Why You Should Be Selective About the Agents You Are Hiring

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Art critic John Ruskin once stated that “quality is never an accident, it is always the result of an intelligent effort.”

The same thing can be said about contact centers. High quality customer service is never an accident, either. It takes a great deal of research, planning, communication and hard work to achieve success.

Hiring, for instance, is one task where it pays to take your time and be selective about your decisions. Customer service agents, after all, have a great responsibility to keep customers satisfied and making repeat purchases or donations. Also, agents are often the first touchpoint for customers when interacting with a company. First impressions are important, and can go a long way in determining how a customer feels about a company. The agents you hire will literally be the voice of your brand.

Here are some things to consider when hiring agents:

Attitude is important: You want to fill your contact center with agents who are positive, friendly and enthusiastic. Look for agents that you think will be able to show up every day genuinely happy to help customers. As you interview a candidate, pay attention to how they are able to carry on in conversation. Ask yourself if the person you are talking to is someone you would want to be interacting with your customers.

Are they hungry? For outbound communications, it’s essential to fill your contact center with team members who are hungry to drive sales and keep donors happy. Such roles should be filled with agents that have consistent track records of proven success, and a can-do attitude to grow the business and achieve amazing results. What’s more, hard-working and highly-driven individuals are great for team morale. They make others work harder, and inspire them to be better.

Teamwork is important: Many questions will arise over the course of a business day that go beyond the scope of the customer service agents and need to be escalated. It’s therefore critical to staff your contact center with people who aren’t afraid to ask questions and rely on their team members. Agents tend to run into problems when they attempt to solve complicated problems on their own, and wind up making promises they cannot deliver.

Contact center hiring can be a time-consuming process. It’s something that you and your managers simply may not have the time for. It’s for this reason why so many businesses today are outsourcing their contact center operations to third party contact center solutions providers. Outsourcing your contact center is a great way to get the high quality service that you want, at an affordable price.

 

What Can Happen When Customer Service Goes Right

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Earlier this year, a 16-year old named Carter Wilkerson became an overnight online sensation when he publicly challenged the customer service department at fast food giant Wendy’s on Twitter — and won, in a big way.

It all started when Wilkerson took to Twitter and asked Wendy’s how many retweets he would need to receive a full year of free chicken nuggets. Wendy’s, which has a reputation for being vocal — and at times, even sassy — on Twitter, tweeted back with a figure of “18 million.” Wilkerson responded with a confident “consider it done.”

As it turns out, the request went viral.

After Wilkerson unexpectedly racked up about 3.42 million retweets, the company caved and declared him a winner. Now, Wendy’s is honoring Wilkerson’s full year of chicken nuggets, and is even making a $100,000 donation in his name to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Wilkerson — who now has over 100,000 followers on Twitter — is continuing his cause on his own website, nuggsforcarter.com.

The lesson here is very simple:

Sometimes, it’s okay to have fun with your customers online. Listen to everything that your customers have to say, and keep a sharp eye out for opportunities like this when they arise. Let your customers know that you are paying attention to what they have to say, and pounce on opportunities that will make great human interest pieces.

Here are some of the ways your brand will benefit:

Greater customer loyalty: When current customers read about stories like Wilkerson and his free year of chicken nuggets, it fosters their feelings of pride and brand loyalty. It makes them feel great about doing business with your brand, and encourages them to share the news with others. Stories like this remind customers why they love the brand in the first place.

Increased engagement: What does just about every company brand want today? Increased audience engagement. Some companies are practically begging customers to interact with them more. This type of activity encourages customers to reach out and interact with the company. Ultimately, it generates free marketing.

Thought leadership: By responding to Wilkerson, and granting him a full year of free chicken nuggets, Wendy’s took a leap of faith. And in doing so, they reminded us about the need to keep trying new things in customer service. Wendy’s has proven that its customer service department is responsive and highly in-tune with its customer base. Wendy’s is setting an example for all other fast food chains to follow. And it’s hard to put a price tag on the type of return that this will create for the company.

What Happens After You Outsource Content?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Outsourcing a major part of your business like your contact center is a big undertaking. You will experience a big shift in the way your company operates, and possibly in your day to day schedule. So it’s important to have a roadmap planned to guide you through the process and make sure everything goes according to plan. Outsourcing projects, after all, can pick up steam very quickly.

