Melissa Moffett Interview

Melissa Moffett is the VP, Customer Service, at Machias Savings Bank. At The Future Contact Center Summit, January 26-30 in Orlando, Melissa will lead a session on “How a Small Contact Center Embraced Social Customer Care.” In advance of the Summit, she was kind enough to share her insights on some of her customer service success stories.

What are the core tenets of customer service at Machias Savings Bank?

We will personalize each customer’s experience by focusing on their individual preferences and needs in order to build strong relationships. We will be reachable, flexible, and passionate. For our call center, I also strive to create a positive and fun environment. One of the keys to providing exceptional service comes from happy employees. We work as a team and look out for each other. The team participates in Fun Fridays, has dress up themed days, and of course lots of food! Training is supported by success stories and how a mistake that is made can be turned into a loyal customer. Another key concept is all of our calls are live answered from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Our sales staff use this to leverage proposals for business. How many organizations can say this today?

Can you share a specific customer service success story in the last year or so that led to bottom-line profits/savings for the organization?

An agent was on the phone with a customer when her cat started having a seizure. The customer became very distraught and the agent asked if he could contact the local animal hospital to help. The agent was able to reach the hospital and connect them with our customer. The next day the agent called the customer to see how the cat was doing and found out the cat had passed away. The agent then sent a sympathy card with a personal note. The customer was so touched, she drove to the main office to meet with the agent and thank him for caring. Each month we vote top success stories bank wide, and this story was the winner. We also found out from another manager who works in the back office that the customer’s husband was bragging about the bank at the local church and how he would never bank anywhere but MSB. It is hard to quantify ROI on this story except that we now had a long-term loyal customer. That is our culture – we want to build loyal relationships.

What are the fundamental keys for successfully delivering service on social media?

We have learned by the response rates of our posts what the customer’s wants are with social media. We have found increased responses come from posts promoting local events and individuals we sponsoring. We also offer avenues for customers to submit local photos of our communities thru the seasonal photo contests. The contests allow the public to vote on the winners and they are entered into a chance to be on our yearly calendar. The community also enjoy pictures of our internal events showing our employees having fun. This area of our social media is handled by the marketing department.

As far as service responses, those are handled within the call center. We use a community management software that allows Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn postings to be monitored on one site streamlining this for us. We act with a sense of urgency and depending on the post we will either post publicly or private message a response to help.

How do new channels such as email, chat, and social media affect the type of customer service employees that are the most successful?

As with everything we do at Machias Savings Bank, we want to provide all channels available for the convenience of the customer and fulfill their needs. We are constantly looking thru the lens of customer to improve our communication tools. I expect the department agents to use each channel periodically to remember the customer impact of their responses. It is easy to become complacent, and forget how their response to the given channel can give the perception of not caring. We want our customers to know we are here for them.

What does the future of customer service look like to you?

I foresee the future of customer service to become more virtual. The branch traffic is significantly decreasing and those customers still have banking needs. Those needs are being redirected via technology to the call center. We currently are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. In the next 3 to 5 years, I anticipate we will be open 24/7. We will need to be ready to meet with a customer via video conferencing as well as by phone, chat, email, and social media.

Melissa Moffett is the VP of Customer Service at Machias Savings Bank. She will be speaking at The Future Contact Center Summit, January 26-30 in Orlando, Florida.

Ingrid Lindberg Interview

Ingrid Lindberg is the Chief CX Officer of Prime Therapeutics. At The Future Contact Center Summit, January 26-30 in Orlando, Ingrid will be sharing a keynote address on “Harnessing the Power of Customer Experiences to Drive Growth & Profitability.” In advance of the Summit, she was kind enough to share her thoughts on the growing role of customer experience at Prime.

Since taking your position at Prime, can you share a particular success story that you’re most proud of?

I’ve been with Prime for almost two and half years now, but one of the things that I’m most proud of is the work that our pharmacies have done around speed of processing. We learned pretty early on that Zappos and Amazon were having a pretty direct correlation to the expectations that our members had of Prime. We were right at industry standard for the pharmacy benefits industry – two days in-house to process a prescription. However, Zappos has changed what people expect from everyone. I challenged our pharmacies to cut our time to process in half. And they did. We’re currently, on average, under one day in-house for our prescriptions. This means that most of the time, we process and fill a prescription the same day that we receive it, AND we get it in the mail. Our loyalty numbers have increased significantly because of this one change. We knew that this was important to our members, and they are definitely rewarding us for making this change! We saw a 23 percent decrease in effort and an 8 percent increase in ease of use in just the first year!

What type of challenges did you face in dealing with the new health insurance legislation?

The best part and hardest part about the new legislation is that it introduced a product to millions of Americans who have never had health care. Think about the first time you purchased health insurance. You were most likely 22, just graduating college and at your first job. You went into your cafeteria at work, there were booths set up by each of the insurers and tons of human resources people milling around to answer your questions. You learned by making mistakes. The majority of the newly insured have never had those experiences. And there are no human resources professionals to help. It is incredibly frustrating for this population as they make decisions without fully understanding the implications – and there are limited resources to help them learn. We try to make this extremely complex business easier for people to understand, but with health literacy rates being as low as they are, and by insurance having a language of its own, it really is a tough problem to solve.

How does your role as Chief Customer Experience Officer also tie into marketing at Prime Therapeutics?

