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call center

Simulations to Teach Coaches How to Coach

By | call center, contact Center, empathy | No Comments

Practice without a purpose is wasted time

Many organizations are great at taking a top performer and promote them into a manager’s role. But what they forget is that not all good frontline employees are good managers.

Recently I was working with a client who wanted to find a new way to teach her managers how to be good coaches.

Let’s first define the difference between “telling” vs. “coaching”. In an article written by Julia Milner & Trenton Milner, in the Harvard Business Review, it presents a great case study on how you can teach managers to be good coaches. Many of them start off with telling employees what to do — this is NOT coaching.

Coaching is a combination of skills that allow the employee to come to a solution of their own accountability vs. being told exactly what to do. I made a two-step recommendation to my client. As she was overseeing Quality Analysts for a global software company, I recommended she first take a look at a Coaching for Performance certification program from Benchmark Portal. They have many certification programs but this seemed to be a great way to give the foundational skills needed to understand coaching. coaching employees

Then I recommended that she use our simulator to build tailored coaching conversations her QA could use to practice various scenarios. As stated in the HBR article, you need to let coaches practice in a safe environment. This is exactly why companies use our simulator. It provides realistic experiences that can blend all of the skills needed such as:

  • active listening
  • questioning
  • giving constructive feedback
  • assisting with goal setting
  • showing empathy
  • letting the coachee arrive at their own solution
  • recognizing and pointing out strengths
  • providing structure
  • encouraging a solution-focused approach

The embedded smart analytics reporting system will allow my client to access detailed metrics in real-time to see how well her QA’s are doing in the capstone activity of completing coaching simulations.

With many people still working remotely, it’s even more imperative that managers have the right skills to help their employees succeed.
If you’re curious to see how to use our simulator to build your own coaching simulations, please contact us.

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Reducing Gladwell’s “10,000 Hours by 90%”

By | bots, call center, contact Center, simulations | No Comments

Deliberate Practice vs. Traditional Training

I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell and I’m sure many of you are familiar with the term “10,000 hours to mastery”. This has since been proven to be taken out of context but he still references it as a guide to how long it takes for someone to master an innate skill. In Frans Johansson’s book, The Click Moment he explains that Deliberate Practice is a more likely predictor of success. Here are the core elements to Deliberate Practice

  1. Set a specific targeted goal or task you want to master
  2. Provide focused intense periods of practice
  3. Receive immediate feedback and self-correct
  4. Prepare to be uncomfortable in order to overcome barriers to success

One of the core reasons our customers use our simulator is that it uses this deliberate practice approach. Many of our customers need to get contact center agents up to speed quickly. Traditionally they are putting them on the front lines before they have had time to really master interacting with customers. By using our simulator, they see how this gives agents realistic practice so they can reduce the time it takes to get to mastery. Like Johannson’s approach, our simulator is a predictor of agent performance — here’s how.

  1. Simulations are built to look and feel just like your scenarios with a specific skill in mine – such as how to change credit card information, how to handle product returns etc.
  2. We recommend building different levels of immersion so that as agents score out of one level they continue to practice one transaction 3-4 times at a minimum
  3. They receive automatic immediate feedback from a built-in bot who guides them through how to handle verbal and on-screen interactions successfully
  4. They are uncomfortable at first due to the fact they have not had any exposure to this. Our conversational interactions are built on best practice responses. Once they become comfortable with each level, they can move on to more complex transactions

No need to use a crystal ball to try to determine who will be successful. Our ACES  automates this process. The intelligence embedded into the system, allows the managers to know right where in the transaction the agent may have gotten off track.

Businesses don’t have the luxury of 10,000 hours of time to help employees get up to speed on their skills. So imagine if you had the ability to help your agents master many of your complex transactions in 5-10 hours vs. 5-10 weeks? You can view some examples on our video page.

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What Zoom (or other video collaborator) Are NOT Good For

By | call center, Employee Rewards, simulations | No Comments

How Zoom Can be Mis-Used

Ok show of hands, how many of you have had a Zoom Happy Hour?  Or what about birthday parties and game night? In this crazy time of harboring in place, companies are scrambling for ways to keep employees connected, meetings on schedule, and finding ways to keep the doors open.

So beyond the recent security stories I am hearing about, there are situations where Zoom or other video collaboration tools may not be the best tool of choice.

