The Phone is Still Vital for Your Business

In a society full of tweets, texts and typing, it may come as a surprise that phone calls remain the preferred channel of communication when it comes to your brand’s customer service. Tried and true, customers prefer actual voice communication for a plethora of reasons, but above all else, simply because it is the easiest option when looking to connect with a brand’s customer service department.

Consider this: When you are trying to get a hold of an organization’s customer service department, more times than not it’s because you have an urgent problem needing to be resolved. From a customer perspective, you don’t want to be typing in circles to a chatbot trying to explain your issues. Further, sending emails back and forth is even more time consuming than the chatbot. Yet, if you simply call into the customer service department, an agent is able to quickly look up your profile and guide you to a resolution.

More so, depending on your brand’s target market, they may not all be internet-savvy, or even have access to the internet. According to this study, only 66% of U.S. adults ages 65+ are using internet, making it worthwhile to stay accessible with offline communication.

Reasonably so, your brand’s voice communication can be the distinguishing factor amongst your competitors.  Show your customers that you value them by giving them exceptional live-person interaction rather than a chatbot or IVR system. In doing so, you will create a positive customer experience, and in turn find increase satisfaction and loyalty.

The take-away: Understand that voice communication, done well, is vital to your brand’s success and will be the distinguishing factor between your brand and its competitors. Finding the right contact center partner to handle your voice communication is critical in fostering your brand’s growth.

To learn more on how InfoCision provides the highest quality contact center solutions, visit www.infocision.com

You Get What You Pay For, Period.

Picture this: You’re driving home from work and pondering what to pick up for dinner for your family. To your left, you see a drive thru with those famous gold arches, and to your right is a health foods grocery store. You’re contemplating whether you should spend a quick $15 on some greasy fries and burgers – or, if you should spend a few extra bucks and pick up some nutrient dense eats from the grab-n-go counter at the health foods store.

If you’re vested in providing the best for your family’s health, you’d undoubtedly hang a right and run into the grocery store over the cheaper, fast-food option. You get what you pay for, right?

Now apply that thinking when you’re partnering with a contact center. If you’re trying to cut costs in outsourcing your customer service, you can likely expect to be cutting corners, too.

Contact center pricing directly corresponds to the quality of service you will be receiving; The pricier contact center has higher quality agents – with higher education, which lends a hand to a higher wage expectation, and uses higher quality technology. In short, the price point they charge is a direct correlation to the money they put into their employees and infrastructure.

Sure, you could go with the cheaper route when outsourcing – but then you’d be dealing with the “greasy cheeseburger and fries” version of a contact center provider… and swim suit season is just around the corner.

Build Brand Loyalty with Active Listening

It’s been said time and time again that effective communication is key to any successful relationship. While applicable to the conversations between you and your children, significant other, and coworkers – one of the most important places for this principle to occur is within your contact center.

So, how can something so vital to success get lost in the daily shuffle for your agents? It’s instilled in call center representatives to follow their script when attempting to extinguish customer service fires, yet, words spelled out in a script don’t always convey the proper empathy that your valued customers are yearning – rather, they sound quite robotic.

Empathy and active listening are a duo that go hand in hand – think peanut butter and jelly… You don’t split up combination like that, and if you do, the end results aren’t as great.

For an agent to properly empathize with their customer, said agent must be actively listening to the customer’s frustrations and complaints. Exhibiting active listening in a call center entails asking follow-up questions to fully catch the fine points, not interrupting or cutting off the customer while they express their concerns, and occasionally repeating back what the customer has stated . While active listening may require a bit more time conversing between agent and customer, the customer will always appreciate the extra mile your agent has taken – building brand loyalty and cultivating future conversations.

Coach your agents on the importance of active listening and watch the results come back in a tenfold.

Key Takeaways from Deloitte Global Contact Center Study

Global businesses are utilizing contact centers to enhance the customer experience in increasingly complex ways. Customer choice is behind the wheel, driving contact centers towards greater emphasis on consumer needs and preferences. Deloitte’s Global Contact Center Survey provides insights from over 450 contact centers, shedding light on how business is changing for the better.

 

1.Customer Experience

Now a top priority, customer experience is driving contact center growth even more so than operational expansion. Customer experience and expectations are a key driver for 88% of the contact centers studied in 2017, with improvements in customer satisfaction (46%) outweighing revenue growth (3%) in importance.

