Contact Center Insights Christa Heibel – Managing the BPO Relationship

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In this episode of Contact Center Insights, Nancy speaks to Christa Heibel of CHCG Consulting. Christa has been working with the C-Suite of contact centers for over two decades and has worked both sides of the table when it comes to working with BPOs. Listen to Christas’s great advice on the importance of communication and “putting it in writing” to ensure you have a smooth sailing relationship.

Judy McGee Consulting – Call Center Training the LAMA Way!

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I had a blast interviewing Judy, she is truly one of a kind and has a great theory on how to train your contact center employees. In this episode, Judy explains her LAMA approach to talking to anyone on the phone, it’s all about making that person feel good and treating them with respect.

Four Free Ways to Record Audio for Your Podcast

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Podcasting has quickly become one of the most popular content types in the last couple of years. Earlier this month I gave a presentation at the Chicago eLearning Showcase on podcasting and gave me audience tips on 4 ways to record your audio content with FREE tools. Here they are:

  1. Audacity -probably the most common (other than Garage Band) it’s a free open source audio recording and editing platform. Just be sure to also download the LAMP software to ensure you can export MP3 files for formatting your the proper RSS feeds for your podcast
  2. Free Conference Call.com – Yes it is free and will record you or a group of people dialed into the conference line. They will allow you to download the MP3 file of the recorded call so you can edit and add to your RSS feeds.
  3. BlogTalk Radio – This is used primarily as a web radio tool but I use do record my podcast show so I can add other sound effects — like an audience applauding or a canned introduction to the show. You can have callers dial in as you record the show live and then BlogTalk will allow you to download the show. This service is free for shows under 30 minutes in length.
  4. Amazon Polly in WordPress – This was my latest find, if you have a WordPress blog or site you can embed Amazon’s Polly text to speech voices to “read” your blog post and it will automatically create the RSS feed for you to connect it directly into iTunes as well. You first need to go to AWS (Amazon cloud services) to set up an account to use Polly and there is a minimal cost for using Polly but you can also produce the audio file once inside AWS and then download the MP3 file to add to your post as well.

Please let me know if you know of other free tools for podcasting and I will be happy to share!

Simulations Can Shorten the Path the Mastery

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We all know that hands-on experience is one of the best ways to learn a new skill but don’t just take my word for it. In an article featured from Laurdal they state three reasons why simulations accelerate learning and retention:

  1. Simulations increase engagement – By placing students into an immersive environment, they are ACTIVELY vs. passively engaged in the learning
  2. Simulations maximize retention – One of my favorite reasons why simulations are important. How many times have you put people through a training program and the knowledge is lost within a short amount of time
  3. Simulations ensure that learning is transferred to the job – This should really matter to the executive suite, when employees can accelerate their level of applying their skills directly into their work and shorten their path to mastery, this goes directly to the bottom line.

Think of it in this way, if I gave you a manual to learn how to conduct a step by step process, this is an explicit approach to learning something. It’s easily repeated and more commoditized but not as effective. On the other hand, if I gave you access to the equipment and/or placed you into a simulation which immersed you in learning this process, it’s an implicit experience but much more valuable in giving you first-hand experience in learning this new task.

Finally, in a study conducted by Roger S. Taylor and Micheline T. H. Chi at the University of Pittsburgh, they conducted a study comparing students who studied using a textbook and those who used a computer simulation. This was the summary of their findings “the Simulation condition acquired a significant amount of implicit domain information from pretest to posttest,
whereas participants in the Text condition did not. These results suggest that educational computer simulations have the potential to significantly enhance the learning of implicit domain knowledge.”

But keep in mind that the simulations need to be tailored to a specific skill or task directly related to the job. It should include some form of immediate feedback and places the learner into contextual setting similar to what they will experience in real life. Anders Ericcson was noted as coming out with the study of “deliberate practice” Here is a a video where Anders explains this concept.

Why Demonstrating Empathy Matters to the Bottom Line

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I work with a lot of call centers and many of them are building in performance metrics which include the agent’s ability to show empathy. But why? 

Yes, I get that it demonstrates that you want the customer to feel you can relate to their dilemma or that you at least “fake” concern. But creating a culture which proactively promotes empathy matters to the bottom line too.

For example,  I was speaking to a call center which provides technical support. I asked the manager which do you place more value on – soft-skills or technical knowledge, their answer was soft skills. He stated “we hired a young college graduate who was not as skilled at troubleshooting but all of her CSAT scores were always very high. She was able to use empathy and her ability to communicate trust to ensure the customer that even though she isn’t able to resolve their issue on the first call that she left the customer still feeling good about their experience and their company.  I value that skill over the most technically skilled agent.”

In a YouTube video by Brene’ Brown, she states the four elements of Empathy

  1. Can see things from the perspective of the other person
  2. Staying out of judgment
  3. Recognizing emotion in other people
  4. Communicating that you recognize their position and emotions.

Companies invest a lot of resources into building their brand, building customer loyalty so why risk losing this because you would rather build a culture of agents who solve problems fast but don’t really connect with your customers.

In  a LinkedIn post from Troy Mills,  President of Carrell and former VP of Customer Care Operations at Walgreens, stated “I can’t tell you how many discussions about doing something exceptional for a customer is met with shock from the ops team” meaning wow someone went out of the way and off script to really help a customer out and the culture was such that this was a negative vs. a positive.

