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Whether you’re a customer service director, manager, or representative, reading a few good words of wisdom always seems to help inspire your next course of action. Especially when those words are from veteran leaders, who have said some amazing things about how to interact with your customers, and how to motivate you and your team to succeed.
Let’s take a moment to read through our picks of the 5 most useful quotes for customer service professionals:
1. Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is a well-known investor and philanthropist. He founded the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies. His philosophy was to always exceed customer expectations in surprising ways. He says,
The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.
2. William Davidow is a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist, philanthropist and author. For many years, he was senior VP at Intel, where he was responsible for the development and design of the Intel microchip. William’s quote is explaining the importance of execution. He says,
The longer you wait, the harder it is to produce outstanding customer service.
3. Have you ever experienced a positive outcome from a customer service problem, where perhaps you didn’t recall exactly what happened, but you do remember that positive feeling at the end? That’s the premise of Maya Angelou’s quote. Maya was an American poet and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, spanning over 50 years. She says,
People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.
4. One tip that we often tell customer service professionals is that you need to understand the customer’s problem completely, before you can attempt to fix it. Stephen Covey solidifies that statement. Stephen is an American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker. His most popular book was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He says,
Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.
5. Steven Paul Jobs was an American entrepreneur, businessman, and inventor. He was the chairman, the chief executive officer, and a co-founder of Apple Inc. His quotes have always been incredibly inspirational. This one is my favorite because it forces companies to go beyond just serving customers, but making an actual effort to truly understand their needs. He says,
Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.
Publish Date: August 10, 2017 5:00 AM
As with any relationship, there are always ups and downs; good days and bad days. Sometimes you do things that can be forgiven (we all make mistakes right?), and some people are more forgiving than others. But we all have a breaking point, and sometimes, like with human relationships, businesses can also take loyal customers for granted, making mistakes so bad that they lose them forever. In fact, these incidents usually come as a surprise since 80% of defecting customers describe themselves as “satisfied” or “very satisfied” just before they leave! (We’ve all been there, pretending to be happy when we’re afraid to tell someone when they are treating us poorly.)
It’s important then for companies to be proactive about not making the mistakes that put customers over the edge, or they may never ever see them again, like ever.
Don’t get blindsided by customer break-ups; know the 5 most popular reasons why customers stop doing business with you for good:
#5 Long Hold Times
A report released this month by Loyalty360 said that 70% of customers are still frustrated by long wait times and have trouble reaching a customer service agent. Even today customers rely on the telephone to resolve “mission critical” issues, which is why long hold times are such a major issue for customers looking for immediate support. If you want to lose customers, the best way to do it is keeping them on hold.
#4 Negative Experience on Digital Channels
In the same study by Loyalty360, 57% of consumers say they frequently have trouble finding answers on a company’s website while 25% never even receive a response when they contact a company through social media. Digital channels are only growing in popularity, therefore it is integral that a company put effort into perfecting this experience by making information easy to access, and having an instant response if the answer can’t be located.
#3 Having to Exert More Effort Than the Business
Customers are four times more likely to use a company less frequently, or stop doing business with the company altogether, when they perceive that they have to put more effort into resolving an issue than a company does. Customer Effort Score (CES) is a relatively new way to measure customer satisfaction, but is crucial to understanding true happiness and loyalty. Read Fonolo’s latest whitepaper, The Contact Center Playbook for Improving Customer Satisfaction, to learn more about measuring CES.
#2 Having to Repeat Things Over Again
64% of consumers report being frustrated when asked to repeat their information to customer service representatives multiple times. This goes hand in hand with the problem of having to put in too much effort. When a customer is being passed around from agent-to-agent – having to guide each agent through their issue over and over again – inevitably they will feel ignored and unimportant; crucial elements to any long-term happy relationship.
#1 Lack of Empathy for Customers
The truth is, customers understand that mistakes happen. However, 70% of customers leave a company because of poor service, which is usually attributed to a customer service person, and 60% of all customers stop dealing with a company because of what they perceive as indifference on the part of the CSR. Therefore, almost every mistake CAN be fixed with enough care and empathy on the part of your contact center agents. The old saying, “the customer is always right” might not be true but in situations where a mistake IS made, it’s best to go above and beyond to make good with loyal customers.
Publish Date: August 8, 2017 5:00 AM
We’ve all had our share of amazing customer service experiences, and we can attest that when a company goes above and beyond the call of duty we not only share those experiences, we also become loyal customers. Sometimes these stories don’t get the attention they deserve. In fact, it’s more common that the stories we do hear about are the ones where customers are unhappy because of a bad experience. It’s not fair that we constantly have to shame brands. Let’s take a moment to share 5 amazing acts of kindness from well-known brands across a number of industries.
Here are 5 tear-jerking customer experience stories for you to enjoy.
Because Family Means Everything
It’s not uncommon for airlines to be the focus of criticism: delayed flights, poor customer service, costly airfares, etc. But this time we’re going to honour one such airline that did something amazing to help a passenger.
