Customer service and call center associations on Facebook

Call center associations are serving members around the world through Facebook

Call center associations are serving members around the world through Facebook

Call center associations (or contact center associations) and customer service organizations are valuable groups for those of us in the industry. They bring together professionals, often from around the world, to share ideas, promote new concepts or technologies, and build new partnerships, client relationships, and friendships.

However, one of the biggest challenges for almost any group these days is finding ways to stay relevant and provide service to their members on an ongoing basis, given the great distances between many of them. Social media has helped solve that challenge, allowing organizations to share ideas and get to know each other from anywhere in the world, any time of the day or night.

Our company, Tacamor Call Centers, is active on both Facebook and Twitter, and we would love you to join us on both, if you’re not there with us already. However, we thought it would be nice to help others connect as well, so to bring even more value to the mix, we now bring you a directory of all the call center and customer service associations that we could find on Facebook. Actually, almost all… we did not include local, regional or national groups here, since there are so many out there, but may do that in a future list.

Some of these groups are quite large and well known, while others are still small and may or may not be known to you. However, keep in mind that the size of their Facebook presence may or may not reflect their actual size. Some organizations with thousands of people have still not established any presence at all on Facebook. So take a few minutes to explore each; the time spent will be well worth it if you find a new resource for your call center!

For now, take a look at these and be sure to like the ones that you feel will be of value to you and your organization:

ATA: American Teleservices Association

ATSI: Association of TeleServices International

Call Center Cafe

Call Center Today

ICMI: International Customer Management Institute

ICSA: International Customer Service Association

SOCAP: Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals in Business

That’s it for now. Did we miss any? Again, we chose not to include any local associations here, but we certainly welcome you to add them in the comments below if you know of any.

Thanks for checking us out, and feel free to like us too! Happy Facebooking…

How to complain… and get results!

Technical support call centers can fall under your spell with these four quick steps

Technical support call centers can fall under your spell with these four quick steps

Complaining sucks. Calling a technical support call center sucks. Asking for help and not getting it? Sucks.

But getting results is fun. Being cared for makes the sun shine. And knowing how to make good things happen can be downright exhilarating. It can also get you a better job, more money, a nicer table at a restaurant, or a new laptop after yours melts down. Perhaps just as cool, it can win you some credibility as someone who knows how to make things happen.

Of course, if you’ve never been able to talk your way out of a paper bag, you know all that stuff already. Thoughts of the rewards you never seem to be able to grasp haunt you in your sleep. But here’s something you may not know… it’s actually not that hard to get results when you complain. As a matter of fact, following just these four steps can turn you into a technical-support magician!

1. Know what your problem is.

Being able to precisely state why you’re calling will reduce frustrations and save a lot of time for you and the technical support agent. Saying, “My oven doesn’t work,” or “Your potato chips taste like a dog peed on them,” do not move things forward at all. Know the model name or number if you’re calling about a product, and be specific about what’s wrong. You’re already moving forward when your first sentence is, “The left front element on my Sears X4073-12 oven stops working whenever the heat is set above 6,” or “I bought a 400 gram bag of your plain potato chips, and they taste like a 120 lb. Rottweiler with dark brown eyes and who answers to the name ‘Suzie’ peed on them at about 10:15 this morning.” Now that’s precise.

2. Trust that the agent really is trying to help you.

No matter how frustrated you may be, remember that the odds are good that the company you’re calling does not want to waste its money or your time. They’d like to keep your business, and if they’ve invested in a call center, they want your problem fixed quickly so that their agents can move on to the next call. For these and other reasons, call centers agents generally undergo training, and calls will often be monitored to ensure the agents are handling things properly. So even if you don’t feel the agent is someone you’d like invite out to dinner, you can at least be assured that he or she wants to care for you quickly, so that the next performance evaluation will go well and their responses to you won’t be played for next year’s trainees in the sessions on, “What not to do.”

The more cooperative and less confrontational you can keep your call, the more inclined you both are to work together toward a happy solution. And keep in mind that, even if you really don’t like the company at this point, the person on the phone is probably not the person who actually broke your oven or owns the Rottweiler. Work together, and you’ll both be happier.

