Tag Archive: work

Customer Service with Excellence!

Customer Service with Excellence!
Are you a stickler about receiving top notch customer service? Do you routinely “come through” as a provider of exemplary services to your customers? Chances are you have been greatly disappointed at one time or another regarding the service you received from a salesperson, an internet hosting company, a hair colorist, or any one of thousands of different service providers. Frankly, customer service in many areas — retail, for one — isn’t what it used to be. However, where there is poor customer service there is also a great opportunity. Read on and I will explain.

Let’s say you are in a field that routinely provides so-so service to customers. It could be that customer expectations are low and no one expects top notch service. Maybe most customers are simply “price sensitive” and could care less about how fast or how well you deliver. However, you can bet that there are a percentage of customers out there who appreciate service that goes above and beyond the industry standard. These same customers typically will pay a little extra for service that really serves them. If you can tap into this customer base, you can create a niche, raise your prices, and make more money in the long run.

Depending on your industry, you could command a price premium of 10-25% over the average provider. That may not sound like a lot, but it could spell the difference between eating hamburger or eating steak. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer eating steak!

Naturally, providing a high level of customer service means you will have to break a sweat. You may have to happily redo [its all in the attitude, baby!] or improve on an existing project in order to satisfy a good paying customer. This is what sets you apart from the pack.

If you are satisfied with the “status quo” then that’s okay too. Just don’t expect to have customers beat down your doors for work. At least the better customers will not!

All call centers are not created equal. Whether your team is based on support, sales, or something else, you can cut costs and be more efficient with a cloud-based system. Keeping customers happy should be rule number one for all business owners, because poor customer service or poor support won’t bode well for anyone. Cloud-based support systems have all the tools you need to answer and route calls, create queues, and it even runs reports to see how your team is performing. How’s that for a silver lining?

Call center phone systems provide the needed tools that your team uses to keep your customers thrilled with your company. If your Customer Support team is the heart of your Customer Support operation, your call center phone system is the backbone. In this article, we will give you the key issues related to picking and implementing call center phone systems.

Call Center Phone Systems

Small businesses thrive or die based on how well they support their customers. In many cases that means providing phone support to help your customers get more out of your product. Also, you solve problems they may have encountered. While your standard phone system (either PBX or VoIP based) may give you the basics for that phone support, taking advantage of optimized call center phone systems can help you do it cheaper and provide higher levels of customer care.

Key Considerations of Call Center Phone Systems

Call Queues and Distribution

The more calls that come into your Customer Support team, the more likely you’re going to need to triage those calls. Your team needs to get the right calls to the people who are best able to handle the call. Also, you will want to minimize the wait time.

Good call center phone systems provide a queuing mechanism, so the first caller is taken by the first available agent. Calls can be routed according to rules you specify. For instance, your Customer Support team might be segmented by geography, so a given call should be forwarded directly to a particular agent based on the area code shown on caller ID. However, with the mobility of cell phones, this method isn’t perfect but will work the majority of the time, eliminating multiple waits for your customers.

Agent Status

A standard phone system knows when somebody is on the line. Call center phone systems determine whether a call should go to a given extension based on other factors, such as whether an agent is on break. An agent indicates that he is not available to take calls and a supervisor can see how many agents are currently available. They can rearrange the number of agents to take customer calls.

Key Metrics and Reports

The best way to improve your operation is to know what’s going on. In a call center, like in other areas, that means having metrics you can use to evaluate the situation. Call center phone systems have the ability to create reports around these metrics and can help your call center in several ways, including the best times to staff your call center and which agents are doing things better than others.

You should be able to analyze call volume, length of calls, staff’s resolution methods, and how the metrics change from agent to agent. This gives you good decision-making data and helps you start conversations with your agents. You can find out what makes the good agents good and help the poor performing agents get better. The reports provide justification in case you need to take action related to employees or contractors.

Call Monitoring and Barge-In

Sophisticated call centers have full-time supervisors or second tier support people. If this is your company, you will want your leadership to be able to monitor calls silently or even be able to barge-in when needed. Call center phone systems provide these capabilities. They give you more qualitative data than the metrics you typically see in reports. Also, they provide typical agents with help when they encounter rude customers or more difficult support situations. On many call center phone systems these features are an extra cost.

