You can train your agents and your managers until you’re blue in the face, but like a parent sending a child off to college, you never know how capable your call center is until you unleash it upon the public. Unfortunately, your representatives don’t return after a few months with grades in hand – you have to seek out barometers for success yourself.

Gleaned from the very people you rely on for sustained business, customer feedback data can help you identify key areas for improving call center agent performance. The following are five areas where a careful study of your customers’ experience can help you discover issues that you might not have known existed, and identify areas ripe for improvement.

Business statistics sketch1. Customer Satisfaction First, and most obviously, you want the people who dial into your call center, for whatever reason, to have a positive experience (or as positive an experience as possible). Allowing for the rare person just looking for a stranger on whom to blow off some billing-related steam, most customers are trying to get a question asked or a problem fixed – and they’re usually more than willing to tell you if their needs were not met.

Looking at your customer feedback data in aggregate will identify drivers for customer satisfaction. Are a sizeable percentage of callers asking the same question, or lodging the same complaint? Not only can you relay this to the operations side of your business, you can prepare your agents with these details. Which leads us to…

 

Online Class2. Agent Coaching Along with salespeople, your customer care representatives are the first line of contact between your company and the general buying public. This fact is not lost upon the vast majority of managers, 77% of whom noted that hiring and training high-quality agents was the key to delivering a superior customer experience.

Remember that wistful talk of grades above? This is the closest you can come to finding out if your agents are making the Dean’s list or failing out. Diligent analysis of post-call surveys will help you identify areas for improvements in your coaching and training. You’ll also be able to determine who your most effective reps are, and whether you have some personnel changes on the horizon.

 

Phone call3. Call Deflection One surefire way – perhaps the best way – to increase the quality of your call center’s performance is to reduce the overall number of incoming calls that you’re receiving. If you understand what questions your customers are most likely to ask, you can answer it for them and eliminate the need to call.

Analyzing the sentiment of incoming calls, as well as specific areas where your customers are having issues, will give you a roadmap for preempting customer service issues. Is there general confusion about a product and it’s feature set? Prominently displayed product how-to’s, or an updated FAQ on your website, will reduce call volume and ensure that your agents expend their efforts on other topics.

 

4. First Call Resolution This is the home run, what your agents swing for each time they answer the phone with “Hello, thank you for calling…” There is no better way to ensure your customers hang up happy, and to improve your brand’s customer service reputation, than resolving an issue on the first call.

When studying the first call findings in your CX research, don’t concentrate solely on rates. In addition, look for issue descriptions that tip you off to the need for additional training and/or information from the product team. That way, you get a roadmap to solving your problem, instead of just a notification that a problem exists.

 

Phone auricular and clock delivery symbol5. Handle Time Your customers want to have a quick and easy experience when they call you up – and they will tell you how to help them.  You just need to listen: the answers are right there. Your online forums, call center agent notes, and call recordings themselves reveal the most common issues and concerns within your customer base. Analyze all of this data in aggregate to identify patterns and trends, and empower your agents to quickly address them.

Improving your center with these five strategies will elevate your function within the business. No longer will you be seen as a cost center with the primary goal of driving efficiency, but rather a business asset with a critical role in maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty.

 


Roney_headshotSteve Roney is a social content strategist at Clarabridge, a high-growth customer experience and sentiment analytics software company.

Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Effective Delegation

What is delegation within the context of call center leadership? And what does delegation look like when efficiently executed within the call center environment? This brief discussion will lead you in the right direction. CallCenterOperatorBy definition, delegation within the context of call center leadership involves assigning tasks and responsibilities to an employee who has been empowered to make certain decisions. Normally the call center leader delegates these tasks and responsibilities to a subordinate. Call Center delegation has three primary purposes:

  1. Increase efficiency and performance. Backlog can be eliminated and customer service improved if call center delegation is used wisely. When all aspects of the delegated task (i.e. vertical and horizontal follow-up) are completed it should have a greater impact on your daily routine.
  2. Develop a key leadership skill in the call center leader which prepares them for greater leadership roles in the future.
  3. Prepare, develop and empower the subordinate for increased responsibilities in the future.  This adds value and self-worth to the subordinate.

