Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The winning formulae for a successful contact centre

We would like to think all our contact centres are successful. It’s about having that winning formula that EWA uses and tailoring it around the client’s specific product and again the use of appropriate language, using clear and concise messages.

It’s also about holding a conversation with customers so they don’t feel you are following a script. It’s also about taking responsibility and ownership of the customer’s problem, and delivering at the right pace with clear consistent messaging.

Some of our successful contact centres included the Department of Health, where the contact centre can have very difficult calls to handle. Its messages need to be delivered with empathy rather than sympathy, which is where EWA can provide expertise.

Getting the right people for a successful contact centre to run like clock work is also part of the winning formula. We can give basic phone training, a lot of product training, but we also have to give people the freedom to convey their personality during the communication to the customer. An individual also needs to be confident in dealing with calls in the contact centre. It’s about product matching too. If you work in our adidas contact centre for example you have to have an interest in sport or it’s never going to work for the caller because you are not going to be able to talk knowledgeably and confidently about the products.

What are the challenges faced in managing a contact centre?

One of the main challenges when working in a contact centre is relying on inbound traffic and managing the peaks and troughs of those calls. It’s all about finding the right balance between having enough staff to manage the incoming calls but still retaining cost effectiveness for clients.

It’s also about staff motivation. A number of contact centres can be dealing with highly emotive subjects, quite standard and even boring subjects, so staff motivation and retention is key in managing a contact centre. It is also about measuring and monitoring the output and it depends on the individual’s interpretation of customer service.

We can all give examples of bad customer service but may struggle to recall an example of good customer service. A recent study showed that 80% of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience but only 8% of their customers agreed. So whilst a company might think they are doing a great job, you are only as good as that customer remembering the conversation. You do have to go over and above what you believe good customer service is to make a great impression.

Listening and delivering the message is also important. Another of the challenges is that the customer may not really know what to ask you. Perhaps they have a letter which does not make sense to them and they are angry as a result. You really have to listen to them carefully and deliver the correct answer which they may not even want to hear, so it’s important the agent conveys the message in a positive manner.

Call duration brings about its own challenges. A client may measure us on our call duration, and then we have to keep those calls short and deliver a high quality level of customer service which can be something of a contradiction.

Again the bottom line is ensuring that there is consistency in delivering key messages to customers and managing all the challenges that we face.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Can your data and Customer Insight help you avoid the credit crunch?

There’s no doubt about it, it’s tough for most UK businesses at the moment, we’re in the middle of an economic downturn and consumers are becoming increasingly cautious with their money. But do businesses already have the means to help them avoid the worst of what may become a full blown recession without knowing it?

So what am I referring to? (And no it’s not Mervyn King’s mobile number!) Well in a word… data, and more specifically, consumer and transactional data.

Most businesses have a huge amount of information at their finger tips. Every time a customer buys your products or services you collect information on them, whether it is their contact information, details of the products or services they have bought, when they bought them or the communications they have responded to. All this information can be collated into a marketing database and through the use of Customer Insight, really help you to understand your customer’s behaviour.

“So what” I hear you say, “how is knowing what my customers buy going to help me avoid tough times ahead?” Well it all comes down to relevance, by using Customer Insight to help you market relevant products through relevant communication channels to people who are statistically likely to buy them, you can seriously increase the level of responses to your marketing campaigns and remove the reliance on above the line marketing. All this equals less expense and more return from your marketing budget.

So before you begin to worry about your customers spending less and going to the competition look at the one thing already in your possession and make your data work for you.

I’d like to hear you thoughts on the topic I’ve discussed. Is Customer Insight helping you during the credit crunch?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Exhibitions and making your data work for you

The aim of this blog is to try to give some advice and help people avoid one of the biggest errors made while taking part in events or exhibitions. Based on my previous experiences, I hope to give you some pointers which will enable you to make the most of any future events.

Exhibitors spend a huge amount of money on stands for exhibitions to make sure they look state of the art; they make sure they have their best sales personnel present to establish and build new customer relationships, and finally they make sure they gather as much data as possible on prospects. However, all of this time and money can be wasted if you do not act on a few key points!

The key objective for exhibitors when venturing in to any event should be to gain a deeper customer insight, generate leads that can be turned into monetary value, and increase their company’s profit.

