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.

Is Your Contact Center Millennial-Friendly?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

If there is one thing that just about every company is obsessing over right now, it’s trying to market to the millennial generation, or the group of consumers born between 1980 and 2004.  This is the group that will eventually replace the Baby Boomer generation in terms of spending power.

“One of the largest generations in history is about to move into its prime spending years,” explains Goldman Sachs. “Millennials are poised to reshape the economy; their unique experiences will change the ways we buy and sell, forcing companies to examine how they do business for decades to come.”

Now, there are a few things you have to understand about millennials if you want to market to them effectively. Millennials, after all, do things a bit differently.

According to Goldman Sachs, many millennials are actually shunning the idea of ownership altogether — especially when it comes to things like luxury items, cars and music. Many are open to alternative ways of consuming goods and services, without having to own them. For instance, ride sharing services are very popular among millennials right now. Why pay for a car when you can have instantaneous access to one whenever you need it? For this reason, businesses need to think creatively when marketing towards millennials. They may not be as receptive to traditional ideas as older customers.

Research also shows that millennials’ love of technology is reshaping how retail items are sold. Reviews, product information and price comparisons are now easy to access — and as Goldman Sachs explains, millennials are seeking brands that can offer the most convenience at the lowest cost. 57 percent of millennials, it should be noted, will compare prices in-store.

As such, the Goldman Sachs report explains, having a strong brand isn’t always enough to close sales with millennials. Buyers are researching “beyond the brand” in order to find products and services that closely align with their core needs and beliefs.

So, what can your contact center do to ensure strong experiences for millennial customers?

A few things come to mind. Flexibility and responsiveness are both critical elements for connecting with this group of consumers. Millennials, for instance, are the ones who have championed the telework revolution. They are fully-mobilized, and many work on different schedules— meaning they require service outside of the realm of the traditional contact center hours. They also love knowledge bases, FAQ sections and live chat systems.

Here is one thing to keep in mind, though: Millennials aren’t set in stone. Their attitudes and believes will change tremendously a year or two from now, and so it’s vital to remain flexible and aware of their needs. Businesses need build marketing strategies around fresh, relevant data in order to ensure that they send the right messaging to their customers and connect in meaningful ways.

Do you need some assistance connecting with your millennial customer base? To learn more about how InfoCision can help, click here.

Every Business Needs Live Customer Support

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Over the last few years, a troubling customer service trend has been spreading among businesses. Many organizations are now choosing to abandon traditional contact centers in favor of solutions like online knowledge databases, email and chat systems. The theory is that customers would rather solve their own issues, rather than take the time to call in and speak with live agents.

Now, in theory this may seem like a good idea: Avoid opening a resource-intensive contact center, while still providing a way for customers to resolve their issues in a timely manner. In reality, though, it doesn’t work. It just makes customers angry when they can’t get in touch with live agents over the phone. Phone support is a basic, integral part of the customer experience — and it’s not right to take this away from customers.

Aside from the operational complications that will arise if you eliminate your contact center, there are other pitfalls that you will need to consider as well. For instance, it’s very difficult to enable outbound communications when you don’t have a contact center. Yes, sales associates can work remotely — but they are far less effective, as it’s harder for managers to monitor and coach them. Outbound communications tend to work best when you have small teams of agents working closely together as cohesive units. After all, customer service requires teamwork. It’s not a one person job. And when you enable remote work, elements like teamwork, trust and collaboration can all get lost.

Plus, there are far fewer risks from a security and privacy perspective when managing an onsite contact center. This is particularly true for healthcare companies that must adhere to strict Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) regulations.

It’s also worth considering the value of customer engagement — and the total price that a business will pay by not having a contact center. Customer interactions, after all, can be very lucrative. This is the whole basis behind the “customer journey,” or the idea of following a customer throughout their journey with your enterprise, nurturing their interest in your brand and eventually pushing them to point where they feel comfortable making repeat purchases.

If you remove the contact center, you remove a vital piece of customer support — and you risk leaving every one of your customers’ journeys to chance.

For these reasons, it’s absolutely critical to offer customers access to a reliable and efficient contact center — a place where they can come with questions, concerns and ideas. A high quality contact center will benefit the company as much as its customers.

By partnering with a contact center solutions provider like InfoCision, you can stay under budget while still providing amazing customer service. To learn more information, click here.

Should Agents Be Allowed to Work Off-Script?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

As a customer service administrator, you have a difficult task. Your job is to make sure that all of the agents working underneath you behave in a way that is both professional, and consistent with your brand’s identity.

For years, customer service administrators have used scripts to solve this problem. With this strategy, agents are given specific lines, with pre-formulated responses. This is one way of controlling conversations in both inbound and outbound communications.

