Connecting on an Outbound B2B Sales Call



By Matthew Robison

Let’s face it: Nobody likes receiving sales calls. Those of us who aren’t millennials remember the days of the landline ringing at dinnertime and having to listen to someone trying to sell us a vacuum cleaner or get us to contribute to the latest fund-raising event. The timing was never good, and there was always the internal struggle of being rude and just hanging up or waiting until we could politely say we weren’t interested. Over time salespeople got better at recognizing this and developed the technique of not pausing where we expected them to while giving us their spiel, which would throw us off our game of ending the call as quickly as possible.

Since the advent of the Do Not Call (DNC) list, most people rarely have to deal with solicitors at home. But what about at work? For many, those dinnertime phone call memories are still ingrained, and the hairs on the back of their necks automatically go up when they receive a sales call at the office. So how do we counteract that reaction when we’re on the other side of the phone line? 

Ditch the Salesy Talk: Picture wanting to buy a used car and having to deal with one of those salespeople. What happened when you read that? Did your heart start beating a little faster? Did a deep sense of dread envelope you? For so many people, that’s the feeling they get when they receive an unsolicited sales call. It’s our job—in a matter of seconds—to try and assuage those fears.

Start by being a real human being. Use the same tone of voice you would use when speaking with a manager at work. Be friendly and engaging while still showing respect. You’re not your prospect’s best friend, but you also don’t need to be overly formal.

Another salesy turnoff that most people hate is answering the phone and hearing the salesperson say, “How are you doing?” You may think you’re being friendly, but until you have developed a relationship with that buyer, asking him or her that question right away will most likely earn you a terse “Fine” that does nothing to move you down the path toward a sale.

Instead, introduce yourself politely. Ensure that you have the correct person, and start by letting them know you will be taking only a few moments of their time. Then state the reason for your call. When you actually sound like a human being instead of a salesperson, you’re much more likely to be responded to as a human being. 

Ask Questions and Be Engaging: A fundamental rule about human beings is that we love to talk about ourselves. What questions can you ask your prospects to learn more about their business (thus helping you with the sale) while getting them to open up? Depending on the product you’re selling, it can be extremely important to find out what processes they’re using. Learn what they do on a daily basis at that facility. Ask how long they have been with the company.

There are many great questions you can ask to get people to open up. The key is to always be ready with a few questions—and most importantly, to listen when they answer. Many times telesales representatives are so worried about what they will say next that they don’t truly listen to the customer.

The most powerful weapon you have is your ability to ask questions and listen to the answers. When customers are willing to share even the most basic of answers, you have a great opportunity to find out what’s important to them and what their current pain points are. This information can give you fantastic insight into knowing how best to sell to them.

Connect on a Human Level: If you are lucky enough to reach a someone who is willing to hear you out, it’s extremely important to somehow connect with him or her on a human level. Be personal. Customers want to buy from people, not companies. Is it Monday morning and you’re calling Bob in Wisconsin? Bring up yesterday’s big win for the Packers. Does Jane say something about being behind today because she was in charge of the carpool this morning? Ask her how old her kids are and briefly mention your own. Any chance to connect on a personal level can be helpful in building the bridge toward a sale.

Conclusion: In spite of the fact that our society runs on technology, there is still a need and desire for good human interaction. Unless you are selling a one-time purchase item, your goal should always be to develop a long-term relationship, not to just go for the one-time sale. If you can provide value while also connecting on a human level, you’ll go a long way toward becoming a valued partner for your customers.

Matthew Robison has spent over ten years working in call centers in a variety of roles. He is currently sales manager for a nationwide welding and safety distributor.

Managing Your Workforce Management Strategy



By Christian Szpilfogel

Over the last fifteen to twenty years, workforce management has evolved from a discipline into a technology sector, moving beyond the simple need to make contact centers more efficient in their planning and replace spreadsheets that took a full-time job to manage. Over time, workforce management has become a way to make managers more effective, allowing them to create and deliver the optimal schedules to meet customer service needs.

As the call center has grown into the more complex contact center, so have the requirements of the workforce. In fact, we now see more complex scenarios in which contact center workers must handle various media types, such as voice, text, and email, in order to serve all expected functions. Workforce management has gone from a “nice-to-have” resource for driving efficiency to a “must-have” tool to effectively staff any medium to large contact center handling customer care.

Given the personalized nature of contact center work, the strategy guiding the workforce management of the call center itself should also be personalized to the company. There are three key factors to consider in developing this strategy.

