Legal and Compliance – A Driving Force Behind High Quality

In the Call Center industry, some very complicated regulations and laws have been established at both state and national levels, in attempt to protect the consumer.  InfoCision employs expert legal counsel to ensure we stay apprised of new and updated regulations.  InfoCision is regulated by many entities – from individual Secretary of State offices to the FEC, and we strive to accommodate all regulations. We work directly with our IT, Governance, and Business Analytics teams to ensure we meet compliance standards, while continuing to make and take the highest quality calls in the world.

Our Legal and Compliance team represents 3 main areas of focus: contracts, compliance with telemarketing laws, and nonprofit/fundraising registration.

    • Contracts –  

      Any organization we do business with is required to have a contract.  We review all contracts to be sure that legal requirements are met and that InfoCision and client interests are protected.

    • Compliance with Telemarketing Laws –

      When it comes to compliance with telemarketing laws, we employ expert attorneys to ensure we stay up-to-date on any new regulations. We have many IT processes and procedures in place to ensure we are calling who we are allowed to call, at the appropriate times, and with the correct disclosures.

    • Nonprofit/Fundraising Registration –

      The third main essential piece of the department is nonprofit/fundraising registration.  Each state has its own set of regulations and requirements it demands from nonprofit organizations.  We are required to register as a professional fundraiser in 44 states.  This license gives us the ability to fundraise in the corresponding state but also comes with a series of requirements that we have to abide by in order to remain in good standing with the states.  This process typically requires us to submit any contract we sign with a nonprofit organization to the state and, in turn, report financials on the campaign.  This way, the state is aware of how much was raised and, of those funds, how much InfoCision and the charity received.

InfoCision has never aimed to be the biggest call center company in the world, just the best. Quality comes first to us in every facet of our business, and our Legal and Compliance practices are certainly a driving force in our ability to handle all calls in the best manner possible, achieving stellar performance and ROI for our clients.

Legal and Compliance – Drives High Quality; Legal and Compliance – Drives High Quality

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.

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.

 

Listen Up! Maybe Your Customer Has a Right to Be Angry

Keep in mind that your customers have something at stake when they call you for service—namely money. We can all relate to wanting to protect our interests when we’re at the receiving end of an acquisition. Does your caller feel the quality of your products or services was misrepresented?  Does he or she disagree with company policy or procedure regarding returns or cancellations? As you know, there are nearly as many reasons for customer ire as there are items in your product line.

Whatever the cause for a caller’s anger—and whether or not it seems reasonable—contact center Communicators are tasked with turning these tense situations into valuable customer experiences. You want your customers to feel validated and appreciated at the end of their interactions—nothing less. Ideally, your Communicators will also end exchanges feeling positive and effective.

Surely your business has policies in place for handling irate customers. Communicators must know what they can offer customers independently or with a supervisor’s approval. On the flip side, they ought to understand limits imposed by the business. Most Communicator strategies involve resolving the issue and retaining the customer.

As I like to remind my Communicators, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason: Listening twice as much as we talk gives us a chance to stay quiet long enough to allow our brains to properly interpret what customer are saying and better understand their needs.  So when we do open our mouths, our words will help build a stronger relationship as opposed to making the situation more volatile.

Before you attempt to defuse an angry caller, a good tactic is to let the person complete his tale of woe.  If not, then you won’t have the facts you need to understand the issue—never mind empathizing with or validating the customer’s concerns. And that’s what you want to do: acknowledge the caller’s state of mind and substantiate the complaint.

Remember that your customer didn’t come to you to complain, he or she came to you for assistance. Explore the problem to pinpoint the exact cause so you can formulate a solution. Tell the customer the steps you are taking to resolve the complaint. Take action immediately. Per business practice, reassure the customer that the problem is resolved according to their expectations and that it won’t reoccur in the future.

Before ending the call, ask the customer if the issue has been resolved to his or her satisfaction. If not, agree to take further steps, and then follow up.

Change Your Employee Performance Metrics to Better Reflect Customer Engagement

Are you aware that customer engagement and customer satisfaction are two distinctly different metrics? A recent Gallup poll sheds light on the differences and how each can be measured most effectively.

Gallup confirms that engagement is a much higher bar to reach than satisfaction. One doesn’t necessarily follow from the other, and both are strategic choices for companies looking to grow business revenues.

Half of all customers in Gallup’s customer database say they are satisfied with a given brand, but only 38 percent say they are engaged with it. Gallup gives examples for each metric. For instance, a retail business may earn customer satisfaction by offering great sales, discounts and deals. But it will engage customers if its salespeople go out of their way to be helpful.

Four possible combinations of the two metrics were identified by Gallup: 1) low satisfaction/low engagement; 2) high satisfaction/low engagement; 3) low satisfaction/high engagement; and 4) high satisfaction/high engagement. No. 4 is obviously the ideal situation, and No. 1 is a sure miss.

