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Avoid Dead Air and Listen to Yourself

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When I was in college, I worked for a local radio station. As a 20 year old kid, it was exciting but probably the most stressful job I’ll ever have. The thought of having possibly thousands of people listen to my voice was daunting.

I had no idea how I sounded. I wasn’t even sure if I was loud enough over the air for people to hear me because I was so nervous. Lucky me, my roommate recorded me one night and wow! I was shocked. I couldn’t believe how Southern I sounded and moreso than that, how unenthusiastic I came across. Instead of reporting baseball scores it sounded like I was reading out obituaries.

Hearing the inflection, the volume and tone of my voice gave me a wake up call. That’s why audio coaching definitely has its place in contact center training. Without hearing what they sound like, associates and agents have no idea what the customer is hearing on the other end.

Hearing the good and the bad, along with your own personal calls, can help you compare and contrast what’s really going on when you’re presenting to a customer.

There are five ways to incorporate audio coaching in your training program:

  • Listen to your own calls and see what’s working and what isn’t
  • Listen to Hall of Fame presentations to get an idea of what a great call sounds like
  • Listen to Hall of Shame presentations to hear what you shouldn’t sound like in a call with a customer
  • Listen to inspirational messages to remind you of the great job you are doing and how far you’ve come
  • Allow associates to listen to the client and hear what it is they are most pleased with

If you can hear something going on in your presentation skills, you can more easily fix it than if someone is just telling you what to do. Take a listen. You might surprise yourself.

And thankfully, I learned from my mistakes. Unfortunately, no amount of enthusiasm could make the Braves season great that season.

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4 Traits of World Class Listening (Being an Active Listener)

We all know that listening is a important skill.  Both personally and professionally, being a good listener can make or break your success. Here are 4 tips, originally described by Dr. Jerry Bell (http://www.bellleadership.com/) to amp up your listening skills and become an active listener.

  1. Commit! It’s a Lifestyle
  2. To Listen or Not to Listen
  3. Take Notes
  4. Ask 5 Questions

Commit. Listening is a Lifestyle

This first tip is simple.  Realize that being a listener is a lifestyle.  I’ll give an example.  I was talking to a friend the other day, one who is trying to go to the gym more often.  I explained my gym routine in terms it’s not if, it’s when.  As in, when I wake up in the morning I don’t ask my self IF I’m going to the gym today.  I ask myself, WHEN am I going to the gym today?  It’s already programmed into my lifestyle/routine.  Committing to being an active listener is a similar commitment.

With most lifestyle changes (if you aren’t already a world class listener), you’ll need to practice.  Fortunately, in this instance, practicing doesn’t include sweating.

To Listen or Not to Listen

The second tip extends the first tip and applies it on a per conversation basis.  TO LISTEN to someone, show them with your body language and eye contact that you are listening.  You should reflect their thoughts and ideas back to them in your responses.   And if you are not able to give someone your full attention at any moment, tell them!  Apologize and ask them if there is another time you can set aside to speak to each other, when you are able to give your full attention.

Take Notes

Let’s go back to grade school!  Taking notes helps you remember what was discussed in any given conversation, plain and simple.  Your notes will also help you prepare for the next tip….

Ask 5 Questions

This is my favorite tip.  Why?  This tip really engages you in the conversation.  It takes listening to a whole new level.  At this point you will achieve full ‘active listener‘ status.  Ask questions that you may have thought about while taking notes.  Ask who, what, where, when, why and how if you don’t know the answers already.  If anyone has any doubt that you were paying attention to them, asking questions will seal the deal.

 

Tips for Protecting Your Goldmine

via D'Arcy Norman on Flickr

Have you been considering an outreach program to your customers or prospects to tell them about your products or services but just aren’t sure about the customer experience? Good for you!

Your customer database is a goldmine when handled correctly.

In the wrong hands, that investment could disappear. What things should you consider before collaborating with an outsource contact center? What controls should they have in place to make you confident before you begin outsourcing your customer interactions with them?

Any contact service provider should make you feel secure that:

  • Your customers will enjoy the interaction ( leading to increased loyalty and profitability).
  • Your company will be represented professionally.
  • Your brand will be protected and enhanced.

In any industry, it only takes a few bad players to wreak havoc on public perception. Fortunately, many legitimate companies know the right way to do things and understand the long-term, inter-relationship impact, contact centers have for the client and the customer. We conduct each call with great respect for the customer experience, and we do it hundreds of thousands of times a day. In my role, I am responsible to our clients for delivering those services in a way that meets these same goals and objectives. I regularly discuss this very issue with prospective clients and here are a few tips I urge them to consider in the selection process.

