Five Things That Can Go Wrong When Managing Your Own Contact Center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Your small business is growing quickly, and soon it will require the support of a full-fledged contact center — meaning you have a decision to make about whether to outsource operations or keep them in-house.

Now, it may seem like a good idea to keep your contact center operations under the watchful eye of your own trusted team members. But if you think through this a bit, you will find that this may not be the best course of action.

Here are five things that can go wrong by keeping your contact center in-house:

1. Security could become a nightmare: From a security perspective, managing your own data center will be a major burden for IT as they will be responsible for the ongoing monitoring and patching of all critical infrastructure.

What’s more, there is no guarantee that keeping data in-house is any safer than working with a third party vendor. Research shows, for instance, that about 43 percent of all data breaches come from inside actors. Understand that your team members — even the most trusted ones — may not always act with your best interests in mind, especially when handling valuable customer information. Conversely, outsourcing will provide you the added buffer of a service level agreement (SLA) which will help protect you legally in the event of a data security incident.

2. IT could become stretched too thin: What happens when IT gets overloaded? Nothing good. Unless your employees are willing to work nights and weekends, some maintenance tasks may get neglected which could expose the business to a variety of threats. After all, you can only fit so much work into one day. Turnover is very high in IT, and if you push your employees too hard they may flock to greener pastures.

3. Costs could skyrocket: As a small-to medium-sized business, you lack the bottomless budget of a large enterprise. And this will make things difficult, as there are an enormous amount of expenses to cover related to employee overhead. For instance, you will either have to section off part of your current facility for your contact center, or purchase new space. You will also have to create extra room in your data center, too. Then you will have to hire agents, pay benefits and outfit them with computers, headsets, chairs and customer relationship management (CRM) software. And these are just some of the expenses you can anticipate!

4. Your job will get a lot more stressful: When managing your own contact center, you call all the shots — from the agents you bring in, to the customers that you call. Managing a contact center can be an enormous responsibility, especially when it comes to purchasing new technologies, renewing contracts and planning long-term strategies. So if you opt to manage your own contact center, make sure to factor in plenty of extra time for researching, negotiating, interviewing and managing daily operations. This is no small undertaking.

5. You could fail: With great responsibility comes the unfortunate reality that you may not succeed in your customer service goals. And customer service administrators typically have very short leashes for achieving expectations, and turnover is very high in this industry.

 If you manage your own contact center, and fail, the responsibility is ultimately on you. If you work with a contact center solutions provider and fail, you can simply fire them and re-strategize.

This last part is important. A high quality contact center solutions provider like InfoCision will ultimately come with less risk—and much greater reward.

To learn more about InfoCision, click here.

Key Takeaways From Verizon’s Recent Data Breach

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

A security incident at one of Verizon’s technology partners recently resulted in a massive data breach for the wireless giant.

The data breach primarily affects customers who placed service calls during the last six months. Up to 14 million customers may have been exposed, although Verizon claims only 6 million unique customers were actually affected.

Sources indicate that the data was lifted from an unprotected Amazon S3 storage server that was being operated by the vendor. Customer records were stored in log files, and were spread across six different folders. The records included customer names, phone numbers and personal identification numbers (PINs). However, many more fields were exposed as well like account balances and the Verizon services that customers were using.

At this point in the investigation, experts are still looking into how the data was stored on the server. Right now it’s apparent that there was an access control issue.

“Verizon provided the vendor with certain data to perform this work and authorized the vendor to set up AWS storage as part of this project,” a representative from the company stated. “Unfortunately, the vendor’s employee incorrectly set their AWS storage to allow external access.”

This story is an important lesson for customer service administrators who are now considering outsourcing their operations to third party vendors.

Now, you shouldn’t fear working with third party vendors. In fact, most companies will go to great lengths to protect your information. After all, their business depends on it. It’s actually safer, in most cases, to work with a business process outsourcer rather than to manage your information on your own.

What you don’t want to do, though, is leave anything to chance with your sensitive information. If someone else is storing and managing your data, it is in your best interest to stay informed about how they are protecting it. Don’t assume that your vendor will always operate with your best interests in mind — follow through, and make sure that they are doing so. Otherwise, you could wind up in the same position as Verizon.

To avoid any complications, make sure that cybersecurity is a priority for your vendor before you sign any agreements. Include your IT team during negotiations, to ensure that they are comfortable with the vendor as well. Your IT advisors will know what to look for when selecting a vendor and their input could go a long way in helping you avoid a messy partnership.

