Category Archives: Articles

Six Cost-Effective Recruiting Ideas: Attracting the Best Job Candidates on a Budget



By Jeremy Eskenazi

Recruiting can be challenging in any economy. When times are good, top candidates have many options, and when times are bad, employed people don’t want to make a move. As with any challenge, it’s important to tackle it strategically, and recruiting is no different. When it comes to acquiring talent, having your sourcing strategy and process in place should happen before you need to hire someone.

You may wonder why you would need to know your search strategy before you need candidates. With the market quickly fluctuating, it’s important to know where to look and what type of talent you will be looking for. This is because as much as you want to snap your fingers and have amazing candidates appear, it often takes a lot longer.

Once your talent acquisition strategy is in place, you can think about where you would find the kind of talent your business needs to continue to be successful. To help you move forward, here are six low-cost and no-cost sourcing channels to consider as part of a recruiting strategy:

Remember, that the lowest-cost solution may not always be the best resource to save money. Click To Tweet

1. Referrals

Employee referrals are the number one source of candidates by far. And they’re usually rated the best quality source. Employee referral programs don’t always have to have a monetary reward, though many do. The best programs focus on recognition and simplicity.

Recognizing employees for their referral quickly is key. Instead of monetary rewards, think about other less costly rewards that focus on the recognition. Try not to put too many barriers on participation. Also be sure to have a process for recognizing referrals immediately, and follow up with them to ensure success. If you pay a reward, consider paying it immediately upon hire, and investigate ways to pay, such as with branded debit cards or at check ceremonies.

2. Job Boards

Job boards are great for attracting active candidates. Ensure that your team’s postings are well written from a candidate’s “what’s in it for me” perspective. Don’t use company acronyms and slang. Use the job board’s search system to discover and then borrow from great job postings. Make sure your posting is easily findable and refreshed regularly. 

Resume databases are quite expensive. Because of this, they aren’t an option if you’re focusing on low-cost resources. However, there are some other alternatives to this option such as free or niche job boards.

3. Social Networking

Social networks provide a great opportunity to find passive candidates who may not be applying to your job postings. Using social networks only help your recruiters find targets to contact, but you still must call or contact these people. Keep this in mind when planning your recruitment strategy. Since you have limited time, focus on the best resources:

LinkedIn: First, make sure your team members are easy to find on LinkedIn. Their profiles should be complete and public. Change the settings in LinkedIn to ensure that they are searchable by search engines. There are places on profiles to include links to websites for your company and other information. Your team should thoughtfully ask and answer questions in LinkedIn answers to be more findable.

Use LinkedIn Groups to join and start groups; you can post jobs there for free. Invite people who can expand your network to find the type of people you want. You can use these LinkedIn sources to build a list to call. Or you can email them directly, outside of LinkedIn. LinkedIn InMail has limits and is more expensive.

Facebook: Facebook still targets a slightly younger audience. It’s harder to find sources on Facebook, but your team can use regular searches to find their co-workers, classmates, and others to get beyond their own network. Search for friends on Facebook or leverage it to find candidates to join Facebook pages that are appropriate to you and your jobs. Facebook company pages are also great ways to attract candidates.

Twitter and Instagram: It’s even harder to find people on these platforms, but a lot of posts are public and searchable. Use these sites to broadcast your jobs to relevant people or talk about your company’s culture. Post video job descriptions, starring employees or your CEO.

4. Blogs

Search relevant online blogs for subject matter experts and sources of candidate referrals. Review the About Me section. Also look at their blogroll (a list of links to other sites) to find others who share the same interest. Discussion groups are great places to search too—you can simply review their content and decide if you want to pursue them.

5. Internet Search

Searching for candidates online is an even more specialized skill—and one that is free, provided the recruiter has the skill to do it well. Great resources are available to learn how to do this even more effectively. Remember, however, that the lowest-cost solution may not always be the best resource to save money, as it may end up taking an unskilled person too much time to complete the task.

6. Resume Mining Services

Instead of buying expensive resume database access, consider using a resume mining service. These services offer a low-cost solution on a per-job basis or in packages of jobs. The work they do is simple: they scour internet online resume databases for actual resumes and provide them to you, usually overnight. Most services can offer an additional resource to do quick telephone screens on the resumes submitted.

Sourcing can be stressful, but with a game plan and a little creativity, you can find the best talent with little or even no budget. Good luck with your sourcing efforts.

Jeremy Eskenazi is an internationally recognized speaker, author of RecruitConsult! Leadership, and founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique recruitment/talent acquisition management and optimization consulting firm. Jeremy is not a recruiter, but a specialized training and consulting professional, helping global HR leaders transform how they attract top talent at some of the world’s most recognized companies.

Making Robotic Process Automation Positive for Employees



By Donna Fluss

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a logical approach for companies to improve productivity and quality. The three primary categories of RPA solutions are:

1. Attended: RPA can “sit side-by-side” with an agent or employee at their desktop application and assist them with their tasks. This could include looking up a knowledge article based on the screens an employee visited or completing a form by populating data from internal or external data sources. 

2. Unattended: RPA can fully automate handling work that does not require the cognitive capabilities of a live employee, such as processing accounts-payable transactions. 

