Tuesday, January 22, 2019

You Make Me Want to Be a Better Agent: Customers Can Inspire!

By Jodi Beuder

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn

Jack Nicholson is one of the few actors who can make a despicable character likable. In the movie, As Good As It Gets, he plays Melvin Udall, a misanthropic, obsessive-compulsive sourpuss. For much of the movie it’s hard not to want to throw your popcorn at the screen. Melvin is rude, paranoid, demanding, difficult, and exasperating. There are few people who Melvin trusts in the world, and one of them happens to be Carol, a waitress played by Helen Hunt. Over the course of the movie Melvin drops some of his defenses and comes to realize that he feels better when he’s around Carol and, arguably, one of the best scenes in the film is when Melvin softens just enough to convince Carol to give him a chance at spending more time together. The line from this movie that has probably been uttered in a thousand different marriage proposals is, “You make me want to be a better man.”

While this movie certainly centers around Melvin, it is really Carol who inspires and is the biggest motivating factor behind Melvin’s softening. For anyone working in customer service, it might be easy to think of customers as Melvin. Yes, they can be infuriating at times. However,
if we twist the analogy around, customers can just as easily be thought of as Carol. A lot gets written about dealing with difficult customers, but customers can also inspire!

When we work with great customers, a positive feedback loop starts to form. We feel good about our interaction. We want to do even better for the next customer. We take pride in our company. We notice that with each positive interaction, more positive ones follow. What if our industry focused more on the positives and elevated these interactions?

Customer facing agents, who experience the benefits of positive customer interaction, often feel inspired to want to do better. Training modules that teach agents how to take their customer service skills from good to great benefit the organization, the employee and the customer. When employees are inspired, and working to create even better experiences for customers, they are better able to handle negative interactions when they occur. Inspired employees have enough working knowledge to know not to let negative experiences “stick.” They don’t get dragged down by the challenges, and instead remain committed and devoted to delivering excellent care, because they know they are better for it.

“You make me want to be a better agent!” When our customer services teams are well trained to deliver excellent customer experiences, our customers can bring out our very best!

Jodi Beuder is a marketing strategy expert, with a passion for customer experience. She is keen to creating and following through, from canvas to fruition. Her expertise includes targeted social media campaigns, content and internet marketing, and product and branding campaigns.

Connect with Jodi: LinkedIn | Twitter

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Your Query Failed. Now What?

By Diana Aviles

Sometimes, you just get stuck. You sit there at your desk trying to come up with every way possible a person can say something with the hope that it will help make some progress on getting your category or query to pass validation. But like Pac-Man, you keep getting hit by the ghosts repeatedly dying. I think it’s important to slow things down and be honest with everyone. Even us seasoned veterans have our tricky builds. [Please note: I am going to use the term “build” to refer to query/category building in order to maintain neutrality in this piece.]

Frustrating building is often one of the major contributing factors for why organizations pull out of speech analytics programs. It's like Super Mario Bros 2. The one we have here in the US, where you are running around throwing radishes, is technically not the official version.

Nintendo of Japan, thought the sequel game should continue where the player left off in the last game, by following a traditional path of progressive difficulty. The end result was that Nintendo of America said "no thank you", and created the version of SMB2 that we are more familiar with. Outside of showing how dorky I am, why am I mentioning this? The frustration that Nintendo of America experienced with the game, is often similar to what some speech analysts experience when they get stuck on a tricky build. So while there is no real life Speech Analytics equivalent of a Game Genie, I came up with a list of things that might help you get past the level.

  • You may have too low volume – If the particular subject you are building does not drive a lot of volume, you are entering the needle-in-haystack territory. You cannot make hits appear out of thin air. In these situations, it’s important to communicate that to your requestor, to set those expectations. I have found that it can help to offer them a monitoring period, to observe volume, and see if it improves somewhere down the line. You would largely do this in the form of ad-hoc searches or term lists, if your software offers the option.

  • Cross-talk Interference – This is one that burned me recently. Sometimes, if you are trying to look for something on a specific line, you may encounter situations where noise on one line bleeds into another line, causing the appearance of cross talk. This can result in a missed hit in your build. Speaker separation relies on having high quality, and clear audio to be able to differentiate who is who. This is one of those situations which you should communicate to your requestor, after taking your best shot.

  • Too complicated for your own good – In a previous article, I suggest building is comparable to good a marinara sauce. You have to mix a bit of this and that.  Everything has to be balanced. Some builders get too complicated, and it hurts the performance of the build. Remember, to keep your builds to one topic at a time. I’m also going to call out builders who are looking for the most specific of items to capture in their build. I knew someone who was getting hammered trying to build for a specific issue that was supposed to capture a specific type of change being made on accounts, but without a specific piece of information being verified. I don’t know if it was ever built successfully, but again, it’s really important for as a builder, to keep things simple and educate end users.

