Top Ten Customer Care Skills

When today’s consumers contact a business they expect a pleasant and productive customer care experience. So, when their expectations aren’t met, they have no qualms about leaving a company, of which they once loyal patrons, high-and-dry. This will then, inevitably, impact your organization’s contact center services ROI.

As such, it’s extremely important for Communicators to possess certain traits and skills that will enable them to go above and beyond customers’ expectations. Recently, Mattsfactor.com created an infographic which outlines the most critical customer care skills all Communicators must inherently possess or strive to acquire.

Let’s explore these 10 skills further.

1. Knowledge of the product: It’s difficult to tend to a customer who’s having trouble with your product when you’re unsure, yourself, how the product works. Therefore, it’s important that companies provide Communicators with intensive product-specific training so that they can answer any and all questions.

2. Attentiveness: To put it simply, customers just want to be heard. Being an active listener and demonstrating initiative during conversations is a critical skill for Communicators. Even inserting a simply “I understand” goes along way. This also requires going off script from time to time.

3. Appropriate communication: Communicators must be able to control their emotions and always act appropriately even when they come face-to-face with an angry customer. Listen to what your customer says and always provide a positive solution. Try listening back on tough calls to figure out ways in which you can improve.

4. Patience: While you may have to fill a certain call quota, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to rush a customer off the phone. Take enough time to find out what the customer needs, even if that means having them walk through the problem more than once.A great way to ensure you understand is repeating the problem back to the customer.

5. Empathy: When a customer contacts you via the customer care hotline, chances are it’s because he or she has a question or they’re upset. Instead of coming across as stiff or jaded, exude empathy. Showing compassion will help in calming the customer down and better understanding the problem at hand.

6. Honesty: The worst thing you can do is make false promises to a customer and conceal the truth. Be honest at all times, even if the information you’re about to give to the customer isn’t something he or she necessarily wants to hear.

7. Adaptability: When you’re a Communicator, you’re going to have good and bad calls—it’s inevitable. It’s your ability to adapt to the situation that will separate you from others. A great way to improve the way you think on your toes is through practicing with mock-calls.

8. Work ethic: Apathy won’t get you anywhere in the customer care world. You must go above and beyond for every customer you come in contact with. Never cut corners and always display ethical work standards.

9. Self-control: It’s easy to become frustrated with a customer if he or she is a stubborn or argumentative individual. However, it’s important to “kill them with kindness” in these scenarios. When in doubt, bite your tongue. A great way to work on this skill is by practicing with mock calls, as mentioned above, or listening to example calls with your manager.

10. Responsibility: Always take responsibility. Even if a customer is wrong or makes a mistake, it’s important that you take responsibility and don’t push the blame on others within your company. After all, part of contributing to a team-oriented atmosphere is taking responsibility for your own mistakes and working with others to improve in the future.

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.

 

Make New Friends and Keep The Old: A Lesson In Customer Retention

You might be familiar with the saying, “Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver the other is gold.” Well, the same is true in the customer care space.

While it’s certainly important for companies to acquire new clients, it’s just as important—if not more—to focus on retaining existing ones. After all, research suggests that it costs more to gain new customers than it does to retain existing ones, which is a subject that I lent a great deal of attention to in my recently published book.

Also, research from Econsultancy’s Cross-Channel Marketing Report revealed that 70 percent of companies say it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire one. Not only do existing customers costs less, but they’re also more likely to recommend your business to family and friends and spend more money with you in the future.

In fact, Bain & Company found that repeat customers spend more and generate larger transactions. Indeed, an average repeat customer spent 67 percent more in months 31-36 of his or her shopping relationship than in months zero to six.

What’s more, the study also found that on average repeat customers referred three people each to an online retailer’s site after their first purchase there. After ten purchases, that same shopper had referred seven people to the site.

As you can see, customer retention has a big impact on your contact center services ROI and you’re company’s overall bottom line. Therefore, make sure that you put a concerted effort toward keeping your existing customers happy and wanting to come back for more.

For instance, reward them for maintaining their relationship with your business by offering them a yearly discount or enrolling them in a customer loyalty program. And, always make an effort to be consistent and reliable when interacting with your most devoted customers, they deserve some special treatment!

While making a good first impression will prompt a customer to come back a second time, delivering consistently good customer care will cause them to return, and thereby foster a positive, long-lasting relationship with your brand.

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.

So You Identified Your Customer Care Problem…Now How Do You Fix It?

We’ve all been there at some point in our lives…that moment when you realize you aren’t living up to your potential–perhaps on an important work project–but you’re so stuck in your ways that you can’t seem to gain any perspective on how to improve your strategy.

