July 2021 Issue of Connections Magazine

The July 2021 Issue of Connections Magazine, covering call centers and the teleservice industry

Feature Content:

CM JULY 2021

Top 5 Competencies for Outsource Call Center Agents by JoAnna Montgomery
If you can’t find experienced agents, use this list of competencies to look for as you hire staff. . . . read more >>

From the Publisher: Create Sticky Customer Service in Your Call Center, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Customer service isn’t a once-and-done effort. It takes ongoing focus to truly meet customer expectations. The new book Sticky Customer Service provides key insights. . . . read more >>

Vendor Profile on Startel 
Last year Startel realized unprecedented opportunity for innovation and growth. Discover the strides they made during a challenging time to better serve their customers. . . . read more >>

Happy Employees Mean Happier Customers by Patrick Gilbert
Focus on making employees happy, and in turn, they will make your customers happy. . . . read more >>

Current Status of Speech (and Text) Analytics by Donna Fluss
Applying Interaction analytics (IA) solutions to improve the performance of contact centers is valuable and will result in a payback within 2–3 years, when used properly.. . . . read more >>

Transform Voice of Customer Insights with Artificial Intelligence Powered Speech Analytics by Matt Rocco and Jim Iyoob
Make artificial intelligence and speech analytics, the two most revolutionizing technologies of this time, integral parts of your contact center quality monitoring. . . . read more >>

How Call Center Service Providers Impact Customer Experience by Megan Fallis
Call center service providers need an uncompromised focus on customer experience to see change, because behind every phone call, email, chat, or text there is a customer. . . . read more >>

Top 5 Call Center Software Must-Have Features in 2021 by April Forer
Call center software plays a critical role in operating a successful business. Choosing the right features will streamline operations and help meet the challenges you face. . . . read more >>

The Costly Impact of Unanswered Outbound Calls on Call Centers by Krishna Korlepara
Learn how to make it possible for the enterprise and call center to reach its customers for the conversations that are too important to miss. . . . read more >>

Ten Years Ago: Filling Your Call Center with Proactive, Self-Reliant Agents by Luis Echevarria
When you provide agents with the best tools to do their job, the outcome is the best product for your call center and your clients.. . . . read more >>

Twenty Years Ago: Are You Mining the Gold from Your Clients? by David Saxby
Customers want someone to listen to them, to treat them with respect, and to show them some appreciation. . . . read more >>

Industry News

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About Connections Magazine 

Connections Magazine is the premier publication for the call center industry, providing news and information for call centers, sent at no cost to qualified readers at call centers, contact centers, teleservice agencies, phone answering services, and telemessaging companies.

For more information, email Peter DeHaan

Create Sticky Customer Service in Your Call Center

Real World Customer Service Stories to Inform Your Practices

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

For over twenty years I’ve written a “From the Publisher” column in each issue of Connections Magazine. For many years that meant six columns a year, although it initially was four and at one time it ballooned up to ten, but we’re now rightsized at six. Altogether I count 174 columns, plus many other articles that I’ve published in Connections Magazine over the years. That’s a lot of writing and even more words, enough to fill several books. And that’s just what I’ve done—and more.

I’ve taken my best customer service posts, updated them, and added content. Then I wrote more examples and compiled them into a book. The result is Sticky Customer Service. It’s now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

The vision of Sticky Customer Service is to share real-world examples to illuminate customer service done well and customer service that falls short. The goal is to help enterprises—including yours—to stop churning customers and start growing your business. Through its pages you’ll discover helpful customer service tips to encourage you to do better and celebrate what you do best.

For the call center industry, we normally think of customer service as happening over the telephone. But it also occurs in person and online. It’s critical that we excel in each of these three areas to form a comprehensive customer-focused perspective that pursues excellence through all channels. And even if your intent is to focus on the section covering telephone customer service, the other sections will still inform your outlook and give you helpful insights.

