A Better Answer - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
As a business owner, your company probably started small. Maybe it’s just you or a handful of other folks on your team. While it’s nice to run a lightweight business, you may run into a few disadvantages when it comes to pitching prospects.
Your potential customers might think your business isn’t big enough to handle their needs, and this may affect the trust and service you can provide, as well as your overall brand. If you look too small, customers may not feel confident in you. One of the easiest ways to handle this objection from potential clients is to hire a receptionist. Businesses with receptionists are perceived as more substantial and can help in proving to your customers you are not only professional, but you’re bigger than expected.
A virtual receptionist service can make your brand look well-established and instill prospect trust in your brand while remaining cost-effective.
What is a Virtual Receptionist?
A virtual receptionist is precisely what it sounds like: they’re a remote professional who fills the role of a traditional receptionist but doesn’t sit in your office.
Virtual receptionists are knowledgeable and well-trained administrative professionals who specialize in providing exceptional customer service. They can also work outside of traditional office hours and help with off-hour coverage. When you have a small staff, everyone will likely wear many different hats, some of which are more productive and meaningful to the success of your business.
Answering phone calls and providing information to clients is essential, but you don’t want the head of your business development team answering the phone every five minutes when they’re trying to concentrate on growing your company.
While you may not be at the point where you need or can even hire a full-time receptionist, a virtual receptionist can step into free-up your employee’s valuable time to concentrate on what they’re best at. There are a host of benefits to hiring a virtual receptionist for your business. In addition to answering calls and providing customer service, many are also very skilled at other administrative tasks.
A virtual receptionist can help with lead generation, scheduling or canceling appointments, and processing orders. They can even provide after-hours support, take messages and even live transfer calls if on-demand support is an expectation in your industry, like web development. Simply put, a virtual receptionist can help you streamline and boost your customer service and provide your clients with confidence in your business.
Benefits of a Virtual Receptionist for a Small Business
While the features of virtual receptionists vary based on skill and your needs, let’s review how bringing one on for your small business can benefit both you and your customers.
Never Miss a Call
When you’re running a lightweight operation, small businesses generally don’t have one designated receptionist. Even if you do hire a full-time, in-person receptionist, they will end up missing phone calls because they can’t be everywhere at the same time. Not to mention, you’d lose any requests that come in after-hours. With a virtual receptionist, you can keep your team lightweight, and also ensure your phones are answered every time they ring, regardless of the hour.
According to a 2017 Forrester report, missing a call can impact your business tremendously because it’s your customers that are the lifeblood of your company.
When a customer or potential prospect is reaching out to you, they are probably looking to purchase your product or service. Customers initiating an inbound call convert 30% faster compared to outside sales calls.
The Forrester report also notes phone call inquiries are rising throughout the industry, mostly because people don’t see the difference between digital and physical businesses anymore. A virtual answering service can ensure you’re capturing every call that comes into your business and you’re not leaving money on the table by missing a potential customer. They act as an extension of your business.
A Virtual Assistant ensures your company is available at all times which gives the impression your company is much larger than it is.
Screen Phone Calls
As your business grows and your client list expands, you will eventually need to start screening calls to maximize your time. Cold inquiries can take energy away from that hot lead, so prioritizing becomes ever more important.
When you hire a virtual receptionist, they can screen your calls so you can devote and prioritize your time wisely. Time is a valuable resource, and ROI needs to be evaluated as you grow. Stretched too thin, and your business starts to suffer.
For your virtual receptionist to screen calls, you provide a customized script for them to use. A script ensures you can devote your time to returning the calls that will have the most benefit on your business first. You can also provide different scenarios for business hours, after hours, and include support processes so you can delegate appropriately.
Answer Basic Questions
When your business gets a phone call, there might be several questions people may ask that can be answered by pretty much anyone with a little bit of information.
Instead of wasting your precious time answering the same question for the 20th consecutive call of the day, a virtual receptionist will be able to take these off your plate. You’re ready to focus on the core business tasks that are important to the success of your business and your customers or potential clients are getting the answers they need. Provided with the appropriate information to give clients, your receptionist becomes the gatekeeper. They give the solutions to regularly asked questions and pass off only those messages that require follow-up for you and your staff.
Respond to New Opportunities
When you hire a virtual receptionist, you’re putting your business in a position to respond to growth opportunities as they arise. With the proper channels in place, you can scale up your business quickly and easily. As your business grows, the influx of calls is only going to increase. Put yourself in a position where you won’t be struggling to keep up with a virtual receptionist. Your customers will receive top-notch services and phone handling and will help your business convert more leads.
A virtual receptionist service can help your small business scale up quickly and look bigger to a potential client, helping them build trust and confidence in your services. Providing fantastic customer service to your current clients keeps them happy, and your business relationship flourishing.
A virtual receptionist helps you appear more professional while delivering the same functions as an in-house receptionist at a much more affordable cost. If you want to level-up your small business and prepare for expansive growth, a virtual receptionist will get you there.
So, what are you waiting for?
Publish Date: January 15, 2020 5:00 AM
Feeling the pangs of burnout? Wondering why there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to complete all your work at an optimal level? To maximize your productivity and ensure you’re able to satisfy all high-level initiatives of your job, consider hiring a Virtual Assistant.
There is a myriad of ways you can utilize a virtual assistant - from customer service to administrative duties to design work. While each virtual assistant possesses their own unique skill sets, there are some must-have qualities that every VA should have for you to reap the benefits.
Here’s what to look out for.
They’re Highly Reliable
Reliability is essential. They could be one of the most brilliant, qualified individuals you’ve ever encountered, but if you can’t rely on them to report on the progress of a project or answer your emails in a timely manner, it will hurt your business in the long run. Since your virtual assistant will most likely be working in a remote capacity, they need to exhibit a level of responsibility and autonomy to perform the tasks assigned to them without any hand holding.
