Thursday, September 27, 2018

5 Marketing Lessons from Infomercials

Cheesy? Maybe. But I bet you can recall your favorite infomercial in a heartbeat. Here's why:

1. Easy, Clear Messaging
Never has someone watched an infomercial and walked away confused about the product, price or value prop. Keep it simple, stupid (KISS).

2. Obvious Upside
Super pumped for that free onion peeler with your food dehydrator? I bet you are. Reinforcers, surprise/delights and added benefits make saying yes that much easier.

3. Clear Understanding
Spokespeople are inventors, users, or (at face value) big believers in these products. It certainly helps to drive results when those curating the messages are passionate, vocal and genuinely understand client pain points.

4. Bold Statements
Infomercials might just be the opposite of a long, monotonous Sponsored InMail. They are memorable, visual and loud. And since we are in the business of getting people’s attention, it’s important to think about how messages are amplified in a way that actually has impact.  

5. Results Driven
You made a product update? Great! How does it actually impact your clients?  It’s easy to become insular and assume that all product changes are exciting but repeatedly speaking to how clients will see results connects the dots.

Kathryn Frankson is a B2B event sales and marketing professional at UBM. A believer that 2018 communication means knowing how to get the markets attention through thumb stopping content, audience development and storytelling, she executes sales and marketing strategies in the catering, special event, cruise shipping and pharmaceutical space.

Connect: LinkedIn

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Employee Engagement: Now is the Time

If leadership is wondering if employee engagement is good and necessary for their teams, I would have to emphatically say, "yes, it is!"

I have worked in the contact center environment for many years. I have had the opportunity to work for companies both large and small. I have noticed that at the smaller companies, the employees were happier and more engaged in the work environment, than some of the larger call centers. Most of that can be attributed to increased exposure between staff and leaders.

From experience, I have found that when management is more in tune to what their employees do on a daily basis, the employees will respect them and be more productive. Who wouldn’t want a manager who has taken calls, and sat in the position they are in today? It's highly probable those leaders are taking that into consideration as they lead their teams.

When management has familiarity with those they lead, they have a better understanding of what their employees, and can better sympathize and identify with their team.

As an employee engagement advisory board member, I realize employees have different motivation. Therefore, engagement must be unique and personal. Yes, all employees want open communication, and want to feel valued, but it may look different across the team. 

Team members who are unhappy, tend to call out more, are tardy more frequently, or have performance issues more than those who are happy and well engaged. The best way resolve this, is through employee engagement. Find out the root cause of the problem. Management should be proactive, not reactive. Having a pulse on the team and the individual team members is critical.

If an employee gets sick, or encounters personal difficulties, be empathetic. Send a card or flowers as a kind gesture. Consider offering a flexible schedule as they work through a challenging period in their life. Never forget, engagement is personal!

Talk to your employees about their career aspirations. Help them create a career path, and develop them personally and professionally. This leads to retention and improved performance. Not to mention, this is the role of a leader!

When employees are appreciated, respected and empowered, it is reflected in their behavior and work. They will show up and give the extra effort, because they know you truly care. They aren’t merely a warm body, sitting in a chair, taking calls.

Often, it is the little things that go a long way with employees, and are most significant to them. Those are often revealed through meaningful engagement, tailored specifically for them. That takes time to cultivate. Now is the time to engage.

Brandy Ard has many years of Customer Service experience across various industries. As a result of living in numerous places across the country, and working with people from diverse backgrounds, she is a well rounded, compassionate person. Brandy loves working under great management teams, as they make her job that much more enjoyable. "When you love what you do, you produce high quality work."

Connect: LinkedIn

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Customer Service Week: A Time of Celebration

The time for annual Customer Service Week is rapidly approaching! Are you ready? This celebration, which takes place the first week of October each year, is a week of fun, games and food – lots of food.