 

Today, companies are reporting that customer feedback (54%) will motivate core business decisions moving forward. How will they do it? Technologies such as text analytics and social media listening are improving in quality, streamlining the process of feedback collection. For the customer, businesses view ease and accuracy of information (66%) as most important to future contact center interactions.

 

2.Complexity and Diversity of Channels

Context of contact and mediums for customer engagement are adding to the complexity and diversity of contact center interactions. Phone contact is expected to fall from 64% to 47% over the coming years, with chat and social media expanding as channels for customer engagement. Advancements in technology such as  “chat bots” are predicted to streamline integration challenges, growing to an estimated 16% by 2019, up from 6% in 2017.

 

Survey respondents have a major thing in common: investment in new technologies for return interactions. Advanced analytics (66%) and voice of the customer (54%) top the list of emerging capabilities that companies seek to invest in over the next two years.

 

Contact centers expect web capabilities (29%) and mobile applications (23%) will generate the greatest return on investment. What’s the main challenge to realizing investment potential? Integration of existing systems (63%) for the ultimate omnichannel customer experience, along with budget (56%) and change management (55%) for overseaing company transformation.

 

3.Talent

Focus is placed on improving talent for all survey respondents, citing the use of analytics (73%) and training programs (63%) as the key initiatives towards boosting staff. Outsourcing as a strategic method has reached a state of equilibrium, and flexible work programs are popular in the retention of employees, with 52% of companies planning on undertaking the initiative over the next two years.

 

The Moral of the Story

Maximizing the potential of technological advancements and its integration with multifaceted channels is improving the customer experience for corporate contact centers. Quality of talent is a developing initiative towards growth. And with customer experience at the forefront of contact center executives’ minds, the customer truly is “always right.”

Benefits of Building a Contact Center in the Cloud

As a small- to medium-sized business (SMB), do you have the resources in-house to support today’s customer service demands? For instance, are you prepared to deliver consistent, seamless customer experiences across multiple channels? The evolved customer of the Digital Age expects to connect with companies by the digital channels they already use in their daily lives.

This can be a daunting goal for many SMBs—both operationally and financially. Upgrading your contact center facilities and technology to accommodate new channels and services can be an enemy to profits.  In response to commercial pressures and technological opportunities, a new contact center model has emerged: the virtual contact center. For SMBs and larger enterprises, this model may defray costs and increase customer satisfaction.

In the model, Customer Care Communicators work remotely using a VoIP communication system and cloud-based services. A virtual contact center can consist of many operations, including home and satellite offices, which are linked together and managed as a single site. This allows for greater efficiencies, significant economies of scale and the opportunity for performance improvements.

The model has both risks and benefits, which must be assessed independently by each business considering the option.

Your case for transitioning to a virtual contact center must take into account the following three fundamental factors: customer satisfaction, reliability and security, and platform openness and flexibility. Do your due diligence as follows:

  • Assess challenges and goals: Build a case by examining your current capabilities, plans for growth and customer satisfaction. Look at barriers to achieving your KPIs and delivering great service. Evaluate your existing platform and assess what’s missing and what upgrades should be a priority.
  • Determine costs: What are budget requirements over time? You can subtract hardware costs and add savings from scaling up and down flexibly. You’ll have costs for agents, supported channels and analytic functions.
  • Define metrics: Assess current analytics and KPIs to determine which can apply to a contact center in the cloud. How will you measure customer experience and operational efficiency?

As you assess whether the transition to a virtual contact center is right for your business, consider the additional benefits you may gain:

  • Larger pool of skills
  • Balanced work across locations
  • Widely deployed and managed skills
  • One-time easy and flexible forecasting and scheduling
  • Increased global coverage
  • Standardized application deployment
  • 24/7 agent availability
  • Dynamic choice of outsourcers

While cost savings are the primary driver for many transitions to the cloud, keep these other benefits in mind as well—especially as you look at risks, which can be significant. For example, you may experience increased staff turnover if home workers are not self-starters. In addition, the transfer of knowledge and training can be challenging in a virtual environment. Remote workers will also require more attention from supervisors to ensure they don’t feel isolated from the business—and from corporate values and standards.

