Team Empowerment in the Contact Center

Everyone can agree that it’s important to empower your workforce but developing best practices to boost retention and morale in the contact center space is critical. At InfoCision, we have decades of experience, which equates to a plethora of time-tested, valuable ideas.

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s a time like no other to evaluate how your management team offers appreciation and encouragement to everyone on your workforce, especially including your team on the phone. From gamification and e-cards built-in our screens each day, to holiday-themed grand prize giveaways, we motivate our agents to provide excellent customer service in every call. However, empowerment is more than just the stuff money can buy. It’s:

    • Building an environment where people genuinely want to come to work – a place that fosters self-esteem, builds confidence, and feels like family
    • Believing in the values of the organizations and brands we’re asking others to support
    • Having supervisors and managers who practice empathy and active-listening, remembering birthdays and asking about sick grandkids
    • Visiting the call center floor regularly with senior management who are invested in acquiring feedback from agents, in person, themselves
    • Focusing on finding solutions within an atmosphere of remarkable teamwork, not just debriefings venting about common challenges
    • Ensuring your team has the tools they need to offer an unmatched customer experience

     

  • Genuine job satisfaction comes from more than appreciative Christmas cards, offering team lunches, and coordinating cheesy holiday festivities. True empowerment is generated through a culture of operational excellence, in a commitment to the continual and sincere encouragement and inspiration of your workforce – not just during the holidays, but throughout the entire year.

Keep The Creativity Coming!

In business, especially in the contact center space, it’s easy for teams to keep doing business as usual once they learn what works.  A good contact center knows their customers, all the ins and outs of their proprietary technology, and has developed an array of standardized strategies for handling challenges. However, when the ultimate desire is for a business to grow, the flow of creative ideas in every realm of the business must not only continue, but flourish.

At InfoCision, our team of marketers constantly tests new ideas, in a way that can be measured and replicated. This includes considering all aspects of the customer experience, examining and testing at all levels within the myriad of multi-channel solutions available: scripts, letter packages, call routing strategies, training materials, reporting techniques, hiring and retention, quality measurements, even ancillary services. Creativity involves utilizing our Business Analytics department to provide demographic and transactional data modeling or run a variety of scenarios to generate alternate probabilities and outcomes.  All our insights and findings are used to develop best practices, which are constantly examined for relevancy and adjusted with fine-tuning.

Having a culture of operational excellence, combined with the ingenuity and aptitude for continual testing across departments, enables us to provide excellent customer service and unmatched ROI.

 

 

A Valuable Customer Care Lesson Derived from Shark Tank

The founders of a small business called Power Practical have built a big customer base with very few resources, and a lot of strategic smarts. What is their secret ingredient? Customer engagement at the highest level.

Power Practical began with the help of more than 1,000 financial backers as a result of the company’s Kickstarter campaign. Then, when two of the company’s team members, David Toledo and Caleb Light, appeared on Shark Tank, the business took off after it received $250,000 in funding from Mark Cuban, along with valuable business guidance.

They then did something that is fairly unusual—they got customers involved in the development of the business. They sought input on products, asked for suggestions for improvement, and kept supporters informed about key dates related to product development and delivery. They now have 24,000 loyal customers who love what they do.

Companies that are obsessed with their customers—in a good way—use every ounce of feedback available to understand how people are responding to their products and their company. Customers who provide feedback are already interested in the company, and are therefore inclined to become repeat customers. Think of them as stakeholders—part of the process from beginning to end. Stakeholders are along for the ride, so continuing to make them feel valued makes them an important part of your success.

When customer service informs product development businesses also have a competitive edge in that the end product meets or exceeds customer expectations. A product designed with the consumer in mind very often reduces the need for customer care services to begin with, increasing the benefits even more.

So if your product development team doesn’t already have a relationship with your customer care team, it might be time to forge a partnership. Growth as the result of customer feedback is invaluable for future success.

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.

