Three Qualities Apparent in All Outstanding Communicators

The job of a Communicator encompasses more than just handling phone calls. Today’s contact center is a demanding environment that requires agents to have a broad range of talents and abilities in order to do their job successfully. While there are fundamental skills that every agent should have—including excellent communication skills, a professional demeanor, and the ability to multi-task—there are, I think, three qualities that outstanding Communicators share: empathy, resiliency, and adaptability.

Empathy: “I can understand how frustrated you must feel right now.” It’s a simple but powerful phrase. This and other expressions of care and concern show customers that they are being heard and that their point of view is respected and understood. Outstanding Communicators don’t simply rush into the information and problem-solving phase; they take a “time-out” for a moment of empathy. Doing so puts the customer at ease and changes the tone of the conversation. Knowing that someone cares is often enough to calm a rattled customer, a tactic that immediately begins to change their perception of the service experience.

Resiliency: Challenging customer interactions are a fact of life in the contact center. Outstanding Communicators have the skills to cope with distressing situations and continue to perform at the top of their game no matter how the previous call went. They know how to manage stress and don’t let it affect their level of motivation. People who are self-confident and have a strong sense of purpose—they genuinely want to help—are likely to be more resilient. They also know when to seek help from others.

Adaptability: The contact center is a place of change: no two customers are alike, service interactions vary, and technologies evolve. Communicators who love to learn are an asset because learning happens on an almost daily basis inside the contact center. Those who have the natural ability to “go with the flow” are also usually less prone to stress, and feel positively about change—a feeling that’s likely to be contagious.

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.

Why Customer Care Success Starts With the C-Suite

As the leader of a call center, your job encompasses a wide variety of tasks, not the least of which is motivating and inspiring your Communicators. Effective managers seem to do the job effortlessly, when in reality they are purposefully employing a host of skills and techniques to support their staff, which in turn increases the quality of service.

 
Good leadership is really about people—communicating with them, giving them opportunities to grow, and inspiring them to do their very best. Doing it well is challenging, but also extremely rewarding. Here are a few tips for ensuring that your own performance brings out the best in your Communicators:

 
Lead by example. Define your own standard of excellence and abide by it. Modeling the expected behavior is the number-one way to influence your Communicators to do the same. You’re also giving people a reason to believe in you, and in your ability to do the job.

Show your employees that you care about them. Telling your employees that you care about them is a good start, but your words will be more meaningful if you put them into action. Look for ways to interact with team members and start building relationships (our annual summer barbeque gives me a chance to grill my newest employees!). Putting the team first makes you a more credible leader.

Take every opportunity to coach—and to recognize excellence. These behaviors go hand-in-hand. Outside of regular training sessions, there are times when guidance or advice offered on a more personal basis is appropriate. If you notice a Communicator struggling on a call, don’t let the opportunity to offer words of advice, explain a process, or give encouragement pass. Similarly, seize the moment when you see a Communicator going above and beyond, or observe him or her capably handling a customer interaction.

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.

Improve the Customer Experience Through Positive Company Culture

Do your Communicators like coming to work? If the answer is yes, then congratulations! If not, it might be time to evaluate your company culture.

As a contact center manager who is tasked with improving the customer experience, you know that positivity in the workplace spills over into customer interactions. But culture is about more than good feelings; it’s about a company’s overarching vision and values. You can tell a lot about the state of your culture by taking time to observe your employees and by assessing their attitudes and feelings about the job. If your culture isn’t readily apparent, here are some things to consider going forward:

  1. Define your culture. This might seem obvious, but unless you’ve thought it through and written it down, it probably isn’t giving you what you need. Consider what you want people to say about your company after they leave. Then, how can you create that environment? A few words should suffice.
  2. Educate your management team about your culture. Your management program shouldn’t just focus on policies and procedures; it should also talk about how to treat people, how to interact with Communicators, and what it means to be a leader. Celebrate new managers’ “graduation” from the program and give them something to remember it by.
  3. Make hiring decisions based on attitude and personality. Known for its excellent customer service, Netflix is looking for brand ambassadors, not simply experienced agents. Its leaders believe that people who are smart, friendly, enthusiastic, helpful, and reliable will excel at connecting with customers, troubleshooting, and solving problems, and will be a good match with their vision for the company.
  4. Progress your Communicators. Not everyone wants to be a manager, but most people do appreciate the chance to get ahead. In a contact center, that might mean moving to higher-paying programs or leading a small team of associates. Progression is based on goal achievement, so discuss goals your Communicators have and help set them up for success.
  5. Focus on making your workplace one of simple procedures and simple work philosophies. Simplicity helps Communicators focus on the right things, like using good judgment, focusing on the tasks at hand, and spending time with customers.

There are many good models to follow for exceptional company cultures. Take time to think, keep it simple, and be genuine. Your Communicators will thank you for it.

 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.

InfoCision Named a Notable Member of the OHBLN

 

At InfoCision, our core business revolves around connecting with people—that is, helping businesses to forge meaningful connections with their customers. Long ago we realized we can do our job better by making similar connections in our community, a wonderful source of valuable and diverse employees. We—and our clients—have been reaping the benefits ever since.

