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Guest Post: Two Reasons that Prevent the Perfect Customer Experience

cexoncomputerMy Guest post today is a video blog from Matt McConnell, CEO of Intradiem,  a leader in intraday management solutions for contact centers.   I enjoy working with Matt and his team and know how passionate he is about creating a great experience for both agents and customers. In this brief video, Matt shares his thoughts on what interferes with customer experience success.


 

As consumers, we take for granted that we are going to have to wait to be serviced. We’ve come to expect it as part of our daily lives – sitting on hold, enduring 4-hour service windows, having to search for a store clerk to help us, standing in long lines to pay for our purchases, and the list goes on and on. It’s downright ridiculous in this day and age – the age of the customer – that we can’t have more timely service.

 

As customers, we only want two things: speed and accuracy. A quality product or service delivered in a timely fashion that meets our needs.

 

What’s preventing companies from being able to deliver on this customer experience promise?

 

 


 

About Matt McConnell
Matt McConnell is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in its market with more than 450,000 call center agents around the world using Intradiem every day. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds 11 software patents.

 

Your Quality Monitoring: Engaging or Exasperating?

badcoachingOne of the worst methods of quality monitoring is the one that is based on finding everything wrong on a call or other type of customer interaction down to a seemingly molecular level.

I am definitely in favor of scored monitoring for skills but it must be balanced with common sense applied by the QA and/or coach listening and scoring those calls. Unfortunately I find that the common sense factor is not always applied.

An agent recently shared with me his experiences with a quality monitoring and coaching process that is frustrating and disengaging for him and his team members. This particular agent has been receiving kudos from customers for going above and beyond, including verbal positives to his supervisor and emailed compliments from customers. He is a seasoned agent who also is relied upon to train newer agents on his team. Despite his positive feedback and great skills, he regularly receives multiple errors from QA on calls.

Upon listening to one of these calls that was considered by QA to have errors, I heard a great example of excellent listening and other skills demonstrated by the agent. During this call, I heard the customer say, “Thanks for your help. That’s all I need today”. The agent replied with a sincere sounding thank you and ended the call positively.

QA however gave him an error because he didn’t ask, “Is there anything else?” at the end of that same call.

What would be gained by the agent asking what the customer had just answered? Nothing.

Some quality managers with a “follow the carved in stone checklist” approach train their QA team to be a robotic error factory. At times, I’ve even observed QA and their manager view any questions or push-back from an agent regarding quality scores as a personal affront to their ability to monitor. Email exchanges between agent and analyst may escalate until the agent gives up in defeat.

The agent in the example above told me he initially questioned the quality scoring error but after multiple emails with the Quality Analyst explaining why his question wasn’t necessary, he said that he finally gave up and accepted the error because he was “tired of fighting”. To add to his frustration, his new supervisor with no prior call center experience did little to nothing to support him with this apparently not wanting to rock the boat.

Agents who are very satisfied with their job will provide the best customer experience and remain on the job longer.

When we set up conflict between agents and quality through unrealistic processes or by creating a skill witch hunt environment, your agents will not only become dissatisfied…they will leave.


 

This article first appeared on Intradiem’s Blog where I’m featured as one of their Call Center Experts.

 

Guest Post: 4 Ways to Develop Positive Communication in Customer Service

 With all the buzz about GenY agents in our contact centers and retail customer service roles, I thought it was a good time to have a Guest Post from one who understands what it takes to be a great communicator in service.  I hope you enjoy Laura’s post!

Laura McConney
Laura McConney
Laura McConney is a college student, a writer for the Kova Corporation (an award winning provider of Enterprise and Security Intelligence Solution), and also an intern with The Marketing Zen Group (a full-service online marketing and digital PR firm).
Laura loves writing about the customer experience and contact centers and has worked in centers as an Advanced Computer Consultant for 3 years. She also tinkers with technology and learns all of the pop culture that she can. Connect with her on Twitter @l_mcconney .

 

Customer service is complex. In order to excel in dealing with clients, one must possess a vast number of abilities. Whether you are in sales or customer service, dealing with customers is simply part of the job, and you must express yourself in the proper manner to leave your clients satisfied. One of the most difficult skills to master, a personable voice can distinguish good customer service from great customer service. But how can one attain these skills? To start, consider these tips:

 

  1. Use positive words and phrases.

Implementing positive language can start a conversation on the right note.

