Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Importance of Motivation in the Contact Center

By: Ana Simões

In a fast-paced business world, where there is no place for second best, it is hard to keep a team motivated, especially in stressful workplace environments such as the contact center. You often find overworked, burned out agents, measured against KPIs that likely weren't implemented with the agent in mind. Even worse, they may not change with the dynamics of the contact center.

It is not always possible to achieve first call resolution levels. Just think of technical support through email. If your email is too lengthy, you may lose the customer. Too short, you run the risk of multiple exchanges. 

Consider the number of contacts. Depending on the project, you will have account cases, billing cases, technical cases, and so on. As you can imagine, it is faster to handle account level issues than technical cases with several troubleshooting steps. Handle times will be different for these cases, as will be the number of cases handled at the end of the agents shift.

Under these conditions, customer satisfaction may be out of the agents’ control. As you can see, it's quite easy for agents to become frustrated and lose focus. This is where motivation come in!

How to motivate your team, then? Let's think psychology. In 1943, Abraham Maslow's Theory of Human Motivation, suggested there is a 5 tier hierarchy of needs. He believed people are motivated to achieve certain needs, and supposed that some needs precede others

The needs can be broken down as such:

  1. Physiological- food, water, sex, air, shelter, warmth, sleep 
  2. Safety- shelter elements, security, law and order, stability, freedom from fear. 
  3. Social- friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection, belonging to a group, be it family, friends or work. 
  4. Esteem- achievements, dominance, self-respect and respect from others, independence, status and prestige.
  5. Self-actualization-  personal growth, self-fulfillment and potential.

To motivate your team it is important for their needs to be met. A stable job, with a stable workplace is always a good place to start. Make sure the KPIs are fair and achievable. Make sure the workload is not too taxing, CSAT is due to your agents work and not due to other variables, and first call resolution is in line with the type of cases they are handling.

Keep in mind, it is not always possible to keep your focus for an entire shift.Find ways to keep them engaged. Incorporate themed days, activities and events.  Reduce stress levels by allowing them to take mental breaks after difficult or lengthy interactions. 

While you're at it, focus health! Appeal to your team' s physical well being.Create a leisure room for reading or quiet time. Have a place for short workout sessions such as yoga, Pilates,or stretching.

Allow your team to actively contribute in brainstorming and decision-making.
Communication is everything, in any kind of relationships. Talk with your team and listen to what they have to say.

Promoting personal growth intent on developing new skills can also be an asset for both the agent and the company. Utilize seminars, conferences, workshops and training as a way to grow your team members and increase skill sets.

Last but not least, spend time on the front line! This is by far the best way to understand the challenges they face, and identify their needs.

Keep your team happy, and your team will be there to keep your customers happy. 

Ana Simões is an experienced customer service trainer and recruiter. Her background as a psychologist provides her with an insight into the mind and behavior of customers and agents. The result is a unique, personal approach to the contact center.

Connect with Ana on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Therapy in a Skilled Nursing Facility: Customer Service Required

By: Kristy Hill

Therapy provided in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) is a little different than therapy provided in an outpatient setting, the hospital, and even home health. We have more rules to follow, more insurance guidelines related to treatment, and productivity requirements. Our freedom with clinical judgement, and our ability to provide the best customer service to our patients can be challenging. That comes with the territory. But it is most certainly NOT an excuse.

Let’s start with productivity requirements. Every SNF setting will have their own productivity standards. This is set by the rehab company working under the SNF, and each facility is different. In our SNF setting, Physical therapists (PT’s), Occupational Therapists (OT’s), and Speech Language Pathologists (ST’s) are required to be 80% productive over their eight hour day. Physical Therapist Assistants (PTA’s), and Occupational Therapist Assistants (COTA’s) are required to be 90% productive over their eight hour day. This means that a PT, OT, and ST need a minimum of 385 treatment minutes out of a total of 480 minutes in their day, and PTA’s, and COTA’s need a minimum of 435 treatment minutes out of 480 minutes in their day. Treatment minutes is time spent one on one, hands on with a patient. Any time spent doing paperwork, chart review, communicating with other departments, calling physicians, etc., does not count as treatment time and therefore, negatively impacts productivity. Our days as therapists must be carefully planned around meal schedules, doctor appointments, family visits, and so on, to meet our productivity requirements. Any wrench thrown into the works can throw off our entire day. 

