Recruitment has never been an easy task, regardless of which industry is facing the challenge.
Difficulties in finding the right people, at the right time, with the right skills, is something all organisations encounter. One such industry is contact centres. Outsourced contact centres are extremely people-focused, meaning that it’s imperative to get the recruitment process right from the offset and meet the challenges faced head-on.
In a contact centre environment, there is a need for recruiters to not only meet seasonal demand, but to be able to find the right person for each position, focusing on retaining employees that are skilled, motivated and committed to the role. A successful contact centre will find, train and retain staff that can meet customer expectations and work to make sure teams have the right attributes to properly represent the organisation they work for.
However, there are numerous outsourced contact centres getting recruitment right, and by following a few simple steps, recruiters can build a successful recruitment strategy that gets it right every time.
Staff on demand
Numerous industries are known to face issues with peaks and troughs of demand, but one that certainly suffers the most is retail. With huge seasonal spikes throughout the year – Black Friday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter – this industry understands what it’s like to see a huge rush of customers that can vanish as quickly as they appear.
To cope with these hectic periods, it’s essential for organisations to be confident that the recruitment channels being used will reach the right people, quickly and effectively. Advertising locally on buses and billboards, for example, can be more targeted and help to enhance brand recognition for an organisation looking to seek local Customer Service Advisors, as an addition to online.
Additionally, contact centre organisations need to prepare for these peaks by working closely with their customers to understand when the demand might rise and fall, and what levels of staff will be needed accordingly. By reflecting on busy periods of the past, recruitment teams can work in harmony with marketing teams to figure out what works, what could change and then put a plan in place for the next peak time.
Talking the talk
Contact centres have undoubtedly evolved. Just look at the name; what was once referred to as a call centre has grown to become much more. The omnichannel world that consumers now live in means they expect to receive the same customer experience, regardless of which channel they use – whether it’s social media, a phone call, email, online chat, or through instant messaging. They expect answers instantly, and they want their queries answered or issues resolved in as few steps as possible.
Because of this, the skill sets required of Customer Service Advisors has also changed. Advisors now need to be proficient in communicating across a variety of channels, utilising strong written and verbal communication skills to make the experience as seamless as possible for the customer. This eclectic way of working means that Advisors need to be flexible, adaptable, and able to multi-task, providing the same, exceptional experience with each customer interaction. A coherent selection process will ensure that recruitment teams are finding the right people for the job.
Capturing brand personality
When it comes to the selection process, this not only needs to be tailored for each job role, but also for each brand – this is the very nature of an outsourced contact centre. Each organisation that is represented by the contact centre will require something different, and this shouldn’t just come through when the Customer Service Advisors are answering queries; it should start at the beginning of the recruitment journey.
Recruitment teams should actively work with the client to build the job description, which should then underpin the selection process. Recruitment strategies should also be tailored for each brand to find the most suitable people; who are the organisation’s target market? How do they communicate? Can brand advocates be chosen to ensure the Customer Service Advisor has a genuine interest in the brand? This ensures the brand’s personality can be captured in each customer interaction, through style, tone of voice and language used.
The recruitment journey
Developing a CX strategy starts with recruitment. With the end customer in mind, a recruitment strategy can be developed that ensures the right team is sourced and trained in line with the organisation’s requirements. Recruitment doesn’t have to be a challenge; a clear understanding of the organisation’s values from the outset is a simple way to get the journey heading in the right direction and, coupled with the right approach to customer service, means that contact centres can commit to delivering an exceptional CX, every time.
Working in a call centre has been seen as the very epitome of the “McJob” – a low-paid, unrewarding role that’s usually viewed as a stepping stone to more responsible, better-paid and more meaningful employment.
It shouldn’t be this way.
Customer service representatives (CSRs) play perhaps the most important role in any organisation. They are a business’ window on the world; the face of the corporation. Great CSRs are worth their weight in gold- they solve problems, mollify irate customers, and turn anger and frustration into loyalty and respect.
Businesses need to treasure their CSRs and give them the support to solve customer complaints. If businesses are serious about delivering quality customer service, two things need to change. First, there needs to be a revolution in the way that we view contact centre work. Secondly, we need to give these workers the tools they need to conduct efficient conversations and to resolve customer questions quickly.
