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Communication in Emergency Situations

456063367In today’s society, safety and effective communication in emergency situations is proving to be more and more important. Intercede Services, a software company owned by a father of a GCS employee, has recently launched a new emergency incident reporting technology called iAlert. The product was launched in response to growing concerns regarding the safety of school children, teachers, hospital employees, construction workers and many more individuals who are exposed to dangerous situations and elements due to the nature or location of their work.

iAlert was designed to promote effective communication for 3 common types of safety incidents: crisis events, emergency events, and urgent events. iAlert allows users to instantly notify multiple responders of an emergency incident allowing for fast and efficient communication to mitigate critical situations and promote safety and compliance. Pre-determined responders are able to react immediately based on the unique geo-location technology used by iAlert.

This mobile app is a very cost effective and customizable safety tool. It is compatible with iPhone technology and available through a subscription package with Intercede Services.

For more information, please visit intercedeservices.com

Three Reasons Omni-channel Outperforms Multi-channel

Omni-channel-contact-centerThe other day, I read an article that claimed “omni-channel” is just a buzzword word that means the same thing as “multi-channel.” I couldn’t disagree more. Omni-channel contact centers represent a major step in the evolution of customer service.

Look at the history of customer contact. The very first call centers were just that: call centers. They had one channel: the telephone. In other words, they were “uni-channel.” In the 90s, when email entered the picture, contact centers added that to their available ways of communicating with customers, and they became “dual-channel.” Unfortunately, the right hand often had no idea what the left hand was doing, and the customer sometimes felt as if he or she was communicating with two different companies. Once chat was added to the mix, the first true “multi-channel” customer service centers were born, but the customer experience was not necessarily any better.

Fast forward to the present, and you have people talking about the next step in this evolution: “omni-channel.” To understand the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel, it helps to look at the words themselves. “Multi” comes from the Latin word meaning “more than one, or many.” “Omni,” on the other hand, comes from the Latin word meaning “every, all or whole.”

Those three words – every, all and whole – provide a good outline of what an omni-channel contact center is designed to do:

  • Leverage every channel the customer is using.
  • Capture and integrate all customer touchpoints, regardless of channel, for a seamless customer experience, and
  • Present a 360-degree view of the whole customer.

1. Leverage every available channel

Omni-channel looks beyond the big three: voice, email and chat. SMS, social media and mobile apps are playing an increasing role in how customers want – and expect – to get service and support. Take social media, for example. According to Gleanster Research, 73% of the top performing companies said their number one reason for investing in social media is not marketing, but customer service. With 71% of online adults using Facebook and 18% using Twitter, it makes sense.

2. Capture and integrate all customer touch points, regardless of channel, for a seamless customer experience

Omni-channel is not just about offering the customer more of the channels they want to use. It’s also about creating an integrated, seamless customer experience. “Multi” means many. And the problem with the old paradigm of multi-channel is that customers were having many different experiences when they reached out to the same company because they were handled by different agents who could not see the entire customer interaction. The goal of omni-channel is to present one consistent, continuous conversation and to do that, the agent and the organization needs to know where, when and what has transpired with a given customer.

3. Present a 360 degree view of the whole customer

And what makes that conversation satisfying for the customer is that, regardless of the channel they use or the agent they reach, they feel recognized and remembered. Because the customer is able to use whatever channel they are comfortable using, and because the agent has access to every interaction, the customer receives unparalleled support with a personal touch.

With customers expecting to use a wide range of channels – and getting more and more accustomed to a seamless, integrated customer experience – can you afford to stay stuck in the world of multi-channel?

If you have been thinking about omni-channel but don’t know where to begin, then we should talk. Our experts at Global Contact Services (GCS) will be happy to discuss your situation and offer guidance.

 

GCS Discovers SOCAP 2014 Symposium

On April 27-30, Global Contact Services (GCS) attended the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals (SOCAP) 2014 Symposium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event featured keynote speakers, best practices discussions and workshops geared towards customer care professionals in the Consumer Packaged Goods, Retail and Direct Sale, Healthcare, Hospitality, Travel & Tourism and Automotive industries.

