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.

What Frustrates Customers Most?

When calling in for customer service, we all have our own individual pet peeves.  For example, some people do not like being put on hold, while others may have trouble with voice recognition systems.  There are many possible things that can turn a consumer off and create a negative impression of the company.

Consumer Tipping Points, a recent benchmarking survey released by ClickFox, indicates the things that create the most frustration for people seeking customer service.

#1.  Having to speak with multiple agents and start over every time (42%):  It is bad enough having to explain your problem in the first place, but being forced to regurgitate the situation to numerous different agents is the single most frustrating thing, according to nearly half of all consumers surveyed.  This commonly happens when the initial agent does not have the ability to resolve the issue, and must escalate the case to a different support level.  Often, he or she will do a cold transfer, which is simply sending the caller on to another agent, essentially starting from scratch.  A more effective solution would be a warm transfer, where the initial agent outlines the problem to the next agent before connecting the caller.  This way, the new agent already has a good handle on the situation, and the caller does not have to repeat him or herself, thus avoiding a lot of unnecessary frustration.  An alternate solution would be to increase the level of training and expertise for front line customer service representatives.  This would give them the ability to solve more problems, thereby reducing the number of different support levels required, and lowering the overall number of transfers in general.

#2.  Being kept on hold for long periods of time or not getting the problem resolved on the first try (17%):  Time is valuable to everyone, and people have better things to do than be kept waiting on the phone.  A customer service call should function like an efficient fast-food drive-thru.  You drive up to the order station (place the call), order your food (explain the problem), pick your meal up at the window (the agent resolves the problem), and drive away (hang up).  Keeping the customer waiting for extended periods during any point of this process can be very annoying.  Also, a customer service representative who does not resolve the issue during the first call would be like a drive-thru attendant forgetting the French fries, forcing the person to go through the drive-thru all over again.

#3.  Rude or inexperienced representatives or difficulty navigating a website (13%):  This one is a no brainer.  Dealing with rude or unpleasant people is never enjoyable, and speaking with agents who do not know what they are doing is not much fun either.  This problem can be remedied by taking the time and effort to hire genuinely nice, friendly people, and by providing adequate training for customer service agents.  Getting the right people in place and getting them prepared for the job will also help cut back on employee turnover, which can be a huge problem in the call center industry.  The other part of this response, difficulty navigating a website, is also very important because visiting the company website is often one of the very first ways that people interact with a business.  Being turned off by an unattractive or convoluted web page may end up deterring many potential customers.  The most effective corporate websites have a clear and logical design, where relevant information is easy to find.

#4.  Frequent service interruptions, or not being understood by IVR/speech recognition applications (12%):  When you pay for something, you expect it to work.  After all, you are giving them your hard-earned money.  It is not unreasonable to expect consistent and reliable service.  However, when it does come time to contact the customer support center, it sometimes can be a chore simply to reach the right person.  A well-designed IVR menu that incorporates some speech recognition can be an effective way to direct callers to the appropriate departments, but a poorly designed system that results in having to constantly repeat answers or that sends callers to the wrong departments, can be hair-pullingly frustrating.

#5.  Long windows to wait for a service technician, and fee/price increases (6%):  Most people have busy schedules, and making someone wait around for an entire morning or afternoon for the repair-person to show up can be a huge hassle.  This is especially frustrating in cases where the technician is unable to make it, and the service appointment needs to be rescheduled for another day, thus wasting even more time for the customer.  The frustration associated with fee/price increases is self-explanatory.  People like to get good value for their money, and frequent cost jumps will urge them towards considering terminating the current service in favor of a competitor.

Understanding the most common sources of customer service frustration is extremely important for all contact centers, both outsourced and in house.  Only by knowing and measuring these key issues can steps be taken to fix the underlying problems, and deliver a better overall customer experience.

So, what do you think is the most frustrating thing about customer service?

 

Building the Perfect Call Center

For building customer loyalty and maintaining an exceptional business reputation, call centers are a critical piece of the puzzle.  Many companies today are seeing the value in having a top-notch customer service operation, recognizing that delivering excellent service is more important than ever before due to the abundance of choices available to the modern consumer, and a growing intolerance for ineptitude.

But, how exactly do you build the perfect customer service call center?

It is certainly not an easy thing to do, which is why more and more businesses are choosing to outsource their call center operations to a dedicated customer service provider.  But regardless of whether a business wants to outsource customer care or keep it entirely in house, there are a few common components that must be in place in order to create a truly exceptional customer service call center.

