Death Of The Call Center…Keep Dreaming!

Kunnect Nation,

It would seem that some believe that the days are numbered for call centers and their client voice interactions, in favour of self-service via increased smartphone availability. Ask yourself this: Have you ever said the following…

1. “Oh my god, why am I stuck in this annoying IVR. I want to speak with a live operator!”
2. “I’m on a website and I can’t find the phone number to call them. What’s up with that!”
3. “What a great deal for those steak knives! I have to call in right now.”

Albeit I will admit that resolution to trivial customer service transactions via self-service are on the rise (and rightfully so), the aforementioned quotes bear evidence that we have all craved the personal touch of a voice interaction.

Smartphones, SMS, emails, and even blogs all fail in one respect. They fail, in the most part, to deliver the appropriate emotion to accompany the message. Little smiley faces just don’t cut it. People, especially those in the 35-80 age group, still favour voice interactions above all other types of interactions.

Of course it is convenient to order a pizza over the web, and I encourage you to do so…it keeps the overall price of the pie down. But try resolving a technical issue with your PVR during a chat session with an overseas agent. Sometimes, you just have to talk it out. Companies who still offer toll-free numbers for their customers to call them reap the benefits.

Being able to speak with your customers, and even convert disappointed or angry ones, back to being loyal customers of your products is paramount today. Successful companies continue to open the many doors of communications to their customers in an effort to making their relationship a long lasting one.

On a final note, call your significant others on the phone today instead of texting them some 6 word comment. Enjoy it and cherish it.

Fred Cote

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Disaster Recovery – You Have Been Warned!

Kunnect Nation,

Over the past years, I have often been asked by customers what they can do to prepare for a disaster as it pertains to the continuity of their call center. Disaster Recovery (DR) solutions have for a long time, be an expensive proposition, and honestly ignored by most businesses.

Enter the Hosted Call Center Solution. One obvious benefit of a hosted call center solution, like XVP, is that your call center hardware, data, and licensing are hosted in the cloud, which means it is with you anywhere you go.

Here are a couple of scenarios to contemplate:

1. You operate a call center and the building has a electrical shortage, or your main internet line is severed. You are down hard! With Kunnect’s XVP, your agents and managers can all go work from home for the next day or two and leverage their own internet connections and home computers to keep the call center going….problem solved.

2. You operate a large outsource inbound call center and your clients demand 100% up-time from you. Let’s say your center goes down, but this time, you are NOT using Kunnect, but rather a premise based PBX / ACD system to route your calls. You would be dead in the water without a real DR plan.

I have a plan to propose to you. Implement Kunnect’s XVP system as your disaster recovery solution…as a standby for your premise based solution. You could prepare the XVP system with all the proper ACD groups and DIDs in advance, so that if you had to cut-over your inbound toll free calls to a new location, you could very quickly.

This idea is not fiction, but one we at Kunnect have already done for several large outsourcers. Find out if it makes sense for you.

Fred Cote

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Predictive Dialing – Tricks and Tips

Kunnect Nation,

I often get asked the question about “what settings should I have to cut down agent wait time?” That is a multi-loaded question. There isn’t one simple answer to this question. Here are the factors to consider:

1. Number of agents in that calling profile
2. Time of day
3. Age of the list
4. Nature of the campaign

Certainly it has been said for many years now that dialing predictively only gets better and more efficient, when you have more agents in the calling profile. Personally, I feel that having less than 5 agents dialing predictively in a profile makes it close to impossible to be efficient (low drop ratio) and have a short average wait time between calls (i.e. 20 seconds). I’d say, stick to 10 agents or more.

The time of day you are calling can greatly influence your live contact rate. If you keep working a list during weekday afternoons, it is obvious you wil have difficulty getting a high connect rate. Try calling on your newer leads during the day, and attempting older leads in the evening (or alternating from day to day). One can assume that if someone is not home during the day, they might be working. Calling in the evening will increase your likelihood of a connect.

Old, beat up lists that have been called on for more than 20 attempts can be hard to convert into sales. Try mixing some new and old lists together so that you are not having peaks and valleys in your production.

Lastly, the nature of the campaign can have a critical impact. If the list of numbers you are calling is cold, then you may need a little more dialing power (4-5 lines per agent), whereas a list of previous customers would indicate to me that it will have a greater likelihood of connecting, thus using less lines. You would not want to overdial this group of leads for the fear of alienating them.

Kunnect is proud to say that it has an FTC compliant mode for its hosted predictive dialer, that dials very efficently (average wait times between 20-30 seconds) all the while maintaining a drop ratio of 3% or less. Try it out!

