How to manage the customer experience in a call center.

Anyone who has ever worked in a large call center environment where there are 20 or 30 agents on a team knows that there are always agents that are complaining about one thing and sometimes those complaints are unwarranted, some people just need to complain about something,  and sometimes they are legitimate.  One of the things you learn in the call center environment is that agents will often talk about what is making customers unhappy.  I learned a long time ago that the agents on the phone are a valuable resource that needs to be taking advantage of.  Often companies will spend a lot of time and money on Customer Experience Management (CEM) by creating various customer service surveys, whether that is by email, using an automated system at the end of a call, postal mail, etc.

One thing I have always noticed is that sometimes management cannot see what is right in front of them, they have one of the most valuable sources of customer feedback at their disposal and it doesn’t cost a thing.  That resource is your agents, they are on the front lines, and they deal with the customer’s day in and day out.  They know what is making customers happy and what is making them unhappy.  Don’t get me wrong customer service surveys are always a good idea, but you are only going to get so much out of them and only a small percentage of people are willing to participate, but agents on the phone have firsthand experience of what is going on with the customers and they are a source that can be surveyed.  Sure some agents will complain about things that are not relevant to customer service or state things that don’t really hold water, but if you are surveying 200 agents, you are able to analyze the answers and see which answers are common, what is the number one issue that the majority of agents are saying that is making the customer happy or unhappy.

Agents are a resource that is often overlooked that every call center should be utilizing with CEM in ensuring that customer retention is a priority.

How to effectively outsource a call center.

I have heard many stories of companies that have outsourced to a call center with dismal results, claiming that they did not engage the customers the right way, the sales were low, expectations were not met and more.  In my experience when a company decides to outsource to a call center instead of keeping it in house this is what happens many times:  The decision has been made and a company starts interviewing call centers, they find the one they like and after a few conversations and negotiating price they make the decision to pull the trigger and the call center starts to handle either their inbound or outbound calls or both.  They discuss the various types of customers they have and the various products that are being sold or the customer service that needs to be done in respect to those products or services and then they back out of the picture leaving the call center to do what they do best, after all they are pro’s at this.

A little time goes by and the company comes to realize that what they expected is not what has happened, sales are down, customers are complaining about the level of service.  The company doesn’t understand this was such a professional call center with great references, what went wrong?  What went wrong is this company put their customers in the hands of strangers and walked away.  It doesn’t matter how good they are, they are not you.  Does this mean that a company should not outsource to a call center?  No not at all, but it does means that they still need to be actively involved, they need to make sure that agents are being properly trained, some companies even send reps to the call center to spend some time with them in the beginning and assist in the training of the agents to ensure that they are being trained the right way, your way.  Even after the training phase, you need to be involved each and every day, you need to look at stats; you need to request individual agent stats, recordings if necessary so that you know what’s going on.  It is okay to outsource but it’s not okay to just walk away, outsourcing is a partnership between a company and a call center and the company needs to be actively involved in order to have a successful call center operation on their behalf.  When outsourcing you need to be sure that the call center is training the agents the way you trained your agents, if you have a successful script don’t stop using it because your are outsourcing, be sure the call center agents are using the same script and processes. It’s still your business, and while the agents may not work directly for you, in essence they are still your agents, they are representing your company and you need to be involved in every aspect of your business regardless where the calls are being answered or dialed from.  Outsourcing is not walking away and putting it in someone else’s hands and hoping it works out.  A successful outsourcing operation requires the participation of both the company and the call center.

The importance of getting the right type of traffic to your website.

Everyone is always saying that the more traffic you get to your website, the more sales you will make, after all its just a numbers game right?  I don’t think so.  Driving traffic to your site just for the sake of driving traffic isn’t helping your sales numbers.  While it might be helping you in terms of SEO and getting your site ranked higher in search engines, it is not directly helping you close sales if the right traffic is not being driven to your site.

Having quality traffic in lower numbers will better perform than having a large amount of traffic visiting your site without interacting.  It the equivalent of owning a department store and having hundreds of people milling through your store just “window shopping” but not actually buying anything, who cares how many people are in your store if they are not opening their wallet right?  Your website isn’t any different; you don’t want looky loos that aren’t actually doing business with you.  Like all marketing it’s better to have a smaller targeted audience that will interact on your site.  The old way of looking at website statistics was measuring how many people came to your site, and how long they stayed there.  Today that’s not really that important, what is important is how many people came to your site and interacted; how many pages did they go to and actually do something, not just sit idly creating worthless stats? Interactions are people who not only went to your site, but did something while they were there, clicked on links, viewed various products/services, filled out a more info contact form, etc.