3. Hybrid: When an attended RPA solution initiates an unattended RPA transaction, such as when an agent processes a credit card charge-back, it is a hybrid application.

Companies that deliver these three types of RPAs are Automation Anywhere, Jacada, NICE, OnviSource, Pegasystems, UIPath, and Verint. Blue Prism is known for concentrating on unattended automation. Prospects should be aware that all these solutions are different, as are the close to one hundred others in the market. 

Communicate clearly and frequently about the plans for rolling out RPA and the opportunities it will create for employees.  Click To Tweet

Typical differentiators in the RPA market include providing the ability or having experience in: 

  • supporting attended, unattended, and hybrid automations
  • providing real-time employee guidance and next-best-action recommendations for attended RPA
  • automating end-to-end mainframe processes 
  • delivering artificial intelligence (AI)-based capabilities such as automated discovery and prioritization of future automation opportunities

The RPA Challenge

RPA makes sense to executives and managers, but it represents a major threat to the workforce, as many employees fear robots will replace them. Companies that want to succeed with RPA, which is a necessity if they want to remain competitive, need to address and calm their staff. Keep in mind that RPA will be an “elephant in the room” and will negatively impact employee engagement unless management properly addresses it. 

Best Practices for Employee Buy-In

The way to handle employee concerns regarding RPA and the real fear that a robot will replace them is to get their buy-in. While this may sound like a daunting task or quixotic goal, explain to employees that RPA offers many benefits. 

While it’s true that these applications will replace low-value activities performed by some workers, they will also become personal assistants for others, taking on the tedious and repetitive activities that employees dread. 

Here are a few best practices to help companies with the challenge of reassuring their employees.

1. Hire and Promote from Within: Companies need to create new job functions to support an RPA implementation. This typically includes business analysts to design the RPAs, IT coders to build and test them (or a separate group of resources for testing), administrators to manage them, and technical and operational managers as well as project managers to oversee the initiatives. 

DMG recommends that you give people within your company an opportunity to fill these new positions. I’m frequently pleasantly surprised by the talent and skills of contact center agents, many of whom took the job to get their foot in the door after college or returning to work. 

2. Invest in Retraining: As the only given in many contact centers is that things change, good agents are likely to be highly flexible and open to retraining. Work with your vendor of choice and identify or build training classes. This can transform a perceived negative into a strong positive, particularly if employees receive raises to go along with their new job responsibilities. 

3. Clearly Communicate Intentions: Workplace rumor mills are dangerous, and bad news, or what workers consider bad news, travels quickly. To avoid this happening and negatively impacting the morale of a department or company, communicate clearly and frequently about the plans for rolling out RPA and the opportunities it will create for employees. 

Final Thoughts

RPA, robots, bots, intelligent virtual agents, and similar solutions intended to improve productivity and quality are here to stay. It’s not a question of whether your company will use them, only one of timing. Invest a little extra effort to get your staff on board, and it will go a long way to speeding up the success and benefits of these initiatives.

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 Call Centers Can Support VA Healthcare



By Bronson Tang

In Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare, connecting effectively with service providers through multiple channels of communication is the key to implementing better patient experiences and minimizing costs. Optimized call center operations can play a crucial role in achieving these goals.

These days, VA healthcare providers are becoming more patient-centric, thus raising the demand for call centers. With an increased expectation for patient-retention initiatives, appointment scheduling, and communications with referring medical professionals, health centers must keep pace with new communications technologies. VA healthcare providers can extend their support to the patients by using call center services. This reduces call volume and results in more effective patient care by staff.

Healthcare and the VA

The level of convenience and the service offered to patients is different when VA healthcare providers use call center technology as a part of their practice. Most importantly, patients will always have continuous access for assistance.

Patients today have options. They can always find another provider. That’s why every phone interaction must strive to be perfect. Click To Tweet

Hospital management is an important responsibility. Therefore, it’s necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of the complete process. Hospitals need to take care of everything from equipment management to the maintenance of records for the smallest details. In this condition, a medical call center can help a hospital by handling activities such as record maintenance, appointment setting, patient follow-up calls, and appointment reminders. In addition, call center agents can also use email to check in with patients on a regular basis.

Customers satisfaction has always been critical for businesses. This is applicable for VA healthcare providers as well. Providing accurate information to a patient is important since the well-being of the patient depends upon the services they receive. Therefore, automating the complete process can be one of the major requirements hospitals should address. On the other hand, hospitals should also ensure that the personnel employed by a customer service center are familiar with patients’ needs and have the skills and expertise to address different situations.

The call center also brings improved customer satisfaction to hospital employees because it enables them to complete tasks and still provide service to veterans. Call center agents help check veterans in, assist them with the self-service kiosk, and call them to remind them of their appointments.

A Focus on Customer Satisfaction

Call centers have improved customer satisfaction with VA healthcare by answering calls from patients to VA healthcare professionals and then directing them to whoever needs to call them back. If veterans are sick and need immediate medical attention, call center staff can help. With the call center answering all incoming calls, VA healthcare primary care teams can provide better customer service to veterans.

When patients call their doctor’s office, the last thing they want to deal with is a cranky receptionist or, just as bad, be stuck on hold. Healthcare call centers can respond quickly to patients, reduce the burden on administrative staff, and help improve the patient experience.