It’s time to value CSR
Businesses have little hope of delivering first-class customer service if they don’t value their CSRs, and a look at the hospitality industry is instructive here. In the UK, being a waiter is seen as a low-skilled ‘starter’ job.
But across the Channel, the French take waitering incredibly seriously. Waiters and sommeliers are typically highly trained and very knowledgeable about food and wine, and anyone who has eaten at a decent French restaurant will be familiar with the waiting staff’s air of authority and gravitas – all of which adds to the dining experience.
It’s the same for any sort of customer service. You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t provide a great customer contact experience you will likely lose much of the goodwill that customers feel towards your brand. Unfortunately, many CSRs today lack the tools and the insight they need to provide fantastic Customer Experience.
Change is on the horizon
When a call comes in, it’s common for customer service staff to spend a significant amount of time authenticating the customer; once they’ve passed security, the CSR can then find themselves without a full picture of the customer and their history, and often lack the information they need to resolve the complaint quickly and efficiently.
There are signs that this view of customer service is about to change, however. AI-powered chatbots, for example, are increasingly taking responsibility for more routine enquiries, removing much of the drudgery of customer service roles and enabling operatives to focus on higher-value tasks.
But chatbots alone won’t transform the role of the CSR. If we are to change perceptions about customer service and make it a fulfilling line of work, we need to get rid of the irritations and inefficiencies that continue to bedevil the role. For example, CSRs typically spend only a quarter of their time actually helping customers. And here, AI can again come to the rescue.
Equipping CSRs for success
Smart companies that put a premium on customer service are deploying AI-powered contact centre software that enables them to provide a more in-person experience for online customers by anticipating questions and needs based on their history and where they are in the current journey.
Unfortunately, CSRs often do not have access to vital information such as purchase history or previous complaints. As a result, they go into conversations blind and spend significant amounts of time establishing basic facts before they can resolve the customer query.
Anyone who’s spent time on the phone to customer services will be familiar with the frustration of having to explain their situation multiple times to different customer service employees. By harnessing the latest generation of customer contact tools, businesses can provide every CSR with all the information from entire customer journey, from acquisition, through conversion and into post-sale support, providing companies with everything they need to create an exceptional CX.
Artificial intelligence can deliver meaningful and immediate benefits that put CSRs in the driving seat in every conversation. The benefits are legion: AI can filter out routine customer interactions that can be resolved by a chatbot or self-service, enabling agents to focus on more complex or high-value work. It can ensure seamless transition from bot to agent within the same chat window, meaning the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves.
Meanwhile,the latest generation of contact centre tools consolidate data from every customer interaction and manages data from disparate systems to deliver real-time actionable insights for faster issue resolution – all of which means that customers spend less time explaining and complaining.
Small wonder that Forrester found that businesses with mature deployments of AI-powered contact centre software saw a 63 percent increase in net promoter score (NPS) and reported an average of eight points higher than their lesser mature counterparts. Furthermore, half of these organisations saw an increase in conversation rates, 56 percent reported an increase in revenue, and 40 percent saw an increase in order size. Even agent satisfaction increased under the more mature organisations with nearly 50 percent reporting an increase in overall job happiness.
If businesses are serious about putting the customer first, the place to start is in the contact centre. They must value these problem solvers and provide them with the tools they need to turn angry, frustrated patrons into loyal customers.
The most exciting gathering of award winners and experts in the field of complaint handling will take place London this autumn at a brand new conference, and now is your chance to join them for a special discount price.
Taking place on September 25 at the Park Plaza Riverbank in the heart of London, this unique one-day event will offer practical techniques on transforming complaints into improved products and services, and provide guidance on creating customer loyalty through outstanding complaint handling strategies.
Attendees will be able to interact in real time with each panel using the Slido app, to put questions to panelists and vote on issues as speakers discuss the need to adopt dynamic, technological solutions instead of traditional approaches.
As with all Awards International events, the conference will be an excellent networking opportunity, as guests will include representatives from a wide range of sectors. A full line-up for the conference will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, joining Awards International CEO Neil Skehel as Co-Chair of the conference will be Daniel Ord, Founder and Director of OmniTouch International, and one of the world’s leading authorities on contact centre excellence. Daniel also leads CXM’s Contact Centres Masterclass.
