Do You Really Need ‘Passion’ in Your Contact Center?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Most customer service experts today will tell you that “passion” is one of the most critical elements that a contact center can have. But what exactly does it mean to be passionate in a contact center setting?

Passion, in this sense, refers to the attitude of your customer service employees. The idea is that if you fill your contact center with people who are excited and enthusiastic about customer service, and their roles as customer communicators, it will result in higher satisfaction ratings and improved sales.

Just recently, for instance, we saw what passion can do for a team when American league MVP Jose Altuve  –  the smallest, but most exciting players in baseball — helped launch the Houston Astros to a World Series title. His constant enthusiasm, and love of baseball, helped elevate the Astros to a much higher level. As Altuve proved, passion can be highly infectious — and it can galvanize a team and make them much more effective.

Here are some more benefits to hiring passionate workers:

Better conversations: Think about what it’s like talking to someone who is upbeat and in a good mood, versus someone who sounds grumpy. When the person you are talking to sounds passionate and like they truly want to help you, it results in a smoother and more pleasant conversation. The tone of an agent’s voice, as well as their energy and enthusiasm, can go a long way in shaping the direction of a conversation. A good rule of thumb is to trust your gut feeling when interviewing employees. Go for customer service employees who are easy to talk to, and upbeat.

Remember also that the people answering your phones will literally be the voice of your brand. What do you want your brand to sound like?

Faster resolutions: Passionate and friendly-sounding agents also serve another purpose: They help resolve customer issues faster. An agent, after all, can be one of two things — a road block, or a fast-late to issue resolution for a customer. If an agent and a customer get off on the wrong foot, it can result in an argument, an escalation or a hang-up. And none of these are desirable outcomes during a customer interaction.

Stronger teamwork: Going back to the Altuve reference, teamwork is imperative for success in a fast-paced customer service setting. Workers need to be comfortable communicating and relying on one another to solve problems. No customer service agent should be an island. People who are passionate about their jobs are usually much more willing to help others and solve problems as a group.

 

Break the Endless Cycle of Equipment Upgrades in Your Contact Center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Your business is experiencing the same problem over and over again: You invest in a new technology, and then get a notification from the vendor at some point in that product’s lifecycle that it’s time to upgrade to a newer, more expensive solution.  It’s a never-ending process.

This is a huge problem, especially when you like using certain products and don’t see anything wrong with them. Technology vendors, however, have you hooked.

Vendors, in other words, are notorious for their “end of life” announcements. Oftentimes, they will give you a choice: Keep using your existing product, but say goodbye to critical security patches and updates, or shell out money for their fancy new solution.

It’s an endless game that unfortunately leaves customers like you out in the dark.

So this begs the question: How can you avoid the endless cycle of equipment upgrades, without sacrificing your need for data security and high performance equipment?

As it turns out, it’s easier to break this cycle than you may think. All you have to do is outsource your department to a third part contact center solutions provider.

A third party contact center solutions provider will spare you of this burden by removing the need to buy or manage any of your own customer service equipment. When you outsource to a third party provider, you will get access to high quality, hosted infrastructure managed by a dedicated team of knowledgeable IT professionals.

You will save money, reduce the burden for your IT team and improve your chances of uptime. Also, you will no longer have to worry about negotiating with vendors or making tough decisions about your technologies.

Then, once you outsource your contact center, you can turn around and flip your existing equipment to a refurbished technology provider. There are many companies that will pay for used equipment like computers, chairs, servers, racks and cables. So it’s a way of taking your old, expensive equipment and putting it back to use. Just remember to always wipe your equipment of any data before re-selling it or you could get hit with a data breach down the line.

The most important thing to remember here is that you have options regarding your customer service strategy and the technologies that you are using. Your vendors are playing hardball, and you can too—by outsourcing to a dedicated third party contact center solutions provider.

It’s a cost-effective and reliable way to improve customer service and save money.

To learn more about how InfoCision can help you break the endless cycle of equipment upgrades, click here.

Key Year-End Customer Service Questions to Ask Yourself

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Now that we are in the home stretch for 2017, it’s a great time to take a few minutes and reflect on your business’s overall customer service performance over the last 12 months.