Without the constant interruption of phone calls, VA healthcare physicians can focus on the tasks at hand. This means that proper billing coding, prescription refills, diagnostic authorizations, and chart preparation all receive more focus.

Scheduling efficiency also improves. When you have a dedicated call center staff, fewer scheduling mistakes will occur, resulting in less rescheduled or missed appointments. Centralized call center staff also know which doctors are at what locations on any given day. This eliminates the possibility of a patient calling the Middletown office looking for Dr. Smith (who only works in Somerset) and hearing the words “We don’t have a Dr. Smith.”

Call Center Capabilities

Call centers bridge the gap between the front and back offices by maintaining administrative activity records of patients and prescriptions, which are often inefficient and difficult to manage. Call center services can prioritize and proactively distribute this work anywhere in the organization. Call centers can also provide business intelligence that improves operational efficiency, meets SLAs, and measures regulatory compliance.

Currently, many medical staff are doing multiple jobs, including answering a variety of patient calls: general questions, upcoming appointments, and benefit coverage. A VA healthcare call center opens communication within departments by outlining what needs to be collected, establishing a hand-off process, and ensuring accountability.

A healthcare call center helps ensure that every patient is set on a positive path. Patients today have options. They can always find another provider. That’s why every phone interaction must strive to be perfect. If patients have an urgent need, they should get an appointment the same day. A quality call center will work with patients to make sure their experiences are positive. Companies who fail to train well often deliver bad service, with rude agents or agents that lack the level of sympathy, empathy, or professionalism that patients expect.

For many physicians, the biggest pain point is their daily practice management issues and challenges, such as a lack of staff. They simply don’t have the number of administrative staff to efficiently operate. And on the clinical side, it’s the same; they’re strapped. Healthcare call center support can remove the burden from both sides. It is an ideal situation for physicians and their entire practice.

A Focus on Quality

A quality call center helps retain patients. When patients are helped in their time of need, they return. That’s the biggest ROI for any physician or practice.

But again, there’s also help for the administrative and clinical staff. A call center can work with them to ensure that they get the right appointment for each patient. An experienced agent can handle the entire transaction and allow the clinical team more time with their patients. This helps every patient get into the office and lets practitioners engage with patients who will return for care.

Call centers provide proactive engagement and notifications. Proactive customer service in VA healthcare is a challenging objective for providers and physicians. Despite their personal commitment and the available technology, there are obstacles when trying to move to a proactive health model. Offering customer assistance through multichannel transactions can prevent customers switching to other options. In addition, keeping members informed of the progress so they don’t have to make a call improves loyalty and ultimately the bottom-line.

Summary

The focus your healthcare organization staff is to collect the necessary information and improve patient satisfaction. A call center is an excellent way to handle this.

Call centers must deal with the continuing challenge of recruiting and training excellent personnel and attempting to increase retention rates. To improve service, management must constantly communicate with both employees and customers in an interactive, multidimensional process. In the global marketplace, improvement of service is not an option—it’s a matter of survival. A call center can help.

Pulsar 360

Bronson Tang is the marketing manager at Pulsar360, Inc. He has ten years of experience in digital marketing and has worked in the telecommunications sector for four years. He is the author of the book, The Tao of Business. Pulsar360, Inc., with origins dating back to 2001, is an established Unified-Communication-as-a-Service (UCaaS) provider with a comprehensive set of offerings it has provided to over 160 medical centric call centers including: cloud-based enterprise-class call center IP PBX; premise-based IP PBX, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-trunking, business continuity disaster recovery solutions, T38 Faxing that meets HIPAA, GLBA, and other industry compliance regulations and carrier services.

First Aid for Burned-Out Teams



By Kate Zabriskie

Even in the best of times, creating and maintaining a high-functioning team is hard work. Consider these perspectives about workplace teams: 

The team is exhausted. They’re burned-out, and you are too. You don’t know if the team can recover. Everyone’s been working at 150 percent for over a year—at least most everyone has.

More change? Really? We’ve been through three major transitions in as many months. Everyone is on edge. I’m pretty sure Susan is going to quit.

Team? We work in the same building, but that’s about where it starts and stops. I’m hoping to get out of here soon.

When the team is burned out, the task of managing them becomes harder, but you can do it. Follow these five first-aid steps to heal burned-out teams.

Recognize that you need to over-explain and repeatedly share information. Click To Tweet

Step One

The first step is accepting a list of truths.

Truth One: People have different levels of buy-in, a range of professional goals, and varying home/work demands.

Truth Two: Not everyone experiences burnout in the same way, nor is work always distributed evenly in most organizations. Some people are more burned out than others.

Truth Three: Great teamwork will compensate for a lack of resources in the short term. However, teams stretched too thin for too long will begin to show signs of stress.

Truth Four: If the leader doesn’t believe in what the team needs to accomplish or isn’t working as hard as he or she can to bring the team over the finish line each day, team members will know it and react in a range of ways—most of which are neutral at best.

Truth Five: Transparency matters. People don’t like not knowing, or worse still, being lied to.

Truth Six: Too many changes at once usually don’t go over well unless there’s a logical flow to them. This includes a sense of fairness about the change, along with the absence of unnecessary chaos or drama.

Truth Seven: Elephants in a room stay there if they’re allowed to. If a team is not prepared to operate with candor and address any unspoken issues, there’s only so much you can do to save the group.  