Customer service isn’t a once-and-done effort. It takes ongoing focus to truly meet customer expectations. Sticky Customer Service delivers over two dozen practical, action-oriented insights to help you turn customer service from an ingrained weakness into a strategic strength. It’s a great tool for organizational planning, staff discussions, and customer service training. It will help you create sticky customer service for your organization.

Sticky Customer Service is the first book of my new Sticky series. Upcoming books include Sticky Sales and Marketing and then Sticky Leadership, capped off with Sticky Living. 

Get Sticky Customer Service and take the first step to turn customer retention into a core business strength.

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

Startel Turned 40 in 2020!

Startel delivers best-in-call contact center solutions

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But we all know that was not the big story of the year. Like so many other companies, the big story was COVID-19. This revealed Startel’s preparedness and subsequent ability to pivot amid the pandemic. Contact centers and answering services who use Startel were pleasantly surprised they were already prepared for a pandemic as they were able to successfully deploy thousands of remote agents throughout the ordeal. For Startel, this has been an unprecedented opportunity for innovation and growth, and they continue to make strides as they realize the permanent changes this worldwide crisis has left. 

Let’s look at the progress Startel has made in a year where everything seemed impossible. 

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Startel CMC 

The Startel CMC is not going anywhere, it is only getting stronger. With the acquisitions of the PTD and Tascom platforms, Startel has experienced many “Wow, that’s an excellent feature” moments from their new customers. As a result, they are taking those wow features and incorporating them into the Startel Contact Management Center (CMC). 

In the current Startel CMC 16.1 release, customers are managing actions (or priorities as some call them) similar to how PInnacle users do. Agents and dispatchers love being able to view all actions in queue and see how long each action has been waiting, as well as the time until a message delay or reminder has before it is due to be acted upon by an agent. 

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Flex Agent Interface 

Startel has successfully taken their four-square classic agent interface and converted it into a flexible and easy to use tool for agents. Each window (such as on call, info pages, and scripting) can be docked, tabbed, unpinned, or separated into its own window of data allowing users to take full advantage of monitor real estate. 

In addition to this flexibility, the Flex AI is user friendly with on screen buttons and functions making the onboarding of agents a snap. With Flex AI, design a screen layout that gives agents what they need to see when and where they need to see it. Startel predicts by the end of 2022, most agents processing interactions on Startel’s CMC platform will be using FlexAI. 

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GenIMX 

Startel is making significant advancements in products that allow you to increase customer engagement. One of these products is GenIMX with its diverse suite of features. 

GenIMX provides the ability to text enable your customers’ main business line. This product allows agents to interact with customers via text and picture messaging. Using GenIMX for main line texting allows centers to take advantage of another communications channel. 

In addition, GenIMX enables you to offer additional services to your clients such as appointment reminders, event notifications, brief survey services, and sending marketing messages. 

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Startel CMC Rest API 

The Startel API is a translator that allows custom designed software to request information directly and in real time from your CMC database. Startel’s CMC Rest API allows you or your customer to create custom applications to meet specialized needs. 

Do your customers want to automate pulling information into their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software? Do you want to have your own reporting tools, designed by you and your staff? Have great ideas for a mobile app for your business? This tool will get you all of that.

Use the CMC Rest API to customize dashboards that suit your site’s specific needs, develop web-based applications for analyzing and monitoring staffing levels, and build your own tools for managing on-call calendars. 

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Dashboard 

Manage the status of your entire contact center in real-time, from anywhere, with Startel’s browser-based dashboard. The dashboard allows you and your staff to monitor queues, service levels, and the status of each agent from inside or outside your network. 

Visually display workforce performance and service levels in the form of charts and graphs. Details for each agent’s current activity provides management with real-time updates from the convenience of their desktop, tablet, or flat screen monitors displayed throughout the contact center. 

The dashboard is customizable to each user’s role or needs. Once designed, set a customized layout as a view profile, save it as the default of the currently logged in user, or employ it as the default for all users. 

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PocketVantage 

Now, clients can manage their services from the convenience of their mobile phone with PocketVantage. Designed to be a product contact centers can offer to their customers to track their business, PocketVantage is a virtual portal to the messages saved in clients’ accounts on CMC. 