It’s a strategy that Apple took to an extreme a few years back, by releasing a secret training manual called “How to Be a Genius.” This book — which is given to customer service representatives — uses psychology to help agents interact with customers effectively and amicably. The book essentially programs agents on how to respond to any question.

Your business doesn’t have to go to this level to provide great service, but there is something to be said for using scripts in the right situations (and knowing when to avoid them).

In some situations, for instance, agent scripts are always needed. For instance, when reciting legal terms and conditions, there is absolutely no room to go off-script. Agents must say the proper line at the right time, or it could result in a serious lawsuit. Insurance companies, for instance, are bound by this rule.

In other situations, though, it could actually be detrimental to the customer journey for an agent to remain on-script. For instance, a customer may express frustration about a policy and make an off-handed remark about the company. This is a great time for an agent to stop, acknowledge the customer’s complaint and let the customer know that the team is doing everything in its power to address the situation. What the agent says or does in this situation could go a long way in furthering, or ending, the customer relationship.

In other words, it’s okay for agents to veer of the path and show their human side when it’s done appropriately, and at the right time.

That being said, it’s not something that should be encouraged often. Inexperienced agents should not attempt talking on their own, as it’s an easy way to get trapped by a customer and possibly say or do the wrong thing. There is an art to customer engagement, and it must be properly taught.

At InfoCision, our Communicators are specially trained to handle just about any situation that comes their way over the phone. InfoCision also offers custom script writing, so that you can formulate dialogue that your target audience will resonate with. These scripts can be updated as often as they are needed.

To learn more about InfoCision, click here.

What Is Your Long Term Vision For Your Contact Center?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

If you are reading this article, then I’m willing to bet that you are unsatisfied with the current state of your contact center. You want change, and you want it now!

The good news is that change can happen very quickly in the contact center. You don’t have to wait months, or years, to turn your department on its head. All you have to do is outsource your department to a contact center solutions provider and immediately be spared from many of the headaches that are dragging it down.

If you do nothing, then nothing will change.

So that being said, it’s time to spend some time thinking about what you want out of your business’s contact center. By working with a third party contact center solutions provider, you will get:

More revenue:  Instead of finishing every quarter in the red zone, your contact center could actually start profiting. A contact center solutions provider can help you form a data-driven strategy, and then execute consistently to generate stronger returns from customers or donors.

A healthy donor pool: Donor pools need to be properly maintained in order to ensure that they keep producing year in and year out. This requires keeping donors informed and updated with news and information, performing periodic outreach and much more. It’s actually a very delicate process, and one that should only be done by a group of experts. The last thing you want to do is upset or frighten a pool of financial contributors!

Better reviews: By outsourcing your customer service operations, you will receive a service level agreement (SLA)-backed quality guarantee. Instead of generating complaints, you will start producing more positive customer service reviews.

A better pipeline for innovation: Right now, ideas are streaming into your contact center on a daily basis, directly from customers who are innovating with your products. Unfortunately, these ideas are hitting a brick wall due to a lack of information sharing. A contact center solutions provider will specialize in receiving, processing and distributing important insights. This will directly fuel innovation.

Lower turnover: Is your contact center a revolving door for agents? If so, then your business is losing a great deal of money annually. Contact center turnover can also spread to different parts of the enterprise, and therefore negatively impact morale. By investing in a contact center solutions provider, you will be spared from the negative impact of turnover.

By using this strategy, you could transform your contact center into one of the biggest revenue generators for your organization. It will be a place to foster customer growth, grow your business and provide around-the-clock support. It just requires taking a small leap of faith.

To learn more about how InfoCision can help your contact center, click here.

Attitude Means Everything in Customer Service

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Contact centers have changed dramatically over the last several years. Customer expectations have skyrocketed, there are countless new technologies available on the market, and data has emerged as a major driving force in customer support.

But there is one thing that has not changed, and most likely never will: That is, the need for agents to be polite and courteous to customers at all times. In fact, in today’s ultra-competitive market, where shoppers are empowered to make their own choices — and quick to report negative experiences — attitude is arguably more important than ever before.

As a new study shows, agent attitude can have a direct impact on a business’s bottom line. When agents are polite to customers, average call times can increase by as many as three minutes — which is an eternity in outbound communications. An extra few minutes can make the world of a difference in closing a sale or securing a financial contribution from a donor.

Now, this should be a no-brainer. It’s not rocket science to say that being polite will get you much further when dealing with customers. But as the same study shows, customer service agents seem to be missing the point.

While 79 percent of callers are polite to agents, only 57 percent of agents will demonstrate the same courtesy back. So there is some room for improvement here.

Of course, this may seem like a tall order. After all, you can’t hold your agents’ hands during customer service interactions. But you can take certain steps to mitigate risk and reduce the likelihood of having negative experiences.