In the end: You should feel confident they can produce high-quality work - not just show up when they’re supposed to.
They’re an Excellent Communicator
Before you even extend an offer to someone, they should have demonstrative and effective communication skills in responding to your emails or phone calls in a timely manner. Poor communication, especially when it comes to a problem or issue they’re experiencing, can lead to disastrous outcomes.
An inability to communicate could result in misunderstandings that delay processes, generate extra costs, and hurt your relationship with clients. Make sure your VA is completely comfortable navigating different mediums of communication - whether FaceTime, the specific email provider you use, any project management software, text messaging, etc.
VAs are Resourceful and Proactive
The last thing you want is to hire a virtual assistant who simply goes through their checklist without truly investing time in producing quality work or putting in extra effort. The whole point of employing the help of a VA is to have a helping hand to carry out assigned tasks, find solutions, and solve issues that may arise with clients.
While it’s unrealistic to assume your VA will be a jack or jill-of-all-trades and know how to do everything, they should be resourceful. They could inquire about a particular task in a VA forum, watch a YouTube tutorial, or research articles that divulge the necessary info.
If one of your client’s requests to have a spreadsheet reordered alphabetically, a simple Google search would show your VA how to do it.
Virtual assistants that are experts at their craft will proactively stay on top of industry trends, competitor on-goings, and the latest technology. This could be a game-changer for your business.
VA’s who can solve problems, think of their feet, and take the initiative to deliver the highest quality work will save you time and sanity.
They’re Trustworthy and Honest
Of course, no one wants to hire an employee who is untrustworthy, but when working with someone in a virtual capacity, honesty is more prevalent than ever. Just like anyone, your VA is bound to make a mistake or error every once in a while.
The difference is, a good VA will come to you about any problems that arise or delays that prevent them from completing the work on time. Many companies use a screen and time monitoring system to track their VA’s progress and ensure they’re clocking in the correct hours.
However, that’s a personal decision and comes down to the level of trust you have in your VA.
Virtual Assistants are Able to Multitask
If we were to list out the top five areas a virtual assistant must excel in, multitasking would certainly be one of them. After all, they will likely have multiple projects or tasks on their plate and they must be able to stay organized, keep things moving forward, and juggle multiple clients without breaking a sweat.
Keeping a good schedule, knowing what to prioritize, and working efficiently is a vital component of a successful virtual assistant.
They’re Able to Work Well Under Pressure
Things may get a little chaotic on your end, but you never want clients to see what’s going on behind the scenes. This is important for your VA to understand as well.
They should place an emphasis on making each client feel as though they are the number one priority - regardless of how hectic the workload may be.
Instances may occur where there’s a short turn-around time or a higher workload than normal, and your VA should be able to not only handle the pressure but refrain from passing on any stress or negativity to a client (even if it’s unintentional).
They’re Great with Follow-Up
You’ve struck gold when you find a virtual assistant who can stay on top of all their tasks, even when a client may not. Sometimes things fall through the cracks on the client’s end, but your VA should possess the know-how to reach out and follow up - rather than just sitting on that task forever.
For example, if your VA needs a client’s approval on a social ad you created and they don’t hear back from them after 2 or 3 days, they should follow up with an email or a phone call as a reminder to the client.
VAs are Contributing to Business Growth
A virtual assistant that is truly skilled at their job will ultimately help your business grow. Whether it’s because they freed up your time to pursue new opportunities or their outstanding work resulted in an upsell or client referral, VA’s can contribute to your profitability when they possess the right skill sets.
Hiring a virtual assistant can be a daunting task. After all, you want to find a highly qualified candidate that you can partner up with. But, if you keep the above qualities in mind while you’re on the hunt for a VA, it should make the hiring process a much easier one.
Publish Date: January 6, 2020 5:00 AM
When you manage a seemingly endless number of customer service requests each day, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of each client interaction. With the business landscape becoming increasingly competitive year over year, delivering quality customer service can directly impact the success of your company. For customers on the receiving end, a single interaction with your company can completely alter their perception of your brand and services. Delivering poor customer service will not only damage your business’s reputation but it could have a direct, negative impact on your revenue. Because companies now communicate and engage with customers on a multitude of platforms, it’s essential to follow best practices for each one.
Here’s a look at how you can amplify your customer service and implement best-in-class practices on the following 3 platforms: phone, email and social media.
Customer Service via Phone
Do you enjoy being kept on hold for an extended period of time? Heck no. Neither do customers. Always answer the call within two rings - this will help you begin with a great impression (especially if they’re calling your company for the first time).
Let’s See Those Pearly Whites
Even though your customer cannot physically see you, if you smile when you talk, it’ll naturally create a pleasant and positive tone of voice. You’d be surprised how big of a difference smiling on the phone can make.
Keep Your Greeting Concise
When receiving an inbound call, the first thing your customer expects is to be greeted by the company they intended to reach. For example, “Good morning/afternoon/evening A Better Answer, this is Mary, how may I help you?” So, keep it brief and help the customer get to their desired destination as quickly as possible (without being rude, of course).
It is also best to provide a name so the customer knows exactly to whom they are speaking. It creates more of a personalized experience.
Did You Just Interrupt the Caller? Gasp!
That’s a serious customer service faux pas. Never interrupt a complaining customer while they’re airing out their grievances. Your blood pressure may rise. You may have to bite your tongue. But as hard as it may be, it’s an essential part of creating a good experience for your customers. Staff should be trained to make sure all customers feel like they have been heard and understood. You need to make sure the customer feels like they are being heard and well taken care of.
Always Keep the Customer Informed
Your customer should always be in the know. Train your team to provide the client with a list of action items and next steps, followed by an expected timeframe that’s longer than necessary.
