Gameplan for Agent Engagement

“The key to any organisation achieving excellent customer satisfaction is having systems in place that engage your staff in delivering unprecedented service and ongoing self-improvement”

It might sound as an overstatement, but Agents are the heart and soul of contact centers, and engaging them in business process, especially, communication based business processes is critical for the quality of service delivered. To improve agent performance, contact center executives should make sure that agents are adequately engaged. Here are four ways to boost agent engagement.

  1. Make Contact Center as a part of the Corporate Culture: Contact center should function as a part of the organization, that functions as per the corporate culture. Call centers are not be treated as an extension but as a crucial part of the system. Normally the culture followed at contact centers and the enterprise are different, discouraging the agents. Perpetuate a culture of agent ownership and autonomy.

  1. Reward: Rewarding your contact center agents for the efforts they put in is essential for motivating the employees for self improvement. Establish reliable performance metrics, and incentivize agents according to their performance. Agents wish to be acknowledged and appreciated for the efforts they have put in satisfying the customers.

  1. Equip the Right Technology: Finally, arm your agents with the right kind of technology that makes their life easier. Analyse the performance metrics, and identify venues that require structured and technological improvement. These opportunities should be viewed as a profit center rather than a cost center. There are technology solutions like call-back that will help your agents in enhancing their productivity by minimising abandon rates, smoothing call spikes, etc.

  1. Focus on metrics that drive positive agent experience: Coveting on straight productivity metrics is one of the quickest ways to destroy employee morale and satisfaction. Contact centers might talk about how employee-focused and customer focused they are, but their real focus is on numbers. AHT and Call handled per hour metrics encourages the agents to focus on numbers rather than what actually matters; Customer satisfaction. Contact centers are to embrace customer-centric metrics like First Call Resolution, Contact Quality, and Customer Satisfaction.

It’s time for terms like “Average Handling Time”, “bottom line” and “ call handled” to move over and make room for “agent engagement”. Obsess over the first set of terms and you’ll  end up with poor results and obsessing over the last term will boost your revenues and agent productivity.

Employing Six Sigma in Contact Centers

The essence of contact centers lies in quality control. Quality control has been about identifying and establishing performance metrics and measuring whether they were achieved during the normal course of operations. On the other hand, six sigma focuses on the defect rates and the methods to reduce them.

In manufacturing environments, it is clearly possible to identify performance metrics and also to establish tolerance levels of defection at every stage of the process. Six sigma principles allows them to measure whether the defect rates are within acceptable levels, and if not, adjust the process until the measures fall within the ranges of acceptable defection.Continuous improvement is an important Six Sigma approach, wherein the tolerance requirements are gradually exacted until they reach defined SIx Sigma level of 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

This approach shall be a daunting task for contact centers, due to the lack of precision and replicability of manufacturing process. But this approach is fundamental for contact centers to improve on their customer service and to develop and establish competitive edge. Recent studies have clearly indicated that the main imperative for contact centers is cost control. Contact centers strive to identify opportunities to optimize on their cost structures by reducing the average call duration, minimize repeated calls, improve agent productivity and reduce head count and encourage the use of self-assisted service channels.

Transforming contact centers into profit centers have been proved theoretically, but practically, the number of unsuccessful stories have overshadowed the successful. The main barriers in this transformation are insufficient workforce training and investments. These barriers are deeply rooted into the contact center culture and management. Another major barrier would be process change, which will account for the major transformations in the operational activities.

Achieving successful improvements through process changes would require a clear and in depth understanding of every stage of the process. Examining the shortcomings and defects and establishing alterations that are capable to overcome them.

There are two obstacles to achieving this transformational improvement. One, is that contact centers rely heavily on manpower; agents are the most influential factors in contact centers, and, second being the difficulty in examining the end-to-end processes involved, both within the center and enterprise.

Looking across the enterprise is difficult for contact centers that discourage integration between multiple communication channels that harnesses seamless and synchronized communication. CRM approaches are to be inculcated into the culture, where a complete lifecycle of the customer is tracked and displayed.

There is a 3-step solution to this problem;

  1. Understanding the strategic objectives of the organization, measuring the defects and establishing process improvements.

  2. Optimizing processes, manpower and technologies to improve their suitability for process improvements and transformational changes.

  3. Align the improvement program, by transforming the process, education people and improving the support technology.

Once the improvement program is carried out, the organization is to measure the performance metrics and the defect rates, and repeat the process continuously to gain more.

 

How to Extinguish a Social Media Wildfire

Consumers are talking about companies and their experiences like never before. They wish to share their experiences with strangers that have an opinion. According to a recent survey, consumers that have a bad experience share it with 57 people, and if they have a good experience they will tell on average 42 people. This figure could be treated as a bare minimum. With the influx of social medias, consumers have been influenced to share their experiences at every stage, and each shared experience has the resource and competence to reach millions of consumers. This is the age of social medias.