3. Ask to speak to a supervisor if you feel you have to.

As much as point #2 does carry a lot of truth, you will sometimes be stuck with an agent who really just doesn’t seem to get it. Perhaps an accent is so thick that you just cannot understand what is being said, or the attitude is just all wrong. Maybe you did hit that 1-in-10,000 agent who really should be looking for another line of work as a pro wrestler or the state executioner.

Even in those cases, all is not lost. Ask to speak to another agent or even the supervisor. This should at least let the agent know that they’re close to having another unresolved call on their record, and may motivate them to find you a happy solution quickly. And if your call does get transferred, you can start over again with someone with a fresh perspective. Just make sure the root cause of your frustration really is on the other end of the line before taking this route. As my Dad always said, “If everyone around you is an idiot, maybe the problem is not everyone around you.”

4. Know what you want.

Many people are surprised to discover that some call centers will actually ask them what they want to happen in order to resolve their complaints. That’s the moment of truth; if you have a reasonable solution in mind, the company will often see that as the best approach. They win a happy customer, and free up their call center agent to move on to the next call.

Sadly, this is where many callers let success slip away. Instead of having a wish list ready and getting things wrapped up quickly, they instead sit there for a moment of stunned silence, and then stammer, “I… I… I don’t know! Just fix the stupid thing!” More colorful variations of “stupid” will often be inserted; refer back to rule 2 above if you feel tempted to do so! You’re minutes away from success; don’t let things tumble backwards into a confrontation.


And there you go… four steps to to turn your nightmares in dealings with technical support call centers into dreams come true. Try them out and let us know how they work. Have your own success secrets? Why not share them? We’d love to hear what works for you!

How to improve your customer service in seven seconds

Your call center agents really can improve customer service in seconds

Your call center agents really can improve customer service in seconds

Remember those statistics that say the average person decides whether or not they like people within ten seconds of meeting them? Or that most job interviews get decided within eight seconds? Or most women can tell whether or not they like a blind date while he’s still getting in the car to go meet her? We live in a instant-service, fast-food, keep-it-moving world. We want things now. And when we’re frustrated, we want things fixed even faster than now.

Into that culture, companies toss their customer service reps and call center agents, and tell them to turn things around. How’s that working for you? For most companies, not so good.

But you already knew that.

Amazingly, there really are things that you as a call center or customer service manager can do to help get things back on track within seconds. As incredible as it may seem, the greeting you use to answer your calls immediately tells people whether or not they’ll like you. Yes, we’ve all seen times when a call center actually made things worse. But even when callers are in the worst mood — in fact, especially when they’re in the worst mood — a caring voice and friendly smile can brighten the sky and give hope where none seemed to exist. And establishing anything positive in the first few seconds of a call is a major accomplishment that’s well worth the extra effort. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this.

Three call center cliches to avoid

First, faked cheerfulness is an insult. Like so many artificial sweeteners, it leaves a bitter aftertaste that does just the opposite of what you hoped. So if you don’t have truly nice people handling your phone lines, find some that are, or turn to an outsourced call center with agents who make you feel loved.

Next, stay away from fake greetings that are so obviously scripted that they even make genuinely nice people sound like robots. If someone is angry or frustrated to the point of boiling over, and they finally get through to your customer service agents, they will not be comforted to hear, “Good morning! It’s a beautiful afternoon here at Aardvark Auto Repairs!” They will only be reminded how out of touch your offices are with the frustration that your customers are feeling. Besides, does anyone on the planet really answer a phone with those words without being told they had to? It does nothing to assure people that your agents are sincere or able to even answer a phone without using a tightly controlled script.

Finally, avoid long, long, long, loooong greetings that allow customers to come to a slow boil while they’re waiting for you to finish. If I’m in a hurry, I don’t want to hear, “Good morning. Thank you for calling Everlasting Software Solutions. We’re the nation’s leading supplier of software support services for the automotive and transportation industries. Seven out of ten companies turn to Everlasting for the software solutions. How may I direct your call?” Believe it or not, I know of a company that has a greeting scarily similar to that one. The message is clear that they would rather talk about themselves than me or my problems.

