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Your Ultimate Guide to HIPAA – Part Two

Guide to HIPAA

Guide to HIPAA

Welcome back to our ultimate guide to HIPAA series. We’re at the second part of our three-part series, where we dissect the ins and outs of the HIPAA guidelines. As a HIPAA compliant call center, we decided to run this three-part series to help you have a better understanding of how HIPAA words.

Let’s get back to where we left off.

On healthcare fraud and abuse prevention, administrative simplification, and medical liability reform

Title II of the HIPAA defines guidelines, policies, and procedures for how the security and privacy of identifiable health information of individuals ought to be maintained. Title II also outlines a number of offenses related to healthcare and sets the criminal and civil penalties for the violations of such offenses.

Though several programs were created under Title II to limit abuse and fraud within the healthcare system, perhaps its most significant provisions are its administrative simplification rules.

The title required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to formulate rules that focus on increasing the current health care system’s efficiency by creating standards for healthcare information use and dissemination.

These rules are applied to what HIPAA and the HHS define as “covered entities.” These entities include health care providers with healthcare data transmission regulated by the HIPAA, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses (such as community health information systems and billing services).

As required by Title II, five rules were promulgated by the HHS regarding Administrative Simplification, namely:

  • The Security Rule;
  • The Enforcement Rule;
  • The Privacy Rule;
  • The Unique Identifiers Rule; and,
  • The Transactions and Code Sets Rule.

Security rule

The Final Rule on HIPAA’s Security Standards was announced on February 20, 2003, taking effect on April 21, 2003, with its compliance date of up to April 21, 2006.

The Security Rule specifically deals with Electronic Protected Health Information (EPHI). Three types of security safeguards were laid out and required for compliance, namely: administrative, physical, and technical.

The rule has identified various security standards for each type, and it also named both addressable implementation specifications and required specifications for each standard.

Required specifications are those that have to be adopted and administered as how the rule stipulates and dictates. Addressable specifications, on the other hand, are more flexible, as individual covered entities are given the privilege to evaluate their situation with these types of specifications and determine what the best way of implementing these are.

The complete details on the specific standards and specifications of the security rule can be read by clicking on the link in the resource section of this guide.

Enforcement rule

The HHS issued the Final Rule regarding the implementation of HIPAA on February 16, 2006. This rule took effect on March 16, 2006.

The Enforcement Rule has civil money penalties set for violating HIPAA standards and also has procedures for hearings and investigations for HIPAA violations established, as many years have passed with only a limited number of prosecutions for violations.

As of March 2013, there have been over 19,306 cases investigated by the HHS that have been resolved by requiring corrective actions or changes in privacy practice.

There have been many complaints investigated against multiple types of businesses, such as primary healthcare centers, national pharmacy chains, hospital chains, insurance groups, and other small providers.

According to the official website of HHS, the following is a list of issues that have often been reported according to frequency:

  • PHI misuse and disclosure;
  • No protection where health information is located;
  • Patients not being able to access their medical information;
  • Disclosing or using more than the necessary minimum amount of protected health information needed; and,
  • No electronic protected health information safeguards.

Privacy rule

The Privacy Rule’s effective compliance date was April 14, 2003, with a year’s worth of extension for “small plans.”

The Privacy Rule of HIPAA regulates how Protected Health Information (PHI) that are held by covered entities are being used and disclosed. Per HHS regulation, the HIPAA privacy rule is also extended to independent contractors working with covered entities that fit the definition of “business associates.”

PHI is any information that is held by a covered entity that involves healthcare payment, healthcare provision, or health status that possibly can be linked to an individual. This definition of PHI is interpreted quite broadly and also includes any portion of a person’s payment history and medical record.

Within 30 days upon request, covered entities have to disclose PHI to requesting individuals. They are also required to disclose PHI whenever required to do such by law.

However, covered entities are not allowed to disclose PHI without the patient’s written expressed authorization for health care operations, payment, or to facilitate treatment. Any other PHI disclosure requires written consent from the individuals to be obtained by covered entities.

Also, when covered entities disclose any PHI, a reasonable effort has to be made to keep the necessary information disclosed to the bare minimum needed to achieve its purpose.

Unique identifiers rule

HIPAA covered entities are required to use the National Provider Identifier (NPI) to identify health care providers that are covered in standard transactions starting from May 23, 2007 (or May 23, 2008, for small health plans).

All covered entities that use electronic communications, such as health insurance companies, hospitals, physicians, and so forth, have to use a single new NPI starting May 2006 (or May 2007 for small health plans).

Though NPI replaces all other types of identifiers used by Medicaid, Medicare, health plans, and other government programs; the NPI still does not take the place of the tax identification number, state license number, and DEA number of a provider.

The NPI contains ten digits, may be alphanumeric, and has its last digit as a checksum. The NPI is simply an ordinary number that does not provide any additional meaning in itself and does not contain any intelligence embedded within it.

The NPI is never re-used and is unique and national. Except for institutions, a provider usually can have only a maximum of one. Organizations may obtain multiple NPIs if they have different parts or subparts of itself, such as a rehab facility or a freestanding cancer center.

Transactions and code sets rule

With intentions to make the current healthcare system in the United States much more efficient by having healthcare operations standardized, HIPAA added to Title XI of the Social Security Act a new Part C that is titled “Administrative Simplification.”

This added part aims to simplify healthcare transactions by necessitating health plans to engage in all healthcare transactions in a format that is standardized.

Health plans that are covered by HIPAA are now required to use standardized electronic transactions. A number of electronic data interchange transactions are currently being used for HIPAA compliance. More about this can be read about by clicking the link in the resource section below.

HIPAA violations

HHS received about 91,000 complaints between April 2003 and January 2013 for HIPAA violations. 22,000 of these led to various kinds of enforcement actions, while 521 resulted in criminal action referrals to the Department of Justice.

