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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.


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…


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 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.



scaredmanMany centers are changing their operational model to include methods of generate revenue. For some centers, this may mean using the same service-skilled agents to sell instead of hiring a dedicated inside sales team.

Some customer service agents are less than thrilled at the prospect of selling. They often share their negatives in coaching sessions I participate in. These are few of the more common complaints they’ve shared:


Agent doesn’t see sales as a part of providing great service

This agent doesn’t see sales as a positive thing for a customer. They feel that they are “bothering” the customer by trying to sell other products and services. Some agents have told me that they “hate” being sold to when they themselves call a service center or say they don’t see how selling creates a positive experience for customers. These individuals don’t view selling as an extension of great service, an opportunity to insure the customer has the products and services they may need.


Agent experiences sales as “Flavor of the Month”

Unfortunately I’ve heard this comment multiple times, especially from agents working in smaller centers. They tell me that marketing has an occasional “special” for customers that the agents are expected to discuss at the end of their calls.

Because these are infrequent marketing blitzes, the agents see selling as reading a disinterested script before ending the customer call. When this sales approach is used the agent is doomed to fail because the customer hears their lack of enthusiasm and the sales attempt isn’t personalized to their needs. There is no consistency with both the approach and the skills of the agents.


Agent isn’t given the tools to be successful


Some Agents tell me that there are too many products to cross-sell and they aren’t familiar with many of them. As I watch them search through endless screens to find the product information to discuss during the sales process, I can see why they are concerned.

Worse yet is that the company often sets goals for limited talk time so the agent feels pressured to do a fast sales pitch or none at all. Agents may have no pop-ups with suggested cross-selling products or no photos or interesting descriptions when they do pop up. A customer’s questions are met with “I don’t know…I haven’t seen that (item)”.


It’s easy to blame an agent for sales failure but management needs to take responsibility as well. We need to take a proactive role in creating a positive sales atmosphere for our agents, and also review our job descriptions and hiring expectations if a blend of service and sales will continue for our agents.

What are you doing to insure that your customer service agents are empowered, properly trained and engaged in order to provide a great customer sales experience?


This article was originally posted on Intradiem’s Blog where I’m featured as one of their Call Center Experts.

GUEST POST: 5 Steps to Superior Social Support

Erica Headshot

My Guest Post today is written by my social savvy friend, Erica Strother.  Erica is the Community Specialist at the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI).  Erica actively tweets and posts on LinkedIn about Customer Experience and other contact center topics.  I asked her to share a recent post she wrote in which she shares practical advice on ways to manage the Social Service process.


Customers are now more socially savvy than ever, and they want to communicate with companies through social channels. According to 2013 research conducted by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), 67% of contact center leaders feel that social media is now a NECESSARY customer service channel.

In addition, statistics in a recent report from Software Advice show that

  • 71 percent of those who experience positive social care experience are likely to recommend that brand to others, compared to just 19 percent of customers that do not receive a response
  • Nearly one in three social media users prefer to reach out to a brand for customer service through a social channel compared to the phone


What does this mean for the business world and the contact center? Now is the time to develop (or refine) your social media customer service strategy.

Here are 5 steps that will put your organization on a path towards superior social customer service.

Step 1: Strategy

As with any other new initiative, you need to ensure you have a clear strategy, primarily regarding who should respond to what kinds of messages—marketing or customer support?

Once you’ve established who should respond, you must also consider when to respond, and how to determine which inquiries are most important. It may be impossible to respond to every mention of your brand, but these are key:

        • Urgent Requests
        • Gratitude
        • Negative sentiment
        • FAQ
        • Technical questions

Step 2: Listen

In order to remain competitive, companies must be proactive. It’s critical to listen to what your customers are saying about your brand on social media.

This means not only monitoring brand handle mentions, but also setting up alerts to monitor conversations about your brand, mentions of your competitors, and support indicators. Choose a system to monitor these conversations that is easy to use for agents supporting and provides you with the ability to do the searches for keywords and the robust reporting needed for your business.


Step 3: Triage Your Customer Service Tweets

When not properly organized and delegated, incoming social media inquiries can be overwhelming, and customers can feel neglected.

      • Convert Social Messages in Trouble Tickets
      • Prioritize Messages Based on Sentiment
      • Automatically Re-route if Messages go unanswered
      • Tag messages for other people of departments when appropriate

Essentially, treat social as you would any other customer service channel.


Step 4: Respond and Follow-Up

Once you’ve strategized, listened, and triaged, it is time to respond and react!

      • Respond in a timely manner
      • Don’t give customers the runaround
      • Be human
      • Provide links thoughtfully
      • Always respond publicly

Step 5: Measure

Most contact centers have KPIs in place to measure success in traditional contact channels, and social should not be the exception. So how should you measure success with social media support? A few KPIs to consider:

      • Average Response Time
      • Average Handle Time
      • Percent Response
      • Customer Sentiment

…Are you ready to commit to superior social customer service this year?  Industry experts agree; if you want your business to succeed, it’s no longer an option.


Erica Strother is the Community Specialist at the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) where she helps to manage the editorial content and community assets and engagement for icmi.com. She loves to write, is addicted to Twitter, and is passionate about the convergence of customer service and marketing. Erica is a proud North Carolinian,  frequent traveler, and music enthusiast.  You can tweet her @ens0204 or follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericastrother.

Customer Surveys: Talking or Walking Improvements?

comunicationhornsEverything your customer touches, hears, and sees when they do business with you are “moments of truth” for them. This phrase was a part of Jan Carlzon’s strategy for turning the failing Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) into a profitable enterprise after he took over as CEO in 1981. He was extremely successful due to his dedication to the highest customer service quality and empowerment of his employees to provide great service.

Today, moments of truth are an integral part of our Voice of the Customer or VoC data we gather through feedback processes such as customer surveys. Our surveys help to determine how our people, processes and technology make the customer journey with us:  positive or painful?

As a consultant, I have the opportunity to see many well-designed surveys with great customer response and suggestions received. Unfortunately, I also have had the opportunity to see those great ideas and customer comments sit on someone’s desk in a holding pattern for months.

 What is preventing leaders from moving forward and implementing improvements to the customer experience?

I find that many times we spend way too much time talking about what we should do and then schedule a meeting to rehash it over and over. We become much like the hamster in the wheel, running the same old programs and policies firmly entrenched in our business.

While you may not be able to quickly implement every great idea shared in your surveys, you need to determine which ones will make the most positive impact on your customers and also on the reps working with them. Next look at which can be implementing quickly. Some may be as simple as changing the choices on your phone menu or updating old information on your website to improve self-service.

Once you have decided on your implementations:

  • Share VoC survey results with your contact center, customer service and retail teams who interact with your customers.
  • Set goals for your service and sales teams that reflect your “Customer Centric” focus and make sure that you use technology and that allows each employee working with your customers to know how they measure up to your customers’ expectations.
  • Be sure to mention in your newsletters, website, statements, the feedback you’ve taken action on to show customers that you not only listened for their feedback, but you made the improvements they asked for
  • Provide training for your customer facing reps and agents who are responsible for improving customer satisfaction. Why spend thousands on technology and phone systems and then spend little to nothing on the people talking with your customers everyday?
  • Reward employees who help you reach goals for customer engagement and improvements in your customer satisfaction

Taking action and actively moving forward to implement change is what truly makes VoC work.

Is your customer survey just talking or really walking the customer experience improvement journey?


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