WorkingTeamSo where do we start? As a leader in the call center you have to first realize and accept that you will have to delegate in order to be effective. You start by developing a well-rounded relationship with all your team members. You will know you have achieved this level of relationship when you are able to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Strengths or natural affinity towards certain processes may vary within the group.

After you have assessed your team the next step is to be willing to take risks with your team members. They may not be “fully” competent in your eyes for certain tasks but that should not stop you from delegating to them. With this mindset you are now ready to start delegating.

Look at your individual daily responsibilities and see which ones can be routinely and consistently delegated. Care should be taken to ensure you are delegating as much as you can. However, the goal should never be to get rid of all your responsibilities, although a novel idea. Once you have identified the responsibilities you should be very transparent with why you are delegating. The explanation to your subordinates should include:

  1. Workload. You are delegating because the workload is high and you want to improve efficiency and performance.
  2. Confidence. You are delegating because you have absolute confidence in him/her that they are able to perform the task.
  3. Opportunity for growth. You are delegating because it provides an opportunity for growth to him/her. They will be learning new procedures and skills which will help with your succession planning efforts.

Finally, customize your delegation strategy for your environment. For example, you can rotate the agents by week or day who will be involved with delegated tasks.

 

 


Johnson_David_headshot

David Johnson

Vice President, Customer Relations and Sales

Uniters North America

David Johnson is currently the Vice President of Customer Relations and Sales at Palladio US, LLC, which is a part of the international Uniters Group. He is also the current President of the SOCAP Florida Chapter. David has been working in the Customer Care industry for the last 15 years where he started out as an entry-level employee. David has a MBA Degree with a major in Finance and is an Adjunct Professor at Broward College teaching Accounting and Entrepreneurship courses.

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Goods and services are no longer enough; what consumers want today are experiences – memorable events that engage each individual in an inherently personal way. To meet this demand, SOCAP members must develop experience innovations that turn mundane interactions into engaging encounters.

 

When it comes to people, you must direct workers to act.

Understand that in today’s Experience Economy work IS theatre. It’s not a metaphor (work as theatre); it’s a model. That’s why Geek Squad agents in remote Geek Squad City — where they have no face-to-face interactions with customers — wear the same uniform as do Agents in Best Buy stores. Help your workers embrace theatre by understanding the difference between what and how – what is the functional requirements for their interactions with consumers, but how they go about those interactions can make them memorable.

 

When it comes to process, you must mass customize your offerings.

Reach inside of your customers to create that personal experience within them, but do so with low costs, high volume, efficient operations. The secret to that is modularity, designing your processes like LEGO building bricks that can be put together in different ways for different customers. Progressive Insurance, for example, sends its customer service reps to the very site of member accidents, handling the claim and handing out a check on the spot over 90% of the time — while lowering its costs through its modular processes.

 

When it comes to technology, you must fuse the real and the virtual.

Recognize that consumers today don’t want to differentiate between off- and online interactions; they want to communicate with you whenever, wherever, whatever, and however they want. So innovate new ways of interacting, such as telecom provider 3 in Sweden, which created a “LiveShop” to connect consumers to its contact center. It’s like Skype on steroids, where its reps use a touch-screen interface to bring into view physically whatever phones and plans they want to talk about with the real, living, breathing customer in front of them virtually.

Follow these three imperatives and you will develop your own experience innovations that will shift you beyond goods and services and into today’s Experience Economy.


Pine_Joe_headshot2B. Joseph Pine II

Co-author, The Experience EconomyInfinite PossibilityAuthenticity

Author, Mass Customization

Co-founder, Strategic Horizons LLP

Customer Experience Focus Can Drive Culture Change

Technology has changed the way we do business. Customers can instantly find any information they want about a product or service via their smartphones. They can share their experience with it across social networks with hundreds, or even hundreds of thousands, of people. And they expect more personalized, convenient, and unique interactions with brands as companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google set the standards of their shopping, buying, and ownership experience. The world has changed and it’s given customers the power to make the rules. But can focusing on the importance of building a great customer experience push cultural change in an organization?

