Get to Know Your Customers

Mastering and gaining insights is essential in establishing a loyalty culture.

Customer loyalty is driven by multiple factors but mainly by the dissonance between how your company is internally structured, and what does the customer experience when communicating with your brand.

 

Internal factors can influence external outcome

It’s quite common for companies to ignore internal factors, and just focus on external ones when reviewing their customer loyalty options.  The following situation dissolves into a series of ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to customer satisfaction and loyalty scores, not focusing on fixing the root cause of the problem. Temporary ‘band-aids’ hurt customer loyalty and are reactionary in nature, it’s not what the costumers want.

 

Re-examine your inner-workings to fully understand what drives customer loyalty

Let’s get one thing out in the open, focusing on external fixes simply doesn’t work. If your management team’s fixes include one or more of the following ideas we’ve got bad news for you:

  • “We need to create a customer loyalty program to reward those customers that purchase more”
  • “We need to launch a brand new advertising campaign (yet another one) that highlights how great our product is”
  • “We clearly need a sale, let’s slash the prices that a sure way to increase our customer loyalty”

These so-called solutions are reactionary in nature, short-sighted, and don’t even scratch the surface of the real problem – why are you unable to gain customer loyalty.

Dismiss the concept ‘knee-jerk’ changes, your goal is to understand your customers, shift your paradigm of how you understand customer loyalty.

 

Create programs that fit your customers’ preferences

First and foremost, stop assuming that your customers understand what differentiates your products from the competition. Next, customer service and product development need to form as a result of knowing who your customers are, what do they expect from a top-tier product, and what will impact their decision-making process.

 

How to gain insights into your customers’  behaviour

You’re probably scratching your head and thinking “How do I understand my customers?” – well, it’s pretty easy, you simply talk to you customers. Conduct surveys, focus groups, engage them through social media, the possibilities are endless.

Find out:

  • how they perceive your brand
  • how they perceive products similar to yours
  • how do they rate your customer service
  • what matters to them

 

The fun part

Having collected required data, the time has come to analyse, and implement solutions that will satisfy your customers’ needs. You may find out that yet another customer loyalty program is not what they need nor want, maybe you need to ‘amp-up’ your customer service, or maybe it’s your website that needs to be more intuitive.

 

The journey will be an enlightening and fulfilling

Your findings will re-calibrate your focus and open a plethora of possibilities to gain loyal customers.

Gaining perspective is a life and business lesson that you can’t ‘put a price tag’ on.

Custom Built Agent Team

The perfect customer care agent is high-performing and engaged, at least according to managers but how does this fare against reality?

However, in reality, we’re capable of observing multiple ranges of performances from low, to average and finally high. Agents are doing the same job, but their performance varies so much simply because they’re all different people and we’re evaluating them with the same metrics. It’s natural that some will lag behind while others will excel above their peers.

Considering that everyone is different and has a plethora of experiences and expectations maybe the managers themselves should opt in for a unique personalised approach – recognise all these differences and accept them. Focus agent development and training around those, this will help tremendously with performance.

Personalise agents coaching sessions, adjust them to their needs and performance level.

In order to reach peak performance use these 5 steps.

 

Job description

Everyone has a job description but most of the time those are ignored or even forgotten about completely. Someone once told me “My job description is like a fairy tale; In a filing cabinet far, far away”. Dust the job description off, it is the most common denominator of your agents. It’s the best starting point, in won’t help you with performance issues but will let you learn what expectations your team has.

Put that knowledge to good use.

 

Expectations

Make sure all the agents in your contact centre are on the same page when it comes to performance expectations. The job description is a great starting point, but each team member can understand it in a totally different way and that is the way their performance will vary.

Communication is the basis of an effective team.

 

Diagnose performance

Agents need consistent metrics and performance evaluation methods those won’t substitute day-to-day coaching and performance management but will let you benchmark current performance and competency levels for each individual. You simply need to know what to tune up.

Pick the best tool to gauge their abilities and be aware of potential risks involved with each method.