  • It IS your call – Make sure you are in the “driver’s seat” when it comes to how your company is identified and represented. From the caller ID display to the final close, you should have access and input into the process so your brand and customer’s experience is a positive one. Make sure you are able to visit the facility and audit the customer interaction. Beware of practices that keep you out of the loop. 
  • Stay out of jail – Make sure the company has a legitimate compliance process and a clean track record. There are national and state compliance laws and regulations, as well as industry standards that should be followed. There are complex requirements that cover everything from the Do Not Call lists, to credit card security, to licensing and appointments of agents and representatives. Look for companies with a solid track record in your area of interest and for industry compliance certification like ATA-SRO and PCI-DSS. Ask about previous violations or fines and be wary of the few small operators who are here today and gone tomorrow (to open somewhere else).
  • Take a test drive – If you are unsure of the best approach and want to try different offers and messaging, make sure the company has a process to conduct a “trial” or “test” prior to full implementation. This lets you observe the customer experience and tweak the results to determine the most effective process before implementing on a full scale. An unwillingness to test, or to properly scale a program, may indicate a lack of confidence or inexperience with similar programs. Stick with a group having real experience to back up any ideas or adjustments your program might need to increase success.

This is just a start. If you want to hear more, contact us!

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5 Benefits to Outsourcing Your Contact Center

For businesses spanning all ranges of products and services, outsourcing works. A major area in which it works quite effectively is the two-way communication between your business and your customer contacts. Although there are other reasons for this type of outsourcing, here are five major reasons why contact center outsourcing works so effectively:

1. Cost Reduction

This is one of the primary reasons for any outsourcing. You are trusting another entity to provide exceptional communication. Although some fail, most are able to provide quick and effective services in a friendly manner and leave the client well satisfied. Their records are kept impeccably so that you have immediate access to information when you need it without high, on-site expense.

2. Volume Flexibility

Because of their single focus, contact centers are able to react more quickly with human staffing when your contact volume increases or falls. Through their technology and manpower, they can scale up or down as needed with virtual overnight flexibility.

3. Brand Loyalty

An effective contact center reacting quickly to satisfy customer needs removes obstacles to your brand loyalty. Quick, effective and pleasant resolutions increase confidence in your business.

4. Privacy Compliance

Outsourced calling companies realize the need for meeting regulatory compliance when it comes to your contact base. From background checks to internal security measures, they probably are more aware than your own internal staff of the critical need for keeping your and your customer’s information discreet and guarded.

5. Enhanced Revenue

By quickly resolving issues, a commitment to quick one-call resolution of issues or providing information, customer retention is increased. Cross-selling is another area where outsourced call centers are effectively utilized. Rapid resolution and cross or add-on sales are increasing the bottom line for many businesses using this type of outsourcing.

Business success depends on keeping clients, suppliers and your customer contacts satisfied with the information they seek and the service they expect. Outsource centers focus on this aspect of your business to keep your business. When they deliver, you deliver. Outsourcing then builds a bridge of trust linking you, the center and your customer contacts which increases your reputation of excellence in this critical aspect of your company’s function.

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Calling Your Mobile Phone Customers

Three Strategies for Increasing Results in the Call Center Channel

Increasing response rates are always a top focus of any channel used to reach customers. With so many channels available today, marketers often spend a lot of time trying to increase the channels of message delivery. While that is a smart path to pursue, also consider little things that can increase the response rate within each channel.

In the call center channel, we recommend three methods for increasing your chance to make the sale and increase the loyalty of the customer. 1. Call their mobile phone. 2. Leave a voice message on their answering service. 3. Send a personal note as part of the engagement process. All of these initiatives increase ROI, conversion and file penetration while humanizing the marketing experience.

 

Calling Your Mobile Phone CustomersMobile Express - Our results with properly designed mobile call campaigns have been phenomenal. Our mobile programs demonstrate a real opportunity for affinity clients to delve deeper into their lead database and gain more wallet share from their existing client base. Our study showed mobile phone customers:

  • Answer their mobile phones more than landline phones.
  • Convert at a Higher Rate.
  • Increase Sales Rates.

In addition, there is minimal “Noise” from this group and you have the advantage of a growing database of leads.

Landlines are not going away any time soon and the programs that are successful today will continue. However, the trends are clear. Mobile phones are becoming a new marketing tool for many companies. Often those who adapt a new strategy first, win the most. Be one of the first among your industry peers to profit from this program.

