Executive Boutique

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Customer Support

How to Choose Between In-house and Outsourced Customer Support Teams

How to Choose Between In-house and Outsourced Customer Support Teams

Providing excellent customer support to your clients is a top priority for any business. It can improve your customers’ overall experience, elevate your brand image, and foster loyalty. It can even be argued that as the bridge between you and your customers, customer support can make or break a company’s performance.

To nurture customer relationships and put your best foot forward, your company needs to have a strong and capable customer support team that is guaranteed to deliver. However, while this function is vital for operational success, decision-makers face a dilemma: should customer support teams be in-house or outsourced? 

This article will discuss the differences between in-house and outsourced teams, as well as the factors to consider when choosing between the two.

In-house vs. Outsourced Customer Support Team

The main aspect that sets in-house and outsourced teams apart is the source of the labor. 

In-house teams—also known as insourced—are teams made up of individuals that are hired under and work directly for the company. In-house customer service teams are hired, trained, and managed by people within the company itself. These teams also use the equipment and resources that the company provides.

Outsourced teams, meanwhile, are contracted through a third-party service provider. Every aspect of these teams—hiring, training, workflow, and management—are covered by this third-party organization. Additionally, the service provider covers the office space, equipment, and other resources needed by their staff to perform services for the client company.

Factors to Consider in Choosing Between In-house and Outsourced

For providing customer support, there are several factors to consider when choosing between an in-house and outsourced team.

1. Size

There are two ways to discuss size: the size of the team you want to build and the size of the office space that you plan to place them in. When it comes to the size of the team, it’s important to determine not only your immediate or near term needs, but also try to predict your anticipated growth and your ability to manage and house a large number of people. 

If you are only catering to a small number of customers, it may be wise to outsource your customer support instead of building a team internally. By outsourcing, you don’t have to spend a lot of money building the infrastructure, recruiting the talent and training the new team, all of which a call center can handle for you. 

However, a big customer support team can be challenging to manage and oversee, especially if you are a budding startup. An outsource call center’s expertise in managing a large group of people with unified training and performance may also help.

The size of your office can affect the decision to hire people for an in-house team, as well. The workplace should be large enough to accommodate all current employees comfortably, as well as the anticipated amount of new hires to comprise your customer support team. Otherwise, an outsourced team will operate in a separate location from your company, reducing your space requirements.

2. Cost

Investing in an in-house customer service team will require large upfront capital spending on the necessary infrastructure, labor, and overhead costs. Outsourcing to countries such as the Philippines typically will result in savings of 50%-70% from the cost of hiring internally. When comparing outsourcing to an in-house team, it’s important to not just compare the hourly rate of the outsource center to the hourly rate of an in-house person. That would be like comparing apples to oranges. The hourly rate you pay for an in-house employee does not include the percentage of the overhead costs that can be allocated to each employee including: recruiting costs, rent, utilities, management cost, payroll taxes, benefits (including health insurance, paid leave, vacations). Whereas, with an hourly rate you pay an outsourced call center, all of those items are baked into their flat hourly rate.

3. Flexibility

For businesses that cater to international markets or want to provide more accessible customer service, having a customer support team that can work at any time or during peak hours is vital. 

In-house teams may be restricted to local time zones and require special wage arrangements for odd hours. Outsourced teams may be able to work around these requirements, especially if they are located in a different time zone.

4. Scalability

Depending on the nature of your business, you may experience seasonal or cyclical sales. This can lead to peaks at certain parts of the fiscal year, with little activity before and after. An in-house team may be enough for off-season concerns, but outsourcing may be necessary to address the increased demand during peak season adequately. 

Outsourcing customer service can also be advantageous for smaller businesses wanting to focus on growth opportunities.

5. Management

Creating an in-house customer support team will require the resources and labor necessary to complete the recruitment and training process for these specific roles. Outsourcing service providers primarily focus on these aspects, resulting in a more streamlined process and a roster of already-capable staff.

