A Glimpse Into InfoCision Puerto Rico

InfoCision Puerto Rico located in Aguadilla, PR

Whether in English or Spanish, at InfoCision’s contact center in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico we adapt and connect on a personal and cultural level to whomever is on the other end of the line. Employing only the finest people, our agents are mature – averaging 30+ years old – with 95% being college educated. Our turnover is less than 6%, meaning that we train peak performers and keep them. Each is intensely focused on quality, sales performance and optimal customer care. In short, we do everything possible to guarantee a positive customer engagement with every call!

The Phone is Still Vital for Your Business

In a society full of tweets, texts and typing, it may come as a surprise that phone calls remain the preferred channel of communication when it comes to your brand’s customer service. Tried and true, customers prefer actual voice communication for a plethora of reasons, but above all else, simply because it is the easiest option when looking to connect with a brand’s customer service department.

Consider this: When you are trying to get a hold of an organization’s customer service department, more times than not it’s because you have an urgent problem needing to be resolved. From a customer perspective, you don’t want to be typing in circles to a chatbot trying to explain your issues. Further, sending emails back and forth is even more time consuming than the chatbot. Yet, if you simply call into the customer service department, an agent is able to quickly look up your profile and guide you to a resolution.

More so, depending on your brand’s target market, they may not all be internet-savvy, or even have access to the internet. According to this study, only 66% of U.S. adults ages 65+ are using internet, making it worthwhile to stay accessible with offline communication.

Reasonably so, your brand’s voice communication can be the distinguishing factor amongst your competitors.  Show your customers that you value them by giving them exceptional live-person interaction rather than a chatbot or IVR system. In doing so, you will create a positive customer experience, and in turn find increased satisfaction and loyalty.

The take-away: Understand that voice communication, done well, is vital to your brand’s success and can set your brand apart. Finding the right contact center partner to handle your voice communication is critical in fostering your brand’s growth.

To learn more on how InfoCision provides the highest quality contact center solutions, visit www.infocision.com

The Ongoing Value of Live Customer Care

Do you need a contact center any more to provide stellar customer service? Or is the trend toward automated service inevitable? After all, automation is significantly less costly and more efficient than providing live assistance, and self-service is actually preferred by 91 percent of customers when it is seamless and effective.

Yet, customer care provided by live individuals may have no substitute when it comes to maximizing the customer experience with a brand. Consider, for instance, the downside of do-it-yourself service: Some customers—those who are either unwilling or unable to adapt—will get left behind. Others will be frustrated or angry, as multiple studies indicate that a significant percentage of customers prefer to resolve complex issues with a live individual.

This is why most of today’s organizations determined to enhance the customer experience with their brands are operating on the principal that giving customers a full swath of choices, e.g., email, live chat, text, social media and mobile apps or websites, is the best practice.

Unfortunately, a new survey conducted by Ovum shows that a gap exists between customer expectations and what businesses are currently able to deliver. It blamed this discrepancy on a lack of “any real understanding” among contact center managers regarding the extent to which customers interact via other channels before calling their facilities.

Most contact center managers would likely agree that understanding the lengths to which customers might go to avoid resolving issues with live Communicators is an important factor when planning future contact center operations. Tracking customer interactions across various channels is just as important, in other words, as determining customer channel preferences in the first place.

Cross-channel interaction analytics can provide decision makers with invaluable insights, such as the one Ovum discovered through surveying customers: Customers are increasingly informing themselves and, where possible, resolving their own issues.

With a greater understanding of customer preferences and behaviors, contact center managers can confidently take action to deal with the consequences. In this case, they can put processes in place to help Communicators deliver value and information not attainable elsewhere.

 

Using Gamification to Motivate Your Contact Center Staff

Are the rewards you offer your Communicators sufficiently motivating and engaging that they translate into benefits for your customers? That is, are rewards—from employee recognition to paid time off to wages—enough to overcome job stressors in the heightened customer service environment of today’s contact center?

Appropriate motivation becomes ever more relevant as Communicator responsibilities continue to extend beyond simply reading from a screen. Today, these customer care associates are expected to empathize with customers, use initiative to solve problems and remain focused on conveying a professional demeanor during each and every interaction.

