How Your Business Can Provide Better Customer Service

It’s that time of the year again when new reports start streaming in about how companies are handling their customer service. Usually, the reports are mixed.

One report, for instance, shows that energy companies have a lot of work to do in repairing consumer relations. Phone, travel and financial companies are also falling behind in their customer service efforts.

This begs the question: How can companies that are failing in customer service turn things around? It’s not always easy to know what adjustments need to be made. Oftentimes, businesses will attempt to make impactful changes but they will actually do more harm than good.

Here are some common questions, for instance, that business leaders typically struggle with when trying to overhaul their customer service strategies:

  • Do our customers want to speak with live agents?
  • Should we be more active on social media?
  • How can we improve agent friendless?
  • How can we drive more sales in our contact center?
  • What technologies should I be investing in this year?
  • Is my contact center safe from cybercrime?

As you can see, there are many different questions that can arise during this process and it can be very difficult to know which buttons to press as you revise your strategy. And different industries, it should be noted, require different types of customer service solutions. There is no one size fits all customer service strategy that you can implement.

What you can do, however, is outsource your customer service to a high quality contact center solutions provider. By doing so, you can streamline all aspects of customer service and put your operations in the hands of a dedicated team of trusted professionals who know how to communicate with customers and drive sales.

Remember: A failing grade in customer service is not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to turn things around — especially if all of your competitors are offering poor customer service, too. If your industry is notorious for poor service, like pay TV or energy, consider rebuilding your image as a customer-friendly organization. It simply requires a shift in strategy and attitude, and a willingness to try something new.

To get the process started, consider outsourcing your customer service operations to a third party contact center solutions provider. You will get access to premium agents, high quality infrastructure and much more. It’s a simple way to transform your customer relationships.

So if your business is failing in its customer service efforts, consider making 2018 the year that you become a customer-centric organization. Then, watch the dollars pile up.

Tips for Keeping Your Contact Center Agents Engaged

Ask any manager about the hardest part of his or her job, and you will likely hear the same response: Keeping team members engaged and motivated at their desks, and committed to doing great work.

It’s well known that employee engagement is vital for success, especially in a contact center setting. Employee engagement, in this sense, refers to the emotional connection that employees have to their jobs. Employees need to feel like their job is interesting and meaningful in order to stick around.

What can you do to improve agent engagement? Here are some tips for keeping contact center agents excited about coming to work in the morning.

  1. Place a premium on good agents: First, make sure that you are giving agents the respect that they deserve, by recognizing them as vital contributing members to the success of the organization. Agents have hard jobs, fielding call after call throughout the day assisting customers and driving sales. The more you value them, and the better your company treats them, the more they will give back to your organization in terms of effort and loyalty. Don’t look at the contact center as a place for entry-level workers, but experienced professionals who know what they are doing.
  2. Ask for feedback: How can you show your workers that you appreciate their efforts? One way is to ask for their honest feedback about their roles as communicators, as you look for ways to improve operations. By asking for feedback, and then forming and following up on improvement plans, you can make sure everyone has a voice to express their ideas.
  3. Celebrate victories: Business mogul Mark Cuban used to walk through the cubicles at his company MicroSolutions and hand out $100 bills to sales associates after a record sales month, or similar special occasions. By taking the time to celebrate small victories, you can keep your employees excited about coming to work and striving to do better.
  4. Hold regular reviews: Even if your department is autonomous, it’s a good idea to hold reviews from time to time to hold team members accountable and make sure they are reaching their goals. Let your employees know you are committed to improving their careers and positions.
  5. Encourage team building: Great teams are built on trust and cooperation. It’s vital for employees to get to know one another, so they can feel comfortable relying on one another throughout the day. Consider hosting special team building sessions and social events where employees can get to know each other.
  6. Use real-time reporting: Sometimes, a bit of pressure and oversight is needed to keep team members producing at a high level. Consider using a real-time reporting suite throughout the day to keep agents on track and motivated to hit their numbers.

 

Do You Really Need ‘Passion’ in Your Contact Center?

Most customer service experts today will tell you that “passion” is one of the most critical elements that a contact center can have. But what exactly does it mean to be passionate in a contact center setting?

Passion, in this sense, refers to the attitude of your customer service employees. The idea is that if you fill your contact center with people who are excited and enthusiastic about customer service, and their roles as customer communicators, it will result in higher satisfaction ratings and improved sales.

Just recently, for instance, we saw what passion can do for a team when American league MVP Jose Altuve  –  the smallest, but most exciting players in baseball — helped launch the Houston Astros to a World Series title. His constant enthusiasm, and love of baseball, helped elevate the Astros to a much higher level. As Altuve proved, passion can be highly infectious — and it can galvanize a team and make them much more effective.