I am accountable for both customer experience and all consumer marketing at Prime. I have accountability for all of our business to consumer marketing efforts, all of our digital and social channels as well as our customer experience strategy and member insights. I’ve been in both situations as a CxO – I’ve owned marketing and I’ve had to influence marketing. It is much easier and faster to make an impact and get everyone aligned if you’re the singular accountable leader. Because of our organizational structure, we’ve been able to make massive change for the better in the communication channels that I have accountability for. We see the results and it just makes sense. Harvard Business Review released an article a few years back that addressed the fact that the CxO would be replacing the CMO at some point. Whether or not that happens, I do believe that we have reached a time and place where the consumer is in charge, and they don’t want to be marketed to. They do want to be able to control their experience. The traditional marketing tactics don’t drive loyalty. Customer experience efforts do.

What type of strategies do you employ to ensure that all Prime employees make customers a top priority?

There are two things that I’ve found that really help to ensure that all employees understand what we’re asking of them when I’m helping to drive a company to be customer-centric.

The first thing I do is to clearly state exactly what the future state that we’re driving towards looks like and to ask every employee to help us to get there. I use a variety of campaigns underneath this activity. From building customer experience rooms to producing customer videos to creating roadmaps. The second thing I do is tie compensation to the metrics that matter to customer experience. Loyalty metrics are key, and I ensure that every employee’s compensation is tied to those customer loyalty metrics. If you ask first and then measure and incent globally, it is much easier to ensure that employees make customers a top priority.

What does the future of customer service experience look like to you?

We’re just beginning. I was doing an interview with a firm a few weeks ago and they referred to me as a pioneer of customer experience. I was one of the first Customer Experience Officers back in 2005. When I think about how far we’ve come as a practice in the last 10 years, I can only dream of what will come in the next 10. I think that having a CxO at the table will become as important as having a CFO. I think that we’ll see many of these newly formed Cx consulting shops fold as they aren’t really practitioners. I think that firms will become much smarter at correlating their Cx efforts to revenue. I think at the end of the next decade, people will buy based on customer experience as readily as they buy based on price.

Ingrid Lindberg, Chief CX Officer of Prime Therapeutics. She will be speaking at The Future Contact Center Summit, January 26-30 in Orlando, Florida.

Interview with Andy Yasutake

Interview with Andy Yasutake, Head of Global Customer Operations at LinkedIn

 Andy Yasutake is the Head of Global Customer Operations at LinkedIn. At The Future Contact Center Summit, January 26-30 in Orlando, Andy will share a keynote address on Disrupting the Customer Journey: Blurring the Lines Between Marketing, Service and Sales in a Members First World. In advance of the Summit, he was kind enough to discuss some of the ways he helps exceed customer expectations at LinkedIn.

Can you discuss what your new role at LinkedIn is and what Global Customer Operations does at LinkedIn?

At LinkedIn, I’m the Head of Global Technology Solutions & Operations function, which is a strategic group in the Global Customer Operations (GCO) business unit at LinkedIn. In my role, I’m responsible for several capabilities supporting LinkedIn and the GCO teams including Online Self-Service, which includes our member and customer facing Help Center and self-service capabilities, Program Management & Delivery, Business operations (non-agent customer facing employees), and Technology Systems across the enterprise. As part of the Program Management and Operations functions, my team is responsible for the organization’s capabilities, exploration of emerging and innovative trends, and overall prioritization and impact assessment of the strategic initiatives.

What are the challenges of working on a somewhat cross-functional team?

The key challenges in working a global matrixed organization on a hyper-growth trajectory is that there will inherently be cross-functional teams you need to work with to make this happen. Some of the challenges we face with cross-functional teams is making sure there is alignment on the strategic priorities across the groups. Many times groups may have similar goals or strategies, but when it comes down to leveraging resources to move the needle on initiatives, if every cross-functional resource needed to make an initiative successful isn’t on board, there will be situations where the biggest priorities aren’t necessarily being worked on, which can cause delays to capabilities needed to continue grow and scale the business. At LinkedIn, we leverage many cross-functional teams – communication and priority alignment has been a key contributing factor for a company that is in a tremendous growth area in a hot and growing space.

Are there any new or emerging technologies that you think have exciting potential for exceeding customer expectations?

There are many emerging technology capabilities that are becoming more readily available in experiences for exceeding customer expectations. One technology that is interesting is webRTC technologies. The ability to be browser and add-on download agnostic to create real-time interactions across devices and platforms is appealing. Amazon’s MayDay feature in their Kindle is built on this new emerging technology as an example. Giving customers real-time interaction abilities to help resolve their issues in a seamless way will be an expectation that customers will want to have more of very soon if not already.

If you could breakdown your address at the Summit to one core takeaway, what would it be?

Customers’ Expectations of the Service Experience are changing in the Internet Age – from disruptive new technologies in markets that are changing the rules to the games, to a different generation of people who live in a social, always connected world and who blur the lines between Sales, Marketing and Service – the rules have changed, and we need to change and not just meet expectations of our customers, but redefine expectations in line with the brand promise of the company.

What does the future of customer service look like to you?

The future of Customer Service is a key differentiator for companies who know how to leverage the Service experience as part of the overall Customer Experience, and not just as a back-office function that is a low cost providing cost center. Customers are demanding an experience that is high touch, high service that is part of the overall experience of the retail site, the internet site, or blend of offline/online experiences they would have in line with the brand promise of the company. The Service experience will become synonymous with the company and will be a differentiator if a simpler and more end-to-end experience with low effort but high value can be provided to customers in any industry.