At GM we asked ourselves that question. From how we design our cars and trucks to how we market and advertise. From how we interact with each other, our suppliers and our dealer network to how we assess quality, safety, and reliability. We’ve used the customer experience as our rallying point for culture change, and here are some of the ways we’re enabling it.

First, we’ve become customer obsessed. Our decisions about products or policies or customer support start with customers in mind. A redesigned company vision was a starting point, but the real power came in how we shifted our resources. Customer care, data collection and analytics became high priority. We aligned our social listening and interaction tools to provide integrated customer support and conversation management. And we worked with our Dealer network to upgrade their facilities, training, and customer relationship management tools.

Second, we’ve increased our focus on making the customer experience a key measure of our success. To help manage how we execute those choices, a Customer Experience organization was established to coordinate across the company. Its mission is to strengthen customer service, improve customer listening posts, and maximize our investment in our dealer network. This team is closely integrated with product quality and brand marketing, and is now becoming integrated with our Connected Customer organization.

Third, we needed to make it known that customer-centric behavior was the right thing to for our team members to do. That’s meant leading by example and sharing stories of customer-centric decisions. It’s meant moving closer to the customer and having team members at all levels listen to customer calls. It’s meant making customer-centric stories central to meetings, events, trainings, and internal communications. And it’s also meant creating spaces and opportunities for collaboration and learning in the name of the customer. To do that we’ve created internal social media channels and forums dedicated to cross-functional teamwork in the name of improving our customer experience.

No one ever said that culture change was easy, but rallying around the customer experience has certainly energized us on our path to building the kind of culture we need to be successful. We’ve accomplished a lot in a short time, but we know work remains. We’ve become relentless in how we review every moment of a customer’s journey with us. We have no fear of doing what’s right for them. And we don’t shy away from talking about how important it is that we made the tough choice for the right reason. It’s excited us for the work we do today, tomorrow, and far into our future and made our purpose clear: everything we do starts and ends with earning customers for life.

 

 


Jim Moloney, is the Global Director for Customer Contact Centers for General Motors. In this position, Mr. Moloney is responsible for optimizing the site footprint and labor provider support models, and developing standardized processes, tools and scorecards for GM contact centers worldwide. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Moloney was the General Director of GM’s U.S. Contact Center team, where he led a transformational change to the customer experience business model. Under his leadership, GM has embraced the concept that purchase loyalty, service retention and the organization’s ability to conquest are all directly tied to the ownership experience, and are thus key drivers of the company’s long-term success plan.

Moloney is a member of the SOCAP Board of Directors and serves as Board Advisor to SOCAP’s Automotive Industry Community.

SOCAP is proud to recognize the 2014 chapter award winners through the CARE Award, Membership Achievement Award and STAR Award.

The CARE Award is the Chapter Award in Recognition of Excellence and evaluates chapters in the areas of chapter programs and events, membership, communications and operations. Congratulations to the 2014 CARE Award recipients:

  • Chicago Chapter – Lisa Diehl, Orbitz Worldwide
  • Georgia Chapter – Robert Murphy, Georgia 811
  • Great Lakes Chapter – Kimberly Sokol, Kelly Services, Inc
  • Northwest Chapter – Heidi Verse, The Clorox Company

The Membership Achievement award recognizes chapters that achieve net growth of membership for the year, meet new member and retention goals for the year. 2014 Membership Achievement Award recipients are below:

  • Chicago Chapter – Lisa Diehl, President and Frank Keith, Vice President of Membership
  • Great Lakes Chapter – Kimberly Sokol, President and Terri Haffey, Vice President of Membership

The STAR Award recognizes hardworking, dependable and dedicated individuals who support their local chapter. Winners are nominated by the chapter board. The 2014 STAR Award winners are:

  • Canada Community – Pierre Marc Jasmin, Triad Services
  • Chicago Chapter – Allison Stauter, Travelzoo
  • Georgia Chapter – Dan Valentine, Sales Growth Strategies
  • Great Lakes Chapter – Tim Aulph, Percepta
  • Great Lakes Chapter  – Chip Rohde, Wilke Global
  • Heartland Chapter – Derrell Chastain, Hyatt Hotels
  • Heartland Chapter – Dee Kohler

SOCAP Chapters do a great job of providing networking opportunities, valuable events and programming and these efforts take a strong team of dedicated and talented individuals. Congratulations to all of the 2014 award winners!

