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. 

 

Five Roadblocks to Successful Contact Center Training

A successful contact center training program must arm customer care Communicators with the knowledge and tools they need to deliver a stellar customer experience. It doesn’t happen by magic. Manager-trainers/coaches must strategically design the training program so that it optimizes the commitment of funding, time and effort necessary to create and implement it.

To help you maximize the opportunity, avoid the following five roadblocks when developing your training program:

  1. Vague objectives: Specific goals and objectives should be established—documented in writing—at the outset, as they are the very foundation of the training program. Make sure they encompass the knowledge and skills that participants ought to take away at the end, and be sure to present them to participants at the start of the session. These goals will guide a logical sequence of activities for the program, as well as provide the basis for assessment of the training’s effectiveness.
  2. Unsupportive learning environment: Be sure the training space is welcoming and ready. Warmly greet participants as they enter. The room should be of an appropriate size to accommodate the number of trainees—neither too large nor too small (remember how Goldilocks suffered in this regard). Make sure everyone is comfortable: Consider room temperature, accessibility, lighting, travel arrangements and facilities (e.g., restrooms, Wi-Fi and parking). Choose an area free from distractions and where everyone has a good view of trainers and training materials. Check acoustics to be sure that everyone can hear the presenters.
  3. Limited resources: Training materials should be abundant and up to date and, especially, mimic what will actually be used in the work environment. All equipment, hardware and software should be current and fully functional. Ensure that the training materials match expected outcomes. For example, training on a software tool may require hands-on access to the software or at least clear screen shots delineating the software elements. Participants should also be given training materials to take back to the office for reference.
  4. Overreliance on lectures: Change up training methods to keep participants engaged and learning. Encourage discussions around the training materials, and use exercises that allow trainees to practice skills, like role playing, Q&A and quizzes. People learn in different ways, so be sure to employ visual (e.g., black or white boards, videos, PowerPoint presentations and overhead projectors), oral (e.g., storytelling, jokes and lectures) and written materials (e.g., manuals and worksheets). Keep in mind the age and experience levels of participants and match them with methods and tools used for training.
  5. Little assessment or follow-up: Once employees return to the workplace, are they able to apply what you’ve taught them? Training program success is measured by how well it has affected employee performance toward the stated goals. A training program is a work in progress, and evaluation is critical to improving it over time. For assessment, consider pre- and post-knowledge and/or skills testing. Also measure employee reaction to the program, since approval indicates engagement and absorption of the information being conveyed, and disapproval guides improvements. Employee feedback should be collected immediately following the training. Use a standardized form, perhaps one that uses a numbered rating system but also includes open-ended questions and space for comments.

Training is an important part of overall contact center performance. Make sure to optimize it by avoiding these five roadblocks.

Three Important Customer Care Tips You Learned From Mom

Moms the world over are known for their great advice, always encouraging and (almost) always right. In honor of their special day, here are a few of mom’s most popular golden nuggets, with a twist: These bits of advice are meant to inspire greatness in your Communicators.

  • Wait for a break in the conversation before speaking. It’s rude to interrupt in any situation, of course, but Communicators are held to an even higher standard of professionalism. Faced with a litany of complaints, it might be tempting to interrupt, especially if you have a solution at the ready. Even in that case, however, it’s best to wait for the customer to finish speaking. Simply listening makes the customer feel valued, fostering a more positive situation right from the start.
  • Remember what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is in short supply almost everywhere these days, but it shouldn’t be in your contact center. While empathy itself is difficult to develop, other, similar characteristics are not, such as self-awareness, a nonjudgmental, positive regard for others, and good listening skills. As brand ambassadors, Communicators should strive to establish a connection and build trust with customers. If a customer feels he or she has found an ally, they are more likely to work with you.
  • Clean up after yourself, and leave the place a little bit nicer for the next person. This one requires some metaphorical thinking. The idea of “cleaning up” after yourself, to my mind, is similar to encouraging ourselves, and our Communicators, to reflect on past interactions regularly, honestly evaluate them, and make improvements accordingly, whether it be an attitude adjustment, a more finely-tuned message, or a process-related change. The result: A more pleasant experience for all the customers who are next in line.

Your mom probably also told you to believe in yourself, so encourage your Communicators to do the same!

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 Three Legged Stool: Marketing, Sales and Customer Care

Running a successful business is no easy task. As much as we wish there was, there is no magic formula for success. There is, however, a well-proven strategy that today’s most successful companies use to achieve optimal results. Dubbed the “three legged stool,” this strategy involves marketing, sales and customer care working together toward a collective goal.

All too often marketing, sales, and customer care departments work in silos, rarely ever communicating or working with one another to create a better customer experience to drive sales. These three departments, however, are very much intertwined and rely on one another to succeed.

Think about it; the marketing team does the job of spreading brand awareness and attracting customers through a variety of channels. Once customers are in the funnel, sales then steps in and converts those leads into paying customers. And finally, the customer care department makes sure that the customer remains happy with the product or service.