Andy Yasutake is the Head of Global Customer Operations at LinkedIn. he will be speaking at The Future Contact Center Summit, January 26-30 in Orlando, Florida.

Introducing ATA’s New CEO, Phil Grudzinski

By Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections MagazineAs covered in this issue of Connections Magazine, the ATA announced that longtime board member Phil Grudzinski has been named its new CEO. Phil actively jumped into his new role with much enthusiasm and a packed schedule but still managed to find time to chat with Peter DeHaan about his new job, the ATA, and the call center industry.

Peter: Phil, congratulations on becoming the ATA’s new CEO. You have a long connection with ATA as a member and board president, as well as vast experience in teleservices. What would you like to share with readers about your background?

Phil: Thank you, Peter. Most folks know that I have been involved in direct marketing and financial services for more than twenty years. I have had the pleasure of learning from and managing some of the best talent in the industry, not only in the US but internationally as well. In addition to the US, my roles have allowed me to develop businesses in over thirty countries around the world, including Latin America, Europe Asia, and Australia. No matter what company I have been with, whether Sears, Roebuck and Company, GE, or American Express, 70 to 80 percent of customer engagement happened over the phone. I have established countless inbound and outbound programs for these companies, from customer service operations to product marketing to driving Internet-based activity back to call centers. I have actively worked with many of the ATA’s members in a variety of capacities, such as technology suppliers, call monitoring services, program management, call taking/sourcing, database management, analytics, reporting, and product development.

Peter: I think you are ideally suited to succeed Tim Searcy as the ATA’s CEO. What will that transition look like and how long do you expect it to take?

Phil: Tim and I have worked together for a long time now. I have been chair of the national board for almost half the time he was the CEO of the ATA. He was a great leader for the ATA and I am happy that he will continue to serve as an active member. The short-term plan is to create a seamless transition for the ATA membership, which means that all of the member benefits that are enjoyed today will not be disrupted as we go through changes in administration and processes behind the scenes. A large part of creating this seamless transition is made possible due to a strong national board of directors and strong leadership at our local chapters. The transition is already in process, and I expect it will be fully accomplished in the next few months.

Peter: What are some of the opportunities that you see for the ATA that you plan to pursue?

Phil: As the immediate past chair, I am walking into this role with my eyes wide open. There are many opportunities that can continue to make the association even stronger and better. In the short term, I want to continue to capitalize on the clear strengths and expertise of our association members, and I will be engaging at a very early stage of this transition to leverage these strengths in a variety of ways. First, I want to deepen our relationships with our congressional legislators and regulators. Continuing our communication paths with positive, proactive interactions will only lead to new opportunities and a stronger voice on government affairs and issues. A recent example of this is our partnership with FCC chairman Julias Genachowski in the Jobs4America program. You will hear more about this at our Washington Summit coming up in October.

Second, I want to increase the ATA value proposition to members. It is important to drive not only content and relevant communications to our members on a consistent basis, but I want to clearly increase the opportunities for our members to capture economic benefit from the association. A clear focus will be placed on creating greater opportunities to provide more impactful and productive networking events and collaborations. While there is a laundry list of other issues to deal with, if we accomplish these two things in the short term, I believe we will be able to continue to grow the association membership and attract more top quality member companies to help create new opportunities and fuel new growth in the industry.

Peter: The opposite of opportunities is threats. Are there any threats that you see looming that need to be addressed?

Phil: This is a great question, Peter. The clear and obvious answer is the economy. Right now, as I see the markets react to rating declines, I know that this hurts all of our members. It impacts travel, investments, and how companies drive business development. This is one of the reasons why the ATA will be focused on business development opportunities for our members.

Another area is the regulatory environment. We are way past the DNC regulations and have ventured deep into the consumer protection and privacy world. More restrictive legislation is on its way to regulate all aspects of direct marketing, including Do Not Email, use of cell phone regulations, and state-by-state interpretations of current federal laws. We see this internationally as well with even more restrictive legislation in countries outside the US. At the ATA, we have adopted a self-regulatory organization approach, which is an opportunity we plan on engaging with the FTC in a more robust way. The ATA today still stands as the one association where you can get the most proactive and up-to-date information about current and proposed legislation. We are committed to consumer advocacy in every step of customer engagement, and our members represent the best practices in the industry.

Lastly, money is tight and every member has to place bets on where they invest as we make our way through the constant changes in our economy. I want the ATA to be a sure bet for our members.

Peter: What is the core message that you want to share with the call center industry about ATA today?

Phil: The ATA membership is more than call centers. It is about all the work that call centers do on a daily basis. In addition to contact centers, we are comprised of Fortune 500 companies, technology suppliers, economic development organizations, management consultants, database management companies, analytical services, Internet-based providers, and social media networks. We are continuing to drive the expansion of the ATA membership base, which encompasses all aspects of customer engagement. This includes any direct marketing business and customer service provider that use the phone as a part of their customer marketing/service communications mix.

As I have said, I want the ATA to be a sure bet for our members. The ATA is where they can get access to the best information quickly to make better decisions for their companies. The ATA is where they can have direct access to regulators and can help drive changes that are not possible without a common, collective voice. And the ATA is where they can reach in and develop new economic opportunities that drive their own growth targets. The time has never been better to blend all of these ingredients into one association that matters.

