Monday, December 11, 2017

Rising to the Challenge of Exceptional Customer Service

By Melodee Norris

How easy is it to deliver exceptional customer service consistently to every customer, every time?  Super simple when the customer is polite and nice, right?  It is natural to mirror
how we are being treated so when a customer is courteous and kind, good customer service is delivered.  Once a customer becomes challenging, confrontational or rude, it can be very difficult to resist what comes natural, resulting quite often, in a poor customer experience.

In the call center environment, the challenge then becomes inspiring our associates to not mirror poor behavior, but instead rise above, to the higher road, where an exceptional customer experience can transpire!

First, we must teach associates to lower their defenses and allow unpleasant behaviors to roll off their shoulders.  In building trust with our associates, we open the door to show them how to lower their defenses. This can be accomplished by really getting to know each associate as an individual, understanding who they are, and what is important to them personally.   It is important for the associate to feel valued and appreciated, so that in those encounters with a difficult customer the associate can more easily listen to the customer to understand…. verses getting defensive.  When the management team has modeled to the associate trust, and listening (to understand), it inspires the associate to do the same for the customer.

Second, we must teach associates to show compassion.  In today’s world, it seems more often we don’t want to give anything without first receiving something.  It is important to demonstrate compassion to our associates when possible.  In many instances, management will be limited in being able to do so, as it is equally as important to maintain consistent with company policies and procedures.  That said, if you look closely for the opportunities, you will find them. When you respond in those opportunities with favor and respect towards your staff, you will have successfully demonstrated compassion.  The more these experiences take place, it will become more natural for your associates to demonstrate the same to the customer.

Finally, we must teach associates to feel empathetic towards the customer, and the situation.  This can be very challenging as we live in a society where true genuine human interaction is nearly nonexistent.  Many argue that empathy can’t be taught, as it is a personality trait. Some say it is a cognitive attribute and can be taught.  I personally believe it can be taught, through consistent example. As with compassion, management must consistently demonstrate empathy.  We must clearly define empathy to our associates, as it is often confused with sympathy.  Empathy is the ability to “step into the shoes of another person”, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions.  We don't deliver good customer experience by simply saying “I’m sorry”. We do so by actually showing empathy, that brings the experience to the level of exceptional.

Ultimately, it is a huge challenge to deliver exceptional customer service consistently to every customer, every time.  However, as leaders, when we model trust, compassion and empathy, we create an environment where exceptional customer service most certainly can take place.  It can be done! 

Melodee has over 10 years of effectively leading BPO Programs and Initiatives to excellence. She's experienced in developing and implementing processes, which have yielded optimal results. Additionally, she is proficient in highly detail-oriented delivery of quality work across multiple projects and priorities. Melodee motivates others through inspirational, innovative and positive feedback to spark the highest level of performance in each individual and team.

Connect with Melodee on LinkedIn 

#CustServ #QOTD

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Follow the Leader" Featuring Jenny Dempsey

How can social media be used to better engage customers?

Social media is an excellent tool to engage with customers on a personal level. You get to hear their gripes (whether you want to or not) and celebrate their successes. As a business, you then have an opportunity to respond to these comments, both positive and negative, showcasing your brand voice but also showing how much you care about the people who spend money on your service or products.

The simple act of replying isn't all, though. You'll need to be consistent with replies, write in a tone that is compatible with your business and make sure you follow through on any issues that you address with a customer via a social channel. Marketing may post updates and customers may comment, which means that marketing and customer service can often go hand in hand. Clear communication between departments is going to be necessary, if possible.

Jenny Dempsey is a customer service and social media professional with experience providing exceptional, consistent customer interactions.

Follow the leader: LinkedIn | Twitter 

#CustServ #QOTD

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Customer Service Changes its Face. The Journey Will Never Be the Same.

By Anna Sabryan

We in customer service know how important our role is. Many companies compete to have the best service, and periodically innovate to catch up with ongoing changes. Customer 

service, at times, changes at a rapid pace. Customer service via social media used to be a very important part of online activities. However today, many intelligent assistants, or bots, can deliver many services. I'd never imagined I could be interacting with a chat bot, and feeling happy with the service and ease of the experience. 
Bots Impact on Humanity
Years ago Amazon announced Alexa, its intelligent personal assistant, including lots of commands and skills. Amazon Echo sales reached 5M in two years. Good for Amazon.

You can have some real time information, like providing weather, traffic info, music playback, to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks. Alexa is easy to set up, taking just 10 minutes and a few clicks to get it going. It seems perfect for any busy family.

magine the expression on my face when my friend asked her son a mathematical solution, and the child turned to Alexa for help. Bots and AI are now a source of learning! I have another friend who wakes up each morning, and asks Alexa the time. In contrast, I open my eyes and check my phone for  the time. While these examples seem minor, it shows the impact, and our adoption.

