Call Center Workforce

Happy Employees, Happy Customers

Contributed article by Renaud Charvet, CEO of Ringover

~ The secret to unlocking both employee and customer satisfaction ~

United States businessman Harry Gordon Selfridge was one of the first influential people to triumph the phrase “the customer is always right”. A saying that’s traced back to the late 1800s and still valued today, keeping customers happy is key. But ensuring customer happiness requires a domino effect — starting with employee satisfaction. Here, Renaud Charvet, CEO of business telephony provider Ringover, explains how the right business technology can enhance employee satisfaction and improve customer experience. 

Good customer experience starts with good employee experience. When employees aren’t happy at work, their interactions with customers suffer as a result, which can have detrimental repercussions for a business and its reputation.

The impact of employees on customers

Delivering good customer service has never been more crucial. A PwC survey examining customer experience found that in the United States, even when people love a company or product, over half will walk away after several bad experiences, and 65 per cent believing a positive experience is more influential than great advertising.

While companies must acknowledge the importance of delivering good service, they should also understand the pressure this can place on their teams. The Microsoft 2022 Work Trend Index, a study of more than 30,000 employees across 31 countries, predicts that over 40 per cent of the workforce is contemplating leaving their current jobs in the coming year. The main reason why? They feel their workload is unreasonable.

Call centers  

Contact and call centers often have a reputation for being high-stress workplaces. Widely associated with workers being monitored electronically, having tightly controlled schedules and taking an average of 50 calls a day, call centers can be challenging work environments if employees don’t receive sufficient support.

In 2021, almost 300,000 agents were employed, with most centers located in Texas, Florida and California. According to data from Cornell University, almost 90 per cent of employees in call centers report high-stress levels. A further 50 per cent of the agents surveyed said they felt emotionally drained, suffered sleep problems and experienced burnout. Combined, these issues can be a dangerous cocktail for employee dissatisfaction.

What’s more, research from Avaya found that 60 per cent of agents think their companies don’t always provide the technology they need to address customer service challenges, with 34 per cent admitting they don’t have the right data in front of them when speaking with a customer. So how can call center managers help?

Tech is here to help

Giving call center agents the tools to make their jobs easier will undoubtedly lead to less stress, greater employee satisfaction and a better experience all round. This should start with a good customer relationship management (CRM) strategy — which is the blueprint for how a business will maintain the relationship between its customers and its customer service teams. It encompasses all the activities, strategies and technologies a business needs manage interactions with existing and prospective customers.

With a third of agents without the right data in front of them when speaking to a customer, having the right CRM for your business is key to turning this around. Consolidating data into one central location, meaning tasks can be completed more efficiently and with confidence when addressing the customer, will assist employees in meeting deadlines and managing their workload — reducing stress and granting better job satisfaction.

However, to unlock the full potential of a CRM system, it must easily integrate with other vital business applications. Ringover can integrate with multiple CRM systems to offer businesses more than just a telephony system, meaning any area of a business can unite its communications technology with its CRM software. In doing so, companies can match the tools they need to communicate with their customers, with the tools that help them build relationships and work more effectively.  

With customers prepared to leave a brand after just a few bad experiences, businesses must pay attention to the impact low employee satisfaction can have on the customer experience. Businesses must invest in their employees by providing them with all the tools possible to make their jobs as efficient as possible and improve satisfaction.

About Ringover: A leader in cloud communications, Ringover seamlessly combines unlimited calling, group messaging and video conferencing into one easy-to-use app. No expertise is needed to set up and integrates with your CRM or helpdesk tools. Within a few clicks, you’ve gained access to all the data you need to enhance your call centre or sales team’s performance and boost customer engagement.

What They Say When They Think You’re Not Listening

GlassesUSA, when it comes to customer service, you get whatever is worse than F. You don’t get a B for Bi**h or a C for C**t, which are two names I was called by your agents on the phone.

When it comes to customer service, I am no stranger.

I have moderated and produced hundreds, if not thousands of webinars even before webcast software existed. Yes, we actually had to fax directions to audience members.

When we started CrmXchange almost 30 years ago and discussed best practices for the contact center, three items were nonnegotiable:  

  1. Treat customer with respect and the way you would want to be treated
  2. Teach agents how to use technology correctly
  3. Try, if possible, to solve the customer issue on the first contact 

Sounds simple enough, right? For some, yes. Recently I had very positive experiences with three companies: Spectrum, Verizon and Cablevision.  Each issue was handled on a phone professionally and quickly.  The phone was answered within 1 minute, and agents from each company solved my issue within 10 minutes. 

Enter: GlassesUSA

I have ordered many glasses from GlassesUSA over the past 5 years with no issue. Their costs are reasonable, and their customer service is typically good, that is, until last month.

I ordered two pairs of glasses; one came in wrong (both the frames and the prescription) and one pair was returned to sender. Ok, we all make mistakes. Surely, I can just get in touch with the company to get it resolved, right?

Wrong. So very wrong.

Chapter 1: 1-800-Unavailable

“1-844-244-1186 All Day Every Day 24/7” is what it says on the website, but when called, you’re referred to chat. Okay… I guess I’ll chat.

I had to chat in multiple times, each less successful than the previous attempt. Finally, exasperated, I called and talked to a sales agent, who is the only person I could reach on the phone (is anyone surprised that the revenue-generated stream is the only one that could be reached?).

The sales agent promised he would take care of the issue. He didn’t. Back to chat.

While on chat, I let them know I was an unhappy customer and had no one to talk to. The agent let me know that they no longer have agents to talk on the phone because “the chat resolves most of our issues”. Well, it didn’t.

Each chat led to an agent telling me that a different department would be “sending me an email” in a few days.