 

Devise a plan

After carefully analysing each agent’s strengths and improvement opportunities, create a tune up plan. Create a custom made plan of action for each agent, do not generalise but make it relevant and specific to each person. The plan needs to be practical, be sure to include activities, online learning and company training.

Whatever you plan for your agents make sure it all ties down directly to the evaluation.

 

Implement the plan

Now the tune-up begins. The plan itself is a great topic for discussion between agents and managers, it will fuel their thirst for knowledge. No more wasted training and resources.

Your team is ready to reach its peak performance.

 

The cost associated with the aforementioned custom tune up is low while it provides great value. Tune up your staff and see them soar.

The #1 Job: Coaching

Once you embrace positive coaching, then employee morale will hit an all time high and you will be able to feel the positive energy “crackling” in the air.

contact centre agents are more engaged and show more enthusiasm and are more likely to succeed in their day to day tasks. Work becomes a great experience for your staff, you can literally feel the positive energy “crackling” in the air.

But if coaching sessions are negative or virtually non-existent, team morale will plummet.

Agents will become disconnected, absent minded and bored. This will result in lower quality of service as well as higher attrition rates.

 

Coach­ing is essential

High productivity and decent bottom-line results are not impossible in an environment where morale is low, but it is highly unlikely. As a coach, you need to remember that if you provide a better working experience for your contact centre agents, they will become more engaged and enthusiastic, and thus the customer experience will reflect that.

As a manager, you are responsible for your employees, you need to care for them – trust us, it’s the right thing to do. But if you believe that altruism has no place in the business world maybe those couple points will show you why coaching is so essential:

Positive coaching will lead to high morale among your contact centre agents, thus providing these long-term benefits:

  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Higher pro­duc­tiv­ity
  • Lower attrition rates
  • Higher cus­tomer satisfaction
  • Increased cus­tomer loyalty

 

Don’t fall into a trap

Don’t ever make the assumption that the correct path to high morale is providing contact centre agents with what they vocal majority of them want. Take a look back at your own career path and think back, what did you want as a “grunt” employee? Better pay, more “spare” time for non-work-related shenanigans and less work relates tasks – that sounds like the fastest path to minimalism.

If you want your employees to thrive, create a dynamic and positive environment, provide opportunities for self-development. Continuous learning will lead to constant improvements on multiple levels – knowledge is power, especially in the dynamic world of multi-lingual contact centres.

 

Make it happen

First and foremost, as the manager, you need to embrace the idea that coaching is the #1 job you are responsible for. Then, cultivate and spread the idea of positive coaching among your staff – all of them, no exception. Open communication and active participation should be encouraged, make agents aware that despite not being decision makers their input is highly valued and everyone can make a difference. Make them a part of “The Grand Plan”.

Creating this kind of positive environment is no easy task, but it goes a long way.

 

…don’t get discouraged

Every company has some “just get by” people and nothing will change that, no matter what you as the manager do to inspire and motivate them. Morale of the whole contact centre can be in danger, so when the time to act comes be firm. Issue out warnings to those contact centre agents with attitude problems and if that doesn’t help it’s best to terminate “get by-ers” on the spot.

BPO & The Cloud: A match Made in Heaven

It’s quite easy to notice the synergies between cloud computing and BPO.

Businesses around the globe acknowledge the benefits of cloud-based solutions and are aware of the competitive advantage those provide. Many enterprises are pushing for transitioning to a cloud-based environment.

This solution is mostly praised by small and mid-sized businesses as it provides a big cost reduction since there is no need to maintain complex in-house systems that require frequent upgrades and support.

This new level of flexibility a cloud-based environment provides is not only faster but more efficient with resource utilisation; your company will have even greater control over IT spending than ever before.

It’s no wonder that BPO and Cloud go so well together since both offer agility, scalability, reliability and cost reduction.

Traditionally, the BPO service provider maintains a large data centre infrastructure with all the technology to run the customer’s business processes. However, if the service provider has his infrastructure in the cloud, it can make it available at a much lower cost. That can even open the possibility of offering business processes from day one, thanks to utilising shared platforms, applications and sometimes whole infrastructures to transform their customers’ business processes.

