Monday, October 30, 2017

An Alternative Approach to Agent Training

By Sean Hawkins

Two of the common reasons I hear regarding a lack of  agent training, are no money and no time. This answer is unacceptable simply because there are many alternative methods of training and development available. As I work in a small sized contact center, I am dealing with a smaller budget and fewer resources. As a result, creativity is my best friends. These approaches offer an exciting option for your staff.

At one point in my career, our contact center, with the help of the organization, created out own Toastmasters chapter. We found it to be a great way to improve our written and oral communication, as well as providing professional development opportunities for our staff. While this was voluntary, staff participation far exceeded our expectation.

I've also utilized the following as training opportunities:
  • Shadow
  • Mentorship
  • Webinars
  • Department Library
  • Lunch and Learn
  • Meet up groups
  • Volunteer Opportunities
Alternative training methods also lend well to the diverse learning styles. The truth is, not everyone learns the same. Experts suggest we learn in a variety of ways:
  • Visual
  • Aural (auditory-musical) 
  • Verbal
  • Physical
  • Logical
  • Social
  • Solitary 

These alternatives training opportunities may be appealing to those who do not do well in a formal setting, thus making the learning and development process more personal! Understanding how your staff prefers training, will aid in the success of your development program.

Informal learning programs provide a lot more flexibility in the way content is both created and consumed. As such, it is perfect when dealing with time constraints and budgetary concerns. 

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Top Skills Employers Want In Remote Employees

By Pamela La Gioia

The top personal skills employers want in remote staff–and why they’re so important.

A job ad is often your first point of contact with a potential employer and where you learn what a position is all about. But an ad can’t tell the whole story; it’s not feasible for an employer to spell everything out. For example, why does a job posting stress that remote employees have particular personal skills? Why are these skills so important?

Telework Recruiting reached out to employers experienced in managing remote staff to find out which personal skills they look for in candidates; and more so, why those skills are essential. At first glance the required skills look similar to what any employer would want. But what they mean for a remote employee sometimes differs from an employee working onsite.

According to the employers we spoke to, these are the top skills employers want from remote employees.

The ability to work independently

“Working from home requires independent thinking along with self-discipline, reliability, and self-sufficiency,” says Rebecca Martin, manager and talent acquisition for CloudSource, one of the world’s largest contact center services.

To employers of remote staff, working independently means doing your job without needing constant feedback, yet still knowing when to reach out.

It also means double checking your work before submitting it to avoid losing valuable time.

“When a remote employee is not vigilant about checking their own work for errors it greatly increases the amount of time spent going back and forth—usually on issues that should be obvious. Situations like these can easily become a real source of lost time in a project,” explains James Vannelli, founder of Action3Media, a Canadian based web design and marketing firm.

Effectively communicate

Good communication is a must for any job. Yet when your supervisor or colleague is miles away it presents special challenges. Since most communication is done through email or telephone this can create miscommunication and be the cause of lost valuable time.

Communication must be timely and clear. Even though you write clearly there’s no guarantee your intended meaning will be understood. Clarify before proceeding with your work.

It is crucial, says Vannelli, that you are “intuitive and not too shy to ask the right questions when work is assigned.”

Knowing which method of communication to use at what time is another valuable skill, adds Kimberly Bringas, HR & Culture Enthusiast at Olark, a leading live chat solution for websites. Therefore, she explains, you should not only be able to clearly communicate in writing, but you must also “know when a conversation should be in chat, Skype, or face-to-face.”

Team Player

Effective communication is a key part of building a team and establishing strong bonds. Employers emphasize that being a team player is important even if you never meet your colleagues in person. This can be difficult not only because of distance; but working alone can easily mislead you into thinking you’re in control and don’t have to answer to others.

To the contrary, cautions Olark’s Bringas. A remote employee must be “self directed enough to carry out their day to day work, but make the initiative to collaborate with others. With remote work comes a lot of autonomy, but this person does need to balance being a team player. No lone rangers.”

Lee Fuller, co-founder and CEO of FlauntDigital, a virtual web design and marketing agency, asserts that team communication is one of the biggest challenges for remote employees.

Says Fuller: “We encourage employees to engage with other team members as much as possible to build a camaraderie. [T]his is key to building a successful remote team.”

Without question, teamwork, like all relationships, takes effort.

“With remote work you lack so many cues such as body language, tone, etc.” explains Bringas, “so our most successful Olarkers are ones who are proactive about reaching out to teammates.”

In other words, it is crucial that you seek to understand others’ perspectives and not simply try to push your own across to everyone else.

Excellent time management

With no immediate supervisor to nudge you every few minutes, you must be able to manage your time well.