Truth Eight: Team members’ perceptions of the team’s condition are their truth. You may have plenty of data to argue to the contrary, but until people are ready to listen and believe what you show them, what they currently think is what is.

Step Two

Once you have a firm understanding of the basic truths, the next step is taking a hard look at what’s working, what isn’t, and why. 

  • Does everyone understand and buy into the team’s mission? 
  • Is work distributed fairly? 
  • Are some people doing more than they should have to do and others doing less than they should? 
  • Are people resentful of each other? 
  • Is there drama, and do you know the source? 
  • Is the team’s burnout a recent phenomenon, or has its decay been long term? 
  • Is the burnout caused by internal factors, external factors, or a combination of both? 
  • Have those in positions of authority misled or lied to people in the past?

These questions are just the beginning and provide some ideas to start with. In fixing burnout, asking the right questions is as important, if not more so, as acting. A good list of questions will help reduce the likelihood that you are treating symptoms or curing the wrong disease.

Step Three

When you think you have a good grasp of the situation and have verified your findings with others, it’s time to think about what could be. A quick way to imagine a different state is to work through some more questions.

  • Why does our team matter to the organization, and what value do we offer?
  • How do we want to feel about our work?
  • What gets us excited about our work, or what do we enjoy?
  • What changes do we need to our work product, our work processes, or our people interactions?
  • What needs to stay the same?
  • What level of performance do we need from each team member?
  • What are we going to do if those levels aren’t met?
  • What additional resources do we need?
  • What does success look like?
  • What can we do to encourage transparency and communication?
  • How will we celebrate improvements?

Step Four

With a clear view of the present and a possible future, the next step is prioritizing. In most cases, burned-out teams don’t burn out overnight. Often the process is long and marked by a series of declines, bad luck, and unfortunate circumstances. Consequently, the recovery process is often long. In fact, the team may never realize some of the elements identified in step three. 

Most recoveries don’t happen overnight. The trick is to keep the truths discussed in step one in mind as you prioritize a plan of action to get from the reality you uncovered in step two and the future you envisioned in step three.

Step Five

The final step in the recovery planning process is creating a deliberate communication plan. Recognize that you need to over-explain and repeatedly share information. Once is not enough. Also, not all recoveries are linear. Your team will have some good days and some bad ones. What’s important is making progress in the right direction over time. After a series of successes, everyone who is still with the group should feel a little less burned out and a lot more excited about their work.

With these five steps identified, you’re positioned to provide some immediate triage to your team members who are battling burnout. Burnout can be pervasive throughout an entire company, so get your first-aid kit out as soon as you pick up on the problem, and mitigate the issue before it negatively impacts your operation.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com. 

Asking Questions to Enhance Strategic Thinking



By Jill J. Johnson

The foundation of effective strategic thinking and strategy development is knowing how to ask the right questions. Learning to ask the right questions can be difficult because most people only know how to ask superficial questions that require easy answers. Asking challenging questions allows you to be more impactful in critical situations, have a greater influence on outcomes, and help your organization achieve greater results.

Ask Questions That Matter

The level of uncertainty in today’s business climate is driving major challenges for most leaders. To be an effective leader, you must fully understand the overall strategic goals of your enterprise and key leadership. Use these goals as the framework to align your thinking.

Understand the critical market forces impacting your business strategies so you can determine the questions to answer. What critical market forces are at play in your industry? Are there forces evolving around you that have the potential to impact your survival or growth opportunities? Consider what it will take to grow revenue, expand profitability, improve job satisfaction, enhance productivity, or increase customer retention. How does each of these areas impact the questions you should consider? Structure your questions to challenge the critical issues impacting your ability to achieve these goals.

Three Critical Categories of Questions

There are three categories of questions to evaluate when focusing on strategic thinking. These questions allow you to scan the various elements impacting your enterprise. They include reviewing what is going on internally in your organization, exploring external market forces creating new challenges or opportunities, and a review of your organizational relationships. 

Here are some examples of the types of questions to consider for each level:

Internal Scan: Ask detailed questions about your customers and their evolving needs. 

  • What is the impact of your ownership, culture, and stage of your business life cycle? 
  • Where are the sources of your profitability and capital resources? 
  • What are your leadership capabilities? 
  • How deep is the expertise of your team? 

Make sure you fully understand the key strategies of your organization and the opportunities you have to implement them.

External Scan: Consider the impact of various market forces on your target market and opportunities. 

  • What is happening demographically? 
  • How is your competition influencing your target market’s expectations on service, cost, and quality? 
  • What generational influences impact your ability to compete for your customers? 
  • What are the risks of remaining status quo?

Relationship Scan: Consider the status of the strategic relationships and partnerships you and your enterprise have developed. 

  • How do they impact your opportunities and create new challenges? 
  • Can you tap into other resources they offer or leverage them to achieve your goals? 
  • What are your internal relationships and how can you use them to impact success?

Constructing Your Strategic Questions

Focus your consideration of the questions on the key components impacting your enterprise growth or survival. Your questions should follow the format of who, what, where, when, why, and how. They should be action-oriented. As you answer them, they should provide clarity to your strategic direction and focus. This will guide you into areas needing more research.