In fact, a number of contact center leaders are currently experiencing this troubling situation. During the recent webinar “Why Delivering Exceptional Customer Experiences Proves Elusive For Most,” Ian Jacobs from Forrester Research, Inc. revealed that 36 percent of surveyed organizations admitted to knowing that they deliver poor customer care.

And while admitting there is a problem is the first step, organizing and putting a brand new approach into action is easier said than done. So if you’re stuck in the mud and are struggling to pull yourself out, here are a few tips and tricks to help improve your customer care strategy:

  1. Put customer experiences first: Agents should be treating each phone call with the sensitivity, trust and understanding they’d exude when speaking with friends or family members. To create a comfortable and memorable experience for your clientele, agents must be able to communicate something beyond the scripted words. At InfoCision, agents are called Communicators to emphasize their critical role communicating with customers. They must create an experience for the customer and be malleable enough to pivot with differing personality types.
  2. Provide in-depth agent training: A major pitfall for many contact centers is the lack of agent training. In fact, one of the most noted complaints about customer care is dealing with unknowledgeable agents that cannot properly address problems and inquiries. As such, leaders must thoroughly vet their potential hires to ensure they are dedicated, quick studies who can learn in-depth information about a business’s products, services and customer care goals efficiently. More importantly, contact centers should provide ongoing training in professional development skills so that every agent is continuously performing to the best of his or her ability.
  3. Audit your services regularly: The only surefire way to know if you are continuing on a successful customer care journey is to audit your procedures along the way. Take advantage of call reporting and recording features that allow you to gain actionable insights about agent performance. Additionally, enlisting the help of third-party quality assurance auditors is a great way to receive unbiased feedback on your quality of customer care. But doing so sporadically won’t help you gain the best-rounded view of your progress. Instead, you must regularly conduct audits to ensure consistency across the board.
  4. Expand on your employees’ strengths: One way to guarantee higher instances of customer satisfaction is by pairing your agents with the groups of consumers that make most sense based on the agents’ knowledge-base, personality, and problem solving skills. For example, if there is a particularly perplexing service issue that customers have been calling  about—in a very displeased manner at that—it’s best to put your most quick-witted agent with the highest level of expertise in this area. This way, a confident agent will  handle the call smoothly  and customers will have a favorable brand impression.

It takes time and a refreshing perspective to break away from comfortable habits. But, if you’re having trouble crafting a new strategy, refer to these four tips and tricks and you’ll surely experience improvement in no time.

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.

Dedication: The Differentiating Factor in Contact Center Success

World-class athletes don’t just make it to the Olympics over night. And no matter how well they train or how intrinsically talented they may be, the driving factor of their ultimate success is their unrelenting dedication to the sport.

And while there certainly aren’t any pole vaults or diving boards to be seen in your average contact center, there is a striking similarity between the demeanor of an athlete and a high-quality Communicator or supervisor. That is, the dedication that is put forth each and every day to improve and deliver only superior results.

If a supervisor is not dedicated to providing strong support for his or her Communicators then that particular contact center may not realize the degree of success they desire. And therein lies the issue; in order to act upon the desire for success contact center supervisors must be diligent in implementing an air-tight customer care strategy.

First off, supervisors must be dedicated to offering words of encouragement to their staff. For instance, they could make office-wide acknowledgements of Communicator achievements, showing employees that their supervisors possess compassion and recognize their hard work.

Additionally, supervisors must provide constructive criticism so that Communicators can continue to grow and improve in their roles, rather than reaching a plateau and simply providing satisfactory quality of customer care. Instead, every Communicator should be training to reach the level of expertise exuded by the most experienced team member. To that end, even the most talented Communicator must receive constructive criticism so they can become an outstanding employee and perhaps become a leader or mentor for other colleagues.

So it’s time to stop wishing for results, like higher contact center services ROI, and actively make the changes you want to achieve. Whether you’re an international track star or a contact center supervisor from Akron, Ohio—dedication is the name of the game.

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 R’s of Contact Center Success: Relationships, Retention, ROI

The goal of any contact center is to provide effective assistance to customers, which in turn maximizes businesses’ contact center services ROI. So, what’s ROI made of? In truth they can be boiled down into three R’s: relationships, retention, and ROI. It is vital that contact center managers take these three elements into account when building out their training and coaching best practices.

Relationships

It is incredibly important for agents to build relationships with their clients in order to provide effective assistance and stimulate heightened customer retention. After all, the more agents understand about their customer, the more likely they will be to be able to understand the problem and help them more efficiently. There are many ways agents can build effective relationships with customers such as garnering insights from their social media conversations, engaging in friendly conversation to personalize their experience and demonstrate empathy and compassion for the consumer.

