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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 Name Deadline Tasks to be Performed Contact Person Contact Information Access Details
Account Password
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.

30 Invaluable Tools that every freelancer and remote worker needs

30 Invaluable Tools to Make You Better at Freelancing

By | Freelancing, Remote Support Services, Remote Work | 2 Comments

Check out these 30 useful tools to improve your performance at freelance work and help you find more jobs.

Are you a freelancer competing with others from all over the globe for jobs? Honing your skills to remain competitive in the ever-changing job marketplace? It may seem like a rushing tsunami at times but freelancing does not need to be stressful. Enjoy the freedom of working in the comfort of your home, at your pace and in the hours that suit you, and become successful at it by harnessing the power of these tools. They will help you in skill development, time management, and productivity enhancement to transform your freelance career.

We at IdeasUnlimited have compiled a list of our favorite tools that have helped our global remote workforce and call center operators get their jobs done efficiently. Click the links below, and you will see the benefits from them as well!

Skill Enhancement

Skill Enhancement Tools that every freelancer and remote worker needs

In the freelance industry, you need to expand your skillset with the demands of the times, getting better at your work and moving away from generic skills to specialize in areas of high demand. Invest in your career by using these skill development resources.

1. Lynda.com

A LinkedIn resource with an affordable membership and unlimited access to their library, Lynda.com offers courses in fields ranging from business and design to software and web development. Learn from expert teachers on any of your devices. Start with their free trial month and their most popular courses to get a better feel of how you can upskill yourself.

2. Coursera

Partnering with world-renowned institutions, Coursera provides online courses on everything you can think of. You can enroll in their courses, learn at your own pace, discuss difficult topics with other learners to improve your understanding, get certification, and even earn degrees. Evaluate your skillset, figure out the weak areas, and find free courses to improve. You’ll find mentors and translators to help you through the process.

3. edX

Another resource we love to recommend to our remote team and other freelancers is edX. Partnering with 130 institutions globally, edX offers thousands of in-demand courses for business professionals. Work on your professional skills or learn something new like artificial intelligence to enhance the marketability of your freelance skillset.

4. Codecademy

Join 45 million people who have transformed their careers by learning how to code through Codecademy. Their motto is

‘Tell us why you want to learn to code, we’ll show you what to learn’.

Join for free to learn web development, data science, programming, and computer science with easy-to-follow tutorials, immediate feedback, and a tried and tested curriculum. Their coaches, advisors, and graduates are also available to help you through any difficult sections.

Time & Productivity Management

Time Management Tools that every freelancer and remote worker needs

Your personal motivation and willpower are key for a successful freelance career, but these time and productivity management tools provide the extra push needed to ensure wise time use. In addition, they will help you track time spent on each project transparently, so you can easily bill your clients.

5. Toggl

Incredibly simple time tracking for personal and business use, which prompts you when you’re idle for a period of time. You can divide up your time by projects, clients, and tasks, and Toggl will let you know exactly what is making you money and what is dragging you down. You can use it on any device, and with real-time sync, you can start a task on your laptop and end it with your phone, making your life easier all around.

6. RescueTime

This app will run in the background on your computer to track time spent on various functions or projects. It then develops a report for the day, allowing you to see how you spend your time and what activities are eating up most of your day, so you become more focused and productive.

7. Paymo

A free-for-life time tracking and management software for freelancers that also allows you to manage clients. Eliminate all the stress of managing different projects for different clients by tracking the billable hours for each and presenting transparent reports to clients, apprising them of the status of each project. You can even generate three invoices for free and purchase the invoicing add-on to generate more.

Paymo also allows to manage tasks with deadlines and order them according to their priority levels, using Kanban boards to set up a workflow. We love the feature that allows attachment of all the files of each project, so your work is all organized in one place.

8. Thrive

Marketed as the wingman of the solo freelancer, it will help you manage your projects with data analysis to ensure you meet deadlines, remain productive, complete pending tasks, and manage your time effectively. With Thrive, you can then take on new tasks and improve your earning. Not only does it help manage timesheets, it makes invoicing clients as simple as the click of a button with its instant autofill of project details.

Communication Tools

Communication Tools that every freelancer and remote worker needs

These simple tools will facilitate your communication and marketing efforts, leading to a bigger client base.

9. Skype

Contact your clients, team members, and project collaborators through the free Skype app. It allows you to chat to people all over the globe, share all types of files instantaneously, make voice and video calls, and even set up conference calls. You can even add some money to your Skype credit and use Skype for Phone and Home to call those who don’t use the app.

10. MailChimp

The world’s largest marketing automation platform, MailChimp allows you to connect to customers and engage with them, managing email subscriber lists and building your personal brand with email marketing campaigns, updates about new services offered, or availability for projects. You can even automate your marketing emails. Start off with their free plan till you get your bearings.

Administrative Support

Administrative Support Tools that every freelancer and remote worker needs

Each call center operator and remote team member at IdeasUnlimited swears by these administrative support tools for providing 24 hour call center support and remote support services to our clients all over the globe.

