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Planet Call Center

Planet Call Center

By | Call Center Support, Inbound Call Center Solution, Outbound Call Center Services, Uncategorized | No Comments

Ask you walk through the hubbub of a call center, you will find agents engaged in a variety of activities, working hard in an upbeat atmosphere. There will be agents making and receiving calls, a customer service representative leaning back to consult a colleague on a unique case, and a small group huddled around the coffeemaker discussing hot leads they’ll be chasing this week.

Working in the same environment, with the same KPIs and the same shifts that are diametrically different from typical 9 to 5 office hours, call center agents develop a unique culture—the Planet Call Center.  

Camaraderie

Late night shifts in the dead of winter, seeing the same agents day in and day out, having similar job descriptions, and relying on each other’s knowledge and experience builds camaraderie that usually translates into lasting friendships. Sharing amusing anecdotes about customer interactions during lunch breaks and comparing notes on how to deal with certain cases builds a culture unique to a call center. This is as opposed to any other office environment where every person specializes in his or her area of expertise, with a faint idea of what the others do.

Call Center Culture Builds Camaraderie

Shared Jargon

Call centers have industry-specific terminologies that are widely acceptable and used extensively in everyday interactions. Usage of ubiquitous call center terms like AHOD creates a language of their own, solidifying the feeling of a bubble surrounding the call center. This call center jargon becomes so innate to agents, after using it in a range of circumstances with different customers, that it spills over into their everyday lives. Even when meeting outside, discussions of handling times, newest campaigns, and FCR rates create a coterie of agents quite distinctive from other office colleagues.  

Hard Work and Positive Atmosphere

With an upbeat atmosphere, call center agents work hard for rewards, benefits and bonuses. Depending on the direction of call center traffic, their motivation may be different. A call center operator providing outbound call center services may be primarily driven by competition for greater sales while an agent handling the brand’s inbound call center solution would be focused on solving problems.

Diverse Interactions

Not only is the call center workforce typically very diverse—with people of all genders, ages, educational and financial backgrounds and religions—each customer service representative deals with a range of customers over his or her career. This cultural diversity becomes so familiar and each call center operator has such widened horizons that the outside world seems slightly alien, with a relatively homogenous populace and informal interactions.

Cultural Diversity epitomizes call center communications

Using Second Language

Talking in a professional manner throughout the shift creates the call center bubble. The call center is even more of an isolated planet in areas where customer interactions take place in a second language that is not that predominantly spoken outside the walls of the center. Once agents walk out of the center, readjustment into the outside life takes a minute but then due to their training, they are more equipped to deal with the daily pressures they encounter in life.

Interpersonal Interactions

The comprehensive interpersonal communication training given to a customer service representative changes his or her daily interactions with everyone for the better, engendering empathy and a helpful attitude.

The IdeasUnlimited Experience

At IdeasUnlimited, we have both physical call centers in the Philippines—where agents come in to the center to work—and remote teams handling call center support for other projects. It does not take long for the planet call center effect to come into play in both situations, where agents work hard and support each other, the jargon becomes generic usage, diversity becomes acceptable, and a positive culture is promulgated.

We are proud of promoting a positive, hardworking culture where excellent performance is rewarded, communication skills honed, and the planet call center values upheld, broadening the personal and professional horizons of our agents.

Preparing for Employees Going on Annual Leave

9 Ways to Prepare Your Business for Employees Going on Holiday Leave

By | Business Improvement, Call Center Support, Employee Management, Time Management, Virtual Assistant Support | No Comments

Last year’s holiday season retail sales in the US alone topped $161 billion and 43% shoppers supported small businesses on Small Business Saturday. With the holiday season coming up, now is the time to plan out a company strategy to ensure you have backup staff handling essential business activities at all times.

Figures for Holiday Season Retail Sales

You don’t have to dread the holiday season when your employees go on leave, when the company’s manpower is down and productivity seems to nosedive. Simply follow our tips that we’ve practiced and improved upon through trial and error over 8 years of operations and you will be well prepared. You can easily handle holiday leave while maintaining a healthy culture and employer brand.