As a first time exhibitor, GCS’ was able to meet and converse with many customer-driven organization made up of vice presidents, directors, managers and supervisors of customer care and customer affairs professionals. Their mission is to develop successful business strategies in the customer care arena through the use of various educational tools and networking opportunities the organization offers.

GCS attendees of SOCAP’s 2014 Symposium benefited from an innovative new conference feature, Roundtable 3.0 in which participants interacted with each other around certain topics and then attended a keynote discussion.  Attendees discovered areas including key messaging to retain customers, industry trends and technology, the next evolution of customer experience, and many more.

George Simons, Vice President of Marketing for GCS Agents, represented the company with a booth at the event. “As you would expect at a customer service conference, I met a lot of friendly people. We had numerous open and helpful conversations around the customer care industry and ways to improve service delivery. It was fantastic to have so many like-minded individuals in one place. SOCAP is a wonderful organization and GCS is honored to be a part of it. We always learn as much as we share at most conferences and this Symposium was no different. It confirmed the continuing interest in improving multi-channel and omnichannel integration for the customer service agent and the need for better management team reporting. Those are two areas where our consulting team can help the center manager,” George said.

GCS is the premier service provider and advisory firm of professional business transaction processing services with a focus on the contact center environment.  Please contact us to find out how we can streamline internal processes, improve customer engagement, and increase retention.

How to Write a Contact Center RFP

contact center rfpSo, you’ve completed the process of determining you need a new contact center, and have the buy-in from upper management to proceed with the project. Now it is time to select a vendor to help you get there, but selecting the right one is an important decision not to be taken lightly since they are an extension of your brand. How do you find a capable partner who will keep your long-term goals in mind? After you do your initial vendor research, one of the first steps in the selection process is typically to issue a request for proposal or Contact Center RFP.

In a nutshell, the RFP is your chance to provide potential suitors with a common, structured overview of your company, what you are looking for, detailed requirements and selection criteria. Whether or not you’ve ever created an RFP for contact center services, we’ve put together some simple guidelines to help you with the process.

Before you write your RFP, take the necessary time to document the following:

  • Outline your current contact center situation including what you like and dislike about it.
  • Envision your future contact center. How would it differ from what you have now and what must you have to get where you need to be?
  • Define the scope of the RFP. How much will need to be covered?
  • Now prioritize and organize the output as a foundation for the rest of the process. Make sure to check if each item is within the scope of the project.

An RFP typically has two main parts, each with labeled sub-sections.

 

Part 1

The first part provides an overview and sets the stage for the potential future relationship. It is where you describe things like:

  • your company and industry
  • your management structure and competitive positioning
  • who and where your customers are
  • your customer contact history and philosophy
  • any contact center experience, including what is and isn’t working (see the exercise above)
  • the rationale for the RFP

This is also where you lay out the process, timeline and deadlines, selection criteria and clear instructions for formatting and submission.

 

Part 2

The second part of the RFP is where you detail your objectives and specific technical and performance requirements. Be direct and as clear as possible. Include as many questions as it takes to get an understanding of your future contact center vendor’s capabilities, experience, operations and service levels, but avoid irrelevant kitchen sink questions or you’ll create unnecessary work for you and your bidders.

Ask a mix of yes or no and open-ended questions to elicit the vendor’s approach to fulfilling specific requirements. You can tell a lot about their potential fit with your organization by their responses, including how creative they are in different situations.

Some other areas you may want to include:

  • approach to staffing, training and supporting personnel
  • management/supervision structure
  • agent recruitment and retention
  • monitoring and quality assurance
  • compliance to all laws, regulations and best practices
  • data flow, reporting and measurement
  • details about facilities or the use of at home agents
  • technology infrastructure (hardware, software, network, etc.)
  • disaster preparedness, security, data protection and redundancy
  • start-up and wind-down process
  • improvement process and benchmarks
  • telecommunications
  • business continuity

Ask specific questions about their experience relevant to the scope and complexity of your needs. Be sure to inquire about current contracts to understand their capacity to service your organization.

