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Call Center Training – What Do Agents Need?

Guest Blogger: Mark Pereira

When I started training over a decade ago, we had these colossal training binders filled with tons of technical material, most of which we didn’t even need to know, and several pages discussed features that our project didn’t even have. Trainees would come in, and after a few days, a class of eight or ten would turn into a class of two. And after a week or two, those trainees disappeared into thin air.

I took it on as a goal to not lose a single trainee during class – either through dropouts or failing the final exam.

I knew to stop overwhelming trainees before class could start, we had to put these training binders on an aggressive dose of Hydroxycut to get them lean.

My manager was very understanding. She gave me time off the phones to remove the 86-page user manual on our customer relationship management (CRM) system and convert it into a 40-slide instructional PowerPoint presentation. The presentation listed out the steps which trainees could use to make or change plan enrollments and, lastly, document calls.

The next thing was condensing the 30 to 40-page sections on the company’s history and health insurance. To this day, I’ve never had a caller ask an agent about the history of health insurance, so the module on the history of health insurance was reduced to two slides and the history of the company to three slides.

Further, instead of having lengthy manuals that discussed each program, we had four. I converted these into PowerPoint slides – providing the class precisely what they needed to be successful on the calls. Removing information that spoke about the history of the program, demographics, and so on, emphasizing details such as eligibility criteria, time durations for enrollments, health plan choices, etc.

Next question, was it worth it? Yes, I achieved my goal of successfully reducing the size of the training binder and engaging the class to the point that they were able to transition successfully onto the calls. I created several job aids and quick reference guides (QRGs), such as guidelines to ensure Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) practices were followed on every call before protected health information (PHI) or personal identifiable information (PII) could be released. By simplifying instructions, agents clearly understand the call center’s expectations, and we were, in turn, able to reduce HIPAA violations by 80%.

The time spent covering these lengthy manuals into PowerPoint slides, QRGs, and jobs was invested into practice sessions, role-playing, and mentoring, the elements that help to value a training class.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before practicing a lean mindset while reviewing training:

  • What do we do in our call center? And do we need this?
  • Is this something that the trainee needs to know to understand what we do?
  • Is this understandable and as simple as it can get for the trainee to transfer to their job?
  • Can I make it even simpler for my class by adding examples or stories?

Suppose you have a hard time answering the above questions. Take a moment to get onto the call center floor, ask your agents and trainees questions such as the common types of calls you receive, etc. Identify how agents assist callers, what resources they find helpful, and what struggles they will face, and so on.

Call center training can sometimes be filled with information that we would like the class to know, but I’ve noticed that it should be retained or retained in small quantities only if it adds value to the educational objectives and ensures a smooth transition to what they need to know in order to be successful taking calls. 

The main goal to call center training is easy transferability from what is taught in the classroom to the agent being able to use the information on the phones. Further, introduce and educate agents on tools they can use to assist caller’s inquiries such as job aids, presentation slides, QRGs, intranet, chat, and so on. All of these steps and resources will help to reduce average handle time (AHT), hold time, agent frustration, and in turn, turnover.

How to Plan a Business Reopening Within Your Budget

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected most businesses across the country. Many were forced to temporarily shut down in 2020 and make drastic changes to their operations, protocols, and offerings just to survive. Others haven’t been lucky enough to make it through the economic hardships.

If your small business is still plodding on, it’s time to plan for how you can make the most of it. Along with making all the necessary adjustments to comply with pandemic restrictions, you will need to strategize how you will market your business’s reopening. At this point, customers must know that your place of business is safe and that you can offer them what they need. 

CrmXchange has always existed to provide businesses with insight into how they can better connect with their customers. With that in mind, we offer up these cost-effective tips for implementing as you plan for your reopening:

Keep People at the Forefront

You should base your full reopening and marketing plan around people, including your customers, audience, and staff. Follow all federal, state, and local guidelines for health and safety, and make sure your customers know that you are taking extra precautions to prevent coronavirus spread. Then and only then can you proceed to market your reopening. 

