Engaging Your Customers Starts With Engaging Your Agents

One of the keys to providing quality customer care is to keep contact center agents engaged in their work. After all, agents who are dissatisfied or bored with their jobs are less likely to go the extra mile to help customers. Customers can also sense if the person helping them is disengaged or doesn’t seem to care, which can create a negative customer experience. Thus, it is extremely important to keep contact center agents happy at work.

Effective management techniques can do wonders for keeping contact center agents focused on providing high-quality customer care. Creating both individual and team-oriented goals can simultaneously foster an environment of competition and teamwork within the call center, driving more production. Completing these goals on a weekly basis can also foster an ongoing sense of accomplishment among employees, keeping them positive.

Managers can also play a huge role in improving and maintaining agents’ morale. For example, they can take advantage of company time for team-building activities that can boost mood and create a team environment within the call center. Company-hosted social events can also provide an opportunity for agents as well as other members of the company to gather, socialize and get to know each other (at InfoCision, for instance, we like to host regular summer cookouts). This strengthens interoffice relationships and foster an upbeat work environment.

Finally, managers must be attuned to the needs of their employees. Agents need to be able to easily make use of their sick and personal days, and should not feel any pressure or stigma against doing so. Employees should feel free and, in fact, be encouraged to make use of any company benefits available to them. Maintaining a workplace where agents feel their needs are being made a priority is vital to keeping them content.

These are just a few adjustments businesses can make to keep their employees happy and engaged in their jobs, which should translate into higher-quality customer care. The key to any successful call center is the satisfaction of its agents. Is this your top priority?

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Take a Walk in Your Consumers’ Shoes to Enhance the Customer Experience

Think back to a time in your life when you were facing a particular problem and a friend or family member took the time to listen to your perspective and work with you to find a solution. It’s a great feeling when someone displays empathy toward you—one that fosters feelings of trust and loyalty for that person.

It’s for these reasons that empathy is one of the most important traits a contact center agent can display. By taking the time to think through a particular problem and understand the customer’s perspective on an issue, agents can provide more positive quality of customer care.

Here are some other benefits that will result from your agents practicing empathy:

Empowered customers: You never want the customer to walk away from the conversation feeling poorly about the interaction or as if he or she was not heard. By taking the time to understand the customer’s perspective, the agent will instill a feeling of confidence in the customer and the belief that the company is, indeed, on his or her side.

Fewer conflicts: One of the most important jobs of a customer care agent is to diffuse a situation before it escalates into a larger issue, like a social media disaster. By giving indicators that he or she is listening and a sense of compassion, the agent can help reduce the likelihood that the problem will grow into a larger issue.

Reduced customer churn: Customers can easily lose patience and deflect to competitors if they feel they are being given impersonal treatment in the contact center. By displaying empathy and attempting to understand where the customer is coming from, an agent can help reduce churn.

So, make sure your contact center agents take brief moments during their conversations to try and understand the customers’ point of view. You can never know where someone is coming from, so demonstrating empathy might just change their day.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Three Steps to Improving Your Quality Control

In our recent blog post titled, “Are Your Agents on the Same Page?” I offered some advice on how to ensure your agents produce consistent results across the board. After all, inconsistency among agents can lead to customer dissatisfaction, because speaking to an enthusiastic customer care agent and receiving a lackluster and blatantly uninterested agent the next time you call, is an unfavorable experience for any customer.

To ensure your agents are delivering results that meet your standards and align with your contact centers’ mission to provide a high quality of customer care, measured steps must be taken. Namely, a sound quality control strategy must be put in place.

Creating a documented, repeatable quality assurance strategy is essential to maintaining high-level results. Your strategy should include a way to simply track agent progress both individually and as a group as well as customer satisfaction rates. And to take it one step further, you should also welcome third party feedback from a quality assurance expert for an unbiased assessment.

Here is a deeper look into what a successful quality control strategy looks like as broken down by tier:

Tier One: The starting point of your quality management plan should include regularly assessing agents’ basic skills. Specifically, agents should be evaluated on phone etiquette, ability to handle data entry and ability to follow the provided scripts. Contact center managers must ensure every agent is performing these tasks to the ability of the strongest agent, and establish a culture in which every agent is continuously learning and improving.

Tier Two: Before you can truly move on to the second stage you must ensure you have quality control experts on your team. That is, team members who are experts in the contact center space, have years of experience and whose sole function within the company is to provide guidance and support for your agents. As such, your second phase of quality assessment should require agents to undergo regular trainings with these experts. In doing so, agents can gain insight from a respected peer of whom they can rely on for continuous feedback.

Tier Three: Utilize third party assessments to garner a well rounded evaluation of your contact centers’ overall quality.  Oftentimes supervisors and other team members are too close to the agents to pinpoint small errors that might contribute negatively to a contact centers’ quality on a whole. These experts know what cues to listen for and can offer insight from a customers’ perspective.