Here are some ways this can be done:

Hire the right representatives: As much thought should be put into hiring a customer service agent as any other employee in the organization. It’s critical to hire people who demonstrate characteristics like strong emotional and intellectual intelligence, patience and empathy. These are not skills that can be easily taught.

Train agents properly: Even the best agents will need to be properly trained so that they are clear about how they should be communicating with customers. By devoting the proper resources to training, it will reduce risk down the road. Training should also be an ongoing process that gets revisited from time to time.

Monitor progress: Agents should never be left to their own accord. While it’s impossible to monitor every single interaction for quality control purposes, managers do need to keep a close watch on what is actually happening during customer interactions. Otherwise, agents could go rogue. And this could cause trouble.

Maintain a healthy culture: Agents are bound to feel happier and more courteous when they are happy about their workplace and its culture. So it’s vital to ensure that the contact center is a fun, healthy and productive environment. Reward agents that do well, and offer praise when it is due.

Here at InfoCision, our customers Communicators are second to none. We hire the absolute best in the industry, providing our customers with access to the finest professionals on the market.

To learn more, click here.

Striking the Right Tone in the Contact Center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

One of the hardest jobs for any contact center manager is getting a large team of agents to strike the right tone when engaging with customers. It takes a tremendous amount of communication and coordination for this to happen and oftentimes this training needs to happen very quickly — in hours or days, as opposed to weeks.

Why is tone management so important for contact center agents? It’s critical for establishing consistent customer interactions. While agents will naturally have different voices and styles, tone can is one variable that can be monitored and controlled for quality purposes.

Tone, in this case, can be referred to as the combination of an agent’s speaking speed, attitude and pitch. Think of it as the overall feeling that a customer will experience when interacting with an agent.

Selecting the right tone can be somewhat tricky though, as it can vary from department to department. An inbound contact center team, for instance, may choose to maintain a tone that is polite and friendly, but focused on solving interactions quickly so as not to waste time. Conversely, an outbound team that is focused on boosting donor contributions may opt for a tone that is chattier and more engaging. Tone, in other words, is a tool that can be sharpened and refined to drive specific results. There is no “blanket” tone that works 100 percent of the time.

At InfoCision, we approach this challenge by first analyzing the unique demographics that our customers are trying to communicate with. We use data and insight to get a clear picture of who Communicators will be speaking with over the phone, what they will be trying to accomplish and how to best approach each conversation.

Then, we take this insight and use it to craft custom scripts that agents can learn and perfect.

All InfoCision Communicators, it should be noted, are specially trained to display professionalism, patience and cheerfulness regardless of the setting they are working in.  We also teach active listening, which helps our Communicators pick up on important details that could be used to help the customer, or even upsell down the road.

We also understand that agents are only human, and may change their tone from time to time for a number of reasons that are beyond control. For this reason, we closely monitor our Communicators and coach them as they go along, providing tips and insight when it’s needed. We view ongoing training as an integral part of the contact center.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that we have the best Communicators in the field, who naturally come to work feeling great and ready to help our customers.

To learn more about how InfoCision can help your contact center, click here.

 

Envisioning Your Perfect Contact Center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

You and your colleagues take great pride in maintaining an environment that is friendly, flexible and highly in-tune with customer needs. You expect these values to shine through during each and every customer interaction.

Here’s a question, though: Does your contact center solutions provider reflect these core values in its daily operations? Or is the organization following its own agenda?

The truth is that if you’re using a large, generic contact center provider than chances are likely the latter is true — meaning customers could be having much different experiences than you think they are having when engaging with agents.

How does this problem persist? Usually, the root cause occurs during the vendor negotiation process. A business, for instance, may approach a contact center provider looking for features like highly-qualified agents and detailed reporting tools. But then, it may wind up compromising on certain value points to save money and wind up with tools and assets that don’t align with the company’s actual needs.

Here at InfoCision, we take a much different approach with our customers. We take the time to first analyze each business that we work with, so that we can best understand its target customer base and overall objectives for the program. Then, we help our customers to form a market-driven strategy that closely mirrors their exact preferences.

The goal, throughout this journey, is to create a customized, unique contact center environment. That’s right — you can outsource your contact center and still have it your way.

With this in mind, it’s time to envision your ideal contact center. Here are some things to consider as you do so:

Size: Do you really need hundreds or thousands of contact center agents on call? At InfoCision, we purposely keep contact center teams smaller in order to focus on quality and to reduce expenses. In doing so, we have found that it’s much easier to train Communicators and hold them to a higher standard of excellence than you will find at a large contact center solutions provider.

Flexibility: Contact centers need to be responsive and flexible, so that they can react to changing market conditions at the drop of a hat. For example, a simple task like updating your interactive voice response (IVR) scripts should be a quick and painless process. You should not have to jump through hoops to do this. We streamline this process with custom script writing and implementation services.