“I’m thrilled to be welcoming attendees to London later this year for what will be one of the best opportunities to learn the skills and strategies of award-winning firms,” Daniel said.
“Our panel discussions will feature valuable insight into what the very best brands are providing customers when it comes to complaint handling.”
Neil Skehel added: “This isn’t just another conference; you will be an integral part of this event and your priorities will shape what we discuss. It promises to be an educational and inspirational experience for everyone involved.”
Tickets for Winning With Complaint Handling are now available, while those who book before midnight on July 19 can enjoy a special Early Bird Discount, saving them £100 on the full price. Click here for further details.
In theory, it has never been easier for consumers to communicate with your business…but are the choices suitable and easy to access?
Today’s consumers demand instant, fast, on-the-go interaction with companies, which is why web chats, texts, and social media have fast become many people’s preferred way of ‘talking’ with a brand. We live in a multi-channel landscape where real time responses are the norm and public conversations on social media can make or break a brand and its reputation.
Multi-channel contact centre solutions enable companies to manage different forms of communication by routing them via a single engine and delivering them to a correctly skilled customer service agent in the shortest possible time. Such advances in communication technology are to be welcomed as they enable contact centres to manage the flow of information and prioritise those interactions that require an urgent response.
The very nature of multimedia contact centres means employees are required to deal with a number of forms of communication, enabling a smooth and consistent customer experience to be delivered.
As the ‘face’ of the business, agents can make or break a customer relationship. Adaptability has become a key quality so they can demonstrate the values of their business regardless of the channel being used. The ability to write appropriately and clearly for different channels is vital.
Modern agents are multitaskers who can handle more than one customer interaction at a time – without causing delays to responses. Historically they have been hindered by multiple applications running on separate systems. Today it is possible to use one user interface to manage multiple mediums of communication.
A modern, reliable solution coupled with thorough training means consumers are now able to interact with an agent who is not flustered and can stay in control of multiple interactions. Regular monitoring of the interaction volumes and quality of consumer experience for each channel should ensure that the training requirements are identified and provided.
This measurement – including recording and reporting across all interactions – enables businesses to develop and improve their Customer Experience. In addition, multichannel contact centres can deliver cost benefits such as dealing with social media alongside voice, emails, web chats and text.
Standing still is not an option. The emergence of robots and automated messaging is reducing the burden on contact centres by responding to routine enquiries. Research shows there is growing interest among organisations in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools which can help businesses improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations.
Deloitte says that multiple robots can be seen as a “virtual workforce – a back office processing centre but without the human resources”.
Other researchers argue that RPA actually frees up employees to deliver skilled and creative work, suggesting that robots and humans are most effective when working together.
Slow service is enough for more than half of British customers to ditch a brand, according to a new survey.
A poll of 2,000 UK consumers revealed that 56 percent would stop shopping with a brand that forced them to endure slow customer service. The survey by contact centre cloud solutions provider 8×8 also found that almost two-thirds (64 percent) of people have been frustrated at the length of time it has taken a customer service team at a company to solve a problem.
The time it took to get through to someone is the most common reason people lose patience with a customer service team (36 percent), followed by having to wait to get their query resolved (30 percent). Quick and easy access to contact information is also a key factor, as a quarter (25 percent) have lost patience by having to wade through too many screening questions in order to access contact information.
When asked about the types of businesses they are most likely to lose patience with, customers named utilities and telecom firms in the top spot (33 percent), followed by retail (24 percent), and local government (21 percent). This suggests that organisations in these sectors are at the greatest risk of losing customers to slow service.
To help them get an answer in the quickest and easiest way possible, 78 percent of Brits expect companies to provide multiple channels to contact their customer service team on, such as phone, email, web chat, and social media. Despite this, over half (58 percent) of businesses still only offer one communication channel to contact customer service teams – an experience 52 percent of Brits find frustrating.
Mary Ellen Genovese, MD of European Operations, 8×8, said: “We all expect companies to deliver a fast and joined-up response to our queries regardless of their nature. Our research reveals speed is everything – consumers have little patience for slow service and, when frustrated, won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere.
