12 Customer Service Tips for the 12 Days of Christmas

Red christmas bulbHere at Tacamor, we are committed to providing great customer service throughout all 365 days of the year.  However, as the holiday season approaches, we would like to provide twelve extra special tips that can help you to deliver the best customer care possible during the busy holiday rush.

1. Don’t forget to breathe!  Seriously.  You may have a lot of information to communicate, but blurting it all out in a rush may make the caller feel overwhelmed and confused.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to pause, take a deep breath, and let an idea sink in before continuing on with the rest of your explanation.

2. Try to vary the tone of your voice.  Talking in a dull monotone throughout a call gives the impression that you are not interested and is a sure way to put the caller to sleep.  Changing up your voice to emphasize certain words will make you sound more interesting and engaged.

3. Be patient.  As a customer service agent, you are an expert on your client’s services.  However, most callers probably do not have your level of expertise, and may not understand something after the first explanation.  Be patient, and if he or she does not understand, try to explain it again in different words.

4. It’s okay to ask for help.  We all try to be as prepared as possible, but sometimes an issue may come up that you have no idea how to resolve.  In that case, it is okay to get some help from your supervisor, team lead, or co-workers.  Getting assistance is always a better idea than trying to pretend you know the answer when you really do not.

5. Be forgiving.  The holiday season can be a stressful time for many people.  If a caller snaps at you, don’t take it personally and remember that he or she may be under a lot of pressure.  Remain calm and professional, and definitely don’t snap back.

6. Listen carefully.  People need to know that they are being heard and understood.  Listen carefully, don’t interrupt, and really try to understand exactly what callers are saying so you do not have to ask them to repeat themselves.

7. Spread the love.  The holiday season is a time of joy.  Let the people around you know that you appreciate them by performing small, random acts of kindness.

8. Think positively.  When presented with a challenge, don’t dwell on negative things, but instead concentrate on what you can do to make the situation better.  This applies both at work and at home.

9. Be a chameleon!  No two customer service calls are ever completely identical.  Call center agents need to be able to adapt to the particular circumstances of each individual call and change their communication style accordingly.

10. Mind your Ps and Qs.  Including simple niceties like “please” and “thank-you” in your conversations can go a long way towards making people feel respected.

11. Clear your mind.  Lunch and coffee breaks are great opportunities to get re-energized for the rest of the workday.  Make the most of your breaks by doing something that will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed, like reading a newspaper article or going for a brief walk.

12. Do your best and forget the rest!  When you give your best effort, it’s always enough.  Don’t focus too much on things you cannot control.

Tacamor would like to wish each and every one of you a wonderful holiday season!  To all our clients, employees, family and friends, thank you so much and we hope you enjoy the holidays!

Let’s Talk Technology! (What is a CRM System?)

Customer Relationship ManagementRelationships are important, both in life and in business.  Competition is fierce and customers generally have a lot of choice these days, so building loyalty becomes more and more of a challenge.  It doesn’t take much to turn a normally happy and content customer into an angry, fire-breathing monster capable of causing serious harm to your business.  Just ask Jeff Jarvis, an unhappy Dell customer who stirred up a whole lot of trouble for the computer manufacturing giant when he created a blog criticizing the company.

Today, most companies know that maintaining good relations is a key step to retaining their customer base.  This has lead to the creation of the term Customer Relationship Management, or CRM.  At its core, CRM is a strategy that companies use to handle interactions with customers.  It is a business philosophy that emphasizes the importance of customer interactions by having specific processes and systems in place to manage each contact.

Information management is at the heart of any good CRM strategy.  The more a company knows about a customer, the better it is able to manage that relationship.  In the call center industry, specialized CRM software is often used to build a centralized database of customer information.  With a good CRM system, whenever a customer phones in with a problem, the call center agent is able to quickly and efficiently find the relevant information about the caller all in one place.  This streamlines the process, allowing the agent to address the issue quickly without having to waste time pulling information from various other sources like spreadsheets or multiple databases.

Callers usually appreciate a speedy resolution to their problem, so having a dependable CRM system can dramatically enhance the overall caller experience and improve customer retention.

Many CRM systems these days are very customizable, with the ability to track and record many different pieces of information for each caller, and create detailed reports.  This allows a company to better understand the specific needs of each of their customers, and thus improve the overall relationship by offering better, more individualized service.

A complete and comprehensive CRM system combined with a top-notch staff of customer service agents like Tacamor’s can turn your call center into a true powerhouse!

Tacamor has the technology, expertise and staff to build effective customer relationships and improve your customer retention.  To find out more, contact us today!

Let’s Talk Technology! (What is an IVR?)

Ever dial a 1-800 number and instead of having a real person pick up on the other end, you get one of those pre-recorded menus?  “For customer service, press 1.  For technical support, press 2.  For free pizza, press 3…” Well, in the call center industry, that pre-recorded voice menu is called an IVR, which stands for Interactive Voice Response.

Basically, an IVR is a routing system that allows a caller to direct his or her call to the appropriate destination by choosing from a list of different options.

There are several different types of IVRs.  Most allow the caller to interact with the system by pressing a number on the phone’s keypad that corresponds with the desired menu option.  Others employ voice recognition technology that requests the caller to actually say something in order to select an option.  I.e. “To take part in our free pizza giveaway event, say ‘free pizza.’” 

Some voice recognition IVR systems are incredibly sophisticated, and simply ask the caller a very general, open-ended question like “Why are you calling us today?” and cross-referencing the response against an existing database of phrases to appropriately direct the call.   So, if the person responds, “I’m calling for free pizza” then the call gets sent to the agents handling the pizza giveaway.

