Will Technology Kill the Call Center? (Video)

How Technology is Changing the Call Center
Software Advice recently hosted a Google Plus debate called “Will Technology Kill the Call Center?” Representatives from IntelliResponse, Avaya Inc., Drumbi, and Etech Global Services got together to talk about how technology is changing the way customers get in touch with company call centers.  Each of the panelists was asked the following four questions:

  • How have you seen consumer contact channel utilization change in the last decade?
  • What role has technology played in this change?
  • How might technology impact the way customers contact a company in the future, and the kind of service they receive?
  • Will technology eventually render call centers irrelevant?

Click below to watch the entire video debate:

All of the panelists agreed that the growth of contact channels is one of the biggest ways call centers are changing.  For example, customers now have many different options to get in touch with companies outside of voice communication, such as self service, live chat, and virtual agent support.  This is in large part due to the fact that consumers demand instant gratification, and contact centres must meet those expectations.

However, voice is not going away entirely.  As Laura Bassett, the director of customer experience management at Avaya, puts it, “once a customer gets to voice contact, they are at a crucial juncture in the interaction.  The company needs to be much smarter when they get there.”

Therefore, it no longer makes sense for companies to put the lowest cost, lowest skilled people at the front lines of customer service, as was frequently the case in many traditional call centres.  Rather, a company’s very best, most knowledgeable individuals should be available to provide the high levels of service that customers are demanding.

If the customer service function is outsourced, it should be to an outsourced call center that focuses on providing high quality service rather than the lowest possible cost.

If you have any thoughts to share, feel free to leave a comment on the Software Advice blog at Google+ Debate Results: Will Technology Kill the Call Center?

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?

 

Customer Service Leadership

In order to be considered successful, a company must grow.  In order to grow, a company needs to somehow differentiate itself from the competition.  Focusing on high quality customer service in order to deliver the best possible customer experience for consumers is a particularly effective strategy that many businesses are putting into action in order to set themselves apart from competitors.

But, if there has never been much of a focus on customer care in the past, how can a company suddenly become a customer service leader?

A commitment to customer service is not something that can simply be tacked onto a business as an afterthought.  Rather, it needs to be fully ingrained into the culture of a company, and really, the only way for that to happen is for senior management to buy into that philosophy and actually put the ideas into practice.  Only when upper management fully embraces this philosophical shift and starts to demand improvements in key customer service metrics will it trickle down through middle management to the front line workers.  After all, if the CEO of a company does not care about providing excellent customer service, why should the employees care?

One of the best (and easiest) ways to become a customer service leader is to outsource call center work to a firm that specializes in providing high quality customer care.  This usually means outsourcing to an onshore or nearshore customer service provider rather than going offshore.  While a business might be able to obtain a lower overall rate through an offshore call center, the quality of customer care may suffer.  Language barriers and cultural differences often come into play and detract from the overall customer experience.  Industry consultant David Filwood indicates that, “It’s not a racist issue; people relate over the phone to people they perceive as being from their region.”

According to a recent Globe & Mail article, many North American companies that initially outsourced their call centers offshore are now bringing them back due in large part to low customer satisfaction.  Sears Canada spokesman Vincent Power recently remarked, upon bringing the company’s repair service call center back to Canada, “There’s now a higher degree of satisfaction for calls related to parts and service than there were before.”

A leadership decision to outsource call center operations offshore to the lowest cost provider indicates that customer service is simply not a priority for the company, and that they are more concerned with cutting costs than delivering a great customer experience.  Conversely, finding the right nearshore or onshore outsourcing partner shows that customer care is a high priority for senior management, and that they are willing to forego the lowest possible rock bottom price in order to keep their customers happy.

Having upper management make the strategic decision to focus on improved customer care, and then actually taking steps to implement the strategy, is the first critical step that a company must take in order to become a true customer service leader in the industry.

Tacamor specializes in providing high quality inbound customer service and level 1 technical support.  Put us to work  for your company and see first hand how we can improve your overall customer satisfaction!

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 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.

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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