At this point, let’s assume that your contact center outsourcing project is well underway. Your customer service team has long been notified about the change and re-allocated, and operations have been handed over to your new contact center solutions provider.

Here’s what you should do next:

Re-assess your service level agreement (SLA): If there is one thing we can’t stress enough, it’s making sure that your team has a solid understanding of the services it will receive from the contact center provider. As such, it’s important to take another look at your agreement even after it is finalized. You may notice some small mistakes in the contract that slipped through during negotiations, or important details regarding uptime and maintenance. Now is the time for team members to submit questions and resolve issues before the project continues. Some contracts, it should be noted, come with a temporary exit window.

Wipe your infrastructure: Your former contact center may have a lot of hardware sitting around, and some of it may contain sensitive customer data. Before you reassign or sell these machines to a third party reseller, make sure your IT department wipes all of the data from them. Otherwise, customer data could fall into the wrong hands — and you may not know it. Oftentimes, companies who rush to throw out their hardware suffer from data breaches months or years after getting rid of their equipment. Taking this simple step could save a great deal of trouble down the road.

Set up a meeting to discuss strategy: Contact your new customer service team, and introduce yourself. During this meeting, you’ll want to focus on forming a long-term donor outreach plan, customer service goals and basic program expectations. Let the team know that you want to be kept in the loop with reports and possibly even regular calls. Communication is one of the most important parts of outsourcing, and a strong contact center solutions provider will make it easy to keep you updated and informed.

Begin your new journey: Now it’s time to think about yourself for a moment. By outsourcing content, you will clear more room in your schedule to devote to higher-level customer related tasks. Are there any new projects that you have been looking to take on?

Do you have any questions about outsourcing? Click here.

Social Media Platforms Pave the Way for Improved Digital Customer Care

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Have you heard the story about the passenger on JetBlue whose seat-back TV screen wasn’t working? Clearly disappointed (though not angry), he tweeted the view of a static screen and said it was his first complaint about his favorite airline.

In minutes, JetBlue had tweeted back: “Oh no! That’s not what we like to hear!” And in less than a half-hour, the once-unhappy passenger had received a credit for the non-working TV, and tweeted his delight at the excellent customer service.

Social media customer service, or social care, has become a reality that no business can afford to ignore. With more people spending more time on social media, it’s quickly becoming a preferred method of communication. The number of tweets targeted at brands is also increasing, which clearly means it’s time for businesses to direct their attention to this new method of customer service.

Twitter, in particular, wants to become a more formal customer service channel for your business. Earlier this year, it announced two new tools to help businesses provide better service on its platform, including easier transitions from public tweets to private messages, and a new feature called Customer Feedback, which lets people privately share their opinions with a business after a service interaction.

The ease of use, combined with the proven success rate—companies that use Twitter as a social care channel are seeing a 19 percent increase in customer satisfaction!—should be all the encouragement you need to give it a try. And it won’t be hard to beat the competition: Twitter customer service data shows that, as of February 2015, 38 percent of customers’ tweets receive no response at all from the company.

Although the majority of customer service interactions are on Twitter, Facebook isn’t far behind. Facebook, too, recently added new features for managing customer communications, including the ability for people and businesses to exchange private messages, and a way for marketers to organize customer comments on a page.

Social care encompasses more than just solving problems—it creates stronger connections with your customers. That’s what superior customer service is all about.

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

Identifying the Key Metrics of Social Customer Care

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

It’s likely you’ve implemented some type of social customer care as the integrated marketing solutions arm of your overarching strategy. After all, social media has become an important tool in which both customers and companies use to communicate with brands.

According to a report from Aberdeen Group, companies with social care programs outperform companies that don’t have a similar program. What’s more, companies with social care programs boast a 5.6 percent increase in first-contact resolutions, a 6.5 percent increase in agent productivity and a 17.5 percent increase in SLA attainment.