11. Google Productivity Apps

The real-time sync feature and editing capabilities provided by Google’s web-based office suite apps are nothing to scoff at. Our remote workforce uses these apps to collaborate with team members all over the globe—forms are used to collect information, sheets manage databases, docs are used to create and edit documents, and slides help with presentation of sales pitches. These apps are free with your Gmail account, which makes them ideal for freelancers.

12. Every Time Zone

As a freelancer, you must work with clients from all over the globe, each with a different timezone. Never again do you have to struggle through the math to figure out what the time is in a particular country. Simply look it up here, like we do!

Managing Projects

Project Management Tools that every freelancer and remote worker needs

Each freelance job is a new project that you need to manage well, completing all the tasks within the deadline. Check out these project management tools to help facilitate your work.

13. Trello

Trello is an essential project management tool for both individual freelancers and those working in a team of digital nomads or remote workers. A Kanban-style project management app, Trello can be used in myriad ways to manage your to-do list, visually organize data, manage productivity, and collaborate with teams. Organized by cards, boards, and lists, it is a perfect tool for brainstorming a new idea. Check out a detailed summary of all that you can do with Trello here.

14. Evernote

Making sure no detail falls through the cracks again by keeping notes, pictures, videos, and voice notes of your ideas. Manage your personal and professional lives with Evernote and become more efficient by keeping track of projects and tasks—online or offline—using any of your devices.

Managing Finances

Tools for Managing Finances that every freelancer and remote worker needs

Freelancing frees you from the restrictions of a 9 to 5 job with a single company but without the associated 401k, managing expenses and savings is likely to get hectic. You also need to keep track of invoices due and received from clients. Don’t worry, we’ve found these 4 tools to make your budgeting and financial management a piece of cake:

15. Mint

Working as a one-person business becomes difficult since work and personal finances tend to overlap, so to keep your boat afloat you must get your business finances in order. Mint offers the perfect budgeting tool, sending you alerts when you’re near your budget limits, push notifications when a bill is coming due, and charts to see how you’re managing your cash flow. It even gives you suggestions based on your budget, allows for instant scheduling of payments, and helps manage your credit score.

16. Shoeboxed

Get your receipts in order and generate expense reports with this verified paperless organizer. You simply scan your receipts, and it will digitize and archive them into accessible human-verified data in one secure location. Shoeboxed will develop expense reports for your clients as well as organize IRS-recognized receipts for facilitated tax filing so you don’t have to manually input any data.

17. Wave

This free online financial management platform allows freelancers and small businesses to record expenses, make invoices, and balance their books. It allows customization of invoices and even tracks them, so you know when to expect payments. You can even fast-track your cash inflows by accepting credit card payments through Wave, simplifying the process for your clients as well.

18. PayPal

PayPal allows you to create and email professional invoices that you can send to clients all over the globe, and they can pay using their credit cards even if they do not have PayPal accounts. You can even accept payments over the phone with Virtual Terminal. Best of all, you’ll be keeping track of all invoices and payments in one place.

Sources of Inspiration

Sources of Inspiration that every freelancer and remote worker need

All of us face mental blocks from time to time. These sources of inspiration can help rejuvenate your creative juices and power you full steam ahead.

19. The Accidental Creative Podcast

Get free advice on improving your productivity, developing creatively, and staying brilliant and healthy at your life and work. Author Todd Henry talks to authors, inspirational leaders, and artists to get their insights on how to cultivate creativity and stay positive. Freelancers love listening to his take on these important topics.

20. 99U

Whatever your field of expertise, 99U aims to creatively inspire you to succeed at your goals. Learn how to create your own signature value proposition by following the experiences of these trendsetters, so you no longer have to compete for freelance jobs as one of a crowd but stand out for the extra value you offer. It teaches you everything from perfecting your sales pitch and getting noticed to generating innovative ideas.

Legal Resources

Legal Resources that every freelancer and remote worker needs

You should legally protect yourself from getting conned by unscrupulous clients by using this tool that has been vetted by the Freelance Union.

21. The Freelance Contract

Protect yourself by entering into binding legal agreements with your clients using this free resource. Vetted by the Freelance Union, it allows you to customize the contract by adding or removing clauses and notes, and generates alerts when the contract is reviewed and signed. The best feature it offers is generating invoices based on the terms of your contract that you can simply approve and send. Not only can both parties e-sign the contract, you can set up a self-destruct time, so only contracts signed within the stipulated deadline are valid.

Backup Storage

Backup Storage Tools that every freelancer and remote worker needs

When asked about their greatest professional fears, the one we hear the most often from our remote workforce and call center support workers is data getting corrupt or erased. Prepare yourself for such an eventuality by backing up your work on a secure cloud storage platform or using an appropriate backup tool. We’ve rounded up three of the best options for you:

22. Google Drive

Get up to 15 GB of free drive storage with your Gmail account on which you can store all kinds of files—photos, videos, drawings, etc. You can sync these files across all devices and access them when and where you like. With Google Drive, you don’t have to email entire files to clients any longer, simply share the files with them to view, download, and edit directly on the Drive. Upgrade if you need more storage space.

