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!
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
As a contact center manager, you may feel you’ve done everything in your power to drive employee performance—from sound hiring practices to training to fostering a conversational culture—yet some of your staff are still not achieving expected outcomes.
You want your Communicators to be actively engaged in driving contact center success, which requires a high level of job commitment. This goes beyond the parameters of job satisfaction, such as salary and work/life balance. Employees must also enjoy their work and believe that they are contributing to the greater good. This feeling of “plentitude and pleasure” is a necessary component of job commitment.
Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a noted expert on positive psychology, is renowned for his influential and widely cited research on the notion of “flow.” He describes flow as a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It’s comparable to “being in the zone,” where even hunger and other temporal concerns are ignored.
Everyone has had the feeling at one time or another. Csikszentmihalyi says people are happiest when they are in this state. This can easily be observed in high-performance athletes who have reached the summit of a mountain or finished a marathon.
A flow state can only be achieved when certain conditions exist, such as challenge-skill balance, clarity of goals, immediate and unambiguous feedback, loss of self-consciousness and an autotelic personality—one in which a person performs acts because they are intrinsically rewarding.
Csikszentmihalyi and his associates have found that intrinsically motivated people are more likely to be goal-directed and enjoy challenges. When people are motivated from within to optimize and enhance their own happiness and well-being as a result of challenging experiences, they have a personality construct that Csikszentmihalyi calls “work orientation.” It is characterized by endurance, cognitive structure, order, play and low impulsivity.
A high level of work orientation is a good predictor of goal fulfillment—more so than any environmental influence, says the psychologist. So how can managers help their employees achieve a state of flow? Csikszentmihalyi tells us that four criteria are required:
- Clear goals that demand clear answers
- Answers that require intense concentration and commitment
- Equilibrium between the challenge and the capacity
- Immediate recognition after the challenging task has been accomplished
Managers who ensure these criteria are met in the contact center are likely to build employee engagement. Your Communicators certainly have challenges you can leverage. Make sure they know exactly how to meet those challenges, and that they have the training and tools they need to do so. Continue to develop their skills across the organization and recognize their successes in a timely manner. By these means, you’ll create flow in your contact center.
Customers expect the brands they favor to know who they are. They also expect them to be able to call upon past information to quickly resolve their issues. Yet, if companies don’t have strong analytic capabilities, they will have a hard time coming up with the insights they need to meet or exceed these expectations.
To stand out as a brand that offers excellent customer experience—resulting in heightened customer satisfaction, acquisition and retention—requires advanced contact center analytics capabilities, enhanced application functionality, and an omnichannel communications system that includes social and mobile.
With these technologies, contact centers will become insight centers that create new experiences that foster deeper customer relationships and improve customer loyalty. These are the rewards of strong analytics capabilities. In fact, Forrester research indicates that the companies that are able to harness customers’ digital data will increase their revenue from $333 billion in 2015 to $1.2 trillion by 2020.
Closing the gaps
Seventy-four percent of firms say they want to be data-driven, but only 29 percent say they are good at connecting analytics to action, according to Forrester research. The challenges range from funding to talent to access to feedback to fragmentation.
Investments in contact center technology tend to lag since these centers are often perceived as cost centers, not profit centers. In addition, many businesses don’t have the resources to create their own data teams. Another hurdle is limited access by customer care associates to all the channels customers use, limiting full understanding of customer interactions. Lastly, contact center staff aren’t typically privy to customer experience survey results or analyses beyond those directly impacting the contact center, which, again, limits visibility into customer needs. Last but not least, contact center tools are not integrated with other enterprise tools, leading to siloed data and misaligned business processes.
A transformative strategy should include implementing analytics tools, e.g., speech and text, journey and/or real-time process automation, to meet enterprise objectives, such as improving the customer experience to drive revenue growth.
According to a TeleTech report, businesses need to take several critical steps to enable their ability to continuously collect data across channels, as well as test and analyze it to find actionable insights:
- Map existing contact center data flows: Based on preferred, pre-defined customer experience journeys, identify gaps in customer knowledge that could be filled by integrating data from other internal and external sources.