Download Our Whitepaper on Calling Consumer’s Mobile Phones

Leave a Voicemail for Your CustomersVoice Messaging – Traditional outbound contacting will invariably reach voice-messaging devices. We encourage our clients to leave messages at key points in the process. These messages introduce the brand and offer, while providing a toll free number for a callback that fits the customer’s timeframe. The return call is routed back to the same GCS agents already familiar with your product.

There are various strategies to the timing and frequency of the message, as well as the decision to use a live or recorded message. We will share with you the success strategies that best meet your needs. Effective use of this strategy

  • Increases conversions by delivering more presentations
  • Improves the customer experience by letting them control the timing
  • Validates the reason for calling if they screen calls (interested consumers will pick-up)
  • Deepens customer loyalty by professionalizing the contact

The call back rate is dependent on the offer, but an extra sale here and there, for a contact you are already paying to make, will increase the success of your program.

Personalized Communications with Your Customers PENpal - Personal appeal is a major force behind the rise of social marketing. The use of live agents conversing with customers is a well-proven method of engaging a customer to handle requests and sell products. Likewise, personal notations on direct mail pieces have long proven their worth in lifting response. Sticky notes on letters, blue pen in the margin and other devices have been used to attract attention and personalize an otherwise bulk mail piece. The GCS PENpal program combines the best of both approaches. Our PENpal program is a way to personalize your offer to:

  • Increase conversions by making mailings stand out
  • Lengthen stick rate by showing a more professional interaction
  • Deepen customer loyalty by personally thanking them for their business
  • Improve customer experience by recalling the conversation

With PENpal, when one of our contact center associates completes a conversation with your customer, they will reinforce the outcome of the call in some personalized way. It may be with a quick, professionally handwritten note, message in the margin, or highlight of key phrases on supporting collateral or mailing. It can even be an e-mail follow-up or other electronic posting. This personalization helps your customer reconnect with the conversation and links the personal experience to your product or brand. Everyone loves to receive a handwritten note and it guarantees a positive increase in the contact experience.

Contact GCS if you would like more information.

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9 Tips for Choosing a Compliant Outsourcing Provider

Recent changes by the FCC have closed loopholes used by aggressive marketing practitioners to use inexpensive and intrusive technology to flood consumers with robo calls (recorded messages) and texts. We think this is a good thing.

We all want to meet consumers on their terms and not detract from the relationship with poor communication.

 

One-with-one human interaction is an excellent way to provide service, share advice and offer compelling and helpful products and services. Working with a professional outsource company can impress your customer, improve your brand and grow your business.

So how do you design a successful outreach campaign and pick the right partner to ensure success?

Based on our experience, here are a few things to check.

1. Do you have a large and engaged consumer customer base, or prospect business base, that you can effectively market to?

If not, you will need to work with someone who can generate the leads for you.

2. Do you have compelling and valued products or services?

If you need more products or services to offer, the right company can provide suggestions of products or partners that do have appeal with your specific target group.

3. Is the partner experienced?

Many unscrupulous companies exist by reinventing themselves, frequently. Look for a company with a solid track record and long-standing clients.

4. Is the company compliant with laws and regulations?

This includes FTC and FCC regulations, as well as local and state laws. The American Teleservices Association (ATA) has an industry, peer review standard, called the Self-Regulating Organization (SRO), that helps demonstrate such compliance.  For health related issues there are Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements as well. Having a knowledgeable and compliant partner will allow you to avoid pitfalls and fines.

5. Do they protect all parties?

No one wins in a he-said-she-said battle with the consumer. Make sure your partner provides:

  • proper training to their representatives
  • has guidelines in place for all areas of consumer and data engagement
  • has a solid Do Not Call process to prevent and maintain customer preference
  • possesses the ability to record and store conversations, validate sales and verify compliance at all points in the process
How NOT to train Customer Service Representatives

How NOT to train Customer Service Representatives

6. Are their outbound presentations customer focused and engaging?

Look for an organization that treats all customer contact with a customer is king attitude. Not everyone will want your offer, so it is important to know how to make a positive impression with each contact, regardless of the channel.

7. Do they use technology to support the experience?

Aggressive dialer management, poor connections, even improper headset positioning, can lead to a breakdown in the customer experience. Make sure they can demonstrate an understanding of the technology, its proper use and sufficient training.

8. Can they integrate channels.

The customer you speak with today, may want to chat from your website tomorrow. When you can integrate the message through one provider, the message is more consistent and clear for the consumer. Blending, channel integration, live transfers, customer databases and other technology can support the user experience.

