Legacy, Cloud or Hosted: Which Type of Contact Center Is Right For You?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Before you make any decisions about your business’s contact center, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the different types of options that are available. The last thing you want to do is invest in one solution, only to wish you had taken another route.

There are three different ways to go about this: You can choose from a legacy, cloud or hosted setup.

Here is a breakdown of each:

Legacy: A legacy contact center is one that operates entirely in-house, using the business’s existing infrastructure, IT staff and agents.

Opinions on legacy contact centers will vary depending on who you talk to. Your IT team, for instance, may prefer a legacy contact center environment because they know the network better than anyone else. But keep in mind that in-house IT professionals may also be leery about outsourcing contact center operations, because they are fearful about losing their jobs.

The major downside to using a legacy contact center is that it will require much higher capital and operational expenditures. A business running a legacy contact center will be responsible for making its own purchases and upgrades. Legacy networks can also put extra strain on IT workers, too, as they require a lot of ongoing maintenance.

Cloud: Cloud contact centers are for businesses that want to keep the majority of their operations in house, without the hassle of managing their own infrastructure.

There are three different cloud models to choose from, including public, private and hybrid. In a public cloud environment, a business will share the same servers as many other different companies. In a private setup, you will have your own servers; and a hybrid model will allow you to use cloud services in conjunction with your legacy network.

Hosted: Conversely, a hosted contact center environment — what InfoCision offers — is one where contact centers services are stored off-site in an entirely managed environment. This is outsourcing at its finest.

This solution is ideal for businesses that are looking to streamline all aspects of customer care, without doing any of the heavy lifting. You won’t have to worry about purchasing or maintaining any network infrastructure or hiring agents. However, as the customer you will still have control over larger processes like branding and strategy.

Keep in mind that not all companies offer the same level of quality, privacy and security in their hosted solutions. So it’s important to do your research and scour the service level agreement (SLA) fine print to make sure you are partnering with a company that aligns with your vision.

So we encourage you to spend some time thinking about what’s right for your business. If you’re looking for some more detailed advice, InfoCision is standing by.

To learn more, contact InfoCision today.

 

Top Contact Center Technologies to Know About

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Technology procurement can be one of the hardest parts about running a contact center. With so many solutions to consider — from least cost routing (LCR) to workforce management — it’s not always easy to cut through the noise and understand what your facility should actually be using.

There’s no room for guesswork when signing contact center service agreements, though, as the decisions you make will directly impact the performance and stability of your department. Invest in a low budget, cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution, for instance, and everything from agent productivity and happiness to customer satisfaction could be negatively impacted.

For this reason, it helps to partner with a contact center solutions provider that understands the complexities of the market, for sound advice about purchasing.

Here are some technologies that we have been recommending to customers recently:

Artificial intelligence (AI):  AI — or the ability for a machine to mimic human thought — is now being used for a variety of purposes in the contact center. For instance, AI can predict things like whether a new lead will turn into customer, and how an agent should go about contacting him or her with an offer. And on the agent side, AI is also being used to analyze customer interactions. It provides agents with direct feedback about variables like the speed, pitch and tone of their voice — and whether they are connecting effectively with customers.

AI is one of the most exciting technologies in business today, and more and more businesses are using it. According to a new study, 45 percent of retailers plan to add AI in order to enhance the customer experience.

Chatbots:  You can’t mention AI without mentioning chatbots, which are automated messengers that use AI to process user queries and respond intelligently in near real-time. Right now, chatbots are most commonly used in website live chat boxes and automated text messaging applications. Chatbots are easy to build, highly reliable and capable of working alongside agents in the contact center.

Knowledge management: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes for a moment, and imagine that you have a question about your company. You look online, but the answer is nowhere to be found. What do you do? You either pick up the phone and ask for an agent (which takes extra time) or you search for the answer on Google (which could lead you to another provider). To avoid these pitfalls, many companies are now setting up knowledge bases on their websites that serve as libraries for customers to access information. This is an example of self service, another big buzzword in the contact center industry today. The great part about knowledge bases are that they are easy to set up and manage, and they don’t cost much.

Do you have questions about contact center technologies? We’re here to help. To contact InfoCision, click here.