1) Focus on Customer Experience: It’s critical to understand that customer experience still drives contact center strategies today. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure that any workforce management strategy errs on the side of delivering great customer service. Being slightly overstaffed is nothing compared to missing out on customer opportunities and losing customers.

Acquiring new customers is more important today than it has ever been, as is the sensitivity to losing customers to competitors. That’s why it’s crucial to deploy a workforce management strategy that drives customer satisfaction as well as delivers efficiency and reduces costs. This means that any workforce management strategy and supporting technologies must ensure the availability of the right level of staff and the right people: those who have the skills necessary to serve customers the way they want to be served.

2) Anticipate Changes in Communications Preferences: In addition to internalizing customer service in a workforce management strategy, it’s important to anticipate the changing communications behaviors of your customer base. Today a contact center that is mostly comprised of voice conversation may be sufficient, but will that still be true two, three, or five years out?

If you’re looking at making an investment in a workforce management strategy, make sure any technology involved seamlessly interoperates with the voice component essential to today’s customer service as well as all the digital media routing into the contact center. Moreover, staff must be able to go beyond providing the service customers expect and be well versed in the media customers will prefer in the future, regardless of whether that’s voice, text, or video media. 

3) Think about Employees: Apart from minding customer service goals and customer communications preferences, it’s also imperative to think of your employees. Customer service employees are the face and the voice of your business to the customer. Who are you hiring and what do they need from you to be satisfied with their work? A satisfied employee will do a better job and will stay with the company longer. While contact center workers aren’t the highest-paid employees, tools and additional benefits can go a long way toward making them happier at work.

Workforce management plays a big part in this, making it easy to give workers some control over their own schedules and allow them to collaborate with their peers in managing time off, thus building comradery and a sense of ownership across the team. In addition, workforce management technologies also present the perfect opportunity to provide new incentives through gamification to make everyday jobs seem more interesting and to inspire the competitive spirit and passion of employees. This creates a more congenial atmosphere and drives overall performance and employee happiness.

Invest in Workforce Management Technology: When considering a workforce management technology investment, it’s crucial to look at the big picture. Workforce management systems do not operate in a vacuum. Rather, they operate in an integrated fashion within the overall contact center infrastructure.

In addition to always keeping the customer experience in mind, plan for changes in customer communications preferences, and think about your employees. Avoid taking a step backward in critical functionalities by making choices that give you the flexibility to adapt pieces of your overall IT infrastructure over time.

Implementing a strong workforce management strategy that can be easily adapted in the future will help drive efficiency. More importantly, it will help you reach and exceed your customer service goals.

Christian Szpilfogel is the VP of Strategy at Mitel.

The Power of Conversation: We May Be Looking at Productivity All Wrong



By Holger Reisinger

When was the last time you heard someone rave about his or her experience with a customer service representative? If you can’t recall, it’s not surprising. According to my company’s research, 80 percent of customer service workers say they deliver “superior” service. Yet only 8 percent of customers agree. Where’s the disconnect? It’s centered on the productivity of the worker.

The performance of traders, advisors, call-center employees, and customer service representatives is typically measured by tracking volume of calls, time between calls, and number of breaks. Instead, the emphasis should be on improving employee concentration and efficiency through discovering the power of conversation. At most companies this could close the gap between the most and least productive employees by 47 percent. 

The Importance of People: To supplement live operators, more and more companies are automating customer service functions, but I would argue that this is not the answer. Interacting with an automated recording often inconveniences and angers customers. Anyone who has ever walked through the multistep automated customer service menu only to finally be redirected to a person can probably agree that the experience is frustrating at best. While there is a time and a place for automated calls, such as allowing customers to check bank balances or make payments, we gain much with human communication.

Only a human being can actively listen, understand nuances, and seek information that directly correlates to a customer service problem. This means that customer service representatives have the potential to transform the customer experience. Humans can empathize, solve problems, and help make decisions, unlike a prerecorded machine.

Humans can have a dialogue. Through the power of conversation, employees can encourage brand loyalty and promote a positive brand reputation.

Statistics to Consider: While conversations are an important business tool, organizations put themselves at risk of losing business when they use customer service representatives who lack training in the power of conversation. A few stats to consider:

  • Eighty-nine percent of customers will leave a brand for a competitor after a negative customer experience.
  • Poor service entices up to 91 percent of customers to rescind their business, and that’s not limited to poor service from automated systems.
  • Customers angered by poor service not only leave a brand, they also share their negative experiences with up to fifteen other people.
  • Conversely 73 percent of consumers say they will love a brand if they receive friendly and helpful service on the phone.