Communicating what you can do rather than what you cannot instills confidence into customers.

If they know you are capable, then they will be more likely to trust you and listen to what you have to say. A positive frame of mind can help find solutions more quickly and will convey what actions you can accomplish. For example, if a product is back-ordered, tell a customer, “That product will be available next month, and I can place an order for you right now to make sure it is sent as soon as possible,” rather than saying, “I can’t get that product until next month because it is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.” This small difference will inspire faith in your clients and make your customer service second to none.

 

  1. Think about your body language.

Certain gestures can change the tone of your voice. In particular, smiling stimulates your sense of well-being, which lets customers know that you are approachable, trustworthy, and cooperative.

A smile directly influences those around you and adds warmth to your speaking voice.

Furthermore, keep your hands relaxed and your arms comfortable. If you clench your fists or slam your hands on your desk, clients will feel the tension and be less likely to appreciate your service. Think about keeping fresh flowers around because seeing them can lift your spirits and heal your mood and your voice. If the customer is speaking, look like you are listening. Focus on his or her head and torso and face him or her directly. This will communicate that you are engaged and paying attention. Nonverbal communication can directly impact your verbal tone and reception.

 

  1. Make a connection with the customer.

Learning more about a customer can generate more sales in the future. Making a personal connection with clients will engender loyalty, trust, and return service. Also, customers will appreciate your attempts to discover more about them. They will interpret your endeavors as friendly inquiries and will open themselves up to you even more.

Consider asking customers how new products or services are affecting them.

However, avoid spending too much time on this area of customer service. You also need to get to the trouble quickly. One of the keys to customer service is answering questions well. So, learn a little about your clients and then move on to what they would like to know or learn.

 

  1. Speak clearly and politely.

The proper annunciation and emphasis will create a warm tone in your voice. No customer wants to decipher mumbled words or listen to a monotone. Speak slowly and clearly while varying your pitch. Also, think about the volume of your voice. Do not speak too softly or too loudly. Doing all of this will allow your clients to easily hear what you are saying and will leave them satisfied once your conversation is over. Being understood is key to any customer service interaction. Furthermore, a slow, precise manner of speaking will provide a calming message to your clients. The appropriate inflection implies a natural discussion about your services and products.

Whenever you are speaking with a client, be polite. Please and thank you goes a long way to establish a solid base from which you can build a great customer interaction.

If you are still struggling to establish a friendly tone with customers, consider practicing in the mirror or recording yourself.

This will allow you to more readily identify your weaknesses. Once you have recognized your largest weak points, you can practice more efficiently.

 

REMEMBER that customer service communication is always different and is constantly changing. After you have mastered these general tips, be ready to think on your feet, and you will become a customer service expert.

5 More Tips for Improving Attrition At Your Center

InterviewResumeThis is a continuation of the article “5 Tips For Improving Attrition” which appeared on my blog on July 14, 2014.

Recruiting the best agents for your center is a challenge at times and can be expensive as well.  Equally or even more expensive is the cost of losing the agents we have brought on board when many times there are opportunities to turn around the negatives that are causing them to leave.  These are 5 more tips for you to consider:

Attrition Tip #6

Catch them doing something right.

A recent Forester Research report showed that only 31% of organizations recognize and reward employees across the company for improving customer experience. Many of us have rewards and incentives in place for our agents based on reaching targeted goals. Unfortunately, Psych 101 tells us that you get the behaviors you reward. What are we rewarding? Are we looking at monthly goals reached, quarterly goals reached? What about the frontline leaders recognizing agents that are doing great things for the customers every day? This is typically only done through monitoring.

Coaching isn’t an activity that should just happen in a room behind closed doors, but something that should be done out in the center as well to make those agents feel valued.

We need to catch our agents doing something right and let them know about it right away when it happens, instead of waiting until days or weeks later when a report comes out or when it’s time for formal coaching. Unfortunately, that is the cookie cutter coaching that so often happens. Many supervisors are stuck in that repetitive nature of the work. The causes of contact center attrition aren’t just the in repetitive work of the agents but rather in the repetitive work that supervisors do and how they view their role in motivating and helping your agents want to come to work every day.

 

Attrition Tip #7

Recognize efforts, not only perfection.