 

 

By: Matthew D’Uva, FASAE, CAE
President and CEO, SOCAP International

Thank you…thank you for being an essential member of SOCAP International! This community association is here because of you and to serve you, ensuring your success as well as the success of your company and your consumers.

I am very engaged in the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)—essentially, the Association of Associations… seriously there is a professional association for all of us! In my work with ASAE, I often spend time working on programming, preparing sessions and leading committees and work groups while juggling my full-time job here at SOCAP.

Whenever I reflect on the time invested with ASAE, the one theme that keeps coming back is that the time I invest with my professional association returns two-fold (sometimes more) in my career development and SOCAP. Frankly, I am better at my job, better able to connect to the right business partners to support our staff team and bring better ideas to the Board of Directors for implementation.  Essentially, engaging with my professional association pays dividends to my organization and members every day.

In the same way, SOCAP pays dividends to you, your career, your company and your consumers. You and our membership network represent the “best of the best,” and opportunities to network, learn and connect with industry leaders are tremendously valuable and produce an exponential return on your investment.

For those of you who agree – send me your comments. For those who are still considering, please review my following “Top Five” List of tools, resources and opportunities to engage and get the most value and benefit with SOCAP—your professional community—throughout the year and beyond.    

 

5. Take Advantage of the SOCAP Learning Portal.  There are a ton of resources available to members via our learning portal including past conference sessions, webinars and our online contact management course.  If you have not had a chance to pursue these resources, take a look and share them with your colleagues at your company!

4. Read Customer Relationship Management Magazine and offer to write an article. SOCAP’s flagship publication is full of important trends, news and best practices critical to your consumer affairs strategy today and well into the future. Whether you read it on your tablet, smartphone or in print (old school style!), SOCAP has the great content you need. Also, if you have not visited our archived articles – you are missing out on additional resources!

3. Register for a Webinar Today! Our monthly webinar series is free to corporate members and are full of great information. See why we have seen double-digit growth in attendance on our webinars and members continue to rate them so high. Don’t let your competitors grab all of the best practices – Stay ahead of the curve!

2. Get engaged with SOCAP socially. Have you visited SOCAP’s online private community, mySOCAP? If you have not, you are missing out! Visit today to see what your fellow members are talking about. Also stay current with SOCAP and your profession by following us on Twitter (@SOCAP) or join us on Facebook. It is so easy to stay connected!

1. Be involved – SOCAP is your professional association – SOCAP is managed and built by members like you! Join a committee; engage with a Task Force; volunteer to serve your local chapter (say “yes” to all three!). There are so many ways to support SOCAP and as our leaders will tell you – “You get so much more than you give.”


SOCAP Membership is the first step to your professional edge, but you have to stay active to get the full benefit of your membership. Here’s your homework.

First, commit to doing one item from my list this month, and I guarantee you will be amazed at the return. 

Second, spread the word!  Make sure that your colleagues and staff know the great opportunities of involvement with SOCAP.  Corporate Membership allows membership access to an unlimited number of your colleagues. So, make sure everyone is taking advantage of all the benefits of SOCAP membership.

Finally, reach out to me and let me know what else we can do to serve you, your company and your colleagues better. We want your feedback and engagement.  Give us a chance to serve you!

 

Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan know a thing or two about success.  As the founders of Barefoot Cellars, they took their brand from a standing start in 1985 to a popular favorite by 2005.  When they sold the company to E&J Gallo Winery that year, the entrepreneurial company had made its mark in the wine selling world, shipping 600,000 cases annually.  Not bad for a pair who began this unlikely quest in their laundry room turned home office, at the time lacking both working capital and practical insights into the vintner’s arts.

So when Harvey and Houlihan say sales and customer care are priorities one and two in the successful business playbook—the functions that everyone else in the enterprise needs to get in line and support–it’s worth a listen.

