Friday, January 22, 2016

5 Tips To Improve Customer Service Communication

By: CJ Silva

In a call center, your agents are the first line of contact for your customers.  They are the starting point, and often, the finish line, of whether or not your customer is satisfied and remains a customer.  There are many ways that communication can be improved in a call center or a contact center, and many begin with the agent themselves.

Hire for Empathy

Empathy is not a skill that can be taught.  They either have it or they don’t.  An empathetic representative will listen to a customer's concerns and express to the customer that they, too, are concerned about their issue.  If a customer feels as though the agent they are speaking with understands and identifies with their concern, they are often more likely to be satisfied with the solution.  Allow the agents time to be empathetic and to listen to, and assess, the customer's needs.  Scripts and metrics that measure performance based on how quickly a call is resolved can be counter-productive.

Offer Multiple Platforms for Service

The days of telephone customer service aren't ending.  Reaching an agent by phone is still the easiest and most widely used method of communication.  However, in the age of social media, many companies are installing live chat, email, and video chat formats for contacting customer care centers.  It is important to offer cross-platform methods of communication in an age where internet, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs drive customer opinion.  Hiring agents who are proficient in both verbal and written communication is paramount to success.

Use Positive Language

Language is very important in how effectively you communicate with your customer.  It can mean the difference between a customer who is satisfied with your service and a customer who feels unsatisfied.  Take, for example, the difference between these two statements, posed after the customer has asked about the availability of an item that is currently unavailable: “That product is unavailable at this time and cannot be shipped to you but it will be available next month” and the following statement: “That product is currently unavailable, but I can go ahead and place the order to ensure it is shipped next month as soon as it arrives in our warehouse.”  While the first statement isn't untruthful, nor is it negative, the second statement's tone conveys care for the customer.  Instead of focusing on what cannot be done, focus on what can be done. 

Provide and Offer Opportunities for Feedback

An unhappy customer will tell anyone who will listen about why they are dissatisfied.  In the age of Facebook and Twitter, these two outlets alone allow them an audience that can easily reach a multitude of people.  Allowing your customer a way to tell you directly why they are dissatisfied can make your customer feel empowered.  In a different aspect, providing feedback to your agents by monitoring and discussing calls can lead to positive changes that can promote future customer satisfaction.  This also allows a manager to see an agent's strengths and weaknesses and focus on what they are doing right and how they can do things better.

Promote Effective Listening Skills

When an agent actively listens to a customer, it allows the customer to feel as though their concerns are being addressed.  It encourages the caller to be more forthcoming with information that can identify the issue they are having and to find the most effective solution for all involved.  It will reduce misunderstandings and gaps in communication.  Allowing the agent time to listen to, and ask questions to better understand the customer's needs are imperative to promoting overall customer satisfaction.  Having listening skills metrics included in agent reviews will help to identify where agents excel and where they can improve in this very important skill.

These are just a few ways to improve communication between your front line agents and customers.  Enacting any or all of these tips can promote more customer satisfaction and help earn and retain your customer base.

CJ Silva is VP of Operations at KOVA Corporation.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Do you want Training or Training?

By: Gail Rector
Note: This article originally appeared on Training or Training

I have been asked for a blog on training. Such a vast topic! I am a Senior Learning Specialist for a Fortune 20 company; I specialize in facilitation, coaching and development as well as team building. I have seen a lot of programs and presentations. I have delivered the good, the bad, and the ugly. I consider myself a developer of people, whether it's a student, colleague, new employee or other colleagues. Their success, their growth, their development is my success. Honestly, I'm not that different than most people who go into training or higher learning. It's my mission in life to help people achieve their dreams, their potential, and their goals in life.

I am often asked, “What do you do when you are not training?” To me training or teaching isn't something you do that starts and stops. Most of us consider it a lifestyle as we live and breathe developing others. The question really is what do you do when you aren't doing instructor led training. The truth is we are constantly developing training and preparing for our next presentations or making adjustments to what we just delivered to make it better. Often I have heard, “I wish I had your job. It looks so fun and easy.” Oh how I wish that were true! It is fun but like every role, it can be challenging at times. I do consider these statements compliments because that means they had a positive learning experience and I did my job well.

What's the most challenging thing you face as a trainer? For me personally, it can be a challenge if a project isn't vetted out well so there are missing pieces to the information we are giving out. It can also be challenging if we didn't recruit the right talent, or if the people in e training just simply do not want to be there. It's a challenge because our sole purpose is to support our teammates and set them up for success. Lack of planning, lack of skills, lack of engagement can often lead to unsuccessful outcomes no matter how great you are at facilitation. If you have engaged employees with the desired skill set and a well thought out program to deliver, your training will be incredible. In fact, the least experienced trainer can plan and deliver a successful program.

How can we overcome these challenges? Start planning early. Involve training personnel, supervisors, and managers in your process. Talk about what positive skills they need more than what you are not looking for. Have a clear picture of the ideal candidate. Encourage those interviewing, recruiting, and hiring to only recommend people they personally would be willing to have on their team. Set expectations in the interview to make sure the candidate also knows exactly what skills are required. They are interviewing your organization too. Be selective, and be honest. Just because the candidates are nice and sweet doesn't always mean they have the computer skills or critical thinking skills the job may require. Your interview questions are important so take time to plan your process.

Include training in your projects whether new developments or process changes. Trainers are the experts at Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation. Not everything requires a class; some things are just communications or coaching. Coaching doesn't mean disciplinary actions. Guiding, advising, and mentoring your employees is a valuable asset. As you invest in their continued growth and success they will reward you in increased productivity, loyalty, dedication, hard work and dependability.

What is the desired result in training employees? How do we achieve it?
Slapping a power point together and just presenting it has proven to be only 20% effective for adult learners. So how important is your goal? Then your training has to be accurate, realistic, and interactive. This takes time and preparation. Sometimes more time than you may want. The more you involve your training teams up front and throughout your project plans, the more success your program will have in achieving the desired results. It's hard in a world when we have to react quickly and achieve results fast to get the detail and quality that is desired by all.

It's important to have a team of trainers that ask the right questions and can react to timeliness, but it's also important to set realistic goals and time frames.

Creating an engaged learning environment is probably the most challenging set of tasks we have as trainers. This requires a cultural shift in changing attitudes about what training is. Because it is often mistaken for information dissemination, which is presentation without participation, people become resistant, thinking, “You could have just e-mailed that to me,” or worse, “You just e-mailed that. Why am I here?” It will negate the whole program when we just deliver a presentation.

We as trainers have to deliver to others on what’s in it for them? That means stepping it up to how the value of development as professionals. Teach them don't just show them. Allow your participants to participate. Facilitation is required, managing tough questions, creative discussions, and being able to tie everything back to the purpose, the goals, and the objectives.
Then and only then will you have a true environment of learning and development.

The solution to changing our culture is right in front of us. What attributes did the best training, seminar, or professional development you personally attended have? What was your worst experience? Food for thought. Hopefully, I have highlighted for you not only the life we lead as trainers and learning specialist, but I hope I have opened your eyes to training not just being training, when it has the potential to elevate your business and programs with the right formula.

Final thought, development through training is an investment. Are you willing to take that risk and invest the time and resources to get your desired results?

Gail Rector is a learning specialist for a Fortune 20 company primarily responsible for the delivery of technical training for both newly hired employees as well developmental training for all employees emphasizing in Customer Service