Key Questions to Include in Your Next Contact Center RFP

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

It’s time to write your contact center’s request for proposal (RFP) and now you are scratching your head and wondering what to include in the document. You may even be combing the Web looking for templates, so that you ask all the right questions.

It’s important to remember, though, that an RFP is an open-ended document. There are no right or wrong questions to ask. It’s your chance to tell the industry exactly what your organization needs, so that you can shortlist vendors instead of spending hours combing through online reviews.

Here are some questions to consider including in your next contract center RFP:

Has your company ever had a major cybersecurity incident?

Given the rampant nature of cybercrime today, this is an important one to ask — especially if the contact center solutions vendor will be responsible for storing and managing your customer data. Unfortunately, not all contact centers offer strong privacy and data security controls. Make sure to get a thorough sense of each vendor’s commitment to cybersecurity, in order to ensure that the company will be capable of effectively managing your sensitive information.

What kinds of legal resources do you have?

A top-tier contact center solutions vendor will offer advanced legal services, to assist with day-to-day outreach issues and long-term strategy planning. Be wary about partnering with companies that do not offer legal counseling, as they will be unable to offer sound guidance —and could get you into trouble with important regulatory policies like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

What differentiates your contact center agents?

If you are in the market for a full-fledged contact center solutions provider offering live agents, make sure to do some digging and find out how much time and effort they put into hiring and attracting top talent. Look for a vendor offering experienced, highly-qualified agents who are capable of performing the highest level of customer care.

How big is your team?

Consider the size of each contact center provider’s customer service team. Smaller organizations tend to offer a more comprehensive level of customer care, as management can communicate and coach agents much more easily in this type of environment.

How does your company schedule maintenance?

Read the fine print, and make sure you have a clear understanding of how each vendor schedules maintenance and downtime. Be wary of statistics that advertise uptime, and look for protection in the form of Internet failover and business continuity. Vendors should also offer routine data backups to safeguard against threats like ransomware attacks and unexpected system failures.

Remember that it’s better to be picky when partnering with a contact center solutions vendor. By asking these types of questions alongside your own, you will uncover critical details that will help you understand if the vendor you are considering can be trusted.

Revolutionize Your Contact Center This Summer

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

It’s July, which means freedom is in the air here in America. As a customer service administrator, though, it can be hard to think about freedom when you are bogged down managing a contact center that is struggling to meet its cost, operational and performance goals. Instead, you may be feeling trapped — and helpless.

Why do contact centers fail? Oftentimes, it’s due to one or more of the following issues:

High Costs: It’s not much fun having to pinch pennies in the contact center, but this is the reality for many organizations. Contact centers can be very expensive to operate, when factoring in the cost of hiring and overhead, as well as capital and operational expenses for hardware and software. Next to the data center, the contact center is arguably the most expensive part of a company, but has the opportunity to act as the highest revenue-generating aspect.

Heavy turnover: Heavy turnover remains a top challenge for contact centers, with the overall industry average hovering between 30 and 45 percent. Many people see high turnover as normal, when in fact it can be controlled. It doesn’t have to be an expensive and time-consuming ordeal.

Unreliable networks: The contact center is responsible for many different business processes, from outbound sales to customer support and issue resolution. When goes wrong in the contact center, like a network or power outage, it can bring progress to a standstill and directly impact the bottom line — especially if you lack real-time network troubleshooting tools.

Legal complications: Contact centers that lack on-site legal professionals are more likely to make mistakes during outbound campaigns and when solving customer issues. Mistakes can lead to costly Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) violations, which can come back to haunt you years later.

Poor planning: Fundraisers need to be carefully planned and executed using refined data. Organizations that attempt to rush into fundraisers without a carefully executive strategy are much more likely to fail.

Here’s some good news, though:

You don’t have to fix all of your contact center’s problems by yourself. You can outsource your department, just like any other business process, to contact center solutions provider like InfoCision — saving you the trouble of having to conduct a massive, in-house overhaul while also guaranteeing improved results.

A contact center solutions provider will streamline every aspect of customer service. You won’t have to worry about things like hiring agents, purchasing or maintaining infrastructure or digging through the weeds with legal issues.

Plus, you may be in a position to downsize your company’s office space and save money on rent. So there are additional ways of saving money.

Ultimately, nothing will change until you take action. To learn more about how InfoCision can revolutionize your contact center, click here.

Is Your Customer Loyalty Program Failing?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Some time ago, your business introduced a loyalty program in order to reward customers who make frequent purchases.

Now it’s time to take a hard look at your loyalty program and ask whether it’s actually helping to boost customer acquisition and retention, or if it’s deterring customers instead.

How can you tell whether your customer loyalty program is successful?

If you have to guess, you are doing something wrong. Loyalty programs succeed when they are implemented as part of a larger, data-driven marketing strategy. They need to be carefully planned, executed, tracked and updated.