  1. Sometimes just a good old conference call will do the trick. I sat through a painful video call as many of the participants kept dropping or speaking in jerky responses. If you really don’t need to “see” the attendees then just use phone or VOIP connections
  2. Training someone on a new piece of equipment or software application. Zoom is great to walk someone through what they need to do but they really won’t learn unless they can perform more “hands-on” activities. There are many applications out there that will allow you to build software simulations or like our ACES simulation software. Giving employees the ability to engage in a realistic hands-on situation is best done outside of a live video call.
  3. Employee performance review – again may be better done over the phone vs. video as if the connection is “iffy” it may take away from your message and the identified performance improvements you are trying to communicate.
  4. Showing appreciation – how about sending a physical card or letter vs. setting up a video session. This is a personal touch that will go a long way. My 90-year-old mother beams each time she mentions how much she enjoys the letters that I send to her on a quarterly basis. Needless to say, I get a lot of eye-rolling from any of my 12 siblings who may be in ear-shot of this. Why do you think we all get excited when that Amazon box shows up? We know what we ordered but it’s the emotional experience of opening a letter or package that makes it more special.
  5. Last but not least — don’t try to multi-task when in a video call (bathroom breaks). We’ve all heard some horror stories so stay focused on what you’re doing when participating and don’t distract the other participants.

 

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Using Bots Accelerates the Need for Up-Skilling

By | bots, call center, empathy, simulations | No Comments

Why Bots Have a Long Way to Go to Take Over the World

Like Chicken Little’s cries that the sky is falling, everyone keeps shouting bots are replacing people. Well I am here to tell you they have a long way to go.chicken little

There is some truth that bots are beginning to manage simple transactions like help with resetting a password or authenticating your credentials. But in a recent article published int Silicon Republic, Forrester’s Srividya Sridharan states that bots will only be handling 20% of these basic activities by the end of 2020.

The interactions that bots are not able to handle will require higher-skilled agents. Even though many of us are accustomed to interacting with an intelligent agent, we won’t have the patience for this when we need immediate answers. Agents who can handle the tier two situations, will need to be trained skills such as:

  • Expressing the right level of empathy for the situation
  • Navigating their systems to quickly troubleshoot the issues
  • Learn how to ask good open-ended questions
  • Practice active listening and have the confidence to restate their understanding of the situation
  • Recognize early on when they need to escalate the situation to a higher power

Historically it takes months to get an agent up to this level of proficiency. This is why many of our customers are seeing the value in using or call center simulator ACES™. With the clock ticking on speed to proficiency, companies are looking for ways to get these employees up to speed faster to manage the more complex transactions.

So rather than using AI and bot technology to replace employees, we are using it to help upskill them. By giving employees a realistic immersive experience, we can put them in the hot seat. The built-in bot gives them real-time coaching to help guide them through each scenario. By giving them repeated “deliberate practice” we can get them up to speed in days vs. weeks.

So have no fear, the sky is not falling. We see that AI can be used for good – not evil.good bot

If you want to see an example of ACES in action just click this link.

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How to Accelerate Contact Center KPI Performance

By | bots, call center, contact Center, empathy | No Comments

Reducing agent’s learning curve.

In a recent conversation, I had with a client we discussed why they are using our simulator in their contact center. As a large BPO, their revenue is directly tied to documenting agents are following very detailed KPIs. They asked for me to provide a full list of how our simulator can impact each of these so I thought it would be helpful to share this list with others.

  1. Reduction of AHT, this client wanted to reduce new hire AHT of 12 minutes down to an average of 7
  2. Increase agent confidence which impacts CSAT scores
  3. Improved soft-skills such as expressing empathy, active listening and asking open-ended questions
  4. Improved accuracy of keystrokes and data entry
  5. Reduces the number of times call will be escalated to a manager
  6. Automates measurement of English proficiency

In number six, this was not an intended KPI but as a result of working with a very large technology company, they now use our simulator as a way to ensure outsourced agents are English Proficient. This came up when they enrolled agents at a call center in Vietnam. They were struggling to complete a simulation successfully. Our client thought that the simulator wasn’t working correctly. I assessed that their accents were too strong. The client was somewhat skeptical that this was the case so they placed them into production as voice agents. Shortly after they were in production, customers complained they were not able to understand them. They are now all chat agents. Moving forward all of their simulations now account for and measure their English proficiency with our simulator.

As we have proven many times, if you pro-actively use a tool like our simulator, you can address a lot of the “back office” metrics on the front end and improve the customer experience.

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How Active Listening Benefits Your Company

By | Adaptive Learning, call center, contact Center, empathy, simulations | No Comments

Responding Authentically Drives Customer Retention

There is a lot of talk around replacing contact center agents with bots or some form of self-service options. But according to research conducted by NewVoiceMedia, 75% of customers still prefer a live agent (voice or chat) to help them solve their issues.

Successful companies know how to create a culture that allows agents to not only express empathy but express the Right level of empathy for the customer’s situation. Here is an example.

A customer who is calling to get roadside assistance because they have a flat tire.

Agent#1 “I apologize for your situation.”

Agent#2 “I’m sure that’s really frustrating for you.”

Agent #2 does a better job of expressing empathy that expresses what the customer must be feeling. They recognize what is going on in the customer’s world. This would be perceived as “more authentic” vs. canned and routine.

