Monday, October 7, 2013
By Colin Taylor
Its Customer Service Week. This is the time of year to recognize and appreciate the contributions of all of the people that deliver customer service.
This week in call centers across the globe there will be pizza days, cakes, give aways of small dollar value goodies, staff dressed casually and visits by senior staff that may never have found their way to the center before. Now please don’t get me wrong, attention paid to your customer facing staff will never be a waste of time. But how much more effective and engaged could we be if we paid attention to our customer service pros all 52 weeks of the year.
Customer service is not an easy job, speaking on the phone with customers can be very challenging and the people who do this for a career deserve our gratitude and appreciation. We need to recognize their contribution to our lives. Every day tens of thousands of product orders are processed thanks to a customer service agent being able to address a customer question of concern, inaccurate bills, invoice and outstanding charges are resolved and our economic engine is allowed to skip forward thanks to customer service professionals who have sanded some of the rough edges off.
Of course the situation isn’t perfect: too many companies employ ‘mushroom management’ with their customer service and call center staff, too often the wizards in Marketing pull off a great campaign that the call centers agents get to hear about from the callers and too many companies create policies and procedures to protect them from their customers and ask the call center and customer service staff to be the enforcers.
Yes there is a long way to go to deliver the level and quality of customer service we all would like to receive and provide, but lets not kill the messengers, its not the agents that can make customer service and call center interactions as much fun as a tooth extraction, it is their managers and their companies.
So take a moment, this week and every week, to think about the customer service people you interact with and have appreciate what they are able to do to help you and to help their organizations. Then, next week perhaps, you can consider what your organization can do to make the role of your customer service and call center staff more productive and enjoyable…remove nonsensical policies that create work and penalize customers, provide tools to the front line that speed and aid their efforts, realistically fund the center to deliver the customer experience you want to deliver and lastly appreciate your front line customer service staff by taking active steps to improve engagement and autonomy.
via The Taylor Reach Group - Call Center Consultants http://thetaylorreachgroup.com/2013/10/07/its-customer-service-week-so-what-about-the-other-51-weeks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=its-customer-service-week-so-what-about-the-other-51-weeks
Thursday, October 3, 2013
By Colin Taylor
People are the key to any successful business and this is especially so in call centers. The sales and customer service staff in the call center are the face of the organization. Each time a customer speaks with the call center the person they speak with is the company. The customers’ opinion of the company and the brand improves or erodes based upon an interaction with the center. A Purdue University study that found that 92% of customers based their opinion or an organization based upon their interaction with the company’s’ call center.
Too many organizations fail to invest the proper effort and attention in selecting new staff. This is manifest in: vague job descriptions, no defined skills,competencies, no skills testing, weak or absent background and reference checks. It is not surprising to me that the staff selected may not be well suited for the role.
With the cost for a new hire ranging from $7,000 to $10,000 the company is making a significant investment. This level of investment warrants attention, especially in an industry with chronic turnover issues. So what are the best practices, that any contact center can implement? Here is quick reference list that will help you to improve your selection and retention in your center.
Make sure your job descriptions relevant to the role. Describe the role accurately, surface details related the task activities, systems interactions, level of activity etc. State required skills (keyboarding, math, typing etc.). Identify the background checks that will be completed; i.e. references, background checks, personality profile, credit check, criminal check, drug test etc. – there is no point bringing anyone into the office who knows they can’t pass one, or more of these tests. Be sure to follow through on all the background checks you have committed to.
Employ role play tests and/or listen to real call problems and ask the candidate how they would respond. Remember we can’t expect them to have the correct answer, but we want to see their listening skills, attitude and approach to problem solving.
In our next post we will examine how to align your hiring and recruiting process with your training and on- boarding process.
via The Taylor Reach Group - Call Center Consultants http://thetaylorreachgroup.com/2013/10/03/people-your-single-biggest-expense-and-your-biggest-asset-in-your-call-center/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=people-your-single-biggest-expense-and-your-biggest-asset-in-your-call-center
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
By: Bruce Lebowitz
A well-known consumer financial services company launched a product for small businesses. This launch was accompanied by major advertising and comprehensive marketing campaign targeting small business owners and managers. The theme was that this product was designed exclusively for small businesses and would service their specific needs. As a top service provider in the consumer customer service space with high satisfaction scores, this company applied the same processes, principles and experience to their business product. And satisfaction scores suffered.