Connectivity is Key

If you use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, you will likely link your CRM system and your call center phone system. This will make it easier for you to mine your customers and prospects to better support callers. Call center phone systems allow you to integrate with your CRM system, whether it is a cloud-based CRM (i.e. Salesforce.com, Zoho, or Sugar) or a system that you operate in-house (i.e. Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Act!, or Microsoft Outlook).

The integration types differ. You might want your agents to click-to-dial outbound calls directly from your CRM or you might want your CRM system to pop-up a window with customer data every time a call comes in from that customer.

Don’t Forget the Basics

Call center phone systems offer many features you will want for your call center that are similar to those of your general company phone system.

You will want an interactive voice response (IVR) capability, known to many as auto-attendants or voice prompt system. Your callers can properly direct their calls without having to reach somebody on your staff. Many companies use robust IVR systems to provide automated answers to callers. This often means the callers get more prompt responses than waiting for an agent. The company can reduce the number of agents required at a given time.

If you don’t staff your call center 24/7, you will probably have your callers greeted by a different message(s) when it’s not open, so they will know how long to wait until it opens or when they should call back.

Most call center phone systems that record calls will also provide a message to tell callers they are being recorded. The ability to record calls will help you in your training efforts and in handling some caller situations.

Choosing Your Call Center Phone System

The actual call center phone system you need will depend on which of the functions mentioned above are appropriate for your particular business and methodologies. It may also be based, in part, whether your call center is for sales, support, or both.

Cloud-Based Call Center Phone Systems

We have selected Nextiva as the Best Cloud-Based Call Center Phone System based on the wide variety of call center functions the company provides with its service. Other cloud-based call center phone systems that can be used in customer support centers include RingCentral, ShoreTel Sky, and VocalCom.

Nextiva Call Center

  • Provides key tools including queuing & call routing
  • Allows reports to run your center and evaluate your team
  • Interfaces with CRM and MS-Outlook

Providing Excellent Customer Service

Providing Excellent Customer Service

Are you a stickler about receiving top notch customer service? Do you routinely “come through” as a provider of exemplary services to your customers? Chances are you have been greatly disappointed at one time or another regarding the service you received from a salesperson, an internet hosting company, a hair colorist, or any one of thousands of different service providers. Frankly, customer service in many areas — retail, for one — isn’t what it used to be. However, where there is poor customer service there is also a great opportunity. Read on and I will explain.

Let’s say you are in a field that routinely provides so-so service to customers. It could be that customer expectations are low and no one expects top notch service. Maybe most customers are simply “price sensitive” and could care less about how fast or how well you deliver. However, you can bet that there are a percentage of customers out there who appreciate service that goes above and beyond the industry standard. These same customers typically will pay a little extra for service that really serves them. If you can tap into this customer base, you can create a niche, raise your prices, and make more money in the long run.

Depending on your industry, you could command a price premium of 10-25% over the average provider. That may not sound like a lot, but it could spell the difference between eating hamburger or eating steak. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer eating steak!

Naturally, providing a high level of customer service means you will have to break a sweat. You may have to happily redo [its all in the attitude, baby!] or improve on an existing project in order to satisfy a good paying customer. This is what sets you apart from the pack.

If you are satisfied with the “status quo” then that’s okay too. Just don’t expect to have customers beat down your doors for work. At least the better customers will not!

Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do: 5 Things To Consider

Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do: 5 Things To Consider

Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do: 5 Things To Consider. Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do. I hear the term “Virtual Assistant” more and more in business. Did you know that you could possibly hire someone from another continent that works while you sleep and maybe for $8 – $12 Dollars. Mos t of the VA’s I work with have degrees and one an MBA in Business Admin. I pay her a pautry $15.00 per hour and what a bargain that is.

With the growth of virtual assistants has also been a change in what it means to be a virtual assistant.  The leaders and founders of this particular entrepreneurial job have made distinctions between what it means to be a virtual assistant, and what it doesn’t mean.  When you are explaining your business to others, you want to make sure to keep this standard. Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do: 5 Things To Consider

Being a virtual assistant is becoming a distinct definition of a specific home owned business.  It is expected that the standards will be upheld of a virtual assistant for all others who are working in this profession.  This means that a virtual assistant is someone who provides a variety of services to businesses and individuals following the standard that has become formalized in the past decade.

