The Holidays Are Over…Now What?

Another holiday season has come and gone. Now, your company is back to work and staring down the year ahead.

What comes next? With so many things to do, it can be difficult to plot a course of action for 2018.

Here are some action-items that you should strive to tackle over the next few weeks:

Keep the momentum going: The holiday season may be over, but now is no time to slow down. Consider offering post-holiday sales, contests or giveaways to keep up with your competitors and drive further profits. Tax season is here, and consumers will be cashing in their checks and looking to spend them. During this time, it’s imperative that you have a fully-functioning and reliable contact center in place to engage with customers during the sales process.

Analyze your data: One of the most common issues that we hear today from business leaders is “Help! We have all of this data, and we don’t know what to do with it!” Many businesses, in other words, doubled down on their data collection efforts during this year’s holiday season but have no actionable plans for processing and utilizing the information. Instead of hiring a data scientist, which can be very expensive or putting your IT team to work digging through information you may want to consider outsourcing your data management needs. Many companies specialize in helping businesses to understand their information and maximize their return on investment.

Form a spring and summer strategy: Look ahead to the busy spring and summer month ahead. Do you have enough staff members? Are your technologies up to par? These are questions you should be asking right now.

Look for ways to cut your budget: As you plan for the future, look for some ways that you can slash costs in the coming months. This is especially important if you are managing a large contact center, with a great deal of overhead. If you are spending more than you are bringing in, you should seriously consider outsourcing to a third party contact center solutions provider.

Plan ahead for next year’s holiday rush: Finally, take a look back at the last few weeks. How did your team perform this holiday season? When analyzing your data, and reviewing conversations, you may find some areas that are in need of improvement. Again, this is where a contact center solutions provider can help. Instead of spending money on seasonal agents next year, outsource operations and focus on other priorities.

Review your cybersecurity: Even if you made it through the holidays unscathed by cybercrime, this is no time to slow down. Review your cybersecurity strategy with your IT team and your employees to make sure everyone is aligned with the most recent information. This could save you from a massive data breach.

Break the Endless Cycle of Equipment Upgrades in Your Contact Center

Your business is experiencing the same problem over and over again: You invest in a new technology, and then get a notification from the vendor at some point in that product’s lifecycle that it’s time to upgrade to a newer, more expensive solution.  It’s a never-ending process.

This is a huge problem, especially when you like using certain products and don’t see anything wrong with them. Technology vendors, however, have you hooked.

Vendors, in other words, are notorious for their “end of life” announcements. Oftentimes, they will give you a choice: Keep using your existing product, but say goodbye to critical security patches and updates, or shell out money for their fancy new solution.

It’s an endless game that unfortunately leaves customers like you out in the dark.

So this begs the question: How can you avoid the endless cycle of equipment upgrades, without sacrificing your need for data security and high performance equipment?

As it turns out, it’s easier to break this cycle than you may think. All you have to do is outsource your department to a third part contact center solutions provider.

A third party contact center solutions provider will spare you of this burden by removing the need to buy or manage any of your own customer service equipment. When you outsource to a third party provider, you will get access to high quality, hosted infrastructure managed by a dedicated team of knowledgeable IT professionals.

You will save money, reduce the burden for your IT team and improve your chances of uptime. Also, you will no longer have to worry about negotiating with vendors or making tough decisions about your technologies.

Then, once you outsource your contact center, you can turn around and flip your existing equipment to a refurbished technology provider. There are many companies that will pay for used equipment like computers, chairs, servers, racks and cables. So it’s a way of taking your old, expensive equipment and putting it back to use. Just remember to always wipe your equipment of any data before re-selling it or you could get hit with a data breach down the line.

The most important thing to remember here is that you have options regarding your customer service strategy and the technologies that you are using. Your vendors are playing hardball, and you can too—by outsourcing to a dedicated third party contact center solutions provider.

It’s a cost-effective and reliable way to improve customer service and save money.

To learn more about how InfoCision can help you break the endless cycle of equipment upgrades, click here.

