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Halloween Safety 101

Halloween is the second-most popular holiday in America behind Christmas. This time of the year is fun and frightful but you don’t want it to turn into a real-life nightmare.

That’s why you should always keep safety in mind on Halloween. Whether you’re celebrating this weekend or waiting until Wednesday, here are a few ways to keep you, your kids and your pets safe this Halloween!

  • Be proactive with trick-or-treaters. If your kids are small, go trick-or-treating with them. Attach their phone number, home address and parents’ names to the inside of their costume in case they get separated. Encourage older kids to trick-or-treat in large groups. Stay close to home and have a pre-determined route that is well-lit with slow traffic. Don’t forget the flashlight!
  • Set ground rules. If your kids or teenagers will be out with friends, set some rules. Give them a reasonable curfew and be sure they have a way to contact you in case something happens. Know who they’re celebrating with and know what they will be doing for the evening. Make sure they know to only approach well-lit houses and to never go inside a home or car of a stranger.
  • Clear a path. If you’re staying home and passing out candy, be sure trick-or-treaters have easy access to your front door. Clear away any wet leaves, garden hoses, etc. Be sure your outside lights are on and working. If you have luminaries, make certain they are a safe distance from visitors as some costumes can be highly flammable.
  • Keep Rover happy. Sometimes, pets can get spooked by doorbells or strange visitors. If your dog is well-behaved, be sure they can maintain a safe distance from the door. If your dog gets anxiety in these situations, put them somewhere where they can be happy and peaceful for the evening. A dog barking at the door will also scare a lot of small children, which could make for a rotten experience. Also, don’t give your pets any treats from the trick-or-treat stash.
  • Costumes count. Be sure any costume you or your child wears fits well and isn’t too large, can provide ample heat if it’s cold out, is easy to move and walk in, and is bright enough to distinguish in the dark. Also, be careful with costumes that resemble animals as some people could mistake them for the real thing. (True story out of out Pennsylvania this week).
  • Inspect the treats. Granted, there’s never really been a huge news story about razor blades ACTUALLY being in a child’s candy bag but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take a look at your kid’s loot and throw away anything unwrapped or even partially opened. If it looks suspect, just throw it out. Also, anything that might pose a choking hazard should be tossed.

Happy Halloween!

Be a Resource for Others

It can be scary and stressful starting any new position, especially if you’re also new to the contact center industry. And although we have excellent training programs to arm our folks with the tools they need to be successful with customer interactions, there’s still a learning curve.

To help our newest team members be the best they can be, here are a few ways our current employees can help bring them up to speed and feel comfortable in this new work environment:

  • Introduce yourself. During training, you meet some key people but definitely not everyone at the site. It’s important to establish connections right away so new associates feel like they are part of the team. If you see a new face when you’re walking in the door, introduce yourself. Talk to them at break and find out a little bit more about them. You’re great at doing this on the phone with customers; use those interpersonal skills with your co-workers, too!
  •  Be sure a new associate has what they need. If someone looks lost or confused, ask them if they need help. You’ll be a resource they can greatly use in these first couple of days. And if you can’t help them, be sure they know to talk to their supervisor if they have needs/concerns.
  • Offer up your own stories. If a new associate gets frustrated with their first few calls, offer up your own testimonials of interactions you’ve had over the phones and how you’ve navigated difficult situations. Not only does this help you build a relationship with the new associate, it provides comfort to them knowing they can and will be great at what they’re doing.
  • Share your best practices. If you’re a top performer, offer a new employee your advice for landing sales and making successful calls. Everyone has their own strategy for success. Help the employee see they, too, can be successful in their own unique way.
  • Be positive. If you’re having a rough day, don’t sour a new employee’s impression of GCS. Paint a positive perspective and bite your tongue.
  • Reassure them. Let a new employee know that you are available to help them, if they need it/want it. A new associate should know that Rome was not built in a day and it is not expected for them to be perfect after only a few tries. If they’re doing a great job, offer them praise. It will help feed positive behavior and also, help them progress in their skills.

The only way GCS can be successful is if we work together as a team. Let’s help out our newest team members any way we can.

