Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Customer Service Quote of The Day

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Al Hopper

What are your thoughts on industry standards, with regards to contact center metrics?

Why do we use metrics? To determine our success at something. In sports we use metrics like yards gained, strike outs, or minutes played per quarter. Those metrics work because it's a standard measurement between teams and even eras.

Industry standards are the same; they allow business leaders to learn how well they are doing when compared to others. However, it is important to understand that not all industries are the same and require different weights on different metrics. Banks might not want to measure their Net Promoter Score against sporting goods stores. Or big box stores might not want to compare Same Store Sales with a coffee shop.

However, banks checking Customer Satisfaction against other banks makes much better sense. Bottom line, I like using industry standard metrics, as long as they make sense for the industry being measured, and they measure something that can tell us how we are really doing.

Al is an Army veteran who has over 20 years in Customer service. He spent 12 years working in the main contact center for a major international bank.

He has been nationally recognized as a thought leader in social media customer service and contact center management for his contributions online, and off, by ICMI, Huffington Post contributors, Microsoft, and Conversocial, among others.

Al is also a cohost of the weekly Twitter chat focused on all aspects of customer service, using the hashtag #CustServ.

Follow the Leader: LinkedIn | Twitter

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Will Artificial Intelligence Change The Stories?

By Ray Stasieczko
Article reposted with permission

We all remember the stories we were told as children. Regardless of one’s ethnicity, religion, education, upbringing, or where on the map we started out in life. Every one of us through the generations has heard the stories to explain how what is, was made possible by what was.

The human experience is a never-ending tale of What, Why, Who, and how’s. Our older generations taught us what they were taught by the generations before them. The way, your grandmother sews a quilt together one patch at a time, our understanding of life is a columniation of stories patched together. Every generation’s children’s education of why things are is defined by the translators of what was. Translators who were part of the community, of the family, the stories we heard were guarded and rarely changed. In years past the translators were motivated by the power the story had to influence one’s thoughts and behaviors.

Well, it’s nearly a quarter into the 21st Century, and storytelling is beginning to take a new shape which is profoundly changing not only in one’s access to learning, the access to fuel one’s imagination is almost unimaginable. Today we can communicate with people around the world easier than the generations before us communicated around the campfire, or the dining room table. For nearly all humankind communication was about storytelling. Those who gathered talked about what was. They regurgitated what they heard from others, and then injected their ability to spin an opinion into what the future might be.

The younger generations are more and more technology-driven earlier and earlier in life, so with the increases in the availability of information and the continuous improvements in technology’s user-experience the audience of users will soon include all generations. As our digital world migrates itself deeper and deeper into our physical world the speed of information is redefining the ways information is consumed and digested. Today we don’t have to execute a process for gaining knowledge of a subject; we don’t have to research what we need to know. What we need to know can be delivered to us before we ask. Technology has taken predictability from a fortune-telling process to a data-driven science-based process.

I believe that in the future the stories we pass down from generation to generation will be more about what the future holds than what the past provided. As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to increase in capabilities the amount of information available will exceed the human’s, comprehension capabilities. This ability to learn more than ever before about what could be will drive us to disregard what was. Artificial Intelligence will have the ability to imagine and create something unknown to a physical world ahead of its human cohorts. From this ability, Artificial Intelligence will give birth to ideas which are incomprehensible to humans. Artificial Intelligence will live and direct traffic in the intersection between the digital, and physical worlds.

In all society, there are those who are considered the pioneers, the futurist, the Einstein’s, Edison’s, Musk’s, or Hawking’s of the world. These type individuals represented the tiniest percentage of the human population they were the one in 100 million and what they accomplished is not only remembered it directed and still directs the what and how things are today, and in some cases centuries later.

So as Artificial Intelligence continues influencing the world the speed to action of what could be will continue increasing. Think about a world were Artificial Intelligence surpasses in quantity the human-computer the Einstein’s, the Edison’s, the Musk’s, the Hawking’s of the world. A century ago it took visionaries decades to prove or disprove, to evaluate, to study the facts. Those thought leaders throughout the centuries had one thing in common they needed time; time to accumulate information in those days’ the periods of time in transitioning could be decades. Today’s technology allows time to travel not only well into the future. Today’s technology can evaluate the past, the present, and the future and with ever-growing certainty allow humanity to live and prosper in a present world reality which is moving closer and closer to the border where the present and future connect. The excuse we need time is eroding.