6. Expertise

With some products and industries, having more specialized knowledge or technical understanding is crucial to offer valuable and effective support solutions to customers. 

In-house training can ensure that your customer service teams are at the level of expertise needed for the job. Getting this same level of expert knowledge from a third-party provider may depend on the provider’s capabilities and the terms of the contract. However, with video conferencing technology, your ability to train a remote outsourced workforce has never been easier, and in many ways is better than having to schedule in-person training.

7. Technology

Setting up customer service operations will require the infrastructure necessary to run it effectively. Workstations, storage spaces, servers, telephone lines, and other IT resources are just some of the equipment needed to keep operations in proper working order. 

This technology will also need to be regularly updated or upgraded to satisfy both operational and cybersecurity requirements. This kind of infrastructure is a costly investment for in-house operations. 

8. Security

Another top priority for companies is data security. Keeping sensitive customer information safe from cyber threats or unauthorized access is essential for operational requirements and fostering trust with clients. 

Contracting a service provider may open up points of security breaches, depending on how thorough their data security protocols are. However, you have to keep in mind that the people you are outsourcing are good at what they do. As an entity, they are more focused and determined to keep your data secure.

If your company plans to have the outsourced call center process credit card payments, it is critical to work with a call center that has been audited by a third party security company and has been certified by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).

Moreover, if your company works with Private Health Information (PHI) then the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies to you and your venders with access to PHI:

A. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards – These standards have been established to secure debit and credit card information that is shared with you over the phone and stored within your company. To comply with the PCI DSS standards, your company needs to get certified by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC).

The certification process is very expensive to set up. Outside third party security auditors are required to obtain your Attestation of Compliance. By using an outsourced call center that already has their PCI compliance in place, it will save you tens of thousands of dollars annually. 

B. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – HIPAA was established in part to secure and protect health care information, and other health related transactions such as patient’s billing details provided by your customers. Some outsource call centers specialize in healthcare services and have all of the processes in place to ensure HIPAA compliance.

9. Brand Awareness

Customer service representatives are the customer’s first point of contact with your brand. Having reps who have full knowledge of your brand—from its vision to the full suite of offerings—can make all the difference in the way a support transaction is handled. 

Outsourced teams may not be able to have the full grasp of your brand the same way that in-house reps with firsthand experience will, though with the proper training, the outsource reps can get up to speed quickly.

10. Language and Culture

A good customer service team can embody the language and culture of your target audience, creating a smooth and seamless support experience. Depending on the demographic of your company’s client base, an in-house team may have an advantage with local clients. 

If you want to have a customer support team that is flexible and can adapt to different customs and cultures, outsourcing your customer support team is your best bet. Keep in mind, though, that careful screening is needed to ensure that an outsourced team can uphold the level of proficiency required to be effective.

11. Control

Being able to change and control aspects of the work process, especially for customer service, may be necessary to deliver good customer service. 

Outsourced customer support teams are less controllable, as the service provider may have their own workflow and processes in place already. You have to sit down and put a management strategy in place just for your outsourced customer support team.

In Summary

While in-house operations allow for a more specialized and branded service, a huge investment is needed to ensure its effectiveness. Outsourcing customer service can greatly reduce the investment required to hire and train a team, allowing for better scaling and flexibility. However, companies will have less control over the overall workflow and need to assess the risks involved with working with a third-party provider.

At the end of the day, deciding between an in-house customer service team and outsourcing with a third-party service provider will depend on the company’s needs.

 For your business function outsourcing requirements, Executive Boutique Call Center offers excellent service from top-notch professionals. Contact us today for more information.

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How Live Chat Can Improve Your Business

Live chat software is becoming more widely used by companies of all sizes. The main reason for its popularity is speed and convenience. Your company may have a customer support telephone number and email address, but often making a call or waiting for an email is too time consuming. Customers may not find the time investment worth getting the answer to a simple question. This is where live chat comes in. Here are some ways implementing live chat software can help your business:

Quicker response times = more sales

Excellent customer service directly correlates to higher sales. When you use a live chat software, you can reduce purchase abandonment by directly address customer concerns in real time. When your company is responsive to buyers on their schedule, it leaves a positive impression on your customer base. It also leads to customers being more likely to follow through with prospective purchases.

