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The July/August 2019 Issue of Connections Magazine

The July/August 2019 Issue of Connections Magazine, covering call centers and the teleservice industry

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Understanding the Importance of Decision Triggers in Selling to Your Prospects



By Jill J. Johnson

A key component of effective target marketing involves developing deep insight into how the decision-making process influences your prospects to make their purchasing choices. For organizations working with diverse customer needs, moving your prospects from “I’m interested” to “I’ll buy” is a complex process. What’s significant and how this will impact each of your prospects in their buying decisions can vary. These buying decisions may also impact how they view the value of buying additional services or other resources you offer.

Understanding how your target market makes decisions is fundamental to more effectively promoting your products and services. It’s essential for you to understand your prospect’s decision-making process and what triggers their buying decisions to move your sales more quickly to a “yes.” Insight into what triggers your prospects in their decision-making process allows you to adapt your messages to highlight the unique characteristics of concern to them. You want to adapt your sales approach to their needs rather than using a cookie-cutter approach. By tailoring your promotional strategies, you can enhance your opportunities to win the sale or deepen your relationship with your potential customer. You can use this insight to carefully craft your sales approach to meet their unique needs and concerns.

Your goal is to keep them engaged with you and moving forward toward completing the sale and joining your customer ranks Click To Tweet

Each Prospect Has Unique Decision Triggers

Knowing what will move your prospects forward in a sale is just as important as knowing what is holding them back from saying yes. Decision triggers can range from stress about the costs of your product or service and not understanding the value-add you offer to believing they need support for the decision from a trusted member of their leadership team. In your sales approach, you need to utilize probing questions to isolate how they will make their decision about investing in buying a product or service from you. You must also uncover and understand the motives of who else is involved in making the decision.

Do the work to understand what decision triggers are at play with your prospective customers and with the other key stakeholders they rely on for support. Knowing how to activate or neutralize these triggers will provide you with vital insight on how to adjust your sales-messaging tactics. Once you understand their decision triggers, you can determine what you should provide your prospect so they can move forward with their decision to buy from you. 

Navigate the Decision Continuum

As you move your prospective customers through their decision continuum, consider what your goals are each step of the way. If they reach out to you via your website or email, your goal is to get them to talk with you in person. If they ask you for information, determine what information they really need and what you can follow up with if the sale is going to take longer than one interaction. Your goal is to keep them engaged with you and moving forward toward completing the sale and joining your customer ranks, both now and long-term. 

Understanding how to navigate a prospect along their decision continuum requires you to probe carefully about what is important to them and their key stakeholders. In this process, you identify their critical decision triggers while gaining an understanding of how to incorporate this insight into your sales approach. 

All too often when a company or organization has been around a long time, the process of selling to prospects becomes stagnant. Use decision insight to make sure your messaging is fresh, unique, and clearly matched to the evolving needs of your prospect. It might be time to reassess and revise your messaging to ensure you’re hitting the hot buttons of your prospects and matching your approach to what they’re most concerned about. This approach will get them to buy and stay with you beyond the initial sale. 

Decision Triggers Drive Sales and Promotional Strategy

Listen carefully to the words your prospective customers use and how they describe their needs and concerns. This insight can help you shape your sales messaging back to them in ways that mirror their words. As you match your sales messaging to where they are on their decision continuum, you will have a better understanding of how to highlight key product or service features or benefits. This approach leverages the decision triggers to your target market to match what matters most to them. By specifically tailoring your messages to your prospect’s decision triggers, you can significantly increase the potential for achieving the sale. What you offer only matters if it matters to your prospective customers. 

Once you understand the decision triggers driving your sales prospects, you can tie it to the rest of your promotional strategy. You can incorporate your deep customer insight into all your collateral materials, advertising, public relations stories, video clips, website, and social media. These communications messages can reinforce how you want your prospective customers to respond to your sales messages. If there is a disconnect anywhere in the decision continuum, you’re at risk of not achieving the sales success you desire.

Final Thoughts

By incorporating insight about your prospective customer’s decision triggers, you can help your prospect gain confidence that your product or service will truly benefit them and make a difference in their life or business. They will have more confidence in buying from you because you will have tied your presentation to their concerns. 

As a result, your prospective customers receive reassurance that your products or services can and will effectively meet their needs. Using your prospect’s decision triggers will make your sales cycle more efficient. It will result in more sales, help you build superior customer relationships, and boost customer satisfaction when you deliver on what you promised. 

Jill J. Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, an accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the best-selling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than four billion dollars’ worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information, visit www.jcs-usa.com.

Top Tips for Beginning Telemarketers


By Patrick Bailey

Telemarketing can be quite stressful and daunting, especially for beginners. There is often a fear that your prospects will hang up on you or be straight-out rude. Many beginners are afraid they will get tongue-tied and forget what to say at critical times in the conversation. In addition, you might also feel anxious when it comes to answering tough questions that arise during your conversation.