Data like this reinforces how critical it is for organizations to put the time and effort into training employees to deliver a positive, memorable experience. With this in mind, it’s shocking to find that only 12 percent of marketing budgets address servicing existing customers.

Deal with Distractions: In addition to small budgets, the changing office landscape also contributes to call center worker challenges. In the move to create open and collaborative office spaces, employers are introducing new and bigger distractions. In fact, a quarter of call center employees count interruptions from colleagues and a loud workplace as their biggest distractions. Trailing not far behind, the number of calls and emails each day are also cited as a major distraction and stressor.

As if a noisy environment isn’t challenging enough for delivering quality customer service, 73 percent of decision-makers in call center environments say there’s an increase in the complexity of customer interactions. Today’s customers are well educated on their problem before contacting the brand. Through an increase in technology, customer service is expected to be available online via chat, email, over the phone, or via text. Increased complexity means there is an even bigger need for concentration on the task at hand.

Some Simple Suggestions: Calls have an important place in the organization, and they aren’t going away any time soon. In fact the length of calls is expected to increase by 40 percent in the next five years. The open and collaborative office space isn’t likely to go away any time soon either. So what can an organization do to help their employees battle distractions and stay focused?

A few tricks that we uncovered include:

  • Stay hydrated: Our research found the most productive call center agents were 22 percent more likely to say “bottoms up” to a glass of water than the least productive. A recent study in the U.K. found that one in five office spaces has about 25 percent relative humidity—nearly that of the Sahara Desert. It’s no surprise that productive agents are more likely to stay hydrated when you consider how difficult it would be to concentrate on a conversation with a parched mouth and itchy throat from nearly four hours of talking (in the desert) each day.
  • Control noise: The most productive call center employees have the right supporting tools to help them stay on task, including noise-canceling technology to drown out the open office buzz and hone in on what the customer is saying.  
  • Improve posture: Shifting posture throughout the day was another key factor that separated the most and least productive call center employees. Encourage employees to be mindful of their posture and move as needed instead of focusing on the number of calls they can zip through in an hour. You just might find that actual productivity and the number of happy customers increases.

Boosting customer satisfaction doesn’t require an overhaul of the way your organization operates. Call center employees and their human touch have and will remain vital in creating value for customers and delivering high-quality service. Instead, smart companies are providing working conditions that enable concentration and help service representatives overcome top challenges to productive calls. With the right tools and support in place, organizations can finally realize the full power of conversation.

Holger Reisinger is SVP of Business Solutions at Jabra.

IVR Optimization Improves Service and Reduces Costs



By Donna Fluss

In many customer service contact centers, the interactive voice response (IVR) system handles approximately 55 to 95 percent of the calls, depending on the vertical and the effectiveness of the system. An IVR can save companies millions of dollars; a typical customer service call handled by a live agent costs $3.00 to $6.50, while an IVR transaction costs $0.03 to $0.25 per minute.

IVRs are so good at deflecting routine calls from agents that companies often take them for granted and do not give them the attention they deserve. The issue is that over time, business requirements and customer expectations change, while many IVRs do not. This costly oversight can be addressed with a small and continuous investment in your IVR application.

DMG research shows that both baby boomers and millennials prefer to use self-service solutions to resolve an issue, but they will interact with a live representative when the automated tools are not successful. This indicates great potential for self-service solutions: Companies can improve their customer experience (CX) by enhancing their IVR. When an IVR is well designed, easy to use, and effective in giving callers the information and answers they need, it’s no longer an issue of customers tolerating the IVR; it becomes a preference instead.

A small ongoing investment in your IVR will make a major contribution to your contact center or enterprise’s bottom line. As importantly, since self-service is a valuable step in the customer journey and plays an influential role in the overall CX, keeping an IVR current, relevant, and easy to use is a necessity for your brand. An IVR optimization initiative delivers significant benefits because it enhances the customer experience while reducing operating costs and improving agent engagement.

IVR optimization efforts are intended to address many activities, such as identifying and eliminating impediments that prevent callers from completing a transaction, improving the process flow to make it easier for callers to address their needs, enhancing grammars (for speech-enabled solutions), replacing outdated and awkward phrases, reducing the number of times a phrase is repeated, and changing the pace of communication.