  1. Use a Workforce Management Software

Using a scheduling and staffing software or even a shared Google calendar can make your life infinitely easier. This way you won’t have clashes in scheduling vacations and can plan accurately in advance for holidays. Most workforce management softwares have additional features like communication, task management, and time reporting. Here is our rundown of some effective softwares:

Deputy

With unlimited users, shift swapping, forecasting and QuickBooks integration, Deputy is a mobile platform that can cut your time spent scheduling considerably. It is perfect for small to medium businesses employing shift workers.

When I Work

Offering templates and shortcuts with its mobile and desktop adaptive platform, When I Work is also integrated with some POS and Payroll systems and has a very intuitive user interface (UI).

Quinyx

It allows you to schedule work keeping in mind employee contracts and working time directives. You can also set up an optimal schedule matching the best employee to the most appropriate task and set up a staffing schedule taking expected sales into account.

TrackSmart

Their online time and attendance management software allows for scheduling based on employee availability and job skills. You can even set up recurring schedules. All these are accessible from all devices 24/7. These smarter schedules will ensure you are never understaffed, even for the holiday season.

  1. Be Transparent

Make sure you communicate your holiday leave policy and vacation policy to your employees as soon as they are hired. Is it first come first served? Are there any vacation blackout periods when no vacation requests would be entertained due to an expected rise in traffic or a special project? Will you be encouraging them to take their vacation in the slower periods? Communicating all this in advance will be fairer and more acceptable to your employees. Make sure any vacations are granted judiciously—with employees fully cognizant of the decision-making criteria—after due deliberation and without any favoritism.

  1.  Set a Deadline

Set a deadline by which employees can request holiday leave. Depending on your needs, this can be anywhere from a few days to several weeks before the staff wants to use leave time. This deadline should be far enough in advance for you to ensure that it does not affect a project’s productivity or deadline and you are not understaffed. Also cap the number of employees of each specialization who can take off at the same time.

  1. Get Pertinent Information

When an employee puts in a leave request, request a report on current projects. Ask them how they plan to meet deadlines before they head out the door. Nicolas Gremion told SmallBizTrends that this process “gives me piece of mind that their absence won’t be problematic and they can leave knowing that they’ve tied up any loose ends.”

Get a detailed breakdown of projects they are currently working on, tasks to be performed, access details for pertinent files and accounts, deadlines for current projects, important contact information, and any other information needed by the employees covering the vacationers’ jobs. Create a checklist of these that each vacationing employee can tally against before leaving.

Project NameDeadlineTasks to be PerformedContact PersonContact InformationAccess Details
AccountPassword
Project 1
Project 2
Project 3
  1. Delegate Tasks

Then make sure that someone is covering for the missing employee. Sometimes, that requires handing off tasks and projects to a few different people in the office instead of asking one person to do the work of two. Crosstrain employees in preparation for the upcoming holiday season, ensuring that the backup employee is fully conversant with the appropriate project training manual.

  1. Trade-off

Trade-off between your employees. Some employees may have important commitments at other times of the year that they can take time off for and then work during the holiday season. Allow employees with similar job descriptions to trade off their vacations with each other, one picking up the slack when the other is on leave. Stagger your employee vacations so you always have coverage; allow some to work the morning shift, some the afternoon shift, or schedule one set of employees for the first few days of the week and the other for the rest of the weekdays during the holiday season.

  1. Offer Incentives for Working Employees

Give cash bonuses, extra paid leaves redeemable after the holiday season, and other incentives for those willing to work during the most popular vacation periods. This will ensure that you have a productive skeleton staff even during the heart of the holiday season. It will also boost the morale of those who have to work over the holidays when the other employees are on leave and enjoying themselves.

  1. Hire Temporary Support

In some cases, you can even hire a temporary virtual assistant to pick up the slack in an employee’s absence. Especially in the retail industry, business booms in the holiday season and having employees on holiday leave can cause a stress on operations. Hire a qualified virtual assistant to take care of ecommerce sales, provide administrative and operational support, or even act as a virtual receptionist service during the holidays.

You can even hire a temporary call center operator or a customer service center to handle customer service, field incoming calls, generate leads, and make telemarketing calls to take advantage of the boost in sales in the holiday season.

Having part-time staff as backup all year round is always a sound decision, so they can come in if you have any shortages and during the holiday season when most employees are on leave.

