Work at Home – Flexibility in the Contact Center Space

Providing flexibility for a workforce is paramount to the long-term satisfaction of many employees in today’s job market. At InfoCision, we have an entire program that offers our contact center staff the option to work from the convenience of their home in a virtual call center environment.

Our staff involved in this unique program receive their initial training in a web-based environment and learn to make the same calls as our traditional agents, just from the comfort of their own homes. This provides an opportunity for people who may not be able to work outside the home otherwise. It also delivers other benefits, like not wasting time commuting back and forth to work, not having a dress code to follow, and saving money on gas and vehicle maintenance. 

Having a work at home program not only encourages employee satisfaction, but also ensures that we have the flexibility and capacity to meet staffing requirements, enabling us to provide excellent customer service and unparalleled ROI. 

 

Gamification: Enhancing Employee Engagement in the Contact Center Space

Keeping employees engaged is a goal for every contact center. In a world filled with social media, where myriads of people are involved in habitually playing games and using fun apps to send pictures and messages to their friends, why not apply the same logic to their work environment? Gamification leverages employee’s natural desires – for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, success, status, and expression – as play.  Whether incentivizing employees to compete with their colleagues to score points individually or motivating them to work together as a team to achieve an overall goal, gamification in the call center space changes the game.

 At InfoCision, we use gamification across the organization – from our Communicators on the phones to salary staff at Corporate.   Our proven gamification techniques align company, division and client goals with fun incentivizes and friendly competition.    Employees receive real-time feedback when their achievements contribute to the goal.  Those employees are instantly recognized and rewarded with their choice from thousands of different incentives, including merchandise, gift cards and work perks!  When personalized achievement, job satisfaction, and meaningful rewards merge to produce best in-class performance and quality – the result for our clients is truly a WIN-WIN! 

 

Team Empowerment in the Contact Center

Everyone can agree that it’s important to empower your workforce but developing best practices to boost retention and morale in the contact center space is critical. At InfoCision, we have decades of experience, which equates to a plethora of time-tested, valuable ideas.

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s a time like no other to evaluate how your management team offers appreciation and encouragement to everyone on your workforce, especially including your team on the phone. From gamification and e-cards built-in our screens each day, to holiday-themed grand prize giveaways, we motivate our agents to provide excellent customer service in every call. However, empowerment is more than just the stuff money can buy. It’s:

    • Building an environment where people genuinely want to come to work – a place that fosters self-esteem, builds confidence, and feels like family
    • Believing in the values of the organizations and brands we’re asking others to support
    • Having supervisors and managers who practice empathy and active-listening, remembering birthdays and asking about sick grandkids
    • Visiting the call center floor regularly with senior management who are invested in acquiring feedback from agents, in person, themselves
    • Focusing on finding solutions within an atmosphere of remarkable teamwork, not just debriefings venting about common challenges
    • Ensuring your team has the tools they need to offer an unmatched customer experience

     

  • Genuine job satisfaction comes from more than appreciative Christmas cards, offering team lunches, and coordinating cheesy holiday festivities. True empowerment is generated through a culture of operational excellence, in a commitment to the continual and sincere encouragement and inspiration of your workforce – not just during the holidays, but throughout the entire year.

Keep The Creativity Coming!

In business, especially in the contact center space, it’s easy for teams to keep doing business as usual once they learn what works.  A good contact center knows their customers, all the ins and outs of their proprietary technology, and has developed an array of standardized strategies for handling challenges. However, when the ultimate desire is for a business to grow, the flow of creative ideas in every realm of the business must not only continue, but flourish.

At InfoCision, our team of marketers constantly tests new ideas, in a way that can be measured and replicated. This includes considering all aspects of the customer experience, examining and testing at all levels within the myriad of multi-channel solutions available: scripts, letter packages, call routing strategies, training materials, reporting techniques, hiring and retention, quality measurements, even ancillary services. Creativity involves utilizing our Business Analytics department to provide demographic and transactional data modeling or run a variety of scenarios to generate alternate probabilities and outcomes.  All our insights and findings are used to develop best practices, which are constantly examined for relevancy and adjusted with fine-tuning.

Having a culture of operational excellence, combined with the ingenuity and aptitude for continual testing across departments, enables us to provide excellent customer service and unmatched ROI.

 

 

A Glimpse Into InfoCision Puerto Rico

InfoCision Puerto Rico located in Aguadilla, PR

Whether in English or Spanish, at InfoCision’s contact center in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico we adapt and connect on a personal and cultural level to whomever is on the other end of the line. Employing only the finest people, our agents are mature – averaging 30+ years old – with 95% being college educated. Our turnover is less than 6%, meaning that we train peak performers and keep them. Each is intensely focused on quality, sales performance and optimal customer care. In short, we do everything possible to guarantee a positive customer engagement with every call!

