Tag Archives: Ask Kathy

Develop the Habit of Monitoring and Coaching—Part 1



By Kathy Sisk

I often write about agent training; however, once the initial training is completed, the next step is to ensure that the floor manager continues the process. Here are some tips for proper agent coaching. This will motivate agents and help them adhere to what they’ve learned, as well as integrating accountability into the process.Always treat your agents professionally. Click To Tweet

An Effective Coach Should Know How to:           

  • Provide on-the-spot personal attention on a regular basis
  • Recognize other people’s needs for coaching and counseling
  • Coach on a consistent basis
  • Schedule time each week to conduct hands-on assessments
  • Hold agents accountable for improved performance
  • Address performance or attitude issues in a timely manner
  • Be patient, offer encouraging words, and always bring out the best in agents prior to critiquing them
  • Know what to listen for, how to recognize when the correct skills are exhibited, and how to give constructive feedback
  • Use professional language
  • Learn how to resolve conflicts and develop the ability to negotiate

Motivational Techniques to Get Agents Producing:

  • Give a specific goal or target to reach each day. For example, for outbound calling you could say: “Today I would like you to preselect fifty potential contacts you will make tomorrow.”
  • Get your agents to meet at least one daily requirement each day.
  • Don’t force agents or make threats—such as job security—to get them motivated to do their best.
  • Always treat your agents professionally.

In the next issue, we’ll talk about how to develop a departmental motivation plan.

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.

Why Telemarketing Programs Fail, Part 5



By Kathy Sisk

This is the final segment of “Why Telemarketing Programs Fail.” Our wrap-up looks at script branching, the agent learning curve, supportive communication, and appropriate follow-up.

Script Branching

Branching allows agents to take other avenues to meet the same objective, which is to close the sale, make an appointment, or generate a lead. Branching is always preplanned and allows agents to go off script and be creative. The outcome is the same, but the process is different.

Agents need to understand the process of branching, which is covered in basic training. Branching allows agents to use their skills and techniques to guide the call using a more personalized approach.

This challenging process, however, takes practice for agents to perfect. Being able to branch is what differentiates one agent from another as far as productivity; it’s why one agent may have an 80 percent conversion rate while another has only a 20 percent conversion rate.Providing agent feedback is key. for succesful telemarketing programs. Click To Tweet

Agent Learning Curve

Often either the client or the center doesn’t allow enough time for the learning curve to develop so the call success rate can improve. With every campaign, there must be ramp-up time for agents to gain confidence with the project. Too often the client or call center management expects immediate results. Then the client will prematurely terminate the campaign, or the project management team gives up before the agents can perfect their work.

Allow time for adjustments and script enhancements. It’s ideal to let agents tell you how they think you can improve the program. Often agent feedback is key.

Supportive Communication

Establish clear communication between agents, supervisors, and the client regarding successful or unsuccessful calls. Always take time to review the campaign results and consider necessary changes.

Appropriate Follow-Up

Interaction between management, agents, the project manager, and the client is essential, particularly when information is given regarding the progress of the campaign. Open communications between agents and managers is vital in reaching a more successful outcome.

To help ensure that your telemarketing campaigns succeed, consider these four pitfalls and work to avoid them. Also review the items in the first four parts of this series to produce better results faster.

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.

Why Telemarketing Programs Fail, Part 4



By Kathy Sisk

In the last issue we discussed properly assessing and preparing agents for training before the start of your campaign. Now we’ll look at what happens during the calling period.

A Challenging Task

When it comes to outbound campaigns, it isn’t realistic to think the prospect is waiting by their phone in anticipation of your call. On the contrary, the prospect may have already been inundated with calls like yours, in the middle of doing something more important, or they aren’t available.

Additionally, they may not have an interest in what you’re calling about. If you get any negative response early in your presentation, the method of handling it is critical. One of the most challenging parts of an outbound call is handling a premature “I’m not interested.”

The Easy Close

Using the “easy close” technique will help you through this challenge and allow you to continue with your presentation or keep the door open for future contact.

