Topics To Explore During Your Next Customer Service Meeting

C-level executives often complain that they want to help improve customer service, but they have too many other responsibilities to worry about on a daily basis and don’t have the time to stay up to date about rapidly-changing customer preferences. This, after all, is why they hire others to manage it.

Our advice is for executives is there is a lot they can offer without having to get too far into the customer service weeds. Whether you are outsourcing operations or trusting your team members to handle it, you can still play an active role in shaping your department. You don’t have to be a customer service expert to do this.

Here are some possible topics to explore during your next meeting with your customer service team:

  1. Cybersecurity: What used to be a problem for IT managers only, cybersecurity is now an issue that all departments need to account for. So when you sit down with your customer service team, ask what measures are being taken to improve device and account security. For instance, are employees up to date with the latest cyberthreats? Is data being backed up on a regular basis? Don’t be afraid to ask hard-hitting questions about cybersecurity, so that you can have a better understanding of how safe your department is.
  2. Outreach strategy: Take a look at your recent fundraising efforts, and ask what’s being done to improve them. Remind your team that donor ecosystems are fragile, and must be properly maintained in order to keep generating year over year revenue. As you assess your marketing strategy, check and make sure that content is playing a role in helping drive sales and donor participation. The more you nurture your donors with high quality content, the more interested in your brand they will remain — and the more likely they will be to offer support when donation time rolls around.
  3. TCPA: The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is a law that restricts the way that companies are allowed to communicate with customers about offers and promotions. Failure to comply with TCPA protocol — which changes periodically — could result in heavy fines and a tarnished reputation. Make sure that your team is up to date with TCPA code to avoid running into avoidable complications.
  4. IVR effectiveness: For most companies, interactive voice response (IVR) remains the most widely-used mechanism for customer self service. An IVR, however, is only as effective as the intelligence and underlying management system that is powering it. It may be time to update your IVR to incorporate the latest in artificial intelligence and data processing. This technology, after all, is responsible for greeting customers over the phone so it needs to be user-friendly, easy to update and reliable.
  5. Cost reduction: One of your primary jobs as an executive is to keep costs low. Strive to create a department that is financially lean, versus one that is continually operating in the red zone. Before your next meeting, consider asking your managers for their input on what could realistically be eliminated without negatively impacting daily operations. It may be time to consider reducing your reliance on expensive in-house technologies, or even staff members. Outsourcing is a fantastic way to slash costs in a responsible and strategic manner.

How Customer Preferences Are Changing

Over the last several years the main message in the customer service space has been that consumer preferences are changing, and businesses have no choice but to respond. But what exactly does this mean?

The digital revolution has completely changed the customer journey. Now, customers expect a shopping experience that is completely seamless and efficient across all levels. Customers today are used to high-speed digital interactions and they want to receive the same treatment in the contact center when attempting to resolve issues.

Perhaps the most notable change that we are observing among consumers is the reduced usage of traditional communications channels when attempting to resolve issues. According to a recent study, customer interactions with legacy channels like the phone and email have declined by as much as 7 percent over the last two years. Now, customers are seeking channels that are more automated. In 2015, voice was used in 51 percent of customer service interactions; in 2016, it fell to 45 percent; and last year, it dipped to just 41 percent.

It should be noted that as legacy voice and email systems continue to decline in popularity, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable relying on service via automated channels. At least 49 percent of consumers now contact customer service using automated channels and 59 percent of consumers would rather go through additional channels than use their voice to communicate.

This is happening because companies aren’t offering optimized voice and email channels. A lack of effectiveness is the main source of consumer frustration with traditional customer service.

That is not to say you should abandon your legacy communications systems. It’s hard to imagine that we will reach a point where consumers completely abandon either voice or email in favor of self-service portals and IVR systems. After all, there will always be problems that are better solved over a two-way chat or email correspondence than through a self-service portal. And many customers prefer to speak with a live representative when solving routine tasks like suspending account access or reversing a charge.

