Executive Interview : Interview With Elina Perälä From Finnish Subscription Paper
If you're searching for golden nuggets in terms of ideas, then you'll want to read the answers from Elina Perälä of Finland. Getting inspiration from various parts of the world in this global industry is always beneficial and ContactCenterWorld.com aims to provide that information.
How often should a contact center leader be seen to visit with the front line professionals and sit/chat with them?
It is very important that a leader participates discussions and creates a socially low barrier environment for the sake of open and professionally productive group dynamics. It has everything to do with a psychological and organizational culture values. How peers work together as a team. Every ship needs a captain, but a captain can´t see the storm inside of the ship, if they never sees the sailors.
What can contact centers do to help manage social interactions better?
Group discussions, intranets, after work parties with self-respect (respecting everyone's right to privacy and not forcing to take alcohol, etc.). Open-minded approach to new colleagues: not being judgmental, is the key for friendship or partnership at the workplace. Facebook can be seen as a social tool of some kind, but it is very dangerous, because it will never show everything (reality) about the personality or social skills of one individual. It can show some social interaction, but not reality. I do not recommend Facebook as a key to professional social interaction.
What is the best way to engage staff who work from home?
Good internet-connection obviously and good teamwork. Getting to know each other through chats or via e-mail/phone calls. Hear the voice of distant worker, who might feel lonely sometimes and isolated. Maybe even feeling that she/he is without support of any kind. Sending some nice surprises, organizational gifts, invitations, sometimes even movie tickets.
What should every contact center do when it comes to recognizing staff performance?
It is very important to know personality traits of every staff member. Is this person an introvert or extrovert. Does she/he like to be a member of a team or someone who leads others? Does he/she have intelligence or a talent of some kind, that no one else has. Then use this talent of hers/his with rewarding working methods. So that this person feels, that it matters, what she/he does for others or for a team.
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Who should be the person presenting internal awards to staff/recognizing achievements of the staff/center and why?
The HR representative, because this person is outside of the production team. The HR person has a objective aspect to this rewarded person, but also much silent information. Then there should not be any bad feelings that someone has award and another one has not. It is also important to tell everyone (in that team) why this person got the award this time. What the difference is that they have done.
What tip or piece of advice would you give to a contact center leader who is under pressure from the board to cut costs when you know it will affect customer service?
Think who will produce the most? Every salesperson will earn their own salary, but what about the secretary who makes long distance calls to relatives or uses the company's car for his/hers own purposes? Compare prices of singular products needed at the office, like toilet papers, copy papers. Advise staff to use chats and e-mail when they have to send something to customer, not regular traditional mail, because it is expensive and slow. Have a cheaper internet-connection, use Skype as a tool if needed. Sell the company's car or other items that can be replaced.
What is the best way to cut loose/let go an employee who is underperforming?
Find out what motivates this person? What are his/her goals in life? If he/she wants to get new television. Say that person who sells the most, will be rewarded with television (that you have bought from your co-operative business partner at a low-price). If he/she wants to be thinner, say that he/she can use company gym free if he/she sells this much.
How often should an agents/front line professionals performance be measured from a quality standpoint and how should this be done?
It should be done every month, but even more, if there is some customer service problems (social problems), many sick leave days or lack of business sales.
What is the best way to determine which are your best and worst customers and how should you change the way you service them?
The best customers buy again and again and treats the salesperson with respect and as a friend. Mostly the best customer is curious and learns fast.
What in your opinion is the best way to schedule staff for a contact center? and how should you allow them to select shifts or should they be set by you?
Two shifts, so that person who has small children, can care for their kids if there is an emergency. It is more cost effective when the person can be at home, when needed (short period), than be at work and worry (=bad for sales and customer service, if salesperson sounds sad).
What advice would you give to a contact center leader who is looking at new technology for the center and how best to evaluate its effectiveness and claims made by the seller of the technology?
Get familiar that what technology will your competitive company use. What kind of experience they have. Use internet forums as a source. Make a survey and compare prices and quality. Listen to other peoples professional opinions and experience of usability of this technology. You will save a lot.
Can you share a tip or two on how to improve agent/front line productivity?
Be a positive leader, but remind them about their own personal goals. Staff will not care about company, but they will if you say, that with this months salary, they can earn through incentives, payment for their car or medical costs or something.
Can you share a tip or two on how to improve agent/front line Motivation?
Find out motivational factors and personality traits.
Can you share a tip or two on how to improve customer satisfaction?
Lead customer satisfaction rate with a surprising, positive demeanor with those who complain and remember old customers with product development. Ask, how are they, if you haven´t heard from them a while.
Can you share a tip or two on how to set service levels for a contact center?
Good service sells so much. There can be some complaints, but it is okay. If there are no sick leaves the whole month, you can be happy.
What are the 2 or 3 mistakes managers often make when they recruit staff and how can they avoid these mistakes?
They hire their own children , who can mess up all the professionals with envy, shame or other negative feelings. Managers should think persons as a team: everyone has their own important skills, like using foreign accents, speaking several languages or someone can be mathematically talented (makes good sales budgets), someone may have a large social network that buys lot of services.
What's the best way to train staff on how to deal with a very very angry customer?
Focus on what is important. Feedback is not personal, it is something related to work. Staff should remember that person behind the angry feeling, might be at a traumatic stage in their own life, having suicidal thoughts or other psychological problems or drug abuse. It is not always good to say what is the truth that happened, sometimes it is good to just listen. Even if you know better.
You have a customer who complains on twitter and/or facebook - how do you deal with this?
Take this person through to your special treatments: positive surprise treatment or some humanity treatment. Show them pictures about your company helping sick children or other important endeavors. Evil people can melt.
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