A good place to track how empathy has made a difference to the bottom line is to collect stories from situations where using empathy and caring made a difference. Sometimes the difference isn’t always tangible initially but trust me it will have a lasting impact on the bottom line for the long-term.

 

Employee Reward Systems

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In our last show, I interview Thomas McCoy, who is a best-selling author, consultant, and President of the Employee Engagement Institute.

He has over 35 years experience developing high-involvement, high-performance cultures. He developed the Applied Employee Engagement System™ that has been used by over 200 companies in the U.S., Europe and South America. He has written 2 books on the topic and sold over 25,000 copies.

 

He developed and taught a two-day seminar on How To Develop a High Performance Culture at George Washington University.

He has been quoted in Newsweek, featured in the Wall Street Journal, and nominated for the Michael J. Losey award for his work in the field of Human Resources.

In 1996 he developed ESP, “Expanding Sales on the Phone,” one of the first training programs for agents that incorporated dynamic branching. He holds a Lean/Six Sigma certification from Villanova University, a coaching certification from the Johnston Institute and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota.

He is a Marine Corps veteran and a board member for Support KC, a non-profit organization that helps other non-profits to achieve their mission.

He and his wife Cathy are the parents of two young men.

You can reach Tom at tjmccoy@EmpEng.com or visit www.EmpEng.com

 

Auto-create Podcast with Amazon Polly

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As I am getting ready to create a presentation I am giving on Podcasting imagine my delight when I ran across this article on how to add Amazon’s Polly text to speech software into a WordPress blog post. This is exactly what I have been trying to communicate to my clients, how to creatively use speech to text and speech recognition tools for extended uses in business.

Voice-enabled technology continues to get better and better. If you are not familiar with Polly, it’s an online tool that allows you to type text onto a page and then it will create a voice file which you can download and embed an MP3 file into another program. Originally I was using this to create voices of characters in some of our training simulations, but now with the WordPress plugin – you can embed this functionality to read your blog posts — very cool!

Here is a step by step guide on how to add Polly to your WP site

 

One final bonus, the settings for this plugin allow you to automatically push your audio podcast to iTunes.

 

Contact Center Confidence Equation – Trust is the Key

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I was speaking to a colleague the other day about their experience with engaging with executives in a contact center and the topic of confidence in making decisions came up.  So it got my brain and curiosity in motion about what types of confidence factors impact the performance of your contact center.  I put together a list of departmental groups in a contact center where you could measure the amount of confidence you have then measure the overall confidence in total contact center performance.  Here is my list

  • Executive staff
  • Equipment
  • Agent performance
  • Reports and customer scores

When you break each one of these down, what would you say your confidence level is that they are performing at an acceptable level and which ones have a strong impact on how well your contact center performs?

Let’s just take the agent performance.  What is your confidence level that 80% of your agents are performing at their top level?  A great deal of their performance also lies in their own confidence level.  In a post written by Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders  she outlines five areas to evaluate in how to build the confidence levels of your agents.  The true starting point for improving this confidence metric is creating a culture of trust and connection.

Dr. Jodie Monger, from Customer Relationship Manager states “when they (customers) have confidence in the answers given by your agents, there is a direct impact on operational cost.”  She also states that this trust is the primary emotion customers want to feel when interacting with an agent.

So maybe the first place to start in raising your confidence score is taking a deep look at how well your organization is building a culture of trust.  Rather than just provide lip service your action speak louder than words but your words can also convey whether or not someone can trust you.  In a study conducted by the University of Glasgow people can detect whether or not you are trustworthy by the sound of your voice. This study fascinates me and really makes one aware of how we influence other’s opinions of us just from the way our voice sounds.  But that’s an entirely different topic.

To sum this up, try to calculate your confidence levels of the four areas I outlined to see where your contact center stands and which one would score the lowest and then assess how improving the trust levels would change the confidence levels.

Snap Chat for Training?

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The other day I was sitting in on a live discussion session lead by Brent Schlenker, coFounder of TLDC.us & Host of #TLDCast. The topic was can Snap Chat or other tools like this be used for corporate training? I enjoyed the interactive format of Brent’s forum and was glad I attended. It was very clear from the beginning, you really need to stay on top of how these application work in order to understand the features to use or to stay away from. The challenges that I see with anything like Snap Chat, Instagram and others is that you are not in control of what features work one day vs. the next or which version each user has. Similarly to online learning when it first came out – you were at the mercy of which browser was supported and which version the users had. Most of these social media tools have limited windows of time from which you can display or publish content which can be a negative or minus as well. Based on what I learned I would say there are ways you could use Snap Chat for training. Here are some of my ideas:

  1. Brief testimonials or stories on a topic of a good or bad experience
  2. Create filters to support your brand and encourage channel partners or customers to chime in what they like about your product
  3. Create a group and use it challenge each member to demonstrate a skill or task to compare best practices
  4. Announcing upcoming events and training in a fun way
  5. Embed URL to redirect users to login page after an introduction to an event or training activity found online
  6. Create short commercials on what they have learned in another training activity

I would not use this for any type of assessment tool, or required training as some people may not be as skilled as others at using this type of application.

If you have any stories you’d like to share on how your company used something like Snap Chat please share!