There are two types of penalties that can be incurred: civil penalties and criminal penalties. The most prominent difference between the two is that civil penalties do not include imprisonment while criminal penalties do.

For a clear comparison of the differences of civil and criminal penalties, the following are some examples of violations that may incur civil penalties:

  • Individuals not knowing that they violated the HIPAA even after exercising reasonable diligence;
  • HIPAA violation that is due to reasonable cause but not due to willful neglect;
  • HIPAA violation that is due to willful neglect, but the violation was corrected within the specified or required time; and,
  • HIPAA violation that is due to willful neglect and was not corrected.

While the following are examples of violations that may incur criminal penalties:

  • Specified individuals and covered entities who “knowingly” disclosed or obtained individually identifiable PHI in an unauthorized manner;
  • Offenses that were committed under false pretenses; and,
  • Offenses that were committed with intent to transfer, sell, or use individually identifiable PHI for personal gain, commercial advantage, or malicious harm.

Part three of your ultimate HIPAA guide soon

While we tried our best to add the most crucial parts of the second title of HIPAA, the guide we shared is by no means complete.

If you still would like to read more on the contents of Title II: Preventing health care fraud and abuse; administrative simplification; medical liability reform of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, do check out the resource section of this guide, and click on the link below.

Stick around for Part Three of Your Ultimate Guide to HIPAA.

(Note: If you are looking for a HIPAA compliant call center to assist you with administering your customer’s sensitive medical records. Contact us now.)

Resource

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ191/pdf/PLAW-104publ191.pdf

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Your Ultimate Guide to HIPAA – Part One

HIPAA

HIPAA

Let me guess: You want your patients’ medical records handled with utmost care and security, don’t you? That is why you’re looking for a HIPAA compliant call center to partner with, so you can be confident that the way your customers’ medical records are handled is in accordance with the HIPAA guidelines. Of course, we can help you with just that since we are a HIPAA compliant call center.

However, in addition to supporting you through our services, we’d also like to bolster your current understanding of the act by educating you with the ins and outs of HIPAA.

We’re going to run a full-blown series talking about the guidelines and workings of HIPAA. At the end of the series, we hope that you’ll have a better understanding of how HIPAA works, so that you can stay compliant and avoid the hefty fees that comes with violating their rules.

Let’s hop right in.

HIPAA in a nutshell

If you didn’t already know, HIPAA is an acronym that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

It is an act that was enacted by the U.S. Congress on August 21, 1996, and was also signed by President Bill Clinton in the same year. It’s also known as the 191st Public Law of the 104th U.S. Congress.

Other names that it goes by is the Kassebaum–Kennedy Act or the Kennedy–Kassebaum Act, which is named after two of its main leading sponsors.

It’s official long title is: “An act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve portability and continuity of health insurance coverage in the group and individual markets, to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in health insurance and health care delivery, to promote the use of medical savings accounts, to improve access to long-term care services and coverage, to simplify the administration of health insurance, and for other purposes.

The long title above mentions multiple actions that HIPAA covers. Parallel to the aforementioned enumerated processes that the act aims to accomplish, HIPAA is seen to be divided into a total of five different “titles” or parts in its table of contents, namely:

  • Title I: Health care access, portability, and renewability
  • Title II: Preventing health care fraud and abuse; administrative simplification; medical liability reform
  • Title III: Tax-related health provisions
  • Title IV: Application and enforcement of group health plan requirements, and
  • Title V: Revenue offsets

Let’s start this series by tackling the contents of each of these titles bit-by-bit. We are going to dive into each of these titles, and take a closer look at what each title is all about.

Up first is the healthcare title.

On health care access, portability, and renewability

The first title of HIPAA contains how the breadth and availability of some individual health insurance policies and group health plans are now regulated.

It amended acts such as the Public Health Service Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and the Internal Revenue Code.

Group health plan coverage and limitation

The first title requires that group health plans would cover individuals that have preexisting conditions. This title also limits the restrictions that a group health plan could place on the benefits for preexisting conditions.

The way it works is that group health plans could choose to refuse to provide benefits that are related to preexisting conditions for a term of 12 months after being enrolled in the plan or a period of 18 months in cases of late enrollment.

Title I also allows individuals to have the exclusion period of their group health-plan reduced depending on the amount of time of “creditable coverage” that they had right before enrolling in the plan. It also allows individuals this exclusion period reduction after “significant breaks” in coverage.

For a quick definition of these terms:

  • “Creditable coverage” has a broad definition, but includes almost all individual and group health plans, Medicaid, and Medicare.
  • “Significant breaks” in coverage is operationally defined as any 63-day time without any creditable coverage.

Title I comes with an exception though that allows employers to tie premiums and copayments to body mass index and tobacco use.

Another thing that the title requires is that policies ought to be issued without exception to individuals that are leaving group health plans with a creditable coverage that exceeds over 18 months.

This title also requires insurers to renew individuals regardless of health condition and without exclusion so long as these policies are being offered, or to provide alternatives instead to the plans that are discontinued so long as the insurer would stay in the market.

Exemptions on Title I requirements

Some health care plans are exempted from the Title I requirements as mentioned above.

Some of those that are exempted include long-term health plans and other plans that are limited in terms of scope, such as vision and dental plans that are often offered separately from general health plans.

However, if the general health plan includes the benefits mentioned above, then the HIPAA still applies to those kinds of benefits.

For example, if dental benefits are included in the new plan offer, then it has to count the creditable continuous coverage that is under the old health plan in determining any of the plan’s exclusion periods for dental benefits.

Alternate methods of calculating creditable coverage

Available as well to the health plans that are under Title I is an alternative method of calculating creditable continuous coverage.

There are categories of health coverage that can be considered separately, and these benefits, if offered separately, are not subjected to HIPAA requirements, such as:

  • Limited scope vision and dental benefits;
  • Nursing home care benefits;
  • Long-term care benefits;
  • Community-based care benefits;
  • Home health care benefits;
  • Any combination of the previous four benefits mentioned above, and;
  • Other similar limited benefits that are specified in regulations.