The methods used by contact centers to motivate and engage Communicators to perform these duties were analyzed recently by ContactBabel, with results published in a new study, “The US Contact Center Decision Makers’ Guide 2016.”

The study shows that the 221 contact center managers and directors who responded to the ContactBabel questionnaire believe that their reward systems for Communicators are generally effective. Yet, ContactBabel found this to be true only when the reward was monetary, which approach was only used by 68 percent of respondents (compared to the 86 percent who use employee recognition).

In fact, cash bonuses were the least used reward.

For the most part then, contact center leaders think they are motivating and engaging Communicators in an appropriate and effective manner. Yet, by using attrition and absence rates, ContactBabel discovered a strong correlation between low salary levels and high staff attrition. The picture was a little different for absence rates, however, with those contact centers that ranked their reward programs “very effective” having fewer absences.

Overall, the findings present contact center leaders, who are not in a position to give significant wage increases to their customer care staff, with the need to find another reliable motivator. Enter gamification.

Gamification

Gamification is an approach for improving Communicator engagement, and aligning behaviors and characteristics with those of the contact center and wider enterprise. Basically, it involves turning work tasks into games. The opportunity for reward and recognition is presented at an individual level, with team-based successes also quantified. Achieving company-set goals is rewarded with points and badges.

Gamification increases Communicator engagement in a handful of ways:

  • Rewards those behaviors and characteristics that most closely align with contact center and company goals
  • Provides immediate feedback on performance to employees
  • Improves group performance through the pooling of knowledge and collaboration
  • Reduces ramp-up time for new Communicators, as it provides real-time feedback that encourages positive behaviors
  • Cuts down on time that managers must spend running incentive programs, and delivers them more objectively

Gamification requires company leaders to carefully set goals to avoid the risk of negative repercussions. For example, rewarding Communicators based on average handling time could cause them to drop difficult calls or not address customer concerns fully. Also, prepare for the novelty of the technique to wear off over time. This means that managers need to keep games fresh and goals relevant. It’s also quite possible that rewards will need to increase to maintain motivation levels.

The Psychology Behind Delivering Superior Customer Service

Appreciating the emotions involved in customer service is the first step toward creating a better customer experience. Sure, feelings are not something humans can always control—and they sometimes seem nebulous, random and unexplainable—but, fear not, there is a science to ridding your contact center of negative emotions that upend Communicator performance and dismay customers.

What you might never have thought about—but is known among certain academicians—is that Communicator treatment of customers is directly associated to how Communicators and other contact center staff treat each other.

Believe it or not, kindness toward each other in the workplace is a marker for the behaviors and performance of employees. In fact, research indicates that a negative relationship between colleagues has immediate and long-term detrimental effects on employee engagement, commitment and performance. According to the findings of a study published in the Harvard Business Review, 48 percent of workers who have been on the receiving end of incivility have intentionally decreased their work effort.

Twelve percent actually left their jobs due to their treatment. A full 78 percent said that their commitment to the organization declined. As many as 80 percent lost work time worrying about the incident, and 63 percent lost work time avoiding the offender.

One-quarter of the workers subject to workplace rudeness admitted to taking their frustrations out on customers!

Interestingly, the study found that people are made anxious when they see others treated poorly whether the treatment was delivered in private but overhead, deserved (e.g., due to incompetence) or the result of questionable or illegal actions.

As a contact center leader, what can you do to keep your own behavior in check and foster civility among workers? Here are a few tips:

Model good behavior: Managers set the tone, so be sure to lead by example. One way to create a culture of respect and bring out the best in employees is to show appreciation for their pleasant behavior. Keep an open line of communication and periodically ask for your Communicators’ feedback on your management style.

Hire civil people: Look for emotional intelligence when interviewing Communicator candidates. Less-formal group interviews often work to expose poor behaviors that might be suppressed in formal interviews. If possible, talk to previous employers to find out how the individual related to colleagues.