Social media platforms have facilitated companies to frequently interact with their customers. This when treated as an opportunity to build customer loyalty and customer retention, social medias are double-edged swords. These platforms have allowed customers to air their complaints and problems with zero hesitance to the social world.

Social media has given customers a platform to voice their complaints and expectations to prompt responses, but has also provided customers to improve their resolution strategy and value proposition. But if social medias are handled badly, it could ruin the reputation of the business, but if handled rightly, social medias can be used to transform a negative experience into a positive for the company, it would incentivise the customer to remain with the company. Here are a few tips, that could help you get on to the better side of the customer with social medias. Extinguish a social wildfire, before it begins.

  1. Be responsive: Always be responsive when handling customer complaints. Customers expect a quick reply from the company when they have raised a complaint. Quick resolution would make the customer feel important and valuable, this would turn them into evangelists in the future.
  2. Multi-channel communications: Make sure customers multiple channels are provided to distressed customers to reach companies. And always go for consistency in them, seamless exchange and an integrated platform is what the customers expect from a company in which they have invested their time and resource.
  3. Customer is always right: This might be a bitter pill to swallow, probably illogical, but it should be accepted. Acknowledge the customers complaints and problems and try to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Never ignore a customer’s complaint or refuse to accept the complaint as legitimate. On social media, think and act beyond the customer, thinks about the audience that is watching your every move, waiting for you to flaw. Customers are able to observe the efforts that you put in, when finding a solution to their problem, and they will repay you by staying loyal to your company and help you in winning over more customers. Spending money on social media monitoring software and tools can be one of your best investments ever made.

Like Gladiators- Get out There and Do It!!!

Last Friday when I wanted to attend a stand up comedy event and had to pre-book the tickets through bookmyshow, I came across a payment option of redeeming Payback points by entering your phone number. Not knowing anything about Payback points, I thought to give it a try only to realize I had enough points to also sponsor tickets for the other 2 friends attending the event. Believe it or not, this feeling was nothing less than cracking the JEE.

By this write up, i want to emphasize on the little surprises that we come across every now & then, never realizing that we always had them just waiting to be grabbed.

Until recently I was a usual IT graduate with an year’s experience holding my fort good and concentrating on my work irrespective of the outside world, when I was introduced to a coding competition @ my workplace – Code Gladiators. Skeptical of the fact that this is going to eat my time, I chose to stay distant until I was forced into it by my colleagues. Given that almost 20 colleagues were appearing for it, I was elated to see myself featuring in the top 2  from my company going into the second round, which both me & Dilip were comfortably able to qualify and found ourselves in the final 60.

Well, let me tell you why this feeling was unusual.

Have you ever won a bicycle race with your best friend? That’s the feeling of victory.

Have you ever purposely got that test book signed from your father where you accidentally scored a 20/20? That’s the feeling of recognition.

These are the two highs that no other feeling can provide. Just imagine that these two clubbed in a single moment. That is where I was. Elated, exuberant and palpitating I reached the battleground and the final round began.

Honestly, I was not nervous for the fear of losing as I had never expected even to be there in the first place, but because I could not believe that I was there among the top 60. So many companies, such academic credentials, years of experience, industry-wide exposure were my competitors when I put myself to test. Boom, I got a perfect 200. Nailed it. Elated again. Looked at Dilip, he said 200. Nervous again.

Till, the results got out, I was that hapless kid we all used to know in school who cares about the results of the entire class but his own.

And now that I sit at my daily office cubicle, the world looks different. The sound of “Cheers Veere” after being recognized as the best coder gives me that drive, that zeal that i would want to achieve more.

I want to say that many a time, we come across new experiences, and the excitement and happiness we drive out of it makes us do it again. And again. Lets have the high of happiness and always have the hunger to achieve more.

The mantra is – Get out there & Do it. Nothing shall hold you back !!

Power up Customer Service in Healthcare

Improving and leveraging on patient engagements has become a crucial element in the healthcare industry to keep up with the growing demand for quality services and meet transparency and legal compliance. An aging population requires the best of treatments, and would opt for such a center where they offer such treatments; but the quality and endurance of the treatment alone will not help the center. Along with the best healthcare facility provided, the center ought to provide efficient and effective customer service. Hence, healthcare providers are seeking ways to operate more efficiently without compromising on delivering high standards of patient care.

Patients have high expectations for self-service access to their personal information including medical records, history logs, confirmation updates, health reminders, educational updates etc,. Self-service options are migrating patient inquiries from the medical staff; enabling the staff to dedicate their time in delivering better standards of care.