Boost Your Budget 

You will most likely need to make adjustments to your business budget. Evaluate how the pandemic has impacted your finances, and figure out how you can cut expenses and boost cash flow so that you can make the necessary changes to your operations and marketing strategy. If you need additional funds, see what small business grants and loans are available to you, including those offered by government and private companies.

One of the easiest ways to maintain a big-picture perspective of your finances is to review regular income statements. For example, regularly running a profit loss statement will provide you with a deeper understanding of how your business is doing. An income statement can easily organize information like revenue, expenses, profits, and losses, providing insight that can help you make decisions concerning your budget and marketing plan. 

Provide Exclusives 

Nothing can more effectively encourage existing and new customers to visit your business than offering exclusive deals and discounts. Create in-store discounts and advertise them on social media. Send out email promotions for products or services. Reward long-time customers with loyalty points or discounted memberships. Think of how you can incentivize people to choose your business and invest now for long-term success. 

Transform Your Communication Strategy

There has never been a time when communication is more critical — and chances are you need to change your message and tone from what it was before the pandemic hit. Consider how the pandemic has impacted your customers, your community, and the world at large. Shape your marketing content to address pertinent issues and engage people where they are. 

Use Free and Paid Ads

Social media is the most obvious way to promote your brand for free. Engage your audience by posting and interacting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other platforms that your target market uses frequently. But don’t be afraid to spend a little money on advertising. Pay-per-click ads (e.g., Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc.) are typically affordable, and they can go a long way in attracting customers to your business.

If your business is getting ready to reopen, it’s critical to make the most of the opportunity. Remember to consider your customers, audience, and staff at every turn as you put together your reopening and marketing plan. Determine how you can maximize your budget, and develop exclusive deals and promotions. Lastly, strategically shape your marketing message to meet individuals where they currently are, and take advantage of free and paid advertising. Then, you’ll have the foundation for a vital reopening. 

Taking A Proactive Approach Prepares a Contact Center for Any Eventualities

We all want to believe we are taking the right measures to stay one step ahead of whatever life might throw at us next. We put blankets, tire inflators and glass cutters in our cars to be ready for emergencies. We purchase insurance policies to cover our homes, our cars and even our day-to-day care as we age. Some people even go so far as to sleep with a firearm at hand

But unlike individuals who feel the need to plan ahead, many contact centers operate reactively. Customers call, e-mail, and send social media messages with inquiries that are responded to on an as-needed basis. In an evolving environment where challenges keep coming faster and issues are more complex, this may no longer be the optimal strategy for long-term success.

Forward-thinking contact center executives are discovering the potential of providing proactive customer service. This can be defined as the process of pinpointing specific customer issues and acting on them before they become problems. In essence, the paradigm shifts to reaching out to the customer instead of waiting for them to take the first step. Taking this kind of initiative offers businesses the unique opportunity to meet and go beyond customer expectations, while strengthening customer relationships, increasing business volume, and building advocacy.

Some companies might be wary that customers might be reticent to receive their overtures, but an inContact study quoted in a recent SuperOffice blog reveals that 87 percent of U.S. adults would be happy to be contacted proactively by an organization or company. Sixty seven percent would be pleased to be contacted about fraudulent activity and a majority is fine with being contacted about appointments, reminders and being asked questions about an order. A full 77 percent who had a good incoming call experience reported feeling more positive about the company that delivered it.

Not only can proactive customer service help reinforce customer loyalty, this growing practice can also result in gaining new customers via advocacy. In addition, it gives businesses a leg up in limiting escalation while staving off the brand negativity that often comes when issues fester.

Taking a more preemptive approach gives companies the luxury of knowing what was coming ahead of time and being able to do something about it. Establishing proactive contact center enables organizations to know when… and how …, to reach out to customers and act early to manage situations instead of simply putting out fires.

