Why Talking to Your Customers is More Important Than Ever

* This following blog post is a guest article by Imogen Reed. *

With so much focus on the Internet these days, it’s no surprise that fewer and fewer of us are talking on the phone.  It seems that e-mailing, tweeting, and Facebook messenger are the order of the day.  But in business, it’s not always so clear cut.  In fact, the companies that seem to do the best are those that are able to do a little bit of everything.  So in a world where every business is preoccupied by sending emails, is there a solid gold opportunity to boost your business by actually talking to your customers?

A lost art

There are plenty of people out there who now regard conversation as something of a lost art, and the dominance of the web seems to play no small part in that.  But having a conversation with a real human being is one of the best ways to make progress in business and personal relationships – so why aren’t more companies doing it already?  The telephone is one of the key components of good customer service, and most consumers will tell you that they’d rather speak to a person than send an e-mail any day of the week.  This means a couple of different things for existing companies: first, it means that if you’re not already using the phone as part of your customer service process, you should be.  And second, it means that you can actually gain a competitive advantage by doing so.

Start talking more and get the edge

By now, consumers are used to much customer service being carried out over the Internet.  People are in fact more surprised when a business suggests they give them a call rather than sending an e-mail or using a web form to get in touch.  Even the online ticket systems that apparently make things more efficient can be frustrating and time-consuming to use.  But implement a call center, or a team of phone-based customer service reps, and you’ll find your customer satisfaction skyrockets.  Couple that with the fact that so many other businesses are focused solely on the online field, and you’ve got a recipe for CRM success.  You’ll give often jaded customers a refreshing surprise by offering them a real human being to attend to their issues, rather than a template e-mail which (as we all know) is one of the most impersonal ways to be treated by a business.

The benefits of the spoken word

One of the great things about telephone customer service is that it doesn’t necessarily require any additional work than any other form of customer service.  For example, if a customer sends an e-mail to make a complaint or raise an issue, your company might start acting on it right away, but it could take 48 hours to reply via e-mail.  This can leave the customer feeling frustrated and annoyed.  On the other hand, if that customer is able to pick up the phone and speak to you directly, they’ll feel reassured in the knowledge they actually spoke to somebody about it – even if they leave the conversation with no more info than they started with.

Talk is cheap (and effective)

Considering the huge roster of benefits that telephone customer service can bring, it’s a very affordable solution.  It’ll almost always result in an uplift in customer satisfaction levels, and it’ll improve your reputation.  Plus, you could always combine your use of telephone customer service with its online variants, meaning you’ll have all the bases covered.  After all, it’s always a good idea to have a contingency plan in place, so if one form of customer service ‘goes down’ somehow, the other can pick up the slack.  Why wait for your competitors to get the edge and start speaking to your customers when you can quickly and easily arrange for a team in a call center to be the voice of your company?  In an ever-changing world, speaking to a human being to solve problems will always be the preferable choice for your customers.  So if you’ve spent a good proportion of your company’s history tending to customer concerns only via e-mail and the web, you may well be missing out on a golden opportunity to take your customer service to the next level.

To learn how Tacamor call center agents can help you build better relationships with your customers, contact us today.

The Different Types of Contact Centers

Not all contact centers are the same.  Just as there are different kinds of animals stalking through the jungle and different types of vehicles on the road, there are many different types of contact centers out there.

The most obvious distinction among contact centers is inbound vs. outbound.  Inbound centers are designed to accept calls (or e-mails, web chats, etc.) from customers.  People get in touch with an inbound contact center for things like customer service, technical support, ordering a product/service, or obtaining information.  Outbound contact centers, however, focus on proactively making contact with existing or prospective customers, usually for the purpose of making sales or generating leads.  An outbound contact center would be involved in activities such as telemarketing or administering surveys.

Many contact centers are dual-purpose, with the ability to offer both inbound and outbound services, while others are solely dedicated to performing one type of service.  Some call centers are very specific in what they can offer, while others are more general.  A narrowly focused contact center may specialize only in administering surveys for the health care industry, for example, while a multi-purpose center might offer everything from telemarketing to high-end technical support for digital devices.

Some call centers, such as Tacamor, choose to specialize in a certain area (I.e. inbound customer care services) but are flexible enough to offer additional outbound services to clients if required, such as callbacks, survey administration, appointment confirmations, etc.  Under this type of model, a contact center is able to offer a wide variety of services, thus expanding its potential market for obtaining new clients, while still retaining the core competencies necessary to be a true expert in its domain.

