Thursday, October 28, 2010

Call Quality Monitoring Is More Important Than Ever With Holidays Approaching

Believe it or not, the holiday shopping season is less than one month away (Black Friday), or in some retail outlets, it is already here!.

Reports say that consumer spending in 2010 might be down this season. Other online reports show increased spending for Christmas.

This has some interesting effects in our space: online catalog companies, and e-tailers, are likely to see an increase in call center activity, as shoppers call in with questions, for support, to place orders, etc.; call center operations managers will be challenged to produce -- more upsells, more saves, increased customer satisfaction.

As always, it will also be important to reduce the costs of running the center - less churn of employees, faster training cycles, faster customer handling times, etc.

Virtual Observer has been able to help many e-tailers address these issues and make serious performance gains, including Harry & David, Crutchfield Electronics, Fox Head Inc., Casual Male XL, Cigars International, J&P Cycles and many more.

Do your CSRs enter credit card information on-screen or take credit card information over the phone? It is also mission critical for e-tailers to maintain PCI compliance.

Virtual Observer helps firms remain compliant through the use of 256-bit media encryption and through granular security which allows administrators to control privileges down to the functional level and through our "LightsOut!" functionality, which automatically eliminate sensitive data after it has been entered on the screen.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Inside CSI: Everyone's favorite customer training manager

This week I am pleased to present an inside look at CSI's Customer Service and Training Manager, Dennis Vincent. Many customers have met him in person for onsite training, but I thought it would be nice to provide some additional insight into the man who drives our training initiatives.

Rich Marcia: Dennis, I understand you just returned from a vacation in Ireland. Any customer service experiences to share? 

Dennis Vincent: Rich, it was a true pleasure traveling through Ireland to see this wonderful country. My wife and I went for 2-weeks, using an escorted bus tour. As we traveled from place to place, and from hotel to hotel, I couldn’t but notice that no matter where you go the differences in customer service stand out. We landed at Shannon Airport, and the Customs officials and the Customer Service desk were both staffed by wonderful folks. Our tour guide hails from Limerick, and throughout the entire tour, we were treated with tender loving care by an individual who loved his job, loved people, and loved his country. At different establishments and hotels, we were met with both excellent service and an example or two of poor service, depending on the individual you were dealing with. Interestingly, at the family owned establishments, service seemed excellent, while at the chain hotel we stayed at, service did not seem as caring or as friendly. Is this a coincidence or an indication of today’s world? However, overall, what stood out to me the most is that the Irish people are a very friendly people who take great pride in their country.

Rich: Tell us a little about your background. What experiences contributed to making you a specialist in call center training?

Dennis: I actually went to college for teaching. During my career, I have been part of system development projects, in charge of call centers, with all of the hiring, firing, training, staff development, and people challenges associated with the job. I have also held positions dealing with agent compliance, ensuring that our agents were adhering to company rules and state and federal laws, and being part of disciplinary or court proceedings if necessary. I also traveled around the U.S opening up field offices.

Because of my prior background, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel around the country, introducing Virtual Observer to our new customers and providing on-site training in the use of the software, giving me a chance to meet our customers. I get a feel for their business needs, and help them learn how we can help them achieve business goals. It is a pleasure to get to feel like a “member of the team during my visits. I learn from my customers on each visit, and hopefully may have a unique insight for each customer based on my previous on-sites. There are many ways to "skin the cat".

Rich: Which onsite customer visit was your most memorable?

Dennis: Wow, what a tough question!! In our business, we are meeting with customer service folks. By nature, people in the customer service business usually like people (or they may be in the wrong business!) so I always feel that each visit is a memorable one. But, I specifically remember a trip to Denver, Colorado, and getting a wake up call at 5 AM from the airline telling me that my flight for that evening was canceled because of a pending blizzard. Being from New England, I didn’t think much of it, until I went to the customer site and learned that they do not get that much snow in Denver, so it was a pretty special event. After training was completed that day, I returned to the hotel, and learned what customer service was all about. The hotel was taking in as many people as they could, allowing people to sleep in the lobby, opened up the bar for drinks on the house, and provided 8 buses the following morning to bring people to the airport!! What could have been a frustrating and difficult time for travelers was turned into a holiday celebration by some very thoughtful and creative customer service people. A lesson we can all learn, how to turn a difficult situation into a positive one.

Rich: You do travel quite a bit. What are some of your favorite destinations? 

Dennis: As I travel around, I find many wonderful places everywhere I go. It is difficult to select as I have visited all of the 50 states.
- Colorado, with Denver and the beautiful Rockies
- Oregon, where I found the Medford area simply stunning
- Long Beach, California, with its beautiful harbor area
- Florida, which has Miami, Jacksonville (with St. Augustine near by), Tampa, which is near where my youngest daughter lives with her family
- Canada, where I have loved Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton
- Pennsylvania with our several customers in the Villanova and Pennsylvania Dutch area, and also my trip to Warren, on the other side of the state
- Nebraska, where I found that in the Lincoln and Omaha areas nothing sounds like it is spelled, but the steak is outstanding
- North Carolina, with the entire greater Charlotte area
- Georgia, where I found Athens a beautiful city. Also, I have had the privilege of visiting Hiawassee, in the Smokey Mountains of Georgia, and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been
- South Carolina, where Charlestown is one of my personal favorite cities
- Caribbean Ocean, where everyone should try their first cruise. Pick an Island, you will enjoy!
- Mexico, with the history of Mexico City and the beauty of the ocean near Acapulco
- Nevada, with Vegas and the Grand Canyon
- Italy, where my wife and I toured for our 30th anniversary, should be seen by everyone. The beauty, coupled with the history, is indescribable
- Ireland, where my wife and I just returned from, with its happy people and beautiful countryside, and if you like Guinness or Jameson, a must visit!
- New England, where I was born in New Hampshire and have lived in Connecticut for most of my years, is to me as beautiful as anywhere I go. I guess that is why I still live here after all these years. All New Englanders can be proud of Boston, the birthplace of Liberty
- My bucket list still includes a Mediterranean cruise, with Athens, Crete, Egypt and Jerusalem on the itinerary, Australia and South America. Also, I have never been to San Francisco, my wife’s favorite city.

Rich: Which VO feature do you think is the most valuable to your customers?

Dennis: That varies customer by customer, depending what was in place prior to VO’s arrival. In general, I would say that if screen capture is being introduced, it opens up many new avenues for review. With screen capture, the process flow can also be QA’d, along with the phone skills. Sometimes it is not the agent, but what an agent must go through to get the customer information that can be a source of delays, hold-times, etc., and changing flows can have a significant impact on performance. After that, our Live Desktop feature gives the Supervisor to monitor what agents are doing, whether they are on the phone or not.

RM: How are you going to be adapting "Speech Analytics" into your training programs?

Dennis: I am very excited with the introduction of VO’s new Speech Analytics capabilities, and can’t wait to see it in action. To be able to do phonetic parsing of calls, to analyze greetings, key words, closure, and even find strong terms such as "Cancel my subscription" etc., is going to be a huge help to our customers to help them find which calls they want to listen to.

Rich: Lastly, any new beverage discoveries in Ireland?

Dennis: For years I did not think I could drink Guinness Stout. Well, when you go to Ireland, you do what the Irish do. The first night, we were given our choice of Guinness Stout or Irish coffee. My wife had the coffee, I had the stout. I also like the draught, Smithwick’s ale, Kilkenny ale and Murphy’s Ale. My personal favorite, however, came in Dublin on the recommendation of our tour guide. It was a pleasant light ale called "Galway Hooker" and went excellent with my lamb.
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