Managers and executives can learn how to set up an effective Early Warning system in an upcoming complimentary CrmXchange webcast entitled “The Case for a Proactive Contact Center” on January 14, 2021 at 1:00 pm ET. Shawna Malecki, Senior Product Marketing Manager for NICE InContact, will share her expertise in helping businesses use technological solutions and common-sense best practices to build a greater rapport with customers.

Among the topics to be explored in creating a proactive contact center environment are:

  • Be Prepared. Communicate the need for adaptability that enable a business and its front-line team are to be less reactive to sudden, unexpected change.
  • Spot Early Warnings. Quickly act on early warnings before they impact customer service.
  • Take Advantage. Understand the effects of analytics on cost, revenue, quality, and insight and improving the customer experience.

Register now to find out how your company can not only keep existing customers happy but turn them into brand advocates that can bring in both new customers and increased revenue. If you can’t attend the live webinar, a link to it will posted 24 hours after it is presented.

Three Tips for How Brands Can Avert a CX Crisis Amidst COVID-19

Every organization has its own philosophies and methodologies for how best to establish customer relationships, but despite how companies get there, the end goal has always been the same: Treating people with care and respect to establish trust and improve their experience with your brand.  

The pandemic has made this notion even more clear. In a time of complete uncertainty, customers simply want to connect with brands on a human level. In fact, recent research on consumer behavior shows that demand for human-to-human interaction in customer service environments is surging. Today, most consumers prefer human customer support over automated and self-service channels.

Yet, this human-first approach to customer service isn’t always easy or straightforward. In their path to improving customer relationships and service, many organizations end up “over automating.” The rationale being, if they can automatically answer more customer questions at the onset of a call or text or chat, they have staff focus on only the most serious of customer cases. The problem here is that rarely do customers see their issue as anything but serious.

That’s not to say that automation doesn’t have its place – like the checking of a balance or finding out when a bill is due. However, not even the smartest chatbots or self-service solutions can effectively and completely respond to 100% of customer needs, especially during a pandemic. Imagine trying to explain to a chatbot that you lost your job and can’t return to work because you need to take care of your kids?

There’s a better way. Instead of using technology to automate as many interactions as possible, organizations should use technology to make human interactions smarter and more effective.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, speech analytics and natural language processing solutions are emerging as ways to extract intelligence from every customer interaction and equip employees with the direction and guidance they need to meet customer needs in real time, at the human level.

During COVID-19, this means being able to identify common pain points across your customers, which customers are the most vulnerable, and more.

Delivering an exceptional customer experience (CX) and treating customers as real people requires a rock-solid, data-based understanding of all challenges, and a willingness to use the insights to change and improve the broader business.

In particular, there are three key areas where I see organizations using technology to gather and operationalize these insights, in turn equipping customer service teams with the knowledge and direction they need to make every customer interaction the best it can be:

  1. Proactively alert agents when they are dealing with vulnerable customers. Not every situation is the same, and vulnerability has many faces. Whether it’s flagging certain scenarios such as hardships due to unemployment – or even detecting stress or agitation in a customer’s voice – leveraging capabilities such as sentiment analysis to identify the common triggers of a vulnerable customer is key to any CX strategy. When common elements have been identified, benchmarks can then be created to label those similar situations more quickly and more accurately.
  2. Enabling agents with real-time guidance and actions on language to use, offers to make and questions to ask, specific to the situation. Recognizing the problem is one thing—but being able to address and solve it head-on is just as critical during these unprecedented times. However, chances are that managing vulnerability with the kind of empathy it requires isn’t included in an employee’s job description. By capturing and analyzing every interaction in real time, brands can offer personalized solutions on a case-by-case basis, including based on customer vulnerability, while also ensuring both organizational and regulatory compliance.
  3. Providing meaningful feedback and training for managing similar situations in the future. Inbound requests for customer service are at an all-time high, and most organizations are stretched thin. Add in the remote office, and you’ve got yourself a perfect storm for less-than-perfect customer experiences. Not only can the proper technology make sure engagements runs smoothly in real time, but post-call recommendations for improving and streamlining processes means agents can better perform in the future. Over time, employees will become more emotionally intelligent and in turn, improve customer sentiment towards your organization and optimize brand loyalty.