So remember: What happened to Verizon could happen to any company. But through communication and visibility, it can also be avoided.

Want to learn more about how InfoCision protects customer data? We would be happy to explain further.

To learn more information, contact us today!

Is Your Contact Center Millennial-Friendly?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

If there is one thing that just about every company is obsessing over right now, it’s trying to market to the millennial generation, or the group of consumers born between 1980 and 2004.  This is the group that will eventually replace the Baby Boomer generation in terms of spending power.

“One of the largest generations in history is about to move into its prime spending years,” explains Goldman Sachs. “Millennials are poised to reshape the economy; their unique experiences will change the ways we buy and sell, forcing companies to examine how they do business for decades to come.”

Now, there are a few things you have to understand about millennials if you want to market to them effectively. Millennials, after all, do things a bit differently.

According to Goldman Sachs, many millennials are actually shunning the idea of ownership altogether — especially when it comes to things like luxury items, cars and music. Many are open to alternative ways of consuming goods and services, without having to own them. For instance, ride sharing services are very popular among millennials right now. Why pay for a car when you can have instantaneous access to one whenever you need it? For this reason, businesses need to think creatively when marketing towards millennials. They may not be as receptive to traditional ideas as older customers.

Research also shows that millennials’ love of technology is reshaping how retail items are sold. Reviews, product information and price comparisons are now easy to access — and as Goldman Sachs explains, millennials are seeking brands that can offer the most convenience at the lowest cost. 57 percent of millennials, it should be noted, will compare prices in-store.

As such, the Goldman Sachs report explains, having a strong brand isn’t always enough to close sales with millennials. Buyers are researching “beyond the brand” in order to find products and services that closely align with their core needs and beliefs.

So, what can your contact center do to ensure strong experiences for millennial customers?

A few things come to mind. Flexibility and responsiveness are both critical elements for connecting with this group of consumers. Millennials, for instance, are the ones who have championed the telework revolution. They are fully-mobilized, and many work on different schedules— meaning they require service outside of the realm of the traditional contact center hours. They also love knowledge bases, FAQ sections and live chat systems.

Here is one thing to keep in mind, though: Millennials aren’t set in stone. Their attitudes and believes will change tremendously a year or two from now, and so it’s vital to remain flexible and aware of their needs. Businesses need build marketing strategies around fresh, relevant data in order to ensure that they send the right messaging to their customers and connect in meaningful ways.

Do you need some assistance connecting with your millennial customer base? To learn more about how InfoCision can help, click here.

Every Business Needs Live Customer Support

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Over the last few years, a troubling customer service trend has been spreading among businesses. Many organizations are now choosing to abandon traditional contact centers in favor of solutions like online knowledge databases, email and chat systems. The theory is that customers would rather solve their own issues, rather than take the time to call in and speak with live agents.

Now, in theory this may seem like a good idea: Avoid opening a resource-intensive contact center, while still providing a way for customers to resolve their issues in a timely manner. In reality, though, it doesn’t work. It just makes customers angry when they can’t get in touch with live agents over the phone. Phone support is a basic, integral part of the customer experience — and it’s not right to take this away from customers.

Aside from the operational complications that will arise if you eliminate your contact center, there are other pitfalls that you will need to consider as well. For instance, it’s very difficult to enable outbound communications when you don’t have a contact center. Yes, sales associates can work remotely — but they are far less effective, as it’s harder for managers to monitor and coach them. Outbound communications tend to work best when you have small teams of agents working closely together as cohesive units. After all, customer service requires teamwork. It’s not a one person job. And when you enable remote work, elements like teamwork, trust and collaboration can all get lost.

Plus, there are far fewer risks from a security and privacy perspective when managing an onsite contact center. This is particularly true for healthcare companies that must adhere to strict Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) regulations.

It’s also worth considering the value of customer engagement — and the total price that a business will pay by not having a contact center. Customer interactions, after all, can be very lucrative. This is the whole basis behind the “customer journey,” or the idea of following a customer throughout their journey with your enterprise, nurturing their interest in your brand and eventually pushing them to point where they feel comfortable making repeat purchases.

If you remove the contact center, you remove a vital piece of customer support — and you risk leaving every one of your customers’ journeys to chance.