InfoCision is proud to be among the first 100 companies to join the Ohio Business Leadership Network, an organization that leads by example in the employment of individuals with disabilities. More than 800,000 strong, this group of working-age Ohioans with disabilities represents a talented and relatively untapped workforce in our state.

OHBLN members, including Procter & Gamble, Aramark, Miami University, and Pitney Bowes, to name just a few, know that talented and dedicated people of all backgrounds, including those with communications challenges and medical disabilities, are vital to the success of any business. Qualified candidates with abilities and talents relevant to the job are always welcome, and very often, applicants with disabilities bring an extraordinary work ethic, positive outlook and original way of thinking to the table. Truly, a diverse workforce makes us stronger and better able to serve our customers.

InfoCision has also been named a notable OHBLN business member for its dedication to recruiting, training, and retaining individuals with disabilities. We believe that our employees are the link to developing lasting relationships between our clients and their donors or customers, so we look for talented Communicators first and foremost, and offer them opportunities to grow.

If you haven’t already explored diversity initiatives in your own community, I encourage you to do so. An inclusive culture, we think, is key to building meaningful relationships, and key to business 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.

Three Ways to Remedy the Customer Care Blues

It’s been said that customer care agents have one of the hardest jobs in the world. Discouragement is common, and expectations are high, sometimes leading to low morale and even lower self-motivation levels among Communicators.

As managers, it’s up to us to foster the right combination of morale and motivation to keep our employees happy, as well as our customers. A few ideas for doing this include:

  • Encourage employees to create a “vision board” that shows their goals and aspirations. Visualizing your goals is a more powerful motivator than simply having them in your head, and by looking at the board daily, Communicators are preparing themselves mentally to reach those goals, bit by bit. Seasoned athletes use this tactic regularly, “rehearsing” an upcoming game in their mind before playing. For your Communicators, the most effective goals will be the ones they choose themselves. What do they feel will make them better at their job? How will they achieve that? Images that represent or symbolize those goals—and how they’ll feel after achieving them—will serve to inspire and affirm.
  • Create a culture of collaboration among Communicators. No one wants to feel like they’re in it alone. To cultivate a supportive environment, create a formal system for employees to talk with one another about successful interactions as well as challenging ones. Pair new employees with well-seasoned ones, as mentor teams. Also, make time available for all employees to ask questions and get help when needed. The free transfer and flow of knowledge has a real impact on retaining employees.
  • Model a positive attitude. You set the tone for your team, so your upbeat attitude will go a long way toward reducing stress and energizing your Communicators. In fact, optimism has been shown to reduce people’s perceptions of stress and increase their ability to perform well in stressful situations. Beyond that, remind your Communicators that a positive attitude has the power to change the direction of negative conversations—a not insignificant tool in this very challenging career.

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 to Avoid ‘Analysis Paralysis’ in the Contact Center

In customer care centers, data is everywhere. Almost every contact center has tools in place to capture it, knowing that data holds the key to optimizing operations.

Likewise, most contact center managers are adept at turning this data into information through reporting. Reporting is particularly useful for monitoring purposes; when unexpected data presents itself, it highlights areas that may need attention. Reporting can lead to improvements in business performance, but if all you’re doing is reporting, you’re probably not taking full advantage of your data. It’s that higher-level activity—analysis—that delivers the biggest punch.

When done right, data analysis gives you a window into why things are happening the way they are, and even helps you understand what to do about it. Analysis is complex in nature, though, which is why it presents a challenge. It certainly is more time-consuming than reporting, but deriving true insights from huge amounts of data leads many managers to suffer from what is known as analysis paralysis.

To avoid becoming crippled by data analytics, you need a clear strategy for capturing, managing, and analyzing data. Choose your business focus, ask relevant questions, and utilize a strategy that will make your data more impactful to your business. Two activities that can lead to greater value insights are:

  • Market segmentation—the data you gather can help you understand customers on a more personal level. Besides basic demographic information, gather data on their routines and habits, shopping behavior, attitudes and interests. With your business objective in mind, you can craft specific, relevant messages to certain groups of customers, making the messages more likely to get noticed.
  • Predictive analytics—contact centers turn up plenty of data over the course of an individual’s customer journey, including how many times they made contact, what time of day, and their preferred mode of communication. They also voiced concerns, opinions, and complaints every time. Careful analysis allows you to identify at-risk customers, for example, and be proactive in your attempts to retain them.

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.

 

 

Is Customer Care the New Sales?

Things used to be simple. There was one goal: to make sales. There was one set of people tasked with doing that (the sales department), and one entry point to the sales funnel (the top).

All that’s gone the way of the dodo. Now, with much of the buying process being “self-serve,” the game has changed. There is no such thing as a single point of sale. Customers are informing themselves rather than relying on sales, and they’re making buying decisions based on their feelings about a company, not simply a product.

This new buying reality requires businesses to work differently. There must be a greater emphasis on relationship-building than there was in the past. Few of today’s customers actually interact with sales; instead, opportunities for cultivating relationships are often in the purview of customer care. Indeed, 76 percent of Millennials view customer service as a “true test” of whether a company values them.

