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This article was originally published on the ICMI blog on May 13, 2019. Click here to read the original.

Picture Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer when his ex-fiancee explained why she left him at the altar the day after their wedding. His response was, “Jeez, you know, that information might have been a little more useful to me yesterday.”

That’s about how I felt when one of my new hires showed up to work on her first day in our contact center and said, “This is NOT what I signed up. I’m leaving.” And this was after sifting through a hundred resumes, conducting twenty or so phone screens, and bringing ten or fifteen of them into the office for interviews. All of that work to then have one of our precious three hires quit on the first day was deflating, to say the least. The entire hiring process is much too resource intensive and costly to come up empty-handed at the end.

This experience kicked off a period of introspection for our team that led to extensive “tweaking” of our hiring process and ultimately resulted in much more successful future hiring. Here’s what we did and learned.

We questioned for both skills and customer focus in our prescreen questionnaire.

We had been sending a prescreen questionnaire to applicants for some time but typically just asked general questions to gauge their ability to perform the job we were hiring for. In an effort to align with our culture and increase hiring success we adjusted the questions to emphasize and screen for some of the key points about our culture of awesome customer service. This helped us better get to the heart of the candidate to ensure that their passion for serving customers equaled ours. While we were at it, we also tested a variety of skills including writing and typing to ensure that they could adequately perform on the job.

We went into further detail in the initial phone interview.

Like the questionnaire, we had been in the practice of conducting phone interviews before bringing candidates into the office. We found that the responses to the questionnaire were a great discussion starter and allowed us to get a better understanding and feel for their passion for customer service. Also during these calls, we placed much more emphasis on setting expectations with the candidate so they’d understand exactly the type of work they’d be doing, hear about our mission and vision as a company, and understand the important role they would play in helping us achieve that.

We also made sure to discuss critical skills, detail about the work, and scheduling requirements. Scheduling is a big one — especially if you’re hiring for a non-standard schedule like an overnight or swing shift. I remember one particular phone call where a candidate proclaimed how much they hated the Internet. Given that they were applying to work at an internet company we told them it probably wasn’t a fit.

The in-person interview became as much about the candidate getting to know us as it was about us getting to know the candidate.

For the longest time, I thought that interviewing candidates was about us selecting the best people for our team. While that’s a big part of it, I somehow missed the fact that this was also the candidate’s opportunity to interview our company to determine if this was a place worth sharing their time, energy, and talents.

After coming to that realization we adjusted the in-person interview process to accomplish three things. First was to better understand the cultural fit by asking scenario-based questions to see how the candidate responded. Second, we wanted to understand the candidate’s qualifications and ability to complete the job. Finally, we wanted to understand their career goals and desires and give them the time to ask questions to make sure the job fit into their plans.

We set up peer interviews to better understand culture fit and get team buy-in.

One of my favorite additions to the process was a peer interview where we’d have the candidate meet with one or two of their potential peers. The peers we selected were typically more tenured and strong ambassadors for our culture. Aside from the typical interview, this also became a good space for the candidate to ask questions like, “What’s it really like working here?” and “Do you like it here?” As the candidate let their guard down just a bit it helped us get a better gauge for job and culture fit and was also a great way to empower our team and get their buy-in as we add new team members.

We offered a job preview so they’d know exactly what they were getting themselves into.

The decision to take a new job is a huge one and words and promises about our culture can only go so far before the candidate just has to experience it for themselves. Because of this, we offered candidates the ability to come in and shadow a member of our team for a few hours. It was sort of a shot in the dark at first but a couple of candidates were surprisingly receptive and were not only hired but excited to join the team after a more in-depth preview.

The job offer call became an opportunity to clarify expectations.

One of my favorite restaurants, In-N-Out Burger is renowned for the way they triple check every order. I’ve never once had an item missing from my order when eating there. The same is true when it comes to offering a job to a candidate. We moved beyond simply making a job offer and turned that call into a review of expectations — discussing the type of work they’d be doing, where they’d be working, compensation, and their schedule.

We made the first day memorable.

Finally, when the candidate became a colleague we made it very clear how excited we were that they joined our team. This included very simple things like having a desk and a working computer ready to go for them. Furthermore, we tricked out their desk with all sorts of decorations, notes, and enjoyed lunch together as a team. At no point did we want our new colleague to feel like they were an inconvenience or that we weren’t prepared for or excited for them to join the team.

The common thread in all of these changes that were made to our hiring process was that we absolutely wanted to make sure there were no surprises for our new colleague on their first day of employment. The great news here is that our success in hiring increased significantly, our culture became stronger, and our customers benefited through the excellent customer service they received.

The post Hiring for Culture: There Should Be No Surprises on Day One appeared first on Customer Service Life.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This article was first published on the FCR blog on June 7, 2019. Click here to read the original post.

Thinking back on my first customer service job, our entire training manual was five pages. Yes you read that correctly — 5 pages! So basically we had zero training.

At the time we did email and phone support which meant there were many, many instances where I had to either escalate a ticket or put a customer on hold to learn the answer from the owner/co-founder/customer service manager/supervisor/boss/engineer/developer. With very few exceptions this was all the same person or a select group of people which probably isn’t terribly surprising for anyone who’s worked at a startup. Also with very few exceptions did this person ever directly respond to emails or speak with customers — and for our customers’ sake it was probably better that way.

In this escalate-for-assistance process there was one surefire way to get on my boss’s bad side. All I had to do was copy their note in the ticket, paste, and send. Their answer was the correct one, right? Well yes, but by doing so I learned nothing, and without fail I’d have to escalate the same question the next day. This is wrong on so many levels because ensured that future customers had to wait for me to escalate the ticket to my boss for the answer.