However, good telemarketers are a valuable, cherished asset to any company. The thing is that most of them didn’t start out being telemarketing winners. They started out making their first call just like all novices do when beginning a new career. Of course, they likely began with high energy and a positive attitude. However, you can bet they had the same fears as every cold-caller.

If you are a telemarketer novice, you don’t have to feel afraid or overwhelmed making your first cold call. These tips can help you breeze through your calls. Start using them and see how they help you and your business.

Take a deep breath and move on from bad calls because you never know what your next call will entail. It might be the best one of the day. Click To Tweet

Try to Stay Relaxed

To be a top telemarketer, you need to stay relaxed and sound as comfortable as possible using natural language. Prospects don’t respond well to scripted calls in which the telemarketer sounds stiff. The more you use generic introductions such as “How are you doing today?” or “Hello, how is everything going for you?” the easier it is for your prospects to tag you as the typical telemarketer right from the onset. Try to stay relaxed and soften your tone to sound more interesting, and then your entire conversation will go more smoothly.

Make Plenty of Calls

First, realize that prospects won’t be walking into your establishment to give you their business. They won’t be ringing your bell to ask you for your services. The reality is you won’t be getting any business without making a call. Therefore, make enough calls to ensure that you bring in new clientele. Stay focused and don’t become distracted with other activities going on around you. 

Many experts say the best telemarketers make one hundred calls during a seven-hour shift. However, if you are having engaging conversations, the numbers of calls you make will decrease. On the other hand, if you are only reaching voicemail or answering machines, the amount of calls you should be making increases to about 140 calls for a seven-hour shift. 

Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Prospects

You should know how to answer the following important questions: 

  • Why should your prospects talk to you?
  • What do you have that can benefit your prospects?
  • Why do your prospects need to use you when they already have a supplier offering the same services or products you provide? 
  • What will your prospects get out of the services you offer? 

If you can answer these questions while speaking with your prospects, you will be able to obtain better results. Although it’s not ideal to use a script, you must be able to have a clear answer to why you are calling and what your prospects can gain by choosing you over anyone else. Do a little research beforehand and understand why you are making the call. This way you can face hard questions from any prospect you reach.

Be Prepared

Being prepared is essential to be a successful telemarketer. This is especially true in cases where data is involved. Giving bad data is a surefire sign your call will go awry. To address this, you might set up a pre-call planning agenda. This agenda will identify and refine your target market.

Build Resilience

Let’s face it, telemarketing can be tough. You must build resilience. This means you need to develop a thick skin. If you take to heart every hang-up or negative call, you will surely become overwhelmed and extremely stressed. You must remember to take a deep breath and move on from bad calls because you never know what your next call will entail. It might be the best one of the day.

Training Can Help

If you are just starting out in telemarketing, training could help you get some guidance on methods used within the industry. The fact is that not everything a person does comes instinctively. The person next to you might be a natural at sales. However, many people need a little extra training to learn the ins and outs of being a great salesperson. There is nothing wrong with getting help to improve your results.

Dealing with Rejections

Be realistic. You will face roadblocks. It’s part of telemarketing. It’s also part of life, such as recovering from abuse, being fired, having to move, or getting a new job. Many people face these at one point or another during their lifetime. The important thing about rejection is that you can learn to use it to better yourself. Don’t let rejections dampen your day. Look at them, and ask yourself how you can learn from each one. This will help you become a successful telemarketer.

Conclusion

These tips won’t make you an effective winner overnight. However, they can help improve your chances of someday becoming one of the best telemarketers in town. Taking the initiative can help you enhance your telemarketing skills. 

These tips have helped many other telemarketers and business owners. Whether you are new to the telemarketing business, new to making business calls, or you have been at it awhile and need a refresher, these tips will help you move forward. 

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

The Ten Commandments of Creating Lifetime Customers



By Tra Williams 

Everyone has experienced this scenario at one time or another. What you thought was going to be a simple, everyday transaction for a product or service turned out to be an experience that earned your lifetime loyalty as a customer. Sadly, this doesn’t happen very often—which is exactly why it’s so surprising when it does happen.

Today’s consumer-driven environment focuses intently on instant availability, and for good reason. More than ever, customers want immediate access and lament any speed bumps between them and the conclusion of a transaction. Immediacy has become the golden calf of customer satisfaction. Customers continually worship the quickest solution with frequent patronage, but the results of that lust for instant gratification has come at a painful price. The line between optimization and true innovation has been blurred as the customer experience has been sacrificed on the altar of speed.

Escaping this cult of self-satisfaction, where “likes” pass for loyalty, requires you to rewrite the rules of comparison. Don’t allow the value of your product or service to be determined by an outside metric. Instead, change the game and redefine what the word value means to your customer.

Here are the ten commandments of value creation and earning a customer for life.

1. Reduce Technology

In today’s world of technology immersion, the human touch matters more than ever. Each escalation of technology reduces human interaction. Each reduction of human interaction is a missed opportunity to earn a lifetime customer who judges the value you provide by metrics that you define, not just speed. 

