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Installing a VoIP phone system is great but there are a few things you need to know in order to avoid possible problems with your new system.
You need a reliable Internet connection
Hands down, this is a must. You need both speed and stability. A good connection allows your VoIP to work properly. Avoid dropped calls with a good DSL connection.
VoIP is very attractive when it comes to call rates. Most providers offer unlimited minutes for a fixed monthly rate. However, there are other costs associated with VoIP such as hardware installation. Installation can start with a simple telephone adaptor and grow into more sophisticated hardware for big office networks. Some setups are simple that you can DIY them. Before installing one, consult an expert so that you can utilize your current equipment and not waste money in the process.
Know that your system will go down when there is a power outage. Traditional lines are not affected by this. VoIP uses equipment that rely on electricity. Ask your provider about contingency plans in case of power interruptions.
Protect your lines from eavesdroppers and identity thieves by encrypting your phone lines. Ask your vendor about security protocols.
This function is dependent on the provider. In some instances, having this function is a waste of money because some providers allow a caller to make it appear as if they are calling from a different number. There are also devices that allow one to modify the caller ID information.
You may have problems with emergency calls because they cannot be routed to a nearby help center as the system cannot locate users geographically.
A Quick Look at Other Phone Systems in the Market and their Costs
Business phone system costs vary widely. Basically, the cabinet cost, wiring, installation and units are already included in the fee. If you need optional features such as hold music, CTI, etc. they can also be included in your monthly service fee.
There are different price averages in phone systems. Adding extra features and lines can add to your total cost.
The average cost is based on the cost per user.
Key systems cost between £200-£600 per user. Add to that, the optional features that you need.
This is the cheapest in the market. The only actual costs that you will incur are the phones, setup and installation. This costs £60-£150 per phone. Added consideration includes maintenance and additional wiring.
This setup costs around £500 per user and can go up to £600 on average. If you have 100 or more users, the cost per user is significantly reduced because of scaling. This is popular among large businesses.
Cost is the number one attracting feature of VoIP. It is comparable to KSU-less systems and as a matter of fact, many KSU-less systems can be used as an Internet phone system. However, you need a router that increases your one-time cost. The average cost of this system is £60-£150.
Factors that affect the cost
Here are some things that can affect the total cost of your system.
In many instances, the installation costs are the same price as the whole phone system. Key and PBX systems require complex setup so you need to call the professionals to do the job. That costs a lot of money especially if your current wiring is not compatible or not enough for your new system.
Maintenance fees are usually already included in the price but if you want more, you will be charged more. Inquire about a good maintenance plan so that you can avoid problems in the future.
The cabinet is the central operations unit of your entire phone system. It is expensive. It can cost anywhere from £600 to £6000. The price depends on the size and complexity of the setup that you need.
Brand is a major factor in price. Panasonic phones are usually more expensive than Samsung, AT&T, NEC and Linksys. Price also depends on the features of a phone. Obviously, a phone that has a loud speaker, hands-free function, etc. costs more. If you don’t need high end phones, cheap phones in bulk can cost you just £60.
Hold music, CTI, etc. can cost you extra. If you have a limited cash flow, take the time to really list down what you need. If you do decide on an extra feature, make sure that it will help you get your ROI.
Some providers offer a free trial period. Take advantage of this and test out a feature you are eyeing. Most features included in the phone system are enough for a small company. Many big company features are also now available to smaller businesses at a fraction of the original cost. These features can make you look more professional so take advantage of them.
Running a call centre is hard work. Employee turnover is high. In order to keep your agents, make sure they stay motivated. When they are motivated, productivity levels are maintained. Aside from that, a motivated employee is a good reflection of the company. If your agents are happy, your customers are happy. Here are 9 simple tips for keeping your agents motivated.
- Free snacks
Snacks are great energy and mood boosters. Stock up your pantry with crackers, energy bars, granola bars, cereals, coffee, juice, tea, soda and anything else that your agents like. Your agents will appreciate the free food. They don’t have to go out the office to take a break. Remember that a hungry employee is more likely to be cranky and unfocused.