The enhancements required during an optimization effort depend on a business’s current needs, which change as the market and consumer expectations mature. If a company is willing to develop a personalized and adaptive IVR application, the benefits will be even greater, but this may require an investment in new technology in addition to a major usability refresh.

Customer expectations have changed since the early 1980s when IVRs were first rolled out. These days, many callers are happy to use an IVR, and many even prefer it for simple activities—if it is well designed and allows them to quickly and easily conduct business and transfer to an agent when necessary.

Visit www.dmgconsult.com/your-customers-deserve-a-better-ivr/e to see IVR optimization return on investment (ROI) models that show the monthly and annual savings that can be achieved by enhancing your IVR self-service solution. You can also find best practices for building an IVR optimization program to deliver ongoing benefits to your customers and organization.

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. For more than two decades, she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary, author, and speaker, Donna drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the services industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.

How Do I Handle a Premature Objection of “I’m Not Interested?



By Kathy Sisk

If your prospect interrupts your presentation before you get to the purpose of your call, here’s what might be occurring: 

  • Your prospect is busy, and it’s easier to say, “I’m not interested.”
  • The prospects says “no” to everything.
  • The prospect does not want to be sold anything due to negative experiences.

When faced with this, the “easy close” offers an ideal response to identify what type of prospect you have and gives you an opportunity to regain control.

First, say these three important words: “I respect that.” This diffuses the situation. Often your prospect’s guard comes down. Now you can proceed.

“I would like to provide you with information about [describe what you can offer, using an approach-and-hook statement to arouse interest]. Would that be all right with you?”

Do not elevate your tone of voice at the end of this sentence. That makes it a question and reinforces that your prospect is in control of the conversation, and you will get more negative responses. Instead, drop your tone of voice on the last word to make it an assumptive statement.  

When your prospect agrees, qualify whether he or she has an interest in the information or is trying to exit the conversation. Say one of the following:

“Once you’ve had the opportunity to review the information, I would like to gain your feedback. Does that sound fair?” Again, end this “question” as an assumptive statement. This allows you to send information and make a follow-up call. Set a day and time to follow up so it becomes a stronger callback.

However, if you do not want to send information, you can continue by saying, “To ensure the information I have will benefit you, I need to ask you a couple of quick questions if you don’t mind.”

Proceed to your probing step: Qualify your prospect, establish his or her wants, and create the need for what you offer. This scenario puts you back in control of your presentation. Keep in mind that using an easy close will not work all the time, but it will get you further into your presentation than not using it.

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

Ruminations on Cloud-Based Contact Center Technologies

Professional Teledata


By William Lane

There has been much press about Amazon Connect, a self-service cloud-based contact center solution offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). There was a huge protest on various industry listservs about how this might affect the various business models of vendors and users within the telephone answering service (TAS), contact center, and related industries. When considering new information, it is best to take a deep breath, step back, and consider a broader view of the situation to evaluate the impact.

The purpose of this article is not to analyze Amazon Connect or other online cloud-based services currently available from other vendors, but instead to present some observations I believe are applicable to determine if this new offering, or any other much-touted cloud-based contact center service, is relevant to you and your business. I will ask pertinent questions to focus on what you may or may not need from your chosen technology vendor. To do so, I am going to assume you are in the business of servicing your customers’ clients from a TAS or contact center perspective.

First, does speed matter when interacting with your customers’ clients? This question is key to understand whether a particular cloud-based solution suits your business needs. Amazon Connect and many other cloud-based services utilize WebRTC exclusively. With WebRTC, the effective solution is completely browser-based. A solely browser-based solution means that the provider has implemented a mouse-driven versus a keyboard-driven business model. While this may be acceptable for many businesses, the impact is no shortcut keys or macros, resulting in a loss of efficiency and speed for agent-client interactions.

Second, is your business transaction-heavy? In a browser-based environment, the transactional logic resides on the cloud-based server. If your business model calls for intensive usage of message-scripting transactions, the agent is going to initiate commands via the Internet to a database server located at another destination numerous times per client contact. Even if there is an acceptable level of latencywhich often there is not due to Internet connectivity issues—efficiency will suffer. This may be why few cloud-based solutions include message-scripting functionality.