Provides competitive edge

Responsive service contributes to a happy customer base, which results in customers coming back to you for your goods and services. Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, online shops lack a human touch. With live chat software, your company can initiate conversations with website visitors – this establishes rapport with the customer. Once you convince visitors of your product, word-of-mouth promotion can increase your sales numbers over time.

Provides insight into online visitor behavior

Understanding why customers are buying (or not buying) is important in today’s digital business arena. Customers’ buying patterns are continuing to evolve, and businesses can no longer afford to stay on sidelines, or else they risk becoming obsolete compared to their more active competitors. Live chat allows your business to directly ask customers what their doubts are and what may be discouraging them from following through with a purchase. Gaining these insights is invaluable — it can help you streamline your product.

Reduce business cost

Live chat software does not require coding knowledge, can be installed in a matter of minutes, and requires a fewer number of service representatives than telephone support. Each agent can handle 3-4 conversations simultaneously, which means your business can cut down on its support costs.

Modern customers desire fast, convenient, and immediate access to support. Businesses that implement live chat services are going the extra mile to meet their customers’ needs, and this helps them stand out from the competition.

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The Top Five Benefits of CRM Systems to Customer Experience

CRM Systems

CRM SystemsCustomers value excellent customer service when interacting with brands. It is known.

In fact, according to a Walker study, 86% of customers will be willing to pay more for great customer experience by the year 2020.

To the surprise of no one, technology always finds a way to keep up. Enter the CRM system, a tool that companies use to effectively and efficiently manage customer (both potential and existing) information.

Thanks to dedicated CRM systems, companies can now track and manage customer information, correspondences, conversations, and billing information, among many others.

As a result, call centers can deliver excellent customer experience with more regularity and efficiency.

Care to know how? Here are the top five benefits of CRM systems to the customer experience.

1. Faster resolutions

So a customer calls in, and the next thing you know that customer’s information pops up on the screen. Now that’s the convenience.

When that happens, it’s even possible for a call center agent to take an educated guess on why the customer is calling (agent should listen to the customer first, however)

Thanks to the case management functionality that comes with most CRM systems, agents can quickly provide relevant answers to customer queries and offer quick resolutions.

2. Fosters continuity

The point of delivering great customer service is that it builds relationships with clients. Clients want that too.

And for a relationship to prosper, there needs to be a strong sense of continuity in every customer interaction.

It’s roughly equivalent to calling your friend and asking her if she loved the gift you gave her for Christmas and giving her the lowdown on the latest gossip concerning the next-door neighbor.

Because of CRM systems, customers don’t have to repeat themselves over and over again every time they’re doing a follow-up call on a recurring issue.

The best thing about it is that customers will always feel that agents understand their needs and are likely to respond in kind.

3. Self-service integration

IVRs are notorious for stretching the limit of customers’ patience.

Thankfully, many CRM companies are now offering an integrated IVR and CRM solution, providing customers a seamless self-service experience.

With a CRM system in place, an IVR can identify each caller and then proceed to provide custom menu options that are relevant to that particular customer.

4. Find ways to serve customers better

CRM systems provide companies with measurable data that can help them come up with a myriad of actionable insights.

These insights offer opportunities that enable brands to serve customers better.

By offering a comprehensive picture of key performance metrics as they apply to customers, CRM systems make it easier for call centers to deliver customer-centric service on a consistent basis.

5. Better internal communication

Having a good CRM system in place enables companies to have a more efficient internal communication.

Seamless communication between different departments in regards to customer information allows for faster resolution and opens new windows of opportunities to serve customers better.

Conclusion

There are no two ways about it: investing in CRM systems is one of the smartest business decisions you’ll ever make.

Put your customers at the heart of your business, and your company is bound to reel in the profits. As is the case with any meaningful relationship, it’s an arrangement where both parties win.