While any experienced trainer is already rolling their eyes at this post, my goal here isn’t to talk about training. Rather, I’m going to spend a few moments focusing on the responsibility individual customer service professionals have in this equation. Here are three critical actions you should take when you receive an answer to a question from a supervisor and need to turn around and communicate that to a customer.

Put the answer in your own words

If you’ve worked more than one customer service job in your lifetime, you know the importance of learning everything you can about the product or service you’re supporting. Early in my career I worked in web hosting, and while I was hired for my ability to communicate with others, I quickly discovered that I needed to know a little something about HTML and some other technical stuff in order to help customers with their websites.

In any line of work, you have to learn to speak the language within your organization and be able to translate that into words and concepts that customers will understand. By simply cutting and pasting answers or reading scripts, we never learn the language. A great practice is to instead take a note or instruction and put it in your own words before sending it to the customer. Sure some of it might be a regurgitation, but by owning those words you will begin to learn and speak the language.

Ask what and why

Naturally during this process it’s important that you gain some understanding of the information you’re communicating. To maximize learning, it’s completely reasonable to ask the supervisor for clarification on anything that’s confusing. We have a policy at FCR that it’s encouraged and expected to ask “Why?” if anything is unclear about a directive and our leaders owe us that explanation.

This most certainly applies to customer care. When we know and agree with the why along with any other details that are unclear, we become that much more confident in the message we’re communicating to the customer. And customers can absolutely sense when we’re confident and when we’re not.

Macros are aids not answers

I know I talk about macros (aka canned responses, scripts, or templates) almost every week but they’re such a critical part of most customer service operations at scale nowadays. Some of my colleagues instead call them “snippets” which is a great word. Think of them as blurbs of text that are designed to give customers consistent, accurate answers and prevent customer service professionals from typing the same thing over and over again.

For individuals, it’s important to recognize that macros are there to help you do your job better but it’s critical that you understand the content of that macro completely before sending. The response must address each one of their issues or the chances of serious customer aggravation increase significantly. That’s why this concept of snippets is so appealing. Think of them as tools to help craft the perfect message to the customer — and this can be applied to all customer service channels.

In retrospect, I probably could have summed this entire blog post into 150 characters and said something like:

When you escalate an issue to your supervisor and they send it back with the answer, take the time to understand that answer, put it in your own words, and confidently craft the perfect message to your customer.

OK, that’s actually 211 characters and I actually used a whole lot more characters in the hope that you resist the urge to simply cut and paste and instead take hold of the underlying opportunities every day to learn and grow in your professional life.

The post Learning to Speak the Language appeared first on Customer Service Life.

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on May 31, 2019. Click here to read the original.

I have a confession. I love scrolling through the “Documentaries” genre on Netflix typically looking for some good historical and/or biographical entertainment. On a recent stroll I stumbled upon “The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man.”

Prior to seeing the film, someone once told me a story they’d heard of Bill Murray bumping into someone in public and whispering something like, “No one will ever believe you.” This was done in a non creepy way, of course, to let them know that “Yes, I’m a celebrity and no one will believe I just spoke to you.” One might think these mere legends but the film is littered with stories of people where Bill Murray sat down with them at a bar or restaurant, played a sport with them at the park, or showed up at a house and ate dinner with a family.

One of my favorites was when a band showed up to play a party at a house and Bill Murray helped them carry sound gear from the car to the venue, helped them set up, and even jammed with them. Could you even imagine that happening to you? For dozens of people that’s a lasting memory — a random fact they’ll likely share liberally with friends and acquaintances for the rest of their lives.

As I watched I had to fight the urge to wish that I could be just like Bill and make friends with perfect strangers. While it might sound exciting for a select few folks, I’m sure the vast majority of people are horrified at the thought of doing something like this. That being said, there are a few things we can learn from Bill Murray that can make all of us better people and customer service professionals, regardless of whatever Myers-Briggs has to say about our personalities.

1. Be present for the opportunity right in front of you

Like I said, it’s one thing to have the wherewithal to walk up to perfect strangers and become friends in a non-creepy way. Applied to customer service, imagine Bill Murray working the phones in your contact center. He wouldn’t be staring at the wallboard, dreading that call queue. He’d be totally immersed in the call he’s on in the present moment seeking to solve that problem and help the customer.

As a customer service professional and human, the times I get in the most trouble are when I overlook the person or need right in front of me and panic about the ones yet to come. In fact, I can remember my first phone. It was an old school Nortel phone and the only way to tell there were calls in queue was a blinking arrow on the display. It felt a bit like an episode of the Twilight Zone and drove me absolutely bonkers when that arrow would blink and I allowed that to detract from the service I provided on my current call. As a leader later on, especially during the busy times, I’d often tell my team:

“Don’t be a hero and try to clear the call queue single-handedly. Instead focus on doing your very best job on the call you’re handling right now and let your manager (me) focus on the queue.”

2. Be humble enough to relate to what’s (or who’s) right in front of you

Bill Murray is a celebrity who probably doesn’t have to work another day in his life if he doesn’t want to. What’s he doing mixing with us common folk? And yet he does. Sure he knows he’s successful and popular, and that might keep many people from relating to others in an intimate setting — like eating a meal with a family in their home. To even be open to such a variety of people and situations requires some level of humility and selflessness.

Applied to customer service, we often have a certain level of expertise about the product or service we represent and support and it’s so easy to forget that the customer on the other end of the line may not. Without a humble, open approach, we’re liable to talk right over the customer’s head and leave them feeling confused, unimportant, and no closer to a solution than they were when they called. Here’s what great customer service professionals do:

“Remember that you’re an expert. That’s why the customer contacted you. Use your people skills to quickly recognize the customer’s emotional state and skill level and adapt your approach to find the best and most efficient route to solving their problem.”