Location: Think you need to off-shore your contact center to save money? Think again. InfoCision keeps its contact centers on American soil, which in turn reduces foreign telecom complexities, reduces costs and reduces cultural differences between agents and customers.

So don’t compromise when it’s time to outsource your contact center operations. At InfoCision, we can outfit you with a tailor-made contact center that fits your exact specifications.

To get started, click here.

Bust Information Silos to Improve the Customer Experience

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The customer experience (CX) — or the measurement of a customer’s ongoing relationship with a brand — has emerged as a top priority for businesses today. In fact, according to one study, 71 percent of organizations now understand the importance of CX.

The bad news, though, is that only 13 percent of companies would rate their CX delivery as a 9 out of 10 or higher — meaning there is still a great deal of work to be done in this area.

Why are businesses having trouble creating strong customer experiences? As it turns out, the problem has less to do with agent execution and more to do with backend communication. Many businesses today are siloing information, instead of sharing it through the enterprise.

Oftentimes, this happens inside of organizations that are using a mix of cloud-based, legacy and proprietary management technologies. In any given business, for instance, a marketing department could be using a cutting-edge automation platform that pulls information from various sources and consolidates it into a single application. Sales, on the other hand, could still be using spreadsheets or a purpose-built platform. And the C-suite may not have access to either system, leaving executives in the dark.

Suffice to say, some big problems can arise in this type of fragmented communications environment:

Disorganization: Customers today expect seamless experiences from contact centers. Customers should never have to bring agents up to speed about recent issues they have been having, or repeat themselves about in-call preferences. But in order for this to happen, information needs to flow from point to point across the enterprise. Otherwise, experiences may vary greatly between each department. To a customer, there’s nothing more frustrating than having a great experience with billing, but an awful experience with technical support.

Missed opportunities: Small data points can ultimately lead to much larger opportunities in customer service. For instance, a customer may download an asset from a website indicating that he or she is interested in a particular product or solution. This data needs to make it into the hands of sales and marketing associates in order to be of any use. But in order for this to happen, basic communication needs to take place.

Poor planning: It’s one thing to miss something like a sale due to a lack of communication. But it becomes a much larger issue when planning and executing a larger sales and marketing campaigns. All departments must work together and share relevant data to identify key trends and plot a strong course.

Here at InfoCision, we take communication very seriously. Our teams of highly-trained professionals work closely together to share important data, review progress and overcome obstacles.

To learn more information about InfoCision, click here.

Is Your Contact Center Dragging Down Your Company?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Back when your company first launched its contact center, there was the hope that it would boost customer retention and fuel business growth. Unfortunately, something went wrong along the way.

Today, your contact center is continuously operating in the red zone, as it’s consuming far more resources than it’s bringing in for the organization.

Here at InfoCision, we have consulted with many customer service administrators who have found themselves in similar situations. From what we have seen, here are some of the top reasons why contact centers fail:

The wrong tools: As a customer service administrator, it’s easy to feel like a kid in a candy store when you have a big budget and the green light to purchase new technologies for productivity and customer engagement. This, however, is where problems tend to arise. Contact centers often wind up investing in technologies that they don’t actually need, resulting in wasted dollars.

Before signing a contract for any new contact center technology, it’s important to make sure that it’s absolutely necessary to do so. Contact center spending is definitely an area where it pays to be conservative. It’s important to first look for ways to solve problems without spending money.

At the same time, we can also make the argument that under-spending can be equally as dangerous. Using outdated software, for instance, can lead to security vulnerabilities and can negatively impact the customer experience.

Over staffing: Filling contact center seats can be very expensive — especially if you go overboard and hire too many agents. Many companies suffer from agent overload, as they have far too many staff members on hand throughout the day.

Here at InfoCision, we avoid this problem by using small teams of Communicators, only employing large teams of Communicators when need be. Our scalability is unlike any other in the industry, allowing us to ramp up when you face spikes in calls, then, scale back just as quickly.  InfoCision consistently outperforms large contact centers with our customer service and outreach efforts.

A lack of planning: Outbound calling initiatives must be backed by strategic, data-backed marketing plans. You can’t simply cold call donors once a year and expect to reach your target goals. By the time an agent reaches out to a donor to ask for a contribution, that person should have already been contacted so that the agent has an idea of their level of interest and how much they may be willing to donate.

One of the great things about working with a third party contact center solutions provider like InfoCision is that you will no longer have to worry about issues like purchasing new technologies, staffing your contact center or forming a comprehensive outbound marketing strategy. InfoCision can streamline all of these processes, guaranteeing you strong results.

To learn more about how InfoCision can make your life easier, click here.