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Call Center Articles

What Kind of Customer Experience Do You Provide?



Customer Experience Is More Than a Buzzword—It’s the Path to Success

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

People love to share their stories about their experiences when interacting with various companies. They post things online, which can have a far reach and may go viral. They also tell people face-to-face, which doesn’t have the reach but has more impact.

The types of stories they like to share seldom fall in the category of typical. Instead they pick outlier examples to tell others about. These are either interactions that went amazingly well or ones that went shockingly bad. The normal experiences are just too average to warrant much attention.

Instead they want to share extreme examples, which are far more fun to recount.

Negative Customer Experience

Most of the time, extreme customer experience examples are not positive ones. This may be because companies let us down more than they delight us. Or it could be because bad news garners more attention. If you doubt that, just watch the nightly news. Better yet, don’t watch the news, and take my word for it. Rarely does the news include any feel-good stories, even though they do exist.

The more horrific the customer experience, the more interesting it seems, and the more it resonates with everyone who hears it. Revealing their bad experiences to others results in a shared experience of customer service gone awry. We’ve all been there. We all have our stories. We tell them in person to our friends and families, and even strangers. We post them online, forming a permanent record for all to see of how poorly a company treated us and how badly they wronged us.

When we vent, we feel better. This may be the only redress we’ll ever receive for the wounds inflicted upon us by some company. It doesn’t correct the mistake, but it does lessen the sting—just a bit. Unfortunately, the company who stands as the villain in these stories can suffer much and suffer long, especially when the stories are posted online.

Positive Customer Experience

Much less common is a positive customer experience. Though it’s possible they may not happen as often, it’s more likely that we aren’t so compelled to share them. We gain more traction by sharing our horrors than our delights. Even so, astounding customer experiences happen every day. It’s just that we’re less aware of them, because people are less inclined to take the time to share them.

Yet when shared, these stories serve to create a positive bond between us and the company. These tales create loyalty, and they produce repeat business. This is true for us, and it carries over to positively affect the people who hear them.

Just as negative customer experiences have a harmful impact on the company, positive customer experiences create the opposite.

Enhancing the Customer Experience

The customer service bar continually rises. What consumers considered excellent service five years ago is now the minimum standard. Furthermore, what was the acceptable standard five years ago may have now degraded to unacceptable.

Just to stay even, we must seek to enhance the customer experience. And to gain ground, we must go beyond merely enhancing customers’ experience to overhauling it.

We don’t achieve the needed changes by making incremental improvements. Tracking metrics and seeking to improve them seldom correlates to enhanced customer experiences. Instead, we need to rethink all we do in our customer-facing interactions. This includes knocking down internal silos of information and control, empowering agents to do what’s right to best serve customers, and integrating communication channels.

As we do these things to overhaul our provision of customer service, we will enhance the customer experience. But remember, enhancing the customer experience isn’t the goal. Delighting customers and winning their loyalty is the objective we must seek.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

What is the Future of Book Publishing?

Will book publishing follow the path of the music and movie industries?

Digital books and book publishing

When people look at the future of book publishing they often draw parallels to music and video. In many ways this is instructive, but not in all cases. What does the future hold for digital books?

Digital Music and Video

Look at the history of music. With music, there were 78-rpm records, cassettes, 8 tracks, vinyl records, CD, and iTunes/iPods.

Next, consider the progression of the video. With video, there were Beta tapes, VHS tapes, video disks, DVD, and Blue Ray.

Digital Books

Music and video both show a user progression of format and consumption to the digital realm. One might conclude, therefore, that printed word will give way to the digital world that print books will cede to digital books, be it e-books or audio.

I don’t see that happening, at least not completely.

[bctt tweet=”E-readers and audiobooks will never completely replace the printed word.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

To say that e-readers will completely replace printed books is like saying iTunes will replace concerts or Blu-Ray will replace theater. It’s not going to happen.

E-Readers

True, e-readers may one day dominate the reading public’s preference, but just as there will always be demand for concerts and theater, so too for the printed word. The key for authors and publishers is to embrace both options, not pick sides.

Categories
Business Articles

The Truth about College: It May Not Matter as Much As You Think

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

It amuses me to tell people I went to college for 40 years. Their reactions vary from shock to admiration, from pity to surprise.

As a high school sophomore, I learned the local community college would admit select high school seniors. Acting partly out of youthful arrogance and partly from moxie, I met with an admissions counselor, hoping to be admitted the following year. The advisor never asked my age or my grade as he mechanically pulled my high school transcript. Mathematically challenged, he struggled to convert my school’s quarterly grades into the semester credits he was accustomed to. “Well,” he concluded, “it sure looks like you have enough credits.”