Key Year-End Customer Service Questions to Ask Yourself

Now that we are in the home stretch for 2017, it’s a great time to take a few minutes and reflect on your business’s overall customer service performance over the last 12 months.

Is your contact center doing all that it can to serve your customers and grow your business? It could be time to make some critical changes to your strategy, in order to maximize your chances of success in 2018.

Take a few minutes to ask yourself the following questions:

How healthy is my donor ecosystem?

It’s important to look beyond your bottom line and consider some additional factors when assessing the overall health of your financial ecosystem. Sure, your organization is making money from donor contributions right now. But do you have a strong plan in place to ensure consistent, long-term revenue?

Analyze your year over year donations, for instance, and see how people are contributing over time. You may identify some gaps or inconsistencies that need to be addressed, or patterns that could indicate inflation. Remember that you have to maintain and nurture your donor ecosystem with effective marketing in order for it to keep yielding strong results. Otherwise, you could burn through your contributors and wind up in a serious rut.

Are we using the right technologies?

Another thing that you’ll want to pay close attention to are the technologies that you are bringing into your contact center. It’s not always about purchasing the latest and greatest solutions. Sometimes, you can do more with less. Spend conservatively, and research thoroughly before making any new purchases. Also, think about the team that you have in place and put more attention into building an amazing community of customer service agents. It’s better to spend money on top-tier employees than it is to invest in top-tier technologies.

How can we reduce costs?

With all of the attention surrounding customer service today, it’s easy to get carried away and start spending beyond your means in your contact center. If your department is spending more than it is bringing in, though, this is a problem. If your contact center is getting too large, and too expensive, it will only be detrimental to your organization in the long run.

Many businesses are choosing to improve their contact centers by outsourcing to third party solutions providers offering cutting-edge technologies, hosted infrastructure and premium agents. It’s a way of guaranteeing success, without spending too much on a single department.

It’s a risk-free and cost-effective approach to customer service—and one that is guaranteed to produce stronger results for your business.

To learn more about how your business can benefit from outsourcing customer service to a third party contact center solutions provider, click here.

The Fastest Way to Improve Your Customer Service Department

You were recently put on notice to reduce costs and improve key performance metrics in your contact center. And now, you are scratching your head and wondering where to start.

As I am sure you are already aware, this is not an easy process. And the larger the contact center, the harder it can be to make changes that will yield significant results. There are simply too many people, too much equipment and too many customers to worry about.

What’s more, if you make the wrong decision while downsizing your contact center, you could upset your department and negatively impact critical customer-facing operations. For instance, if you lay off 20 or so workers, it will mean 20 fewer customer service agents that will be on hand to assist callers and resolve issues. Your phone lines will jam up, which will lead to longer hold times and higher telecommunications bills.

Here at InfoCision, we have seen businesses try all sorts of experimental ways to save money in the contact center. Take our advice: It’s a dangerous game when you start experimenting with ways to save money in the contact center. Contact centers are very complex, and delicate.

By far, the fastest and most reliable way to improve customer service is to outsource your department’s agents and infrastructure to a third party solutions provider. Almost overnight, you will receive access to stronger and more experienced customer service agents, better infrastructure and data. At the same time, you will free up a significant amount of capital in your current in-house contact center. And it comes with much less risk.

Plus, there are immediate financial returns that you will experience. Right off the bat, you can sell all of your in-house contact center infrastructure to a company that purchases used office equipment. There are companies that will pay decent money for used computers, office chairs, agent headsets and even servers. Just make sure to “wipe” your electronic equipment of any data before selling it just to make sure that information does not fall into the wrong hands by mistake. This could lead to a post-sale data breach, which can be very difficult to fix.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should be very picky when selecting a contact center solutions provider as not all companies offer the same level of quality. Make sure that you partner with a company that aligns with your exact expectations so that there is no question they will be able to perform at a level that is acceptable.

 

What Does It Take to Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates?

Recently I was discussing a special Thanksgiving recipe, when the idea dawned on me:

Customer service is like serving a meal. You have to include the right ingredients if you want to create advocates that will rave about your company and its products and services to their social followers. If your customers aren’t happy, it could be due to the fact that you don’t have the right pieces in place.