So the big question is how do you get this type of quality traffic to your site?  You start out by targeting the right set of people; make sure your marketing is targeting people who will have an interest in what you are selling.  If you are a site that sells women’s shoes, you obviously need to target women, because men don’t buy women’s shoes.  But that’s not enough; you need to segment that target, what types of women are buying your shoes? What demographics; what age groups, income levels, married, single etc?  Once you have figured this out, than you can market to these groups specifically and drive quality traffic to your site.

The next step is to make sure that you have quality content on your site that people will want to share with others; there is nothing more valuable than word of mouth advertising.  It cannot be bought, and it is priceless.  There are a lot of different ways to do this, and these ways will vary from business to business.   Having a blog that is putting out good information (not sales) that people will find useful and will want to share with others is one way, having links to informative articles, and having others link to your site will help, etc.

So at the end of the day, for a successful website you need Quality Traffic, Interactions, and Quality Content.  Remember high numbers are only impressive if they are converting.

Just shut up and give me my beer.

So imagine that is has been a long day at the office, just one of those days where having a beer after work sounds really good.   So you go down to your local watering hole, take a seat at the bar, the bartender asks you what you will be having and you ask for your favorite brand of beer.  Instead of getting you your beer the bartender starts to excitedly discuss the newest brand of whiskey that is out and that you should really give it a try because it is really good.   You quickly dismiss this idea telling him you do not drink whiskey, but he barely acknowledges that you even spoke, and keeps on telling you all the great things about this new whiskey; the fabulous taste, the new aging process that is used, and of course the fantastic price which is way lower than all the competitors cost for a shot of whiskey, and of course don’t forget you can drink it straight, on ice, or mixed with your favorite mixer.  You tell him no thanks you’ll just take your beer.  But he just keeps rambling about this great new whiskey……

While I made this scenario up, this actually happens in sales every day in every industry, a sales person trying to sell a product and not listening to what the customer actually wants.  It does not matter how great your products and services are, the customer doesn’t care.   What they do care about is getting what they want, not helping you make your sales quota.  There is an age old rumor that the best sales people are the ones with the highest numbers, the most sales. False.  The best sales people are the ones that listen to what the customer is saying and then respond based on that conversation.  Giving the customer what they want, not what you think they want, or what you want to sell is what makes a good sales person and these sales people generally have the best numbers and the highest sales, not because they racked up a lot of sales in one particular month from a bunch of customers who are never going to come back again, but because they listened and gave the customer a solution based on their needs and these customers will continue to come back.  That is what good sales is all about.

Selling lipstick to boys.

Over the past year I have stressed several times on this blog that it is vitally important to target when marketing, I have been telling clients this for years, and it’s something I teach to my MBA students because I believe it is not something that people do enough.  You would be surprised at how many businesses spend money without any strategic plan and without any targeting.  You would think this is probably just small mom and pop company’s right?  Wrong.  Even companies with healthy budgets do it.  A few years back a friend of mine who is a consultant had a client that was marketing a product for seniors and the client came up with the brilliant idea that he was going to purchase ad time in prime time during American Idol, one of the largest T.V. audiences in existence.  The cost?  $40,000 for one night; my friend advised the client that this was not a good idea, that it was actually a bad idea, because he hadn’t done any research.  His response was that there would be millions of viewers and his ad was going to play at every commercial break.

Well against the advice of the marketing professional he way paying, he went forward, and the results were horrific.  He did not even cover the cost of advertising, not even close, he lost several thousand dollars.  Why?  Because he didn’t do his research. The median age for American Idol viewers at the time was mid to late thirties.  Had he done his homework he would have known that, and would have known that this was not a senior market.  Regardless of the fact that he advertised to millions of people, they were the wrong people.  It is so very important to research and know your target market before spending any advertising dollars.  Target before you market.  People get wrapped in the numbers and think because of the large numbers they can’t lose.  They are dead wrong.  If you are selling lipstick and market to 5 million boys will it be a successful marketing campaign?  Of course not, boys don’t wear or buy lipstick, so what was the point.  Now this may be an exaggerated example and most campaigns are not this obvious, but nonetheless they still exist and so it’s important to do your campaign justice and advertise to the right set of people.