Who Is Communicating With Your Financial Donors?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Meet Jack: Now 15 years out of college, Jack owns a very successful business and earns a significant income. As such, he — like many other alumni — enjoys giving back by donating money to his former school whenever he can.

The thing is, Jack is not a cash machine. He is a person, with thoughts and feelings. Like most people, Jack wants to feel appreciated and like his time and effort is making a difference for his community. The moment he feels unappreciated, his generosity is liable to cease.

As this example shows, donor relations can be a major challenge.

In other words, while all customers require exceptional care, financial donors need to be treated a bit differently. You can’t simply contact your biggest financial contributors once in a blue moon, ask for money and then stop communicating with them until the next time rolls around. The trick is to make donors feel like they are part of a larger team of contributors who are highly valued, respected and needed.

If you have been struggling with this process, you have come to the right place. InfoCision has mastered the art of donor communications. In fact, our Communicators raise more money over the telephone than any other company in the world.

Here’s why we are so successful at helping companies raise money:

We take a comprehensive approach to fundraising, by offering lifecycle programs (like acquisition, cultivation, retention and win-back), as well as inbound call handling, volunteer and event recruitment, event-based large scale telethons, full service fulfillment and direct mail.

Our donor outreach program is the best in the industry, because our team puts a massive amount of care and attention into it. So when you partner with InfoCision, you’ll get much more than a contact center solutions provider but a team of highly-trained experts who know how to drive results. And most importantly, you’ll have access to a team of strategic thinkers who will take a market-driven approach to communications.

Perhaps most importantly, InfoCision will protect your ecosystem of donors. After all, they are not infinite in numbers. You only have a certain number of people you can contact for help, and a poorly-managed campaign can cause a great deal of damage down the road if you are not careful.

InfoCision will respect your donor ecosystem, ensuring that it will keep giving back to your organization many years down the road. We will form a short term, as well as a long term plan for business growth and development.

So with this in mind, consider who is running your current donor outreach campaigns. It’s time to take a fresh approach to fundraising.

To learn more about how InfoCision can help your business, click here.

What Does It Take to Turn a Customer Into a Brand Advocate?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The next time you are on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, keep an eye out for posts that openly promote products and services. You may see someone rave about a customer service experience he or she had with an airline, or a retail chain that went above and beyond to resolve an issue for someone.

The type of customer who would post something like this is called a brand advocate, or a social media influencer. They typically have many followers, and are very savvy about using social media to spread their messages.

But who are these people, and how can you convince them to rave about your company online?

Here’s the hard truth:

You can’t simply hire brand advocates. You have to develop them, by giving your customers positive experiences at every turn.

Why can’t you hire brand advocates? This wouldn’t be brand advocacy, but rather paid content which is something entirely different. While content can be effective, consumers can easily see through it — especially on social media outlets where branded content can appear to be somewhat jarring next to regular posts.

The real value in brand advocacy, in other words, is that it’s completely organic and unsolicited. A brand advocate is nothing more than a customer who is very excited about supporting a brand that he or she finds authentic and amazing.

Understand that the contact center plays a crucial role in customer development, but there is a caveat:  A contact center that is mismanaged can easily create the opposite of a brand advocate, which is sometimes called a brand saboteur. This is a customer who will go to great lengths to destroy a customer’s reputation. This type of customer can be very damaging, especially when a post goes viral for the wrong reasons.

At InfoCision, we help develop positive customer experiences by promoting the following core values:

Consistency: There is no room for slacking during customer interactions. Consistency and reliability is critical for success. Therefore, our Communicators are alert and ready to engage each and every time they pick up the phone or respond to an incoming message.

Good listening: Sometimes, it’s less important for an agent to be right and more important to listen to a customer’s problems and work towards a resolution. InfoCision’s Communicators are  always be friendly, easy to talk to and in tune with customers’ needs.

Teamwork and collaboration: Even the best customer care Communicators will occasionally require backup when working through tough customer challenges. At InfoCision, we offer small teams of Communicators who know how to work strategically as a team.

For more information about how InfoCision can help your company’s customer service strategy, click here.

 

Is Your Contact Center In Compliance with Local and Federal Regulations?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Earlier this year, a leading website domain operator was hit with a class action lawsuit when a consumer claimed that the company sent him unsolicited advertisements via text message.

