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 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 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!

Let’s Talk Technology! (What is a CRM System?)

Customer Relationship ManagementRelationships are important, both in life and in business.  Competition is fierce and customers generally have a lot of choice these days, so building loyalty becomes more and more of a challenge.  It doesn’t take much to turn a normally happy and content customer into an angry, fire-breathing monster capable of causing serious harm to your business.  Just ask Jeff Jarvis, an unhappy Dell customer who stirred up a whole lot of trouble for the computer manufacturing giant when he created a blog criticizing the company.

Today, most companies know that maintaining good relations is a key step to retaining their customer base.  This has lead to the creation of the term Customer Relationship Management, or CRM.  At its core, CRM is a strategy that companies use to handle interactions with customers.  It is a business philosophy that emphasizes the importance of customer interactions by having specific processes and systems in place to manage each contact.

Information management is at the heart of any good CRM strategy.  The more a company knows about a customer, the better it is able to manage that relationship.  In the call center industry, specialized CRM software is often used to build a centralized database of customer information.  With a good CRM system, whenever a customer phones in with a problem, the call center agent is able to quickly and efficiently find the relevant information about the caller all in one place.  This streamlines the process, allowing the agent to address the issue quickly without having to waste time pulling information from various other sources like spreadsheets or multiple databases.

Callers usually appreciate a speedy resolution to their problem, so having a dependable CRM system can dramatically enhance the overall caller experience and improve customer retention.

Many CRM systems these days are very customizable, with the ability to track and record many different pieces of information for each caller, and create detailed reports.  This allows a company to better understand the specific needs of each of their customers, and thus improve the overall relationship by offering better, more individualized service.

A complete and comprehensive CRM system combined with a top-notch staff of customer service agents like Tacamor’s can turn your call center into a true powerhouse!

Tacamor has the technology, expertise and staff to build effective customer relationships and improve your customer retention.  To find out more, contact us today!

3 customer service lessons to help you profit from Cyber Monday.

'Inverted keyboard' photo (c) 2009, Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Maybe you’re a big player in e-commerce and Cyber Monday in particular. You’ve put a lot of talent, strategy and money into getting in front of online shoppers, and making the most of every interaction. And maybe you’re really happy with how it’s all working for you.

Or maybe you’re not that happy. Maybe you haven’t actually put that much into it yet. And maybe you’re not even promoting Cyber Monday at all. Hey, maybe you’re still even not quite sure exactly what e-commerce means.

If you fit anywhere in that second group of maybes, Cyber Monday may not be making a lot of money for you this year, but it still presents great lessons on how to ramp up your company’s marketing successes. Here are three customer service lessons that can help you profit from Cyber Monday… and from other major promotions too: [Read more...]

Is your call center discouraging online customers from buying?

'Texting' photo (c) 2006, kamshots - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Whether it’s an outsourced call center or in-house, your customer service team is being given considerable money each month to make things happen. Among the most widely named objectives that companies name are:

  • Improve customer satisfaction.
  • Increase sales.
  • Retain customers you would otherwise lose.
  • Build a competitive advantage.
  • Improve your understanding of what your customers like and don’t like.

Those are all great objectives, and all attainable. However, as the growth in Cyber Monday shows us, more and more and more customers are shifting to online shopping, and more and more of them are moving to shopping from a mobile device. Now the entire customer service process becomes increasingly precise. [Read more...]

Is your customer service team ready for Black Friday?

'Christmas shoppers in the Bullring' photo (c) 2009, Mark Hillary - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Something profitable this way comes. In just a few more days, stores across the United States will officially kick off the Christmas shopping rush, as millions of people stream in through their doors looking for great deals. It will also be the start of the customer service rush, a less known but absolutely vital time for businesses as they strive to care for all those customers.

This isn’t just about being nice though or trying to appease customers when things don’t go as planned. There are some serious dollars at stake here. We’ve noted before that customer service may save $44 billion in lost sales for online retailers alone. Still, far too many companies see their customer service departments as necessary evils rather than ways to generate real profit. And an outsourced call center is still seen as a way to cut costs rather than a way to bring in skill sets that can help retain customers and take customer loyalty to a whole new level.

Is your customer service team ready for Black Friday, and the busy days to follow? [Read more...]

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