The Phone is Still Vital for Your Business

In a society full of tweets, texts and typing, it may come as a surprise that phone calls remain the preferred channel of communication when it comes to your brand’s customer service. Tried and true, customers prefer actual voice communication for a plethora of reasons, but above all else, simply because it is the easiest option when looking to connect with a brand’s customer service department.

Consider this: When you are trying to get a hold of an organization’s customer service department, more times than not it’s because you have an urgent problem needing to be resolved. From a customer perspective, you don’t want to be typing in circles to a chatbot trying to explain your issues. Further, sending emails back and forth is even more time consuming than the chatbot. Yet, if you simply call into the customer service department, an agent is able to quickly look up your profile and guide you to a resolution.

More so, depending on your brand’s target market, they may not all be internet-savvy, or even have access to the internet. According to this study, only 66% of U.S. adults ages 65+ are using internet, making it worthwhile to stay accessible with offline communication.

Reasonably so, your brand’s voice communication can be the distinguishing factor amongst your competitors.  Show your customers that you value them by giving them exceptional live-person interaction rather than a chatbot or IVR system. In doing so, you will create a positive customer experience, and in turn find increased satisfaction and loyalty.

The take-away: Understand that voice communication, done well, is vital to your brand’s success and can set your brand apart. Finding the right contact center partner to handle your voice communication is critical in fostering your brand’s growth.

To learn more on how InfoCision provides the highest quality contact center solutions, visit www.infocision.com

The Ongoing Value of Live Customer Care

Do you need a contact center any more to provide stellar customer service? Or is the trend toward automated service inevitable? After all, automation is significantly less costly and more efficient than providing live assistance, and self-service is actually preferred by 91 percent of customers when it is seamless and effective.

Yet, customer care provided by live individuals may have no substitute when it comes to maximizing the customer experience with a brand. Consider, for instance, the downside of do-it-yourself service: Some customers—those who are either unwilling or unable to adapt—will get left behind. Others will be frustrated or angry, as multiple studies indicate that a significant percentage of customers prefer to resolve complex issues with a live individual.

This is why most of today’s organizations determined to enhance the customer experience with their brands are operating on the principal that giving customers a full swath of choices, e.g., email, live chat, text, social media and mobile apps or websites, is the best practice.

Unfortunately, a new survey conducted by Ovum shows that a gap exists between customer expectations and what businesses are currently able to deliver. It blamed this discrepancy on a lack of “any real understanding” among contact center managers regarding the extent to which customers interact via other channels before calling their facilities.

Most contact center managers would likely agree that understanding the lengths to which customers might go to avoid resolving issues with live Communicators is an important factor when planning future contact center operations. Tracking customer interactions across various channels is just as important, in other words, as determining customer channel preferences in the first place.

Cross-channel interaction analytics can provide decision makers with invaluable insights, such as the one Ovum discovered through surveying customers: Customers are increasingly informing themselves and, where possible, resolving their own issues.

With a greater understanding of customer preferences and behaviors, contact center managers can confidently take action to deal with the consequences. In this case, they can put processes in place to help Communicators deliver value and information not attainable elsewhere.

 

Using Gamification to Motivate Your Contact Center Staff

Are the rewards you offer your Communicators sufficiently motivating and engaging that they translate into benefits for your customers? That is, are rewards—from employee recognition to paid time off to wages—enough to overcome job stressors in the heightened customer service environment of today’s contact center?

Appropriate motivation becomes ever more relevant as Communicator responsibilities continue to extend beyond simply reading from a screen. Today, these customer care associates are expected to empathize with customers, use initiative to solve problems and remain focused on conveying a professional demeanor during each and every interaction.

The methods used by contact centers to motivate and engage Communicators to perform these duties were analyzed recently by ContactBabel, with results published in a new study, “The US Contact Center Decision Makers’ Guide 2016.”

The study shows that the 221 contact center managers and directors who responded to the ContactBabel questionnaire believe that their reward systems for Communicators are generally effective. Yet, ContactBabel found this to be true only when the reward was monetary, which approach was only used by 68 percent of respondents (compared to the 86 percent who use employee recognition).

In fact, cash bonuses were the least used reward.

For the most part then, contact center leaders think they are motivating and engaging Communicators in an appropriate and effective manner. Yet, by using attrition and absence rates, ContactBabel discovered a strong correlation between low salary levels and high staff attrition. The picture was a little different for absence rates, however, with those contact centers that ranked their reward programs “very effective” having fewer absences.

Overall, the findings present contact center leaders, who are not in a position to give significant wage increases to their customer care staff, with the need to find another reliable motivator. Enter gamification.

Gamification

Gamification is an approach for improving Communicator engagement, and aligning behaviors and characteristics with those of the contact center and wider enterprise. Basically, it involves turning work tasks into games. The opportunity for reward and recognition is presented at an individual level, with team-based successes also quantified. Achieving company-set goals is rewarded with points and badges.