9. Do they take training seriously?

Great technology needs to be supported with great presentations. Make sure the focus on improving the agent’s skills are well documented. Top companies provide daily feedback, while others may coach monthly. Just knowing the product or service is not enough. Skills have to be honed in order to present professionally, question with purpose, respond appropriately and connect with the consumer.

Download “3 Strategies for Increasing Results in the Call Center Channel”

For more on recent regulations, read this.

To learn more about GCS, contact us, or check out our website.

GCS is in the professionally outsourced communication business. We want to help companies connect positively with their customers through multiple channels to delight customers, grow business and strengthen the brand. We support efforts by companies and regulators to continue to improve the ability to meet consumers in their preferred channel with professional and compelling presentations.
 
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Why Should I Use Multiple Communication Channels ? (Thoughts from a Marketing Specialist and Consumer)

Image representing Get Satisfaction as depicte...

I recently began a seminar series over at the local community college talking about online marketing.  I’ve been working on websites and in the online marketing industry since 2003 and I’ve been working at GCS since July 2009.

There has been a monumental shift in marketing with the rise of both social media sites and mobile technologies.  The ways in which people communicate with each other have increased at a drastic rate. Remember when the only option was a telephone call or snail mail letter?  Now you can tweet your messages, post on someone’s wall, chat online or send an email.

From a Study done by Dan Zambonini

In my seminar series (from a marketing perspective), one of my main arguments is that you can’t ignore the proliferation of tools people use to find information and communicate in this brave new technology world. So I advocate that people think very carefully about which online tools to utilize (and believe me, you need to utilize more than a website).

It makes sense to utilize numerous communication and information channels to spread information about your company, services and products when there are a million different ways in which people are consuming information. From your website to email, to facebook, twitter, linkedin and mobile apps…Putting information in more than one place (!) increases your reach.

 

All of that being said (and now as a consumer), there are still times I want to pick up the phone and talk to a real human being.  In this respect….make it easy for me to get in touch with you!  There is nothing more irritating that having to SEARCH for a way to get in touch with someone at a company. You should always strive to provide more than one communication channel to suit the needs of your customers.  Since there are so many technologies available, providing an email address, phone number and social media outlet will give your customers multiple opportunities to contact you with questions and concerns.

Thanks! Now that I’ve been able to get in touch with someone at your company in less than 2 minutes to resolve my question… I am a happy customer.

If you’re interested in reading what GCS does to help customers get in touch with companies you can read our latest edition of the GCS express.

And here’s one example of how a contact center might utilize multiple communication channels with their customers.

 Tweet me @_GCS_!

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Use Your Emotional Intelligence to Connect to Your Customers

Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to perceive, control and evaluate a person’s emotions. As customer service representatives, possessing emotional intelligence is key in understanding and incorporating the customer’s point of view in your presentations.

There are four ways to navigate through your customer’s emotions:

  • Perceiving emotion. You can’t physically see your customer so you have to be a very active listener during the call. Take mental notes of what you are hearing and internalize the emotion being conveyed by the customer.
  • Reasoning with emotion. Once you recognize the emotion from the customer, you must use that emotion to spur cognitive activity and thinking. Using the emotion you perceive can help initiate thought processes.
  • Understanding emotion. Because there are a wide variety of emotions, there is an equally wide variety of reasons for expressing emotions. Ask yourself: why is the customer [insert emotion]? If they sound angry, don’t assume it’s your fault. They could be having a bad day. If they sound excited to speak with you, then they generally have an interest in what you are saying.
  • Manage emotion. Once you have come to understand what the customer is feeling and why, use that information to support your presentations. Respond appropriately to the emotion of the customer. If they are difficult, diffuse the situation. If they are happy and enthusiastic, continue that by offering features and benefits of the product. Never trade up your positivity to get on a customer’s level.

You are not trying to change the customer. Your job is to deliver a service the best and most effective way possible.

Empathize with them. Show them that you have concern for them as a customer.

The most important thing you can do during the call is understand the customer has a right to feel the way they do. Their emotions might not have anything to do with you. What you can control is the way you respond to the customer’s emotions. Offer support, show concern and engage with them in an appropriate manner.

Our customers matter. The more you make them feel like they do, the better your presentations and performance will be.

Don’t let emotion take you over. Leave that for the Bee Gees.