I completed my first college class before I started my junior year in high school. I took at least one class a semester for the next two years. College offered a challenge that high school lacked. Though I earned high marks in high school, I excelled in my college courses.

As my senior year in high school wound down, classmates announced their college plans. My best friend was headed to a private school to study a new field called computer science. It seemed an interesting and promising choice, and I decided to follow her there. However, despite my parents having sacrificed to make weekly deposits into my college fund since the day I was born, the amount they accumulated fell short. This reality, coupled with frequent media reports of college graduates being under-employed in entry-level positions, led me to a more practical decision. I enrolled in electronic technical school where I could quickly learn practical job skills and enter the work force at a fraction of the cost. Upon graduation, I grabbed the first job that came along: repairing copy machines.

Pursue a Practical Education

It quickly became apparent this was not the job for me. My electronic school credential read, “electronic engineering technician,” and though I fancied myself an engineer, prospective employers viewed me as a technician. To make the career change I wanted, I needed more education. I reapplied to the community college and earned a pre-engineering degree.

I transferred to a local university and enrolled in its electrical engineering program. Well before graduation, a job change took me out of state. I established residency there and resumed my education. During this time, I responded to a help wanted ad. The stated salary was three times what I currently made. I met every qualification and dashed off my resume, fully expecting to be hired. But they didn’t even interview me. I later learned the company was deluged with applications, and it summarily rejected every applicant without a four-year college degree. I resolved to never let that happen again.

A College Degree Can Be More Than an Attendance Certificate

Now being cynically convinced that a college degree was little more than an attendance certificate, I sought the shortest path to a four-year degree. I found the perfect solution. It was geared for full-time employees who had at least two years of college. By attending evening classes, in an intense one-year program, I could parlay my various college credits with documented experiential learning into a bachelor’s degree. I didn’t care what the degree was in; I just wanted that piece of paper. As the school year wound down, however, I met with a surprise at work. In my annual review, my boss told me that my management skills had greatly improved. He rewarded me with a substantial raise. Although I had been striving for an arbitrary credential, I inadvertently ended up improving my job skills.

I shared this news with my professor, thanking him profusely. In what seemed unwarranted humility he dismissed my gratitude. “I don’t deserve any credit,” he said matter-of-factly. “All we did was offer you an opportunity; it was up to you to make something of it. It’s what you have inside that made the difference.” It was years before I would fully comprehend this.

Now seeing a direct connection between education and earning power, I returned for a second major. What I had previously learned were “soft” skills (interpersonal communication, group dynamics, human resources, and so forth). Now I needed to complement this with course work in accounting, business law, and strategic planning. This major, business administration, would enhance my job skills, making me a better and more marketable employee.

A Masters and a Doctorate

After a few years, missing the elixir of education and feeling inadequate as a manager, I began considering a master’s degree. Again, I found a program geared for non-traditional students. Their offer was compelling, but even more intriguing was that I could enroll in a joint masters/doctorate program. I did. I anticipated the master’s degree would make me complete as a manager, but I viewed the doctorate more as a personal milestone.

After completing my master’s degree as planned, I immediately began working on the doctorate, which I had two years to complete. Already worn down by the intensity of the master’s, I soon regretted committing to the doctoral program. But stubbornness prevailed and I plodded on, meeting the requirements only a few months before the deadline. I was 42; it was 26 years since I had gotten a jumpstart on college at age 16. There were some diversions along the way, job changes, relocations and even a few breaks, but for the majority of that time, I was attending classes—somewhere.

A Second Doctorate

Fast forward a few more years. I felt a prompting to return to school once again, this time for personal edification, picking a Bible college – again distance learning. I applied for a second doctorate but they didn’t accept me. Not caring about the credential, but the learning opportunity, I accepted placement in their masters program. However, a couple classes into it, during a routine call to the school, I learned they had undergone a change in how they evaluate transfer credits. They bumped me up to their “second doctorate” program, which for me actually required fewer classes then the masters program I was in. I switched. By graduation, I had spent nearly 40 years in college. And that will be enough college for me – unless I want to return to teach.

College has meant many things to me: a challenge, a means to a job, help with a career change, an attendance certificate, an avenue to a better salary, an enhancer of job skills, management training, and personal edification. College can be many things depending on what we need and what we want to accomplish, but it is not a cure-all.

When I worked as a call center consultant, I would do week-long business audits. I would begin the week with an overview of the client’s company and then drill down to uncover weaknesses and opportunities. In doing so, a distressing pattern emerged. On about the third day, I would often find myself in a follow-up meeting with the person who manages the call center. They sharer their common concern in different ways and with various levels of emotion, but it always boiled down to the same sentiment: “I feel inadequate as a manager. I think I need a college degree.”