Here are some more benefits to hiring passionate workers:

Better conversations: Think about what it’s like talking to someone who is upbeat and in a good mood, versus someone who sounds grumpy. When the person you are talking to sounds passionate and like they truly want to help you, it results in a smoother and more pleasant conversation. The tone of an agent’s voice, as well as their energy and enthusiasm, can go a long way in shaping the direction of a conversation. A good rule of thumb is to trust your gut feeling when interviewing employees. Go for customer service employees who are easy to talk to, and upbeat.

Remember also that the people answering your phones will literally be the voice of your brand. What do you want your brand to sound like?

Faster resolutions: Passionate and friendly-sounding agents also serve another purpose: They help resolve customer issues faster. An agent, after all, can be one of two things — a road block, or a fast-late to issue resolution for a customer. If an agent and a customer get off on the wrong foot, it can result in an argument, an escalation or a hang-up. And none of these are desirable outcomes during a customer interaction.

Stronger teamwork: Going back to the Altuve reference, teamwork is imperative for success in a fast-paced customer service setting. Workers need to be comfortable communicating and relying on one another to solve problems. No customer service agent should be an island. People who are passionate about their jobs are usually much more willing to help others and solve problems as a group.

 

Planning for the Future in Your Contact Center

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.

 

How to Win Back Customers

We often speak about the “customer journey” or the overall experience that a customer has with an organization. The customer journey starts when a customer first interacts with a brand, and continues each subsequent time.

Here’s the thing about the customer journey, though: As much as we want it to be a predictable process, the customer journey is anything but that. Customers, in other words — even loyal ones making repeat purchases — may stray to competitors and explore other brands from time to time. And there is no guarantee that they will come back.

For marketers and sales representatives it can be challenging trying to understand why customers leave — when one minute a customer seems happy, and the next they are simply gone. A customer may decide to delete his or her account, cancel a subscription or stop contributing to a fundraising campaign with little to no warning.

When this happens to one customer, it may not be that noticeable. But when it starts happening in large numbers, it can be very troubling. Understand, though, that it’s possible to win back unhappy customers and make them fall in love with your brand again.

Here are some things you can try:

Stop the bleeding: I encourage you to take a holistic approach to customer care. When problems arise, and customers are unhappy, you need to get to the root cause and fix it. Perhaps your prices are too high, or you made a recent change in a product. Or, maybe your customer service department is in need of a new retention strategy. So when a customer cancels a subscription, deletes an account or stops making repeat purchases, don’t be afraid to ask why they are unhappy with your company and what you could do to serve them more effectively. The best way to do this is through email, or even snail mail. Just make sure to always thank customers for their time and feedback.

Ask customers to come back: A few weeks or months after you send out the above-mentioned survey, don’t be afraid to send a thank you note back to the customer, letting him or her know that you have taken his or her feedback into consideration and would love to have them back. You can use this opportunity to offer incentives, too. If you don’t ask customers to come back, they may not think to do so on their own.

Don’t make the same mistakes twice: Use the information gleaned from customer surveys and online reviews to make your company better. The last thing you want to do is win a customer back, only to have him or her leave for the same reason! For instance, if a customer unsubscribes from a service because they are receiving too many emails, don’t start spamming them again. Use insight to make your brand more in tune with customers’ needs.

Why You Should Be Selective About the Agents You Are Hiring

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.

 

Key Findings from the 2017 Contact Center Trends and Market Landscape Survey

A new report has been released that contains a trove of important data about the current state of the contact center market.

As explained in the report, the traditional improvement goals around most contact centers today haven’t changed much over the last few decades. Most businesses are looking to reduce costs, improve the customer experience and increase flexibility and stability.

What is rapidly changing, though, are demographics, customer demands and contact center technologies. These changes are proving to be difficult to keep up with, and so many businesses today are looking for assistance from third party contact center solutions providers.

Here is a closer look at some of the key findings from this interesting report:

Downtime is still an issue: Unfortunately, many contact centers today continue to struggle with unplanned network downtime. According to the report, 67.5 percent of contact centers reported downtime of their telephones or contact center technology within the last 12 months.

What’s more, 7.5 percent of contact centers experienced downtime that lasted for 31 hours or more. And almost 1 in 4 have had downtime that lasted between 6 and 30 hours.

This is somewhat of a surprise, when considering that many organizations invest in dedicated contact centers to improve their chances of reducing downtime. So when searching for a provider, make sure that network efficiency, redundancy and disaster recovery are all offered.

 “Gadgets” are out: Fancy gadgets — like handsets with widgets, or Google Glass — are no longer in high demand. Now, demand has shifted to services and integration.