Exhibitors normally gauge how successful a show has been by the amount of data and leads they collect. All this is extremely valuable, but unless this data is used quickly and accurately, it could be a waste of time collecting it in the first place.

Making better use of the data you worked so keenly to collect can be the hardest part about taking part in a show. It’s sometimes difficult to find the time or resources within your company to do simple things such as data capture the information from an exhibition into your sales and marketing database when you get back to the office. However, what people often do not realise is within that data can be the key to your future success.

Information that can be extracted from data and information captured can offer customer insight that will open your client base in so many ways. Handled by the right people, it can be of significant benefit to your company, placing you leagues ahead of any competitors.

By enhancing this data you can build relevant propositions, it can affect future decision making, you can cross sell, track the behaviour of your clients and know when they are more likely to place orders with you.

What you do at the show does not have to change, you know what you are selling, you are the expert in that, what needs to change is what you do after, so let an expert get the most out of the hard work you put in.

At the show make sure you are asking for the correct information from your prospects so you can make the most of your data. If in doubt ask an expert for some advice on the data to be captured and how to go about it, it can make the process a lot less painful in the long run and remove the need for manual data capture.

You have spent a lot of money on the show so you need to get the best return on your investment; by allocating a small amount of your budget to outsource your data management really will bring you the return you deserve.

If you have any event advice or tips please post them for us all to learn from.

How do I source a contact centre?

Any company needs to ask themselves what they would like to get out of using a contact centre. Here are some questions companies have to ask themselves when finding the right contact centre supplier.

• What type of service do you want to offer your customer?

• Do you want a very quick, automated sign posting service, where people can find out information on their own?

• Do you want it to be made available for out of business hours?

• Is the call being made to the end customer or is it to a business to business customer?

• Would your customers prefer to use a free phone number or a local phone number?

• Do you know customers that have recommended other companies?

• Have you done any mystery shopping?

• Have you looked at who’s around?

• Does the contact centre belong to a professional membership? Contact centres that belong to the Contact Centre Association are worth investigating.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Contact centres allow yours truly to build a relationship with your customer

In our previous post we mentioned that contact centres serve a variety of purposes and offer solutions for our clients and this in turn will depend on a client’s needs and wants. It could be to support direct mail, PR work or any campaigns which may need following up.

Despite all the technologies available, particularly online, our clients’ use the telephone. We have contact centres where we have also managed product recall programmes. Customers simply want to speak to someone on the telephone. Some people want assurance and an answer quickly and many customers feel the quickest way to get to an answer is by phone. The telephone call also gives people the opportunity to build relationships, which is one of the strengths of a contact centre.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The value of contact centres - consistency in the message and delivering excellent customer service

A contact centre is a team of trained specialists, who are there to deliver a first class service. They are very different from a call centre. Contact centres serve a multi-channel environment; For example, a contact centre maybe used to answer emails, work on written material that has come via post as well answer telephone calls. When you go through to a contact centre using multiple communication channels, there will always be consistency in the message communicated. A contact centre plays a key role and is very much a frontline for our client’s customers at EWA.

Leave it to the experts when investing in a contact centre…

It’s a bit of a cliché, but when you do invest in outsourcing a contact centre you are leaving it with the experts. It’s like when you are looking for a plumber, you’re looking for a professional who can do the job. All our experts in our contact centres are professionally trained and have the time to talk to clients’ customers. Our team are trained in answering the telephone appropriately and in a timely fashion.

The added value of a multi-channel contact centre does also give you the facility for a higher volume of customers to reach you more quickly. For example, if you have five or six people who happen to call you at the same time, and there are only just two of you in the office, you are potentially going to miss three or four of those calls, whilst a contact centre is going to be able to pick up those calls almost immediately.

The volume of traffic can also vary. This will depend on the client’s requirements and the customer service offering. Sometimes you could receive fifty calls in a week or fifty in a day. Again this depends on the message you want to send to you customer. We always evaluate the client’s needs and the history. A contact centre can be used for a variety of requirements. Some clients may make use of our multi-client contact centre facility because they may want us to manage the back end of a direct marketing campaign and provide response handling services. Or it could be they want us to look at one of our dedicated units where they want to have a conversation with their customers, offering advice and guidance so this would be a very different call.