Increase the Level Of Business in Your Daily Routine

In our last employee survey we asked for ideas from our employees about how they increase our level of business performance in their daily routines.  We got some great tips! Here they are:

  1. Make every call count, make calls presentable and always assume the sale.
  2. Be consistent, be at work when scheduled and keep idle/wrap time low.
  3. Be a mentor to new associates to help them integrate into GCS.
  4. Always have a positive attitude. Treat clients with professional respect.
  5. Be a good example of what a quality associate needs to be by maintaining the quality of the calls and increasing overall performance.
  6. Double your effort!
  7. Stay focused and positive and know the product you are selling.

These are just a few of the many great responses to our survey.


Safety Management

I always look for a reason to pass along principles from Dr. Jerry Bell. In his book, The Achievers, he outlines the traits of being a good person. Not just a good leader, but a good person. One of his chapters talks about the Five Horsemen of Death. It’s a pretty morbid name for five categories of managing your life but it certainly sends the right message. Do them right and your chances of living longer are better. Do them wrong and your chances are reduced.

They are:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Safety

Dr. Bell goes into detail on each one and they all seemed self-explanatory until I got to Safety Management. That one was eye opening to me. Do you know someone who has fallen off a ladder? Had a skateboard accident? Tripped on a curb while texting? If you avoid unnecessary risk, you’ll live longer. I have now created a phobia for roofs.

Summertime gets us outside doing seasonal recreational activities that require safety management. The year’s longest daylight was a few weeks ago and we can enjoy the sunshine for both fun and getting some of the outside chores done.

At GCS, we want to be safe and professional all year round.

Even though temperatures can be hot outside, we regulate the office temperatures as best we can so everyone is comfortable. We strive to have the right indoor climate so professional attire is the norm. Client visits occur every month, so we want to be ready. In fact, we had a prospect visit in Lancaster just this week. Hope they become a client!

I hope you all are striving to manage the five horsemen and be safe this summer.

Oh, do you know someone willing to clean out the gutters at my house? I’m not getting up there!


Check out GCS’ 9 Tips for Selling Anything!

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Changing Language in Your Contact Center Can Make You More Professional and Accurate

Say This, Not That

Changing Language in Your Contact Center Can Make You More Professional and Accurate

How do you feel when someone says the phrase “telemarketing?” Personally, myself and many of my co-workers cringe a little inside. Why? Because it sounds negative.

In fact, the word “telemarketing” gives little insight into what it is we actually do at GCS. Our scope of work is much broader than that.

We perform customer interactions for several industries, manage business process outsourcing solutions for our clients and receive inbound customer service calls, just to name a few.

The “tele-m” word is just one of many we are enthusiastically phasing out of our vocabulary. At GCS, we want our clients and anyone who hears about us to understand we are a professional company that takes its work and the interactions with our clients’ customers seriously.

By eliminating those dated, negative words and phrases, we are replacing them with more professional-sounding, upbeat terms that more accurately describe what is that we do.

Here is our list of words and phrases to knock out and rejuvenate:

Use Contact Center instead of Call Center:

Because we do so much more than just make phone calls, this term is irrelevant; therefore, we use the term “contact center” to describe where our associates at GCS perform their work.

Use Service Center instead of Call Floor:

This term is much like the one above. We use the phrase “service center” to describe the central point of our locations.

Use Call Guide instead of Script:

Not everything our associates say to customers is written verbatim for them to read. We like to promote positive customer interactions that allow our associates the opportunity to connect to their customers. The term “script” sounds as if our associates have little to no freedom to make those interactions their own; therefore, we use the term “call guide.” For some clients, the call guides are verbatim but for others, they simply imply ways to make the presentation more effective to the customer.

Use Response instead of Rebuttal:

You rebut someone in a debate by essentially offering an argument. We don’t do that at GCS. Instead, we respond to our customers when they have questions or concerns by what it is we are offering for them. This is why we say “response” instead of rebuttal.

Use Associate instead of Rep:

Our employees mean a lot to us. Referring to them as “reps” gives very little value to their importance at GCS; therefore, we refer to our employees in the contact center as “associates.”