The first angle that is taken towards approaching what a virtual assistant is includes the idea of being virtual. If you are not working out of your home, or remotely, then you are not considered a virtual assistant.  Instead, it is considered to be a temporary job or a telecommuting job.  One of the standards for being a virtual assistant is having the freedom to work where you want. Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do: 5 Things To Consider

The second part to being a virtual assistant is the distinction that is made in the job description.  Most virtual assistants will cringe at the idea of being called a secretary or freelance worker.  Technically, a freelance worker is one who only does the job for extra income.  At the same time, a secretary is one who doesn’t do the work continuously with only one client.  A virtual assistant is provided in order to create a substantial and long term relationship with a business. Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do: 5 Things To Consider

Here are 5 things you should consider in a Virtual Assistant?

1. Professionalism. Does the VA answer her or his emails, voicemails and other correspondence in a timely and professional manner? It is important if this person is to work for you has the right skills to not keep you or a deadline waitng. Make sure you give a covert task to her or him to pass that shows comittment to deadlines.

2. Project Management. Juggling tasks nowadays is vital. We now tap out feet in front of the microwave so things need to get done. If a person cannot work with a few projects on the go you might want to move on. I guarantee you will only find out that they have a project management problem when you lose “the big deal”. Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do: 5 Things To Consider

3. Availability. Many of these people work for several people at the same time. It is not uncommon for you as an employer to be in a funnel system for the VA. You slowly move down the funnel as they take on better contracts from new virtual employers. Be aware that you and your project will get dropped at the most time you least need it. You also need to be lining up new VA’s. Try to split your work between 2 or more VA’s to combat this problem.

4. Test. Give the VA a mini project before going ahead with a contract.  I also give a minimum of 2 tasks that cost no more than $30 -$40 to complete. I need them done correctly and to my total satisfaction before I even consider this person. It is simple to hire one of the first few people to come along but please shortlist at least 10 and give the tasks to 2 of the 10 you shortlisted. Obviously make sure these tasks are something you actually want doe, dont waste any money. Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do: 5 Things To Consider

5. Get References. Can the VA give you a list of people whom you can contact who will tell you about working with her or him?

The main distinction that most virtual assistants will work towards creating is the idea of being in a relationship with a business, and making this their business.  This goes beyond the Expectations of any temporary work or telecommuting job.  It also means that the services a virtual assistant can provide will go outside of job descriptions that are made in the office.  By understanding the standards for being a virtual assistant, you can best approach this in your own relationships with businesses. Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do: 5 Things To Consider

How Background Checks Can Help Your Business

How Background Checks Can Help Your Business

How Background Checks Can Help Your BusinessHow Background Checks Can Help Your Business. If you are running a business, you probably know that the people that you hire can either make or break your business. This is why it is so important to make sure that you hire only the best employees to work for you. However, it is easy to accidentally hire an employee that is a “bad apple” and you’ll definitely end up paying for your mistake. If you want to make sure that you hire only the best employees, then it’s time to start running background checks on employees before you hire. How Background Checks Can Help Your Business

There are many employers today who are turning to employee screening to make sure they get the best employees possible. If you’re not sure that background checks are the right choice for your business, here are a few of the main benefits that may change your mind.

Benefit #1 – Lower Turnover – One of the main benefits of using background screening on your potential employees is that it can actually lead to lower turnover. It can be quite expensive for your company to have a high turnover of employees. However, screening before you hire can help you avoid this.

Benefit #2 – Better Attendance – Attendance is important to your company as well. Your company cannot function well when employees are constantly absent from work. Employee screening can help you week out people that have a bad attendance history at work .How Background Checks Can Help Your Business

Benefit #3 – Reduce Incidents of Theft – You’ll also find that background checks can help you reduce incidents of theft at your company as well. They allow you to take a close look at the criminal record of potential employees to decide whether or not they are trustworthy or not.

Benefit #4 – Experience Productivity – Another great benefit of using background screening before you hire is that your company will experience better productivity when you do this. You won’t end up with people who slack off on the job or who don’t want to be there. You’ll have quality employees who really make your company better.

Benefit #5 – Find Qualified Employees – Having qualified employees is very important if you want a profitable business. So, take a look at their background checks to see how they have performed in the past and if they really do have the qualifications that they say they do.

