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...]

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...]

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 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...]

Seven steps to make your company a customer magnet!

Building your customer service muscles takes some work, but the results are worth it!

Building your customer service muscles takes some work, but the results are worth it!

Many years ago, magazines and newspapers often carried ads that looked like a cartoon strip, telling the story of a 99 lb. weakling who would get sand kicked in his face by a musclebound bully. The victim would head home, kick a chair, pump up with Charles Atlas’ bodybuilding course, and then return later to win the girls. Atlas sold thousands and maybe even millions of these courses over the years to countless weaklings hoping to bulk up and become, as they would wishfully call themselves, “chick magnets.”

Today, in corporate washrooms around the world, skinny companies still stand hopefully before marbled vanities to gaze into chrome-edged mirrors, flexing their muscles and yearning for any hint of a new bump on their business biceps. It’s always disheartening at first, but knowing what to do and then repeating it regularly really can bring dramatic results. So if you’re tired of seeing the customer of your dreams walk off arm-in-arm with your strong-armed competitors, try these customer-service bodybuilding tips on for size… [Read more...]

A Customer Service Parable

In-house or outsourced call center? The wrong choice can have dire consequences...

In-house or outsourced call center? The wrong choice can have dire consequences...

Once upon a time there were two companies, Dave’s Do It All and Ashley’s Assistants. Both had hard-working owners who loved their businesses and did their best to deliver excellent customer service. Even though Dave and Ashley had never met or even heard of each other, they were similar in many ways. Both loved their jobs and worked hard to grow their companies into respected success stories. Both were delighted to care for their many customers, and over time, both continued to grow, until they eventually reached the point where they began having trouble caring for the customers they had worked so hard to get.

Choosing a Call Center

Both Dave and Ashley had each already optimized the Customer Support sections of their Websites to answer questions and provide support materials, and had gradually built up in-house call centers. But more people were calling and as the numbers grew, more and more of them were not getting answered quickly enough. Callers were getting frustrated, questions were going unanswered, staff were getting overworked and stressed. For the first time in their companies’ histories, customer satisfaction ratings were starting to drop. Dave and Ashley grew sad.

So it was late on a snowy December evening that these two entrepreneurs sat in their offices on opposite ends of Profit Town, each reviewing the latest financial reports and growth projections. They had already talked to their managers and accountants, chatted with friends who had always given good advice before, filled out Pro and Con columns, and thrown their Nerf basketballs into their little Nerf nets. After what seemed to be far too long, they both finally reached their decisions. Turning out the office lights, they headed down to their cars and drove past each other on the way home, each feeling confident that their companies were also being driven in a good direction. [Read more...]

Harry Potter and the Deathly Call Centers

you don't need to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn how to avoid having a deathly call center.

You don't need to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn how to avoid having a deathly call center.

Even though this blog can be read by anyone anywhere in the world, it’s hard to imagine that even one of you has never heard of Harry Potter. The young wizard and his friends are among the most loved people in literature and movies, as they work to save their world from Voldemort and his evil clutches.

One thing that has been so astounding about the success of these books and movies is the absolute die-hard dedication of their fans. Lines of people have camped out as each new volume or episode was released. Many were there in full costume, and would spend their time in line reading one of the huge books in the series. These weren’t fans; these were fanatics.

Spreading the Call Center Magic

Imagine how it must warm author J.K. Rowling‘s heart to see so many Muggles (non-magical humans) pulled into the world she created. These converts are thrilled to tell others about how much they love the stories, and all the reasons why everyone else should love them too. Can you imagine how it feels, to see that love spreading? Wouldn’t it be great to check into Twitter and Facebook, or be standing in line at the grocery store, and see or hear people raving about your work?

Far from being Rowling or even Harry, too many companies are seen as being Voldemort. When we as consumers run into something we love or hate about a product or service, we tell others, just as we Muggles have done throughout the ages. Now, with Facebook and Twitter being so popular, our compliments and complaints are amplified around the world. But things explode for better or worse when we reach a customer service call center that is either really good or really bad. The love does indeed get spread around on good day. We tell friends, and sometimes a lot of them. But on a bad day, already frustrated, we won’t need a lot to be pushed into a whole new dimension if we call and find inability to help, or even worse, indifference. We’re suddenly thrust into the big final battle scene. The ensuing uproar can bring a deathly pallor to your company’s reputation and profit margins.