- Store data in a centralized customer data repository: Ensure processes are in place so that everything that is known about customers—from attributes to attitudes to behaviors to values—can be leveraged from one location. A robust CRM tool, for example, might suffice.
- Analyze and model the consolidated data: Orchestrate specialized actions to maximize opportunities, such as improvements to customer satisfaction while also achieving service-level agreement designations. Include testing to support continuous improvements.
- Develop automated reports and dashboards: Display key metrics pertaining to the various interactions customers have with the brand, as well as the downstream behaviors, e.g., product purchase rates and customer churn, that will impact the business.
As you upgrade your contact center, keep in mind that analytical tools can’t work in a vacuum; rather, they reflect the quality of the data that is applied. They also require human understanding to garner more instinctual insights than the data can convey.
Social media sites are now an integral part of society. As a matter of fact, Pew Research reports that 69 percent of Americans have at least one social media profile—up from 48 percent just five years ago. Usage has so exploded that it’s moved the dial on customer care from a “nice to have” to a “must have” for businesses.
Thus, many companies have joined the social media ranks—about nine in 10, according to an eMarketer survey. Although not every brand is optimizing its presence on social platforms (approximately 70 percent of customer service complaints made on Twitter go unanswered), many have their paddles in the water and are rowing along—often upstream against an overwhelming flow of conversations.
One aspect of social media that hasn’t received a lot of attention, however, is establishing the right voice and tone for social platforms. As this is critical to your social success, we provide the following advice for doing it right.
Establishing the right social media voice and tone
It’s agreed that canned responses are anathema to social media. This is a platform for authentic exchanges of opinion among peers. The voice and tone must be personal—but how personal?
Answer this question by first understanding voice and tone: Your brand’s “voice” is its personality, e.g., positive, sarcastic, formal—i.e., your mission statement. Tone is a subset of voice that adds flavor depending on audience, channel or situation—i.e., application of the mission. Essentially, you should have one voice and a variety of tones.
Most companies have a great sense of what these are for their brand already. If not, pin them down by asking the following questions, suggested by Buffer:
- If your brand was a person, what kind of personality would it have?
- What would this “person’s” relationship to consumers be like?
- List acronyms of your company’s personality—what it is not.
- What companies have personalities similar to yours? How are they similar?
- How do you want customers to think about your company?
Once you’ve determined some adjectives that define your voice and tone, try to create messaging that encompasses your brand personality. Great examples can be found on MailChimp.
The conundrum for brands is that what’s appropriately personal for one client will not work for another. In general, brands are advised to establish a polite and professional tone until the time when feedback indicates a more or less formal tone will suit the audience best. This involves going through a learning curve with each audience segment.
Striking a natural tone that appeals to customers often requires a lot of research. Bianca Buckridee, vice president of social media operations for JPMorgan Chase, during a panel session at the Wharton Social Media Best Practices Conference, said, “It’s difficult to do. … You have to keep monitoring. … We strive to make it look real-time, but we’re really doing a ton of research in the back.”
Your voice and tone are features of your messaging that humanize your brand and let you take part in conversations with key targets naturally. This fosters trust and, ultimately, loyalty—even turning some customers into brand advocates or ambassadors. If done right, you could end up with a host of fans who will grow your brand with you.
Even with its challenges, social media customer care represents a tremendous growth opportunity for businesses to foster strong customer relationships.
Customer lifetime value (CLV) is the dollar amount that represents a customer’s worth to your business from first transaction to last.
CLV calculation=revenue x gross margin x average number of repeat purchases.
The CLV is a powerful metric because even small increases in CLV can lead to huge gains in overall revenue. For example, get 1,000 of your customers, who pay you $50 per month, to stay with you for a year instead of 10 months, and your annual revenue grows from $500,000 to $600,000.
But the benefit is not only incremental. First of all, customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer. Second, on average, it costs up to seven times less to sell to customers with whom you already have a relationship. After all, you’ve already attracted and educated them.
While customer acquisition will always be a driver for businesses, research has shown that customer retention is a faster route to revenue growth than customer acquisition.
An infographic from Invesp Consulting shows that increasing customer retention by 5 percent can lead to an increase in profits of 25 percent to 95 percent. The infographic also illustrates that the likelihood of converting an existing customer into a repeat customer is 60 to 70 percent, while the probability of converting a new lead is 5 to 20 percent.