One Size Does Not Fit All
When listening to calls, it was clear that these small business owners and managers had different expectations from consumers. While many of the servicing tasks were exactly the same, the context of the call and the root problem driving the calls were different. As were the expectations. It was also clear that the business audience was speaking the language of business which was confusing the representatives, which in turn, was frustrating the callers.
The problem was not in the systems or procedures, but in the conversation itself. Business owners expected to have a business conversation and a business based solution, while the agents were steeped in consumer conversations and solutions.
What Motivates Your Customers
Clearly, a retraining was in order. The first order of business was to have the agents understand their caller. To do this, our training focused on what the caller may have experienced just before the call. What issue was the small business owner dealing with? What were their worries? Expectations? Desires? To help agents understand this we had to make them experience it. Thus, in the training we made the agents small business owners. As the agents entered the training they were greeted with a dossier describing “their” business and the issues they were facing. Some businesses were seasonal and experiencing cash flow issues. Some had just won a major contract and were faced with massive expansion. Some were experiencing a major client loss. Whatever their issues, they were, as owners, dealing with issues that often drove their own customers to call in.
Every aspect of the training from this point on was through the lens of their small business. The agents became as passionate about their business as real owners are. They felt panic when they couldn’t meet payroll. Exaltation combined with trepidation when facing having to double their staff, move to larger headquarters and meet impossible deadlines. Through it all the agents had “aha” moments when they really understood why their customers were rushed, impatient, frustrated and sometimes rude. They didn’t just intellectually understand, they lived it so they understood it emotionally.
Context Is Critical
Now, when an agent receives a call they think about what happened just before the call that drove them to pick up the phone. A change of address – simple, right? Well now, the agent inquires about the move. If moving into a larger space, the agent offers congratulations and asks if they need an increased line of credit. Late payment? Agent inquires about cash flow and offers a short-term loan. The agent now speaks the same language as the caller. By being in his/her shoes, the agent is able to understand the context of the call and service the caller and not just the immediate task. They don’t jump to conclusions. They don’t rush to complete the task without understanding the context.
Customer satisfaction has grown. The business training is now a core component of new hire training. And the small business owner sees that the brand promise of the small business product is backed by service dedicated to small business owners and managers. There is no longer a disconnect between the advertising and marketing and the servicing. The call center now supports the Brand and its message. There is no longer a disconnect between the agents and the callers. By translating the brand essence to the actual customer conversations that happen in the servicing center the promise of supporting small businesses is now fully baked into the servicing where the brand promise is delivered.
Let us know what you think about this post. Do you agree, disagree or have a related story to share- Then please comment below
via The Taylor Reach Group - Call Center Consultants http://thetaylorreachgroup.com/2013/03/19/branded-conversations-extending-the-brand-voice-to-the-servicing-experience/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=branded-conversations-extending-the-brand-voice-to-the-servicing-experience
Friday, February 8, 2013
By Colin Taylor
I was on a webinar yesterday and heard that according to Gartner 80 percent of customer service outsourcing projects that are designed to cut costs will fail. Gartner cited many causes including incomplete processes, ill-planned compensation structures and lack of management. This statistic is in line with the Orbys Consulting finding that “50 per cent of UK blue chip companies still enter the outsourcing selection process without knowing exactly what they want or how best to source it. While one in three firms admitted that their deal failed to meet their needs, a staggering 23 per cent took the services back in-house”
There are alot of actions you can take to improve the chances of success when outsourcing your call center, and certainly knowing what you are trying to achieve is one of them. But for my money and based upon hundreds of outsourcing projects I have been involved with, both as a consultant and as an outsource provider, the #1 thing you need to do to improve your chances of success is to understand what you really have today.
Many clients who embark on outsourcing initiatives, do not have a clear or in many cases an accurate understanding of their existing center. They assume, which is always dangerous, that because they have a process workbook on the shared drive that the process maps are current and accurate. From personal experience they are almost never both of these. Senior executives assume that because they have a training program, that it is full, robust and well aligned with the processes (which we just discovered are not complete). Bright contact center executives assume that the their recruiting and selection models are delivering exactly the right staff to do the job well and that the knowledgebase contains all of the information an agent requires.
These are all Dangerous Assumptions.
If the center I have described above were to outsource, they would quickly discover that:
1- The processes as mapped, do not appear to match the calls that are actually being received. This leads to lower FCR (First Contact Resolution), more calls and increased costs from the outsourcer. This wasn’t evident prior to outsourcing as the agents knew the processes were not always correct and they had work arounds, undocumented work arounds to deal with such variation.
