Consumers Value Relationship Over Product Innovation

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

I want you to take a moment and think about your favorite brand. What makes you stay loyal to this particular company? Is it because its marketing messages resonate with your personal goals and interests? Or perhaps it’s due to the quality of customer care exuded through these messages. After all, customer care goes beyond the walls of the contact center. In fact, brand to customer relationships start with the marketing department and are further nurtured through customer care professionals who understand their consumers’ needs and communicate this knowledge effectively.

In fact, according to a recent study from The Fortune Knowledge Group in collaboration with Gyro, buyers find an array of qualities far more important than the actual product when it comes to choosing a company to patronize. Interestingly enough, in many cases buyers value a company’s corporate culture, beliefs, goals and dedication to cultivating long lasting relationships above product innovation.

And while product innovation is undeniably a huge factor in a brand’s overall success, today’s consumers are beginning to value the connectedness they feel with the brands they love. So let’s highlight a few ways businesses can work towards fostering better relationships with their customers based on the insights derived from the aforementioned study:

  • Live and breathe your core values: Customers respect brands that emanate strong values and beliefs. So if one of your business’s core values is to be an industry game-changer by providing the utmost quality of customer care, then you’d better start acting like it. Your customers may not know this your core value, but in living and breathing this particular belief it will eventually become apparent. As well, it will help your team stay consistent in its delivery of customer care as each and every member must work to provide the same level of service.
  • Weigh in on current events: Without becoming too controversial, try taking a stance on a particular current event or social issue through marketing channels like social media, for instance. Oftentimes it helps your consumers understand your values and beliefs. It will also give your brand a chance to further assert its unique personality, and customers that share the same value and beliefs as your brand will likely become that much more loyal to you. But before taking this approach consult some do’s and don’ts…read our article about Starbucks attempt at weighing in on a social issue.

Never underestimate the power of human connectedness; it just might be the differentiating factor between you and a competitor.

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

What Makes Your Employees Engaged and Satisfied?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Over the past few weeks, Cleveland has been abuzz with talk about LeBron James and the future of the Cavaliers. James recently made headlines when he declined his player option and became a free agent before signing a new two-year deal that also contains an option for 2016.

Why was this announcement significant? James essentially told the Cavaliers that he’s happy to finish his career in Cleveland but that the organization needs to hold up its end of the bargain by giving him the resources he needs to win (like a strong supporting cast). It’s safe to say James will likely undergo the same process of re-evaluating his situation next year as well.

As the Cavaliers are learning, it’s not enough to simply attract top talent to your organization. You have to keep employees satisfied, too, if you want to avoid the high costs of employee turnover. Aside from monetary cost, high employee turnover is also terrible for morale and employees may share damaging reviews on social media or company review websites.

So, what’s the secret to making sure your employees stick around for the long haul? The answer, as evidenced in a recent benchmark report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on happiness and engagement in the workplace, ultimately boils down to respect and trust (above even benefits and compensation). According to the study, 72 percent of respondents indicated that respectful treatment of employees at all levels is the most important overarching factor for determining a happy work environment, with trust between employees and senior managers coming in second at 64 percent.

Other top factors, aside from those related to job security or finances, include the relationship with immediate supervisors (58 percent), opportunities to leverage skills and abilities in the workplace (58 percent) and having an immediate supervisor’s respect for your ideas (56 percent).

So ask yourself: What makes your employees satisfied and engaged? Are you providing all of the necessary ingredients to produce the best quality of customer care? If not, it’s time to re-evaluate your approach to employee happiness.

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Quality of Customer Care Is Now in the Eye of the Beholder

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Think about how good it feels when you call your favorite local restaurant for takeout and the order-taker not only greets you by your first name, but also remembers your individual preferences (well-done, extra sauce on the side). In remembering these small but important details, the business shows that it cares about you as a customer; as a result, the restaurant has a spot on your speed dial.

Your contact center most likely deals with a much larger customer base than a local restaurant does. Still, it’s imperative that you avoid taking a blanket approach to customer care and strive to create highly personalized customer interactions. Why? Customers today have come to expect white-glove service over the phone; if you don’t provide it, chances are more than likely that your competitors will.

As a recent Walker report states, this is a trend that will increase in importance over the next few years.

“The customer of 2020 will be more informed and in charge of the experience they receive,” the report sponsor explains. “They will expect companies to know their individual needs and personalize the experience.”

That being said, here are the steps your contact center needs to improve its quality of customer care:

Understand your customers: It’s important that agents can see exactly who is on the other end of the line before picking up the phone. The easiest way to do this is to assign individual profiles to each one of your customers. Using an application like Inscription, customer profiles can be created and updated in real time.