The entrepreneurs may have started small but they were thinking big.  And part of what they were thinking was how to build a virtual enterprise, complete with outsourced grape growing, wine production, and bottling.  Barefoot Cellars would be a company without vineyards or organizational silos, but its founders did have a commitment to treat everyone touching their product as part of the customer solution.

“We found out that you could outsource everything except sales, customer service and quality control,” Houlihan says, adding, “We treated our vendors the way we treated our customers.  We didn’t take anybody for granted.”

Instead, Houlihan says Barefoot took the long view of customer service, including wholesalers, retailers, the general public, and specific groups and organizations within the general public in its expanded definition.

Then the company builders got up close and personal with their customer set.  “We went out to meet our customers in the community,” says Harvey, engaging at various events to better understand consumer interests and issues.  Harvey also says Barefoot came up with other innovative methods of reaching out to the public, including becoming, in 1989, the first alcoholic beverage company to put an 800 number on its product.

“We got lots of useful information from our customers,” Harvey recalls.  “A lot of it was complaints such as they had opened a bottle of red wine and spilled it on their white dress…we knew that whenever someone called us, there were between 100 and 1000 other people who were concerned about the same thing and didn’t call us.  So our 800 number was a real benefit to us.”

Not so much for fielding complaints about red wine stains but for gaining valuable, actionable insights from actual end users into improving their offerings.

Says Houlihan, “Did they like the way it tastes?  What did they pay for it?  Was it in stock where they usually shop?  Were the signs readable?  What did they think of the packaging?  Did the cork come out easily?  If we got someone on the phone, we would ask them a lot of questions and we would make sure that our marketing department and our production department—this is what made Barefoot very different—would be listening to consumer relations input and would be incorporating that into the actual design and production of the product and marketing materials.”

Product improvements traceable back to customer feedback included changes to the synthetic cork used in Barefoot wine bottles.  “A lot of people were calling and saying the ah-so [a twin-pronged cork puller] wouldn’t work.  It was too tight.  It would drive the cork into the bottle.  We realized that we had to work on that problem,” Harvey says.

Another “problem solved” was not getting the cork out of the bottle but how much wine was going in the bottle:

According to Houlihan, “Customers would call and say, ‘I buy Barefoot wine but I can’t seem to get a full measure.  It seems like the fill lines are all different.  Some bottles are high and some are low.  Can’t you get a uniform fill line?’”

Apparently not.  The production people explained that atmospheric pressure, temperature, oxidization all make a difference in wine levels.  Filling up to the top on a hot day could literally cause the wine bottle to blow its cork.  Customers, the producers said, just don’t understand the chemistry involved.

The Barefoot founders did not let a little science get in the way of customer service.  “We thought about it and said, ‘well, the customer is always right.  So we went back to the customer and said, ‘thank you for bringing this to our attention.  We are going to solve this problem immediately.’  We had no idea how we were going to solve the problem but we knew it was a perception,” Houlihan said.

“A week or two later, we were at a party.  Bonnie was admiring this skirt a woman was wearing.  I said, ‘what do you like about it?  The fabric…the print?’  She says, ‘oh no, I like the idea that it covers the knees but shows off the calf.’  I looked at her and said, ‘that’s it!’”

Barefoot added a longer foil cap to its bottles, adding uniformity to how wine level appeared.

“Here we had a very psychological, very subtle competitive advantage on the shelf.  And where did we get it from?  Customer relations,” Houlihan says.  Call it a clever bit of organizational ju-jitsu.  “The production people said, ‘The customer just doesn’t understand.’  That’s just the point.  Customers do not understand.  It’s up to us to solve their concerns,” Harvey notes.

On the service end of things, avid attention to customer input helped Barefoot flag holes in its distribution network.

“When you start a brand, the biggest issue you face is out of stock,” Houlihan says.  “It’s not that your product sells, it’s that your product sells out and doesn’t get replaced.  Once it sells out and doesn’t get replaced the consumers who like it are disappointed and, unfortunately, they will not complain.  They will just buy the competitor’s product that is there.  So if somebody does call and has the decency to complain that they couldn’t find the product, you have to multiply that by 100 or 1000 people who do not call.  We would actually ask their permission to use their recorded message and play it for our distributors so that there was no question in our distributor’s mind that there were customers for Barefoot who wanted to buy it and it was out of stock.”