In addition to accessing messages, your clients can access their current on call information to verify who’s on call now or check on who was on call last night. CMC users’ clients can also login to the app to update member and client statuses, assuring that the correct dispatching protocols are being used. 

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IntelliSite Web Portal

The Startel Web Portal, also referred to as IntelliSite, is an effective, self-service solution that enables customers’ clients to successfully manage their business. From IntelliSite, users can access their account online from their PC, smart phone, or tablet. And, based on their assigned access rights, make changes to time activated alerts, on call schedules, directories, and members. Users can also access waiting messages as well as past messages previously delivered to the customer.

Startel IntelliSite is ideal for contact centers or telephone answering services. It is an excellent tool that can be offered to the end client as well as a convenient way to preserve your agents time for call handling. 

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Secure Messaging Solutions 

Startel offers two solutions to meet their customers’ secure messaging needs:

Startel Secure Messaging Plus (SM+) is a two-way messaging service accessible as an application on one’s smartphone or tablet as well as via a secure website. SM+ maintains HIPAA (Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act) compliance by encrypting data at rest and in transit, offering a way to safely exchange sensitive information between providers and contact centers. Users can control message expiration, send attachments, track message status, and utilize group messaging. 

The Secure Message Gateway (SMG) allows users to send and receive electronic protected healthcare information to the most popular messaging providers. Startel has deployed integrations with TigerConnect, Halo, and pMD, with more being added in the future. The SMG provides the opportunity to work with healthcare organizations that have and established secure message platform with their organization. Agents can seamlessly dispatch and receive replies from these secure messaging providers without having to access additional third-party software. 

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SoftSwitch 2.0 

Startel’s second generation SoftSwitch continues to be installed and deployed across all three of their platforms. Startel’s SoftSwitch has solid stability due to years of coding and development expertise. It is a native SIP platform, enabling the integration of SIP-trunking and utilizing the latest VoIP protocols while allowing the use of analog, T-1, and PRI circuits. 

The SoftSwitch routes calls based on skill level, queue priority, and user-defined scenarios. It also provides real-time status of contact center activity via the Startel dashboard. The SoftSwitch 2.0 call return feature allows callers to opt out of queue requesting a call back when an agent becomes available. When on the request, the caller’s “call” remains in queue and holds the caller’s place in line. When the agent answers that call, the agent is prompted to accept the call back call and the agent is connected to an outbound call to the number left by the caller.

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Total Billing Solution 3

The pandemic has pushed consumers and companies to look for increased options for paying bills online and collecting payments more efficiently. This push has made Startel’s Total Billing Solution a popular tool. With the newly rolled out payment portal, companies can access statements, view invoices, and pay bills online at their convenience. 

The addition of the USAePay autopay integration, streamlines the user interface and eliminates the need for clients’ staff to learn the ACH transaction process of their organization’s financial institution. 

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Startel365 (currently under development)

Startel’s newest development centers around the Startel365 browser-based agent interface, a 100 percent browser-based interface. This interface—that uses advanced scripting to guide agents through processing calls—needs no software footprint on the agent’s PC. That means no VPN, no remote desktop connection, and no softphone application. 

The planned functionality of this browser-based application layers over the current CMC database and CMC services. This has allowed Startel to overlay an interface using the latest in web design. 

Once developed fully, Startel365 will make onboarding of new agents faster by reducing training time. The browser-based tool is user friendly and is visually easy to navigate. Anyone with experience browsing the web can be trained in hours, not days, making them able to answer and process calls quickly. 

Startel365 is being designed with contact center clients in mind. This product started with a vision to help contact centers and answering services, with specialized customers, better serve their clients by significantly expanding support for automation and integration with the end customers CRMs, ticket management systems, and other third-party software. 

If your clients prefer to have your agents enter data directly into their own software, 365 will be the answer. With 365’s automations and integrations, agents can use the 365 interface for scripting and inputting information gathered from callers. And once saved, the data will be seamlessly inserted into the end customers’ software systems. Agents will no longer have to learn the intricacies of each client’s individual systems or programs. 