Put your data to use: Collecting customer data is an important first step. Next, you need to make sure that you use it to facilitate better experiences. If a customer prefers to speak Spanish or is hard of hearing, for instance, he or she should not have to select the option every time. You can also use customer data to create intelligent scripts that can greet callers based on known preferences.

Be mindful of your customers’ time: Make sure that your contact center is known for being as efficient as it is knowledgeable about its customers. Update your interactive voice response system so that it’s user-friendly (meaning it’s easy to understand and navigate). You should also invest in a skills-based routing solution so that the best available agent is always assigned to assist customers with their inquiries. This way, your customers will always be greeted by someone who is equipped with the necessary skill set to answer their questions.

In taking these steps, your business will differentiate itself from many other providers in its industry. Click here to learn more about how InfoCision can help make customer care a strong point in your company.

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Does Your Customer Care Strategy Match Your Customers’ Expectations?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

When push comes to shove customer care is all about being able to pivot with your customer’s ever-changing expectations. And with customer care expectations rising to the level of importance that they currently stand at, it’s in a company’s best interest to spend more time making sure its service capability is in alignment with its customers’ needs.

For instance, a recent article from Forbes Insights sheds light on the importance of remaining sensitive to differences in demographic preferences. In fact, the article states that while L.L. Bean was ranked the best in customer service by a broad group of consumers, a survey of only millennials revealed different results. Millennials revealed that they prefer service provided by brands like Amazon, Victoria’s Secret, Best Buy, Nordstrom and Macy’s. The reason for these varied results is that the brands millennials prefer have strong multichannel objectives. In other words, multichannel customer care is a top necessity when serving millennials.

But meeting your customers’ expectations goes beyond just offering the right types of communication methods, it also requires you to go above and beyond to satisfy their customers and provide a memorable experience for everyone.

For example, you’ve likely heard the story about Morton’s Steakhouse taking an order over a tweet. The employees of this restaurant truly went the extra mile when they fulfilled author and business consultant Peter Shanknman’s joking request to have a steak waiting for him at the airport when his flight landed. To Shankman’s surprise his tweet came across the restaurant chain’s radar and they, indeed, had a meal waiting for him when he landed. Now that’s what caring for your customers looks like.

So if your customers want multichannel communications, then implement them. If your customers want a steak, so to speak, deliver it to them even if they don’t expect it—that’s how you’ll really make the most impact.

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

How to Keep Your Communicators Cool This Summer

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

While we long for the balmy summer months during the dead of winter, we oftentimes yearn for a blast of cool air once the humidity and the scorching heat finally arrives. And even though summertime brings to mind careless days relaxing on the beach and cookouts in the backyard, sometimes the sun’s glare can become downright bothersome.

And when any circumstance becomes vexing, be it the weather or a conversation with a particularly difficult customer, it’s important to our relationships with others that we stay cool, calm and reasonable. So, besides bumping up the AC, how are you going to ensure that your frontline Communicators keep fresh and breezy with your callers this summer?

After all, “keeping cool” means more than regulating your body temperature in the contact center space. The phrase implies knowing how to take a breath and handle each and every situation with tact, poise and respect.

So, no matter how heated up your Communicators become this summer, due to the humidity or an overwhelming call queue, here a few tips and tricks to heed to ensure that your employees provide superior customer care regardless.

  • Make strategic Communicator and customer pairings: It’s important to ensure that your Communicators never feel that they are in a situation that’s over their heads. That is, it’s vital that you take note of the areas in which certain Communicators excel and others are a bit weak. In doing so, you can gain actionable insight about each individual employee’s skill set. Furthermore, expand upon their strengths and avoid giving them work that exploits their weaknesses by employing a practice such as skills-based routing, which routes customer inquiries to the Communicators who are most experienced in the particular subject matter.
  •  Provide positive reinforcement: Don’t let great instances of customer care go unnoticed. Make time to pause and congratulate Communicators for their moments of excellent customer care so your employees feel a sense of accomplishment from their jobs. Any job can become unfulfilling when you don’t feel you are making a difference or noticeably progressing. By acknowledging successes, your employees are likely to feel more secure and satisfied in their positions. And a happy Communicator’s attitude will translate well over the phone.

So don’t let the summer heat or an overwhelmed Communicator diminish your quality of customer care. Heed these important tips and it’ll be smooth sailing for you all season long.