  1. Prep for the Manager’s Leave

What if the manager is the one going on leave? We suggest that you let your employees know far enough in advance so they can prepare. Make the manager’s calendar public so that the staff will know when he or she will be back. Ask the manager to train the second-in-command to pick up the slack. The administrative support staff must also be familiarized with how to handle certain tasks while the manager is out of the office, such as where to direct calls and how to respond to requests. Then, consider having a protocol for an emergency, so employees can determine when to call the manager while he or she is on leave.

With these tactics, you can ensure that handling the holiday season won’t be such a hassle. Let us know down below what some best practices are that you have seen or used for handling employee leave during the holiday season.

Do You Need an Inbound Call Center Solution?

Do You Need an Inbound Call Center Solution for Your Business?

By | Call Center Support, Customer Service, Inbound Call Center Solution, Remote Support Services | No Comments

With customer service at the forefront of business competitive differentiation in today’s global marketplace, and 81% of marketers estimated to be competing on the basis of customer experience by 2020, you need to evaluate your customer care center and see whether you need an inbound call center solution.

What is an Inbound Call Center Solution?

An inbound call is initiated by a customer, employee, vendor, or other stakeholder who wants information or assistance with some aspect of your product or service. Your business is not initiating the call. An inbound call center solution constitutes the management of all inbound channels of contact that any stakeholder can use to reach out to your business. All inbound calls, messages, or chats are routed to an available agent with the required skillset and these can constitute queries, technical support requests, order processing requests, etc.

Firms providing call center support offer both inbound and outbound call center services. However, if more than 50% of the calls are inbound, the call center is classified as an inbound call center solution.

Benefits of Having an Inbound Call Center Solution

A reliable customer and vendor support system enhances brand value. It not only significantly improves the conversion rate, it assists in cross-selling and upselling, and the after-sales support ensures customers stay with your brand for longer.

Improved Bottom Line

Customer service is more often that not the deciding factor in ensuring a positive customer experience and retaining current customers—customer experience leaders outperform laggards by 25%. Customers purchase more after a good customer service experience and stop buying or even avoid a business after a bad customer support interaction. More important still, customers share their good and bad experiences, so your customer support has a direct impact on your brand reputation and long-term profitability.

An effective inbound call center solution improves your customer service, enhancing the bottom line by creating more positive customer support experiences.

Importance of Good Customer Service - Inbound Call Center Solution

Customer Retention

70% of businesses believe it is cheaper to retain a current customer than to acquire new ones and, depending on the competitiveness of your industry, acquiring a new customer can be 5 times more expensive than retaining a current one. Couple that with a 60-70% probability of selling to an existing customer, your primary focus should be on your current customer base to improve the bottom line.

A mere 5% increase in your retention rate has the potential to increase your profits by 25–95%, the magnitude of gains depending on your business model. Loyal customers buy more from the company and become brand evangelists, spreading positive buzz. Not only are they willing to pay premium prices for assured quality and reliability, the operating costs of serving them is lower, so you must ensure they stay with your brand and do not switch to a competitor.

The best way to retain and grow your customer base is investing in an effective inbound call center solution.

Handling Important Accounts

Your most important accounts need special care since 20% of customers typically account for more than 80% of sales. Providing these accounts special care will have an exponential positive impact on your profitability. You can have an inbound call center solution with dedicated agents for these accounts to provide them enhanced customer support.

Importance of Customer Retention- Inbound Call Center Solution

Better Customer Insight

An inbound call center solution helps build a better understanding of the common issues faced by customers, their problem points as well as main complaints. This would allow you to tailor your value proposition accordingly. For example, if you get to know through customer feedback that your product gets soggy in humid climates, you can focus on better vacuum-sealing protection. You can also add enhanced features that customers have shown an interest in and proactively determine how customer interactions with the product are changing.

Checklist to Conclusively Determine the Need

Use this simple checklist curated by us to determine whether your business needs an inbound call center solution. Any of these would require specialized call center support to increase sales and productivity.