2- The knowledgebase where the freshly trained outsource agents were instructed to go to get the answers to questions, was woefully inadequate, multiple entries, missing entries and just plain wrong entries exist in virtually every knowledgebase. The in house agents knew this also and had sticky notes and pages in their workspace or had simply memorized the correct or accurate information. Of course wrong answers equal longer calls, lower FCR, more calls, lower CSAT and NPS scores and more costs from the outsourcer.
3- The training program while adequate internally, where Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) are plentiful and easy to find, didn’t need to be rigorous. The fact that it wasn’t mapped to the processes, was something that knowledge and experience within th in-house center could overcome. In an outsourced it becomes a very expensive luxury. Poor training, leads again to longer calls, lower FCR, more calls, lower CSAT and NPS scores and more costs from the outsourcer.
4- The hiring criteria even if followed to the letter, may not deliver the same level of competence that existed internally. The job and function requirements may have shifted over time and the position descriptions and associated skills and competencies may or may not have been changed. But even if the skills and comps are accurate and the outsourcer is hiring to the correct profile, the make up of the agent pool has changed. In an outsource environment all agents will be new. In your own center before outsourcing you would likeley have had a cross section of newbies, tenured staff and veterans, each available to assist their less experienced colleagues.
So to recap, not fully understanding and appreciating what you have today, will cost you more, and make your customers less happy. I don’t think either of these outcomes has ever been the stated objective of an outsourcing initiative.
The alternative to the ‘misery on all levels’ offered by the above scenario is to invest in an Outsource Preparedness & Suitability study, that will tell you what you have, really have, today and what actions you need to complete to be able to outsource smoothly and avoid the above listed challenges, downstream, when they cost alot more.
Executing a Preparedness and Suitability study before outsourcing allows you to surface the complex and difficult tasks and processes and assess each process based upon its completeness and accuracy, and its alignment to hiring and training.
A small investment early in the outsource evaluation process can save you from joining Gartners or Orbys majority of failed outsource organizations.
For more information about how to conduct an Outsource Preparedness and Suitability study please contact me by phone 416-276-9068 or by email.
via The Taylor Reach Group - Call Center Consultants http://thetaylorreachgroup.com/2013/02/08/the-one-thing-to-improve-outsourcing-success/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-one-thing-to-improve-outsourcing-success
Friday, January 25, 2013
We are all busy and we all struggle to improve our own lives and that of those around us. But we also know at some intuitive level that helping people by doing good helps us to live a better life and feel better about ourselves. Can we help others by ‘paying it forward’, knowing that somewhere and sometime we may need help from others. Whether you call it ‘paying it forward’, creating good karma or simply as random acts of kindness, doesn’t matter. What does matter is being open to the idea of helping others, because you can.
At Taylor Reach we are committed to helping others and offer ‘Pay IT Forward Fridays’ to do just that. Each Friday we set aside and hour or so to assist others with their call center, contact center, customer experience issues and questions. We do this at no cost and with no expectation of anything other than to be of assistance. Do you wonder which are the best metrics to use to manage your center? Are you looking at outsourcing and wonder the real risks and common points of failure? Would you like an opinion of one technology vendor versus another or one potential contact center location versus another? We can help.
If you would like to take advantage of Pay It Forward Fridays just send me an email and let me know what you issue or challenge is and when you would like to speak. We operate in the eastern time zone so during the work day is best for us. If coordinating a convenient time is challenge we will work to find a date and time that works even if it isn’t Friday.
I hope that you will take advantage of our offer, and I hope that you to will find some way to ‘Pay it Forward’
CEO & Chief Chaos Officer
The Taylor Reach Group, Inc.
via The Taylor Reach Group - Call Center Consultants http://thetaylorreachgroup.com/2013/01/25/pay-it-forward-friday/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pay-it-forward-friday
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Are you planning to employ a call center or customer service consulting service in this quarter?
Are you looking at improving your centers efficiency, increasing revenues, selecting new technologies or evaluating outsourcing options? All of these are tasks our experienced call center consultants have extensive experience completing.
Are you looking to assess your service quality, benchmark your customer experience? We have experience and can assist you with this.
Due to client project delays, The Taylor Reach Group has excess capacity. Our misfortune could be to your benefit. For projects that begin in January we will provide a 20% discount off our standard fees, minimum project size applies. Limited time offer.