Why? Because this gives you an opportunity to remedy their problem faster than anticipated, which makes it look like you really went to bat for them. This is how you create loyal customers and retain business. When you take longer than you stated, they’re going to be oh-so-angry with you.
Here’s an example of what you could say:
“After we hang up, here’s what I plan on doing. I’ll give the supplier a call and I’ll let them know you need another chair. Shipments to our store from the factory typically take a week. When it arrives, I’ll give you a ring, so you can either pick it up or have it shipped directly to you. In the meantime, I’m going to send you a return label for the damaged item. The new chair should arrive within two weeks. Again, I’m sorry for any inconvenience this has caused you, but I’m happy we were able to resolve it for you.”
Handle Angry Customer Like A Pro
First off, telling someone to calm down is not only rude, but it’ll most likely have the reverse effect and drive the customer into an even angrier state. Always respond to irate customers using reassuring language, such as “I can understand how you feel” or “wow, that’s incredibly frustrating!” This shows you empathize with them and you fully hear their complaint. All a customer is really looking for is to be understood and have their problems resolved.
Customer Service via Email
Humanize Your Conversations
Personalize your interactions with the customer. Don’t view emails as transactional but rather as a conversation between two people. Clients want to feel they’re communicating with a real human being - not a robot or automated company messaging service. Use your name, have your photo in your signature and ensure you’re creating a relatable, authentic customer service experience.
Remember to Say Thank You
Despite what you may think, a customer complaint is a golden opportunity to fix something other customers may experience (or have already experienced) - essentially helping your retention rates with other clients. Showing gratitude in business is a huge way to separate your brand’s customer service from a competitor. A simple “thank you for bringing that to our attention” holds a lot of power and will ultimately strengthen your relationship with that client. Always make sure your customer walks away from a conversation knowing you’re very appreciative of their feedback good or bad.
Recommend a Fix or Promise a Result, and Deliver
Your customers can feel unimportant if they have to send you a follow-up email to check on the status of their request. That’s a serious palm to forehead moment. Whatever organization tactic works for you - whether it’s adding a note to your calendar or creating a task in your company’s CRM - make sure your customers know what to expect and deliver on your promise.
Replace Negative Language with Positive Words
The words you choose to you can have an immense impact on the way your customers interpret your emails. Make a concerted effort to replace any negative words with positive ones.
Here’s an example:
Before: “Actually, you can just do this within the settings tab.”
After: “I’m happy to help! You can do this by clicking on the settings tab in the upper right-hand corner of your screen.” Feel free to add some personality or use a smiling emoji if you’d like (of course, only if this seems appropriate).
Customer Service via Social Media
Choose the Right Platform for Your Business
You need to go where your customers are. By using the social channel(s) they’re comfortable using, you’ll be able to deliver a more effective support experience as you’re leveraging their preferred network.
Be Quick with Responses
Our digital ecosystem has created heightened accessibility to social media. People can connect and interact on social platforms from virtually any location or device. This face-paced, “always-on” mentality has changed expectations among customers.
Did you know that 42% of consumers expect to receive a response within 60 minutes on social media? That means, when it comes to social, your team should be making an effort to address complaints, inquiries, and reviews as quickly as possible to meet these expectations.
Use the Right Tone of Voice
Just as in an email, your tone of voice is an essential part of providing excellent customer support. This can sometimes be challenging to pull off when platforms, like Twitter, impose character limits on Tweets. To get your tone just right, you should always tailor your language to mirror that of your customers.
For example: Are they using slang, emojis, or exclamation points? If so, this means you can reciprocate in a similar manner, but always remain professional.
Likewise, if your client sounds frustrated or angry, you want to turn up your empathy and communicate in a tone that’s reassuring, understanding, and apologetic.
Know When to Take the Conversation Offline
While it’s crucial you always listen and respond to your clients through social networks, there will be times when the issue at hand simply cannot be resolved within the platform. When these circumstances arise, it’s perfectly fine to transfer your communication to another medium, such as phone or email.
In order to accomplish this, you need to handle it the right way. Simply directing your customer to email or call for further assistance is going to come off as apathetic, rude, and lacking empathy. No customer wants to just keep getting passed from one person to the next, or one channel to the next, with no actual action taking place to help resolve their issue. Instead, you want to come off as eager to help, using a friendly tone and demonstrating you truly care for the customer and helping them come to a resolution.
Let’s face it: There’s always room for improvement when it comes to customer service efforts.
Because the level and quality of your customer service will ultimately dictate the success (or downfall) of your business, you may want to consider employing the help of a professional answering service who have the expertise to not only handle customer service initiatives but they are trained to handle a variety of situations - from the good, the bad, the ugly - when it comes to speaking with your clients. What’s more, they are typically cheaper than hiring an in-house customer service rep. So, why not give it a try? You can elevate your customer experience to a whole new level with the right talent and techniques in play.
Publish Date: December 16, 2019 5:00 AM
How you deal with customers can make or break your business. Good customer service is a skill every employee who interacts with your clients must develop.
The last thing your business needs is a negative review, especially one that remarks how rude or ineffective an employee was. A positive customer service experience, even after poor customer experience, can often mean the difference between giving your business another chance or storming off to a competitor.
You can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you handle and react to issues if they pop up and make sure your customers’ experience is overall positive.
In this article, we look at the skills your employees need to best deal with customers.
The 8 Most Important Skills For Customer Service
What exactly is empathy in the context of customer service? Empathy is the ability to understand and connect with a customer’s feelings, even when you cannot fix it. This is just as important as patience - which is next - because we've all been in similar situations. It's helpful for both the employee and customer to understand where the customer is coming from. What problem do they have? And why are they frustrated?