So if these are all the things we should avoid, what are the things we should do?

Show your callers you care. Really care.

First, it’s more about the mood than the information. Especially for customer service call centers or technical support lines, do all that you can to move quickly to the caller’s needs. If you have friendly agents, you can completely skip, “Good morning. Thank you for calling…” A friendly CSR’s voice will do more to make people feel welcome than any rote script could ever do. Try something as simple as, “Thompson Sound Systems. Can I help?”

Again, you need genuinely nice people on those phones, and they need to answer with something that’s comfortable for them. So keep it quick and friendly, and encourage each agent to find a little way to make their greeting their own. Instead of “How may I help you?” how about something like:

  • “Can I help?”
  • “What can I do?”
  • “How can I fix things?”

Notice the emphasize on “I.” Show some personality, and let the caller hear a smile. If they know they’re talking to a genuinely nice person who will do his or her best, rather than a big company reading from a script, they will already start to calm down and feel like there may be hope yet. That transition from frustrated to hopeful is something our call centers take as a top priority.

What are the telephone greetings you’ve heard that brighten your day or darken your night? Looking for answers?

Can I help?

Can call centers create critical client calls?

Call centers can often avoid explosive situations by handling complaints strategically

Call centers can often avoid explosive situations by handling complaints strategically

Aren’t call centers supposed to resolve rather than ruffle callers’ concerns? In theory, yes. But in practice, far too many end up provoking rather than placating critical callers. All alliteration aside, let us elucidate…

A few weeks ago we published a post called, “Are your call center’s complainers really complaining?” It noted the importance of recognizing whether a caller is actually complaining or simply offering valuable input. Either can actually prove to be very valuable. But all too often, even a trained customer service or technical support call center agent can interpret such calls as criticisms that must be defended against, rather than insights that must be nurtured. The extra effort and time that it might take to nurture such a call can be a turn-off for many managers. There may be pressure to keep the call short and move on to the next. However, trying to cut someone off when they have a legitimate complaint or even if they’re just offering input, can often ramp up the level of confrontation and actually make the call longer than it needed to be. Even worse, it can turn a mildly agitated or even helpful customer into an ex-customer. No one’s happy then.

Given our recent post, it was interesting today to see a similar post today from HR Bartender, a blog dealing with workplace issues, and HR in particular. Its author, Sharlyn Lauby, is a top HR consultant as well as one exceptionally nice person. In her post, Sharlyn notes that people will typically show their displeasure over something by either walking away or talking about it. Ironically, even though talking gives us the chance to save a valuable customer or employee, we try all too often to avoid such conversations.

Sharlyn suggests some ways to respond at such times, and we recommend you take a look to see if your approach to such situations measures up. We also suggest a few techniques of our own that can help turn confrontation into cooperation:

1. Open a vent.

Don’t rush the caller. Let him or her vent. In fact, encourage them to do exactly that. Ask questions to make sure you clearly understand what their precise frustrations are. Repeat or rephrase what they tell you. This will give them a chance to ease their frustrations, and will help you be sure you’ve heard their concerns. Even more important, doing so will help them know you’ve heard their concerns. That can work wonders in reducing their frustrations and bringing the situation under control.

2. Transition to the solution rather than the problem.

Once you have identified and agreed on what the problem is, give a definite statement to make it clear that the focus of the call will now shift. “Okay, Mr. Obama. We now understand that even though you have a new TV, you’re still only seeing the same old commentators. Let’s see if we can figure out if there’s a way to get things straightened up for you.” Once you have their agreement on this, they have essentially acknowledged that the time to complain is past, and you can both focus on potential solutions. Which brings us to the third point, which will be the most surprising for many…

3. Let them suggest a solution.

This can seem like the worst idea ever to many call center agents or managers. But despite what many expect, callers will often be very reasonable in their requests, and just being asked will again let them know you’re actually trying to make things better for them. Plus, even if they do come back with an outrageous suggestion, you haven’t promised anything; you’ve simply asked what they want you to do. Should their approach be untenable, it should at least help you predict a solution that somewhat leans toward their wishes.

