The Season of Giving

In the words of Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.”  At Inova Solutions we’re committed to giving back to our community.  We expand our success to include not only the financial, but also the social wins.

This year Inova Solutions has stepped up and paired with The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to help feed the hungry in Central Virginia.  Due to their ability to purchase food in bulk, and at a discounted rate, every dollar given provides four meals to a person in need.  At this year’s holiday potluck, Inova Solutions team members donated $250 that the company then matched.

Inova Solutions is proud to donate $500 to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and provide 2000 meals to individuals in need.

Does your organization have a social responsibility policy?  If so, we’d love to hear about it.  If not, there’s no better time than the present to suggest a new strategy.  If you’re worried about starting out too big I suggest creating a committee within your group of coworkers.  At Inova Solutions we have a team of volunteers that are involved with our Incentives and Morale Committee.  This group helps plan a variety of Inova events from community outreach and volunteer projects, to an annual chili cook-off!

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has benefits beyond what meets the eye.  A solid commitment to CSR helps strengthen your reputation and brand image.  It also helps keep your employees engaged and allows them to develop respect and trust for the organization.  Simon Mainwaring, author of the book, We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World, has some great insight to share.

His article on Mashable reads, “For decades, the decision to be an environmentally and socially responsible company has been based on the bottom line: Would it be profitable? In general, companies have crunched the numbers and chosen shareholder profits over a sufficient commitment to invest in greater social responsibility. In terms of traditional accounting and the legal requirements of corporations, costs always outweighed benefits.  But it now seems that this equation is starting to lean the other way as brands recognize the potential financial and reputational advantages they can gain by engaging with consumers around the shared ambition of building a better world.”

CSR is a topic that should be on the forefront of every organization’s mind.  During this season of giving, take time to engage with your coworkers and participate in or develop your own CSR action plan.

Holiday Rewards for your Employees

It’s that time of year again…when many of your employees are focused on their own holiday preparations and less motivated regarding the work that needs to be done.  For many companies, this holiday slump is poorly timed at the same time as increased call volumes and added pressure to meet annual performance metrics.  Luckily for some, holiday bonuses or gifts for employees can help employees remember that they are valued and important pieces of the corporate puzzle.  However, many companies don’t have a corporate plan for gift giving or bonuses.  If you find yourself in such a situation, consider some alternate ways that you can share some of the holiday spirit with your employees:

Gift cards – If you have any discretionary funds that you can use for employee gifts, gift cards are an easy and much-appreciated treat for employees.  Many retailers offer discounts on gift cards in November and December.  Even if it’s a small amount on each card, your efforts will likely not go unnoticed or unappreciated!   I’ve seen buy three $5 cards, get one free deals at national chain coffee shops; holiday calendars with free items every month at national fast food chains, and $100 gift cards for $80 at many national and local restaurants.

Holiday event – You can be as elaborate or simple as your budget allows with a holiday event; the key is to sponsor some time for employees to visit and socialize with their coworkers.  Consider whether you will offer the event during work hours, if families will be invited, and what exactly you will provide and what employees should bring.

Holiday-specific performance metrics – Bring a little fun into the work day.  Can you think of metrics that you could incorporate related to the holiday season?  Ask employees to tally how many customers they can get to offer a return holiday greeting; a reward as simple as having the winner’s name on your Inova LightLink display may be enough to engage employees.

Reward with time – Depending on how your company works, you may have little control over employee compensation, but some wiggle room in leave time.  If so, consider allowing employees to leave early, arrive late, or extend breaks on a rotating basis.

Personal gifts – Even if the above options aren’t realistic for your call center, you can always use your personal funds or skills to give gifts to your employees.  I’ve seen managers give baked goods, handmade ornaments, movie tickets, and even holiday mix CDs as presents for employees.  Besides, anything from you is likely to be even more appreciated due to its personal nature!

Many people get caught up in the stress of the holidays, which can impact performance at work.  Finding ways to show your employees that they are appreciated and valued will ultimately make your contact center a more enjoyable place to be throughout the season!

FCR and Customer Satisfaction: A Match Made in Heaven

The following article is courtesy of Peggy Carlaw.  Peggy Carlaw is the founder of Impact Learning Systems. Impact helps companies develop and implement customer service strategies to improve the customer experience. Their consulting services and training programs help organizations create a customer-focused culture while producing measurable business results. Peggy is also the author of three books published by McGraw-Hill including Managing and Motivating Contact Center Employees.