For these reasons, it’s absolutely critical to offer customers access to a reliable and efficient contact center — a place where they can come with questions, concerns and ideas. A high quality contact center will benefit the company as much as its customers.

By partnering with a contact center solutions provider like InfoCision, you can stay under budget while still providing amazing customer service. To learn more information, click here.

Top Predictions for Customer Service

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

One of the most important parts about running a contact center is looking into the future and trying to predict upcoming trends that will impact your business down the road. The customer service industry moves very quickly, as consumer needs can change with little to no warning and new, cutting-edge technologies are constantly being brought to market.  So it’s important to always have a finger on the pulse of what is happening in the industry around you to avoid falling behind the competition.

With this in mind, here are some predictions that I believe will be impacting customer service in the near future:

Demand for omnichannel will increase

In recent years, demand has grown significantly for omnichannel service, which involves providing a seamless customer experience across many different platforms including mobile, desktop, telephone and social media. Demand for omnichannel service will intensify even more over the next few years, as connectivity improves and more connected products reach the marketplace. Consumers will expect customer service to be as fast,   simple and reliable as connecting to the Internet.

Cybercrime will continue to evolve

Think cybercrime is bad right now? It’s going to get even worse, as threats like botnet-style attacks, malware and identity theft continue to evolve and become more sophisticated. And contact centers, with their wealth of consumer data, will be targeted more than ever as this happens. It’s going to get very difficult for the average business to effectively respond to the volume and intensity of cybercrime in the near future. For help, many businesses will turn to third party solutions providers offering affordable access to managed services and secure infrastructure.

Automation will increase

Many contact centers are already using automation in some form or another to help with daily operations. The most common examples on the market right now include chat bots, automated attendants and sales and marketing automation platforms — all of which use a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and customer data. While there is growing concern that robots will put human agents out of work in the future, I believe that there will continue to be a need for live agents in customer service.

Planning for change can be very daunting, especially if you are overworked and are struggling to get through your day-to-day responsibilities. It helps to have the assistance of a leading contact center solutions provider, to guide your business and ensure that it remains on the edge of innovation.

A big part of what we do here at InfoCision involves helping businesses to plan for future customer service needs. Our team can help you identify what elements of your customer service strategy are working, and what needs to change.

To learn more about InfoCision, click here.

Key Questions to Include in Your Next Contact Center RFP

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

It’s time to write your contact center’s request for proposal (RFP) and now you are scratching your head and wondering what to include in the document. You may even be combing the Web looking for templates, so that you ask all the right questions.

It’s important to remember, though, that an RFP is an open-ended document. There are no right or wrong questions to ask. It’s your chance to tell the industry exactly what your organization needs, so that you can shortlist vendors instead of spending hours combing through online reviews.

Here are some questions to consider including in your next contract center RFP:

Has your company ever had a major cybersecurity incident?

Given the rampant nature of cybercrime today, this is an important one to ask — especially if the contact center solutions vendor will be responsible for storing and managing your customer data. Unfortunately, not all contact centers offer strong privacy and data security controls. Make sure to get a thorough sense of each vendor’s commitment to cybersecurity, in order to ensure that the company will be capable of effectively managing your sensitive information.

What kinds of legal resources do you have?

A top-tier contact center solutions vendor will offer advanced legal services, to assist with day-to-day outreach issues and long-term strategy planning. Be wary about partnering with companies that do not offer legal counseling, as they will be unable to offer sound guidance —and could get you into trouble with important regulatory policies like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

What differentiates your contact center agents?

If you are in the market for a full-fledged contact center solutions provider offering live agents, make sure to do some digging and find out how much time and effort they put into hiring and attracting top talent. Look for a vendor offering experienced, highly-qualified agents who are capable of performing the highest level of customer care.

How big is your team?

Consider the size of each contact center provider’s customer service team. Smaller organizations tend to offer a more comprehensive level of customer care, as management can communicate and coach agents much more easily in this type of environment.

How does your company schedule maintenance?

Read the fine print, and make sure you have a clear understanding of how each vendor schedules maintenance and downtime. Be wary of statistics that advertise uptime, and look for protection in the form of Internet failover and business continuity. Vendors should also offer routine data backups to safeguard against threats like ransomware attacks and unexpected system failures.

Remember that it’s better to be picky when partnering with a contact center solutions vendor. By asking these types of questions alongside your own, you will uncover critical details that will help you understand if the vendor you are considering can be trusted.