Detail the type and quantity of references you require, and don’t forget pointed questions about support and service levels.

Make sure you address financial matters including costs and billing, vendor performance measurement and potential terms for engagement.

Finally, ask for a clear executive summary for the benefit of others in the decision process that may not be as intimate with the details of the Contact Center RFP as you are.

Remember, these are meant as guidelines and not an exhaustive list. What you ask depends on whether you are outsourcing the management, the function or the entire business process of your contact center(s). Make sure you really need what you ask for so you don’t overpay for the services. But, if you use this as a starting point to build upon for your specific needs, it should help you uncover the vendor with the right mix of expertise, capacity, cost and quality to represent your company and brand.

If it is your first time through the outsourcing process, consider using a contact center consultant to help with the process. Or feel free to reach out to us, we’d be happy to help get your Contact Center RFP off the ground. A good consultant will make sure you don’t miss key items, can help assess the respondents and even set-up the proper process to managing the on-going new relationship.

3 Reasons Your In-House Contact Center Costs Are Out of Whack

contact center costsYou’re not alone if your most recent audit shows that you are on the verge of not meeting your budget. Where do you start your analysis? Why are your costs over budget?

Managing a contact center operation successfully requires the most up-to-date knowledge, a wide range of diverse skills and a team of dedicated professionals who are able to work under pressure. And, let’s face it, it is hard to be good at everything and turn a complex set of call center processes into a highly productive and flexible living entity.

Our experience suggests that there are three reasons that most in-house contact centers costs are over budget.

1. Low front-line labor productivity

Front-line labor takes up 90% of the contact center labor budget and two-thirds to three-fourths of the overall operating budget, so the onset of even slight inefficiency often leads to overstaffing and increased total labor costs.

The following aspects are usually the main reasons for loss of productivity (and added costs):

  • Imbalanced staffing ratio. Full time employees, if not kept productive, may be costly.  It is important to find the right mix of full time, part time and flex time staff.
  • Low attendance – high levels of employee absenteeism hurt productivity and morale.
  • Low performance due to insufficient knowledge/training and consistency between agents.
  • Lack of employee empowerment – too much supervisor intervention or approval is required for consistent performance.
  • Too much firefighting on the front lines – supervisors are “reactionary” to changing call volumes and resource needs, versus being proactive with changing floor requirements.
  • No established process for call quality monitoring and compliance providing for higher-quality customer interactions and more effective coaching.

 

2. Time and cost-consuming efforts to leverage contact center technology

Forrester reports omni-channel customer experience to be one of the top customer service trends in 2014. Today, many customers are expecting to find multi-channel service and support from the brands they purchase products and services from.

Naturally, organizations around the world and their contact centers are starting to pick up on this trend. For example, many companies are trying to integrate new popular social care channels, such as live chat, content moderation and social media, into their workflow and technology environments. A Global Contact Center Survey by Deloitte Consulting reveals that today only 33% of contact centers provide social media contact channels. And cost is a major factor.

  • In addition to paying for seat licenses, sourcing a new software suite includes soft costs – software evaluation, testing, and negotiation. A large effort is required to make a full transition from an old application suit to a new one and retrain your staff to use the new technology.
  • Implementation and support of new software oftentimes requires additional technical personnel with the necessary skillset(s). Alternatively, if contact center management decides to utilize existing human resources, this often leads to increased labor hours for implementation, as well as time required for troubleshooting and attuning its performance to the current environment.
  • Training is one of the most costly factors in contact center costs. New tools requires new training programs and it’s not about doing it, but how you do it. This will involve not only an introduction into the interface and navigating the interface, but also the ins-and-outs using the tool within a customer workflow. Management needs to be trained on administering the software – interpreting the metrics, reporting, and quality monitoring. All this converts into hours of developing and running an efficient training program, which eats up a good portion of your resources and budget.