Teach appropriate behavior: Role-playing is a good technique for teaching civility in the workplace. Another tool is live listening, or even playback options, for various interactions to capture employees’ patterns of behavior, and then coach accordingly.

Offer rewards and penalties: Make respectful treatment of both employees and customers part of performance reviews. Further, consider implementing a system for measuring overall teamwork, not just individual outcomes.

Offshore Contact Centers—Is Your Message Getting Lost at Sea?

As part of a cost-initiative movement during the mid-1990s, contact center companies took a leap across the pond and began transferring their centers offshore. In doing so, these businesses were able to keep their wallets a little bit fuller, but not without lowering their customer satisfaction scores. This unintended outcome eventually hastened a return to U.S. soil for a good number of these offshore adventurers.

Communications between Americans and representatives at offshore contact centers often suffer from language barriers such as accents and pronunciation, creating customer dissatisfaction. Besides actual anomalies in voice interactions, cultural differences can cause communication issues too—usually from problems in message transmission. Values, beliefs and expectations for behavior accompany all human interactions, and often these are significantly different between countries, leading to missed cues and even insults.

Any of these communication gaffs can cause callers to feel undervalued because they add time to inquiry resolution.

After all, one key to making customers feel appreciated is to respect their time. Think about restaurants that give their customers a small remote control so that they can easily notify the valet service to bring the car around so that it’s waiting when they exit. Or, consider a contact center’s time-saving option that provides a callback service to customers waiting in its IVR queue.

Conversely, when customers and Communicators must continually repeat themselves to be understood, quick questions can turn into aggravating time drains. Even the technology that supports contact center functions can inadvertently add to the call’s duration; bad phone service or a poor Internet connection can ruin a conversation before it gets off the ground.

Quality communications, or the lack thereof, go beyond just accents and cultural differences, of course. When you offshore customer service, you increase the likelihood that call scripts will be followed too closely—in order to avoid introducing vocabulary and cultural hiccups—making customers feel like they’re talking to robots and/or being given irrelevant information. Plus, canned responses slow down the whole customer service process.

Remember that customer service has become one of the most important aspects of a company’s business. In fact, research shows that 66 percent of consumers who switched brands did so because of poor service. More often than not, cutting costs means cutting corners—a decision that may be compromising to your brand.

 

Tactics for Hiring the Right Communicators for Your Contact Center

Only people uniquely qualified to fit an ideal contact center Communicator profile are going to stick around long enough to justify the investment made to hire and train them. After all, the turnover rate in the contact center industry is between 30 and 45 percent, compared to 15 percent overall for other U.S. industries. So, finding candidates with traits that match up with the job requirements should be a priority for contact centers that strive to provide stellar customer service.

After all, a contact center is only as good as its Communicators. So, how can you avoid wasting time, energy and money on Communicators who are ill-suited to the position?

First, realize the challenges you’re up against. The United States is host to approximately 5 million contact center jobs (with about 12 percent of those outsourced overseas). That makes the job of contact center Communicator one of the most common in the world, meaning that many businesses are competing for the same pool of workers.

The point is that contact center supervisors need to have high expectations when hiring Communicators despite these hurdles; elsewise, customer service and business as a whole will suffer. For instance, seek candidates with top-notch communication skills, speed and a willingness to go the extra mile for customers.

Beyond that, define your own ideal applicant. You can easily do this by assessing the qualifications possessed by your existing top Communicators and extrapolating those into your profile. Look for things like a capability for fast and efficient resolution of issues. According to the Avaya Preference Report, 41 percent of contact center users rate this skill as the most important factor influencing their perception of the interaction.

When interviewing candidates, how can you determine whether they possess these traits or any others you desire?

Asking the right questions will take you far. When assessing critical thinking, for instance, you might ask a candidate to describe his or her biggest challenge when interacting with customers, and how he or she resolves it when it comes up. This will give you insight into what a potential Communicator considers a challenge and how he or she works through a problem.