It takes more than occasional team meeting to guarantee consistent quality of customer care. Rather, the best route to continued success starts with a well-drafted quality assessment plan.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Derive Insights From Your Customers’ Social Media Conversations

Today’s consumers are verbose, but not necessarily over the phone. Rather, your customers openly share, sometimes brutally, their honest feedback on your brand’s quality of customer care across a multitude of social media outlets.

With that said, businesses ought to cast an eye toward the conversations that are continuously unfolding on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Your consumers are likely to share positive reviews about their customer care experiences; however, aggregated research confirms that they are even more likely to share negative brand experiences.

As such, it’s vital that you stay informed on the tone and context of their conversations about your brand so that you can appropriately adjust your customer care strategy. And, due to the fact that not all of your clientele will share their honest thoughts during a customer care phone call or even participate in a survey, you need to make sure you can garner insights from outside sources.

Case in point, do you read through Tweets sent your way and purposely track the number of times they are shared? It’s important to heed the advice that your consumers are posting in plain sight. For instance, perhaps you notice a Tweet that’s portrayed your customer care agents in a negative light. To make matters worse, this particular post received a slew of comments—all of which appear to substantiate the original complaint. There a few ways you can leverage this social media conversation and turn it into actionable data.

First, you must immediately share this information with your agents so they can correct the offending behavior(s). In so doing, you’ll level the playing field. Second, you must respond to your consumers. Owning up to your customer care missteps and making a promise to provide improved services in the future will assure your consumers that you’re listening to their concerns and keeping them top of mind.

Sometimes we need to look at information outside the contact center to make effective improvements from within. So what are you waiting for? Start scrolling through your news feeds!

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

How Word-of-Mouth Can Make or Break Your Contact Center Success

When a consumer has a great experience with a brand he or she is likely to tell friends and family about the experience, as well as recommend the business, therefore generating more leads via word-of-mouth.

In fact, the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer revealed that 42 percent of consumers are most likely to try new business if they were referred by a friend or family member. In fact, 34 percent of consumers said that positive word-of-mouth is even more important than a sale or promotion.

But consumers are just as likely—if not more—to spread negative feedback like wildfire if their experience is disappointing. Indeed, businesses must ensure their customer care initiatives are pristine in order to inspire positive word-of-mouth about their brand. As such, the strength and intuitiveness of contact center agents’ behaviors—such as social intelligence, empathy and problem solving skills—are essential to providing a truly out-of-this-world customer experience.

Since consumers’ reactions carry the most weight in your business’ success and reputation, it’s vital to ensure your customer care agents end every call on a positive note. Here are two to enhance your agents’ quality of customer care:

  • Utilizing Business Intelligence Tools: There is much to be said about contact center technology and its ability to guide agents’ before, during and after their interactions with consumers. For example, tools like predictive analysis garner insights from consumers’ past behaviors and compiles the information in such a way that allows agents to prepare for future interactions more soundly. This technology helps agents solve problems faster and become more receptive to particular consumer’s preferences.
  • Continuing Professional Development: Once agents have completed initial training, their learning process shouldn’t come to a halt. Instead, contact center supervisors should continue to provide professional development training in order to maintain proper phone etiquette and problem solving skills. It’s important that all agents are able to come across as knowledgeable and empathetic over the phone with each and every consumer to ensure the best customer care experience possible.

A single phone call can either generate a multitude of leads or backfire and send your brand’s reputation on a downwards spiral. However, businesses can ensure that all chatter about its brand is positive so long as contact center agents make use of the right tools and continuously improve upon their quality of customer care best practices.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Top Ways to Create a Personalized Customer Care Experience

The degree of attentiveness and dedication that today’s consumers expect from their favorite brands’ has hit an all-time high. Just think about it; consumers need multiple modes of contact, immediate answers and even customized messages that target their personal needs. And, due to these sky rocketing demands, businesses must do their due diligence to meet these requirements or suffer the consequences—like customer churn and negative reviews.

Now, businesses must interact with their consumers with the intent of forming a personal relationship. So, when it comes to the quality of customer care in the contact center space, the role of the telecommunications agent has become much more complex. For instance, agents must now do much more than simply communicate with their consumers, rather they must deliver a personalized one-on-one experience with each customer.

In fact, a recent article titled “The Golden Rules to the Six Pillars: Empathy” published by Engage Customer outlines how to effectively create these experiences with your consumers by adhering to a few “golden rules.” For instance, sharing similar experiences to establish a personal connection, providing the right emotional response, taking ownership of your consumers’ problems and treating customers as your priority are a just a few of the rules to live by.

So, how can you make certain that your contact center agents are addressing these golden rules and creating the ultimate customer experience with each individual they interact with?

Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure your agents take their customer care phone calls to the next level:

  • Keep it conversational: Let your agents know that it’s important to talk about more than just the issue at hand. Consumers should understand that agents are human beings who enjoy social interaction just as much as the next person. For example, while it’s important to keep your phone calls professional, try making light conversation about the weather, about current events or, depending on the nature of the call, share your own personal experiences with your customer. In doing so, your consumers will feel at ease and that they’ve established a real relationship with their brand of choice.
  • Make consumers feel important: When helping a customer with a problem they’re having with a product or answering a simple question—make sure that your agents use language and a tone of voice that allows consumers to understand that they are the top priority. It should be apparent that solving their issue is the agent’s top concern. Tell your agents to thank customers for their patience, voice their understanding and relay urgency—use phrases like “right away” and “I completely understand how you feel”—to make consumers feel as if they’re speaking with a loyal friend.

It’s time to stop treating consumers like strangers. Get more personal and show them your empathetic side—it’s just what you need to boost your quality of customer care.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Study Finds “Agent Apathy” to Be the Root of Poor Customer Care

There’s nothing quite so disappointing as conversing with a customer care agent whose monotone voice makes it quite evident that he or she does not truly care about addressing your inquiry.  And, it’s no secret that this low-energy approach to quality of customer care will not win businesses increased customer retention or positive reviews.

In fact, a recent study from ICMI and Five9 revealed that “agent apathy” is the root cause of poor customer care levels. What’s more, in the same study 74 percent of contact center leaders confessed to feeling that they prevented their agents from providing the best experience possible.

While it’s honorable for these leaders to have acknowledged their faults, it is critical they they deduce exactly what is causing their agents to produce low levels of customer care and even more importantly, how to resolve this apathy epidemic.

For starters, workplace morale greatly affects the attitudes of contact center workers. With such high levels of daily stress thrust upon them each day in the form of hefty call queues and upset consumers, it’s no surprise that agents’ sometimes feel burnt out. However, contact center supervisors can work to create a more optimistic, team-oriented atmosphere to help agents’ feel more excited about their careers.

For example, supervisors must provide their employees with an appropriate balance between work and home life. This means staying sensitive to employees’ personal matters and understanding when agents need a break. You never want your employees’ to force their way through the work week, and offering suitable vacation allowance can certainly increase their satisfaction and performance.

In addition to work-life balance, the structure of your team is also important. Hiring managers must ensure that each new agent who enters the team is  cohesive with the rest of the workforce. More specifically, it’s important to take notice of your agents’ preferences and personalities in order to foster a group of workers who enjoy each other’s company and motivate each other to work hard and make progress.

Your contact center workplace culture will impact your agents’ quality of customer care—but it’s your choice, as the supervisor, as to whether that impact is negative or positive.

We want to hear your thoughts. Tell us how you keep your employees smiling in the comments section!

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Do Your Agents Pass the Stress Test?

Imagine for a moment you’re on the line with a taxing customer; at the same time you’re in the midst of searching for an answer for another caller all while your call queue is steadily building. There are so many tasks at hand you simply don’t know where to begin or how to prioritize. Sound stressful? This is a day in the life of the average contact center agent—it’s not exactly a piece of cake.

In fact, according to ICMI research 87 percent of contact center leaders acknowledge that their agents experience a moderate to high level of stress during the work day. As such, supervisors must make a priority of coaching their employees on how to handle daily stress. After all, when anyone is put under excessive pressure without escape they’re bound to fly off the handle. But, for contact center agents, bundling up their anxiety until they burst can result in serious repercussions and damage your organization’s quality of customer care.

For example, 65 percent of 1,000 consumers surveyed in a recent Parature report said they have cut ties with a business due to just one poor customer care interaction. So imagine the consequences that a strained and frustrated agent could produce for your contact center—increased customer churn, decreased ROI or detrimental reviews.

In order to sidestep stress straight from the beginning supervisors should train their agents how to manage a stressful phone call in the moment. Here are a few tips managers can pass on to their agents:

  • Make more connections: If you want to have a pleasant customer interaction, put forth a pleasant attitude. Express your understanding for the customer’s complaint or concern and then go the extra mile to initiate a real conversation, whether it’s about the weather or last night’s ball game. All too often, consumers forget the agent on the other end of the line is a human being—remind them of this and you may see a change in their attitude. And as a result, you can turn what started out as an anxiety-ridden phone call into an agreeable conversation, at the very least.
  • Do your homework: Ensure that you are extensively educated about the brands you’ll be representing on the phone. A difficult request will only become that much more impossible to handle if you aren’t well-informed on even the most niche facts about the business you’re handling. Simply put, a well prepared agent is a content agent.