So, I took to twitter. As companies have trained us so well, when we can’t get satisfaction, we tweet.

glassesusa tweet
Finally that evening, I got a call from a GlassesUSA customer service agent. Rejoice! I told the agent the issue, and he profusely apologized and ask to put me on hold.

He put me on hold.

Or so he thought.

Chapter 2: Am I being punked?

The conversation I overheard went like this:

Representative: “I have a bi**h on the phone.  She’s tweeting about us all over the internet. Can you talk to this bi**h?”

Supervisor: “I was getting ready to leave but if you need me to talk to this fu****g c**t, then I will.”

Now, I was ready to forgive “bi***h”. Let’s face it, I was frustrated, and I suppose I can be less than favorable when I get upset. But as someone in the customer service in industry for well over 20 years, I thought this had to be a prank.

I hung up.

The original rep called back to see if everything was “taken care of”.  When I told him no, that the issue has gotten worse, he said he would put me through to the supervisor’s manager.

He put me on hold.

Or so he thought. Again.

Chapter 3: Oops, I Did it Again.

The conversation went like this.

Representative: “I have a bi**h on the phone”

Manager: “It’s the person [agent] told me about. Don’t worry, I erased the recording. There is no proof of the conversation.”

Representative: “I erased my recording too”

I have since tried to link it to GlassesUSA CMO and placed a call to the CEO.  As of this time I have not heard  back.

If there are any takeaways from this story, they are these: 

  1. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear – you never know who is listening.
  2. While it may be (very) challenging at times, treat customers with respect.
  3. Learn the technology.
  4. Provide a channel that the customer wants; not just what is saving costs for your company.
  5. It is easier to resell a customer than to sell a new customer.  Not only will I never purchase from them again, I tell everyone of my experience (here!).
  6. As a CEO, you are not too big to hear what a customer has to say.  Fish smells from the head down.  

GlassesUSA, when it comes to customer service, you get whatever is worse than F. You don’t get a B for Bi**h or a C for C**t, which are two names I was called by your agents on the phone.

When it comes to customer service, I am no stranger.

I have moderated and produced hundreds, if not thousands of webinars even before webcast software existed. Yes, we actually had to fax directions to audience members.

When we started CrmXchange almost 30 years ago and discussed best practices for the contact center, three items were non-negatable:  

  1. Treat customer with respect and the way you would want to be treated
  2. Teach agents how to use technology correctly
  3. Try, if possible, to solve the customer issue on the first contact 

Sounds simple enough, right? For some, yes. Recently I had very positive experiences with three companies: Spectrum, Verizon and Cablevision.  Each issue was handled on a phone professionally and quickly.  The phone was answered within 1 minute, and agents from each company solved my issue within 10 minutes. 

Enter: GlassesUSA

I have ordered many glasses from GlassesUSA over the past 5 years with no issue. Their costs are reasonable, and their customer service is typically good, that is, until last month.

I ordered two pairs of glasses; one came in wrong (both the frames and the prescription) and one pair was returned to sender. Ok, we all make mistakes. Surely, I can just get in touch with the company to get it resolved, right?

Wrong. So very wrong.

Chapter 1: 1-800-Unavailable

“1-844-244-1186 All Day Every Day 24/7” is what it says on the website, but when called, you’re referred to chat. Okay… I guess I’ll chat.

I had to chat in multiple times, each less successful than the previous attempt. Finally, exasperated, I called and talked to a sales agent, who is the only person I could reach on the phone (is anyone surprised that the revenue-generated stream is the only one that could be reached?).

The sales agent promised he would take care of the issue. He didn’t. Back to chat.

While on chat, I let them know I was an unhappy customer and had no one to talk to. The agent let me know that they no longer have agents to talk on the phone because “the chat resolves most of our issues”. Well, it didn’t.

Each chat led to an agent telling me that a different department would be “sending me an email” in a few days.

So, I took to twitter. As companies have trained us so well, when we can’t get satisfaction, we tweet.

glassesusa tweet
Finally that evening, I got a call from a GlassesUSA customer service agent. Rejoice! I told the agent the issue, and he profusely apologized and ask to put me on hold.

He put me on hold.

Or so he thought.

Chapter 2: Am I being punked?

The conversation I overheard went like this:

Representative: “I have a bi**h on the phone.  She’s tweeting about us all over the internet. Can you talk to this bi**h?”

Supervisor: “I was getting ready to leave but if you need me to talk to this fu****g c**t, then I will.”

Now, I was ready to forgive “bi***h”. Let’s face it, I was frustrated, and I suppose I can be less than favorable when I get upset. But as someone in the customer service in industry for well over 20 years, I thought this had to be a prank.

I hung up.

The original rep called back to see if everything was “taken care of”.  When I told him no, that the issue has gotten worse, he said he would put me through to the supervisor’s manager.

He put me on hold.

Or so he thought. Again.

Chapter 3: Oops, I Did it Again.

The conversation went like this.

Representative: “I have a bi**h on the phone”

Manager: “It’s the person [agent] told me about. Don’t worry, I erased the recording. There is no proof of the conversation.”

Representative: “I erased my recording too”

I have since tried to link it to GlassesUSA CMO and placed a call to the CEO.  As of this time I have not heard  back.

If there are any takeaways from this story, they are these: 

  1. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear – you never know who is listening.
  2. While it may be (very) challenging at times, treat customers with respect.
  3. Learn the technology.
  4. Provide a channel that the customer wants; not just what is saving costs for your company.
  5. It is easier to resell a customer than to sell a new customer.  Not only will I never purchase from them again, I tell everyone of my experience (here!).
  6. As a CEO, you are not too big to hear what a customer has to say.  Fish smells from the head down.  

