2018 Cybersecurity Preview for Contact Centers

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

There is one issue that should be on every business leader’s mind looking ahead into 2018 and that is cybersecurity. Experts are now predicting that 2018 could be one of the worst years yet for cybercrime.

What used to be a challenge primarily for data center technicians, cybercrime is now an issue for every business department — especially in the contact center, where thousands of communications are sent and received every day. In fact, the contact center has emerged as one of the most heavily-targeted areas of the enterprise by hackers.

One of the most frustrating aspects about combating cybercrime is that the threat landscape is constantly changing. New threats — and trends in defense strategies — are always fluctuating and it can be hard to keep up, especially for busy contact center managers who have many other responsibilities to look after on a daily basis.

Here are some things that customer service administrators may see in 2018 in the cybersecurity space:

Ransomware attacks will increase: Ransomware is now one of the most devastating tools that hackers use to extort money from businesses. It’s a special form of malware that allows hackers to hijack personal files and delete them at will. Oftentimes, hackers will accept payments and then delete files anyway. Ransomware experienced record growth in 2017, and now a company is hit with ransomware every 40 seconds. We predict that this figure will increase next year, as ransomware tools are getting easier to use and less expensive.

Android attacks will get more dangerous: Two things are happening right now: Consumers are using their phones more than ever to resolve customer service issues, and mobile malware is evolving at a rapid pace. This is a bad combination, because it means that customers are now sending more and more data into customer service departments through insecure devices.

More companies will switch to blockchain: Increasing cybersecurity threats and continued data breach announcements will cause more companies to migrate to blockchain systems for transactions. Blockchain, in short, allows companies to share digital ledgers over a network of connected computers. With blockchain technology, there is no central authority — and no way to tamper with individual records. All of the data is public, and all in the open.

Companies will spend more on cyberdefenses: According to one new report, cybersecurity spending will exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021. Companies will look to fortify their networks by investing in services like real-time monitoring and threat detection, advanced threat forensics and employee cybersecurity training. Expect spending to accelerate in 2018.

One easy way to improve your contact center’s cyberdefenses is to outsource operations to a third party services provider. A third party solutions provider will streamline all aspects of cybersecurity for your customer service department, sparing your team the burden of having to worry about it.

The Fastest Way to Improve Your Customer Service Department

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

It’s Okay to Feel Good About Outsourcing

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Let’s be honest: Your customer service department is more of a burden than a benefit to your business. It’s expensive. It’s complex. And it’s failing to drive revenue for your organization like the company hoped it would when the department was originally established.  

It is possible, however, to turn things around and start providing amazing customer support without having to put up with any of the pain points that come with managing a contact center. You can eliminate all of the above-mentioned challenges. All you have to do is outsource your department to a third party contact center solutions provider.

A third party contact center solutions provider will offer your organization access to the best agents on the market; top-of-the line software; cutting-edge infrastructure; and data-driven strategy. At the same time, you can also establish business continuity for customer service. By housing critical contact center infrastructure off-site, communications can continue in the event of an unplanned local power or service outage. This is something to consider as the busy holidays approach. What will happen if your customer service department goes down while customers are buying holiday gifts?

Now, if you are struggling with the idea of outsourcing your department that is completely understandable. After all, it’s a tough decision to make and one that requires re-assigning active customer service employees. You will have to think of something to do withal of your contact center employees.

One suggestion is to form a select think tank comprised of the best minds in your department. This group can help marketing and sales teams devise and execute ideas to connect with customers, improve campaigns and drive profits. This strategy can also boost team morale. By choosing to keep your workers instead of laying them off, you will prove that you are an employee-centric organization or one that cares about its hard-working staff members.

The point here is that it’s okay to feel good about outsourcing. Outsourcing customer support operations is the most cost-effective and trusted way to transform a failing department into one that is profitable and capable of evolving with the ever-changing needs of today’s customers.

If you’re new to the concept of outsourcing, here is another way of thinking about it: You outsource things all the time. Using a cloud service like Google, for instance, involves outsourcing — and hence, relying on another company to provide a critical service. Outsourcing a contact center is no different.

To learn more about how your business can benefit from outsourcing customer service operations, click here.

Top Reasons to be Thankful for Contact Centers

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

With service demands at an all-time high, businesses are more challenged than ever to keep their customers satisfied. However, this is no easy task — especially for growing small businesses with large numbers of customers to handle on a daily basis. It’s for this reason why so many businesses are choosing to leverage third party contact center solutions providers.

Indeed, there are many reasons to be thankful for contact centers, and it’s hard to imagine life without them. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we compiled some of the top reasons why we are grateful.