To take advantage of this offer please contact Colin Taylor by email or phone (416-979-8692 x200)
via The Taylor Reach Group - Call Center Consultants http://thetaylorreachgroup.com/2013/01/22/call-center-cx-consulting-sale/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=call-center-cx-consulting-sale
Monday, January 21, 2013
I saw a good and very helpful post by W. Richard Spearrin, Jr. on the Linked In discussion group NorthEast Contact Center Forum regarding WFM and staff scheduling. This article has some great tips and suggestions to better manage your schedule efficiency.
The link to the discussion is here
The post is below:
Measure your Schedule Efficiencies
If your forecasts are completely in line, and AHT is within +/- 10% of the forecast day in and day out, but you are still failing to make your service goals, you may need to check how efficient your scheduling processes are.
Many companies use a schedule efficiency measurement for over- or understaffed intervals to see how well they are scheduling. Schedule efficiency refers to the match between the exact requirements for each interval and the number scheduled. There are sometimes too many scheduled due to the need to meet peak requirements with more than necessary resulting in the low volume periods (especially with all full-time staff). There may be periods of understaffing as well. Both under- and over-staffing count as mismatches. The level of inefficiency is a total of both compared to the total requirements.
This schedule efficiency measurement can show where you need to make adjustments. Those may be scheduling changes you need like split shifts or more part-timers or you could just have one or two days that are over-staffed. However, it could reflect a need for other options like flex schedules or 10-hour shifts to get people off the overstaffed days. Many folks have tools available in their workforce management system to measure this type of efficiency.
This week’s tip provided by Rick Seeley of Convergys.
via The Taylor Reach Group - Call Center Consultants http://thetaylorreachgroup.com/2013/01/21/measure-your-schedule-efficiencies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=measure-your-schedule-efficiencies
Monday, January 14, 2013
By: Colin Taylor
I was sitting on my deck this morning a looked toward the lake and noticed the 6‘metal post I have installed, next to the garden. On this post there used to be two satellite dishes one for the television and one for internet. In the past few weeks I have had the occasion to need to upgrade both of these services. As many of you will know cable and internet are two of the worst rated consumer services for customer satisfaction and it was with some trepidation that I embarked on my journey to deal with their respective customer care teams.
My house is a couple of hours outside of the city and as a result I do not have access to traditional cable of internet options. The solution for me has been satellite for both. In short order over a few weeks I had to call both providers; the head burned out on my satellite internet dish and the receiver for my satellite TV also died. My experiences with both customer service organizations were very different.
When I called Xplornet I was informed that the new 4G satellite was now available and that I could upgrade to this service for less than the cost I had been paying for older technology – great news, so I requested an appointment and was told the installer ‘in my area’ would give me a call to set up an appointment. A couple of days later I received a call from the installer and set up an appointment. On the appointed date and time I sat and waited for the installer to arrive, and waited and waited. I called the installer to see if there was a problem. The call went to voicemail. After a second left message and a few hours later I left, no installer and no satellite internet. I called Xplornet back and reported my no show and requested a new installer, as I didn’t want to patronize the one that had left me high and dry without a call or response, ever. I was assigned a new installer and they called me the next day to set up the appointment, so far so good. So I headed back to the lake to be there when the installer arrived. But this was not to be, as I poured my first coffee as I waited the phone rang it was the installer saying they couldn’t come today as one of their staff had quit. Disappointed, but undeterred, remember there is no other real internet option at the lake, so I rebooked for a week later. Hallelujah, the installer arrived and surveyed the property. After climbing about on the roof, cabin and shed, he announced that I would need a post installed. Now this didn’t surprise me as I had mentioned my current dish was on a post to each of the installation firms I had spoken with. Unfortunately my installer was only on his second day on the job, apparently he had replaced the installer that quit, and he was unaware how they would treat a pole installation, but promised I would have a call back the next day to let me know. Well three days later I called back and was told that this firm “didn’t do poles”. No mention of my promised call back, no offered solution, just we don’t do that. I was beginning to despair about ever getting internet again, when I decided to up my game.
In a previous life when I was running a large call center outsource BPO I had occasion to work with a large Canadian cable and wireless company had had spoken with their then CFO on numerous occasions. Well guess who happened to be a senior officer at Xplornet? I reached out to my contact at Xplornet and shared my frustration. I quickly received a response and commitment to help me fix my problem. With 24 hours I had spoken to operations staff and been assigned a new installer. I received a call from the installer to set up an appointment. The appointment was held; the installer was on time and quickly had me up and running. This example shows a great service recovery. Immediately I began speaking about the great service recovery rather than my initial problems.