Third, does your company have in-house professional services staff? If not, who will develop the necessary third-party integrations and additional features and functionality you need to differentiate yourself from your competition? Amazon Connect, and many other cloud-based contact center solutions, provide only self-service solutions. They may or may not offer tools you can use to build unique offerings for your customers. Therefore, it will be necessary for someone to utilize the provided tools to create the solutions that will attract customers to you as opposed to your competitors. Does utilizing a one-size-fits-all cloud-based solution, where price may be the only differentiator available to you in a global market, square with your business model? 

Fourth, would your business model tolerate multiple hours of periodic downtime? It is no secret that AWS, the backbone for the new Amazon Connect service, has gone down several times over the last twelve months. The February 28, 2017, outage affected some customers for nearly eight hours. Many cloudbased providers make no guarantees of uptime in their service level agreements (SLAs). It is simply not an imperative element of their self-service business model.

Fifth, does your business model require validated HIPAA compliance? Many cloud-based solutions, including Amazon Connect, do not address HIPAA compliance. They do not provide proof of annual HIPAA assessments, audits, and the resultant scores provided by third-party auditing firms. Many cloud-based solutions leave all compliance adherence to the user and absolve themselves from any regulatory responsibility by claiming they are merely conduits providing a service, thus leaving you to fight the regulatory battles.

Ensuring that your business model matches your chosen vendor’s business model is imperative to achieving business success. If HIPAA compliance, platform reliability and robustness, third-party integrations, customized features and functionality, and agent speed are important to your business model, then many of the oft-hyped cloud-based contact center solutions available may not be for you.

Professional TeledataWilliam Lane has nearly forty years of experience in customer service and software development. He is president and CEO of Startel and Professional Teledata.

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Vendor Profile: American Tel-A-Systems (Amtelco)

Amtelco


Amtelco is proud of its long history of innovation and serving customers, and that innovation and service will continue as its focus in 2017.

Amtelco is a leading supplier of call center and messaging systems in the telemessaging and healthcare industries due to its commitment to serving the needs of customers with advanced technology and solutions. Amtelco President Tom Curtin states, “At the very core of Amtelco is our reputation for innovation. Many great products come from Amtelco, and many of these products and features are the result of listening to our customers. Amtelco celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2016, and we are excited by the prospects for the next forty years.”

Partnering with Customers: Amtelco is focused on advancing solutions by partnering with customers. Amtelco works closely with its customers, both through direct communication and the National Amtelco Equipment Owners (NAEO) and the Telescan User Network (TUNe) organizations.

Amtelco and NAEO coordinate on innovations and communications about new developments through the NAEO future direction committee, with Amtelco represented on the committee by Kevin Beale, vice president of software, research and development; Greg Beale, vice president of customer services; and Alan Tucker, director of software, research and development.

Amtelco and TUNe coordinate on innovations and ongoing communications with Bob Vornberg, Telescan’s general manager and director of product development, leading those efforts.

Communications: Amtelco is committed to providing ongoing communication and updates to customers through monthly Amtelco Insider newsletter articles, regularly scheduled webinars, and NAEO future direction committee webinars.

Customer Service: Amtelco is committed to providing the best possible customer service with one of the largest customer service teams in the telemessaging industry. The customer service department demonstrates this commitment by staffing Amtelco’s help desk at the corporate headquarters in McFarland, Wisconsin, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., central standard time, with a demonstrated standard for answering calls within three rings (eighteen seconds).

Beyond standard support hours, service calls are dispatched immediately to an on-call Amtelco support engineer equipped to address any issue. Amtelco has a demonstrated track record of responding to after-hours support calls in thirty minutes or less. Amtelco provides a customer service Web portal for customers to access product documentation, training videos, software updates, and technical resources and documents.

Research and Development: Research and development and innovation are a primary focus for Amtelco. Amtelco has one of the largest research and development groups in the telemessaging industry, and it is dedicated to advancing Amtelco’s software solutions by working closely with customers and the NAEO and TUNe organizations. Amtelco builds solutions that offer advanced features while maintaining simplicity of administration and system management, with comprehensive integrations through Web service APIs, database integrations, HL7 electronic medical record integrations, and IP switching integrations.

Reliability: Reliability and maximum uptime are a primary focus of Amtelco solutions. Amtelco’s Infinity Intelligent Series has a demonstrated uptime of 99.998 percent with an average annual downtime of less than ten minutes during 365 days of nonstop, twenty-four-hours-a-day call processing.

