Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Follow the Leader" Featuring Todd Hixson

What are some forecasting best practices that you utilize?

Here's a quick tip for each area of forecasting. And yes, make sure you include all four!

Volume: Clean anomalies. This includes high abandons (look at redials). Remember too, if you are going to be understaffed, you will abandon again - forecast the inverse!

AHT: Include glide path impact for new hires.

Shrinkage: Forecast what you need. Have an accountability process with partners.

Occupancy: Make sure service level and time of day match occupancy. Don’t flat line!

Currently the Director of WFM at VIPDdesk Connect, Todd Hixson has 35 years in management, the last 17 in the contact center.  He has been recognized for pioneering forecasting theorems for social media, has served on various advisory board, and routinely speaks at industry event.

Follow the leader: LinkedIn | Twitter

#CustServ #QOTD

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

#CustServ #QOTD

An Effective Approach to Employee Development

By Sean Hawkins

Employee development is very important to me. As a leader, it is my obligation to create a culture that aids in the personal and professional growth of my staff. 

In my career, I've had the opportunity of starting training and development programs with two companies. I have also utilized alternative training methods with regularity.

Whenever I am asked how to implement an employee development program, my answer is always the same, “begin at the beginning”! 

Start with the employees first, and then build your program. If the program is not employee focused, it will fail!

Developing staff begins the moment a new member joins your team. In addition, all staff members should have a "living" professional development plan in place. Staff development should be an on-going process, not a one time, yearly event. 

1. Agent assessment
Have team members complete a self-assessment of their interests, skills, values, and personality. This should not be an assessment of the organization. Instead this is an opportunity for employees to provide you with their critique of themselves, while also giving way for them to express their thoughts and detail their aspirations. Doing so will reveal any blind spots and/or misconceptions managers may have.
When reviewing the staff member's responses, keep these questions in mind:
  • What skills, career opportunities, technologies interest the individual?
  • Do those skills/interests/goals support the organization's needs and goals?
  • What are the short and long term steps to get there?

2. Manager assessment

Based on the staff member's self-assessment, their performance, and your own observations, determine the staff member's skill level in the following categories:
  • Technical skills: skills needed to get the job done.
  • Social skills: how do they work with others?
  • Aptitudes: natural talents; special abilities for doing, or learning to do, certain kinds of things.
  •  Attitude: outlook, feelings, mind-set, way of thinking, and point of view.

3. Organizational assessment
To ensure corporate buy-in and assistance, identify where your staff's needs and interests align with organizational objectives. If you want to retain talent, this is an ideal way to do so. You'll also increase the chance of reaching corporate objective, by matching talent and skills to those objectives. Furthermore, should the talent not exists, you have made it easier to approval to hire or train. Consider the following goals:
  • Company goals
  • Departmental goals
  • Team goals
Review corporate goals to ensure you are in position to meet them.

Are we there yet?
NOW, you can start creating a program. Based on the steps above, you have a higher probability of success. If not, you'll find that you are pulling the cart before the horse. That's a discussion for another time. 

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, October 13, 2017

Welcome to the Contact Center

By Sean Hawkins

This is an exciting time to be in the contact center! Each day brings new challenges to overcome, new technology to learn, and new innovations to set you apart from your competitor. The call center of old, is vastly different than today's contact center.

These changes provide opportunity for staff to learn new skills, grow, and advance. New insights are discovered, and new methods of service delivery are implemented, all of which have elevated the importance of the contact center to overall growth and profitability of the modern business.

Perceptions about the contact center
Ask the average person, and they are likely to have a negative opinion of the contact center. While some of this may be well deserved, most are based on a few bad experiences, or a stereotype from times past. Sadly, that stereotype often suggests the support staff is less educated, entry level, and unfriendly.

I also believe there is lack of understanding which helps drives this unflattering perception. Very few are aware of the people, infrastructure, strategy, and technology involved to build a high performing center. I must confess, my own family and friends have a flawed opinion of what I do.

Thanks to social media, the industry is in the spotlight. At times, it does not garner acclaim from the masses. Are there failures? Yes! Are there embarrassments? Yes! However, we are discovering people are becoming fan's of great service and experiences, to the point it has become a differentiator when the evaluate competing brands.

Managing a call center is anything but easy. You’re tasked with providing superior service while juggling a number of business priorities. From adhering to pre-set business metrics and key performance indicators, to servicing customers across multiple channels, each priority adds to the complexity that inherent in contact centers.