There are many advantages to having an IVR.  Many companies feel that not every phone call needs the attention of a trained employee, and use an IVR system to disseminate basic information like hours of operation, location, and the company’s phone directory.  This allows them to reduce their overall call center staff, and lets their agents focus on other things like specific customer service requests or technical support.

IVR systems can be available 24 hours a day to help customers with simple tasks, and in some cases can allow a caller to perform various self-service options for his or her account.  With some services, you can dial a toll free number and completely cancel your account by simply pressing a few buttons on your phone, all without talking to a live agent.

There are dangers for companies that rely too heavily on IVRs, however.  A business that allows automated account cancellation, for example, misses out on the opportunity for a live agent to resolve the customer’s problem that is causing him or her to end the service.  Because there is no chance to “make a save,” customer retention levels will probably be lower than they would have been without the automated account cancellation option.

There are also problems that can arise if an IVR system is too complicated.  Callers can feel overwhelmed if menus are too long, making it harder to remember all the options — a good rule of thumb is that no menu should have more than four options.  Sometimes, automated voices may be difficult to understand, or may present too much information, extending the length of the call and making callers feel frustrated.  Also, some people simply do not like talking to machines.  People in general are social creatures, and most people out there prefer to have a warm, breathing body on the other end of the line.

So, a company needs to be careful when implementing an IVR system.  Used properly, an IVR can be a wonderful tool to quickly and efficiently direct calls throughout the call center.  An improperly designed IVR, however, can result in frustration and unhappiness for callers.

Even if you offer free pizza.

Let’s Talk Technology! (Introduction)

Quick question.  What’s the most important element of a great customer service call center?  Excellent agents, of course!  While that is undoubtedly true, it takes a lot more than a wonderful staff of customer service agents for a call center to function properly.  One thing that may not be immediately visible, but nonetheless is absolutely essential for any modern call center is technological infrastructure.  Or, in other words, the nuts and bolts of the operation.

The world of call center technology can be overwhelming sometimes, especially if you are new to the industry.  There is a lot of terminology that you likely will not hear anywhere else, and a lot of unfamiliar acronyms: CRM, IVR, PCI, WFM, DID, VoIP… the list goes on and on.  While the basic act of dialing a phone number to reach a customer service agent may seem very simple, there is actually a lot going on behind the scenes to make sure that everything happens smoothly and efficiently.

The next set of Talkamore blog posts will deal with call center technology, and attempt to explain several of its key elements in such a way that the average Joe can understand.

So, let’s get started.  Let’s talk tech!

Customer Service Agents need to be Chameleons

Customer service agents need to be chameleons!Diversity is a great thing.  Just think of how boring life would be if each and every person out there thought and acted in exactly the same way.  Actually, I think there was an old episode of The Twilight Zone about exactly that, and it wasn’t pretty.

Needless to say, life would not be very fun.  However, it sure would make customer service easier!  Knowing unquestionably how someone is going to react to any particular statement would be a huge advantage for any customer service call center.  With this knowledge, they could create the perfect script to deal with any sort of problem, without any risk of the customer becoming annoyed or offended.

However, thankfully, the world is not like that, and just like snowflakes, each and every person out there is different.  For example, some people really enjoy it when call center agents inject a bit of humor or personality into their customer service.  To them, this conveys that they are talking to a real, interesting person rather than a robotic automaton that is simply following a script or series of steps.  For many people, offering some level of personal interaction may make the call tremendously more enjoyable.  And, as we know, keeping customers happy makes life easier for everyone.

However, some level of caution is necessary because not every customer will react positively to this type of thing.  Many people out there simply do not appreciate the “extra” intangible things that a customer service agent can provide, such as a witty remark or a flash of personality, instead preferring to keep things straightforward and to the point.  This could be due to a number of reasons.  Perhaps the caller is in a hurry and needs to resolve the issue ASAP.  Or, maybe he or she is not a native English speaker and does not feel comfortable with unrelated banter.  Maybe, for whatever reason, the caller simply does not desire a buddy-buddy relationship with the customer service agent and would prefer to maintain some level of distance.

That’s why call center agents need to be chameleons.  Now, this doesn’t mean that they should suddenly start growing scales or develop a taste for houseflies.  Rather, customer service agents must be able to listen for and properly interpret any vocal or tonal cues, and then successfully adapt their communication style to satisfy the individual preferences of the caller.  Just like a chameleon can change its color to adapt to its surroundings, call center agents must be able to adjust their customer service problem solving style to the circumstances of each particular call.

Does the customer sound like he or she is in a good mood?  Did he or she begin the call by asking some personal question?  Does the customer use terms of endearment like “my dear” or “buddy” throughout the call?   If so, he or she may appreciate some degree of banter or personal interaction with the agent.

On the other hand, does the caller sound rushed?  Did he or she immediately bring up the issue without any sort of formality?  Did he or she emphasize how important it was to resolve the issue right away?  If this was the case, it is probably best to focus solely on solving the problem as quickly as possible, without any of the extra personal touches that other customers might enjoy.

There is also the issue of balancing average handle time (AHT) against other key performance metrics.  Some clients might want their agents to focus on resolving all calls as quickly as possible, at the expense of anything else.   In that case, all non-related banter and playful chat should be kept to a bare minimum.

By having a flexible approach to communication, call center agents can adapt to any type of customer service call, and are therefore more likely to resolve issues successfully while keeping customers happy.

Tacamor call center agents have the expertise and communication skills to deal with any sort of customer service situation.  Put our camouflaged chameleons to work for you and get in touch today!

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