Here are some links to some articles with ideas on how to have a great Customer Service Week, just in case you are having trouble coming up with activities or just a little late in planning this year:
Of course, Customer Service Week isn’t all about the fun and games (did I mention that there will be food?). This is a week to celebrate and recognize those hardy souls who have chosen to become customer service professionals. Some of us are in industries with actual life and death implications, some of us affect the financial well-being of our customers, and we all have the incredible power to positively impact their day. This is a great opportunity to reflect on individual and team success – the extraordinary and heroic efforts and the seemingly routine that made our customers lives a little better. Some suggestions:
  1. Post or read customer comments from surveys and letters recognizing the efforts of individuals who helped them
  2. Have representatives share stories of how they made a difference for a particular customer or solved a difficult issue
  3. Celebrate improvements in team performance, especially related to Customer Experience
  4. Have company executive or the CEO issue a proclamation or share a note congratulating everyone on a great year
One final thought – this is a great opportunity to engage the rest of your organization in the celebration. Take the time to remind them that everyone is in customer service. The desktop engineer who makes sure your tools work every day, the HR team who makes sure you have enough staff to handle the calls, the Product, Marketing and Sales teams who make sure you have great products and service to offer; they all are customer service professionals too! Let’s make sure to recognize them this week as well!

I hope you all have a great Customer Service Week and remember to celebrate throughout the year. We have a lot to be proud of and I appreciate being a member of this great profession!

Vickie Friece  is the SVP Operations - Service Delivery/Funding and Reconciliation at MetaBank

Connect: LinkedIn

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"Follow The Leader", Featuring Janet Poklemba

How do you create actionable goals from the knowledge acquired at a conference? 

I’ve always considered conferences to be valuable experiences that allow me to learn more about our industry, and to stay on top of trends, technology and innovation. Connecting with peers is one of my favorite aspects of conference attendance, as we share wins and struggles of often relatable challenges. After a conference, I consider it very important to share the experience to help demonstrate how the investment pays off for our team.

Below are three tips to keep in mind to ensure your conference attendance results in action that helps to inspire, inform and move your business forward.
  1. Aspiration! Many sessions I attend are aspirational. They help cultivate a vision of where our team could be in the future. I carry these ideas back to work to contribute to long term strategy sessions. I’m always interested in how other organizations are creating better insight, navigating new technology or providing proactive and predictive service. This helps to build the path to the contact center our team needs to be to help our customers.
  2. Inspiration! Taking time to focus on my field is always inspiring to me. Customer Service people are awesome! There is so much information provided during a great conference that it can be difficult to remember so I’ve used Twitter to help me capture my moments of inspiration. Along with note taking during sessions, I tweet the key ideas that resonated with me. At the end of the conference, I review the tweets, pop them in a PowerPoint, and use them to help remember and share that inspiration with my team.
  3. Collaboration! Connecting with peers in other industries is valuable in building your network ,and they are generous with their insight and experience. This network of peers is critical when you are looking at innovation in your own contact center. Having a trusted colleague to reach out to, and ask about technology choices or services you want to pilot in your call center, helps you to make better choices more quickly. It also lends credibility to your decisions by leveraging industry leaders that have been successful with similar initiatives.
I’ve met amazing people, who do great work for companies all around the world. If you have a chance to go to a conference, take that opportunity to learn, grow and share the inspiration and ideas with your team. Better yet, bring a few team members with you, and take advantage of more sessions, connections and collaboration!

Janet Poklemba has been in the business of customer service for over 20 years in a variety of call center leadership roles working both sides of the BPO model and managing in-sourced teams. She is passionate about the Customer Experience and all things digital to help reduce customer effort and bring the voice of the customer to the decision making table. Janet is experienced in multiple industries including telecommunications, satellite TV, home warranty, HVAC and consumer products.

Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter

Monday, September 17, 2018

Customer Irritation Erodes the Experience You Deliver

I was recently at a business conference at a highly regarded venue. The presenter was wonderful and provided lots of strategies, techniques, and solutions for those in attendance. Participants walked away with a wealth of knowledge and takeaways ready to implement in their companies.

The food was great. The venue provided a light breakfast, delicious lunches, snacks, and a wide variety of sodas and water.

