Tag Archives: Ask Kathy

Lockdown Initiatives

By Kathy Sisk

In my forty years in the call center industry, I have gone through many challenges, but none as distressing as in the past year. We can feel sorry for ourselves, or we can be intentional to make wise use of our time. Yes, we should relax and have fun when we can, but it doesn’t pay our bills. Therefore, balance is essential to move forward.

Here are some items for call center owners and clients to consider during lockdown:

  • Get your house in order. Not your living quarters, but your business. Organize your office, your desk, your laptop, and your thoughts. 
  • Consider relocating staff to work from home. Sure, it’s a hassle, but when you are not able to pay your overhead, the hassle is a moot point.
  • If required, get permission to go to the office and grab those PCs, headsets, and anything else you need. None of us knows what to expect, so it is best to think about the worst-case scenario and plan for it. 
  • If your infrastructure is not already in the cloud, work with a vender who can get you there. If you have an outbound operation, there are reliable resources that can get you up and running in less than an hour.
  • Relocate staff in an area they can work from. Several centers I work with rented a house where their employees live and work from. 
  • If your staff is unable to process calls remotely, use the downtime to create curriculum and train your employees to learn as they wait to return to work. 
  • Spend time to generate additional campaign opportunities and set up the campaigns now in preparation for when restrictions ease. 

These are some of the ideas I have incorporated into my company, and fortunately we have not been affected financially as others have. In fact, I have hired additional employees to cover the growth my company experienced during the lockdowns. Proudly, my staff is working full-time, generating sales, setting up campaigns, and onboarding centers with mostly at-home agents. 

Taking these steps will help us now and prepare us for whatever the future may hold.

[Due to increased business demands, this is Kathy’s final column for Connections Magazine. Please thank her for the scores of articles she’s written for us over the years.]

Kathy Sisk, founder and president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc., is a trainer and consultant, contributing thirty-five years of expertise to the telemarketing, sales, and customer service industries.

A Concise Guide for Outsourcing Success, Part Five

By Kathy Sisk

To conclude our series of articles on outsourcing success, here are two optional topics we need to address.

Consider an Independent Project Manager

If you are not comfortable selecting the ideal agency for your company and managing the relationship, or if you simply don’t have the time, you may wish to consider outsourcing this to an expert. Try one of the many independent project management companies in the business of helping you not only to select the agency, but also negotiate the terms and rates on your behalf. 

In addition, these companies can write call scripts, monitor agents remotely, and manage your account from beginning to end. Should you decide to outsource through an independent project management firm, be sure to use the steps provided earlier in this series to help you narrow down the selection process and find the ideal project manager for you.

Benefits of Strategically Small Outsourcing Ventures

Many believe that outsourcing is an all-or-nothing venture. But it doesn’t have to involve shutting down an existing operation or handing off the entire operation to a third party, thus leaving your employees jobless. 

Many companies have found that outsourcing even just a small percentage of calls based on specific times or call types can be an effective way for their organization to: 

  • handle heavy call volumes during peak hours-of-the-day, days-of-the-week, or weeks-of-the-year 
  • expand hours of operation
  • provide crucial coverage during service interruptions at the call center (disaster response and crisis recovery)
  • cut call-handling and seasonal-hiring costs 
  • free up agents to focus on more complex or profitable transactions
  • conduct outbound call handling such as cold calling or reviving lost customers

No matter what you decide, the call center industry is still thriving and growing. Call center excellence is essential today more than ever to ensure your operation. Or if you choose to outsource, you can access the right tools, hire exceptional talent, and provide ongoing soft skills training, monitoring, and coaching. 

Your customers are your most important asset. Therefore, handle your interactions with them with excellence. 

For more information about setting up, reengineering, outsourcing, and project managing your call center operations, Kathy Sisk Enterprises can help you. They have over forty years’ experience with satisfied clients and centers across the globe.

A Concise Guide for Outsourcing Success, Part Four

By Kathy Sisk

Once you select the agency you feel most confident in and the contract is signed, the real challenge begins; you must manage the venture. This includes preparing to transition calls to them and overseeing ongoing performance. 

The following three practices will help you effectively manage your outsourcing venture:

1. Take Control from the Start 

Assign a management team from within your call center or organization to oversee the outsourcing venture and openly communicate with the agency on a regular basis. This includes selecting the specific account management team at the agency that will manage your account. 

Some call centers opt to have one or more of their managers work on-site at the agency to closely supervise the activity each day. Take whatever steps you need to ensure that the outsourcing venture remains transparent to your customers and that they receive the best possible service that is representative of your organization.

2. Provide or Oversee All Training

Your company is responsible for ensuring that the supervisory staff and agents at the agency receive all necessary training to handle your specific account. Have your management team or internal trainers educate the agency’s supervisors and trainers on your products and services, upselling and cross-selling preferences, call scripts, and incentives. The agency’s staff can then deliver the same training to its agents under your supervision. Or you may want your manager or trainer to provide such training to the assigned agents.

