Positive Attitude Makes Up for Lack of Experience in Customer Care

Customer care experts have been touting the importance of hiring Communicators with technology skills, as more contact centers are implementing technology to improve productivity and increase efficiency. What experts are forgetting, however, is the importance of a positive attitude.

When it comes to the customer care industry, communication and interpersonal skills are everything. After all, researchers found that the number one reason customers would abandon a brand was due to poor quality and rude customer service, according to a Customer Experience Report by RightNow.

When looking for qualified Communicators to join your team, forget technological prowess or business savvy and consider their attitude as the most important asset they can bring to table. You might interview someone who looks good on paper, but in person their demeanor could be dismal.

Below are a few interpersonal skills to keep in mind when bringing a new Communicator onto your team.

  • Empathy: When a customer contacts your business, there’s a good chance that he or she is frustrated or upset about something. Rather than come off as stand-offish or uninterested in their problem, Communicators must display empathy. This will put the customer at ease and help to build a good rapport.
  • Listening: There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than trying to communicate with a Communicator who doesn’t listen. Don’t try to talk over a customer, as this will just upset them more. Instead, listen carefully to what he or she is saying so that you can clearly understand his or her problem. Intently listening to your customers will make them feel like they’re not just another ticket they need to complete.
  • Friendly: If a customer has a problem, focus on what you can do to help him or her. While you don’t want to seem overly happy when a customer is upset, being friendly can help a customer stay positive under not so great circumstances.

So next time you bring a new employee on board consider their personality more than what their skills look like on paper.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

What’s Your Customer Care Catalyst?

In the customer care industry, there are several tried-and-true strategies, which help contact centers provide superior quality of customer care. These days, however, contact centers must put their own unique twist on traditional best practices to stand out from their competitors.

A recent article from Customer Think describes this as a “catalyst.” Simply put, a customer care catalyst is a special tactic that contact centers use to create a positive and memorable experience for the customer; for example, 24-hour customer care service or competitive rewards program.

A customer care catalyst will ensure that whenever a customer thinks about your brand that he or she has positive association. Or, better yet, when someone asks a customer for a recommendation your brand comes first to mind.

Chances are you already have a customer care catalyst. If you don’t, here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Unique sign-off or greeting: When a customer dials into your contact center, there’s a good chance that he or she is frustrated or upset about something. A friendly greeting can go a long way in making the customer feel at ease. What’s more, a memorable sign-off can stick with a customer long after he or she has hung up the phone.

Live video chat: Oftentimes, customer inquires require more than just a phone call. For these instances, why not offer customers the chance to live video chat with a Communicator. If you provide a complex solution or product, this is a great customer care service to add to your current offerings.

Make things personal: Your customers are used to getting impersonal newsletters in their inboxes everyday. Rather than going along with the crowd, try sending personalized thank you notes or holidays cards to your most loyal customers.

Whatever you choose, your customer care catalyst is your signature characteristic, so don’t be afraid to get creative!

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Identifying the Difference Between These Three Industry Buzzwords

There are so many buzzwords flying around the customer service industry that it’s often hard to keep up with new jargon. In particular, the buzzwords—customer service, customer experience, and customer centricity—can be seen and heard in just about every customer care-related article or presentation.

Unfortunately, many people use these terms, not knowing what they truly mean. It’s important that customer care industry leaders understand the real meaning behind these words, and more importantly, how they impact their quality of customer care.

Below, we help clear up any confusion and define these popular buzzwords once and for all.

Customer service: Many people confuse the word customer service (although, here at InfoCision we prefer the term customer care) with the word customer experience; however, these two words have very different meanings. As Customer Think defines it, customer service is “the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.”  In other words, customer service is a just a piece of whole customer experience pie.

Customer experience: Simply put, customer experience is your customers’ perceptions of their relationship with your brand resulting from all of their interactions with you. Customer experience delves into various different aspects of your business; for example product, design, marketing, digital media and more. As mentioned above, it’s helpful to think of customer experience as the entire pie.

Customer centricity: This is a buzzword that has become extremely popular over the last several years. Customer centricity means putting your customers at the very center of everything you do with the hope that it will increase satisfaction and loyalty. For example, it’s developing products, marketing materials, and website with the customer top of mind.

While all three of these buzzwords are related, they are very much different. Before you start implementing these words in your protocols, strategies, and presentations, it’s important that you understand their meaning.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Contact Center Employees: Congratulate Yourselves!

All too often, business leaders will forget to commend their employees for the excellent jobs they are doing. Between the endless meetings and phones calls, it can be difficult to remember to take time out of their busy schedules to say “thank you.”

Nonetheless, it’s extremely important to make employees feel appreciated and important. According to a survey from Kronos, when asked what gives employees a high sense of satisfaction at work, respondents said receiving a “thank you” from their direct manager.

In the contact center, it’s especially important to congratulate and recognize success in order to boost team morale and incite more productive, positive behavior. Below are a few ways in which contact center leaders can ensure that their Communicators are acknowledged and appreciated for their hard work.