Sometimes you can't give the customer the answer they want but if you show you care about their problem and strive to steer them in the right direction, the interaction will go more smoothly than if you dismiss them or insinuate the problem is their fault.
Patience is one of the most important customer service skills any employee need. Whether it’s an employee dealing with a frustrated caller who needs technical support or if they’re in a retail environment helping a customer who can't decide on which dress to buy - you must have patience. The key is having employees understand how it feels on the other side to be frustrated or confused and just want someone to listen and solve the problem. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes makes it easier to empathize with their plight.
SURE... Sometimes customers ask irrelevant questions or don't seem to grasp what you're saying; that's where patience comes in.
Maintaining composure no matter what is crucial to providing top-notch service and solving the problem.
Getting to the heart of the problem is critical to help the customer and solve their issue. That's why communication between the employee and your customer must be clear. Miscommunication manifests in further frustration for both.
Employees must as clear as they can about what they can and cannot do and what will solve the problem. Don't overstate or oversell to appease the customer because that will almost always backfire and leave the customer dissatisfied and send them to your competitor.
Knowledge of the Product
One thing many customers find annoying is when they have questions about a product or service and the person to whom they're speaking doesn't have answers. If you're selling a product or service, you should know it inside and out. Failing to understand what you're talking about is a sure way to engender mistrust from your customers. Remember, people see the employee as an expert, so they must be the expert.
Keep Language Positive
Positive language helps put a good face on the business and makes the customers feel more at ease about engaging.
For example, if a customer contacts you about a service, but your company has discontinued it, you should say, "We've got a new service that replaces that one and it offers more value," rather than, "We don't offer that anymore."
Read Between the Lines
Many customer interactions today take place online or via phone so one can't read a person's facial expressions. Being able to read between the lines helps to not misread a customer and end up losing them because of miscommunication.If speaking on the phone, listen carefully to the tone of voice to pick up clues as to the person's mood and level of patience. This skill is crucial to keep interactions positive and have a satisfactory result.
So, not every customer interaction goes as planned which is why employees must have the ability to adapt quickly to situations as they arise. Sometimes a customer throws a curve and asks a question for which you're not prepared. The ability to think fast, react and solve the problem often means the difference between a satisfied and disgruntled customer.
Ability to Close
When people think about closing, they think about closing a sale. But in this case, we mean ending the interaction between the employee and your customer. The goal here is to end the engagement with a satisfied customer or as close as you can get.If the customer's problem isn't fixed now, are they satisfied it will be in due time? Make sure before the call or interaction ends, the customer is confident you've handled everything to the best of your ability, and the issue is or will be resolved.
Can A Call Center Help With Customer Service? Yes, It Can!
So, maybe you've never given thought to hire a call center to handle your customer service engagements, but here are a few reasons why you should consider it.
#1: You Won’t Miss Calls
Call centers can catch all of your calls, which means they won't miss a potential lead. It's frustrating for a customer to call in need of help, and they can't get hold of a person to talk to. If you can't handle the call volume, a call center makes sense.
#2: They Are the Experts
Call center personnel are highly trained representatives to handle customer service calls efficiently and professionally. The customer today has hundreds of choices to go to if they don't get help from you. Remember, your competitor is just a search away. So, keep those customers by satisfying them when they call you first by letting a call center take care of it.
#3: Opportunity to Improve
Call centers record calls which are reviewed frequently to ensure the employees are handling interactions correctly and to the customer's satisfaction. Recording calls offer the employee and management where they can improve to provide an increased level of service.
Almost every successful business is successful because they have excellent customer service. Without customers buying your product or service, your company wouldn't exist. We hope this article showed you what skills your employees need to deal effectively with customers, and how a call center may be the right move to improve your business/consumer relations.
Publish Date: December 4, 2019 5:00 AM
Answering services are still a favorable way to do business today, especially in the B2B world. First impressions are everything so leaving the first point of contact many of your clients will have with your business to an already overloaded employee may not be a risk you want to take.
If you’re on the fence about hiring an answering service, this article will answer your questions and give you a better idea if going down this road is the right choice for you.
What Is An Answering Service?
The first question you may have is “what is an answering service, anyway?” In a nutshell, an answering service handles communications for various companies. While traditional answering services deal with inbound and outbound phone calls, today’s answering services also handle emails, replying to text messages, and cold calling, which is a service many businesses find useful.
If you’re thinking about hiring an answering service, keep in mind that these agencies go by various names depending on what capabilities they offer:
Virtual Receptionist Services This type of agency performs the same tasks that any receptionist would in an office. These tasks include answering phone calls, transferring them to the proper contact, and giving out any necessary information that a caller may need such as office hours or location.
Virtual Office Service The virtual office agency performs similar functions of a virtual receptionist, however, they also can offer you a physical mailing address and temporary meeting spaces. This can be a great option for startups or businesses that operate remotely.
Automated Answering Service The automated service doesn’t use live agents; they base their service on voice response. So while not a traditional answering service, this company allows customers to leave messages or go through a series of prompts to get the information they need. You’re probably familiar with this kind of service if you’ve ever called for support and been instructed to press 1 or 2 for different options.
Internet Answering Service Most internet answering services aren’t like traditional answering services; similar to the option above. The internet service provider offers email or chat help, and other online-based support. Internet answering services also don't typically provide live agent support.
Call Centers Most people are familiar with call centers. Love them or hate them, they offer a valuable service for companies who need external live operators to handle customer support issues and a large volume of calls. Most people think of telemarketers when they hear call center, but that’s only one function they perform. Many exist to help customers with technical support or to be the first line of communication between a company and their customers.
Purpose Of The Answering Service
On its face:
The answering service exists to answer calls, make calls, and dole out information on behalf of a company.