“Businesses that don’t meet customer expectations risk losing out to faster competitors, not just over established channels such as phone and email, but across web chat and social media too.”
The research also reveals that customers expect traditional channels to deliver a faster response rate. When asked which customer service platforms they lose patience with the most, 37 percent said phone, compared to just 12 percent for email and 10 percent for live chat.
A majority of European mid-sized call centres understand the advantage in a connected customer journey, but only 14 percent are confident in meeting current and future needs.
That is one of the findings published in a new independent research study conducted by global business consulting firm, Frost & Sullivan, which found that revealed that 77 percent of call centres surveyed recognise the connected customer journey as elevating their competitive advantage and having an immediate impact on their business.
The report is based on a survey of 600 business and IT leaders across 26 countries involved in defining and implementing customer service strategies. One-third of respondents were based in Europe, with the research conducted in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and The Netherlands.
More than 40 percent of survey respondents believe anticipating and catering to consumer needs are by far the most important capabilities in providing good Customer Experience. In Europe, 76 percent of mid-sized call centres surveyed indicate the ongoing digital disruptions across industries will significantly impact them. As a result, such call centres are accelerating investments in digital channels and emerging technologies.
Executive Vice-President of report sponsors PureCloud at Genesys, Olivier Jouve, said: “It’s no surprise that the majority of organisations are looking to cloud, AI, and big data to deliver the kind of experiences consumers expect today. For smaller organisations, a cloud-based, omnichannel contact centre is the best way to deliver predictive and personalised service across every channel.”
Historically, businesses have primarily perceived call recording as a regulatory insurance policy.
The typical process was that calls were recorded, archived, and then accessed whenever a complaint was made. Some organisations still see call recording primarily in this way today.
Other businesses have moved on a step and carried out batch sampling on call records. Often, they might listen in to every 100th phone call for compliance purposes. They might also focus on monitoring new employees to help embed best practice. Alternatively, they might use the batch recordings for training purposes, picking out examples of angry customers, or high-performing agents dealing with customer queries.
Today, thanks to the latest AI and analytics, organisations can do much more with call recordings. With solutions like coacher and helper bots emerging, together with technologies like real time speech analytics (RTSA), we are seeing the advent of a new world of call recording.
Instead of simply being used reactively for compliance or training, the potential for organisations to use technology working in real-time in conjunction with the customer service representative has raised the bar, making it possible to use these kinds of solutions to drive up customer satisfaction and increase sales.
In particular, this is giving businesses greater insight into their contact centre and customer service operations. They can now listen in to every phone call. They can measure the sentiment of a customer interaction more precisely in real-time. Is the customer getting stressed? Is the agent becoming aggressive? Has the agent failed to make proactive use of the available helper bot to answer the customer’s query?
Answering these questions positively can be key to the success of a business, but it is also important to highlight that call recording today has evolved into much more than just recording a phone call. When listening to call recordings, business managers today also need to know what the agent was looking at on the screen at the time they provided information to the customer for example. Incorrect data on the company’s website could help to exonerate an agent who has made a mistake, and pinpoint a problem that needs to be addressed.
That’s why the ability to capture screen information, helping to put the call in context starts to give supervisors a clearer picture of what is happening within their customer service operation – and that drives better customer satisfaction, and improves the level of first interaction resolution. All this contextual information can then feed into a continuous improvement loop. Where one interaction is resolved successfully that can then feed the knowledge management and information systems making the whole process more accurate.
Barriers to roll-out
If you consider what is possible now and the way many organisations are starting to embrace and use these types of technologies, hand-in-hand with a human agent, the potential to also improve customer service and drive up sales has also increased enormously.
So, given all the benefits that they could achieve from this new approach, why isn’t every business moving over to it? One of the main barriers we are seeing today is cultural. Many organisations follow the ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’ philosophy. This conservative culture is often reinforced by agents who are uncomfortable with more technology listening in to everything they do; monitoring every action they take, and flagging it up to their managers if they are ‘out of line’.
Unfortunately, whenever new technology is introduced into an organisation, it comes with an associated fear factor. Agents are understandably concerned about what the change might mean to them.
Businesses need to do more to listen to these concerns but also educate agents about the potential benefits of the new technology in helping them perform their role. Indeed, smart organisations will work transparently and openly with agents to look at how the technology can be used to make their job better.