Customer Service by Bots

Bots are helping brands to deliver new levels of customer service, as they can handle simple, recurring requests, at a very low cost. Equally important, it is being delivered very fast. However, they will never completely replace human interactions. More complicated requests, and issues requiring deeper discussions, will always be escalated to an agent. Additionally, people still value human interactions. However, bots are a great tool to have as you strive to provide excellent service. They make customer service better.

Anna Sabryan is an experienced Social Media & Digital Marketing Professional and blogger. She is passionate about customer service, digital marketing, and social media.

Anna was named one of ICMI's Top 50 Contact Center Thought Leaders on Twitter. Follow Anna on Twitter or on her blog.

#CustServ #QOTD

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Leadership and Service Lesson Via a Breakfast Sandwich

By Sean Hawkins

I woke up late and was pressed for time. All I wanted to do was get into the office at a decent hour! As I was preparing myself for work, one of my team members sent a text with a breakfast request. This is not an unusual request, and I really enjoy doing this from time to
time. The way I see it, the investment will pay for itself. So, I guess I'll be getting breakfast on the way to work!

When I arrived someone jokingly stated, "that's great service boss". I wondered to myself what was so great about what I had done. Was this just the cliché thing to say in the contact center environment?  Perhaps this was her way of expressing gratitude and thanks. However, before I could think on it too long, I received my answer. "You would go out of your way for us." Well, THAT made my day! Perhaps, I was destined to be late, so this moment could happen. It does sound much better than being late due to oversleeping.

I suppose the response I received, sums up leadership and service quite nicely. We must be willing to assists others, go above and beyond what they may expect, and do so with sincerity. What I most appreciated about this experience, is that I was able to show my team in a practical way, what good leadership and good service looks like. This teachable moment was the result of a breakfast sandwich, and oversleeping! Who would have thought?

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. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Friday Funny

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"Follow the Leader" Featuring Shep Hyken

What is the most important role of the Chief Customer Officer?

In my mind, there three important areas for the Chief Customer Officer to focus on: culture, systems and customer advocacy.

When it comes to the culture, either the company is completely customer focused or it’s not. That begins with culture. It’s how employees are hired and trained, and how the vision or mission is created or changed to reflect a customer-focused philosophy. Customer service and experience must be woven into the fabric of the entire company.

And then there are the systems that the company has in place. The CCO’s job is to help ensure that the systems are customer focused and that everyone – and every department – is working together. Silos must be eliminated, with the goal of creating a unified company that is focused on the customer. The CCO must constantly be asking questions that challenge the company’s systems and processes to be customer-focused.

The third responsibility is customer advocacy. CCO is the manager of the “Voice of the Customer,” which includes direct customer feedback and data analysis. The CCO must understand both the business and the customer well enough to know what data is important and how to interpret the data.

The Chief Customer Officer has his or her hand in all aspects of the company if nothing else than to ask the right questions and keep the company focused. And, at the same time, he or she is the advocate for the customer. There must be a balance between how a company operates and what a customer expects. An effective CCO creates a sense of harmony between the company and the customer.

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling author who works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees.

Like, follow, see, or connect with Shep:

#CustServ #QOTD

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"Follow the Leader" Featuring Jessica Noble

What important factors should be considered in the Voice of Customer program?

Listening is part of a customer’s experience

If you listen well, but do nothing with customer feedback, you are squandering their investment. Customers expect a return for their time and candor.

Listen: If you won’t take action –>  it’s not worth listening
  • Gather VOC information from multiple sources 
  • Capture transactional and relational feedback
  • Collect emotional and rational data 
  • Organize data in pre-determined structure
Understand: Pay attention –>  look for recurring themes 
  • Review, evaluate, and quantify all sources of VOC data
  • Uncover clues about what customers want and value
  • Identify root cause. Does feedback stem from org culture, employee training, processes, policy, procedure, or technology? Should this feedback spark innovation?
  • Integrate VOC feedback throughout your organization into business strategy, process, culture, training, and tools  
Act: If you make an improvement –>  let ‘em know
  • Take action with timely customer follow-up
  • Align internal operations and executive priorities with customer priorities
  • Prioritize improvement initiatives and maintain focus
  • Communicate improvement results
  • Sustain continuous, closed-loop feedback

Validate: Show me the money –> know the return on listening
  1. Understand anticipated impact of improvement initiatives 
  2. Identify what to measure quantitatively and qualitatively to gauge:
     Customer experience
     Customer satisfaction
     Customer engagement
     Business results 
  3. Evaluate the lift following improvements 

Jessica Noble is passionate about working alongside customers to transform their organizations, and realize their unique CX goals. She's currently Principal, Business Consulting, at Tribridge. Jessica has a background in Sales, Product Management, CRM and CX consulting.