More companies need to recognize that happy endings do exist in real life, and are quite attainable in most situations, especially those that now end very badly. A good or bad response by a call center can have a surprisingly big impact on how the caller thinks and shares with others. In fact, research has shown that customers who were angry or upset but then had their situation resolved to their satisfaction will be more loyal than people who never encountered any trouble in their dealings with you. So take these opportunities seriously. This is your chance to prove to yourself, your customers, your employers, your competitors, and the world that your lofty mission statement and promises of putting the customer first were genuine, heartfelt commitments. Show the world? Isn’t that an overstatement? Not at all, given any customer’s broadcast capabilities thanks to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other social media. Your customer service call center may no longer just talk one-to-one with your callers. You may be reaching millions.

Optimize your customer service

If you’re not already winning the battle, it’s time to turn things around and start creating more happy endings. On a regular basis:

  • Review your call center management and staff. Do you have good people there? Are your training programs all they should be? Are you keeping staff, or constantly churning through new hires?
  • Review your services. Are you meeting your callers’ needs? Would you win more fans if you offered multilingual service? 24-7 support?
  • Monitor your call center’s performance? Do you know the types of inquiries and responses that are generating the most frustrations and the most happy endings? Do you know which endings can be improved by better responses and training? Do you know which of your call center’s key performance indicators you should improve to achieve the best returns and most improved customer service ratings?
  • Ensure your call center stability and security are optimized. This is easy to ignore or let slide with no apparent downside… until all Azkaban breaks loose. Don’t go there.
  • Review your operating and other call center costs. Do you know the Total Cost of Ownership of your in-house or outsourced call center? While it may sound like a basic concept to grasp, the detailed costs are hard to pin down, and can be surprisingly higher than expected.

The good news is you don’t need to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn how to avoid having a deathly call center. Consistently addressing the points above will take you a long way toward many happy endings. However, should you find yourself seeking some wise counsel and a call center you can trust, Tacamor would love to hear from you. You won’t find call centers mentioned in any Harry Potter books, but you’ll feel like Harry and his friends are firmly on your side when your call center has been truly optimized to work its magic and win new converts to your fan base.

Customer service may save online retailers $44 billion in lost sales

66% of frustrated online shoppers turn to a customer service department for support

66% of frustrated online shoppers turn to a customer service department for support

If you’re selling products or services online, it should be no surprise to you that a good customer service call center can reduce lost sales. It can even pull back departing customers before they leap off the ledge of despair, into the waiting arms of your competitors. However, a recent survey by Tealeaf gives us a better glimpse of how much online transaction problems are actually costing… and how much money your good customer service can save.

As this is written, the sun is rising on Black Friday, the biggest day of the year for many retailers across the United States and elsewhere as well. Cyber Monday will follow in just a few days, with Websites poised to pull in huge sales figures from buyers around the world. According to the survey though, for millions of shoppers the experience will not go as planned.

To give some background, the survey found that 66% of online adults had bought something online in the past year, and 56% had conducted financial transactions such as managing a bank account, paying bills, or investing in the stock market. Some 17% had conducted online insurance transactions. So these are consumers who know how to shop and spend online. And many of them are not happy.

The ultimate cost of lost sales

The survey results stated that transaction problems on retailers’ Websites may have cost those companies sales totaling an incredible $44 billion or more, in the past year alone. However, something the report doesn’t mention that we find just as staggering is that these billions of dollars were not potential sales way out there in the marketplace that maybe companies could have found. Instead, these were fistfuls of dollars that consumers had already decided to spend. People had gone online, made buying decisions, and actually tried to spend that money with those businesses, only to find problems on the Websites that kept them from handing over the dollars. Marketing had developed ad campaigns or promotions that worked, the company had probably spent many thousands or even millions of dollars to bring those customers onto their Websites, and the order was just about to happen. But suddenly a problem with the Website experience flushed the entire investment away.