1.  The Right People:  You can have all the best equipment, technology and procedures necessary to deliver great customer service, but it won’t be worth a darn without a good team of agents working the phones.  Success in the customer service field requires a specific skill set and personality type.  Agents need to be good listeners who are able to understand and diagnose problems, often with limited information.  They also must be able to deal with the occasional angry customer, with the ability to diffuse tension and get to the bottom of an issue without becoming too emotionally involved.  Most importantly, though, they should be genuinely nice people with an overall positive attitude.  A smile can go a long way in the world of customer service, even on the phone.  Finding the right type of people to hire for your customer service call center is not always easy, which is why most call centers have extremely high employee turnover rates.  However, the rewards for building a staff of loyal, skilled and dedicated customer service representatives are immense — a positive and supportive work environment, cost savings from reduced turnover, and most importantly, the ability to provide truly superior customer service that will differentiate you from the competition.

2.  Reliable Infrastructure and Technology:  While at its core talking on the phone or responding to an e-mail may seem to be relatively simple things, there is actually a lot going on in the background at a typical contact center to ensure that everything happens smoothly and efficiently.  There must be a contact management platform in place to direct calls to agents, and the equipment must be good enough to facilitate clear communication back and forth.  Downtime must also be minimized and/or eliminated, because if customers cannot get through to the support line, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will soon go elsewhere, most likely a competitor.  To keep things running smoothly, software and hardware must be regularly maintained and kept up to date, and there should be redundant power and communications systems in place to deal with blackouts, etc.  It is also important to have a skilled and reliable network administrator at the helm to oversee systems operation.

3.  A Detailed Plan:  There are many decisions that must be made in the creation of a customer service strategy.  For example, should a live agent immediately answer all calls, or should an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu be in place to direct calls to the appropriate department?  Because there are different ways to measure customer service, which call center key performance indicators should you focus on?  Is Average Handle Time (AHT) the most critical thing, or are other metrics like First Call Resolution (FCR) more important?  How about self-service?  Do you want to give callers the ability to manage some account functions like cancellations or bill payments on their own via touchtone keystrokes?  There are a lot of costs associated with operating a call center, many of which are not always immediately obvious.  Have you taken things like higher power bills, employee turnover costs, equipment wear and tear, software licenses, management time and energy, and facilities maintenance costs into account?  The answers to all of these important decisions should be clearly outlined in your company’s overall customer service strategic plan.  This will be your road map to success in delivering an enhanced customer care experience.

No two call centers are exactly the same, but these common elements are found in the majority of successful customer service operations.  Incorporating them into your own plans can go a long way towards building, or partnering with, the perfect customer service call center.

Is Tacamor the perfect call center for your company’s needs?  We are true customer care experts with the right people, processes, and facilities in place to deliver the highest quality customer service.  Contact us today to find out how we can help your business!

Building Loyalty Through Customer Service

Keeping customers happy is more important than ever before.

The logic is pretty simple.  Receiving exceptional customer service makes people feel good about a company, which in turn makes them more likely to be loyal to that company in the future.

In fact, in many cases a good customer service team can be even more powerful for building loyalty than continually delivering a good product or service.  A study by Marketing Metrics indicated that if a company consistently delivered its product or service without any problems, customer loyalty would be approximately 60-70%; that is, existing customers would be about 60-70% likely to keep buying their current brand of product or staying with their current service provider if nothing else changed.  However, if instead the company screwed up somehow (I.e. service interruption, defective product, etc.) but fixed its mistake through excellent customer service (I.e. immediately acknowledging the problem and quickly resolving the issue to the customer’s satisfaction), customer loyalty levels increased up to 95%!

People don’t expect companies to be perfect, but they really admire the ones that care enough about their customers to admit their mistakes and provide superior service to fix problems.

But why is customer loyalty so important?

One big reason is that people are simply becoming less and less tolerant of poor service these days.  The Harris Interactive Customer Experience Impact Report indicates that 86% of consumers have quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, which is up from 59% just four years ago.  This is important because losing customers is expensive!  It has been estimated that it costs about five times as much to acquire a brand new customer than it takes to retain an existing one.

The deterioration of a company’s reputation due to poor customer service is another important consideration.  According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, a dissatisfied consumer will tell between 9 and 15 people about his or her experience.  Plus, with the proliferation of social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+, this number can be even higher, causing more potential damage to a company’s brand.  This trend can also work in a company’s favor, however, as happy customers will generally tell 4 to 6 other people about their positive customer experiences.

The bottom line is that customer loyalty matters, especially in our modern economy where people have more choices than ever before.  People will not be shy about taking their business elsewhere, so companies must focus more and more on keeping their customers happy if they want to remain competitive.  Delivering great customer service is no longer the exception… it’s the rule.