Contact centers…

Can be a buffer for complaints: Most customers are bound to take action in some form or another when they are unhappy with a product or service. Some, for instance, may take to social media to complain. As such, unhappy customers need to be managed. A contact center can serve as a buffer zone where customers can sound off to service representatives, ask for refunds or rebates, and work towards resolutions.

Boost sales: Not all sales happen online or in stores. In order to drive maximum profits, businesses need to have agents actively making calls and closing deals. Contact centers can be a great source of revenue, if managed properly.

Feed R&D: Customers can be the best source of ideas that can translate into new products and services. When customers interact with agents, they often provide a lot of useful information. Contact centers that can process this information can serve as a valuable resource for research and development teams.

Maintain donor relations: Companies need to take special care of their financial donors. They need to be contacted, for instance, with promotional content to influence them and keep them happy about supporting the brand and its cause. Contact centers excel in keeping donors interested and contributing.

Ensure business continuity: Foul weather can arise at any time, disrupting business communications and leaving customers in the dark during outages. By outsourcing contact center operations to a third party solutions provider, it’s possible to ensure business continuity even in the worst weather conditions.

Collect and organize data: Customers supply a tremendous amount of personal data during interactions, especially when interacting with service agents. An effective contact center can serve as a data repository providing detailed information. This information can be used all across the enterprise.

Foster brand loyalty: Brandy loyalty needs to be earned, and the contact center is an excellent tool for doing this. A positive customer service interaction can go a long way in making a customer come back for more purchases.

Provide technical support: Nothing can disrupt the customer experience more than being unable to get quick answers when they are needed. Contact centers that offer technical support can prevent customers from getting frustrated, or making unnecessary returns.

Offer around-the-clock care: In-house employees may have to leave at the end of the day, but contact centers can stay open late—especially those using chat bots. By offering 24 hour care in a contact center, businesses can continue to provide service and even drive after hours sales.

 

Planning for the Future in Your Contact Center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

As a customer service administrator, you need to think about the short term and the long term success of your department. This requires looking past the daily issues facing your team, and engaging in some future planning.

Ask yourself the following question: Where exactly do you want your contact center to be in a year? It may be time to make some critical changes to your strategy.

As you already know, change does not typically come quickly in a traditional contact center setting. It can be hard enough even getting budgetary approval for things like new equipment, more agents or better CRM software when you manage your own facility. After all, an in-house contact center must compete with other departments in the enterprise for financing.

The best way to fast-track change in your contact center is to outsource operations to a third party solutions provider. In doing so, you won’t have to wait a year for change. You will experience a turnaround in performance almost instantaneously.

Here are some of the benefits you can expect to see by outsourcing your contact center:

Stronger agents: You will no longer have to worry about hiring, training and managing customer service agents. By outsourcing to a third party contact center solutions provider, you will receive access to premium agents who are already highly-trained and experienced in dealing with a variety of issues. This will eliminate a great deal of time and hassle, while also mitigating risk and improving results.

Less turnover: Another major upside to outsourcing your customer service operations is that you won’t have to worry about contact center attrition. This is typically very high in contact centers, and it’s both expensive and inconvenient. It’s also bad for morale.

Reduced overhead: Right now you are paying for everything from office chairs to lights to headsets. Overhead is extremely expensive, and oftentimes customer service departments lack the necessary funding to keep them running at a high level. Outsourcing, however, will ensure that the people communicating with your customers are always using the latest and most effective equipment on the market. And you won’t have to pay extra for any of it.

Improved donor relations: Donor ecosystems need to be carefully maintained day in and day out. Oftentimes, in-house customer service departments struggle to provide the extra attention that is needed keep donors happy and contributing to campaigns. Outsourcing providers, though, specialize in executing high quality, data-driven donor outreach initiatives.

More sales: Ultimately, contact centers — like all departments — are judged on a cost vs. profit basis. And many departments are spending a lot more than they are bringing in. By outsourcing, you will boost sales and you will only have to pay a small monthly price.

 

Tips for Designing a Profitable Contact Center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Let’s assume that right now, your business does not have a dedicated contact center. Right now you have a blank slate to start with, and money to spend. And you are wondering about whether it’s a good idea to move forward with a contact center for your business. Is it really something that your organization can afford?

First and foremost, you absolutely need a contact center. The decisions that you make while acquiring one, though, will either come back to haunt you later or generate strong returns for years to come.

A contact center, in other words, can be notoriously expensive after factoring in things like staff and labor, technology, overhead, maintenance, and telecommunications costs. Many contact centers — specifically large, in-house operations — tend to burn through much more revenue than they bring in.  Owning a contact center can quickly turn into a major money pit for an organization.

Understand, though, that it’s possible to design a modern, effective, high quality contact center at a price that aligns with your business’s budget.

