In customer service, Cheshire Cats rule

The Cheshire Catphoto © 2009 Ryan Lamb | more info (via: Wylio)
Whether you know Alice in Wonderland from Lewis Carrol’s wonderful book or from the Disney or Tim Burton movies, one of the characters you probably remember best is the Cheshire Cat. The furry feline is remembered for her words of wisdom and of course that very wide smile that hung around even after the cat had vanished.

Imagine having a smile that remained after you had left the room. Alice remarked that she had often seen a cat without a grin, but never a grin without a cat. We can all identify with the first half of that comment. We’ve all been greeted by cats without a grin… not to mention countless store clerks, greeters, ushers, and even call center agents who also had no hint of a smile. As a matter of fact, they often seem to outnumber the clerks who do have teeth, or at least who know how to show them.

So imagine how refreshing it would be to encounter someone whose smile filled a room and even stayed after the owner had moved on. Few things would make a store more welcoming than a Cheshire Greeter, a church more inviting than a Cheshire Usher, or a customer service call center more helpful than a Cheshire Agent. We have great news: they do exist. Admittedly, they’re an endangered species, but they are indeed out there, leaving smiles that last for hours, and brightening rooms that were otherwise gloomy. [Read more...]

How to choose a call center: final factors

The Splitsphoto © 2010 Ian Sane | more info (via: Wylio)
You’ve been looking for a call center to perfectly match your needs. First you laid out your basic requirements to be sure you had a good general mix. You then isolated the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that would help you identify which call centers really deserve to make it to your short list. Now it’s time to really get down to business: you need to start comparing those companies to determine which will be the perfect fit for you and your customers. In this post, we show you how to do it right.

Know What Your Team and Your Customers Want

If you haven’t already done so, review the first post of this series, on knowing what kind of call center you want, to help narrow your focus. Also weigh inputs from key staff, including your call center agents and supervisors, and from your actual customers. What services or channels other than telephone are desired? Email? Live chat? Social media? What are the things people like or don’t like about dealing with you? How exactly does your customer service compare to your competitors’? Be as specific as possible. Also seek out research done by other companies and industry associations into how customers in general feel about dealing with call centers. There is a mountain of information out there; using it can be a tremendous help and significant cost savings.

Know What Each Call Center Delivers

Once you have prioritized what you want in a call center, review our second blog post in this series, outlining the top call center KPIs. Detail on a specification sheet all the services and KPIs important to you. Develop this into your Call Center Request for Proposals (RFP), and then after you’ve made your selection, use it as the basis for your Call Center Service Level Agreement (SLA) to set the standards for the center’s ongoing performance. [Read more...]

How to choose a call center: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

photo © 2008 Nathan | more info (via: Wylio)
The first steps in choosing a call center required you to understand what type of center you need. Once you’ve figured that much out, you can start looking around for specific companies who can deliver what you want. But how do you compare them to determine the best fit? Price is of course important. It always is. But so is the relationship between them and your team… and your clients. Your call center will be your company’s personality to your clients, and you will also be dealing with the management team there on a very regular basis. This is where issues such as language and culture become major considerations. If you sense problems during this initial exploratory phase, it’s a good indicator that you’ll be seeing more problems as the relationship ages. So make sure you have a very nice fit.

Beyond these general factors, you’ll need to compare the actual work quality of competing call centers. Their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) — also known as Performance Metrics — will tell you how well they perform day in and day out. It’s important not to put too much reliance on these, as we’ll mention later. But for now, let’s take a look at a few of the most widely watched KPIs. [Read more...]

Nothing new to say? Call someone!

090/365: String telephonephoto © 2008 Ben Smith | more info (via: Wylio)
There are times in all our lives when there’s just too much to do, and too much to say. For many of us in the business world, that’s pretty much what we hope for most days; it’s a lot better than being bored.

However, whether you’re right in the middle of such a time, or enjoying one of those rare moments when you can actually sit back and organize what you should be doing, there are still some things that just need to get done. And one of the most important of those is staying in touch with the people who matter.

Calling for No Reason

Family. Friends. Workers. Clients. They all need to hear from you, and while you do your best to keep in touch, you may not realize that sometimes the best times to call are when you have absolutely nothing to say. People get an extra level of warmth when you touch base just to say hi, and to ask how they’re doing. It’s surprising how often, when you have nothing new to say, the other person has lots. So make it all about the other person. Your call may end up being a nice surprise for both of you. [Read more...]

Dealing with angry customers: are you making this mistake?

Angry tigerphoto © 2004 Guyon Morée | more info (via: Wylio)
Let’s face it: of all the situations that customer service and technical support teams face, dealing with angry customers can be the most draining. The agent — and sometimes several agents before the caller is done — can be exhausted from being verbally pummeled. The time spent on the call skyrockets beyond any goal or target ever imagined. And at the end of it all, chances are good that you have not won back the customer, but won a new vigilante voice out there who will be attacking your company at the dinner table, in the workplace, and most dreaded of all, in a blog.