The level of technology is another differentiating factor for many contact centers.  Some contact centers operate using the simplest technological infrastructure possible.  As a result, although this may result in lower operating costs, the services these bare bones centers are able to provide are often lacking.  For example, a call center with a primitive technological setup may have the capability of accepting inbound calls only, and be unable to provide support via e-mail, web chat, social media, or other channels.  Additionally, without a solid Contact Management System in place, it may be impossible for a contact center to deliver complicated reports on key performance indicators such as Average Handle Time, Abandon Rate, Service Level, etc., which are demanded by many clients these days.

Finally, the way that agents are assigned tasks can differ from center to center.  Some contact centers use a dedicated-agent system, whereby workers are assigned to a single client account only.  This type of model is advantageous in the sense that by only working on one account, the agent becomes a true expert for that client.  Other contact centers use a pooled environment, where agents may receive or make calls on behalf of several different clients.  These contact centers tend to be more flexible regarding the volume and type of work they are able to perform.  However, quality may suffer if agents are spread too thin and assigned to too many different accounts.

The type of contact center a company needs really depends on its particular business requirements.  While there are many different contact centers out there to choose from, not all of them will be suitable for every company.  Knowing exactly what you need in a contact center is the first step towards finding the right partner and establishing a profitable and lasting outsourcing relationship.

 

Tacamor is a primarily inbound contact center offering high quality customer service, tier 1 technical support, and other contact center services.  Are we the right contact center for you?  Request a quote today to find out!

Customer retention: the insurance industry’s great opportunity.

Customer retention is the insurance industry's great opportunity. 'Money Box on Grass' photo (c) 2011, Images Money - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Losing customers is bad. Very bad. No matter what your industry, whether B2B or B2C, local or international, work-at-home consultant or multinational conglomerate, insurance or outsurance, if you’re losing customers, you’re losing money.

The insurance industry though may have a particularly strong opportunity to retain more customers. Insurance has the most software customization of any industry (Industry Essential: the US Insurance Market, Forrester Research, 2007), and that often creates challenges that trickle back to customer service. All that customization can result in IT departments that are focused on handling coding issues rather than building better CRM capabilities that would be beneficial to customers. [Read more...]

Four reasons insurance call center outsourcing makes good sense

Like a eye is a window to a person's soul, a call center is a window to a company's soul

Just as an eye is the window to a person's soul, a call center is the window to a company's soul

Just like a person’s eyes are a window to his or her soul, your call center is the window to your company’s soul. Every day, an insurance company’s call center is the first point of contact for its customers, claim adjusters, brokers, and agents. Having a call center that not only connects people but impresses them with friendly and efficient agents will brighten the experience, build relationships, and tell those people a lot about what lies in your company’s soul.

With so much at stake, it’s surprising how often a call center is simply not given the priority it deserves. Skilled staff, new computers and up-to-date software with top monitoring and analytics capabilities are all expensive, but in the long run ignoring any of them can be much more expensive. Call center outsourcing can provide insurance companies with a way to gain the benefits while actually reducing costs. Here are four reasons insurance call center outsourcing can make very good sense:

1. Insurance customers are shopping around

Bad news! Customers are less loyal than ever.

Good news! Customers are less loyal than ever.

There’s no denying that it’s easier now than ever before to lose customers because another company’s rates are cheaper, their service is better, or their call center agents are more likable. But never forget that your competitors are in the same market, which means you can get their customers if your rates are cheaper, your service is better, or your call center agents are more likable. It’s not likely that you will be able to claim all three, but it is certainly strategic to focus on the ones where you can deliver a discernible advantage, and then do everything possible to make that advantage extraordinary.

As you already know, by the time customers hit the phones today they are likely to have already investigated a number of options online, and will be ready to make a decision quickly once they find a company that feels like a good fit. Having a professional call center on your side can improve your ability to win those new customers and keep existing ones. A properly integrated insurance call center gives you trained Customer Service Representatives who can courteously and efficiently handle customer inquiries and concerns.

2. An outsourced call center can reduce your total cost of ownership

Ultimately, a call center has to make sense financially. If there’s a more efficient way to operate any aspect of your business — as long as it doesn’t cost you in lost sales or reduced efficiencies in some other area — then it only makes sense to go with that option. That’s where many executives can be surprised when they take a good, in-depth look at the total cost of ownership of an in-house vs. outsourced call center. By the time all the costs of setting up, operating, supervising, and updating an in-house operation are considered, and then also calculating the total value of the added sales that an outsourced insurance call center can deliver, the case for outsourcing can be quite compelling. Professional call center agents and the right technologies can result in reduced call times and even fewer calls thanks to improvements in First Call Resolution, Customer Retention, and other key metrics. Your CSRs should be able to bring in or save more customers in the same amount of time. The improved efficiencies might even allow you to consider offering reduced rates, bringing in even more new customers. The possibilities are well worth checking out.