The plaintiff is now arguing that the operator violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) — a complex law established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that regulates how companies are allowed to communicate with consumers about products and offerings.

The operator admitted that the text messages in question originated from a third party marketing agency that the company hired to manage an outbound texting campaign. As of right now, the case is still unsettled but I wanted to weigh in on it because there is an important lesson to be learned for customer service administrators, regardless of who wins:

Companies today need to be very, very careful with outbound communications because consumers have little tolerance for practices that seem overly-aggressive, intrusive or “spammy.”

As this case demonstrates, some consumers are actively looking for opportunities to penalize companies for behavior they deem to be inappropriate.

What’s more, the TCPA is just one of a long list of regulations — state and federal — that you need to be aware of. For instance, there are state-specific Do Not Call lists as well as state-specific requirements for things processes like monitoring and recording authorization, among others. At the same time, there are certain exemptions that you can capitalize on.

Of course, some companies regularly experience class action lawsuits from their customer outreach campaigns and treat them as little more than a drop in the bucket. But this is not the right approach. In addition to being expensive, class action lawsuits can be very damaging to a brand, and they can alienate customers and shareholders. And for a small to medium-sized business (SMBs) that lacks the financial resources of a large enterprise, the damage resulting from financial penalties, court fees and lost customers could be disastrous.

With this in mind, stop and consider who is overseeing your business’s outbound campaigns. How much experience do your internal sales and marketing managers, or your business’s outbound contact center solutions provider, have in dealing with the underlying legal complexities that you are facing?

At InfoCision, we understand that outbound communications can be very complicated. But it’s also an important aspect of business growth. For this reason, we provide our customers with direct access to a team of experienced legal professionals who work tirelessly to ensure that all campaigns operate in strict accordance with state and federal telecommunications laws.

These legal experts empower our customers to confidently — yet conservatively — reach out to consumers when they need to. Our legal professionals are second to none.

To learn more about our legal & compliance expertise, contact InfoCision today.

Customize Your Customer Care Program with InfoCision

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The customer service landscape has never been more complex, or fragmented, than it is today. Customer needs, attitudes and preferences can change by the hour from something as simple as a viral video, a breaking news item or an online review. News, after all, travels incredibly quickly these days.

From a customer care perspective — as well as product, sales and marketing — this creates a tough challenge. Businesses must stay on top of these ever-changing customer patterns, and capitalize on opportunities before their competitors do. And it’s not always easy to tell which patterns are worth paying attention to.

Suffice to say, it takes a great deal of research and analysis to understand what customers really want. And most contact center managers that we speak with today are too busy overseeing the minute backend functions of their department to find the time to devote to this critical process.

As such, big picture planning often goes completely neglected in the contact center. While businesses in this situation often consult with large contact center providers for assistance, they are usually disappointed with the results they experience.

Here at InfoCision, though, we take a much more comprehensive approach to customer service than some of our larger competitors. We will spend a great deal of time getting to know your customers, and we will use detailed market intelligence to help you form effective customer care and branding strategies that will resonate with your target markets. Then we will help you plan and execute individual campaigns, and we’ll even launch them right from our own onsite facility.

Your business will receive:

  • Guided messaging: The scripts you use in your contact center must be regularly reviewed and assessed for quality and accuracy. We provide high quality script writing services that will keep your customers’ messaging on point. This will save your team valuable time, and it will help ensure stronger results during customer interactions. Script writing can also come in handy during emergencies, when you need to respond quickly.
  • Less wasted time: Our market-focused approach to customer care can help you zero-in on specific demographics when you need to.
  • Legal expertise: We have access to on-site legal experts, which are available on an as-needed basis. This helps us move projects along quickly and safely, as we help our customers stay in compliance with industry regulations and best practices.
  • Ongoing feedback: Because customers never stop changing, our team never stops working. We provide ongoing performance feedback in order to keep customers in the loop and to show how we are helping to grow their business.

So as you can see, the type of services that we offer are a bit different than what you will find with other providers. To learn more about them, contact us today.

 

Take My Advice: Keep Your Contact Center on U.S. Soil

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

At this point, you and your team members are ready to outsource your customer service operations to a third party contact center solutions provider.

Now, you have another tough decision to make: Should you go the domestic route, or explore the international contact center market?