Kerry Drake was on a mission to get to Lubbock, Texas as soon as humanly possible. Unfortunately his mother was dying and he knew he only had a short amount of time to get to the hospital and say goodbye. To get to Texas, the San Francisco resident booked a United Airlines flight, with only 40 minutes between connecting flights. When his first flight was delayed Drake knew he would miss his connecting flight to Lubbock; the last flight of the day. A flight attendant became aware of the situation and got his connecting flight information to the captain. The captain had radioed ahead about Drake’s situation, and the Lubbock crew had delayed departure to get him on board.
Drake was overwhelmed with emotion. He made it to the hospital in time to see his mother. “Around 4 a.m. she had a real moment of coherence, a last rally, although we didn’t know it at the time. It was the last time.”
She died that next morning.
When Life Calls for an Umbrella
Wendy’s is a fast-food establishment known for its quality value in ingredients, preparation, and service. This story shows that Wendy’s employees really understand how to go the extra mile to service patrons.
This picture was taken by a Wendy’s customer who was staying in his car to keep dry during a complete downpour. Moments later he saw an older gentleman walk out of the restaurant and towards the parking lot, but what melted his heart was watching a Wendy’s employee remove an umbrella from a nearby table to keep the man dry. I think Dave Thomas would be proud of this moment. The world is a better place because of people like this. Kudos to Wendy’s for hiring A+ employees.
60+ Years in the Making
At 14 years old Dave Bell went out to buy his favourite salty snack, Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll. When Dave took a bite he felt something in his mouth that was out of the ordinary. He decided to write a letter of complaint to Pearson’s Candy Company and accompanied the letter with the offending material. He was hoping he could get a free candy bar from the complaint, but instead he received a simple letter of apology saying, “We are alarmed over your letter. We are reasonably sure the above mentioned is a twig from our peanut vine.”
Sixty years later, 74-year old Bell stumbled upon the letter and emailed the candy company for another shot at getting free candy. It took more than 60 years, but this Minnesota man finally got a taste of victory. Pearson sent Bell a package of several candy bars, including a five-pound salted nut roll. Pearson’s CEO Michael Keller said, “His claim was totally legitimate and we decided to send him a little bit of free product to make good on what we missed 61 years ago.”
Aloha Mr. Teddy Bear
At first sight, this may just look like a teddy bear ready to hula, but if you read on you’ll see that’s there’s more to this story. A Netbook CSR received a call from an elderly woman whose computer wasn’t working. She had already suffered two strokes and her computer was the only way for her to communicate with her daughter and son-in-law who lived in Hawaii. The rep explained that the Netbook would have to be mailed in for repairs and that it would take a while for the computer to be returned. The elderly woman began to cry, so the rep decided it was time to do more. The CSR sent the woman a new Netbook and even helped her set up passwords and account names, and downloaded Skype so she could immediately resume communication with her family.
After a few months the rep had forgotten about the service encounter, but one day she received a teddy bear with a hula skirt, along with a note thanking her for all she had done.
A Blissfully Sound Sleep
Have you ever gone to a hotel and really wanted to keep the robe, or pillow, or maybe even the duvet. Sometimes hotels just have the best stuff.
Christina McMenemy can relate to this feeling. As a loyal customer to Gaylord Opryland she became completely enthralled with their alarm clock – yes, that’s right. The alarm clock played light music, similar to that of a spa, and it gave McMenemy some of the best sleeps of her life. For three years McMenemy tried to find the exact model clock from her hotel room, but had no luck. McMenemy decided to message the company’s Twitter page during her most recent trip to Opryland. Gaylord responded saying that their version of the clock was not available to the public. But upon returning to her room she was surprised to find not one but two spa clocks and a letter with her name on it. I don’t think McMenemy will be staying at any other hotel in the future.
Publish Date: August 3, 2017 5:00 AM
In this handy playbook, contact center leaders will learn the ins and outs of improving customer satisfaction, otherwise known as CSat. This guide will discuss important metrics to consider when measuring satisfaction, and how to achieve customer happiness and retention along the way.
How Do CSat, NPS and CES Work Together?
While both CSAT and NPS are measurements of customer sentiment, they have very different functions. NPS has a standardized process and measurement trademarked, while CSat is a more general concept. The second divergence is in what the two metrics measure. NPS is typically said to be a measurement of customer loyalty to a brand. By contrast, CSat scores are strictly a measurement of customer happiness.
When comparing the NPS and CES score, research shows that these scores correlate with one another: customers who indicate they have to make little effort to fix a problem, also tend to give a high NPS. However, it is still worth using both measurements together. NPS gives you a picture of your overall customer satisfaction and retention, while CES specifically indicates how you perform in handling customer issues.
The bottom-line: While CSat tells you how happy customers are, NPS measures customer loyalty, and CES helps you understand where grievances lie. Not all happy customers are loyal, and not all loyal customers are happy. Therefore, CSat, NPS, and CES are best used together to achieve an accurate understanding of your customers and predict long-term business needs.