The benefit to these agencies is that they’re able to provide a service to small and medium-sized companies who don’t have the financial resources to hire an in-house team to handle their volume of calls.
Also, many business owners are too busy outside the office to take calls themselves, such as doctors, plumbers, and electricians. The answering service allows them to take calls and not lose the business to a competitor.
How Do They Work?
Many companies use answering services because they provide valuable assistance capabilities that the company can’t do in-house. But how do they work?
Automated Answering Service
The automated answering service typically goes something like this: Press 1 for technical support, press 2 for billing, press 3 for company hours, and press 4 for a live operator. Sound familiar? The goal of these answering services is to get the customer the help they need without having to speak to a live operator.
Live Answering Service
Live answering services are the opposite as they use live agents for the primary contact when a customer calls in. A live operator can work in a call center from home as a virtual receptionist. Many business owners prefer live answering services as they want their customers to speak to a real person and get the answers to their questions quicker.
The call center is often confused with answering services, even though both can perform many of the same functions. Most call centers work with one company to handle all of their incoming communications, and it’s not uncommon for a call center to employ hundreds of people while an answering service is usually a more intimate operation.
While many companies opt for an automated system, customers often prefer live answering services as mentioned.
Automated is cheaper, but when you factor in the frustration that some callers incur when trying to navigate an automated menu system it might not be the best trade-off.
A live answering service benefits the company and the customer by reducing the time the customer has to wait to speak to a representative. Live receptionists are better able to provide customers with the proper information or direct them to the correct point of contact more quickly.
All in all, this makes the interaction more pleasant for the customer, which is key in a customer service driven environment.
How Can An Answering Service Benefit You?
Now that you know what an answering service does and how they work, it’s helpful to understand how you can benefit from hiring one.
Here are just a few of the services these agencies offer that can help your business:
- Call screening
- After hours or weekend call answering
- Handling high volume calls during holidays
- Make sure all calls are answered, and customers get help
- Record and deliver messages
- Set appointments
- Text and email communication
- Customer service and technical support
While an answering service isn’t for everybody, they can benefit many business owners who experience a high volume of calls or don’t have the resources to hire an in-house team. If you think this type of service sounds like exactly what you need, read this article to learn more about the cost of hiring a call center to get started.
Publish Date: October 16, 2019 5:00 AM
The outsourcing world is divided into different service sectors, and two of these sectors are the most crucial to success: call center services and virtual assistant services.
We’re going to talk about call center representatives, their duties, and the skills that they need to be successful.
What is a Call Center Representative?
Whether they know it or not, most people have spoken to a call center representative at some point.
If you’ve called your phone, internet, or cable provider with questions, the first person you spoke to was likely one of the company’s call center representatives.
First and foremost, they’re responsible for maintaining customer relations and aim for customer satisfaction. They resolve customer issues in whatever way they can, and they aim to do so as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Call Center Representatives vs. Virtual Assistants
Call center representatives and virtual assistants are often confused as interchangeable. However, the two positions are more different than most people realize.
The general confusion is understandable, as both are required to be experts in the field of customer relations. However, virtual assistants and these representatives basically operate in two different sectors.
Both virtual assistants and call center representatives are extremely important, but each job title comes with its list of duties and necessary skills.
Typically, virtual assistants work remotely, and they usually assist in a wide variety of day to day tasks. Virtual assistants typically take care of the more time-consuming tasks such as social media management, bookkeeping, taking care of travel accommodations, making cold calls, etc.
A virtual assistant’s responsibilities can also include a variety of creative tasks such as graphic design, video editing, and content writing.
If asked to do so, a virtual assistant will sometimes act as a call center representative, but their responsibilities typically include a much broader range of tasks that a growing company no longer has the time to do.
Call Center Representatives
Comparatively, these representatives handle tasks that tend to be more tedious and repetitive. Like virtual assistants, they work within the customer service and customer relations sector. However, their responsibilities tend to be more consistent.
In a general sense, they are responsible for helping customers with whatever they happen to need when they call.
They need to have a thorough understanding of their company’s inner workings to resolve customer issues as quickly and effectively as possible.
If you want to learn more about the differences between call center representatives and virtual assistants, you can check out this article that expands further on the topic.
What are their Duties?
These representatives usually answer customer phone calls, maintain customer satisfaction to the extent that they can, keep customer records up to date, and resolve customer issues if they’re able to do so.
If a call center representative can’t deal with a customer’s issue directly, they’ll direct the customer to the appropriate team. If they do this correctly, the team should be able to resolve the issue.
A call center representative must understand the logistics that make their company run smoothly.
If a call center representative can’t direct the customer to the appropriate team, that customer has to endure being redirected over and over again, which never looks good for a company.
They have to deal with a very fast-paced work environment. Whether or not they succeed at rising through the ranks depends entirely on how many calls they can handle in a given period.
For this reason, speed is key when it comes to being a successful call center representative.
Necessary Skills for a Call Center Representative
One of the most important skills for a call center representative is simply people skills. On any given day, they usually interact with more people than most ever will within such a short period.
For some people, this can be somewhat exhausting. A seasoned call center representative can handle the workload without bending under the pressure.
As previously mentioned:
A call center representative must understand the minutiae of their company’s inner workings.
After all, they’re the first line of defense when it comes to customer calls. With any given call, they either need to be able to resolve the problem, or they need to know which team to direct the customer to.
Additionally, because their jobs are so speed-oriented, they must remain focused and sharp to do their jobs well. Furthermore, being well-organized certainly doesn’t hurt, as this will help contribute to their overall speed.
A Business’ Unsung Heroes
A call center representative’s job can be challenging. However, like any new employee, a new call center representative will typically adapt and become proficient within their line of work.
That isn’t to say that this job can be done by anyone. For some people, especially those that are introverted, dealing with many different people on a daily basis can be exhausting.