While improving real time customer engagement is important, using technology to help leadership operationalize and act on the intelligence they extract from customer interactions is also critical. Customer interactions are a goldmine of insights that can be applied to transform the business and elevate the customer experience. Any organization not listening to 100% of interactions and generating insights risks losing the pulse of its customers and falling behind as the market shifts.

There’s no foolproof method when it comes to managing a pandemic. Not even the best crisis and risk management plans could have predicted something of this scale. But the greatest CX stories did not stem from frictionless experiences. Instead, the most successful organizations focused on bridging the insights-to-action gap and understanding what people truly want in from customer experiences – and those who continue to do this even after the pandemic ends will establish the unwavering customer relationships that everyone strives for. 

About the Author: Eric Williamson is chief marketing officer at CallMiner, a provider of speech and customer interaction analytics. He has more than 20 years’ experience leading marketing programs for major companies, including Acquia, Google, Microsoft, Walmart, and Hyatt.

How to Write a Creative Customer Feedback Survey Invitation

Contributed post by Erica Sunarjo is a content marketing specialist at TrustMyPaper and a committed copywriter at term paper writing service. She often works with bloggers, content marketers, professional dissertation writers, and business owners to create value-packed content for businesses.

Customer experience is the foundation of running a successful business, and research proves that 84% of companies that try to improve their customer experience witness an increase in their revenue. The best place to seek for ideas on how to improve your CX is customer feedback.

With customer feedback, you can get direct insight into what customers think about your business and your services. Based on their shared experience, you can work on those aspects that need improvement and ensure that you fix all bugs and issues.

The consumers prefer companies who care about their opinion. That is, 77% of consumers view brands more favorably if they ask for customer feedback. Showing interest in your customers’ thoughts and feelings is a huge plus in this money-chasing world.

However, the problem that brands face is how to convince consumers to take the survey. People are constantly receiving survey invitations, and they aren’t always up for taking some time off their busy schedule to answer brands’ questions.

So, what’s the solution here? How to get customers to fill in your feedback survey and help you improve your CX? The answer is that you have to get creative.

It’s time to put all your creative energy into writing an engaging customer survey invitation that will persuade your customers to leave their feedback.

But first, you need to ensure that the survey is optimized for mobile devices. Considering that 51% of global traffic comes from mobiles, it is most likely that that’s how the consumers will open your survey invitation. Coming across a distorted content will chase away the consumers faster than you finish saying, “take our survey.”

If you are asking for feedback via email (which most brands do), how you write the subject line can be the determining factor. The subject line has the biggest influence on your open rate, and if the customers don’t even open the email, they definitely won’t take the survey.

Boost customers’ interest in the invitation by writing a fun, creative, and personal subject line. Here are some examples to give you an idea of what can work:

  • How can we improve your (shopping) experience?
  • Got a minute?
  • Hi /name/, wanna talk?
  • Help us help you
  • Open up – we want to know about your experience

You might have noticed that these subject lines have something in common – they are customer-oriented. Present yourself as a listener. Use a friendly approach, relaxed writing style, and put the focus on the customer. That’s the winning formula for the subject line.

In case you get stuck, you can find thesis writing service to help you come up with a great subject line. Why thesis writing services? Well, paper writing services can be more affordable than directly approaching a professional writer. Also, thesis writers are experts when it comes to enticing headlines. And what’s an email subject than a headline to your email?

Just be careful not to go too far and make your invitation seem like spam. Using phrases like “Click to win something great” or “We have an amazing deal for you” can redirect your invitation in the spam folder. So, add a mental reminder: no clickbait!