Companies are strongly encouraged to strike a balance by offering a mix of reliable and high quality communications solutions. Customers should have the option to pick up the phone and call, or send an email to solve a problem. At the same time, they should be able to go online or into an app to solve a routine problem. Give customers a wide range of options, and let them select the channels that work best for them.

Just remember: Customer preferences are changing. And if you ignore them, your business could get left behind.

How Contact Centers Help Businesses Scale

For a small to medium-sized organization, the task of scaling to more than one branch location can seem like a monumental task. It’s hard enough to grow one business into a successful franchise. It’s quite another thing to duplicate your efforts entirely.

One of the biggest reasons why scaling is so hard is the fact that it’s difficult to ensure consistent branding, marketing, and customer service across multiple branches. If customers start having different experiences across multiple branch locations, it can lead to fragmented experiences and the feeling like they are doing business with different organizations. For this reason, a lack of consistency can seriously hinder an expansion project.

An efficient, hosted contact center can be one of the most effective tools that a business has when scaling. Contact centers are helpful because they:

Centralize messaging: When scaling to more than one facility, marketing and sales teams need to always remain on the same page. The last thing you want is for one location to go rogue and start forming their own marketing messages and sales collateral. This can lead to a lack of consistency, and confusion among customers. Contact centers specialize in creating, centralizing and distributing information to customers, ensuring that everyone is given the proper messaging. This is very important during times of crisis, like after a data breach or during a disaster when customers cannot afford to be given the wrong information.

Collect information: For a growing business, it’s critical to have a finger on the pulse about how customers feel about the products and services they are using. Contact centers can be instrumental in helping businesses understand their customers because they collect a great deal of information during calls. Contact centers process, store and distribute information across the enterprise which in turns creates a more customer-centric and responsive atmosphere. Customers, it should be noted, can provide a tremendous amount of information if you listen to them. And contact centers can collect critical data to help understand each customer’s individual journey.

Reduce costs: It’s unrealistic to think that each branch location can provide its own customer service. Most businesses are too busy, and lack the budgetary resources to pay for their own agents, technologies and overhead. The most cost-effective and reliable way to ensure great customer service across all branch locations is to outsource operations to a dedicated third party contact center solutions provider. A contact center solutions provider can provide consistent service for all locations.

With these points in mind, think of a contact center like a binding agent that can keep an organization together as it scales across multiple locations. Take a look at any successful large organization with multiple locations, and you are sure to find an efficient and well-run contact center.

How Your Business Can Provide Better Customer Service

It’s that time of the year again when new reports start streaming in about how companies are handling their customer service. Usually, the reports are mixed.

One report, for instance, shows that energy companies have a lot of work to do in repairing consumer relations. Phone, travel and financial companies are also falling behind in their customer service efforts.

This begs the question: How can companies that are failing in customer service turn things around? It’s not always easy to know what adjustments need to be made. Oftentimes, businesses will attempt to make impactful changes but they will actually do more harm than good.

Here are some common questions, for instance, that business leaders typically struggle with when trying to overhaul their customer service strategies:

  • Do our customers want to speak with live agents?
  • Should we be more active on social media?
  • How can we improve agent friendless?
  • How can we drive more sales in our contact center?
  • What technologies should I be investing in this year?
  • Is my contact center safe from cybercrime?

As you can see, there are many different questions that can arise during this process and it can be very difficult to know which buttons to press as you revise your strategy. And different industries, it should be noted, require different types of customer service solutions. There is no one size fits all customer service strategy that you can implement.

What you can do, however, is outsource your customer service to a high quality contact center solutions provider. By doing so, you can streamline all aspects of customer service and put your operations in the hands of a dedicated team of trusted professionals who know how to communicate with customers and drive sales.

Remember: A failing grade in customer service is not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to turn things around — especially if all of your competitors are offering poor customer service, too. If your industry is notorious for poor service, like pay TV or energy, consider rebuilding your image as a customer-friendly organization. It simply requires a shift in strategy and attitude, and a willingness to try something new.

To get the process started, consider outsourcing your customer service operations to a third party contact center solutions provider. You will get access to premium agents, high quality infrastructure and much more. It’s a simple way to transform your customer relationships.

