Tuesday, February 21, 2017

SMS- A Great Channel For High Volume Recruiting

By: Samantha Milbrodt

Using text messaging (SMS) to engage candidates is an effective way to increase the number of candidates you touch. In high volume recruiting, calling job seekers is a big portion of the job. The use of SMS eases the work load, and ensures a higher rate of successful responses.  

I love the initial interaction with candidates. Talking with them about the company and the opportunities we can offer is an exciting part of the job. However, when I hear the voice message stating, “The person you are trying to reach does not currently have voicemail setup” or, “This person is not accepting messages at this time, please try again later”, I need additional options for making contact. Email comes to mind but, texting is an excellent, quick touch. This is just the beginning; there are several other ways to add texting to your recruiting tool belt. 

A Gallup Poll confirms that text messages are now the dominant form of communication for millennials, with 68% of them texting continuously throughout the day. Have you asked your candidates how they prefer to be contacted? It opens the door to tailoring the candidate experience. By gathering this information, and using it, you speak volumes about your company culture. You show that you are adaptable and focused on creating a positive, easy experience. 

With SMS, not only can you improve the number of touches, you'll also likely increase the candidate response rate. I find texting to be convenient for both parties. My candidate’s love when I offer to send them a quick interview reminder, or an update about the hiring process. 

Text messaging helps me to stay connected, while avoiding phone tag, and long email response time. Once hired, I use texting as a way to drive participation in our referral program during the on-boarding period, and provide company updates. 

The use of SMS has increased the engagement of candidates during the hiring process. Also, it helps me to gauge those who are at risk of falling through the cracks. Before using text messaging, it was easy to lose candidates due to missed calls, or undelivered/unread emails, but not anymore! SMS provides a convenience that most people are familiar and comfortable with. In addition, it takes little effort, which makes the process more pleasant and easy for candidates.

If you are interested in adding this to your recruiting strategy, there are many great options and resources to help you. Free, online services such as Google Voice are a great way to get started. I have also found helpful information online from how to send an effective text message to ideas for toning your use to increase response rates, engage your candidates and track the effectiveness to support continued usage. I would love to hear how you use texting in your business!

Samantha Milbrodt has over 5 years of experience in high volume call center recruiting. She has been sourcing and supporting contact contact centers in several US markets but, is now based in Iowa as a Senior Recruiter. She is experienced in social media recruiting, marketing & compliance.

Samantha enjoys utilizing technology in innovative ways to enhance the recruitment process. In her own words, "I love coming up with new ideas, trying them, and collecting data to see what worked successfully." 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Speech Analytics Is Not Your Fairy Godmother

By: Diana Aviles

As we welcome the New Year we see an increase in people finally jumping on board and investing in Speech Analytics (SA) technology. Among many other things, my job is to be an advocate for SA in how it helps organizations see the big picture both in their call centers and with their customers.  People like me want to encourage organizations to invest in SA but at the same time we also find that it is our duty to be honest and forthcoming about the varying aspects of Speech Analytics.

This point brings me back to the title of this post - “Speech Analytics is not your Fairy Godmother”.  All too often I hear organizations say, “We want to have an SA program here,” as it sounds rather fancy and seems like it might be useful. Yes she is a very powerful ally who can offer you deep insights into the happenings of your business, but she does require proper investment to get the very best from her.  This certainly goes beyond simply dropping a lot of money on the software and expecting “magic” to happen.  For example, you would not just randomly search for things the same way you would Google directions to a particular Mexican restaurant and expect instant results.  The magic you seek comes from the individuals who know how to utilize the tools in the software as SA programs can actually be individually sustaining.

Automation is fantastic!  Personally I enjoy the quick convenience of running to Stop & Shop in my Chicago Bears pajama pants at 8am on a Saturday morning, rolling up to the self-checkout station and not dealing with any human being other than myself.  There are limitations to automation however.  There are times when gaining insight is not as easy as sending an automated email export to yourself.  Are there ways to set up some aspects of automation?  Certainly!  

Generally speaking most SA tools have options for you to set up a tag or a report that is run against queries for almost anything.  But queries can only tell you if they hit for something particular- on their own they cannot provide you with context.  A query run on “Email Issues” that occurred on 10/25 may very well return a high amount of hits.  If someone is not paying attention to trends within data and is only automating a report based on the query alone, she would not be getting the full benefits of Speech Analytics.  For example if a spike in volume for email related contacts is observed, that could be a huge sign to look into a situation to investigate what may have happened to cause that irregularity in the data.  From there, with the knowledge procured, based on let’s say an outage that took place with the email service on that date, I can empower an organization to take action on a situation.  SA tools are designed to do your heavy lifting and a good SA program with appropriate support can get you where you need to be if you allow them to do it.

