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.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Contact Center Culture

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The contact center is the front line for customer support. It’s here where agents actively shape the attitudes and opinions of the consumers that they interact with on a daily basis, thus making it vital to check in from time to time and make sure agents are happy and feeling good about their roles.

This is especially important when it comes to outbound calling and fundraising initiatives, when agents must persuade callers to take a particular course of action. It’s a lot easier to be persuasive about what you are selling when you believe in the organization that you are supporting, and you are genuinely happy to be present at work.

Spend a bit of time this week chatting with your team leaders, and get a general sense of your team’s morale. Here are some things you can try if changes are in order:

Keep things light: You can’t force people to be happy, but you can make it a point to spread some cheer and lighten the mood. Spend some time chatting with employees during downtime, and figure out what makes them tick. Attitudes are infectious, so by being friendly and outgoing you will inadvertently encourage your workers to act the same way during customer interactions.

Be mindful about criticism: Suppose an agent makes a costly mistake that results in a complaint from a customer. As a manager, it’s your job to ensure that the mistake doesn’t happen a second time. But when it comes to criticism, delivery is key. Don’t be afraid to correct a problem when it happens, but do be careful about how you handle the situation. After all, your agents look to you as a leader and if you come across as overly-critical, or as a micromanager, you may lose their confidence. If the time comes for a sit-down meeting with an employee, consider doing it behind closed doors so that you don’t embarrass the individual.

Keep your agents fed and watered: Contact center agents are only human. When they get hungry, their blood sugar may drop which may cause them to get impatient with customers. So, if you have the budgetary allowance, consider providing food or drinks occasionally, a friendly gesture to show your appreciation and gratitude for the employees present. Plus, agents with full stomachs will have an easier time keeping their minds on customer service.

Put some TLC into your environment: Who wants to come to work in a room full of grey cubicles and white walls? Consider renting — and rotating — artwork that will inspire agents and keep them thinking creatively. A little color can go a long way in a room. You could also experiment with different lighting, too. Research, for instance, shows that natural light can boost productivity while fluorescent light can negatively impact it. Warm temperature can be a productivity boost, too.

Here at InfoCision, we regularly communicate with our contact center Communicators to make sure they are happy and well-adjusted at work. And as a result, we are constantly receiving positive feedback about our team. We have found that by taking good care of our agents, our agents will take care of their customers, closing the loop on the customer care experience.

Want to learn more about InfoCision’s approach to customer service? Click here.

Opportunities Abound for Customer Service in the Airline Industry

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Recently I have been shaking my head in disbelief at some of the shocking customer service headlines that have been coming emerging from the airline industry.

From the incident where a customer was dragged out of an airplane to the brawl that happened at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, each story has been equally painful and saddening to see. These are the types of incidents that keep customer service executives awake at night.

What’s especially tough to process, though, is the fact that things had been going very well for the airline industry before the recent slew of incidents. In fact, according to a new J.D. Power survey, which was conducted before the above-mentioned incidents, airline approval ratings had actually been increasing year over year.

“Overall satisfaction with the airline industry in 2017 increases by a significant 30 points to 756 (on a 1,000-point scale), continuing a trend of steady performance increases that began in 2013,” the report reads. “Both traditional and low-cost carriers have shown improvement, with the traditional carriers continuing to close the satisfaction gap with low-cost carriers (740 vs. 784, respectively).”

It’s safe to assume that the next report will not be so positive.

It’s important, though, to focus on the present state of affairs. Right now, the airline industry is in a fragile state heading into the busy summer travel months when airports will be crowded with vacationers and tensions will be running high. All eyes will be on airline providers over the next several months to see how they handle customer issues.

While there is a tremendous amount of work to be done here in restoring consumer trust, it’s important to realize that this is also an amazing opportunity for companies in this space. Airlines that strive to be accommodating, patient and friendly with customers will have an easy time differentiating their brands and generating positive reviews. And this, of course, will lead to stronger profits.

One way that airlines can streamline customer service is to work with a small, dedicated contact center solutions provider like InfoCision.

Why work with InfoCision instead of a large contact center provider? It’s the difference between investing in large, assembly-line style customer support and one that takes a highly-focused, custom approach. InfoCision’s team of strategists and Communicators put a great deal of thought and care into the customer journey — and during this time of heightened consumer sensitivity, this cannot be underestimated.