Here are some common reasons why they fail:

Poor promotion: There may be nothing wrong with the loyalty program you are offering. It could be how you are promoting it that is causing the trouble. Loyalty programs need to be treated as any other marketing campaign. They need to be supported by fresh, relevant and targeted content, email and even snail mail. These campaigns need to be supported by data.

Too much promotion: On the other end of the spectrum, you may be over-promoting your loyalty program and scaring away customers — forcing them to cancel services, unsubscribe or even block email and push notifications.  The trick is to find a sweet spot, where you are targeting customers just enough to pique their interest and keep them interested in your services.

The rewards aren’t good enough: It could make sense to try and sweeten the deal, in order to generate interest. Perhaps the program takes too long to accumulate returns, or your competitors are giving away stronger promotions. You don’t have to go overboard, but make sure that the program is at least offering enough to remain attractive.

Something else is scaring away customers: We have seen instances where a business is doing everything right by offering a well-planned, crafted and executed loyalty program offering great rewards. However, customers still don’t bite.

When this happens, it’s necessary to look outside of the scope of the loyalty program and investigate external factors that could be scaring away customers. For instance, there could be a miscommunication happening somewhere in the contact center. Perhaps agents are using outdated information or talking points to sell the program to customers. Or, maybe customers can’t easily get through the contact center when they have questions.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to treat it holistically. You have to get to the true root cause of the problem and fix it if you want to see actual results.

Remember: Don’t guess about how to fix these sorts of problems. Instead, partner with InfoCision to receive access to cutting-edge technologies, expert agents and high quality data and information management.

To learn more about InfoCision, click here.

Second Circuit Issues Important TCPA Update

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Running a contact center can be a massive responsibility. It’s a never-ending job trying to keep customers happy, agents on track and budgets under control. There isn’t always an adequate amount of time to devote to the really important things, like strategic planning for outbound communications.

When you rush around and complete tasks haphazardly to beat the clock, or perform guesswork in the contact center, you are bound to overlook small details like Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) protocol — a law that restricts how marketing, customer service and sales teams are allowed to contact customers.

TCPA regulations, it should be noted, are extremely complex. They also change from time to time, which can make them even harder to understand.

One issue that came up recently regarding the TCPA is that of “revocation of consent,” which was brought to the forefront during the Reyes, Jr. v. Lincoln Automotive Financial Services case.

As insideARM explained, in this case the plaintiff leased a car in 2012 and expressed consent to receive telephone calls from a credit agency, “including but not limited to, contact by manual calling methods prerecorded or artificial voice messages, text messages, emails, and/or automatic telephone dialing systems.”

What’s more, the plaintiff consented to the company using “any telephone number” that he provided to contact him.” This included a number for a mobile phone or wireless device, regardless of whether charges accrued.

The plaintiff, however, missed multiple payments and defaulted on his contract. So, the credit agency began calling the plaintiff at the number he provided until the vehicle was ultimately repossessed.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky:

Sources indicate that the following year, the plaintiff mailed a letter to his car manufacturer stating the following:

“I would also like to request in writing that no telephone contact be made by your office to my cell phone.”

As the story goes, the car manufacturer declined receiving any such notification, and so continued calling him. The plaintiff’s lawyer claims that 141 calls were made by a customer service representative, and 389 calls were delivered using a recorded message.

In 2015, the customer filed a lawsuit for $720,000, arguing that the company violated not just the TCPA, but also the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

The case first went to district court, and wound up before a Second Circuit which held that the plaintiff did revoke consent. However, the TCPA does not allow for a consumer to revoke consent when the consent is part of a bargained-for exchange.

What’s interesting here is that before this became a TCPA ruling, it was nothing more than a backend communication issue. Someone in the contact center repeatedly authorized agents to communicate with the customer. We can chalk this up as a bad decision.

It’s worth imagining yourself in this situation, and wondering how you would handle it. Without expert customer service guidance, and immediate access to legal counselors who thoroughly understand customer service laws, it’s easy to make the wrong decision that could result in years of court battles and massive fines.

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.

Is Your Contact Center Behind the Times?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Do you sometimes feel like you fell asleep and woke up in a  strange world full of new contact center technologies that you don’t really understand?

If so, we feel your pain. Contact centers have changed dramatically over the past few decades, from both a technical and operational standpoint. And yet, many businesses continue to operate using yesterday’s strategies and tools.

For some businesses, its’ a matter of inertia —  that is, of doing the same thing year in and year out, without really paying close attention to the issues that are dragging down the department. Other businesses want to change, but they don’t know how.

Is your contact center behind the times? Here are some telltale signs:

Agent overload: Take a look around your contact center. How many agents do you have on hand? Many customer service administrators still employ large teams of contact center agents, when in fact the industry is trending in the other direction. Now, you can run a tighter and more effective department using far less agents, simply by using the right automation tools. Smaller teams are much easier to manage, they’re more affordable and they produce stronger results.

A lack of insight: Recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and big data have made it possible to gain a much deeper understanding of customer needs. Still, many organizations are either resisting these technologies or don’t know how to implement them. Without targeted insight, a contact center is at a major strategic disadvantage.