Here are some things that you can do to operate a profitable contact center:

Minimize overhead: It’s not the look or feel of your building or office that will determine whether your contact center is profitable in the long run. So it’s okay to be cheap and even thrifty with your setup. Your facility, in other words, does not have to resemble a Silicon Valley startup office. Spend money on the bare essentials, and look for ways to trim down waste. This is also true from a technology startup. Only purchase technologies that can significantly help your agents, and pass on some of the flashy, expensive cutting-edge solutions that you see.

 Be smart about what you buy: This is not to say you should be cheap about the communications equipment that you use. By all means, give your agents high quality equipment that will be bug-free and they will feel comfortable using. But be wary of vendors offering fancy new contact center technologies. At the end of the day, your don’t need much more than the basics to do a great job — such as a reliable phone system, a customer service/ customer relationship management platform, a high quality headset and of course analytics.

Outsource operations: Keep in mind that it’s one thing to come up with a budget and plan to control costs in your contact center. But it’s quite another thing to achieve real cost savings while operating your own facility. There will always be unexpected expenses to face like high employee turnover, equipment upgrades, utilities and more. By outsourcing your contact center operations, though, you will avoid many of these costs while also receiving guaranteed results.

Expect Unhappy Customers To Take Action Against Your Company

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

 Every company dreams of having “brand influencers,” or super-customers who continuously rave about their favorite products and services to followers over social media. But this does not always happen. On the other end of the spectrum are “brand detractors” or customers that will actively speak out when they are unhappy with a company.

How your team manages these “brand detractors” will go a long way in determining its public perception. Dealing with a single unhappy customer, in other words, is a bit like managing a small fire. If left unchecked, or mishandled, a customer’s anger could quickly spread to others and cause a considerable amount of damage to the brand’s online reputation.

 This is especially problematic in the financial services industry, where more than 1 in 5 Americans claim they will leave their bank if they are unhappy with the customer service they receive. And 78 percent will take a form of action by switching banks, filing a complaint or sharing their bad experiences with their contacts or audiences.

Of course, not all problems can be easily silenced. But most problems can be eased or solved by getting on the phone and having a conversation with an agent. The contact center can be like a buffer that can be used to communicate with customers before they reach for social media.

A well-managed contact center can prevent customer complaints from spreading by:

 Serving as an outlet to vent: What do you do when you get really mad or frustrated about something? Chances are likely you will find someone — anyone — and tell them about your issue. Talking through a situation can help you think through the issue and get another opinion.

Oftentimes, you can come to a conclusion that you had not previously thought of. The trick is to offer customers many different communications channels like a telephone line, email, live chat and social support. The more options you give them, and the easier you make it to communicate, the more likely customers will be to reach out and attempt to solve their issues in the contact center as opposed to their social followers.

Providing an opportunity for retention: When customers get very angry, they often attempt to cancel their services. This is where it pays to have a dedicated contact center. A customer service agent could attempt to keep a customer by offering incentives or rewards. It’s sometimes possible to prevent customers from leaving if you make them feel special and appreciated.

 Showing what consumers want: A contact center can be an amazing resource for learning about consumer behavior. After all, if one customer is experiencing an issue chances are that it’s impacting many others, too. In a well-managed contact center, all complaints are processed, reviewed and addressed so that the company can continuously improve.

 

Beware the Hidden Expenses of Offshore Outsourcing

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Once you make the decision to outsource your customer service department, you will then have to decide whether to keep operations on U.S. soil or explore the international market.

There are countless reasons to go the domestic route, and in this article I will focus on one in particular: You will save a great deal of money. The fact is that it’s much more affordable to keep your customer service department here in the U.S. than it is to outsource to an international provider in a place like India or the Philippines.

Businesses often outsource to international providers thinking they will save money, but fail to consider some of the many hidden costs that can arise during the process.

Some of these hidden expenses can include:

Selecting a vendor: Selecting a contact center solutions provider is a big decision, especially if when searching for long-term contract. You will be outsourcing a major part of your business, which requires placing a tremendous amount of trust in another company. It’s therefore very important to meet with your new team before you sign any agreements, possibly even several times. Hidden costs can therefore arise during the vendor selection process, especially if you are travelling back and forth and spending a great deal of time performing research and negotiating contracts.

Transition costs: Outsourcing your contact center to an international provider will not be an overnight process. Your department will have to transition over to its new facility, a process that can take several months or even years. And during this time period, significant costs can accrue. Your team, for instance, may have to spend a fair amount of time communicating and working with the new overseas service team to eliminate cultural differences and educate them about your brand. You could also face higher telecommunications costs, and information technology-related expenses. For instance, certain countries now have strict data privacy laws that may require you to purchase new security technologies or update existing systems.

