Boost Your Productivity With These 6 Actionable Steps

Being productive in the workplace is a problem many of us face, but what can be done to increase our productivity tenfold and not experience burn-out?

Let’s  start with these six simple tips:

You can’t afford to waste time

The first step you should take is to avoid wasting time, the amount of opportunities you have during the day to plan and think things through is astonishing.

All those ‘pre-requisites’ and mundane tasks you have a each day. Showering, commuting to work are just two examples of thinking opportunities we have each day, don’t pass on them.

Look around, and see how people waste their time on gossip and other meaningless things, that time is lost but you can spend that precious time on the latest challenge on your to-do list. Never let time slip by worthlessly, you can’t afford it.

The time of the day matters more than you think

Different strokes for different folks.

If there was a ‘Problem-Solving 101’ class its first semester would be devoted to in-depth analysis of how it’s better to tackle different tasks during different times of the day.

For example, fairly small but immediate problems are best to be dealt with first thing in the morning, proverbially ‘knocking them out of the park’ as the day begins providing with the necessary warm-up as well as ‘space’ to handle the more complex issues uninterrupted.

In order to find out what works for you, test a bit. Try tackling different types of challenges during different times of the day and see what works for you.

Re-think your approach before sleep

According to a plethora of studies on the impact of sleep on the brain, sleep is used to make sense of what’s going on in our lives, as well as natural cataloguing and prioritising system for thoughts and memories.

With the above in mind  it’s only natural to implement re-thinking before going to sleep, as an effective problem-solving tactic. But don’t fall into the trap of mulling over something just before ‘hitting the sack’ as it’ll only increase the doubt and will be the cause for many sleepless nights.

Simply, re-think your approach and get some well deserved sleep, you will wake up knowing which course of action to take.

Give yourself the necessary space

The hardest decision are the momentous ones.

The most important thing to do in these particular cases is to give yourself enough space (since time is of the essence and you can’t afford it) to consider all the available options and their respective outcomes.

Avoid interruptions at all cost and don’t let anyone rush you, with such an approach you’re bound to make the right choice.

Amp-up your work-space

Human beings are heavily dependent on their environment, this goes for their work environment as well. There’s no doubt that adding a personal touch to your surroundings can heavily impact your inspiration and creative thinking.

Your work-space may not inspire lateral thinking.

Sometimes if you need to analyse a problem thoroughly you might need to go out for a bit to stimulate your brain and help you think creatively and positively.

The ‘under-pressure’ conundrum

If faced with a difficult problem we need time and space to make a well educated choice.

The ‘time and space’ concept gets flipped over when you introduce pressure from peers into the equation.  We require the solitude the space provides and the luxury of time necessary for research, but what if we can’t simply afford neither of these?

The only proper course of action is to make the best out the worst case scenario, start by gathering information from the people you trust. Second step is to find  a quiet place and set a time-limit for yourself. All that’s left is to think things through and act.

The Importance of Training Reinforcement

It’s a known fact that a well-trained employee makes a difference it the customer careindustry.

How your consultants resolve customer issues, deal with potentially volatile situations, and up-sell or cross-sell your products and services, makes or breaks your business.

It shouldn’t come as a mystery that when you invest in employee training programs, your agents come out motivated and equipped with a more versatile toolkit to use on customers.

However, as with all things, the enthusiasm starts to fade and the recently acquired skills deteriorate, which leaves you with mostly the same issues you dealt with prior to training.

Follow the steps below to amp-up your training sessions and make them stick.

 

How to make it stick?

The first step is up to you, don’t get frustrated with your employees “training amnesia,” instead evaluate your training service’s reinforcement methodology.

Do you incorporate follow-up programs?

It’s been proven that over the course of six months, trainees will lose up to 75%  of knowledge gained through training if there are no reinforcement and follow-up solutions introduced. Similarly, less than a 50% of skills gained during training sessions will carry over to the job if there’s no failsafe in the form of training reinforcement implemented.

Customer care training is essential; empower your employees by providing them with the proper “tools of the trade” as well as incorporating a well functioning follow-up methodology.

 

Summarizing & handouts

Don’t count on your employees having a photographic memory, quite a lot of important information will slip by them over the course of training sessions.

Compile handouts (or create a handy PDF document) that will highlight key points raised during customer service training, use diagrams and images but keep it short – make sure that the handout is short as possible (no more than 2 pages) and lists only relevant critical information.

Encourage consultants to use these handouts as a miniature knowledge base.

 

The art of coaching

Good training sessions are a mix of theory, spliced with examples of a real-life application of our newly acquired skills and a dash of role-playing. Theory will most likely stick with your employees, it’s the real-life application part you need to reinforce:

  • observe
  • correct
  • demonstrate
  • reevaluate

Coaching sessions solidify newly acquired knowledge, especially if conducted right after customer service training. Demonstrating the correct approach is essential, reinforce their efforts through praise and feedback.

 

Debriefing

Tie-in reinforcement session during staff meetings, it’s a wonderful opportunity to review key concepts and training in general. Discuss how are they incorporating their new skill-set into their daily routine, how are they helping them and most importantly ask which skills seem to be the most problematic when applying to practical situations.  Periodical debriefing is a powerful reinforcement tool it allows your employees to work through any potential issues they might be having as they start “getting their hands dirty”.

 

Take it from the top

Leading by example has to be one of the best ways to reinforce training lessons, if you really think your employees don’t mimic your behaviour, think again. Monitor yourself, consistently apply training session knowledge in customer and coworker relations – bring those training lessons to life, prove that you “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk”

 

It doesn’t end in the classroom

Customer service training doesn’t have to end the moment your employees get back to their workspace. Follow our tips and get the most out of your training investment, maximise gains by reinforcing and coaching your customer service agents.