Peter: Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Phil: I want to thank you, Peter, for the interview, and I look forward to engaging with the call center industry and all of the members of the ATA in my new role.

[From Connection Magazine September 2011]

Rafael Manzon: A Man on the Move

By Ann Byle

Rafael Manzon has spent nearly a decade contributing to the contact center industry as part of the ATA. Now he puts his years of experience to work in his new role as CEO of Contact Center Compliance Corp (CCC).

“The ATA gave me a unique perspective on the entire industry,” says Manzon, who was director of business affairs for the international, nonprofit trade association. “I could see the industry from the call center, the consumer, and the government perspective. This will give me a huge advantage as I set the vision and direction for CCC.”

Manzon, who will report to owner and board chairman Ron Allen, calls his move an “organic transition” to the company. “We’re both a little irrationally happy about working with each other,” he says.

Allen agrees. “Rafael brings years of industry experience working with contact center professionals and governments the world over. He brings strong leadership and team-building skills in addition to a focus on forward thinking and creative technology solutions for our clients.”

Early Years: Manzon, who turns thirty in May, has been looking to the future since childhood. His parents left behind a civil war in El Salvador when Rafael was seven, finally settling in tiny Crawfordsville, Indiana. By age twelve, he owned a Web design company, “a clear sign that my passion for industry would not be easily suppressed,” he says.

His father was one of his earliest and most influential mentors. “He was strict, but he always showed me love,” Manzon says. “He taught me to be methodical, solution-oriented, and able to stand on my own two feet.”

He’s still close to his parents, who visit weekly and with whom he speaks almost daily. “While my dad was making me stand on my own, my mom showed up with the food,” he says with a laugh.

Other mentors include Ms. Crull, his third-grade teacher who took a scared boy who spoke no English and mentored him for three months in his new language. Manzon also credits David Parker, the businessman who hired a young man with a bad resume and taught him about sales after Manzon’s eighth visit to his office to ask for work.

There’s also Bob Kobek, Bill Morris, and Chris Moore – each who took time to coach and guide him through many business adventures. And Tim Searcy, who he credits most at ATA: “Thanks to Tim, I was CEO of my own business unit inside the ATA.”

Life Lessons: Manzon’s business and life experiences have brought both important and difficult lessons. His work at a printing press after “dealing with a temporary academic setback” taught him that the world is real and hard work really does pay.

“The ‘what’s-in-it-for-me lesson‘ was tough, too,” he says.  “Everybody says a good businessman always wins, but I had to learn that everyone around me had to be happy for me to be happy. A deal that was good for me alone wasn’t necessarily a good deal.”

Positive lessons were just as vital to Manzon. “People are most important,” he says. “When I needed opportunities, it was very much about people, not about my experiences. I know I’m here today because of what people – family and friends – have done for me.”

He credits his desire to learn as well. “To have a passion for learning has been a huge help for me,” says Manzon. “You never know what you don’t know.”

Most important, perhaps, has been the life lesson to always have the courage to ask. Manzon has asked for help, asked for opportunities, asked for explanations, and asked for advice. “If you ask for a new opportunity, the worst they can say is no. By not asking, you’re limiting yourself from forward movement.”

Looking to the Future: Manzon sees only positive things on the horizon for the contact center industry. The key, he believes, is the customer. Without customers, there is no contact center industry. Therefore, companies must make that first customer contact a “sacred moment.”

“I believe contact centers are becoming about answering real problems in the customer’s chosen forum on the customer’s first try. I think the industry has realized that the real magic happens when the customer makes contact with the company. Each consumer has a favorite way to contact the company – by phone, website, chatroom, text, etc. – so the company must make that contact organic,” says Manzon.

Before that “sacred moment” happens, the company must know its customers. That is, they must know what information their customers want and how they want to get it, and then make that contact natural and easy.

“The future for contact centers is focusing on contact with the consumer; the future is creating organic communication that considers only the consumer’s desire. We’ve heard before about doing what was good for the company. All that becomes irrelevant when we listen to what the consumer says they want,” Manzon says.

His dreams for Contact Center Compliance are just as far-reaching. Because he sees a company with happy and loyal clients and a great product reaching into a growing market, he forecasts only growth.

“CCC is at a point where we have explosive growth potential. I can see our current product line taking a bigger part of the market share, being on the forefront of the do-not-call space, and even an expansion of our product line,” says Manzon.

“Legislation is changing all the time, and our team is on top of these changes,” he says. “Our clients depend on us to keep them compliant. That’s what makes the job so exciting.”

Allen, owner of CCC, looks to the future as well. He sees his company entering a new and exciting chapter in its history. “I look for Rafael to lead CCC in continuing to offer the highest-quality solutions the industry has come to expect from Contact Center Compliance. He will lead the creation of future technology solutions that will assist our sustainability as a valued industry and continue to make contact centers an irreplaceable component to world commerce.”

Allen calls Manzon a natural fit for the company with his enthusiasm for life and business and his continual willingness to learn.

“Strong strategic relationships foster creative ideas by bringing great minds together. I believe that both our clients and the industry will benefit from more strategic partnerships, and I believe Rafael is the one to forge those relationships. His ability to quickly assess how to bring value to companies within the industry and know how to use technology to achieve this makes him a natural fit,” says Allen.