The time, money, and productivity lost on a hire who is inconsistent with a company’s culture is immeasurable. Click To Tweet

When someone takes the time to provide personal enhancements to an individual experience, that’s impressive. You can’t cut through white noise with more white noise. Remember, innovative technology is usually meant to optimize our lives. Therefore, you can purchase service optimization, but not service innovation. Real service innovation comes from the people within an organization, which brings us to commandment number two.

2. Focus on Frontline Staff

Your frontline staff who interact directly with your customers are the most important people in your organization, not the owner or the VP. It’s the frontline employee who is friendly and patient, smiles all the time, and remembers customers’ names and business needs. Ultimately that person will make or break a company. Make sure your culture emphasizes treating your frontline staff with the time and attention they deserve, and they will treat your customers the same way.

3. Pursue Real Relationships with Customers

Recognize that the relationship you have with your customers should not be transactional. Of course it’s important to look for opportunities to make the transaction simpler, easier, and more pleasant for the customer. But it’s also imperative that you add value to their lives in ways that are unrelated to the transaction. Look for ways to be a resource, not just a provider.

4. Develop a Customer-First Culture

Culture is binary. You’re either in or out. It starts with a slow and methodical hiring process. The time, money, and productivity lost on a hire who is inconsistent with a company’s culture is immeasurable. Take your time and hire the right people. Then focus on their development. They in turn will grow the business. Customer loyalty comes through people, not despite them.

5. Cultivate Reciprocity

We are hardwired to do more for those who do things for us. When it rains, Chick-fil-A’s employees wearing ponchos run to people’s cars when they pull in and hold an umbrella over them while they walk inside. And then they escort them back to their cars when they have finished their meal. It’s no wonder their average unit volume is three times the average of most QSRs while only being open six days a week. Cultivate reciprocity.

6. Eliminate Policies

“I’m sorry, ma’am; that’s just our policy.” In business, no one should ever utter those words. They reveal to your customer that your culture values adherence to arbitrary rules more than customer satisfaction. You should have only one policy, which is to do everything within your power to exceed your customers’ expectations.

7. Empower Your Team

If you’ve followed commandments two and four, this one should be easy. Every team member should feel empowered to do what is right in each specific situation. “Let me ask my manager” tells your customer that you don’t trust your employees’ discretion or decision making. And if you don’t trust the people you hire, why should your customers trust that they will have a consistently great experience?

8. Celebrate Everything

Everybody loves a winner, and nobody wants to be on the losing team. Customers want to feel like the money they spend is making the world a better place. Publicly celebrate your wins, your anniversaries, your employee accomplishments (both in and out of work), your growth, your community engagement, your awards, and your achievements. Did one of your employees just get her master’s? Have a baby? Compete in a triathlon? Celebrate it. This commandment has the added advantage of developing both employee and customer loyalty. 

9. Raise the Stakes

Service innovation inherently means that you challenge the assumptions of traditional expectations. On the flip side of this coin is the realization that doing something new is also a new opportunity to fail. Fortunately, studies show that customers value your effort nearly as much as the result. As such, they are incredibly forgiving of failure, providing you made every effort to succeed. So challenge your team and yourself. Raise the stakes. Go big. Consistent yet average is still unimpressive.

10. Have a Mission

People aren’t motivated by what; they’re motivated by why. If your goal is to make tons of money and eventually go public, you’ve missed the point. Where you spend your money is a major part of your identity. Customers align themselves with organizations that mirror who they are, or at least who they’d like to be. Therefore, the motives that drive your organization also drive your customers’ loyalty. Without a mission, you and your customer have no why.

Conclusion

Embrace these commandments. Carve them in stone and bring them down from the mountain. When you arrive, if you find your team obsessed with the golden calf of immediacy, tell them this: In today’s world of instant gratification, do not worship speed. When speed becomes the only metric by which you judge service, true service becomes irrelevant. Instead of conjuring up new ways to complete a transaction faster, make the experience so amazing that the customer will never want it to end. 

Tra Williams is a speaker, business consultant, and author of the forthcoming book Feed Your Unicorn. He is a nationally recognized thought leader in small business, franchising, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Tra works with people, professionals, and organizations to help them define success on their own terms and build the framework to sustain it. For more information, visit www.TraWilliams.com.

How to Write an Outbound Telemarketing Script



By Julie Kramme

So, you’ve decided to use outbound calling as part of your sales and marketing strategy. You’ve acquired a list of prospects to call, and you know what you want the outcome of those calls to be. Now you need to develop a message for your telemarketing staff to effectively convey on your behalf. You need a telemarketing script. But what does that look like?

What Should a Telemarketing Script Include?

For some call center agents, a traditional script that tells your agent what you want to say and how you want them to say it works well—especially for those who are new and still building confidence. The challenge with traditional scripting is that with time and repetition, message delivery can get a bit stale. How can we prevent this? Through training and motivation, of course! But that’s not the only way.