Is your contact center doing all that it can to serve your customers and grow your business? It could be time to make some critical changes to your strategy, in order to maximize your chances of success in 2018.

Take a few minutes to ask yourself the following questions:

How healthy is my donor ecosystem?

It’s important to look beyond your bottom line and consider some additional factors when assessing the overall health of your financial ecosystem. Sure, your organization is making money from donor contributions right now. But do you have a strong plan in place to ensure consistent, long-term revenue?

Analyze your year over year donations, for instance, and see how people are contributing over time. You may identify some gaps or inconsistencies that need to be addressed, or patterns that could indicate inflation. Remember that you have to maintain and nurture your donor ecosystem with effective marketing in order for it to keep yielding strong results. Otherwise, you could burn through your contributors and wind up in a serious rut.

Are we using the right technologies?

Another thing that you’ll want to pay close attention to are the technologies that you are bringing into your contact center. It’s not always about purchasing the latest and greatest solutions. Sometimes, you can do more with less. Spend conservatively, and research thoroughly before making any new purchases. Also, think about the team that you have in place and put more attention into building an amazing community of customer service agents. It’s better to spend money on top-tier employees than it is to invest in top-tier technologies.

How can we reduce costs?

With all of the attention surrounding customer service today, it’s easy to get carried away and start spending beyond your means in your contact center. If your department is spending more than it is bringing in, though, this is a problem. If your contact center is getting too large, and too expensive, it will only be detrimental to your organization in the long run.

Many businesses are choosing to improve their contact centers by outsourcing to third party solutions providers offering cutting-edge technologies, hosted infrastructure and premium agents. It’s a way of guaranteeing success, without spending too much on a single department.

It’s a risk-free and cost-effective approach to customer service—and one that is guaranteed to produce stronger results for your business.

To learn more about how your business can benefit from outsourcing customer service to a third party contact center solutions provider, click here.

What is an Omnichannel Contact Center?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

“Omnichannel” engagement is now a top buzzword in customer service, and a term that every business leader should know heading into 2018.

Many people, however, are still in the dark about omnichannel engagement. What exactly is omnichannel, and why is it so important?

Omnichannel refers to a type of cross-channel system that provides a consistent shopping experience across all online, mobile, telephone and retail locations. For example, a customer may walk into a retail store, look at an item and then use his or her smartphone to conduct research before making a purchase. During the process, that customer may move in between the company’s website and application. He or she may also converse with a customer service agent via live chat or a retail employee.

The reason why so many businesses are implementing omnichannel strategies is because omnichannel has been proven to boost revenues. According to one study, companies that use omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, compared to 33 percent of companies that have weak omnichannel engagement.

What’s more, an overwhelming 87 percent of customers think that brands need to do a better job of providing seamless experiences.

A strong omnichannel customer service strategy is one that is…

Data-driven: Data should be collected at every touch point in the customer journey — meaning every time a customer interacts with a brand either online or in person. This data must be processed, analyzed and shared in a centralized database. By using data, companies can create shopping experiences that are more personalized and targeted.

Completely seamless: Many businesses today have touchpoints that are highly-fragmented meaning there is little correlation between things like mobile applications, websites and retail stores. Omnichannel contact centers solve this by using real-time data sharing and analysis, strong inter-agent communication and high quality Web and network services. The end result is a shopping experience that is completely seamless, and capable of moving along with a customer across each channel without missing a beat.

Fully-functioning: Omnichannel environments are actually quite fragile, meaning they take a great deal of oversight and maintenance. If one point goes down, like a mobile app, it could negatively impact the shopping experience and cause customers to look elsewhere for answers. As such, many businesses are now outsourcing their omnichannel services to third party contact center solutions providers that have the resources in place to effectively manage them. Third party solutions providers offer top-of-the line infrastructure, experienced and well-trained agents and advanced reporting and analytics capabilities. It’s much easier, and more effective, to outsource your omnichannel service instead of trying to maintain it on your own. This is especially true for small teams that lack the budget to hire top-tier agents or maintain their own contact centers.