6 Foolproof Ways to Improve Customer Satisfaction
1. Understanding Industry Benchmarks (And Your Own)
Contact center managers have a plethora of metrics to choose from, as well as key performance indicators (KPIs). With proper benchmarking, you can determine just how well your contact center stacks up against your competition. There are a few organizations that provide year-round reports with benchmarks and metrics to follow for the contact center space, including ContactBabel, Dimension Data, and Benchmark Portal. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these reports so that your center has a goal to focus on. Once you have a best practice set, your center can set internal benchmarks to improve on month-after-month.
Although 80% of organizations use CSat scores to measure the customer experience, there are a number of other metrics that go beyond surveys and questionnaires when it comes to gauging CX. Here are a few to consider:
- Tracking First Call Resolution (FCR) ensures that you are satisfying customers in the shortest amount of time, without the need for any follow-up.
- Average Wait Time (AWT) tracks how long it takes for customers to connect with an agent who can address their needs.
- Abandonment Rate measures how long a customer will wait on hold before hanging up. A high call abandonment rate is a sign of caller frustration, so if this is an issue, make sure you consider a call-back solution.
This infographic shows some key industry benchmarks to key an eye on:
2. Making the Most of Customer Feedback
Asking for feedback is nothing new, but many organizations still aren’t making the most out of their customer surveys. Before you begin collecting feedback from customers, you need to make sure you have clearly defined goals. If you don’t understand the objective at hand, it’s difficult to use the data in a meaningful way.
Once the objective is clear, the next obstacle is finding the right time to ask for feedback. Experts say the best time to collect feedback is shortly after a customer interaction, since you’ll get the most from a customer when the information is fresh in their mind. At the same time, if your customer is new to your product/service you may need to give them more time. Try placing your customers in segments and executing your survey strategy as it applies to each group.
The final obstacle is testing! For every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent, so make sure you test different times, languages, survey lengths, etc. Even consider testing a survey with a giveaway – maybe this will generate more quantity (just keep in mind that quality can be a concern in this case). If people are completing a questionnaire just to receive the gift, you can bet that their answers won’t be a true reflection of their experience. In any event, test, test, test, and determine what works best for your organization.
Looking to organizations that specialize in customer feedback is another great way of overcoming these obstacles. Check out SQM group, the contact center industry leader for measuring, benchmarking, and improving CX. SQM offers five customer surveying methods (phone, email, IVR, online and face-to-face) that provide valuable insights for customers.
3. Reducing Customer Effort
Let’s dive more into customer effort. Customer Effort was first mentioned in the October 2010 Harvard Business Review article “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers”. Although CSat and NPS are great measures of customer loyalty, they fail to address the overall customer experience, specifically the effort put forth by a consumer. In order to manage this aspect of the customer experience, it’s best for companies to develop a program that measures effort, and identifies points of friction so those fail points can be improved. Simply put, processes and procedures that lead to greater customer effort must be streamlined.
Customer effort can be an issue on any channel. Consider these scenarios:
- How many times a customer has to repeat themselves on your IVR
- How difficult it is for a customer to find an answer on self-service
- How many fields are required for completion in submitting a service inquiry
- How difficult it is to communicate with a chat agent
All of these can add to customer effort and therefore make the customer experience less enjoyable. When done correctly, surveys can help to establish those points of friction. Then, using customer journey mapping, you can illustrate a customer’s interaction with your business and identify the key actions required to complete a task, along with the effort used. The tasks with the most effort should be streamlined.
Don’t miss the last 3 tips! Download the full report below.
Publish Date: July 27, 2017 5:00 AM
A recent report discussing the 2017 customer service benchmark researched 500 companies across the globe. It stated that 41% of companies did not respond to a customer service request, 90% of companies did not acknowledge an email had been received (An automated email confirming receipt of an inquiry.) and, 99% of companies did not follow up with customers (Post service follow up to ensure customer satisfaction). Yet, 56% of global consumers say they have higher expectations for customer service now than just one year ago, and that number jumps to 68% for 18 – 34 year-olds. So to sum up, customers have higher expectations and companies are not delivering.
When everyone’s battling to win the same customers, leaders should be scrambling to think of new and improved ways of delivering service. Here are 6 approaches that will add value to the service you deliver.
1. Personalization Can Build Rapport
According to the 2016 Microsoft State of Global Customer Service Report, 72% of customers now expect agents to know their contact information, product details, and service history as soon as they engage with a brand. With technology and big data, companies can easily understand a customer’s likes, dislikes, preferences, and buying patterns. Organizations that use this data properly can give their customers a better and more personalized experience, outshining the competition.
2. Focus on Keeping Agents Happy
According to Contact Center Pipeline agent attrition is a top challenge. It’s easy to overlook just how tough this job is, CSRs often have to choose between conflicting priorities such as keeping handle times low, while creating a positive customer experience. Companies need to find more ways to increase agent engagement, improve coaching, and motivate employees. Remember, if agents aren’t happy, customers won’t be happy either.
3. Understanding Customer Effort Score
In its simplest terms, customer effort is known as the amount of effort a customer must use in order to do business with, or get support from an organization. In order to manage this aspect of the customer experience, it’s best for companies to develop a program that measures effort, and identifies points of friction so those fail points can be improved. Simply put, processes and procedures that lead to greater customer effort must be streamlined.