The unrealistic expectation of automation may dampen organizations experiences with SA and as a result SA could potentially be viewed as fluff software when in reality it is simply misunderstood or undervalued.  Other instances find organizations getting overwhelmed by SA from ingestion/transcription related issues or systems administration.  With that being said, there are a few things you can do to prevent yourself or your organization from falling into the Fairy Godmother complex:

Have a set of goals you want to achieve with Speech Analytics – What do you and your organization want details about? When you’re first starting out it is perfectly normal to start small.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Don’t throw your eggs into one basket – Be open to having people trained in SA. When you have more than one person trained it greatly helps as it allows people to collaborate their experiences to provide better solutions.  In my tool I am always learning new tricks from others while simultaneously discovering new tricks of my own to share with others.

Play around – Tinker around with your SA tool.  Training is great but at the end of the day the only way you can eventually master something is by experimentation.  I have been exposed to Speech Analytics for 5 years now and those years of tinkering have helped immensely.  I can arrange metadata in more ways than one could count and even in my sleep (which is sometimes problematic because a normal human being shouldn’t be dreaming about excel spreadsheets.)

Trust your Speech Analytics software partners – Your Speech Analytics tools oftentimes come with support.  In many instances these people were a part of the software development or they come ripe with the experience of managing other SA clients.  Some organizations are distrustful of them as they may hold perceptions of a “secret salesman” mentality.  Trust them.  You are paying them to help your organization.  Let them consult and help you get you to where you want to be.

Thanks for reading- if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them down below!

Operations Manager, Speech Analytics

With more than 5 years of Quality Assurance experience in a call center environment, Diana's objective is to simultaneously promote and educate the world of Speech Analytics with a human touch; one which further emphasizes the importance of First Call Resolution and overall customer experience.

Follow Diana on LinkedIn.

Friday, February 10, 2017

When It Comes To Onboarding New Agents, Avoid the Sink or Swim Approach

By: Sean Hawkins

Sink or swim suggests one succeeds or fails by their own effort. Tell me, is this the approach you’d take when on-boarding new agents? I hope not! Yet, when it comes to on-boarding, a flawed approach results in a sink or swim approach.  If you find yourself hurried to fill seats, by quickly on-boarding new staff, you may doing them a huge disservice. In an ideal world, you’d utilize proper forecasting to determine when additional staff is needed. This alone would help avoid the rush to the floor. I would always tell floor managers “If you need agents now, you’ve acted too late.” Don’t exacerbate your problem by expediting training. I have always used a 6 week on-boarding model. Depending on the team, product or employer, this could be increased but, it would never be less than 6 weeks. There was no scientific data, or exhaustive research that brought me to this. It was the result of trial and error, along with lots of feedback from the agents. Ultimately, it was the performance of new agents that helped me make my decision. I recall the first time I entered the contact center many years ago. I spent 8 hours training and the next day, I was expected to be proficient enough to handle any call that I answered. I was not prepared. I had not been given sufficient time to retain the training material, nor had I been thoroughly introduced to the numerous applications needed to do the job. To say I was frustrated is an understatement! I doubted myself and soon grew frustrated. Before long, I was dreading the next call! I simply wanted to get the customer off the phone. I was not ready. That was not fair to me, or the customer. A lot has changed since then. I am no longer tasked with taking calls. However, there’s not been a week that has gone by that I haven’t interacted with a customer in some fashion. For one, I enjoy the front line. Interacting with customers is a thrill. Also, I remain connected to the agents. I am aware of their challenges more intimately. This helps when it comes to on-boarding. New team members should not feel afraid to come to the floor. With a successful plan in place to equip them with the right resources, people and processes, they can be set up for success. There is more than one way to do this. My approach may not work for everyone. However, after many years in the industry, and spending time speaking to a host of leaders and experts, the one thing in common that all good on-boarding programs have, is time. Giving new hires the time to become acclimated to the wonderful chaos of the contact center is key. The six weeks of on-boarding I've incorporated is divided into two weeks in three key areas: Training  This is the foundation in which you will continue to build on. A well trained agent will have a better understanding of their role. Not to mention, they will recognize the importance their role has on the customer and the organization. They will develop the skills necessary to succeed and exhibit a can-do attitude from the confidence of knowing their responsibilities. Elaine Carr, Manager of Training & Development at ICMI, wrote an outstanding article on agent training, 10 Best Practices for Agent Training. In it, she offers great tips to ensure agent training is a successful. Nesting  Arriving to the floor can be intimidating. New staff not only need to learn their job and get acclimated to processes and procedures in place, they must also get familiar with other staff and fit into a team environment. Seating them with all new staff is not ideal, as they will feel isolated. Instead, I assign newer staff a seat near the more experienced staff who have shown a propensity to assist others. These are likely agents operating at a higher performance. At the same time, am mindful of the new agent’s personality. I want them in an area where they will be best engaged by the team. I want their natural dispositions to shine. Email Support  I’ve always utilized email as the jumping off point for new agents. For one, the response time is higher therefore, there is less pressure on them than in a real time interaction of chat, social or phone. Additionally, the agent can spend time researching the issue and resolution, receiving feedback from peers or manager, and getting their responses vetted.  After completing the on-boarding phase, I allow the new agent to spend 2 hours per shadowing the top performing agents on the floor. This is done for the first month following the on-boarding phase.