Follow: LinkedIn | Twitter

#CustServ #QOTD

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sometimes a Cup of Coffee and a Donut Is an Effective Strategy

By Dea Harrington


Recently I read an article by Brad Cleveland that proposed ten things that senior leaders should know about contact center operations. His message was that a basic understanding of what centers do and how they work is an absolute necessity if senior management is going to effectively support and guide this increasingly complex business unit.

When you live and breathe contact center management, it is natural to assume that everyone in your organization has a clear understanding of the intricacies of the center. Trust me, they don’t, and most likely tend to oversimplify its process, people, purpose and the person(s) who manages it. And here is a surprise - this lack of know-how can include your own team members.

Brad’s message reminded me of a solution I had utilized successfully to provide senior management with the necessary insight into the unique challenges of running a center.

The Background

Way back when I was a young vice president of operations I was responsible for a few large inbound call centers, as well as back-end processes. The organization was an established, successful, privately owned company that was totally committed to the customer relationship and, of course, to the bottom line. I reported directly to the owners and senior management, none of whom had an adequate comprehension of call center operations, nor did they want to spend a great deal of time being educated beyond service level performance and budget adherence. After all, that is why they hired call center management talent…

The Vision

It quickly became apparent that what was needed was an ‘internal ‘marketing campaign that would target our senior audience into experiencing, first-hand, the call center environment. Ideally, our audience would not feel as if they were locked in a class room being spoon-fed technical data they did not need. Instead, their senior position within the company would be highlighted by asking them to contribute to our continuing improvement process – sort of like an ‘Executive Quality Assurance’ (EQA) group.

The EQA Campaign

After inviting a small group of center employees to assist with the campaign, a proposal meeting was held with a few key senior managers to discuss the objective, possible strategies, funding and implementation steps. The results exceeded expectations and, after incorporating the group’s ideas and feedback, the following EQA Campaign Plan was implemented:

Stage 1: Initially, we invited our EQA members to a one-hour luncheon that would unveil the plan, the schedule, their role and the importance of their on-going commitment. All aspects of the proposal were reviewed and a packet of materials (including a welcoming letter from the owners, a pamphlet of introductory call center basics, our QA practices and a six-month event calendar.

Stage 2: Two weeks later our Training Manager and I offered a 2-hour course designed specifically for EQA participants that would introduce them to the basic inbound call process and QA performance expectations.

Stage 3: Each month, for the next 6 months, EQA members were invited to a continental breakfast and a half-hour presentation on ‘The Works’.  They were given an accompanying handbook that was organized into twelve parts, with each part featuring two key call center dynamics. After the presentation, they would side-by-side with an agent to hear calls, ask questions and then complete a special EQA evaluation which was then forwarded to me for review with the team. In addition, we used their questions/comments to customize the next month’s presentation.

Stage 4: At the end of the six months, our attendance record indicated that out of eleven senior managers, seven attended every breakfast. The remaining either sent a manager in their place, were put on an off-site project or requested handouts.  A detailed survey was issued to all original invitees and the owners, evaluating all aspects of the Campaign. At the following quarterly management session, the results were presented and discussed.

The Results

Happily, the results were better than I had expected (although I never shared my original projections) and produced the following benefits:
  • Most senior leaders indicated that they gained a better understanding of the center, the agents, our customers, and the previously unknown complexities in balancing resources to objectives. Six requested ‘summary presentations’ for their managers specifically highlighting ‘The Works’.
  • Although we did not request this, three participants volunteered to answer calls or QA in emergencies.
  • Agents who sat with the senior executives, reported that they were impressed that the EQA team members were friendly, respectful and asked good questions (and remembered their name when passing in the hallways).
Most importantly, did the EQA Campaign make executive budgetary and performance meetings resemble the end of a Hollywood musical? No, not quite, but it took me less time to explain specific requirements to reach contracted objectives. It also helped that I had a new level of support from attendees that had not been in the ‘glee club’ prior to the Campaign. Lastly, there was a new sense of appreciation and respect for the employees who provide the best of care to the customer relationship that compensated us all.