Fred Cote

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Offshoring Options In Light of Government Sanctions

Kunnect Nation,

I have written on this topic before, and I was getting ready to blog about it again today, when an industry collegue shared a very interesting piece she recently wrote. I thought I would share it wth you today. It is from Lauren Carlson, a CRM Analyst from Software Advice.

In December 2011, a bill was introduced to Congress that, if passed, will refuse federal grant or guaranteed loan programs to companies that have offshore call center operations. The U.S. Call Center and Consumer Protection Act, or H.R. 3596, will also require all offshore call center employees to reveal their location to U.S. consumers and give them the option to be transferred to a U.S.-based call center. The primary purpose of the bill is to provide more jobs to qualified U.S. workers.

Those companies that do offshore their call centers do so for obvious financial reasons. It is typically more cost-effective and results in reduced overhead costs, as well as provides companies the ability to scale up or down accordingly. But what if those same things could be achieved by hiring onshore? Below, I’ve highlighted three companies that have developed smart alternatives to the offshore call center that not only keep costs down, but also prevent your company from feeling the pain of H.R. 3596.

See the complete article at  By Lauren Carlson, a CRM Analyst from Software Advice, a free online resource for service software buyers.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks Lauren.

Fred Cote

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Don’t Carriers Want To Make Calls Anymore?

Kunnect Nation,

If you have been working with most of the Tier 1 carriers, like Qwest, Verizon, etc.., then you have undoubtedly received notices in the past 18 months about “short duration call” penalties. Why are they so diligent about monitoring your call completion rate?

One would think that operating a call center has its fair share of challenges, so why do carriers no longer want to place your calls? I’ll tell you why.

Over the last two decades, the Sales division of carriers ran the show. Sales reps were making hefty commissions on all your calls…everyone seemed happy. Times have changed!

Firstly, most tier 1 carrier sales reps don’t even get commissions on your calls anymore. Now the IT department runs the show. All carriers have been converting their infrastructures to be VoIP enabled in the last 7-10 years. This means that even your T-1 (TDM) calls are being processed (at some point) by a session border controller (SRC – which manages VoIP calls). These machines are very costly, and given the fact that margins on long distance calls are way down, spending money on infrastructure isn’t very popular.

Carriers are making most of their money on bandwidth, not long distance calls. Telemarketing is a sacred American tradition and employes of over 300,000 agents around the country. It needs to be protected.

Fred Cote

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Oversee Your Call Center From Anywhere..Even The Beach

Kunnect Nation,

I thought I would share with you an interesting story told to me by a customer last week. He owns and operates a call center in the U.S. with about 25 agents. At the begining of March, he took his family on vacation to Mexico for spring break. As usual, he brought along his iPad 2. Along with his usual checking of email and surfing sport websites…he discovered something new.

He could manage his Kunnect enabled call center from the beach!

More to the point, obviously, he could access the XVP admin site to run reports and view productivity in real-time…but he discovered that he could also monitor his agents, and send them IM messages, all from his iPad.

By downloading a softphone, he was able to use one of his Supervisor licenses to register his phone and monitor/coach his agents right from the Extensions View. As well, he now used the Instant Message capability to send directed messages to his agents.

This was an eye opening experience, he said. I smiled :-). The real kicker was that once he had his softphone registered, he was able to make calls back home to his friends and fmaily without incurring any international dialing costs.

If you have a story to share, let me know.

Fred Cote

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Remote Agent Telemarketing Is Taking Off

Kunnect Nation,

With gas prices continuing to skyrocket, and commute times only getting longer, the ability to work remotely from home is a welcome practice enjoyed by call center agents around the world. That being said, I have noticed a significant rise in the number of call centers in the U.S. that have been adding “remote” personnel to thier workforce.

There are obvious savings to be had (i.e. overhead costs, etc…), but it does come with a few challenges as well. Here is a short list of those I find most pertinent:

1. Training: This can be difficult with remote at-home agents. I have seen some companies deploy web based training videos or webinar sessions with their remote staff.

2. Monitoring Performance: Conversely to walking the ailes of your call center to make sure your agents are producing, you need to leverage good reporting software for your call center solution. You need to know the benchmarks and baselines for what to compare your agents to.

3. Technology: Not every call center can just roll out an at-home workforce. You will need the right, flexible techonology to do so. A cloud based solution, like Kunnect’s XVP, certainly helps make that possible.

If you want to share any insights on the remote at-home agent market, feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Fred Cote

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