 

3. Inefficient business processes

A contact center’s internal processesstrongly influence the quality of customer interactions. An effective process is designed to utilize all the elements of a call center’s operation with maximum productivity. If one link in the chain is weak or broken, the whole chain (process) is compromised.

The costs of ineffective business processes include:

  • Inability to adapt to seasonal fluctuations or unpredicted spikes in workload volume.
  • Costly capital expenditures, idle infrastructure, poor facilities management
  • Overstaffing or understaffing, imbalanced supervisor-to-agent ratio
  • Lack of workforce optimization, poorly implemented and expensive training programs, high employee turnover rate
  • Call-handling inefficiencies – failure to achieve first-call resolution, track and report results, proactively serve the customer to prevent repeat issues

Any single one of these processes has its share in driving up your in-house contact center’s costs. Evaluating your current call center strategy will help you to come up with new ideas on how to reduce your total costs and achieve actual, measurable savings.

Identifying productivity leaks as they arise creates almost immediate opportunities for improvement. If you are not certain that your contact center’s core operations are mature enough to instantly react to the changing business environment, consumer and employee expectations and technology trends, you always have an option to hand over these tasks to an outsourced contact center partner. They can save you money without sacrificing quality of customer service.

If you are ready for such a change, we encourage you to reach out to us. One of our experts can share ways we’ve helped other organizations manage their contact center costs more effectively.

3 Signs It’s Time to Manage Your Social Customer Care from the Contact Center

social media customer careExpectations for social customer care are growing as more consumers are getting comfortable with online tools and technologies. It has been reported that number of social media customer service requests will increase by 37% this year.

Consumer adoption of Social Media for customer service continues to grow at great speed. In anticipation of the increasing number of social customer care requests, companies are dedicating more resources to keep up with this trend. The latest stats indicate that 80% of organizations plan to use social media for customer service.

However, implementing a new channel into your customer service workflow, monitoring activity and measuring results can present a great challenge. Integrating social customer care into the hands of agents in a contact center is an attractive method to scaling your operations to keep pace with customer demand. How is your company approaching this task?

Below are the 3 most common signs indicating that you may not be doing social customer care effectively and it may be time to consider engaging an outsourced or managed services contact center partner to increase your efficiency and improve bottom line.

1. Marketing and PR People are Doing Social Customer Service.

Your customer service can suffer when marketing does customer service. While we are all thankful for the marketing team’s expertise and intentions, they are not always properly trained in the customer service process. If not done right, it has the collateral effect  of bringing down your customer satisfaction index.

When we see marketing teams handling social customer service, it usually turns out that the contact center team has one or more of the following issues:

  1. Not enough people to dedicate to monitoring social for customer care inquiries.
  2. Insufficient emphasis on the social channel for customer service purpose.
  3. Lack of an effective process for engaging customers in a non-voice channel AND integrating  the interaction into the CRM

Regardless, you are at a loss of effective engagement or useful information.

Your marketing and PR campaigns are suffering too, because those experts are having to engage in customer service.

2. Response Times are Lagging Behind That of Your Competitors

Social customer care is quickly becoming another competitive ground for companies around the world. If you’re too slow in responding to a customer’s tweet, you might just lose that customer to your competition.

The latest Q4 report from Socialbakers revealed that the overall response times for different brands and industries who were dealing with customer service issues on Twitter and Facebook dropped by 12%.

Additionally, customer expectation at this point is very high. According to eDigital’s research, over a quarter (28%) of consumers expect a response within one hour when contacting a brand via social media, while 11% expect an immediate response.

Is your in-house contact center or contact center partner(s) able to match these expectations?

3. Technology is NOT Capable to Track Customer Service Performance

Measuring your customer care effort in social media is important for a couple reasons.

Firstly, customers expect to have a seamless brand experience across multiple service channels. If you don’t record and analyze interactions that happen on social media, you are inevitably going to lose some of that history which would enable your service agents to provide better support to customers.