Lower-quality interactions: Even the best overseas agents will have a much harder time connecting with local customers. There is a cultural disconnection that your customers will immediately pick up on, and some customers may even view your brand negatively if they see you are supporting foreign workers instead of American workers.

Legal complications: Foreign contact centers tend to be much more aggressive in reaching their key performance indicators (KPIs), so they can look good and keep generating repeat sales. In doing so, many organizations are likely to bypass Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) protocols, which limit how businesses can communicate with consumers. This can lead to expensive and damaging class action lawsuits. The safer alternative is to work with a domestic provider offering rapid response legal advice.

 

Use Live Chat to Improve Agent Productivity

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

I’m willing to bet that right now, you are simultaneously chatting with at least a few different individuals on your smartphone. Maybe you are making plans with a friend, offering personal advice to a colleague and talking about business with a client. And all the while, you are carrying on with your own tasks in between messages.

Chatting online in near real-time, in other words, allows you to be highly productive — far more productive than when using traditional communications channels. After all, you can chat with several different people simultaneously when texting; you can only talk to one person at a time over the phone. And you can only send one email at a time, too.

For this reason, countless businesses are now adding live chat boxes to their list of customer service offerings. Web-based live chat has emerged as one of the most widely-used tools for customer service in the contact center.

What’s great, too, is that there is software available that automates the live chat process. Now, agents can supervise several different chat “bots” as they carry on conversations with customers in real-time, and intervene in key situations like when customers ask difficult questions. When done correctly, customers shouldn’t even know they are communicating with bots.

Here are some of the top reasons for using live chat in the contact center:

Customers want to use it: Live chat certainly can’t replace traditional communications channels, like the phone or email. These channels always need to remain open for customers. But many customers prefer to use live chat, because it helps them resolve issues much faster. With live chat, customers never have to wait more than a few minutes to speak with a representative. So offering live chat will be a welcome addition for your customers.

Help more customers: By responding to customers faster over live chat, you will reduce the number of dropped calls throughout the day. Many customers, for instance, hang up while waiting on hold instead of waiting. This happens much less with live chat. A single agent, too, could help five or more customers at a single time. So using live chat will allow you to get much more out of your agents.

Plus, you can use chat bots to offer low-cost after-hours care. The vast majority of after-hours inquiries can be solved automatically, sparing you from having to staff large numbers of agents. Keep in mind, though, that you should always have agents on hand throughout the night or weekend.

Reduce costs: By offering customers live chat, and encouraging them to use it instead of the phone, you will reduce your monthly incoming calls. This will mean less monthly telecommunications expenses.

 

The Top Financial Returns You Can Expect When Outsourcing Your Contact center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The phrase “digital transformation” continues to be one of the hottest buzzwords in business right now, as organizations across all vertical markets are actively looking for ways to improve efficiencies, slash operating costs and drive stronger profits.

Digital transformation is a phrase that you commonly hear in the data center, but it’s now being applied to all areas of the enterprise — especially in the contact center space. Traditional contact centers using legacy infrastructure, after all, are extremely expensive to own and operate and many businesses today — particularly small to medium-sized organizations — are struggling to keep them up and running at a high level.

As such, a growing number of businesses are now outsourcing operations to third party contact center solutions providers. And they are experiencing strong financial returns in the process.

Here are some of the top financial returns that your business will experience by outsourcing the contact center:

Less overhead: Imagine not having to pay for things like rent, utilities and building maintenance in your contact center. A contact center solutions provider will eliminate overhead in your department, giving you extra capital to pump back into important things like research & development.

Zero CAPEX or OPEX: Another major benefit to outsourcing your contact center is that you will avoid having to continuously purchase and upgrade your infrastructure — like your agents’ machines, headsets and customer relationship management (CRM) software. Your contact center solutions provider will guarantee that you always have access to the latest and most powerful contact center hardware and software on the market, for a fraction of what it would cost you otherwise.

Fewer salaries: Contact center agents can cost a lot of money, especially when hiring large teams of them. Again, this can be easily outsourced — eliminating the hassle of having to hire and pay agents, while still benefitting from a full, and high quality, workforce. What’s more, contact centers tend to have higher turnover, which can be very expensive.

Legal protection: This is one of the biggest hidden ROI of outsourcing your contact center. Businesses tend to run into trouble with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) when performing their own customer outreach initiatives, as regulations are very complex. When businesses attempt to form their own customer outreach strategies, often they will make mistakes that can lead to costly class action lawsuits. Contact center solutions providers offer in-house legal teams, to offer guidance for customers and mitigate costly legal problems.

More satisfied customers: Ultimately, outsourcing your contact center will result in happier customers. Contact center solutions providers specialize in keeping customers satisfied and resolving their issues. So businesses can spend less money in the long run, while drastically improving their chances of generating positive service reviews, and fostering loyal customers.