Putting the interests of the customer first is just part of the American entrepreneurial spirit, Houlihan says.  After selling Barefoot Cellars, Houlihan and Harvey wrote a book, The Barefoot Spirit:  How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.  The title might have included a fifth “H”:  Hearing.   “The American entrepreneurial spirit really has a component—if it’s successful—where there is a deep respect for what the customer wants and perceives.  Otherwise, they go out of business—and fast.  When you are a small company or a mid-sized company or even a large company with a progressive attitude, you cannot ignore customer service.  As far as we’re concerned, it’s where the rubber meets the road,” Houlihan says.

Houlihan and Harvey could impress their views about customer service on others because they owned the company, clearly an important advantage.  They do, however, have advice for customer care professionals whose companies just can’t seem to find the right road to customer commitment–or don’t have the ability to stay on it.

“The biggest problem SOCAP [members] face is that big corporations are so siloed and set up in pyramids…you’ve got the CEO on top, the senior vice presidents, the junior vice presidents, the divisions, the departments, the teams and the groups.  One of those departments is called sales.  If that department fails, you don’t need any of the other departments.  You are just out of business,” Houlihan says.

One of the things that customer care executives need to do is team up with sales and say, ‘look, we are the people who actually talk to the consumer.  We have valuable information here that can help improve our products, service, and distribution.  We feel obligated to pass this information along.”  He suggests getting that message to the company stakeholders and asking them to create a committee of all the department heads to work out the procedures for implementing this critical customer feedback from Sales and Customer Care.

He says Barefoot gave the boot to the traditional pyramid structure of corporations, putting sales and customer service at the top of the organization.  “Customer was number one.  Sales and customer service was number two.  Under that was what we called ‘Sales Support’.  That included everybody who was not in Sales or Customer Care, like production, marketing, reception, legal, accounting and even the wine maker.”

Making everybody part of sales support gives everybody the opportunity to derive professional satisfaction serving the general public, but “they need to get that feedback to know if what they are doing is right,” Houlihan says, noting that such customer care generated feedback loops must at a minimum include production and marketing.  “Sales and customer care are the only groups talking directly to the general public! So you really have to be kind of foolish not listening to these folks.”

Even so, being made up of human beings, corporations can be rigid and change resistant.  And wrong-headed.  “Part of the problem is that production and marketing may actually think that they are above sales and customer relations.  They get that idea because of the structure of the company. They often see Sales as somehow separate from “the office” and “to blame” when sales are suffering. They often see Customer Relations as “the complaint resolution department.” But they are not above them.  If fact, they should be below them because they are not going to have a paycheck if they can’t stay viable and relevant,” Houlihan says.

Company size can also get in the way of staying close to customers.  According to Houlihan, as the amount of work grows, the division of labor expands.  As the division of labor expands, silos appear.  As silos appear, workers seek to make their jobs easier by making things uniform.    “In the process, they start to remove things like quality cues or authenticity cues from the packaging.  They say, ‘why can’t all of our packaging look the same?’ Or they say, ‘I’d still buy it.’  Or they say things like, ‘We’re so big we don’t have to bend over backwards anymore.  And it makes my job a whole lot easier.’  Well it’s not about your job, it’s about whether the customer is still married to your product or service.”

Other change agent ideas?  If the corporate pyramid, silos, barriers and impediments still remain firmly in place–short of uncorking a bottle of Barefoot wine–try promoting the entrepreneurial spirit.  Individual initiative, risk taking and innovation are all qualities that can pique the interests of even the most conservative companies.  Becoming more entrepreneurial means being better attuned to customer issues and perceptions.

“An entrepreneur does not have the luxury of not listening to his customer,” Houlihan says.  He suggests annual or semi-annual meetings featuring presentations from top sales and customer relations executives to share customer insights with others in the organization.  “Marketing people will put millions of dollars into focus groups to get the information that the customer relationship people already know,” he notes.