It’s a difficult job at times, but it’s a position that’s essential to the functionality, efficiency, and success of any company.
So, the next time you become frustrated during a call with your cable provider, remember that you might just be the two hundredth person the representative has talked to and they’re just trying to help.
Publish Date: October 2, 2019 5:00 AM
Call Handling Hero® — Heather
Our March Call Handling Hero® award goes to Heather! Her ability to think of alternative solutions in a timely manner helped a patient find their way to the hospital.
Heather received a call from an elderly patient instructed by her physician to make her way to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, the patient's son was unreachable by phone and she did not want to travel by ambulance. With time running short, Heather remained on the phone with the patient to find the best solution to her transportation issues. Heather came up with a great alternative idea; she provided the phone number of the office at the patient's senior living complex and was able to help her find transportation through them. Way to be resourceful, Heather!
Good clients and great TSR's make A Better Answer the better answer.
Publish Date: April 16, 2019 5:00 AM
Call Handling Hero® — Martha and Pam
For February's Call Handling Hero® recognition, we're celebrating two awesome responders – Martha, our winner, and Pam, our runner up!
February Call Handling Hero® Winner – Martha
A Better Answer's very own detective, Martha helped resolve a situation with one of our newest clients. This client is currently in the process of integrating their own new clients on a very large scale, and as with any large data transfer project, typos happen.
In this case, it was a return address for their clients to make payments. During a routine call, Martha noticed the return address was incorrectly printed on the bill that had been mailed to our client’s customer. After providing the correct information to the caller, Martha then reached out to the client to let them know of the error so they could fix the problem in their system. In the end, Martha helped the client save man hours and prevent customer dissatisfaction!
February Call Handling Hero® Runner Up – Pam
Always supportive in times of need, Pam took a call on a Houston Home Health account for their Dallas office. Apparently, something happened with the call forwarding for the Dallas office, and their calls were not reaching us to hand off to their on-call person. Pam quickly recognized the issue and reached out to the Houston on-call for assistance. Afterwards, Dallas was reached to have the urgent message delivered. Way to go, Pam!
Good clients and great TSR's make A Better Answer the better answer.
Publish Date: March 29, 2019 5:00 AM
Call Handling Hero® — Pam
Our November Call Handling Hero® Pam from our Houston office showed how seemingly unimportant details are actually quite the opposite. For this particular account, electronic responses usually include identifiers to assist dispatchers in delivering any pending messages. But, on this day, she noticed that the responses were oddly formatted.
Because she lacked the necessary information to deliver any of the pending messages, she contacted the on-call person. The on-call was surprised to hear from us, since we normally leave everything to the electronic responses, and mentioned that she hadn't received any messages. Pam pulled the number programmed in order for her to confirm, only to be surprised that it belonged to an employee who no longer worked for the company.
Pam immediately took steps to remedy the situation for the rest of the weekend and notified programming for all the changes needed. Everything was fixed and the customer was ecstatic. Good clients and great TSR's make A Better Answer the better answer.
Publish Date: January 22, 2019 5:00 AM
We love being a part of our communities. They welcome us and prop us up when we need help and become our neighbors. It’s also a place to give back and meet new people. At A Better Answer, we are part of many communities and have offices throughout Texas.
Being Part of the Community
We’ve been in Texas for nearly 50 years, with offices throughout the state. Needless to say, that comes with all of the southern charm, cowboy boots and football games you’d expect. Part of our culture is to give back to the communities we live in. We’ve had the fortune to work with several local charities, such as Habitat for Humanity.
For us, taking a little time to give back helps us remember those that have helped us throughout the years. It’s about doing what’s right to enhance our communities and aid our neighbors.
Why Community is So Important
Community is more than just giving back when the opportunity arises, it’s about being close to those around you. We want to build a neighborhood, locally or not, that helps each other in times of need. We believe in becoming part of our customers’ communities and ingraining ourselves in the nuances that come with it.
It’s about being friendly and personal and making everyone feel welcome. It’s that small town vibe, even in a big city like Houston.
We have the fortune of belonging to many different communities. Though each of our offices is part of their own regional communities we complement and enhance each client community with a team of specialists.
For us, community is a core part of making business personal and letting who we are shine through. It’s part of what makes us who we are, and why we love what we do. We are so happy to have the opportunity to be a part of each one.
Publish Date: December 13, 2018 5:00 AM
One of the best ways you can ensure your customers feel taken care of is answering the phone when they call. When you don’t do this, your customers will get upset and can leave you for your competitors who are there for them. The simple act of picking up the phone might not just make a happy customer, but could save your business from being taken over by brand snatchers. Take this as a cautionary tale, for spooky things might happen when you let the phone ring.
Steve Hale was an unassuming man with a nice business. He was kind to his customers, and they loved working with him. He had a roofing company called Hale Protection Roofers, and his business was booming. He had techs that drove cars running bids and crews in trucks. His office was bustling with a team of employees that he had known for years. They were busy.
Steve was never a superstitious man, but maybe he should have been. As he got busier, the phones started ringing. Then on one unfortunate day, it hailed from midnight to midnight, and the phone rang every minute. Steve’s roofs were good, but not that good. He knew he would need to start working on repairs. Steve’s phones were already ringing as the office opened, yet his techs were busy evaluating houses near the office and spreading outward, the construction crew was busy working on houses. Steve’s staff was overwhelmed, and yet they let the phones ring, he sent every available worker out into the field to help. Leaving customers wondering for days what would happen to their homes.
The next morning Steve was driving into work, and he saw one of his techs out evaluating a home, but his name was no longer on the truck. He waved, and the tech stared blankly at him, unrecognizing the man he’d known for a decade. Before long Steve reached the office. As he walked in, he greeted some of his crew as they got ready to go repair a roof and they walked right by him.