- Let them grow
Ask your agents what areas in their jobs they want to improve on such as a specific skill. Provide regular trainings and seminars. A motivated employee will always want to further his career. This is great news for the whole company. Your agents will constantly strive for excellence. They can cover a wide range of jobs when they continuously upgrade their skill set.
- Free massages
Poor circulation is one of the problems that call centre agents face because they are seated in front of a desk for long periods. Free massages can help tremendously. Some call centres hire massage therapists every now and them to help relieve the agents’ sore neck and back muscles. This helps prevent tired and stiff muscles and keeps the blood going. Your agents will feel relaxed and recharged for another day.
- Spend some time with them
Try to spend a few minutes of your time each day with your employees. Ask questions, talk about their families, ask for suggestions or complaints about their jobs, etc. Knowing that you care about them will give them peace of mind. They know they can always talk to you if something is up.
- Prevent stress
A call centre agent’s life is stressful. If you start seeing signs of stress, eliminate them right away. Stress can cause a person to lose focus, get sick or be cranky. Tea and coffee are great mood boosters. They contain anti-oxidants that fight stress. Make sure you have plenty of both in your pantry.
Another way to relieve stress is by doing some simple exercises. They can do these while in their cubicles. You can also have team building activities every now and then.
Ask your agents if their workload is too much and adjust accordingly.
- Set realistic offline task schedules
First and foremost, your agents are human beings and not robots. Don’t tell them they can only go to the bathroom for 2 minutes. This is unrealistic and downright inhumane. Give them sufficient time for lunch, coffee breaks, bathroom breaks, etc.
Let them finish taking calls without any interruptions. Set aside some time to do paper work, hold meetings, etc.
- Report on your agent’s performance
Every day, show your agents a report on their productivity. Let them know their daily progress. Make it as detailed as possible. This will encourage them to always do their best and to improve on their weaknesses.
- Remind your agents about your company values
While in training, you teach your agents the core values of your company. You know a person is a good fit if he or she can identify with these values. Do not hire people who do not share the same values. From time to time, remind your employees what you are doing and the reason for doing it.
- Set competitions
Healthy competitions are great motivators. Award agents who get the top calls or highest satisfaction scores. It does not always have to be money. A pizza certificate or movie tickets are very much appreciated. You can also give an extra day off or more flexibility for other tasks. You can hang a plaque recognizing the agents who do a great job.
These are just some of the simple things you can do to keep your agents happy. Be creative with your approach and you can be sure to retain your employees for a long time.
It’s easy to get used to the noise in your office. You might not realize it but the customers who call your call centre may find it noisy and irritating. It can be very distracting.
Make a test call to determine how much background noise can be heard during a call. Listen for background chatter, desk fans causing excess noise and even the agent wearing/removing his headset.
If you do detect some noise, here are a few ways to eliminate or reduce them.
In the workplace
Install acoustic ceiling tiles
Get some advice from an engineer who builds a recording studio. They will be able to tell you which kind of acoustic tiles you can install to reduce noise.
Install an adjustable white noise system
A white noise system can diminish noise. Choose an adjustable system so you can set it according to the call volume you receive.
It’s a good idea to invest in padded cubicles so agents are more isolated from the rest of the team. This prevents idle chatter. Customers also won’t hear other calls going on. Install a higher front panel that can absorb sound.
Setup glass cubicles or partitions to isolate each agent and prevent idle chatter.
The architecture of your office can help reduce sound. Doors and corridors can be strategically managed. Close off work areas from public areas.
Install water features and plants around the office. Water creates a soothing sound that gives a relaxed environment. The water features and plants are also great at absorbing sound. The sound of water is always better than ringing phones or office chatter.
Artwork canvasses that are hung on fabric screens or walls can also reduce background noise plus they add to the aesthetic appeal of your office.
Keep agent voices down
Train your agents to keep their voices down. They should always be aware and respectful of their peers who are engaged on the phone.
Strictly no discussions in the work area
Be very strict with this rule. No conversations should happen in front, behind or anywhere near an agent who is currently engaged in a call. Idle chatter in the background is a sign of unprofessionalism.