Currently the Manager of Support and Product at Framework Homeownership, I have over 15 years of progressive call center leadership and experience in the public, private and government sectors.

I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries and environments including sales, BPO, and SaaS to name a few. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

Connect with Sean on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

How Are Social Media Customer Service Interactions Different From Traditional Interactions?

By: Janet Poklemba

Some days I am called upon to articulate what makes social media customer service different from traditional channels and why these interactions are so important to business.   Because I am engaged in the day-to-day and strategic planning for this disruptive and dynamic channel, it makes perfect sense to me. However, it can be very hard to explain how businesses can use these moments of truth to their advantage.
Social media customer service certainly benefits the customer who has reached out or shared their opinion.  It is true that the squeaky wheel still gets the grease.  In the absence of stellar customer service processes to keep customers inside our companies for issue resolution, customers have been trained to escalate in social channels.  For some, it’s just the easiest way to connect and for others there is some satisfaction in venting to the masses.
Having skilled customer service people available to address these issues provides 3 key benefits to businesses that may not immediately be obvious.

Risk  Social media posts are typically driven by emotion.  As a brand, you need to know ASAP when one of your customers has had an experience so important they feel it’s necessary to take the business outside of the family and share with the whole neighborhood.  Engagement in social media doesn’t move the risk away, but it does message that your brand cares about what customers have to say and wants to be part of the conversation.  Keep in mind, social media is no longer a like button or a comment on a thread.  Customers post videos, audio recordings, gifs, photos of cute dogs with signs begging your company to help.  If brands aren’t on top of conversations and engaging in authentic meaningful ways, a post could go viral before you even have a chance to resolve an issue and possibly have a post removed or amended.  These folks have a voice, and they know how to use it.

Insight  Not just impressions or likes or follows, but real meaty insight that you can mine to understand where the emotion is and what drives the post, both positively and negatively. Sure, you may never be able to tie a tweet from “2tired2clean” or from 'Bill and Sarah' Facebook page to a customer in your database, but you can use the verbatim from your social data, including ratings & reviews, with a freakishly awesome text analytics tools, and see if it matches what you are hearing in your contact centers.  Think about the classic iceberg of complaints and know for a fact that your detractors on social are representing a larger number of customers.  Is social amplifying issues you are aware of?  Fix them! Does it notify you of problems people are having?  Look into it!  It’s one of the best (double edged) early warning systems money can buy.  Use it! 

Trust Building  On phone call, the conversation is 1:1.  If I resolve your issue, we’re good and it’s done.  In social, the conversation is 1:many.  Even if I resolve your issue, your complaint may stay there forever.   Social media brings the power of the conversation to your customer and amplifies their message to a broader audience where it can be shared and immortalized.   Social also allows business to use that power for good.  Where else do you get a chance to publicly show how much you care about the concerns of the people who use your products and services?  Social is about human beings reaching out to human beings.  People are smart enough to know who complains just to complain (1 star) and who loves everything they buy (5 star).  They see engagement and recognize canned responses vs. authentic replies.  They are willing to give brands the chance to make it right.  Brands need to have the right people in place to meet that expectation.

Social media customer service is different.  The stakes are higher, the risk is greater, and the reward can be significant.  Many in my industry speak of customer service as the new marketing.  In many ways that is true.  Customer service professionals are taking the engagement and servant leadership we have honed and are bringing it into a public forum where others can see what we’ve been doing for years.  Listening, acknowledging, and taking care of people.

Janet Poklemba has been in the business of customer service for over 20 years in multiple industries, and in a variety of call center leadership roles working both sides of the BPO model and managing in-sourced teams. She is passionate about the Customer Experience and all things digital to help reduce customer effort and bring the voice of the customer to the decision making table. 

Janet is a Customer Experience leader with a diverse skill set in leadership, project management, data analysis, digital/social media care, sales effectiveness, call center operations, developing customer connections, business requirements documentation and technology requirements/implementation. She is an excellent cross functional collaborator and has significant experience managing customer engagement, support and sales. Janet is experienced in multiple industries including telecommunications, satellite TV, home warranty and consumer products. She prioritizes customer service and collaboration as primary tools for success.

Follow Janet on LinkedIn and Twitter.