Once you get customers to open your invitation, it’s time for the second challenge – convincing them to take the survey.

The body of your invitation needs to give recipients a solid reason to stick around. A good place to start is explaining to them why they should take the survey.

Be direct and let your consumers know how this survey will contribute to improving their journey as a customer. To make this explanation less general, you can add GIFs or write in a humorous tone.

Humor is the perfect tactic for leading the customers towards taking your survey. What humor does is that it gets people to relax and feel more comfortable. They start to feel as if a friend is asking for their opinion.

It’s a thin line between appropriate humor and going overboard, so you might want to ask for a second opinion.

Another good writing technique is personalization. Use the customer’s name in the invitation’s content. For example:

Listen John. It’s time to get real here. We want to make sure that you had a great time shopping on our site. But how can we know that unless you tell us?

The combination of humor and personalization can be a true winner. But if your brand’s personality isn’t a match to this kind of approach, you can simply adopt a friendly writing style with a pinch of funny.

Many customers are reluctant to take a survey because they don’t know how long it will take. So make sure that you mention an approximate time that the survey will take. To make it more creative, you can write something like:

We can shorten your boredom while you wait in line by 5 minutes.

Show customers that you can relate to their lifestyle, and that’s what will get them on your side.

Lastly, the most important factor in making creative customer survey invitation is originality. Try to intertwine your’ brand’s image with the content. Play around with phrases and sentences, and don’t be scared to try something new.

Unearthing the Most Important CX Initiatives for 2021 Requires Going Far Beneath the Surface

It’s always been a tried and true topic for seminars and webcasts to divine the most significant changes and new directions in a specific industry. Until now, when someone set out to predict what the major trends might be in the following year, they could often just look at what was being forecast in the previous year and update the syllabus of such educational offerings by integrating any new ideas that may have been introduced in the interim.

Of course, viewed through the prism of the world we are now living in, that notion seems like a quaint anachronism, as irrelevant as the Jetson’s 1960s vision of a future of flying cars that fold into briefcases. The clichés used to describe the current situation in the CX/contact center world are mounting …the world has been turned upside down, the way we do business has changed forever, we are living in a new normal, etc. But however tired we may be of seeing these aphorisms, they reflect an undeniable reality. Organizations of all types must find and implement innovative methods to address customers’ momentous needs today to build enduring relationships in the era when Covid-19 is just a jarring memory.

Simply stated, the pandemic has triggered a re-evaluation of the meaning and purpose of customer care. Over the past few months, the emphasis on complex examinations of customer journeys and satisfaction metrics have been supplanted by a focus on the gravity of ensuring that consumers can get the information they need when they need it. Consequently, businesses are now changing the way they will measure and deliver the customer experience in 2021. The sudden transition calls for a new perspective that extends beyond familiar metrics, existing processes, and technology silos.

With the disruption in the workforce due to the lockdowns and furloughs, can businesses be counted on to provide service which makes empathy, understanding and concern integral elements of every interaction? Can CX leaders rapidly reposition themselves to react to the likely long-term alterations in consumer behavior that will undoubtedly come about from this crisis? The challenge is to pivot, innovate and transform operations in a way that enables organizations to not only stand out from the competition, but create new standards of service that truly address the evolving needs of the customer.

In this environment, any educational program that attempts to identify the most critical developments in the next year of the customer experience universe must take a totally fresh approach. On Tuesday, August 11th at 1:00 PM ET, CrmXchange offers a complimentary Best Practices Roundtable discussion that will provide an in-depth examination of the elements that have now become front and center in importance. “CX Megatrends to Watch in 2021” will be presented jointly by experts from two solution providers with demonstrated expertise in revamping contact center operations. Steve Chirokas, Director, Product and Channel Marketing, CallMiner, and Laura Bassett, Senior Director, Product Marketing, NICE inContact, will team up and tap their extensive backgrounds in providing guidance and strategic direction to industry leaders.