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Learn more at Startel.com.

Top 5 Competencies for Outsource Call Center Agents

By JoAnna Montgomery

It may not be possible to find the absolute perfect call center agents on a reasonable budget, but you can find highly effective ones by looking for the right competencies. No, I’m not talking about finding agents with five to ten years of experience, although that is a plus. I’m talking about the competencies required for the job that don’t necessarily require experience. 

Instead of setting standards for an agent, look for these five practical skills needed for agent success. 

1. Customer Service People Skills

This is by far the most important skill that every agent must have. Here’s why: 

Agents not only represent the outsource call center, but they also represent the companies that use their service. Therefore, being able to communicate with customers in a friendly and helpful manner is beneficial in representing both companies well. 

When the end customer has a pleasant experience with your agents, it will keep your clients happy. Just one unpleasant experience can turn away a customer for good and frustrate your clients. 

The other side of customer service is the ability to listen to the customer. Good listeners will be able to help identify quickly what the customer needs, so they can pass the information on to the correct recipient. If the customer feels heard and understood by the agent, then they’re more likely to continue using the company’s services.

2. Information Retention 

The ability to retain and use information appropriately is vital for any employee, but it’s especially important for call center agents. 

Agents have the responsibility to learn the material provided to them by the companies that use their services. Of course, the agent will not be as knowledgeable as an actual employee of that company. However, they do need to be able to answer frequently asked questions or find the resources provided with that company to give a response.

With most call center software, there will be detailed scripts along with places for extra documents and essential information. Agents should be able to quickly recall where to navigate to find information and take the appropriate steps to handle the call. If you have a large operation, it’s helpful to divide agents between clients so the same agents will continue to get increasingly comfortable and familiar with certain clients over time.

3. Problem-Solving 

For every incoming call there will be a script. However, we know that callers don’t always speak exactly as we expect them to. Often, they don’t use the right terminology, and no script can account for every single scenario agents will encounter. The agent must have adequate problem-solving skills when phone calls go off script or when the circumstances are unique. 

Thinking fast on their feet helps to make the call run smoothly even when an issue arises. Whether the solution is transferring the caller to someone else in the company to help or quickly finding the solution themselves, agents must be comfortable and confident in their critical thinking ability.

4. Time Management and Multitasking

Being an agent is a lot like working a drive thru at a fast-food restaurant during the lunch hour. If you have never worked a drive thru during a rush, consider yourself lucky. Trying to listen and put in the customer’s order while also helping the person at the window and make the drinks is difficult to say the least. However, once you have a rhythm down, it is manageable. 

The same is true for agents. Listening, typing, and navigating the software simultaneously are agent requirements. Look for individuals that thrive at managing their time and multitasking. It isn’t just a plus to have this, it’s necessary.

5. Organized 

Someone who is scatterbrained is not going to do well in this job. There are reminders to set, calls to follow-up on, and information to send or share. 

This type of job requires someone who can maneuver the call center software efficiently, knowing what each tab, button, and drop down does and where to find it. Furthermore, being able to follow instructions in note taking and call handling must occur in an organized manner so there is uniformity and a formal process.

This also ties into time management and multitasking. The more organized the agent is with the data the quicker they can get the software to do the task they need it to do. 

Conclusion

As we mentioned, hiring experienced agents is great, but they are hard to find, and who is to say just because they have experience that they will be excellent at their job. 

Since you don’t always have the luxury of finding experienced agents, use this list of competencies to look for as you hire your agents. With these skills checked off the list, agents will learn all other training more quickly, so you can focus on running your call center.

JoAnna Montgomery is a research and content analyst at Electronic Voice Services (EVS7), a Dallas-based software company providing cloud calling solutions for the telephone answering service industry. EVS7 helps answering services transition to all-inclusive flexible modern software.