Discourage agents from talking about their personal lives in the work area. They can discuss that during breaks, away from the workplace.
Assign a break room
Agents should not be loitering in the work area when they are on break. Assign a break room where they can go. Enforce a no eating, no texting, no chatting in their cubicles rule. Set up a snack bar to encourage your agents to go to the break room. Fill it up with coffee, juice, tea, snacks, energy bars, etc. The energy boost will work wonders on your agents.
Seat same-shift agents together
You can expect people to be noisy when they come in or leave for shift. Seat agents who have the same schedules together to reduce noise. They can talk after their shift without disturbing other agents.
If you have a noisy agent or you think an agent is too loud, play his call back to him. This recording will help him realize how much he is disrupting the workplace.
Install an office chat that agents can use instead of shouting from across the room or getting up to talk to a manager. This prevents unnecessary noise and accessing personal contacts.
Emailing is a tried and tested secure and quiet way to communicate. If you really don’t like a web chat system, use this.
Enforce a no smartphone rule in the work area. It will eliminate phone noises and will keep personal conversations out of the office.
Invest in good quality headphones
Headphones that have a built-in noise reduction system are more expensive but worth the price. Your clients will enjoy a better call experience.
Turn up the volume of the agent’s own voice feedback
Turn up the volume of the agent’s own voice feedback in his headset to lower his voice volume.
One of the reasons customers hate calling or receiving calls from a call centre is background noise. Who wants to hear other people talking when you are having a serious conversation?
Another problem that may arise is a breach of customer privacy. If you are not careful, some confidential information may be leaked due to poor call and noise management. There are very strict regulations regarding protecting a customer’s personal details. If you are not careful, you might get into trouble.
Call a professional to fix the noise level in your office. It is a good investment. You will sound professional. Your customers will also trust you to handle their personal and confidential details.
Most people associate call centres with a negative image – long holds, being bounced from one person to another, agents who cannot speak proper English and so on. In short, most people associate call centres with frustration. However, there are still many call centres that are thriving. If you are in the call centre industry, you need to make your company shine in order to get noticed. Competition is fierce and today, we give you the tools to make you stand out.
Walk the talk
Do not make promises you know you cannot keep. Your customers will surely get angry. If you tell a customer that you will give them a callback, do it at the soonest time. If you say that their problem will be fixed in 24 hours, you better deliver.
Empower your agents
Give your agents the tools to help customers quickly. Get rid of the long call queues and the need for a supervisor’s help in order to solve a simple problem. Train your agents and provide them with information they can easily access when needed.
Open jobs in your community by hiring people locally. Utilize suppliers in your city. Look for partners locally. By doing this, you are helping your community. These are positive points you can feature in your website.
Help your agents succeed
Open opportunities for your agents to advance their careers. Offer them trainings and resources to help them go up their career ladder. If you have openings in upper management, hire internally. You can save money on training. Aside from that, you can be sure about the employee’s capabilities and skills. You know he will be able to perform as expected because he has been trained by the company. By doing this, you will boost employee morale. They will be inspired to become better in their jobs and this will result to greater customer service and lead to happy customers.
Benchmark excellent customer service
If you have excellent employees, share their stories with the rest of the company. You can also use successful brands to teach your employees about great customer service.
Create and encourage customer feedback channels
Reach out to your customers. After a call, your agents can ask one or two questions about their experience. They can rate a problem resolution with a number system.
Open your social media channels to feedback but expect to have negative criticism. Answer negative posts professionally and assure your customers that you are working towards solving the problem. Post updates regularly.
Make good use of your website. Most people go to a company’s website first to write a complaint or feedback. Provide a comments box and make your website user-friendly so that clients can easily reach you.
Opt out of a queue
Let your customers leave a queue by offering them a call back when the next agent becomes available. You will save a lot of time and free up the lines. Your customers will get less frustrated. Never forget about a client.
Fix your business
What is your purpose for putting up a call centre? Most businesses put up a call centre in order to fix minor issues with their clients. If you are getting an overwhelming number of complaints, then you should examine your business and fix it.