 

Tips For Sending Customer Service Surveys

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

We’ve all been there as a customer: You wait 45 minutes to speak with a service representative, resolve your issue and hang up the phone only to then think of something that you really wanted to say to the agent.

The last thing you would do, though, is dial back in to submit your feedback or send an email that may or may not get returned.

For this reason, customer service surveys serve a very important purpose. They offer customers a way to organize their thoughts after a customer service interaction. And if they are processed in the right way, customer service surveys can provide remarkable insight into what customers are actually experiencing during their journeys.

Let’s be honest: There are some things that are easier to say in a survey than to another person. Some people, in other words, are afraid of getting agents in trouble. But in a survey, customers tend to be much more straightforward about their thoughts and opinions.

Here are some tips that you can use to maximize the value that you get out of customer service surveys:

Always ask customers if they want a survey: This is a basic courtesy. No customer should ever have to ask for a customer service survey. A service representative should always offer a survey at the end of a conversation. It’s a way of showing the customer that you care about their thoughts and opinions, and are actively concerned about making the department more customer-centric. Plus, if you offer a customer service survey you can reduce the likelihood that the customer will sound off on social media. A survey can be a great outlet for a frustrated customer to vent or offer feedback.

Timing is critical: Always send a customer service survey right after a real-time interaction, when a customer’s thoughts will be fresh in his or her mind. A customer is much more likely to respond within 10 minutes of receiving a survey, as opposed to an  hour or day later. The sooner you send a survey, the more comprehensive and honest the customer’s feedback will be.  

Always offer open-ended responses: Surveys need to have more than just a number-based rating system. This data can be useful, but the real value of a survey comes in open-ended response forms. This is where customers can offer their most honest feedback. Customers will also appreciate the opportunity to leverage their own unique thoughts. It’s a way of personalizing the survey for the customer.

Create an in-house think tank: Once surveys come in, they need to be processed and read. This takes time. Consider creating a special customer service think tank, whose sole job will be to listen to customer service complaints and devise new strategies for making them happy.

 

How AI is Changing Customer Service

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Your business is now at a crossroads with its information and technology management strategy: You can either keep doing what you have been, and experience yet another year of mediocre growth, or you can explore what artificial intelligence has to offer and launch ahead of your competitors.

It’s difficult to convey the amazing potential that AI has to offer. This low-risk, high-reward technology, which has been in development for decades, is now at a point where it’s commercially available, affordable and extremely powerful. If implemented correctly, AI could completely transform your customer service department.

But what exactly is AI, and how is it changing customer service for the better?

In layman’s terms, AI refers to the ability for computers to handle tasks that would otherwise require human intervention. AI is the main engine behind enterprise automation.

It’s important to understand that AI can be broken down into two categories including:

Machine learning: This involves using multiple, extremely powerful computers to process and interpret data. Machine learning is used for things like making software smarter and more effective, organizing information and uncovering key consumer trends and patterns.

Natural language processing: Natural language processing refers to a machine’s ability to process human speech in real time and respond in intelligent and accurate ways. Simply put, natural language processing lets computers have live conversations with customers.

One of the most popular and effective ways to use artificial intelligence in the contact center is by creating chatbots, or automated assistants. Chatbots can live in social media channels, websites and inside of apps. You can either build your own chatbots, or purchase customized models from third party technology providers.

According to one study, the global chatbot market will reach $1.23 billion by 2025. So this is a  major technology that just about everyone is talking about. Chatbots make customer service teams much more efficient. And they are much more affordable than hiring additional agents.

Consider this: One agent, equipped with 10 customer service chatbots, can do the job of 10 different people at once.

AI is also being used to streamline manual tasks in sales and automation. Now there are platforms available that handle complex, time-consuming marketing and sales processes—saving agents time, and drastically improving results.

When it comes to AI, remember: Don’t fear this technology. Respect it, and know that it has game-changing capabilities. But don’t be afraid to use it in your enterprise.

One way to use AI is to partner with a third party contact center solutions provider offering advanced, next-generation technologies. For more information on how to get started, click here.