4. Consider a Call-Back Solution for Your Call Center
Today’s consumers expect choice. Rather than forcing customers to simply wait on hold, your support center should be offering a call-back during periods of long queue times. Chances are if your call center doesn’t offer this feature, it’s due to old call center infrastructure which doesn’t allow the use of a modern call-back solution. What you might not realize is that, even though your call center is on a legacy platform, you can still utilize the benefits of today’s call-back technology. Fonolo, for example, is compatible with all major call center infrastructure vendors (Avaya, Genesys, Cisco, etc.) as well as cloud-based call center offerings.
5. Consider Facebook for Business
As of the first quarter of 2017, Facebook had 1.94 billion monthly active users. Additionally, more than 2 billion messages are sent between people and businesses every month on Facebook Messenger. Facebook’s head of Messaging, David Marcus, believes that commerce is conversational and that it’s more natural for businesses to converse with customers rather than to broadcast to them. Of course, Facebook Messenger fits the bill. The question I pose is that if your customers are on Facebook, then why aren’t you?
6. A Different, Yet Old Way to Say Thanks
It sounds simple, but there are ways to go beyond just a simple, “Thanks for contacting us today,” message. In fact, since technology has made the handwritten note somewhat of a lost art, taking this approach can leave an even larger impact.
California based tech company, Jawbone, gives us a great example to use. Jawbone created a revolutionary fitness tracking system and one of their customers must have reached out for support. Following this interaction, Jawbone sent a personal letter to the customer. Nicely done @Jawbone!
Dear every company that cares about its customer service: this is how you do it. Bravo, @Jawbone. pic.twitter.com/liC4w7SzHA
— Erin Fors (@forsie) May 31, 2013
Publish Date: July 19, 2017 5:00 AM
We’re now 6 months into the largest bankruptcy event in the history of the call center industry.
Avaya filed for Chapter 11 protection in January. The negotiations among the many stakeholders have happened behind closed doors so it’s hard to assess where we are along the timeline.
Only one significant event has been visible to the public so far: In March, Avaya agreed to sell its networking business to Extreme Networks for $100 million. That move was received positively by analysts and commentators.
But the big question remains: Are we a month away from a resolution? A year? No one knows. As the bankruptcy continues, the patience of partners, analysts and customers wears down. Each day is also another opportunity for competitors to pick away at Avaya’s customers.
Are We There Yet?
Soon after the bankruptcy was announced in January, I asked the question Will Avaya’s Chapter 11 be like Aspect’s or like Nortel’s. Obviously, Avaya is hoping to be closer to Aspect’s 5 month process, rather than Nortel’s decade-long slog. Avaya’s corporate treasurer gave a good explanation of why their bankruptcy is significantly different from Aspect’s, in this interview with Network World.
Avaya Making Good Progress During the Bankruptcy
In February, Avaya put on a great conference in Vegas. When I reviewed the event (Avaya Did Good with their Spotlight Moment This Week) I said, “they made good use of a unique moment in their history…” and came away cautiously optimistic.
They’ve followed that up with some progress on the product front. They announced a BPO-focussed product earlier in the year and then, just last week, introduced Customer Engagement Cloud.
Customer Engagement Cloud takes their “next-generation” contact center, Oceana, and puts it in a hybrid architecture (a combination of cloud and on-premise deployment). By the way, we’re big fans of the hybrid concept – we use it all the time for our banking and healthcare clients.
Karen Hardy, VP of Product Marketing, described it this way to No Jitter:
If a customer chooses to deploy in a virtualized infrastructure on premises, they can select a subscription for that environment. They can take it in a managed service. We have several deployments going into production leveraging Amazon Web Services, so where they get the benefit of taking a pure cloud infrastructure but the private application is made available. So, a lot more opportunity to be able to take advantage of the elasticity and on-demand infrastructure…
A Rare Sour Note
Avaya has done a good job of keeping its ecosystem partners “on message”. When I ask distributors and resellers about the impact of the bankruptcy, I never get anything other than platitudes. The only thing close to a negative word came from the CEO of mega-sized distributor ScanSource. As reported in CRN:
“CEO Mike Baur said some of Avaya’s large enterprise customers have delayed upgrade and expansion decisions due to the vendor’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing… so [ScanSource] saw a decline in Avaya-related sales.”
I think it’s reasonable to guess other resellers are seeing a similar impact, even if they don’t want to say anything publically. And remember that 80% of Avaya’s revenue came through resellers.
But the World isn’t Standing Still
Avaya is working hard to keep its momentum despite the shroud of Chapter 11. But its competitors aren’t standing still either. In just 6 months since the bankruptcy, consider this short list of news items:
- Amazon has jumped into the call center game with Connect. This is a chilling announcement given that many other cloud-based call centers use Amazon’s AWS as their infrastructure. If you think that selling call center service is strangely peripheral to Amazon’s core business, read Why Amazon is Eating the World, it’s a terrific write-up by @zackkanter.
- Talkdesk is making strong gains. They launched an impressive partner program with a true “app store”, i.e. one-click install plus unified monthly-billing. We’ll definitely be writing more about that. (Wink wink.)