Regular reports with suggestion and complaint information gleaned from customers can also inform the enterprise and improve its competitive position.  Making customers happy is part of the customer care role, Houlihan says, but making the company smarter is just as important.  Such insights can cost less than market research and be more current.

“It’s about opening up the lines of communication between the various departments,” Harvey adds.  It’s about sharing information.  And it’s about getting organizational priorities straight.   And as Michael Houlihan points out, it’s about understanding the importance of customer relations–the last conversation a company has with the end user.

by: Mitchell N. Roth, Esq.

When the Telephone Consumer Protection Act was enacted in 1991, Congress prohibited the initiation of calls and text messages  to cell phones using an automatic telephone dialing system without the recipients’ prior express consent.  The TCPA also prohibited the transmission of prerecorded messages  without the recipients’ prior express consent.  Notwithstanding the FCC rulemaking last year which changed the consent standard for sales calls and messages to cell phones, the prior express consent standard for non-sales calls, messages and recordings  to cell phones remained unchanged.

In 2012, the Cargo Airline Association filed a petition with the FCC seeking clarification as to whether these restrictions apply to autodialed or prerecorded package delivery notification calls made to the cell phones of intended package recipients.  These notification calls typically advise the recipients of the expected date and time of delivery, the tracking number, the delivery company’s customer service telephone number and whether a signature is required for delivery.  CAA requested that the FCC do one of two things:  i) Allow the package delivery service to rely upon the consent of the package sender to transmit non-sales calls, messages and recordings pertaining to the delivery of the package to its recipient, or ii) declare package delivery notifications  exempt from the TCPA’s restrictions on autodialed and prerecorded calls and messages to cell phones.

In a ruling released on March 27, 2014, the FCC granted CAA’s request to exempt autodialed and prerecorded package delivery notification calls and messages to cell phones from the TCPA’s restrictions (the FCC specifically chose not to rule on whether the delivery companies may rely upon the consent of the package sender). In support of its decision, the FCC ruled that these notifications are the types of normal, expected communications the TCPA was not designed to hinder, and that consumers generally desire, expect, and benefit from them.  Nevertheless, the FCC made this exemption subject to several conditions:

  • The notification must be sent only to the telephone number of the package recipient.
  • The call or message recipient must not be charged for receiving the call or message, including not being counted against the consumer’s plan limits on minutes or text.
  • The notification must identify the name and contact information of the delivery company.
  • The notification must not include any telemarketing, solicitation or advertising content.
  • Only one notification may be sent to a consumer for each package, except that one additional notification may be sent for each of the following two attempts to obtain the recipient’s signature when the signatory was not available to sign for the package on the previous attempt.
  • Each notification must include information enabling a consumer to opt out of future delivery notifications.  Calls answered by a consumer must provide an opportunity to opt out by voice or by pressing a key, while texts must include the ability for a consumer to opt out by sending “STOP” in a reply text.  Finally, each voice notification must include a toll-free number that the consumer can call to opt out of future package delivery notifications.
  • Opt out requests must be honored within a reasonable time from the date it was made, but may not exceed thirty days from the date of the request.
  • Voice call and text message notifications must be concise, generally one minute or less in length for voice calls and one message of 160 characters or less in length for text messages.

This exemption applies only to calls and messages initiated by package delivery companies and not to calls and messages initiated by the companies on whose behalf the packages are being  delivered (i.e., shippers).  However, this exemption allows delivery companies to correspond directly with the package recipients on matters pertaining to deliveries.  Clearly, this will maximize efficiency, customer satisfaction and, perhaps most importantly, the overall customer experience.

The FCC’s order may be accessed at apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7521095630

 

 


Mitchell N. Roth is a founding member of Roth Doner Jackson, PLC in McLean, Virginia.  His practice focuses on counseling clients on compliance with state and federal marketing, advertising and privacy laws.  He can be contacted at mroth@rothdonerjackson.com.

 

Ready to have your business worldview rocked and your customer care paradigms shifted?  Spend a few minutes with Aaron Dignan, CEO of strategy consultancy Undercurrent and a Trend Session speaker at SOCAP’s upcoming Symposium, April 27-30 in Charlotte, NC.