Manzon will add executive CCC offices in Indianapolis, and he will travel often to the company’s California headquarters. He sees a huge advantage to CCC being available to customers from 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time to 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

And personally? He and his wife, Marcie, would like to have more children. Their daughter, Katie Ann, is four months old and has “melted my heart.”  He’ll continue to dabble in boating, motor sports, and computers, and maybe even play a hand or two of his favorite Texas Hold ’Em. Friends and family will remain his top priority.

“If I could paint my ideal age fifty, it would look an awful lot like today,” says Manzon. “I would like to be as happy as I am now.”

[From Connection Magazine May 2011]

Interview with ATSI Convention Chair, Marcy Hewlett

Connections Magazine: Marcy, congratulations on being named chair of the 2006 ATSI convention. What is in store for attendees at this year’s convention?

Marcy Hewlett: It has been a lot of fun getting ready for this convention. Our committee has worked hard at making this one of the best ATSI Learning by Association (LBA)  conventions yet. I know that St. Louis will be hard to beat, but we are giving it our best shot.

This year’s convention is centered on revisiting the best presentations of past conventions. We have Barry Elms speaking about Negotiations and the Art of Getting Paid, Walt Slaughter on Creating Client Commitment, Snowden McFall on Marketing with Low Cost Solutions, Martin Ween on Protecting Your Businesses from Liability Claims, Betty Porter on Employee Retention, John Ratliff on Delivering Service Excellence, and Larry Goldenberg on Pricing. These are all speakers who have presented in the past and who had scored highly on the speaker surveys for both presentation and topic.

We are also incorporating new topics. An open panel discussion, led by Dee Hawkins, Sharon Grossman, Gary Pudles, and John Ratliff will focus on Remote Operators issues, such as where to find them, training, monitoring, legal ramifications, and how to determine whether remote operators are best for your call center. Kevin Bachelor will be leading a discussion on what qualifications to look for when hiring a technician. We will also host a Lite Wireless Data Shootout presented by the American Association of Paging Companies (AAPC) that will demonstrate the latest technical advances in the paging and wireless communications industry and how it affects the way we provide service to our clients. Also, Donna West and Linda Osip will be discussing ways to achieve Top Ops Scoring in the Award of Excellence program.

Connections Magazine: What is the convention theme?

Marcy: Since this year’s convention is being held in Portland, Maine, our tag line is 2006 ATSI Learning by Association: The Maine Event — Port of Calls. All decorations will be centered on the beautiful State of Maine and its wonderful scenery – especially the lighthouses.

Connections: What will be new or different from past conventions?

Marcy: We have actually worked harder at carrying over the success of last year’s St. Louis convention. We are committed to making this convention both informative and affordable. Our early registration fee will once again be kept low at $399.00. We also spent a lot of time developing the LBA Pavilion – the informal learning center found in our Expo hall. This year this area will offer a scheduled series of speakers from within our membership. The LBA Pavilion will also be open after each speaker’s presentation for carry over discussions or questions not answered during the regular session. Lastly, we will again be presenting our LBA Sharing Award to the member or members voted by their peers as sharing the most valuable ideas via lists serve discussions for the previous year.

Connections: I understand the Portland is a wonderful city, what are some highlights that readers might want to know about?

Marcy: Portland is a truly great little city, full of New England charm. The Old Port area is packed with artisan shops, galleries, restaurants, bars, and clubs. The working waterfront hosts cruises, fishing boats, restaurants, and beautifully scenic views. Plus, Portland is a great jumping off spot for day trips to outlet shopping and the L.L. Bean Factory store in Freeport, the beaches of Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, and Old Orchard Beach. Or you can take in the spectacular Maine coast by driving up Route 1 through beautiful villages like Camden and Boothbay Harbor up to the bustle of Bar Harborand the ferry terminal to Nova Scotia.

One of the highlights of our convention will be the Lobster Bake benefiting the Education Foundation. Registration will include a trip to Pearl Island where ATSI and vendors will sponsor an old fashioned Maine Lobster Bake.

One of the reasons Portland was chosen is for its comfortable summer climate and beautiful scenic views.

Connections: Why should someone consider attending this convention?

Marcy: In addition to what I’ve already shared, there will be multiple opportunities provided for education, networking, relaxation, and information. This is the one place that gathers teleservice companies from across the industry, across equipment platforms, and range of services. Nowhere else can attendees get such a broad scope of ideas and information.

Connections: Do you have any closing comments?

Marcy: Yes. There are no excuses not to be there.  It is affordable and informative; the climate is excellent and it’s family friendly and fun!

For more information, email admin@atsi.org or call 866-896-2874.

[From Connection Magazine April 2006]

Interview with ATSI President Gary Tedrick

Gary Tedrick became the president of ATSI (Association of TeleServices International) at their annual convention, which was held in Vancouver, this past June. As Gary begins his term, here is what he had to share about the association and the industry.

Connections Magazine (CM): Gary, congratulations on becoming president of ATSI. What are your plans for your tenure as president?

Gary Tedrick: Thank you Peter. It is a tremendous honor to be in a position of leadership for this fine organization.

My primary goal is to continue the growth and excitement we are creating in making ATSI a key industry resource. Over the last several years, ATSI presidents and their boards have gone to great lengths to redefine ATSI and the benefits we provide to our membership. Our industry is changing rapidly and we are in a pivotal position to help our members not only survive these changes but to prosper from them. We are working hard to make ATSI the informational and educational center for the entire industry.

CM: Do you plan to attend the various industry conventions and user group meetings, as your predecessors have?

