Top Ways to Create a Personalized Customer Care Experience

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The degree of attentiveness and dedication that today’s consumers expect from their favorite brands’ has hit an all-time high. Just think about it; consumers need multiple modes of contact, immediate answers and even customized messages that target their personal needs. And, due to these sky rocketing demands, businesses must do their due diligence to meet these requirements or suffer the consequences—like customer churn and negative reviews.

Now, businesses must interact with their consumers with the intent of forming a personal relationship. So, when it comes to the quality of customer care in the contact center space, the role of the telecommunications agent has become much more complex. For instance, agents must now do much more than simply communicate with their consumers, rather they must deliver a personalized one-on-one experience with each customer.

In fact, a recent article titled “The Golden Rules to the Six Pillars: Empathy” published by Engage Customer outlines how to effectively create these experiences with your consumers by adhering to a few “golden rules.” For instance, sharing similar experiences to establish a personal connection, providing the right emotional response, taking ownership of your consumers’ problems and treating customers as your priority are a just a few of the rules to live by.

So, how can you make certain that your contact center agents are addressing these golden rules and creating the ultimate customer experience with each individual they interact with?

Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure your agents take their customer care phone calls to the next level:

  • Keep it conversational: Let your agents know that it’s important to talk about more than just the issue at hand. Consumers should understand that agents are human beings who enjoy social interaction just as much as the next person. For example, while it’s important to keep your phone calls professional, try making light conversation about the weather, about current events or, depending on the nature of the call, share your own personal experiences with your customer. In doing so, your consumers will feel at ease and that they’ve established a real relationship with their brand of choice.
  • Make consumers feel important: When helping a customer with a problem they’re having with a product or answering a simple question—make sure that your agents use language and a tone of voice that allows consumers to understand that they are the top priority. It should be apparent that solving their issue is the agent’s top concern. Tell your agents to thank customers for their patience, voice their understanding and relay urgency—use phrases like “right away” and “I completely understand how you feel”—to make consumers feel as if they’re speaking with a loyal friend.

It’s time to stop treating consumers like strangers. Get more personal and show them your empathetic side—it’s just what you need to boost your quality of 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.

Study Finds “Agent Apathy” to Be the Root of Poor Customer Care

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

There’s nothing quite so disappointing as conversing with a customer care agent whose monotone voice makes it quite evident that he or she does not truly care about addressing your inquiry.  And, it’s no secret that this low-energy approach to quality of customer care will not win businesses increased customer retention or positive reviews.

In fact, a recent study from ICMI and Five9 revealed that “agent apathy” is the root cause of poor customer care levels. What’s more, in the same study 74 percent of contact center leaders confessed to feeling that they prevented their agents from providing the best experience possible.

While it’s honorable for these leaders to have acknowledged their faults, it is critical they they deduce exactly what is causing their agents to produce low levels of customer care and even more importantly, how to resolve this apathy epidemic.

For starters, workplace morale greatly affects the attitudes of contact center workers. With such high levels of daily stress thrust upon them each day in the form of hefty call queues and upset consumers, it’s no surprise that agents’ sometimes feel burnt out. However, contact center supervisors can work to create a more optimistic, team-oriented atmosphere to help agents’ feel more excited about their careers.

For example, supervisors must provide their employees with an appropriate balance between work and home life. This means staying sensitive to employees’ personal matters and understanding when agents need a break. You never want your employees’ to force their way through the work week, and offering suitable vacation allowance can certainly increase their satisfaction and performance.

In addition to work-life balance, the structure of your team is also important. Hiring managers must ensure that each new agent who enters the team is  cohesive with the rest of the workforce. More specifically, it’s important to take notice of your agents’ preferences and personalities in order to foster a group of workers who enjoy each other’s company and motivate each other to work hard and make progress.

Your contact center workplace culture will impact your agents’ quality of customer care—but it’s your choice, as the supervisor, as to whether that impact is negative or positive.

We want to hear your thoughts. Tell us how you keep your employees smiling in the comments section!

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.

Do Your Agents Pass the Stress Test?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Imagine for a moment you’re on the line with a taxing customer; at the same time you’re in the midst of searching for an answer for another caller all while your call queue is steadily building. There are so many tasks at hand you simply don’t know where to begin or how to prioritize. Sound stressful? This is a day in the life of the average contact center agent—it’s not exactly a piece of cake.

In fact, according to ICMI research 87 percent of contact center leaders acknowledge that their agents experience a moderate to high level of stress during the work day. As such, supervisors must make a priority of coaching their employees on how to handle daily stress. After all, when anyone is put under excessive pressure without escape they’re bound to fly off the handle. But, for contact center agents, bundling up their anxiety until they burst can result in serious repercussions and damage your organization’s quality of customer care.