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Are You Compliant with the New FCC Rules?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

On Thursday June 18th, the FCC approved a TCPA Declaratory Ruling that is meant to “protect consumers from unwanted robocalls and texts.” The ruling was approved by a vote of 3-2 and the official text was released, and became effective, on Friday July 10th.

So, what does this new policy mean moving forward?

An instrumental part of providing the utmost quality of customer care in the contact center space is compliance with privacy restrictions implemented by governing regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

InfoCision has reviewed internal policies and procedures to ensure full compliance with the Ruling and have implemented the most conservative standard to protect our clients, our company and our employees. We also encourage all organizations to make sure any third party vendors they utilize are compliant.

As an industry leading expert in compliance, we are providing a brief summary of the FCC Ruling for your reference.

ATDS (Automatic Telephone Dialing System)                                   ATDS is defined as any device or equipment which has the current or potential capacity with software modifications or additions to store or produce telephone numbers to be dialed randomly or sequentially without human intervention.  The hardware determines whether the equipment is an ATDS or not, i.e. if the hardware configuration cannot dial without human intervention without additional hardware, it is not an ATDS. The definition also includes calls to a set list of numbers using an ATDS.

The TCPA’s express consent requirements for calls to cell phones apply if the calls are made using an ATDS or prerecorded message.

It’s critical when contacting a cell phone number to use a manual dial solution which meets the specific terms required by the FCC.

Re-Assigned Numbers, Called Party and Wrong Number Calls         The TCPA exempts calls made to cell phones using an ATDS or prerecorded message if the “called party” provided prior express (written) consent for such calls.  The FCC has expanded the determination for who the called party is, in situations where the caller intends to call one person but unintentionally reaches another.  This situation could occur primarily when a number has been reassigned without the caller’s knowledge.  According to the FCC, businesses will have only one opportunity to call a reassigned number.

Text Messages                                                                                       Text messages are defined as a call to a mobile number and subject to TCPA consent and dialing requirements.

Remaining compliant is imperative for the respect and safety of your consumers as well as protecting an organization from significant monetary liabilities.

Click here to read more about regulatory compliance standards in the contact center space.

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Why Providing Agents with Analytics is Essential to Your Success

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes that “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought,” referring to the immense preparation that is necessary to be su

ccessful in war, and the need to arm soldiers with all the tools they might need. The world of customer care is no different.

While having skilled and personable call center agents is of course vital to providing a high quality of customer care, arming those agents with as much information as possible is also a necessity. Today, contact center technology is more sophisticated than ever, and the use of big data analytics is critical for providing agents with the information they need in order to provide better assist customers.

Big data analytics will play an ever-increasing role in the world of contact center services. In fact, a recent report by Gartner concluded that by 2018 half of all agent interactions will be influenced in some way by real-time analytics. Giving agents access to all of this information will dramatically improve quality of customer care, as agents will be able to have a greater understanding of both the problem and the customer.

Big data analytics like predictive analysis will allow agents to solve customers’ problems more quickly, more efficiently, and with greater accuracy—the ultimate goal of all contact centers. By using information from prior customer interactions, predictive analytics can give agents a good idea of what a customer is calling about before even answering the phone. This allows them to begin compiling solutions in a timelier manner, providing rapid assistance to the client.

In order to keep up with the abundance of big data available within customer care space, businesses must understand how to use it to their advantage. As such, contact center leaders need to look into improving the back end of their centers—the engine that drives their customer interactions—with Business Intelligence tools to make better use of the enormous pool of big data of which businesses are receiving ever-increasing access.

Knowing how to access, analyze, and apply big data to contact center services will allow business to provide the highest possible quality of customer care, increasing customer satisfaction as well as company reputation. Effectively using big data analytics will help make contact center services one of the most valuable resources of a business.

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Why There’s No Room for Perfectionists on the Road to Success

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

In the wake of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s run to the World Cup, soccer fever has once again swept through America. But with that spotlight has come increased scrutiny as well. As Skip Weisman, a leadership and workplace communications expert pointed out, despite the fact that the U.S. did not lose a game in their pursuit of (ultimately winning) the championship, sports commentators have focused almost exclusively on what the team gets wrong.

Weisman goes on to suggest that this overly-perfectionist attitude makes it nearly impossible to appreciate success. Similarly, contact center supervisors can sometimes get bogged down in the smaller mistakes that their agents make rather than focus on factors that contribute to successful quality of customer care.

There are a few ways that contact center managers can avoid this attitude of perfectionism within their service facilities:

Focus on the customer: In broad strokes, the most important thing for contact centers to focus on is creating and fostering long lasting relationships between their brand and customers. Thus, the ultimate measure of contact center success is customer retention; this should be the main focus and measurement of success for supervisors.