 

How to Make Your Data Work Harder Next Year

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Businesses today are already producing an unfathomable amount of data. But in many ways, the data revolution is just getting started. We haven’t even scratched the surface of what the future will bring in terms of information collection and management.

According to one study, the world will produce 180 Zettabytes — or 180 trillion gigabytes — of data annually by 2025. To put this in perspective, in 2015 there was a total of just 10 Zettabytes of data. And in 2020, there will only be 44 Zettabytes generated. So at a certain point, we expect this figure will scale considerably.

One of the main reasons why data generation keeps increasing is because the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly expanding. More and more devices are becoming IP-enabled, and in the process they are providing remarkable insight about consumer habits and preferences as well as backend processes.

While almost all businesses are collecting data, though, many are failing to maximize its effectiveness. In many cases, data is stagnating inside of databases instead of being put to use — a situation that isn’t just wasteful, but actually very risky. Simply collecting data and not using it will only eat into your server capacity, increasing operating costs and the chances of getting hit with a data breach.

If this describes your company, then one of your main goals heading into 2018 should be to improve the way that you process, distribute and store information. It’s time to make your data work harder for your company.

So, how do you do this? The first step is to improve communication across the various parts of your business. For instance, your marketing, sales and customer service departments are probably all collecting data in some form or another, from websites, social channels and email marketing systems. But are they sharing this information?

The trick is to stop siloing information between departments. Instead, pump your customer information into one centralized internal database that each department can use to better understand its customers’ needs. The end result should be a system where the right messaging is distributed to the right customer at the correct point in the sales funnel.

Of course, the easiest way to streamline data management is to outsource your customer service department to a third party solutions provider offering data-driven strategy. Third party contact center solutions providers can offer the infrastructure, and experts that are needed to process and interpret the information that is being collected.

With the right team in place, equipped with a data-driven strategy, your business will be able to understand its customers’ needs much more effectively. To learn more about how InfoCision can help, click here.

Three Hard-Hitting Customer Service Questions

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

As an executive, it’s your job to make the difficult decisions that will impact the future of your organization. Team members come to you looking for answers, and so it’s your job to know what buttons you should press, and when.

Sometimes, this can be very difficult — especially when difficult customer service questions arise that can have a major impact on your company’s bottom line.

With this in mind, here are some hot button issues in customer service that you should spend some time thinking about, so you can be prepared to handle them when they arise.

  1. Is it necessary to have a dedicated contact center? Let’s face it: Contact centers are expensive. There is no getting around it. When you factor in costs associated with staffing, overhead, technology investment and more, the expenses can really pile up. And if your department is costing more than it is bringing in, this is a problem.

As such, you may be wondering whether it’s necessary to have a contact center at all. Some companies, in other words, are now abandoning their contact centers in favor of fully-automated solutions. Ultimately, this is a bad idea. Take our advice. Self service is great for some processes, but it’s not a good idea to make it harder for customers to get in touch with representatives when they are needed. Customers should always have a direct channel to service representatives. When this goes away, they can get very upset — and take their business to competitors.

  1. How important is artificial intelligence (AI)? Right now, everyone in business is talking about the rise of AI. Heading into 2018, AI is one of the hottest technologies on the market. But does your business really need it?

The truth is that AI is something you should seriously consider. And it’s not that hard to obtain. Many companies are now offering AI-based platforms that streamline business processes like sales, marketing and customer service. AI can help automate your customer service operations, reducing time waste and driving stronger returns.  Plus, all of your competitors are most likely investing in it—so this is not something you should pass on in 2018.

  1. Should the C-suite take part in customer service strategizing? Is customer service something you should even be taking part in? Or should you leave it to other experts so that you can focus on more pressing priorities?

Think about how a general manager works in sports. Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees, for instance, does not get too involved in daily on-field issues concerning his players. He leaves this up to his coaching staff. Still, he is heavily involved in planning and strategizing at a higher level.

You can take this same approach by outsourcing your department to a third party contact center solutions provider. In this type of environment, you can still remain active and take part in strategizing, without having to get too wrapped up in making sure your customers are satisfied and the department is operating correctly.