Amtelco Call Processing Application Rated “Avaya Compliant”

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Amtelco’s Genesis Intelligent Series application version 5.4 is compliant with Avaya OneCloud™ Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solutions. This helps customers enhance call processing to prioritize critical calls and improve call routing and management. 

Amtelco’s solution is a call center software suite featuring multi-channel integrations with built-in speech recognition, text to speech, and voice services. The software helps customers track metrics with customizable reporting, enhance accountability with call logging and video screen capture, connect remote agents, and manage on-call scheduling. Customers can also run it in a virtual server environment or in the cloud. 

Avaya compliance-tested the application for compatibility with Avaya Aura® Session Manager 8.1 and Avaya Aura Communication Manager 8.1 via SIP trunk. Avaya is a global leader in solutions that enhance and simplify communications and collaboration.

“We are excited that our latest application release has successfully completed Avaya DevConnect compliance testing,” said Tom Curtin, Amtelco president. “Our mutual customers can confidently deploy it with the Avaya Aura 8.1 platform, helping them get more out of their communications infrastructure.”  

Amtelco is a Technology Partner in the Avaya DevConnect program—an initiative to develop, market, and sell innovative third-party products that interoperate with Avaya technology. As a Technology Partner, Amtelco can submit products to Avaya for compliance testing, where a team of DevConnect engineers develops a comprehensive test plan for each application to verify its Avaya compatibility. 

This enables customers to confidently add best-in-class capabilities to their network without having to replace their existing infrastructure, helping speed deployment of new applications and reduce both network complexity and implementation costs.

Learn more about how Amtelco is part of Avaya’s DevConnect program

Current Status of Speech (and Text) Analytics

By Donna Fluss

Interaction analytics (IA) removes the mystery from customer conversations. It gives companies access into what customers are “talking” (or writing) about and, specifically, insights into their needs and wants. These increasingly sophisticated analytics solutions have evolved from basic keyword search applications that helped companies understand call reasons to advanced business intelligence (BI) offerings that provide insights and an appreciation of customer sentiment. 

The more advanced IA offerings have expanded their capabilities and benefits far beyond their initial contact center audience but are struggling to demonstrate their value to customer experience (CX) executives who continue to concentrate on marketing and sales functions. 

Product Innovation

Breakthroughs in the underlying natural language processing technology, along with powerful cloud-based processing capabilities, have improved the transcription accuracy, conversational comprehension, and overall business value of IA solutions. Interaction analytics capabilities are now finding their way into many third-party systems, including cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, voice-of-the-customer (VoC) offerings, and BI applications. 

And due to technical and operational innovations, many IA vendors are replacing their transcription engines with newer and more effective ones that improve the effectiveness of their own offerings. Improvements in processing speed and accuracy are also making it possible for real-time IA solutions in contact centers to deliver alerts and real-time guidance that empower agents to deliver a better and more personalized customer experience. 

Broader Use Cases for IA

The advancements in IA solutions are attracting new buyers and partners, driving a much-needed replacement cycle for these solutions. Helping this development is the increased adoption of digital channels, which is opening new opportunities by expanding the uses and contributions of IA. Then there are the broader enterprise applications of IA: to identify new product opportunities, at-risk customers, legal risks, and the potential for fraud, just to mention a few. 

IA solutions can provide executives with insights into the reasons customers reach out and ask for help. To date, most companies apply IA primarily in their contact centers, as this is the source of the recordings and digital transactions that these solutions analyze. However, as contact centers receive feedback about departments, policies, and systems from all over an enterprise, IA can provide useful insights about many aspects of a company.

DMG expects analytics-enabled quality management (AQM) to be one of the “next big things” in the IA market. Analytics-enabled QM has been talked about for at least twelve years and has been available to some degree for ten of them. But it’s only in the last eighteen months that AQM solutions are seeing significant adoption, due to innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. 

The market is beginning to transition from traditional QM to AQM, and DMG expects this trend to pick up momentum in the next few years, as there are proven benefits and substantial cost savings from making the switch. 