23. Amazon Glacier

Do you want a cheap, secure, long-term storage option for your important data? Compliant with strict data regularity standards and using three forms of encryption, Amazon Glacier offers privacy, security, and durability. With three retrieval options to choose from, you can decide how actively you wish to access your data. Store all your project work and data here, paying only for what you need, with no upfront costs.

24. All-in-One WP Migration

Backup your website and your clients’ websites using this amazing WordPress plugin that allows you to quickly restore a site if a bug or glitch brings things crashing down. It also makes site migration incredibly easy, you only have to import the new site and voila, you are ready to go!

Free Resources

Free Resources that every freelancer and remote worker needs

There are tons of free resources, graphics, and tools but not all of them impart significant value. Here are some we have used and would recommend to you too.

25. Free WiFi Finder

There’s nothing worse than going out and realizing you’re out of data. Free WiFi Finder will help you locate the closest place with a WiFi connection that you won’t have to pay for, so you’re never out of touch with your clients. You may need to purchase a drink or small bite to eat, depending on the location, though!

26. Canva

You need graphic design skills to create stunning Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator graphics but Canva requires none of that. For quick and easy designs, use their beautiful freemium templates, vast database of elements and photographs, collaborate with teams, and share designs. You can even upload logos, choose brand colors, and decide on default font styles. Our remote workforce and even internal team swear by Canva for designing brochures, social media posts, flyers, marketing documents, and much more.

27. Freepik.com

Freepik is an amazing source of free vectors, illustrations, photos, PSDs, and icons that you can use in your work. You simply need to credit the author of the graphic or upgrade to the premium account for a few dollars a month to download hundreds of graphics for personal or commercial use. They add to their database daily and have yearly subscription discounts. This should be your go-to resource for all kinds of graphics to jazz up your projects.

28. Creative Commons

Join this incredible global network that shares audio, photos, videos, scientific works, and educational resources by issuing free creative commons licenses, attributing usage conditions to the works. You can use most of these for free by simply attributing the authors, so you have an incredibly vast resource that you can use in your projects and designs. You can share your own work with the community too.

29. Other free resources

Graphic Burger: Find free to use without attribution—personal and commercial—icons, textures, templates, and photos.

The Deck Stack: With over 60 presentation slides and proposal templates, this can give you an edge in pitching your services to your clients.

30. And Co's Directories

And Co has compiled a few directories of free videos, photos, templates, and much more that can make your work much easier.

For a veritable goldmine of free videos, download this list.

Find free design content for a wide range of needs from this list of 150 resources.

Want to drive up blog traffic but stumped by post headlines? Use this spreadsheet and don’t worry, you can apply it to any industry.

Use these 30 tools vetted by our remote workforce to transform and grow your freelance career. Comment below to let us know about any other tools that you have used and can help freelancers.

10 Tips for Affiliate Marketing Success

10 Tips for Affiliate Marketing Success

By | Become an Affiliate, Remote Support Services | No Comments

Affiliate marketing can be defined as the process of identifying a product, service, or promotion and upselling it to other parties for a cut of the profit on the condition that you make the sale. Affiliate partnership programs are usually offered by online service providers and online selling platforms.

Here Are Ten Tips for Successful Affiliate Marketing:

1. Choose a Specific Niche:

A broad niche makes it complicated to handle. A specific audience relates to a specific problem and a few solutions. You could then build your trade around your niche. Learn how to pick the perfect affiliate marketing niche here.

2. Know the Audience:

Knowing your audience means identifying a problem experienced by your audience and coming up with a solution. The solution will be in the form of a product or service to be sold.

3. Trust:

Trustworthiness is essential for products and more so for services. No one would wish to pay for a service only to find out it’s not what they thought it was. Trust creates a bond which translates to repeat customers and more traffic. So, you must create a bond of trust with clients.

4. Transparency on Affiliate Relations:

As an affiliate marketer, it is important to disclose your affiliate relationship. Your clients will appreciate the honesty rather than bypass your links to directly access the vendor’s site. Here are three tips for increasing transparency in affiliate marketing.

5. Managing Customer Experience:

This is being helpful, for instance by answering questions, giving reviews, notifying clients of updates and quick solves among other issues. Click here to learn more about the customer experience.

6. Love what you do:

You will not be successful in what you do if you don’t love it. You may also lose interest in affiliate marketing if you don’t love it.

7. Quality Content:

Affiliate marketing is all about content on your site and social media accounts regarding the product or service. If it’s simple and easy to understand, then a customer is likely to purchase a product or service. 61% of consumers buy based on the content they read while 78% trust brands with content about them.

8. Promote Content:

Promotion assists your site and accounts to gain traffic. Without promotion, your site and social media accounts become dormant, hence you will have no sales.

9. Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

A well-structured SEO campaign is essential for successful marketing strategies and can drive massive traffic. This site can help you learn more about SEO.

10. Stay Relevant:

Technology and products change frequently and clients like going for the latest. Ensure your site keeps abreast with the changes and you are reachable by your clients on all mediums.

Practicing the above tips would ensure a successful affiliate marketing strategy. Ready to get started? Check out IdeasUnlimited’s affiliate marketing program and become a partner to earn a steady stream of recurring commissions.