The report, for instance, shows that the top three investment priorities for 2017 include multichannel, chat, email and social media (32.5 percent); metrics, business intelligence and reporting (32.5 percent); and workforce management (28 percent).

The report also sheds light on what business leaders see as the capabilities offering the most value:

  • Workforce management (62 percent)
  • Quality management and agent scorecards (57 percent)
  • Phone system/ business application integration (54 percent)
  • Using metrics to create business intelligence (51 percent)
  • Social media as a customer interaction solution (42 percent)

Quality agents are in demand: Many respondents indicated that they are using multichannel solutions that combine email, chat, social media and SMS. And to take advantage of these solutions, organizations are now leveraging “double agents” that are capable of handling voice and non-voice channels. In fact, 52.5 percent of survey respondents are using double agents. However just 23 percent of respondents have enabled 100 percent of their staff to handle both voice and non-voice channels.

What’s troubling is that for 47 percent of respondents, an inability to monitor agent activity was a main concern. This problem can be addressed by using smaller teams of agents, which are typically more coachable and easier to train.

 

 

 

The Contact Center: A Critical Piece of the Customer Experience

In recent years, there has been a widespread awakening in the business world about the importance of the overall “customer experience.”

A problem, however, has been steadily growing.

While many companies have been working hard to improve service for their customers, a large number have fallen behind in their efforts. As a result, a customer experience performance gap has been created where some companies are offering great service, and others are not.

For consumers, this is resulting in fragmented experiences across different organizations. Now, when customers pick up their phones and try to reach support, they have no idea whether they will receive great or abysmal treatment from service representatives. As such, many people still dial customer service looking for a fight.

The good news is that it’s possible to close this performance gap. More business leaders simply need to recognize that the customer experience really matters, and that offering great experiences can pay dividends over time.

The hope is that over the next few years, great service will cease to be seen as a competitive differentiator and will emerge as a necessity for business growth.

So, how do you ensure strong customer experiences? First, you need to create the right customer service environment. And this is where it helps to have the services of a third party contact center services provider.

Here are some ways that contact centers can help ensure positive customer experiences:

Rapid response troubleshooting: Few things anger customers these days more than having to wait to resolve issues when they arise. Speedy issue resolution is critical for keeping customers happy. Contact center providers today offer advanced technologies for receiving incoming communications, processing them in a timely manner and resolving them. Conversely, companies that opt to keep their contact centers in house are more liable to get overloaded. And this can lead to slow response times and unhappy customers.

Real-time Communication: Most of the time, customers just want to be heard. Sometimes, they want to vent. Other times, they want to share ideas about how to improve products or services. Contact centers give customers an opportunity to connect with live agents and share information. They can be used to humanize a brand.

Compromise: No company wants to lose customers, and contact centers can be one of the most effective tools for retaining them. For example, imagine a customer gets let down by not receiving a shipment on time. Contact centers can staff certain specialty agents to listen to customer complaints and work with them to find resolutions. So contact centers can provide a level of flexibility that can be instrumental in retaining customers.

 

 

 

Every Industry Needs Great Customer Service

Every year, I eagerly anticipate the release of PJ Media and the Temkin Group’s annual report ranking customer service levels across twenty different industries. It’s certainly nice to celebrate the winners, but, as a problem solver, I’m more interested in looking at the other side of the coin to see what may be missing from their equations.

The three industries with that dubious honor this year were: TV/Internet ISPs, health plans and airlines. In each case, it helps to come back to a simple question: what do modern consumers expect when it comes to customer service? They want personalization, hasty resolution, the opportunity for a personalized experience and an opportunity to resolve their own inquiries autonomously.

TV and Internet providers have a unique opportunity to provide more seamless customer service, as viewers could potentially use their device as a touch point to get better customer support. Placing extra emphasis on this touch point can allow for a faster and more convenient experience for customers.

Take it from our nation’s leaders: figuring out healthcare is hard. So it should come as no surprise that consumers are dissatisfied with their health insurers too. Of course, it doesn’t help either that it’s usually bad news if you have to get your insurance company on the phone. To change their reputation, insurers might want to consider a more proactive, preemptive approach. Outbound messaging could help remind these individuals to take care of themselves to avoid injuries later, while telling them that they’re valued customers even when they aren’t in need of dire help.

If airlines aren’t going to add more leg room, they ought to start thinking of other ways improve their customer service levels. The key is identifying the greatest pain points for customers. The example that comes to mind is a cancelled flight that sends hundreds of individuals scrambling to speak with customer service representatives. Airlines need to have efficient contact centers in place to efficiently handle large volumes of incoming callers.

What Happens After You Outsource Content?

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.