3. Evaluate the Agency’s Performance Regularly 

Ensure that the agency sends your management team regular reports on call statistics, agent performance, and customer feedback. Also make sure your management team provides the agency’s managers and agents with any necessary feedback and additional training as needed. 

In addition, if possible, have your management team visit the agency often and get directly involved in the monitoring process; however, this can be done remotely. Don’t be afraid to request a particular agent or supervisor be removed from your account if you are not satisfied with their performance.

[In the next issue, we will wrap up this series with a look at some additional topics.]

For more information about setting up, reengineering, outsourcing, and project managing your call center operations, Kathy Sisk Enterprises can help you. They have over forty years’ experience with satisfied clients and centers across the globe.

A Concise Guide for Outsourcing Success, Part Three

By Kathy Sisk

In the five steps to select an outsource call center agency, we’ve already covered the first three: 1) design an RFP; 2) review the responses; and 3) conduct a phone interview. Now it is time to move to steps four and five.

Step 4: Visit the agency and monitor their agents.

Once you’ve narrowed your list to two or three candidates, visit their facility to assess their operation. Speak with their IT department, project managers, and quality control supervisors to evaluate their ability and willingness to handle your calls effectively and efficiently.

 Ask to monitor as many agents and calls as possible to help determine the skill level of the agency’s staff. Some agencies may tell you they have a privacy clause with their clients and cannot allow you to monitor calls. If this occurs, ask the agency to request special permission for you to conduct your call evaluations. If the agency has a good relationship with its client, and your company is not a competitive threat, they will usually grant permission. Eliminate any agency that either refuses to let you monitor or ask their clients for permission. They may have something to hide.

Step 5: Select an agency and negotiate the contract.

Using this information, choose the right agency for your company based on affordability, performance, and cultural compatibility. 

 Carefully negotiate your contract, ensuring that the agency’s rates, setup fees, and terms are consistent with your RFP. See if you can get a better price. If the agency really wants your business and believes it will be a long-term venture, you will have more negotiating power. 

 Put your performance requirements in writing and include a clause that permits you to terminate the contract without stipulations if the agency doesn’t perform up to your standards. Most agencies don’t want such a clause and prefer a thirty- to ninety-day notice. If the agency is not willing to budge on these terms and you do not have an alternative, try to negotiate a lower fee during the ramp-up time. 

If these negotiations fail, you may want to start over.

For more information about setting up, reengineering, outsourcing, and project managing your call center operations, Kathy Sisk Enterprises can help you. They have over forty years’ experience with satisfied clients and centers across the globe.

A Concise Guide for Outsourcing Success, Part Two

By Kathy Sisk

Should you decide that outsourcing may be right for you from a financial standpoint, consider the following steps to assist you in selecting a specific agency that will meet your specific budget and service requirements.

Step 1: Design an RFP (request for proposal).

Make sure your request describes the nature of the venture and exactly what you are looking for, including agent skill sets, specific service-level objectives, technology requirements, reporting capabilities, and previous experience with your account type. 

Think of the RFP as a job description, but more in-depth. To ensure the best match, include information such as forecasted outsource volumes by hour-of-day and day-of-week, average call length, and even agent incentive strategies that work at your existing center. 

 Be sure to ask each candidate to provide you with a list of their existing clients, including contact information, as well as information on the agency’s fees and other additional charges. Ask specifically for information on monthly base charges, programming and connectivity costs, telephone usage costs, and labor costs.

Step 2: Review returned RFPs and narrow down the candidates.

Select proposals that are complete, concise, and meet your minimum specifications. Check out the agency’s references. While it is unusual for an agency to give you contacts who will prove to be bad references, you can always read between the lines if you ask the right questions, such as: 

  • How productive are they now compared to when you first started doing business with them?
  • If you could improve in any area, what would it be?

Take careful notes during your reference checks.

Step 3: Conduct a phone interview.

Call each agency that survives the initial weeding-out process. Have a list of detailed questions prepared and listen to how well they represent themselves. Their tone of voice and the way they conduct themselves is often representative of the kind of performance you can expect from their staff once they begin handling calls. 

[In the next issue, we’ll cover steps 4 and 5 of selecting a call center agency.]

For more information about setting up, reengineering, outsourcing, and project managing your call center operations, visit Kathy Sisk Enterprises. They have over forty years’ experience with satisfied clients and centers across the globe.

A Concise Guide for Outsourcing Success, Part One

By Kathy Sisk

 Outsourcing is a buzzword and business trend in which many companies are making huge investments. While call center outsourcing ventures can provide numerous benefits to your organization under the right conditions, they can fail miserably without proper planning, analysis, and management.

If you are planning to outsource any or all aspects of your call center operation to a third-party call center, or if you have outsourced in the past and were severely dissatisfied with the outcome, read on.