Gary: Yes, absolutely. I am very excited about the opportunity to travel and meet with every user group, regional group, and sister organization. There is no better way to learn about our industry and to present the ATSI message about the benefits of membership. We have such a wonderful group of people in this industry that this type of travel can only be a positive growth experience.

CM: What will be your message as you meet with them?

Gary: I will begin by highlighting who we are, outlining the projects we are working on this year, and describe the future we are working towards achieving. Each year the benefits package offered by ATSI grows in quantity and value. I look forward to meeting industry members who are not yet members of ATSI. One of the most important parts of my visits will be the opportunity to speak with these people and explain how we can help each of them individually. I want them to understand why membership in ATSI is money well spent; believe me, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

CM: What plans does ATSI have to attract new members?

Gary: We have been very successful over the last few years using the concept of offering more member benefits for less cost and reaching out to non-members and past members. We also offer 50% off the first year’s dues to make it easy to experience the benefits of ATSI membership.

We have a committee working on external and internal marketing for ATSI. We have just recently completed a CD-ROM that provides an extensive menu of information on ATSI: our history, code of ethics, educational programs, information on our insurance program, loss prevention hotline, public relations (PR), and marketing programs. This is being mailed out to members and non-members alike.

Over the last few years, we have completely reorganized the board allowing representation on the board for every user and regional group as well as having a seat for a vendor representative. We are focused on gaining input from all these groups and responding to the needs of our industry.

We hope everyone, member and non-member alike, will begin to make plans to meet with us for our 2005 Convention and Expo. We will be meeting in St. Louis, MO, June 22-25, at the Hyatt Union Station. With our centralized location, ease of travel, and a wonderful facility, we anticipate a great response. For those wanting to turn their business trip into a family vacation, St. Louis offers many great opportunities locally as well as serving as the gateway to the west.

CM: Errors and omissions insurance (E&O), as provided through ATSI, has been a popular member benefit. Do you see having E&O Insurance has becoming more important in the future?

Gary: ATSI’s E&O insurance program will always be one of the great benefits of membership for this organization. ATSI’s program is specifically written for our industry and there is no better, more complete coverage plan available. In today’s market, you do not want to do business without it. With the rise in litigation and the increasing stresses on privacy now more than ever, E&O as well as other types of insurance are a must for anyone doing business. We are also seeing new areas of concentration and concern. We need to anticipate the new areas of vulnerability caused by VoIP technology, remote operator technology, call logging, record retention, message delivery security issues, HIPAA, and others that have not yet appeared or completely developed on the radar screen. For the faint of heart, the world looks like one big legal action waiting to happen.

CM: ATSI offers three programs aimed to help call centers improve quality: the Award of Excellence, the Call Center Award of Distinction, and Call Center Certification. How have these programs been received?

Gary: We are excited by the way all of these programs have been and are being received. In every case we are seeing increasing numbers of member participation. We are also hearing more and more testimonials about how our members are marketing participation in these programs and its impact on capturing new business. Members of the public have discovered these programs and look to them to identify businesses that offer exceptional service. I have even been told of a state bid that required the successful vendor to be ATSI site certified.

We have also begun a program allowing members to benchmark their customer service departments and compare survey results to an industry average. We will also be providing this year the same type of program for financial ratios. This will allow members to input anonymously the percentages from their business operations and comparing them to an industry standard. What percentage of total revenue is your payroll? What pieces make up the payroll measurement? This will be invaluable to owners and managers wanting to compare their numbers to the industry as a whole.

CM: What new initiatives, such as services and member benefits, can we expect from ATSI this year?

Gary: We have so much in the works; please allow me to list just some of the things members will be seeing. Many of these are under development and may not occur exactly as I am describing them:

  • Define and promote standard industry measurements within vendor groups, setting industry standards and definitions.
  • Establish vendor metrics allowing greater ease of comparison vendor to vendor.
  • Identification of and presentation of emergent technologies.
  • Enlargement and enhancement of the Learning by Association program.
  • Expansion of the legislative committee, including a greater ability for political interaction by our members with their legislators.
  • Customer service benchmarking.
  • Business financials benchmarking.
  • Revision of CD-ROM and transition to Web-based access.
  • The ethics committee stands ready to assist in disputes between members. We will also market the fact that we are a self-regulating industry of the highest ethical standards.
  • Marketing to members.
  • Marketing to non-members.
  • Marketing to new potential sister industries.
  • Promotion of our industry to the general business public.
  • Finally, we are having our website completely reworked; it will be very user friendly, including more industry information for public access, greater search engines and on-line shopping.
  • Annual convention at Hyatt Union Station St. Louis, MO. We expect the best turnout in years!

CM: Gary, thank you for your time, what closing thoughts do you have?

Gary: I hope that I have caused some non-members to begin thinking enough about ATSI membership benefits to call a member or visit our website. Once they become a member, I invite them to find an area they are interested in and join a committee. Believe me, they will get back more than they give; it is the best time and money they will ever spend.

[From Connection Magazine October 2004]

Interview with Dr. Jon Anton

Dr. Jon Anton (also known as ‘Dr. Jon’) is the director of benchmark research at Purdue University’s Center for Customer-Driven Quality. He specializes in enhancing customer service strategy through inbound call center and e-business centers, using the latest in telecommunications (voice) and computer (digital) technology. Since 1995, Dr. Jon has been the principal investigator of the annual Purdue University Call Center Benchmark Research. This data is now collected at the BenchmarkPortal.com website, where it is placed into a data warehouse that currently contains over ten million data points on call center performance.

Dr. Jon has assisted over 400 companies in improving their customer service strategy. He has published 75 papers on customer service and call center methods as well as 18 books. Here is what Dr. Jon had to share with us:

Connections Magazine (CM): Dr. Jon, you have been involved in call center benchmarking for a long time. Please share with our readers how it all started.

Dr. Jon (JA): Over a beer at Lafayette Brewery, several students and I were trying to be creative about how to raise money to support our call center educational program at Purdue University. One student pointed out that the call center is loaded with easily accessible performance data, another student noted that the University has powerful computers for storing and analyzing data, and finally, another student pointed out that outbound telemarketing of the benchmark reports would be a good practical experience for students in the call center program. Before you knew it, we had invented call center performance benchmarking and that semester we launched our first benchmark research sponsored by IBM. It was very successful.

CM: Please clarify the connection between Purdue

JA: As the call center benchmarking research grew, it became too much for a small crew of students to do professionally. BenchmarkPortal was founded as a joint-venture with the University and to this day is still populated with Purdue graduates.

CM: What were some of the obstacles that you needed to overcome in those early years?

JA: The early obstacles included: 100 percent turnover of student participants each semester, developing a mailing list of call center managers, gaining industry acceptance of benchmarking as a worthwhile endeavor, and developing a logical method of presenting the benchmark data (such as by industry, by call type, by size, and the like).

CM: In those nine years, how many call centers submitted data?

JA: It seems hard to believe, but we have had over 50,000 call centers submit data to our database. We only keep a “rolling” 24 month period to maintain the currency of the data.

CM: How many are currently in your database?

JA:  We currently have about 20,000 members of our International Benchmarking Community.

CM: That’s a lot of data. I suppose that with so many call centers covered, you could find a good peer group with which to benchmark any call center.

JA:  We greatly encourage participants to pinpoint a peer group of call centers that have their same profile. This is quite possible with the size of our database.

CM: A question that we are frequently asked at Connections Magazine is, “How many call centers are there?”

JA: First of all, we must define call center. For years, I have defined a call center as “any group of telephone professionals whose inbound calls are received through an automatic call distributor (i.e., next available agent gets the inbound call), or through an automatic outbound dialer (i.e., next available agent gets the connected call). With this definition, we went to all the manufacturers of this equipment and ask them to tell us the number of call centers in their “installed base” of customers. The number we came up with in 2003 was close to 200,000 call centers worldwide. This number includes inbound and outbound customers service centers as well as internal help desks handling calls from employees. As long as they fit the definition, they were counted for the tally.

CM: I assume that most of those are in-house call centers. How many outsource call centers do you think there are?

JA:  Our research shows that there are approximately 2,500 outsource centers.

CM: Dr. Jon, what are some of the services that are offered to call centers?

JA: We offer six major services to call centers:

1) A customized peer group benchmarking report.

2) Industry benchmark reports covering 43 industries.

3) Call center certification.

4) Post-call IVR surveys to measure caller satisfaction.

5) Agent satisfaction and feedback.

6) Call center manager training.

CM: Which one is the most popular?

JA:  We sell many, many benchmark reports worldwide.

CM: I understand that a new service is being unveiled, what is it?

JA:  In 2004, we launched “Reality Check” as a quick and free benchmark to give a call center manager a painless and seamless peek at reality regarding their performance as compared to others in their industry. The new service is Web-based and the results are available instantaneously on our website.

CM: There is currently much talk about offshore outsourcing. What is your take on that?

JA: We live in a competitive world. Finding and keeping agents in U.S.-based call centers is the industry’s top challenge. Americans apparently do not especially like the telephone work of a call center and turnover is very high and very expensive. In my experience, when these factors are a problem, there quickly comes a solution. offshore outsourcing is a solution to the painful staffing problem in the States.

CM: Thank you for your time and insight, Dr. Jon. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

JA:  I am very impressed with your journal and read it cover to cover. It is a great educational tool for professionals in our field of work.

CM: Thank you!

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2004]

Interview with Lori Jenkins, ATSI Convention Chair

Connections Magazine checked in with ATSI Convention Chair Lori Jenkins. After a successful convention in 2002, Lori reprised her role as convention chair in 2003. Here is what she had to say about this year’s convention.

Connections Magazine: What is the theme of the ATSI convention this year? Lori Jenkins: Learning by association — sharing ideas is what we are all about.

Connections: Will there be anything new or different from past conventions?
Jenkins: The one thing that comes to mind that I find very interesting is that we have moved into such a new world, both in terms of technology and with the constant threat of terrorism. With that in mind we will have an entire day devoted to disaster preparedness. We will cover such topics as how to help our country and each other in a disaster, how to route your calls and have your customers answered in another city or service, and how you can make money by being prepared for disasters.

Connections: What else can attendees anticipate?
Jenkins: Since we are at Disney we have some exciting things happening, including a behind-the-scenestour called “Innovation in Action,” and a Disney keynote address “Delivering Service Excellence.” Does anybody do it better? I don’t think so. Also, there will be a sales and marketing presentation that I think will knock our socks off. And of course getting to see what our vendors have come up with to help us meet the next challenge.

Connections: How many vendors have signed up for the exhibit hall so far?
Jenkins: So far we have 14. We are ahead of last year at this time, so we do anticipate selling out.