Retention

Consistently establishing positive relationships with consumers will lead to greater customer retention, a key facet in maximizing contact center services ROI. Any successful business must retain its customers; the value of having a loyal group of customers providing repeat business cannot be overstated. After all, retaining prior customers is far more inexpensive than signing new ones, according to Forbes. Successful customer retention is part of how companies can maximize contact center services ROI. Providing prompt, personalized, and efficient customer service will keep customers satisfied and coming back to your business. This, of course, is all in hopes of creating a strong word of mouth campaign amongst consumers, attracting even more business.

ROI

Just as fostering relationships with clients leads to greater customer retention, greater customer retention yields greater ROI from contact center services. When customers are satisfied, they return to the same company, and as they do, profits increase. Contact centers can increase their revenue by improving their internal practices. Merely training agents to build positive relationships with clients, for example can lead to increased customer retention and ROI.

So keep yours goals within reach by keeping the three Rs of contact center success at the forefront of your mind.

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.

Sometimes it’s Okay To Go Unscripted

According to ICMI Research, 45 percent of consumers will switch to voice for online transactions if their needs aren’t being met or if their questions or concerns are not addressed immediately by an automated system.

Therefore, it’s important that contact center agents be prepared to handle calls swiftly and often spontaneously. This means agents must sometimes forego their scripts to ensure a customer doesn’t feel like he or she is simply being given the run around.

A few strategies to improve unscripted calls include:

  • Provide customer care uniformity by ensuring agents have the flexibility and tools to improvise when needed.
  • Be natural. Customers don’t want to speak to robots and can easily detect when a call is becoming a simulation of an automated call, rather than a physically present and human response.
  • Respond to a customer’s concerns with the utmost respect. If customers are upset, empathize to show that you’re not only there to listen, but also to help.
  • Concentrate on finding solutions or options that can satisfy or resolve your customers’ concerns.

Remember: Your contact center services ROI depends heavily on the ability of your agents to make a human connection with customers. So your agents should always put themselves in the shoes of your customers.  What may seem trivial to you may matter immensely to him or her. Consumers have distinct expectations and life experiences, so don’t assume their issues are unimportant. Though the use of scripts allows most agents to stay on track, use your better judgment to determine when you need to reach out to your customer compassionately.

Business Intelligence services that allow you to understand your customer base and personalize their experience, include list development and data analytics, such as predictive models, customer data profiles, segmentation strategies and demographic scripting, which are all invaluable to improve your results and heighten your contact services ROI.

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.

Why Customer Care Is Worth More Than Advertising

Well-executed advertising campaigns can be important in attracting new customers, but at the end of the day excellent customer care is the most vital ingredient for successfully conducting business.

Having a company with a strong advertising arm but poor customer care is like driving a $50,000 car with a $100 engine; it may look good from the outside, but once on the road your disappointment will be acute. It doesn’t matter how many customers your fancy ad campaign attracts if your customers become frustrated by poor customer care when they try to resolve product or service issues.

Effective print, online, and television ad campaigns, while helpful to brand awareness, can also be extremely costly. Not all businesses have the budgets to launch them; a less expensive, but just as valuable way to gain market share, can be achieved from simply improving your contact center services—for example, online chat and email communications. Training representatives is fairly low-cost, and the benefit is worth more than gold in the fact that you will be actively retaining customers by keeping them satisfied.

Improving your contact center services also has the potential benefit of attracting new customers, just as a costly ad campaign would. Having a good reputation for customer care generates a strong word-of-mouth presence, drawing prospective patrons toward you. Conversely, garnering a reputation as a company that fails to provide proper assistance to its customers can warn prospects away from your brand. If customers feel that they are being dealt with in an empathetic, attentive and intelligent manner, they are much more likely to stay where they are.

The bottom line is this: Spending money on improving and expanding contact center services will result in improved ROI for business, increasing customer retention and bolstering organizational reputability.

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.

The Importance of Market Segmentation in Nonprofit Fundraising

Careful preparation and appropriate research must be executed before contact center supervisors and contact center agents can actively participate in fundraising campaigns in the nonprofit space. After all, to maximize donations received, supervisors must glean important insights about which demographics will be most receptive to a particular charity or campaign. Additionally, contact center agents must then understand how to effectively communicate the mission and purpose of the charities they represent over the phone.