We know agents love to be rewarded for things. Studies have shown they love getting money, gift card incentives, time off and written recognition. I suggest that supervisors and coaches leave a little surprise thank-you note instead of just sending an email. Kudos like that could be part of a big corporate plan for recognition, but still involves the supervisor taking the time to personally recognize the agent by leaving a little treat or surprise at their desk.

Of course, just stopping desk-side and giving verbal kudos in front of the rest of the group also goes a long way, but the bottom line is that they all want someone to notice their efforts, not just perfection.

If your contests are motivating and rewarding the same top ten people all the time, what is it doing for the rest of the group?

Although you may be rewarding them with a paycheck and they certainly love money, that’s not always the top motivator for people. Some are motivated by money, but some are motivated by other things.

Attrition Tip #8

Give agents opportunity.

They want you to identify them as a growth opportunity for the center, the future leaders for the center or maybe within your company. I often find the coaching that we’re doing involves strictly the customer experience. If this is what we’re doing, we’re really not thinking about leadership qualities that we might identify. Number three on the list of attrition causes is the lack of promotion and leadership opportunity.

What are you offering for your best agents who want new challenges and opportunities with you?

You have opportunities to structure your centers with multiple levels of agents so that your agents can grow within those levels. They can start off on the beginning level and move up through your call center.

 

Attrition Tip #9

Meet the challenges of the 58% of your agents who are now GEN Y.

Contact centers are seeing a change, with a lot of the baby boomers and older agents leaving the workforce. They’re retiring or moving into part-time work. Fifty-eight percent of agents are now GEN Y, and we need to look at the new challenges and opportunities for preventing attrition with them. Understanding how they think about their job and what motivates them and keeps them is critical. This goes back again to a lot of front-line leadership contact, because the daily interactions are where we see the best opportunities for improving attrition. This includes the personal interactions that GEN Y agents are having with your leadership team.

They love when your lecturing turns interactive because they don’t want to just sit there and listen to you talk. They want you asking them for their ideas, their suggestions and their input for your center.

I’m not referring to generic surveys, but rather the supervisors asking them, what have they noticed? What have they heard? How could processes be improved? What about interacting with the customers, what have they noticed? GEN Y agents love that and they will contribute on a regular basis if we just ask.

 

Attrition Tip #10

Explain to Agents the benefits to the customer, to the company and to them.

Gen Y doesn’t want us to just say, “Okay, this is the way you have to do it.” There is now a group of people working in your center who are more interested in what’s going to happen to them and how it’s going to affect the customer and even the company itself because they’re interested in the day-to-day operation of the company. Many of them want to learn more about those things.

How you manage mentoring with this group is also critical because they love to help.

One of my clients recently used mentoring as a motivational tool to get several struggling GEN Y agents to improve their skills. The client told the agents that once they reach a particular skill level they would be able to become mentors. Within a month’s time the agents made the needed improvement. They are now doing great at those skills; they have really successful quality ratings and manage processes and procedures extremely well. They became mentors and they were thrilled to have that opportunity. Looking for ways to offer that mentorship program could provide substantial results.

 

This article is based on a webinar I facilitated for Intradiem and the related article written  for Intradiem’s Blog where I’m featured as one of their Call Center Experts.

5 Tips for Improving Attrition At Your Center

Hope everyone is having a successful summer!  If you follow my blog, you know that I love to write about coaching, front line leaders and customer and agent experience.  The post below is based on an article which appeared on Intradiem’s blog after a webinar I facilitated for them.

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Contact center attrition is not only affecting the bottom line, but it also has an impact on the day-to-day operational success and morale in call centers. Here are 5 tips to help us look at ways to improve agent and front-line leadership communication and attrition.

Attrition Tip #1:

Front-line leadership is key to combat the reasons for contact center attrition

The two top drivers of satisfaction, according to Blessing White’s 2013 Employee Engagement Report, were career development and training. There are opportunities within the contact center to make agents want to come to work.

Surveys consistently show attrition is directly affected by agent feelings of pressure, stress, lack of promotion and development.  Center leaders need to look for ways to combat these negatives

The way supervisors and team leads interact with your agents as coaches, mentors and motivators directly affects agents’ job satisfaction, which in turn is going to affect your contact center attrition.

 

Attrition Tip #2:

Great coaches engage agents and help to retain them

I really have passion about coaching and the benefits that can bring to your call center. We often forget that great coaching will help retain your best agents.