Receptionist Service—Your business gets a large volume of calls for scheduling and confirming appointments, asking to be redirected to various departments, and miscellaneous other queries for which you need an inbound customer service center.
Inquiries—Potential customers get in touch for queries about your product, process, or service before making the purchase decision. This may be directly related to the composition and function of the product or service or its recyclability, sustainable sourcing, the location of your outlets etc. These must be handled professionally for maximum conversion to sales.
Order Processing—Customers require assistance in processing orders, confirming sizes, choosing between alternative modes of shipment, tracking orders etc. Your business needs to process orders given live across multiple channels by customers and enter them into the database, allowing you to deal with rush periods and ensure timely delivery.
Bookings and Reservations—You handle reservations and bookings for conferences, hotels, trips and holidays etc. and need an efficient system for ensuring nothing slips through the cracks.
After Sales Support—Current customers need troubleshooting assistance, technical support, assistance with upgrades, usage instructions, repair and maintenance, and call center support is needed to handle these communications. SAAS providers like Intuit and those selling goods that need technical support get a lot of incoming traffic for this reason.
Marketing Support—Customers contacting your company must be told of your range of products and services and combinations of products that would enhance their experience, to increase their share of wallet.
Billing Support—You get incoming queries regarding modes of payment, payroll processing, and tax liabilities that a trained customer service representative must address.
Global Customer Base—Customers from all over the globe use your product or service and require 24 hour call center support to cover differing time zones.
After-Hours Support—You must be available for your customers after hours too since you are an emergency service provider or ecommerce business with customers in various time zones.
Multilingual Support—Your customers, vendors, and/or employees speak multiple languages and multilingual call center services would make communication efficient and enhance brand loyalty.
Omnichannel Customer Experience Management—With the proliferation of points of contact, customers and other stakeholders reach out via various mediums: calls, text, live chat, social media messages, fax etc. and you need an omnichannel management system for all of it.
Vendor Support—Multiple vendors contact your business to confirm orders you have given, shipments received, invoices and payments. An inbound call center solution would manage your vendor communication and relationships.
Large Volume of Job Applications—You receive a large volume of incoming calls, emails, and social media messages from potential workers for job applications and then subsequent application status inquiries. These need to be handled by HR through dedicated lines of communication.
Multiple Departments—Calls and other incoming inquiries may be relevant to any of several departments, business units, branches, or outlets and need to be directed to the relevant employees.
Type of Need—The features of the inbound call center solution depend on the time-sensitivity and type of the inbound communication:
  •  Very Time-Sensitive: You will need 24 hour call center support if the inbound communication is very time sensitive—if the query is not resolved as fast as possible, the customer can switch to a competitor’s brand or the business will lose money. For instance, having 24/7/365 support for a payroll software is necessary because if the glitch is not resolved immediately, the checks will not go out in time.
  • Small Queries: Live chat support is required for small queries to help redirect customers on the website, resolve small login issues and other problems that have instantaneous fixes.
  • Requests for Quotes and Meetings: In case of queries that require research and strategizing, email support is a better alternative. For instance, if a firm needs a quote from you for a strategic partnership, it can wait till you put together a proposal and the best form of initial communication is email support.

Features Needed for Inbound Call Center Solution

The next step is figuring out what features you need in your inbound call center solution and which ones can wait for now and you can opt for once your business has expanded sufficiently.

Characteristics of Customer Service Representative

Some of the most crucial characteristics of a customer service representative are:

Basic Skillset

Each customer service representative must be well-trained in customer care, with communication skills par excellence.

Well-Prepared

The agent must be well-versed in the product or service, order processing, and common issues customers face. He or she must be able to handle any type of incoming query.

Handle Pressure

Should be able to easily deal with the pressure and volume of incoming calls.

Omnichannel Experience

The customer service representative must be able to handle all points of contact and all mediums used by stakeholders.

Features for Business VoIP Platform

You must analyze your inbound call center solution needs and decide whether you need each of the following features in your business VoIP platform.

Channels Covered

Determine the current main contact channels like phones, text messaging, social media, live chat etc. as well as those you want to target.

IVR

Do you want to automate the first step and direct calls to the relevant departments and agents as efficiently as possible?

International Inbound

Do you receive calls from international numbers? Do you want to make it simpler for your international callers to get in touch with you?

Number of Extensions & Queues

Do you need several extensions to create multiple points of contact for various departments and branches?

Online PBX Controls

Do you want a Private Branch Exchange that is stored and managed over the internet rather than end-user hardware?

Voicemail Box

Do you need one or several voicemail boxes and do you want to receive transcriptions of voicemails in your email for better management?

