Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Lauren Lomb

What are some fun and creative ways to train staff during down time?

There are many fun and creative ways to train staff during down time. One way, is to create a  crossword puzzle with the questions and answers related to the organization’s mission, values, and of course, product knowledge.

Set a time limit, say two hours, for all to be turned in. All agents with perfect scores are entered to win a $25 or $50 gift card. Or, they can simply be named a “Champion of the Week”. What’s great about this option is it’s easy, fun, and reinforces all the right information without it feeling like a task or chore to the agents. 

There are free bingo websites online, that allow you to enter your own criteria. You can enter, “Found newest product on the website” or “Called a former customer just to check in”. As they perform the tasks they write in specific information that they found or did, and work towards BINGO. We’ve also done short, 10 question quizzes on QA content, and grammar. Surprisingly these are very well received and can even get competitive!

Lauren Lomb has a passion for people and life! She is a Corporate Trainer & Leader specializing in customer service, customer experience, contact centers,  employee engagement & workplace culture. Lauren was recently named one of ICMI’s Top 50 Thought Leaders of 2017.

Follow the leader: LinkedIn | Twitter 

#CustServ #QOTD

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Technology & Customer Experience Have Changed the Employee Learning Landscape

By Melissa Pollock 

Cloud-based contact center platforms, big data analytics, omni-channel operations, and artificial intelligence applications have all contributed to a prodigious evolution in how we engage and manage customer journeys. These advances also helped drive customers' expectations for more responsive, informed, and accessible services, and service representatives.

Contact centers have worked hard to keep up with the pace of change in infrastructure, platforms, processes, and consumer demands, and frontline service representatives have been working hard too - but rigid adherence requirements and continuous task repetition combined with an increasing quantity of systems and screens to navigate, multiple communication channels to respond to and 'universal' skillsets to apply, have made a routinely daunting endeavor all the more challenging, even for the most motivated of people.

Associates working in these data-driven, tech-laden, experience-demanding contact center environments need resources that both engage, and add immediate value to their work. Josh Bersin described it perfectly last year in a CLO article - "The way people want to learn today can be described in one word: fast. We want entertaining videos that make a point quickly; and we want systems that let us find and consume content with the click of a button." That's the essence of digital learning and is it's the new normal for employees' knowledge needs.

Microlearning has become a prominent purveyor of digital learning - sporting short pieces of content (from a few to 5 minutes), often designed as entertaining videos with audio and animation, in some cases targeted to a specific bit of knowledge or single skill, and capable of being powered by platforms that curate users' history. In his digital learning article earlier this year, Josh Bersin said of microlearning, "We can now produce content that immediately teaches what we need to know, that inserts itself at the time of need, and is so interesting that we remember it after only a few minutes."

I heard Zig Ziglar say at a seminar nearly two decades ago, "Your input determines your output". To get better engagement and performance outputs, despite all the increased complexities, we need to give our employees different inputs - make it easy for them to effortlessly build knowledge and skills as part of their normal workflow, and empower them to take part in their own self-learning journeys. It’s a worthy investment when we remind ourselves that in delivering Customer Experience, we really do get what we give.

Melissa Pollock is head of Content Development and Client Services for AmplifAI Solutions, Inc., a disruptive AI technology that enhances sales and NPS performance by accelerating employee skill development with data-driven micro-learning and predictive coaching & recognition. Melissa spent 12 years consulting with both direct and BPO contact centers, transforming operations through behavioral coaching and human process improvements that aligned structure with people and goals, driving improved performance and retention. Visit the AmplifAI blog for more insights and use cases.

Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Technology and Digital Media Driving Consumer Experience- ‘What was’ Versus ‘What is’ of Customer Service

By Rinku Basu

Over the past few years, customer services have been taken to astonishingly new heights. ‘Meeting expectation’ is no good anymore, surpassing expectation is the only modus operandi for existence. To our advantage, with the advent of digital technologies and social media, reaching out to the consumer market and creating a positive brand experience has become less strenuous. Gone are the days when customer service was about greetings and saying nice words. It is a passé and redundant. Companies are exploiting digital technologies to re-imagine how can they deliver consistent value every time to their customers. Uber, Amazon and likes have raised the standards to a level which is making the industry think hard and get deeper into understanding how to enhance consumer experience with the use of technology.

Brand experience is delivered through multiple hands- The production unit, employees, the store, Sales staff, Customer service team etc. Your reputation is always in the hands of these ‘so many people’ at all levels spread out geographically. That makes it an arduous task to maintain and deliver consistent quality and experience. Use of technology has the promise to achieve the consistency that the customers crave for. Consumers get what they want. The push is on companies to ensure that the process of delivering customer experience is not left to employees but is supported in the back-end with lot more technology, lot more thought, and a lot more processes.