“Although there is no 9-5 environment at Flaunt Digital,” says Fuller, “we do need employees to be aware that clients need work delivered by a set date and on time. It is up to the employee how their working day looks; but it is important that when required they can get their work in for a deadline.”

Counter to some claims that working from home means being your own boss, remote working requires that you are just as flexible for your employer as he or she is for you. In fact, depending on your position, you might need to adjust your day to suit the needs of your job.

“Working from home does not mean you set your own schedule–at least not with our company,” states Martin of CloudSource.

Dr. Linnie Carter, president and CEO of public relations and marketing firm Linnie Carter & Associates, agrees that work-from-home flexibility often means working nontraditional hours.

“Working remotely allows for a great deal of flexibility. [However], that means if you use daytime hours to run personal errands, then you must work evening hours to complete the work.”


Any job you want to exceed in requires certain personal skills along with the necessary education and work experience. Be aware, though, that working remotely from your team and employer calls for extra care and consideration.

Unlike working onsite, where in-person meetings make it obvious what communication method will be used, and open floor plans allow you to bounce ideas off coworkers within a matter of seconds, remote working demands that you are able to intuitively work through these issues, often without any obvious cues.

To increase your chances of getting hired for a remote position keep in mind these personal skills employers want. Understand why these skills are so important to them. And, most importantly, remember that working remotely does not mean you are working alone.

Your turn: What personal skill have you found most helpful when working remotely?

Are you interested in working from home with elite companies, like those above? Telework Recruiting can help! Learn about a premium membership today.


About the Author ()

Pamela La Gioia has been researching and writing about teleworking issues since the early 1990's. She is CEO/Founder of Telework Recruiting, the leading provider of technical and professional telecommuting career opportunities. Follow Pamela on LinkedIn and Twitter.
This article was originally posted at Telework Recruiting.

Friday Funny

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Anecdotal Data​: The Twinkie of the Data World

By Diana Aviles

Anecdotal data is defined as observations collected in a casual or informal manner that relies heavily or entirely on personal testimony. For someone like myself who works with all sorts of data on a daily basis, I find myself engaging in heated discussions about anecdotal data being used as a replacement for speech analytics solutions. You typically find this mentality within human auditors who attempt to identify potential trends in contact centers by listening to small samples of calls.

Auditors feel that if they are just able to listen to 10 calls in a month for an agent they will be able to have a pretty decent idea of what the temperature is within their call center. The main problem with this is that’s only a sample size. If the average agent takes 500 calls a month and you are only cherry picking 10 calls from that month, do you really feel that you are accurately able to see the bigger picture? If we went with the 500 calls a month sample size, you’re only viewing 2% of an agent’s activity in one month. That leaves you with the remaining 98% being completely in the dark as to possible new trends and call drivers that may be occurring.

This leaves me to my next thought on anecdotal data, numbers. I can sit here and tell you until I am blue in the face, “We observed a few agents who did not go over the E911 disclaimer upon closing a home phone sale,” and it wouldn’t mean anything to you. Why? It does not indicate to the audience if it is a fact or an opinion. There’s the famous saying “Without data, you're just another person with an opinion.” When I present findings I like to think that my data is being looked at and taken seriously. I want the audience to be engaged with the findings; therefore

I feel that you do yourself a disservice by not presenting insights without a strong backbone. When you are able to provide a percentage in your findings you are showing that you took things a step further and put your money where your mouth is. So now you can say, “23% of agents sampled were observed not advising the customer of the E911 disclaimer at the point of sale.” Your audience now has a number attached to the observation. From that observation the data becomes actionable intelligence that allows an organization to take corrective action via agent coaching to remind agents to comply with the process laid out.

At this point you may be saying to yourself, “But Diana, I’m afraid it’s going to turn people off as jargon when I go and present it to my agents and supervisors, who may not be as analytically inclined.” This is an understandable concern. While you want to be factual with what you have found, you also don’t want to come off as robotic. We are human beings after all, and there are times when SOME subjectivity is understandable.

Anecdotal data, when presented correctly and in balanced doses, can allow an organization to determine if something is worth diving into further. This is why if we look at presenting insights as a packed lunch, your sandwich is your solid data and the Twinkie is the anecdotal findings. You wouldn’t want to eat a lunch of purely just Twinkies (full disclosure: I did that once as a kid with mixed results) because it is not a complete meal, just sugar and fluff.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

#CustServ #QOTD

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Bridget Horan

What are your thoughts on customer experience at the executive level?

Today, the customer journey is more intricate than ever, moving across multiple devices and platforms as products are researched, compared, price matched, and purchased. With every step, customer expectations are seamless, and if a brand can’t deliver, customers go elsewhere.