Your agents want to have opportunities to grow, learn and to be appreciated.

Contact center leaders play a key role in doing that; they’re creating a positive atmosphere for your agents to work in. One that helps them not only learn skills they use to create a great experience for customers, but one that helps to develop skills for their career goals within the center and your company, and that’s important. We like when we lose agents for good reasons, such as when they’ve been able to be promoted into other positions in our center or somewhere else within our company. Our front-line supervisors and leaders must develop the skills needed to conduct that type of engagement, coaching and motivation. They also have to personalize it for each of the agents that they’re working with.

 

Attrition Tip #3:

Coach the coaches

Who’s coaching the coaches? That’s the question I often ask when I work with contact centers because we spend a lot of time talking about the agents, but the supervisors and frontline leaders often have no formal contact center leadership training. The question I like to ask is, “What are you doing to develop them?” because they in turn are helping to develop the agents and keep them in your center.

Many of the agents I meet with will tell me that the only time they’re seeing their supervisors or team leads is when there’s something wrong.

Obviously if that’s happening, it’s not going to make a positive place for them to work.

I sometimes hear about supervisors walking agents into a room and telling the agents that they really aren’t happy having to do all this coaching, how busy they are, how it’s taking their time away from other things. How motivating is it for an agent to hear that the time spent with them isn’t important? It should be no surprise when these agents decide to leave. In both examples, agents came forward and said they did not want to work with their supervisor anymore.

Attrition Tip #4:

Do ask, don’t tell.

Unfortunately, telling is a coaching method that a lot of front-line leaders use instead of making development interactive and really finding out what’s driving the behaviors and how they can help that agent.

Some coaches spend a lot of time telling agents what they did wrong

Even worse, I often hear examples of agents receiving emails with scores telling them what they did wrong…there’s no personal contact.

 

Attrition Tip #5:

Power down the quality checklist robots.

Are they sitting there, listening to calls and just checking off yes or no and giving a score?

Are they really listening for that engagement and really listening for the way the agent personally handled engaging with the customer?

One example I heard recently is that an agent was given a failure score on a call because they didn’t ask the customer at the end of the call, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” It turned out in listening to the call again that the agent had heard the customer say at the end of the call, “Well, there’s nothing else I need and thank you so much for your help.” So why would we want quality to negatively score the agent for not repeating what the customer has just said? The customer would have thought it was a crazy question to ask after they had just said there was nothing else.

…In my next post,  I’ll continue with 5 additional tips I for controlling attrition.

This article is based on a webinar I facilitated for Intradiem and the related article written  for Intradiem’s Blog where I’m featured as one of their Call Center Experts.

Catch Phrases Aren’t Winning Customers

FastFoodGuyWe’ve all been there if we travel for business. The desire, when tired from a hectic day, to just get some room service or maybe some take-out from a restaurant nearby our hotel.

I recently facilitated a customer focus group for a client out-of-town, and decided to pick something up to eat after checking into the hotel. I knew the place I wanted to go to as it was a block away and had some quick Tex-Mex food that’s pretty good. The restaurant is part of a chain that has franchise owners.

Apparently, someone in the corporate headquarters of this chain decided that every customer would be welcomed by an employee (or employees) who noticed someone walking in the door. They all use the same phrase, “Welcome to (insert restaurant name)” at every location, franchise or not.

 

Unfortunately, the feeling of welcome is rarely, if ever, present when this phrase is delivered.

Sometimes the staff screams this at you which is scary if you have never visited before. It’s like visiting some clean crazy relative’s house when you were a child and they screamed at you to wipe your feet before coming in the door. You were too scared to question and obeyed. Not sure that this restaurant group is going for this type of experience but it happens nonetheless.

Other times, they may as well have a robot programmed to say it when you step up to order, or perhaps something attached to the door that plays a recording of this phrase when you enter, because the feeling would be the same.

No customer service passion.
No interest in the person standing in front of them.
No welcoming smile.

This is a great example of the disconnect that top execs often have when they lock themselves in a conference room and brainstorm ways to create a fantastic customer experience without understanding or asking customers what makes them feel welcome.

I’ve asked friends and business associates what they think about this chain’s welcome phrase and the responses I received range from “I ignore it” to “I think it’s stupid” to “It’s annoying”. No one tells me that it makes them feel truly welcome or creates a great experience.