Brands have learned that three key factors contribute to customer retention. They are: Keep the customer happy, reduce customer effort and deliver excellent customer service.
To improve CLV, companies should offer a mix of the following customer retention strategies:
- Keep the customer happy
- Build relationships with customers through shared values that foster loyalty. Use social media sites to connect, like Facebook and Twitter.
- Through expertise and education, become the customers’ trusted advisor.
- Track customer satisfaction. Consider using a Net Promoter Score survey that primarily asks your customers whether they would recommend you to someone else.
- Make great customer service the norm. To go above and beyond, surprise your customers with small customer appreciation gifts, handwritten notes or even a personal email to say thanks.
- Re-emphasize your value: It’s reinforcing to know you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
- Reduce customer effort
- Connect with customers on the channels they prefer.
- Optimize your onboarding. Give customers simple and clear instructions for product usage.
- Make it easy to reach you—a button on every Web page, for example.
- Deliver excellent service
- Take a proactive approach to customer service to eliminate problems before they occur.
- Set customer expectations early and a little lower than you can provide to eliminate uncertainty about the level of your service and to ensure you always deliver on your promises.
- Go the extra mile.
- Personalize communications to strengthen the bond with your brand.
- Empathize with your customers/understand their pain points. They’ll appreciate and remember the respect you’ve given them.
- Ensure that customer care staff are empowered to resolve issues quickly.
- Be authentic and sincere when addressing customer concerns.
Remember: If you can keep your customers happy, you’ll keep your customers.
The customer experience has grown into an all-encompassing vision for businesses. Where once it was the responsibility of a single department, it now comprises all functions and levels within an organization—from marketing to IT to operations to sales.
Before the Digital Age, customers interacted with companies at their brick-and-mortar stores, by (snail) mail and through their call centers. This often meant that customer service took a backseat to growing profits. But this worked out OK for businesses because the customer was fairly removed from product design, had few alternatives, and had a limited ability to spread any negative feedback.
Now that society is more connected, and the flow of information has intensified, companies have been compelled to rethink their customer service strategies. As far back as 2013, CMO reported that 76 percent of retail customer touches take place through websites, followed by 73 percent through email messages, 50 percent with in-person store visits and 43 percent through mobile. Now, growing profits means providing an experience that meets or exceeds customer expectations. Otherwise, you may be called out on social media platforms or be replaced by a competitor.
Opportunities in a connected world
The digital expansion of customer touch points adds complexity to the customer experience, but it also offers a variety of channels for reaching your key targets. Through social media, your website blog, forums, YouTube and many other channels, you can engage with customers and immerse them in your brand. With interesting, relevant and informative content, you develop trust and then loyalty.
What’s important is that you don’t let content about your brand move beyond your control. Consumers are constantly exposed to information that may make them reassess their choices—don’t let your brand take the fall. We are in an era of non-stop evaluation. Companies must use advanced analytical capabilities to follow and guide customers through the journey.
Accenture research shows that two factors are key to the customer experience: 1) trustability, and 2) continuous, complete and fast service. The consulting firm also found that a good experience with one company drives customer expectations for all other companies. This means that businesses should take note of best practices and deploy them in their operations.
Overall, a customer-centric organization will adopt customer experience management as a formal business process that is focused on developing deep, broad, long-term customer relationships.
Impact of improved customer experience
After implementing a differentiated customer experience strategy, you can expect significant positive results, per Accenture, such as:
- New customer acquisition: Better customer management can lead to a 10 to 12 percent improvement in customer acquisition.
- Customer retention: Higher customer satisfaction results in a 10 to 15 percent increase in retention.
- More purchases: Nine out of 10 customers experiencing increased satisfaction would buy 8 to 10 percent more products from a company.
- Lower costs: Organizations that manage the customer experience well can expect the costs of acquisitions and service to decline by 5 to 8 percent.
Expect these sorts of successes if your company has evolved to the point where all stakeholders across the organization are aligned to deliver a stellar customer experience.