- Genesys continues to digest its acquisition of InIn, and announced a major initiative in AI called “Kate”.
- Five9 finished a major revamp of their platform, adopting the new approach of “microservices”. See Five9 Preps for Digital Era.
- Twilio is gaining ground as an alternative to “traditional” vendors. Banking giant ING recently switched from an Avaya call center to a system built internally using Twilio APIs. Start at the 9 minute mark in this video for more.
So, even if its bankruptcy reaches a positive and speedy conclusion, Avaya still faces a call center landscape that has more options for customers than ever before.
Publish Date: July 18, 2017 5:00 AM
From bloggers, to analysts, to contact center publications, there are a lot of distinct voices discussing the latest best practices and trends in the call center space. With so many influencers to follow, how do you pick the ones that will add the most value to your Twitter stream? Fonolo is here to help. These 16 tweeters crank out quality content that are sure to provide insight into the contact center industry.
While we definitely didn’t have room to include all of our favourite folks and organizations, we figured this would be an optimal list to get you started. If you value the content from an individual or organization on Twitter, make a point to show appreciation by retweeting or “liking” their posts.
Congratulations to the 16 who were selected!
Publish Date: July 12, 2017 5:00 AM
The “chat” style of communication, where two parties type text back-and-forth, is wildly popular with consumers. Companies are eager to embrace this popularity because A) it’s smart to communicate in a way your customers like and B) it’s less costly than call center agents.
Facebook, Twitter and, as of last month, Apple are all happy to provide a platform for that kind of business-to-consumer chat to take place. (We’re going to talk about Apple’s new offering in our live panel discussion next week. Be sure to tune in and direct questions to our panel of industry experts.)
These platforms are free for any company to use. But is there a catch? More precisely: Is the agenda of these for-profit platforms perfectly aligned with a company that wants to use them as a channel to talk to customers? Read on for discussion of that question and two related ones.
The Onboarding Problem: Apple’s Silver Bullet?
The fact that chat interactions can happen on several different channels (the company’s website, SMS, Twitter, Messenger, etc.) is both a strength and a weakness. It’s a weakness because: How does a customer find out if chat is available for a particular company and how to start a conversation? That’s the “chat onboarding” problem.
On this front, Apple’s Business Chat product has an unfair advantage: By integrating with Maps, Safari, Spotlight and Siri, it may have a definitive solution to the onboarding problem.
Apple does have a handicap, relative to Facebook and Twitter, which is that it’s limited to iPhone/iPad/Mac users. But this may not be a handicap at all. That demographic is concentrated in the US and among higher-income people which means it is, broadly speaking, the most interesting to the Fortune 500.
For more, I highly recommend this post by Brian Roemmele, who argues that this launch is “the most important iOS feature since Siri.”
Refer to slide 40:
The Dangers of an Unwritten Partnership
This idea of a “shared” channel is new to the world of customer service. For the last few decades, customer service was dominated by phone and email which were both channels that the company “owned”. The conversations were delivered by a phone company or ISP, respectively, both of which get paid for the “traffic” and act as “neutral” platforms.
Note the difference with messaging. When Company X uses say, Apple Business Chat, to converse with a customer, there is no fee paid to Apple. There is no vendor relationship there, instead there’s an unwritten partnership happening between Apple and Company X. Are both sides clear about what they expect from each other?
Is Apple, Facebook or Twitter (or any other platform) committed to being “neutral” the way the phone system is? For an example of how this can go wrong, look at the recent dust-up between China’s chat behemoth WeChat and Uber. WeChat was blocking Uber in order to help a rival ride-sharing company; one which is an investee of WeChat’s parent, TenCent. Consider all the business interests that Apple or Facebook have, and then think about all the ways a company could end up in an awkward situation. To be clear – there’s no evidence of any wrong-doing or ill-intention, but we would be foolish not to keep this angle in mind.
For more detail on this, including the fuzzy difference between “chat” and “messaging” see https://fonolo.com/blog/2016/01/is-messaging-the-messiah-for-customer-service/
The Bigger Picture of Conversational Commerce
Finally, let’s zoom way way out for a “big picture” question. Really it’s the big picture question for customer service: How are companies and customers going to communicate in the future?
For a while we thought mobile apps were going to be the new conduit. But then app fatigue became a limiting factor. Then we looked to Chin and saw WeChat’s total domination and thought, “Who’s going to be the WeChat of the West?”
Then we got our “meta-assistants” like Siri, Cortana and Alexa – which started on smart phones and then migrated to desktop PCs and hot-selling stand-alone appliances – and it seems that will be the dominant model. (Apple’s Business Chat will certainly give Siri a boost in this race.)
Whichever model wins, there will be an impact on other forms of communication – in-store interactions, phone calls to call centers, email, mobile apps. And that’s going to keep the customer service space interesting for a long time!
Publish Date: July 11, 2017 5:00 AM
What does customer service mean to you? One might think the answer to that question is universal, but that’s not necessarily the case. People will define customer service in different ways. A retailer might think it means ensuring customers quickly find what they need online or in-store, and a financial institution might think it means ensuring that they respond to customers in a timely fashion. Since Fonolo is a solution built for the contact center space, I started to think about what customer service means to a call center agent. The first thing that came to mind was handling a difficult customer. For a CSR to be successful they have to understand how to deliver customer service in the most challenging of situations – with an irate customer.