Amtelco has numerous examples of call centers that have had continuous operation of their system with no extended periods of downtime, including a hospital with continuous operation for seventy months, another site with continuous operation for forty-four months, and a third location with continuous operation for twenty-nine months.

HIPAA and PCI Security: Amtelco maintains a standing security working group that is comprised of director-level and managerial-level representatives of every department in the company. This group is charged with monitoring the compliance of Amtelco’s business practices and product offerings with federal, state, local, and international privacy and security regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Payment Card Industry (PCI).

Spectrum: The Telescan division of Amtelco offers the Spectrum call center and messaging system which includes a skills-based ACD, voicemail, call recording, messaging, and dispatching. Spectrum includes the Prism II software-based switch.

Infinity Intelligent Series: The Infinity Intelligent Series platform has been a leading call center and messaging system in the industry since its introduction. The combination of Infinity switching, skills-based multichannel ACD, call recording, and voicemail with the advanced applications of the Intelligent Series have enabled Infinity call centers to grow and prosper with advanced industry capabilities. The long history of the Infinity Intelligent Series reflects Amtelco’s commitment to continue development of and support for its products without forcing customers to migrate to new platforms.

Genesis Intelligent Series: The Genesis Intelligent Series elevates the Infinity switching platform with software-based switching. It provides a skills-based ACD for more than five hundred agents, call recording and playback, full motion video capture of agent screens, voice processing, text-to-speech conversion, conferencing, the simplified soft agent interface, and a mobile-friendly user Web interface.

The key to the Genesis Intelligent Series is the simplified administration and management of all call center applications within the Intelligent Series supervisor. This reduces errors, administration time, the time required to activate new clients, and maintenance overhead. It reduces or eliminates the need to contact Amtelco for support, and it increases revenue through reduced labor and faster client activation.

The Genesis Intelligent Series is an entirely software-based solution. This enables deployment in a virtual machine environment. Virtual machine deployment provides simplification of server utilization and maintenance to improve reliability and reduce overhead costs.

The Genesis Intelligent Series is perfectly suited for cloud applications. This enables deployment of the solution in cloud environments such as Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. Cloud implementation reduces premise-based equipment and overhead and provides flexibility and reliability by capitalizing on the cloud provider infrastructure.

MergeComm Automated Dispatching: MergeComm automated dispatching elevates capabilities of the Intelligent Series by adding automation to the process. MergeComm reduces errors and saves labor by automating inbound message and outbound dispatch activities. MergeComm enables receiving inbound messages via email, Web service API, SMS text message, TAP page, WCTP page, HL7 record from an EMR platform, and phone call. MergeComm automates outbound dispatching with automated retries, escalations, and dispatching for individuals and groups.

Web and Mobile Solutions: Amtelco’s Web solutions provide end-user access to directories, on-call schedules, messages, reports, and call recordings. Amtelco introduced the miTeamWeb mobile-friendly Web interface in 2016 to provide an interface that can be accessed equally as well from a personal computer, tablet, and smartphone.

Secure Smartphone Messaging Solutions: Amtelco provides secure smartphone messaging with the miSecureMessages solution. MiSecureMessages provides the ability to send and receive messages securely using Android and Apple mobile devices and personal computers. MiSecureMessages is tightly integrated with the Intelligent Series applications to enable sending messages to users and receiving updates from users, including read receipt and replies. This provides true interactive two-way messaging.

AmtelcoCustomer Commitment: The combination of Amtelco’s products and customer support ensures the success of Amtelco’s customers. Amtelco wishes to thank its customers for partnering with them and looks forward to an even brighter future in the years to come.

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Five Customer Service Pain Points a UC Solution Can Solve



By Adam Kramer

More than 70 percent of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service. When a customer calls into your business with an issue, a poorly designed or outdated phone system can throw the customer over the edge, and you can quickly lose them.

Understanding the most frustrating experiences customers have with a business’ phone system is the best way to design a solution that enhances customers’ experience by solving their issues quickly and efficiently. Here are five of the most common customer pain points with a business phone system and the ways a unified communication (UC) solution can solve them:

Proper Staffing: Customer Pain Point 1: Inadequate staffing and long hold times. The customer might say, “I’ve been on hold for over five minutes. Maybe you should hire more people.”

The UC Solution: Managers can correlate agent staffing with call reports, which show heavy- and low-volume call times during the day. Appropriately staffing call center agents based on call volume reduces on-hold time for customers, enables issues to be resolved faster, and cuts costs.