3. Be refreshingly original

I don’t know Bill Murray at all but based on the pattern set forth in the movie, his behavior doesn’t reek of a hard and fast template or blueprint but more of a set of core values or principles he’s operating from. What I mean by this is that it doesn’t seem like his goal is to go eat dinner with a different family every week or say the same friendly greeting to everyone he encounters on the street. It appears more likely that he has a goal of using his influence to positively impact the lives of others. Within this goal, he has the freedom to respond to the needs and opportunities around him in unique and fresh ways.

In customer service, templates are good when they help us consistently convey an accurate message to customers. Where they fail us is when we cease to be original and tailor our approach specifically to each customer. That’s the sort of work computers are increasingly able to do. So here’s the challenge:

“You’re a human being capable of connecting with other humans like no computer will be able to. Use that power to make a difference in the lives of others in unique and creative ways.”

Sure Bill Murray is funny and smart and talented — but so are you. Being present, humble, and original may look very different for you than it does for him, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But let’s take our cue from Bill and use the influence we’ve been given to make a difference for those right in front of us this very moment.

The post 3 Lessons Bill Murray Teaches Us About Customer Service appeared first on Customer Service Life.

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You are always busy. There isn’t much downtime in your life. Work is nonstop. You still want to spend time with your family, get to the gym and have a social life on top of everything else you already do.

But you keep hearing all this stuff about that mindfulness buzzword and the benefits it can have on your brain. You take a look at your calendar. When would you even fit mindfulness into your schedule?

The question isn’t really about when do you slow down and fit in mindfulness. It’s more about how do you even begin to believe that you can slow down?

And what does slowing down really look like for you? Does this mean you have to give up the busy career and lifestyle that you’ve worked so hard to build?

What if you didn’t have to give up anything? What if you could easily fit mindfulness into what you are already doing?

Mindfulness is a state of being present and having non-judgemental moment to moment awareness. Medical studies show that mindfulness has an impact on stress levels and depression. It can boost memory and reduce emotional reactivity, among many other research proven benefits.

Mindfulness is less about stopping the thoughts in your mind and simply becoming aware. We’re human and our brains are made to think. Turning off thoughts is impossible.

For some, meditation and yoga are thought to be where mindfulness is cultivated.

But mindfulness can occur outside of these two activities.

Below you’ll find 3 suggestions to weave mindfulness into activities you are already doing. No need to add more to your to-do list!

Mindfulness Exercise: Brushing Your Teeth

Brushing your teeth is an activity we do once, twice or sometimes a few times per day. The next time you stop into the restroom to brush your teeth, pay attention to the entire process. Notice how your toothpaste tastes. How does your brush feel moving over your gums? Watch the foam bubble up in your mouth. How do your teeth feel after the brushing? Paying attention to the small details of a daily task is something on which we rarely focus. This is an act of mindfulness.

Mindfulness Exercise: Eating

When we’re busy, we’re often on autopilot when it comes to meals. We rarely even taste our food. During your next meal, take a few moments to look at your food. Before taking the first bite, smell your food. Does the smell bring back any memories? Does it make you salivate? When you take that first bite, chew slowly. How does the food taste? What flavors and textures stand out? Notice the sound of your chewing. Pause to completely swallow your food before taking the next bite.

Mindfulness Exercise: Walking

We’re walking somewhere – whether it is off the subway to our office or from the parking lot to the coffee house. Instead of zooming from place to place, look around you. What are the colors of the buildings? Listen to the sound of your shoes on the pavement. Feel the impact of your foot hitting the ground. What aromas fill the air? Is the temperature cold or hot? Are there other people or cars around you? Notice the movement of the environment.

The post Mindfulness for the Busy appeared first on Customer Service Life.

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As the Customer Experience Manager for NumberBarn, part of my role includes creating customer facing how-to video tutorials.

Knowing absolutely nothing when I began, I used resources such as webinars, YouTube videos, online articles and simply asking friends tons of questions to learn.

This article includes many of the steps I’ve learned along the way with the intention to help someone else who may also be starting out with these videos.

This article was originally posted on the NumberBarn Blog.

Educate your customers on your product or service using creative, informative video tutorials without blowing tons of cash!

There’s also a big NEED to ensure that your customers feel supported with efficient self-service to find answers to their questions.

At NumberBarn, we built our YouTube channel, Help Center and Blog to include step-by-step instructions and FAQs featuring inexpensive, creative, brand-friendly tutorial videos with little to no money spent.

How do you get started creating your own videos? Glad you asked.

We’re not perfect and there is always something new to learn, but here’s what has helped us create our awesome tutorials. Maybe it will inspire you to create some too!

Start with the Overview

What in the world is this video tutorial going to be about? A high-level overview of your tutorial will be helpful in the creation of the video. Answer these questions:

  • Who is this video for? Who will be acting in this video?
  • What problem will this video solve? What is our intention behind creating it?
  • Where will this video be shared? Where will this video be filmed?
  • When will this video be published? When will this video be filmed?
  • Why is this video important?

For NumberBarn, here’s how we typically answer these questions:

  • This video is made for our customers. Jenny Sue will be acting, filming, recording and editing the video. The Pig may also make an appearance.
  • This video will answer the question of how to complete this task. Our intention is to educate and empower our customers with #numbersmart knowledge.
  • This video will be shared on our YouTube channelHelp CenterBlogTwitter,Facebook and Instagram.
  • This video will be published on x date. We will film this video on x date.
  • This video is important to showcase our brand voice, educate customers and save them from having to contact us via email or chat.
Write the Script

Write down the general instructions of the process that you’re explaining to your customers. Make sure to translate any industry jargon into a language that your customer will understand. Highlight each chunk of the script with the individual who will be doing the talking or what style the video will display, like this sample script from How to Authorize a Port Request:

A sample of our tutorial script Draw the Storyboard

While optional, the storyboard helps put your script into visual chunks. Get super artsy with it or just draw on a whiteboard with little to no art skills, like Jenny Sue’s storyboard for How to Authorize a Port Request below, to get the ideas across. The goal is to simply have an idea of how each section of will appear when you’re filming.