Call Flows & Failover

Figure out whether you need to set up a route for incoming calls and emails so that no incoming communication slips through the cracks.

Greetings & On-Hold Options

Do you need hold and forwarding capabilities? Analyze whether custom greetings and on-hold messages add value.

Call Monitoring

Is there a need for recording and monitoring calls, with options for the supervisor to override calls and/or assist the agent?

Wait Time Announcement

Would you like to announce an approximate wait time to your callers, especially at times of long call queues to create greater trust and transparency?

Caller Information

Would your team better handle callers and live chat customers if they get some information on the customer before they pick up the call or respond to the chat?

Advanced Call Analytics

Will insights into call patterns, locations, extensions, and agents help you in strategizing and improving productivity? Do you need basic or advanced analytics?

Partnering with a Call Center Support Provider

Once you have determined that you need an inbound call center solution and the features you need, you must ensure that it is a seamless extension of your brand image. This requires customer service expertise. But do you need an in-house customer care center, with the associated HR admin expenses, overhead costs, benefits, and paid leaves?

A more efficacious option is partnering with a call center support provider since you would be assured of reliable customer support that builds brand value. Each customer service representative will be experienced, highly skilled, and well-trained at not only handling incoming communication but also cross-selling and upselling products and services.  Most call center support providers cover 24/7/365, ensuring your business is never out of reach of your stakeholders, especially your customers.

This is also the more scalable option that will allow you to expand operations easily without doubling your overhead costs. It is ideal for businesses that face seasonal fluctuations in sales volume.

Take the time to determine whether you need an inbound call center solution, which features you need, and how to quickly and cost-effectively get one for your business. Our advice is, contact a specialist call center support provider for a custom inbound call center solution that best suits your business’ needs.

Pros and Cons of Drinking One Cup of Coffee per Day

Pros and Cons of Drinking One Cup of Coffee per Day

By | Business Improvement, Life Hacks | No Comments

Is your daily fix of coffee good for you? At IdeasUnlimited, we encourage a cup or two a day to enhance performance levels and for its health benefits.

For decades both coffee evangelists and the anti-coffee lobby have argued the pros and cons of drinking coffee due to is psychoactive effects, commonly attributed to one of its ingredients — caffeine. While both sides agree to a cautionary restriction on coffee intake, it is difficult to conclusively determine which side has more supporting evidence.

At IdeasUnlimited, as a global remote workforce recruiter and a call center support provider with 24/7 coverage, we have both employees who find it difficult to wake up in the morning and those who have to stay alert at later hours of the night. It was thus imperative for us to compare the pros and cons of drinking the globally recognized elixir for alertness.

Pros

1. Elevates Physical Performance Levels

Coffee increases your adrenaline levels, enhancing physical performance levels. According to a study relating caffeine ingestion to exercise performance, coffee enhanced exercise performance by 12.3%, especially in endurance exercises, in which the time to exhaustion was much longer.

2. Powerful Mental Kick-Start

A cup of coffee a day keeps you alert and instantly rejuvenates you.

3. Long-term Benefits for the Brain and Liver

Preliminary studies suggest that the antioxidants in coffee may reduce the chances of contracting Alzheimer’s or Dementia. There is also evidence to corroborate claims that coffee activates DNA-repairing proteins, preventing the growth of cancerous brain cells and thus preventing the incidence of glioma. Coffee intake has also been associated with fewer cases of cirrhosis and other liver diseases. A study of 2260 cases of liver disease and more than 200,000 non-cases concluded decisively that consuming two cups of coffee a day reduced the possibility of liver cancer by 43% by preventing liver inflammation and inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells.

4. Reduced Risk of Diabetes

Coffee drinkers face a lower risk of contracting Type-2 Diabetes since its two antioxidants—cholorogenic acid and quinides—increase insulin-sensitivity, regulating blood sugar levels. This reduces the craving for sugary treats, helps one stick to a low-sugar diet, and may even result in weight-loss.

5. Lower Risk of Stroke

Drinking a cup of coffee may modestly lower the risk of a stroke as well as other heart diseases.