Finally, I want you to remember that frustration is normal. Do not get discouraged, or destroy company owned property. A query/category build that is stubborn does not mean that you or the software is substandard. This comes with the territory. If you have speech analytics mentors, talk with them and see what advice they might have for you. If you do not have any mentors, and you are reading this, please contact me. I’ll be Luigi to your Mario, even though I like Princess Peach because she floats.

I promise, I am done with all the retro gaming references.

Diana Aviles has been working in speech analytics for 8 years with a specialty in Nexidia Interaction Analytics.

She is a vocal speech analytics advocate with the primary objective 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.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Employee Engagement via Motivation and Encouragement

By Crystal O'Hara

The importance of employee motivation is vital to any business. If you have motivated staff, you have a highly productive staff. The fact that we are in the call center industry means we market our employees; they are our front line to our clients. Finding ways to motivate employees is always a concern for management. It's something we always have in the forefront. We want our employees to be happy and have a level of energy and commitment to the company. If our front-line employees are happy that means, they will give the customers a positive experience, when they answer the phone.

American Communication Centers, there are many ways that we motivate our staff. Here are a few incentives we have come up with to keep our employee morale up.
  1. We personally thank employees for doing a good job. When I speak with an employee, I thank them for what they do. I like them to know I appreciate the hard work they put in.
  2. Listen to your employees. I’m always asking if they have suggestions, ideas or any feedback. When they share it, I listen. If it’s a suggestion that we cannot do, I will try and find some way to incorporate it somewhere else or, tweak it to where it does fit. However, just listening shows you care and are interested in what they say.
  3. Provide feedback on job performance. Every week I do some evaluations on each of my employees and provide feedback, and not just what needs to be worked on, but what they did well. I believe constructive criticism as well as positive words are just as important.
  4. 5C policy. This has been a policy that I have used for many years. When you answer phones for 8 hours a day, you get those occasional calls where the other person is just not satisfied with anything you can do for them. These calls can drag people down, so we have a policy in place that doesn’t spread that negativity to the rest of the staff. It’s called the 5C policy. This policy is a zero-tolerance policy where we do not allow anyone to talk in a negative or derogatory way about our callers, clients, competition, and  co-workers. It goes with the adage, "if you don’t’ have something nice to say then don’t say it at all". It has worked really well over the years, and it’s actually become a policy that everyone likes. Let’s face it, most people don’t want to sit around listening to others complain.
These are just some of the ways we try to keep our staff motivated and enjoying work. In what ways do you motivate employees? 

Crystal O'Hara is a vision-driven, goal-focused executive with a proven history of innovation and achievement. Throughout my 17-year career, I have established a reputation as a transformational leader who is driven by challenge, undeterred by obstacles, and committed to furthering standards of excellence. My expertise encompasses all aspects of business development and administration, from controlling costs and maximizing revenues to harnessing team strengths to improve company wide performance.

Connect: LinkedIn

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Finding Your Way Home

By Sabrina Permuth

Are you stuck in a job you don't love? Have you heard of the three C's? They are choice, chance, and change. Will you make the choice to take the chance to make a change?

Francesca Battistelli released The BreakUp Song, last year. In it she tells a story about a person sick and tired of being sick and tired. She talks about fear and being over being afraid. I sang this song out loud one day and realized it was fear keeping me chained to a job that I had grown to hate.

My situation didn't get there overnight. To be honest it was a culmination of events that opened my eyes to where I was. That is a story for another time. What's important is listening to this song helped me realize I had become the victim of my own tale. I felt weak, hopeless and helpless. That's how I got stuck in a job I didn't love anymore.

Giving in to the reality that I am strong and free to make my own choices I decided I was going to write a story I wanted to live. Don't live in frustration. There is always somewhere to turn and options to choose from. To see my options I had to give up the fear that convinced me I was stuck in my job. I had to make a choice to take a chance to make a change. So I did.