Outsourcing your contact center operations to a highly qualified customer service provider like Tacamor can get you on the right track towards keeping your customers happy and building loyalty.  It might even save you money, too!  Request a quote today to find out how Tacamor can help your business.

The Hidden Costs of Operating a Call Center

Many companies struggle with the decision of whether to keep their call center operation in house, or outsource it to a professional customer service provider.  Although improved quality of service is a major reason why many companies are choosing to outsource, the issue of cost remains a huge factor in the decision making process.

So, how do you compare the cost of running an in house call center against the cost of outsourcing it to a professional?

At first glance, it would seem to be an easy question to answer.  You calculate how much you are paying your current team of agents, whether per minute or per hour, and then compare it with a quoted rate from a call center outsourcer.

That’s all there is to it, right?

Well, in a word, no.

The reality is that there are a multitude of other costs that should be taken into account when properly weighing an outsourcer’s quoted rate against your own expenses.  Some of these costs are much more obvious than others.

Here are some essential costs, many of which are “hidden,” which should be factored into the equation when comparing outsourced versus in house call center expenses.

  • Payroll – This is the most obvious cost, and in some cases is the only one taken into account by many companies when deciding whether or not to outsource.  Strictly speaking, this is what you pay out to your call center staff in the form of wages and employee benefits.
  • Facilities – Your call center has to be located somewhere.  What is the cost of the building or office space?  If you outsourced your call center operations, could you put this newly vacated space to better use, or save additional money by closing it off completely?
  • Equipment – A good call center requires many different types of equipment, including computers, phone systems, wiring, furniture, etc.  In addition to a substantial up front investment to initially acquire these items, there is also a need for continual maintenance and upkeep for equipment.  Desks and chairs will wear out and need to be repaired, while computer systems will eventually become obsolete as technology improves, and need to be upgraded or replaced.  If you outsource, your company will not have to worry about these maintenance costs, since they would be borne by the outsourcer.
  • Technology – Similar to ongoing maintenance costs for physical equipment, there are also substantial costs related to keeping the level of required technology up to date.  Operating systems and software applications will need to be constantly upgraded to newer versions, and networks will need to be improved to keep up with the constant demand to be better and faster.  A good contact management platform and/or CRM system can be very costly, and often requires a certain level of technical expertise to operate effectively.  What is the cost of acquiring and implementing the necessary call center technology yourself versus letting a professional outsourcing company handle it?
  • HR Costs – In addition to payroll, there are other costs associated with maintaining a staff of workers.  How much does it cost to hire and train agents?  What about the cost of employee turnover?  Attrition rates in the call center industry are usually very high, and there can be a substantial cost associated with having to recruit, hire and train new customer service agents on a continual basis.  The cost of sick leave, employee motivation and other day-to-day HR issues should also be factored into the overall cost equation.
  • Operating Fees – Nobody likes paying expensive monthly bills.  Call centers are notorious power drainers.  How much would you save on your monthly electric bill by outsourcing your call center operation?  What about toll-free and/or long distance charges?  Do you have the appropriate insurance required for a call center operation?  How about on-site security and remote monitoring of the premises?  Janitorial expenses?  All of these things are not free, and the expenses can quickly add up.
  • Time – This is a very important cost that can be easily overlooked.  Running an in house call center requires a great deal of time and energy from upper and middle management on a daily basis.  If customer service is not your core business, and a substantial chunk of time is being diverted towards keeping your in house call center running smoothly, what is the opportunity cost associated with this lost or wasted time?  Outsourcing your customer service immediately eliminates most of the day-to-day hassle associated with call center operation, freeing up time for your star employees and managers to focus on more profitable activities that can make your business grow.
  • Customer Satisfaction – How effective is your in house call center?  Are your customers happy with the level of service they receive from your agents?  Outsourcing to a customer service professional can lead to better service levels, which can improve a company’s overall reputation and drive more sales.  This potential for increased revenue should be considered when measuring the costs of outsourcing.

The choice between outsourcing a call center and keeping it in house is a critical one for many companies.  When making the final decision, it is important that all of the relevant costs are taken into account, including the many non-obvious, hidden ones.  Only then can you get an accurate idea as to whether or not call center outsourcing makes sense for your business, and make a truly informed decision.

Does call center outsourcing make sense for your business?  Once you have calculated your total costs, get in touch with Tacamor today to request a quote, and see if we are the right call center for you!

The Importance of Tone of Voice for Call Center Agents

“It’s not only what you say, but how you say it.”

Ever heard that expression?