So if your business is failing in its customer service efforts, consider making 2018 the year that you become a customer-centric organization. Then, watch the dollars pile up.

Ready to Change Your Contact Center Strategy?

It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. But in the contact center space, this can sometimes be standard practice. Many customer service administrators recognize that they need to make important changes, but they are afraid to disrupt operations and so they keep going through the motions year after year with little sign of improvement.

So the first step towards improving your contact center, therefore, is to accept the fact that your department needs to change. Once you make a clear goal to improve operations, you can then confidently do what is necessary to establish a stronger, leaner and more impactful department.

Take my advice: The fastest, safest and most affordable way to improve your contact center is to put your department into the hands of a trusted third party solutions provider.

Outsourcing to a full-service contact center solutions provider will give you access to high quality customer service agents that would otherwise be difficult to find, as well as premium and fully-managed infrastructure, data-driven strategy and a service level agreement-backed quality guarantee. By outsourcing your operations, you can reduce monthly costs and turn around your sales and marketing strategies almost overnight.

Other exciting benefits to outsourcing include:

  • Flexible interactive voice response (IVR): Many businesses today are using outdated and inefficient IVR systems that are error-prone and difficult to update. Contact center solutions providers specialize in providing managed IVR services along with flexible, custom call scripting.
  • Business continuity: Another great benefit to outsourcing your contact center is that you can establish business continuity, for seamless network failover during weather events. Third party contact centers are stored offsite, where they are safer from accidents.
  • Fewer headaches: Say goodbye to headaches like seasonal hiring, agent reviews and customer complaints. All of these issues will be managed for you.
  • Reduced strain on IT: Outsourcing your contact center will free your IT workers to focus on other pressing network-related issues.

Here is a word of caution as you go about this process: Try to change your contact center on your own, and you could risk making the wrong adjustments which would be detrimental to your organization. There are countless technologies to invest in, and strategies to embrace that can prove to be much more trouble than they are worth. This is not a task where it pays to guess. You have to use careful planning in order to get the results you are looking for.

The Holidays Are Over…Now What?

Another holiday season has come and gone. Now, your company is back to work and staring down the year ahead.

What comes next? With so many things to do, it can be difficult to plot a course of action for 2018.

Here are some action-items that you should strive to tackle over the next few weeks:

Keep the momentum going: The holiday season may be over, but now is no time to slow down. Consider offering post-holiday sales, contests or giveaways to keep up with your competitors and drive further profits. Tax season is here, and consumers will be cashing in their checks and looking to spend them. During this time, it’s imperative that you have a fully-functioning and reliable contact center in place to engage with customers during the sales process.

Analyze your data: One of the most common issues that we hear today from business leaders is “Help! We have all of this data, and we don’t know what to do with it!” Many businesses, in other words, doubled down on their data collection efforts during this year’s holiday season but have no actionable plans for processing and utilizing the information. Instead of hiring a data scientist, which can be very expensive or putting your IT team to work digging through information you may want to consider outsourcing your data management needs. Many companies specialize in helping businesses to understand their information and maximize their return on investment.

Form a spring and summer strategy: Look ahead to the busy spring and summer month ahead. Do you have enough staff members? Are your technologies up to par? These are questions you should be asking right now.

Look for ways to cut your budget: As you plan for the future, look for some ways that you can slash costs in the coming months. This is especially important if you are managing a large contact center, with a great deal of overhead. If you are spending more than you are bringing in, you should seriously consider outsourcing to a third party contact center solutions provider.

Plan ahead for next year’s holiday rush: Finally, take a look back at the last few weeks. How did your team perform this holiday season? When analyzing your data, and reviewing conversations, you may find some areas that are in need of improvement. Again, this is where a contact center solutions provider can help. Instead of spending money on seasonal agents next year, outsource operations and focus on other priorities.

Review your cybersecurity: Even if you made it through the holidays unscathed by cybercrime, this is no time to slow down. Review your cybersecurity strategy with your IT team and your employees to make sure everyone is aligned with the most recent information. This could save you from a massive data breach.