Steve thought maybe they didn’t notice him; they must have pulled a long shift. The day went on and everything went on as normal, yet the phones weren’t ringing.
The next day would be eye-opening for the man who let the phones ring. He tossed and turned all night, dreaming that the people he had been working with were almost not the same people. It was almost as if they had been replaced. He woke in a cold sweat and decided to head into the office.
He walked in the door and the usual bustle in the office stopped. Matt, his receptionist of years walked up and said, “Sir, can we help you find something? We are a little busy getting repair crews out to damaged homes, but we’ll be able to get with you in about ten minutes.”
“Matt! It’s me, Steve! How can you not remember me?” wailed Steve.
“I’m sorry sir, I’m so terribly sorry, have you been a customer with us before? Normally we try to remember every customer. Let me make it up to you.”
“This is MY company! Hale Protection Roofi…” Steve cut off as he looked at the sign.
It read All Weather Roofing. This wasn’t right, All Weather was his largest competitor. Steve knew this, but no one remembered him. As he screamed and ran through the office, tearing at everything he could, he found nothing. His office was different. His staff was the same.
You see, Steve had been brand snatched. By ignoring his customer service, he had let too many customers down and they turned to his competitor for help. Steve wanted to help them, but only had so much staff after an emergency. Since he sent his entire team on a repair mission, there wasn’t anyone available to answer the calls. His customers grew frustrated at first, then they worried. They decided to explore their options.
Don’t let your customers get brand snatched by ignoring customer service. It might seem easy to cut when the chips are down, but you need to act to keep customers happy. Just as Matt did, you should explain why your staff is busy and when they could help. That can go a long way when people can wait. Even if they may have to wait days for a roof repair, they probably expect that after a massive hailstorm.
Publish Date: October 30, 2018 5:00 AM
So Proud Of Our Accomplished Team!
Every month our Dallas location loves to celebrate the accomplishments, milestones, and birthdays of our team, recognizing their hard work and dedication. This month we had four great reasons to celebrate.
Hildie, our Customer Service Manager, is celebrating her 38th anniversary with A Better Answer and we could not be more proud to have her as a part of our team. She has worn numerous hats throughout her 38 years of service.
We are also celebrating Ariana and Jessica’s (not pictured) 11th year anniversary with ABA. Ariana is an Operations Leader, and Jessica is our Marketing Coordinator.
Last, we celebrated two wonderful birthdays — Michelle and Anaid. Michelle is our Senior Graveyard Operator and has been with ABA for six years. Anaid is our Senior Operator and has been with us for 14 years.
Employee recognition and culture is very important to us and the tenure of our employees shows it! Our team gathered together to recognize these wonderful employee’s and how hard they have worked and dedicated to our customers and yours!
Publish Date: September 12, 2018 5:00 AM
Habitat for Humanity believes that everyone, everywhere, should have a healthy, affordable place to call home. More than building homes, they believe in building communities, hope, and the opportunity for families to help themselves. They are a vital part of each community, whether we see that or not.
We were very fortunate to be able to take the time to help in our own way.
Thanks to the support of our employees and our CEO for matching employee donations 100%, A Better Answer was able to donate and deliver three truckloads of water to the Mckinney warehouse. We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of something bigger and give back to the community in which we live and work. Thank you Habitat for Humanity for allowing us to be a part of your amazing efforts!
If you would like to donate your time or supplies to Habitat for Humanity, you can visit find their website local to your area, like the one for Dallas. There you can volunteer, make a donation and more.
Publish Date: August 31, 2018 5:00 AM
Call Center - Basic Customer Service Solutions Over the Phone
What it is: A call center is something we all know about, but might not be able to define. The basic definition of a call center is a place to outsource your basic call needs such as:
- Information gathering
- Call handling from advertising
- Conference registrations
- Retail ordering
Call center reps are professional and can help your customers with easy tasks, offering customer service at any time of the day and sometimes in multiple languages.
A call center offers you 24/7 availability or backup for your own customer service after hours or during lunch breaks. The employees are reliable and you don’t need to worry about the staffing and training.
When it’s best suited for you: If you need to expand your ability to provide customers with the basic services they need while being cost-efficient. Call centers are best when your needs are more straightforward, complicated requests or urgent calls require expanded services such as an answering service.
Answering Service - Handles Complex Customer Service Needs Over the Phone
What it is: Answering services are an extension of your business and handle complex customer phone calls. Often these matters can be much more urgent than ones handled by a call center, these calls require empathy and an understanding of your business to find a solution, or to get the caller on the phone with the right person to find the solution to their need. Unlike a call center, operators for an answering service must handle decision making and are trained in your industry.
When it’s best suited for you: This service is great for complex businesses such as restaurants, medical and law offices. When your industry is more complex, training costs rise and the need for professional customer service staff is important. Answering services provide a cost-effective way to add a team of customer service representatives and handles the training and staffing for you. If your calling needs are more complicated than a call center, an answering service may be right for you.
Contact Center - Customer Service Through Multiple Digital Channels
What it is: A contact center still offers phone answering but takes it a step further by offering more ways to answer your customer service needs through:
- Social Media
- Live Web Chat
- And More
As customers are looking for more ways to interact with companies, contact centers are becoming important for those looking for fast responses across multiple channels. From answering simple requests through multiple channels to creating meaningful interactions that help build loyal customers, a contact center has you covered.
When it’s best suited for you: This is best for companies where customers want a lot of ways to contact, with enough demand it becomes difficult to keep up with all of the requests. Chains of restaurants, retail locations, and generally B2C companies with a large footprint are good candidates for a contact center as opposed to a call center. Once customer interaction becomes complicated an answering service is your best bet, where you need more dedicated answering staff to handle more complex and urgent interactions, where social media, chat and email won’t cut it.