Internally, our perception of the center is different from the public’s perception. Yet, it is their perception that matters. We must analyze their feedback and see what improvements should be made, to ensure we are providing a better experience. With CSAT, NPS and other satisfaction KPI's, we can gauge our performance based on the customer's perception. We also can use it to improve through training and development and begin to change those perceptions in a positive way.

Changing the narrative
Allow me to quote my friend Sarah Stealey Reed. “I think customer service and contact center management should be taught in college. People have such a misconception that this job is easy. But, if it were easy, you’d ALWAYS get good customer service, right?  The truth is, that all of us ‘fall into’ contact centers and no one actually chooses this as their career. And that’s a shame. This is such a dynamic and exciting industry and brilliant people bypass it because they don’t know what it’s about, don’t appreciate the complexities that we manage, or realize that this is an exceptionally rewarding career. Why not teach them?”

Each year, I review job descriptions and qualifications for each job. I do this to ensure they are receiving the training necessary to perform their job at the highest level. If they aren't, as Sarah says, I have to "teach them!"

Many years ago when I started in this industry, most considered customer support roles as entry level positions. Still today, I must remind people not to refer to contact center roles as entry level. Times have changed! Customer service has a huge impact on the success of a company. Therefore, the workforce must match the impact. A highly skilled (EQ and IQ) team will improve every facet of the customer's experience.

The people
I would be willing to match the skills and education of support staff with those in other departments of an organization. In fact, I would dare say those in the contact center match or exceed that of the others. Here are just a few of the many skills sets one will find in the contact center:
  • IT Skills
  • People Skills
  • Risk Management
  • Communication
  • Time Management
  • Problem Solving
  • Decision Making
  • Negotiation
  • Leadership
  • Change Management
So much for the less educated, entry level misconception.

Beyond the front lines
Sadly, many people agents in the contact centers aren’t aware of, or developed by leadership for the many possibilities that are available to them. Many will lose hope of advancement, and fall into a state of apathy and lethargy. Performance suffers; attrition increases and frustration will set in because they are not exposed to growth and opportunities.

This is where leadership comes into play. There is a wonderful quote that says “being a leader is not about you. It’s about the people that are on your team and how can help them be successful”.  Leaders must develop staff in the many disciplines of the contact center.

While individual job titles may be specific to a company, there are several categories that are common regardless of company. Some of them are:
  • Leadership/Management
  • Operations
  • Quality Assurance
  • Analytics
  • Work Force Management
  • Learning & Development
Again, so much for the less educated, entry level misconception. 

Contact centers are complex, as many specialized teams and roles are being created to better serve customers, and create competitive advantage. As it does, many are choosing to remain in the contact and advance their careers. Some are choosing to make it a career. We've come a long way!

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, October 11, 2017

"Follow the Leader" Featuring Beth Gauthier-Jenkin

What are your pillars of customer service?

Pillars of customer service are an integral part of effective, individual service interactions.  Our service pillars are the human, business, and hidden dimensions.  Every customer interaction has aspects of each dimension. We coach our team to demonstrate these pillars in each customer interaction.

The Human dimension is the individual human need expressed by the customer.  Generally, these needs are associated with feeling respected, appreciated and valued.  Recognizing the human need is key to managing this dimension appropriately.  The business dimension is the customer need for products or services offered by our company. Meeting business needs requires responsive and accurate execution.  Lastly, the hidden dimension is the behind-the-scenes elements of an interaction.  Resourceful management of this dimension creates a seamless and effortless customer experience. 
Leading the three dimensions requires full and focused presence.  If we neglect to manage any of the dimensions, the service experience is compromised. 
Your organization may have a different definition of the pillars of customer service.  However, it’s universally important to build the pillars on a foundation of empathy. Those managing customer interactions must have the ability to be sensitive to the customer’s needs, and put themselves in the customer shoes to create positive, memorable experiences.

Beth Gauthier-Jenkin has served customers and led service teams for 30 years.  She is a contact center leader focused on process optimization, coaching, and performance management. Beth is currently the Vice President of Customer Care at Gopher Sport. She has earned multiple professional certifications and has a Master of Arts degree in Leadership and Management.

Follow the leader: LinkedIn | Twitter 

#CustServ #QOTD

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Adventures in Speech Analytics- Part III

By Diana Aviles

Here we are… Part III is finally here! Where we last left off, I discussed how queries are a major aspect of Speech Analytics.  I also mentioned the importance of establishing a business need for queries; but what happens if there is not a strong enough business need to build a query for a particular topic? Well, the good news is that you are not out of luck and that leads us to part three of “Adventures in Speech Analytics”- Ad Hoc searches.