What’s more, working with a small provider like InfoCision can greatly help when unplanned PR disasters arise. It’s much easier to contain messaging and incident response when working with a small group than it is with a large customer service team.

To learn more about InfoCision, click here.

How Do Customers Prefer to Communicate?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Do you sometimes long for the days when we had fewer technologies for engaging with customers? Well, those days are long gone.

Today, customer service is more complex than ever before. The customer experience is spread across a highly-fragmented ecosystem that includes technologies like voice, mobile messaging and the Internet. And new communications applications are constantly being created, which makes things even more confusing.

According to a 2017 report, companies are now communicating with customers across an average of nine different channels. This figure could increase to 11 by 2018, and we can speculate that this figure will keep growing beyond this point — especially as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to expand, and new connected solutions make their way into homes and businesses.

But which of these channels do customers actually want to use? And do businesses really need to offer so many?

As the above-mentioned report indicates, communications channels are far from equal in the eyes of consumers.

For instance, 59 percent of customers claimed that they are satisfied with their overall experiences using online chat and video. Forty-three percent of customers are satisfied with their experiences over email. And 42 percent of customers are satisfied with their experiences over text and social media.

Additional satisfaction ratings include: Websites (49 percent), mobile apps/ virtual bots (38 percent) and interactive voice response systems (29 percent).

Of course, your customers may have entirely different preferences depending on their unique demographics. Millennials, for instance, will naturally gravitate towards digital channels like online chat, video and text before they opt for traditional channels like IVR or voice. Baby Boomers, however, are probably going to want to use the technologies that they have been using for many years like the telephone and email.

The challenge, though, is that you can’t easily predict how your customers will want to communicate, and so it’s important to offer a wide variety of options.

Here at InfoCision, we empower consumers by giving them a choice about how to communicate with the contact center. Our agents are specially trained across multiple channels, in order to provide high quality service at every touchpoint.

Embracing multichannel service is a great way to show customers that your business is up to date with the latest communications technologies, and that it’s committed to communicating with customers on their own terms.

Plus, our team is on the front lines of technology. Our customers can rest assured knowing that if there is a new communications channel that customers are using, we will know about it. And if it’s worth implementing into the contact center, we will be sure to follow through with it.

To learn more about InfoCision, click here.

Why You Should Avoid Large Contact Centers

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Once again, it’s National Small Business Week here in the U.S. It’s the perfect time for business leaders to reflect on all the progress that has been made over the last year, and to identify new ways of spurring business growth.

As you sit down to reflect on your business’s progress, take a moment to think about how you can generate more output from your contact center, and from your customer service strategy as a whole. It’s important to recognize both as critical elements that will help your business grow beyond the SMB level, into a large enterprise.

To streamline these processes, many businesses are now partnering with contact center solutions providers. The truth, though, is that not all providers offer the same level of high quality care. Large contact centers, for instance — even with powerful customer relationship management (CRM) tools — struggle to deliver comprehensive customer support. What they offer is more like assembly line-style customer support because they are built for two things: speed and volume.

Conversely, smaller contact centers like the kind you will find at InfoCision have the ability to take a much more granular approach to customer care. By strategically reducing the size of the contact center, we are able to provide white glove service for all of our customers. Service is delivered through premium Contact Center Communicators, who work closely with team members and our customers on a daily basis.

This strategy allows us to provide the following benefits for our customers:

Consistency: One of the hardest parts about managing a team of agents in a large contact center is ensuring that they operate as one cohesive unit that is completely aligned with the messaging of the brands they are representing. After all, when an agent interacts with a customer, he or she becomes a direct extension of the brand. So there needs to be consistency.

In large contact centers, managers can only perform occasional spot checks and reviews with their agents. At InfoCision, though, management works closely with our Communicators to ensure that consistency is always upheld during customer interactions. This is much easier to do with a smaller team than it is with hundreds or thousands of employees.

Teamwork: When partnering with a small team like InfoCision, you gain access to more than just contact center agents. InfoCision will work with your company to help form a custom, market-driven strategy that is tailor-made for your brand. And they will regularly collaborate and communicate with one another to uphold the strategy — and to make important changes when they are needed.

Higher quality interactions: We understand that every conversation counts in customer service. We teach agents to choose their words carefully, and we empower them to make decisions to cut through red tape and solve problems faster.

