Defining and Delivering Next-Level Customer Care™: My Personal Journey

Sometimes I simply cannot believe that 30 wonderful years have already passed since my first day at InfoCision. Since 1985 I’ve been right here, honing my skills, satisfying my hunger to learn more and working with industry experts who, along the way, have successfully helped me define and deliver what I call “Next Level Customer Care™.”

One of my dearest industry mentors and comrades, Nadji Tehrani, founder of Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC), has been by my side throughout much of my journey. Together we collaborated and challenged one another to become more strategic in our dedication to deliver the highest quality of Customer Care™.

The result of our years of communication and brainstorming sessions led us to co-author our new book, titled “Taking Your Customer Care™ to the Next Level,” which I am deeply proud to present to my peers in the world of Customer Care™. View a clip of my excitement when the new books arrived by clicking here.

Taking Your Customer Care to the Next Level

“Taking Your Customer Care™ to the Next Level” is a compilation of industry insights and strategies, as well as memories of our own personal experiences. You can hear about my personal favorite Customer Care™ experience during my interview with TMC CEO Rich Tehrani by clicking here.

But despite the memorable Customer Care™ experiences I’ve had, the original idea for this book arose during a conversation Nadji and I had about the shocking prevalence of subpar service efforts displayed by many of today’s businesses, both large and small.

Each chapter, therefore, aims to instruct companies on how to improve their Customer Care™ strategies to retain more loyal customers, increase ROI and stimulate positive outcomes inside and outside of the workplace. We crafted this book because, despite all of the emerging technology at our fingertips—like customer relationship management (CRM)—and industry trends such as “customer experience,” many companies, to their detriment, just aren’t delivering top-quality Customer Care™.

If there is one objective I want readers to take away from “Taking Your Customer Care™ to the Next Level,” it’s that customer care means just that: caring. With every page turned, readers will gain an understanding of the importance of demonstrating empathy and understanding during each and every customer interaction, whether they are over the phone or by way of a digital or social channel.

Throughout our Customer Care™ journey, we’ve created a winning formula that we are pleased to share with our audience. As you’ll come to discover while perusing the book, it includes hiring the right employees, providing high-quality professional development, and putting more focus on retaining loyal customers than continually shelling out dollars trying to keep acquiring new ones.

In fact, I was recently interviewed by Customer magazine and got the chance to explain my point of view on the matter:

A company may do well financially in the short term without excellent customer service; however, when you consider the impact loyal customers and repeat business have on corporate financial success, those who make investments in Next Level Customer Care™ will benefit from greater ROI in the long term.

Each and every piece of advice I contributed in my chapters ties back to the lessons I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve had throughout my career at InfoCision. And I have to say, the incredibly talented individuals who I work alongside and the amazing clients we work with have impacted my life immensely. I wouldn’t have been able to compile this book without the people I’ve met or the moments I’ve had throughout my journey.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about the background and the creation of “Taking Your Customer Care™ to the Next Level,” please read my Q&A in this month’s edition of Customer magazine.

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 Prevent Your Communicators From Choking Under Pressure

When there is a lot at stake, many professionals, including athletes, singers, and politicians, may face the fear of choking under pressure. Whether it’s your Olympic career, your record deal or your candidacy on the line, it becomes difficult to perform at your highest potential when the stress is insurmountable.

In the same vein, Communicators in the contact center space regularly face this challenge, as they are continuously put in high stress situations. After all, often times consumers dial into your customer care hotline because they are experiencing an issue with a product or service and need quick answers to their questions. And because each customer care interaction is unique due to the caller’s dilemma, personality and urgency, Communicators must be prepared to respond in a calm, professional manner despite the current circumstances.

What’s more, when a Communicator is already feeling the pressure rising during a particularly difficult situation, holding his or her focus can become even more challenging when outside distractions are added to the mix. For instance, many contact centers employ advanced software that helps Communicators understand information about their caller’s transactional history, personal information and demographics. However, handling a complicated phone call and absorbing the information that’s being constantly updated on the computer screen can result in an overwhelming moment.