Art is not Jenny Sue’s best skill… Time to Film

Filming your video tutorial doesn’t require a fancy schmancy camera. Sure, if you have access to this – consider yourself lucky! All of the NumberBarn video tutorials are filmed in landscape mode using an iPhone and a tripod purchased on Amazon. Video files are transferred to a computer for editing via AirDrop. Our earlier videos were made without an external microphone, which caused the sound to not be as clear as we’d like. We’ve upgraded to using a microphone that connects to the phone for clearer sound. This article goes into a lot more detail about creating a clean and crisp video with your iPhone. For Android users, this article has some great advice.

Capture the Screen

With the video, you’re doing more than just telling your customer how to make the change – you’re showing them how to make the change. A screen capture tool allows you to film what you’re doing on your computer and put it on a video for others to watch from the comfort of their own device. At NumberBarn, we use a program called Snagit. To see how it works, watch the video below. No, we’re not partnering with them nor do we get a cut of a sale if you buy the software. We’re simply sharing what works best for us to help make things easier for you!

Welcome to Snagit - YouTube

Edit the Video

Throwing everything into one video takes a robust yet simple editing program. To keep things simple, we use iMovie. We add in additional video clips, music, images and more to create one fun little video tutorial. A behind the scenes peek into how iMovie looks for one of our videos can be found below. For an overview of how to use iMovie, check this out.

How NumberBarn uses iMovie - YouTube

Post on Social Media

We host our videos on our YouTube channel. Finished videos are uploaded with a video description. Our video descriptions contain:

  • A title
  • A video overview (this text might actually be the initial overview you wrote)
  • Contact support (for us, we always want to make sure our customers know who to reach out to if they have questions)
  • Music credits (we’ll always credit the artist for any royalty-free music that we use in our videos)

We share our videos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We don’t want to flood our channels with too many videos, therefore we found posting a video 2-4 times a month works best for us. If you don’t have a clue how to plan your social media strategy, start with this article.

Creating Catchy Images

A thumbnail image is the main image you’ll see on the YouTube video before you press “play”. Any additional images we use in the video, or even other social sharing posts, are created with an online tool, Canva. This free program allows you to use pre-made templates, upload images and add text and other visuals to make your image POP, like this one for our video, How to Authorize a Port Request:

Help Center

When considering how to communicate instructions and answers to your questions, keep in mind the different learning styles they may need to absorb the information. Self-service is a powerful tool in the customer experience and we strive to find as many ways to empower our customers to find the answers they need without having to contact customer support, including embedding our tutorial videos into our Help Center.

Blog Posts

The NumberBarn Blog, while a great marketing tool, also offers an even more casual way to share how-to’s and answer common customer questions in a variety of formats. Taking a complicated situation and sharing it in a less formal environment gives the reader an opportunity to engage with our brand while learning about a feature, product or service.

Want support on creating your first tutorial video? Send me an email!

The post How to create customer how-to tutorials on a budget appeared first on Customer Service Life.

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This article was originally published on the FCR blog on May 24, 2019. Click here to read the original.

Let’s get real for a minute. How are you currently tracking quality for your customer service team? At the enterprise level there are some incredible tools out there using machine learning to grade calls for you. But if you’re a small to medium operation, or even a new startup, this technology can be cost prohibitive. Before I go any further, for those of you using Google forms, or spreadsheets, or even pen and paper, you’re perfectly normal. I hope that’s a freeing thought for folks out there who might feel like they’re doing quality wrong in their contact center because they’ve not yet gone high tech.

The good news is that the quality application market for the small to medium sized customer service operation has been heating up of late, due in large part to the increasing popularity of platforms like Zendesk, Freshworks, and Salesforce. My goal in this article is to share with you some of the quality applications on the market, but first, let’s look at the benefits of upgrading from your spreadsheets and formulas to something a bit more sophisticated.

1. Build forms and maintain historical data with zero effort

If I’m manually building a quality form I much prefer a form builder similar to Google Forms versus entering data directly into spreadsheets or using pen and paper. Where a quality tool wins every time is its ability to easily create a form, quickly change as needed, and add new forms while retaining version history and keeping all of your historical quality data.

2. No formulas required

Are you a customer service manager who also happens to be an Excel whiz? Well for every one of you there are about a hundred who aren’t. To be honest, I’m not sure the ability to use the COUNTIF function in Excel is a prereq for being a great people manager. With a quality tool, there’s no need for formulas to calculate scores when filling out forms. The app does all of that for you. Imagine increasing your talent pool for quality contact center managers by hundreds!

3. Skip report gathering and move straight to report analysis

A robust quality tool already has built in reporting so there’s no need for more formulas or spreadsheets to get to a point where you can analyze your data. Some metrics that we regularly look at include:

  • Overall quality averages as well as individual agent performance.
  • A comparison of our scores against other key metrics like handle times and customer satisfaction.
  • Quantity of quality monitors completed against our goal for a time period.
  • Performance on individual objectives on the form to provide targeted coaching and training for the areas where teams and individual agents struggle most.
4. Permissions and access

Like many pieces of software in your contact center, agents should have entirely different access than managers and supervisors. A quality tool allows you to set up permissions specific to the roles of each employee. Your frontline agents will love seeing where their individual quality stands and don’t need access to many of the other features within the app.

5. Calibrate with all scorers

Quality calibration is a process by which all reviewers ensure alignment on the way they grade customer interactions. It’s foundational to a consistent experience for customers. With a quality tool, an interaction can be placed in the calibration queue, everyone reviews those prior to a calibration meeting, and then the team can come together and discuss the areas where their scoring differed. It’s an efficient way to calibrate multiple customer interactions in a timely manner.