A friendly guide to ad hoc searches

An ad hoc search is a customized search you can perform within the SA tool.  It is the most common method end users interact with in the tool.  Ad Hoc searches are one of the most exciting parts of speech analytics because it allows the user to have access to deep dive into customer-agent interactions.  Similar to query building, there is a bit of strategy and patience required in order to get the best results.

I have been fortunate to be involved with speech analytics in some aspect since the very beginning of my call center career.  The one thing I often hear from other professionals is that they find ad hoc searches difficult.  I have compiled a few tips and suggestions for how you can have a positive ad hoc search experience!

I’m going to provide an example of a “tricky” type of ad hoc search situation.  Let’s say someone reaches out to you about a new pilot program they have in the Chicago call center that has agents attempting to collect a one-time charge (OTC) from customers for home security equipment upfront prior to service installation.  The ultimate goal is to help agents better ensure a sale and reduce breakage of commission.  That is where you get involved- as this person wants you to provide a weekly report of how many agents are mentioning that customers must pay for their equipment upfront.  Piece of cake, right?  Well, the thing is there are many different OTC’s going on within the organization such as installation fees and late fees.  Since this report is specific to security equipment you are probably asking yourself how the heck am I supposed to sort through hundreds of calls to find Prince Charming?

Take a deep breath and let’s start nice and slow
  • Set up your search parameters - You are going to be running this search only for one site (Chicago) so focus your energy on just that location where you know these calls are hiding.
  • Queries, Queries, Queries - Remember queries are designed to be your partners in business! Sometimes it’s helpful to take a quick look at your query database to see if you have an existing relevant query or two in the system to run concurrently with your search.  Most organizations will have queries developed around the core lines of business they offer.  In this case, you may find a few different home security related queries that have a core of the logic you are looking for.  This is going to help further vet out your search by focusing on security based mentions in customer-agent interactions.
  • Use your words - Oftentimes it’s helpful to request guidelines and scripting that was provided to the agents so that you can formulate your searches based on what the agent was instructed to say.  Keep in mind that sometimes this is not always the best approach as oftentimes keeping things simple and searching for common sense dialogue is most effective.  There is going to be a lot of trial and error here so be patient and stay optimistic.  You will surely find that Prince Charming of search terms.
  • Validation - This was mentioned in the last article regarding query building and it is still relevant when you are only performing ad hoc searches.  You want to make sure that your confidence rating of your search and data is in an acceptable range.  You found the “Keep it Simple Sweetie” approach of the term “Pay your equipment upfront”, when searched within the few home security queries, yielded a 92% confidence rating. Great going!
  • Smile and bask in the satisfaction - You are now confident that you are able to identify how many equipment OTC mentions have been made on a weekly basis.  You are now contributing to a larger picture of being able to help your organization see the correlation of collecting equipment fees up front with reducing the number of home security order cancellations.

With patience and practice you will become more comfortable with providing valuable data based on ad hoc searches.  I also recommend that you reach out to your speech analytics program manager, or if you are extra lucky to a query builder, if you ever find yourself in a difficult situation.  Sometimes there are methods and approaches that these individuals may be able to recommend to help you out of a tough spot.

Operations Manager, Speech Analytics 

With more than 4 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.

#CustServ #QOTD

Monday, October 9, 2017

Improve Your Contact Center Through Agent Training and Development

By Sean Hawkins

Organizations that understand the true value of professional development, culture, innovation, and creativity, also recognize the value of continuously educating their employee base. These organizations are the ones that will be better positioned to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of today’s work environment.  Incorporating professional development within the overall corporate strategy, with so many competing interests and tight budgets, is a challenge. But it should be done! Those companies who value employee development all have a few things in common:
  1. Commitment
  2. Resources
  3. Encouragement
These are the foundation for employee development. Without them, there is no development! How then does a well trained contact center impact customer experience? Well, the obvious answer that comes to mind is swift, accurate resolution. But that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Higher First Contact Resolution
When your staff is well trained, they can provide resolution (when possible) on the first interaction. While there are occasions when FCR cannot be attained, this should not be due to a lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of the agent. Let's face it, FCR has benefits that far surpass the satisfaction of your customer. There is a cost associated it!

Improved quality and performance
When staff are trained on a continual basis, they move the needle on quality and performance metrics such as CSAT, QA, NPS,QA. These can indicate customer loyalty, as well as their likelihood to be repeat customers. 