What does it mean to stand out in the customer service space? According to ContactBabel’s “The US Contact Center Decision-Makers’ Guide 2016,” it requires four principal assets: omnichannel support, quality management, real-time speech analytics, and other technologies that improve the customer journey.
If your contact center is missing any of these four components, it may one day become irrelevant to consumers. This could spell the demise of your brand, as the customer experience is primed to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020, according to a Walker report.
In fact, McKinsey tells us that maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential to improve customer satisfaction by 20 percent, and increase revenue by up to 15 percent while lowering the cost of customer service by as much as 20 percent.
Here’s how these four principal assets make customer care highly satisfactory at every touchpoint on the customer journey:
Omnichannel: Integrated next-generation solutions (think unified communications—UC) in the contact center expedite resolution time by enabling an entire organization to work on a single communications platform using multiple communication channels. You’ll eliminate customer frustration with being put on hold or being transferred from agent to agent, especially when the interaction’s context is not transferred. In a UC-enabled environment, agents can see the presence/availability of their associates, and send instant messages or text messages as needed to speed resolution. Live screen sharing or instant messages enable collaboration with knowledge workers who can address customer questions.
Quality management: Quality management of customer service begins and ends with visibility into all the channels and interactions involved in customer care. To provide an excellent customer experience, businesses must be able to keep track of each contact across the customer life cycle from a single location. This means that agents need to be supplied with tools that allow them to quickly get up to speed on a customer’s history.
Real-time speech analytics: This technology, known as RTSA for short, analyzes voice data on the fly and can make corrective suggestions not only after a call but during it as well. Agents get screen pop-ups, for example, if they make a mistake informing a customer about a discount amount or promotion. The technology can also identify potential concerns, like stress indicators, such as a raised voice, cross-talking, speaking rate and call quality. Agents and their managers are proactively alerted to issues before they escalate and risk customer satisfaction.
Advanced technologies: Several tools to improve customer satisfaction in the contact center were mentioned above. There are also several tools that you would be wise to jettison from your facility lest they stall good service. These legacy solutions include any that uphold siloed communication channels. Replace them with a CRM that is integrated with your other contact center systems. Don’t neglect to also unify siloed back-office data that can impede CRM initiatives and thwart efforts to improve customer service. In addition, consider replacing your traditional phone system, which is likely costly and inflexible, with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. VoIP provides free long-distance calls and gives staff freedom to work anywhere with a computer and an Internet connection.
A formal customer service social media group could be a boon to your contact center. It could be tasked with developing an efficient strategy to manage channels like Facebook and Twitter—to benefit customers and the business.
Assign members to the group who are socially savvy. For the uninitiated, social media can be intimidating, so give some of your in-house millennials (who grew up in the Digital Age) a shot at wrangling the social beast. Be sure, as well, to add experienced customer service staff to the team.
When handled skillfully, customer service via social media can enhance the customer experience and even create brand loyalty that is infectious. This is the potential impact of 24/7 customer access, instant communication and quick problem resolution.
In a nutshell, social can be a valuable ally for your brand, so it’s worth making the effort.
A very public forum
Social media is also a highly visible forum for disgruntled customers to complain. A gripe can speed around a social platform, spreading vitriolic negativity wherever it goes. This is even more of a reason to manage social media for your brand.
You need to be where your customers are—both to boost engagement and to thwart destructive comments. And your customers are on social. In one JD Power survey of more than 23,000 online consumers, 67 percent of respondents claimed to have contacted a company via social media for support.
Customer expectations are rising when it comes to social media. It used to be a pleasant surprise when a brand responded to a customer care issue on social media. Now, it’s become de rigueur for companies, meaning that sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become important channels through which consumers solicit and receive customer service.
Social media and customer lifetime value
With social media in your pocket, you have a better chance of retaining customers—because you have a better chance of keeping them happy.
Here are seven ways to provide great customer service through social media:
- Choose the right platform(s): Determine where to focus your social media time and resources by searching for mentions of your brand within popular social sites. If your customers aren’t talking about your brand online, look for ways to include yourself in conversations and add something of value.
- Monitor for mentions: Use available tools to automate the process of searching for mentions. Collect and analyze customer activity to better understand their issues and to respond appropriately. Use insights to make decisions for improving customer service.
