Contact Centers

Contact Centers: How to Boost Contact Center Operations
April 12, 2005

Want tips on improving your contact center’s employee application and recognition programs? At the National Conference on Operations and Fulfillment, held in Grapevine, Texas, last week, several contact center experts offered their advice during the session”60 Ideas in 60 Minutes: Contact Center/Customer Service.” Here are three of their tips: ¥ Be sure you have a motivational fit: “When interviewing contact center applicants, tell them what the job actually will be like,” said Penny Reynolds, founding partner of The Call Center School, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that offers contact center education. “Make sure they understand they won’t be getting a corner office, they’ll be tied to

Contact Centers: Improve E-mail-based Customer Service
March 29, 2005

While use of e-mail as a method of communication between business and the consumer continues to expand, customer satisfaction with this method of customer service remains low, according to a white paper released by eGain Communications, a customer service and contact center software provider. In order to better the customer experience with e-mail communication, eGain offers the following tips in its white paper: * Determine the optimum response time for your customers. Ask your customers how long they expect to wait for a response, set a response time based on their expectations and your capabilities, and then stick to it. * Send an automated response to

Mysterious & Bizarre Results
March 1, 2005

Cataloging usually is a predictable world. We track everything, study it, place data in spreadsheets and end up knowing pretty well in advance how things will work out. In fact, if businesses had human personalities, cataloging would be your Aunt Matilda and Uncle Gus: safe, predictable, no surprises. But then there comes a day when Uncle Gus calls to say he has flown to Rio with his secretary, and Aunt Matilda has joined the circus. What do you do when the predictable becomes, well, unpredictable? The Mystery of the Rotten Rollout After several years of slow growth, the mid-sized niche cataloger decided he needed

Contact Centers: When Money Is Not a Motivator
February 15, 2005

As any contact center manager will attest, not all employees lick their chops at a chance to boost their salaries. Once they’re paid a living wage, many workers cite other contributors to job satisfaction. “Studies of employee motivation reveal that some workers would rather have more autonomy in their jobs, while others just want to be able to trust their immediate supervisors,” says Liz Kislik, president of Liz Kislik Associates, a management consultancy based in Rockville Centre, N.Y. “Others want to deal better with their bosses, while still others are motivated by having a friend at work.” That’s why instituting only monetary rewards programs may not

Contact Centers: When It’s Time to Change Compensation Plans
February 15, 2005

Are you thinking about changing your contact center employees’ compensation program? No doubt, you’re finding it difficult to change plans already in place. “You can’t very well start taking money away from people,” says Liz Kislik, president of Liz Kislik Associates, a management consultancy based in Rockville Centre, N.Y. “So if you’re working with an older compensation plan, you’ll need to rationalize that to make it fair across the board.” She offers tactics to try: * Pilot, test and run scenarios.”Determine exactly how the program will affect people’s paychecks. If the new plan will pay certain people less, figure out if it’s a flaw in the plan

Customer Service: Personalize Customer Interactions to Create Lasting Buzz
February 15, 2005

Being personal with customers means striving to know and relate to each and every one as a person, says David Freemantle, author of “The Buzz: 50 Little Things That Make a Big Difference to Worldclass Customer Service” (Nicholas Brealey Publishing; www.nbrealey-books.com). Providing a personal approach means giving a little bit of yourself to the customer. And doing so lets customers see past any artificial system imposed by the business and get to know the real you. Following are a few tips on how your customer service representatives (CSR) can personalize every customer interaction. * Have CSRs introduce themselves by name to every customer. * Encourage CSRs

Feed the Fire
February 1, 2005

As the economy improves, labor markets no doubt will begin to open up in some regions, and turnover may become an issue in some catalogers’ contact centers. “Many customer service reps feel they’re undercompensated for the value of the job they do, that is, in relation to the energy they exert on the job and the stress they encounter in dealing with customers all day,” recounts Liz Kislik, president of Liz Kislik Associates, a management consultancy based in Rockville Centre, N.Y. “If they think they can get slightly higher compensation elsewhere, and they have a family to support, they’re almost obligated to leave.”

Want to Put Your Customers to Work for You?
August 1, 2004

“This copy is confusing.” “I go to the trouble of calling, then end up in voice mail.” “Ordering from this company is just too much work.” Are your customers making similar complaints about your catalog? It’s surprising how many catalogers make their customers work too hard. From your catalog’s design to your contact center’s operations, whatever forces customers to work will reduce response rates. But when you do the work for your customers, your response rates go up. “If customers have questions, they’ll call.” I interviewed Connie, a career woman and mail-order shopper, about how she

Staffing for Growth: Focus on Human Resources
July 1, 2004

While heading up two businesses in the late 1990s, Mike Faith had difficulty finding quality telephone headsets at reasonable prices. Even more frustrating was the substandard customer service he said he found among the companies in that field. He realized he could fill a void in the industry. “My entrepreneurial opportunity radar went berserk,” he recalls. “I saw too big an opportunity and had to capitalize on it. … That’s very much my style.” Six weeks later (in 1998), with $40,000 in startup capital, Faith established San Francisco-based Headsets.com where he now serves as president. The company, which primarily sells headsets and related

The Customer Touchpoint
June 1, 2004

Hiring and retaining qualified staff in the right numbers can be perennial problems for those who own and manage catalog contact centers. With more and more emphasis on customer service as a competitive differentiator, finding and keeping the right staffers to deal with your customers is critical to cataloging success. Unfortunately, there’s no single answer or approach that can work for everyone. But here’s a list of best practices and software solutions that may help. Best Practices for the Hiring Process • Pre-employment testing. This can predict how an individual will react in certain situations and his or her style of relating to others.