Align your questions to address critical business issues. Your questions should help clarify the most critical priorities for your organization. Break these into levels of importance: top, short-term, and ongoing. Also consider the time-horizon for the impact: short-term, mid-term, or long-term. 

By understanding the time priorities, you can categorize your strategic questions to align them with the key external market forces impacting your ability to achieve your goals. Aligning your questions with the external market forces provides you with a deeper level of critical thinking. As you elevate your critical thinking, you can link questions to impact your overall enterprise strategies.

Make sure your questions require some research or reflection. Questions that elicit a “yes” or “no” response are not strategic. Ask provocative questions to encourage deeper thinking. This will bring a higher level of critical thinking to your planning. If your team cannot ask tough enough questions, find an outside advisor or consultant who can provide insight.

Getting Answers to Improve Your Strategic Insight

Often you will have to do some research before you can develop your questions. Think of this as your homework. The right preparation ensures that you will ask better questions. Look to industry associations as a good starting source for insight about emerging issues and challenges. Study how your competitors tackle challenging market forces.

Questions that elicit a “yes” or “no” response are not strategic. Ask provocative questions to encourage deeper thinking. Click To Tweet

Consider your options for obtaining the information that will allow you to confidently address your questions. Outside resources can be an objective source of obtaining information. If you keep this research role internal, work carefully to minimize any bias you might inject into it.

Identify the key metrics you should be monitoring by analyzing industry data. Tie your questions to what improves or impacts each of these metrics. Your questions should consider what impacts your profit margin, return on capital employed, return on investment, and return on assets. If you don’t understand these terms, learn more about them.

You will never have all the available data to answer all your questions. The goal is to obtain enough data to make reasonable judgments or clarify the next layer of questions.

Final Thoughts

Asking questions that matter will build your confidence, and others will be more open to work with you. Learning to ask challenging questions allows you to be more impactful in critical situations, have an influence on outcomes, and help achieve greater results. Thinking strategically is a skill set you must actively work at trying to improve. Find resources to help you learn and practice your critical thinking skills. Building your strategic mindset takes time, discipline, and focus.

What critical questions do you need to ask to improve your business?

Jill J. Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, an accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and the author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. For more information, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.

Vendor Profile: Szeto Technologies



Szeto Technologies is a manufacturer specializing in equipment for telephone switching, voice, and data communications. For over thirty-three years, it has been providing technical solutions for the TAS industry to automate and enhance call center service offerings.

As telephony, computer, and internet technologies evolve, Szeto relentlessly experiments and develops new features and functions for its products. These capabilities help Szeto users streamline operations and diversify revenue streams. Sometimes this results in custom fits to a user’s specific requirements. Other times they produce separate modules that create new service offerings. This means that Szeto offers turnkey solutions to its customers.

The technology behind telephone answering services has changed in the past thirty years. While answering calls, taking messages, and delivering messages continues to be the basic services offered, the nature of how this service is handled has changed considerably. 

The engineering team at Szeto Technologies is committed to keeping their clients steps ahead in this ever-changing industry. Click To Tweet

The engineering team at Szeto Technologies is committed to keeping their clients steps ahead in this ever-changing industry. Szeto firmly believes that every piece of equipment its customers use should be oriented to their unique business needs. All Szeto products are customizable and flexible. They have a simple-to-use, smart-in-function, and cost-effective design.

Their customers can best describe what Szeto means to them. Here are three examples:

Select Call

It’s no secret that top call centers have strong connections between the technology they implement and the training they provide their staff, which is why this profile looks at the award-winning combination of Alberta’s Select Call Centres and Szeto Technologies.

Select Call has utilized Szeto Technologies hardware and software for over two decades to run its operations. Throughout that time, it has grown from a single office located out of Grande Prairie to represent five award-winning offices throughout the province with remote employees located all around Canada.

“It does everything we need, and it does it well,” says Vicky Dawson, operations manager at Select Call Centres. “It’s so easy working with the Szeto team to implement new features and enhancements we request. It’s so easy to train operators to use Call Linx. We can train operators to be fully up-to-task within two weeks of starting training. That’s pretty much unheard of in the industry.” 

As a testament to their success, Select Call Centres across Alberta Canada took home the following awards at CAM-X 2019:

  • Award of Distinction (eight years running)
  • Award of Excellence – Edmonton location (twenty-one years running) with a top ten score
  • Award of Excellence – Red Deer location (sixteen years running) with a top score 
  • Award of Excellence – Calgary location (sixteen years running) with a top ten score
  • Award of Excellence – Grande Prairie location (nineteen years running) with a top ten score
  • Award of Excellence – Brooks location (four years running) with a top ten score

“This success is thanks in part to Szeto Technologies,” say Garrett Bidewell, CEO of Select Call Center

MSTAS

MSTAS LTD, dba Stat Medical and Awake Communications, provides business hours, after-hours, and 24/7 emergency dispatch to the medical and healthcare industry. The healthcare industry requires specific and individualized service and most importantly, the service must be efficient and reliable. MSTAS also provides virtual office business services and virtual secretaries to small, medium, and commercial businesses in many industries including transportation and logistics, law, construction, and insurance.

“We have been using Szeto Technologies equipment since 2002. Our business needs and services have evolved since then, and Szeto has provided us with all our answering system changes,” says David Kube, CEO of MSTAS Ltd. 