There are of course many details to pay attention to that can dramatically affect the outcome as you move through each of these steps. Listening well is the customer service skill set that seems to come least intuitively for many people. But your call center agents should certainly be quite capable in that area, and with this approach outlined for them, may find that more and more of their calls go from being confrontational to collaborative.

Call centers can indeed create critical — or cooperative — client calls. It often comes down to how well your agents let your callers feel understood.

Keep Customer Service Week fresh all year long!

Keep your customer service team smiling and motivated all year long!

Keep your customer service team smiling and motivated all year long!

Today wraps up Customer Service Week for 2010. Did your call center celebrate? Were you even aware of it? And how can you and your clients get the most from it?

First, to give everyone a little background info, in the first full week of each October participating companies celebrate Customer Service Week with parties, special events, awards of recognition to CSRs and other front-line workers, and whatever else organizers can think of to reward and motivate their teams. The Week was started by the International Customer Service Association in 1988, and has been officially recognized in the United States since 1992 as “a national event devoted to recognizing the importance of customer service and to honoring the people who serve and support customers with the highest degree of care and professionalism.”1

The Customer Service Group sponsors the official Customer Service Week program, and offers a great collection of how-to information and materials carrying the official Customer Service Week logo. Whether you’re a small group of two or three or a call center with thousands of agents, their Website offers ideas and programs to fit your team.

So today, all across the United States and in many countries around the world, the week is wrapping up for another year. Many teams will see a noticeable improvement in their customer service standards for awhile, but inevitably the gains will at some point start to become a little less visible with each passing day. How do you keep Customer Service Week fresh?

We suggest holding a mini-celebration on a more regular basis, to recognize your team and present a new project or idea to keep things fresh and focused. That may sound a bit ambitious, but it can often be a lot easier than you expect. How about the following ideas?

  • Order in pizza or hold a staff barbecue one day each month. To keep it fresh, ask for volunteers to arrange the food each time, and to give a mini-presentation on customer service ideas they find helpful. Give an award each season for the best presentation.
  • Bring in a local musician to give a surprise lunchtime concert. Follow the performance with a quick chat and a reward or two for outstanding service over the past week or month.
  • Perhaps even better, see if any of your agents have music talents they want to share. It’s often surprising to find how many great musicians can be right in your midst!
  • Take a look at the Customer Service Group’s suggested activities, and see how you can apply your own unique twist to turn them into a monthly event.

Whichever options you choose, remember that the idea is for your customer service team to have some fun as you say a sincere thank you to your team, but to also improve the service that your customers see on a daily basis. So keep checking throughout the planning process and after each event to see if you’re on track to meet all those goals.

Great customer service takes a lot of work, but with the right approach, it can also give back a lot of fun to your customers, your agents, and you!



Call center frustrations: Five top ways companies make customers mad

Call center frustrations can drive away even your best customers

Call center frustrations can drive away even your best customers

Frank was a happy customer of yours.


Yesterday, he wanted an answer to a question about your main product. He wasn’t angry, but was frustrated enough to look through your company’s Website, and then call the toll-free number he found there. But before he hung up 20 minutes later, he was angry beyond words, and determined to never buy from your company again.

What happened? What took Frank from being a mildly frustrated customer to a seething, white-knuckled, teeth-gritting, hair-pulling, acid-refluxing, all-out fists-of-fury ex-customer in just a few minutes? And of most concern, how did it happen while he was talking to the call center that you spend money on every day to help keep customers happy?

According to an Ouch Point survey by Opinion Research Corporation, five things are most likely to frustrate people when they call a customer service department:

20%   Reps who are hard to understand due to thick accents
17%   Length of time to reach a rep
14%   Reps who lack knowledge of products/services/process
13%   Being transferred to the wrong person/department
9%     Reps who promise to follow through and don’t

Other answers given included: reps who aren’t empowered to handle a situation; reps who don’t understand your situation; and reps who want to debate your issue.