Here’s what you need to create brand advocates:

High quality products and services: There is perhaps no substitute for quality. Customers expect that the things they buy will at least meet their expectations. So if you want to improve customer service, take a holistic approach and start by using their feedback to improve the things you are selling. It’s the most honest, and feedback that you will receive.

Gratitude: With Thanksgiving in the air, it’s the time of the year to think about giving back a bit. Here is one thing you can try: When customers call your contact center, review their recent purchases and consider giving them a small gift or rebate in exchange for their continued business — and for their patience waiting to speak with a representative. Customers will appreciate the act of gratitude, and may choose to reward your company by remaining loyal to your brand. This is the type of thing that can go viral on social media, too. You will be seen as a customer service thought leader.

Empathy: Of course, you don’t have to buy anything to win over your customers. One of the easiest ways to do so is also free. It can be done by training your contact center agents to show empathy during all interactions. Customers will be much more receptive to agents that are chatty, friendly and willing to be flexible in helping them accommodate their needs. Being treated with dignity, it should be noted, is now a top customer demand that you need to be aware of.

Restraint: Sometimes, there is nothing an agent can do to calm down a customer over the phone. Customers can get very angry, especially when they feel they have been wronged. In this situation, the best thing an agent can do is to show restraint. An agent should let the customer talk, and interject only at the right time when the customer indicates that he or she may be receptive to hearing with the person has to say. By letting a customer vent, and showing empathy, it’s possible to diffuse the situation and get to a point where a cordial conversation can take place. Sometimes, an agent can even get mad too! Customer service requires acting at times — and the best agents can do this seamlessly.

Stellar communication: I’m not talking about communications technologies here. The communication I am referring to has to do with demonstrating good old fashioned values. Emails should be returned promptly. Customers should never have to wait too long to speak with a representatives. Billing matters should be handled quickly and professionally. And advice and consideration should always be accepted and passed along for review.

It’s Okay to Feel Good About Outsourcing

Let’s be honest: Your customer service department is more of a burden than a benefit to your business. It’s expensive. It’s complex. And it’s failing to drive revenue for your organization like the company hoped it would when the department was originally established.  

It is possible, however, to turn things around and start providing amazing customer support without having to put up with any of the pain points that come with managing a contact center. You can eliminate all of the above-mentioned challenges. All you have to do is outsource your department to a third party contact center solutions provider.

A third party contact center solutions provider will offer your organization access to the best agents on the market; top-of-the line software; cutting-edge infrastructure; and data-driven strategy. At the same time, you can also establish business continuity for customer service. By housing critical contact center infrastructure off-site, communications can continue in the event of an unplanned local power or service outage. This is something to consider as the busy holidays approach. What will happen if your customer service department goes down while customers are buying holiday gifts?

Now, if you are struggling with the idea of outsourcing your department that is completely understandable. After all, it’s a tough decision to make and one that requires re-assigning active customer service employees. You will have to think of something to do withal of your contact center employees.

One suggestion is to form a select think tank comprised of the best minds in your department. This group can help marketing and sales teams devise and execute ideas to connect with customers, improve campaigns and drive profits. This strategy can also boost team morale. By choosing to keep your workers instead of laying them off, you will prove that you are an employee-centric organization or one that cares about its hard-working staff members.

The point here is that it’s okay to feel good about outsourcing. Outsourcing customer support operations is the most cost-effective and trusted way to transform a failing department into one that is profitable and capable of evolving with the ever-changing needs of today’s customers.

If you’re new to the concept of outsourcing, here is another way of thinking about it: You outsource things all the time. Using a cloud service like Google, for instance, involves outsourcing — and hence, relying on another company to provide a critical service. Outsourcing a contact center is no different.

To learn more about how your business can benefit from outsourcing customer service operations, click here.

Top Reasons to be Thankful for Contact Centers

With service demands at an all-time high, businesses are more challenged than ever to keep their customers satisfied. However, this is no easy task — especially for growing small businesses with large numbers of customers to handle on a daily basis. It’s for this reason why so many businesses are choosing to leverage third party contact center solutions providers.