Today’s technology continues being defined by what it does to make the future better. Thereby changing society from needing to learn from history to a society who continuously learns what the future holds. There will simply be too much information available that humans won’t care about history they instead will be consumed with progress. When Thomas Edison was working on the light bulb, he did not care or concern himself with the candle or the candle maker, and the candle industry misjudged the time they had left until Edison would diminish their importance. This misjudgment of time by industries even today is deadly to their sustainability.

So, if we deduct the time, it will take in the future to create a better way we eliminate the procrastinator’s fuel. In the future, the better way is the result of constantly modifying. In the future, the word change was replaced with the word modified. In the future, we won’t have to rely on a genius being born one in 100 million to change the world, in the future, there will be millions of Artificial Intelligent minds. Imagine centuries ago if the world had millions of geniuses not one in a 100 million. What if in the past the one in 100 million was a human born with what today would be considered normal intelligence and the rest of humankind were the Einstein’s. Artificial Intelligence is modifying our world’s reality, the way we communicate and comprehend is forever changing all current circumstances to constantly modifying circumstances. Everyday It becomes more comprehensible for us to imagine what was once unimaginable.

I guess in the future, the stories we tell children will be about the future. Every year, there will be a different story.

Through my creativity and passion for innovation, I help organizations navigate through needed changes. Over the past thirty years, I have had successes and faced challenges. The challenges organizations face today, I not only recognize them, I’ve experienced and navigated them firsthand. Delivering services to all marketplaces continues transforming. Competition is coming from places no one would have imagined. My innovative thinking benefits organizations who recognize change is needed, and more importantly, recognize the value of creativity fueled by experiences. The future of the business to business or business to consumers marketplace will require unique collaboration. I understand the importance of collaboration and have the imagination to bring uniqueness in delivering it. I believe successful innovation and transformation only happens “When an organizations focus is on bringing the future to the present, instead of bringing the past to the future.”

Follow: LinkedIn

Customer Service Quote of The Day

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Are you Making the Most of Every Service Opportunity?

By Meghan Speer

I recently had to call into a company because the amount they charged me was incorrect. Working in the call center industry, I am always curious how these experiences will go, and often play the comparison game. How long do I have to wait? Do their agents sound better than ours?

If you’re reading this, I’m sure you know that game. In this instance, my call was answered fairly quickly, but when the person on the other side of the phone began speaking I wasn’t sure if I was speaking to a person or an automated attendant.

“ThankyouforcallingXYZCompany.ThisisJane.HowcanIhelpyou?” The line was a familiar greeting but it was delivered hurriedly and was devoid of any emotion or inflection. It was as bored sounding as I’d ever heard a person sound, and lacked any sort of caring. It takes a lot to surprise me on a customer service call any more, but I was actually taken aback by the unfeeling tone.

Once that agent realized she couldn’t help me, she transferred me to her supervisor. The change in tone couldn’t have been more dramatic. The supervisor got on, and in a very caring voice apologized for the wait, let me know the issue had been handled, and that my money had been refunded. Lastly, she asked if there was anything else she could do. Her tone was so genuine, that I actually ended the call with a smile on my face.

That call gave me three reminders that I think are important:

  1. Every interaction counts. One call can be the difference in making someone feel unimportant and frustrated in their day verses feeling cared for and going on their way with a smile. That’s a big responsibility but it also helps ensure customers stick around.
  2. Tone is key. A little bit of genuine caring goes a very long way in ensuring satisfaction. Tone has the power to keep or lose a customer altogether and needs to be an important value. Customers will appreciate the genuine sincerity and the overall experience when they feel truly cared for.
  3. Soft-skills training is a must. Every call center takes time to train its agents on the script, the goals, and the technology, but training for care, tone, and empathy are equally important. For us, my experience reminded us that those skills need to be consistently refreshed, retrained, and also evaluated as part of the quality assurance process. If we want the caring interaction, we must spend the time to build those skills. 
I have posted Shep Hyken’s quote on the wall in our office now: “Recognize that every interaction you have is an opportunity to make a positive impact on others.” It’s easy to just rush through a call, show attitude back to an angry caller, or just go through the motions, but people deserve more than that. We have the ability to impact someone’s day for the good and it’s time to take that opportunity!