For example, 65 percent of 1,000 consumers surveyed in a recent Parature report said they have cut ties with a business due to just one poor customer care interaction. So imagine the consequences that a strained and frustrated agent could produce for your contact center—increased customer churn, decreased ROI or detrimental reviews.

In order to sidestep stress straight from the beginning supervisors should train their agents how to manage a stressful phone call in the moment. Here are a few tips managers can pass on to their agents:

  • Make more connections: If you want to have a pleasant customer interaction, put forth a pleasant attitude. Express your understanding for the customer’s complaint or concern and then go the extra mile to initiate a real conversation, whether it’s about the weather or last night’s ball game. All too often, consumers forget the agent on the other end of the line is a human being—remind them of this and you may see a change in their attitude. And as a result, you can turn what started out as an anxiety-ridden phone call into an agreeable conversation, at the very least.
  • Do your homework: Ensure that you are extensively educated about the brands you’ll be representing on the phone. A difficult request will only become that much more impossible to handle if you aren’t well-informed on even the most niche facts about the business you’re handling. Simply put, a well prepared agent is a content agent.

Supervisors must ensure agents can pass the “stress test” before they go live on the phones, because even when stress levels mount it’s your quality of customer care will that will shine through and ultimately set your brand apart.

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.

Our Top Advice for Achieving Fundraising Success

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

At InfoCision, we continually remind ourselves of our goal to become the best, not the biggest, name in the customer care industry by providing highly valuable services. Our diligent team of Communicators works tirelessly to ensure that we’re providing the utmost quality of customer care to each and every individual we serve, which is why it is so rewarding to have our hard work recognized. We’re incredibly honored, in fact, to have been recognized as a customer care MVP in “Customer Magazine” for the 22nd consecutive year.

As such, I’d like to shine a spotlight on—and dedicate this honor to—our exceptionally talented Communicators. It is their inherent traits, like empathy and quick wit, experience and commitment that enable InfoCision to achieve such high-quality results and keep our customers satisfied.

Most specifically, I’d like to lend some insight to our readers about the achievements our Communicators make in the nonprofit space. Communicating with potential contributors and recruiting donors can prove quite difficult for many contact center agents, as relaying the importance of a charity in an impactful fashion requires a sophisticated skill set that not all people possess.

Here are few pieces of advice derived from our outbound call strategy that may help you better understand the elements that drive our fundraising success:

  • Become part of the team: At InfoCision, we don’t think of ourselves as a third-party service for our nonprofit clients, but rather an extension of their team. By pledging to work as though we are a part of the cause, our Communicators become more dedicated and driven to produce the best possible results. This is an important mindset to maintain during fundraising campaigns as our Communicators strive to effectively articulate the charity’s worthiness and the value of each donation. By making the cause our own, our staff essentially becomes part of the nonprofit’s staff, with the same ability to understand and communicate the charity’s merit.
  • Create a lasting relationship: Another differentiator that sets our Communicators apart from the competition is their dedication to their line of work. Many of our employees are InfoCision veterans, having worked here for years, even decades in some cases. Because of our high employee retention rate, our Communicators are able to create long-lasting relationships with the nonprofit institutions with which we fundraise. The entire staff becomes elated at specific times of the year that signify that it’s time for an annual fundraising campaign. This excitement stems from years of experience in recruiting donors for nonprofits that they’ve become deeply entrenched with over time. Knowledge about and genuine care for these charities gives our Communicators more ammunition to deliver powerful and emotion-evoking messages each time they speak with potential donors.
  • Acknowledge success: Besides the relationships we build with our nonprofit partners, another element that contributes to our Communicators success is a positive team environment. Our managing staff understands that the Communicators have a difficult job and that they deserve acknowledgement from us that their work is valued. Accordingly, we take the time to congratulate their continuous excellence in donor care. In addition, we ensure that our employees’ voices are heard and encourage an open-forum atmosphere in our offices that stimulates team building. It’s important to focus on maintaining a positive work atmosphere, especially in a high-stress occupation, so that employees sidestep burnout or frustration.

You can’t create a dedicated team of Communicators overnight or achieve fundraising success without the right practices. But, you can heed our advice and start down the road to stellar donor 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.

Are You Arming your Agents with Enough Information?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

It’s no secret that consumers weigh their judgments on a company based on its success in providing optimal customer care. Today’s buyers are more impatient than those of the past; in fact, more than half of consumers hang up the phone after being on hold for less than one minute. As such, it’s imperative that agents step up to the plate to meet the demands of modern consumers. To do so, contact center supervisors must ensure their agents are sufficiently informed and trained; however, this best-practice is one that might be getting overlooked as of late.