Real-time guidance is another important and emerging use for IA solutions. A real-time speech analytics solution listens to (or reads) what customers are saying/writing in real time and uses this information to guide agents in how to best help customers. While real-time IA capabilities are just finding their way into the market, they have enormous potential and should be adopted as part of an enterprise digital transformation. 

Real-time guidance is clearly useful in enabling contact center agents to personalize a service experience, but it can be at least as helpful during sales, marketing, and collections interactions. 

Transformational Benefits of IA

The current generation of IA offerings are transformational tools that use AI to provide passive VoC findings and insights, minimizing the need to survey customers frequently. Note that there are still legitimate marketing reasons for companies to reach out to their customers to solicit their opinions in specific situations or about products and services.

The more advanced IA solutions come with customer journey analytics (CJA) capabilities that provide omnichannel insights into each customer’s experience as they traverse an organization and pivot between channels. While emerging CJA capabilities are still under development, IA solutions are the most effective tool available in most enterprises for identifying issues and bottlenecks that prevent companies from delivering the outstanding experience their customers expect and, in doing so, decreasing servicing costs. 

Calls remain the primary use for IA solutions, but more organizations are starting to apply IA to text-based interactions, which is a necessity now that digital customer service has grown in importance. As digital support is still in its early days in many organizations, gaining timely insights into how it’s used and its challenges is helpful for companies that want to deliver an outstanding customer experience, cost effectively. 

Final Thoughts

Interaction analytics has made substantial progress in the past eighteen months, but there is still a great deal of work needed before IA will be accepted and adopted as an enterprise BI solution. Until this happens, the sector’s total addressable market will be limited to the approximately 22 million contact center seats in organizations worldwide. 

Applying IA solutions to improve the performance of contact centers is valuable and will result in a payback within 2–3 years, when used properly. However, the contributions of IA will grow substantially and rapidly when these solutions are applied as customer experience BI tools and used to understand and improve the customer journey. 

To learn more about the interaction analytics market and for help in selecting the ideal IA solution for your company, see DMG’s newly released evaluation of this sector and vendors, the 2021–2022 Interaction Analytics Product and Market Report

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. 

AnswerNet Acquires TPV.com

Contact Center Strengthens Services with Third-Party Verification

AnswerNet announced the acquisition of TPV.com, a leading third-party verification service working with energy and telecom businesses throughout the United States. 

Third-party verification services, also known by the industry acronym TPV, use humans and technology to confirm consumer sales transactions after an in-person or phone sale. The service protects consumers and providers by uncovering and clarifying potential contract or agreement ambiguities prior to the delivery of the telecom or energy services.

The acquisition was officially finalized on June 30, 2021. 

With the acquisition, AnswerNet expands its existing third-party verification solutions business and adds another strong brand to the organization’s growing family of companies. AnswerNet’s other brands include business process outsourcing (BPO), telemarketing, education, nonprofit, answering services, and appointment setting

“We are extremely excited to welcome the entire TPV team to the AnswerNet family,” said Gary Pudles, AnswerNet president and CEO. “They are an important addition to our company because it gives us a leading brand with which to focus our existing and future TPV efforts. With this acquisition, we have taken another step in solidifying our position as the leading provider of TPV services in North America.”

Founded in 1997, TPV.com is a customer contact center business that provides business process outsourcing solutions. Its core competency is independent third-party verification services for businesses nationwide. TPV, LLC will continue to operate as an entity.

AnswerNet is a full-service provider of inbound, outbound, automated, and BPO call center services. Founded in 1998, the company now has thirty sites with 2,000 full-time employees across the U.S. and Canada.

How Call Center Service Providers Impact Customer Experience

By Megan Fallis 

Why is it that people dread hearing from or calling a call center? Think about the last time you called customer support. What was your experience like? I can remember mine, and it wasn’t great. 

Omnichannel and multichannel technologies are ideal for call centers because they provide support for communication beyond the telephone. Text, email, and chat are the preferred methods for many to communicate, which adds another factor in the overall customer experience. 