You’re the deciding factor on what they retain from training sessions.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

Tech Plays a Key Role in Training Reinforcement

Train­ing is an invest­ment, a long-term behav­ioral change, and will not be suc­cess­ful with­out proper rein­force­ment;  follow-up sessions conducted by contact centre super­vi­sors and man­agers.

Thanks to new solutions provided by technology: video, email and social media, these reinforcement sessions become easy to conduct and are cost effective.

Every type of training is suited for technology based reinforcement, whether you’re reinforcing a strategic skill change or improving soft skills, technology will help. It proves to be a valuable “ally” during training as well as post-training activities as is after ensures the change in behaviour sticks.

These are the top techniques we at OpsTalent use:

 E-mail; bi-weekly emails with rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion which can be applied to daily tasks.

  1. A consistent and descriptive title is crucial, reference the training session the follow-up relates to so that the participants open the email ASAP.
  2. If the email contains video content make sure that the text part of the message is clear and to the point, don’t waste the contact centre agents time on reading, point them to the video straight away.
  3. Avoid graphics, emails containing these are often blocked by email client app’s, thus mistaken as spam and deleted straight away. Also, graphic content is not mobile friendly so keep that in mind.
  4. Plan no more than one training email per training hour, schedule these to be sent out over a course of 4 weeks. This is crucial since it will not overwhelm agents and at the same time will be more than enough to bring permanent change in behaviour.
  5. Send the e-mails to managers, don’t leave them out of the loop, the content can be easily reused during team meetings.

Video; create engaging videos that will aid employee knowledge retention.

  1. Create videos that last up to 3 minutes, that will keep agents engaged and interested until the very end.
  2. Be detailed regarding the most valued tip from the training session, expand on it and end the video with an easy to follow call-to-action.
  3. Follow-up videos don’t need to be made by professionals, but they need to look professional. Dress code, the tone of voice and a steady camera are vital when it comes to creating engaging content.
  4. Post videos in-house or on a private channel on YouTube or Vimeo. Streamed video is the safest and best option.

Other; pri­vate social media groups are ideal for sharing content and reinforcing training.

  1. Brainshark is great when resources are limited or creating video content is simply not an option. Creating PowerPoint presentations with audio is an amazing substitute for video content, but it has potential to be much more than just a substitute.
  2. Create private groups in LinkedIn where contact centre staff can share successes stories or ask relevant questions.

Technology can play a key role in reinforcing employee training and in long-term behav­ioral change, especially in crucial business areas such as;  intro­duc­ing new pro­ce­dures, improv­ing exist­ing skills sets, or engag­ing new employ­ees. It’s up to you to incorporate it!

Achieve Excellence Through Active Listening

Turn your representatives into virtual guides for your customers; provide tips and insights and capitalise on delivering customer experience excellence.

Often times we focus too much on the task, while completely ignoring the human aspect of it, and thus fail to actively listen to the customer.

Unfortunately, this is a surefire way to ruin customer experience as the act of not listening or even worse, not comprehending is perceived a cardinal sin in customer centric landscape the contact centre industry has become.

Become customer-centric

Contact centre managers and agents need to understand that in order to provide excellent customer service your business needs to become customer-centric. Giving customers your undivided attention is the first step in achieving this goal.

Customer service training should include visualisation methods which enforce eye contact and role play – as if customers were sitting just across from your staff. This will encourage them to actively listen to what is being said and agents will pay more attention to fine details such as: tone, vocabulary and voice volume.

Pinpoint key information

When it comes to delivering great customer care the ability to identify key information quickly is essential and active listening techniques are what your agents need to easily pinpoint customer needs, desires and problems, thus reducing the AHT (Average Handle Time) and bumping customer satisfaction up a notch.

The ability to pinpoint problems faster will lead to an increase in first-contact resolution as well as enable your agents to handle more customer queries per day.

Show empathy

Paying attention to customer feelings provides valuable information on how to handle each query, which leads to successful problem resolution and happy customers.

A customer who’s obviously in a hurry? Provide him with an approximate time to complete the task or order.

Another common example: if the customer is clearly upset, show empathy and use it as an edge during the communication process.

Personalised customer service is a small, but often well appreciated touch.

Paraphrase to clarify

The final step of successful active listening is clarification of understanding. In order pinpoint customer needs or to be able to diagnose what problems he experiences we need to reassure him by paraphrasing his own explanation back to him and ask for confirmation. This method will reassure the customer that they have been heard and their query will be taken care of.

Active listening teaches your representatives to focus on the customer by showing empathy, while simultaneously filtering and paraphrasing key information conveyed during the conversation in order to clarify their understanding of the topic, therefore reassuring them that everything is going to be alright.

Delivering customer care excellence has never been easier, and it’s all thanks to active listening.

10 Rules of Social Sales

You can start your social selling venture by messaging potential leads on LinkedIn, or sharing relevant content on Twitter, or you might go as far as publishing a blog post.

These are all good starting points, but to be successful you need to go in with a solid game-plan.

All great social sellers have a process in place, one that supplements their tactics, thus creating a definitive framework to help navigate through this relatively new phenomenon called social selling.

The latest SlideShare from PGi lists 10 rules that effective social sellers and social selling programs need to contain in order to become coherent, efficient and most importantly successful.

 

 

Positive Reinforcement Works Wonders

Have you noticed how most quality-monitoring systems overly focus on things agents do wrong?

You most certainly did, but what can you do to change it? The negative scoring schemes need to be counter-balanced by positive reinforcement tactics.

The benefits of positive reinforcement are often undervalued but in the long run they’re vastly more important than negative scoring.

If you spot agents doing something right, highlight it.

The agent will feel appreciated, and you will be able to highlight areas he needs to improve in without causing stress, thus driving positive change. Everybody wins 🙂