In fact, a recent study revealed that the biggest pain point in the customer care industry is a lack of required knowledge among agents. The study showed that only 44 percent of firms have an agent-facing knowledge management solution, which helps them to better predict consumer behaviors and therefore handle them more efficiently. This is rather eye-opening, as contact center agents are at the crux of the success of customer care.

Serving up noteworthy customer care starts with strengthening your workforce. Here are the two areas that need TLC in order to improve your agents’ performance:

Recruitment: Take a good look at your candidate pool; you need to ensure you’re attracting the types of employees that will be loyal (that is, interested in long-term positions and growth opportunities), driven and dedicated to their role as an agent. Often, lending some improvement to your internal workplace culture can aid in reeling in the best-suited employees. For instance, offer more work-life balance and make maintaining positive team morale a priority. In doing so, you can hire more mature employees who are experienced and looking to make their role as an agent a career rather than just a stop along their occupational journey.

Training: It is vital to provide not only etiquette training but client specific training as well. Give your agents time to become experts before they get on the phones. While diving in headfirst might be a good idea for some jobs, the role of a contact center agent puts a company’s reputation on the line with each and every customer interaction. In this scenario, intensive training must take place to avoid unfavorable situations. Your agents should know everything about the companies they’re representing before they start dealing with real customer inquiries.

What more can you do to improve your quality of customer care? Keep reading our thoughts and advice, here.

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 Spending Enough Time on Quality Assurance?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

When’s the last time you received a well-rounded view on the quality of your contact center’s procedures? If you don’t use a regular method of quality assurance to stay abreast of recurring issues—think frustrated customers and ill-informed agents—then you aren’t serving up the best possible quality of customer care.

Rather than turn a blind eye to your staff’s most pertinent pain points, tackle them head on by implementing a powerful quality assurance strategy. For example, devote time—whether it’s weekly or monthly—to address common struggles your agents experience. Moreover, continue this assessment by drilling down into the shortcoming of individual agents. By offering personalized and consistent assessments—and training for those who need it—your quality of customer care efforts will improve.

Now that we’ve covered the importance of quality assessment, let’s discuss the fundamentals. The key steps to building an effective customer care evaluation strategy involve:

  • Offering consistent basic training: As a contact center supervisor you must constantly enforce your establishment’s core competencies. This means offering best-in-class phone etiquette and quick and efficient problem solving skills, to name a few.  The only way to ensure your agents are functioning at their highest capability is to check in on their consistency in these areas. By monitoring your agents’ basic skills—and subsequently providing on-going training using automated scoring cards, online educational tools and insights gathered from speech and desktop analytics—you can assure more consistent customer care across the board.
  • Accepting feedback from external auditors: It’s always a smart idea to get a second opinion on important matters, like the quality of your contact center best practices. As such, getting an expert’s feedback—like a call center quality skills analyst who evaluates your agents’ ability—on your call center procedures will augment the impact you have on your customer care outcomes. As a supervisor you might only hear the agent’s side of the interaction at times; however, an expert whose primary goal is to provide feedback from the customer’s perspective will provide actionable and balanced insights for continued learning and improvement.
  • Providing individualized agent training: Even if an agent is showing exemplary skills, when it comes to quality of customer care, there is always room for improvement. As such, tending to the weaknesses and building on the strengths of individual agents is an important asset to a comprehensive quality assessment strategy. Without quality monitoring, it will be impossible to see whether individual agents are functioning at a high level—for example, their call queues are never full and they remain poised under pressure—while some agents are stuck in the mud. These types of agents, for example, may be unable to attend to large call volumes or difficult customers.

Ensure your quality of customer care is continuously top-notch by implementing a strategic quality assessment program. Want more customer care tips? Read more of our blogs, here.

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.

The Power of InfoCision’s ‘Family-oriented’ Atmosphere

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

At InfoCision, we take pride in our supportive, communicative workplace atmosphere. In fact, we often refer to our offices as having a rather ‘family-like’ feeling. However, these past few weeks proved that this familial environment is, actually, quite literal.

You know what they say; sometimes what you’re searching for is right under your nose. Well, that is just what happened at our Youngstown, Ohio contact center when two of our employees discovered that they were the people they’d been searching for all their lives.