Here are some questions that’ll help you find the right hires for your contact center:

  1. What motivates you in the workplace? If they talk about wanting to help others overcome problems, you could have a good fit.
  2. How do you learn? It would be good to know that the candidate has an ability or technique for quickly absorbing new information. Customers have more confidence in Communicators who can answer their questions without pause (ostensibly, to look up information or ask a colleague).
  3. What does being a team player mean to you? Assertive and sociable Communicators can boost overall contact center performance and morale.

When you’re looking to make your next great hire, be sure to attract the right people, interview them thoroughly, and evaluate their skills accordingly—doing so may require more attention up front, but will undoubtedly save you time and money in the long run.

Four Tips for Successful Callbacks

Don’t you love to get a callback option instead of waiting on hold when you reach out to a company? I do. I’m one of those customers who immediately latches on to the callback offer when it’s made. Today’s customers have no patience for idling on hold. For proof, check your social media accounts! This is where angry complaints will be logged—as well as in your Communicators’ ears.

Adding the callback feature to your contact center capabilities is easy with today’s cloud-based offerings. However you introduce the function, though, be sure to heed the following four tips to ensure your callbacks are successful:

  1. Time your callback message to coincide with your average hold time: The message, something like, “If you’d prefer that the next available agent return your call, press 1 now,” must, obviously, be played before your typical caller would hang up. This is your “time to offer,” or TTO, and it depends on your call center’s unique data and analysis. Your TTO will affect your take-up rate, which is the fraction of callers who opt-in after hearing the message.
  1. Repeat the callback offer: As time passes for callers in your IVR system, more and more of them will opt-in. Make sure the callback offer is repeated several times to give hesitant callers a chance to take advantage of the benefit. Don’t leave them wondering, and wishing they’d responded to the offer more quickly. Instead, simply extend the courtesy periodically.
  1. Correctly determine agent availability: Don’t overestimate when the next agent will be available and initiate the callback too early. You may end up placing your customers on hold a second time. Avoid letting your eagerness to maximize agent efficiency result in a negative experience for the customer! This would wipe out the advantage of providing callbacks altogether. A better idea is to already have the agent on the line when the customer picks up the return call. Typically, the downtime for the agent is less than 10 seconds.
  1. Enable other channels with the callback option: A majority of contact centers use multiple channels to interact with their customers: phone, Web, chat, email and text. Yet, if a customer issue is urgent or difficult to resolve, a phone conversation is still the preferred channel. In fact, 77 percent of people polled, according to a Northridge Group survey, reach for the phone in these circumstances. Quality contact center service, therefore, requires smooth transitions between channels in a multichannel environment. When your customer on a chat, for example, decides that he or she wants to talk to a live Communicator immediately, the transfer should be quick and seamless. For a consistent user experience, if your phone channel includes a callback option, so should your other channels.

Your callback solution should, therefore, have strong multichannel functionality, like pre-built components that can be easily integrated into your webpage or mobile app.

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

 

Employer Benefits From the Ultimate Job Perk: Working at Home

Employees who yearn for job flexibility see working at home as the ultimate prize—and have been increasingly pushing their companies to provide the perk. Over the past decade, employers have actively started to respond. The share of workers doing some or all of their work at home grew from 19 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 2015 numbers are greater still for management and professional positions, 38 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

The ability to work from anywhere has evolved along with technological advances—so much so that 68 percent of recent college graduates say that, among company policies, the ability to work remotely has “the most positive impact” on their interest in an employer, according to a FlexJobs survey.

The trend encompasses a wide swath of industries, from healthcare to technology. Here at InfoCision, we have seen firsthand the benefits of offering employees the Work-at-Home option. Thanks to cloud computing and widely available Internet broadband access, Communicators can now provide home-based services that are indistinguishable from services that originate in the contact center. Such findings have revolutionized the work place and are greatly improving work-life balance among millions of workers (3.2 million in 2014, according to The New York Times).

Reasons to consider adding Work-at-Home to your call center’s career options:

Dollars: By leveraging the Internet, businesses can reduce the costs of office space and multiple overhead charges. Employees who participate in Work-at-Home programs typically love it, which builds their company loyalty, thus lowering your attrition rates and costs.