You can see how this might impact our ability to provide the best customer service. If we’re working with Mary for a scheduled 50 minute treatment, we know as soon as that 50 minutes is up, we’re going to go get Harold, who is leaving for a doctor appointment in half an hour. But, when we take Mary back to her room after 50 minutes, she decides she wants to lay down, and you end up spending 15 extra minutes with Mary to make sure she is comfortable. Now, you don’t have enough time to see Harold before he leaves for his appointment. We had two options in this instance. Do exactly what we did, spending an extra few minutes with Mary, who was desperate to lie back down, or tell Mary we don’t have time. She’ll need to press her call light and wait for assistance from a nursing assistant (CNA) because Harold has a doctor appointment. Neither one is the wrong choice. But, I believe that if the patient is truly being put first, the choice is clear. Helping Mary back to bed should take priority. Being able to provide great customer service amidst the productivity requirements, paper work, care plan meetings, team meetings, etc., is what sets the good therapists and the GREAT therapists apart. Productivity requirements are important, but they should never be number one. Being a great therapist is making the patient number one, every time, in every situation, and using teamwork to ensure the business side of the department doesn’t suffer. Communicating, getting creative, and making sacrifices, make great customer service possible. We just need to remember why we’re there in the first place. If you find yourself struggling, here is what five years working in a SNF has taught me about customer service.

Take the phrase “That’s not my job”, and lose it. Never say it again. Because the truth is, you cannot possibly have great customer service without great teamwork. Nothing should be out of your job description, within reason. If you see trash on the floor, pick it up. If the toilet paper roll needs to be changed in the public restroom, change it. If you see a patient’s bathroom is in need of some attention and you have 5 minutes left with that patient, wipe down the sink and toilet. This is your patient’s home, and family members will be pleased to see a clean restroom when visiting. If you go to get a patient and they’re still in bed, not dressed, but they need to use the restroom, don’t make them wait for a CNA. At the very least, help them to the restroom, and go to your next patient. If you see a family member standing at the nurse’s station, with no nurse in sight, acknowledge them. Ask them if you can help them. We are all busy. But nothing is more frustrating to see than someone pushing off responsibility when they’re perfectly capable of doing it themselves. From great teamwork, comes great customer service. Always be empathetic. Even when it’s hard.

Remember that in this setting, the therapy we provide will vary depending on the patient. And just like we ask the patient to be flexible, we have to be flexible too. If you have a difficult patient, maybe a personality conflict, challenge yourself to be more compassionate than you thought possible. Sometimes what your patient really needs is a listening ear. Sure, it may not be the most therapeutic session physically, and it may slow down your paperwork for that day, but it will strengthen the trust with that patient. You’ll have a better understanding of their thought process and therefore a better understanding of their needs, and how to achieve them. It may be the most important session you have with them, even though they didn’t lift a single weight.

Another important thing to remember is that your attitude will introduce you long before you say a word. You may be having the worst week of your life, but your patient shouldn’t know that. You should always approach them with a smile, and set the tone for a positive treatment session. A bad attitude in the workplace is best described as a cancer. The more you feed it, the more it spreads. I understand that everyone needs to vent, everyone has bad days, but you shouldn’t be venting to every coworker you come across. Especially not out on the floor where family members, and patients may overhear you. Every time you complain, you plant a seed of negativity in the workplace. The more is grows, the more it affects the whole team’s morale. If you need to vent, it should be to your manager behind closed doors, or outside of work. Focus on doing your job, being the best therapist you can be for your patients, and you’ll be surprised how quickly the negativity will fade.

Stop thinking of patients as patients, and start thinking of them as what they truly are: customers. They chose your facility. They came to receive services you have to offer. They are paying for those services. Don’t fall in the habit of thinking you’re doing them a favor by doing your job. These are people with lives outside of your facility. They have families, some have pets, and I can assure you, very few if any want to be there. Remind yourself that some of these patients may be terrified. We may not understand it, but we don’t have to. Some of these patients may be very sad, and very lonely. We may be the only person they talk to on a regular basis at this point in their lives. Regardless of the kind of day we are having, we, as therapists, should be the bright spot in their day. And always remember, sometimes the most difficult person to deal with, is the one that needs you the most. You can’t be a great therapist if you’re not willing to go the extra mile for your patients, and that is the very definition of customer service.