As such, Business Intelligence must play a starring role in the preparation and execution of a sound fundraising campaign.  For example, modern contact center tools such as market segmentation enable supervisors to group potential donors into refined categories based on their similar demographic characteristics. More specifically, market segmentation allows contact centers to target their fundraising efforts so that their resources—i.e. contact center agents’ time and energy—are used most efficiently.

Indeed, market segmentation plays an important role in ensuring outbound fundraising efforts only target individuals with the greatest propensity to donate to a particular charity. Therefore, it’s important that contact centers’ donor database includes accurate and up-to-date information.

For example, consider a nonprofit fundraising campaign for an animal rescue charity. First, the contact center marketing team must address their donor database—find out which donors made a contribution to this charity in the past, as they are likely to donate again. They can dig even deeper by seeking out new candidates whose demographic information indicate they have pets, as the mission of an animal rescue foundation will likely resonate with this type of person. Secondly, they would group these individuals based on likelihood to donate and subsequently provide agents with customized scripts that will speak specifically to each donor category.

When it comes to realizing fundraising success, it’s wise to eliminate the guesswork in recruiting donors. Look no further than intuitive Business Intelligence tools such as market segmentation, to reap the most contact center services ROI for nonprofit organizations.

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 Have the Right Tools to Succeed?

Customer care within the contact center space is downright competitive these days thanks to the integration of cutting-edge technology and consumers’ heightened demand for a flawless customer experience. Hence, if your contact center agents don’t have quality technologies to support their efforts with customers, the experience they provide your customers is likely falling short of expectations.

In fact, a recent study revealed that 73 percent of customer care professionals have difficulty meeting their performance metric goals. Furthermore, 27 percent of those respondents revealed that outdated technology is the biggest hindrance to meeting their goals.

This means that contact centers need to make updating and utilizing more advanced technology a top priority. Additionally, contact center managers ought to set performance goal benchmarks so that they can ensure they’re maximizing their use of contact center technology.

For example, technology such as skills-based routing ensures that only agents who’ve been dubbed subject-matter experts handle specific categories of customer queries. As such, contact center supervisors can set a benchmark stating that agents must effectively address “x” number of customer inquiries in a specific category before they are considered experts. By so doing, supervisors can rest assured that pertinent customer inquiries will be addressed in a thoroughly knowledgeable fashion.

Another technology that is setting a new standard for contact center services is customized customer relationship management (CRM). For example, businesses that utilize third-party contact center services should evaluate whether their CRM technology complements the outside agents’ experience. More specifically, a best-in-class contact center will provide comprehensive tools such as screen pops, on-screen scripts, access to customer profiles and ability to edit scripts on the fly that support contact center agents during phone interactions with customers.

Agent-facing technology such as this will help agents meet their performance goals, as they will have more resources to leverage when servicing clients. Conversely, a lack of innovative contact center technology will negatively impact your business for the sheer fact that your competitors are using these advanced solutions right now to upgrade their agents’ performance. Indeed, without skills-based routing or supplementary CRM tools, you’re leaving the door open to comparative—and actual—uninformed and ineffective customer interactions.

Even if your agents’ inherent talent can’t be beat, providing them with tools to boost their success is how you’ll derive the most contact center service ROI.  So … set goals, and use technology to help you reach 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 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 Shows Outbound Marketing Generates Most Leads

When you’ve got a best-in-class contact center as your business partner, you have more than just great B2B customer care support, you have help with meeting your company’s goals and improving your bottom line.

In fact, a recent study revealed that 39 percent of B2B sales leads are generated from outbound marketing in the form of inside sales or telecommunications—compared to just 27 percent from trade shows and 17 percent from online searches and testimonials. From these statistics, one can ascertain that human interaction still wins out when it comes to maintaining customer loyalty and acquiring new patrons.

To maximize your contact center services ROI, therefore, use your contact center to help generate leads, segment your marketing database, and build stronger relationships with new and existing clients.

Business intelligence tools, like market segmentation software paired with a robust consumer database, can help brands improve their marketing campaigns by reaching more-qualified and sensible leads. For instance, marketing segmentation technology works to extract business contacts from your consumer database, aggregate their characteristics including demographics and buying behavior, and help guide your marketing initiatives toward a strategically targeted consumer base.

In addition to these technology benefits, the level of expertise and poise displayed by your agents while handling phone calls can boost your sales as well. For example, a team of expertly trained agents who act as your brand ambassadors can help portray your brand in a positive light. Mature and knowledgeable brand representatives with social intuitiveness will boost your brand’s ability to make the long-lasting connections you need to retain and attract more consumers.

So think again before putting outbound marketing on the back burner—it’s just what you need to rejuvenate your B2B sales 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 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.