6. Integrate with your helpdesk

The integration with popular ticketing systems can be a big time saver, serving up the interactions the team should review next. They simply log in to the quality tool and there are interactions selected based on preset criteria ready to be graded. While most platforms take into account security restrictions, if concerns still exist, most applications can operate without pulling the interactions directly into their platform.

7. Integration with single sign on

It’s one thing to manage a handful of agents and their logins for a particular quality tool, but at some point, you’re going to want to integrate this with your system that manages usernames and passwords. Furthermore, if you’re in a rapidly evolving environment, keeping track of who’s active and who isn’t and assigning them to the appropriate places can be a daunting challenge. This integration will help keep your quality system current.

Systems to consider

I hope that’s a compelling enough argument for moving your quality assurance efforts out of spreadsheets and using a quality application. Here are five platforms we’ve seen in use with great success with some noteworthy features.

  • Evaluagent-I just recently learned of Evaluagent and have been impressed. Among their many features is a robust coaching module where supervisors can set and track goals for their agents.
  • MaestroQA- Check out their “Smart Attributes” feature that can identify tickets with certain keywords, personally identifiable information (PII), and macro misusage. MaestroQA also boasts a broad range of integrations.
  • Playvox- This platform is packed with features for quality assurance and also has options for a learning management system (LMS) as well as metrics dashboards with gamification capabilities.
  • Qualitista- In addition to the standard features, Qualitista makes a simple, peer reviewed quality program possible. They also have the ability to require supervisor review and approval before tickets are sent to customers. This is a great feature when onboarding and training new contact center agents.
  • Scorebuddy- With a feature set that stands toe to toe with the others on this list, Scorebuddy has the ability to adapt to a variety of use cases, and with single sign on can easily scale with your operation.

To conclude, I haven’t talked about price but in general these tools range somewhere between $10 and $40 per user per month depending on features. Do you use any of these quality systems currently or perhaps another one altogether? Please share in a comment below and tell us what some of your favorite features are.

The post So You Need a Quality Application? Consider These 7 Things appeared first on Customer Service Life.

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This article was originally published as a featured contributor on ICMI.

You’re running fast through the forest. Sweat drips off your forehead, heart wildly beating as your eyes dart around to make sure you don’t run into a branch or trip over a rock because if you do, you’re about to be someone’s appetizer. You’re looking for the path that will lead you out of sight from the Saber Tooth Tiger that advances behind you at a rapid pace. You sneak away into a dark cave, out of view of the wild beast. Safe, at last. Sorry, tiger, no snack for you.

Flash forward to the present moment. A customer is screaming at you on the phone. The chat support “ding ding” sound keeps playing on your computer, demanding instant answers. There are 58 unread emails in your inbox. Your boss just called you into a meeting about that new project on your plate. A coworker on your team is absent again, and you’re picking up their slack. Oh, and you have to get gas after work, plus stop by the grocery store to pick up food for the dinner you have to make for the family. You haven’t deposited your paycheck yet. Oh, let’s not mention that your mom isn’t doing so well, and your partner is asking you to pick up their dry cleaning because they got called into a late meeting. Just another Tuesday!

And, on this fine Tuesday, it’s not exactly a Saber Tooth Tiger chasing after you, but it might as well be, considering you are stressed out AF and wish you could slip away into a cave and hide.

But, is stress really the bad guy here?

What if, instead of trying to prevent stress, we understand that when we feel stress, it could be a lesson to learn. A boundary to set. A queue to take from our body and mind. Not in a woo-woo-way-out-there kinda way, but in a realistic, “hey, you gotta slow down now or else you’re gonna kick the bucket early because there’s actually no tiger chasing after you and this body can’t handle years and years of chronic stress” kinda way. Easier said than done.

Our bodies are well-fashioned machines to react in incredible ways; however, living in fight-or-flight mode (and the shame around doing so) will have a long term impact.

This isn’t new. There are gobs of studies about how chronic stress can affect your health.

What does that mean for you and your customers?

Let me start by shaking things up a bit:

  • You’re not supposed to be happy all the time
  • You’re not supposed to stuff your negative feelings
  • You’re not supposed to do everything to avoid being stressed

Yikes, that probably goes against a lot of what you’ve been told in the past, especially when you’re working with customers.

Aren’t you supposed to smile into the mirror on your desk before you pick up the phone, leave your “baggage” at the office door and go above and beyond for customers day in and day out, no matter how stressed out and horrible you feel?

We look for hacks. We look for ways to quickly alleviate stress. We work extra hours to distract ourselves. We don’t talk about stress. We stuff it down. We “deal with it.”

Not facing your true feelings – that’s so 2018.

With companies like ban.do creating International I Cry At Work Day, perhaps it is time to do things a bit differently while we’re helping customers.

Because, in order to take the best care of others, we must first take the best care of ourselves.

Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It’s an act of service.

So, here are three tips for coping with stress while you’re busy helping customers and coworkers at work.

Tips for Coping with Stress at Work Use Your Words

Parents often instruct fussy, crying toddlers with, “use your words” to help them express and identify how they feel in the present moment. You may feel a variety of emotions at work, some of which you may not really understand because you haven’t had the time to do so. Ignoring and stuffing stress isn’t going to make it any easier. Taking a short break away from your desk to tune into your feelings and identify them is a great place to start. Ask yourself:

  • How does my body feel right now?
  • How does my mind feel right now?
  • What emotions do I feel right now?

With this general scan, you can start to identify how you actually feel in that moment, acknowledge it, and respect it for what it is. It’s not going to immediately resolve the situation and remove the stress from your life, but it will help you understand where you are right this very second, how you feel, which is helpful when you’re caught in the rush of overwhelm.

Calm Your Brain

Breathing calms your brain. It decreases your blood pressure. Of course, this is all scientifically proven with many studies to back it up.