“In March of this year, with very little warning, our New York office, along with many other tenants of the building, were forced to move. The building owners needed the space to accommodate a large corporation. The phone company could not transfer our services to the new location with such little notice. We found ourselves in a business bind. We could not provide services to our clients without phone lines. 

“The Szeto team quickly intervened to provide a solution. They had our calls temporarily rerouted through our Virginia office and in turn redirected to our new office in New York for our local operators until the phone company was able to install our new lines. The transition to our new office was seamless. Our services weren’t interrupted, and we continued to provide our clients with all their business needs, including fax, email, SMS, and secured messages. 

“The Szeto team has always provided us with reliable and powerful equipment that meets our unique needs. MSTAS continues to depend on Szeto’s skills for consultation and execution of work.” 

Maximum Communications

Maximum Communications is a small business call center that fits their clients’ needs by providing 24/7 live customer service to help them support and grow their businesses. 

“A few weeks ago, our SMS cellular carrier T-Mobile was down, and it was estimated it would be out of service for eight to ten hours. We were devastated at the fact that our customers would have no text messages for over eight hours. 

“We called Szeto for suggestions and help. They immediately routed our SMS mobile transmissions transparently to one of their other systems in Pennsylvania. Our service was uninterrupted, and our clients were unaware that there was even a problem. This could have been a complicated issue had Szeto not stepped in to rectify,” says Kristine Pierce, manager of operations, Maximum Communications.

Szeto Technologies provides an ever-evolving platform developed by passionate people for TAS experts big and small. What more could you ask?

Szeto Technologies

Want to see how Szeto can help your company? Call them at 877-697-9386 or email info@szeto.ca.

The Next-Generation Interactive Message Exchange


Startel, Professional Teledata, Alston Tascom

By Bobby Bennet

Contact center clients today no longer focus solely on customer service through phone calls. Prospective clients looking for a call center will evaluate your company’s business strategy and technology. Your prospects have specific needs to meet their customers’ expectations, and they want to know that you can provide them with the tools necessary to accomplish this.

In an increasingly online world, companies now expect their call center to provide customers with an omnichannel experience. They are no longer satisfied with only email, fax, short message service (SMS), paging, and voice communications. As millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s) increase their presence in the workplace, so does the demand for alternate means of communications. 

Millennials and Gen Z have grown up with the internet and cell phones. They demand quick satisfaction when contacting a company with minimal effort on their part. When they contact a company for a new service, they’re not calling. Rather, they’ll pick up their phone to use web chat or text the company’s phone number. These are features that most major companies have in place today but have been missing within many call center applications for too long. 

Web chat works in most every stage of the customer lifecycle.  Click To Tweet

Mainline texting and web chat are no longer technologies customers may one day want. They’re features that the marketplace demands. On average, Americans text twice as much as they call. Ninety-five percent of texts are read in less than three minutes of being sent, and 33 percent of American adults prefer text to all other forms of communications. Sixty-seven percent of Americans would rather text about appointments, reminders, or scheduling rather than receive an email or phone call, according to the Zipwhip State of Texting 2019 Report. 

SMS Enabling Business Lines

New technology enables SMS and multimedia message service (MMS) on business lines and toll-free numbers for both the contact center and its customers. Imagine having the ability to manage your customer’s text messages the same way you currently do with their voice calls. Adding artificial intelligence and rules-based routing constructed from the interactions and answers of the person texting can populate automated responses that limit or even eliminate agent involvement. 

Enabling SMS for a business can provide customers with a clearer line of communication. Medical offices that send out appointment reminders via SMS a few days in advance with an option to cancel have drastically reduced their number of no-shows. This small change has allowed revenues to increase as well as customer satisfaction with their contact center.

Web Chat 

Web chat is now the norm when communicating with many corporations in the United States. Most of us are accustomed to this growing trend among businesses. A web chat system allows users to communicate in real-time using easily accessible web interfaces, eliminating the need for users to install and learn specialized chat software. 

Many websites now include a live chat button in the bottom corner of the page. This makes it easy for customers to get information about a product, receive assistance, or have questions answered by a live agent. Web chat works in most every stage of the customer lifecycle. 

Email Chat

Email chat is the same concept as webchat except in the form of an email message. An agent can receive an email and respond with the appropriate answer or a predetermined response.

Social Media

Social media for customer service, while not as prevalent as other interactive message exchange mediums, will soon be a mandatory feature for call centers. As millennial and Gen Z demographics increase, we’ll find a growing desire for contact through social media outlets such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. People may respond more positively to a discount offer on social media versus a phone pitch. 

Mass Notification

Mass notification is yet another tool that can provide additional revenue to a contact center. The purpose of such a system is to reach a targeted audience quickly with real-time information. Mass notifications can quickly inform your targeted audience of critical events such as mass casualty incidents, inclement weather, campus alerts, and other emergency-related incidents that require immediate attention. 

There are many nonemergency business applications as well. Uses include company announcements, scheduling requests and changes, marketing messages, billing notifications, appointment reminders, community announcements, school-related announcements, and service interruptions.

If you’ve not already done so, today is the day to plan for the next-gen interactive message exchange.