Humans can, for example, be especially good at empathy and working with customers who might be in a moment of crisis or an emotionally charged situation. So it makes sense for businesses to free up agents to engage with customers in this way, while deploying bot technology in the background to give them the practical information they need to answer the customer queries and follow the best available next step.
Ultimately, it has to be about empowering the agent, rather than focusing on the mechanics of finding the information the customer is looking for. With the latest call recording technology, the agent can concentrate on the interaction itself, safe in the knowledge that bots are working in the background to provide the information they need to resolve each individual query.
Agents can also can gain from the enhanced training capability on offer. Businesses can use the approach to capture the kinds of phrases or behaviours used by best performing agents or sales staff and build that into the coaching and helping engines to benefit contact centre and customer service staff as a whole.
This kind of ‘hand-in-glove’ harmony between man and machine is critical in this context. When businesses get it right, it can enhance the agent’s life enormously as well as benefitting the business and the end customer. In summary, the latest call recording technology can bring significant benefits to organisations but it needs to be introduced in a way that overcomes the cultural fear that some organisations and their staff have about bringing in the latest advanced technologies. Get all that right and businesses stand to improve their compliance position, enhance employee engagement – and drive up customer satisfaction into the bargain.
“Calm down” has been voted the worst thing to say to customers over the phone, according to a new poll of more than 100 call centre and customer service professionals.
In a survey carried out by enterprise communications company Fuze at the recent Call and Contact Centre Expo in London, 22 percent said “calm down” is the most frustrating response to give to customers, followed by “you’re wrong” (20 percent), and “let me put you on hold” (15 percent).
The full list of the top ten most frustrating responses of 2019 are:
Let me put you on hold
Let me speak
That’s not my job/responsibility
That’s against policy
I don’t know
There’s nothing I can do
It’s no big deal
I’m new here
Bradlee Allen, Product Evangelist at Fuze, said: “Call centres are key points of interaction between a brand and its customers, but the experience can be frustrating for both parties. Appeasing the customer is a priority, but responses like ‘calm down’ and ‘let me put you on hold’ only add to frustration and usually mean resolution takes longer to achieve.
“The key is making it easy for customers to connect with a brand and choosing the right communication technology to create a seamless, simple experience that delivers fast resolution and optimum customer satisfaction.”
Everyone is someone’s customer, and every single one of us knows how we want to be treated.
Yet we’ve all had experiences that have influenced our opinion of a brand, but actually little or nothing to do with the product or service itself. It is why the quality of service and experience provided by contact centres is critical to the well-being of any organisation that prides itself on the quality of its CX.
As the late Maya Angelou said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Intensifying competition and the growing power of consumers have together made customer experience the only means by which you can achieve truly durable competitive advantage in retail today.
It is not possible, however, to provide a joined-up customer journey if the tools you have to manage it are incomplete. Simply throwing cash at CX technology will not lead to success. Here then is a seven-step plan to guide your contact centre transformation.
1. You must acknowledge the need for change.
The first step towards the recovery of your CX is admitting you have a problem and having a genuine and consistent commitment to solving it. Don’t focus your energies entirely on customer complaints as a guide to your transformation. These are negative emotions. Look at positive feedback as well, to identify what your organisation is getting right so you can start replicating it.
2. Be clear about the Customer Experience you are trying to deliver
Unfortunately, many organisations still have an incomplete definition of CX. Either that or their division into functional silos means that CX has become the proverbial elephant being examined by three blind men. In other words, everyone comes up with their own idea based purely on knowledge of their own silo, mistaking or misconceiving the true nature of CX and what it should deliver for the organisation.
3. Ensure you have executive buy-in
It is vital your CEO or CFO is on board to sponsor any contact centre transformation initiative and lead from the top down. But also consider whether you need a dedicated position such as a Chief Customer Officer. Whoever fulfils this role owns the Customer Experience and has the authority to ensure the requisite focus.
4. Work hard to ensure your organisation is fully on-board and aligned
Remember that people are capable of being very parochial, which is often caused by anxietyabout what change will mean to their own work and targets. To counter that, consider establishing a ‘CX Council’ to bring together all departments that have any role in the Customer Experience and empower them to work as a team with a unified vision of putting the customer first, no matter what.