While I can’t know, I can image the type of culture at GlassesUSA that lets people think its ok to talk the way they do – then cover it up is pervasive.

While I can’t know, I can image the type of culture at GlassesUSA that lets people think its ok to talk the way they do – then cover it up is pervasive.

12 Best Tips for Effective Contact Center Management

Contibuted Article by Ravi Soni 

Top tips for effective contact center management 

Influential administrators in the call centre business must remain acquainted with every element of their industry, lead by example, and operate within confined budgets that can be overpowering. However, you can better manage your call centre with these effective tips below. 

So let’s get started, shall we?

1. Comprehensively onboard and train your agents

Even after hiring suitable agents, your job as a manager is never done. Rather it has just started. According to a report, around 87% of employees in a call center believe that training and development are important in the workplace. It begins with a comprehensive onboarding process, self-assessment, periodic training, and monitoring throughout their job span with the contact center.

In addition, both star agents and poor performers require comprehensive onboarding training. However, the only difference is how frequently you conduct your onboarding training and the strategic emphasis of the training. 

For instance, training for poor performers should always remain focused on negative client feedback and QA scorecard assessments. Furthermore, using performance data, you should concentrate your actions on which aptitudes need progress and provide them with training to fill those learning gaps

2. Employ the right agents 

Contact Center managers are only as effective as the workforce behind them. Therefore, it is imperative to employ suitable  agents who possess the required hard and soft aptitudes to accomplish their job. It demands the managers put much of their energy and time into the recruitment process when scanning resumes, checking references, and interviewing. 

Furthermore, managers should concentrate on employing a workforce that exemplifies client assistance soft skills such as initiative, adaptability, teamwork, compassion, virtue, problem-solving, communication aptitudes, and emotional intelligence. 

While these aptitudes are challenging to gauge, they are the most reasonable indicators of success within every call center. The key is to create the list of aptitudes most required within your workforce and then employ agents who maintain these required attributes.

3. Concentrate on Employee Engagement

An engaged workforce is a happy workforce. Such a workforce is more productive, innovative, motivated, and loyal and is more likely to remain associated with your contact center for a long time. For example, a successful call center management team always emphasizes employee attention as the core focus of their administration strategy, and they: 

  • Deliver exact expectations, including objectives and KPIs, so your agents understand what they are working toward in the organization.
  • Help their agents’ actions through onboarding, tools, and training.
  • Present routine feedback—both negative and positive.
  • Listen to the call center agents’ feedback, letting their opinions be heard during the decision-making process. 
Ravi image 2

4. Guarantee Appropriate Scheduling For Effective Management

Operating in a call center is challenging. That pressure can impact your employees. So the point they start to feel overworked, their ability to function at a high-level decreases. That’s where appropriate scheduling comes into the picture. Providing your employees adequate rest to refresh and refocus can guarantee that your clients obtain the best service.

However, planning a downtime can be challenging to schedule even for a small team. For instance, to ensure the maximum efficiency for your call center, it is prudent to factor in employee ability, peak and low hours, employee availability, and numerous others. It can assist you in turning the scheduling into a full-time job by using the most suitable tools available for time tracking.

5. Build a highly communicative call center

For effective management of your center, it is essential to maintain a holistic communication style. Also, as a manager, you must build ample opportunities to discuss your agent’s performance and objectives. By creating a communicative call center management approach, you provide your agents with an outlet to communicate their thoughts and allow you to share your thoughts and opinions on their work performance.

6. Regularly QA your agents’ calls 

Regularly QA your agents’ calls. Listening to the recordings of your agents’ calls will allow you to evaluate your workforce’s strengths and weaknesses to manage the call center better. 

By executing a QA (Quality Analysis) compliance, you can prioritize your calls based on agents’ performance. And with this, you can emphasize which client-centric actions accomplished favorable outcomes and which failed. So we can say that the definitive objective of listening to your agents’ calls is to assess if your client service agents are fulfilling client experience goals. 

7. Evaluate call center QA every day

If you aspire to understand how to handle a call center efficiently, you must initially comprehend how you function, which requires day-to-day quality assurance. This routine quality assurance helps you evaluate your leaders, agents, and clients’ performance at your call center.  

In this way, you can decide what changes are required and where. It offers you a beginning point for progress. You can evaluate every communication in real-time with the help of a streamlined internal quality validation process.

8. Regularly engage with customers, passives, promoters, and detractors

As a manager, you might incorrectly think you don’t have to engage with your clients unless something goes amiss and your intervention is required. Nevertheless, that’s not the point at all. One of the most crucial supervisor skills is replying to positive and negative customer feedback, and you must: 

  • Follow up with the promoters to thank them for their commitment and exhibit your company’s persistent dedication to their delight.
  • Get in touch with detractors and passives to understand how your call center workforce could enhance their efforts to better fulfill the customers’ requirements. 

9. Focus on the data and track KPIs

Reliable data must support decision-making. As a manager it  is imperative to remain familiar with your call center’s most crucial performance metrics based on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and employ that data to understand your processes. The key is to estimate accurate information based on your company’s strategic goals and objectives. In addition, within your strategic call center information framework, you should use a tool that provides information on: 

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) metrics
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSat) indicators
  • Call abandonment
  • Average handling time
  • Call resolution
  • Crucial KPIs as delineated by your QA strategy 

10. Give targeted feedback to your workforce

Periodic quality-of-service review is crucial for the prosperous working of any contact center. Take some time to give feedback on your employee performance and then remain ready to take some feedback for workplace improvement. 

11. Delegate duties to your workforce

 It is easy for call center managers to get caught up in the precise details of the job. Nevertheless, numerous small jobs need to get accomplished for a  center to operate efficiently.