A few years ago, it may have seemed like a no-brainer to take the latter approach. For the last decade or so, many American businesses have been choosing to open contact centers in places like the Philippines (which was recently hailed the contact center capital of the world), the UK, India and Poland — all of which are now world leaders in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) for contact centers. This is mainly because labor is considered to cheaper overseas (more on that below).

Now, this trend is changing here in the U.S.

Facing rising pressure from lawmakers and consumers, American business leaders are starting to onshore their contact centers once again. As of right now, there are about 71,000 contact centers in the U.S. and about 2.3 million agent jobs. This figure should grow in the near future, with states like Nevada, Michigan and Maine emerging as hotspots for contact center jobs.

Here at InfoCision, we take great pride in offering domestic contact center services for our customers. We are growing the U.S. economy by supporting local jobs, while also helping our customers avoid the following pitfalls:

1. Foreign telecom complexities: Outsourcing to an international contact center provider may seem simple, but there are many logistical challenges you will need to consider — one being obtaining reliable and affordable telecommunications services. In order to route calls internationally, you will need to partner with regional telecommunications providers. You will also need to familiarize yourself with local data storage and privacy regulations.

Here’s another thing to consider, too: If your contact center is offering real-time video support for customers, or it plans on offering this down the road, you will need to factor in network latency. Connectivity is a critical part of video communication, and could be difficult to establish it if your contact center is on the other side of the world. Most businesses are trying to bring their networks closer to their customers — not further away.

2. Cultural differences: American consumers prefer to engage with local agents they can easily understand, and who are highly in tune with our cultural nuances. Native English-speaking representatives tend to have an easier time going off-script when resolving customer issues (which is often needed). Something as simple as a naturally-flowing conversation can mean all the difference in shaping the overall customer experience.

3. High operating costs: As it turns out, opening a foreign contact center can be more expensive than you would think. While foreign contact center agents may earn less in hourly wages, there are still other operating costs to consider which are mostly related to network and facility maintenance. These expenses could easily nullify the cost savings you would accrue from paying workers less per hour.

So with these points in mind, I strongly encourage you to avoid offshoring your contact center. Instead, provide your customers with access to local contact center agents.

To learn more about how InfoCision can help, click here.

 

Why You Should Avoid Large Contact Centers

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Once again, it’s National Small Business Week here in the U.S. It’s the perfect time for business leaders to reflect on all the progress that has been made over the last year, and to identify new ways of spurring business growth.

As you sit down to reflect on your business’s progress, take a moment to think about how you can generate more output from your contact center, and from your customer service strategy as a whole. It’s important to recognize both as critical elements that will help your business grow beyond the SMB level, into a large enterprise.

To streamline these processes, many businesses are now partnering with contact center solutions providers. The truth, though, is that not all providers offer the same level of high quality care. Large contact centers, for instance — even with powerful customer relationship management (CRM) tools — struggle to deliver comprehensive customer support. What they offer is more like assembly line-style customer support because they are built for two things: speed and volume.

Conversely, smaller contact centers like the kind you will find at InfoCision have the ability to take a much more granular approach to customer care. By strategically reducing the size of the contact center, we are able to provide white glove service for all of our customers. Service is delivered through premium Contact Center Communicators, who work closely with team members and our customers on a daily basis.

This strategy allows us to provide the following benefits for our customers:

Consistency: One of the hardest parts about managing a team of agents in a large contact center is ensuring that they operate as one cohesive unit that is completely aligned with the messaging of the brands they are representing. After all, when an agent interacts with a customer, he or she becomes a direct extension of the brand. So there needs to be consistency.

In large contact centers, managers can only perform occasional spot checks and reviews with their agents. At InfoCision, though, management works closely with our Communicators to ensure that consistency is always upheld during customer interactions. This is much easier to do with a smaller team than it is with hundreds or thousands of employees.

Teamwork: When partnering with a small team like InfoCision, you gain access to more than just contact center agents. InfoCision will work with your company to help form a custom, market-driven strategy that is tailor-made for your brand. And they will regularly collaborate and communicate with one another to uphold the strategy — and to make important changes when they are needed.

Higher quality interactions: We understand that every conversation counts in customer service. We teach agents to choose their words carefully, and we empower them to make decisions to cut through red tape and solve problems faster.