If the pros outweigh the risks for your organization, you’re on your way to building your contact center in the cloud.  

10 Tips for Reducing Contact Center Attrition

Once you’ve hired, onboarded and trained a new Communicator, you’ve invested a lot of time, energy and money into their employment with your organization. Losing an associate is a near tragedy, certainly a disruption to the workflow, a decrease in productivity and an expense.

Unfortunately for the industry, average contact center turnover ranges between 30 and 45 percent—with some centers having almost no turnover, and others centers having turnover in the triple digits, according to QATC.

Many factors contribute to churn—from a sense of isolation to job stressors to lack of motivation. Research studies indicate that the rate of turnover varies by area of the country, employment factors in a specific region or city, and by industry. Turnover is much higher in routine, order-taking positions or in outbound telemarketing where burnout is high. It’s lower in more specialized, higher-level jobs and also lower in union environments.

Replacing a frontline employee costs about $10,000 to $15,000, QATC reports. Understanding the various costs involved, contact center supervisors make it a priority to retain employees.

Here are 10 strategies that will help you reduce attrition in your contact center:

  • Hire the right people: This is a demanding job. Make sure you hire people who can handle it. Look for strong people skills, and someone who can remain calm and polite even in high-stress situations.
  • Recognize top performers: Set high expectations—with attached rewards, and clear guidelines on how to merit them.
  • Invest in professional development: Don’t let employees stagnate or become bored. Give them the option to cross-train for several jobs and/or switch tasks from time to time.
  • Provide continual feedback: Make sure employees feel valued. Personalize praise to the worker—and do it consistently.
  • Establish an employee work balance program: Be flexible and give your employees options for creating their own schedules.
  • Integrate employee activities: Create a pleasant work environment by building comradery among employees. Encourage them to work together toward goals.
  • Align employee mission, vision and values: This starts at the top with company leaders. Identify your values and enforce them with your actions. Make sure employees understand the mission and vision for the organization, and keep everybody pointed in the right direction. Hold people accountable for breaches of policy and standards.
  • Encourage employees to voice their feelings and opinions: Get to know your employees. Learn what motivates them and about their lives (without prying). This will make the workplace feel like a supportive community, and help you craft personalized incentive programs.
  • Create a positive company culture: Many of the above strategies will contribute to a positive company culture, which is important for employee enjoyment of and engagement with their work.
  • Provide tools and training: Enable employees to maximize their potential and achieve goals by giving them the technology and training they need for success.

Build Employee Engagement in the Contact Center

As a contact center manager, you may feel you’ve done everything in your power to drive employee performance—from sound hiring practices to training to fostering a conversational culture—yet some of your staff are still not achieving expected outcomes.

You want your Communicators to be actively engaged in driving contact center success, which requires a high level of job commitment. This goes beyond the parameters of job satisfaction, such as salary and work/life balance. Employees must also enjoy their work and believe that they are contributing to the greater good. This feeling of “plentitude and pleasure” is a necessary component of job commitment.

Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a noted expert on positive psychology, is renowned for his influential and widely cited research on the notion of “flow.” He describes flow as a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It’s comparable to “being in the zone,” where even hunger and other temporal concerns are ignored.

Everyone has had the feeling at one time or another. Csikszentmihalyi says people are happiest when they are in this state. This can easily be observed in high-performance athletes who have reached the summit of a mountain or finished a marathon.

A flow state can only be achieved when certain conditions exist, such as challenge-skill balance, clarity of goals, immediate and unambiguous feedback, loss of self-consciousness and an autotelic personality—one in which a person performs acts because they are intrinsically rewarding.

Csikszentmihalyi and his associates have found that intrinsically motivated people are more likely to be goal-directed and enjoy challenges. When people are motivated from within to optimize and enhance their own happiness and well-being as a result of challenging experiences, they have a personality construct that Csikszentmihalyi calls “work orientation.” It is characterized by endurance, cognitive structure, order, play and low impulsivity.