There are a lot of high-level strategic decisions that you must take to keep your center running at its best. It is better to delegate some duties to your workforce so you can better concentrate on issues that demand urgent attention. 

12. Always remain on top of your managerial tasks

 As a call center manager, you strive hard to make your call center operate smoothly.Hence, it is equally important to take out time for things like calculating profit margin,  managing timesheets, training, and project planning as it will offer a solid foundation for your team to work on. 

The Bottom Line 

To sum up, we can say that with the right technology and tools and following some effective tips above, you can better manage your contact center to improve your customer service. By following these tips, you can provide your agents with everything they require to effectively and efficiently perform their tasks. If you are looking for cutting-edge call center management tools, there are many leading online platforms that offer comprehensive solutions that will help you offer exceptional client service, better agent satisfaction, and improved productivity.  For reference, start with the CrmXchange Vendor Directory.

2 Out of 3 Agents Want to Change Their Script

Contributed by Balto

At their best, call scripts provide agents with a way to guide their call in a consistent and clear way to achieve optimal call outcomes. Scripts or talk tracks are meant to provide avenues for agents to respond to objections and provide a top-notch customer experience. At their worst, however, they can be prescriptive, clunky, and impersonal.

That being said, scripts remain one of the widely used tools in today’s contact centers, so how can we make them better? Balto, for example, reimagines scripts as dynamic, data-driven Playbooks that only surface talking points to agents when they need them — no memorization needed.

But what about the remainder of the contact center industry that still relies on traditional scripts? The Conversation Excellence Lab conducted a survey of 568 agents to discover what they thought about their script, how often they adhered to it, and more.

We asked agents: What, if anything, would you change about your script? 

Approximately 64% of agents wanted to change their script, whether with something as specific as changing the phrases they use to open a call, or as broad as the general tone and vocabulary throughout. 34% of these respondents wanted to change the length of their script, followed by 17% who wanted to improve the overall naturalness and tone, and 17% who wanted their script to be more flexible and dynamic.

These numbers are telling on their own, but an analysis of agent script-writing involvement, agent tenure, and industry differences better illustrates novel trends within these answers.

Agent Involvement with Script Writing 

While the majority of agents want to change something about their script, 36% do not. That is not a low number. More than one third of agents would not make a change to their script if given the opportunity.

Agent involvement is a major mediator in this number. We asked agents how involved they are on a scale of 1-5 in writing or updating their script, and agents who reported the lowest involvement in writing their company’s script (2.19) were the most likely to want to change everything about it. Those agents who reported wanting to change nothing at all about their script had the highest rate of involvement (3.53).

Interestingly, the next highest category in terms of script involvement belonged to those who said they wanted more ownership over their company’s script (3.5). This suggests that involvement begets more involvement. Once agents are given the opportunity to provide feedback on their script, they want to keep doing so, perhaps in increasing amounts.

This is a good thing. It shows initiative, buy-in, and an ownership mentality, all of which lend themselves to better performance and retention outcomes. To better understand other factors that impact agent attrition, check out our 2022 Attrition Report.

The Effect of Agent Tenure 

Those agents who had been at their contact center the longest were most likely to want to make their script more flexible or dynamic, followed by making the tone more natural. This makes logical sense: The longer that an agent has worked for a company, the more they’ve internalized the call script. But more than that, they’ve also had opportunities to uncover their own best practices and objection responses.

Giving more tenured agents flexibility to sway from their script or respond dynamically to customer objections is, then, an apt method to increase agent satisfaction with their script and otherwise. Read more about agent tenure and satisfaction in our recent report.

Those agents who had been at their job for the least amount of time were most concerned with changing the length of their script, perhaps because they were in the mindset of learning or memorizing it rather than evaluating its contents.

After script length, agents with lower tenure were most likely to list “everything” as a response to what they would change about their script. They may resent the presence of the script to begin with, both as an aspect of their training and as something they are evaluated on in their new role, or they may not understand the reasoning yet behind different aspects of it.

Industry Differences in Sentiment Towards Script 

In terms of industry, which agents thought their scripts were the best-suited? 50% of our respondents in the Home Improvement industry reported wanting to change nothing in their script, followed by 42% of those in Collections and 39% in Constructions.

On the other end, only 9% of respondents in Travel & Hospitality reported that there was nothing to change about their script, followed by 20% in Utilities and Healthcare, and 21% in Professional Services, Financial Services, and Insurance.

This is just a sample of the population and scripts vary widely both within industries and across them. However, there are still insights to be gleaned from these numbers.

Industries like Home Improvement, Collections, and Construction lend themselves to more predictable calls, and therefore more straightforward scripts. Home Improvement and Construction calls generally seek to either provide customer support or set up appointments, while Collections is concerned with collecting funds.

On the other hand, Travel & Hospitality contact centers may see a plethora of call types: bookings or reservations, cancellations, service issues and other complaints, sales, concierge-type services, general questions, and more.

It may be more difficult to align a script with all of these disparate scenarios, leaving more room for improvement from the agent’s point of view. This variety can be found in Utilities, Healthcare, Professional Services, Financial Services, and Insurance as well.

As our surveyed agents pointed out, there are a lot of areas where a script can go wrong, from being too lengthy and prescriptive to being too narrow and not relevant to the caller’s concerns.

Although we have our own take on scripting at Balto, there is no denying that traditional scripts remain widely used across the industry. While it’s true that the majority of agents want to change their script, this number varies depending on their involvement in writing or editing it, their tenure, and the industry within which they operate.

How do managers adjust accordingly?