Some information from: http://psychology.about.com/od/personalitydevelopment/a/emotionalintell.htm

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Who’s Contacting You and How You Can Opt Out

Understanding the National Do Not Call Registry and Opting Out on Your Own Terms

In our industry, we talk an awful lot about the “Do Not Call” list and other regulations we must uphold. How assertive are you when it comes to managing your contacts and those marketers who try to reach out to you? Do you leave everything up to spam email boxes and voicemails or do you actively filter who reaches out to you and when?

As you know, at GCS, we contact established customers of our clients. Sometimes, we will get a customer who irrefutably states that they do not want to be called, ever.

Although they might not realize how being a customer of a company means they may receive some calls from time-to-time, we oblige and do what makes the customer happy.

But did you know there are other ways you can “opt out” of certain types of marketing?

  • First, know who you’re giving your information to. Whenever you shop online or if a sales clerk asks if you want to save 10%, when you fill out a form, be sure you know what they are going to do with your information. Most of the time, they’ll probably just add you to an email list- which has its perks because typically their emails offer deals and savings. But, if you start to get suspicious information or start to see companies with whom you didn’t provide information, find the “unsubscribe” option in the email and opt out.
  • Understand that certain programs are exempt from lists. Just because someone is registered on the DNC list, it doesn’t mean they won’t ever be contacted by someone again. If you sign up for such a list in the future, know the exceptions.
  • Be informed when entering that contest. Anytime you fill out an entry form for anything, your information more than likely goes into some kind of database. If you’re okay with being contacted in the future, go for it. If not, think twice.
  • Is your spam up-to-date? You have the ability to control the spam, or junk mail, that comes to your computer. Check the settings on your system and be sure it’s up-to-date. If you notice emails from an important address, be sure to change the settings to allow them to go straight to your inbox. More tips can be found here: long-island-websitedesign.com.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters and notifications. If your inbox is getting crowded with newsletters you no longer read or social network notifications you don’t care about, unsubscribe from them and turn them off.
  • Manage calls. If you receive a lot of calls and are not sure where the number is from and they never leave a voicemail, Google it! If they call you back and you are not a customer nor have any affiliation or interest with the company, answer and tell them you do not wish to be called back. They may have gotten your number from somewhere you did not authorize. Avoiding the calls will not help.
  • Write it in. If your mailbox is inundated with direct mail pieces from companies you have no business affiliation with, you can write in to have your name taken off certain lists. Check out MSNBC’s Tips or visit OptOutPrescreen.com for a complete list.
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Turn Down the Noise [When Customers Complain]

Explain to the Customer about Exemptions to the DNC

Have you heard of “customer noise?” In our industry, that usually means customer complaints. It occurs most frequently on outreach campaigns. At GCS, we take many precuations to avoid engaging someone who does not want to be contacted, but the situation does occasionally occur.

Many customer complaints are caused because of a misunderstanding of exemptions allowed under the National Do Not Call (DNC) registry.

Consumers assume if they sign up on the DNC list then they will never, ever receive another unsolicited phone call again.

What they fail to realize is there are exceptions to the DNC restrictions.

If they are an affiliate of a political party, a customer of a company or show any vested interest in an organization, they can be contacted because of their association with those groups.

At GCS, we listen carefully to their concerns.

“When a customer mentions they are on the National Do Not Call list, all of our call guides have client provided responses to help the customer understand why they are receiving the phone call. The DNC regulations have an exemption for contacting customers who have an existing relationship (the EBR or Existing Business Relationship exemption). If the customer has a current relationship with the institution, the institution is allowed to contact the customer as a part of this exemption. If there is no existing relationship, the customer would not be selected for calling or would be suppressed from calling if received as a part of a solicitation.”

Frank Camp

How do you accommodate a customer who is unhappy when they receive a call?

“The call guide responses explain to the customer that since they have an existing relationship with the institution, the institution is allowed to contact them with offers it feels might be of interest to them,” explains Frank. “There is a brief explanation in most call guides of how the Existing Business Relationship exemption works. In most cases this does diffuse any complaints or concerns the customer might have. If they still do not wish to be contacted, we can process a request to place them on the institution’s Do Not Call list so they won’t receive any further solicitation.”

Besides the DNC, we have ways to alleviate other types of customer noise, including:

  • Customer service issues with the institution: We provide customer service numbers for the institution in our call guides.
  • Too many calls: Contact rules are set by the client. We traditionally apologize and at most, try to offer the product/service we called them for.
  • Stop calling me: We record the customer request and place them on the institution’s Do Not Call List.

The best way to handle customer noise is to be empathetic, offer an apology and help the customer the best way you can. You can’t please every single person out there but you can leave a great impression that might lower the volume of the noise next time.

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