5. Get on your benchmarks
After mapping the customer journey, your next step should be to assess the current state of your strategy, people, processes, and tech. Come to a decision about how you are going to measure the delta of change in terms of positive customer emotion, not just reduced holding times or other operational metrics.
6. Collaborate to differentiate
This is an important one, because by working with a true solution partner, rather than simply a software vendor, you can set yourself on the right path to true omnichannel engagement and avoid the all-too-common operational pitfalls. Use the expertise of your partner to identify opportunities for business alignment along with ways of applying technology to speed up your transformation journey.
7. Build your business case
Providing good Customer Experience will have a positive impact on your organisation’s bottom line, which is certainly a legitimate justification for any CX initiative, but you still need a solid business case based on logic and metrics rather than intuition. If you have the right partner, they should be able to direct and inform this process.
These are seven great steps to set any organisation on the path towards recovering its CX and providing great customer service again. We cannot pretend it is always easy. Such a journey does inevitably involve a substantial measure of cultural upheaval. Customer experience needs to become a collective obsession within the enterprise.
CX culture and practices have to evolve every day and encompass what is always a changing technology landscape. But once this mindset is firmly embedded right across the organisation and all those internal barriers and silos are banished, at least as far as CX is concerned, the tangible bottom line benefits will flow in. You will also have a much happier and more fulfilled workforce.
In order to run a successful contact centre, operational efficiency needs to be continuously upheld.
There are different components to contact centre efficiency, including how your staff interact with customers; how streamlined procedures are; and whether operations are running in a cost-effective manner that does not impact the Customer Experience.
Despite the varying definitions of efficiency, it all boils down to two things: supporting customers and improving performance. It’s important to keep these two goals in mind and implement basic practices to drive efficiency.
Optimise team efficiency through training
Making use of team productivity is important to ensuring efficiency. A study by Aberdeen Group found that contact centre agents spend around 25 percent of their paid time idly and not communicating with customers. Therefore, it is vital that this time is dedicated to developing your agents’ skills and knowledge surrounding best practice and customer service.
This is achievable through continuous, digital training. Agents are consistently sat at their desks with a computer. Therefore, during their idle time, it would be a great opportunity for them to complete quick online learning on their computer, or even mobile. This is why digital learning is an extremely beneficial method of training for contact centres, as a learning can take a few minutes a day, which is equal to 0.7 percent of a 35-hour week.
Investment in training means companies will see significant drops in average handling time (AHT), as the consistent level of training creates more competent employees who can apply their knowledge in real life call situations. This increases first-call resolution (FCR), which then reduces AHT. A lower AHT drives efficiency, as customers are dealt with in a quick, coherent manner.
Leverage experienced agents
Another basic to maintaining contact centre efficiency is having a system in place that helps new staff get up-to-speed as soon as possible. Contact centres face a very high employee turnover rate: they have a 26 percent employee turnover annually, whereas the average rate for the UK is 15 percent. Therefore, effective onboarding is vital. This can be done by utilising more experienced agents and drawing on their knowledge to help new staff adjust to the business’s processes.
As part of the onboarding process, experienced agents can help to coach and monitor live calls. Monitoring calls and having a support system of more existing agents will give new staff more confidence in their job and ease the onboarding process. A high level of employee confidence is key to increasing efficiency.
Measure performance and set targets for achievement
It is important to measure performance within any organisation. Having a clear set of data can help not only evaluate, but also benchmark individual and team performances. Analytical dashboards help identify knowledge gaps and the areas that need improvement, meaning contact centres can administer valuable, cost-effective training that will improve performance.
Focusing on targets can also enhance performance, as employees are aware of what is important to achieve within the centre. Aligning metrics with goals and making them clear to employees gives a purpose to their work and encourages collaboration.
Boosting efficiency in a contact centre isn’t done overnight; it requires measurement and consistent tracking of what is affecting performance. However, being able to identify areas for improvement is the first step, as these can then be resolved. Implementing these basic procedures, like using idle time for productive and effective onboarding, will have a significant impact on each agent’s performance and confidence.Competent and knowledgeable agents will then increase customer satisfaction and overall efficiency within the contact centre.