Simply implementing a social strategy, however, isn’t enough to see real improvements in your quality of customer care. Companies must monitor and measure their program’s success by identifying key social customer care metrics. Below are various metrics that businesses should be keeping an eye on to ensure that their social customer care strategy is a success:

  • Cost of transaction: What’s the actual cost of servicing a customer via social media compared to the telephone? Many companies make the mistake of not measuring the transaction cost. However, it’s important that you measure this metric to ensure that your strategy remains cost effective for your business.
  • Communicator efficiency: Chances are you already measure Communicator’s time to respond on standard calls, but are you doing the same for social? Many studies have found that customers expect brands to respond to their inquiry within at least 30 minutes. It’s important that you’re measuring your employees’ time to respond to ensure that they are meeting customer expectations.
  • Inbound volume: Another key social customer care metric to measure is inbound volume, or the number of incoming messages on all social media channels. Collecting this data will help you understand the bigger picture and better allocate resources. For example, if you’re getting more social media inquiries than traditional call inquires, you might want to give your social media channels some more man power.

Managing an effective social customer care strategy isn’t easy, but when done right you can facilitate more meaningful connections with your consumers.

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

Facebook Messenger Emerges As Customer Care Platform

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, have revolutionized the customer care industry as they not only help businesses better serve their customers, but they also enable companies build long-lasting relationships with their consumers.

If you visit our blog frequently you know that we regularly discuss the surge of social care initiatives that companies are putting forth in order to keep up with customers expectations. Recently, there’s been an uptick in companies leveraging Facebook Messenger as a form of customer care.

Facebook Messenger is an instant messaging service and software application integrated with Facebook’s web-based chat feature that provides users with text and voice communication. Similar to live chat, an increasing number of companies are starting to use this platform to communicate with their customers.

For example, hospitality industry giant, Hyatt, has teamed up with customer care solution, Conversocial, to roll out their Facebook Messenger initiative, which will enable Communicators to respond to guests’ inquiries and improve their overall travel experiences via Facebook.

Companies would be wise to follow in Hyatt’s footsteps and add Facebook Messenger to their list of customer care channels. Not only because it allows you and your customers to have two-way communication regarding issues or inquiries, but Facebook Messenger is widely popular amongst consumers.

In fact, research from Verto Analytics revealed that 800 million people use the Facebook Messenger app. What’s more, approximately 222 million U.S. Facebook users spend 14 hours per month in the company’s app. Indeed, this will be a valuable integrated marketing solution for any business as it combines social media with live chat and your consumers are already leveraging it in their everyday lives.

So, you might be eager to implement Facebook Messenger after reading these convincing statistics, but it’s important that you first educate your Communicators about the platform and ensure that they have the skills to deliver superior customer care via social media.

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

Twitter Soars to New Customer Care Heights

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

From social media to mobile apps, today’s consumers use a multitude of platforms and devices to communicate with brands and shop for products. In fact, most customers across a myriad of industries use multiple channels to communicate with brands.

According to research from PwC, 86 percent of global respondents and 65 percent of US-based respondents polled currently shop across at least two channels, while 25 percent of global respondents and 21 percent of US respondents are using four or five channels to shop.

With customers using anywhere from two to four channels to make purchases and communicate with brands, it’s becoming increasingly critical for businesses to employ a multichannel customer care strategy. This is especially true for social media, as its being leveraged more to manage customer care needs.

According to a separate study from Nielsen, nearly half of U.S. consumers use social media to ask questions, report satisfaction, or to complain. To meet the growing expectations for social media customer care efforts, many social media platforms are rolling out new products and features to help businesses deliver better customer care.

Twitter, for example, is working on a variety of tools that will help businesses better use its platform for customer care. For instance, the platform is working on a few features that will better prioritize requests for assistance that come through the platform.

While it’s great news that social media platforms like Twitter are developing features that will better address customer care, companies shouldn’t solely rely on social media to communicate with their customers. After all, today’s customers are using multiple channels.

As such, businesses should create a sophisticated multichannel customer care strategy that includes a variety of channels—such as live agent support, social media, live web chat—to increase overall engagement and satisfaction.

P.S. Speaking of Twitter…check us out, click 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, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Can Expressing Corporate Social and Environmental Views Gain Customer Engagement?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

In the past when a consumer was looking for a product or service, he or she tended to focus solely on price and quality. Today’s consumers, however, now have added something else to their decision -making list; corporate social responsibility (CSR).

CSR is a business practice in which a company participates in initiatives that benefit society. There are many ways for businesses to build CSR into their existing business plan. For example, businesses can implement practices that reduce their carbon footprint or practice social responsibility by donating to national and local charities.