Carefully consider your wording to avoid sounding too rigid or too official early in the conversation. Click To Tweet

When to Consider Eliminating the Telemarketing Script

The key to ensuring long-term effectiveness of your outbound telemarketing script may be to eliminate the script. Instead of writing paragraphs for agents to read, consider developing an outline or road map that provides directional conversation and key talking points to assist the agent in accomplishing their objective. Doing so allows the agent to insert their personality, use their own words, and build credibility with the prospect.

Using talking points works particularly well with lead generation, sales, and recruitment calls. But in other scenarios, such as market research and survey calls, where it’s important to eliminate personal opinions or bias, a traditional script may be necessary. So be open to both methods. Regardless of which approach you take, include the following components to ensure long-term effectiveness of your outbound telemarketing script.

Eight Components of an Outbound Telemarketing Script

1. Introduction: When making an outbound call, getting your “foot in the door” can be the biggest hurdle. Utilizing an effective call introduction is key. Keep it short: Who are you? Why are you calling? Why should the prospect listen?

2. Transition Statements: Be mindful of your prospect’s time, and be aware that your call interrupted their day. Use transition statements to set expectations and to maintain call control while moving from one phase of the conversation to the next.

3. Discovery: Learning about your prospect’s needs is the key to winning their business. Take a minute to ask them a few simple questions about what they’re doing today, what they like about it, and what they don’t. Use a combination of open- and close-ended questions to ensure qualification and get your prospect talking so you can build rapport.

4. Presentation: When presenting an offer, keep it concise. Clearly outline the key details of your proposal, and don’t forget to apply what you learned during the discovery phase of the conversation. Always tie your prospect’s needs back to a feature that provides benefit to them. Verbalizing these value statements is the key to generating interest and buy-in.

5. Assumptive Close: Be confident in your offering. If you’re setting an appointment, go ahead and ask what time of day works best for your prospect. If you’re selling a paid service, ask what method of payment they’d like to use to complete their order today. Until the prospect gives you a reason to believe they’re not interested, always assume a positive outcome.

6. Confirmation/Recap: Take a moment to confirm your prospect’s contact info and ensure they understand their level of commitment, along with any actions they must take. Then set expectations for the next steps. For example, when setting an appointment, let your prospect know that they’ll be getting an email confirmation, and schedule appointments within reasonable time frames to ensure follow through.

7. FAQs/Rebuttals: This is the most important component of any telemarketing script. Answering questions and overcoming objections is often the most difficult step for any telemarketing agent to master. Always remember that knowledge is power. Arm your team with the necessary tools to complete their objective successfully. Anticipate common questions and objections, providing talking points to help agents over these hurdles.

8. Compliance: Always make sure your telemarketing script includes any language that is a legal requirement, such as disclosing that you’re calling on a recorded line. Make this verbiage stand out so that it’s not easily overlooked. Also, carefully consider your wording to avoid sounding too rigid or too official early in the conversation, as this can make prospects wary about the call.

Listening Skills and a Positive Attitude Make the Difference

Two additional components are vital to the long-term effectiveness of your telemarketing script: a listening ear and a positive attitude. An agent’s ability to listen to their prospect and stay upbeat has more impact on the long-term success of your program than any scripted component. In a job full of repetition and rejection, this is a challenge. 

Work with other leaders on your team to apply this information. These telemarketing script components, when combined with effective training, motivational leadership, and responsible quality assurance practices, are sure to make your program a success, now and in the future.

Julie Kramme leads the sales team as sales executive for Quality Contact Solutions. Julie has a record for building strong and lasting partnerships with each client she works with. With more than twenty years of call center and telemarketing industry experience, Julie is an expert in call center operations, regulatory compliance, and technology. She assists each client with creating customized solutions to meet their growth and customer engagement goals. Julie’s primary passion is achieving goals without sacrificing quality.

Five Website Features That May Be Working Against You



By Molly Yurick

Contrary to popular belief, your website is not about the products you sell, the services you provide, or the information you share. It’s about the people who visit it and their needs. As a website owner, your job is to turn those visitors into paying clients. But before you can do that, you must keep visitors on your website long enough to pique their interest. And that means not scaring off your prospects with features that are annoying or—even worse—make you look unprofessional.

With all the web-design elements available today, it’s easy to lose sight of what will work best for your target audience. However, once you shift your focus to serving your visitors’ needs instead of your own, avoiding these features becomes much easier.

Here are five website features that may work against you:

1. Aggressive Pop-Ups

Pop-ups come in all shapes and sizes. Some are intended to persuade visitors to interact with your call-to-action (“Sign up for our newsletter” or “Take our survey”), while others are paid advertisements to bring in some extra income. But let’s be honest: pop-ups are quite bothersome, especially if they appear repeatedly. Expect to lose visitors if they must spend more time closing pop-up windows than exploring your content. If you feel you need to include pop-ups on your site, make sure you do your homework, place them well, and use them wisely.