Kristy is a Physical Therapist Assistant/Rehab Manager in Nashville, TN. Prior to her current position, she spent several years in retail, and retail management.

She has spent her entire career working with the public, and thus has gained extensive experience in the field of customer service. She currently works with the geriatric population, where she has developed a passion for elder care. She loves her family, her husband, and her dog, Jack. Follow Kristy on LinkedIn.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Oh No! Avoid Saying "No" To Customers

While dining out recently, I asked my server if I could make a slight adjustment to the meal I ordered. I was fully expecting to pay an additional charge, and I was fine with doing so. Surprisingly, the server said “No!” I sat there a bit amused, slightly surprised and also disappointed. My first inclination was to get up, and walk out. From that point on, my experience was not quite the same. I no longer felt welcomed. 

Perhaps my feelings were a bit over the top, I’ll admit that. However, when I receive service, I always see it through the lens of my role in customer service. Because I am always looking for ways to improve the service I'm responsible to provide, my eyes and ears are open to what others are doing. When I receive great service or encounter new and exciting approaches, I will be an evangelist for the brand but especially the person assisting me. Conversely, when there is a letdown, I take it hard. 

Nothing ruins a customer’s expectations, or eliminates their joy like poor service. Where your unfulfilled moments abound, so does customer frustration! 

Saying no implies finality! It offers no recourse, compromise, or resolution. In effect, it wastes the customer’s time, in additional to frustrating them. Furthermore, retaining that customer becomes more difficult. While some may want it their way, most customers simply want a solution. They want to overcome the barrier in the journey. Your alternative may not be what they hoped for but, it is better than staying on a path to nowhere.

So, what can you do? The solution is not that difficult. Say “No, that cannot be done but, what I can do is___.” A simple alternative sets a customer at ease. It signals to them that you are listening, you care, and you are willing to satisfy their needs. Yet, it goes further than this.

It also improves the engagement of customer service agents. They find their voice! They think! They are less scripted and no longer robotic. Additionally, agents are empowered to resolve customer issues the first time. Your staff will become agents of change by offering new ideas, innovations and process improvements! More so, they avoid bearing the brunt of unnecessary frustrations directed at them.

No eliminates choice but, it does offers your customer the choice of walking away. Do your customers and staff a huge favor by eliminating “No!” They’ll be grateful.

Sean Hawkins is a Contact Center manager with over 15 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center.

He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while leading award-winning contact centers. Follow Sean on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Being a Leader from ANY position in a contact center [Part 3 of 3]

By: Amayea Maat

Hello again! In parts 1 and 2 of this article, I mentioned a leader being:
  • Someone who brings others along with them (inclusive)
  • Someone who sees a need, and fills it
  • Someone who is continuously learning and growing 
  • Someone who leaves other people and situations in a better place than what they were found

We began to look at this from the vantage point of customer service, starting with the most important people,the front line representatives and supervisors. Now, let’s expand that to the entire contact center – QA, Operations,Training, and so on. Depending on the size of your contact center, you may not have all of these individual departments but, you may have someone who perform these functions.

For those in these departments/roles, there is still an opportunity for you to lead and make a difference. Identify YOUR customers, understand their needs, and provide them the support and services they need.

Here is an example. I worked for a large, fast moving financial software company. I will never forget the support that I received from the finance manager and his department! They understood my business unit and the impact they had to our success. He stood out because he partnered with me. My success, and that of my department was due in part to his supportive role. 

Conversely I have had experiences where there was no partnership, understanding or adequate communication. The results were disastrous! Services were not delivered, which impacted my business unit and my end customer. The picture that I hope I am giving you is that through the context of understanding who your customer is and what they need to be successful you have an opportunity to lead.

Will it take courage if this is not happening in your department? Yes! Will it take a shift in contextual thinking? Yes! But, it will be worth it. Not only will you gain new confidence and skill sets but, you will be viewed as a leader. You'll be seen as someone who identifies needs and provide a solution to meet them. This is when being a leader is most needed.

Regardless of your role, or the situation, it is possible for you to exhibit your leadership traits.

I invite you to try it out!

As an expert in Technical Support, Client Services, Organizational and Leadership Development and Process Improvement, Amayea Maat has spent time in fortune 100 and 500 companies disrupting the status quo while being a stand for what is possible beyond expectations.