Here’s a typical easy close to the I’m-not-interested brush-off: “I respect that. If I could provide you with information that could save you on your insurance policy, how open are you to receive more information about this?”

The idea is to get the prospect to say “yes”; this turns a negative into a positive. This approach allows you to move on to the next portion of the easy close, which is to qualify their interest by saying, “To make sure that you can benefit, I need to verify some information, if you don’t mind.” This final portion of the easy close gets another positive response that helps you go to the next step of your presentation, the probing step.Preparation is a vital key to overcoming potential obstacles. Click To Tweet

When the campaign is carefully planned, and you incorporate what you learned in your training, you will gain greater confidence in handling calls and experience more positive outcomes. Preparation is a vital key to overcoming potential obstacles.

In the next issue we’ll tie everything together for a cohesive, well-thought-out outsourcing campaign.

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.

Why Telemarketing Programs Fail, Part Three



By Kathy Sisk

In the last issue we discussed telemarketing program expectations, the list, and reporting when setting up and managing a campaign. Part three is about the importance of properly assessing and preparing agents for training before the start of the campaign.

Agent Assessing

Carefully selecting the attributes of the campaign with the agents is an essential aspect of overall success. Identify this up front during your agent selection process. The best time to assess agents is before you hire them. Assessment tools should be in place to select the right agents prior to investing time and money into training them.

After assessing telemarketing agents to find the right ones, continue to assess them during the basic training (soft skills), simulation (role-play), and applied training (live calling) phases of their preparation. Not all agents will pass the basic training, and not all agents will pass the simulation training. Furthermore, it’s essential to select the right agents for the applied training phase. This is where they will represent the client to prospects.Poorly trained agents are one of the quickest ways for a campaign to fail. Click To Tweet

Agent Training

Poorly trained agents are one of the quickest ways for a campaign to fail. Sometimes a program starts without asking for adequate training from the client or assigned project manager. Another issue is the call center replacing an agent during the program but failing to give them adequate training.

However, too much training on product knowledge can hinder the agent from performing well. Also, too much information may intimidate agents if they feel they can’t learn all the details.

It’s best to segment training at a pace where agents feel confident enough to present it using the call guide (the script). Once an agent can confidently go through the call guide, your focus should shift to the delivery quality of the presentation. Then you can train agents how to branch off the script whenever necessary. This is a vital part of the delivery process.

Summary

Be sure to assign the right agents to the campaign. Not all campaigns are alike, and neither are all agents. Some campaigns need a more assertive agent as opposed to other campaigns that require an easy-going approach.

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.

Why Telemarketing Programs Fail, Part Two



By Kathy Sisk

In the last issue we discussed the key reasons telemarketing programs fail. Now let’s look at some vital aspects of setting up and managing a campaign.

Expectations

Having unrealistic expectations can cause agents to become unmotivated and produce poorer results. Having unrealistic expectations causes staff to handle the campaign in a state of “crisis management.”  

A Project Management Guide (PMG) outlines expectations for the campaign; it’s the responsibility of those assigned to carry out the PMG to meet those expectations. Expectations should be tested and defined to address all variables. The PMG also needs a “what if” section so if something doesn’t go as planned, alternatives are provided to correct mistakes and adjust expectations. This increases the internal and external communication between the client, the project management team, and the assigned center.

Database

For outbound campaigns, the database is critical for success. The database must be fresh and pre-scrubbed. The demographics should closely match the ideal customer the client seeks. A list that is outdated, poorly targeted, overworked, or not scrubbed will eat up calling hours, yield inferior results, and frustrate agents, along with everyone else who is part of the campaign.Having unrealistic expectations causes staff to handle the campaign in a state of 'crisis management.' Click To Tweet

This is where the disposition of calls is crucial. The agent must have a clear understanding of the target prospect to identify how to best disposition each call and identify a bad lead. If there are too many bad leads, the list may need replacing.

