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empathy

Three Ways to Show Employees Your Appreciation in a COVID-19 World

By | empathy, Employee Rewards | No Comments

Now more than ever in 2020, companies need to reach out beyond a traditional Thanksgiving pat on the back. As COVID-19 has taken away traditions such as a company potluck or group volunteering activities for the underserved.

In regular times, over 66% of employees say they will leave an employer of they don’t feel appreciated. Showing employees on a regular basis that you appreciate them is always important but during holidays, you may want to go beyond the standard format.

Here are three other options you may want to use.

  1. Unless you have been living under a rock, we have all had a “Zoom” meeting. The company Zoom offers to reimburse employees for any book they purchase. This is a great idea as it gets us away from screens. You may offer to set up a book club or use lists of books for people to choose from so they can have non-work conversations about each book they are reading
  2. Mail a personal hand-written note to their home. Getting physical mail is rare these days so sending a note directly to their home will be seen as a nice gesture as it does take more effort and thought than sending a digital note or dropping something off at their desk.
  3. Many of us have been forced into becoming set design and lighting experts to put our best face forward on endless video calls. Why not provide a custom back-drop or lighting packages to help everyone look their best.

However simple or elaborate the gesture is, remember to be authentic, and all gifts will be greatly appreciated.

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Top 3 Strategies for Win Win Vendor Relationships

By | contact Center, empathy, podcsting | No Comments

It’s not about driving down costs — at all costs.

Procurement Cloud states that 47% of vendor relationships will hit a wall. Why is that?

There isn’t one single answer but many times it comes down to building win-win relationships vs. trying to drill down the price to shave percentage points off your supplier fees. Even in the middle of a Pandemic and economic downturn, there are ways to build strong relationships. Here are three top strategies:

  1. Good communication and setting ground rules
    1. Christa Heibel of CH Consulting Group, a well-known Contact Center Consulting firm, states in order to create a Win-Win relationship, begin with ensuring your contract flushes out all of the details of the relationship including how each party will contribute creatively. Listen to her Words of Wisdom an excerpt from our Contact Center Insights Podcast

2. Be transparent – I’m not saying give away trade secrets but the better the vendor understands how decisions are made, what other priorities are demanding resources the more valuable input they can provide. My first experience with this was 20 years ago when I worked for a company win win situationthat had an onsite contract with Sears headquarters. At that time it was rare that a vendor would be invited to sit in on staff meetings and participate in the planning process but it gave us greater insight as to how we could provide our services in a more valuable way. We were able to become more pro-active in recommendations and felt truly part of the team.

3. Create channels of trust

When you’re making a buying decision, trust is a large part of the equation. Will the vendor deliver what they promised, will support be at the level you expected it to be. The same can be true for your role. Giving timely responses, clearly outline what your expectations are, and stick to them, not delaying payments or changing the terms of the deal allow the vendor to have faith in the relationship and align their resources accordingly.

For example, a BPO set terms with their client to abide by specific KPIs for managing a campaign. Mid-way through the campaign, the client’s business had a major re-organization and put pressure on the BPO to stick to the original terms and fees, even though their employees were putting in more time and effort to manage a new set of metrics and requirements. Even though the vendor may fear losing this client, in a solid win-win relationship, it would be fair to expect the vendor to ask for a revision of their contract.

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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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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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More Metrics vs. More Completions

By | Adaptive Learning, bots, empathy, simulations | No Comments

Better Training Metrics to Measure Business Impact

I was one of the first people to evangelize the use of Learning Management Systems (LMS) twenty years ago. Now I’m singing a new tune — find a way to measure skill readiness vs. “completions”.

Initially, the LMS systems served a great purpose. But as time went on, companies began adding more and more features to it to help manage various learning activities. I worked with a client who had very robust features for managing classrooms, assessments, catalogs etc. But the bi-product of this was arming trainers with data on the consumption of activities. I could tell you how many people passed an assessment but couldn’t tell you if these same people knew how to really conduct a proper “lock-out tag-out” procedure.

In a recent survey conducted by Donald H Taylor Learning Analytics made the top spot in what the learning

Web analytics concept

the community has a priority interest in 2020. In previous years personalization and adaptive learning held these top spots.

This is great news for Verbal Transactions — as I have been preaching the benefits of more data for the last four years. In our simulator ACES™ (accelerated contact engagement system) we can pinpoint key behaviors that will truly prepare employees for how to do their job well. We are supplying the “system” to measure these behaviors because the standard LMS can’t do this.

For example: In a standard online training program to teach customer service skills, the manager only knows the following:

  1. When the student started and completed the course
  2. What their score on the final assessment or knowledge checks were

In most instances, this course wouldn’t allow the student to complete the course without successfully reaching the passing score.

If you were to build a similar course in ACES™, you would know the following:

  1. When the student started and completed the course
  2. Did they great the customer properly – and how many times it took them to do this according to best practice
  3. Did they properly express the right level of empathy if the customer expressed dissatisfaction?
  4. How well they demonstrated accuracy when keying in information on a screen or recommend proper items to the customer
  5. Did they ask an open-ended question to properly help the customer uncover their needs
  6. Did they paraphrase their understanding of the customer’s requests or needs properly
  7. Were they able to handle the transaction within a reasonable amount of time
  8. Did the offer any cross-selling items at the appropriate time

Anyway, you get the point. With the new digital transformation taking place, organizations can bring this power of more information to them to help trouble-shoot employee performance problems before they impact the customer experience.

If you’d like to see the simulator in action, just click this link.

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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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