, confident & empowered during customer interactions. This approach creates CSRs who don’t hesitate to answer questions, fix issues, and troubleshoot with customers – and who feel secure in the initial & ongoing training they receive.
Employees trained with a comprehensive understanding of why customer policies & strategies are in place have a strong sense of what the company stands for – what its goals are – and feel more connected to the business culture. That connection promotes confidence and keeps the CSRs invested in organizational objectives – empowering them to be Brand Ambassadors capable of delivering exceptional customer service.
Managers/Supervisors Own the Job of Creating Great Teams
Leaders play a critical role in shaping & evolving a Contact Center’s culture. The Managers/Supervisors at Netflix are tasked with creating a customer centric work environment that differentiates the company by creating an emotional connection with customers that is long lasting and able to outperform the competition.
The Managers/Supervisors at Netflix lead by example (taking calls themselves) – coaching – providing performance feedback – and fostering a greater sense of workplace belonging/shared values/common goals. Conversations about performance are an organic part of a leader’s work – identifying things that CSRs should stop – start – or continue doing.
Netflix views their Contact Center as a team – not a family – and there’s a big difference between the two. In a family – the last thing you want to do is to get rid of a member. Not so with a professional sports team – which hires & develops talent – keeps the stars – and trades or axes the rest.
Netflix Contact Center Managers are expected to run their operations like a professional sports team – always visioning what their team will need to be accomplishing six months into the future. What specific results will they need to accomplish? How will the work be different then from what the team is doing today? And how well do existing team members match the requirements for what will be needed in the future?
Tell the Truth About The Job
Netflix CSRs have their job performance measured primarily on Attendance & Shift Adherence – and on Customer Dissatisfaction – which comes from a one question survey at the end of a call or text chat that simply asks whether a customer was satisfied with their Netflix service experience. The CSR’s goal is to keep the percentage of people who answer “No” at around 5%. Although there is no limit on how long a CSR can take to resolve a customer’s issue – Netflix believes that an efficient call is a better call – and employees have a goal to answer support questions in under five minutes.
Netflix makes clear their belief that working in one of their Contact Centers is a great transitional job – and that the best thing they can do for their CSRs is to only have ‘A’ players work alongside them – that excellent colleagues trump everything else.
Working in a Netflix Contact Center involves the performance of emotional labor. CSRs need to exhibit passion & empathy on every call – while remaining resilient to the anger & hostility that can sometimes come their way. CSRs manage anywhere from 50 to 100 customer interactions per shift – in an environment driven by targets – while their job is constantly being monitored electronically.
Over time it is a statistically inevitable reality that the demands of this type of work environment will cause Burnout/Emotional Exhaustion. While the Netflix Contact Center work culture can slow down the negative effects of Burnout/Emotional Exhaustion on a CSR – it cannot eliminate them.
Recognizing the inevitability of Burnout/Emotional Exhaustion – Netflix has a policy of having honest conversations with their employees about letting some team members find a place where their skills are a better fit – and quickly letting people go (with generous severance packages) when their performance no longer fits – no matter how valuable their contributions may have once been.
Whether you are a CSR/CSRII/Supervisor or even a Contact Center Manager – you are never secure in the position. Netflix registers a 20% Annual Turnover Rate among their CSRs – an ‘Average Lifespan’ for a CSR of 5 years – and an Annual Turnover Rate 1/3 lower than the US 2014 Call Center Industry Average.
Creating a Talented & Engaged Customer Care Workforce isn’t “Rocket Science”
When it comes to customer service – the consumer is smarter than ever — and has higher than ever expectations for the quality of service & support being provided to them. Companies like Netflix that consistently deliver above average customer service become benchmarks for others—and not just in their own industries — but across all industries. They’ve demonstrated to the consumer what outstanding service & support looks & feels like — and as a result they’ve raised the service delivery bar for all of us.
Contact Centers that practice the Netflix “Freedom & Responsibility” approach to their work culture have low levels of Burnout/Emotional Exhaustion & Quit Rates among their (Above Average) CSRs – high levels of Employee Engagement – and not surprisingly – high levels of Customer Satisfaction.
Copyright © 2015 TeleSoft Systems. All Rights Reserved.
Por David Filwood, Principal Consultant | TeleSoft Systems | People & Process Improvement for Contact Centers