It’s true.  Tone of voice is a powerful thing.  Sometimes, even if your words are crystal clear, the message you are trying to get across can be dramatically different depending on your tone of voice.  According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, tone of voice can account for up to 38% of how a spoken message is comprehended.

Although tone of voice is a critical element in any type of real-life communication, in a call center environment it becomes even more important.  The voices of call center agents are often the only thing linking them with their customers.  Even if the agent means well, a misunderstanding because of the way something is said can leave a bad taste in a customer’s mouth, and in extreme cases could even lead to a cancellation of service, or worse.  Therefore, call center agents must always be mindful of their tone of voice, and work on making themselves sound interested and active even during times when they might really feel otherwise.

Customers want to feel that their customer service representative really cares about their issue.  Agents should remember that, although they may have dealt with hundreds of similar calls throughout a particular day, for each individual caller the issue is brand new.  A bored or rushed tone of voice will make the caller feel like he/she is just another number.  On the other hand, a friendly and enthusiastic tone of voice conveys a sense of caring, making the caller feel special.

Some tips to improve tone of voice for call center agents include:

  • Picture yourself as the customer.  By putting yourself in their shoes, their issue becomes yours.  Therefore, your tone of voice is more likely to seem interested and engaging.
  • Be aware of your breathing.  The way a person breathes can have a huge effect on how a person sounds on the phone.  Breathing shallowly can cause people to speak too quickly or mumble.  Breathing more deeply results in increased vocal energy, which is necessary to complete a lengthy script or deliver an important message on the phone.
  • Maintain good posture.  Bad posture can negatively affect breathing and tone of voice.  Therefore, it is important for call center agents to maintain good ergonomic form by sitting up straight in their chairs and not slouching.  Your spine will thank you for this!
  • Insert inflections into your speech.  Consciously altering the pitch of your voice by placing emphasis on certain words, rather than speaking in a continuous monotone, makes you seem more interesting, engaging, and alive.  A spoken sentence with many natural inflections is much more pleasant to listen to than an unbroken, unvaried tone of voice.

A lively, engaging tone of voice is one of the key qualities of a successful customer service call center agent.

Tacamor is known for its interesting, energetic and expert customer service agents.  Put Tacamor to work for your company today by getting in touch to request a quote.

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!

Are your call center's complainers really complaining?

Complaining customers may be trying to tell you something

Complaining customers may be trying to tell you something

I saw an interesting survey quite a while ago, and even though I have not been able to go back now to find its source, I believe it can still teach a great lesson for your call center and customer service planning. In the survey, managers were asked what percentage of their employees were proactive in helping the company address challenges, and they responded — to the best of my memory — by saying about 60%. Employees in the same companies were then asked if they themselves were proactive, and well over 80% responded that yes, they were. This clearly created a gap. Why was there such a huge difference between how employees saw themselves and how their managers saw them?

To answer that question, the researchers went back and asked the employees how they defined proactive behavior. Workers replied that it was alerting managers to problems as soon as they saw them. However, when managers were told that, the common response was, “That’s not being proactive. That’s just complaining!” The managers explained that they saw proactive behavior as not only identifying problems, but suggesting solutions.

That’s a difference that may be more common than we think, and that helps explain many frustrations for companies and their customers. Callers can often think they are being helpful or supportive by pointing out problems with a product or service. In fact, companies often encourage such feedback in their marketing materials or products. Everything from cereal boxes and candy bars to bags of soil will usually give a phone number or Website url. Unfortunately, call center agents are not always prepared to see these calls as helpful hints from valued customers. Instead, they often see them, just like the managers in the survey, as complainers. Sure enough, the resulting tone of voice or sense that the agent is not really listening or appreciating the input can sometimes turn even the most helpful caller into a complainer.

Similar problem can occur when special promotions are planned or in the unfortunate circumstance of a crisis, when the number of calls can dramatically increase, but the company may not have found time to properly advise its call center team and update the scripts. Suddenly agents are dealing with calls but have responses that don’t quite fit, or they may simply not understand what motivated the call.

While many details will be involved with avoiding this on a consistent basis, a few key steps can be easily considered as a checklist:

  • Ensure the call center planning and training are worked into the timelines of every promotion and crisis communications plan.
  • On an ongoing basis, ensure adequate responses are scripted for callers who are genuinely helpful.
  • Consider offering incentives such as coupons or even just a thank-you note to be sent out to customers who take the time to call with a helpful hint.

And if your call center agents are telling you that there are problems with the calls or the way they’re being asked to respond, listen carefully. They’re not complaining; they’re being proactive.

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