If you employ a script, take into account agent feedback about its length, tone and naturalness, and how flexible or dynamic it allows agents to be. Make sure to check in with agents — especially those who have been at your contact center for multiple years — and involve them in the script-creation process. Regularly source feedback and refine your script based on the measures above (Figure 1) to ensure that your agents are not among those who express discontent.

Subscribe to Conversation Excellence Lab reports here.

Why the Customer Service Industry Needs to Embrace Virtual Reality

When it comes to customer service, the industry is in a major shift to more digital tools and features. While you can still hop on the phone and call someone for help, the customer service industry is embracing technology and new channels of enhanced experience unlike ever before.

One of the most promising areas of expansion for customer service companies is virtual reality. While the exciting technology might not sound like it’s a natural fit for the world of customer service, utilizing a VR app to provide an expanded customer service experience is proving to be a major boost for companies coming out of the pandemic and planning for the future. Here’s why the industry needs to embrace virtual reality as a new norm. 

The Future of Customer Service is Contactless

When we think of exceptional customer service, our minds tend to go to a begotten time of face-to-face specialized and personalized experiences. While the personal touch is certainly an influential aspect of customer service in 2021, the in-person experience is no longer a necessary element to a great interaction. Much of customer service is going contactless. Thanks to things like chat features and in-browser phone service, most of our experiences take place virtually nowadays. 

Still, the chat boxes and phone calls lack the certain personalized experience we still crave. This is where virtual reality fits in quite nicely for the needs of the customer service industry. A large number of industries that rely on customer service elements can benefit from embracing VR. By using virtual rooms to interact with customers, companies are able to build a more meaningful connection in these interactions and arrive at conclusions or solutions more quickly. 

WIth virtual spaces, we don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything as a consumer. You’re still able to get a face-to-face experience that is embedded in a digital environment that offers easy access to tools and resources that might be related to the inquiry or question at hand. Likewise, VR provides companies an option for proactive customer service that can enhance shopping and searching interactions in a big way.

Offering More Options to Users for Proactive Customer Service

Customer service in the digital world is more than just fielding complaints and questions. VR offers companies the option to enhance the customer experience as a means of providing better service. Everything from virtual reality spaces for digital showrooms to using VR to interact with products from home can help make customers feel more knowledgeable and prepared to make a purchase. 

Believe it or not, the brick and mortar experience we value for being a superior standard for customer interactions can be recreated to great effect in the virtual reality space. Customers love VR peripherals for shopping. New options like Walmart’s VR shopping experience can mimic the best parts of in-person interactions between customers and a business but provide the additional benefits of digital technology.

The best of both worlds is possible for customers thanks to VR customer enhancements. The same goes for employees who also play a vital role in the customer service process. 

Building a Better Customer Experience By Enhancing Employee Satisfaction with VR

Lastly, it’s worth noting that great customer service is only possible when employees are satisfied and fulfilled with their working experience. VR’s impact on employee satisfaction within customer service can be just as impactful as focusing on what the customer needs. 

When it comes to using VR to focus on employees, things like putting these advanced tools in their hands can increase their effectiveness. These resources help to give employees more solutions at their disposal to ensure they’re set up for success. By doing this, you’re not only taking advantage of the points listed above that focus on the customer experience. Employees that have access to VR for their roles in the customer engagement process are better suited to uphold a company’s values and vision for great service. 

Utilizing VR in customer service is a vital step in the evolution of what the industry is capable of accomplishing. Making steps now to embrace the technology means putting a new standard on the treatment and service of industries that spread across all of the working and professional world. 

Make Sure that Customers, Agents and Managers Can Navigate the New Normal… and Beyond

At first, it seemed like a sudden squall, roiling every channel in which companies do business. Customer service leaders hung on to the till for dear life to weather what they thought to be a temporary tempest that would soon take them to calmer waters. As time continues to go by, some elements have stabilized a bit, but it is clear we are dealing with a sea change in the way businesses of all sizes need to deliver a consistently superior customer experience.

While successful organizations will navigate the wave of transformation in the workplace, those that continue to do business as usual will flounder along the way. But what defines the demarcation line between simply treading water and charting an informed course? It involves leveraging strategies and CX solutions that enable their workforce to adapt, their customers to have their needs met, and their businesses to thrive.

It has become more critical than ever to listen more carefully to what customers are saying. Updating the contact center by taking advantage of AI and automation capabilities which provide a powerful resource to uncover insights and opportunities for optimizing customer service. Intelligent use of these technologies enables on-the-fly research to better comprehend changing dynamics and new pain points as well as determine innovative approaches to address them. CX leaders who effectively apply AI and automation will create value for consumers. Companies that can create seamless   interactions between assisted self-service and a hybrid workforce will have a distinct competitive   advantage in an environment where customers often struggle to reach businesses.

A study last year in the Harvard Business Review found that the average American consumer spends 13 hours a year stuck on hold trying to resolve problems. The study also revealed that disgruntled customers who need to make two or more calls to resolve their issue, often simply just give up. More than three-quarters of consumers come away “less than satisfied” with a company’s customer service. In many cases, companies set up their customer service operations to make it more difficult for irate customers to gain satisfaction.

One vital way to diminish growing frustration levels is to ensure that front-line personnel are fully engaged and empowered to effectively answer customer calls. This entails both giving them the right knowledge management tools to do their jobs as well as providing employees and supplemental remote workers the real-time assistance necessary to collaborate with each other from multiple locations.

Maintaining compliance in the face of rapidly changing regulations and diverse team locations is also an important element in staying afloat. But how can managers ensure the proper procedures are being followed in a time when they have far less oversight into the daily activities of their agents?