2. Translation Plug-In

Translating your website into other languages is a smart business move if you are looking to expand internationally. It makes your products or services available to more people in more places and may very well increase your sales and online success. While it might seem like a translation plug-in or machine translation service will save you time and money, think twice before acting. 

Machine translation systems are great at getting the gist of a text, but they often skew the meaning. For example, in some languages, a popular machine translation tool translated “US President” as “Bush” well into the Obama administration. To avoid embarrassing mistakes that scare off global customers, it makes more sense to hire a professional translator who can perfectly craft your message for your audiences abroad.

Let users decide whether they want to watch the video instead of deciding for them. Click To Tweet

3. Auto-Play Video

It’s happened to every internet surfer out there. They arrive at a new website and an unfamiliar voice or loud music blasts through their speakers. They frantically stop the video, rub their sore ears, shake their fist at the screen, and close the tab. Video may be all the rage right now, but the secret lies in knowing how to use it effectively. 

Auto-play videos—whether for informational purposes or to bring in revenue from advertisers—are annoying and will often push visitors away from your site. If you plan on using video on your website, add a prominent play button instead of having it auto-play. Let users decide whether they want to watch the video instead of deciding for them.

4. A Dysfunctional Mobile Version of Your Website

Mobile internet usage now surpasses computer usage. This means that you must have a mobile-friendly version of your website that maintains all the same key functions as the desktop version. If visitors do not have a positive experience when they land on your mobile site, you may drive away a huge portion of potential traffic. So make sure your website is responsive. Responsive websites include all the same content and information on any device used to access them, but the display changes automatically based on the size of the viewer’s screen.

5. Infinite-Scrolling Home Page

Infinite scrolling is a design technique in which content continuously populates at the bottom of the screen as the user scrolls down the page. This technique can be effective for certain types of sites, but for most users, an infinitely long home page can be distracting and confusing. It increases load time, makes navigation and linking messy, and hides or eliminates the highly valuable website footer. Users often search the footer for contact information, social media links, and privacy or security notices. If you’re not sure what type of home page will work best for your target audience, consult with a web-design professional.

Whether you are a freelancer or you own a multimillion-dollar company, all you must remember is this: make your website for them, not for you.

Molly Yurick is a Spanish-to-English translator specializing in tourism, hospitality, and airline industry translations. She is also an active volunteer for the American Translators Association, which represents over ten thousand translators and interpreters across 103 countries. For more information on ATA and to hire a translation or interpreting professional, please visit www.atanet.org.

Five Call Center Improvements Patients Say Would Improve Healthcare Experiences



By Allison Hart

From clinical process enhancements to facility improvements, there are many ways to drive better healthcare experiences for patients. One key area is call center optimization. More than one in three healthcare providers say their organization is updating their contact center or has plans to do so in the near future. Making call center upgrades doesn’t have to be difficult to have an impact. Healthcare teams just need to know what patients want and expect when they call.

Are patients frustrated by having to wait on hold? Are they satisfied with the interactions they have with call center agents? West surveyed 1,036 adults and healthcare providers in the United States to find out and identify ways healthcare organizations can provide better experiences for patients calling contact centers.

Survey responses confirmed that patients want calls resolved quickly and easily with minimal transfers and holds. Many will use self-service features, but they expect live agent availability to answer questions and make recommendations based on their individual medical data and needs. 

The following recommendations—which are driven by this survey data—show five call center improvements patients want healthcare organizations to prioritize.

Ideally, organizations will have their contact center technology connected to electronic health records, their patient web portal, and other systems that house patient information. Click To Tweet

1. Eliminate Extra Steps During Calls

Patients are frustrated by how often their calls are redirected. Callers want to reach a resolution in the fewest possible steps, but they’re often transferred multiple times and asked to restate information to several people during a single call. According to providers, more than one-third (35 percent) of patient calls are redirected at least once.

To create a better experience for callers, healthcare teams can make call center improvements that enable them to route calls to the correct place on the first try. For example, hospitals and health systems can adopt intelligent call routing software with speech recognition features so callers can specify what they need and who they want to speak with. Healthcare organizations can also interconnect their phone systems so calls can be transferred anywhere within their organization. This saves staff from having to ask patients to hang up and dial a different number to reach a different department.

2. Create a Single Point of Contact

Some patients struggle even before they pick up the phone because they don’t know which number to call or who they need to speak with. Dialing the wrong number can lead to confusion and frustration for both patients and staff, as well as making calls last longer than necessary. Nearly three in five of those surveyed (59 percent) say they have trouble understanding which phone number to use to contact their healthcare provider. More troubling is the fact that 28 percent of patients have called their healthcare team and been unable to reach the correct person or department.

Eight in ten Americans (80 percent) want to be able to call a single person dedicated to their health. Hospitals and health systems can give callers a better experience by upgrading to a centralized phone system and routing all calls through one main line. Doing this relieves patients from navigating complex call structures. It gives them one clear point of entry with one phone number they can call to reach anyone within an organization—whether they know who they are looking for or not.