As Vice President of Client Services for Marketing Support Network, Meghan helps clients grow their brand. She oversees the Inbound Call Center team, as well as the Digital Marketing Team.

Follow Meghan on Twitter!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Customer Service Quote of The Day

Follow the Leader", Featuring Jeff Toister

How do you encourage front line staff to take ownership of the contact center vision?

I recently spoke with a contact center leader who was frustrated that his agents weren’t really excited about the vision. He shared with me that he had come up with the vision on his own and then communicated it to the team. Well, no wonder agents weren’t excited about the vision since they had no part in creating it!

Frontline staff should be included in creating the contact center vision. When I work with organizations to create a customer service vision, I always insist multiple stakeholders take part including frontline staff, middle managers, and executive leadership. This immediately instills a sense of ownership and helps ensure the vision feels authentic to everyone.

It’s then up to contact center leaders to continuously encourage ownership. This means leading by example, discussing the vision with agents on a regular basis, and helping agents find ways to overcome obstacles and live the vision in their daily work. Contact center agents tend to understand something’s importance by how often you talk about it, so leaders need to talk about the vision a lot of they want to see their team taking it to heart.

Jeff Toister is an author, consultant, and trainer who helps customer service teams unlock their hidden potential. He’s the bestselling author of The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service. More than 140,000 people on six continents have taken on of his training courses on LinkedIn Learning (a.k.a. Jeff has been recognized as a Top 50 Contact Center Thought Leader by ICMI and one of the Top 30 Customer Service Professionals in the World by Global Gurus.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Can Anyone Lead?

By Kathy Holdaway

What does leadership look like when you are not the one in charge? How does your way of being, create a collaborative environment? How do you show up every day?

Leadership starts with who you are on the inside. Being who you are, is the greatest gift we could ever receive from you. I wonder what practices keep you in tune with who you are, so that wherever you go, there you are. The bright shining light that stands in strengths, is a beacon to others. Be the person who demonstrates the best qualities with everyone at every moment. This place it is what people are magnetized by. Something about you stands out, as a result.

Because you are being genuine, and offering the best version of yourself, the person on the receiving end feels your contribution. They want to go where you are going, and become who you are being.

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”— Confucius

I think this is important especially in today’s leader environment! When I talk about practices, I am referring to what keeps you in the arena of integrity. It could be a practice of mindfulness that comes from inner awareness and being attuned to yourself, your environment, and the people around you.  It could be meditation, being at one with nature, or connection to the place within that keeps you calm. You get to choose what works best for you! 

Leaders practice effective listening skills. They are not thinking of the next thing to say; they are present in the conversation listening on multiple levels.  Leaders are committed to their personal and professional development, and are generally life-long learners. They know they can always learn from others no matter their station, position, culture or environment. The best leaders create space for you to grow into your greatness, and stretch your capabilities and capacities.

“Since in order to speak, one must first listen, learn to speak by listening.”— Rumi

Today, leadership is moving toward a more conscientious model, where every stakeholder is considered. This includes those internal and external. Today's leader has a broader outlook on people.  Consider how you might begin to ignite that in your workplace. Some of the qualities of a more conscious leader are compassion, empathy, integrity, transparency, gratitude and commitment to values. Exceptional leaders allow each person to be who they are, while inviting them to grow into their strengths.

And for my contributing quote, I challenge you to “Lead yourself and others to greatness, by simply being yourself”. If someone practices this, would you consider them a leader? 

Kathy Holdaway is a Transformational Coach and Consultant for Leader Development, Leader Transition and business growth with leaders, emerging leaders and founders who desire to lead by being who they are in their authentic power delivering with impact and sustainability. 

Her experience includes: 10+ years successfully coached over 100+ national and international coaching clients to include business owners, and mid-level executives in effectively removing barriers to their success focusing on mindset, leadership skills and strategic engagement. Previously in her corporate career of 19 years, she facilitated the growth of sales team, led them to be winning teams, and promoting many to  management roles.