Some companies have taken it seriously and exploited the medium- it is helping them scale and deliver standardized services. Yet several more are left somewhere in between. Over the next two to five years we will see this stabilizing significantly. Best practices will evolve consuming unprecedented budgets to build systems, workflows and staff trainings. An even bigger investment is going to be in the process of making your staff unlearn.

Let us take a closer look at it with an example to understand this better. If a car owner need spare parts- the provider will be differentiated by the speed at which it can deliver the same, how quickly can it be replenished. Here we realize the strength of integrated supply chain. If the manufacturer can ensure that the parts are available as soon as it is asked for- it will enhance the experience tremendously. That’s the code that online retailers have been able to crack and addressing the age-old pain areas.

Look at ‘what was’ and ‘what is’. When the buying choice was dependent on advertisements and word of mouth, we did not have comparatives or access to customer reviews. Now that all of this is available, it opens up a whole new plethora of choices with real-time consumer feedback. Review forums are shifting the brand focus from being everywhere to focus on delivering brand experience through the consumer group consistently. All of this is pushing companies towards a changed mindset, different workflows, strengthened back-end processes enabling a lot of data/ reviews for consumers and deliver an experience that stays. Companies need to be on the ground to understand what is needed, put that back in the system, exploit the power of technology and achieve the desired consistency in it’s services.

Rinku Basu - Management professional, art enthusiast, blogger, thinker, dreamer, non- conformist, social misfit, forever joyful.

Follow: LinkedIn | Twitter

#CustServ #QOTD

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Beverly Mahone

What should leadership do to attract and retain millennials? 

That's a great question!  First, let me say I believe some employers have a misconception
about millennials, their work ethic, and their habits.  Depending on what survey you read, you may be led to believe GenY is the job-hopping generation and they don't like following the rules and regulations.  I beg to differ! So, what should leadership do to attract and maintain millennials?

Provide great benefits 
This includes having an excellent company match for contributions into a 401K plan, along with education on the value of having such a plan, and what it means for their future. 

Offering a health plan, with free fitness club membership, shows your employees that you care about their health and wellness, As an added bonus, offer incentives for completing specific health-oriented goals (i.e. quit smoking).

Provide paid maternity leave up to 12 weeks.  According to PL + US (Paid Leave for the United States), 1 in 4 mothers are forced to return to work within 10 days of giving birth due to a lack of income coming in.  Add on top of that childcare expenses, and you will have unhappy employees who will be looking to quit or find another job.

A Student Loan repayment program is an excellent way to help millennials who are burdened with student loan debt.  According to a survey conducted by American Student Assistance, 76 percent of respondents said if a prospective employer offered a student loan repayment benefit, it would be a contributing or deciding factor in accepted a job offer.  By including such a benefit, you not only add value to your company's portfolio, but you may also find it won't be as hard to recruit and maintain millennials as employees.  It can be a win-win for everybody.

And of course, o
ffer vacation and sick time!

Flexible schedule
Offer a flexible schedule and work at home opportunities if applicable.  Not everyone believes in the traditional 9-5 anymore, so if you have employees who have proven they can get the job done no matter what time they start, make it an option.

Be transparent. 
Leaders who are transparent, more often than not, establish better relationships with their employees.  Keeping your staff in the loop, helps develop and build trust.

Be engaging and cut out the hierarchy.  Employee engagement can be difficult for some managers due to age difference, but taking some time to get to know your millennial employees will open the lines of communication to a greater degree.

Also, the best ideas given should always win out.  Just because someone has been with the company 20 years doesn't mean they an edge on those who started a year ago.  Leaders should always be looking for new, creative, and fresh ideas that will continue to move their company's bottom line.

Beverly Mahone is a veteran journalist, author, coach, and professional speaker. After more than 30 years in radio and TV news, Beverly created BAM Enterprises. Among her clients are Baby-Boomers and Seniors who are re-entering the job market. She also works with employers to help them understand how to recruit and train Millennials. Beverly has appeared on numerous radio and TV talk programs including MSNBC. She has been featured in the New York Times and has written five books including the Amazon Best Sellers How to Get on the News Without Committing Murder and The Baby Boomer/Millennial Divide: Making it Work at WORK.
She has written for or been covered by the Huffington Post, Forbes, and Newsweek magazine.

Connect with Beverly: LinkedIn | Website | Twitter

#CustServ #QOTD

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.

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.

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