One thing that was a surprise to everyone was the renovation taking place on a grand scale. However, the venue did a remarkable job with signage to direct parking and where to enter the main building.

Upon the conclusion as everyone was walking out to their cars, I overheard several conversations focusing on two extreme irritations during the conference...

1. Access to the provided WiFi was impossible. While everyone could select the WiFi network and was taken to the login screen... everything froze from that point on. The screens simply didn't progress past the login screen, regardless of network carrier. And because the conference room was in the lower levels, we all transitioned between no network, 3G, and LTE random.

The irritation was that WiFi was presented as an option, accessed to the login screen... and then left everyone hanging. Several attendees mentioned that it would have felt better to them had it not been offered as an option at all.

As a result, one of the people at my table lost all of his notes he took on his computer. Apparently he was in LTE mode when accessing the online program, yet because of the inconsistency of network connection in the room without WiFi, his notes were lost as soon as he turned off his computer.

2. The room temperature was freezing 90% of the time. As in - I'm sure the aging process was slowed dramatically for those in the room during those two days. I know HVAC is a challenge in most buildings, but it is something that impacts the ability for participants to fully engage in an event. When folks are too hot or cold and the temperature passes their comfort threshold, they become distracted looking for ways to become more comfortable.

The interesting thing was that some of the attendees went to a local restaurant at the conclusion of the first day's curriculum and the temperature in the restaurant was so cold that a few folks went to their cars to grab sweaters and jackets. Someone even brought out a blanket from their car to use in the restaurant. When this was discussed at our table the next morning, one of my table mates said "If you managed a restaurant, wouldn't you make absolutely everything would be done to keep people comfortable so they could enjoy their meal? It was crazy cold." No one mentioned the food, the conversation, only the temperature.

The point... the conference content was wonderful. But when asked about the venue, most everyone mentioned the WiFi and temperature without mentioning the renovation challenge or the beautiful gardens that surround the building itself, the great food, or the nice room.

When this company hosts another conference, I wonder if they will consider holding it somewhere else because of the irritations listed above. These examples may not be deal breakers in your mind. The point is that they both caused extreme irritation for everyone in the room. One of the main drivers of customer defection is irritation. When customers experience frustration and irritation with a company, they begin to look elsewhere.

Where do your customers possibly experience irritation and frustration when working with your company? Is it hold times on calls, delays in email responses, set time expectations for resolution not met, not having a main or consistent point person to handle their account so they feel like a first time customer every time they contact you? Do business with your own company. Experience what your customers experience. See what irritates or frustrates you. If you notice it, your customers will too.

Are you willing to risk losing customers to irritations that could be eliminated or reduced? If you truly are committed to improving your Customer Experience, take an objective look at what your customers see and feel.

Article reposted with permission of author

Kristina Evey | Ever feel that you're just one win away from a major tipping point that will help you and your business stand out as the top tier in your industry? I create that "win" for motivated C-Suite and Leadership teams. I'm a Customer Experience Strategist who loves to help Leadership Teams demystify the process of shifting operational and business priorities to the customer perspective and seeing revenue increase. I like seeing the "A-Ha!" moments at the C-Suite level when they realize how simple changes make huge impacts both internally and externally. I help B2B companies build strong connections with their customers by engaging at all levels to consistently deliver unexpected and amazing experiences customers are so delighted with that price becomes irrelevant.

Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Workforce Management's Impact on Customer Service

Workforce Management drives CX

A biker friend of mine recommended a book to me called “Freedom” written by Sonny Barger – yes “that” Sonny Barger – a founding member and former Oakland Chapter President of the Hell’s Angels.  It took me about six miles, in one session, on the treadmill to read the book filled with Sonny’s rules for life.  Some of the bits resonated with me – others did not.  This bit speaks to me in the context of customer experience:

“Treat me good, I’ll treat you better, treat me bad and I’ll treat you worse”

Customers don’t really want to be amazed or have their hair blown back – just helped. They want the product they want/need, their problem solved, or their question answered.  They want those things done with common courtesy and respect.  Treat them good – they will do business with you, treat them bad – they will do business with someone else.