Anything that is not under the categories mentioned above has to use the general calculation.

A practical example for this would be to have the beneficiary counted with 18 months of the general coverage but only for six months of dental coverage because of how the beneficiary did not get a general health plan that was able to cover the dental plan up until six months before the application date.

Other features and concerns of Title I

There’s this odd case that exists in which applicants who enter into general group health plans cannot obtain certificates of continuous creditable coverage for independent limited-scope plans, so that they could use these certificates to apply towards the exclusion periods of the plan because of how the limited-coverage plans are exempted from HIPAA requirements.

Also, Title I does not allow the validity of hidden exclusion periods.

Clauses, such as “To be covered, the accident must have occurred while the stated beneficiary was covered under the same health-based insurance contract,” ought not to be acted upon and imposed by the health plan, and has to be re-written as to comply with HIPAA standards.

There is even more guidelines and details mentioned in Title I: Health Care Access, Portability, and Renewability of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

However, despite all that we’ve tackled so far, we are still just scratching the surface as compared to all the contents that the first title of the act has to offer.

If you would like to read more on the contents of Title One, or if you would like to read more about the whole HIPAA itself, you could find the link to its official publication on the Government Publication Office website down in the Resource section below.

More about HIPAA soon

We are going to end the Part One of our series here. I hope that you’ve found value in what you’ve read so far.

For a teaser on the upcoming article, we are going to be continuing our extensive yet easy-to-read discussion on what HIPAA is all about and on why call centers have to be HIPAA compliant.

In the next article, we will be continuing with the next title in the list of titles under HIPAA, Title II: Preventing Health Care Fraud and Abuse; Administrative Simplification; Medical Liability Reform.

We will be explaining what this second title of the act is all about, and we would also be going over significant topics under the title that are highly relevant towards getting closer to explaining why you need a HIPAA compliant call center.

A brief look into some of the topics under Title II that could be read in the upcoming article would include contents of the enforcement rule, the unique identifiers rule, the security rule, the transactions and code sets rule, and the privacy rule.

These are just some of the insights that you would be getting regarding the HIPAA in the next article.

So, stay tuned for Part Two of our Ultimate Guide to HIPAA.

(Note: If you’re looking for a HIPAA compliant call center to help you with administering your customer’s sensitive medical records. Contact us now.)

Resource

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ191/pdf/PLAW-104publ191.pdf

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HIPAA Compliant Call Center

hipaa compliant call center

hipaa compliant call center

If your organization handles patient healthcare information, your staff and your back-office support need to know how to keep that information safe and secure. The HIPAA privacy, security and notification rules can seem complex. Ensuring that your back-office support is violation-free by working with a HIPAA Compliant Call Center is one step toward managing the burdens of HIPAA compliance. But do you still feel unsure of how your in-office staff should handle patient information? Let’s make it easier by exploring three main steps for meeting HIPAA regulations.

First, what is HIPAA and what does mishandling data look like? HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act under U.S. federal law, originally passed in 1996 and now including the 2013 Omnibus Provision on data privacy and security. Its goals include:

  • ensuring that patient information is used only according to patient consent,
  • protecting paper and electronic storage of information from wrongful access or dissemination,
  • requiring patients to be notified by organizations handling health care information if data has been wrongfully accessed or otherwise breached, and
  • enforcing these privacy, security and notification rules through audits, fines, and criminal penalties.

Data can be mishandled or breached during a lot of everyday tasks. Has any of this happened at your organization?

  • Information is left openly available on computer screens that can be seen by parties not authorized by the patient.
  • Computers and devices storing patient information do not have encryption, allowing access to private health information if the device is lost or stolen.
  • Uninformed employees mishandle patient information by discussing it with third parties or disseminating it through social media.
  • The organization lacks guidelines on proper handling and safekeeping of patient records.

Each one is a violation of HIPAA.

Every organization, big or small, that handles Protected Health Information (PHI) can suffer the costs of notification, can be fined and individuals within those organizations can be criminally penalized for failures to follow HIPAA rules. So let’s make sure you’re covered, with these three tips:

1. Setup and maintain an internal procedure for handling PHI.

Create a clear set of rules and policies that make it easy for your staff to keep patient information secure. Clearly outline how information should be created, where it should be kept, and to whom it can be disclosed.

Establish and make equally clear the penalties for violating any of these procedures. An organization may expose itself to HIPAA fines and penalties for failure to identify mishandling of data, failure to correct any mishandling, or failure to maintain consistent accountability for data breaches. A system for disciplinary action reinforces the importance of safe data handling, so make sure that you have one in place.

2. Invest in training your workforce on HIPAA compliance.

Make employee training on HIPAA a standard part of new employee orientation, and keep existing employees up-to-date with regular training on HIPAA updates.

The most common violations are likely to come from issues such as employees failing to understand that computers screens need to be protected from view, that files have to be kept in secured areas, or that unsecured emails can lead to breached data. Highlighting these issues promotes a mindset of security among your staff.

Focus on the issues most relevant to your employees, including document handling and information sharing. Also train your staff about HIPAA fines and criminal penalties, and any in-office penalties for failing to make security a priority.

Careless handling is so much easier to avoid when your employees understand what is required and what is at stake.

3. Employ apt security measures on your computers and other devices.

Even a knowledgeable staff can only handle information properly when the equipment they use is also secure. So make sure that your computers and other electronic devices are setup to protect patient privacy.

Use the right technology:

  • Install encryption programs that prevent data from being read if a device is lost or stolen.
  • Set up firewalls to prevent outside access to your secured data.
  • Use a malware-scanning program to detect malicious software that can give outsiders access to secure data.
  • Regularly update your software to ensure that all security features are up-to-date.