  • Create a “wall of fame”: Chances are you have an empty wall somewhere in your office. Turn that empty space into a “wall of fame” which consists of positive customer feedback and praise from fellow employees. This wall can act as tangible evidence of the great work employees are producing of which they should feel proud.
  • Conduct private one-on-ones: Each month or quarter, make a point of meeting with each Communicator to discuss his or her great work and thank him or her. According to the aforementioned survey, private, one-on-one communication is preferred over receiving positive recognition with others present or copied on a group email (59 percent vs. 26 percent).
  • Share positive feedback: Make sure you share any positive feedback that you get from customers or upper management with your team of Communicators. There’s nothing more fulfilling than knowing that you’re actually making a difference within the company and helping customers.

Your Communicators are your most important asset. Therefore, make sure that they feel appreciated by implementing any one of these suggestions above.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Are You Managing Customer Expectations Effectively?

Your customer care strategy is nothing without evidence that proves its meeting your customers’ expectations. Many businesses, however, have trouble gaining insights about their customers’ expectations, and as a result important opportunities for improvement are missed.

According to an infographic from Sprinklr, titled “The Cost of Not Prioritizing Customer Experience,” 80 percent of companies believe they supply ‘superior experiences,’ despite the fact that only eight percent of customers say they actually receive ‘superior experiences.’

What’s more, only one percent of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. As you can see from the findings above, there’s a serious disconnect between what companies and customers think in terms of meeting and managing customer expectations.

So how can companies make sure that they are meeting customer expectations? Below are several ways in which contact center leaders can create a customer care strategy which not only meets, but exceeds their audience’s expectations:

Ask for feedback: Give your customers ample opportunities to provide feedback. Whether you distribute an annual quality of customer care survey or you simply encourage customers to share their feedback via more informal outlets, it’s important that you ask your audience how they feel about the service that you’re providing. After all, if you don’t ask, you won’t know.

Be transparent: Transparency is critical in effectively managing customer expectations. Customers want to know that they can put all of their trust in you. If a Communicator doesn’t know the right answer to a customer’s question, he or she should be open about consulting with other team members rather, than give the customer an empty promise— or worse the wrong answer.

Give clear timelines and meet them: If a customer calls in with a question that might require more time than usual to resolve, provide the customer with a clear timeline as to when he or she can expect the answer. More importantly, make sure that you complete the customer’s task within that amount of time.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Three Customer Care Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

It’s that time of year again. New Year’s is just days away and people all over the world will be making lofty resolutions for the coming year.

For example, come January, the gyms will be crowded with people who’ve committed to getting fit in the New Year. By February, however, many of those same individuals will be burnt out by trying to achieve too much too soon.

The same New Year’s resolution burn-out can happen to contact center leaders and Communicators as well, as trying to produce quantifiable results in a short period of time isn’t realistic and often leads to frustration.

To help you avoid falling short on yet another resolution, we’ve come up with three important contact center resolutions to work toward achieving all year long.

  • Professional development: Whether you’re a contact center leader or a new Communicator, there’s always room for professional development. Work with your superiors to identify opportunities for you to sharpen your skills or gain new ones. For example, perhaps there’s a seminar for you to attend. If you want to start out small, commit to doing one or two things that will help you progress; for instance, reading three industry-related articles a day or signing up for a podcast.
  • Research and implement new technology: Perhaps you’ve heard of a technology that you think will benefit your Communicators. This year, commit to researching that technology by talking to other industry professionals, attending trade shows and reading reviews. After you’ve done that, draft up a proposal that you will present to your superiors.
  • Focus on customer retention: As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, customer retention is extraordinarily important, as the majority of your revenue will come from existing customers. This year, lend more attention to retaining loyal customers. For example, implement that loyalty program that you’ve been thinking about the past year.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. It’s better to slowly attain your goals, than crumble under the pressure of trying to achieve too much too soon. I wish you the best of luck in achieving your goals in 2016!

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Three Reasons to Integrate Gamification into Customer Care

Chances are you’ve at least heard of the word “gamification,” but what does it actually mean and how can it be applied to your customer care strategy?

Simply put, gamification is the process of applying game design, mechanics, and thinking to non-game activities with the hope that it will motivate customers, boost participation and increase engagement.

Many of today’s companies are using gamification to better engage customers and boost sales. Take Nike for example. The athletic company has experienced success with its Nike+ products, which prompts users to log fitness data to win points.

SAP is another great example of a company enjoying the benefits of gamification. The enterprise software company ranks the top contributors to its SAP Community Network. Users get points when they contribute to forums or when their content is liked.

For companies that want to improve their quality of customer care in a non-conventional way, gamificiation is the perfect solution. Not only does it help turn mundane tasks into exciting experiences, but it also helps to change behaviors, develop skills and motivate employees.