This broke my heart. I was never sure what to say.

Do You Feel You Need a College Degree?

These were successful, dynamic women, who started at entry-level positions and through hard work, dedication, and a talent for doing what’s nearly impossible, rose to significant positions. These individuals oversaw the majority of their organization’s workforce, controlled about half of its expenses (primarily labor costs), and maintained virtually all of the company revenue, yet they still felt inadequate. They believed a degree would make everything right. This always caught me by surprise because they conducted their work with such great aplomb, confidence, and success.

Here’s what I should have told them: “Yes, college can help you. If you have the opportunity to go and are willing to make the sacrifices of time and money, while putting much of your life on hold, then do it. It will make you a better manager. But it is not a panacea. There will still be times when you will feel overwhelmed, inadequate, or unprepared at work. Most managers have these feelings and a formal education won’t make them go away.”

While my educational choices have, in part, enabled me to get to where I am today, I know that had I gone down a different path, the result would be no less meaningful, because as my college professor said, “It’s what you have inside that makes the difference.”

What If You Don’t Already Have a Career?

These comments about college are strictly for those who have an established career. For the recent high school graduate and those just starting out or without a career path, I always recommend college, provided they can handle the workload. Being a traditional student and going to school full-time allows one to get a degree in the shortest time, but it is not financially possible for everyone. In this case, as for me, intersperse education with vocation. Although this approach takes longer, it enhances the experience as education is magnified by work and work is complemented by education.

What If You Have No Idea What to Study?

If this is the case, be sure to pursue marketable job skills. Don’t focus on skills that will maximize earning potential. Instead look at on what will maximize your enjoyment of life—which is not money. For those who are analytical thinkers, business and computers are good pursuits; for creative minds, consider marketing or graphic arts.

And remember, most college graduates don’t end up working in the field they studied. Instead they use their education as an entry-point to the work force. Once you have successfully proven yourself in full-time employment, work history generally becomes more important than your degree—as long as you have it.

So, if you go to college, study hard, make the most of the opportunity that you are given. Just remember, it’s what’s inside that makes the difference.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

3 Types of Self-Publishing

Explore the 3 Types of Self-Publishing: Print, E-books, & Audio

Self-publishing options

Self-publishing once vilified as an exercise in vanity, is now accepted as a viable option by most everyone—except perhaps those who earn a living in traditional publishing. Consider the three self-publishing options.

Three Self-Publishing Options

There are three segments to self-publishing: e-publishing (for Kindle and other e-readers), POD (print-on-demand), and audiobooks. Some POD vendors will also produce an e-book version, allowing for one-stop-shopping.

Of the three, POD may be more satisfying to the author. POD gives them something tangible to touch, see, and show. Whereas e-pub may be more profitable, having no printing, storing, or shipping costs.

Audiobooks reside in the middle. They have a higher production cost than e-books but also enjoying the ease of digital distribution. Ideally, the self-published author should consider all three. But start with e-books, followed by print books, and wrapping up with audiobooks.

When it comes to profit per unit sold, both print and e-books surpass traditional publishing, whose royalties are much smaller in comparison. Of course, traditional publishers have a more extensive reach, greater connections, and bookstore distribution, so the lower payment per book is often more than offset with a much higher sales volume.

Whatever route an author takes, there are pluses and minuses to each. Therefore, the key is to become educated, know your strengths, weaknesses, and available time. Then find the best match for your situation, personality, and goals.

[bctt tweet=”Study the 3 self-publishing options before making a decision.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

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Categories
Writing and Publishing

Blogging is a Basic Form of Self-Publishing

A Blog connects writers directly to readers with no middlemen, delays, or layers of isolation.

blogging

At one time, not too long ago, most everyone decried self-publishing as second-rate, used only by the marginal scribe and unpublishable writer. This is no longer the case. After all, blogging is publishing.

Self-Publishing

Now most everyone (except perhaps traditional publishers) views self-publishing as a viable option for anyone to consider, from novice to seasoned veteran. Indeed some indie authors self-publish because they can make more money that way, publish books faster and more frequently, and maintain greater control over their product and career.

Blogging is Publishing

Publishing, however, is not just about books. Self-publishing can be much simpler. At its most basic, blogging is publishing, perhaps the purest and direct. Blogging is a means of publishing that connects the writer directly with the reader, as it is now with you and me. With blogging there are no middlemen offering delays, causing interference, or interjecting layers of isolation.

[bctt tweet=”Blogging connects the author directly with the reader. Blogging is the simplest way to publish.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

Another bonus with blogging is that it’s not restricted to one-way communication, but opens the door for two-way interaction, through the comment section.