But who cares what the studies say – take a few deep breaths and know that while it may not remove the overwhelm of the present moment, it can simmer your nervous system. Have 36 seconds in between calls? Try this:

1. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of 4

2. Hold your breath at the top for a count of 4

3. Release your breath through your mouth for a count of 4

4. Repeat steps 1-3 at least three times

Take Baby Steps

Stress is uncomfortable. When it builds up, it may lead to other uncomfortable health-related issues. You, of course, just want to avoid stress entirely and make it go away forever and ever, right? While that’s unrealistic, what is realistic is taking baby steps toward shifting what needs to shift to point you in a less-Saber-Tooth-Tiger chasing you response. This isn’t to add more to your plate; in some cases, it is to take away. Here are some baby step examples for you to consider:

Step you want to take: You want to work out for an hour a day, every day.

Why you want to take it: You feel more mentally clear when you exercise.

What you’re doing now: You’re working out 0 days currently.

Baby Step: Workout for 1-5 minutes a day, once a week and increase as time allows.

Step you want to take: You want to get more sleep.

Why you want to take it: You need more energy during the day.

What you’re doing now: You always go to bed so late.

Baby Step: Go to bed 1 minute earlier once a week and increase as you see fit.

Step you want to take: You’re so busy, and you want to have more time for your family to relax at home.

Why you want to take it: You feel overwhelmed with your schedule because you’re always doing something.

What you’re doing now: Scheduling everything on the calendar and living by it minute by minute.

Baby Step: Schedule in one non-negotiable hour a week where you spend time with your family doing absolutely nothing together, then increase to more time.

You have permission to feel your feelings, even at work. You’re allowed to cry; you’re allowed to be stressed. But you’re also allowed to take time to get real with yourself. To not stuff what’s going on. To define what stress looks like for you. To talk about it. Bonus points if you’re a contact center supervisor or manager who is leading the way and talking about it with the team. To know that it’s not about being happy 24/7 but about being human, being authentic and realizing that we’re not being chased by Saber-Tooth Tigers anymore.

The post Tips for Coping with Stress at Work appeared first on Customer Service Life.

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Image by Amanda Powers from Pixabay

This article was originally published on CustomerThink on April 3, 2019. Click here to read the original.

I have two scenarios for you regarding contact center quality assurance. In the first, imagine a manager or supervisor listening to a phone call and using a set of criteria to grade that call. They then add up all of the points and deliver that evaluation to the agent who handled the call. While we’d like to think this quality coaching session holds some special transformational power, what’s more likely is that the eyes of both the coach and the agent go straight to the score and all opportunity to help that agent improve at their job is lost.

Now picture a second scenario where an operations manager is running through a slide deck to talk about the performance of their team over the past month. They arrive at the quality slide and proclaim, “Our average quality last month was 91%.” When you dig a bit further you realize that it’s always right around 91% and we have no clue how to improve that number or if it’s good or not. It’s just a number.

There’s been a bit of a debate among my peers in the contact center industry in recent years over the relevance of quality scores and there are a couple hotly contested issues. One is whether or not the knowledge of a score helps or hinders individual agent performance. The other is whether an overall quality score offers any value at all? Is it even worth tracking as a key performance indicator.

While I believe quality scores are indeed important, there’s some balance and thoughtfulness required in our approach to them. In this article I’ll give you four recommendations around quality scoring that will actually help drive what’s really important for your contact center — agent and customer engagement.

1. Simplify your quality scoring method

At its core, a quality assurance process is a set of criteria that’s critical for agents to complete on every customer interaction. Simply put, it’s what they must do to be successful when interacting with customers and it typically emcompasses communication skills, the application of job knowledge, and the ability to follow specific policies and procedures.

What I’ve seen happen many times is that after determining the criteria, leaders spend more time on their elaborate scoring system than they did on the criteria itself. In my opinion it doesn’t really matter if the scores add up perfectly to 100 and that certainly shouldn’t influence the number of questions on the form. Keep in mind also that when creating a scoring schema — let’s say it’s a 5 or 10 point scale — you need to clearly define what’s a 1, versus a 2, versus a 3, and on down the line. That’s time consuming and difficult for quality teams to calibrate with one another on for consistent grading.

In favor of simplicity and keeping the quality process about quality and not a score, I prefer a simple yes/no scale. The agent either exhibited the behavior at or above the expected standard or they didn’t. Remember that your quality form isn’t a work of art — it’s a tool for helping your team provide better customer service. You’re better served spending more time reviewing interactions and coaching agents.

2. Track performance at the individual question level

If you want to improve the quality of your customer service team you most certainly have to measure it, but a percentage on a slide once a month won’t do. Leaders need to be able to break that percentage down in order to improve it. I recommend looking at team and individual agent performance on each individual question on the form. You’ll then see the areas on the form where the team excels and the areas where they struggle and you can better focus both individual coaching and team-wide training.

When you look at it through this lens it also helps you in building the criteria for your quality form and determining the weight for that criteria. Those behaviors and skills that you really want to track and improve should be included on that quality form. Depending on your industry, there are going to be specific aspects of the customer interaction that carry a critical level of importance. For example, your agents may be required to pause a call recording while taking payments over the phone or announce that a call is being recorded when they place an outbound call. This stuff needs to be tracked to minimize and eliminate these errors.

One more thing that’s important to address in this recommendation is tools. There are many great quality tools on the market that can help get to this level of reporting but this can also be accomplished with a form and a spreadsheet. Though an actual quality tool is so much better for a lot of reasons.

3. Check your alignment with customer perception

In a past article I encouraged customer service leaders to check their alignment between quality and customer satisfaction. This was born out of an interesting study where we found on some of our teams that quality scores were extremely high and customer satisfaction was much lower. Where this is the case, the quality assurance process may not be measuring the right things and this check can be a catalyst for updating and refining your process.