Connect: Twitter | LinkedIn 

Friday Funny

Thursday, March 15, 2018

How to Develop a Leadership Pipeline in the Contact Center

This article first appeared on ICMI

Are leaders born or made? This question has been up for debate for quite some time. Regardless of whether leaders are born, or made, leadership development is critical. I have had the benefit of working with outstanding leaders who have guided and nurtured me throughout my career. Their influence suggests that whether a leader is born or made, mentoring is essential.

It has been said that the mark of a great leader, is one who creates more leaders. This only happens through mentoring, coaching, transparency, and trust. However, it starts with understanding that you don’t have all the answers. Real leadership is inclusive and does not place one’s self above the team. After all, what good is a leader, if they have no team to lead?

When you can elevate others, and let them stand in the spotlight without seeking accolades and credit, you have begun to understand the real power of leadership. Effective leaders realize they are, to some extent, a servant of those who follow them.  Leaders who serve lead successful teams! Servant leaders make the professional well-being of his/her staff their top priority.  Sadly, many wait for an official leadership title to adopt this mindset, and there are two reasons why this is not ideal:

  1. Leadership is not merely a position! Leaders are not defined by the organizational chart. Individual contributors and team members alike may possess and display the skills to become great leaders. Don’t overlook employees based on where they are in the hierarchy. Instead, identify where they can go, and how they can help you and the organization improve.
  2. Development should not occur once a leader assumes their role. To create success, you must create the conditions that are prime for success. Leadership requires on the job training for sure, but development in advance of a promotion helps maximize the potential for a favorable outcome.
One of my favorite quotes about effective leadership comes from Theodore Roosevelt. He said, “In any moment of decisions, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” For any new leader, getting it right is a daunting task. Without sufficient training, it is easy to make incorrect decisions, or even worse, do nothing at all.

During my time of military service, to progress in rank, you had to meet defined objectives before advancing. Therefore, you had all the hands-on experience you needed to make the next step in your career. You'd already succeeded in your new role before it was officially yours. This model created a robust pipeline of new leaders at the ready.
I have applied this same train of thought to my time in the contact center. When developing leadership pipelines, I focus on the following:
  • Set the tone: Leaders set the example for others to follow. It is imperative that you exhibit the behaviors you expect to see in your team. In doing so, you help create and maintain the culture and work environment you want to establish.
  • Create stakeholders: Any decision that impacts your team makes them stakeholders. As such, they need to be a part of the process.  Allow them to give constructive feedback and input. In doing so, you teach your employees how to communicate more effectively with one another, and how to gather all the relevant information they need to make good decisions. You also demonstrate that you value their input and expect them to take ownership of their role.
  • Utilize their other strengths: Allowing your employees to participate in projects outside the scope of their regular role is a great way to develop leaders. Not only will they put their talents and passions to use, but they will learn how to negotiate, collaborate, work on a deadline and contribute to the broader success of the organization.
  • Get out of the way: The best way to utilize your team is to give clear direction and guidance, and then let them do their job. Empower team members to make decisions and seek better alternatives to current processes and procedures. Encouraging them to find opportunities for improvement helps to develop and enhance critical thinking, decision making, and problem-solving skills.
  • Accountability: Being the leader does not mean you get to do what you want! Okay, maybe I should rephrase that. Just because you are the leader, doesn’t mean you should do whatever you want. Blame ultimately belongs to leadership, and praise should spread across to the team.
While the advice I've shared doesn't guarantee a successful leadership development program, it is an excellent place to start. I think of my contact center leadership pipeline program as an apprenticeship. Each member of the team is always learning and growing and the developing the skills they might need at the next level. Creating opportunities to develop staff for leadership is not only good for your employees and your business, but it is also your most important responsibility as a leader.  Harvey Firestone said it best; “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”

Does your team have a leadership pipeline? Share your best practices in the comments

Customer Service Quote of The Day

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Leslie O'Flahavan

How can tone, in written form, affect customer experience?