To make the situation even more tragic, Rebecca Ward, CEO of Tealeaf, noted the potential for lost revenue can now even be amplified, since people can vent or broadcast their frustrations through social media like Facebook and Twitter. “The ‘echo chamber effect’ caused by frustrated customers who voice their displeasure on social networks can significantly damage an organization’s reputation,” she said.

Your customer service call center can save the day

The survey results note that a full 32% of the frustrated shoppers abandoned the purchase altogether, with most of them then going to competitors instead. However, there is actually some good news at this point… potentially. The report points out that when consumers run into problems while buying online, 66% of them will contact customer service, most notably by telephone, although email and Web chat are also regularly used. That contact gives online retailers the chance to gather incredibly valuable information from the customers:

  • What exactly are they trying to do?
  • What is frustrating them?
  • What would they prefer to see on your Website instead of your current purchasing process?

Best of all, a well-prepared customer service call center can pull back the lost sale and turn it into revenue for you rather than your competitors. Amazingly, this can even help create greater customer loyalty than if the shopper had never encountered a problem in the first place. Don’t look at this as a marketing strategy though! Repeated frustrations will eventually dim the chances of success for even the most impressive customer service team.

Save money even if it means spending money

It’s worth the investment to get your customer service on track. Consider your call center as the intelligence-gathering arm for your marketing and Web development teams. And definitely nurture them as the best chance you have to pull back those lost sales. You may very well find that your call center can even be a profit center for your company. That’s a situation that leaves everyone happy, and your revenues growing.

A Call Center Thanksgiving

Call centers in the United States and around the world have lots to be thankful for!

Call centers in the United States and around the world have lots to be thankful for!

In homes all across the United States, people this week are planning their Thanksgiving dinners, preparing to travel or bring in family from away, and plumping up the pillows on their favorite chairs in advance of some great football. So we thought this would be a perfect time to reflect on some of the things for which we at Tacamor Call Centers are most thankful. Of course, this list could go on for a long, long time, but we’re going to focus on just the top few items. Also, these are the things that make us happy, so they may or may not be the same things that make you or other call centers smile. So feel free to suggest your own thoughts at the end, to which we would say… thank you!

Great clients

At Tacamor, we are extremely thankful for the companies we have the pleasure of serving each day. They are literally the reason we’re here, but they’re also why it’s fun to be here. We don’t just represent great companies; we represent companies we like, filled with people we’re privileged to know, all selling products or services that make their users even happier. How could anyone not be thankful for that?

Great call center staff

We know that pretty much every call center, and every company for that matter, says thanks for their staff. But our staff is so great that even our clients — and our clients’ clients! — thank us for the nice people we have here. That means a lot to us. It’s that kind of genuine care that has allowed Tacamor to become such an exceptional multilingual outsourced customer service call center. Yes, we’re a great outsourced technical support call center too. We’re also even a 24-7 call center. But there was no way we were able to squeeze all of that into one sentence!

Small-town Canada

Remember those Norman Rockwell paintings from years ago? The happy faces, cozy homes, warm summer days and crispy clean winter nights? It’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped into one of those scenes when you see where Tacamor Call Centers have put down roots. Most of our agents live in those small-town settings, and their genuine charm and joy of living can be felt right through the phone. It’s one of the many reasons we’re proud all our operations are Canadian call centers… and very good ones at that!

Great technology

Yes it’s wonderful to have friendly staff and happy customers, but ultimately we’re here to help our companies run their businesses efficiently and profitably while caring for their customers. And no one takes care of that side of things better than Tacamor. We have employed cutting edge telephony and computer technologies, high-speed, high-bandwidth Internet connections, the finest real-time call center monitoring capabilities, and top security systems and processes. Add some great management expertise and the staff we already mentioned above, and you’ve got Tacamor Call Center. We even ensure our clients can monitor and track their outsourced customer service and technical support operations with greater ease and control than if they were running it all in house. The fact that we can do all that for less cost than those companies would probably have been able to do it in-house is just the icing on the cake… or maybe the gravy on the turkey.

_____

So there you have it. For all these things and so many more, everyone here at Tacamor Call Centers is extremely thankful. Whether you’re indeed looking for a Canadian call center, or already have your call center needs met — or even if you have no interest in call centers at all — we wish you a great time together with friends and family, and a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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