Cons

1. Causes Irritability and Jitters

Sensitivity to caffeine may cause irritability and anxiety since caffeine speeds up nerve cell activity and makes you artificially alert. Having a cup of coffee a day will simply condition your nerve cells such that they cannot attain the minimum level of alertness without your daily caffeine fix. So, if you don’t get your daily coffee cup, you’ll be liable to be very lethargic or get a splitting headache.

2. May Cause Insomnia

Caffeine takes an average of six hours to clear your system, so it will keep your alert if you have a cup close to your bedtime. Studies show that this effect worsens with age.

3. Increases LDL (‘Bad’) Cholesterol

Coffee made with a French press or in the Turkish style may increase LDL cholesterol in your blood due to a compound called cafestol. Filtered coffees are free of this compound.

4. Caution for Pregnant or Nursing Women

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a cup of two of coffee a day does not significantly increase the chances of a miscarriage or pre-term birth but its inhibition of the fetus’ growth has not been conclusively refuted. Also, if nursing mothers notice irritability or restlessness, they should reduce their intake of coffee since caffeine may be transferred to babies through the mother’s milk.

Considering both sides, we at IdeasUnlimited encourage our employees to drink a cup or two of coffee a day and not more, to maintain alertness without having to deal with the adverse effects. IdeasUnlimited is a global support services provider specializing in call center support, multilingual support, ecommerce and backend support, operations support, and virtual assistant support.

2018: A New Era of Customer Service – Are You Ready?

2018: A New Era of Customer Service – Are You Ready?

By | Backend Support Services, Business Improvement, Call Center Support, Customer Service, Virtual Assistant Support | No Comments

Your business relies on good customer service for its success – far more than it used to, in fact. According to IT research company Gartner, 89% of market leaders anticipate that the omnichannel customer experience will be their primary business concern, as opposed to four years ago, when only 36% did. This signals a fundamental change in the role and function of businesses.

While the products or services that the company offered used to be the main concern, now the excellence of your customer care center will be the thing that sets you apart from the competition. After all, there are very few businesses out there that can afford to alienate their clientele because their products or services are good enough to keep people coming back regardless of their experience.

With this rise in the importance of customer service, many companies are going to have to do a massive overhaul of their current methods. This is because the support systems that companies utilize are becoming increasingly reliant on social media compatibility, 24/7 service, and mobile-friendly options. If your company doesn’t keep up with the modern standards, you will likely face losing clients and thus revenue.

So what exactly should you be aiming for in terms of customer service?

Live Chat & 24/7 Call Center Support

If you haven’t already set these up for customers, you are already behind. Most medium to larger companies have already set up an inbound call center solution, ensuring that someone can always be reached in case customers have questions or concerns. Even smaller businesses are upgrading their systems, each setting up a call center for small business. Live chat is one of the newer options, to be sure, but it has quickly become ubiquitous.

Omnichannel Support

Many customers now prefer to contact companies through multiple channels, some of the most popular of which are their social media accounts. There should always be an easy way for customers to use Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. to contact your company. These channels should also be easy to switch between in the event that the user wants to employ several at a time and there should be someone providing omnichannel support services so you are never out of touch with your customers.

Text-Based Help

Since so many people consider texting to be the preferred mode of communication, it makes sense that your company should have some form of it enabled on your site.

Remote Secondary Access for Technical Support

When your customer can’t figure out how to do something on your site, having an IT professional try to figure out what to do through verbal means is rather like flying a plane blind. Having an option for them to get remote access to the customer’s computer (with their permission, of course) is one of the best ways to sort out the problem quickly and effectively. You thus need someone qualified to provide such technical and backend support services.

No Automated Menu

People are sick and tired of automated menus and trying to interact with recordings. If you want to truly please your customers, offer them a real human being to talk to. It proves almost automatically that you care more about their concerns and are willing to pay someone to listen to them. Having a trained, empathetic, and skilled call center operator automatically enhances customer loyalty.

Virtual Assistant Support

Virtual assistant support services can help you delegate administrative support and operational support tasks. This is especially good for growing businesses that don’t generally need around the clock support in-house. You will never have to turn away customers and can even get extra help around the holiday season. These assistants can perform a wide variety of tasks, from answering phones and emails to scheduling and data entry, payroll processing, lead generation, and practically anything else you need.

These are just some of the customer support services that are becoming the norm for businesses. Implement these and you can practically ensure customer satisfaction – and keep them coming back!