Give customers what they want
Listen to what your customers are saying. Most of them make sense. Make use of their suggestions.
Offer simple IVR menus
Simplify the call process to help clients resolve issues quickly.
Invest in technology, training, equipment and people. Constantly strive to become a better company. Ensure your telephone system can handle your requirements. Automated calling and headsets are great tools to save time. If you need to upgrade your current system, it is worth shopping around for quotes to save you more time. A comparison site like www.businesstelephonesystem.org makes this easy.
Promote best practices and set high quality standards in your call centre. You should also strive for industry qualifications.
Set realistic targets
Set standards according to how far your people can reach. Examine your people’s strengths, skills and capabilities. Set achievable performance and sales goals.
Choose your target market wisely
People don’t want to hear sales talk about a product they have no use for. Just randomly targeting customers is bad practice. Avoid getting angry customers on the line by thoroughly researching your target market.
Recruit the right people
You will immediately see if a person will fit perfectly into your company during initial training. Keep the ones who believe in your vision/mission and let go of the ones you know will not mesh well into the corporate environment. They will just cause you problems in the long run.
Examine your weaknesses
Every company has a weakness. Try to pinpoint yours and build an action plan on how to turn this weakness into a strength.
Call only during convenient times
Ask your customers when the best time is to call them. Furthermore, some customers don’t want to be contacted thru phone so make sure to have different avenues available such as SMS or email.
Pump up your security
Prevent fraud by beefing up your security protocols. Trust is a big player in any industry. If customers don’t trust you, say goodbye to sales. Double your security if you are handling credit card and other paying information.
Keep it professional
Eliminate unnecessary noise in the background. Your customers should not hear music, idle chat or any other sound that might distract them while a call is ongoing.
Train your employees well
All agents should be polite, helpful and understanding always. No excuses.
Call centres experience some fierce competition in the industry. One wrong move and you can be out of business. This is because modern customers have higher expectations. They want exceptional customer service quickly. Here are some of the best practices to help your call centre keep up with the modern times and succeed.
Listen to a live call as a group and get feedback
Listening to different live calls at regular schedules as a group will help improve the agents’ performance. Each member should also give feedback. Most agents respond more to constructive criticism from someone in their team than from supervisors or managers.
Encourage agents to praise one another if they make a sale or get a commendation for a job well done. Praise should come from all areas of your company and not just from management.
Don’t always highlight mistakes
You should have a good balance of praise and constructive criticism. Don’t remind your agents constantly about their mistakes. They will only feel bad and this will translate to their work.
Listen and compare each other’s calls
Your agents should be able to listen to their own recorded calls and other calls in the team. They may be able to find new techniques or ways to help them with a particular situation that they are struggling with. It also allows them to share best practices.
Remember to adhere to security protocols. Always be mindful of sensitive customer information. Keep calls within the team.
Give regular structured feedback
Send agents direct feedback after every shift. Follow a regular structure that you will use every day. You can highlight the good points in the call and then point out the problem areas they need to work on. Offer suggestions on how to make calls better.
Let your teams design their own team goals
Regularly reminding your agents about the company’s vision and mission is good practice but it is also a good idea to let them design their own personal and team goals. Ask them to write it down then formulate the steps they need in order to achieve their goals. Set goals quarterly then sit down and review their performance.
This practice will help motivate your agents because they are the ones who decided what their goals are.
Allow teams to have their own team representatives who will be the voice of the whole team. The team can discuss ideas and problems and then have the representative go to management to voice out these ideas. It is a safe way for agents to voice their opinions.
Have a virtual suggestion box
A suggestion box is always a good idea whether it’s an actual box or a virtual one. Discuss suggestions monthly with agents. If a suggestion makes the majority happy, consider implementing it. Keep everyone updated with the implementation progress.
Allow agents to design and simplify their own workflow
Most agent desktop solutions can now be customized. Agents should have autonomy over their workflow so that they can perform at their best. Upper management can give input and suggestions on how to improve the workflow but at the end of the day, the agent should still be the one to decide.