I recommend a couple steps in this approach. First, tt’s a good practice to ask yourself after scoring an interaction if the results align with the way the customer might rate the interaction. Did that interaction you just scored as a 100% look, sound, and feel like 100%? How would the customer have rated this call and the way the agent handled it? What we don’t want is for the agent to check all of the boxes on your quality form but for it to miss the mark with the customer.

Secondly, at a higher level, take your overall quality percentage and compare it to your customer satisfaction percentage. If quality is significantly higher it’s possible you’re measuring the wrong things or being too lenient in scoring. Either way, you’re not aligned with customer perception.

4. Determine when and if you really need to show agents a score

I’ve seen a couple things happen when agents are shown their quality score during a coaching session. The first is that they shut down. They came to that session for their score, and even if it’s a good one, they aren’t receptive to anything you say after that. The second response is that they begin nitpicking and haggling over whether or not they agree with your assessment. “Why did you rate this a 2? I think it should be a 3.” I absolutely believe that quality is a key metric on the agent scorecard and it’s something agents need to be held accountable to but perhaps it doesn’t belong in the coaching session.

At FCR we’ve approached this a couple different ways. The first idea is to wait until the end of the coaching session to discuss overall scores. The first portion of the meeting should be to discuss what the agent did right, where they can improve, and then practice the desired behaviors together. Another option I’ve seen is to discuss metrics in a separate meeting with agents and the quality metric is one of several that they review on a balanced scorecard.

Keep in mind that there will be some change management involved if you change when and where agents see scores. Many of your more tenured agents might say, “Just give me my score so I can get back to work.” Remember that a big function of quality assurance is coaching agents to better support customers. If we’re focused on the score in those coaching conversations, we’ve completely lost all sight of what’s most important.

As I conclude, I’ll reiterate that quality scores both as a measurement of agent performance and team performance are an essential metric for your operation — but they should be used with great thoughtfulness and care. Never forget that quality is about empowering and equipping your agents to provide better customer service and the scores will help you see whether or not your efforts are paying off.

The post 4 Tips to Get Value From Contact Center Quality Scores appeared first on Customer Service Life.

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Customer Service Life by Jeremy Watkin - 1M ago

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on May 9, 2019. Click here to read the original post.
Not too long ago it was breakfast time in our house and my 7-year-old was sitting at the counter, eating a bowl of Cheerios, and apparently studying a box of Legos he had purchased with some birthday money. As he read the words on the box (reading is very important in the life of a first grader) he came to a stopping point and ask very deliberately, “What’s feedback?” We responded to him with something like, “Feedback is where you tell the company what you think of their product.” With a childlike innocence he said, “Well I want to give Lego some feedback.”That’s the end of the story but this interchange had a profound impact on me as I’ve since thought about it — especially when we consider that our mechanisms for gathering feedback from our customers can quickly take on a life of their own, becoming so complex that they begin to lose meaning and effectiveness. Perhaps it would do us some good to step back and consider why we ask customer for feedback. There are three insights I’ll highlight here. 1. Feedback is about listening to customers

So much time and money is spent in companies scrutinizing over our customer surveys. Should we measure Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Effort Score, or a combination of all three? Is there a hot new survey metric that’s even better? Should we ask a single question or expand our survey to ask a multitude of questions covering every aspect of our brand? And once we’ve become entrenched in whatever our survey is, how often do we question if our survey is really a good indicator of our performance as a business?

While I think different surveys have their place depending on your business goals, I’ve also been guilty of dumbing this down significantly. I’ve more than once told colleagues and clients that I care less about the type of survey and more about what you do with the results. It’s important to always remember who is at the other end of that survey: the customer.

We must never forget that customers who complete surveys have done, or are trying to do, business with us — and by listening, we can learn what we’re doing well and where we need to improve. The numbers certainly show us how we’re progressing but we don’t progress if we don’t listen and take action.

2. Feedback is a sign of customer engagement

In a perfect world, EVERY customer is satisfied, or willing to recommend, or able to get their issue solved with little to no effort. But we don’t live in a perfect world. It’s critical that we remember that a customer who leaves feedback, good or bad, is an engaged customer.

It’s not always, but it’s often, the case that customers who take the time to leave negative feedback actually want to do business with us and would continue to do so if we could solve their problem. Disappointed customers who cancel their service without ever leaving feedback are much more the concern because there’s no opportunity to learn how to improve or how to retain them as a customer. Looking at it from this perspective, you begin to realize that more feedback is better and even bad (negative) feedback is good feedback.

3. Feedback is actionable

At the core of your customer feedback loop is a continuous improvement process and there are a couple key facets. The first is that it’s important to quantify what’s driving your negative feedback. At FCR we typically bucket feedback into four categories: agent, policy, process, or product. We also recognize it could be a combination of all four of these. From there we create a series of subcategories to understand key issues which helps us prioritize improvements and insights to share with the other groups within our organization.

Second, it’s critical that we close the loop with customers and this can be a challenging one at times. Certainly there will be cases where there’s a misunderstanding or the customer got the runaround and we can reach out to resolve the issue. But in other cases, there may be a policy in place for good reason and there’s no way around it. There’s not always a manual for handling these sorts of issues and closing the loop doesn’t always promise that we’ll retain a customer, but I can assure you that you’ll retain some when you adopt the discipline of following up.

It’s a great practice within your ticketing system to trigger a case to reopen if a customer leaves negative feedback so someone can follow up. And wherever possible, equip your agents with some tools for responding to these customers. At minimum, the customer should always know you’re grateful for their feedback and that they’ve been heard.