What other words and phrases do you like to change or omit to give some lift to your organizational language?

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Leadership by Listening; Leadership & Management

When you see someone visiting your site, it is human nature to question their motive: are they a client or prospect? are they an auditor? is something important happening?

Our clients use site visits to check up on their programs, but our management team takes advantage of site visits to not only check up on our processes but to reconnect with all of you.

I recently hit the road to begin a whirlwind tour of all of our sites. Here’s why this tour is necessary and what I hope to accomplish:

In our business, the GCS contact centers are where the rubber meets the road. It is imperative for management to visit the centers periodically and spend time with our service delivery teams to accomplish a number of mission critical objectives. I thought now was a good time to hit the road and complete a contact center tour to get closer to our core business and find out what I could do better to support our teams in the centers.

I spent last week visiting Wheeling and Lancaster. This week, I am in Huntington and next week headed to Yuma. The following week I am going to Mt. Hope to complete my tour of all the domestic contact centers. I sent out an outline in advance of roughly fifty topics to cover to make the visits as productive as possible.

For me, the most important thing is listening. In fact, the theme of my trip is ‘Leadership by Listening.’ I want to hear about each center’s successes so I can share those and any best practices with the other centers. I also want to hear about their greatest challenges.

Let’s face it, if we don’t foster an environment where managers are comfortable speaking about what they feel is challenging or not working then we are not in a position to properly support them.


Challenges always look different from 10,000 feet than they do at ground zero. My goal is to understand firsthand how our processes are working from the centers’ point of view so we can work together to seek continuous improvement.

I also think it is important to communicate in person to all of our associates. They receive regular communication from the contact center managers but they always like hearing from someone on the executive team. Our company has gone through significant challenges over the last year and we need to help our associates understand what happened, where we are now and what our plan is for the coming months. Everyone needs to hear about the ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’

My principle here is: When left to speculate, it is human nature for people to assume the worst.

That’s why it is so important to over-communicate and be visible in the centers, especially when our business has been negatively impacted.

Another principle is: You can’t play dead in a western.

When times get tough we need to motivate the associates with our plans for improvements and growth. They really appreciate honest and candid feedback which includes what each and every one of them can do to help.

And there is a lot of good news to share. Next month, we will see our largest increase in client demand for our services in over a year.  Additionally, it is an election year so we are seeing significant activity growing in the political arena. We are working on many strategies to meet these demands. This work comes in spikes, so having the ability to bring in 50 or 100 people on short notice is a great win-win for our associates, our clients and GCS.

Our message is simple: If we continue to work hard and deliver the best product or service, we will be successful.

Upon completing my tour, I hope to make recommendations for improvements and work with each contact center manager to set goals for the coming months. I know I will be in a much better position to do so after my visits.

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your checklist

How Does a Calling Campaign Start in a Contact Center?

Did you ever wonder how a new program is implemented at GCS? What may seem simple on the surface does have some complexity to it. Here are a few things to know:

  • Each program is custom developed for our clients. Because their requirements are usually unique, each program is created individually in the GCS system to insure we can accommodate the unique needs of a client.
  • your  checklistIt all starts with information gathering. Once our sales team secures a new client for GCS, we identify a Client Services Director who will be the program’s manager through the start-up and continue as we move into the daily management of the program. Our first task (after the introduction to the client, of course) is to work with them to identify all the information we’ll need to set up the program in our systems. We have a simplified business requirements document that we use as a checklist to help us insure that we “turn over all the stones” related to the information we’ll need for the set-up.
  • Analysis of the requirements plays an important role. Because each program is unique we have to carefully pay attention to what we’ve received to be sure we understand it and can translate it into what we need to create a program for GCS. Oftentimes our customers’ language is different and we must learn their terminology to understand how to translate that information into our “language” for the implementation. Clients’ systems and processes are also unique so everything from the data layout for the information we’ll receive to how we’ll send data back to them will be very different from program to program.
  • Information Documentation summarizes it all. We do have a structured program implementation guide that we utilize to compile all of the program requirements into a single location. The implementation guide will contain information as simple as our clients’ contact information to the complexities of data transmission, scripting and dispositioning requirements just to name a few. Compiling this information into a single location helps us relate the documents together to be sure we have a cohesive program that can be implemented.
  • Program Development is a cooperative effort. During the development phase, multiple departments are involved in the implementation. Our programming team works on creating the data layouts, setting up our system for data delivery and reporting while the scripting team creates the on-line call guides and scripts the call centers use. Our tech services team assists with setting up all of the requirements we need for caller ID, messaging, etc., while our training team develops the program training materials. These are just a few examples of the cooperative efforts that occur during the program start-up process. The CSD team is coordinating the effort, tracking the status, forwarding questions and responses from the client and generally attempting to keep us on track from the start-up date.
  • Test, test and re-test. The testing phase is a very important piece of the process. We want to test every aspect of the system to insure we can import data, it flows through to our scripts and that we can pass data back to the client and produce the required client elements such as daily reporting to them. Testing is meant to identify we have a successful set up but its main purpose is to identify the issues. In many cases clients also require that we pass test data to them to be sure we have met their requirements.

Once we’re able to get a good test, the fun begins. The average program set-up can be anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks based on the program’s complexity. The process is a team effort and couldn’t be done without the involvement of the entire GCS team.

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Top Performer Tips from the Wheeling Contact Center

Jessica Davis and Larry Waldrum

A great thing about the new year is you can look back and see what experiences provided new working knowledge that you can apply in the new year. For some top performers in Wheeling, WV, last year was filled with learning opportunities and personal success, which helped define the new goals for this year.

Supervisor Larry Waldrum is focusing on his time management this year.

“One of my resolutions for the New Year is to have more one-on-one time with my team to help them achieve their goals at GCS and become good customer management associates. Another resolution is to work on finding the time to do all my work (time management) and find the time to work with every associate on my team and play more fun games with them.”

The top performer on his team was Jessica Davis. What’s the reason for Jessica’s success?

“The reason I’ve done so well for the last year is mainly my attitude, also I fully support the client’s program because it is really beneficial for their homeowners.”

Supervisor Wendy Griffith also had two top performers on her team: Chelsea Roboski and Bryan Atwell. Both made room for improvement and were successful in 2011. Chelsea Roboski states:

“This past year I worked very hard on becoming more conversational with my customers. At first, this was a little difficult for me, but with a lot of hard work and the support of my supervisors, I have really improved. I have really focused on providing better responses to the customer, so I can share as many of the features and benefits of the program as possible. This allows the customer to have all the facts before they make a final decision on the offer. Being positive and assumptive throughout the entire call is crucial in keeping the customer engaged and receptive to purchasing the product. I will continue to strive to be one of the top sellers here in Wheeling for the year 2012!”

Bryan Atwell says being conversational is the way to go.

“I feel that my strategy was learning to be more conversational and using more benefits to catch the customer’s attention. I also try to pay close attention to what the customer is telling me so that I can respond/ to their questions quickly and accurately, as well as to let them know I am paying attention to what they are saying so they will feel confident they are being heard. There are still many things I want to improve which is what I am looking forward to in 2012.”

Wheeling has certainly paid attention to our focus on ways to improve our interactions with the customer. Thanks to everyone in Wheeling for sharing their insight and best of luck in 2012.

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Real Leadership, the New Middle East and the 2012 Election

April 30: George Washington becomes the first ...

Image via Wikipedia

Today I’m going to start a new blog feature!  Our communications director, Laura Jollay, does a fabulous job each week creating a company newsletter (the GCS Express).  This newsletter features articles about goings-on within our centers, industry news and sometimes articles written by our employees.  Today I’d like to share with you an employees’ thoughts on leadership and the future of the Middle East.

The “Arab Spring” which I discussed in an earlier issue of the GCS Express this year, has given way to the “Arab Autumn” of today with new regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. The world is now engaged in a “death watch”of the regimes of Mohammar Gaddafi in Lybia and Bashar Assad in Syria. There is much speculation about what lies ahead for these countries.