Helpful IVR: Customer Pain Point 2: Confusing phone menu or interactive voice response (IVR). A poorly designed IVR is a frustrating experience for customers, yet the majority of businesses have just that: an outdated, unhelpful, confusing IVR. The customer might say, “I pushed two for support, and it transferred me to sales. Can I please speak to a manager now?”

The UC Solution: IVR was designed for several reasons: to enable customers to help themselves without involving an agent, to route customers to the correct agent who can help them with whatever they need, and to provide general business information.

A solid UC solution will provide businesses with several options for their IVR needs, including stock voice prompts, music on hold, extension setup, and integrations allowing for more advanced features and capabilities. With the correct tools, businesses can create a helpful IVR flow that will reduce customer frustrations and get them the information they need faster.  

Screen Sharing: Customer Pain Point 3: Lack of communication mediums to work through a technical issue. The customer might say, “There’s a little box and a confusing pop-up thingy. I wish you could see what I see.”

The UC Solution: A Web-based solution allows for collaboration among internal and external users (customers and agents) without the need for plug-ins, separate applications, or passwords. All users need is an Internet connection. Some customer issues are hard to explain without visually seeing what’s happening. In these cases the right UC solution allows employees to share a customer’s screen or host a live video session to walk a customer through an issue or demonstrate a feature.

No Repeating Needed: Customer Pain Point 4: Having to repeat information. The customer might say, “I already entered my case number, so why are you asking for it again?”

The UC Solution: In addition to a well-designed IVR, CRM integration enables an agent to view detailed customer records as soon as the call comes in, including recent case numbers. If there is an issue, the agent can identify the appropriate person to handle it, check to see if they’re available, send them an instant message to alert them about the call, and then route the call.

While the IVR provides options for customers to be directed to the appropriate person, the CRM screen pop provides the agent with information about the customer. With these two UC features, the agent should have a good idea of who the customer is and how they can help them before they even engage in conversation.

Agent Support: Customer Pain Point 5: Lack of proper agent training. The customer might say, “You aren’t understanding me! Let me talk to a manager!”

The UC Solution: Barge and whisper features allow a manager to interact on a customer call by joining the conversation (barge) or speaking to the agent without the customer hearing the conversation (whisper). These features are also useful when training new call center agents on the appropriate (and inappropriate) ways to handle customer issues. These conversations can be recorded and filed in agents’ personnel folders or used for future training sessions.

With the proper implementation, unified communication solutions can address these five customer pain points and help improve call center efficacy in the process.

Adam Kramer is product manager for Digium’s Switchvox business communications solutions. He is responsible for strategy and development of the Switchvox product line.

Ten Tips to Create Inbound Telemarketing Incentives That Work



By Kaela Heft

Managing inbound incentives for telemarketing services can be easy if you know your team, what they like, and what drives them. It’s also the fun part of the job, for both the frontline team as well as the managers. Call center work is a tough job, and shame on us if we don’t take every opportunity we can to make the job more fun.

It’s All About Prizes, Money, and Recognition: Many managers think the best incentives that drive a team to do better are prizes and money. Yet if there is one thing I have learned in eighteen years in the telemarketing services industry, the biggest prize that drives the frontline team is recognition for a job done well. Yes, prizes and money are great, but the satisfaction of hearing your manager give a shout out such as “Great job” or “Thank you” is something much more valuable. Recognition is a guaranteed confidence booster, and it will drive reps to want to do better and keep them motivated and happy. Motivated employees are productive employees, and happy employees create satisfied customers.

Great Incentives Help a Team Hit Their Goals: Of course, money and prizes are an added bonus that no one will turn down. The key is to find what motivates the team and helps drive performance.

Here are my top ten tips for successful inbound incentives.

  1. Make sure everyone knows the goal. Your key performance indicators (KPIs) won’t be achieved if everyone isn’t aware of them and working to reach them.
  2. Gear incentives around different products reps are not used to pitching. I call this “moving their cheese.” The more they pitch the product, the better they understand it.
  3. Offer incentives that relate to their job—something they can use in their office, such as a headset, office supplies, or a bookshelf.
  4. Plan incentives around each season. For example, in the summer I like to give away outdoor rewards such as a fire pit, a grill, or a water tube.
  5. Give the reps an opportunity to tell you what they would like to see for incentives that month. Get them involved.
  6. Play a game each month, and make it something different from month to month to keep your team excited.
  7. Base incentives around their successes. For example, if they score a 90 percent or above on their quality monitoring, have a prize geared around that.
  8. Set goals—not only for the team, but for each individual.
  9. Engage with agents. Asking telemarketing services frontline reps to share successes with the team is another huge motivator. This lets your frontline know that you recognize their abilities and appreciate their hard work and dedication. This also helps reps who are struggling to get a different perspective on how to improve.
  10. Tap positive competition. A little friendly rivalry never hurt anyone and is good for the team. Create it and reward it.