Cloud’s advantages

The greatest benefit is the coming of the virtual shared service centre. The virtual centre support staffs remain in their offices but work together online in a standardised way.

 

Cost reduction

  • Hosting standard applications. No need to host these applications individually, since cloud BPO providers host them for their clients.
  • Offload capital expenses and move to an operational expense model
  • Control over expenses and operational costs, providers offer most of these services as a pay-per-use.
  • Utilization. Providers are able to achieve a higher utilisation by balancing differing timeliness and work peaks.
  • Reduced need for a disaster recovery plan. Cloud connectivity is a built-in disaster recovery measure.

Standardised

BPO providers have optimised their processes. They also have access to the latest platforms and newest technology. Clients can access these at a much lower cost than if they had to develop them in-house.

Free up internal resources

Since they no longer have to maintain the infrastructure.

Potential risks and challenges

Data protection seems to be the biggest concern since sensitive corporate information is being hosted and accessed over the Web. Service providers must be able to assure their clients about their security practices. (employee background security checks, segregation of employee functions and sufficient encryption.)

Also, compliance with government regulations is a key concern.

 

If BPO providers will be able to solve these issues Cloud will be here to stay for good and will be the most often picked solution amongst customers and providers alike.

 

Put The Right People in The Right Job

Recruiting right people for the right job has never been more important.

Providing great customer experience is the quintessential for contact centres and the biggest hurdle in achieving this goal is employee attrition. But how should managers and supervisors filter out applicants?

Want to know if your future employee has what it takes to make it in the multilingual environment of a multichannel contact centre?

Use these pointers:

 

Watch out for these essential skills

  • Call control and the ability to remain calm under pressure
  • Communicating clearly and confidently, also grammar and spelling
  • Ability to follow through from the initial call to any follow-up correspondence
  • Ability to handle delicate situations and attention to detail

 

Ability to remain calm under pressure

It’s one of the key attributes you should look out for when recruiting contact centre agents. Clear communications skills, remaining calm under pressure, confidence and expert knowledge are essential.

 

Competence-based interview

Be sure to test skills and competencies of an agent with live role play action. Make the scenario as close to the actual contact centre environment as possible, it will contribute to the recruitment process tremendously and also make it as interactive as possible. Also, request for real-life examples when the candidate is speaking about previous experience, this will serve as great insight as to what should you look out for during the role play stage.

 

Recruit in numbers

Try to always recruit groups of five to eight future contact centre agents, and possibly avoid recruiting one agent at a time. Small groups will allow your future employees to learn from one another during the training process. This will also strengthen their self-esteem, especially in newbies that are entering the industry for the first time since they are not alone. Make sure that agents are aware that “there are no silly questions” during the training process, make them feel comfortable while asking even the most obvious ones.

 

Clear expectations

Be clear on what is expected of a particular project or a team. Be precise when explaining about company culture and policies. Honesty during the interview really helps, if an agent finds something uncomfortable after becoming an employee he’ll be more likely to quit, or won’t be as efficient as you expected him to be from the information gathered during the recruitment process. Be honest – it’s that simple.

 

Training

With attrition rates for contact and call centres, especially in the multilingual environment are on an all time high – the average turnover rates are higher than any other industry. You can tone those rates down easily, invest in training and coaching. Prepare your new agents, show them what to expect and playback some difficult calls that ended in a successful resolution. Five to three days of training is money well spent.

 

Be on the lookout for candidates that can work under pressure, can communicate clearly and at the same time can deal with a plethora of new and exciting situations. At the same time provide great training and self-development opportunities, those will ensure company loyalty.

In the long run, these basic pointers will be your “secret weapon” in the war on staff attrition.

How to Deliver Great Customer Care with Live Chat

Live chat became the norm for customer care delivery but no matter the support channel of choice, customer experience must be positive. 

One of the benefits for the client is the ability to multitask during the session which allows those with busy schedules to continue with their daily tasks and routines.

Though the quality of the service itself can be less than favourable since at times the agent will overuse scripted lines, fail to personalise comments and ask irrelevant questions.

