by Mark Jackson, Director of Learning and Development at Affinion Group
The best way to describe the impact that MAGIC® (Make a Great Impression on the Customer) has had in our business is to start from the beginning and share the whole story. Affinion Group’s mission statement is to be the recognized leader in creating, marketing and delivering trusted and affordable products and services that make everyday life more convenient, enjoyable and secure. My job as Director of Learning and Development is to ensure that members of our services, who call in regarding one of their products, speak to an agent who is professional, knowledgeable and caring.
In 2004, all of our customer service training materials were internally created and we felt that we did a good job of meeting our customer’s needs and expectations. During the fall of 2004, we had a client in-house for a business review and we listened to calls together. The client was satisfied with the calls but they shared that there was an intangible that seemed to be missing, a real connection with the customer. We probed for what this client meant, but it was hard to describe, so they recommended that we look at a program that they had used for years called MAGIC. I immediately investigated and found that The MAGIC of Customer Relations Program from Communico focused on 33 points of customer service skills. Initially, The 33 Points looked very similar to what we had taught in-house for years, but I proceeded to schedule a class since our client had made the recommendation.
What we found was that the structure of the program, which included role plays that served as a pre and post test and measured customer service improvements, worked much better than other customer service training that we had conducted in the past. The program breaks down interactions with customers (either by phone or face-to-face) from the greeting to the close and it details how The 33 Points can enhance not only the customer’s experience, but also the experience of the person leading the interaction.
We have also found that these skills don’t increase the time it takes to assist customers, in fact it can reduce the amount of time spent with each customer by building rapport and putting the customer at ease. We then understood what the client meant about making a real connection with the members and we saw quality improve with the individuals that attended the training. We knew that we needed to embrace this new MAGICal culture as an Enterprise. Immediately, we started the process of certifying members of our senior management team, trainers and some supervisors. We incorporated MAGIC into our new-hire training process and implemented a recurrent training schedule to ensure that all existing agents learned the MAGIC Skills as well.
In the past four years, we have continued to grow as a MAGICal organization. Every agent in three of our five business units has now received MAGIC training and we have plans to roll out in the other two. We have 20 certified MAGIC Trainers at our Westerville, Ohio location and a minimum of two certified trainers at all of our partner locations. In addition, we have taken our quality assurance program and implemented The 33 Points into our scorecard and guidelines.
In 2008, we began the huge undertaking of implementing an Enterprise-wide E-Learning curriculum. I can assure you that one of the first courses that Affinion Group will deliver to agents will be a MAGIC refresher. The plan is to build five mini online workshops that the agents can go through at their leisure to refresh the skills that were delivered in the classroom. We will also test their MAGICal skills with pre and post tests. I feel so strongly about the impact that this program has had on our culture that I have also volunteered to go through the rigorous process of becoming master certified. In today’s world, customer service skills seem to be the exception rather than the rule. I intend to continually infuse MAGIC into our culture to remind those that need it of excellent customer service, and to teach those who do not know how, to be exceptional.