The topics to be discussed include:

  • Why Work-from-Home affects the customers’ perception of a brand and the ways that getting it right can positively influence loyalty
  • How to manage remote workers for increases in productivity and enhanced CX
  • In what ways can customer insight, using emotional metrics combined with AI agility, aid agents in taking the next best compelling action
  • How to build momentum toward in-the-moment voice of your customer insight and ensure that responses make for dynamic personalization
  • How to recognize and prioritize digital strategy
  • Specific reasons why moving to the cloud decreases uncertainty during a pandemic

Register now for this enlightening roundtable discussion that will give you updated guidance on what lies ahead. If you can’t attend the live presentation, a link to the recorded webcast will be provided 24 hours after it has been completed.

How Can Businesses Ensure They’ll Reach Customers When So Many Don’t Answer Their Phones?

It happens to nearly all of us every single day: the mobile phone buzzes and we encounter an   unrecognized number and simply don’t answer. It could be an 800 number, an out-of-state exchange or a spoofed number that seems recognizable but is often just one that has been created to seem as though it’s local.

Phone scams are far from a new phenomenon. They have plagued landline customers for years. But with the increase in smartphones, just about everybody has their device on them just about all the time — creating a plethora of opportunities for fraudsters to attempt to con them with false claims, bogus pleas for help, phony free vacations, and frightening assertions that the recipient is about to have their social security account cut off or is facing imminent arrest.

It’s widely assumed that it is exclusively the elderly who fall for these ploys. But these scams are growing more and more elaborate, and nearly anyone can be victimized. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s recent annual data summary of consumer complaints, 40% of Americans in their 20s reported frauds that cost them money, while 18% of fraud victims aged 70 or older reported they’d been fleeced our funds by a scam.

Another growing issue is the preponderance of robocalls. Over the past several years, the rise of these frustrating recorded pitches has been the focus of lawmakers and consumers alike. In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission prioritized their initiative to stem the spread of illegal robocalls, adopting a new set of rules designed to protect consumers from unwanted robocalls, allowing phone companies to proactively block calls that are likely fraudulent because they originate from certain types of phone numbers. But even with these updated regulations, robocalls continue to be a major problem. It is simply too easy and inexpensive for rogue overseas companies to use them as a tool to get their foot in the door without fear of prosecution.

With all of this going on, is it any wonder that more consumers than ever seldom swipe their mobile phones to answer? A 2019 Zipwhip survey and report (n=520 U.S. adults) found that 87% of respondents said they ignore phone calls from unknown numbers “often” or “very often.” However, this burgeoning rate of call avoidance can be a double-edged sword for consumers and legitimate businesses alike.

In this environment, people often ignore important calls for reasons such as confirming deliveries or medical appointments, miss out on receiving critical information from financial institutions, or learning about legitimate offers from companies with which they already have a relationship.

The problem has only grown worse since the onset of the pandemic. An April 2020 survey of 1000 U.S. mobile phone users by communications transparency provider First Orion revealed that 75% of people said they’d missed an urgent call; nearly a third of those reported they’re missing more important calls now than before the crisis. Eighty five percent tried to return crucial missed calls, only to find it challenging to get someone on the line. First Orion also found that 5% gave up altogether and went to the physical location to resolve their problem – ultimately putting them at a greater risk of contracting the virus.

Is there a way for businesses to verify their identity on each call and allow consumers to be confident that it is a legitimate communication? Learn about an elegantly simple solution in a complimentary webinar on CrmXchange. On Thursday, July 9 at 2:00 pm ET, First Orion will present The Empowered Caller – How to Build Contact Center Success with Call Enhancement, Matt Rateliff, VP of Sales Enablement for First Orion will host the webcast, accompanied by Chris Lindsey, Division VP, Marketing Information Systems, Globe Life Direct to Consumer. It will examine the real-world benefits experienced by Globe Life in using the Call Enhancement solution to make it clear there’s a trusted business on the other end of the line. Among the topics to be explored are:

  • How branding outgoing calls with the company’s business name and logo can increase answer rates and sales
  • How to build customer loyalty and trust with enhanced calls
  • How call enhancement helps call center agents complete more actions and drive revenue

Find out how easy it is to set up call centers for success from the moment the call is made. Register now: if you cannot attend the live webcast, a link will be sent to all registrants 24 hours after it is completed.