In addition to preventing outside access, use your technology to limit internal access to PHI. The fewer employees that handle sensitive information, the less likely a breach due to careless handling will occur.

Take these steps to prevent unnecessary access:

  • Make all secure electronic data accessible only by password.
  • Identify which employees need access to what information.
  • Create a system that allows only authorized users to access specific information, such as by using password protection that limits access to various tiers of secure data.

What’s Next:

Are you struggling with HIPAA compliance? Partnering with a HIPAA Compliant Call Center can help you manage and grow your healthcare business. Let’s talk more about how Executive Boutique can help. Please reach out to us using this contact form.

Additional resources:

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/index.html

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/security/index.html

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TBH Ep 01: Turn Your Dreams Into Reality. My Interview with Nathan Resnick

Nathan Resnick

Nathan Resnick

“If you’re talking, you aren’t working.” – Nathan Resnick

Let me guess, you have several lucrative — let alone mindblowing — business ideas that you’d like to turn into reality, don’t you?

If you answered with a “yes,” then you’re in for a treat!

Our interview with Nathan is packed with wisdom bombs and inspiring lessons that can help you grow your business to the next level or give you that extra push you need to start taking action towards achieving your dreams.

But before anything else…

Who is Nathan Resnick?

Nathan is the CEO of Sourcify. He helps budding entrepreneurs find the right suppliers from all around the world.

He has founded (or co-founded) 4 different businesses in the span of 5 years. Three of them are still doing great up to this day (Yes Man Watches, Cork Supply, and Sourcify).

Nathan is a constant voice on popular sites such as The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media, Social Media Today LLC, Business 2 Community, and Elite Daily (among others).

Without further ado, here’s my interview with Nathan.

How long have you been an entrepreneur? What were the challenges that you faced?

I’d say I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life but didn’t officially start a real business until my sophomore year of college. When starting, I didn’t know “business” and surely didn’t know entrepreneurship. What I did know was that I had an idea and was going to do everything in my power to turn that into a business.

What was the lowest point in your life that motivated you to start your career?

I wouldn’t say it was the lowest point in my life, but what motivated me to become an entrepreneur was my previous 9-5 job. I was a sales intern making an endless amount of outbound cold calls. Though I soon became the employee with the highest converting outbound calls, I was building someone else’s dream and would rather spend that time creating mine.

What are the biggest lessons that you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned that I pass along to others is that if you’re talking, you aren’t working. What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t be double tasking when trying to get important work done. There will be time to talk, like when having a sales call, but when you’re trying to work hard, you shouldn’t be talking.

What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur I try to build my network daily. This can be through friends or even through a platform like LinkedIn. I feel one of the most valuable assets an entrepreneur has is their network. If you aren’t focused on building your network, you aren’t growing.

How did you make your first sale as an entrepreneur?

My first official sale as an entrepreneur with my first official business came through Kickstarter. This incredible platform, enabled me to crowdfund my startup and fund our first production run. Without the support of the community on Kickstarter, my first company Yes Man Watches wouldn’t have been brought to life.

What does Sourcify do?

Sourcify connects entrepreneurs to the world’s top manufacturers through our pre-vetted database of manufacturers. This enables entrepreneurs and businesses to easily turn an idea into an actual product, as we streamline their product life cycle.

What are some of the obstacles that you and Sourcify have faced?

Our main obstacle right now is building out of technology and finding the right manufacturing partners. On the tech side, we’re looking for the right team members to make this work. On the manufacturing side, it’s a matter of connecting with the right manufacturers in the industries we’re looking to cover.

What’s next?

Are there ideas, strategies, or questions that you’d like to share? Please add them in the comments section below. Cheers!

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Gee Ranasinha of KEXINO Talks About His Journey To Success

Kexino

Gee Ranasinha

Having a carefully crafted marketing strategy is just as important as having a high-quality product. When you think about it, marketing has, and always will be, an integral part of a company.

But then it makes you wonder: “What are the elements of a great marketing strategy?” or “What makes a marketing company great?”

We were able to reach out to Gee Ranasinha, CEO of Small business marketing agency KEXINO, to get his insights on the matter.

#Awesomesauce

If you want to learn tried and tested digital marketing concepts that will help you skyrocket your business growth to greater heights, then you’re in the right place.

Let’s enjoy this time to learn more about digital marketing from Gee.

1. Were you always a content creator and an entrepreneur? What prompted you to become one?

I’ve been what’s now called a ‘content creator’ for 30 years. In the late 80s I founded an advertising / commercial photographic studio. We mainly did billboards, press ads, fashion, and company annual reports working with large ad agencies such as JWT, McCann Erickson, and DDB. Clients included Ford, Singapore Airlines, and BAT. One time I even directed a TV commercial for Nestlé.

In the mid nineties I got involved with professional digital image capture systems, running workshops and consulting for various manufacturers. It was also the time when I started writing an irreverent (and often scathing) column that was syndicated to a number of industry magazines – something I would end up doing every month for ten years. You could say it was a blog in the days before blogs. You’ll never believe what my column was called: The Gee Spot (!!) Following a 7-year stint as Worldwide Director of Marketing for a European software developer I founded KEXINO, a marketing company for small businesses and start-ups. We began in 2008 and have helped around 150 companies of all sizes better connect with their audiences by developing and executing programs designed to increase awareness, credibility, trust – and sales.

2. How long have you been working in the industry? Can you share one of the craziest challenges that you had to face, and how you dealt with it?

Gee Ranasinha, CEO of Kexino

While I cannot go into too many details, a couple of years ago we were approached by a fledgling tech startup that had VERY aggressive customer acquisition plans. They needed help generating awareness in a very straight-laced, conservative industry in a short space of time – all on a shoestring budget.