Better customer insight
Chances are your staff can easily place a customer's name to a persona. They are aware of the difficult customer, the understanding customer, and so on. With the right training, they can easily apply the best method of communication to those customers. When staff understands their impact on the customer's journey and experience, and the value their interactions have on strengthening the relationship with the brand, they will become stake holders. At this point, they are a wealth of knowledge and information concerning the habits and attitudes of customers. 

Improved morale
Why is training and development important? Two primary reasons are the creation of a talented workforce, and agent loyalty. On the other hand, numerous studies have shown employees who are not receiving consistent training and development are not happy or efficient. They impact customer churn, reduce morale, and cost more money and time over the life of employment. So, for many reasons employee development is important.

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, October 5, 2017

Wow Customers by Going Above and Beyond

By Sean Hawkins

Going beyond what is required is one of the greater acts of service that one can give. It's great when you provide amazing service, but when that level of service surpasses what is required, not only do you show customers that you value them, your commitment to service becomes legendary. Many companies speak of the importance of customer service, yet it is not always evident. Even worse, built in metrics and SLA's may prevent it from occurring with regularity.

Exceeding expectations and going beyond the basic requirements, speaks to a higher level of service. It implies that the basics are done consistently well. Additionally, suggests good being good enough is not good enough. Service that goes beyond acceptable suggests authenticity. You can't fake a high level of service. Many are proving that on a daily basis, when what they say, fail to align with their the things they are doing. 

One of the failures many organizations make is to pattern their service after other brands. Sadly, those of us in positions of influence are guilty of suggesting this practice. It's easy to do it like others until you actually have to do it. However, what those organizations have in common, and what CAN be replicated is going further than is required.

How can you encourage your team to go above and beyond what is expected, and provide a level of service that reaches WOW?

On the spot recognition: When someone does something exceptional, or out of the norm, highlight that in real time. As part of your live monitoring, encourage supervisors to look for those WOW moments and congratulate the efforts made by team members.

Include 'Above and Beyond' in your QA scorecard: As part of the QA process, define

what an "above and beyond" moment looks like, and reward additional points to the agent. Obviously, you'd want to ensure it is in alignment with the overall objective of your QA program.

Make it a part of the culture: Much can be said on how to adopt a the culture in the workplace. In my experience, the best way to change the culture is two-fold. First, leadership must practice the behaviors they expect. Leaders are the example that everyone will follow. By going the extra mile for their teams, engaging in authentic ways, and being inclusive, the tone is set at the top.

Secondly, hire for the culture you desire. As part of your hiring process, be certain your focus includes protecting your culture. My primary decision in extending an offer to someone is based on how they fit with the team. This is not to suggest that everyone should be the same. On the contrary, diversity is important. Diversity that improves and enhances culture and morale is even better. 

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"Follow the Leader" Featuring Jessica Voss

What are the benefit of moving your contact center to the cloud?

For those of you who are still standing still on the ground and contemplating moving your contact center to the cloud, allow me to float you some ideas to get you moving toward the cloud. 

, the security of the cloud is much better than that of the traditional, premise-based solutions.

, a cloud solution can provide a more agile, robust platform. Cloud solutions help you keep up with the speed of innovation, and provide better integrations, quicker upgrades, and a way to easily turn features on and off. Keeping up with the right technology, that can move these rapid changes, is a must.

, the financial reasons to move to the cloud are astronomical. You may not realize the true ROI/TCO of deploying a cloud solution until you look at the hard AND soft dollar costs associated with them. Things break, and new technology is churning quickly. You may deploy something on-premise now, but it could be outdated within the next 1-2 years. Keep that in mind!

Jessica Voss has over 17 years in telecom and contact center sales, servicing both enterprise and mid-market companies around the world. She is one of the leading experts at helping companies find the right solutions for their contact center.

Follow the Leader LinkedIn | Twitter

#CustServ #QOTD

Monday, October 2, 2017

Maximize Every Communication: Anticipate and Inform

By Sheree D. Kenner

One of the things that an overburdened helpdesk can do, is to make every interaction count. If you have fifty tickets in your queue, are answering seventy-five calls a day, and need to meet SLA’s, then the last thing you need is to send replies to your customer that generate more inquiries.

Here is an exchange, for example, that will cause more work:

Customer: “My keyboard died and I need a new one.”
Agent: “You can find a new one on the web.”
Customer: “Where?”
Agent: “Amazon.”
Customer: “What kind?’
Agent: “Depends on your preference.”

Not only is this frustrating, but it’s completely inefficient, ineffective, and results in a poor customer experience. Instead, agents should anticipate their customer’s needs, use follow-up questions, and/or add provide additional details.