Benefit #6 – Make Sure the Person is Who They Claim to Be – Last of all, employee screenings allow you to make sure that the person you are considering for hire is really who they are claiming to be. This makes sure that you are protected and that you really know who you are hiring. How Background Checks Can Help Your Business

 

Christopher Gardner Q & A: Lessons for Pursuing ‘Happyness’ in Business

Christopher Gardner Q & A: Lessons for Pursuing ‘Happyness’ in Business
by Susan Caminiti.

Christopher Gardner first made headlines with his best-selling memoir, The Pursuit of Happyness, the story of his homelessness, which was made into the movie of the same name starring Will Smith. Today, he is the CEO of Gardner Rich & Co., a Chicago-based brokerage firm and the author of Start Where You Are—Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. Recently, business writer Susan Caminiti spoke with Gardner about the challenges of running your own business, the importance of failure, and how entrepreneurs need to sometimes get out of their own way.

SC: What aspect of starting and running a small business is most often overlooked or underappreciated?

CG: When you do something that you truly are passionate about, nothing gets overlooked. And that’s the key. It’s when you decide to do something strictly so you can make money that the problems start setting in. The glass all of sudden always looks half empty. When you start a business, it’s not easy. There are a million things that grab your attention and need to be addressed. That’s why it’s so important to do something that you’re passionate about. It has to be that feeling of, the sun can’t come up soon enough in the morning so I can go out and do my thing. That’s the part some folks overlook.

PQ_QAchrisgardner.jpgSC: Is that why it’s so hard for entrepreneurs to delegate, because they’re so passionate about what they do?

CG: No, it’s because we’re control freaks! But seriously, for any business to truly grow and be successful, the owner has to get to the point that I had to reach in my business: there are people who are better than you at certain things. The hard part is finding them and then leaving them alone. I’ll give you a perfect example. I have a bad record in hiring people. But I have a person who’s worked for me for the past 18 years who’s much better at it than I am. She has every license I have and then some. It finally dawned on me that I should let her do the hiring. And you know what? It works. Figure out what you’re good at and what you’re not good at—and then find the people that fill in those gaps. You can’t do everything. That’s just ego talking.

SC: In your book, Start Where You Are, you say there is no plan B for passion. How does someone starting or running a business balance this quest for passion with the practical needs of every day life?

CG: Passion is important but you have to have a plan and be very clear on what it is you want to start or how you want to grow a business you already have. I call it the “C-5 complex” and it revolves around these five words: clear, concise, compelling, committed, consistent. It’s great to have a dream of what you want but without a plan, that’s all it’s every going to be—a dream.

SC: Can you give me an example of how that played out in your life and company?

CG: In early 2008 my company had a $50-million commitment from an investor and I thought all was great. Then in September the financial crisis happened and that $50 million walked away. We had to re-evaluate everything. But that’s the beauty of having a plan, of being clear and committed. We didn’t try to take the company in a completely different direction. We stayed focused and kept moving ahead. And you know what? If I had gotten that $50 million and invested it before the crisis, we’d be so far under water right now it’d be hard to breathe. Sometimes the universe has a way of saying to you—step aside, the timing isn’t right on this.

SC: Failure is difficult in a corporate environment; for entrepreneurs it seems to be magnified and even more personal. How can business owners handle failure better?

CG: If you’re not failing occasionally, you’re not really trying anything. In fact, when you hire someone, the most important question to ask is: Tell me about a time you’ve failed at something. If they can’t give you an answer—or won’t—then you’ve got someone who’s not really going to get in there and be creative and energetic. They’re going to protect themselves. I always tell people, I’d rather be knocked out than tap out. I spent a part of my life homeless. It would have been so easy to give up. I didn’t. Success in life is about how many times you get up, not how many times you fall down.

SC: What’s the best piece of management advice you ever got?

CG: I was with [former Citigroup CEO] Sandy Weill years ago and we were talking about finding and keeping talented people. He said to me, ‘Chris, don’t ever be afraid to hire people smarter than you.’ Then he added, ‘But remember, even though they’re smarter it doesn’t mean you have to pay them more than you.’ I just laughed and thought, they sure don’t teach you that at Harvard!