The Workforce Management function has many customers – the external customers, agents, business managers, finance, marketing…  Success is in finding the balance of forecasting and scheduling “Human Resources” to assist the external customers when they want assistance.

Have them at “Hello!” 
When callers negotiate the IVR and determine that human intervention is what they need, the distance between the IVR and the agent is significantly influenced by the efficacy of the Workforce Management team. When callers wait “too long” they become frustrated and they don’t feel valued.  Those feelings set the tone for the human interaction and inform the customer experience. 

Create consistency! 
Service level measures the % of calls answered in a # of seconds.  Some businesses require a speedy answer – think 911 and OnStar – where an immediate response is critical. Aside from that, speed is linked to cost and not to customer satisfaction. I tend to favor that sweet spot in the range of 80-90% answered in 45-60 seconds.  Most callers will not be bothered by waits of less than a minute – provided the quality of service is good. This range of service level goal improves queue throughput, significantly lowers staffing costs, and improves the ability to provide a consistent level of speed of answer.
Communication is key! 
Business people and marketing teams can craft amazing campaigns that result in strong responses and take rates. If the communication link between them and the Workforce team is not in place – the efforts will result in burying the call center in call traffic with no one to answer the phone.  You must answer the phone to provide the service or close the sale.

Hire the right Workforce Team!
There are certain skills in most job descriptions for Workforce jobs – a conglomeration of technical and analytical requirements. The intent is to produce a purveyor of data and algorithms to yield a highly efficient forecast and scheduling plan. Follow that simple formula and you will likely fail.  The right candidate must understand the people perspective – from external customer to agent; that an efficient Workforce plan must consider the customer experience and employee engagement as critical success factors, that embracing abundance means that everyone in the process wins.

Support your frontline agents!
Forecast to allow for vacation time off approvals – it will reduce unplanned absenteeism, calm stress, and improve employee engagement.  Allow agents the opportunity to plan for time off well in advance of the dates they are requesting.  Schedule to support work/life balance – offer flex shifts and lunch lengths, where possible.  Allow shift trades to give more flexibility.  Automate your processes – so they don’t have to find a supervisor or manager, tell their story of why they want time off, and await judgement. Forecast and plan such that they can use the time off they have earned to play, rest, and recharge – after all, they earned it. Treat them good – they’ll treat the customers better!

Debra Bentson has spent most of her career in Contact Centers with an emphasis on building and leading Workforce Management teams. Her leadership style balances structure, empowerment, accountability, results, and fun. She is a member of the NCCCA (Nor-Cal Contact Center Association) Steering Committee and an ASUGA (Aspect Software Users Group Association) board member. Dr. Bentson is a member of the DNF (Did Not Finish) crew at the Antioch CA Speedway – push starting sprint cars, clearing wrecks, and supporting track safety.

Dr. Bentson follows this simple prescription for life: "Work and play, laugh loud and often, be safe and strong, and live on your own terms". Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Empathy, and the Recipe for Chocolate Cake

Once upon a time, (isn’t that how they always start), a young woman took a leap, and accepted a position in a customer service role. This is a new adventure, how exciting!!

The young woman had no experience in customer service, but was up for the challenge. She thought should could figure it out. She could talk to anyone; how hard could this be? I mean, they are just people, right? Friends had always told her she could talk to anyone, she was an expert in her previous field, and she wasn’t afraid of anything,

She had a new team to work with, and colleagues with different skill sets. They all seemed like they knew what they were doing. She plugged in her headset and started her day.

Things are going well. "How can I help you?" "Can you please tell me what happened?" "Thank you for calling! I am happy to have helped you!" It seemed like a breeze. Day one done.

Day two, started out the same, until the call came in, that she wasn’t prepared for. "How can I help you?" The reply was simple, “I am not sure you can.” Really?

"Can you please tell me what happened?"