The tone you use in your writing to customers—whether in email, live chat, social media, or text—can make or break the customer experience. If your company’s marketing brand voice is fun and friendly, but your customer service voice is scoldy, scripted, or legalistic, you’ll be giving customers a bad, or at least a confusing, customer experience. Written customer service responses should use the same tone with customers after they buy (customer service) as your company did before they buy (marketing).

Don’t get lazy and convince yourself that the substance of your customer service responses matters more than your tone. What you say is important, but how you say it matters just as much. So when a customer emails you about a problem with your product or tweets you to ask you to waive a fee, remember that your tone matters. Use a friendly, connected, personal tone because that’s the way to address people you care about and want to help. Use a tone that helps you build a relationship with your customers and you’ll give them the experience they hoped they’d have.

I am an author, an online writing expert, and a sought-after speaker. I help customer service organizations improve the quality of the email, chat, and social media messages their frontline staff write to customers.

Follow the leader: LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Monday, March 12, 2018

Employee Engagement: Why is it Important?

By Jacqueline Santiago

Every employer should know they are at risk of high employee turnover, which is why employee engagement is so important. Implementing strategies is more than just providing surveys. You have to be fully committed by understanding the principles of employee engagement. Some of which are: 
  • Culture
  • Leadership
  • Purpose
  • Action
  • Transparency
  • Commitment
  • Recognition
The purpose is to have an engaged culture, which will make people stay, and go above and beyond what is expected. Because of engagement, staff will feel a sense of purpose and belonging. This can be done when leadership incorporates the organizations mission, vison and values in everything that they do. Rather than just talking about it at meetings, or when employee turnover has become a problem, engagement should be a core component of the business.

You must make employee engagement a primary focus, on a daily basis. In addition, be open to feedback that is positive or negative. When talking to employees, I find that it is the little things, that often matter the most. Often, associates simply want their value acknowledged, and their good efforts recognized. Sometimes, leadership can forget about those who are the foundation of the organization. Don't wait until it's too late.

Ambitious and driven professional offering years of expertise in Human Resources, Operations and Recruiting. My desire to exceed expectations combined with strong leadership skills has fostered my ability to be a performance driven team player. I possess the 5A’s: Alignment, Assessment, Accountability, Awareness, and Appreciation. The passion that I have allows me to be a professional with an extensive knowledge of Employee Relations.

Follow: LinkedIn

Customer Service Quote of The Day

Friday, March 9, 2018

Building a Training Strategy

By Elaine Carr, CPLP

Several years ago while interviewing for my job at ICMI, an employee asked me, “What’s the biggest training obstacle for contact centers?” I thought for sure this must be a trick question. The answer is just so obvious. When I answered, “Getting people off the phones to do training,” the interviewer threw her hands in the air indicating I scored a touchdown. I would still answer the question the same way today. One thing that will help, though, is having a training strategy.

A training strategy is a plan for what training is needed and an action plan for how that training will be accomplished. It should be part of a greater corporate strategy, or at least the contact center strategy. It should encompass all employees, and not just new hires or just agents. Too often contact centers resort to just providing new hire training and then—maybe—additional training only when things change (like procedures, systems, new products, etc.) or when performance slips quite a bit. A training strategy helps the focus remain on improving skills at all points and keeping performance improving rather than only reacting when it slips.

To create a training strategy, begin by understanding your business. I don’t mean understand training or understand contact centers, although both are important. You need to understand the entire business in which the contact center exists. Look at it’s mission, vision, and goals, and its strategic plan. Make sure you understand what they really mean, what the organization is trying to accomplish, and how the organization makes money. Your training strategy needs to be aligned with what the organization is trying to accomplish and what the contact center is trying to accomplish. Training should be a major enabler in achieving the organization’s goals, so you have to understand those goals thoroughly.

The next step is too look at what the contact center needs in order to help the organization achieve its goals. What skills are missing? What skills aren’t needed now but might be needed in the future? Work with other leaders to assess their major concerns, understand your customers’ evolving needs, and know the existing competency levels of employees. This is a basic needs analysis conducted on a wider scale than just a single course or single program.