While each department has its own set of duties, they all play an important role in onboarding new customers and retaining existing customers. In other words, if one leg of the stool is broken, it creates an unbalanced business strategy. Because of this, it’s important that all three departments successfully and effectively communicate and collaborate.

Collaborative technology is a key component to helping these departments work together. The right technology will enable each department to collect and share important customer data—such as a customer’s history, background, goals and previous contacts with the company—in one single, easy-to-use place.

You can’t expect to see success when your three most important departments aren’t working together. If you haven’t already, consider implementing collaborative technology that allows these departments to seamlessly communicate and share data.

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 Employee Engagement With Social Media Integration

Today’s digitally savvy customers are dialing back on 1-800 numbers and increasing their use of social media when contacting brands. More and more customers are opting to communicate with brands via social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, as opposed to traditional channels.

In fact, research from McKinsey shows that 30 percent of social media users prefer social care. In particular, the percentage of people who have used Twitter for customer service leapt nearly 70 percent, from 22 to 37 percent from 2013-14.

To take advantage of the popularity of social media, more companies are launching employee advocacy programs, which entail the promotion of an organization by its staff members. According to Altimeter Group’s “The 2015 State of Social Business Report” interest in employee advocacy has grown 191 percent since 2013, with 45 percent of respondents naming it a top external objective.

So what exactly is an employee advocacy program and how does it work? Essentially, it’s a program that is meant to generate positive awareness about a brand through social media. Designated brand advocates will discuss their positive experiences at work with their social media followers. For example, they might post a picture of a company outing to give customers a look into their company’s culture.

There are tons of benefits to launching an employee advocacy program. From a marketing perspective, companies experience an uptick in social media exposure. Oftentimes, employees have a much wider and diverse social media following, which means they are able to expose your brand to customers that you might not have the opportunity to reach before.

What’s more, these programs help attract and retain new customers as well as build trust. As past studies have shown, customers are more likely to trust product or service recommendations from friends, family or peers rather than a company itself. In addition, when customers have meaningful interactions with employees, a level or trust is formed.

Perhaps the most valuable benefit employee advocacy programs afford businesses is employee engagement. That’s right; employee advocacy programs don’t just benefit marketing, they also benefit the customer care department as well.

Giving employees the opportunity to advocate on behalf of your brand demonstrates to them that you trust them and think of them as invaluable members of your brand. In turn, employees are more likely to feel engaged and loyal to the brand. And when employees are more engaged they deliver better customer care. What’s more, employee advocacy programs encourage internal communication and collaboration, both of which keep employees highly engaged within your business.

While launching an employee advocacy program is a big undertaking—after all, there are a lot of steps to choosing the right employees and building out clear guidelines and goals—it can help your business improve its digital presence and increase employee engagement.  It’s a win-win situation for both customers and your bottom line. So what are you waiting for?

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.

Celebrate National Employee Appreciation Today, And Every Day

At InfoCision we strive to embody a culture of appreciation by creating a workplace environment that is positive and inclusive. As corporate leaders, it is our duty to ensure that our employees clearly know their hard work is recognized and celebrated.

Today, March 4, 2016 is National Employee Appreciation Day, and while all InfoCision team members are tipping their hats to one another and showing their gratitude for each other on this day it’s not a practice that is out of the ordinary. In fact, our CEO, Craig Taylor has encouraged everyone on the team—from C-suite executives, to Communicators, to marketing and technical staff members—to make each other feel appreciated each and every day.

I encourage my fellow business leaders to celebrate today, but then continue the party for the rest of the year. After all, ensuring that your employees are satisfied with your workplace culture directly affects not only the quality of their performance, but also their well-being.

There are numerous ways that you can do more for your employees and play a role in improving their lives. For instance, ensure that employees are offered adequate vacation time to ensure a positive work-life balance. What’s more, provide continuous training for employees so that they can become more skilled and grow within your organization. I started out as a Communicator more than 30 years ago at this very company! InfoCision was dedicated to helping me advance and now I have the personal privilege of doing the same for other members of our team.

Your employees are the blood running through the veins of your company, making sure that its heartbeat is pumping strong. Without genuinely happy and engaged employees who work to make a difference for your customers each day, your company simply cannot be successful.

Thank you to our wonderful InfoCision family, your hard work, dedication and support is appreciated today and every day of the year.

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 Score a Customer Care Touchdown

Super Bowl 50 is just around the corner and players on the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are tirelessly preparing for the big game with the hopes that they’ll bring home those coveted championship rings.

While your Communicators aren’t diving head first into a tackle or running to score a field goal, they can relate to these hard working NFL players, as they too need to constantly be on their toes ready to “take down” a customer inquiry.

With the Super Bowl coming up, I thought it would be fun, as well as a good reminder, to review three ways to ensure that your Communicators can consistently score customer care touchdowns for your team.