When moving agents from the traditional channels of communication to live chat you should consider training them in proper etiquette.

Be Proactive

Smart companies know the benefits of live chat. Tough you need to keep in mind which method of delivering the service you should pick. You have two options; either include a button on your site that opens up a session or set a timer that will automatically open up a session after a prolonged browsing period. The second option can be a little annoying for the customer. Remember that instigating communication is a proven method of increasing revenue.

Customize Messages

Most life chat sessions begin with a scripted welcoming message. Those are a time saver but frequent overuse can lead to negative interaction with the customer simply because they might make him will unimportant. Be understanding, show the empathy you have for your customers’ needs and be sincere about the desire to help. This is the first step in building brand loyalty.

Don’t Over-Personalize

The information most systems let you gather on your customers should never ever be revealed to them, use the data only to add real value to the conversation. If the client gets the feeling of his privacy being invaded he will consider going to your competitors.

Communicate Clearly

The style of communication matters, this might be the customer’s first glance at the company. Pay attention to grammar, be precise and don’t ever use emoticons. Keep in mind that when hiring for a web chat position the agent has to be able to express empathy through writing. The safe approach would be monitoring your employees for the dozen or so first sessions.

Be Positive

The two key elements are positive attitude and service knowledge when these two are combined they form the perfect customer service experience. Be responsive and reassure the customer that you’re here to help him.

Use those five tips and you’ll quickly notice:

  • Happier customers.
  • Reduced cost of operations.
  • Improved profits.

These simple, yet effective guidelines provide a steady framework for your customer care team; a base which can be adapted and modified according to your personal observations and for the best outcome. Now go out there and deliver exceptional customer care!

Turn Your Hiring Program Into a Powerful Retention Tool

Multilingual contact centre managers realise the key to success is having skilled, engaged and fast thinking agents manning the front lines of each campaign.

This is where the hiring program methods distinguish the great contact centres from the decent ones. If you want to provide excellent customer experience with highly engaged agents you need to treat the recruiting process like an agent retention tool and not like the usual agent acquisition process.

The widespread myth of “high turnover rates” is to blame.

Take your time

Careful and precise selection of the most qualified and committed candidates is the best way to reduce attrition among contact centre agents.

Customer service requires a plethora of soft and hard skills and it would be highly unwise to rush the whole recruitment process. Trying to quickly meet the contact centres staffing requirements will only be a waste of time and precious resources.

Screening and filtering are essential steps – don’t skip them.

Overconfidence will get you nowhere

Many contact centre managers make this rookie mistake, overconfidence is your biggest enemy when it comes to turnover rates. Even if your contact centre has an empathetic corporate culture that attracts many candidates, so many that there is always a line of “soon-to-be” agents waiting just outside the door to fill in for your front line “grunts” – it’s not the time to boast.

Having a long line of applicants doesn’t mean they’re all highly qualified and engaged.

Use the numbers to your advantage

Simply “stack the deck” in your favour, a large pool of candidates provides no advantage unless you have tools in place which will help filter out the real talent from replicas.

These tools include:

  • a focused recruiting process
  • screening and assessment techniques and technologies that pinpoint which candidate possess qualities to succeed in the dynamic multilingual contact centre environment
  • realistic job previews, be clear on what is required from potential candidates

Having overbearing numbers of job applicants isn’t anything to brag about, especially in this economy. If you believe that long lines of candidates outside the office are a valid metric of how special your company is we’ve got bad news for you – it’s time to get off your high horse.

If agents are quitting despite the situation of the current job market it might be a sign of poor management

In order to form teams of highly engaged agents and forming a customer-centric climate, you need to view your hiring program as a powerful retention tool.

Reducing Costs While Maintaining Efficiency & Versatility

When operating a multilingual contact centre, customer service costs can add up fast, and over a short period of time they will quickly add up to A LOT.

If you are looking to improve your business’s bottom line, or provide better customer service, you need to implement these methods to reduce customer service costs without sacrificing the support part, and still providing exceptional customer experience.