To make things easier, we’ve compiled some tips for handling difficult customers. Here they are in no specific order.
Tip #1 – Don’t Get Caught Up In Emotion
The most effective way to start calming down an unhappy customer is to just let them vent. Remember, if a customer is angry it’s not something to be taken personally. It’s important that reps are able to distance themselves from a customer’s anger so they can listen and acknowledge the complaint.
Tip #2 – Repeat the Problem and Apologize
Imagine yourself in a situation where you’re the one who’s angry. The most important thing is to make sure you’re understood. If an agent repeats the facts and apologizes with empathy, an irate customer is sure to calm down. Do this in a way that is sincere so the customer knows you care.
Tip #3 – Offer them Something of Value
If you don’t have the authority to do this yourself, take the initiative to ask a supervisor. It’s important to offer something that allows the customer to get back to a happy place, but make sure it’s valuable to them. If they plan to continue using your product or services, offer them a discount off their next bill or a complimentary accessory to their product. Even better, give them some choice! Offer them 3 complimentary gifts and let them choose what they like best.
We hope these tips and tricks help your call center overcome the challenge of irate customers! Check out our latest infographic on the “Anatomy of a Successful Contact Center Manager” for more insightful advice.
Publish Date: July 6, 2017 5:00 AM
Every quarter we head on over to onholdwith.com and countdown which companies are being called out by the customer service Twitter police (aka consumers) for long hold times. You can view the results from last quarter here, and do some of your own comparing and contrasting from this quarter’s offenders.
In just a quick glance, it’s not too hard to tell which organizations have worked hard to improve hold times over the last few months, while others continue to fail time and time again. If we could place bets, we suspect some of these reoccurring offenders still haven’t nailed down the whole “call-back” thing yet.
Stay tuned as we travel down the road to our final year-end countdown.
Publish Date: July 5, 2017 5:00 AM
As a call center manager, have you ever talked about deploying a call-back solution? If so, you have likely discussed the types of call-back options available to you. Some have the feature built in to their existing call center platform, or can have it added through their software provider while others – who are looking for a more robust solution – typically turn to a third-party vendor. Regardless of the approach, there are two types of call-back methodologies in the market, and oftentimes the call center manager doesn’t realize the vast differences between the two. Before we get into that, let’s talk a bit about call-backs for those of you who are new to the idea.
What a Call-Back Solution Can Do for Your Call Center
Call-backs offer your customers an alternative to waiting on hold, allowing them to keep their place in line without being on the phone. When implemented correctly, call-backs deliver benefits to both callers and businesses alike – they can mitigate spikes in call volume, lower abandonment rates, and improve the customer experience. However, a poorly executed call-back strategy can put undue stress on the call center, frustrating customers in the process.
The Two Types of Call-Back Methodologies
A call-back solution often uses one of two types of methodologies:
- Call-the-customer-first (relies on algorithms)
- Call-the-agent-first (does not rely on algorithms)
How Call-Back Algorithms Can Fail You
Many technologies employ a “call-the-customer-first” approach, where customers receive an automated call-back before an agent is available, forcing them to wait on hold again. These technologies rely on algorithms to determine when a customer should be called back, which requires accurate data on staffing levels, call volumes, hold times, handle times, and other variables that change in real-time. Some algorithms simply calculate the estimated wait time for calling a customer back, while others can be more complex.
Under ideal conditions, accurately predicting wait times is a tough endeavor, and in an environment where staffing levels and call volumes rapidly fluctuate, or where skill-based routing is being used, it’s notoriously more difficult.
When call-back algorithms are incorrect, customers are called back at the wrong time which creates inefficiencies in the call center.
- Call-backs that occur too early: Customers are called back and placed on hold long before an agent is free. This is a surefire way to frustrate customers who have specifically asked not to wait on hold.
- Call-backs that occur too late: Agents are free to take calls, yet call-backs are queued for a later time, when volumes may be high again. This negates the ability to smooth-out spikes in call volume, a key benefit of using call-backs.
Call-Backs that Don’t Rely on an Algorithm
A call-back solution, like Fonolo, that employs a “call-the-agent-first” approach will actually wait for an agent before calling your customer back. This approach doesn’t simply guess when to call your customers back, they actually hold their place in line, something that increases customer satisfaction while reducing costs. When your customer answers the phone, a live agent will already be on the line!
Read this datasheet for more about call-back algorithms.
Publish Date: June 29, 2017 5:00 AM
Recently, Shai Berger, CEO of Fonolo had the pleasure of speaking with former model turned entrepreneur, Kathy Ireland, on Worldwide Business. The interview aired on FOX Business Network and Bloomberg International, and gave Fonolo the opportunity to share how it’s revolutionary technology is fixing the problem of waiting on hold. The company has helped to alleviate some of the most universal challenges in the contact center, such as: reducing abandonment rates, smoothing out spikes in call volume, and lowering operating costs. In turn, Fonolo’s solutions have transformed the customer experience and the way many call centers do business today.