You will also need to assess what training resources you have. What training staff do you have and what are their capabilities? Consider facilities, open social networks, employee engagement, subject matter experts available, supportive leaders, and supportive learning technologies. Also consider external resources that you might be able to bring into play. Be realistic here. If your training staff doesn’t have the skills to train effectively or you don’t have much support from other managers and leaders, you will not be able to accomplish as much and may have to scope your strategy differently, beginning slowly and developing the support and resources that you need.

You probably have more on your list of needs than you can realistically accomplish, or at least can’t accomplish all at one time. So you have to prioritize your efforts. Where is the need the greatest or where will filling the gap be most impactful? What are some easy wins that might help you get more support? Where might you be able to recombine resources to make them more effective or to spread them out further? Prioritizing means being creative and realistic about what you can do. It creates focus.

Be sure to include other leaders throughout the contact center in making your priorities. This will help them support your final action plan. The action plan should include back-up plans and approach how and when training will be provided, and what happens when volume requires training to be stopped or delayed. That’s where real creativity is required! Can you do a series of short 10-minute elearning units so that agents don’t have to be away from work for very long at one time? Can you create blended learning that involves several types of instruction broken into smaller bits? Instead of doing training, can you develop a job aid that will help fill the gap? Can you incorporate some of the training into the team’s huddle meetings? Will providing resources to supervisors for better coaching address the need? Be sure to consider everyone and not just the agents. New and experienced supervisors have very different training needs that often get overlooked. Managers and business analysts also have different training needs.

Be sure to think about the future and not just the present. Otherwise, by the time you execute the training strategy it will be outdated, and you will no longer be addressing current needs. That reminds me of the freeway construction that never ends – once one end is finished, they start all over again at the other end because traffic has outgrown the infrastructure. We aren’t fortune tellers, but we do have to be thinking ahead and making educated guesses about what the workforce will need tomorrow.

When you have an action plan in place, make sure to distribute it and make it known. If you can come up with a visionary statement to summarize and focus people on the training strategy, all the better. Get it put on some signs, on the intranet, and wherever else it can be visible so that everyone is focused on it.

Of course, we work in contact centers, so we are never done with an action plan. Our work requires flexibility, so we must have back-ups plans and we must regularly re-assess and re-plan as circumstances change. I would look at the training strategy at least quarterly and annually do a re-assessment and overhaul.

People and the needs of the contact center (and thereby, the needs of the organization) are at the heart of a good training strategy. Having one helps move training from hit or miss efforts with new hires to an effective approach for all employees. Training is one of those things that has proven very effective at increasing employee engagement, and a good training strategy helps make effective training with engaged employees a reality.

A professional in the training arena for more than 25 years, Elaine has 18 years’ experience in the contact center industry. She has both outsourced (domestically and internationally) contact center services and worked in companies doing the outsourced work. The variety of business that she has experienced in the contact center world includes financial services, incentives, transportation, government, healthcare, insurance, retail, and utility services, giving her a wide-ranging view of the industry. She is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) and holds a Master (Level 3) Gamification Certification from Sententia. Currently, Elaine utilizes her contact center and training experience at ICMI and HDI as the Group Instructional Design Manager.

Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter

Thursday, March 8, 2018

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Jeremy Hyde

How do you promote the work of your team and department throughout your organization? 

1. Develop relationships with colleagues from other departments:

One of the best ways to promote the work of your team is by having others do it for you! When you develop strong relationships with your colleagues they are sure to let others know what an amazing job your team is doing. Relationships built on mutual trust and respect are extremely important, rewarding, and should not be overlooked

2. Be generous:

Another great way to promote the work of your team is by lending their help and expertise to others in the organization. When you share the talents of your team with others it will continue to build those relationships and get people talking about your team for all the right reasons. Take a break from dealing with your own “whirlwind” to help someone else with theirs.

3. Lead by example:

You and your team are experts in leading people –share your expertise! Teach a class or share best practices on subjects such as: conducting performance reviews, effective coaching methods, onboarding and training new employees. Not only does this promote the work of your team but it helps to sharpen leadership skills across your organization!

Jeremy has 10 years of call center experience leading teams and developing a top notch customer experience. He's built teams from scratch to support new innovative products, as well as taking over teams during a time of transition. Jeremy has a passion for employee development, improving the customer experience, and fixing the health care industry!

Follow the leader: LinkedIn | Twitter