Take a closer look at InfoCision, and you will see this is just one example of how we go above and beyond for our customers. To learn more about our approach to customer care, click here.

Three Technologies to Enhance Your Contact Center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

We have reached a point in business where there is no longer a major divide between technology and non-technology providers. Many experts, in other words, now argue that every company is a technology company regardless of what industry they are in. This is because companies are commonly using virtual, cloud-based solutions that run over the Internet.

In light of this, it’s time to start thinking of your contact center as a technology-driven department that uses cutting-edge software and big data to maximize efficiencies and boost sales. There are certain components that are absolutely necessary if you want to remain competitive.

Here are three technologies that you could feasibly work into your contact center:

Embedded real-time communication (RTC): Chances are likely that your business is already using live chat boxes to communicate with customers online. Now, you can take this to the next level using a technology called embedded RTC which is an open source standard that enables live video and audio chats to take place over a website or application. Embedded RTC uses a peer-to-peer architecture and runs entirely over an Internet browser — enabling ultra-fast, and secure, multimedia exchanges between customers and live agents. Many businesses are also using embedded RTC solutions in conjunction with big data to better understand customer preferences. This is called contextual communication.

Sales automation software: Most sales departments today are about 10 years behind marketing in terms of the technologies that they are using on a daily basis. A large percentage, in other words, are still using disparate tools like spreadsheets and manual dialers. These disparate technologies eat up valuable hours over the course of a week. Contact centers suffering from such inefficiencies should consider using sales automation software to automate things like performance tracking and response management. Automation platforms can consolidate disparate sales tools and make them easily accessible from a centralized location. These platforms also make it easy to export data with other departments like marketing or the C-suite.

Predictive dialers: In the past, a contact center sales representative would have to procure a telephone number, dial it and then wait for a customer to (hopefully) pick up the phone. As such, a typical phone call could take 30 seconds or longer — without any guarantee that a person would pick up or even be interested in making a purchase. Predictive dialers automate the dialing process by silently dialing in the background and putting an agent on the phone only when there is a live — and interested — customer waiting on the other end.

These technologies can be easily, and cost-effectively, embedded into your contact center to drive better results. However, it’s important to have a strong filter set up when exploring new contact center technologies. Make sure to thoroughly vet each new technology that you bring into your contact center, to ensure it adds value.

Is There Room for Autonomy in the Contact Center?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Contact centers have traditionally operated with a top-down business strategy, where managers hand down orders to agents and then check in to keep progress moving forward.

In recent years, though, we have seen many contact centers embracing autonomy in their departments, where agents essentially manage themselves. This is becoming increasingly common in the technology industry, and it’s spreading over into other fields as well.

The idea of workplace autonomy is relatively new, and studies show that it can be very beneficial to an organization when it’s implemented properly. In fact, many workers today value autonomy in the workplace as much as they do a competitive salary. Autonomous work environments have been proven to make workers happier and healthier, and they can also reduce employee turnover in the long run.

So, is this a strategy that you should implement in your contact center? Before you take action and tear down your wall of middle management, there are several points you will want to consider.

First and foremost, spend some time analyzing your current environment and speaking with agents and managers. Some of your managers may not like the idea of working on a level playing field with agents that they have been working with, and may require special considerations like promotions or raises. Embracing autonomy could upset certain power dynamics that are at play in your department.

You will also need a plan in place to keep workers from going rogue or under-performing. Agents should be reminded that with autonomy, and less middle management, comes the expectation that all workers will meet their expected goals while also continuing to adhere to company policies.

Suffice to say, it’s a lot easier to move forward with autonomy when using cloud-based reporting tools.  Many cloud contact center providers today offer tools that will allow supervisors to periodically check in on agents and make sure everything is running according to expected standards. Using these tools, contact center administrators can embrace autonomy without having to worry about losing control over their department. For example, supervisors can silently sit in on calls from time to time, check reports and take action when it is needed to correct bad behavior.

One of the best ways to embrace autonomy in your contact center is to do it slowly. Try giving your agents greater leeway at first, and see how they react. You will know almost immediately whether your team is capable of handling the change. And in time, you could create a happier, healthier work environment where agents feel empowered about their jobs. Plus, you will bolster your contact center’s reputation as a top place to work. This will help you attract stronger job applicants.