Revolutions have much in common with the way pregnancies were before the advent of sonogram machines. There is much anticipation over the arrival of the “new nation.” Expectations and euphoria are at heightened states but on the “birthday” of the “new nation” you never really know what you are going to get. The aftermath of the revolution can be one where liberty and opportunities abound, as was the case with the birth of our nation on July 4, 1776, or the results can be disastrous as they were in Cuba and Iran.

Many attribute the success of our republic to the “separation of powers” which is contained in the Constitution of the United States but notwithstanding the genius of James Madison and others, without sound leadership, our Constitution would have been only words on parchment.

The key was leadership and the man who held the key was George Washington.

At the end of the American Revolution, George Washington could have become a dictator or he could have crowned himself emperor as Napoleon Bonaparte did at a later date. Instead, he submitted his sword to Congress and retired to his home in Mount Vernon, Va. The world had not seen such a display of humility and integrity since Cincinnatus submitted his sword to the ancient Roman Senate. Washington cared deeply about those he led and he was willing to put his ego aside for the greater good of our country. He recognized his lack of knowledge of military strategies and was willing to seek the counsel of those with more expertise like Prussian General Von Steuben.

More importantly, when his last term in office as president ended, he did not try to remain in power by changing the Constitution, as Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela. He did not try to continue to exert his influence as prime minister as Vladimir Putin did in Russia. George Washington stepped aside and allowed John Adams to take over the reins of the federal government as chief executive. This is the “stuff” that real leaders are made of. This is the “stuff” needed by those carrying AK 47s on the streets of Tripoli. George Washington did not have to wait until after his death to be recognized as a great leader. He was known and admired throughout the world in his day.

At the end of his life, Napoleon Bonaparte said, “They wanted me to be another George Washington.”

What is needed in these Middle Eastern countries is sound leadership at every level of government. As we go into the season of political primaries leading to the presidential election of 2012, let us not evaluate candidates on the basis of physical attractiveness or their “witty” remarks at television debates. Bear in mind James Madison was no taller than five feet and weighed no more than one hundred and twenty pounds but “from the neck up,” he was twenty feet tall. All of us have seen photographs of Abraham Lincoln and can agree physical attractiveness was not exactly one of his attributes.

Neither the people of the Middle East nor the people of the United States can afford to be distracted by superficial appearances and “razzle dazzle.” Instead, let us not forget the difference one individual can make and let us keep a “check list” of the attributes of leadership so we can turn this presidential election into a “George Washington look-alike contest.”

Conviction is Key

One of our chapters in our Presentation Consistency Initiative is Product Conviction.  Here is an article by Zig Ziglar about the importance of Product Conviction.

The late Mary Crowley frequently commented that one person with a conviction would do more than a hundred who only had an interest.  Commitment is the key to staying the course and completing the project.  Conviction always precedes commitment.

When we’re convinced as a salesperson that we are selling a marvelous product, our demeanor, body language, voice inflection, facial expressions – everything – communicate to the prospect that we fervently believe we’re offering something of value. Many times the prospect will buy not because of their belief in the product, goods or service, but because of the belief of the salesperson.

Our feelings are transferable.  Courage can be and frequently is transferred to the other person.  Convictions are the same.  The teacher who fervently believes in the message he or she delivers will persuade the student by the very depth of that conviction.  One of my favorite Mary Kay Ash quotes is, “Many people have gone a lot farther than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”  In short, their confidence, born of someone else’s conviction, had enabled them to “make it.”  Conviction comes from knowledge and a “feeling” that what we’re teaching, doing, selling, etc., is absolutely right.  When we transfer that conviction to those in our sphere of influence, they and society benefit.

Show me a person with deep convictions and I’ll show you a person who’s made a commitment to deliver those convictions to others.  Show me a great leader and I’ll show you a person of deep convictions who is able to attract followers because of those convictions.  I’ll also show you a person who is happy in what they’re doing and far more successful than those who do not have those convictions.  Buy that idea; develop those convictions; make that commitment and I’ll SEE YOU AT THE TOP!

Zig Ziglar’s Website