Interview with Doria Camaraza from American Express – Part 3 of 4

This is part three of a four part interview with Doria Camaraza, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fort Lauderdale Service Center for American Express.

In this part of the interview, we talk about how customer service ties in with the different types of American Express cards and how American Express approaches the important topics of empowerment and taking ownership of issues.

To read this part of the interview, click “read more” below. You can also read part one and part two of this interview if you haven’t already.

Question: Tell me about how you engineer the different types of service for each different card level. How does your organization or American Express think about what a Centurion card member gets or a Platinum card member?
Answer: What we do in training is make sure that our customer care professionals do several things and do them exceedingly well. To get back to your last question first, we want the CCPs to assess the card members mood. Maybe a child is crying in the background or we hear a lot of noise in the background, and it is their job to make sure it is still a good time to speak with a customer. A CCP might say “It sounds like you might be in an airport, so I will try to get this done relatively quickly.” Our CCPs are perceptive and assess the mood of the customer so that they can best service them during that call. Gauging the mood of the customer is an extremely important part of the CCPs job. Is the customer very friendly, or is the customer in a rush? If a customer is upset when they call, our training focuses on bringing the customer level of “excitement” down, making sure we use the right words, that we apologize for any lapse of service or perceived lapse of service. Ultimately, we want to make sure we are delivering exceptional customized service to each customer.

Getting back to your original question, the different levels of a card doesn’t lend itself to any specific difference in the quality of customer treatment; it might in terms of the benefits associated with the product. For example, a co-branded product with one of our partners might have different benefits than our charge card products and our CCPs are trained to know the difference in products and services for each card and educate the cardmembers appropriately.

Question: How do you empower customer care professionals to go above or beyond standard operating procedure to deliver superior customer service?
Answer: That is an excellent question and something we instill in our employees. There is nothing prescriptive about what we are doing, it is more intuitive. Before I came on to this call I was out in the Atrium and one of our Centurion CCPs said he was having a great day, “I love my job and felt so empowered to serve our customers.” I asked him, “What does that mean?” He said, “It is as simple as knowing my leader will support me to find a solution for a customer.” We want to be sure we are empowering our professionals, providing the environment, training and support to empower them to leave a positive, lasting impression on our customers and effectively serve them.

Question: In a call center environment where different representatives are taking calls and handling them one after another, how do you approach the question of ownership?
Answer: We have ten Customer Care Principles. Every month, we celebrate a small group of customer care professionals in each service center who have delivered exceedingly well and have gone above and beyond principles. One is ”I own my customer’s problems from end to end” and even if it doesn’t fall within their world they will exhaust all resources to find an answer for the customer. For example, a Platinum cardmember who may have a problem reconciling their membership awards account. The The CCP handling the call would asks if the customer “could bear with me for a moment while I go back and look at prior statements and figure that out, I can settle this for you now instead of transferring.” We have moved away from transferring since customers don’t like that at all. The voice of the customer is the most important in determining a positive experience with our customers. They want that first contact resolution,. so, as a result, it may take a few minutes but we make sure we are delivering providing quick answers and solutions on that first call.

In the fourth and final part of this interview, Doria and I discuss what’s unique to American Express call centers, how American Express uses social media and gathers customer feedback, and how Doria interacts with customers in her own role.