We put together some “in your face” guerrilla marketing tactics – a flash mob of burlesque dancers at an industry conference, local graffiti artists painting murals on 12 pick-up trucks that were parked in key locations, and a series of YouTube videos projected on a famous city landmark on the night of a public holiday. There was also the more ‘traditional’ marketing work: value positioning, corporate ID, website, social / digital / search, inbound, and so on. The entire project took just over 4 months. The result was the client securing a 7-figure A round investment funding within 6 months, helping them to grow gross revenues to just short of $17M in their first year!

3. Which people or books have had the most influence on your growth and why?

The usual suspects – prominent marketing thinkers such as Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Simon Sinek, and Brian Solis.

4. What does a typical day in your week look like?

The great thing about my job is that there’s no such thing as a typical day. I’m based in Europe, though 80% of our clients are in North America – so mornings allow me time to get my young son ready for school, go to the gym, read my RSS stream (I have more than 400 blogs I go through every day) and liaise with the KEXINO team. The entire company has been based on a remote working environment from day one – today there are 19 of us in 9 countries – so I practically live in online spaces such as Skype, Trello, Slack, and email.

5. What does KEXINO do?

We help startups and small businesses implement commercially-driven marketing programs. Most marketing companies are great at making ‘pretty pictures,’ but don’t overlay their marketing strategy and tactical execution with needs at a business level. We take the time to understand the inner workings of a client’s organization – cash flow, P&L, sales cycles, customer lifetime value, etc – and run lead generation programs accordingly. If no-one can produce a clearly-defined ROI for a particular marketing initiative, we don’t do it.

6. What pushed you to start the company?

Today customer buying experiences are being set by some of the biggest brands in the world, who are defining expectation levels for everyone else. Regardless of what you’re selling, your business is being judged by the way your customers experience brands such as Apple, Nike, or Zappos. Smaller companies need access to similar levels of expertise, tool sets, and services that big companies take for granted due to the increasing importance of the customer relationship. That’s where we come in.

7. How do you market your products?

Apart from word-of-mouth referrals from clients, our own customer-acquisition efforts are a mix of content marketing, social, direct advertising, and SEO.

8. What 3 things does anyone starting in your industry need to know in order to succeed?

  • That marketing, at it’s most fundamental, isn’t about technology or process. Forget about content, analytics, SEO, iBeacons, chatbots, social media, VR or any of that. At its heart it’s about knowing your audience, and understanding human behavior. It’s about being able to empathize and ‘read’ people: understanding that all of us buy based upon our emotions; rationalizing the purchase later. Good marketing isn’t about being clever, or winning awards. It’s about appealing to basic human emotions.
  • Good business practices are not static. Too many organizations operate under sales principles and marketing techniques that can be traced back to the 60’s. While the technology-supporting sales process have evolved over the years, the traditional sales strategies proffered by “sales gurus” 20 or 30 years ago have not kept pace with market needs. They are not nearly as effective as they once were and, in most cases, they are obsolete. Your prospects and customers have heard it all before – they can smell the antiquated selling strategies. The bottom line is that the most important factor in creating revenue and building brand equity is the customer.
  • Understand where your competition comes from – and that it’s not always from the most obvious direction. Increasingly we seeing established companies – if not entire industries – being upended from the most unexpected sources. The way we buy and listen to music – as well as our expectations of what a cellphone should be – was primarily disrupted by Apple, what was then primarily a computer company. Your hotel isn’t just in competition with Hilton, Marriott, or Best Western. It’s competing with comparison sites and (perhaps most of all) Airbnb – a company that owns no property. Taxis vs Uber, retailers vs Amazon – the list goes on.
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4 Effective Tips to Handling Customer Complaints

Handling Customer Complaints

Handling Customer Complaints

Customer is King,” though this is a cliche, it doesn’t make it any less true. Customers are the backbone of every business — big or small. And today, a lot of emphases is given to offering the best customer experience. You’ll win half the battle if you’re able to meet the needs of your client and solve their problems.

One of the greatest challenges of a business is dealing with customer complaints. At the end of the day, customers are mere humans. It’s their nature to seek only the best.

If your clients are unable to get what they need from you, they’ll opt for your competitor’s service. It’s as simple as that. Satisfying your customer alone does not work, you need to delight and earn their trust. Here are practical ways on how to handle a client complaint.

1) Listen intently

It’s crucial to be a good listener, especially when you’re in the service industry. No matter how angry or irate your customer is, allow him or her to blow off some steam. Occasionally, respond with a simple, “Tell me more,” “Okay,” “I see” or “Hmm.” The client will automatically calm down after venting out his or her frustration. Then you can proceed with offering your solution.

2. Apologize sincerely

It doesn’t hurt to apologize. In fact, a simple “sorry” proves that you care enough to accept your fault. Same goes for dealing with customer complaints. When he or she senses that your company or its representative is genuinely apologetic, the customer will retract from being furious. All you need to do is say that you’re sorry and that you understand their situation.

3. Act on your callers’ issue intently

Offer immediate help to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Make your customer feel that you’ve taken his or her problem as a top priority task. Try offering a practical solution. And if it does not work, pass it on to the department that can. You will get a loyal customer if you act on the problem immediately.

4. Thank your client and do a follow-up

When a customer complains — regardless of the manner or language tone — you should always diffuse the situation with courtesies, and one of them is “Thank You.” The best customer experience involves strengthening the client relationship. So, follow-up with your customer, even after the problem has been resolved. It will make your customer feel good, and you’ll earn his or her loyalty.

What’s next?

Handling customer complaints is a strategic course of action. A trained and professional team can transform a negative situation into a positive one for your business. Therefore, it is important to learn and acquire all the necessary information and facts before handling a complaint or problem.

If you need advice or assistance in customer management, feel free to contact us. Also, share this article and help deliver the information to those who need it.

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5 Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Call Center Agents

Call Center Agents

Call Center Agents

According to a study conducted by the Harvard Medical School, workplace appreciation and gratitude enhances company culture and ensures the wellbeing of employees.