Whether you are looking for telemarketing services or you are working to improve your own team in outsourced telemarketing, knowing what motivates your staff is crucial. Every team is different, and when you can determine what works and what doesn’t, it’s a win-win situation.

Kaela Heft is a customer service supervisor for Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced inbound and outbound telemarketing organization. Kaela has been in the telemarketing business for over eighteen years. She currently supervises a team of customer service representatives with QCS At Home, a work-from-home telemarketing and call center operation.

A Failure to Serve



By Peter L. DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections MagazineI often share customer service successes and failures in this column. Though my rants have a cathartic outcome for me, I hope even more that they offer insight to you and your call centers. Here’s my latest installment.

A year ago I finally had had enough with my Web hosting company. They matched their low prices with low performance: overloaded servers, sluggish performance, and increased downtime. After fourteen years of misplaced loyalty, I switched companies.

My new hosting provider charged more and promised more. At first they delivered. Despite that I had to manually migrate all my sites to their platform, their service pleased me—at first. But after a couple of months, their servers grew busier, my load times slowed, and outages occurred. I complained, and they sold me an upgrade. But the only difference I experienced was a higher bill.

I needed to take action—again.

A trusted friend highly recommended an alternative. I studied their website and found the perfect plan for my business, which offered more and charged less than my current provider. I checked their reviews and ratings: excellent. (My current and past provider had dismal reviews and ratings, despite their high-profile status.)

I got ready to change hosting providers. Here’s my log of what happened:

11:35 a.m.: I call their main number. I hear seven rings and then get a fast busy. I try twice more with the same results.

11:38 a.m.: I search their website for an email. Nothing. I fill out a trouble ticket for sales.

11:40 a.m.: I receive an automated response, with a link to check online for the status. It goes to a customer portal. I need to log in. But I’m not a customer, so I can’t.

11:48 a.m.: I get a personal email message from Chad. He offers me the option of an email or phone call. Chad doesn’t give his email address.

11:51 a.m.: I select the phone call option and request it after 1:00 p.m. My reply goes to their generic sales email.

12:18: p.m.: I receive a personal email from Patrick agreeing to a phone call. He doesn’t give his direct email address, but uses the generic sales email.

12:23 p.m.: I receive a Google calendar request from Patrick, but with a wrong phone number, which is my fault.

12:37 p.m.: I tentatively accept, and give the right number.

1:06 p.m.: Patrick calls the wrong number and leaves his phone number and extension.

2:09 p.m.: I call Patrick back. It rings fourteen times, and I hang up.

2:12 p.m.: I call their main number. I press 2 for sales, but I reach support. Support transfers me to sales. I talk to Jeff. He says they had phone problems that morning. The connection is bad. He cuts out once but comes back. Then I lose him for good.

3:00 p.m.: I notice in the Google calendar request that Patrick gave his email address. I email him asking for a call on my cell phone.

3:29 p.m.: Patrick calls me. We talk for twenty-nine minutes. He wins me over, and I sign up for service.

This company has a compelling website that provided enough information to sell me, but I had a couple of essential questions before I committed. That’s when they almost lost me. And had I not been so desperate for a change and so short on solid options, I would have surely bailed long before Patrick talked to me and invested a half hour to resell me on their services.

I wonder how much business this company loses because it does such a lousy job with phone support.

(Post-sales update: Though they promised to migrate my sites for me, I spent most of a week and too much time making sure this happened correctly. Trying to communicate with the service department was almost as frustrating as working with sales had been. But in the end, my sites are humming along fine, faster than ever. And that was the whole point. Plus they provided me with fodder for another column and you with an example of bad phone support to avoid.)

Peter L. DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, AnswerStat, TAS Trader, and Medical Call Center News, as well as a passionate wordsmith. Connect with him on his personal blogs, social media sites, and newsletter, all accessible from www.authorpeterdehaan.com.

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