Startel

Bobby Bennett is the western regional sales manager for Startel (startel.com), a leading provider of best-in-class contact center solutions. He has been in the contact center industry for more than twenty-five years. Startel recently released its platform-agnostic GenIMX solution, which provides contact centers across all platforms the ability to add SMS-enabling LAN lines, web and email chat, and mass notification. 

Customer Service Makes the Difference



The Way Companies Deal with Customer Issues Has Future Implications

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-customer service

A day and a half into my week, and I’ve already endured three major customer service issues from three vendors. Their responses could not have been more different.

One issue was with a global company that whisks money around the world in seconds. Usually, everything works flawlessly. But if there’s a hiccup, they leave customers hanging. I’m left with filling out an online resolution dispute form. 

Doesn’t Care

At best they get back with me within a week, never hours or even a few days. At worst they told me it would take one to three months. Since it only took them three weeks, I suppose I should be grateful. This week’s issue needed a quick resolution, so I didn’t bother to contact them. It only took the person I sent money to and me an hour and a half to figure out a workaround resolution on our own.

This company is hard to reach. I suspect it’s part of their business model. Deprioritizing customer service seems to work for them. They’ll surely retain market share until someone matches their features and provides good customer support. Then they’ll wish they had given customer service more attention.

Puts Forth a Good Effort

The second episode occurred with an even larger global company. People often complain about their customer service. As for me, they always try to help, and they often succeed. That’s not a grand endorsement, but it’s far better than the first company.

I have no doubt but a company's success and growth come from their excellent customer service.  Click To Tweet

Though hard to find, this company gives two customer service options: email and call back. If my question isn’t time-critical or I must convey a lot of detailed information, I opt for email. They respond within twenty-four hours, usually two or three.

However, they encourage phone support. I complete a short form online (picking the right options is the hard part), verify my phone number, and click submit. My phone rings within seconds, and I’m connected to a person within a minute. That person usually resolves my issue on that phone call, without transferring me. 

This time, after spending hours trying to figure things out myself, I contacted them. But I reached the wrong division. The woman instructed me to contact a different group. I don’t know if she couldn’t transfer me or didn’t want to.

The second person was hard to understand, and the audio level was low. For each point, I had to confirm multiple times to make sure I understood correctly. Her words often seemed to contradict what I thought she just said. Eventually, we got through everything, and I obtained the information I needed. As a bonus, it turned out to be correct.

Though this company pushes people to self-service solutions, they do provide personal customer service. From my perspective, they succeed in most instances. However, their smaller, nimbler competitors outshine them in this area, and the company’s market share is shrinking.

Customer Service Excellence

The third incident was with a financial institution. Over the weekend, they upgraded their website and online banking services. They clearly communicated the timetable, what was involved, and what to expect. Despite their meticulous planning, glitches occurred. Though I needed to download a new app, I had trouble finding it on the App Store. This took an hour to resolve. I spent another hour trying to navigate their new interface, configure it correctly, and accomplish the one urgent banking task I had to do.

At one point, I found myself locked out of my account. This required calling them to reset it. Unlike the other two organizations, this one wants people to call. They have their number promptly displayed on every page of their website and each page of their statements. Someone answered on the first ring. Her enthusiasm sounded like this was her first call of the day. Without coming across as haggard or rushed, she reset my password, stayed connected as I logged in, and asked if she could help me with anything else. It was a remarkable experience.

Renowned for their excellent customer service, this successful, rapidly growing, mid-size financial company has won awards and received national recognition as a leader in their sector. 

I have no doubt their success and growth come from their excellent customer service. 

Why don’t other companies get this?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Overcoming Call Reluctance, Part Four



By Kathy Sisk

In the last issue we discussed the first fear prospects have (the approach) and ways to overcome it. We’ll conclude with how to overcome your prospect’s last two fears.

Pre-Purchase Insecurity

The second fear is pre-purchase insecurity. This is where you probe to qualify your prospects, establish their wants, and create the need for your offering. Use open-ended questions to draw out their wants and needs. The more you know about your prospects, the stronger your presentation will be.

After asking the right questions, go to your selling step and fulfill your prospect’s needs. An effective selling step has four key elements to it: first, what is it? (Even if it is an appointment, you need to sell it.) The second element is what it does (the education part). The third element is what the prospect will gain. And the last element is the money made or time saved. 

Once you complete a strong selling step, get the prospect’s reaction by encouraging a positive response. Finally, do a trial close to summarize the benefits and ask for a commitment.

The more you know about your prospects, the stronger your presentation will be. Click To Tweet

Post-Purchase Remorse

The final fear is post-purchase remorse. Having all the essential elements in your presentation will decrease this third fear from surfacing. However, there is one more element. 

You need to post-close. Trained for speed, many agents close quickly, get off the phone, and move to the next call before the prospect changes their mind. Because the post-close was not part of the presentation, once the call ends, prospects begin talking themselves out of their commitment. Not post-closing is a major reason why many companies experience cancellations as high as 60 percent.

Conclusion

Addressing your prospect’s three fears takes three to five minutes in a full presentation. However, the length of presentation depends on your prospecting activity, how long each prospect takes to respond to your questions, and if the prospect has objections. By incorporating these scripting elements into your presentation, you have the tools to give you greater control. 

As you study, design, and implement these elements into your outbound campaigns, you will conquer their call reluctance and experience better results while increasing production. Moreover, this will impress prospects.