Equipment

Re-evaluate your equip­ment, it could be cost­ing you more money than you think.  For example, automat­ing your contact centre’s tele­phone sys­tem for the less used cus­tomer ser­vice func­tions could potentially save time and reduce cost on pay­roll and train­ing. Cloud-based technology can also centralise your whole contact centre into one consolidated customer service centre.

  • Phone Sys­tem: Find an appropriate calling system that will streamline the process. An automated attendant or system that reroutes calls to correct contact centre agents quickly can be a life saver, especially during customer service peaks
  • Soft­ware: Is your CRM software integrated with your calling and scheduling systems? If not, make it your top priority.
  • Stor­age: Most on-site systems can be moved to the cloud, especially if they take up valuable space and resources. Evaluate if doing so will help you save on utility costs.

Multi-Channel

Embracing the multi-channel approach, implementing it and then aligning all your communication channels is what all contact centres should aim to achieve in 2015.

It’s not only about the technology, it’s about the people. Your contact centre is as strong as its core employees – the front line grunts, contact centre agents.

Make sure that your teams can handle multiple communication channels, be it email, phone call, live web chat or social media. Assigning two people per campaign to each communication channel might seem a reasonable choice, but in the end, it might cost you more.

Remember about attrition and turnover rates, which despite the efforts of contact centre managers still plague the industry to this day. Train each representative, they need to provide exceptional customer service on each communication channel – versatility is essential.

Also in the case of returning customers, if the same agent handles the quarry throughout all communication channels, it adds a new depth of personalisation thus creating a compelling experience for the customer resulting in increased customer satisfaction.

Cutting customer service costs is not about blindly “swingin’ the ole axe”  and reducing budgets, it’s about making your business more efficient.

Upgrading software, as well as hardware, will lead to increase in employee efficiency while embracing the multi-channel approach and centralising all communication channels will lead to increase in customer satisfaction, both of which will in the long-term lead to better customer retention.

Evaluate budgets, look for ways to increase efficiency, and only then cut costs.

 

Using LinkedIn For Business Development

LinkedIn is a useful career tool and mingling with the right crowd has never been easier, but over the last few years it evolved past its networking purpose and has become a vital business development tool.

Bellow, you’ll find 10 LinkedIn business development best practices:

 

Optimise Your Profile

Make sure that your profile is fully complete, that’s the first step. The second step is a bit harder as you need to revise your profile and use as many keyword-rich descriptions as possible.

These steps will improve your visibility when someone is searching LinkedIn for people with your expertise.

Just don’t ‘go full keyword’ OK?

 

Get Your Custom URL

I don’t know about you, but personally, I love customization, and custom URLs are no exception. Go ahead and claim your custom URL, just make sure it includes your name (e.g. https://linkedin.com/in/yourname).

This rather simple step is especially valuable for people who have a lot of contact with potential clients (even more valuable for those of us in the B2B sector) mainly because we have become so accustomed to ‘googling’ – we just search for people we haven’t met yet in order to learn more about them and at times, to gain the upper hand.

 

Network.

Constantly keep on building and maintain your LinkedIn network. Whenever you meet someone, follow up with a LinkedIn request. Being connected to a wide plethora of professionals improves your chances of finding that one person who’s connected to someone with whom you’d like to be introduced.

Simply keep on networking, and when in doubt network some more.

 

Advanced Search

Thanks to LinkedIn the endless search for prospective clients and decision makers has never been easier. The ability to find the appropriate person to contact for your business is at your fingertips, and it’s called ‘Advanced Search’. Use a combination of industry keywords, job titles and company or brand names and you’re all set.

When you do find your ‘point of contact’ look at their profile, perhaps they’re connected to anyone in your networking circle who you might ask for an introduction.

If not, don’t worry there are other, more natural relationship building methods. See what LinkedIn groups they participate in, or maybe they have a Twitter account or a blog you could follow and build a relationship based on common interests.

 

Get Your Company ‘Out There’

Highlight your company by building a company page. Use keyword-rich descriptions for your offers and/or services and bring your company to life by using high-quality images and videos.

 

Form Opinions and Share Knowledge

Status updates are a great way to share valuable information to prospective clients, your employees and anyone who’s following your company page.