Improved capabilities to listen to customer conversations via AI and automation…engaging and empowering the workforce to optimize productivity and responsiveness…being vigilant about keeping compliance with a staff situated in diverse locations These are the three cornerstones of navigating the new normal and thriving in the time beyond the pandemic.  Customer engagement and cyber intelligence specialists Verint will present a series of three in-depth webcasts on these crucial areas spaced over a one-month period on CrmXchange.

Entitled “Modern Solutions and Best Practices to Make Life Easier for Agents, Managers, and Customers,” the series will kick off on Tuesday, September 29th at 1:00 PM ET with a session on “AI Powered Analytics Drive Exceptional CX with Human and Digital Channels” which will examine such vital issues as:

  • Determining what types of issues cause the most customer frustration, and how to fix them
  • How businesses can see a unified view of their customer service across channels
  • How can you understand your customer and user intents to drive a successful self-service strategy?

It will be presented by Daniel Ziv, VP, Speech and Text Analytics – Global Product Strategy, Verint and Tracy Malingo, SVP of Product Strategy, Verint.  Daniel has extensive expertise in helping companies achieve significant ROI by improving performance and quality, while enhancing customer engagement. Tracy has an extensive background in strategic and operational vision on conversational AI, having also served as president of NextAI, where she was instrumental in guiding the technology into the mainstream. Register now

The second presentation, “Empowering the Workforce and Maximizing Productivity” will take place on Tuesday, October 13 at 1:oo PM ET. It will focus on making sure that both remote and in-person representatives have everything they need to fulfill their roles as the face of an organization. Among the topics covered will be

  • How to keep employees engaged by giving them the right tools to effectively do their jobs
  • Ensuring that employees have the opportunity to collaborate with each other from multiple locations
  • Providing real-time assistance to help the growing number of work-from-home agents answer customer calls effectively.

The speakers are consummate professionals: John Chmaj, Sr. Practice Director, Knowledge Management, Verint Global Consulting Services, is a seasoned veteran in the KM field. He has worked in all phases of the customer support process, including telephone and online support, technical writing, applications development, and worldwide knowledge systems design. He will be joined by Jon Allen, VP & GM, Communities & Web Self-Service, Verint. Register now for this session.

The final webcast in the series “Ensuring Compliance in the New Normal” is set for Tuesday, October 27 at 1:00PM ET. It will examine the emerging disciplines involved in effectively maintaining compliance with teams now scattered across diverse locations where it is often more difficult to keep track of what agents are doing on a day-to-day basis. Attendees will learn how to:

  • Take a proactive approach by making it easy for a company’s agents to consistently follow the correct processes
  • Monitor employees’ activities and productivity even when they are working remotely
  • Ensure the company can capture, store, and analyze the interaction data necessary to prove compliance and investigate issues

This important how-to presentation will be delivered by Verint’s Directors of Content Marketing, Kelly Koellicker and Iain Dawes. Kelly’s focus on contact center workforce engagement solutions, coupled with Iain’s extensive expertise on compliance and ability to tell comprehensible, engaging stories covering a wider variety of subject matter will make for an entertaining and informative session. Register now for this session

Register for all three for this transformational webcast series. If you are unable to attend any of the live webcasts, a link to the recording will be posted within 24 hours after the presentation.

Adapting Workforce Optimization to Meet the Rapidly Changing Priorities of Contact Center Operations

In normal times, workforce optimization is a business approach that utilizes advanced contact center technologies to improve customer experience while boosting overall operational efficiency. WFO includes…but is not limited to…automating processes, creating greater data visibility, ensuring compliance, performance management, recording, surveying, eLearning, speech analytics and solving staff-related business problems.

Now, businesses and government agencies are either requiring employees to work from home or redirecting call traffic to employees in less affected regions to handle spikes in interaction volume during the COVID-19 outbreak. Of course, this has led to additional considerations in terms of people and priorities, such as:

  • Increasing the focus on risk assessment and controls
  • Greater emphasis on employee communications, policies, and messaging to ensure that front-line personnel are kept abreast of all pertinent facts
  • Updating QA monitoring and reporting procedures to incorporate the activities of an elevated number of remote workers
  • Improving agility and flexibility while enhancing agent empathy

With the non-stop changes everyone is currently experiencing—constant uncertainty about what might happen in the immediate future, shifting schedules for work and school, caring for family members and overriding concerns about ongoing health risks—employees are often exhausted by the effort required to simply maintain a sense of consistency in their lives.

This rapidly evolving scenario is spurring a greater sense of urgency for businesses to promote employee engagement and prevent morale from cratering among both remote and premise-based agents. Companies are creating policies on the fly to make necessary adjustments during the transition. Among the strategies to be addressed are minimizing uncertainty by more meticulous tracking of outcomes to better predict results. Agents also need to be given higher degree of empowerment. This can be abetted by ensuring they are equipped with the tools and information necessary to do their jobs.

Taking the necessary steps to stabilize and improve workforce performance during the current crisis will be outlined on Tuesday, July 7th at 1:00 pm ET. CrmXchange offers a complimentary roundtable webcast on Best Practices for Workforce Optimization. It will highlight proven approaches and actionable insights to help optimize efficiency in contact center environments.  Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • Using WFO tools to help agents safely make the return to the office
  • Managing hybrid workforce of remote and onsite workers
  • Incorporating regional COVID-19 related safety regulations into business practices
  • Spending time wisely – Establishing more frequent touchpoints to ensure agents continue to feel connected
  • Keeping agents motivated by sharing successes and reward achievements

The roundtable will feature presentations from two experts from leading WFO solution providers. Rich Correia, Director of Product Marketing, NICE will share his expertise in deploying the right products to meet changing need. Kelly Koelliker, Director, Content Marketing for Verint will provide insight on adapting the most effective contact center workforce engagement solutions.