Delivering great customer service is not a matter of happenstance, healthcare providers will have to invest their resources in implementing a suitable technology solution that will ease patient interactions and reduce costs in the long run. Contact Center technologies help in breaking communication silos that were previously independent of each other, enabling the agents to track and access information when required; without overwhelming the agents with information. This allows the agent to utilise the context and resources available, and apply them in furnishing best practices to resolve patient issues.Routing technologies also plays a crucial role in delivering intuitive experience to the patient; routing the interaction to the agent that has the best resources to resolve the patient’s issue.

  • Break departmental silos: Patients records and prescriptions are often a difficult task to manage efficiently. Technology solutions will facilitate in prioritize and proactively distributing tasks. Smart technology solutions will also play a hand in gaining on operational efficiency, meeting SLA’s and  maintaining legal and regulatory compliance

  • Proactive notifications: Patients will be informed on their appointments and other information avoiding the call center to be swamped by agents looking for the patient’s information.

  • Proactive Web Engagement: Technology solutions monitor social medias and keep track of customers logs; this helps in resolving the patient’s issue before they wish to switch to costlier channels of interaction.

  • Reduce Call Abandonment Rates: Smart technology solutions regulate and track abandoned calls and provides contact information to agents allowing them to call back the patient, which otherwise would be offend the patient.

With the help of smart technologies, that aspires to transform customer service at all levels of the organization, healthcare providers will be able to drastically improve their operational efficiency and customer experience while minimizing operational overheads.

 

 

A Flawless Customer Retention Strategy-II

In our previous post we gave you a few statistics on customer retention and why it is critical for the survival of every business. Now we shall provide you with some strategies and tactics that will help you in retaining your customers irrespective of the industry you fall in:

  • CUSTOMER SEGMENTATION: Customer segmentation is crucial when it comes to customer loyalty. An effective segmentation strategy would foster personalized communication with each customer reassuring them them the relationship with their supplier. Proper segmentation will help you in targeting customers differentiated by gender, age, location, frequency of purchase, item, etc.
  • CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT: Always remain in contact with your customers. A sale should not be the only time where you engage with your customers. Social media, emails, or phone conversations are to be made frequently to retain your customers. The real relationship begins after the sale.
  • CUSTOMER LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Establish attractive loyalty programs that convinces your customers that you’re the best deal available in the industry. Be sure that you’re adding value to the customer experience instead of providing more hoops for your customers to jump into. Customer Loyalty programs should not be your prime strategy, but it is definitely your ‘wild card’.
  • CUSTOMER ORIENTATION: Make sure your employees are customer oriented. Policies, strategies, innovations, etc; are to be implemented around the customer. Customer orientation should work its way down to the front-line employees, for which the management should pioneer.
  • PRODUCT AND SERVICE INTEGRITY: Long-term success and customer retention belongs to those you do not take ethical shortcuts. There should be a consistency between what you have promised to offer and what you have actually delivered. Reliability, serviceability, integrity is what that actually a customers seeks. Customers are attracted to businesses that are honest ,open and who take a genuine interest in them. Practice what you preach and the customers shall be loyal to you.
  • INVITE CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS: More than 65% of the customers are dissatisfies, out of which less than 35% actually complain to the organization. Develop a system to unearth complaints and treat them as a opportunity to prove yourself. Complaints are not to be treated as signs of retaliation, but reassurement, that the customers and their complaints are important.Complaining customers are actually giving you a a chance to revert them back to satisfied and delighted customers. They show you the paths for improvement.
  • BUILD KPI’s AROUND CUSTOMER SERVICE: A great way to improve customer retention, is to improve your customer service. Establish KPI’s for your employees around customer service and provide incentives based on their measured performance.
  • BE AN ADVISOR: Instead of being a mere supplier of products and services to your customers, be their advisor. Educate them on the importance or the need of your product. Step into their shoes and teach them how exactly your product or service will help them. This will help in the customer endowing trust in your relationship.

A Flawless Customer Retention Strategy-I

Before getting into the strategy per se, you need to understand the importance of customer retention. Customer retention is a branch of customer loyalty, which is a never ending process. Customer retention refers to extending your service to existing customers, so that they remain your customers rather than taking their business elsewhere.

It’s important to sell to new customers, but it’s more important to keep them once you’ve got them, and here’s why

  • Increasing your customer retention rates by just 5% results in profit increases of 25% to 95%.

  • 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from 20% of your existing customers.

  • Attracting new customer will cost you 5 times more than retaining an existing customer.

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These are the odds that every company has in their table, and at every game both the customer and the company is to be in favor; to foster seamless customer relationships. To understand this in depth, you should know why customers leave. Most often, businesses believe that customers jump ship due to mainly two reasons. 1) Customers found the product/service cheaper elsewhere and 2) Their needs changed. However, this is not true. Customers leave organizations mainly due either poor quality of product/services or bad customer service.