It’s well known that the majority of call center agents are under constant stress. But, you can counter that stress and increase their motivation level by recognizing and respecting their efforts. In return, they will perform and deliver the best results for your company.

Here Are 5 Ways You Can Show Appreciation And Gratitude To Your Call Center Agents

1. Spend Time With Them

Employees prefer leaders over a boss because they can communicate and be themselves with them. Recognize their presence. Show them gratitude through gestures, words and actions like saying, “thank you”, taking them out for coffee, having a casual chat time-to-time, discussing their problems,  or life overall.

2. Provide Frequent Time- Off

The daily stress and continuous calls make the job of a call center agent quite taxing. They are under constant pressure to perform and meet their targets. So, it is only humane to give them a breather whenever possible. Being a boss or a member of the management team, you are able to provide them with the necessary time-off. It will allow them time to meet their personal needs.

3. Give Small Gestures of Recognition

Offer your agents sincere accolade and admiration whenever your agents do a good job or deliver. A small gesture of appreciation like this will go a long way. It will boost the confidence level of your agents and drive them to achieve targets and meet your expectations.

4. Provide a Ladder to Progress

When you work hard day-in and day-out, but are unable to push your career in the upward direction, it leaves you feeling dejected and demotivated. If your boss or manager steers your career on the right track, you’ll feel motivated to deliver and perform. Same goes for your agents. Show them the right path for career growth, and they will help your company to grow.

5. Give Bonuses

Working in a call center is both challenging and fulfilling, but these benefits run the risk of being overshadowed by stress incurred on the job. Pep-talks, accolades and gestures are the best signs of appreciation, but nothing can beat a monetary reward. You can offer annual bonuses to your agents, which demonstrates appreciation for their efforts, cooperation, and decision to be a part of your organization.

What do you think?

Call center agents are a crucial part of an agency. They are the source of communication between your firm and its customers. Keeping the agents happy, confident, motivated and appreciated, will help in maintaining good consumer relationships. Employees and clients constitute the top tier of a company pyramid. And keeping both these parties happy will ensure good health and success for your business.

It is not a selfish approach but rather a “give and take” relationship. Because, when you have a great team you have a successful business!

Feel free to reach out to us for consultation and expert advice on effective employee/customer management solutions.

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23 Industry Experts Share Their Best Selling Tips

selling-tips

selling-tips

 

You’re at your wit’s end. You’re about to experience the mother of all meltdowns because of your abysmal sales record for the past few months.

 

It stinks to high heaven because you started your business with the thought of turning it into a constant source of income. However, the only thing it has done so far is suck the money out of your bank accounts.

Friends, if you’re done crying your body weight in tears and are now putting together a new game plan to recover from your rock-bottom sales record, then allow me to help you with just that.

I will share with you the best sales tips that I managed to put together from 20+ industry experts. That way, you can consider their ideas when creating an epic strategy to  grow your sales.

We reached out to several industry experts with the hopes of putting together a round-up for 10 industry experts only. However, since we received tons of referrals, we decided to add more to the list. 

Here is what they had to say-

1. Mark Shapiro, President of Executive Boutique Call Center

mark-shapiro-final

In 2010 I had the good fortune of being introduced to Rochelle Carrington who is a sales trainer for Sandler Sales Training. David Sandler was the founder of a world-wide sales training program that totally changed the way I approached sales. Sandler emphasizes that nobody likes to be “sold” to and the process should not feel like your “selling”. It’s really about taking the time to find out what problems (or “pain” in Sandler terminology) your prospect is having and seeing if you can help them solve their pain. It’s only after you have asked the right questions which will allow your prospect to open up to you with what is really driving their decision making, that you can really know whether you’re a good fit. For those interested in a great short read that will introduce you to the Sandler Sales system, I recommend the book You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar by David Sandler or contact Rochelle Carrington for a more in-depth learning experience.

2. Michael Quoc, Founder and CEO of Dealspotr

Michael Quoc

Selling has three key steps. First, understand the person. Who are they, and what do they deal with each day? Next, understand what they feel. Go beyond their day-to-day activities and understand the gut-level emotions they feel. What do they desire? What are their fears? From there, develop an action. What easy, simple, immediate action can you motivate them to take that will move them one step down the sales funnel?

3. Simon Gould, Managing Director SydneyDigitalMarketing.com.au

simon

Always agree about what success should look like at the very start of your collaboration, that way, everyone’s expectations are managed from the outset of a new client/agency relationship.

4. Dan Steiner, CEO and Co-Founder of Elite Legal Marketing

Dan Steiner

Using pain points is one of the most important parts of selling. For example, lawyers often envy other lawyers, so use what the competitors are doing as a way of selling. Nobody wants to be 2nd best.

5. Alejandro Russo, CEO of Candela Premium Mamajuana

Alejandro Russo

The most important sales tip is to listen. When visiting a potential client, most people go in and start selling. No one likes to be sold to. The best of the best simply sit down, ask questions and listen. The more you listen, the more fundamental insights you will get that will get you closer to sealing the deal.

6. Sam Oh, Web Strategist, Digital Marketer and Founder of Money Journal

Sam Oh

Increase your perceived value.

I’ve seen way too many companies fight over price. They think that lowering their price is going to bring in more sales. Sometimes this works, but you also have to take into account the new rates multiplied by sales to reach your desired goals.

Instead, you can increase your perceived value by removing copy that triggers price-based thinking (i.e., cheap, bargain, best price guaranteed) and focus on how others see you. Another increase perceived value is to get your customers to leave reviews for you on authority sites in your niche. For example, restaurants can use Yelp and authors might want to build their profile on Amazon.

Authority sites already rank well in Google so when a potential customer is searching for your review, they’ll be on a trusted platform people already believe.

7. Aaron Agius, Managing Director of Louder Online

Aaron Aguis

My one sales tip is to make sure you clearly identify who your audience is and where they exist before you start trying to sell. If you try selling to everyone, you’ll end up selling to no one. Get your targeting right first.