Focus on Customer Care to Skyrocket to Success

Good customer experiences are good for business. In the past, that meant having a smile at the ready and fielding a few phone calls, but we’ve come a long way since then. Today, the customer is in control. Companies are well aware that quality of service can significantly impact their bottom line; it also determines whether customers stay with a brand, and even advocate for it.

Yet, according to the latest 2015 Forrester Research survey, most companies are still delivering just an OK experience. In fact, several industries ranked lower in customer experience than they did just six months prior, with consumers saying that their experiences were poor or very poor.

What’s preventing businesses from delivering superior customer care experiences, particularly when we’re seeing so many companies reap the benefits of a well-oiled customer service strategy?

In some cases, it’s a lack of understanding as to what makes a good experience; in others, it’s a lack of planning and implementation. Business leaders must be not only dedicated to the cause but also determined to create a plan and see it through—no small feat in light of the technology tools and human resource training that it takes to do this successfully.

Many companies are finding that they can grow faster in this area by outsourcing. A Radiant Insights research report states that the global outsourced customer care services market is projected to reach $84.7 billion by 2020, propelled in part by an increasing need for interaction through non-voice channels.

Contact centers bring to the table a wealth of knowledge about the customer care industry, as well as a specialized expertise in the related technology tools that provide deep insights into customer attitudes and buying patterns. They also offer a sophisticated set of service options (including non-voice channels), and dedicated customer service staff. Businesses that choose to outsource benefit greatly from the assistance—and gain a partner in their quest to deliver superior service.

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.

What Will Your Contact Center Do This Summer?

Finally, summer is almost upon us. Most people feel more relaxed, move at a slower pace, and, typically, are focused on everything else besides work. These quiet days are a welcome change of pace for sure, but many managers see the distractions as obstacles to productivity.

Instead of battling against summer, why not embrace it as a chance to reflect on your business? It’s the perfect time to try out some new ideas for boosting engagement levels among your Communicators, and for enhancing business operations.

Some ideas to sample this summer might include:

  • Battle burnout among your Communicators. If your customer care agents are working to the best of their ability, it’s natural that they will occasionally feel the effects of burnout—particularly due to the stress inherent in their jobs. Attrition has been shown to be the top contact center challenge, so devote some attention this summer to reacquainting yourself with your Communicators. Customer care agents who find meaning in their work—solving problems and helping customers—are more likely to stay, so find ways to help them do this. Summer is a great time to conduct stay interviews, which can help you connect with your employees and how they’re feeling.
  • Offer professional development opportunities. All agents have had basic customer care training, but there are plenty of reasons to continue learning. Maybe your contact center has recently implemented new technology, or plans to in the near future, that Communicators would benefit from knowing more about. There are also agent development programs that not only educate but energize agents, teaching them how to deliver outstanding service and starting discussions about why it’s important. After training, work with your Communicators to set individual professional goals.
  • Try new technology. As you know, there’s no shortage of tools available to assist your agents in delivering superior care. It’s hard to commit to learning new technologies anytime, but summer might prove to be a wonderful opportunity to try something new. The change will help to engage employees and give them a chance to help and teach one another collaboratively. Whether it’s workforce management software, data analytics software, or any number of other tools, the business will benefit from technology updates.

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.

 

Here’s How You Can Really Calculate Customer Care ROI

As a customer care leader, you know how important it is to calculate ROI, as it proves that your department is contributing to the businesses’ bottom line. You also know, however, that calculating the value of contact center services ROI can be tricky.

Luckily, there are a few metrics that can help you get the best possible estimate of what your company’s customer care efforts are worth. In fact, a recent article from Customer Think lays it out quite simply by highlighting three areas: revenue, cost and marketing.

Below are some important metrics you should consider when calculating customer care ROI:

  • Repeat business: A great way to calculate revenue is taking a look at your repeat business. If the number of repeat customers is low it could signal that bad times are ahead. That’s because it’s more costly to gain a new customer than it is to keep an old one. What’s more, repeat customers are said to spend more with a company overtime.
  • Employee Attrition: Do you have a high employee turnover? Believe it or not, a revolving door of employees can get expensive. Between the onboarding process and unemployment, the costs can quickly add up. Measuring employee attrition is a great way to see whether or not you can reduce costs.
  • Net Promoter Score: Would your client recommend you to someone else? This is a major question that could give you insight into how your marketing and customer service efforts are faring. Essentially, your Net Promoter Score gives you a clear measure of your performance through your customers’ eyes.