Our dear employee La-Sonya Mitchell-Clark received the shock of her life when she recently found out that her birth mother, who she’d been hoping to contact for her whole life, was in fact Francine Simmons—another valued employee who has been working with us for nearly 11 years now. Imagine, Mitchell-Clark would walk into work and see Simmons, the receptionist, at the front desk; they’d offer a friendly “Hello” completely unaware that they were the missing link in each other’s lives for all this time.

What’s more, another of Simmons’ daughters Kamala Cummings works at this same location as well. She told a local news station, WYTV, “It’s just amazing that all this time we’re thinking about her and trying to find her and she was trying to find, us, too.”

Now, you might have already read this emotional, heartwarming story in Cosmo or People, but today I’d like to acknowledge this incredible event from our perspective here at InfoCision.

I’d like our readership to understand that these are very special people and the fact that they‘ve found one another is such a blessing. I was just as amazed as everyone else when I heard the news, and it’s been something special spending time with the ladies and realizing what this means for them. This experience is so touching and is surely something I’ll never forget.

What makes this story so moving for InfoCision is that our employees always comment on what a great place this is to work because of the people—specifically, the relationships they build and the special bonds they share after working together.

It’s quite incredible to now have had such an unbelievable story unfold, taking place under our very own roof. Right now, the team at InfoCision is focused on making sure we are being supportive and encouraging to the family as it has been, quite understandably, an overwhelming and emotional time.

At InfoCision, we’re very inspired by this touching story, which relays to us the power of human emotion and establishing person-to-person connections. Each day our contact center Communicators try their best to translate these fundamentals of the human experience into our quality of customer care best-practices. After all, you never know who is on the other end of the line. It could very well be possible that you could speak to someone—who you think is just a stranger—who could change your mind, your day or, perhaps, your life.

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.

Leverage Big Data to Make a Customer-Agent Match Made in Heaven

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

In the not-too-distant past, customers were randomly matched with contact center agents based on the order in which their call was received—essentially like rolling the dice.

Suffice it to say, this system was less than ideal as it often resulted in mismatches between callers and agents. Research shows callers have many different preferences that need to be addressed to create positive interactions. For instance, according to the help desk comparisons firm Software Advice, an overwhelming 67 percent of customers over the age of 65 prefer communicating at a slower pace over the phone, while just 57 percent of 18 to 24 year olds do. Furthermore, urban residents are the most likely to want to speak with an agent who is close to their own age.

The study also shows that customers have varying preferences in terms of tone, with some preferring formal and others preferring more casual deliveries, as well as in regard to the geographical location of agents. For instance, just 48 percent of 18 to 24 year old Americans prefer U.S.-based agents, while 78 percent of those aged 55 to 64 do.

So, how can you play matchmaker and ensure higher quality of customer service in your contact center? It’s entirely possible by combining an advanced skills-based routing platform with the power of big data. Using these next-generation business intelligence solutions, your contact center phone system will be able to identify key demographic information at the time of a call and automatically pair customers with appropriate agents. For instance, callers over the age of 65 can be paired with older agents or those trained to speak at a slower pace.

Click here to learn more about how your business can augment its match making skills by using best-in-class business intelligence solutions.

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.

Calling All Contact Center Managers: How to Improve Your Quality of Customer Care

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

A successful, customer-oriented team of contact center agents don’t get that way over night. An expert team requires expert attention from a manager who uses tactful insights and business intelligence resources to the advantage of his or her team. Why is it then, that only 31 percent of organizations closely monitor their quality of customer care? With every lost customer costing a contact center an average of $243, it’s time for mangers to implement tools that aid in monitoring customer care best practices.

Below is a list of tips and tricks to improve quality of customer care and boost profit:

Leverage Data Analytics: Do more for your customers and your employees by supporting your customer care practices with actionable data. For example, combing through large amounts of data can help you create customer profiles and make strategic forecasts and predictions. These data-driven resources will help in targeting the right consumers and offering support in the most suitable way possible for specific demographics.

Celebrate Your Employees: Most workers strive for praise and crave healthy competition. Providing positive feedback on an agent’s successful customer relation will hopefully motivate fellow employees to want to match that level. Additionally, giving praise to those highly-successful employees for the stellar work they do will only inspire them further. Offering feedback will also clearly outline what is working and what is not; for instance, if you celebrate the strategic handling of an agent’s phone call that was at first going downhill, workers will understand what to do next time they are in a similar situation.

Promote Preparedness: There is nothing worse, in the mind of your customers, than a seemingly underprepared contact center agent. Improve your quality of customer care by implementing demographic scripting—a business intelligence tool used to help agents communicate effectively to different groups of consumers.

Next time you get the feeling your quality of customer care is floundering, refer to these helpful tips to get your contact center team up and running at its most efficient pace.

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.