3. Minimize On-Hold Time

Americans don’t like waiting on hold, and many patients feel they do too much of it when they call healthcare organizations. Fifty-three percent of patients report having been put on hold for a long period of time or without a callback option. Providers may be underestimating how much patients are bothered by having to wait and how much time patients spend on hold. Only 29 percent of healthcare providers think patients who call their office are put on hold for an excessive amount of time, confirming a disconnect between what patients and providers deem as an acceptable wait time.

To ensure that patients feel their time is valued, healthcare organizations can take steps to reduce the amount of time patients spend on hold. For example, hospitals and health systems can give patients the option of receiving a callback so they spend less time waiting on the phone. This shows that providers respect patients’ time, and it lets patients choose whether they want to wait to speak with a healthcare professional.

4. Equip Staff with Patient Medical Information

Patients want to feel known by their healthcare team. They want staff members to have knowledge of their health history and be able to answer questions and make recommendations. Unfortunately, 63 percent of patients say the person they reach when they call their provider doesn’t have access to their medical information and therefore can’t provide personalized recommendations. In addition, nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of callers say they haven’t been able to get their questions answered during calls.

To ensure that patients get the help they need, healthcare organizations can make sure technology gives staff quick access to patient data. This will help them better support callers with tailored information. It also will reassure patients that their medical team understands them on an individual basis. Ideally, organizations will have their contact center technology connected to electronic health records, their patient web portal, and other systems that house patient information.

5. Offer Smart Self-Service Opportunities

Patients recognize that sometimes the simplest route to a resolution is through self-service. So, it’s not surprising that nearly six in ten patients (58 percent) say they want healthcare providers to offer self-serve options to complete actions such as paying bills and scheduling appointments. To get the most out of self-service technology, healthcare teams should make sure their system is configured to recognize when inbound calls are coming from phone numbers that have recently received automated outreach messages.

For example, if a provider sends an automated message to a patient with an invitation to schedule a preventive service or screening and the patient calls into the organization, the system should recognize the number and predict the caller’s intention. In this case, the system would ask the patient if he or she is calling to schedule an appointment and then walk the patient through the self-service scheduling process. By using smart technology and giving patients opportunities to resolve calls on their own, organizations can give callers better experiences.

Conclusion

Healthcare organizations put a lot of time and resources into designing top-notch patient experiences. It makes sense to have call center optimization be part of those efforts. By following these suggestions, healthcare teams can deliver on expectations and create better experiences for callers.

Allison Hart is an advocate for utilizing technology-enabled communications to engage and activate patients beyond the clinical setting. She leads thought leadership efforts for West’s TeleVox Solutions, promoting the idea that engaging with patients between healthcare appointments in meaningful ways will encourage and inspire them to follow and embrace treatment plans, and that activating these positive behaviors ultimately leads to better outcomes for both healthcare organizations and patients. Hart currently serves as vice president of marketing at West, where the healthcare mission is to help organizations harness communications to expand the boundaries of where, when, and how healthcare is delivered.

Overcoming Call Reluctance, Part Two



By Kathy Sisk

In part one we discussed the first weakness of call reluctance: agent fears. Now we’ll discuss prospect’s fears.

Most outbound agents don’t receive training to help them handle their prospect’s fears. In many instances, agents are not even aware of these fears. They fall into three categories:

  1. The Approach: What does this salesperson want from me?
  2. Pre-Purchase Insecurity: What if I later regret my decision?
  3. Post-Purchase Remorse: What have I done?

To address this, agents need training to improve their approach. This enables the agent to be more sensitive to and address the prospect’s fears. 

Before training agents on scripting, you must first sell the benefits of using a script. Click To Tweet

Most agents are uncomfortable using a canned presentation, and so are prospects. However, scripts are necessary, especially when working with multiple projects, training a newly hired agent, or to remain in control during the presentation. Scripts also provide more consistency in the performance levels of the campaign. 

The Benefits of Using a Script (Call Guide)

Before training agents on scripting, you must first sell the benefits of using a script. I do this using my “road map” story:

“A script is like a road map. If you were to travel to an unfamiliar city, would you go without a map? Of course not. If you did, it would take longer to arrive at your destination. So it is with your presentation. You start from a beginning point and a destination you want to reach. Not having a script, a format to follow, or a call guide lets your prospect take you on a detour where you do not want to go. If you do not have a map (a call guide), it will be difficult to get back on track. Not using a script gives your prospect greater control of the outcome. Ultimately you are not able to meet the objective of the call.”

The truth is, after thirty minutes of experiencing negative activity with the prospect gaining control, agents lose interest and their self-esteem spirals downward. Eventually this can affect other agents in the call center too.