Ranking in No. 2 or No. 3 can be valuable—but only if following from a company’s leadership and strategic aim to be there.

Gallup defines No. 2 customer relationships as ones of “convenience,” meaning that either price or product features are appealing but customers have no strong emotional connection with the brand. Here, customers want what the company offers—not the company itself. This is a perilous position for brands because customers will simply leave if another brand offers more bang for the buck.

Companies that rank in the No. 3 category are known for their emotional connections to customers but hardly rational aspects of their products or services. Think highly successful, upscale hotel chains and theme parks.

How can companies drive employees to performances that help them reach the ideal No. 4 category of both high satisfaction and high engagement? Start by measuring the right metrics; identify the specific actions that keep customers coming back and purchasing more. Spreading a positive message should be the primary focus of training and management efforts.

Senior leaders are the only ones in a position to instill organizational norms that engender greater customer satisfaction and engagement.

Here’re Gallup’s four key strategies for advancing within each category:

  1. Clarify the purpose and mission: Only a well-defined mission can drive purpose effectively.
  2. Reverse-engineer the culture: Organizational norms must serve the mission.
  3. Invest in what matters: Highly successful organizations invest time, energy and money into advancing their missions.
  4. Measure the right things: If you want engagement, measure customer “moments” as locally as possible.

Consistency and persistence across these four areas determine a company’s value proposition to the marketplace, says Gallup.  Senior leaders must be intentional in connecting mission—whether customer satisfaction, engagement or both—and strategy to turn organizational norms into strengths.

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.

Get in Touch With Customer Needs

Businesses still struggle to meet customer expectations even as they universally acknowledge the criticality of supporting and engaging customers in today’s digital world. Nowhere are their efforts to provide an optimal customer experience more important than in the contact center—the hub of customer service interactions. Yet, a recent report from Ovum and Boldchat indicates that a discrepancy exists between customer behaviors and contact center support. Specifically, contact centers are not delivering integrated support offerings that meet the demands of connected, mobile users.

Whereas customers are using multiple digital channels to search for information, businesses fall short when it comes to providing responsive websites and applications that seamlessly support those usages. Even contact centers that incorporate technologies to address multichannel customer engagement must still strive to improve resolution rates by reducing customer efforts to find answers and reach Communicators for urgent queries.

To put these needs in perspective, consider that the use of mobile applications to access support has increased from 64 percent in 2014 to 83 percent in 2016, according to the report. In addition, customer use of mobile websites to access customer service has increased from 57 percent to 64 percent in the same time period. Plus, the number of callers using smartphones vs. landlines to reach a contact center is greater for the first time.

So, what can contact center leaders do now to narrow the gap between customers and contact centers regarding the quality of customer support?

One way is to use data to better track customer Web usage related to service issues. Another is to increase Web-based, self-help experiences for customers. To maintain a feeling of support in these instances, enable a live chat option. Forward-thinking companies have already implemented this service with success. The report revealed that live chat use from a mobile site or application has increased from 33 percent to 44 percent in the last two years due to increased accessibility and the technology’s ability to provide fast access to a live representative during a Web or mobile experience.

Contact center leaders should also be paying close attention to customer complaints about automated response systems. Forty-three percent of customers reported frustration with the amount of time it takes to reach a representative, which likely explains why 40 percent of customers turn to the Web for answers to their inquiries. Ovum and Boldchat’s report also indicates that 78 percent of customers would choose a channel other than phone calls if they knew they could get a resolution on the first attempt.

Today’s customers are more empowered than ever. Businesses must respond to this new environment by investing in tools that support digital channels and improve internal processes and response times. Stay agile; the next big thing is just over the horizon.

Five Scary Contact Center Interactions to Banish This Halloween

As we prepare to ward off ghouls and ghosts on October 31, are you certain your contact center isn’t haunted by some frightening phantoms of its own?

Some Communicator behaviors, as well as some contact center processes, can spook your customers if they don’t meet customer expectations. Here are five scary things to unmask in your contact center this Halloween:

  1. Improper emotional responses: Your Communicators are expected to possess great communication skills. This involves the capacity to relate to customers professionally as well as to connect with them emotionally. An angry and/or frustrated customer must be given empathy by a calm Communicator who works efficiently to resolve the issue. Contact center managers can do a lot to ensure their Communicators meet these standards—beginning with the hiring phase.
  1. Unprepared responses: Some 59 percent of consumers responding to a Harris Poll on customer service calls indicated that they place the most value on quick and correct answers. Yet, Communicators fail to answer their questions 50 percent of the time, according to Harris Interactive. This conundrum indicates the need for contact centers to improve their first call resolution (FCR) rates to meet customer expectations. The best way to do this is with focused Communicator training. FCR will be elusive if Communicators do not possess the necessary product or service knowledge to resolve customer issues. Another important factor is employee engagement. Communicators who feel valued and are recognized for their performance will repeat it at the desired level and motivate others to do so.
  1. Asking customers to repeat themselves: Give your Communicators easy access to customer histories so they don’t have to ask customers to repeat information already provided. A robust customer relationship management (CRM) solution can relay real-time information so Communicators can deliver a stellar customer experience. The majority of today’s enterprises have implemented CRM capabilities to leverage resources and gain a holistic view of the customer. Make sure your business is equipped to keep up with the major players in your space.
  1. Putting customers on hold: Customers don’t like being put on hold. Research shows that even one minute on hold leads to dissatisfaction. The solution is to include a callback option for customers requested to hold. For tips and tricks on initiating an optimal callback strategy, click here.
  1. Slow response: For efficient contact center interactions, Communicators must be trained to multitask. The job requires not only responding to customers directly but inputting data and using reference materials. Training must be built around resolving queries using both soft and technical skills simultaneously. Teach trainees their craft live on the floor in tandem with front line managers for greatest impact; it exposes them to real-life scenarios and ways to handle them. If managers are not trained in mentoring and coaching Communicators, make it a priority.

Why You Need to Go Beyond a Single Score to Improve Customer Service

You’re doing all you can to ensure that your contact center is providing customers with optimal service. Perhaps you’ve measured your performance using metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and first contact resolution, or have looked even deeper into customer satisfaction by measuring your customer effort score (CES). These are all laudable attempts to get to the bottom of any customer service issues you may need to correct.

Yet, to what degree can these metrics provide an accurate reflection of the customer experience your organization delivers? After all, they are each derived from asking customers one question, such as “How likely is it that you would recommend XYZ to a friend?” But customer experiences, with all their psychological nuances, involve greater complexity than one question can address. If you want to gather customer feedback that can generate valuable, actionable insights, you’ll need to dig a little deeper.

To weigh all the various elements that impact customer satisfaction requires research and analytics—across all customer interaction channels. There’s no silver bullet number that will provide all the insight you need to manage your contact center efficiently and effectively.

The answer to this dilemma, however, is not outside the realm of normal practices. To measure the customer experience with more certitude than a single score can produce, a survey is your best tool. Yes, a simple survey that asks a handful of questions and allows the customer to leave comments can be invaluable for gaining insights into agent performance and overall experience.

Develop a survey that will provide you with information for the achievement of a specific goal. For example, do you want to increase customer loyalty or sell more with each customer interaction? Only by pinpointing a particular element of your customer dealings will you learn how to actually improve. Conversely, NPS and similar metrics only allow you to track progress over time; they are limited general performance indicators. It’s the smaller elements—word choices, thoroughness of answers and the like—that are better indicators of performance, and they allow you to uncover gaps and opportunities.

For example, imagine asking a customer to score an interaction with one of your Communicators on a scale of one to 10. The customer rates the interaction a six. What does that tell you about your Communicator that you can actually improve upon? Nothing. Imagine the better insights you’d gain from instead asking whether the customer found the Communicator to be polite, thorough in resolving the issue or knowledgeable. With responses to these sorts of inquiries, you’d be armed to address the underlying factors that inspired the mediocre performance rating.

Align your goals, metrics and methods so that they complement each other. Once you’ve captured the nuances of the customer experience, you’ll be in a good place to fix anything that’s amiss. Next steps can include coaching, training workshops or workplace forums. Don’t miss out on opportunities to improve customer service. Brand loyalty and bottom line gains will be your reward.

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.

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.

How Will Chatbots Impact the Customer Care Industry?

On a recent customer service exchange via text message, I immediately tried to decipher whether I was talking with a chatbot or a human. It was difficult to tell, but the experience left me wondering: Computers may be starting to have superhuman capabilities, but is that what customers really want?

There are a number of reasons why chatbots—computer programs that can hold text- or voice-based conversations—are currently in the limelight of the customer service arena. We already know that customers increasingly want ways to solve problems themselves, without having to talk to an agent; they are also using text messaging more than ever before. At the intersection of self-service and texting are chatbots.

It’s true that chatbots are exceedingly efficient. They provide quick responses to common questions and interact with thousands of people at a time, something humans would never be capable of doing. They can also complete automated customer service tasks, for example scheduling appointments, handling returns, or managing rewards points, very successfully, and at a fraction of the cost it would take for humans to do the same. Augmenting your customer service capabilities with chatbots is a becoming a smart strategy for addressing customer needs.

But even the best chatbots can’t replace the superior level of service delivered by Communicators.

Many customers have issues that can’t be resolved with simple self-service; in that case, they would prefer to speak with a real person. They may be feeling desperate, angry, confused, or frustrated and need the empathy and support that only a human can provide. Truly effective customer support is not possible without the emotional intelligence and advanced call-handling techniques that our own Communicators so skillfully manage in every customer interaction.

The best alternative may lie somewhere in between—a hybrid of live customer service agents and chatbots, each made more valuable thanks to the other.

So, do I need superhuman assistance? Just human, please.

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.