Blog to Book

I’ve been blogging since 2008. One day, in my spare time, I will compile some of my posts and turn them into a book.

Actually I started this project a couple of years ago. I need to get back to it. And when I do self-publish my book of blog posts, I will have connected two types of publishing: the blog with the book.

What is your experience with blogging? Have you ever self-published a book? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. Feel free to link to your blog.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

How to Make Your Website Shine

Discover How to Make Your Website an Essential Marketing Resource

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In Does Your TAS Have a Great Website? we talked about the importance of having a killer website to serve as your online home base for your marketing plan.

You can hire a professional web developer to do this for you. You can also do it yourself. Either way, here are some tips to guide the process. Follow these and you’ll be ahead of most websites in the answering service industry.

Seek a Clean, Fresh Design

First, pursue a website that looks fresh and clean. If this tip doesn’t provide enough clarity, then avoid the opposite: a dated, cluttered website. Don’t try to squeeze everything in a small area. Instead, use white space to make the content more inviting and readable. Stick with one common font, with black type on a white background. Anything else is hard to read, as well as trendy, which will become dated fast. Also, keep a simple color palette that matches your logo.

Provide Search Engine Friendly Content

If you want people to find your site through organic search, make sure you have at least 300 words on every page. Google needs to see that many to properly index it. These means don’t put text in graphics, which search engines can’t read. It also means avoiding making visitors click “more” to read the additional text. Be sure all the text on a page is readily available without an extra click.

Avoid Industry Jargon

Most answering service websites contain industry terms that most prospects won’t understand—unless some answering service has trained them. Don’t make a prospect speak your language to do business with you. Instead speak their language. This means explaining your service in terms they can understand from a basic business perspective. Keep things simple, and you’ll close more sales and do it faster.

Make It User Friendly

your website

If someone ever asks you how to navigate your website or where to find something, this is a clue that you need to simplify its structure. Make it user friendly. Make it intuitive. Don’t hide links to needed information. Visitors should be able to find everything from your home page. The more clicks they need to make or the longer they need to search for something, the more likely they are to bounce.

Focus on Mobile First

A few years ago, website traffic reached a tipping point, where more visitors used mobile devices than computers. This means you need a mobile-first strategy when it comes to website design. Merely being mobile-ready isn’t enough, though it’s a good start. View your website on a mobile device, and see how easy or hard it is to navigate. I’ve been to some websites on my smartphone and was so frustrated that I closed my browser and went to my computer. Few prospects, however, will bother to do that.

Proof Content and Test Links

I’m surprised at how often I see errors and typos on TAS websites. Website designers are weak when it comes to catching problems. You need to hold them accountable. Get as many people reviewing your website as possible. Even more valuable is asking people who don’t use answering services to give you feedback.

Prioritize Search Engine Optimization

I suspect you’ve heard of SEO (search engine optimization). If you’re like most business owners, you’re ignoring it or giving it scant attention. This is a mistake. The best website will struggle without SEO, while a less than ideal one will get more traffic if they do a good job at SEO.

SEO is part science and part art. You need someone who can master both. And just because they say they’re an expert, doesn’t mean they are. The proof is in results. As an SEO guru begins optimizing your site, you should see results within a month, two at the most. If your traffic isn’t increasing, you’ve hired the wrong person. How much should traffic increase under a good SEO program? The answer depends on how bad things are to start with, but the results must be measurable and should be significant.

Conclusion

Apply these tips when you update or overhaul your website. You’ll get increased traffic, fewer complaints, and hopefully more sales.

Next month we’ll look at the essential pages every TAS website should have.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Why I’m Bullish about Printed Books

The future for print books is strong and ripe with opportunity

Printed Books

Michael Weinstein, in his “Publishing Panorama” blog at BookBusinessMag.com, posted this headline: “Report from the Publishing Business Conference: This Just In Sky Not Falling!” This was four years ago. I think his conclusions about printed books are even truer today.

Citing many credible and reputable sources, he builds a case for a strong future in print publishing, quite contrary to the naysayers who frequently spout, “Print is dead.”

Two of his key takeaways are “Real quality matters more than ever. Never forget what beautiful objects printed books are,” and “the world does not need another book, it does need another original and well-done book.”

He concludes his comments by saying, “We’re publishing differently; we might be delivering some content differently. But passion still counts and quality will always count most of all.”

Although the book publishing industry is undergoing great change, this does not have to be a bad thing. With change comes opportunity and for those who are willing to adjust their thinking to include new perspectives, the opportunities are many.