A high level of work orientation is a good predictor of goal fulfillment—more so than any environmental influence, says the psychologist. So how can managers help their employees achieve a state of flow? Csikszentmihalyi tells us that four criteria are required:

  • Clear goals that demand clear answers
  • Answers that require intense concentration and commitment
  • Equilibrium between the challenge and the capacity
  • Immediate recognition after the challenging task has been accomplished

Managers who ensure these criteria are met in the contact center are likely to build employee engagement. Your Communicators certainly have challenges you can leverage. Make sure they know exactly how to meet those challenges, and that they have the training and tools they need to do so. Continue to develop their skills across the organization and recognize their successes in a timely manner. By these means, you’ll create flow in your contact center.

Transforming a Contact Center into an Insights Center

Customers expect the brands they favor to know who they are. They also expect them to be able to call upon past information to quickly resolve their issues. Yet, if companies don’t have strong analytic capabilities, they will have a hard time coming up with the insights they need to meet or exceed these expectations.

To stand out as a brand that offers excellent customer experience—resulting in heightened customer satisfaction, acquisition and retention—requires advanced contact center analytics capabilities, enhanced application functionality, and an omnichannel communications system that includes social and mobile.

With these technologies, contact centers will become insight centers that create new experiences that foster deeper customer relationships and improve customer loyalty. These are the rewards of strong analytics capabilities. In fact, Forrester research indicates that the companies that are able to harness customers’ digital data will increase their revenue from $333 billion in 2015 to $1.2 trillion by 2020.

Closing the gaps

Seventy-four percent of firms say they want to be data-driven, but only 29 percent say they are good at connecting analytics to action, according to Forrester research. The challenges range from funding to talent to access to feedback to fragmentation.

Investments in contact center technology tend to lag since these centers are often perceived as cost centers, not profit centers. In addition, many businesses don’t have the resources to create their own data teams. Another hurdle is limited access by customer care associates to all the channels customers use, limiting full understanding of customer interactions. Lastly, contact center staff aren’t typically privy to customer experience survey results or analyses beyond those directly impacting the contact center, which, again, limits visibility into customer needs. Last but not least, contact center tools are not integrated with other enterprise tools, leading to siloed data and misaligned business processes.

A transformative strategy should include implementing analytics tools, e.g., speech and text, journey and/or real-time process automation, to meet enterprise objectives, such as improving the customer experience to drive revenue growth.

According to a TeleTech report, businesses need to take several critical steps to enable their ability to continuously collect data across channels, as well as test and analyze it to find actionable insights:

  • Map existing contact center data flows: Based on preferred, pre-defined customer experience journeys, identify gaps in customer knowledge that could be filled by integrating data from other internal and external sources.
  • Store data in a centralized customer data repository: Ensure processes are in place so that everything that is known about customers—from attributes to attitudes to behaviors to values—can be leveraged from one location. A robust CRM tool, for example, might suffice.
  • Analyze and model the consolidated data: Orchestrate specialized actions to maximize opportunities, such as improvements to customer satisfaction while also achieving service-level agreement designations. Include testing to support continuous improvements.
  • Develop automated reports and dashboards: Display key metrics pertaining to the various interactions customers have with the brand, as well as the downstream behaviors, e.g., product purchase rates and customer churn, that will impact the business.

As you upgrade your contact center, keep in mind that analytical tools can’t work in a vacuum; rather, they reflect the quality of the data that is applied. They also require human understanding to garner more instinctual insights than the data can convey.

Social Media: Getting the Voice and Tone Right

Social media sites are now an integral part of society. As a matter of fact, Pew Research reports that 69 percent of Americans have at least one social media profile—up from 48 percent just five years ago. Usage has so exploded that it’s moved the dial on customer care from  a “nice to have” to a “must have” for businesses.

Thus, many companies have joined the social media ranks—about nine in 10, according to an eMarketer survey. Although not every brand is optimizing its presence on social platforms (approximately 70 percent of customer service complaints made on Twitter go unanswered), many have their paddles in the water and are rowing along—often upstream against an overwhelming flow of conversations.

One aspect of social media that hasn’t received a lot of attention, however, is establishing the right voice and tone for social platforms. As this is critical to your social success, we provide the following advice for doing it right.

Establishing the right social media voice and tone

It’s agreed that canned responses are anathema to social media. This is a platform for authentic exchanges of opinion among peers. The voice and tone must be personal—but how personal?