All the hype surrounding call center outsourcing entices too many organizations to leap before they look. For instance, some companies enter an outsourcing venture merely to reduce operational costs, ignoring the true impact on the quality of service its customers receive. Such an approach often leads to lost business that offsets any financial savings the company may gain from contracting with a service bureau in the first place. 

Other companies make the mistake of outsourcing call center operations to improve performance problems without carefully considering the financial costs. These organizations—anxious to offer world-class service advertised by a particular agency—often find themselves paying exorbitant rates in pursuit of their quality service dream.

The decision to outsource must be based on both solid financial and service objectives. But before you can make such decisions, you must determine what level of outsourcing to evaluate: 

  • Are you looking to outsource 100 percent of the call center activity? 
  • Are you seeking a center to handle only a portion of your operation’s call load? 
  • Do you plan to use an agency merely as a backup in case of a crisis at your existing operation? 

Once you know the type of outsourcing venture desired, you can compare the associated costs of keeping things in-house versus outsourcing. 

Should you decide that outsourcing is right for you from a financial and strategic standpoint, conduct a careful analysis to select a specific agency that will meet your budget and service requirements.

In the next issue, we will look at the five steps you’ll want to take to select the right outsource call center partner.

For more information about setting up, reengineering, outsourcing, and project managing your call center operations, visit Kathy Sisk Enterprises. They have over forty years’ experience with satisfied clients and centers across the globe.

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.

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.


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.

Overcoming Call Reluctance: Part 3

By Kathy Sisk

Last time we discussed your prospect’s fears and the importance of using a script. Here are some tips on building an effective script.

A script provides a format to follow. You don’t recite it verbatim—that would make you sound like a robot. However, new agents are not good ad-libbing. Therefore, you need to learn how to read from a script and include branching capabilities for common responses. Nonetheless, this is only half of the overcoming call reluctance.

You must design your scripts to overcome the prospect’s fears. This will also address the agent’s fears. Remember, if the agent has identified the source of their call reluctance and has the right tools to overcome them, you’ve made progress in developing a method to overcome call reluctance altogether.

The prospect’s first fear is “The Approach.” The first thirty seconds of the presentation must overcome this fear, or you may lose the opportunity to continue your presentation. 

You must tell the prospect who you are, the company you represent, and how you acquired their name. Respect their time and say why you’re calling. Your prospect wants to know this information, else they will interrupt you.

Your verbiage must be precise for the first twenty seconds of the presentation. You don’t want to give up your control and waste time with “May I speak with Mr. Johnson please?”; “My name is Susan Smith”; “Can I take a moment of your time?”; or “Would you have an interest in . . . ?” 

Agents project greater control by saying, “I need to speak with Mr. Johnson, please. Say “please” as if you are making a statement, not an asking a question. Be sure to ask questions using proper voice inflection that ends your sentence as a statement, not a question, which brings me to my next point. 

Another way agents give up control is by going high with their voice inflection at the end of every sentence. Instead, lower your voice inflection, like musical notes going down a scale. Proper voice projection increases the level of confidence in your voice, and prospects will feel more comfortable when they believe you know what you are doing.

In the next issue, I will finish this four-part series discussing the second and third fears of 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.

Overcoming Call Reluctance, Part Two

By Kathy Sisk

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

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Using a Script (Call Guide)

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

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

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

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

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

Overcoming Call Reluctance, Part One

By Kathy Sisk

Whether you are a trainer, manager, owner, or a telemarketer, call reluctance—the struggle to make phone calls—has been an issue we all have dealt with. Call reluctance is more prevalent with newly recruited telemarketers and companies who are servicing multiple projects, such as third-party service agencies (call centers). With today’s progressive telemarketing environment and the increased career opportunities this industry has to offer, it is extremely crucial to understand what call reluctance is, why it happens, and how to provide practical solutions to overcome it.

Call reluctance is a concern for many call centers, and yet the solution is simple. To overcome call reluctance, you first need to identify the source of where it is coming from. Each year I visit various companies and conduct call center assessments. Most of my assessments have been able to identify two primary weaknesses that need greater attention.

The Agent’s Perspective

First, there is not enough focus on the three primary fears newly hired telemarketers have when they are prospecting for the first time on any given account.

These three fears are:

  1. How do I approach the prospect?
  2. What do I say during my presentation?
  3. When the prospect objects or resists me, how do I remain in control?

If not properly trained, the agent’s productivity will continue to be affected by these fears, the call center will experience high turnover, and the company’s bottom line will spiral down. However, agents can gain greater control of this problem by first identifying the sources of call reluctance, and then developing proven techniques to overcome it.

The Prospect’s Perspective

The second weakness parallels the agent’s three fears, but this time it focuses on the prospect. The key to prospecting is the relationship we develop with our prospects. Part of this relationship is understanding that prospects also have three primary fears they must identify and overcome. The prospect’s three fears also exist in the face-to-face selling arena, but the field salesperson has greater control as opposed to the agent who is prospecting over the telephone.

Next time I will share the three primary fears your prospects have when making outbound calls.

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.