8. AJ Kumar, Founder of Limitless Publishing

AJ Kumar

The key to success as a salesperson is adaptability. Being adaptable means you are both flexible and versatile. A flexible person is willing to go with the flow, regardless of what is happening. A versatile person is able to go with the flow. If you learn to be fluent to adapt, you will be a winner every time.

9. Andrew Medal, Founder of Agent Beta

Andrew Medal

Your network becomes your net worth.

Focus on the relationship, not the sale. The relationship comes first, and the sale happens after. It may take some time, even as long as ten years, but it’s always worth it.

10. Joe Martinez, Senior Manager, Paid Media & Community at Granular

Joe Martinez

If you search for “insect exterminator” in Google, do you need to see ads explaining what those companies do? No. We all know what exterminators do.

Using this understanding when writing ads and landing page content, I stay away from the what and focus on the why. Why should someone choose you over the competition? What problems will you solve for users? What value do you bring another competitor can’t offer? Does the customer know everything they’re getting from your product or service? Focus on building user trust and confidence to guide potential customers along the next step in the funnel. If you take away the doubt, the only thing left for a user to do is convert.

11. Cate Costa, Founder of Venture Catalyst Consulting

Cate Costa

My best tip when it comes to selling is to stop trying to figure out how to sell to your ideal customer and start trying to understand your ideal client. When you get inside the head and heart of your ideal customer and figure out what motivates him/her, you’ll have no trouble selling.

12. Ashley Faulkes, Founder of Mad Lemmings

Ashley Faulkes

My number one tip for selling is quite simple, and certainly not new. It is getting to know your potential clients as deeply and personally as possible, and open up to them in return (instead of being a faceless brand or blog).

The reason I recommend this is as follows: when I started selling services directly online I found it very hard. But then, things began to work for me via relationships and referrals. The reason was simple, those people knew me, so their referrals trusted me by default. Even if what I was selling was expensive Web Design and SEO services

Then, when I started selling courses, the sales mostly came from people who I knew in one way or another. Sure, there were some complete strangers, but most sales came from people who had followed me or known/interacted with me in some way.

Hopefully, this simple advice can save you wasting time on scaling sales techniques that just don’t work

13. Jayson DeMers, Founder and CEO of AudienceBloom

Jayson DeMers

My best tip for selling is to be professionally persistent. If you send an email or leave a voicemail, don’t forget to follow-up when your prospect inevitably fails to return it. Following up politely but persistently has resulted in many, many new sales for me.

14. Kristen Vanstrom, Personal Branding Coach

Kristen Vanstrom

Don’t fall into a stereotype. Don’t change your personality just to fit the typical sales guy/girl mold. Be relatable. Talk from your personal point of view. Communicating with your customer helps you build trust, and ultimately, leads to long-term customer relationships.

15. Dmitry Dragilev, Founder of JustReachOut

Dmitry Dragilev

When it comes to selling and cold email outreach, I think about the opening conversation starter I want to have with my recipient. If I saw them face to face at a conference what would I say to them? Many people write stuff in emails which they would never say live face to face to someone. So I always ask what would I say to them live if I met them at a conference for the first time. Regarding resources and templates I use, I like to use:

  1. 26 cold email templates
  2. Email endings
  3. Find a common topic to chat with them by using one of these PR tools.

16. Mike Loomis, Business Coach and Writer at MikeLoomis.co

Mike Loomis

Ask questions that unveil the best solution for your client, and keep asking until all parties are clear on the value of the solution you can offer.

17. David Leonhardt, Ghostwriter and President of The Happy Guy Marketing

David Leonhardt

My best tip to selling a service online is to make it easy for people to contact you no matter where they are on your page. The longer your content or sales pitch, the more important this is. I have a query form to the right of my content at THGMwriters.com. As you scroll, the form disappears and up pops a red “GET MY FREE QUOTE” button, always there when you need it. With our new fully responsive design, that button is there on all devices, so especially on a tiny screen, you don’t have to search for it.

Why I like this is because I am not a hard sell kind of guy. I hate being sold to, and I don’t like “selling” to people. But I love being served, and I love helping people. Being always there for people when they need me a natural extension of my personality. Nothing sells like authenticity.

18. Michael Port, Professional Speaker and NYTimes, WSJ Bestselling Author

Michael Port

One of my close colleagues, Ian Altman, always says, “Price matters most when the seller thinks price matters most.” You need to be able to value your services so that you are comfortable and confident selling them. If you’re always worried about the price, then other people are not going to buy because you’re insecure. They’ll feel it.

19. Sarah Rickerd, Owner of Content Conquered

Sarah Rickerd

During a conference that I attended recently, I heard the following tip from author Bob Burg: ‘The value of what you’re selling must be greater than the payment you receive.’ I love that. He’s not saying that you should be undercharging, just that your customers need to see value in what you’re offering that’s above, and beyond the particular product or service they’re paying for.

When I work with satisfied clients, for example, they aren’t just paying for articles. They’re paying for the leads and sales that come from using content as a brand building tool, as well as the time savings of not having to do the writing themselves. When you figure out what your value is and how you can communicate it to potential customers, selling becomes so much easier.

20. Jeff Shore, Founder of Shore Consulting

Jeff Shore

There is a profound psychological hack that salespeople would be wise to consider. When it comes to decision-making, it’s easy equals right. The easier a concept seems to a customer, the “righter” it feels. The opposite is also true: complex equals wrong.

This principle explains why feature-dumping is so ineffective. The complexity sends a dangerous message to the prospect’s brain.

Think through the customer’s buying process and ask where that customer sometimes gets confused or overwhelmed. If you can figure out how to simplify the message, you will make it easier for the client to make a decision.

