Gary Markert, president of quality assurance at AutoProtect, knows how to get into the mind of an agent—because that’s where he started his contact center career.
Now, as president of quality assurance, he’s using that knowledge to train, coach, and motivate agents using QA-fueled data-backed insights.
In this interview, he shares how he’s driving meaningful change within the contact center to improve performance and accountability across the organization.
Observe.AI: How did you get started in the contact center?
Gary Markert: I play the bass guitar and upright bass in a few different groups. I met Jeremy Stout, AutoProtect’s Director of Customer Service because he was in a band. We played together a few times and he was talking about the benefits of the company and how they’re always hiring. I was managing a music store in Missouri and I wasn’t advancing quickly enough, so I decided to make the leap.
OAI: What were your first impressions of the contact center?
Markert: I’ve always had a lot of confidence stepping into any job I’ve ever been. I thought it was going to be too easy for me and I’d be one of the top agents right away. I got humbled quickly. The job is incredibly hard. Definitely the hardest one I’d ever attempted, but I was good at it. I wasn’t as good as some of the monsters we have here though. They are absolute legends.
OAI: Monsters and legends?
Markert: I refer to them as legends and monsters because it really does take a certain type of person to succeed here. They’re grinders. They have a certain mentality and they just get their numbers up. Numbers are what get you results.
OAI: What other traits do your top performers have?
Markert: They don’t let the calls affect them. That’s where I realized I was different from them. They can turn off the emotions when somebody is venting about their terrible situation. They’re listening and they’re helping and they’re solving problems, but they don’t let it get to them. I would take that home with me and sleep with it every night.
OAI: How do you ensure the rest of your agents are on track to become top performers?
Markert: Coaching is a big thing. Observe.AI has really helped out here because we never had any documentation of whether training sessions were being done. Now we have that. But it’s mostly leading by example and encouraging them to use their own personal situations to relate to customers.
OAI: How are you encouraging agents to personalize their conversations?
Markert: We tell them, don’t be a robot. Don’t follow this exact thing I’m telling you to say, but use your personal experience along with our guidelines and rebuttals to present a more natural story for the customer.
Pull in stories about local places they might be familiar with. People really like to hear things that aren’t necessarily focused on their contract itself. It’s just little stuff, but it’s really about being personable and enjoyable to talk to.
OAI: What ways do you help coach for this?
Markert: Not everyone is ready for this. If we’re working with a 19-year-old kid who hasn’t ever owned a car or paid rent or anything, they might not be ready for that level where they’re on the phone and dealing with tough objections.
Maybe they’re a screener that asks qualifying questions first. If they don’t have some years in the workforce talking to other people, they’re probably not ready to sell, and that’s OK. We have a spot for them too. We’ll develop their skills until they are ready for the next step.
OAI: You moved from agent to Director of Quality Assurance. How are you using QA data to inform operations?
Markert: We’re in the process of turning our data into actionable tasks and training opportunities. We’re implementing extensive tracking and accountability measures to make sure people are meeting their mandatory duties and training sessions.
There’s been a huge increase in sales numbers since people started being held accountable for training. We probably weren’t doing as many sessions as we should have before. Now we have insights into our training practices and areas for improvement.
OAI: What performance metrics are you tracking?
Markert: One thing we track is called “Does not respond”. It’s different from dead air or silence. It’s when a customer initiates a greeting like “hello,” but the agent does not reply. They’re literally not doing their job. The visibility we get with Observe.AI is a big factor in identifying things like that and turning them around.
OAI: How do these types of things impact your bottom line?
Markert: There may be cases where this has happened 40 times in the last 7 days with one agent, and each of those calls are costing the contact center 50 bucks. It’s a ton of money and we don’t want to see it going right out the door. We coach as much as we can, but if we see it continuing to happen, then we’re forced to suspend or separate.
OAI: What are some of the ways you communicate some of this data to your agents?
Markert: One thing we’re doing is building out a statistics report, kind of like baseball stats. The managers love it. When it’s finished there will be all kinds of cool stuff we can do, like create agent “baseball” cards, jerseys, and trophies. It will help with retention and our recruiting. It makes it more fun for everyone involved.
OAI: Culture seems to be a really important part of the job and the work environment.
Markert: I was really surprised, in the best way possible, by how high this company’s morals are. I’ve heard stories about other contact centers and they don’t always have the best reputation. Our contact center really strives to do the right thing by customers.
OAI: Has having that kind of culture paid off?
Markert: The benefit is that customers trust us. We try to do right by them and if they unfortunately have to deal with a bad situation, we usually get a chance to make it up and fix it.
Caring about the customer goes all the way to the top too. It’s not just about the agents, the corporate executive level cares too. That’s a huge part of our success.
Interested in hearing more from our Agents of Change?
- Read about Ardie Sameti and his approach to contact center innovation at Accolade
- Watch our LinkedIn Live session with Ken Fausel of Independence Pet Group on Elevating the Contact Center
- Learn more about the Agents of Change program