Take a closer look at InfoCision, and you will see this is just one example of how we go above and beyond for our customers. To learn more about our approach to customer care, click here.

Three Technologies to Enhance Your Contact Center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

We have reached a point in business where there is no longer a major divide between technology and non-technology providers. Many experts, in other words, now argue that every company is a technology company regardless of what industry they are in. This is because companies are commonly using virtual, cloud-based solutions that run over the Internet.

In light of this, it’s time to start thinking of your contact center as a technology-driven department that uses cutting-edge software and big data to maximize efficiencies and boost sales. There are certain components that are absolutely necessary if you want to remain competitive.

Here are three technologies that you could feasibly work into your contact center:

Embedded real-time communication (RTC): Chances are likely that your business is already using live chat boxes to communicate with customers online. Now, you can take this to the next level using a technology called embedded RTC which is an open source standard that enables live video and audio chats to take place over a website or application. Embedded RTC uses a peer-to-peer architecture and runs entirely over an Internet browser — enabling ultra-fast, and secure, multimedia exchanges between customers and live agents. Many businesses are also using embedded RTC solutions in conjunction with big data to better understand customer preferences. This is called contextual communication.

Sales automation software: Most sales departments today are about 10 years behind marketing in terms of the technologies that they are using on a daily basis. A large percentage, in other words, are still using disparate tools like spreadsheets and manual dialers. These disparate technologies eat up valuable hours over the course of a week. Contact centers suffering from such inefficiencies should consider using sales automation software to automate things like performance tracking and response management. Automation platforms can consolidate disparate sales tools and make them easily accessible from a centralized location. These platforms also make it easy to export data with other departments like marketing or the C-suite.

Predictive dialers: In the past, a contact center sales representative would have to procure a telephone number, dial it and then wait for a customer to (hopefully) pick up the phone. As such, a typical phone call could take 30 seconds or longer — without any guarantee that a person would pick up or even be interested in making a purchase. Predictive dialers automate the dialing process by silently dialing in the background and putting an agent on the phone only when there is a live — and interested — customer waiting on the other end.

These technologies can be easily, and cost-effectively, embedded into your contact center to drive better results. However, it’s important to have a strong filter set up when exploring new contact center technologies. Make sure to thoroughly vet each new technology that you bring into your contact center, to ensure it adds value.

Is There Room for Autonomy in the Contact Center?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Contact centers have traditionally operated with a top-down business strategy, where managers hand down orders to agents and then check in to keep progress moving forward.

In recent years, though, we have seen many contact centers embracing autonomy in their departments, where agents essentially manage themselves. This is becoming increasingly common in the technology industry, and it’s spreading over into other fields as well.

The idea of workplace autonomy is relatively new, and studies show that it can be very beneficial to an organization when it’s implemented properly. In fact, many workers today value autonomy in the workplace as much as they do a competitive salary. Autonomous work environments have been proven to make workers happier and healthier, and they can also reduce employee turnover in the long run.

So, is this a strategy that you should implement in your contact center? Before you take action and tear down your wall of middle management, there are several points you will want to consider.

First and foremost, spend some time analyzing your current environment and speaking with agents and managers. Some of your managers may not like the idea of working on a level playing field with agents that they have been working with, and may require special considerations like promotions or raises. Embracing autonomy could upset certain power dynamics that are at play in your department.

You will also need a plan in place to keep workers from going rogue or under-performing. Agents should be reminded that with autonomy, and less middle management, comes the expectation that all workers will meet their expected goals while also continuing to adhere to company policies.

Suffice to say, it’s a lot easier to move forward with autonomy when using cloud-based reporting tools.  Many cloud contact center providers today offer tools that will allow supervisors to periodically check in on agents and make sure everything is running according to expected standards. Using these tools, contact center administrators can embrace autonomy without having to worry about losing control over their department. For example, supervisors can silently sit in on calls from time to time, check reports and take action when it is needed to correct bad behavior.

One of the best ways to embrace autonomy in your contact center is to do it slowly. Try giving your agents greater leeway at first, and see how they react. You will know almost immediately whether your team is capable of handling the change. And in time, you could create a happier, healthier work environment where agents feel empowered about their jobs. Plus, you will bolster your contact center’s reputation as a top place to work. This will help you attract stronger job applicants.