Call centers have a big opportunity—and responsibility—to focus on the operational components that influence customer experience. But this is easier to say than to do. 

Here are five areas call center service providers and those companies who use call centers need to evaluate to elevate the customer experience. 

1. Training

The customer experience call center service providers can deliver depends on how prepared the agents are. Consistent and effective training will help build a foundation for delivering an experience that will yield long-term happy customers. 

Since we all learn differently, instruction should include a blend of teaching methods. Good training transfers essential information in a way that allows the agent to learn the material. 

Identify and train knowledge gaps. Leverage best practices from the top performing agents and train the rest of the team on what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Most importantly, training shouldn’t stop after an employee is onboarded; it’s ongoing and continual. Your agents need regular training to help increase their knowledge. Knowledge helps agents be confident and leads to a positive customer experience. 

2. Quality Monitoring 

Call center service providers that have an uncompromising focus on customer experience know the importance and significance of quality monitoring. Quality assurance helps call centers become stronger. With a stronger team, your call center provides better service, has elevated interactions, and positively impacts the customer experience overall. 

Agents won’t know if they’re on track to meet their goals unless you provide input. To offer constructive feedback, you need to understand where agents struggle and how they can improve.

Monitor interactions to identify where experienced agents deliver outstanding service while uncovering training and coaching opportunities. Evaluate all customer communication touchpoints to positively impact the customer experience, including chat, email, text, and traditional phone calls. Collaborate with the agents and review the information. 

3. Agent Support and Motivation

How can call centers provide a high-quality customer experience when employees are unsatisfied with their work environment and lack motivation? They can’t. 

A McKinsey study found a direct correlation between customer satisfaction and employee engagement. It’s worth taking the time to read the research as it discusses performance, agent retention, and operating costs. The best part is that companies already have the tools they need to make an impact. 

When employees feel supported, they perform better. 

4. Metrics

Data is crucial for running a call center successfully. It’s essential to balance the need for operational efficiency and meet customer expectations while providing an excellent customer experience.

A single customer service misstep can cause customers to leave.

According to industry analyst firm CEB, customer satisfaction suffers after high-effort or time-intensive interactions. Customers cited these as the most frustrating issues: “62 percent had to re-contact the organization, 56 percent had to re-explain their issue, 59 percent were transferred, and 59 percent had to put forth moderate to high additional effort to resolve their issue.”

It’s essential to track proven customer experience call center metrics to determine if the call center operation meets customer expectations. 

5. Focus on Internal Communication 

Would you want to engage with a call center service provider that focuses on communicating with its customers but doesn’t effectively communicate internally? The lack of or even poor internal communication will significantly impact agents and negatively affect customer experience. 

Effective internal communication is crucial to ensure everyone is in agreement and working towards the same goal. Here are some tips to improve internal communication.

Hold regular team meetings: Set aside time where the entire team comes together. It’s necessary to ensure everyone is moving toward the same goal in the same way.

Schedule all hands meetings: An all-hands meeting is company-wide, virtual, or in person, where all employees and executives come together. Typically hosted by senior leadership, the goal is to: 

  • Introduce new companywide ideas, initiatives, and strategies.
  • Provide performance updates.
  • Align teams on common goals.
  • Address employee questions.
  • Celebrate achievements and discuss challenges.

Make it simple: It should be easy to communicate, collaborate, and access the resources needed to do the job effectively. Consider using a collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams to help keep it simple. Teams allow call center agents and team leaders alike to communicate with team members through voice, video, and chat capabilities. 

Call center service providers need an uncompromised focus on customer experience to see change. Remember, behind every phone call, email, chat, or text there is a customer. 

The question becomes, what kind of customer experience will your call center provide?

Megan Fallis is the copywriter and editor for Quality Contact Solutions. Megan’s experience includes working as an outbound telemarketing manager for a Fortune 100 company for many years. Megan has been both a client and an employee of QCS, so she knows first-hand the quality, productivity, and passion the team brings to work each day. Reach Megan at megan@qualitycontactsolutions.com or 516-656-5120.