Calculating customer care ROI can be difficult. Nonetheless, it’s an important responsibility that customer care departments must handle if they want to prove that their efforts are making a difference within the company.

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.

 

Top Holiday Customer Care Concerns to Keep in Mind

The holidays are without a doubt the most stressful time of year for customer care employees. Customers are making dozens of transactions online or via the telephone as well as contacting contact centers with questions. It’s enough to make even the most seasoned Communicator stressed.

To ensure that they are prepared, Communicators ought to keep customers’ top holiday complaints top of mind so that they can avoid making matters worse during this busy season. Below, we explore some of the most common holiday customer care concerns that Communicators are likely to face.

Service delivery: According to a survey from ASQ, which polled more than 400 quality and customer service experts worldwide, 55 percent of respondents say that timeliness in service delivery is the most common complaint. Brush up on your company’s service delivery policy to ensure that you’re prepared to correctly answer any questions regarding delivery.

Inaccuracies in billing: There’s nothing more frustrating for customers than when they come across an error in billing. According to the aforementioned survey, 26 percent say errors or inaccuracies in billing and payments are a major issue. Besides familiarizing yourself with your billing policies, make sure that you’re prepared to handle a disgruntled customer. Remember to remain calm and empathic to the customer.

Lack of clear communication: Lack of clear communication is another complaint that tops the list. When a customer contacts you, it’s important that you take the time to fully understand his or her problem and provide a clear solution. Oftentimes, it’s best to repeat the problem back to the customer to ensure that you understand it.What’s more, never make promises that you can’t keep.

The holidays are a wonderful, but hectic time for Communicators. Make sure that you’re prepared to handle everything that’s coming your way by reviewing your company’s policies and guidelines.

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.

This One Simple Tip Helps Keep Customers Coming Back For More

 

Customer retention is cited as a major pain point for many businesses. Nonetheless, it’s an important aspect to running a successful business and gaining optimal contact center services ROI. After all, numerous studies have shown that it’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to maintain an existing one. In addition, repeat customers often spend more over their lifetime.

In fact, the average repeat customer spent 67 percent more in months 31-36 of his or her shopping relationship than in months zero to-six, according to research from Bain and Co. What’s more, repeat customers spent 23 percent more in months 31-36 than in months zero-to-six.

If you’re struggling to improve your customer retention levels, there’s no need to fret because there’s one simple tip that you can implement to keep customers coming back for more. And that simple tip is to ensure that your Communicators end every conversation having gained a new friend.

That is, Communicators ought to perceive their customers as friends, in order to exude more empathy, authenticity and lightheartedness over the phone. In doing so, customers may soften their outlook toward customer care representatives and thereby enjoy a more personalized, friendlier experience.

So what are some things Communicators can do to make their interactions with customers friendlier? Below are some easy tips and tricks:

  • Make it personal: Customers don’t want to be treated like just another consumer; rather, they want a unique and personalized experience. Leverage the data you have about your customers to make every interaction more personal.
  • Listen intently: Part of being a good friend is really listening; the same goes with providing good customer care. Be sure that your Communicators are intently listening to customers’ questions.

While it’s true that Communicators must go through extensive training and continue to receive professional development throughout their careers, treating customers as they would a dear friend can help them improve their interactions with customers right away.

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.

 

Top Ten Customer Care Skills

When today’s consumers contact a business they expect a pleasant and productive customer care experience. So, when their expectations aren’t met, they have no qualms about leaving a company, of which they once loyal patrons, high-and-dry. This will then, inevitably, impact your organization’s contact center services ROI.