At almost the same time as I was experiencing my internet issues, my satellite TV receiver failed – no lights, no signal, no service. I picked up the phone and dialled the provider, Shaw on their toll free number for customer support. My optimism flagged as soon as I got out of the automated IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system and heard those dreaded words, “we are experiencing higher than normal call volume”. While this message, I know can be an excuse for poor forecasting and scheduling, I had no reason to suspect this was the case. But with this phrase I knew I could be in for a long wait, how long was the only question. The Shaw call center was quite helpful in this regard, “we anticipate answering your call in approximately 60 minutes”. Wonderful, it would be quite a long wait. I held for a few minutes longer hoping for the opportunity to leave a call back number, but no such option was presented. After 42 minutes on hold in queue, I received another call and regretfully dropped my call and place in queue. A few hours later I was once again able to look at addressing my lack of television issue and once again dialled the toll free number. Once again more than 60 minutes to answer was identified. Though I couldn’t be sure, I assumed that my receiver was dead and had burned out. While dutifully sitting on hold, in queue, I decided to drive to town and see the local retailer to see if they could assist me. I packed my ‘dead’ receiver into to the car, put the annoying hold music into my ear-bud and drove off. A twenty minute drive later and I was in the reseller office. After a five minute discussion and a quick power on test (it failed) I had a new receiver and jumped back in the car for my return drive. I got home plugged the new receiver in and powered it up. In a couple of minutes I had signal and was once again watching television. At minute 58 I hung up my call with the Shaw call center, as I no longer needed their services.
These two experiences underscored a number of points for me, which all service organizations can take to heart;
1. Even if you have challenges during a service dialogue, as long as you are talking to the customer you can still recover. Xplornet did this with some help from me and ultimately prevailed.
2. Choose you partners and suppliers carefully. When the installers didn’t show or couldn’t help, did I blame them? Of course I did, but I also blamed Xplorenet, after all they had chosen these installers to be partners in the first place.
3. Be accessible. Now I have no way to know if Shaw really was experiencing higher than normal volume, or if staff was appropriately scheduled, or if all of the staff scheduled to work showed up for their shift. But I do know that 60 minutes wait times at two different points of time during day is unacceptable. If there was an underlying network issue, they should have surfaced this on the IVR and provided an ETA for repair, if there was not a significant outage, where were all the calls coming from? Regardless of the cause the fact that I couldn’t get through to the call center, was frustrating and time consuming. There are always ways of being accessible: Email, chat, voice through an overflow service provider, voicemail, and of course call back messaging: the solution I had hoped for but didn’t get, that would have let me leave my number and have the phone system call me when it was my turn in queue. It is not surprising the this call back option is one of the most popular service improvements from a customer perspective, as it allows them to get on with their life without sitting and waiting for their call to be answered. In my situation, because I couldn’t reach the call center, I had to take matters in my own hand and drove to the retailer. While at the retailer I could easily have purchased the competitive product. Had I reached the call center I likely wouldn’t have faced that choice. Why would any company want to place a customer in front of the competition, especially while a little frustrated at your service?
Today I am still with both Xplornet and Shaw. The internet and satellite TV both are working well and trouble free. Each interaction we have with a company will influence our opinions and views of the organization. Each of these companies has in my mind has been changed by these recent service events. I have gone from having no real opinion of either company, to now having opinions and perceptions about how they will act going forward. Xplornet I know will get the job done and I believe is working to improve their processes. Shaw on the other hand remains unknown. Despite two abandoned calls from the phone number associated with my account I have had no contact. My perceptions of Shaw have degraded, I really wonder about their commitment to serve their customers and only hope I never have to call them again.
via The Taylor Reach Group - Call Center Consultants http://thetaylorreachgroup.com/2013/01/14/each-interaction-is-a-chance-to-delight-or-disappoint/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=each-interaction-is-a-chance-to-delight-or-disappoint
Monday, January 7, 2013
Snapshotz Online, the call center audit and benchmarking tool, recently reported staff turnover profiles for the following industries: Financial, Public Sector, Retail, Services. These are based on reportings over the last 18 months worldwide.
via The Taylor Reach Group - Call Center Consultants http://thetaylorreachgroup.com/2013/01/07/staff-turnover-results-for-selected-industries-2012/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=staff-turnover-results-for-selected-industries-2012