Revolutionize Your Contact Center This Summer

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

It’s July, which means freedom is in the air here in America. As a customer service administrator, though, it can be hard to think about freedom when you are bogged down managing a contact center that is struggling to meet its cost, operational and performance goals. Instead, you may be feeling trapped — and helpless.

Why do contact centers fail? Oftentimes, it’s due to one or more of the following issues:

High Costs: It’s not much fun having to pinch pennies in the contact center, but this is the reality for many organizations. Contact centers can be very expensive to operate, when factoring in the cost of hiring and overhead, as well as capital and operational expenses for hardware and software. Next to the data center, the contact center is arguably the most expensive part of a company, but has the opportunity to act as the highest revenue-generating aspect.

Heavy turnover: Heavy turnover remains a top challenge for contact centers, with the overall industry average hovering between 30 and 45 percent. Many people see high turnover as normal, when in fact it can be controlled. It doesn’t have to be an expensive and time-consuming ordeal.

Unreliable networks: The contact center is responsible for many different business processes, from outbound sales to customer support and issue resolution. When goes wrong in the contact center, like a network or power outage, it can bring progress to a standstill and directly impact the bottom line — especially if you lack real-time network troubleshooting tools.

Legal complications: Contact centers that lack on-site legal professionals are more likely to make mistakes during outbound campaigns and when solving customer issues. Mistakes can lead to costly Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) violations, which can come back to haunt you years later.

Poor planning: Fundraisers need to be carefully planned and executed using refined data. Organizations that attempt to rush into fundraisers without a carefully executive strategy are much more likely to fail.

Here’s some good news, though:

You don’t have to fix all of your contact center’s problems by yourself. You can outsource your department, just like any other business process, to contact center solutions provider like InfoCision — saving you the trouble of having to conduct a massive, in-house overhaul while also guaranteeing improved results.

A contact center solutions provider will streamline every aspect of customer service. You won’t have to worry about things like hiring agents, purchasing or maintaining infrastructure or digging through the weeds with legal issues.

Plus, you may be in a position to downsize your company’s office space and save money on rent. So there are additional ways of saving money.

Ultimately, nothing will change until you take action. To learn more about how InfoCision can revolutionize your contact center, click here.

Is Your Customer Loyalty Program Failing?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Some time ago, your business introduced a loyalty program in order to reward customers who make frequent purchases.

Now it’s time to take a hard look at your loyalty program and ask whether it’s actually helping to boost customer acquisition and retention, or if it’s deterring customers instead.

How can you tell whether your customer loyalty program is successful?

If you have to guess, you are doing something wrong. Loyalty programs succeed when they are implemented as part of a larger, data-driven marketing strategy. They need to be carefully planned, executed, tracked and updated.

Here are some common reasons why they fail:

Poor promotion: There may be nothing wrong with the loyalty program you are offering. It could be how you are promoting it that is causing the trouble. Loyalty programs need to be treated as any other marketing campaign. They need to be supported by fresh, relevant and targeted content, email and even snail mail. These campaigns need to be supported by data.

Too much promotion: On the other end of the spectrum, you may be over-promoting your loyalty program and scaring away customers — forcing them to cancel services, unsubscribe or even block email and push notifications.  The trick is to find a sweet spot, where you are targeting customers just enough to pique their interest and keep them interested in your services.

The rewards aren’t good enough: It could make sense to try and sweeten the deal, in order to generate interest. Perhaps the program takes too long to accumulate returns, or your competitors are giving away stronger promotions. You don’t have to go overboard, but make sure that the program is at least offering enough to remain attractive.

Something else is scaring away customers: We have seen instances where a business is doing everything right by offering a well-planned, crafted and executed loyalty program offering great rewards. However, customers still don’t bite.

When this happens, it’s necessary to look outside of the scope of the loyalty program and investigate external factors that could be scaring away customers. For instance, there could be a miscommunication happening somewhere in the contact center. Perhaps agents are using outdated information or talking points to sell the program to customers. Or, maybe customers can’t easily get through the contact center when they have questions.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to treat it holistically. You have to get to the true root cause of the problem and fix it if you want to see actual results.

Remember: Don’t guess about how to fix these sorts of problems. Instead, partner with InfoCision to receive access to cutting-edge technologies, expert agents and high quality data and information management.

To learn more about InfoCision, click here.