You can teach agents how to use the skill of active listening, here are 8 steps created by David Grosman that are right on target with how we teach this skill in our simulator

  1. Approach each dialogue with the goal to learn something. …
  2. Stop talking and focus closely on the speaker. …
  3. Open and guide the conversation. …
  4. Drill down to the details. …
  5. Summarize what you hear and ask questions to check your understanding. …
  6. Encourage with positive feedback.
  7. Listen for total meaning
  8. Pay attention to your responses

I’ve highlighted number 5 as this step is really critical step.  It demonstrates to the customer that you truly understand their situation and can accurately paraphrase what is going on.

When the customer senses you are truly trying to get to the heart of their issue or how to help them out. This builds a level of trust. This connection is priceless and should not be taken lightly. When customers feel you are trustworthy they are more likely to continue doing business with you.

 

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How Omnichannel Drives Businsess

By | call center, contact Center | No Comments

Do you know the difference between Omnichannel vs. multichannel? The latter refers to how customers complete a transaction. Omnichannel refers to providing customers with a variety of how they begin and end their customer journey.

Companies seem to be scrambling today to implement some form of omnichannel strategy but just how important is it to your business?omnichannel growth

Based upon the Aberdeen Group, it’s very important to year over year growth.

But how is your company managing resources and your investment to support these channels? First understanding your target customers will drive which channels you support. If you sell a line of hearing aids, more than likely you’re not going to use a lot of Social Media to drive customer experience.

But what about brands who may have a prospect click on an image on Instagram, then connect via chat. The chat rep could then recommend a coupon or other products and increase their chances of closing a deal – in minutes vs. days.

In order to provide this level of experience the organization may need to completely restructure how it supports these operations. I’ve spoken to many consultants who help companies make these transitions and one of the biggest – as usual – is the change management process to make these modifications.

One fear they have is losing a customer because they don’t feel completely confident about their ability to manage these channels and risk losing a customer.

The majority of contact centers are starting with some form of self-service as their first point of contact. Even if these channels provide great customer experience, some people still need to reach a live person. When this happens, it’s usually not a basic interaction. This is why it’s so important that your channels have some path to carry interactions with a live person to reduce the need to “re-explain” the situation. No one likes to do this. You will need to enable these agents with skills to handle the more challenging situations vs. the basic interactions. This is one reason our simulator ACES™ is sparking interest. Companies need a scalable way to help teach more complex skills in a small window of time. Using simulation-based training is a great way to immerse employees into realistic training situations.

So please don’t forget all of the legs of the stool when deploying your omnichannel strategy:

  1. Deciding which channels drive results
  2. Putting a strong change management process in place to support this strategy
  3. Ensure the culture and skills you train to support your strategy

 

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Is Your “Nesting” for the Birds?

By | call center, contact Center, Employee Rewards | No Comments

If you have spent any time in a contact center you’ve probably heard of the term “nesting”. It’s that phase for newly hired contact agents after they have had some initial classroom training but aren’t quite ready to go on their own.

On average, the ramp-up time for new agents is for two weeks. This doesn’t really give these agents enough time to digest all of the information they will need to be successful – at most, they will be able to greet the caller properly, and ask how they can help the customer.

To add to their pain, many companies are putting in place self-help tools for customers to use which means by the time they reach an agent, it’s a more challenging situation to handle.

Luckily there are some alternatives to this stage of onboarding. A term I heard recently was “phased nesting”. Meaning don’t force all agents hired at the same time to move through the onboarding process in lockstep. If you notice an agent is moving along faster than some of the others in the group – allow them to progress. This will maintain their engagement and self-confidence while the others moving slower are given more time to adapt to their new tasks.

One alternative we recommend is using our ACES simulator. ACES (accelerated engagement contact system) allows you to deploy realistic immersive simulations that use a phased-in approach to help agents get hands-on experience, with automated feedback from our built-in digital coach. This reduces the risk of taking a live call with an inexperienced agent and gives your managers the ability to see who is truly “floor ready” before placing them into the production environment.

To see ACES in action you can view some video samples by watching our Videos

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Simulation vs. RolePlay

By | bots, call center, contact Center, simulations | No Comments

The Differences of RolePlaying – vs. Scalable Simulations

Click here to see simulation demos

When I speak to people about our simulator ACES™ some people will interchange the term roleplaying and simulations but there is a difference. As I tend to be a little biased on using simulations vs roleplaying.  I thought it would be a helpful exercise to create a chart to list out the similarities and differences between the two activities. This chart below compares the two. There is room for both types of learning methodologies but studies do show that allowing students to spend time in a simulator vs roleplaying, they do perform better. Here is a link to a study conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology conducting a side by side comparison of traditional roleplay in a call center vs simulation.

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