Break the Endless Cycle of Equipment Upgrades in Your Contact Center

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

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.

The Fastest Way to Improve Your Customer Service Department

You were recently put on notice to reduce costs and improve key performance metrics in your contact center. And now, you are scratching your head and wondering where to start.

As I am sure you are already aware, this is not an easy process. And the larger the contact center, the harder it can be to make changes that will yield significant results. There are simply too many people, too much equipment and too many customers to worry about.

What’s more, if you make the wrong decision while downsizing your contact center, you could upset your department and negatively impact critical customer-facing operations. For instance, if you lay off 20 or so workers, it will mean 20 fewer customer service agents that will be on hand to assist callers and resolve issues. Your phone lines will jam up, which will lead to longer hold times and higher telecommunications bills.

Here at InfoCision, we have seen businesses try all sorts of experimental ways to save money in the contact center. Take our advice: It’s a dangerous game when you start experimenting with ways to save money in the contact center. Contact centers are very complex, and delicate.

By far, the fastest and most reliable way to improve customer service is to outsource your department’s agents and infrastructure to a third party solutions provider. Almost overnight, you will receive access to stronger and more experienced customer service agents, better infrastructure and data. At the same time, you will free up a significant amount of capital in your current in-house contact center. And it comes with much less risk.

Plus, there are immediate financial returns that you will experience. Right off the bat, you can sell all of your in-house contact center infrastructure to a company that purchases used office equipment. There are companies that will pay decent money for used computers, office chairs, agent headsets and even servers. Just make sure to “wipe” your electronic equipment of any data before selling it just to make sure that information does not fall into the wrong hands by mistake. This could lead to a post-sale data breach, which can be very difficult to fix.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should be very picky when selecting a contact center solutions provider as not all companies offer the same level of quality. Make sure that you partner with a company that aligns with your exact expectations so that there is no question they will be able to perform at a level that is acceptable.

 

What Does It Take to Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates?

Recently I was discussing a special Thanksgiving recipe, when the idea dawned on me:

Customer service is like serving a meal. You have to include the right ingredients if you want to create advocates that will rave about your company and its products and services to their social followers. If your customers aren’t happy, it could be due to the fact that you don’t have the right pieces in place.

Here’s what you need to create brand advocates:

High quality products and services: There is perhaps no substitute for quality. Customers expect that the things they buy will at least meet their expectations. So if you want to improve customer service, take a holistic approach and start by using their feedback to improve the things you are selling. It’s the most honest, and feedback that you will receive.

Gratitude: With Thanksgiving in the air, it’s the time of the year to think about giving back a bit. Here is one thing you can try: When customers call your contact center, review their recent purchases and consider giving them a small gift or rebate in exchange for their continued business — and for their patience waiting to speak with a representative. Customers will appreciate the act of gratitude, and may choose to reward your company by remaining loyal to your brand. This is the type of thing that can go viral on social media, too. You will be seen as a customer service thought leader.

Empathy: Of course, you don’t have to buy anything to win over your customers. One of the easiest ways to do so is also free. It can be done by training your contact center agents to show empathy during all interactions. Customers will be much more receptive to agents that are chatty, friendly and willing to be flexible in helping them accommodate their needs. Being treated with dignity, it should be noted, is now a top customer demand that you need to be aware of.

Restraint: Sometimes, there is nothing an agent can do to calm down a customer over the phone. Customers can get very angry, especially when they feel they have been wronged. In this situation, the best thing an agent can do is to show restraint. An agent should let the customer talk, and interject only at the right time when the customer indicates that he or she may be receptive to hearing with the person has to say. By letting a customer vent, and showing empathy, it’s possible to diffuse the situation and get to a point where a cordial conversation can take place. Sometimes, an agent can even get mad too! Customer service requires acting at times — and the best agents can do this seamlessly.

Stellar communication: I’m not talking about communications technologies here. The communication I am referring to has to do with demonstrating good old fashioned values. Emails should be returned promptly. Customers should never have to wait too long to speak with a representatives. Billing matters should be handled quickly and professionally. And advice and consideration should always be accepted and passed along for review.