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.

Using Speech Analytics to Improve Customer Relationships in the Call Center



By Jeff Gallino

Here are answers to some questions I often hear about call center speech analytics.

Question: What’s the biggest trend you’ve seen when it comes to managing customer relationships, and how has that evolved over the past five to ten years? 

Answer: With the rise of digital transformation, we’ve seen a major shift in consumer preferences, and customer experience (CX) has arguably replaced traditional marketing in terms of becoming the number-one brand differentiator. More companies are realigning their business strategy to focus on delivering exceptional CX. This is because customer demands for personalization, innovation, and consistency are on the rise. 

As a result, it’s never been more critical for companies to understand the voice of their customer—not only within the C-suite but across all levels of their organization. Sure, companies have more opportunities to connect using email, live chat, social media, and other channels. But we’re seeing many organizations spread themselves too thin, thereby actually doing more harm than good. While it’s critical in today’s digital and omnichannel world to stay agile, companies must remain focused on what is truly important: building and nurturing customer relationships. 

Q: What are the main factors that lead to customer churn? 

A: Resulting in an estimated deficit of 136 billion dollars per year, customer churn is a sore spot for most US businesses. The good news is that it’s entirely avoidable. 

Speech analytics technology provides a holistic view into 100 percent of customer interactions. Click To Tweet

From an agent standpoint, the answer is much more fundamental than one may think—40 percent of consumers just want someone to listen to them. However, many agents fail to deliver on that simple request, as only 23 percent of callers feel listened to. Another major factor when it comes to delivering an unsatisfactory experience is the agent’s inability to show empathy. 

The emotional state of the caller at the beginning of the call is a tough situation for agents—regardless of their level of emotional intelligence—as 42 percent of callers arrive annoyed, 28 percent arrive upset, 22 percent arrived confused, and 17 percent arrive angry. Yet despite these strong emotional tendencies, 43 percent still express the need for a more polite and caring representative.

As for as the role played by the call center itself, sticking to the status quo just isn’t working anymore. Whether outdated scripts, ill-advised metrics, or a lack of knowledge in general, legacy call center management methods aren’t up to speed with the demands of today’s consumer base. 

Customers not only expect solutions to their problems, they want solutions in a timely manner with minimal disruption. When management fails to arm agents with the tools, training, and resources necessary to do their job, they’re only contributing to the problem. 

Q: What kind of insights does speech analytics offer? 

A: There’s no one-size-fits all definition for speech or engagement analytics, but at its core, speech analytics is a way to generate insights from conversations. But it’s much more than a transcription tool. It automates the process of listening to customer interactions, regardless of the communication channel used. This allows agents to make accurate and informed decisions based on customers’ needs. 

Speech analytics takes the unstructured data directly from both ends of the conversation and turns it into structured data. Once in this format, sophisticated categorization and tagging methods allow for searching and analyzing of information. These are all built in accordance with an enterprise’s unique business objectives. While this sounds like a lot, it streamlines the process and offers speed to actionable insights, which random call sampling would have missed. 

Take sales effectiveness, for example, and think of the behaviors of your most successful sales agents. This technology can create scores leveraging those behaviors, transfer that into historically proven, interactive suggestions, and automatically provide feedback and guidance to agents, which eventually raises top-line revenue.

Q: How do agents benefit from this technology in real-time versus post-interaction? 

A: Whether it’s on the back end for management purposes and corrective action, or on the front lines of the conversation to improve accuracy and compliance the first time around, agents benefit from speech analytics by receiving timely guidance and accurate feedback to help them improve performance. This results in increased first-call resolution rates, shorter average handle time, and increased customer satisfaction. 

For example, say a customer is becoming increasingly frustrated with the agent’s responses, or lack thereof. Based on preconfigured verbal or acoustic measures, agents can receive alerts to take a suggested action, such as an offer to save a customer from churning, or be immediately redirected to a supervisor to correct the problem. Companies can also track the customer journey across channels, so consumers don’t have to repeat the problem. This allows for a more personalized interaction.

When used for post-interaction analysis, speech analytics technology can track trends and make root cause discoveries to improve contact center performance and business intelligence across the enterprise. This is a direct result of agent’s receiving feedback on 100 percent of their calls. This gives them praise or coaching on performance to make them more equipped to address similar situations in the future.

Q: What is the difference between speech analytics versus traditional customer feedback methods? 

A: Surveys and net promoter scores (NPS) face limits by the number of responses they receive, accumulating a response rate of anywhere between 5 to 15 percent. Therefore, they’re limited regarding the story they tell. This is mostly because they will never be able to show you exactly what’s going wrong and how to fix it. Sure, they offer a glimpse into customer satisfaction, but they only skim the surface. 

Simply put, you can’t improve NPS and overall CX without first understanding the root cause of the problem. In addition, these feedback methods only offer a glimpse of the customer’s perception of your brand. You can’t rely on these methods alone to revamp your CX strategy. However, speech analytics technology provides a holistic view into 100 percent of customer interactions. This allows for a consistent, accurate analysis of a variety of performance indicators such as effort and empathy.

Jeff Gallino is the CTO and founder of CallMiner, a software company that develops speech analytics software. Founded in 2002, it’s headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts.