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.

 

 

Read This Before Launching a New Channel!

Consumers are reaching out to contact centers today not just by phone, but using email, chat and social—to name a few avenues. How can your business derive revenue from tapping into these communications channels? That’s the question each organization’s decision makers must ponder before modernizing.

Start where you are. Are you a phone-only call center? If so, you’re practically a dinosaur. Providing customer support over multiple communications channels is standard operating procedure these days. A 2015 study by ICMI and LiveOps shows that 92 percent of contact centers support email, 59 percent chat, 49 percent Web, 46 percent self-service, 45 percent mobile and 42 percent social media.

If you are a phone-only call center, the best channel to add first is almost certainly chat. Chat is the clear winner over email and social when it comes to consumer preference. In fact, chat has become the leading contact source within the online environment, with 42 percent of customers using chat vs. email (23 percent) or another social media form (16 percent), according to J.D. Power.

The reason being that phone and chat have a common denominator: the ability to have a conversation in real time. This helps customers—hungry for instant gratification—resolve their issues efficiently.

If you’re gung-ho to update your contact center in one fluid motion, look for a solution that includes voice, chat, email and social by one provider. Employee training will be more succinct and usage consistent across the board.

If cost restricts such an option, large CRM and contact center vendors offer modular application suites or platforms that allow you to add new services as needed.

It’s easy enough to stay competitive and meet customer expectations by following this simple list of do’s and don’ts:

Do:

  • Keep up with the channels your customers are using;
  • Add chat if you can only add one channel;
  • Look for a solution with one application for all channels;
  • Pick a good routing and reporting platform to manage interactions from the same interface;
  • Consider more self-service if you have high volume and low sales per customer;
  • Invest more in high-touch services if you have high-end products or service; and
  • Automate a callback option for your IVR.

Don’t:

  • Keep waiting for the next big thing;
  • Prioritize email over chat;
  • Choose a separate solution for each channel;
  • Add a channel that costs more than it benefits the organization in customer satisfaction or up-sales;
  • Do what everyone else is doing (not all companies need the same features); and
  • Try brand-new unproven technology if you are a high-touch company with long-term customer relationships.

Once you’ve added a new channel, be sure to connect the dots between channels for the customer. Remember, too, that each channel requires different Communicator skill sets, and be prepared to provide training as each new channel is added.

Is Your Callback Strategy Effective?

A comprehensive callback strategy allows you to maximize the effectiveness of your live contact center Communicators. At the same time, it will reap you rewards in customer satisfaction.

There are a number of indicators that your callback strategy is working well: Your caller abandonment numbers have decreased, your cost per call has been reduced, and your Communicators’ morale is on the upswing.

If you’re not experiencing these improvements, check to see whether the following three callback tactics are destroying the effectiveness of your callback strategy:

Putting customers on hold again after the callback: Your customers are likely experiencing this “double hold” scenario if your callback system employs an algorithm to determine agent availability. More sophisticated solutions don’t disservice customers by calling them back before a Communicator is on the line. This method not only jeopardizes the customer relationship, it’s more costly per call.

Making the callback offer only once: If you only give customers one callback offer at the start of the interactive voice response (IVR) experience, they might miss it. Even if they opted to forgo the option, their situation could change at any moment, forcing them to abandon the call. Instead, be sure to offer the callback multiple times.

Not offering callbacks on multiple channels: Customers want to interact with you using their preferred channels. Your website and mobile app are likely starting points where you should also offer the callback option. For instance, allow customers to schedule callbacks from your site, so they can continue to peruse your pages while they wait.

If your callback strategy comprises any of these three trouble spots, give it a once over as soon as possible. Your customers will appreciate it.

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.

 

Contact Centers Are Moving to Omnichannel

Your contact center probably already offers customers multiple channels for communication. Congratulations! This means that you’ve responded to consumer demand to connect with your brand through the channels they prefer.

Now that 68 percent of U.S. adults use smartphones and interact across multiple platforms and modes of communication, contact centers are answering the groundswell. They are meeting customer expectations to connect with their favorite companies through any mode of communication they prefer—from email to chat to mobile apps and websites.

Mobile—which itself comprises multiple channel platforms, like text, email and voice—has emerged as the primary vehicle for communicating with a brand and its contact center. Thanks to this all-in-one digital channel, customers have come to view engagement as a single continuous conversation, or “omnichannel.”

Social media has also contributed to customer expectations for contact center service. Today, a large percentage of our population has been raised on digital and is habituated to sharing and receiving information in near real time. In this fast-paced mobile world, customers expect quick resolution of their issues. In fact, 71 percent of customers say that valuing their time is the most important aspect of customer service.

As customers started lodging company complaints on social platforms, businesses learned to respond quickly—or suffer the repercussions of bad publicity. Both consumers and brands—brands that respond quickly on social platforms—have benefitted from leveraging the channel. Consumers receive a timely response and brands gain visibility. Companies that display good will on social platforms also grow brand interest, engagement and loyalty.