The customer stated, "I have a huge problem. Your office told me that I wouldn’t have to enter in all of this data. I can’t believe all of this happened! I am so mad, and I need to talk to someone who can help me!"

She is having a moment of crisis. Could I help her? Do I know what happened? What did she say she needed on her previous calls? What did we tell her? When did this happen?

Realizing the woman on the phone was mad already, and asking her to hold could only irritate her more, she  was focused on diffusing the situation and finding out what happened. How can she make this better? How can she make this right?

Things aren’t going well. She is trying to listen, trying to research, and trying to figure out how this went so horribly wrong.

Many thoughts came to mind. "Where do I look to find this?"  "Who can help me, help her?"  "Did she make the mistake?"  Then, she remembered something her colleague said to her at lunch, "if you list it out, you willl figure it out."

So, she had the customer start from the beginning, to understand how this happened. She assured the customer that she'd make things right.

The customer took her back to the beginning. She went back to when she didn’t understand what needed to happen, back to when she called the service team to make sure she was doing the right thing.

The service agent was able to list it out, step by step, documenting each situation while the customer was explaining. During this process, while she was listening to the customer, she felt empathy.

In that moment, "I know how to talk to people, or I’m excited about the new opportunity", didn't matter.  It was upsetting, being in this position. "How would I feel if it was me?" "Who would help me, after I called several times before?" Does anyone  in this organization care?"

In those moments, when don’t have the right information, directions, and resources, things can escalate out of control. You have the wrong ingredients.

Give you staff the recipe for success:
  1. Train them in the details
  2. Address their concerns
  3. Give them resources
  4. Do the right thing
  5. Be human
  6. Utilize empathy and sympathy
  7. Actively listen 
  8. Be available, be present, be real
  9. Empower your staff to make the BEST decisions for customers

In the end, the above story worked out. I'm sure by this point, your are wondering about the chocolate cake. Well, I needed something to keep your attention.

I love what I do. I love my industry. I love the long hours and weekend set ups, concrete floors to flights of fancy, coffee runs and changes on the fly. My goal: delivering client needs on budget, and on time.

Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter 

Customer Service Quote of the Day

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Customer Service Quote of the Day

B2B Customer Experience: All Hands on Deck

Consumers have the power, everyone is an influencer, and consistently delivering exceptional customer experience is critical to event success. And as the B2B vs B2C playing field has leveled, buyers expect consumer centric experiences across the board.

I've certainly had some great interactions from brands that are clearly customer obsessed. Amazon has a fantastic turnkey return policy, AMEX overnights cards, Chase Bank fraud protection has zero friction, but I also think back to one of my first jobs as a cashier at the Ace Hardware in Fargo, ND. There are a few things I'll never forget from our training: 
  1. Greet every single person who walks in with eye contact and a smile.
  2. When customers say thank you, rather than responding with "you're welcome" say "No, thank you. It's truly my pleasure."
  3. When someone asks what aisle a product is in, walk them to it personally as opposed to just telling them the aisle number.
  4. If there is a long line at the register, acknowledge what's happening. Make eye contact with all of the people in line and say "We'll get someone up here to help as fast as possible. Thank you so much for being here and for being so patient."

And here’s the thing – as a B2B event marketer, I still apply this advice.

Greet clients: Perhaps this means live chat instead of gated forms enabling a real time information exchange.

Say "Thank you": How are we working with customer success to ensure surprise/delight and retention programs have the right tone?

Walk with clients: Digitally, are you ensuring a smooth customer journey to relevant information? And onsite at events, do walk with clients as that added touch.

Acknowledge customers: Brands don’t always get it right but addressing pain points in earnest ways makes relationships more human and meaningful.

With the amplification of social and more market choices than ever, it’s important to remember that customer experience is most successful when all departments contribute.

Kathryn Frankson is a B2B event sales and marketing professional at UBM. A believer that 2018 communication means knowing how to get the markets attention through thumb stopping content, audience development and storytelling, she executes sales and marketing strategies in the catering, special event, cruise shipping and pharmaceutical space.

Connect: LinkedIn