Amayea currently is the Director of Technical Support for MineSight, a software solutions product serving the mining industry. Where she ensures international Global Support and Services readiness, and at present, oversees support teams in eight global locations.

Her passion is to create and empower organizations where the experience of leadership inspires the human spirit.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Customer is Not Always Right BUT…

By: Elaine Parra 

“The customer is always right” is a phrase most commonly used in a sales/customer service environment. This quote was meant to assure consumers, and to help ease tension should conflict arise. In my 16 years of servicing customers, it is evident agents fear confrontation. This leads customers standing by the belief they are 'right'.

I recall my mother stating I would become successful in an environment with phones and people. To prove her wrong, I worked many different jobs, while avoiding the one true calling I tended to naturally perform, genuine customer service. After fighting the urge, I finally took a leap of faith. My life in the contact center has improved my relationships as a daughter, sister, a mother to my daughter, and friend to everyone I meet. During this time, I have learned how to find solutions, de-escalate frustrated customers, and display empathy. Most often, when the “customer is always right” is directed towards service staff, it’s the result of a frustrated customer, not a right customer.

It is really a matter of perspective. When a customer is dissatisfied, you must first remove yourself personally from the equation. The customer may be frustrated for reasons not involving you: 
  • Unmet expectations
  • Misunderstandings 
  • Difficulty getting timely assistance/help 
  • Poor quality/defective product 
It is imperative to acknowledge the feelings of your customer. Allow them space to vent! Remember, frustration is simply a cry for help. Be empathetic and apologize on behalf of your company. Most of all, find the one solution to resolve the issue. Once a solution is reached not only will you feel successful, you likely saved a customer. 

Grant Cardone wrote, The quality I most admire in others is the persistence and tenacity to find a solution when there doesn’t seem to be one”. Those are words everyone in customer service should live by. Our profession does not allow us to wash our hands of the frustrated customer. It requires dedication and empathy. Sometimes, it requires hearing how right they are! At the end of the day, they’re still your customer. Nothing is more ‘right’ than that!

Elaine Parra is a Paterson NJ native, of Honduran and Puerto Rican descent. Now living in Florida, she continues to strive for a life of positivity and excellence. Elaine believes what you give to the world affects your karma.

With 16 years in customer service, Elaine relies on an authentic, empathetic and personalized approach to create satisfied customers. Connect with Elaine on LinkedIn!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Going the Extra Mile

By: Sean Hawkins

Over the Christmas and New Year holiday, I spent a considerable amount of time taking customer calls. Support team members were taking well deserved time off, which meant I had to step in. I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I always spend time working on the front line to ensure I’m aware of the needs of the team and customers.
During this time, I spoke with a customer who was a having an issue that was outside the scope of support I should offer. Having resolved numerous calls and emails, I must admit, I was quite tired. This was an ideal opportunity to advise the customer her issue was outside of the level of support that we offer. Besides that, it was almost quitting time!
I’m happy to say, I did not capitalize on the customer’s misfortune. I wanted to help her because it was the right thing to do. Also, being within earshot of team members, I could have sent the wrong message about the kind of organization we are striving to be.
Let's go back in time. Many years ago, a team member told me, “Sean, this caller wanted to order pizza”. When I asked what he did, the agent said he found the number to the pizza shop. I was elated with his response! I was convicted! From that point on, I always remind staff, “If the caller wants pizza, help them order pizza”.
Well, this customer didn’t want pizza. She wanted the sound on her PC to work. As she was using our software, she assumed there was a defect. After verifying it was not, I advised her I could help but, if the device was under warranty she would be best served to contact the manufacturer. It wasn’t, so I began to troubleshoot the problem.
Having family members who at one point were not computer literate finally paid off! I had helped them many times over the years, I was more than confident I could get this resolved. And, I did! Though it took a while, together, we were able to restore the sound.
As I was closing, I thanked her for calling and wished her a Merry Christmas. She in turn thanked me for “going the extra mile” in resolving a problem that “was not yours to own”. Perhaps my perspective is out of the norm. Maybe, this is not a common approach in many contact centers. However, if the ability to help presents itself, I always want to go the extra mile. It’s a great way to create a loyal customer, and establish a culture of service that is unmatched. It also reminds me of pizza!
How does your contact center go the extra mile? Share your thoughts.
Sean Hawkins is a Contact Center manager with over 15 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.