Answer this question by first understanding voice and tone: Your brand’s “voice” is its personality, e.g., positive, sarcastic, formal—i.e., your mission statement. Tone is a subset of voice that adds flavor depending on audience, channel or situation—i.e., application of the mission. Essentially, you should have one voice and a variety of tones.

Most companies have a great sense of what these are for their brand already. If not, pin them down by asking the following questions, suggested by Buffer:

  • If your brand was a person, what kind of personality would it have?
  • What would this “person’s” relationship to consumers be like?
  • List acronyms of your company’s personality—what it is not.
  • What companies have personalities similar to yours? How are they similar?
  • How do you want customers to think about your company?

Once you’ve determined some adjectives that define your voice and tone, try to create messaging that encompasses your brand personality. Great examples can be found on MailChimp.

The conundrum for brands is that what’s appropriately personal for one client will not work for another. In general, brands are advised to establish a polite and professional tone until the time when feedback indicates a more or less formal tone will suit the audience best. This involves going through a learning curve with each audience segment.

Striking a natural tone that appeals to customers often requires a lot of research. Bianca Buckridee, vice president of social media operations for JPMorgan Chase, during a panel session at the Wharton Social Media Best Practices Conference, said, “It’s difficult to do. … You have to keep monitoring. … We strive to make it look real-time, but we’re really doing a ton of research in the back.”

Your voice and tone are features of your messaging that humanize your brand and let you take part in conversations with key targets naturally. This fosters trust and, ultimately, loyalty—even turning some customers into brand advocates or ambassadors. If done right, you could end up with a host of fans who will grow your brand with you.

Even with its challenges, social media customer care represents a tremendous growth opportunity for businesses to foster strong customer relationships.

Creating Customer Lifetime Value

Customer lifetime value (CLV) is the dollar amount that represents a customer’s worth to your business from first transaction to last.

CLV calculation=revenue x gross margin x average number of repeat purchases.

The CLV is a powerful metric because even small increases in CLV can lead to huge gains in overall revenue. For example, get 1,000 of your customers, who pay you $50 per month, to stay with you for a year instead of 10 months, and your annual revenue grows from $500,000 to $600,000.

But the benefit is not only incremental. First of all, customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer. Second, on average, it costs up to seven times less to sell to customers with whom you already have a relationship. After all, you’ve already attracted and educated them.

While customer acquisition will always be a driver for businesses, research has shown that customer retention is a faster route to revenue growth than customer acquisition.

An infographic from Invesp Consulting shows that increasing customer retention by 5 percent can lead to an increase in profits of 25 percent to 95 percent. The infographic also illustrates that the likelihood of converting an existing customer into a repeat customer is 60 to 70 percent, while the probability of converting a new lead is 5 to 20 percent.

Brands have learned that three key factors contribute to customer retention. They are: Keep the customer happy, reduce customer effort and deliver excellent customer service.

To improve CLV, companies should offer a mix of the following customer retention strategies:

  • Keep the customer happy
    1. Build relationships with customers through shared values that foster loyalty. Use social media sites to connect, like Facebook and Twitter.
    2. Through expertise and education, become the customers’ trusted advisor.
    3. Track customer satisfaction. Consider using a Net Promoter Score survey that primarily asks your customers whether they would recommend you to someone else.
    4. Make great customer service the norm. To go above and beyond, surprise your customers with small customer appreciation gifts, handwritten notes or even a personal email to say thanks.
    5. Re-emphasize your value: It’s reinforcing to know you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
  • Reduce customer effort
    1. Connect with customers on the channels they prefer.
    2. Optimize your onboarding. Give customers simple and clear instructions for product usage.
    3. Make it easy to reach you—a button on every Web page, for example.
  • Deliver excellent service
    1. Take a proactive approach to customer service to eliminate problems before they occur.
    2. Set customer expectations early and a little lower than you can provide to eliminate uncertainty about the level of your service and to ensure you always deliver on your promises.
    3. Go the extra mile.
    4. Personalize communications to strengthen the bond with your brand.
    5. Empathize with your customers/understand their pain points. They’ll appreciate and remember the respect you’ve given them.
    6. Ensure that customer care staff are empowered to resolve issues quickly.
    7. Be authentic and sincere when addressing customer concerns.

Remember: If you can keep your customers happy, you’ll keep your customers.