  • Take advantage of technology: Today, NFL athletes use various different technologies to improve their skills and your Communicators should do the same. Customer relationship management (CRM) technology, for example, provides comprehensive customer profiles, screen pops, and the ability to make script changes on the fly—all of which helps your Communicators better service customers.
  • Dedicate time to professional development: NFL athletes are always developing their skills on and off the field. Help your Communicators develop their skills by giving them ample professional development opportunities. For instance, if a Communicator would like to learn a new technology or attend a professional seminar, ensure that you facilitate this request.
  • Give a personalized touch: NFL athletes are great about giving thanks to their fans. Encourage Communicators to think of their customers as fans and have them make a concerted effort to treat every customer with a personalized touch. Simply greeting customers by their first name goes a long way.

Score a customer care touchdown this year by following the three tips and tricks above. Your “fans” will thank you by continually doing business with you and recommending you to their peers.

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.

Contact Center Leaders: Take a Page From the Ritz-Carlton’s Book

The luxury hotel industry is not for the faint-hearted, as there is immense competition. In fact, it seems as though everyday there’s a new competitor entering the ring.

One hotel, however, has managed to strike a chord with customers and keep them coming back for more. The Ritz-Carlton, which has won several distinguished awards, is one of the most well-respected luxury hotels in the nation.

So how did they reach such great success? It’s simple; the company focuses on continuously delivering great customer care.

In fact, a recent Forbes article highlights the customer care strategy of Richard Casimiro, director of operations at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company’s Penha Longa Resort. Casimiro describes his approach to customer care as more focused on engagement rather than service.

For example, Casimiro says in the article, “I’m not asking my employees ‘did you put the doily under the glass?’ but ‘did you find out how your guest was feeling and work on making a connection with them?”

Contact center leaders would be wise to take a page from Casimiro’s book and focus on engaging customers rather than simply servicing them. Below are a few tactics leaders can put in place to better engage their customers:

Go off script: The last thing you want your Communicators to do is come off as a programmed robot with no personality. Encourage your Communicators to go off-script once in awhile. Only then will they be able to truly engage with customers and build a lasting rapport.

Ask for feedback: The best way to improve engagement is to ask for feedback. After all, how else are you supposed to gauge the way customers are feeling about the service you are giving them? Whether it’s distributing a formal survey or simply asking; gaining feedback will help you improve overall engagement.

Take it from the Ritz-Carlton; a little extra care goes a long way!

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.

 

Constructive Criticism is Crucial to Employee Growth

Customer care is one industry that is embodied by communication, whether digitally or over the phone. As such, employees within this space must exemplify excellent interpersonal and oral communication skills.

With that said, the standards for communication and social skills are in a constant state of flux as consumers shift their customer care preferences. For instance, not only do Communicators need to possess superior phone etiquette, they must maintain deep knowledge of digital channels, such as email, social media and Web-chat, to communicate with customers as well.

What’s more, consumers have also grown increasingly impatient and skeptical of customer care representatives’ ability to efficiently solve problems. This means that Communicators have to be on their “A” game at all times and learn to solve problems faster than ever before.

As such, Communicators benefit from being regularly evaluated to ensure that their skills are up to par with consumers’ expectations. After all, a Communicator that consistently has trouble connecting with consumers and/or solving problems, may blame his or her difficulties on the impatience of the customers, when in reality it has more to do with the individual’s skill set.

For this reason, constructive criticism is absolutely necessary for the success of any Communicator. Even the most seasoned professional slips up every now and then or maintains a less than agreeable phone habit of which he or she needs to be made aware of. Accepting feedback and advice from one’s peers is the only way to make progress in the long run, especially in an industry where employees are continually on the front-lines speaking with customers each day.

Constructive criticism is not to be feared, but embraced. When you can create a workplace environment where employees feel comfortable speaking-up and offering words of advice and encouragement to one another, you’ll be able to consistently make improvements.

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.

Positive Attitude Makes Up for Lack of Experience in Customer Care

Customer care experts have been touting the importance of hiring Communicators with technology skills, as more contact centers are implementing technology to improve productivity and increase efficiency. What experts are forgetting, however, is the importance of a positive attitude.

When it comes to the customer care industry, communication and interpersonal skills are everything. After all, researchers found that the number one reason customers would abandon a brand was due to poor quality and rude customer service, according to a Customer Experience Report by RightNow.

When looking for qualified Communicators to join your team, forget technological prowess or business savvy and consider their attitude as the most important asset they can bring to table. You might interview someone who looks good on paper, but in person their demeanor could be dismal.

Below are a few interpersonal skills to keep in mind when bringing a new Communicator onto your team.

  • Empathy: When a customer contacts your business, there’s a good chance that he or she is frustrated or upset about something. Rather than come off as stand-offish or uninterested in their problem, Communicators must display empathy. This will put the customer at ease and help to build a good rapport.
  • Listening: There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than trying to communicate with a Communicator who doesn’t listen. Don’t try to talk over a customer, as this will just upset them more. Instead, listen carefully to what he or she is saying so that you can clearly understand his or her problem. Intently listening to your customers will make them feel like they’re not just another ticket they need to complete.
  • Friendly: If a customer has a problem, focus on what you can do to help him or her. While you don’t want to seem overly happy when a customer is upset, being friendly can help a customer stay positive under not so great circumstances.

So next time you bring a new employee on board consider their personality more than what their skills look like on paper.

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.