Connections: The number of ATSI members has increased nicely in the last year. What kind of effect do you think this will have on attendance?
Jenkins: Yes, membership is growing. Attendance can’t help but be great this year because of the hard work the members are putting into our organization. Networking is so important. So come meet new friends and see old ones. What a fun place to do it in.

Connections: Why should readers attend the ATSI convention this year?
Jenkins: We have a great agenda this year, something I think we can all sink our teeth into: service excellence, sales and marketing, disaster recovery, and legislative issues. Come learn with us and bring the family. Disney has agreed to give us the same room rate three days before and three days after the convention.

Connections: Do you have any closing comments?
Jenkins: ATSI has really begun to really and the “Learning by Association” theme is a huge part of that. We have some knowledgeable people pulling together to help make this all happen. We all owe them a great big thank you.

Connections: Thank for taking time to talk to us about the convention.  We are looking forward to it.

[From Connection MagazineApril 2003]

An Interview with ATSI President Tedd Smith

Connections Magazine: Tedd, congratulations on becoming president of ATSI (Association of TeleServices International). What are your plans for your tenure as president?

Tedd Smith: Thanks, Peter.  Being ATSI’s president is a great honor. My theme for the year will be to bring a higher level of service to the members. I announced at my inauguration that I would work on four major projects:

  • Continue to encourage the members’ use of the ethics committee. In these days of business scandals, this is critically important.
  • Larry Goldenburg has created an ambitious education program, “Learning By Association,” that touches on all the facets of our industry. Stacy Polinsky has agreed to chair the education committee to deliver on Larry’s promise. This will be the most comprehensive program that ATSI has delivered in years.
  • Fine-tune the Award of Excellence program in response to members’ feedback and expand with the new Call Center Award of Distinction program.
  • Introduce the SNUG-designed certification program to the rest of the industry. This is a great tool for our members to make sure that their call centers meet standards for agents, supervisors, and site certification.

Since then, I have added another one to the list: the creation of a database of non-paying clients.

There are a lot of other great things going on, such as past president Darlene Campbell’s disaster preparedness program with America’s Blood Centers, and the legislative committee’s list of issues to be addressed by the ATSI Board. Fortunately, ATSI has a great group of people to deliver these services.

Connections: What will be your message as you meet with various industry groups?

Tedd: My message will be that it’s very important to bring more services to our members. I think that ATSI should provide so much high quality service to call centers that everyone will want to be a member.

Connections: The attendance at the ATSI convention was up this year from last year. Is that a trend that you think will continue?

Tedd: Yes, I do. I believe that, in addition to a convention full of great sessions and an extensive trade show, our members want to meet at a great place. The 2003 convention will be at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. When Charlene Glorieux (ATSI’s executive vice president) and I met with the Disney people to plan the convention, we were delighted with the layout of this facility. It is perfectly suited for our group. The convention committee met in August to begin the preliminary agenda and we are already getting lots of great feedback and suggestions from some of our new board members. So, mark your calendar for June 18-21, 2003.

Connections: How are you planning to attract new members?

Tedd: The ATSI Board voted to continue our new member incentive for another year, which means that new members can join for half price. As we bring this big new plate of services to our members, we should also lower our cancellations.

Connections: It was good to see the major user groups represented at the convention. What can ATSI do to further unify the industry?

Tedd: ATSI will continue to offer meeting space and meeting time at its annual convention to all user groups. Also, the SNUG group has offered to expand its certification program to other equipment platforms, working through the other user groups. And I will be visiting all of the user group meetings that I can, so that I can listen to ideas and fly the ATSI flag.

Connections: Will you please review for our readers the services and member benefits that ATSI offers?

Tedd: You bet. The best way to do this is to state ATSI’s mission, which is to enhance the value of association members’ businesses by:

  • Promoting fair competition through the pursuit of appropriate regulation and legislation;
  • Providing research into and development of our industry and its current and prospective markets;
  • Providing support services;
  • Providing educational opportunities and resources to address the challenges and trends affecting our operating environments; and
  • Encouraging and maintaining high standards of ethics and services.

All that we do flows from this mission statement. Our legislative committee monitors congressional and regulatory rulings. Our new “Learning By Association” programs will soon provide our members with an incredible array of tools to market their own businesses to customers. And the many seminars that we sponsor, such as the “Barry Elms Negotiation Workshops,” are designed to increase the knowledge and business savvy of our members.

Connections: Many readers of Connections are not members of ATSI. What can ATSI do for them?

Tedd: The existence of ATSI means that there is an organization whose purpose is to enhance everyone’s success in the call center business. You can either wait for this to happen, or you can help make it happen.

Connections: Tedd, thank you for your candid responses. What closing thoughts do you have?

Tedd: It’s been a pleasure, Peter. First, thank you for the great job you are doing with Connections Magazine. Building on the great product that came from Steve Michaels, you have proved to be an excellent successor. Keep up the great work.

I also want to tell everyone what a stupendous person ATSI has in Charlene Glorieux, our executive vice-president. Charlene has done excellent work in managing the association. It’s great to have someone running the association who makes us all look good. In closing, I’ll be seeing a lot of your readers in October, at the regional meetings, and then more of you in February, at the user group meetings.

Tedd Smith’s company is Hello, Inc., a family-owned call center founded in 1923 in Richmond, VA.

[From Connection MagazineNovember 2002]