Register now for this targeted and topical roundtable discussion. For those who can’t attend the live session, a link to the webcast will be posted 24 hours after it has been completed.

Meeting the New Challenges of Employee Training, Coaching and Engagement

Since the contact center agent is the face and voice that often defines a company in the eyes of existing and potential customers, workforce recruiting must focus on identifying vital traits, skills, and abilities in individuals. But even when those who meet the highest qualifications are put in place, they must be trained, continuously coached, and kept actively engaged to be successful.

Companies which can recruit and retain qualified and motivated front-line personnel are positioned to operate more efficiently while building customer loyalty. According to a McKinsey report, “Failure to keep talented employees can have significant repercussions… attrition can erode customer satisfaction while increasing operating costs. Each new agent hire is estimated to cost the contact center $10,000 to $20,000 in training, direct recruiting costs, and lost productivity during ramp up.”

Taking every step to keep top performers onboard is now more critical than ever. Although many consumers have become comfortable with online self-service tools, once they decide to call into the contact center the issues are almost always more complicated to resolve. Since people are already frustrated at being unable to find answers on other channels, they are on edge from the moment when an agent picks up the call.

This dilemma has only grown more acute during a crisis in which many customers are already panicked. According to a recent blog on CrmXchange by Uniphore, 60% of consumers said they were given different or conflicting information on current conditions from the news, leaving more questions than answers. Adding more fuel to the fire is that customers are often faced with longer wait times as companies adapt to a new wave of work-at-home agents. Nearly 40% who were put on hold with a company after calling about crisis-related issues stated that they were annoyed or frustrated.

Further McKinsey research suggests a need for companies to take a proactive stance when interacting with their contact-center employees by focusing on engagement and finding ways to increase their comfort and happiness wherever they are working. They found a startling difference in outcomes. Engaged and satisfied call-center employees are:

  • 8.5x more likely to stay than leave within a year
  • 4x more likely to stay than dissatisfied colleagues
  • 16x more likely to refer friends to their company
  • 3.3x more likely to feel extremely empowered to resolve customer issues

So how does a company ensure that these valuable assets are happier and more productive? Actions in three areas can have a major impact– targeted coaching, employment of updated training techniques and applying proven strategies to enhance employee engagement —and they are available for all contact centers to take.

A focused educational alternative now makes it possible for a business’s entire workforce planning team to benefit from the latest innovative thinking without ever having to take so much as a step away from their home offices.

CrmXchange is presenting a premier online virtual conference: Techniques for Training, Coaching and Employee Engagement, to be held from June 15-19. The event is being produced in conjunction with the Quality Assurance and Training Connection, (QATC), a membership association created specifically for quality assurance and training professionals in the contact center environment.

The web conference is structured to benefit contact center leaders at all levels – supervisors, managers, directors, and VPS. The fully interactive event enables attendees to meet with industry experts and colleagues who will answer questions in real time while providing updated strategies and techniques. The schedule is designed to provide direction to meet the changing needs of businesses transitioning to a greater percentage of work-at-home agents but will also provide guidance for companies still maintaining on-premise employees.

Among the topics to be covered in-depth are:

  • Learning how to work in a remote world
  • Best methods for coaching and training remote and on-premise agents
  • How to optimize agent performance in the new reality
  • Developing an effective instructor competency program

The event will kick off on Monday, June 15 with a focused keynote address entitled “Do Better Work – Finding Clarity and Camaraderie in a Remote World.” It will be presented by Max Yoder, CEO and Co-Founder, Lessonly who will offer stories of the best ways for businesses to navigate the path to working from home, providing specific examples of how to foster understanding, accountability, and progress from disparate teams.

Other areas to be explored in this targeted, complimentary virtual conference include:

  • How to Foster Agent Engagement and Human Connection Through Coaching Your Remote Contact Center Team in a Post-Pandemic World
  • Nurturing Employees to Become Ambassadors and High Performers
  • Agent Coaching and Engagement for Remote Service Excellence
  • Creating a Solid Gamification Strategy to Engage Employees Near and Far

In addition to the educational sessions, attendees can visit the booths of leading suppliers in the online exhibit hall. They can then download white papers, videos, product data sheets and other vital content from leading solution providers and organizations such as CallMiner, NICE inContact, Calabrio, NICE, Lessonly, C3 Software and Sharpen.

Register now at no cost for the complete four-day event: there is no limit on how many people a company can sign up. For those who cannot attend the live presentations or have the time to visit the exhibits during the event, links to all sessions and the exhibit hall will remain open for one full week after the event is completed.

Now is a Better Time Than Ever to Update from Manual to Automated Forecasting Models

Even in the best of times, determining the right staffing levels needed to keep a contact center operating efficiently while adequately meeting customer demand is a delicate balancing act. Staffing too many agents needlessly drives up costs: staffing too few at peak times causes service levels to suffer. The first step in making informed forecasting calculations is to accurately estimate the volume of calls coming into a business’s contact center. Of course, this is easier said than done, particularly in an environment where many organizations are experiencing dramatic call spikes driven by concerned and often panicked customers.

While there are many ways a company can try to figure out the number of calls coming into the contact center, the method will ultimately depend on which sources of information to which it has access. Obviously, the most effective way would be to obtain an accurate calls-per-day figure from an Automated Call Distribution (ACD) system. But even though these systems have proliferated over the years, far from every company that could benefit from such a solution has one in place. For many businesses that do not have an ACD or effective call logging solution, the option becomes simply asking staff to manually log the number of calls coming in.