When you call a support center to get help on an issue or have a question answered, will you be more satisfied with the company if:

  1. The customer representative is knowledgeable and is able to resolve your issue on the first call?
  2. The representative is unsure how to help you, puts you on hold, and then asks you to call back so that a supervisor can help you?

It’s pretty obvious, right? If a company can resolve your problem on the first try, you’ll think more favorably of the company and rate your customer satisfaction experience higher.

First-Call Resolution (FCR) is one of the simplest—and most effective ways a company can improve customer satisfaction.

The statistics back the correlation between FCR and customer satisfaction

Numerous studies between FCR and CSAT rates show the link. For example:

  • 20% of callers don’t have their issue resolved on the first call.
  • 68% of those with unresolved issues are at risk for defecting to another company.
  • CSAT rates are, on average, 35-45 % lower when a second call is made for the same issue.
  • For every 1% of FCR improvement, companies are likely to see a 1% improvement in CSAT rates.
  • When an issue is resolved on the first try, only 3% of customers are likely to go to a competitor.

And the stats go on … but you get the point. To improve your customer service, work on your FCR rates. There’s definitely a business case for addressing resolution rates!

But, for many companies, improving FCR is a complex issue. What’s going on?

Just improve your FCR and you’ll have happier customers! Easier said than done, right? Let’s examine some of the most common barriers to FCR.

  • Complex Products or Issues: FCR is much easier for, say, an online retail store, where a customer is calling to get more information on dress sizes, than a web-hosting company that deals with technical domain issues and server problems.If you have a complex problem or have a support center that deals with highly technical matters, focusing on FCR may not apply. If that’s the case, focus on having highly trained, independent-thinking reps who can work efficiently to solve customer matters—even if it takes multiple calls. Your focus then will be on reducing the time or the number of calls until the issue is resolved.
  • To measure FCR, you have to first define “fix.” When tracking metrics of any kind, you need to clearly define your tracking parameters. For FCR, what does “fix” a customers’ issue mean to you? Did you solve a URL issue, but still leave open other questions that need to be tackled? Define issues, problem by problem (or in a set of problems, as the case may be) before you set out to track and improve FCR rates. Additionally, you’ll need to define what “contact” means. Is e-mail a contact? Is a web-generated request a contact?
  • It takes two to tango. When looking at FCR, you may find it hard to control your rates if you have a customer base with a low level of experience. Depending on your industry and product, your customer’s understanding of the product will affect how long it takes for the representative to resolve the issue. If you sell B2B technical equipment,  your customer will likely have a base understanding of the product and may just need a little assistance. But if you are selling technical services to the B2C world, the learning curve may be steeper and the time to resolution longer.
  • Technical skills of your representatives. The training you provide to your representatives can make a dramatic difference in your FCR rates—particularly if you have a technical service or product. Hopefully your management team understands that an investment in technical customer service training is well-worth it when considering the ramifications of low FCR rates.
  • Self-service’s impact on FCR. More and more customers rely on web forums—and on your website—to help them resolve issues. This means that customers who would have called you previously (most likely with easier issues) are now figuring out answers themselves. Customers who do end up calling, therefore, are often those who couldn’t resolve the issue and present more complex problems that could be harder to resolve on the first call.
  • Your representatives’ comfort level with internal tools. You may think that a hefty investment in a slick CRM system is just the ticket, but with any internal tools you have in place, make sure you train your reps thoroughly on how to use the tools at their disposal. If a representative is fumbling or taking a long time to figure out how to use a system, most likely, it will take longer (or not be possible) to solve a customer issue on the first try.

The lesson? Improve the factors you can control that help improve FCR

The above list is just a brief sample of the many barriers that companies face when confronting low FCR rates and undesirable CSAT scores. However, even if you have a very complex product, and even if you’re dealing with a customer base that comes to you with a lower-level of understanding, you can still offer stellar customer service and get your FCR rates as low as possible for your industry and product type. The key? Your customer service training program. When you choose to focus on the quality of service your representatives offer your customers, and the technical training your employees receive, you are likely to see a natural increase in your FCR rates, and your loyal customers will continue to reward you with business. Heavenly!

Republished with author’s permission from original post by Peggy Carlaw.

Does your Contact Center Need a Stress Test?

Thanksgiving and Black Friday are over.  In the blink of an eye Christmas will have come and gone.  What’s left on your big list of preparations?  How about keeping your agents sane!