Reporting

The project manager will assist the client in assessing the profile of an ideal list. Once identified, the reporting of the dispositions from the list is defined. This allows agents to report more accurate results. This helps everyone determine the quality of the list for outbound campaigns, quality of the marketing efforts for inbound campaigns, the effectiveness of the assigned agents, and a determination of the overall results. The per call results enables the assigned task team (such as floor supervisors, shift supervisors, quality assurance department, and project managers) to assess the results of the campaign and make appropriate changes to enhance the overall results.

Next time we’ll discuss how to properly assess and prepare agents for training.

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

Outbound Script-Writing Principals



By Kathy Sisk

How can an outbound agent overcome the pitfalls of heavy legislation that affects agent burnout? By incorporating script-writing principals using the “12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing.”

Since the national do-not-call registry took effect, many telemarketers have inundated unregistered consumers with outbound calls. Furthermore, many call centers have discovered just how crucial it is to have properly designed scripts that are in compliance and distinguish them from their competition.

Today’s heavily legislated environment forces companies to make drastic changes to their script-writing principles. This change ensures that agents adhere to legal compliances while meeting demanding production requirements.

When making outbound calls, particularly more challenging-type calls such as cold calls, scripts require careful step-by-step planning to help agents get through the call professionally and personably while meeting the legal compliance requirements enforced by both state and federal authorities.

Throughout the years I have had many opportunities to visit call centers across the globe, and I have identified two primary weaknesses in agents’ call scripts:Scripts require careful step-by-step planning to help agents get through the call. Click To Tweet

  1. Poor Flowing Script: Most scripts do not provide enough focus on the flow that allows agents to easily move from the “introduction” to the “post close.” Typically, it’s expected that the agent “think outside the box,” but that isn’t always possible when the agent struggles with inexperience, poor training, or a new campaign they have little-to-no experience with. A poor delivery will reflect negatively on the company, ultimately causing a decline in sales and customer retention.
  2. Inadequate Responses for Negative Encounters: The agent may not know what the primary fears their prospects have and how to overcome them before they surface in a negative encounter.

For the past thirty years I have trained agents’ in my “12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing” (with modifications to meet legal requirements). When following the twelve steps, agents’ productivity surpasses production goals while meeting demanding compliance issues.

Script writing is an art and needs careful attention to the direction, verbiage, and style of the presenter. If agents handle customer service, tech-support, sales, and especially cold calling, the twelve steps will enhance an agent’s style of delivery, give them greater control of their calls, and produce positive results.

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

Objections Are Opportunities—Part 1



By Kathy Sisk

An objection is not a rejection. In most cases an objection means, “I need more information.” Assume that objections will surface during your presentation. Therefore, be prepared to handle them.

Objections give you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your prospect and allow you to sell your products, services, company, and ideas. It is a time to listen, probe, and understand your prospect’s needs.

There should not be any feelings of personal rejection. Your prospect’s objections are not directed at you personally. Do not be defensive or react negatively. More importantly, do not attack the objection with more selling. Instead, remain in control and impress your prospects with your persistence and professionalism. This is a time to discover their real issues so you can overcome them. Objections give you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your prospect. Click To Tweet

For the next few columns we will focus on common objections and how to best counter them. Let’s begin with some basics.

If early in your presentation, prior to asking questions to qualify and establish your prospect’s wants and needs, your prospect sounds or behaves in a negative manner, it usually results from a concern they had prior to your contact with them. If your prospect seems rude during your presentation, try to release the barriers.

Defuse the prospect’s resistance by saying: “I appreciate you letting me know this. Please share with me some of your concerns.”

This serves to clear the air, and your prospect is more likely to open up and tell you the real issue. When you find out what bothers them, it’s easier to overcome and outweigh your prospect’s concerns. After you defuse their fears, the following is an example of how to overcome the objection of “It’s too expensive.”

“I understand price is a concern and you want the best price possible. To determine how we can better meet your needs, I just need to ask a couple of quick questions if you don’t mind.” Now you can begin to probe in order to gain more insight so you can overcome the price concern by justifying it with your features and benefits.