That’s why, in many call centers, the angry customer has another name: the “worst nightmare,” and every agent there dreads getting that call. Quite understandable.

So why does Tom Peters (Remember Tom? Possibly the world’s top business guru, he has been mentioned before here on Talkamore) in his book, The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence, make this outrageous statement?

“There’s nothing, but nothing, better than an angry customer.”

Even for Tom Peters, those are pretty strong words. There is merit in what he says though. As we noted in the past post that mentioned Tom, research has shown that [Read more...]

Four reasons outsourcing to North American call centers makes great sense

North American call centers make your customers feel at home

North American call centers make your customers feel at home

Depending upon which news stories or blogs you happened to last read, you might be convinced that call center jobs are flooding back to North American call centers after disastrous experiences offshore. Or you may understand that offshore call centers are flourishing, picking up more jobs and contracts than ever before. Frankly, every company’s story is different. Yes, some have found a gold mine in the low prices of offshore outsourcing, allowing them to reduce costs and therefore — but not necessarily — pass along the savings to their customers. Others, however, discovered that the language and cultural differences and the challenge of coordinating a call center so far away negated the savings they had hoped to see.

If we relied only on media coverage for our information, it might be easy to forget that North American call centers — or “nearshore call centers,” “American call centers,” “Canadian call centers,” or whatever you may call them — handle millions of calls every day, providing cost savings for companies of all sizes. They generally do avoid the language, cultural, and time-zone challenges that have haunted so many offshore outsourcing endeavors. However, the problem with nearshore outsourcing is the price-tag savings are not as dramatic as those seen by sending to countries such as India and the Philippines. So why bother? Why outsource to North American call centers?

We’re glad you asked! Here are four reasons North American call center outsourcing makes sense: [Read more...]

American call centers, Canadian call centers, and your customers

A call center can be a profit center rather than a cost center

A call center can be a profit center rather than a cost center

Taking care of business ultimately means taking care of both your customers and your profits. If you can make people happy while also generating a healthy profit margin, you’ll be just fine. Of course, one of the big challenges is that it almost always costs more to care more. Customer service and profit margins don’t always walk hand in hand, so if you try to increase one, it can often drive down the other. As your high-school math teacher would have said, customer care and profit margins are inversely proportional.

That’s an oversimplification, of course, since increased customer service levels should actually lead to increased customer satisfaction ratings, which will in turn lead to more business and, eventually, higher profits. But there’s no denying that more money has to be invested in the first step well before the rewards are seen at the end. As a result, customer service investments such as call centers are often treated as cost centers rather than profit centers, and many companies have done whatever they could to drive those costs lower and lower. Hours of service were reduced. Staff training was cut back. Phone numbers were made less visible, and users were instead directed to Internet sites with prepackaged Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). And in the case of many larger companies, North American call centers were shut down, with the work being outsourced instead to some far-flung location. [Read more...]

Four ways to get your company’s New Year’s Resolutions back on track

In writingphoto © 2008 Toshiyuki IMAI | more info (via: Wylio)

Here we are just two weeks into the new year, and already some people are feeling like their New Year’s Resolutions are doomed. We started the year with a tumbling mix of reminiscing, eating, partying, fireworks, and then discussions of how the coming year will be different. That gave birth to an admirable list of New Year’s resolutions that inspired some people… but prompted snickers from others. And so it began.

When resolutions are personal — lose weight, stop smoking, spend more time with family, stop wearing that meat dress — cynics can be a downer, but they are not necessarily a deciding factor in whether or not your new vision will be realized. However, when the resolutions are corporate — improve customer satisfaction levels by 7.3%, reduce call center wait times by 12%, introduce new CRM software and train all staff by June 1 — a few disapproving voices in the crowd can be as deadly as a team of snipers.

Here are four ways to make sure your New Year’s Resolutions don’t end up on the casualty list: [Read more...]

Happy New Year from Tacamor Call Centers!

Thanks for making 2010 great. We look forward to an even better year in 2011!

Thanks for making 2010 great. We look forward to an even better year in 2011!

We’re on the edge of 2011. Depending upon where and when you read this, you may even have already started next year! But for now, I’m still here in 2010, and I have to admit it’s been a big one for all of us here at Tacamor Call Centers. Among the memories we’ll have of this year…

Four customer service gifts that keep on giving

A good customer-service present can win your company lots of love and loyalty!

A good customer-service present just may help your company win lots of love and loyalty!

For many people across religious, cultural and geographic divides, December is a season of celebration and giving. The last month of each year sees lots of fun, food and countless lights as people mark Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and several other holidays. Despite the colder weather in many climates, the images that many of us have when we think of December are warm and wonderful.

So not wanting to be left out, we’ve put together four suggestions for giving your customers an extra-warm glow as we all wrap up the year and move into 2011. And hey, if these ideas work well for you, feel free to make a few changes and try them on an ongoing basis. Your customers will love the added touches, and you may love the added loyalty that these ideas can bring! [Read more...]

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