Secondly, the lack of complete history of customer interactions fully integrated with your sales process will reduce your opportunities for up selling and cross selling and building a more efficient communication with clients.

Is your company ready to invest into sourcing the right tools, testing, and hiring qualified staff to implement and support them and then train the service agents to use the tools effectively? Consider these questions carefully.

 

The bottom line is if you can’t meet customer expectations with your current resources, it may be a sign that you need to start looking for a contact center partner.

Customers are increasingly expecting to have a wide range of multiple communication channels available to them when contacting a brand. With social media rising in popularity, businesses who fail to adapt to this trend will find themselves at a disadvantage.

What is your outlook on social customer care? How is your company currently managing resources to provide quality customer service across different social media channels?

If you feel that any of the above three signs apply to you, then we should talk. Our experts will be happy to discuss your situation and guidance. From active content moderation to effective customer service process consulting, our guidance will allow you to get the most from each customer interaction.

First Impressions

The newest member of our sales team, Jason Sterns, recently attended the 2012 American Bankers and Insurance Association Annual Convention with President and CEO Greg Alcorn. Jason was kind enough to tell us his first impressions of GCS while attending this event and meeting some of our valued past and present clients.

I had the pleasure of attending the ABIA annual conference this past week in Phoenix, Arizona. The ABIA is the only national conference dedicated to bank-insurance and included many of the current and past clients of GCS.

The conference was a great opportunity for me to learn more about GCS, its value proposition as well as an industry that has formed the majority of GCS business. I joined our CEO Greg Alcorn and had my first opportunity to work side by side and learn more about what makes GCS great.

I was fully impressed by the sheer number of clients that stopped by to say hello to Greg or to introduce themselves to me personally. I was even more impressed by what our clients, past and present, were saying about the quality and high performance of the programs it has run. I have always believed some of the strongest selling tools are client references and it sounds like GCS has a full quiver of them!

The conference itself was interesting as the industry undergoes transition. There was a lot of interest in compliance and the future of outreach marketing of insurance products to banking customers. Once again, I was impressed by the quality of compliance GCS is able to perform. There was even interesting insight into the upcoming elections and how that will affect the industry and economy heading into 2013.

Overall, it was a great start for me with GCS; I was able to make several strong new connections with the industry. On the flight home to Denver I worked on multiple email scripts positioning GCS’ value additions of adherence to compliance, flexibility, culture and performance as I continue to work hard in positioning GCS for additional industry and BPO channel diversification.

Is B2B for Me?

We know customers.

The majority of the interactions we make are B2C (business-to-consumer). Although we’re comfortable and confident with that type of business, GCS has the skill set and knowledge to handle multiple verticals.

B2B (business-to-business) contact center environments differ from the traditional B2C side of customer interactions. Both focus on relationship management, but B2B often requires a higher degree of selling skill and knowledge to be successful. There are often multiple contacts within an organization and getting to the decision maker is more complex. It also requires a higher-level of professionalism and integrity.

B2B is a big target for GCS expansion for a lot of reasons. B2B represents a huge market. Contacts are done during the day. There are no existing business guidelines. Plus, clients want leads!

B2B telesales is rapidly expanding as face-to-face contact is declining. Almost 80% of sales people will do anything not to have to prospect for new business, so they are willing to pay for lead generation. According to the Direct Marketing Association, B2B companies spend upwards of $27.9 billion in telesales services. Top sales people command a high salary and companies want them on the phone with legitimate prospects, not spending hours cold calling. That is where we can come in.

B2B companies outsource their telesales efforts to:

  • Increase their profits
  • Determine qualified leads
  • Increase brand awareness

Businesses look to outsource these services because they need to get the most out of every conversation, gain valuable information, and generate effective marketing lists. In fact, the DMA states that $17.5 billion is spent generating sales leads, and this trend won’t decline, because the leads generated from a live associate is more qualified and legitimate.
An associate working on a B2B program assists the client by verifying information, collecting new data, like email addresses and interest levels. The focus is on call quality and significance rather than the number of calls per hour. GCS is prepared to take on the changes a B2B program introduces. We have the talent, the resources, and the interest, to help provide excellent support for B2B programs. Our quality assurance department can verify the leads we generate and ensure the highest quality, most cost-effective interactions possible.