Gamification increases Communicator engagement in a handful of ways:

  • Rewards those behaviors and characteristics that most closely align with contact center and company goals
  • Provides immediate feedback on performance to employees
  • Improves group performance through the pooling of knowledge and collaboration
  • Reduces ramp-up time for new Communicators, as it provides real-time feedback that encourages positive behaviors
  • Cuts down on time that managers must spend running incentive programs, and delivers them more objectively

Gamification requires company leaders to carefully set goals to avoid the risk of negative repercussions. For example, rewarding Communicators based on average handling time could cause them to drop difficult calls or not address customer concerns fully. Also, prepare for the novelty of the technique to wear off over time. This means that managers need to keep games fresh and goals relevant. It’s also quite possible that rewards will need to increase to maintain motivation levels.

The Psychology Behind Delivering Superior Customer Service

Appreciating the emotions involved in customer service is the first step toward creating a better customer experience. Sure, feelings are not something humans can always control—and they sometimes seem nebulous, random and unexplainable—but, fear not, there is a science to ridding your contact center of negative emotions that upend Communicator performance and dismay customers.

What you might never have thought about—but is known among certain academicians—is that Communicator treatment of customers is directly associated to how Communicators and other contact center staff treat each other.

Believe it or not, kindness toward each other in the workplace is a marker for the behaviors and performance of employees. In fact, research indicates that a negative relationship between colleagues has immediate and long-term detrimental effects on employee engagement, commitment and performance. According to the findings of a study published in the Harvard Business Review, 48 percent of workers who have been on the receiving end of incivility have intentionally decreased their work effort.

Twelve percent actually left their jobs due to their treatment. A full 78 percent said that their commitment to the organization declined. As many as 80 percent lost work time worrying about the incident, and 63 percent lost work time avoiding the offender.

One-quarter of the workers subject to workplace rudeness admitted to taking their frustrations out on customers!

Interestingly, the study found that people are made anxious when they see others treated poorly whether the treatment was delivered in private but overhead, deserved (e.g., due to incompetence) or the result of questionable or illegal actions.

As a contact center leader, what can you do to keep your own behavior in check and foster civility among workers? Here are a few tips:

Model good behavior: Managers set the tone, so be sure to lead by example. One way to create a culture of respect and bring out the best in employees is to show appreciation for their pleasant behavior. Keep an open line of communication and periodically ask for your Communicators’ feedback on your management style.

Hire civil people: Look for emotional intelligence when interviewing Communicator candidates. Less-formal group interviews often work to expose poor behaviors that might be suppressed in formal interviews. If possible, talk to previous employers to find out how the individual related to colleagues.

Teach appropriate behavior: Role-playing is a good technique for teaching civility in the workplace. Another tool is live listening, or even playback options, for various interactions to capture employees’ patterns of behavior, and then coach accordingly.

Offer rewards and penalties: Make respectful treatment of both employees and customers part of performance reviews. Further, consider implementing a system for measuring overall teamwork, not just individual outcomes.

Offshore Contact Centers—Is Your Message Getting Lost at Sea?

As part of a cost-initiative movement during the mid-1990s, contact center companies took a leap across the pond and began transferring their centers offshore. In doing so, these businesses were able to keep their wallets a little bit fuller, but not without lowering their customer satisfaction scores. This unintended outcome eventually hastened a return to U.S. soil for a good number of these offshore adventurers.

Communications between Americans and representatives at offshore contact centers often suffer from language barriers such as accents and pronunciation, creating customer dissatisfaction. Besides actual anomalies in voice interactions, cultural differences can cause communication issues too—usually from problems in message transmission. Values, beliefs and expectations for behavior accompany all human interactions, and often these are significantly different between countries, leading to missed cues and even insults.

Any of these communication gaffs can cause callers to feel undervalued because they add time to inquiry resolution.

After all, one key to making customers feel appreciated is to respect their time. Think about restaurants that give their customers a small remote control so that they can easily notify the valet service to bring the car around so that it’s waiting when they exit. Or, consider a contact center’s time-saving option that provides a callback service to customers waiting in its IVR queue.

Conversely, when customers and Communicators must continually repeat themselves to be understood, quick questions can turn into aggravating time drains. Even the technology that supports contact center functions can inadvertently add to the call’s duration; bad phone service or a poor Internet connection can ruin a conversation before it gets off the ground.

Quality communications, or the lack thereof, go beyond just accents and cultural differences, of course. When you offshore customer service, you increase the likelihood that call scripts will be followed too closely—in order to avoid introducing vocabulary and cultural hiccups—making customers feel like they’re talking to robots and/or being given irrelevant information. Plus, canned responses slow down the whole customer service process.

Remember that customer service has become one of the most important aspects of a company’s business. In fact, research shows that 66 percent of consumers who switched brands did so because of poor service. More often than not, cutting costs means cutting corners—a decision that may be compromising to your brand.