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Four Steps You Can Make To Reduce Customer Churn

Reduce Customer Churn

Reduce Customer ChurnDo you want your business’s bottom line to get a big boost? Easy. Make a concerted effort to reduce customer churn.

Customers are the lifeblood of your business. And if you want to keep your business alive, you have to take the necessary steps to foster loyalty in your customer base.

In fact, according to Bain & Company, it is six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t exert some effort into recruiting new customers. If you have sound customer retention strategies in place, every new customer you recruit can potentially offer a lifetime value that will significantly impact your ROI in the long run.

Here are four steps you can make in order to reduce customer attrition.

1. Provide support round the clock

With the rise of multichannel services and social media platforms in the last several years, more and more customers are expecting businesses to be available round the clock.

Simply put, availability issues can have a lasting impact on how customers perceive a business or service.

If, for instance, a customer experiences connectivity issues on his broadband connection at 4 in the morning, being able to provide technical support right then and there not only makes a big impression, it sends the message that you care about your customers.

2. Make use of call notes

If a customer makes a follow-up call over a similar issue only to end up being asked to repeat himself again, chances are he’s going to entertain the notion of switching to another service.

Why? For starters, customers don’t want to feel like they’re being treated like cogs in a machine. They want continuity, and they’ll appreciate the service more if the context of every call reflects that continuity.

By integrating CRM with phone systems, your call center can keep track of customer logs and conversation details.

This approach keeps customers engaged, which will, in turn, instill loyalty in your brand.

3. Offer proactive support

If you want to inspire loyalty among your customer base, you’d do well to take a proactive approach in customer support.

What this means is that you have to identify and resolve customer issues even before they occur or become apparent.

If you’re worried about being a “bother” to customers by being proactive, it’s high time that you put your worries to rest.

To bring home the point, a study made by inContact discovered that 87% of customers are happy about being contacted proactively by companies concerning customer service issues.

4. Reduce customer waiting time

Customers don’t like being made to wait on the phone.

A study made by Arise in 2017 discovered that two-thirds of customers are willing to wait two minutes or less while 13% said that “no wait time is available.”

Considering how current technology has diminished our attention spans in the last decade, this isn’t at all surprising.

Tried-and-tested solutions that can reduce customer waiting time include addressing bottlenecks on a regular basis, creating self-service opportunities, and optimizing the contact center’s system and processes.

Conclusion:

Reducing customer churn goes beyond providing exceptional service and superior products, it also involves engaging your customers in a way that nurtures the business relationship.

To do this, you have to make a constant effort to keep track of your customers’ needs and then taking the necessary steps to address them through your products and services.

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Five Crucial Skills Every Call Center Agent Should Master

Call Center Agent

Call Center AgentIf you want your company to build and maintain a great relationship with customers, you need to have skilled call center agents on the front lines of your business.

Call center agents represent your brand and embody your company’s values, and as such will need the extensive skill set to consistently deliver favorable outcomes in each customer interaction.

As a business owner, you’d do well to invest in your call center agents, and to make your investment count, you need to put in place processes that take into account the following skills.

1. Empathy

The word ‘empathy’ has become such a buzzword in the business world for so many years and rightfully so.

While the concept may sound touchy-feely to some, there’s no denying that empathy is essential to human interactions.

Managers and team leaders need to constantly remind their agents to imagine themselves in the customer’s shoes in every customer interaction.

After all, by ‘owning’ the customer’s problem, agents are putting themselves in the best position to satisfy customers.

Empathetic statements let customers know that you care, and that makes a big difference.

2. Patience

Being a call center agent is a rewarding job, but we have to admit that having to deal with rude or irate customers on a constant basis can make it a little less fun.

That is why patience is a critical skill every call center should have.

When callers are upset about your brand’s products and services, they are likely to treat your agents as a sounding board for the simple fact that they have nothing else to vent their frustrations on.

But agents need to learn not to take it personally and instead be willing to listen and respond calmly in order to diffuse the situation.