The segment also includes Fonolo customer, and this year’s Customer Experience Excellence Award Winner, Nutrisystem, and the success they’ve experienced using Fonolo call-backs.
“Our customers really appreciate the fact that we will virtually hold their place in line and call them back as soon as it’s their time to speak with an agent. We’ve even heard the customers praising the solution to our agents,” revealed Michael Volensky, Director of Operational Excellence & Support for Nutrisystem.
Watch the interview below to hear the full success story, and how Fonolo helps improve the customer experience for call centers of all sizes:
You can also read Nutrisystem’s complete case study here.
Publish Date: June 28, 2017 5:00 AM
Almost every contact center has to develop a strategy to deal with spikes in call volume. For some, spikes are a regular part of their traffic pattern. For others, spikes are unpredictable. Either way, the approach you take to deal with having more calls than you can handle says a lot about your company and – more importantly – sends a strong message to your customers.
We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the best the way to deal with spikes (hint: automated call-backs). That’s not the only solution though! You can, for example, increase you staff, or divert more calls to self-service options. However, with all the different strategies you can consider, one that is always wrong is sending callers to voicemail.
What’s the Difference Between Voicemails and an Automated Call-Back?
One might think that allowing callers to leave a message and then calling them back is an acceptable form of a “call-back solution”. But the main difference is that a proper call-back system keeps the customer’s place in line (aka “virtual queuing”) and automatically connects the customer and the agent at the right time. The voicemail approach has a number of flaws that makes it more damaging than you might think. In fact, you’re better off just to leave callers on hold! Here are five reasons you’re “gonna regret” sending callers to voicemail.
Flaw #1: You’re Gonna Mess-Up Your Scheduling
If callers are going to leave messages in a voicemail system, someone has to take the time to listen to those messages and call the customer back. How is this going to fit in to your workforce management system? Some call centers make it part of an outbound calling campaign and “blend” it in with inbound traffic. The flaw there is that the priority of outbound campaigns is usually lower than handling inbound calls, and that priority can vary over time. A caller who requested a call-back should have the same priority level as any other inbound caller. If callers worry that the call-back option will not get them the same treatment they simply won’t use it.
Flaw #2: You’re Gonna Get Multiple Calls From the Same Person
What happens when a frustrated customer calls in multiple times and leaves multiple voicemails? There is no easy way to reconcile these messages into one “case”. So you might have more than one agent who will end up wasting time with duplicate effort. Even worse, that customer may have called in later, spoken to an agent, and had the issue resolved. Yet the voicemail is still sitting on your system. If that call-back is made, you’re wasting both the agent’s and the customer’s time!
Flaw #3: You’re Gonna Leave Your Callers in the Dark
Callers tell us sometimes that they are reluctant to accept offers of a call-back because they are skeptical that their wait time will really be the same as if they had stayed on hold. Hearing a prompt for a voicemail sends exactly the wrong message because people will associate this with the experience in their personal life. For example, “They’ll return my call when they get around to it.” Instead, your call center should strive to instill confidence that call-backs are honored and that the caller’s place in line really is held in the queue.
Flaw #4: You’re Gonna Mess Up Your Metrics
How will voicemails impact your key metrics? For example, what is the proper ASA for such a call? How does this two-piece interaction impact the First Call Resolution (FCR) average? A proper call-back system will keep your metrics “true” by combining the original call with its associated outbound call, so that they are seen as one transaction.
Flaw #5: You’re Gonna Mess Up Your Call-Attached Data
Sending a caller to voicemail does an “end-run” around any CTI system that you may have installed. Agents will not have the context for the call, or the screen-pop. So not only did the customer have to wait for a delayed call, the call performance was sub-par when it did happen. If you have invested in a CTI system, don’t sabotage it in this way.
In Conclusion – Just Say No!
It may seem like an “easy out” to simply divert excess traffic to voicemail, but this is ultimately detrimental to your brand, customer satisfaction, and call center performance. Even the best service providers experience periods of peak volume in their call center. When that happens, hold times inevitably go up which leads to lower customer satisfaction (CSAT), higher abandon rates, and higher telecom costs. If long hold-times become a big problem, contact centers basically have two choices: increase staff or offer call-backs.
Publish Date: June 27, 2017 5:00 AM
The “selfie” has become an essential part of internet culture today. You’re bound to find at least one selfie on virtually everyone’s social profile. Although many studies have linked social media to depression, taking a selfie has actually been reported to do the opposite. In fact, a study by the University of California, Irvine reported that selfies, if done correctly, can actually help boost self-confidence.
So, how can your call center use #NationalSelfieDay to improve office morale and company culture?
Turns out, the secret ingredient to the ultimate selfie is a smile! Coincidentally, we wrote about the power of a smile last week on #SmilePowerDay, so #NationalSelfieDay is another great reason to shine those pearly whites and capture it on camera. However, in order to get the true health benefits of the “smiling selfie” your smile must be genuine!