Top 5 Call Center Software Must-Have Features in 2021

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By April Forer

Call centers face a variety of challenges in today’s ever-changing environment. When it’s time to upgrade your call center software, the selection process can be overwhelming. Just like buying a vehicle, there are a variety of features available. It’s imperative to consider what features will meet your business needs both now and in the future. The following five features keep your call center operating efficiently and create a better customer experience.

1. Virtual Multi-Channel Platform

Unify communications with a multi-channel ACD capable of processing inbound phone calls, SMS text messages, email messages, social media activity, and web and mobile applications to drive customer engagement. Forty-nine percent of consumers, on average, use three to five different communication channels to contact customer service. 

With the increase of hiring work from home employees—with the retention rate for at-home agents at 80 percent versus 25 percent for in-house—browser-based software is a convenient solution for work from home agents. Agents can connect from any desktop computer or laptop and work anywhere they have an internet connection. 

2. Reporting and Call Recording

If you are not monitoring reporting and analytics data, you are missing opportunities to optimize your call center’s performance. Monitor agents’ interactions with callers, traffic patterns, agent abandons, and system abandons. 

Charts and tables help identify possible performance issues. Historical and live data provides valuable information to set goals and improve efficiency. 

Call recordings help evaluate agent performance. And monitoring agents’ calls ensures they comply with standards. This helps with training and to improve customer interactions.

3. Call Scripting

A customizable and intuitive scripting feature will help decrease errors in agent call handling and reduce training time. With protocols integrated into navigation scripts, when agents fill in a caller’s response, the script proceeds to the next appropriate question. 

Set specific fields in the message script as required so that agents can’t skip them. Color-coding helps agents identify call types so they can handle calls more quickly.

4. Skills-Based Call Routing

Use skills-based call routing to ensure efficient call-handling and first call resolution. This can route calls to the agent most qualified to handle the call versus waiting for the next available agent. 

Configure priority levels so the system distributes each type of call to the most qualified agent.

5. Artificial Intelligence

As technology continues to evolve, the prevalence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in call center technology grows. AI enhances a caller’s experience by determining the best way to route calls based on prior call history. 

Using a call’s automatic number identification (ANI), AI can determine the best agent to receive that call based on several factors, such as which agent is the most qualified to handle the call. The ANI can match previous call interactions and provide call history.

Return on Investment

Your call center software plays a critical role in operating a successful business. When it comes to the bottom-line, choosing the right features will streamline operations and help your business with the challenges it faces now and into the future. 

Amtelco logo

April Forer is the marketing specialist for Amtelco. Amtelco is a leading provider of innovative software solutions designed for call centers, contact centers, and enterprise businesses of all sizes. 

Customer Service Book Published

Peter Lyle DeHaan Releases Sticky Customer Service

Peter Lyle DeHaan released his newest book, Sticky Customer Service: Stop Churning Customers and Start Growing Your Business, on June 17. 

Sticky Customer Service

“Customer service isn’t a once-and-done effort,” DeHaan says. “It takes ongoing work to truly meet your customers’ expectations.” In Sticky Customer Service, unearth practical, action-oriented insights to help turn customer service from an embarrassing weakness into a business strength. “Though Sticky Customer Service addresses all aspects of customer service, the telephone takes center stage, with added attention given to online and multichannel interactions.”

In Sticky Customer Service, you’ll discover:

  • The three key areas where customer service occurs and why they must work together.
  • How to avoid common errors that too many businesses make.
  • Why delighting customers is not the best approach and sets up future failure.

“Most businesses today give more attention to customer acquisition then customer retention. This is backward thinking,” DeHaan states. “It’s much easier and less costly to keep existing customers than it is to find new ones. Yet the actions of most businesses prove that they don’t understand this.”

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections Magazine

Sticky Customer Service is book one in the Sticky series. Future titles include Sticky Leadership, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Living.
Sticky Customer Service is available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy of Sticky Customer Service today.

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