That way, the agent (and the company) is able to leave a good impression no matter the outcome.

3. Clear communication

Call center agents need to communicate effectively in order not only to resolve issues quickly but also to ensure that customer interactions are as pleasant as possible.

To deliver on this end, reps have to speak the English language fluently. After all, spotty grammar will always leave customers confused, not to mention that it may take longer to arrive at a resolution and sometimes not at all.

Agents also need to learn how to straddle the line between being conversational and being formal, switching between the two as the situation dictates.

4. Active listening

In a customer interaction, what customers are saying is as important as what they aren’t saying. This is why customer service reps need to give their undivided attention to every call.

Active listening goes beyond just paying attention to the customer’s words. It also involves ‘listening’ with all the senses, meaning they have to respond appropriately, withhold responses when necessary, remember what is being said, and more.

5. Well-organized

Call center agents are regularly tasked to manage, record, and process various types of information.

To be well-organized means many things: taking down notes when appropriate, saving information under the right category, putting things in their proper order, and more.

Call center agents are entrusted with customer information every day and it is their responsibility (and yours) to handle it with care.

What’s Next?

Being a call center agent can be a demanding job, but with the right support and training, they can master all the crucial skills mentioned above with ease.

By training and cultivating these skills in your call center agents, you’re taking the first big step in increasing customer retention and fostering customer loyalty, which will in turn positively impact your business.

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Five Ways to Motivate Your Agents to be the Best in Their Job

Agents

AgentsWith the rise of data science, cryptocurrency, and cloud computing, many industries are currently on the verge of a systemic shift.

As a business owner, you need to be able to adapt to change if you want your business to thrive. That said, there’s one thing that will never go out of style: great customer service.

If you want your customer service to make customers happy on a consistent basis, you have to take the necessary steps to ensure that your agents are motivated enough to be at their best.

It’s not an easy task. For one, being a call center agent is a demanding job. If you don’t give agents enough reasons to stay motivated, your customers and your business are bound to suffer.

Below are tried-and-tested ways to ensure that call center agents are motivated enough to put their best foot forward at all times.

1. Foster a positive working environment

As a business owner, the onus is on you to take the initiative to reinforce the right attitudes and proper mindset among call center employees.

In short, you need to foster a positive working environment.

Sounds like hard work? Perhaps. But if you take the time to interact with every employee (not just agents) and take the steps needed to contribute to a pleasant and friendly environment, then you are well on your way.

After all, as a leader, all agents and managers look up to you for guidance. As a leader, what you do serves as the blueprint which employees will be adhering to.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to communicate your desire to create a warm and friendly atmosphere to managers and agents. As the business owner, you’ll have many opportunities to do that.

2. Encourage a feedback culture

Forget suggestion boxes and put them where they belong: the dustbin.

To ensure that feedback is always contributing to the improvement of the workplace, you have to encourage a culture or environment where ideas and feedback are freely shared by employees.

In turn, a system where ideas and suggestions can be reviewed quickly by a committee needs to be in place. For optimal results, a reliable feedback loop needs to be implemented as well.

When employees realize that their ideas are being taken seriously, they are more likely to realize that they’re part of the company’s growth and as such will feel more motivated to make contributions.

3. Recognize and reward employees for good performance

Everyone craves recognition for a job well done. Yes, even those who pretend that personal accolades don’t matter to them.

A word of praise, a pat on the back, or a simple complimentary shout out can go a long way into boosting an employee’s morale.

When an employee feels that her contributions are valued and recognized, the behavior that led to the positive feedback is reinforced. It gives the employee something to aspire to.

That said, agents who perform poorly need to be guided as well. But it should be done in private to save them the humiliation.

4. Assign agents a variety of tasks

Agents who are made to do the same tasks over and over again are likely to feel disillusioned and bored by their responsibilities down the line.

This is why agents need to be assigned a variety of tasks to keep them engaged and interested.

Instead of consigning an agent to voice work 100 percent of the time, you can ask them to work on email or web chat or other support responsibilities as well.