Next time we will discuss scripts and how to best use them when making outbound calls and overcoming call reluctance.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

Combatting the Top Reasons for Agent Churn

By Jeff Gallino



Agent churn is one of the most challenging issues for call centers throughout every industry. According to research conducted by the Quality Assurance & Training Connection (QATC), the average annual turnover rate for contact center agents is between 30 to 45 percent, more than double the average for other occupations. In major population centers, it is not unusual for attrition to exceed 100 percent and sometimes even 200 percent. 

With agents being a crucial contact point in the customer journey, this problem has the power to seriously affect a brand’s reputation and bottom line, as seasoned agents with experience and skill under their belt are rare. It’s an expensive problem to have, too, with the average expense for onboarding a new agent costing an organization thousands of dollars.

Agent churn may be one of the most challenging issues for today’s call centers, but there’s no mystery behind why employees are leaving. Click To Tweet

We need a proactive approach in a few key areas for supervisors to churn-proof their call centers. Through understanding the top reasons why many agents decide to leave, leaders can fix turnover triggers and create a place that supports the most valuable customer experience possible.

A Lack of Objective Evaluation and Positive Recognition

As a call center manager, one of the most important aspects of the role is to provide fair, consistent evaluations and objective feedback to agents. However, agents often only receive feedback when its negative, it’s usually delayed, and sometimes it’s subjective rather than objective due to being based on only a fraction of calls. This can create animosity and confusion between managers and agents, driving feelings of unfair treatment or unappreciation on the agent’s side and often clouding the path to performance improvements.

There’s a world of value in providing real-time, objective, data-driven feedback. Recognition goes a long way as well. With speech analytics, call centers can analyze every phone call, painting a much more accurate picture of an agent’s performance versus only analyzing 5 percent of their calls. And with automated scorecards, agents receive an objective score based on criteria established by team leaders as soon as the call is complete—or even during a call— making feedback timely, fair, and objective.

This timely and relevant feedback allows agents to reflect on their performance immediately and work to improve their next call, giving employees the power to self-coach and determine for themselves where they need to seek additional learning. These scorecards also make it possible for managers to recognize agents for successful engagements and positively reinforce good work, commitment, and motivation.

Tools Don’t Help Agents Succeed, but They Do Cause Stress 

A call agent handles between forty and fifty calls per day on average—managing hundreds of problems, concerns, and situations during a given week. And that’s why so many call centers are turning to tech to help their agents sift through information and help each customer as quickly and efficiently as possible.

But according to Gartner, 84 percent of agents say that their company’s legacy tools are not helpful to them in resolving customer queries. In fact, when they have the customer on the line, agents must navigate an average of 8.2 applications to get answers and resolve problems.

Companies should upgrade to tech that is designed to make both the customer’s and the agent’s lives easier. Technology should help agents capture conversational topics and integrate with other systems and tools to allow them to quickly identify repeat contacts and be best prepared to address issues. 

Since call centers also tend to utilize several databases to manage customer information (sales software, CRM, a knowledge center, and so forth), this slows down an agent’s ability to help customers while searching for answers. Managers can simplify their agents’ work by investing in tools that work across databases and feed relevant information and valuable insights into one manageable dashboard.

Repetitive, Mundane Tasks Make Agents Feel Bored and Replaceable

High levels of monotony lead to agent turnover, which is why call centers should strive to empower agents with meaningful decisions and tasks. Automating the tedious jobs that take up much of an agent’s day can free them up to focus on more fulfilling work.

According to Forrester, by reducing routine calls, data entry, report preparation, transaction details, system navigation, logs, and documentation, agents can focus on tasks that deliver personalized experiences for customers. Through implementing AI-powered speech analytics, agents can move away from those monotonous tasks and focus on duties that drive growth and fulfillment. These include creative problem solving for unique situations, showing personality and empathy, becoming better product experts, and focusing on weak spots for a potential promotion or advancement.

Agent churn may be one of the most challenging issues for today’s call centers, but there’s no mystery behind why employees are leaving. Through understanding the top reasons for turnover, call center managers can adjust their strategy to accommodate the needs of agents while creating an environment that they want to be part of. It’s important to remember that feedback is meaningful when it’s given correctly, the right tools go a long way, and fulfillment is an important factor to any human’s happiness, even at work.

Jeff Gallino is the CTO and founder of CallMiner.

Business Valuations: Three Situations When You Might Not Need One



By Patrick Ungashick

Business valuations is an important tool for owners and leaders of privately held companies. For example, if you’re doing sophisticated tax planning, buying out a business partner, or an owner is going through a marital divorce, a valuation may be highly prudent—if not legally required. However, business owners and leaders should avoid rushing to get a valuation in circumstances where the need is not clear. Listed below are three common situations where getting a valuation may seem to make sense but might be unnecessary or even counterproductive. 

Tracking company performance using a formal valuation may also be counterproductive, because a valuation is only partially based on the company’s internal results. Click To Tweet

Situation One: You’re Getting Ready to Sell the Company

A commonly held view among business owners is to get a formal valuation prior to selling the company. Some valuation firms, investment bankers, and business brokers promote business valuations as a first step in preparing to sell. Presumably this identifies the potential sale price and helps the selling owner set realistic expectations. However, a valuation in this situation is often unnecessary or even misleading. 