So don’t believe those who warn that the publishing sky is falling; it’s simply not true. People still want to buy printed books.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Categories
Writing and Publishing

Self-Publishing Versus Pursuing a Traditional Book Deal

Should You Bother to Pursue a Traditional Publisher?

traditional book deal

Traditional Authors

Traditional publishing requires less of the author, will likely result in more book sales, and carries the prestige of a publisher selecting your book for publication. The negatives include the effort to find a publisher, the length of time to publish the book, and earning much less per copy sold—if anything at all.

Indie Authors

A commonly sighted reason to not indie-publish is the requirement to market and promote our books. While it’s true that if we self-publish our books, we must market them if we expect to sell any, traditional publishers also expect you to help promote, market and sell your books. If you can’t or won’t do that, the publisher is unlikely to decide to publish your book. In short, they want authors who can move books.

Hybrid Authors

There is no one right answer. It depends on the goals and priorities of each individual author. Also, some authors do both, depending on the book. They’re hybrid authors, going with traditional publishers for some books and indie-publishing (self-publishing) for others.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Digital Publishing Pros and Cons

Consider both publishing options for your next book

Digital Publishing

For the past few years, there has been a great deal of press—and hence a great deal of excitement—about e-books.

Correspondingly, there is also significant debate about the relative merits of each option. The purists insist that the printed version is the way to go, nearly sacred. While the technologists say that e-books are where it’s at, declaring that paper is passé. Of course, the diplomat insists that there is room for both.

The price of e-books spans a wide range, from free to matching their printed counterparts, so it is hard to know their true demand. After all, if something is free or costs next to nothing, why not “buy” it.

Regardless of sales numbers, print is still driving the market. Author Annette Ehrhardt, in writing about e-book pricing strategies, once noted that “It seems that many readers value the printed word more than the digital world.”

[bctt tweet=”Consider both print and e-book publishing for your next book.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

While there may be viable instances where a book should only be in digital form or only in print, the vast majority of books need to be in both.

However, if for some reason you can only do one, go with print. Readers will apparently value it more—and what they value, they will buy.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Provide Meaningful Agent Benefits to Improve Agent Retention



Spend More on Retaining Staff and Less on Hiring and Training Their Replacements

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

We’ve looked at five tips to better retain call center staff. Agent compensation is first on most people’s list. However, it might not be the most important item, merely the one most cited. Pay rate alone isn’t enough to keep most call center agents happy and employed. Other items factor into this equation. A related issue is benefits. Today’s workers expect more than decent pay. They expect benefits too. This includes part-timers. Yes, your part-timers deserve benefits. If you want to keep them, you better provide what they want.

Paid Vacation

Your agents work hard for you and your callers. They deserve a vacation. This gives them a break from the routine of work, provides something for them to look forward to, and helps them recharge. A paid vacation is the top benefit employees seek. Be sure to provide it to them, both full and part-timers.

(As with all benefits for part-time agents, make it proportional to the average amount of time they work. For example, if they work twenty-hours a week, their vacation pay should be based on a twenty-hour workweek.)

Paid Time Off

Next up is paid time off. This includes sick days and personal days. Ideally, we want healthy employees who don’t get sick and who schedule their appointments on their days off. But this isn’t always feasible. Failing to provide paid time off could result in an agent coming into work sick or not attending to some important personal issue, which could have negative consequences later.

Retirement

Though not every employee thinks about retirement, some do. And for those who do, it’s of critical importance. They want to take control of what their retirement looks like, and that means planning for it now, regardless of how far away it is. Be sure to offer them the option to set money aside now for their retirement.

Continuing Education

Next up is the ability to pursue ongoing education. As with retirement, this isn’t a benefit that most people seek or will use, but for those who want it, it could make the difference between them quitting or staying. Tailor your program so that it provides value to participants and to your organization too. Also include a reasonable precaution to avoid abuse, but be fair. An employee with the opportunity to learn more, will provide more value to your organization and be more loyal.

Healthcare Coverage

The last significant benefit is healthcare coverage. Healthcare coverage is a growing concern for people in the United States. The cost rises and the coverage shrinks. Yet being in the healthcare industry, we’re in the unique position to help our agents with decent healthcare coverage, or at least we should be.

Conclusion

When it comes to retaining call center staff, don’t skimp on benefits. Offer them paid vacation and time off, retirement and continuing education options, and healthcare coverage. This will increase their loyalty to your organization and decrease the likelihood of them leaving your call center for another company that does provide these benefits. Just as with compensation, the cost of providing benefits concerns most managers. The key is to offer what you can without jeopardizing your organization. But if you think you can’t afford to offer benefits, the reality is that you can’t afford not to.