5. Promote from within

Employees will feel more motivated to do their best when they know that their hard work could land them a promotion.

After all, promoting from within is one of the best ways to show your agents that you appreciate them for their contributions. It gives them the validation that their talents are an asset to the organization.

In addition, setting up career development programs gives agents the support they need to advance in their career. It gives them a sense of direction and purpose, thus keeping them engaged and motivated.

Key Takeaway:

Every business is bound to face challenges that will make it difficult for employees to stay motivated.

But if you implement the steps above and ask each member of your team to support you in the endeavor, it will only be a matter of time before your business achieves the growth that you’ve been planning for.

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How to Retain a Customer who is about to Quit Doing Business with your Company

Retain a Customer

Retain a CustomerCustomer retention is crucial to the success and survival of any call center business, or any business for that matter.

Does that surprise anybody? Surely not. Without customers, there can be no business.

While customer attrition is sometimes inevitable, every business owner worth her salt needs to adopt a proactive approach in making customers stay.

To bring home the point, here are two important factoids proving why keeping customers should become a priority in your business:

  • Bain & Company study shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent raises profits by 5 to 25 percent.
  • Harvard Business Review reports that “acquiring a new customer is five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”

Convinced? Here are the best ways a call center can retain customers who are on the verge of severing their business relationship with your company.

1. Process cancellations through voice channels

Before a call center can retain customers, agents need to be provided opportunities to work their magic.

One good way to do this is to direct the cancellation process through voice channels

While it may cost your company a little to encourage customers to speak with a representative when requesting a cancellation, having the opportunity to convince them to stay can significantly shore up your customer retention efforts.

2. Offer a cheaper option

Some customers choose to cancel their subscription due to money issues. In such cases, the best course of action is to offer a cheaper alternative.

Since there will always be customers, who aren’t aware that there are cheaper plans than the one they’re subscribed to, making the right offer at the point of cancellation is the logical next step.

Once a customer has decided to downgrade their subscription, kindly remind her that she can choose to upgrade anytime — preferably once her financial situation has improved.

If customers are calling in to cancel their subscription because they find the product or service wanting, reps should go the extra mile in helping them resolve their issues with the company.

In cases where they are requesting to cancel so they can switch to a competitor, make it a point to explain why your brand can offer so much more.

3. Offer inconvenienced customers gestures of goodwill

Customers can be impulsive sometimes.

When customers are having a bad day, even the smallest inconvenience where they feel that your company is to blame may cause them to make a rash decision.

Most of the time, a gesture of goodwill — a voucher or a one-off credit — can help dampen their temper, causing them to reconsider if canceling the service isn’t such a good idea after all.

Of course, it goes without saying that whatever issue the customer may be having should be addressed as soon as possible.

4. Remind customers what they’re giving up

Your call center agents have to remind customers what they’re about to give up when they decide to stop doing business with you.

One great way to do this is to use a spiel, something that goes along the lines of, “Are you sure you want to cancel the service? If you unsubscribe, you will no longer have access to (insert your brand’s best offerings here)…”

If your company is offering loyalty incentives (and it should), the point of cancellation offers a great opportunity to remind customers about their eligibility to special offerings that may be coming their way if they choose to continue doing business with you.

5. Form teams of retention specialists

Setting up a team/s of retention specialists trained to engage customers who are on the verge of quitting is a great strategy to adopt in your customer retention service efforts.

Since these specialized reps’ primary focus is to retain customers, they are more likely to become more effective in convincing them to stay.

For better results, a rigorous approach in selecting the best agents for the job has to be adopted (refined “soft skills” is an important qualification to have).

Key Takeaway

Retaining customers poses a lot of challenges for any business. After all, it’s difficult to convince people who appear to have already made up their minds.

But if you adopt the practices mentioned above with a conscious intent to keep customers happy, you are providing customers the best reason not to leave.

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Five Effective Ways of Maintaining Active Listening in the Call

Active Listening Skill

Active Listening Skill

 

Active listening is a critical skill every call center agent should master. By mastering this skill, an agent is more likely to deliver a positive customer service experience in each customer interaction.