Investment bankers or business brokers familiar with your company’s industry should be able to provide an estimated range they expect the company could sell for, without a formal valuation. Also, a formal appraisal before selling the company can be misleading. To explain why, imagine that you intend to sell your home, and to determine your listing price, you have the home appraised. The appraisal comes in at one million dollars, so you list the home for sale at that price. After many months, you receive multiple offers but only for around 800,000 dollars. In this example, the home’s value is clearly closer to 800,000 dollars rather than one million dollars, regardless of what the appraisal said. 

The same thing can happen in reverse. If you list your home for one million dollars and immediately receive multiple offers for a much greater amount, then the appraisal was too low. Just as with a home, what your company is worth at sale is what a buyer will pay for it—period. The existence of a third-party valuation claiming your company is worth X dollars will not cause a potential buyer to increase its offer price by one dollar more than it is otherwise willing to pay. 

If you are preparing to sell your company, rather than getting a valuation, ask several investment bankers or business brokers to estimate a sale price and explain their reasoning. You still may end up selling your company for a higher or lower price, but you won’t have wasted time and money on a valuation that potential buyers will typically ignore. 

Situation Two: You’re Curious

Knowing what a privately held company is worth is difficult or impossible most of the time. This can be frustrating, particularly when the company is usually the owner’s most valuable (and cherished) asset. Imagine putting most of your money into an investment portfolio where you will rarely know what your investments are worth. 

Therefore, business owners may desire to get a formal valuation simply to know what their company is worth at that point in time. It can be helpful to periodically establish a realistic understanding of the company’s value. However, paying thousands of dollars to get somebody’s opinion about what the company is worth (even an expert opinion) is often not necessary, because alternative methods may be available for little to no effort or cost.

One alternative method to gauge your company’s value is to research what companies of similar size in your industry are currently selling for, based on a multiple of earnings (usually calculated as Earnings Before Interest and Taxes, plus Depreciation and Amortization—EBITDA) or in some cases a multiple of revenue. 

For example, if companies in your industry and similar size are currently selling for six to eight times EBITDA, and your company’s EBITDA is two million dollars, then your company value could fall between twelve and sixteen million dollars. Clearly, this approach does not provide the depth of analysis nor precision that a formal valuation provides. But a market-based estimate will give you a general understanding of company value on a periodic basis—without the time and expense of a formal appraisal. 

To learn the applicable multiples, ask an investment banker or business broker knowledgeable in your industry. That person may know the current market multiples off the top of their head or can get the answer for little effort. Alternatively, research the subject online. You may find a recent article or report prepared by a trade organization, consulting firm, or business advisor that summarizes market-multiples in your space. 

Situation Three: You Want to Track Company Performance

The third situation that seems to require a valuation is to track changes in your company’s performance and growth over time. Again, the value of a privately held company can be a great unknown. Many business owners and leaders see benefit to engaging a valuation expert, and they use the appraisal to monitor the company’s performance. 

However, the valuation may be unnecessary simply because other metrics are usually readily available. Your company’s leadership team should be able to identify the five to ten most relevant operational, sales, and financial metrics that drive company results. Create a dashboard that frequently (not less than monthly and preferably weekly) displays these key metrics. This approach creates more timely and actionable feedback for the company leadership than a formal valuation. 

Tracking company performance using a formal valuation may also be counterproductive, because a valuation is only partially based on the company’s internal results. Any formal valuation must consider external forces such as industry trends, economic conditions, and capital markets. These external forces can mask how the company is performing. 

To illustrate the point, using a valuation to track company performance is like a pilot estimating his or her plane’s arrival time but overlooking the effects of wind. If the pilot needs the plane to fly 500 mph to arrive on time, and the current airspeed gauge shows 500 mph, then it might seem to the pilot that the plane will arrive on time. However, if the plane is only flying 450 mph but is boosted by a 50-mph tailwind, only when the tailwind dies down will the plane’s underperformance become apparent. 

A dashboard that displays key operational, sales, and financial metrics will provide the company’s leadership with more relevant and visible performance feedback, without being diluted by the external data that is important in a formal valuation but counterproductive in this specific situation. 

Conclusion

Business valuations play a crucial role in many situations, and they offer business owners and leaders an important tool to build successful companies and one day achieve successful exits from those companies. Yet like any tool, valuations have a proper place. Owners and leaders should apply care to determine if they need a valuation or if alternative solutions exist.

Patrick Ungashick is the CEO of NAVIX Consultants, a speaker on executive and business owner exit planning, and the author of A Tale of Two Owners: Achieving Exit Success Between Business Co-Owners. Patrick has provided exit advice and solutions to business owners and leaders for thirty years. For more information visit www.NAVIXConsultants.com.