Operational inefficiencies: If you are using a legacy contact center, then chances are likely that you suffer from periodic downtime due to network inefficiencies. When agents can’t access the network, and core communications systems fail, this can irritate and alienate customers. The easiest thing to do is to outsource your network operations, so that this does not happen.

Heavy costs: In the past, contact centers were largely seen as the money pit of the enterprise. This was back when most businesses were using massive, on-site contact centers, filled with hundreds of agents and massive, inflexible legacy networks. Now, things are different. There are many options available to reduce costs while improving performance and stability. So if your business is still operating in the red zone, understand that this is by choice. You can easily outsource your core operations to reduce unnecessary expenses.

Always remember that the contact center is the most customer-facing department in your organization. So if it’s behind the times, customers will pick up on this — and some may think twice about doing business with your company.

Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen.

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

Legacy, Cloud or Hosted: Which Type of Contact Center Is Right For You?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Before you make any decisions about your business’s contact center, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the different types of options that are available. The last thing you want to do is invest in one solution, only to wish you had taken another route.

There are three different ways to go about this: You can choose from a legacy, cloud or hosted setup.

Here is a breakdown of each:

Legacy: A legacy contact center is one that operates entirely in-house, using the business’s existing infrastructure, IT staff and agents.

Opinions on legacy contact centers will vary depending on who you talk to. Your IT team, for instance, may prefer a legacy contact center environment because they know the network better than anyone else. But keep in mind that in-house IT professionals may also be leery about outsourcing contact center operations, because they are fearful about losing their jobs.

The major downside to using a legacy contact center is that it will require much higher capital and operational expenditures. A business running a legacy contact center will be responsible for making its own purchases and upgrades. Legacy networks can also put extra strain on IT workers, too, as they require a lot of ongoing maintenance.

Cloud: Cloud contact centers are for businesses that want to keep the majority of their operations in house, without the hassle of managing their own infrastructure.

There are three different cloud models to choose from, including public, private and hybrid. In a public cloud environment, a business will share the same servers as many other different companies. In a private setup, you will have your own servers; and a hybrid model will allow you to use cloud services in conjunction with your legacy network.

Hosted: Conversely, a hosted contact center environment — what InfoCision offers — is one where contact centers services are stored off-site in an entirely managed environment. This is outsourcing at its finest.

This solution is ideal for businesses that are looking to streamline all aspects of customer care, without doing any of the heavy lifting. You won’t have to worry about purchasing or maintaining any network infrastructure or hiring agents. However, as the customer you will still have control over larger processes like branding and strategy.

Keep in mind that not all companies offer the same level of quality, privacy and security in their hosted solutions. So it’s important to do your research and scour the service level agreement (SLA) fine print to make sure you are partnering with a company that aligns with your vision.

So we encourage you to spend some time thinking about what’s right for your business. If you’re looking for some more detailed advice, InfoCision is standing by.

To learn more, contact InfoCision today.

 

Top Contact Center Technologies to Know About

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Technology procurement can be one of the hardest parts about running a contact center. With so many solutions to consider — from least cost routing (LCR) to workforce management — it’s not always easy to cut through the noise and understand what your facility should actually be using.

There’s no room for guesswork when signing contact center service agreements, though, as the decisions you make will directly impact the performance and stability of your department. Invest in a low budget, cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution, for instance, and everything from agent productivity and happiness to customer satisfaction could be negatively impacted.

For this reason, it helps to partner with a contact center solutions provider that understands the complexities of the market, for sound advice about purchasing.

Here are some technologies that we have been recommending to customers recently:

Artificial intelligence (AI):  AI — or the ability for a machine to mimic human thought — is now being used for a variety of purposes in the contact center. For instance, AI can predict things like whether a new lead will turn into customer, and how an agent should go about contacting him or her with an offer. And on the agent side, AI is also being used to analyze customer interactions. It provides agents with direct feedback about variables like the speed, pitch and tone of their voice — and whether they are connecting effectively with customers.

AI is one of the most exciting technologies in business today, and more and more businesses are using it. According to a new study, 45 percent of retailers plan to add AI in order to enhance the customer experience.

Chatbots:  You can’t mention AI without mentioning chatbots, which are automated messengers that use AI to process user queries and respond intelligently in near real-time. Right now, chatbots are most commonly used in website live chat boxes and automated text messaging applications. Chatbots are easy to build, highly reliable and capable of working alongside agents in the contact center.

Knowledge management: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes for a moment, and imagine that you have a question about your company. You look online, but the answer is nowhere to be found. What do you do? You either pick up the phone and ask for an agent (which takes extra time) or you search for the answer on Google (which could lead you to another provider). To avoid these pitfalls, many companies are now setting up knowledge bases on their websites that serve as libraries for customers to access information. This is an example of self service, another big buzzword in the contact center industry today. The great part about knowledge bases are that they are easy to set up and manage, and they don’t cost much.

Do you have questions about contact center technologies? We’re here to help. To contact InfoCision, click here.