It bears mentioning, however, that active listening goes beyond just hearing and understanding the words coming out of the caller’s mouth.

It’s a dynamic process that requires the agent’s full engagement.

Active listening can be a difficult skill to master, but far from impossible. Here are tips to help call center agents maintain active listening while on the job.

1. Be in the moment

A call center agent needs to give the customer his, or her undivided attention the moment they finish their standard welcome spiel.

In short, they have to remain in the moment, not allowing distractions to draw their attention away from what the customer is saying.

Granted, customers go on tangents at times, and might even head towards boring territory.

That, however, is no excuse for agents to get sidetracked. The moment their thoughts start to wander, the agent has to force themselves to refocus.

2. Empathize

Knowing how to put yourself in the customer’s shoes comes with call center agent territory. Additionally, empathy is a skill that can help agents focus better on what customers are saying.

This is why it’s essential that agents are trained and reminded to always understand where the caller is coming from, even when that caller is acting unreasonable.

Listening is always easier when there’s a genuine desire to help. The same rule applies to conversations between the customer and call center agent.

3. Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Call center agents often handle similar issues on a day to day basis, and doing so may make the job feel repetitive to them.

Because of this, agents may fall into the trap of jumping to conclusions when a customer talks about an issue they’ve heard many times before.

This is a critical error customer service representatives need to avoid at all costs.

When listening and talking to customers, agents need to keep an open mind. This ensures that they’re not missing out on critical information and subtle cues that can help them arrive at the best solution.

4. Ask for Clarifications When Needed

Even the most skilled listener can get confused by what a speaker is saying, especially when it’s comprised of many complex or seemingly unrelated ideas.

This is why agents have to be reminded not to shy away from asking for clarification when something is confusing or unclear.

More often than not, callers will take it as a cue that the representative is listening and genuinely interested in helping out.

That being said, agents have to wait for the caller to pause before asking for clarifications. Reps can say something along the lines of, “Could you clarify that for me, please?”

5. Master Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is the process of restating what the speaker has said, but in different words and, whenever necessary, in a slightly different context.

It’s an important skill to have because it shows the caller that the agent is paying close attention. It also assures the customer that the agent can fully understand their issue.

Ultimately, paraphrasing, when done well, makes customers feel that their issue is being addressed with a sense of urgency.

Key Takeaway:

In a world becoming even more beset with distractions, it’s starting to feel like active listening is becoming a lost art. Let this not be the case in your offshore call center.

When push comes to shove, active listening is what makes it possible for us humans to make meaningful connections with each other. It goes without saying that the same rule applies to both providers and customers.

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How to Put a Call on Hold without Upsetting Your Customers

Bob is on his laptop pounding away on the keyboard, a deadline is breathing down his neck. Suddenly, his internet connection drops.

Seething, Bob gives the internet service’s technical support a call, goes through a cavalcade of voice prompts until finally, he connects with a living, breathing person.

Bob tries to explain his issue calmly, and then the representative tells (not asks) him that he’s putting him on hold.

And so the rep places him on hold without much ceremony. Cue the annoying music.

If you were Bob, how would you feel?

Exactly!

Let’s cut to the chase: customers don’t like being put on hold.

If a representative has no choice in the matter, the least he could do is be professional or nice about it. The customer deserves that courtesy. After all, they’re paying for the service.

How can customer service reps put customers on hold without upsetting them, or at least not too much?

1. Before the Hold

Representatives have to talk in a professional yet pleasant voice and use the customer’s name to establish a connection. Use paraphrasing to let customers know that the rep understands the issue.

And when reps need to put the customer on hold, they should ask first and do it nicely. Moreover, they should explain the reason why they have to place the customer on hold.

For example, a representative can tell the customer, “May I place you on hold for a minute or two while I do some quick research on this issue?”

Reps also need to tell the customer that they’ll get back to him, or her in a minute. It goes without saying that that promise has to be kept.