Below are three reasons why you should consider integrating gamification into your customer care strategy:

  • Improves efficiencies: Improving productivity is a top priority for many businesses. By creating an environment of healthy competition, employees will often push themselves a little further than they might otherwise.
  • Boosts work satisfaction: Your Communicators are your most important asset. When they are happy, your customers and bottom line are happy too. Implementing gamification helps employees become more engaged in activities that they might have found tedious or less-enjoyable in the past.
  • Motivates employees: It can be difficult to motivate employees at times. After all, fielding dozens of calls day-in and day-out can be exhausting. Gamification engages Communicators on an emotional level and motivates them to achieve their goals.

If you’re interested to learn more about gamification in the customer care space, read my recently published article featured in CUSTOMER magazine .

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

 

Share Holiday Cheer With Your Employees All Year Long

Over the holiday season, United Airlines distributed iPhones to all of its customer care agents as a way of saying “thank you” for a job well done. This was a grand gesture and shows just how much the company cares about showing its appreciation.

United Airlines isn’t the only company planning on giving their employees something extra this holiday season. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 80 percent of employers plan to offer some type of holiday bonus or gift in 2015.

While giving your customer care employees a present or bonus during the holidays is a great way to acknowledge their hard work, it’s important to show your appreciation for your employees all year long, not just during the holidays. After all, acknowledging hard work improves overall employee morale and instills loyalty.

Below are a few ways in which you can recognize your employees throughout the year besides gifts and bonuses during the holidays.

Help them further their career: Believe it or not, a lot of employees aren’t necessarily driven by money. Help them further their career by offering them free professional development opportunities. For example, give them the chance to travel to seminars or tradeshows where they can learn new skills, which will help them in the long run.

Provide fun activities: The last thing you want is a group of employees who bolt out the door the second the clock strikes 5 o’clock. To create an enjoyable workplace in which people like to work, provide some fun team building activities. For example, have a bake-off every quarter where employees bring in their favorite dessert or take your team to a sports game.

Public recognition: People like to be recognized for their hard work. Public recognition through awards and acknowledgement helps employees understand that they are valued. It can be as simple as sending out an email to the team recognizing an employee’s job well done.

Cheer might be associated with the holidays, but in the contact center, a jovial spirit goes a long way and leads to more positive team morale.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

 

Does Too Much Technology Disrupt Interpersonal Communications?

Have you ever gone out to lunch or dinner and noticed that nearly everyone in the restaurant is using his or her smartphones? There’s a good chance that you’ve experienced this exact same situation, as we’ve all been guilty of being a little too attached to technology at some time or another.

But, with that said, technology has become an important part of our lives, helping us connect with others and work more efficiently. But is our addiction to technology disrupting interpersonal communication? According to a recent Harris survey, the answer is “yes.”

According to the survey results, 71 percent of respondents believe technology has improved their quality of their life. However, almost three-quarters of U.S. adults also believe that technology has become too distracting, even millennials (18-35) seem to agree according to the survey.

What’s more, a strong majority of respondents agree that technology is corrupting interpersonal communications (69 percent) and having a negative impact on literacy (59 percent) with these figures highest among baby boomers.

So what do these survey findings mean for contact centers? It’s quite simple; businesses must ensure that they’re maintaining a healthy balance between technology and human interaction.

While self-service technology is great for certain situations—for example, when a customer needs to check on their bill or status of a delivery—others situations call for communication with a live Communicator.

It’s for this reason why it’s extremely important that businesses offer various different communication channels to cater to consumers needs, such as live chat, social media, and telephone service.

While technology has certainly changed the customer care industry, it hasn’t lessened the need for Communicators. There are certain situations in which technology just can’t offer the same quality of customer care and, in these scenarios consumers need the help of a live, experienced Communicator to help solve their problem.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

The Impact of the First Name Basis

Delta Airlines recently experienced a customer care mishap when its Delta Sky Club customer care representative pretended to know a customer on a first name basis, but in actuality slipped up, forgot his name, and then to make matters worse, asked to see his personal identification. Yikes!

The airline, however, quickly redeemed itself by immediately fixing the situation. Now, a customer care representative at the airline’s lounge desk will welcome you, scan your boarding pass, and address you by name.

While you might not be in the airline industry, there’s certainly a lesson to be learned here. In particular, the importance of marrying technology with customer care, as well as creating a personalized experience for customers.

By implementing sophisticated contact center technology, such as predictive analysis, you can give your customers the personalized experience that they’ve come to expect. For example, with predictive analysis Communicators can leverage customers’ personal and account information and thereby address the inquiry more efficiently and personally. This also prevents customers from needing to continuously repeat information.

What’s more, doing something as simple as calling a customer by his or her first name will help make him or her feel respected and valued—two things that all customers are seeking. According to a study from InMoment Research—which surveyed 644 consumers and 131 brand representatives— one in three respondents explicitly mentioned how they want to feel about their interactions with brands, using words and phrases like “feeling valued,” “acknowledged,” “heard,” “appreciated,” and “respected.”

Don’t let what happened to Delta happen to you. If you’re looking to improve your customer care strategy, then consider implementing technology that gives your Communicators the information they need to provide superior quality of customer care to your customers. Technology coupled with good old fashion training is a winning combination for all businesses.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.