Your ‘personal brand’ helps in building trust in you and by extension in your company, use it to your advantage and showcase your strong points. Use status updates on your personal profile to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge.

 

Publish Content

It’s ‘Publish or Perish’ on LinkedIn. Write articles that demonstrate your industry knowledge and expertise and use the publishing feature to get your content ‘out there’.

Including a crafty ‘Call to Action’ is a surefire way to encourage further engagement, in the form of commenting on your article or contacting you for help.

 

Study LinkedIn’s Pulse

The most popular articles get featured on LinkedIn’s Pulse. In order to find out what content is popular (and gets promoted as a result), you need study ‘Pulse’.

Look for common denominators, latest trends and types of content – don’t forget to ‘keep an eye out’ for emerging trends.

 

Community Building

Don’t be a ‘square’ and participate in industry groups. Finding groups appropriate to your industry is not an easy task as there’s a lot of ‘noise’ to filter, however, you’ll be able to find active, quality groups with a thriving community – it just takes time.

What’s next? Be a part of the community, start participating by answering questions, joining conversations and sharing interesting third-party articles.

Keep on doing these activities and you’ll become a trusted community member. Having established your credibility and visibility within the group, you’ll be able to share your own content with ease.

 

Tell, Don’t Sell

Remember, you’re among professionals, there are no ‘sheep’ on LinkedIn, only ‘wolves’, this is why it’s crucial to focus on building trust and not on selling. A sales pitch will just turn everyone away, and you won’t get a second chance.

Build trust by engaging your audience on multiple levels. Think about what’s important to them, what problems they have, what challenges they face and pinpoint their aspirations and goals.

You need to become their ‘go-to’ source for problem-solving, someone they want to become, one that always has helpful information and insight, and when they use the information you provided to fix their issues or solve a problem they will think of you.

Become your audiences guru, that’s all there is to it.

 

I would love to hear back from you and learn how do you use LinkedIn for business development?

The Real Value of First Contact Resolution

The more satisfied customers are, the more loyal they’ll become – embrace customer centricity.

It’s not a mystery that first contact resolution is one of the main drivers for customer satisfaction.

Even the smallest improvements to first contact resolution (FCR) have an impact on increasing customer satisfaction, at an astonishing rate of 1:1, which quite frankly is huge.

 

Cost Effective

First Contact resolution not only increases customer satisfaction but improving FCR in your contact centre should be the top priority, simply because it greatly reduces costs.

So there is without a shadow of a doubt a business case for improving first contact resolution, as a result, many companies are investing heavily in customer service training and analytics tools, to measure and improve this voluble metric.

But is focusing mainly on FCR sufficient in order to maintain customer loyalty?
Most certainly not.

 

Keep It Balanced

There are many vital aspects that correspond and impact customer satisfaction thus shaping customer loyalty, these “what-if’s” are:

  • What if; you encountered a poorly trained contact centre agent?
  • What if; the representative didn’t have sufficient product knowledge?
  • What if; you had to be kept on hold for 20 minutes while listening to some ungodly music track?
  • What if; the issue was resolved but the agent was rude and interrupted the conversation numerous times?

 

Diversify

Overly focusing on one metric is a sign of bad management. Embrace the balanced scorecard tactic and evaluate your employees and customer service process’s using these criteria:

  • First Contact Resolution
  • Post contact IVR survey, ask the customer how would they rate the experience
  • Customer retention metric to evaluate the likelihood of a customer leaving within 4 weeks
  • Include Average Handle Time; despite all the hate it gets if you wish you could keep it hidden from the contact centre agents
  • Cross-selling abilities
  • Average time spent on hold; waiting on hold is despised by the customers
  • Number of appropriate escalations
  • Employee satisfaction; happy staff = happy customers

 

First contact resolution is a vital metric which greatly impacts customer satisfaction and helps reducing costs, but focusing on FCR alone is simply not enough.

Take all variables into consideration when trying to increase customer loyalty and act accordingly, ask the customers what parts of the customer experience you provide do they cherish and which ones do they despise, and get to work.