21. Corey Blake, President at MWI

Corey Blake

When selling, it is crucial that you trust yourself and your offering before anything else, then you can sell with the confidence that will leave people begging to work with you. Selling with confidence takes all “desperation” out of your sales pitch, and leaves potential clients wanting to take part in the “exclusive club” that is your product or service.

22. John Teel, Founder and Lead Engineer of Predictable Designs

Start selling from day one. Never wait until your product or service is ready for the market before you start actually to sell it. Developing a new product is by no means trivial, but selling will be your biggest obstacle to success. Most inventors and entrepreneurs make the mistake of focusing all of their energy on developing their product and not nearly enough on selling it. If you feel more comfortable with product development than product sales, then bring on a co-founder who’s strength is sales. For most startups, it’s best if one founder focuses on development, while the other focuses on sales.

23. Vladimir Gendelman, Founder and CEO of Company Folders

Vladimir Gendelman

My best selling tip is to take an authentic interest in your clients. No one wants to buy a product from someone they don’t like. Instead, they would prefer to buy from a friend, so I take an authentic interest in each of my clients. I learn everything about them and their businesses, and I share some of my own stories. I also don’t make promises I can’t keep. Instead, I put myself in their shoes when a problem comes up and solve the issue in a way that’s most satisfying to the customer. When customers see we genuinely care and feel that personal connection, they are more confident in purchasing from me and more likely to return.

 

If you have an amazing sales tip (that’s proven and tested to work) that you’d like to share with our community, do reach out to us and we’ll be more than happy to add you to the list. Cheers!

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4 Time-Tested Tips to Reduce Background Noise in a Contact Center

reduce-background-noise

reduce-background-noise

One distractor that can hinder your employees from performing at their highest capabilities is noise. The OSHA reports that every year, twenty-two million workers are exposed to harmful noise. They also report that in the previous year, U.S. businesses paid over $1.5 million in penalties for failing to protect their workers from noise.

Although it’s unthinkable to put an exact number to the human toll of hearing loss, it is estimated that $242 million is spent yearly on workers’ compensation for hearing loss disability.

If your employees work in an open environment like a contact center, the noise comes from all different directions and in all shapes and volumes. How do you reduce background noise in a contact center? Listed below are a few time-tested tips to reduce noise drastically.

Train employees to keep their voices down

Perhaps one of the most efficient and obvious ways to reduce noise in a contact center is to train your staff to lower their voices. In coaching and training, be sure to iterate to your employees the importance of balancing their volume levels. Teaching your staff to speak at lower volumes that are respectful to other employees will drastically reduce noise levels in the contact center.

Install white noise machines

Installing white noise features such water machines and other features can help reduce unnecessary background noise often found in a contact center. Also, adding plants and other similar features such as fabric screens and putting artwork on walls contributes to fill voided space and lessen distracting noise.

Separate employees with partitions

Installing barriers to separate employee’s desks is a very efficient manner to reduce noise levels. The more separation that can be put between employees in a contact center, effectively creating more barriers for sound to cross, the more probability there are that employees will be less distracted by noise and will have an easier time focusing on their work.

Reduce staff density

The most efficient way to reduce contact center noise is to reduce staff density. The more agents are packed into small space of an office then naturally more noise will be created. The ideal scenario is to have about 120 square feet per employee. Giving agents more room to breathe makes the contact center a more relaxed and natural feeling environment, reducing employee stress levels and in turn reducing noise levels.

What’s Next?

Before moving forward to implement any of these tips, be sure to speak with your employees and collect their ideas on how to reduce noise levels in your company’s contact center. Your employees will often understand best where the sound comes from since they are present in the office throughout the day.

Lastly, if you know of any time-tested tips on how to reduce noise levels in a room, please share them whether they are new or old. Your contribution will help to create a better and more efficient working environment for all.

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The Contact Center’s Guide to Creating a Positive Scripting Experience

positive scripting experience

positive scripting experience

For any business to reach greater heights, one of the main pillars they need to focus on is their customer service team.

For a customer team to become a powerhouse, however, the agents needs to have ample amount of training in positive scripting. That way, they can address their callers’ concerns without upsetting them even when they are declining the callers’ request.

Allow me to share with you three crucial points that you need to remember when creating a positive scripting for your call center agents.

1.Product availability

Occasionally, you will run into situations when your customers are keen on buying one of your products, yet you’re out of stock.

In cases like these, instead of your representatives merely telling their callers that the product isn’t available or it is out of stock, a better way of going about it is for your agents to shift the guests focus on a different product that can still address their problem.

That way, your agents are still offering solutions to their callers’ problems, needs, or wants — albeit a different one.

This kind of positive scripting will make your representative seem capable and willing to help.

2. Transferring a customer

There will be times when your representatives need to transfer their callers to either a different department or to a supervisor.

When the need arises, your agents ought to create a positive scripting experience by telling their callers that they will transfer them to a department that can best assist them with their concerns. That way, the callers will have the notion that they are about to be connected to the best person who can help them.

When you compare that with your agents telling their callers, “I can’t help you. I need to transfer you, right now.” I’m sure you can see how big of a difference the callers’ experience is going to be on that phone call.

3. Closing a conversation

Ending a conversation in a positive tone is one of the most important aspects of creating a positive scripting experience. When your agent’s conversation with their callers ends positively, it will help nourish the relationship that you’ve established with your customers.

Regardless of how the phone call went — whether the agent was able to give the caller what they need or want — the call center agent can end the phone call on a positive note by thanking the customer for calling.

Call center agents are highly discouraged to end phone calls while emphasizing how they are sorry that they couldn’t help the caller or give them what they need.

What’s next?

Creating a positive scripting experience is not an easy task; however, it is one of the best tools any contact center representative can have to influence their callers to accept the solution that they are offering, instead of the caller complaining.

Are you looking for a contact center company that is keen on using positive scripting to give your customers the best customer service experience? If you answered with a “yes,” then you can contact us using this form.

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