Second Circuit Issues Important TCPA Update

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Running a contact center can be a massive responsibility. It’s a never-ending job trying to keep customers happy, agents on track and budgets under control. There isn’t always an adequate amount of time to devote to the really important things, like strategic planning for outbound communications.

When you rush around and complete tasks haphazardly to beat the clock, or perform guesswork in the contact center, you are bound to overlook small details like Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) protocol — a law that restricts how marketing, customer service and sales teams are allowed to contact customers.

TCPA regulations, it should be noted, are extremely complex. They also change from time to time, which can make them even harder to understand.

One issue that came up recently regarding the TCPA is that of “revocation of consent,” which was brought to the forefront during the Reyes, Jr. v. Lincoln Automotive Financial Services case.

As insideARM explained, in this case the plaintiff leased a car in 2012 and expressed consent to receive telephone calls from a credit agency, “including but not limited to, contact by manual calling methods prerecorded or artificial voice messages, text messages, emails, and/or automatic telephone dialing systems.”

What’s more, the plaintiff consented to the company using “any telephone number” that he provided to contact him.” This included a number for a mobile phone or wireless device, regardless of whether charges accrued.

The plaintiff, however, missed multiple payments and defaulted on his contract. So, the credit agency began calling the plaintiff at the number he provided until the vehicle was ultimately repossessed.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky:

Sources indicate that the following year, the plaintiff mailed a letter to his car manufacturer stating the following:

“I would also like to request in writing that no telephone contact be made by your office to my cell phone.”

As the story goes, the car manufacturer declined receiving any such notification, and so continued calling him. The plaintiff’s lawyer claims that 141 calls were made by a customer service representative, and 389 calls were delivered using a recorded message.

In 2015, the customer filed a lawsuit for $720,000, arguing that the company violated not just the TCPA, but also the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

The case first went to district court, and wound up before a Second Circuit which held that the plaintiff did revoke consent. However, the TCPA does not allow for a consumer to revoke consent when the consent is part of a bargained-for exchange.

What’s interesting here is that before this became a TCPA ruling, it was nothing more than a backend communication issue. Someone in the contact center repeatedly authorized agents to communicate with the customer. We can chalk this up as a bad decision.

It’s worth imagining yourself in this situation, and wondering how you would handle it. Without expert customer service guidance, and immediate access to legal counselors who thoroughly understand customer service laws, it’s easy to make the wrong decision that could result in years of court battles and massive fines.

Should Agents Be Allowed to Work Off-Script?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

As a customer service administrator, you have a difficult task. Your job is to make sure that all of the agents working underneath you behave in a way that is both professional, and consistent with your brand’s identity.

For years, customer service administrators have used scripts to solve this problem. With this strategy, agents are given specific lines, with pre-formulated responses. This is one way of controlling conversations in both inbound and outbound communications.

It’s a strategy that Apple took to an extreme a few years back, by releasing a secret training manual called “How to Be a Genius.” This book — which is given to customer service representatives — uses psychology to help agents interact with customers effectively and amicably. The book essentially programs agents on how to respond to any question.

Your business doesn’t have to go to this level to provide great service, but there is something to be said for using scripts in the right situations (and knowing when to avoid them).

In some situations, for instance, agent scripts are always needed. For instance, when reciting legal terms and conditions, there is absolutely no room to go off-script. Agents must say the proper line at the right time, or it could result in a serious lawsuit. Insurance companies, for instance, are bound by this rule.

In other situations, though, it could actually be detrimental to the customer journey for an agent to remain on-script. For instance, a customer may express frustration about a policy and make an off-handed remark about the company. This is a great time for an agent to stop, acknowledge the customer’s complaint and let the customer know that the team is doing everything in its power to address the situation. What the agent says or does in this situation could go a long way in furthering, or ending, the customer relationship.

In other words, it’s okay for agents to veer of the path and show their human side when it’s done appropriately, and at the right time.

That being said, it’s not something that should be encouraged often. Inexperienced agents should not attempt talking on their own, as it’s an easy way to get trapped by a customer and possibly say or do the wrong thing. There is an art to customer engagement, and it must be properly taught.

At InfoCision, our Communicators are specially trained to handle just about any situation that comes their way over the phone. InfoCision also offers custom script writing, so that you can formulate dialogue that your target audience will resonate with. These scripts can be updated as often as they are needed.

To learn more about InfoCision, click here.