Next time we will look at interpreting objections and the best techniques to overcome them.

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

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



By Kathy Sisk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optimize Training Time and Cost



By Kathy Sisk

Every manager knows it’s crucial to expand employees’ knowledge and skills. Call center agents need ongoing training to improve competency, achieve quality performance, and deliver excellent service. Plus, system changes, product launches, and process improvement all require training.

However, programs need careful planning to maximize the training time, minimize costs, and make a good return on investment. Therefore, efficient training is important. Consider the following:

Assess Training Programs Thoroughly: A common mistake is to implement a training program without first determining the needs of agents. For example, sales training isn’t the solution to low-close ratios if agents don’t believe in the product. In this case focus on improving the agents’ morale now and invest in sales training later.

Consider Coaching: Efficient training doesn’t have to be stringent. Regular agent coaching sessions may be enough to address needs and improve performance. Provide relevant advice that agents can use to deal with callers. Informal interactions are an effective form of communication and a big help in enhancing agents’ product understanding.

Agents have different strengths and weaknesses. You can enhance their performance if you don’t focus on just one area; provide training that develops and sharpens a variety of skill sets.Popular forms of call center training are e-learning and classroom sessions. Click To Tweet

Determine the Appropriate Training Method: These days the most popular forms of training are e-learning and classroom sessions. Pick the approach that most effectively achieves your goals. Each has pros and cons, so choose the method that optimizes time and cost.

  • Classroom sessions are more expensive because it requires you to pull agents from the floor and increase staff hours to cover their work. You may incur additional costs such as meeting room space or printing materials. However, classroom sessions excel in teaching soft skills, such as sales and customer service enhancements.
  • E-learning is cost-effective and convenient. Agents learn at their own pace, and scheduling is easier. E-learning sessions are typically shorter than classroom sessions and are effective for product and process knowledge training.

Design Programs That Support Your Goals: First set training objectives, and then develop programs to achieve them. For example, to focus on call resolution, training should enhance agents’ ability to ask the right questions, solve problems, and improve product knowledge.

Invest wisely in training to maximize results.

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

Professional Telephone Skills



By Kathy Sisk

When you make or receive a call, your telephone skills reflect you and your company. It’s important to project professionalism in handling calls because it affects the image of your company, product or service, and you. The key is to put customers first. Make them feel good by practicing professional telephone skills: be courteous, helpful, and genuine.

Use Your Voice to Make a Difference: Start by taking a breath; you’d be surprised at how better you sound when you’re relaxed and not out of breath. Sounding in a rush gives a negative impression. Consider these scenarios:

  • Answering or making a call: State your full name in a friendly tone, and avoid using wordy expressions. By simply stating your first and last name, you save time. The success of each call depends on the tone of your voice; make sure you always sound welcoming and willing to help.
  • Answering someone else’s telephone: State the person’s name before you identify yourself. For example, “Hello, Mr. Jim Smith’s office, this is Janice Gold.” And never use your title such as, “Mr. Smith’s office, Ms. Gold.”
  • Answering a departmental phone: Always identify yourself after stating the department, “Hello. Bookkeeping, this is Janice Gold.”

Answer Quickly: Taking too long to answer projects a negative impression. Callers will wonder if anyone is there, which gives your conversation a difficult start.

Find Out Who’s Calling: A critical telephone skill for inbound calls is to ask the caller’s name; then use it to build rapport. Also, confirm the spelling; ask if you’re not sure.

Transfer Calls Professionally: If you can’t help the caller, let him or her know you will connect them to the right department. Customers get frustrated when their call is transferred, so stay with them until they’re connected to the right department. You may also take the caller’s name and number so the appropriate person may return the call. Taking these extra steps shows respect to callers.

Take Messages: A complete message should include:

  • the caller’s name
  • the company
  • the date and time of call
  • preferred callback number and extension
  • the best time to return the call, and
  • all other relevant information.

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