Supervisors must ensure agents can pass the “stress test” before they go live on the phones, because even when stress levels mount it’s your quality of customer care will that will shine through and ultimately set your brand apart.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Our Top Advice for Achieving Fundraising Success

At InfoCision, we continually remind ourselves of our goal to become the best, not the biggest, name in the customer care industry by providing highly valuable services. Our diligent team of Communicators works tirelessly to ensure that we’re providing the utmost quality of customer care to each and every individual we serve, which is why it is so rewarding to have our hard work recognized. We’re incredibly honored, in fact, to have been recognized as a customer care MVP in “Customer Magazine” for the 22nd consecutive year.

As such, I’d like to shine a spotlight on—and dedicate this honor to—our exceptionally talented Communicators. It is their inherent traits, like empathy and quick wit, experience and commitment that enable InfoCision to achieve such high-quality results and keep our customers satisfied.

Most specifically, I’d like to lend some insight to our readers about the achievements our Communicators make in the nonprofit space. Communicating with potential contributors and recruiting donors can prove quite difficult for many contact center agents, as relaying the importance of a charity in an impactful fashion requires a sophisticated skill set that not all people possess.

Here are few pieces of advice derived from our outbound call strategy that may help you better understand the elements that drive our fundraising success:

  • Become part of the team: At InfoCision, we don’t think of ourselves as a third-party service for our nonprofit clients, but rather an extension of their team. By pledging to work as though we are a part of the cause, our Communicators become more dedicated and driven to produce the best possible results. This is an important mindset to maintain during fundraising campaigns as our Communicators strive to effectively articulate the charity’s worthiness and the value of each donation. By making the cause our own, our staff essentially becomes part of the nonprofit’s staff, with the same ability to understand and communicate the charity’s merit.
  • Create a lasting relationship: Another differentiator that sets our Communicators apart from the competition is their dedication to their line of work. Many of our employees are InfoCision veterans, having worked here for years, even decades in some cases. Because of our high employee retention rate, our Communicators are able to create long-lasting relationships with the nonprofit institutions with which we fundraise. The entire staff becomes elated at specific times of the year that signify that it’s time for an annual fundraising campaign. This excitement stems from years of experience in recruiting donors for nonprofits that they’ve become deeply entrenched with over time. Knowledge about and genuine care for these charities gives our Communicators more ammunition to deliver powerful and emotion-evoking messages each time they speak with potential donors.
  • Acknowledge success: Besides the relationships we build with our nonprofit partners, another element that contributes to our Communicators success is a positive team environment. Our managing staff understands that the Communicators have a difficult job and that they deserve acknowledgement from us that their work is valued. Accordingly, we take the time to congratulate their continuous excellence in donor care. In addition, we ensure that our employees’ voices are heard and encourage an open-forum atmosphere in our offices that stimulates team building. It’s important to focus on maintaining a positive work atmosphere, especially in a high-stress occupation, so that employees sidestep burnout or frustration.

You can’t create a dedicated team of Communicators overnight or achieve fundraising success without the right practices. But, you can heed our advice and start down the road to stellar donor care.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Are You Arming your Agents with Enough Information?

It’s no secret that consumers weigh their judgments on a company based on its success in providing optimal customer care. Today’s buyers are more impatient than those of the past; in fact, more than half of consumers hang up the phone after being on hold for less than one minute. As such, it’s imperative that agents step up to the plate to meet the demands of modern consumers. To do so, contact center supervisors must ensure their agents are sufficiently informed and trained; however, this best-practice is one that might be getting overlooked as of late.

In fact, a recent study revealed that the biggest pain point in the customer care industry is a lack of required knowledge among agents. The study showed that only 44 percent of firms have an agent-facing knowledge management solution, which helps them to better predict consumer behaviors and therefore handle them more efficiently. This is rather eye-opening, as contact center agents are at the crux of the success of customer care.

Serving up noteworthy customer care starts with strengthening your workforce. Here are the two areas that need TLC in order to improve your agents’ performance:

Recruitment: Take a good look at your candidate pool; you need to ensure you’re attracting the types of employees that will be loyal (that is, interested in long-term positions and growth opportunities), driven and dedicated to their role as an agent. Often, lending some improvement to your internal workplace culture can aid in reeling in the best-suited employees. For instance, offer more work-life balance and make maintaining positive team morale a priority. In doing so, you can hire more mature employees who are experienced and looking to make their role as an agent a career rather than just a stop along their occupational journey.

Training: It is vital to provide not only etiquette training but client specific training as well. Give your agents time to become experts before they get on the phones. While diving in headfirst might be a good idea for some jobs, the role of a contact center agent puts a company’s reputation on the line with each and every customer interaction. In this scenario, intensive training must take place to avoid unfavorable situations. Your agents should know everything about the companies they’re representing before they start dealing with real customer inquiries.

What more can you do to improve your quality of customer care? Keep reading our thoughts and advice, here.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several University boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.