A more appropriate response would be:

Customer: “My keyboard died and I need a new one.”
Agent: “I’m sorry to hear that. The following models (link to options and pricing) are available for purchase within our environment. Please select one and we’ll order a replacement for you which will arrive within two business days. If you need assistance with the installation, please indicate that in your reply and we’ll schedule a desktop visit. If you plan to install the keyboard yourself, recycle or dispose of per company policy.”

As you see, this interaction communicates anticipates future needs, is very informative, and helps avoid unnecessary follow-up. This results in a happy customer!

Additionally, if this is a common request, I suggest creating a quick response template that contains this information, so that all responses are consistent and this information won’t need retyping each time a request is made. Quick response templates also educate other team members who may not be aware of existing policies or procedures.

I am an experienced senior leader with a proven record of coordinating business technology support, designing and executing standards and procedures, coordinating large-scale projects, and delivering process enhancements. I specialize in ITSM, ITIL, Knowledge Management, and building best in class practices for IT organizations. 

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Coaching for Success: A Quick How To

By Celia Pagliughi

Let us first define who coaches are and what coaching is.  Who is a coach? It is very simple; we are all coaches.  When we walk into our call centers we are all coaches.  Whether you are a CSR, a Supervisor or a Manager you are a coach, or at least you have the opportunity to be one if you so choose.  What do coaches do?  That is an easy answer as well.  We mentor, we train and most importantly we offer encouragement so that our teams become the best version of themselves that they can possibly be. 

I have a fantastic team of Quality Assurance Coordinators.  They are much more than that.  I call them CEO’s because that is what they are and what we should all strive to be, Chief Encouragement Officers.  It is their job to determine opportunities, report on them and encourage the CSRs to do their best.  Once they have done their best, it is our duty to help them get better.  How do we help our staff reach their full potential?  Let me be completely honest with you, successful coaching requires much work and follow up on your part.  

If you gave recently taken over a new team, or are new to the company, I recommend you ask everyone on your team what coaching means to them.  A good way to start the coaching relationship is to set up a team meeting and do a quick exercise.  Give them a piece of paper that simply states “Coaching is a critical part of our success because ___”, and ask them to give you at least three reasons why coaching is important to their performance.  Refer back to their reasons during coaching sessions.  It lets them know you are paying attention and you recognize their individuality.
Planning the coaching sessions is one of the most important things you can do.  Being well prepared ensures a productive meeting, and ensures the most important topics are covered.  Here is a simple, yet effective planning guide that can be used to maximize the coaching opportunity.

Coaching Charter

     Set the Stage
        What do you want to discuss?

        What do you hope to achieve?

        What are the specifics you want to cover?

        How long do you expect for the conversation to take?

Explore the Facts
Ask for CSRs feedback
        What did the CSR like about the interaction?

        What did the CSR feel he/she could have done better?

Discuss the facts
        Acknowledge all CSR feedback.

        What did you hear? Positive points first!

        Is there a set expectation?

        Was the expectation met?

Provide your feedback
        Clarify the facts

        Clarify the expectation

       Explore Ideas
Ask for suggestions
        “What can I do to help you?”

        “What can you start doing to improve?”

        “What resources do you need to reach our goal?”

Offer suggestions
        “What I would like to do to help you is…?”

        “What I have seen help people with the same struggle in the past is…?”

Ask for agreement
        “Can we agree to work together on…?”

Establish an Action Plan
Discuss specific next steps
       Follow up  and monitor progress.

       Send updates between coaching sessions 

Recap both your commitments and the commitments of the CSR
        “I will ____ to help you with …”

        “You will ____ to make sure you improve in this area.”

Confirm understanding
        Ask CSR to tell you in their own words what he/she is going to begin doing and why

        What are the CSRs 2 biggest takeaways from the session?

Last but not least, always end the session stating the reasons why you feel they will be successful.  Reassure them that you are there to assist them, and you will work on their behalf to see them improve. After all, their success is your success.

Based on my experience, this method works.  I have seen many CSRs and supervisors improve greatly using this method of organization and documentation.  By getting the coaches to acknowledge their opportunities, you are helping them to take accountability for their performance.  By ensuring they understand their goals, and providing a plan to achieve them, you show that you are an ally. When it comes to coaching, that is invaluable.

Celia is an experienced Contact Center Manager with a demonstrated history of effective leadership and development of human capitol. She is skilled in Customer Acquisition, Coaching, Sales, DOCSIS, and Training.
Follow Celia on  LinkedIn