To drive rich omnichannel customer experiences in your contact center, consider the following tips:

Do digital better: Refine your brand’s digital presence by testing your conversion path and optimizing landing pages on your website—both online and on mobile. Make sure you’ve established a social presence and are engaging audiences across all major platforms, like Facebook and Twitter.

Optimize search: Implement a marketing search strategy that encourages more consumers to enter your brand’s name into search engines, like Google, and to visit your website and/or store.

Improve site retargeting: Use website visits and your CRM database to improve site retargeting, or re-engaging, of customers. Analyze data to gain insights about how to best personalize customer experiences with your brand.

Optimize mobile: Use mobile to strengthen your ability to connect with customers anywhere and at any time.

The time is now for all communication channels to be part of a holistic contact center customer experience.

You Don’t Need to Add Communicators to Improve Contact Center Service

Do your Communicators have the best tools and techniques to do their jobs well? If so, you’ve likely learned that less is more. Fewer Communicators with heightened skills are a greater contact center asset than more Communicators with fewer skills. That means it makes sense to develop a customer service approach that optimizes the customer experience as well as your business’s cost structure.

To reduce the need for more Communicators requires taking action on three fronts: Communicator utilization, productivity and call center volume.

Optimizing Communicator usage: Contact center managers can boost staff utilization by employing technology tools that ensure Communicators are scheduled effectively. Today’s workforce management software, which can capture all types of work, including interactions via phone, email and other communication channels, provides an alternative to inefficient paper- based staff planning. Communicators can be scheduled based on their skills—from fluency in two languages to training and experience with various technologies.

Increasing Communicator productivity: Instead of measuring productivity with the old standard average handle time (ADT) metric, contact center managers should track customer satisfaction across Communicator conversations. ADT can actually pressure Communicators to rush customers off a call instead of fully ensuring their satisfaction. Consequently, managers should not only guarantee that Communicators are following policy and procedure but make sure to monitor calls and coach staff on how well they controlled interactions and stayed on point.

Contact center managers should also track how often customers are placed on hold while Communicators look up information. This is usually an indication of training gaps or difficult searches on poorly designed information systems. To improve the customer experience, contact center decision makers must acknowledge and address Communicator challenges to quickly and effectively resolving customer issues.

Reducing call center volume: First-contact resolution (FCR) is the key metric to look at when trying to decrease the number of incoming call center inquiries. Your goal here is to ensure that more customer interactions are based on requests for more products or services—and not to resolve problems with existing ones.

To improve FCR success, proactively identify the root causes of customer problems and determine to prevent them. Do your due diligence to learn from customers whether your products are easy to use. Next, look into whether your processes and practices prevent Communicators from addressing problems on first contact. Check into whether it makes sense to give your Communicators more power to make decisions on customers’ behalves. Ensure they are properly trained for this sort of responsibility before moving ahead.

Keep in mind that less can be more when it comes to both the number of Communicators in your contact center and your success at providing optimal customer service.

Long Hold Times Spell Disaster for Contact Centers

It’s no mystery that customers would prefer immediate service to being put on hold while awaiting customer service support. But how damaging is the hold practice to your business?

Consider that 32 percent of respondents to an online Google survey said, “none,” when asked how long they’d be willing to wait on hold for customer service.

The general assumption among contact center leaders is that as long as 80 percent of calls are being answered within 20 seconds (the 80/20 service-level “gold standard”), your center is satisfying customers. So, what do you do about research that indicates that how calls are handled is more important than wait time?

It’s best that you hedge your bets. After all, according to Consumer Reports, 66 percent of callers are “highly annoyed” by long waits on hold.

Yes, a stellar customer experience is the new gold standard for contact centers, but that includes the entire customer journey, wait times included. A NewVoiceMedia infographic reveals that 44 percent of U.S. consumers take their business elsewhere as a result of inadequate service. A large majority of those individuals (89 percent) switch at least once every year, and 25 percent of those people say it’s because they were tired of being kept on hold.

How ’bout some good news? Twice as many consumers (50 percent) use a company more often after a positive customer experience, per NewVoiceMedia.

Unfortunately, however, thanks to social media, even one dissatisfied customer can affect your business. The infographic further shows that 59 percent of 25 to 34 year olds share poor customer experiences online and 63 percent of consumers read damaging reviews. That’s a lot of negative energy directed at your brand.

Don’t be terribly discouraged: Aggregated research indicates that contact center hold times of less than 20 to 30 seconds do not strongly impact the customer experience. Certain industry experts steer businesses away from meeting strict 80/20 parameters for this reason. They tend to recommend that organizations focus more on the customer’s end-to-end journey to create happier customers overall.

Issue Resolution: The Primary Prerequisite for Customer Satisfaction

When customers call into contact centers, they are usually experiencing one of two problems: 1) a billing issue, or 2) product or service assistance. And quick resolution is their aim. Unfortunately, this is not happening regularly. Along with this complaint, customers are growing impatient with companies’ interactive voice response (IVR) systems. Together, these issues have caused the Contact Center Satisfaction Index (CCSI) to drop to 68—the lowest it’s been since 2007.