Virtual Receptionist - an Off-Site Receptionist
What it is: A virtual receptionist is simply an off-site receptionist. This service is an efficient way to make sure that your customers aren’t calling in and having to leave you a message if there is no one available to answer the phone. It’s a cost-effective way to add another staff member to your team that already has the training to handle your services. Whether you need someone to take messages or want a live person to help ensure that the customer ends up on the phone with the right person, a virtual receptionist can help bolster your customer service.
When it’s best suited for you: If your customer service needs are basic, a virtual receptionist is right for you. They don’t replace a customer service representative, they put a more personal spin on your main (or only) business line. Virtual receptionists are great for small businesses and can be used in conjunction with a call center, answering service or contact center.
Chatting Services - Digital Chat Customer Service with Live Reps
What it is: Chatting services are ways to reach customers that can’t talk on the phone at the moment or prefer a different method of communication. Generally, chat services offer an efficient way to help your customers on-demand, it’s low commitment for them and is easy to use when multitasking. Chat services have taken many forms over the years, you can use them in-house or outsource to reps trained to help customers. Often chat services cover basic to complex tech support, sales inquiries, product questions and more.
When it’s best suited for you: Chat services are great for companies that create and support technical products in hardware, software and services. It’s a great way to answer questions customers may have if your product isn’t overly complicated, or requires a little more of an investment from your customers. You can help close sales, keep customers happy with support and guide customers to the right solutions for them.
The Growing Industry of Chatbots: Chat services are currently evolving thanks to new innovations in artificial intelligence. Chatbots offer automated chat services that learn over time. They come with a basic to sophisticated array of answers and solutions for your customers but will adapt the more they interact with your customers. When they don’t have the answers your customers need, they can transfer them to a live customer service rep. Chatbots are making it easier to add a chatting service to your website and one day it may be possible they can be automated for the majority of customer needs.
All of this is great information as you search for a customer service solution for your company. We at A Better Answer can help you with any of these solutions, and more.
Publish Date: August 29, 2018 5:00 AM
No matter the industry you are in, a great customer experience is vital to the success of your small business. There are enough challenges when growing a business without adding poor customer service to the mix.
These are five big reasons why customer service is so important to small businesses, and what it means to the future of your company.
1. Creates Retention and Builds Trust
Customers that feel they can come to your company and have a great experience are more likely to keep coming back. You can build trust with them by always offering a consistent experience.
The kicker is that building that trust takes time, but it can only take one instance to lose it. With enough great service, you can build some goodwill in case a mistake happens. Apple has spent years building up their reputation for fantastic service. They could make a mistake in one of their stores once, and you might be able to write it off. Imagine a company that has provided consistently poor customer service — they have an insurmountable task to rebuild trust.
Focus on starting with great customer service; the rewards are well worth the time and resource investment.
2. Service is a Differentiator
While customer service has always been a huge factor for the competitiveness of businesses, it’s become even more crucial since the 2008 recession. Companies that didn’t adapt and offer customers a great experience struggled, while those that went above and beyond (while still being smart about their profitability), were able to make it through the tough financial times and come out ahead.
You can see a live example of this in as odd a place as the American version of The Office. Dunder Mifflin was a struggling archaic idea of a company when the show started. They were a paper company in a paperless world. As the years moved on, and customer service DID become a significant differentiator, they began to bounce back due to their hands-on and personable approach. This is an excellent pop culture representation of customer service becoming a more influential differentiator for businesses and has the potential of ensuring your business stays afloat if your industry suddenly finds itself shrinking.
Great service helps you stand out from the myriad of competitors. By being the company to offer exceptional service, customers will start seeking you out. This can be very important if your market becomes oversaturated. Being the company that offers the same great products and services with the added benefit of customer service can help when you end up against too many competitors.
3. Customer Referrals are Vital to Small Businesses
Small businesses and tight budgets go hand-in-hand. Referrals from customers that are evangelists help small companies continue to grow, even when their sales team is at its bandwidth, and the marketing budget is spent.
Referral business is low cost to companies and can have a very successful close rate. Frequently referrals enter your sales pipeline with higher trust. In a recent Nielson survey, they found that 83% of people trust recommendations for products and services from people they know. Social media is spreading the word of favorable product recommendations faster than ever, and Facebook even has a special post style to ask for recommendations.
Your customer service becomes a catalyst for creating happy clients that are willing to recommend your company to their friends and colleagues.
4. Increases Opportunities to Upsell
Upselling customers is a vital part of growing a small business, in part because the cost of acquiring new customers is far higher than retaining them. This means that if you have products and services that can be expanded upon, you should be focusing some of your sales on your existing customers.
Closing a sale that has been poisoned by a bad customer experience can be near impossible, though. Customer service directly supports your sales team. If existing customers can’t get the right information on a call, or feel they are not important, they’ll move on to a competitor before long.
Upselling customers increases your profitability and allows you to focus more of your budget and resources to expand your business.
5. Can Have a Meaningful Impact on Your Culture
A culture of customer service starts with leadership and can have a direct impact on the happiness of your employees. If your customer service isn’t valued and leads to frustrated clients, your team has to deal with the fallout. A culture of customer service can show your team that you care about them and your customers. It leads to more pleasant engagements and creates an empowered team who feel they can go above and beyond for their customers. This directly impacts the growth of the company.
In fact, companies that are growing are 21% more likely to emphasize customer service.
Small Company, Big Service
Customer service in a small company has a more substantial impact than at a big company. The specialists giving your customers a great experience can share their triumphs readily, and you can see and feel the successes. This gives you a big customer service advantage and is why customer experience should be top of mind for small businesses.
Publish Date: July 17, 2018 5:00 AM