Time: Commuting is draining on the spirit, the wallet and the clock. The average commuter spends nearly an hour a day just getting to and from the office—time that could be better used to close a deal or finish writing a story, among a multitude of other tasks. Time=money.

Morale: Job satisfaction increases with telecommuting. It should almost go without saying that having the flexibility to work from home (or anywhere)—in case you’re under the weather, a child is sick, the car’s in the shop, etc.—would improve employee morale; nevertheless, new research from the University of Minnesota and the MIT Sloan School of Management has made it official. In a randomized controlled trial, the researchers learned that workers who were given an increased sense of control over their work lives reported higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout and psychological stress.

Productivity: Only 7 percent of respondents to a FlexJob survey say the office is their location of choice if they need to be most productive at work tasks. The rest prefer to work remotely; their top reasons for this choice include fewer interruptions from co-workers and other distractions, like meetings and office politics. What’s more, research shows that at-home workers typically put in longer hours than their colleagues at the office.

Beware some telecommuting challenges

At-home workers have reported a sense of isolation, and they find communicating with colleagues more challenging—at least initially. Virtual connection technologies like Skype and Google Hangout help bridge the communication gap but, for others, nothing replaces chatting around the water cooler.

Keeping tabs on what co-workers are doing is also tricky, as is staying motivated to report on their own activities toward goals. This leads to another issue coming to the forefront: Telecommuters are being promoted at half the rate of their in-office colleagues, according to The New York Times article referenced above. This can be attributed to a lack of live interaction—a case of out of sight, out of mind—wherein managing employees and collaborating with the boss are inherently more difficult.

For some telecommuters, limited home resources are also a problem. After all, not every home setup includes a printer and fax machine, for example. Some people also simply work better in a structured environment; home can offer too many temptations to put work on pause.

Sometimes, the best telecommuting practice may simply be to offer employees options—a couple of days at home per week or month—when a deep focus on a work project is needed, a sore throat wants tending or the weather outside is frightful.

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

Change Your Contact Center for the Better As the Season Changes

Change is all around us. The leaves are falling. The air is getting crisp. As we turn the corner into fall, feed off of the seasonal energy and update your contact center strategy.

Here are some practical steps you can take to inspire your team and boost attitude—and performance—in your contact center:

Update your call scripts: Customers pick up on the smallest details when speaking with your Communicators. So it’s vital to ensure your Communicators are inspired and excited during phone interactions. To boost enthusiasm, try updating your call scripts. You can even hold a meeting, and ask for direct feedback from your Communicators about specific areas they think should change. Get a sense of which lines are working, and which can be improved. Doing so will make your Communicators feel like they are part of the team. What’s more, it will make them think actively about the language they use when speaking with customers.

Bring in some fresh faces: The busy holiday rush will be here before you know it. And when this happens, your department may need to scale to handle larger call volumes. This year, be proactive and hire early. This will give you plenty of time to onboard and train your new hires, and to make sure they are well- prepared for the busy season. Plus, your new Communicators will bring a wave of energy and enthusiasm into your department.

Improve your KPIs: Take a hard look at your contact center metrics. Are there any trends that need to disappear along with the summer heat? Take active measures to reduce your abandon rates by tweaking your interactive voice response system or implementing a callback feature. You could also work with your Communicators to look for ways of improving first call resolution rates. KPIs may seem intimidating, but by making them a priority you could significantly boost your customer service ratings.

Innovate: When is the last time you integrated a new technology into your contact center? There are many new customer relationship management (CRM) solutions that you can use to streamline customer support, like issue tracking systems (which can capture and follow customer challenges), multichannel solutions (for communicating with customers over multiple platforms), and knowledge bases (which help Communicators share information among themselves). If your CRM solutions are up to date, it’s worth considering other small investments to make your Communicators happier and more productive. For example, you could consider implementing new headsets, phones or even chairs. It’s amazing how performance can improve when workers are comfortable at their seats.

Remember that you don’t need to have a massive departmentwide overhaul to enact meaningful change. Simply coming to work with a positive, can-do attitude will inspire others to feel the same. Let the winds of change blow through your contact center and drive improvements this season!

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