Communicators are uniquely positioned to provide the intimate relationships that customers crave. Solving immediate (and often upsetting) problems, providing value (not sales pitches) with genuine conversations and sometimes going above and beyond to connect with a customer are all value-added interactions that Communicators perform daily. What will you get for your Communicators’ efforts? The American Express Global Customer Service Barometer says that an additional 42 people will find out about such stellar experiences, thanks to customers spreading the word.

There’s a loyalty shift coming, with the younger generation of customers being more “experience-loyal” than “brand-loyal.” Customer care is poised to be extraordinarily influential in addressing this shift. It’s not likely to take the place of sales, but certainly there’s an opportunity for greater collaboration among these departments. By taking advantage of one another’s strengths, both teams can deliver the positive, authentic experiences that customers want and expect.

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.

Predicting Consumers’ Next Move is Key to Customer Care Success

Today’s customers have pretty high expectations for businesses. Not only do they expect that the brands they do business with will know them like the backs of their hands, but they also want more personalized experiences.

Communicators, however, aren’t mind readers nor do they have a magic crystal ball. They don’t have the skills or knowledge to predict exactly what a customer wants. Therefore, they must rely on technology—specifically predictive analytics—to help them engage personally with customers.

Predictive analytics—or the use of a combination of techniques, such as data mining and statistics, to make calculated predictions about unknown future events—is increasingly being used more by customer care departments.

For example, the travel and hospitality industry is using predictive analytics to provide guests with a superior level of customer care. According to the Hospitality Technology 2016 Lodging Technology Study, 16 percent of hoteliers are currently using predictive modeling and analytics.

Predictive analytics can afford customer care departments with a number of benefits. For example, the technology can help automate certain tasks so that agents can concentrate on giving customers a great customer experience. The technology can also help identify at-risk customers that require more TLC from a seasoned Communicator.

Besides greatly improving the customer experience, predictive analytics can help contact centers run more efficiently and cost-effectively. For instance, the technology can give contact center managers the information they need to properly staff their location, ensuring there are enough agents to service upticks in customer inquiries.

With more options than ever before, customers’ expectations will continue to climb in the years to come. Predictive analytics is a powerful tool that helps contact centers tackle today’s customers, while increasing first-call resolution, sales conversion and revenue.

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.

Why Positive Reinforcement is Essential to Communicators’ Success

Customer care representatives have a mentally grueling and incredibly tough job.  While other employees can hide in their cubicles when they’re having a tough day, Communicators must constantly display a sunny and positive demeanor when speaking to customers.

Unfortunately, Communicators don’t always get the credit they deserve. In fact, it’s rare for customers to shell out many “thank yous” to customer care professionals. After all, customers expect high-quality customer care experiences.

Not receiving positive reinforcement for a job well done, however, can be hard on Communicators at times. It’s common for Communicators to feel like they are running a marathon without anyone on the sidelines cheering them on, which can negatively impact their daily work performance and overall well-being.

In fact, a study of over 1,700 employees conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) indicated that more than half of all employees intended to search for new jobs because they felt underappreciated and undervalued.

Rather than sit back and wait for customers to show appreciation toward your Communicators, take it upon yourself to do so. Providing positive reinforcement can be achieved through small or big gestures.

For example, simply taking the time each month to thank your team or individual team members for a job well done can go a long way. Or perhaps you want to show more appreciation by taking your employees on a fun outing each quarter to reward them for their success.

Whether you choose to go small or big doesn’t matter. What matters is showing your Communicators that you appreciate their hard work and value them an as an employee. In doing so, you will create a more positive work environment, which leads to more productive and successful employees.

So how will you give a big “thank you” to your team of hard working Communicators this month?

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.

 

The Contact Center Market Is Growing: What’s the Impact?

Just last month, contact center leaders received some encouraging news. According to research from Technavio, the global contact center market is expected to reach USD 9.7 billion by 2019, growing at a CAGR of over nine percent.

What’s more, the report also found that the United States, Canada and Latin America are key regions in this market, with the contact center market in the Americas expected to exceed USD 5 billion by 2019, growing at a CAGR of over seven percent.

So what is contributing to this immense growth and what will the impact be for industry companies and their employees?

As it turns out, today’s more Internet-savvy customers are partially to thank. According to the report, customers’ evolving relationships with brands—which now require more streamlined and consistent communication over a variety of channels—are driving much of the contact center industry growth.

Customers have come to expect more convenient and superior customer care from brands. In fact, customers would rather opt for a company with greater customer care and a less-impressive service or product, than a company with poor customer care and a superior product or service.

With customer care being a competitive differentiator, contact centers have become more strategic arms of businesses, helping to attract new customers and drive revenue. Now that contact centers are playing a bigger role, it has become more important than ever for contact center leaders to step up to the plate.

Leaders must equip their teams with the right technology and hire highly-skilled Communicators to keep up with customer demands and advancements within the industry. For example, Communicators must be able to successfully service customers not just on the phone, but also via social media as well as email.

The contact center market will continue to grow. It is how you prepare for this growth that will set you apart from other competitors within the industry.

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.