 

How Third Party Contact Centers Provide Business Continuity

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Hurricane season may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean we are in the clear. Winter will be here soon for much of the U.S., and with it another long season of unpredictable weather patterns and dangerous storms.

This year, it should be noted, the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting an especially active winter season with several storms occurring late into March. We could be in for a long winter full of snow, ice and wind.

Winter weather is great when you are huddled inside around a fireplace, but not when you are trying to run a business.  Severe storms can knock businesses offline and prevent transactions and issue resolutions from taking place in a timely manner. With this in mind, contact centers are typically one of the most vulnerable parts of an enterprise for downtime.

Keep in mind, too, that when consumers are snowed in it gives them time to make purchases online, and handle personal issues. So it’s vital to have a contact center up and running, and ready to assist them.

For this reason, businesses are strongly encouraged to outsource contact center operations to third party solutions providers offering premium, hosted infrastructure. Third party contact centers are stored offsite, meaning they can stay in operation even during extreme weather events.

This is especially beneficial for companies that can afford no losses in connectivity with the people that they are serving (like law enforcement agencies, utility companies and emergency response teams).

Of course, downtime doesn’t always stem from foul weather. Oftentimes, it can occur from things like human error in the data center, power or equipment failure. Third party contact center solutions providers typically safeguard against these problems by utilizing things like backup services and failover. Plus, if a contact center provider fails to stay up and running when it promises to, that company will typically be responsible for downtime.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the cost of downtime keeps increasing every year, as consumers become more and more connected and expectations continue to increase. What used to be a forgivable offense in the past is now a huge issue for customers, who are quick to seek out competitors when they cannot obtain the services that they expect.

So as you plan ahead for 2018, remember that business continuity is a year-round necessity. Every season brings unique challenges that need to be overcome in order to maintain uptime.  Outsourcing your contact center is the most cost-effective and reliable way to ensure that your company’s customer-facing operations remain up and running no matter what nature throws at it.

When Was the Last Time You Enjoyed the Holidays?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The holidays are here once again. All across the country, business leaders are performing year-end duties and clearing out for some much-needed rest and relaxation. Many people will use the next few weeks to visit with friends and family, revisit passion projects and plan ahead for the coming year.

A large number of customer service administrators, however, will be unable to truly enjoy the holidays because they will remain buried in work. Running a contact center can be an around-the-clock job, especially this time of the year when companies are looking to drive sales and maximize profits from holiday shoppers. For customer service managers, the holidays can be more stressful than rewarding.

It’s possible, though, to take back the holiday season and start enjoying your free time again while also streamlining customer service operations and slashing departmental costs.

You can do this by re-allocating your customer service operations to a third party contact center solutions provider. In doing so, your company will receive the following benefits:

High quality agents: Imagine not having to hire temporary employees for the holidays anymore — a process that is time-consuming, expensive and risky for your brand.  Outsourcing eliminates surge hiring. Instead of hiring for the holiday season, you will gain access to a fully-staffed contact center run by agents and managers who are experienced and well-trained.

Premium infrastructure: It’s not just seasonal staffing that causes headaches this time of year. Infrastructure can also be a major source of stress, as networks can get overloaded with traffic and shut down unexpectedly. This can impact overall sales and customer service, which can eat into profits and reflect poorly on the brand. Outsourcing customer service operations will ensure that your company always has access to equipment that is fully-functioning, disaster-proof and capable of scaling at different points of the year.

Guaranteed results: You ultimately have two major responsibilities as a customer service administrator: Ensuring that your company profits this holiday season, and making sure customers are happy. It can be very difficult to meet your goals, however, when you are bogged down with the daily responsibilities of managing a department. Outsourcing your contact center will allow you to spend more time on planning and strategizing, without having to worry about any of the day-to-day nuances of running a contact center.

Expert guidance: Contact center solutions providers also specialize in offering sound guidance and support for all things related to customer service and marketing. For instance, you can receive access to legal services (to protect against TCPA violations), expert data analysts and outbound dialing strategists.