Openly discuss ideas
If you feel that a suggestion box is too much work, just hold regular meetings to openly discuss ideas. Remember to really listen and not to open a debate about an issue. List down the ideas and analyze them on your own time. Let an idea sink and understand where the agent is coming from. You might be surprised at the results of your analysis.
Monitor social media
Most customers tweet, blog or post about their experiences in their social media accounts. Delegate an hour each day to find out what people are saying about your company and services. You will be able to get true insight with this research.
If you see positive comments, share them with your agents. It will motivate your agents. If it’s a criticism, discuss it with the group that handled that particular call.
Hire QA staff internally
Let your agents move up the career ladder internally. Consider hiring QA staff from within. Your agents will be motivated to do more. They will also respond more to someone who has experienced their jobs and understands the current situation.
One-on-one coaching sessions
One-on-one sessions are a great way to pinpoint and correct the weaknesses of an agent. This practice will make an agent more comfortable during training because he does not have to compete with anyone. He will be comfortable to make mistakes and try out new techniques because he is with a mentor. His performance will improve and you will see results in no time.
Take these suggestions to heart and see if you can implement them in your own company. These practices are being done by many successful call centres all over the world. You can tweak them according to your company culture.
Employee turnover is high in the call centre industry. Most employees stay for only six months. If you want to keep your agents longer, be sure to make them happy. Provide a happy working environment with these tips.
Lead by example
Pick up the phone and join your agents every once in a while. Show them that you can do their jobs too and achieve great results. Your agents will respect you more for it.
This has a twofold purpose. By sitting with them, you will also be able to observe how they do their daily tasks. You will be able to spot and correct mistakes quickly. You can also give them tips and demonstrate the right way of doing things.
Listen to your agents
No agent will tell you directly how they feel so keep your ears open to office gossip. Check out what people are saying while they are in the cafeteria or drinking station. Be open to communication with their team leaders and supervisors. If you can, ask them directly. You can meet with every team and ask them about their jobs, schedules, assigned tasks, etc. It does not have to be a formal meeting. Make it a relaxed environment to make them open up.
Set realistic schedules and workloads
Dealing with angry customers and complaints day in and day out is stressful. If you need to give paperwork to your agents, be sure to give a realistic workload. Give them realistic call centre performance targets. A heavy workload on top of a very stressful day will take a toll on your agents. Your agents will be demoralized and it will show in their customer service.
Set realistic schedules that will allow your agents to get a full night’s sleep. They need at least 24 hours of off time away from the office to be able to function well. They also need to bond with their families and friends to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Set clear expectations
Tell your agents exactly what you expect from them. They need to know their targets so that they can work towards them.
Really care about your agents
Know your agents personally. You should know them by name. Take time to develop relationships with them. They are individuals and want to be treated as such.
Emphasize customer satisfaction
Do not assess your agents by their length of call, instead, assess them by how well they handled a call. Customers should be satisfied by the end of every call. If the agent needs more time to resolve a problem, allow him. You will increase both customer and agent satisfaction.
Reward good performance
Rewards can take on any form – money, extra day off, less workload, gift cards, a certificate, etc. These simple things will motivate your employees to do their best.
Provide good equipment
Make an audit of your equipment. Get rid of obsolete ones. Your agents won’t be able to do their jobs well if they use faulty equipment. Provide them with the right technology and they will be happy to do their jobs.
Ask your customers for feedback
Encourage agents to ask customers if they were happy with the resolution given to them at the end of a call. If your agents hear that their customers are happy, then they will be happy too.
Test new protocols
Don’t implement new protocols right away. Select a pilot team and test them out first. Ask for the team’s feedback. Ask about the protocol’s strength and weaknesses. Make your agents a part of the change so that they won’t feel threatened. By nature, people resist change. Make them feel involved so they won’t be hesitant to change.
Appoint an agent to be team leader for a day
Let everyone in the team experience what it’s like to be a leader. Let them experience the perks and responsibilities that come with it. Your agents will have a greater sense of purpose and will strive to do better when they are in-charge.