An empty phrase isn’t building loyalty. When a competitor with a staff that is sincerely welcoming opens near you, your staff will be more likely to practice an exiting phrase…

“Goodbye”

Guest Post: Making The Switch To VoIP for Your SMB Contact Center

1telephone.jpgMy Guest Post today is from Robert Pepper, Senior Editor at GetVoIP, a comprehensive one-stop hub for VoIP industry news and service provider comparisons. I’ve asked Robert to share VoIP selection tips for SMB (Small to Medium Business) contact center leaders since they often have limited IT resources to assist.  I hope you will benefit from the ideas he’s shared!

The marketplace for VoIP is booming, and competition is fierce for SMB subscribers. Because it is based on computer technology, the hardware will always be improving, and the software of both the calls themselves and complimentary software, such as CRM, is constantly evolving. Your business may not have full-time IT support, so it may be up to you to bring some VoIP options for discussion with the C-suite team. But, with all those choices, how do you best make the best decisions to get the best VoIP provider?

Some things to consider:

 

Check the reliability of the service.

If your phones go down and this is your primary customer channel, your business will be seriously impacted and your agents will spend a lot of time responding to complaints from customers once they are back up

You have to know how to check how reliable a service is. You can do that by checking the web site itself, and it may have an uptime page, where it posts status updates of their network. In addition to reading reviews, you can check their social media pages. If a network goes down, the company will immediately begin fielding tweets and replies about when the network will be up again. If downtime is short or not reported at all, you’re looking at a reliable company.

Another thing to do is ask about guarantees. Some providers have a Service Level Agreement, or SLA. What this means is that if their network goes down for any reason except scheduled maintenance, they have to give you a refund for the service lost. This gives them an incentive to keep their uptime as close to 100% as they can.

 

Know the right phone for your needs and budget.

Many providers are only compatible with certain types of phones, and some even lock phones into their service, just like a cell phone provider. Some providers, on the other hand, are more open to nearly any phone. Although you may be leery of buying a phone from a provider because you can get phones from Amazon or eBay cheaper, a phone from a VoIP provider will come programmed and ready to use.

Unless you have a knowledgeable tech person or tech team, it’s probably a good idea to buy from your provider. Buying from the provider not only ensures the new phone will work from day one, but the provider can cover it under their warranty. Providers may not give you phone support to fix a phone they know nothing about. On a side note, although Polycom and Cisco are the most popular phones, phones from Yealink, snom, and other manufacturers are often just as good.

 

Know your bandwidth requirements.

VoIP is capable of higher quality audio than legacy telephones. That said, you need to have the bandwidth of Fiber or Cable, as opposed to DSL in order to have good sound. Also, the packets going through your network have to have higher priority than non-real time communications like email and loading web pages. This is what’s known as Quality of Service, or QoS. Many VoIP providers request or even require than you have a router that is known to be compatible with VoIP. Some of the highest-end VoIP companies have you order your Internet from them, so that the audio packets go through their “pipes” and have the highest sound quality and most reliable connection. Getting your Internet and VoIP through one provider can be a costly way to go, but it does ensure that as long as you have Internet, you’ll have your phones working.

 

Understand the CRM/Analytics/PBX Software.

There’s more to VoIP than just talking on the phone. Today’s hosted PBX systems are powerful tools that let you communicate internally and externally over video, audio, and text. In addition, the software can collect data and add it to a CRM software like Salesforce. This will eliminate wasted time, provide your agents with “big center” tools, and add to your bottom line.

 

Don’t go by price alone.

While VoIP can be much cheaper than traditional telephony, it also does more. Some let you tailor your features to fit your needs. Going only by what has the lowest or highest price is not the necessarily best barometer to use. Go by the provider that will fit your needs best and their experience with small contact centers.

 

…So when you’re looking for your next phone provider, be sure to go beyond the phone and look at your entire infrastructure. Be sure to do your homework when shopping for a provider, and get the right balance of features and price that is best for your business and your contact center.

 

robert-pepper
Robert Pepper is a senior editor at GetVoIP, and has been a web content producer since 2011. He has an extensive background in researching and reviewing all types of consumer electronics and SMB service solutions.
 
GetVoIP’s blog covers related topics including Cloud Communications, Mobile VoIP, and overall business solutions, offering in-depth analysis and unique insights into the fast-paced field of Cloud Communications.

 

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