Lauren Carlson, CRM Analyst, has the answers for you.  Last month she featured two posts about holiday help desks.  In the first, Four Tips to Make Your Holiday Help Desk Shine, Lauren reviews some quick solutions to keep everyone on track.

Create a holiday-specific FAQ list 

A simple FAQ list might be one of the easiest things to brainstorm, and also the most helpful.  Carlson discusses thinking about and educating your staff on the simple questions like delivery and giftwrap options.

Cross-train your staff

Many organizations spend time training their seasonal employees for the holidays.  Experts suggest that everyone at the contact center be trained as a support agent to enhance the image of the entire organization.

Communicate availability ahead of time

Remember all of those emerging media outlets you joined?  This is a perfect time to use them!  Utilize every possible medium to inform customers of the special hours or availability of your company.

Develop a plan of agent support

Don’t forget that your employees are one of the most valued assets to your establishment.  The holidays are a perfect opportunity to say “thank you.”  Recognize their hard work and alleviate their stress with rewards, bonuses, or incentives.

Lauren Carlson wrote her second article, The Holiday Help Desk Stress Test, to help you identify the strengths and weaknesses that are potentially hiding in your call center.  She proposes five examinations.

1.)    Employee Onboarding

There is no doubting the impact of seasonal employees to help keep ASA down.  The real problem is identifying the impact after they’re gone.  Are your seasonal employees trained properly?  Can they answer the appropriate questions?  Do you have an influx of problems launching the new year because customers have been given the wrong information?  Make a goal to measure post-holiday operations.

2.)    Internal Collaboration

Stress levels are likely at their highest during this time of year.  Look at the collaboration between all departments within your center and help problem solve and plan for future success.

3.)    Peak Load Management

Assistly’s Senior VP of Marketing, Matt Trifiro, quoted “If you can figure out how to best distribute the work load between temporary versus full-time employees, you can experience a huge amount of savings and also provide a better customer experience.”  If you are thinking that perhaps your seasonal employees aren’t quite at the level you hoped, consider training them only on the basics and allowing the tougher questions to be answered by your long-term professionals.

4.)    Emergency Response Processes

When you least expect it, unforeseen emergencies creep up.  How will you and your company deal with them?  Are you ready to respond to and manage a disaster through all of your channels?  Being proactive is vital to the health of your organization.

5.)    Customer Satisfaction

Have you ever thought about asking customers to candidly give you some feedback after your busiest time of the year?  By listening to your critics after the most intense season in the call center you’ll get the feedback you need.  This also can help you align next year’s strategy with the responses and goals you’ve created.

Use this holiday season to learn, engage and celebrate!  

Managing a “BYOD” Workplace

Recently, I’ve written about your customers’ use of smart phones as well as how you can leverage a smart phone in the workplace.  Another emerging trend is what’s referred to in a recent series of articles in Information Week publications as the “BYOD Revolution.”  BYO is a commonly-accepted acronym for bring your own, and the D here is for device.  In most companies, the majority of employees do not have a corporate-issued smart phone, so they have purchased these devices personally.  That part of the trend is not particularly worrisome, but problems can easily arise when employees use their personal devices to check their work email, manage company documents, or organize client contacts.

In “Survive the BYOD Revolution,” Finneran outlines seven ways to cope with the influx of employee devices.  He starts with a recommendation to carefully consider which employees are eligible for smart phones and to develop specific guidelines for reimbursements.  From there, determine which platform to use and outline your support plan.  Beyond that, management needs to understand the long-term implications of employee devices:  if an employee leaves, will he be allowed to take the device phone number with him, or does the company need to retain it?  How will you strengthen the “weak link” (i.e., the users) in your security plan so that information is not compromised?  Finally, what is your schedule for reassessing your policies?

Once you’ve determined a plan for distributing and managing corporate smart phones to some employees, you still need to consider the impact of employees using non-corporate devices.  Just because you don’t issue them one, certainly doesn’t mean that employees are willing to be left behind in the growing smart phone trend!

In his Practical Analysis article from the November 14 issue, Wittman writes that IT can’t manage employee smart phones in the same way that a corporate phone is managed.  It’s a risky business to try to manage an employee’s personal phone when it contains his archive of photos, calendars, contacts, etc.  Wittman suggests that the most realistic solution is to set a clear policy and then educate users on acceptable ways to incorporate their personal phones with any work information.

Whether or not your company supplies devices to employees, you still need to consider the ramifications that this BYOD Revolution can have on your workplace!