In conclusion, does your company have something written on a package, or in the footer of an email, or posted on a sign or website asking for feedback? Whether we realize it or not, that means we’re asking our customers to talk to us. It tells them that we actually want to know what they have to say about their experience with our company. It’s important that we as representatives of our companies remember that if we’ve asked our customers to talk to us, it’s our responsibility to be grateful for the feedback, listen to it, and do something about it.

The post What’s Feedback? appeared first on Customer Service Life.

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Image by Harald Funken from Pixabay

This article was originally published on the ICMI Blog on March 19, 2019. Click here to read the original post.

When I say “metrics” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If your answer is spreadsheets and dashboards packed with tons and tons of analytics, you’re probably not alone. And while many of these metrics have their purpose, when it comes to agent performance, there are really two types of metrics that matter. The first is a productivity metric and the second a quality metric.

There’s something critical to note about these two metrics. Neither metric is mutually exclusive, requiring the right balance between the two to achieve the positive results you’re looking for in your contact center. In cases where quality and productivity are out of balance, negative consequences are likely to follow. Before we talk about the ideal balance, let’s first define these metrics and discuss some of the consequences that can result if one is valued more than the other.

Measuring Productivity

In a traditional call center, we might use average handle time to understand how many calls agents are handling per hour, but this is a tricky metric when we look at newer channels like email, chat, text, social, etc. For email, text, and social media it’s often a guessing game as to how long they take agents to complete. Time tracking is getting better but still nowhere near what we have for phone. Chat, as long as it’s synchronous is a bit easier to track because there’s a start and an end to the conversation, but it can get tricky to gauge total time chatting when agents handle more than one at a time.

While handle times will naturally vary between channels, a better way to measure productivity is to quantify the output on an hourly or daily basis. For email this might be emails solved per hour, for phone it’s calls per hour, and so on. While you’ll find that output will vary by channel, this removes the need to rack your brain over figuring out handle times and creates a consistent metric type across all channels.

Consequences of focusing too much on productivity

Imagine that your company was just featured on a popular television show and overnight your email backlog jumped from 100 to 20,000. You instruct your staff of 10 agents to get through that backlog by the end of the week. I did a little math, and that’s like 400 emails per day. If that’s the requirement, what kind of quality do you think you’ll see? Probably not great, right?

Your agents will likely begin creating canned responses and sending them as quickly as possible with little to no personalization. This increases the likelihood that customers receive replies that only partially address the issue, resulting in a dive in customer satisfaction and increased follow up emails from customers. This is a great way to keep that backlog from never disappearing.

Now imagine you’re looking at productivity for your phone team and discover that one of your agents handles calls two minutes faster than the rest of the team and takes significantly more calls than everyone else. You might be tempted to call them a rockstar until you discover that they’re disconnecting customers before they’ve fully resolved the issue all in the name of efficiency and productivity.

While these two scenarios may seem far fetched, I can assure you that they’re both based on true stories. Clearly, a singular focus on productivity has some serious flaws.

Measuring Quality

The other type of metric is a quality metric. When I say “quality,” I mean a couple of different things. There’s the traditional method of a quality assurance form with a set of criteria that a supervisor uses to review and score customer interactions. They then arrive at some coaching points and a score to share with agents with the goal of helping them improve.

Also under this umbrella are customer-facing metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES). The questions and collection methods may vary, with some surveys being more focused on the customer’s impressions of the company and others focused on the service provided by individual agents. Regardless of your flavor of choice, most companies likely have both internal and external quality metrics.

When we focus too much on quality

How many contact center leaders heard about the 10-hour long Zappos customer service call and immediately released their agents to spend as much time as they needed to take care of customers? Zappos got a whole lot of positive PR from that call, but I don’t recall many other contact centers making a serious run at the record.

Let’s translate this to email and imagine that you as a leader allow your team to take as long as they need to provide the best possible answer. This isn’t an unreasonable ask but what if you forbid the use of canned responses or macros? Authentic or bust! You may find that your agents are spending as much time writing their customer service emails as it took me to write this blog post. The result is an ever-increasing backlog of email, and the reality that if you’re not going to get more efficient, you’ll need to hire more people.

Striking the right balance

In a perfect world where money grows on trees, I’ll take quality over productivity 100% of the time — but we don’t live in that world. I recommend striking a balance between the two sets of metrics. Here are some suggestions for doing so in your contact center:

  1. Look at quality and productivity side by side in a performance dashboard or scorecard. Inevitably you’re going to have some agents that excel in quality but not productivity and vice versa. Sometimes this goes with the territory when you hire new staff and are ramping them up to full productivity. Be sure to track how long it takes new agents to achieve the balance in both areas and provide plenty of coaching along the way.
  2. Replicate what your stars are doing. You’ll also have a handful of agents who are truly your stars that excel in both areas. Frequently these are more tenured folks who have figured out how to deliver high-quality customer service efficiently. That’s what you want to bottle up and spread throughout the team. A great way to do this is to pair up a top performer with a lower performer, allowing them to shadow one another, and allowing the top performer to share their productivity tricks and hacks.
  3. Embrace canned responses. Don’t run from them. Templates, macros, or canned responses don’t have to be your enemy. When done right they help agents deliver a consistent message and significantly cut down on email time. They also help newer agents become proficient faster. Be sure that your agents learn to tailor and personalize each response appropriately.
  4. Improve your tools and technology. I said it in a previous article and am probably starting to sound like a broken record, but there are technologies designed to help agents find just the right response and customize appropriately. Leveraging the right technology can not only improve quality but also improve efficiency by reducing the amount of time searching for answers and decreasing the number of clicks required for agents to support customers.

As I stated at the beginning of this article, there are most certainly plenty of other metrics on your dashboard and for a good reason. No need to throw them out on my account by let’s be a bit more intentional about how we track productivity and quality. When it comes to these metrics, be extra careful that you strike the right balance.

The post Quality, Productivity, and Striking the Right Balance appeared first on Customer Service Life.

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