Improve quality management: With that being said, agents can always improve their craft. Improving quality assurance and agent training measures are two areas where contact centers can realize more success. By monitoring and evaluating calls, for instance, managers can constantly update and improve core processes and identify areas of weakness.

Contact centers can also use quality skills assessments to evaluate individual employees’ strengths and weaknesses. The conclusions drawn from these assessments can be shared with the employees, so that they can learn how to improve their communicating and problem solving techniques. Supervisors can also use these tools to keep their centers a step ahead by continuously phasing out practices that are sub-optimal and replacing them with more successful processes.

Set your employees up for success: It is vital that agents feel they are being treated well and recognized for their accomplishments. Small supervisor to agent ratios, career-focused training for employees, and benefits like on-site fitness centers and flexible hours can help agents remain engaged in what they are doing. When employees feel as though their needs are being satisfied, they are much more likely to be dedicated to their work. On the other hand, agents who are in constant fear of criticism from a manager will likely spend more time looking over their shoulders than doing effective work. Clearly, the former option is a more valuable asset to the business.

In any business, in any endeavor in life, there is always room for improvement. In order to become and remain a successful business, shortcomings and weaknesses need to be identified and corrected wherever possible. But, this cannot be done at the expense of recognizing success. Contact center supervisors cannot become so wrapped up in minute mistakes that they lose sight of the bigger picture. Just like the U.S. Women’s Team, it is important to recognize that a win is a win. There is always time to make improvements, but it is vital to balance this with recognizing and appreciating successes.

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Active Listening: An Agent’s Key to Customer Care Success

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Being a contact center agent can be extremely hectic. Amidst fielding calls, finding solutions, answering questions and entering data, it can be easy to lose sight of the premier task at hand: helping customers solve their problems quickly and free of frustration. Regardless of how chaotic the business day gets, the No. 1 priority should always be high-quality customer care.

Making sure that agents listen actively to their customers can help ensure this critical objective is met. While agents are provided with a script to guide their customer exchanges, they must also be attentive to their callers, paying attention to small details and listening for cues in the conversation that can help them better resolve customer issues.

One of the best ways agents can demonstrate that they are actively listening to customers is to give them feedback. This can be done by restating and rephrasing things the customer says, summarizing their points and asking clarifying questions. The benefits here are twofold: First, such feedback reassures customers that they are being listened to and understood by an agent who is present and in the moment. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Hello Operator, this form of repeating was listed by customers as one of the best ways for agents to show them they really care. Second, by restating information and asking questions, the agent can iron out any points of confusion or miscommunication and make it easier to solve problems.

Working in a contact center can sometimes feel like an endless stream of tasks. To provide the best customer service possible, however, agents must slow down, take a deep breath and focus on actively listening to their customers. Doing so will make it easier for agents to resolve issues and make customers feel valued. Then you can accurately avow that your contact center provides high-quality customer care.

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Engaging Your Customers Starts With Engaging Your Agents

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

One of the keys to providing quality customer care is to keep contact center agents engaged in their work. After all, agents who are dissatisfied or bored with their jobs are less likely to go the extra mile to help customers. Customers can also sense if the person helping them is disengaged or doesn’t seem to care, which can create a negative customer experience. Thus, it is extremely important to keep contact center agents happy at work.

Effective management techniques can do wonders for keeping contact center agents focused on providing high-quality customer care. Creating both individual and team-oriented goals can simultaneously foster an environment of competition and teamwork within the call center, driving more production. Completing these goals on a weekly basis can also foster an ongoing sense of accomplishment among employees, keeping them positive.

Managers can also play a huge role in improving and maintaining agents’ morale. For example, they can take advantage of company time for team-building activities that can boost mood and create a team environment within the call center. Company-hosted social events can also provide an opportunity for agents as well as other members of the company to gather, socialize and get to know each other (at InfoCision, for instance, we like to host regular summer cookouts). This strengthens interoffice relationships and foster an upbeat work environment.

Finally, managers must be attuned to the needs of their employees. Agents need to be able to easily make use of their sick and personal days, and should not feel any pressure or stigma against doing so. Employees should feel free and, in fact, be encouraged to make use of any company benefits available to them. Maintaining a workplace where agents feel their needs are being made a priority is vital to keeping them content.

These are just a few adjustments businesses can make to keep their employees happy and engaged in their jobs, which should translate into higher-quality customer care. The key to any successful call center is the satisfaction of its agents. Is this your top priority?

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.