Indeed, there are many reasons to be thankful for contact centers, and it’s hard to imagine life without them. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we compiled some of the top reasons why we are grateful.

Contact centers…

Can be a buffer for complaints: Most customers are bound to take action in some form or another when they are unhappy with a product or service. Some, for instance, may take to social media to complain. As such, unhappy customers need to be managed. A contact center can serve as a buffer zone where customers can sound off to service representatives, ask for refunds or rebates, and work towards resolutions.

Boost sales: Not all sales happen online or in stores. In order to drive maximum profits, businesses need to have agents actively making calls and closing deals. Contact centers can be a great source of revenue, if managed properly.

Feed R&D: Customers can be the best source of ideas that can translate into new products and services. When customers interact with agents, they often provide a lot of useful information. Contact centers that can process this information can serve as a valuable resource for research and development teams.

Maintain donor relations: Companies need to take special care of their financial donors. They need to be contacted, for instance, with promotional content to influence them and keep them happy about supporting the brand and its cause. Contact centers excel in keeping donors interested and contributing.

Ensure business continuity: Foul weather can arise at any time, disrupting business communications and leaving customers in the dark during outages. By outsourcing contact center operations to a third party solutions provider, it’s possible to ensure business continuity even in the worst weather conditions.

Collect and organize data: Customers supply a tremendous amount of personal data during interactions, especially when interacting with service agents. An effective contact center can serve as a data repository providing detailed information. This information can be used all across the enterprise.

Foster brand loyalty: Brandy loyalty needs to be earned, and the contact center is an excellent tool for doing this. A positive customer service interaction can go a long way in making a customer come back for more purchases.

Provide technical support: Nothing can disrupt the customer experience more than being unable to get quick answers when they are needed. Contact centers that offer technical support can prevent customers from getting frustrated, or making unnecessary returns.

Offer around-the-clock care: In-house employees may have to leave at the end of the day, but contact centers can stay open late—especially those using chat bots. By offering 24 hour care in a contact center, businesses can continue to provide service and even drive after hours sales.

 

Key Findings From the Customer Rage Survey

For the last several years, rising consumer expectations have been a major focal point in the customer service space. As the years have gone on, customers have become increasingly demanding about the products and services they receive.

These expectations were recently detailed in an informative report aptly titled the “2017 Customer Rage Study.” What’s interesting is that despite all of the advancements in technology and communications over the last several decades, businesses are still having trouble keeping customers satisfied.

Last year, for instance, 56 percent of respondents indicated that they had a problem with a service or product. And the number of people who have experienced customer service issues has increased by more than 20 percent from 40 years ago.

The majority of customers who experienced problems — 56 percent — fell into the “rage” category in the survey which is troubling.

Here are some additional findings from the study:

Social complaints are declining: Customers are no longer reaching for social media first when they have complaints, which is a positive development for brands who are concerned about their online image. In fact, only a quarter of customers have posted on social after a problem which is a decrease of 30 percent from 2015.  While not all customers attempted to contact a company after an issue, the majority used the phone which demonstrates the need for an efficient and reliable contact center.

Issues are taking too long to resolve: One of the more troubling findings from the study is the 19 percent of people who claimed they had to contact a company seven or more times to resolve an issue. Only a quarter of people were able to solve the problem on first interaction. While not all resolutions can be solved on the first interaction, requiring a customer to call back several times is unacceptable. When this happens, it could anger a customer and make them seek out a competitor.

Customers want respect: Customers reported that their top goal while contacting a brand is to be treated with dignity, which is very telling about the current state of customer service. Other demands were to be talked to like a human, a guarantee that a problem would not happen again and for the company to display empathy during an interaction.

Businesses that are serious about improving their customer service results are strongly encouraged to outsource their contact centers to third party conferencing solutions providers.  Third party contact center solutions providers offer premium agents and top of the line communications infrastructure along with a data-driven strategy that is guaranteed to produce strong results.

It’s a cost-effective and trusted way for businesses to ensure that their customers are being treated with respect and courtesy every interaction.