While we will still be successful with B2C programs, we can grow faster by adding B2B interactions.

Credit Card Growth Case Study

Building a Relationship to Spur Long-Term Success in Credit Card Sales

Download the Full Study!

Over the years, we have had the opportunity to service our clients and exceed their expectations, even beyond what they originally anticipated.

One example comes from a large US bank, seeking assistance with credit card acquisition and fulfillment. Several years ago the client sought an outsource provider to help fulfill credit card acquisitions in a way both cost-effective and revenue-generating. The organization’s goal was to develop a substantial number of new client relationships using both inbound and outbound voice services.

Read the full Case Study…

Download the Full Study!

 

Sample of our Daily News!

Do you know that we publish a Daily News every Monday through Thursday?  Here is a preview of today’s issue.  If you’d like to receive our Daily, you can sign up here:

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Sales Tip

Be a power seller!

Our daily job is to make contact with customers and sell them the product we know they need.  To do this on a consistent basis, it requires that we have a POWER SELLING STYLE.  To do this, we need to always be ASSERTIVE, TARGETED, CONFIDENT.

Find Ways to Relax

If you can’t find ways to relax during the day, try out a few of these.

  • If your alarm clock sounds like an air raid, use an alarm (that you know you can wake up to) that’s more pleasant, like one that plays soft music and gradually gets louder.
  • Swap your coffee for a mug of ginseng tea. It helps soothe anxiety.
  • Take your dog for a 10-minute walk before you leave for work. Performing 10 minutes of exercise three times a day helps beat depression, improves mood and increases overall well-being.
  • Eating a great breakfast from the start (great as in healthy!) will keep you from getting  irritated and jittery later in the morning.
  • Crank up your favorite feel-good music in the car. Studies show listening to music helps reduce high blood pressure and elevated heart rates.
  • Sit up straight and throw your shoulders back. Good posture helps you take in more oxygen and perform better during stressful activities.
  • Get near a plant. If you work or sit near a plant, your blood pressure will likely be reduced.
  • Eat three Hershey Kisses. Studies show consuming a small sugary snack can relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Think acupressure. Use the thumb and index finger of one hand to squeeze the soft spot between the thumb and index finger of the other. Hold for three counts. Switch sides. Next: With thumb and index finger, gently squeeze each of your fingers all over. Use your thumb to rub each joint in a circular motion. Then hold each finger at its base and pull gently to stretch it, sliding your grip up the finger and off the tip.

What do you to to relieve stress during the work day? Take the poll>>>

[polldaddy poll=6481146]

Tips from Women’s Health Magazine

Did You Know?

  • Ken Griffey, Sr. and Jr. hit back-to-back homeruns – the only father-son duo to achieve this feat.
  • Nevada has the highest number of cremations while Alabama has the lowest.
  • There’s a city in the middle of the Caspian Sea, 25 miles from the coast!
  • Brian May, guitarist for Queen has a PhD in Astrophysics!
  • 55% of American women dye their hair.
  • Finland is the world’s biggest coffee-drinking nation with 1,652 cups per person per year.

Word of the Day: Wane (weyn) Grow dim or faint.  To keep your energy from waning after lunch, stand up, drink cold water and keep yourself busy.

This Day in History:

August 22, 1992: Hurricane Andrew hits the Bahamas.  There and in South Florida, where it arrived two days later, the storm was responsible for the deaths of 26 people and an estimated $35 billion in property damage. (History.com)

Joke of the Day:

The first time my son was on a bike with training wheels, I shouted, “Step back on the pedals and the bike will brake!” He nodded but still rode straight into a bush. “Why didn’t you push back  on the pedals?” I asked,  helping him up. “You said if I did, the bike  would break.” (Reader’s Digest)

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