In the study mentioned earlier, people noted that they only felt positive selfie side effects when they weren’t faking or forcing a smile, and taking photos with a natural smile got easier by the end of the study. Additionally, looking at photos of other people smiling also had a super-positive effect, as people were likely to compliment the photo, making the selfie taker feel as though their happiness was infectious. The “smiling selfie” delivered an overall sense of feeling connected to others, which helped reduce stress. Since the contact center is a breeding ground for varying degrees of workplace stress, taking a smiling selfie can help to alleviate this.
“…there have been expanded efforts over the past decade to study what’s become known as ‘positive computing,’ and I think this study shows that sometimes our gadgets can offer benefits to users.” – Gloria Mark, Professor of Informatics at the University of California Irvine
Whether you make this a regular part of your office culture or just on special days, designate a small empty space in your office where staff can get together and take a selfie. Liven up the backdrop with some fun wallpaper or branded signage, add in some goofy props (maybe even a bit of music), and capture those smiling faces from a place of genuine happiness. Post, share, comment, and spread the love!
Publish Date: June 21, 2017 5:00 AM
The impact of AI on the call center is a red hot topic these days. Unfortunately, a TON of the writing out there is not helpful and sometimes even misleading. I’m not just talking about sloppy blogs, either. Some of the worst offenders are top publications. (I’m going to take the high road and not link to any of them here.)
A big part of the problem is the confusing interplay between the “AI”, “chat”, and “bot” topics. All three rose to prominence – each for separate, valid reasons – contemporaneously. Vendors are certainly not helping with vague marketing and product announcements that are sometimes a tossed salad of buzz words.
All this gets thrown into the cognitive meat grinder and what comes out is: “Soon Call Centers Won’t Need Agents!” Clearly there’s a lot of messy thinking, but it can be hard to figure out where the break-down is happening. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m going to share with you two guiding principles that help me cut through the noise. Hopefully you find them helpful too.
Containment vs. Coverage
Starting from first principles: Every company has a set of customer-facing transactions, a fraction of them are “self-servable” and the rest require a human. That fraction is growing, but there are constraints that keep it from 100%. (See Will We Always Need Call Centers?) We can call this the self-service “coverage”.
The “self-servable” transactions can be made available via one or more self-serve channels: Web form, IVR, email, chat, etc. Each transaction has a “success rate”, aka “containment rate”, that is some number less than 100%. The non-contained transactions also need a human.
So putting it together, the transactions where humans are needed result from two situations:
- The transaction is not possible via self-service
- The self-serve process failed
In other words, if you want to reduce the number of human interactions, you have to increase coverage (i.e. take humans out of processes that previously needed them), OR increase containment (i.e. make self-serve processes more likely to succeed).
GUIDING PRINCIPLE #1: If someone says AI will replace customer service agents you must ask: Is that due to an increase in self-serve coverage or containment? THOSE ARE THE ONLY TWO MECHANISMS. If you can’t answer that question, stop right there.
Generally, increasing coverage is the harder problem. You have to ask yourself, Why is this transaction not currently a candidate for self-serve? Given the huge cost savings of self-serve, most of the “low hanging fruit” has already been converted. The transactions that are left may be too complicated, too nuanced, or too sensitive to be good candidates for self-serve. AI isn’t likely to help here.
Another situation is there may be a “long-tail” of transactions where each is too rare to merit the effort to make it self-servable. AI isn’t likely to help here either.
On the other hand, increasing the containment rate of existing self-serve transactions is a place where AI is more likely to win. It can do this by funnelling loosely-phrased questions into established procedures, or by predictively filling in information, or by skipping unnecessary steps in a transaction.
However, true success stories are rare so far. Today what companies and vendors report, if they report anything quantitative AT ALL, is how many conversations or interactions their AI system is processing. What I’m looking for is a company to say, “AI increased the containment rate of our flight-booking process by 10%”. Until we see data like that, it’s still the pre-game show. (See Bots Haven’t Truly Arrived Until We See Containment Stats.)
AI-Improvements are Venue Agnostic
Whatever improvement AI brings, it can generally be applied to any self-serve venue. If you’ve developed a way to interpret, say, plain English requests for an airline ticket into actionable purchase (a very hard problem, by the way), there’s no reason you would apply this in your chat system and not make it available via your voice-interface too.
GUIDING PRINCIPLE #2: Don’t confuse discussions about AI with discussions about self-service channels. Both are interesting but ORTHOGONAL to each other.
That is, the decision of which self-serve channels are popular is unrelated to what’s going on with AI. That doesn’t mean that self-service channels aren’t fascinating. Quite the contrary! There are technology angles, e.g. vastly improved voice recognition. There are sociological angles, e.g. millions of people welcoming an always-listening device like Echo into their homes. There’s the clash-of-the-titans angle, e.g. Siri vs. Alexa vs. Cortana. There’s the generational angle: young’uns prefer text-based chat to phone calls. And more… all fascinating stuff!
But, again, the venue on which the self-serve happens is separate from whether, and how-much, AI can make that self-serve better. When you’re reading an article ask yourself, Is this really about AI or the venue?
Publish Date: June 20, 2017 5:00 AM