Trying to match agent availability and skills with staffing needs while keeping track of work hour limits and labor costs is a daunting task, especially when done manually or with Excel spreadsheets. Some companies still employ downloadable templates to do their scheduling in Excel, often employing Erlang C formulas.

While using Excel can be a viable option for some smaller companies, it can turn into a tedious, time-consuming and inefficient process, particularly when there is a need to scale up rapidly. Making it all work is dependent on the contributions of a few lead users who have the requisite knowledge and system access. These lead users must frequently create new tables or worksheets …sometimes entire new files…to set up new staff groups, forecast time periods, call types, forecast variables, or forecast methodologies, These files then must be stored and linked together. If they include elements an entire team to needs to access, the files must be stored on network shared drives. In addition, spreadsheets tend to get progressively more complex, hard to maintain and error-prone

In an evolving period that calls for rapid response and flexibility, businesses are becoming increasingly frustrated with the limitations of Excel and are now seeking a simplified and more accurate planning process. Contact center managers and executives are seeking to find ways to connecting themselves with the tools that can take their WFM practice to the next level. Now they can take advantage of a focused educational presentation to help them expedite the timetable to understanding and implementing a more time-effective solution.

Genesys will present a complimentary tutorial “Best Forecasting Methods In the 21st Century.” on CrmXchange. The webcast, scheduled for Thursday, May 28th at 1:00pm ET. will be led by Shawn McCormick, Senior Solution Architect, Genesys. Shawn brings to the table more than two decades of experience supporting the Workforce Management/Workforce Engagement needs of companies of all sizes from just about every industry sector. He started his career as a manager doing scheduling on paper from a forecast sent down from corporate and thus respects the tradition while embracing the enhanced possibilities offered by WFM technology.

Among the topics he will delve into are a review of what is actually possible and how automated forecasting plays a role in preserving business continuity. This includes:

  • Considerations for the manual planning processes and the perspective of faithful Excel users
  • If automation is right for a specific company – what needs to be looked at to make the correct assessment
  • How the use of AI enables businesses to perform the planning process more accurately and rapidly than ever.

Register now for this topical webcast: if you are unable to attend the live presentation, a link will be posted 24 hours later to allow you to access it.

 

 

 

 

The Key Ingredients to Increase Brand Loyalty

By John Thompson, Head of Business Development, Americas, Sitel Group

What does it take to keep customers loyal to a brand? A loaded question with a variety of correct responses. Today, we are going to be focusing on the four key ingredients that directly impact the customer experience as it relates to brand loyalty: transparency, employees, change and corporate social responsibility. Let’s dive into the recipe.

Providing Transparency

Earlier this year, Burger King released the infamous moldy burger campaign to promote the fast food chain’s efforts to eliminate artificial preservatives and other additives from its menu. Did the rotting burger look appetizing? No. Did it catch people’s attention? Yes.

The eye-catching image set Burger King apart from the dozens of fast food commercials consumers are inundated with each day. The vision itself of a moldy burger wasn’t mouthwatering, but it told the consumer much more about the values of the brand. The fast food chain was breaking the mold (pun intended) and changing things up for the betterment of the consumer. Not only was the advertisement catching the average viewer’s attention, it was being honest with customers in a bold way.

While unconventional, this marketing tactic focuses on appealing to customers by offering complete and utter transparency. No, the burger did not look appetizing, but it told a bigger story of how the brand was committed to showing the efforts it was taking to deliver fresh and real food, by being real with the viewers.

Engaging Employees

Happy and loyal employees equal happy and loyal customers. A large portion in the recipe for the success of delivering a standout experience to consumers is by making sure that your employees are engaged. This starts with training from the get go. In fact, more than one in three (37%) U.S. employees would leave their job if they weren’t offered training to help them. So, what does good employee training look like?

It begins with teaching employees how to properly communicate with customers. While this may sound like a given, more than half (51%) of employers don’t offer soft skills training like how to speak to a customer or client effectively. Whether it be stepping up in line to order a tasty burger or dialing the support number on the back of a product, the way employees interact with customers in these mundane moments can leave an everlasting impression of the brand. In order to establish customer loyalty, it is pivotal to train employees in the art of communication.

Adapting to Change and Demonstrating Corporate Social Responsibility

Fresh ingredients mattered to Burger King’s customers, so it got rid of preservatives to appeal to the desires of a largely health-focused audience. The brand demonstrated how to adapt to your markets to keep customers loyal. Especially in these uncertain times, adapting to the wants and needs of your market matter more than ever.

The landscape for how brands market to customers is changing each and every day because of COVID-19. One brand that is getting it right in the CSR (corporate social responsibility) messaging category is Coca-Cola. The beverage giant recently launched an ad in Times Square that communicated the importance of social distancing with the message, “Staying apart is the best way to stay connected.” Rather than shying away from addressing the current health crisis, Coca-Cola faced it head on and used its platform to communicate an important message to its customers.

Adapting to change and conveying messages that align with the current concerns of your market matter enormously when it comes to establishing brand loyalty. Customers like to engage with brands that are making a difference. In fact, 70% of customers want brands to be positive contributors to society.

In order to keep business thriving in crowded marketplaces, brands must find ways to keep customers loyal. The practices above are necessary to implement. Brands that focus on building customer relationships and delivering an unparalleled CX will have the loyalty of their biggest assets – their customers.

John Thompson

As Sitel Group’s Head of Business Development, Americas, John Thompson has a passion for customer engagement and how the adaptation of virtualization and digitization complement traditional global contact center strategies. This passion stems from Thompson’s 15 years’ experience in the customer experience (CX) industry. Throughout his career, he has held a variety of leadership positions and has co-founded two start-up companies. Thompson holds an MBA from Creighton University and a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University. He resides in Omaha, Nebraska.