Dea Harrington is the founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Harrington Consulting Group, a leading provider of strategic and tactical guidance for organizations dependent upon first class contact center operations. Her blend of senior corporate management experience and consulting acumen has helped a broad range of Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and higher education institutions develop a process for planning and implementing strategies that align seamlessly with operations. She had been a leader in the development of internal marketing programs that effectively communicate organizational  goals and each employee’s role in meeting them. Follow Dea on LinkedIn.

Friday Funny

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What Makes You a Good Leader?

By Jessica Menapace

On Sunday our Senior Manager of Training and Development, John Kusinski, sends out "Leadership Reflections" to everyone on the leadership team of our organization.  I get bogged down with the hustle and bustle of call center management, but I do my best to read them. When I do read them, I find myself in deep thought about my growth and development, and it empowers and reenergizes me for the week.

This week, I didn't read it until Wednesday, and when I read it ,I wish I would not have waited.  This week we had an opportunity to get career and leadership advice from our CEO. The topic was "If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now". I was intrigued and excited to hear the wisdom and lessons that our CEO had learned from his career.

As I began to read, the very first subject caught my attention, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. Tip #1 was "Know What You Want First". You can't lead others if you don't know how to lead yourself. Force yourself to think about what being a leader really means, and how you should behave to be a good one.  This statement made me dig deep and try to identify the type of leader I am.

When I thought what being a good leader really means, I couldn't find an answer that satisfied the question. I dug deeper and asked myself some deeper questions. 

What type of leader are you?

What are the key characteristics of your leadership abilities?

Why do you want to be a leader?

I didn't choose to be a leader. Being a leader chose me. I enjoy seeing people succeed. I love seeing people have the "ah ha" moment when they finally get it. I want to know what my employees goals are, and provide guidance and tools to help them reach them. I set the example, and push my people to do better at creating a better work and home life. I genuinely care about the well being of my employees, and work every day to show that to them. I'm committed to my employees, so they become committed to me, and support the vision I have for my department.

When you ask yourself the above questions, what answers do you come up with? Are the things you do as a leader getting you commitment, or compliance to the processes you are putting in place? If you are getting short term results, you may want to reconsider the leadership style you are using.

Are you a leader or are you a manager? 

While managing an outbound call center I pride myself in effectively managing 3 team leads and approximately 80 outbound representatives. I work to meet and maintain staffing needs, revenue goals, budget and program hours for the outbound department, with effective coaching, mentoring, leadership, and problem solving skills.

Follow on LinkedIn

#CustServ #QOTD

Monday, November 13, 2017

1-2-3 Engagement is the Key

By Sean Hawkins

If you want your staff to be engaged, they must first be involved! I constantly seek opportunities to allow people to work and grow in areas other than their current role. We often talk about removing silos between departments, yet many employees remain siloed in their roles. That should not be the case.

1. Get them involved
On a daily basis, I am given a suggestion of some sort. In times past, I would dedicate time to act on the feedback. I soon realized I was spending a considerable amount of time doing this. Instead, I found it helpful to both myself and staff, to include them in the process. After all, if they an idea, they likely had thoughts on implementation. These "projects" have become quite successful over the years. In fact, they have been helpful in shaping (and changing) my opinion on things, that I once was reluctant to entertain.

Being inclusive allows the team member an opportunity to develop new skills, provides more exposure, and it leads to new opportunities for them. In addition to suggestions, pilot programs, and process improvements can be projects that your team can assist on.

Involve staff when establishing processes or procedures that directly impact them. Doing so shows them you respect their opinions, and it also ensures that you get all the input possible in your decision-making process. More so, it's an easy way to ensure adoption, buy-in, and success. 

Those doing the work, are often the one's to identify the best solutions for improvement. In areas where they are the subject matter expert, they know what works. It makes sense to include them!

2. Provide meaningful feedback
One of the best ways to keep employees engaged is through feedback. In its most literal sense, feedback means to give food back. Feedback then, is the process and act of providing, or giving nourishment. Doing so fosters growth, good health and wellness. These are important to each of us, and most often these are the things we seek most in life. However we fail to take this approach in the workforce.

Most often, employee feedback occurs when someone hasn’t performed well or it is time for their annual performance review. Feedback, in the context of our conversation supplements development. It is aligned with professional growth and should take on the form of mentorship or an advisory role.

I like to utilize my 1-on-1 or monthly feedback sessions with staff as an engagement opportunity. In addition to discussing matters related performance and addressing any concerns they may have, I incorporate feedback. Benefits of feedback:
  • Increases self-awareness
  • Provides a balanced view
  • Leverages Strengths
  • Uncovers Blind spots
  • Develops skills
Once feedback is incorporated, reinforce it by rewarding employees.

3. Acknowledgment
Everyone has different motivators. Therefore, acknowledgment must come in a variety of flavors. Make it personal!