As a consumer, you are almost certainly already thinking that some or all of these complaints sound very familiar. We all talk to an in-house or outsourced call center almost every time we inquire about a bill, buy a product over the phone, or have some other customer service or technical support issue. As we know all too well, the conversations do not always end well.

But as a business owner or manager, do you know how many of your customers would give one of those answers when talking about your call center? There are ways you can know, day in and day out.

Real-Time Call Center Monitoring and Reporting

Do your facilities have real-time call center monitoring? This is an extremely helpful way to check the quality of service you’re providing, and how well it is being received by the actual callers. Can you check in at any time to access real-time data or pull metrics for the past week, month, or whatever time frame you prefer? For example, Tacamor’s outsourced call centers focus on monitoring and reporting so thorough that companies may even gain better control here than they would with an in-house call center. Detailed reports on call volumes, wait times, abandon rates, and other service level objectives let them see exactly how things are going.

For even more granular data, consider initiating an ongoing customer feedback process. This would allow Website visitors and callers to tell you on the spot how they feel about your efforts to help. Such processes can be easier to initiate than you might expect, and give you very focused insights on a daily basis into whether your customer service and technical support call centers are serving or frustrating your callers.

The best news for many companies is that such call center monitoring and reporting systems are often attainable at lower prices than they might have thought possible.

Whether you have an outsourced call center or an in-house operation, your customers deserve the best you can deliver. Putting the right monitoring and reporting systems in place can ensure they get exactly that.

Are your call center agents superheroes?

Call center callers want to know agents genuinely care.

Do your agents save the day for your customers? Call center callers want to know agents genuinely care.

It was a dark and stormy night. Your customer’s world rocked and rocked. Shaken to the point of needing a superhero, she picked up the phone and called… you. Well, your customer service call center to be more precise. She needed to know someone could help. But even more important than that, she needed to know someone cared.

If that happened tonight, whether you have an outsourced call center or an in-house operation, would your agents give her that reassurance? Or would the call end with another frustrated customer going to your competitors? The easy answer would be, “That depends on whether or not her problem was solved.”

The easy answer would be wrong.

Above almost everything else, people need to know someone cares. Every consultant from Mom to Maslow has been telling us that for years. People want the reassurance that yes, their situation certainly is frustrating, and that someone will really give their best effort to help them make things right. Even if the best efforts are ultimately unable to set everything right, just knowing that a customer service or technical support call center agent was truly on their side can do a lot to soothe the frustrations.

I remember seeing research findings a few years ago that showed that the chances of a doctor being sued for a mistake had less to do with the seriousness of the situation than whether or not the patient liked the doctor and felt genuinely care from him or her. That phenomenon extends across all professions. Management guru Tom Peters tells the story of being on an airplane and being frustrated — even angered — because the flight attendant coldly informed him that there would be no snack on the flight. Not even peanuts. A while later, he was on another flight that ran into serious problems and even looked like it might crash. The attendants were tremendously professional in handling everyone during the crisis, and Peters was enthusiastic in his praise of their efforts.

Later though, it struck him that he remained angry at a flight attendant who could not give him a small bag of peanuts, but was still speaking highly of another whose company had put him on a plane that almost killed him. The severity of each problem had lost all relevance. It was clear that the peanuts were nowhere near as important as getting home in fewer than two pieces. But it had continued to gnaw at him because he simply did not feel the first attendant showed proper care.

It’s an important distinction that your call center agents need to clearly understand. Whether its a customer service or a technical support call, while there will always be exceptions to the rule, people will almost always be more accommodating and grateful when they sense the voice on the phone is genuinely  on their side. Building that care into your greetings and scripts is important, but even then, a rote statement from someone who actually doesn’t care is no reassurance at all. Each call center agent needs to understand that customer service cannot be separated from customer care. To go back to Tom Peters, we need to remember his of-quoted assertion that companies need to get back to hiring nice people. Or if you’re unable to find and keep people who fit that bill, then make sure your outsourced call center can.

Ultimately, if your call center agents can’t swoop in and make you smile, they’re not likely to warm the hearts of your customers either. And a phone call from a cold-hearted customer does no one any good.

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