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.

How Can Companies Provide a Human Touch and Ensure Consumers’ Calls are Answered During a Crisis?

By now, we are all only too aware that contact centers have had to adjust to a new paradigm. Thousands upon thousands of formerly premise-based agents have transitioned to become home-based agents, often in the face of dramatic spikes in call volume.  While companies and front-line personnel are struggling to gain their footing in this unprecedented environment, they must not lose sight of one important truth. On the other end of each call is an individual who is likely to be in a crisis which requires more attention and consideration than it ever did before.

Even before the onset of the current situation, PwC research revealed that 59% of worldwide consumers surveyed believed companies had lost touch with the human element of customer experience, and 75% of respondents preferred to interact with a human as opposed to dealing with an automated system. Given the isolation and uncertainty of what is now referred to as the “new normal,” no one can blame consumers for being even more insistent on service with a human touch.

In a CX space based on people and relationships, taking care of customers has always been a top priority. But even as the sense of urgency has ramped up, sheer volume has resulted in extended wait times and higher customer frustration levels. This also affects agents adjusting to working at home while trying to keep up with the non-stop flow of calls. They may be dealing with consumers frantically trying to cut off automatic payments due to job losses, or people calling with critical inquiries about rapidly shifting business policies that cannot always be resolved online. Effectively handling customers in these fraught situations requires agents to make an added effort to do more intensive listening, apply faster thinking, keep their patience and take every necessary step to ensure that callers feel that a connection has been made.

In all cases, customers must be treated in a way that makes them feel valued. Much of this responsibility falls on the organizations involved, including updating websites and self-help portals more frequently and adjusting their scheduling to deliver higher service levels. However, given constantly changing conditions and rising demand, even that may not be enough. A March, 2020 Bloomberg Business report noted that hold times to reach a customer representative at Capital One were in excess of 20 minutes, based on calls placed by Bloomberg. That compared with an average of 41 seconds in 2018, according to a study from MyBankTracker. While the early gory stories of multi-hour wait times may have ameliorated somewhat as businesses have had time to adjust, it is safe to assume that they remain higher than in previous years. Undeniably, this is a phenomenon that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.

Customers who feel neglected or disrespected will remember their negative experience long after the pandemic has been resolved. The question for executives and managers of contact centers in every conceivable vertical is whether their operation is optimized to handle burgeoning demand. One perhaps obvious way to deal with increased volume is to implement a call-back feature.

On Thursday, June 25th at 2:00 PM ET, Fonolo, a pioneer of cloud-based call-back solutions, will present a complimentary webinar on CrmXchange entitled “How Your Contact Center Can Meet Customer Service Demands During COVID-19.” Shai Berger, Co-Founder and CEO of Fonolo and Chris McLean, Fonolo’s VP of Strategic Accounts, will explore the most significant challenges now being faced by contact centers and how to meet them. Topics will include:

  • Tips and tricks for managing ongoing obstacles to providing service with a human touch
  • The most actionable tactics for contact centers suffering from staff shortages
  • How to manage ongoing high call volume

Berger is recognized as an innovator and thought leader whose mission is to educate the CX/contact center industry on how to improve the customer experience. McLean is a long-time contact center veteran who specialized in building lasting relationships. They will also conduct a demonstration of Fonolo’s call-back solution which reduces the frustration of long hold times, leads to more satisfied callers, and helps create a more profitable contact center.

Register now for this timely and informative presentation. If you cannot attend the live webcast, a recording will be posted 24 hours after it has taken place.

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.