How do we retain these customers then? Here are a few cheat codes:

  1. Set customer expectations properly: Always set your customers expectation in sync with your business strategy. Your sales team would find it easier to make promises to close a sale which the company is not equipped to fulfill. This will result in disappointment. Don’t let your sales staff do this. Even if your product is of high-quality, promising or raising customer expectations to a level where the company cannot perform, shall be aggravating for the customers

  1. Keep in touch: Always keep in touch with your customers. Try to sieve into the company’s culture that customers are the resources that actually drive your business. There are businesses that becomes too much involved in business, that they lose sight of what actually keeps the business running; customers. There are many tools and outlets where you’re able to reach out to the customers and stay in touch. Social media is proving to be a very cost-effective and reliable tool to connect with existing customers and also attract new customers.

  1. Quality control: Once expectations are set, you should always strive to meeting their expectations or exceed them at times. Quality assurance and Quality Management tools are to be implemented to guarantee that the customer receives what he/she has expected and nothing less.

We have given you a few statistics and explained why customer retention is so important. We shall discuss about retention strategies in our next post.

 

Tips on Improving your Customer Experience

Experiences have become value propositions for every firm because every company struggles in delivering customers experience that hits the spot. And hitting the right spot has become a herculean task for many enterprises because of a myriad of customer touch points made available through the advent of technology advancements. Long gone are the days where customers judge the brand, product or the company from the price, performance or the quality of the product. We exist in an era where experience matters; experience is the quarterback of every company and will never cease being the Most Valuable Player. Like it or not, consciously or unconsciously, customers evaluate business relationships every time they touch the company. You should be capable to manage each and every touch point to build and maintain customer relationships of customers that are empowered to be brand agnostic and effortless switchers. On the same note, constancy can also be a firm’s pitfall, because the customers are able to reach your company through various touch points that constantly evolves. Delivering consistent experience at all possible contact points has become a requirement rather than a perquisite.

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Having an effective contact center in your organization is valuable in providing satisfying customer experiences, but there are companies that still live in the past. Impersonal communication, unskilled agents and long waits on hold can be frustrating for the customer that drives him to do his business elsewhere. Contact centers are the main point of customer interaction and are to be powered-up to provide unsurpassed customer experience. Contact centers, the front-line of most businesses, have made and lost revenues, not on price or performance,but to the quality of experience. Here are a few tips that could be implemented to improve your customer experience.

  1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) : CRM softwares are now top priorities for additional spending on enterprise applications. CRM tools are focused on customer retention, satisfaction and attracting new customers. CRM software integrated with Computer Telephony Interchange would display the details of the customer that is on call, which lowers the average call handling time, which in turn helps the customer in getting the issue resolved in minimum time with little or no verification details, improving their experience. CRM technologies help companies to develop a more meaningful relationship with the customers rather than merely running marketing campaigns.

  1. One view of the customer: One of the best ways to kill customer experience is through maintaining customer information silos . Each department should be able to view the customer’s information and his/her previous interaction history that has been lodged in any of the department in the company. Requesting the customer to repeat the issue is a risk that would most likely make the customer frustrated. In customer’s perspective every interaction that he makes with the company is one single experience. Companies should ensure that this experience is not broken down when the customers navigate across multiple channels.

  1. Invest in your agents: Agents are most influential point of customer contact for your organization. They account for almost half of your contact center costs, therefore they are to be optimized to deliver experience that impacts the customer for future sales. Agents are to be trained, motivated and acknowledged for their efforts. They are not to be treated as mere machines or robots. Agents in most of the companies, are the only voice that the company has.

  1. Social Media Integration: Social Media has transformed itself in being an ecosystem, where individuals and customers share their emotions, mainly grievances to the rest of the world. Companies ought to invest in social media monitoring to address these grievances, because there are instances where these grievances have made the companies lose millions of customers. Complaints aired in social media have the potential to grow into a social outbreak reeking havoc on the company.

  1. Monitor effectiveness: Evaluating your contact center periodically is important for its improvement. Stagnant and unattended contact centers prohibits growth and customer engagement.Companies should adopt an aggressive and proactive approach to explore the myriad of data available. Reporting tools are to be implemented to measure KPI’s and the effectiveness of the contact center .The company should leverage on metrics and analytics to identify opportunities to improve agent productivity and performance.

  1. Invest in state of the art Contact Center Technology: Contact Center technology is not cheap, but definitely worth every penny paid. Now the most important question facing such companies becomes what are the technology options available to the companies and what parameters should serve as a yardstick for choosing an optimal solution which offers a decent ROI. One has to follow the methodology of doing it right the very first time therefore a hit and miss method is highly unadvised.

By implementing top-notch customer service solutions, your company can create a  better overall customer experience. Higher Customer Satisfaction scores translate into long term loyalty and strategic business objectives like bolstering brand image and building revenue. With this solution in pace, opportunities for continuous improvement and redefinition of service processes for the future can be attained.