Without fear consuming my heart I had the energy and inspiration to get to know who I was, what I loved, what I was good at, and how I could get paid for it. I had to literally envision cutting the chains that bound me to a place that I didn't want to be. What can you do to get past your situation? Try this:
  1. Realize fear is a liar. All of the reasons we tell ourselves to keep us in a job we hate are lies. You are good enough, you can learn new things, there is something better out there for you, and other peoples opinions of you don't matter. You know what happened when I did this? I changed my life. I fired my job. I took a month off. I fell in love with myself again. It took some heavy lifting and unpacking of my issues. But I got there once I made up my mind to do the work.
  2. Make a plan. You don't have to know where you are going just plan how you are going to get there. People keep asking me what that means? My plan was to find a job. Notice my plan wasn't to find someone who can find me a job. I had to overcome how much the job search had changed. I built time into my plan to learn to hunt the new way. You get to decide where you want to land and create a path to get there.
  3. Leverage the power of LinkedIn. I knew I was going to be looking for a new job so I started building my network a year before I started looking. Until August of last year I didn't really understand how important that would be to my plan. With a strong network and egoless self promotion you can uncover opportunities that are right for you too. This too takes work. Initially I spent eight hours a day watching how people most effectively interacted on the platform, researching companies, and identifying people that could help me in my quest.
  4. Implement ideas others seeded. I embraced the fact that I didn't have to figure it all out on my own. When I allowed myself to listen my LinkedIn journey started to bare fruit. Opportunity began knocking at my door. My job search gained traction. I even got to the point where I could start turning down opportunities. I took control of my destiny with the help of my LinkedIn network. No longer was I just hearing, I began to listen. I didn't just see, I had a vision.
  5. Be different. Be the change. The process was painful. I was frustrated by how long it took to move through recruitment processes, it stung when my calls weren't returned, I hated it when I got ghosted. At the end of the day, none of that was in my control. I learned I had to stop dwelling on all of the things I had no control over. When that happened and I flipped the script, I started to see the path that was meant for me and just me.

I prepared my financial situation to allow me to be out of work for as long as it took to find a new position. I set a very aggressive goal of finding a new role in two weeks. Two weeks later I was no where close to finding a new job. I reflected on what was working, what wasn't, and I made the adjustments. In other words, my plan changed as necessary.

Also, I decided to pay for the LinkedIn Premium account. It gave me access to data that I would not have otherwise have. It also allowed me to reach out to people outside of my network. This was so valuable in the beginning.

Some people think I had an inherent advantage because I was in HR. I didn't. I knew how to find people to fill jobs... that was part of my job. I heard the horror stories of what it was like to search for work in 2018 but the reality slapped me in the face just like it does for everyone else. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. In the Army they say "embrace the suck". That's what I did. I learned to embrace the fact that finding a job is hard work and it's a skill that we don't use often. I was rusty and I needed help.

I got really comfortable with the uncomfortable. Make sure you make time in your plan to write, research, and rehearse. Before I knew it I was scheduling calls with strangers. I even posted for the first time... initially about my job search. It was scary. I was worried about what others thought. I didn't know how to find my voice. I had to take a good hard look at the fear that was holding me back and tell it goodbye.

You know what else? When I really got honest with myself I realized I needed to find my value. I needed to learn how to translate that into actionable things I could do in a new role. I learned that I had to tell every single person I encountered that I was looking for a job. But who wants want to sound desperate? That's just fear talking again. Let it go. Pro tip: let other people talk you through this and use their feedback to fine tune your message. Before you realize it your words are full of confidence and self worth instead of fear and panic.

I got very intentional about what I was doing and how I showed up. My mind opened about the process of looking for a new opportunity. I needed that openness to be effective in my search. I needed to discover the reality was, I did have nonnegotiables. What were they? I needed to find an inspirational boss, an emotionally safe and healthy work environment, and I needed opportunity to grow.

Before I realized LinkedIn, and the people I met through it, helped me discover strengths I didn't know I had and how I could use them to enrich my job search and my life. The door that was closed when I left my old job led to a door to my soul that had never been opened before. The people that were attracted into my life by this newfound confidence challenged me to push myself in ways I didn't know where possible.

That's when I started to accept invites for coffee, meetings for lunch, I learned how to utilize Zoom and Calendly. I had all of these fears that vanished because these people were only interested in helping me help myself. They had nothing to gain from these interactions. Then I started helping them too!

Gone are the passive days of waiting for employers to find you. HR departments are stretched thin. The workplace is changing quickly. When you demonstrate how you are able to add value in the new workplace you will find your right fit position.

Here's the secret. What worked for me might not work for you... that's ok. Make the choice to take the chance to make the change that is right for you. Cut your chains. Build your network that believes in your value. Embrace your imperfections because you are the only you and that is awesome. Your tomorrow has everything you need. Believe in the power to be more and do more.

You have to stop trying to make life fit into your mold. Stop demanding answers and start asking questions. Get really comfortable with being curious and honest about what you don't understand. When you do you can't help but love what happens next. Where can you start? Have you figured out... What is your "it"? What does it do? Why does it matter?

Put in the time to figure "it" out. Thank you to all of the people who told me "you got this" along the way. Thank you for teaching me to reach out for help when I needed it. I wish for others is that they learn to highlight their superpowers and take the driver's seat of their lives. If you think I am crazy... I went from no offers and a feeling of hopelessness to multiple offers and a new life in a little over a month. Find you path and love your journey. You got this.

Sabrina is a progressive manager, leveraging big-picture thinking to identify trends and opportunities, communicate initiatives, and lead change. Scope of leadership includes recruiting, interviewing, on-boarding, development, and administration.