Some individuals will view acknowledgment as superficial and inauthentic, if it personal. As a result, they may respond with skepticism, cynicism and sarcasm. Employees want to see something more substantive, such as individual attention or quality time with their boss and/or colleagues, acts of service that make their jobs easier (offering to pitch in on a project or do a favor), tangible gifts or bonuses, or physical touch in the form of high-fives, fist bumps or handshakes, depending on the company culture.

The point is this; true acknowledgment touches the core of the person, by understanding their needs and making a valid attempt at meeting them! And that is what engagement all about.

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. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

#CustServ #QOTD

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Keys to Contact Center Consistency and Compliance

By Mike Aoki

I recently had a conversation with Brad Sellors, Managing Director at InfiniteKM, regarding knowledge management systems (KMS), consistency and compliance. Here are our questions and answers. Note, Brad’s responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Why is the issue of compliance important for contact centers? Contact centers need to provide accurate information to their customers. That is especially true for industries such as banking and insurance, which are heavily regulated. Contact center Agents need the most accurate and up to date information. Otherwise, a lot of damage - to the company and the client - can be caused by Agents who misread or omit important information when responding to clients.

How can a knowledge management system help Agents be compliant? Being able to quickly search for the right knowledge article equips Agents with the right answers. To maintain that informational accuracy, you should also set up an authorization/review process so, key documents are routinely reviewed by the right stakeholders.

How can you ensure Agents actually understand the information? You can create online quizzes to test for understanding. So when an Agent arrives for their shift, they can review new information updates, pass the quiz and help their customers. This can all be done via the knowledge management platform.

How can you measure and track compliance? Some knowledge management systems can track who is clicking on daily compliance updates. For example, Agents can track what they previously reviewed to see if they missed any updates while on vacation. Team Leaders can track which Agents still need to review daily updates, while Managers can track which Team Leader groups are up to date. You can even make it mandatory for employees to review certain information on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis so, your organization stays in compliance with external regulations.

How does this help a company operating in a highly regulated industry? Depending upon the jurisdiction, auditors and regulators may require proof that Agents are familiar with the applicable rules. Some knowledge management systems produce reports showing which Agents have reviewed the information and passed the quiz.

We have talked about compliance. Now, how does this ensure consistency? Think of a manufacturer who sells through franchised dealerships. A common challenge is having dealer staff giving different answers than head office Agents. Now imagine both head office and dealers have access to the same knowledge database. So, they both give consistent answers to educate their customers. On top of that, knowledge articles can be tagged for different job types. So, a dealer salesperson can read an article on the customer benefits of an accessory product. Meanwhile, their dealer service technician can see how to install it for the customer. To build on that, each dealer - as well as head office - have their own reporting tools. So, they can track which dealerships review updates and which ones do not. Dealers can see which of their employees are up to date and which ones need a reminder. That ensures consistency.

Can customers access this knowledge database for consistent answers? If a knowledge management system allows you to control access to information by job type, you can also use this system to share certain answers with customers. For example, if a customer searches your website for “extended warranty” information, they get a description of how it works and what it covers. On the other hand, if a contact center Agent searches for “extended warranty”, their search also brings up how to process a customer’s warranty claim. Being able to tag knowledge articles by job type saves you the cost of designing a separate database for customer accessible information.

Mike Aoki is the President of Reflective Keynotes Inc., a Canadian training company that helps contact centers improve their sales and customer retention results. A call center expert, Mike serves on the Advisory Council of the Greater Toronto Area Contact Center association, and was Master of Ceremonies for their 2012-2014 and 2016 Annual Conferences. He was also chosen as one of the “Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leaders on Twitter” for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

#CustServ #QOTD

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Follow the Leader" Featuring Nate Brown

How do you ensure buy-in from your team?

Looking to get more skin in the game from you team? It’s time to include them from the ground up! There is a magic that happens when your team takes time to learn together. We’ve been going through “The Effortless Experience” this year and it’s been a game changer for us.

We all want to apply the learning and make an impact for our customers. People are far more likely to buy into a change if they have been a key stakeholder from the beginning. Contrast this with the traditional model of a leader always being the one with the new revelation, and updating the team on how they need to behave. This will almost always fail to motivate. Allow your team to drink from the knowledge well….you will be amazed by their creativity! The team that learns together improves together.

Nate is a relationship builder with a flair for execution. He is known for bringing a unique energy to the table that engages employees and takes teams to the next level.

From authoring and leading a client success program, to journey mapping, to gamification, to managing a complex contact center, Nate is the guy to do it right and produce results.

Follow the leader: LinkedIn | Twitter | Blog