C-Suite executives must ‘Mind the Gap’ between shifting customer expectations and leadership roles. Closing the gap starts with a unified c-suite. The plug that seals the gap is establishing a ‘borderless’ organization. The customer cares about the experience, not the titles.

Establishing a borderless community benefits employee morale, creates a culture of entrepreneurship, empowerment, and growth both for the employee and customer base. Borderless communities are inter/intra dependent with a single focus, the customer. A borderless system is supported through technology, people management, and operational excellence processes, and it binds the gap between generational issues faced by leaders.

Bridget Horan is the owner/operator of Bridget Y. Horan Consulting, LLC. She is currently a member of several community boards. Horan leads the company’s contract development, human resources, training, workforce planning, and diversity initiatives. Bridget has also served leadership roles in customer service, accounting, executive and public relations for over 20 years. To learn more about A Borderless System, please reach out to Bridget Y. Horan Consulting, LLC.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Who's Responsible for Professional Development?

By Sean Hawkins

A few years back, EdAssist conducted a study on the perceptions of managers and employees regarding professional development. They questioned over 1000 employees and managers, with disparities between the two groups:
  • Most workers, 74%, believe it is employers who is responsibility for career development.
  • Most managers, 98%, believe employees are responsible for their career development.

I believe personal growth is the primary responsibility of the individual. But, it benefits employers to aid in their endeavor. However, professional development and growth, is a shared responsibility between employee and employer.

Employees are hired with a certain set of skills, knowledge, and abilities. However, if their role and/or responsibilities change, the employer has a responsibility to provide the necessary training to for the worker. Employees are investing in their companies by working longer hours, handling evolving tasks and assuming increased responsibilities. Is it fair to expect the employee to also assume the cost of their professional development?

What do you think?

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

7 Things That Will Keep Employees Loyal, Happy and Returning to the Job

By Jessica Menapace

Care Personally
It is important for me to be sure that my employees know that I care about them personally. When employees feel and know that they are not just a number, or a body in seat doing a job, it creates a feeling of worth. When you genuinely care about them inside and outside of work, you will gain commitment, and not just compliance of the processes you are putting in place.

Get in the trenches
Even though I am a manger, I am not afraid to get in the trenches and do the same job they are doing. When someone is having a rough day on the phones, I will take their headset and take phone calls for them, and let them listen to me. Typically, within a half hour, they are refreshed, empowered, and ready to turn the day around. They are the most important part of the business, and if we can't take care of them, how can we expect them to take care of our customers?

Bring competitiveness and fun to the job
On any given day you will find me running sales contests to keep my employees motivated and engaged. We play battleship (team against team), golf, blackjack, and many other games. Employees like immediate gratification and reward, so I have invested in a stash drawer and purchase $100 worth of items a month. I give these things away for many reasons like sales, up-selling, collecting a prepayment, and hearing a great call that deserves recognition.

Once a month, I pull every employee off the phone in my department to show recognition for the prior months performance and improvements they have been made. I give out awards, based on our KPI's, for each team and the department overall. I also include fun awards like Least Likely to be Found, ADD award for most likely to be distracted, The Bermuda Triangle award for the most likely to loose objects on their messy desk, Little Miss Sunshine award for someone always smiling, and many more. My employees love this, and if I loose track, they will be sure to remind me. This really gives me an opportunity to bring all 70-80 employees together and recognize successes, laugh together, and it opens the door of communication so I can deliver a message if needed.

Ask for Feedback
The most important thing I do is engage my employees in the decisions I make for my department. Of course there are business decisions they cannot be involved in, but I try to ask them for solutions instead of just implementing something on my own. For example, this week we decided to do a snack day. Instead of me going out and buying what I thought was appropriate, I asked them what they would like to have. I purchased those items, and it was such a huge hit with my employees, they were happy , and more engaged. They felt that I cared. Another example is implementing mandatory overtime. When doing this, I give them options, and let them tell me what is best for them and their schedule.

Be Human
We all know how important it is to come to work and work your scheduled shift however. However, life situations happen. cars break down, kids get sick, we get sick, deaths in the family occur etc. I show them I care when something like this happens. I do my best to work with them and encourage them to maintain a line of communication with me. 

Career Development
It is my job as a leader to develop staff, and help them build the skills to reach their goals.  When having a coaching sessions, or performing corrective actions, it is important to tie their goals into the conversation. This gains commitment, and not compliance for a brief moment. When someone gets promoted, it is not a just a win for the employee, but also for me. It is a great feeling to help someone progress in their career.

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 me on LinkedIn 

Friday Funny

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.