Contact center supervisors must ensure they are doing all that they can train their employees on how to deal with stressful situations on-the-fly. After all, the interaction is happening in real-time so the ability to think on your feet is paramount to a Communicators success.

Here are a few tips to help Communicators develop quicker reflexes and stronger in-the-moment problem solving skills:

  • Role play: Pair experienced Communicators or supervisors with colleagues who are struggling and conduct mock customer care interactions. Practice dealing with unusual situations, unpleasant callers as well as handling multiple tasks at once with the goal of remaining calm and present.
  • Provide stress management: Coach your Communicators how to manage anxiety when they are overwhelmed. Oftentimes, the best remedies for stress come from outside improvements—like attitude or health and wellness. Additionally, provide continuous support and guidance on how keep calm during an overwhelming situation. For instance, listen intently rather than speak over the customer in a frantic attempt to handle the problem.

When you can help your Communicators improve their quality of customer best practices, they can gain the confidence they need to deliver superior results, even in the most trying situations.

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 To Improve Your Quality of Life Starting With The Workplace

Everyone becomes burnt out on some aspect of his or her life at some point or another. It’s an inevitable part of life; however, when it comes to employee burnout there are a number of solutions upper management can employ to remedy this problem inside the workplace.

And while there are people that feel their work life and personal life should be entirely separate entities, it’s almost impossible for the two to not bleed together, especially when one is affecting the other in a negative way. For instance, if you have a poor diet outside the workplace and you are too exhausted from the work day to even consider exercising afterwards your overall health might not be conducive to a focused, upbeat attitude during work.

However, businesses that inspire their employees to improve their quality of living both inside and outside the workplace are generally better, stronger and more collaborative companies. In fact, a recent study from Virgin Pulse titled “9 Habits You Need For a Thriving Workforce” revealed that 67 percent of employees who work at organizations that promote good health and wellness say their company is a better place to work. In addition, these companies experience 55 percent lower turnover and 46 percent higher employee engagement levels.

The study also goes on to suggest the ways in which companies can help their employees build better habits. Here a few best practices that contact center supervisors can implement to improve the well-being of their employees:

  • Match employees with tasks that capitalize on their strengths
  • Create a dedicated professional development program that aims to help employees reach their personal and professional goals
  • Provide more robust health, dental, insurance benefits to ensure your employees receive nothing but the best care
  • Take measured steps to encouraging a healthy lifestyle by offering gym memberships or providing a wellness program
  • Dedicate yourself to ensuring your corporate culture is positive, team oriented and encouraging

Helping your employees improve their quality of living isn’t just about improving productivity to produce higher contact center services ROI. Rather, it’s a crucial step in demonstrating your care for your employees and your appreciation for all of their hard work.

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.

Become a Better Leader in 2015

As 2014 winds down, it’s natural to begin thinking about how you can make 2015 a better year for your business. As an executive, it’s up to you to set a positive tone and lead your employees toward success, so you want to hit the ground running. But being a leader isn’t easy; having people look to you for guidance can be nerve-wracking. So here are a few tips I’ve found helpful that may also help you in the year to come:

Listen more, talk less: Let’s face it: When you are a member of the C-suite, employees generally listen when you speak. But that doesn’t mean you should always be the one speaking or making decisions. Next year, adopt an open door policy where employees can walk into your office to discuss any issue at any time. Openness and sincerity from executive leadership goes a long way towards getting the team behind you.

Present a clear vision: Your employees want to know that you have a firm grasp on what you want the next 12 months to look like. Rather than speaking in generalities, make an effort to present specific company-wide goals and lay out the path you want your employees to take to reach those objectives. For example, if the goal is to improve your quality of customer service across the board, present a five-point plan for making that happen.

Encourage professional development: One of the most effective ways to lead is by giving employees the chance to develop new skills and shine brightly. Try not to define your workers by their job titles; instead, encourage them to come to you—or their direct supervisor—with new ideas and to take on projects that may fall beyond the scope of their job description. Some of the best initiatives are born from employees discovering skills they didn’t even realize they had.

Click here for more information about how InfoCision helps its employees enhance their own futures.

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 American Teleservices Association (ATA). 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 higher honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.