While price and quality are still important, consumers are really looking for a business that displays social responsibility. In fact, a recent Nielsen study revealed that 66 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services that come from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.

If your business is already participating in CSR, then you might consider leveraging integrated marketing solutions to better communicate your efforts to your audience. Not only will this help establish trust, but it will also add extra value to your marketing campaigns that will put you a step ahead of your competitors.

Below are a few examples of how you can communicate your CSR efforts to your audience:

  • Email marketing: There’s no better way to communicate with your customers than through the digital channels that they use most often. With email marketing, you can keep your customers updated on your charitable duties. For example, include a section in your enewsletter that’s dedicated to educating your audience about your CSR happenings.
  • Website/Landing Pages: Why not create a landing page that discusses your CSR efforts in which you can direct your customers? This way when a potential customer visits your website’s homepage they can be directed to a landing page that thoroughly discusses your CSR efforts.

Indeed, consumers care more about knowing your business’s values so it’s up to you to communicate exactly those are effectively. Read more about this notion in my recent blog post titled “Consumers Value Relationship Over Product Innovation.”

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

 

The Big (Global) Picture in the Contact Center Space

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Consider this; there are 3.75 billion active Internet users, 2.206 billion active social media users, 3.734 billion unique mobile users, and 1.925 billion active mobile social users currently living in the world.

The ubiquity of digital channels is precisely why contact center leaders are now racing to implement an omni-channel customer care strategy. This all encompassing strategy ideally suits today’s consumers who are always connected to their personal devices. Whether they are scrolling through social media new feeds or checking their emails, consumers have become increasingly reliant on these devices.

In fact, 85 percent of survey respondents said mobile devices are a central part of everyday life, according to Salesforce’s “2014 Mobile Behavior Report.” Furthermore, 89 percent said that mobile devices allow them to stay up to date with loved ones and social events, which explains why mobile devices are used so frequently.

To effectively communicate with consumers who are “always connected” it’s important that businesses create omni-channel customer care strategies that employ multiple channels—such as live chat, SMS, email—to communicate with consumers. As such, contact centers ought to implement integrated marketing solutions to help them facilitate better communication standards amongst their target audiences.

Today’s consumers expect, and deserve, the utmost quality of customer care from the companies they chose to do business with. For this very reason, customer care leaders must provide a myriad of communication channels, 24/7 support, and most importantly personalization. After all, consumers need to be able to communicate with a qualified customer care agent at any time and from the devices they feel most comfortable using, whether it’s their mobile phones, laptops, or desktops.

Implementing integrated marketing solutions such as website and landing page development, email marketing services, and live web chat enable contact centers to connect with a wider range of consumers—and the way in which they prefer to be reached. Convenience is at the crux of a successful customer care strategy as today’s consumers have no qualms about switching to another provider if they aren’t receiving the type of care they’re expecting.

So, provide your consumers with an omni-channel experience that enables them to leverage the communications channels they prefer the most. Employing integrated marketing strategies will certainly help contact centers reach their full “global” potential.

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

Social Care: An Emerging Contact Center Imperative

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The main objective of a customer care strategy is to effectively support and communicate with your target audience to solve problems and build long-lasting relationships. Therefore, it is critical that contact centers leverage emerging trends in the customer care space to provide the highest quality and most accessible customer support.

Today, social media has emerged as a communication channel in which nearly everyone uses in one capacity or another—just consider the compelling statistics. According to research from Pew Internet, 74% of online adults use social networking sites, as of January 2014.

While the majority of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter users are active on social networking sites to keep up with friends and family, many of them are leveraging these social networks for customer care. According to a study from Parature 35 percent of the 1,000 consumers surveyed said they’ve asked a customer care questions via social media.

What’s more, in the past social media was a nice-to-have communication channel, however, it’s now turned into a must-have customer care channel. According to a different supporting study from HubSpot, when asked what social media presence they expect for a brand, the majority of consumers said they expect brands to be active on at least three to four social channels.

As the statistics show above, social media will continue to be a channel in which consumers use to communicate with brands. That being said, it’s crucial for your business to provide effective social care to establish your business as a customer care leader in your respective industry.

To avoid falling behind make social media care a priority for your business that is if you haven’t already. In doing so, you’ll be able to reach more consumers and ensure your brand remains on the cutting edge 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, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.