As such, it’s extremely important for Communicators to possess certain traits and skills that will enable them to go above and beyond customers’ expectations. Recently, Mattsfactor.com created an infographic which outlines the most critical customer care skills all Communicators must inherently possess or strive to acquire.

Let’s explore these 10 skills further.

1. Knowledge of the product: It’s difficult to tend to a customer who’s having trouble with your product when you’re unsure, yourself, how the product works. Therefore, it’s important that companies provide Communicators with intensive product-specific training so that they can answer any and all questions.

2. Attentiveness: To put it simply, customers just want to be heard. Being an active listener and demonstrating initiative during conversations is a critical skill for Communicators. Even inserting a simply “I understand” goes along way. This also requires going off script from time to time.

3. Appropriate communication: Communicators must be able to control their emotions and always act appropriately even when they come face-to-face with an angry customer. Listen to what your customer says and always provide a positive solution. Try listening back on tough calls to figure out ways in which you can improve.

4. Patience: While you may have to fill a certain call quota, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to rush a customer off the phone. Take enough time to find out what the customer needs, even if that means having them walk through the problem more than once.A great way to ensure you understand is repeating the problem back to the customer.

5. Empathy: When a customer contacts you via the customer care hotline, chances are it’s because he or she has a question or they’re upset. Instead of coming across as stiff or jaded, exude empathy. Showing compassion will help in calming the customer down and better understanding the problem at hand.

6. Honesty: The worst thing you can do is make false promises to a customer and conceal the truth. Be honest at all times, even if the information you’re about to give to the customer isn’t something he or she necessarily wants to hear.

7. Adaptability: When you’re a Communicator, you’re going to have good and bad calls—it’s inevitable. It’s your ability to adapt to the situation that will separate you from others. A great way to improve the way you think on your toes is through practicing with mock-calls.

8. Work ethic: Apathy won’t get you anywhere in the customer care world. You must go above and beyond for every customer you come in contact with. Never cut corners and always display ethical work standards.

9. Self-control: It’s easy to become frustrated with a customer if he or she is a stubborn or argumentative individual. However, it’s important to “kill them with kindness” in these scenarios. When in doubt, bite your tongue. A great way to work on this skill is by practicing with mock calls, as mentioned above, or listening to example calls with your manager.

10. Responsibility: Always take responsibility. Even if a customer is wrong or makes a mistake, it’s important that you take responsibility and don’t push the blame on others within your company. After all, part of contributing to a team-oriented atmosphere is taking responsibility for your own mistakes and working with others to improve in the future.

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 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

 

Make New Friends and Keep The Old: A Lesson In Customer Retention

You might be familiar with the saying, “Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver the other is gold.” Well, the same is true in the customer care space.

While it’s certainly important for companies to acquire new clients, it’s just as important—if not more—to focus on retaining existing ones. After all, research suggests that it costs more to gain new customers than it does to retain existing ones, which is a subject that I lent a great deal of attention to in my recently published book.

Also, research from Econsultancy’s Cross-Channel Marketing Report revealed that 70 percent of companies say it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire one. Not only do existing customers costs less, but they’re also more likely to recommend your business to family and friends and spend more money with you in the future.

In fact, Bain & Company found that repeat customers spend more and generate larger transactions. Indeed, an average repeat customer spent 67 percent more in months 31-36 of his or her shopping relationship than in months zero to six.

What’s more, the study also found that on average repeat customers referred three people each to an online retailer’s site after their first purchase there. After ten purchases, that same shopper had referred seven people to the site.

As you can see, customer retention has a big impact on your contact center services ROI and you’re company’s overall bottom line. Therefore, make sure that you put a concerted effort toward keeping your existing customers happy and wanting to come back for more.

For instance, reward them for maintaining their relationship with your business by offering them a yearly discount or enrolling them in a customer loyalty program. And, always make an effort to be consistent and reliable when interacting with your most devoted customers, they deserve some special treatment!

While making a good first impression will prompt a customer to come back a second time, delivering consistently good customer care will cause them to return, and thereby foster a positive, long-lasting relationship with your brand.

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.