Connect: LinkedIn 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Customer Experiences are Like a Box of Chocolates!

By Jodi Beuder

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn 

The movie "Forrest Gump" has so many great scenes and themes running through it that it is darn near impossible to settle on my go-to favorite moment. Pair those scenes with arguably one of the greatest movie Soundtracks of all time, and you’ve got endless possibilities for tugging on your emotional heartstrings – and I mean that as the highest compliment.

If I had to pick favorite scene, it may have to be the most iconic one. You know, the famous box of chocolates and a bus stop. Forrest sits at the bus stop holding his box of chocolates, recounting his “story” to the variety of strangers that come and go as he waits for his bus. It’s been a long journey already trying to reach his destination, Jenny. They haven’t seen each other for years and this box of chocolates was her gift. Alas, as he offers away the chocolates (as he is inherently kind), we see he’s already eaten half the box. Hey, who wouldn’t after that long journey? It’s a sweet moment that brilliantly paints a picture of the character. There’s much you can draw from this scene, but what I always wondered was, why didn’t they show him picking through the chocolates. A lot can be said about how a person approaches choosing how to eat, or pick apart a box of chocolates. Allow me to explain…

From my observations, how a person selects and then reacts to the particular type of chocolate they’ve chosen says a lot about their personality. Stay with me here. There are three types of chocolate choosers:

  1. The Researcher: these are folks who read all of the descriptions and map of the chocolate on the box lid prior to selecting so they know exactly what they’re going to get. 
  2. The Biters (not to be confused for Walkers, Zombies or anything else on trend): these folks will simply (and often aggressively) bite into half the chocolate and if they like it, finish it off. If they don’t like it, they put the half-eaten piece back and select another one, working their way through the box, leaving a chocolate graveyard in their wake and,
  3. The Beta. This last Chocolate Chooser is the one who doesn’t read the guide, doesn’t aggressively dive in, but takes a taste then suffers silently eating the whole piece, like it or not. For now I will refrain from divulging my endorsement of one of these methods.

In pondering all this, it got me thinking; Customer experiences are like a box of chocolates. Forrest Gump’s mama always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” This is a perfect analogy for the customer service industry. We never know exactly who are customer will be. The more crucial question is, how will we approach this “Box of Customers”. To answer that question, I hereby endorse Chocolate Chooser Number 1, The Researcher! If we want to be in business for the long run, then we can’t approach difficult customers like a pistachio cream-filled chocolate and abandon them halfway. Apologies to pistachio cream-filled chocolates.

We must leverage all of our available tools, to determine who our customers are, and what expectations they may have. Creating exceptional customer experiences requires a strategy and commitment from beginning to end.

When we know our customers and guide them on their journey with our brand and product we can be assured that we’ve done our part in creating an experience that keeps them coming back. The key to providing great customer experiences is to use all the resources and tools we have available through CRM software, proven training techniques, and analytics to know as much about our customers as possible. Once we know our customers we can then craft strategies to deliver the best customer experiences based on our knowledge. Just like reading the guide on the chocolate box lid, if we deploy the right tools then we can deliver the best customer experiences and feel confident about “what’s in the center.”

While you may be the type of person who doesn’t mind the surprise when biting into a chocolate, when it comes to delivering customer experiences that are repeatable and predictable then you’ll have to kindly dispense with mama Gump’s advice and use all your tools available to best understand your customer and the types of experiences they expect from your company. Buy all means; keep the element of surprise in chocolate. When it comes to customers, it’s always a good idea to read the guide.

Jodi Beuder is a marketing strategy expert, with a passion for customer experience. She is keen to creating and following through, from canvas to fruition. Her expertise includes targeted social media campaigns, content and internet marketing, and product and branding campaigns.

Connect with Jodi: LinkedIn | Twitter

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Marketing Strategy That Works

Our team is mid cycle marketing an event, and our revenue and conversions are up. Here's what's working.

Humanize B2B marketing
Brand emails from real people (and yes, we respond to all emails!). Ads and signage featuring real people. Live Chat with real people.

Bet on social
Facebook ads are underpriced and convert. Community management is treated as a brand KPI. Every tweet, comment and message is replied to. Social is the current state of communication even if it's feeding attribution to other channels.

Build The Plane While You are Flying It
Do we have a robust marketing strategy - yes? Are we still coming up with new partnerships, channel optimization, ideas and campaign activities each and every week - yes. React to the market.

Work Toward Your Strengths

We are a small but very mighty team working toward our strengths each day. Faster is better. Feeling confident and excited about the work makes us go faster.

Data + Creativity = The Sweet Spot
Put things in the field, measure them carefully and use data wisely. Think creatively about email, ad and SEM copy, imagery and video length. Both have a seat at the table.

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