- Respond quickly: Your company size and industry vertical will affect your social metrics. You may need to sift through a lot of “noise.” You may also need a customer service platform that can integrate with social media and turn certain messages into tickets—with a caveat: In the fast-paced world of social media, speed of response is critical, so assign priority accordingly.
- Adjust your tone: Be friendly, but not too friendly. While chumminess, including emojis, is acceptable between friends and family, don’t necessarily expect a warm welcome when they come from your business. As a general rule of thumb, keep language concise and professional, but avoid canned responses and be personal. You may have to strike a different tone with each customer, adjusting based on the responses you receive. What tickles one person might offend another.
- Take heated issues offline: Customers can be unfair and demanding. Tactfully and quickly, take negative conversations offline before they do damage to your brand. Placate the customer while signaling to online observers that the issue is being handled. Don’t simply pass the customer to another channel, like email, as that can come off as rude and non-empathetic.
- Leverage your database: Save yourself time and make life easier for your customers by linking to knowledge base articles. Rather than explaining complex processes over social media, provide easy guides built to help. Furthermore, use your CRM software to leverage customer histories that can add value to social media conversations.
- Know when to switch to crisis mode: One or two complaints are manageable. If 100 customers are mentioning the same problem, it’s a crisis for your brand. Make sure you have a planned response: Have a trusted PR firm on retainer, or a company leader prepared to address customers directly.
Use these seven social media best practices to deliver great support on the social platforms that your customers already frequent. You’ll build stronger relationships and create more loyal customers.
Trends in the contact center space include customer demand for self-service: what many customers today consider the quickest and easiest way to resolve issues. When customers do personally reach out to companies, they are often rankled by the service they receive. In fact, the majority are dissatisfied. Does this mean your contact center’s days are numbered? On the contrary! There’s good reason for optimism.
First of all, today’s contact centers are focused on providing a valuable customer experience. Quality is paramount. This is why many companies that shipped their customer service organizations overseas have pulled them back to shore. Customers just weren’t happy with language barriers and cultural differences that often came to light.
Improvements in meeting customer expectations are reflected in the multiple communication channels many contact center facilities now provide to “be where their customers are.” Customer preferences are considered a top priority. This means that interactive voice response (IVR) systems are now easier to navigate, and customers receive callbacks rather than waiting on hold for a customer care Communicator.
And while contact centers are responding to consumer demand for self-service options, the top-notch ones continue to provide live Communicators for more complex issue resolution. While research shows that customers prefer to resolve their own problems when possible, a personal touch is desired when things get complicated. This approach means that today’s Communicators develop expertise regarding their company’s products and services.
Today’s leading contact centers also ensure that Communicators can leverage intelligence across the organization—from data collected in corporate networks to staff in other departments. This requires integration of internal systems and intelligent routing capabilities, which—if not already in place—are on the docket for contact centers eager to respond at the highest level to customer needs.
A 2017 report by JLL Research on U.S. contact centers states that the contact center industry showed steady growth across global markets in 2016, outpacing economic growth. The U.S. contact center industry maintained the largest share of the global market, with 1.5 percent annual growth in contact center spending. In 2015, the U.S. market supported 2.6 million contact center employees—a gain of 34.5 percent over the past five years.
The report also revealed that third-party providers, which represent 25 percent of the contact center industry, are expected to increase revenues as corporations turn to outsourcing basic business and analytics functions. North American contact center outsourcing providers had 2015 revenues of $9.4 billion—up 22.3 percent from 2013.
Even online businesses that have moved away from contact centers in favor of social media and virtual help centers are coming back. In fact, an Econsultancy article reveals that 76 percent of companies learn about website problems as a result of calls to their contact centers. In addition, many Web transactions are still completed with the help of a customer care agent, and many customers will go elsewhere if the interaction is not smooth.
The contact center is actually more of a central hub than ever because customers expect to be able to jump to a live Communicator from any channel. The contact center is also the place where businesses are bridging gaps between online and offline channels, giving companies the complete context of their customers’ interactions. With these insights, the contact center is shaping the customer experience with extraordinary service that should bring customers back again and again.