Tips for Designing a Profitable Contact Center

Let’s assume that right now, your business does not have a dedicated contact center. Right now you have a blank slate to start with, and money to spend. And you are wondering about whether it’s a good idea to move forward with a contact center for your business. Is it really something that your organization can afford?

First and foremost, you absolutely need a contact center. The decisions that you make while acquiring one, though, will either come back to haunt you later or generate strong returns for years to come.

A contact center, in other words, can be notoriously expensive after factoring in things like staff and labor, technology, overhead, maintenance, and telecommunications costs. Many contact centers — specifically large, in-house operations — tend to burn through much more revenue than they bring in.  Owning a contact center can quickly turn into a major money pit for an organization.

Understand, though, that it’s possible to design a modern, effective, high quality contact center at a price that aligns with your business’s budget.

Here are some things that you can do to operate a profitable contact center:

Minimize overhead: It’s not the look or feel of your building or office that will determine whether your contact center is profitable in the long run. So it’s okay to be cheap and even thrifty with your setup. Your facility, in other words, does not have to resemble a Silicon Valley startup office. Spend money on the bare essentials, and look for ways to trim down waste. This is also true from a technology startup. Only purchase technologies that can significantly help your agents, and pass on some of the flashy, expensive cutting-edge solutions that you see.

 Be smart about what you buy: This is not to say you should be cheap about the communications equipment that you use. By all means, give your agents high quality equipment that will be bug-free and they will feel comfortable using. But be wary of vendors offering fancy new contact center technologies. At the end of the day, your don’t need much more than the basics to do a great job — such as a reliable phone system, a customer service/ customer relationship management platform, a high quality headset and of course analytics.

Outsource operations: Keep in mind that it’s one thing to come up with a budget and plan to control costs in your contact center. But it’s quite another thing to achieve real cost savings while operating your own facility. There will always be unexpected expenses to face like high employee turnover, equipment upgrades, utilities and more. By outsourcing your contact center operations, though, you will avoid many of these costs while also receiving guaranteed results.

Technology and Customer Service: They Go Hand In Hand

 Now that the Major League Baseball season is over, pay attention to what happens over the next several weeks. Teams are now assessing their rosters and trying to figure out what they need to do to get better before next year. Some teams, for instance, will be in the market for pitching. Others will want to improve their defense, or power.

 The point, in other words, is that success — in baseball, and in business — does not happen automatically. You need to make some impactful decisions if you want to bring about real changes in your organization next year.

As such, customer service administrators need to perform this same gut check from time to time. It’s important to take a hard look at your department, understand the resources you have and then determine what you need to get better.

To help get you started, here are some of the top technologies that you should be utilizing in your contact center heading into 2018:

 CRM integration: Chances are likely that your business is already collecting a significant amount of data during customer service interactions. But are you actually leveraging this data, or is the vast majority of it lying dormant inside of your customer relationship management (CRM) system? Look for a way to integrate this data across the enterprise. For instance, you can buy a business phone system that correlates with your CRM database.

Apps: Despite the overwhelming demand for business apps, many organizations are still not offering them to customers. Apps are an excellent way to provide self service for customers, as they make it easy to perform a variety of tasks. By offering apps, you can significantly reduce your incoming call volumes.

 Omnichannel service: In the past, businesses could get away with offering customer service over one or two channels. But now, it’s important to provide customer service over all channels. This is called omnichannel service. Now, it’s possible to invest in a platform that allows agents to “follow” customers as they move from the phone to a website live chat box to social media or email. Omnichannel service involves providing seamless service wherever the customer decides to go.

 Chatbots: Every contact center should be using chatbots in some form or another. Chatbots, or automated agents, are a great and cost-effective way to provide around-the-clock customer service. You can either build your own custom chatbots, or buy them pre-made. Just remember: Bots can be very helpful for customers, but they can never replace the power of a live agent. There needs to be a balance. In an ideal chatbot setup, an agent will preside over several different automated bots and manually intervene whenever it is necessary. A single agent, in other words, can manage five or more bots at a single time.