Released last month by CFI Group, the latest CCSI score, based on a 0- to 100-point scale, slid four points this year. CFI reports that just 52 percent of issues are resolved on first contact (down 6 percent from 2015) and one-third of consumers fail to resolve their issues through self-service options. Especially frustrated by these hurdles are today’s young adults—those individuals born between 1980 and 2000 known as millennials.

Raised in an on-demand digital world, millennials—the nation’s largest demographic—expect readily available information they can easily tap into themselves.

To meet the demands of this generation, and consumers in general, contact centers must better align their processes to exceed customer expectations. Here are some key points to guide these improvements:

Get on board the omnichannel train: Consumers want to interact with brands using their preferred channels. The top five of which are telephone, email, live chat, online portal/FAQ and search engine, according to a 2015 report from Microsoft. Despite telephone’s popularity, Microsoft found that 57 percent of people in the U.S. typically begin brand interactions online; 35 percent begin with the telephone.

First call resolution: Customer satisfaction with contact centers goes hand in hand with the first call resolution (FCR) metric. In addition, even when FCR is achieved, satisfaction is decreased if the caller has to speak with more than one Communicator. On the flip side, the length of time it takes to achieve FCR is not a factor unless the call lasts more than 30 minutes.

Yet, most U.S. customers won’t wait on hold for service no matter how quickly their issues can be resolved. Only 43 percent of Microsoft’s respondents reported a tolerance for even a one- to five-minute wait.

Personal customer care: Even the best technology, wonderful as it is at helping contact center leaders to forecast call volume and deploy skills-based routing, cannot replace the human touch. When customers are frustrated or angry, no IVR or self-help portal is going to be able to de-escalate emotions the way a responsive, empathetic Communicator can.

Whereas a 2012 Amdocs survey found that 75 percent of consumers would prefer to use online support if it were available, a new Verint study shows that human involvement is a critical component in solving queries, especially when complex or sensitive. In fact, four out of five of the 24,000 respondents to Verint’s interview prefer that customer service continue to include human interactions.

Your contact center is critical to creating a customer experience that can differentiate your company in the marketplace. Deploy technologies and strategies now that will show your customers how much you value their business.

 

How to Resolve the Top Three Most Frustrating Customer Service Experiences

Microsoft’s annual U.S. State of Multichannel Customer Service Report is filled with helpful insights about customer expectations for service and engagement, and it confirms something most of us already know: A full 98 percent of U.S. consumers say that customer service is very important or somewhat important in their choice of, or loyalty to, a brand.

There will always be challenges in achieving the highest level of customer service, though. Some of those issues were brought to light in the report, which asked consumers to name what they consider to be the most frustrating aspects of a customer service experience. Let’s take a look at the top three customer frustrations and consider how they might be addressed in any one of our contact centers. Who knows—maybe next year we can bump these off the list entirely (or at least move them to the bottom of the list!).

  1. Being passed between agents was cited by 22 percent of respondents as a frustration, topping the list as a whole. Interactive voice response (IVR) systems can go a long way toward resolving this frustration. While IVR is already widely in use in contact centers, it’s not always used to its full potential. IVR is great for automating simple, repetitive tasks, but it can also direct calls to specific individuals who are most qualified to help. Assignments are made based on selections chosen by the callers as they progress through the system. But don’t stop there—take customer surveys to get actionable feedback to improve your IVR. Continuous review and redesign of the system will ensure that customers reach the right party every time, with no bouncing around. If a Communicator is forced to transfer a call, be sure you have the technology available to pass customer information from one employee’s screen to the next.
  2. Having to contact a brand or organization multiple times for the same issue was cited by 21 percent of respondents as the second-greatest frustration. Before you fix anything else, be sure your Communicators aren’t being incentivized to wrap up calls quickly. If your performance metrics emphasize average handle time, you may be unwittingly cutting off calls before they come to a full resolution. Rather than get rid of the metric altogether, combine it with other metrics that focus on customer satisfaction. Some businesses are making a concerted effort to resolve problems on the first call by training Communicators to dig deep for answers—putting customers on hold while they contact other parties in an effort to find an answer. Still other businesses are providing Communicators with a robust knowledge base to serve as an information resource, which could be useful for solving a host of problems.
  3. IVR automation/not being able to reach a live person was cited by 18 percent of consumers as a major frustration. IVR is often cited as a customer pain point, but again, a more thoughtful implementation delivers better results. Some IVR systems don’t offer customers a way out, so make sure yours does. To keep the use of this “exit strategy” to a minimum, simplify your menu options. Providing four or five options is considered optimal, and prioritize them so the most commonly selected ones are stated first. Only include essential information, and incorporate a callback feature to prevent too-long holding times. Very often IVR is the beginning of the customer service journey, so it should be considered as important as any other channel in the contact center. If you dedicate the appropriate funds, time and effort into getting it right, you’ll reap the benefits in happier—and less frustrated—customers.

Click here for a brief summary of customer expectations around the globe as presented in the Microsoft report.