3. Outsourced call centers keep you on the cutting edge

This point is especially nice if you remember that last point as you read this. An outsourced call center should not only be able to reduce your costs, but should also give you access to cutting-edge systems and applications, as well as the latest call center best practices and principles of operation. Those all contribute to your call center’s Return on Investment (ROI).

Keeping a call center state of the art is expensive, year after year after year. Doing so for your own in-house operation can cost considerably more per station than it would be for a call center because you are unable to take advantage of the economies of scale that a larger operation can access. Security, system redundancy and disaster recovery are areas where the gap between in-house and outsourced call centers can be especially glaring… and dangerous. Outsourced operations will almost certainly have these locked down tight, while in-house centers may have trouble keeping up on the latest developments and requirements. Despite their best efforts, smaller in-house facilities will be especially challenged to keep the same level of call center management and technical staff as outsourced operations would have on hand.

Another point to consider is that a call center outsourcer will typically have seen a wide range of situations and processes and can best assess the technologies and investments that would be most suitable and efficient. Their teams should be available to meet with you to set up a workflow and ensure it is properly followed. They will typically also be committed to keeping up to date with new call center technologies and how to best implement them. While an in-house operation may be just one of many aspects of your business, an outsourced insurance call center will be focused solely on making that work the best it can be. You and your customers reap the benefits.

4. Outsourced call centers can improve your decision making

Decisions are crucial at every step of a call center’s operation. Agents dealing directly with each customer need to access past experiences without having to put that person on hold or keeping him or her waiting. The executive team needs to know current call center key performance indicators and new developments in the marketplace. The better your data and call center expertise, the better your decisions on each call and in the boardroom.

Precisely what roles are now filling your call center agents’ time? Whether they’re providing new quotes, signing up new customers, handling new claims inquiries, you’ll be able to monitor their performance, and identify activities requiring better training, and systems to better handle routine or repeated requests more efficiently.

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For these and even more reasons, outsourced insurance call centers can be an excellent and very strategic long-term investment. If you have any comments on these points, please let us know below. And if you have any questions, please contact us directly. We look forward to hearing from you, and hopefully helping you realize these benefits for your company!

Call center outsourcing for the insurance industry

Outsourced call centers can help deliver a competive advantage in the insurance industry

Outsourced call centers can help deliver a competive advantage in the insurance industry

In the past few years, insurance industry contact centers in North America have enjoyed a remarkable leap in consumer satisfaction ratings. In fact, according to CFI Group‘s Contact Center Satisfaction Index 2009, this sector “led by impressive gains in CSR satisfaction, high issue resolution and low perceived offshore service. Insurance CSRs score 86, putting them among the top of all industries measured.  The industry improves 5% from 2008 and a whopping 16% since 2007.”

Those are impressive numbers, and they demonstrate that call center standards for the insurance industry are among the highest anywhere. And that makes us even more proud when we say that Tacamor is meeting or even exceeding those expectations.

Experienced Insurance Call Centers

Tacamor is an outsourced customer service call center provider in Canada’s insurance industry. As part of this work, we handle incoming customer service issues such as billing inquiries, renewals, cancellations, and refunds, and outgoing calls to set up medical interviews for new accounts. A particular area of focus in this work has been customer retention, turning imminent cancellations into loyal customers, and turning our call center into an exceptional profit center.

Paying attention to those details has helped Tacamor establish ourselves as an exceptional call center outsourcer for the North American insurance industry. However, there are other aspects of our business model that also contribute to our success, and one of the most important of these is our status as a nearshore outsourced call center provider…

Nearshore Call Centers

Consistent with the survey results mentioned at the start of this post, Tacamor operates only nearshore call centers, with all our agents based in Canadian contact centers. This gives us several advantages in caring for our clients:

  • Our agents speak with a neutral English voice, although we also offer multilingual service in several languages.
  • Our agents are in North American time zones, making it easy for your customers to reach a friendly voice, and for your executive team to meet ours or visit our centers.
  • Fitting the image of friendly, helpful Canadians, our agents are exactly that! We take pride in the exceptional quality of CSRs, and are confident that you’ll be impressed too.
  • Our agent retention rates are exceptionally high, meaning your customer service team will be around long enough to build intimate familiarity with your offerings and policies.

Insurance has always been an exceptionally competitive field, and as the industry-wide standards of service continue to rise, it becomes more important than ever before for each company in the field to offer a level of customer service that actually becomes a strategic asset. Tacamor delivers at that level.

If you seek an outsourced insurance call center to not only deliver great service but to actually create a competitive advantage, talk to Tacamor.

Tacamor call centers are ready and able to be your company’s profit centers.

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