Remember, most customers tend to get frustrated when they get put on hold for more than two minutes. For a customer on the phone, two minutes feel like forever.

2. What to Say After the Hold

When getting back to the customer, reps can either thank them for their patience, or apologize for placing them on hold.

The latter is more appropriate if the caller was already put on hold more than once or was made to wait for more than a minute (that shouldn’t happen in the first place, but just in case).

If the wait time is too long and the representative is not yet done with what they’re doing, they need to get back to the customer to let him/her know that she hasn’t forgotten about them.

But what if a customer doesn’t want to be put on hold? The answer is simple: don’t put the customer on hold unless you need to transfer the call to a more appropriate department.

Four Things to Avoid

  • Interrupting the caller so that he can be put on hold.
  • Putting the customer on hold for more than two minutes.
  • Asking a customer if he can call back (the rep should be the one to call the customer back).
  • Putting the caller on hold too many times.

What’s next?

By following all the steps and tips mentioned above, hold times will be less frustrating for customers, which can positively impact the customer experience and customer support services you provide in a big way.

Of course, the offshore call center has to do some of the heavy lifting as well. The first step is to evaluate the center’s systems and procedures and check which areas may require fixes and improvement.

Once problem areas are detected, necessary fixes  have to be made as soon as possibles so that your company can continue to improve the handling of these difficult situations. 

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Crucial Elements that Make Up a Winning Call Flow

Call Flow

Call FlowYour call center’s call flow management system has a significant bearing on whether clients will be happy with your services after the end of a call.

A call flow, by strict definition, is the roadmap that defines the path of an incoming call. Usually presented by a tree system, it’s a system that represents where the call is routed according to the customer’s specific needs.

That’s why it’s imperative that the necessary measures are taken to ensure that your call flow is structured in such a way that can address clients’ needs at the optimal level.

Here are the crucial elements that make up a winning call flow.

1. Efficient Call Handling

The first few minutes of an inbound call are critical for many reasons. For one, it sets the groundwork for the rest of the call flow. But if the customer is directed to the wrong person right from the get-go, chances are it’s going to get ugly.

You can remedy this by using inbound call control features from your provider. A good call control software uses programmable criteria such as:

  • Geographic origin of the call
  • Customer’s phone number
  • Phone number the customer dials
  • Time of day or day of the week the call is made

2. A Good Call Management Feedback System

A call center organization has to take a proactive approach to improving all areas of its operations, and to pull this off one has to implement a reliable feedback system.

The call management system your contact center uses presents excellent opportunities for spotting opportunities for improving customer service.

By checking on statistics provided by your system, you can spot patterns and trends which you can use to come up with effective solutions to irregularities found in the call flow.

3. Efficient Automated Attendant System

A sophisticated yet efficient automated attendant system is instrumental in maintaining a smooth call flow for all inbound calls.

Not only does the Automated Attendant assist customers to connect with the right department, but it also gives greater flexibility in how they can manage the call.

Better yet, it’s a boon to those who prefer to do things by themselves.

Using the standard touch-tone keypad, customers can find answers to basic questions and resolve non-complex issues by themselves.

When configured well, an automated attendant system can bolster call handling efficiency on many fronts.

4. Total time the customer is on the phone line

An automated attendant is as necessary as it is useful in maintaining a good call flow in inbound calls.

Listening to an automated voice for nearly half a minute every time, however, can take its toll on a customer’s patience. Most customers prefer to speak to a human being right away.

So make sure that you configure your automated attendant system in such a way that it takes less time for customers to go through options.

One excellent strategy is to configure the options according to the frequency of visits.

For example, you assign the number “1” option to customer service since it’s the department that most customers want to connect to.

Key Takeaway:

Take into account the four key elements mentioned above and your call center organization only one way to go but up.

There are no two ways about it: an efficient call flow translates to better customer service.

That’s because good call flow management gives customers better flexibility and a degree of control in managing their calls.

In short, it makes customers happy, which is always a good indicator that your customer service team is doing an excellent job.

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