That’s exactly what SOCAP did to gain insight into where Dignan’s Symposium appearance—focused on what he calls the “responsive organization”—will take attendees.  Expecting good, we found great.  We wanted to share some of our conversation with Aaron here to give you a sample of what’s in store for you at the 2014 Symposium.

SOCAP:  How would you define the responsive organization for a customer care audience?

Dignan:  We study different organizations in different categories.  We look for patterns.  Are they able to learn and adapt?  To operate in quick cycles?  Do they process information and act on it?  There’s also the attitude around information in organizations.  How are they at discovering, sorting and taking advantage of information, from both inside and outside the organization?  Are they using the information to build a network of stakeholders, including customers, with the ability to help each other?

I’ll give you an example.  I use a bank and make the same phone call each week to do a wire transfer between accounts.  It’s always the same call and always the same verification of my identification.  Finally, I asked, “Can’t this be automated?”  The bank said “We hadn’t thought about it…maybe.”  By the third call, this bank should have been asking me if I would participate in a pilot for automating this function, not me asking them on the tenth call if they had ever thought about it.  They are not using the information available in their network.

SOCAP:  What do you see as the most important value shifts for organizations as they work to be more responsive?

Dignan_Aaron

Dignan:  We see companies adopting a more visionary than strictly a commercial purpose.  They make money too.  But they also build a vision.  They build networks to reach people and on which people can help themselves.  Apple delivers help to Apple users, but consumers on the Apple network help themselves too.  They love the brand.  The IRS has a brand too, but it doesn’t have volunteers helping others solve problems in an IRS branded forum.  Brand gathering is a force and customer care is part of that customer experience.

There’s also a shift away from a closed to an open organizational mind set.  In the past, companies operated as silos with secrets that they protected.  If you had an edge, you did not want the world to know what it was.  Fifty years ago, that worked great.  Now the world is a much more transparent place and the value of holding secrets is diminishing.  There’s greater value in fostering a participatory innovation culture…whether we are talking about an office floor plan, financial information, an application program interface…whatever.  It’s a wholesale shift.  Organizations are saying if it can be made more transparent, let’s do it.

SOCAP:  How do you see companies unlocking the benefit of the data they gather to engage customers?

Dignan:  Everything is data.  The question is: how are you going to gather it?  You can do it in passive ways, through sensors or webclicks…the digital exhaust of what you are doing…or you can be aggressive and ask for data, like in applications or surveys.  Organizations need to be doing both.   How you are collecting information and what you are doing with it needs to be well defined.  The problem is that organizations have more data than they know what to do with.  They didn’t think about it 10 or 20 years ago.  Data was not structured or tagged.  So there’s a lot of hygiene that’s still needed.

SOCAP:  How does technology aid responsiveness?

Dignan:  One company’s product becomes another company’s service.  For instance, companies are leveraging the Amazon backend and cloud platform.  If I’m in a garage somewhere building a business, I can use Amazon’s data, infrastructure, skills and pipeline. Organizations need to identify what part of the value chain they want to be better at.  Companies think they need to build everything from scratch and miss the final advantage to customers.  I often say the best time to start a company is tomorrow because you gain the innovations that have taken place in the last 24 hours.

Here are some key steps for identifying the right fit for a contact center partnership.


There comes a point when most customer care professional will be faced with the request for proposal process. Here are some helpful tips on the RFP process, as recommended by a major manufacturer that was looking for a new contact center service provider.

Developing the RFP

  • Understand why the change is being considered. Be sure that areas for improvement are sufficiently addressed in the RFP.
  • Engage the enterprise in the RFP creation process. Assemble a comprehensive, multidisciplinary team with representatives from all relevant divisions and departments. This company’s RFP team included customer care, quality assurance, operations, purchasing, reporting/analytics and legal. Allow each functional group to reflect its interests in the RFP.
  • Seek meaningful insights into contact center provider mission, vision, culture and operations. Topic areas for exploration include:
    • Company history and perceived strengths
    • Organizational structure
    • Technology strengths, capabilities and suitability for addressing client needs
    • Reporting and analytics capabilities, including sample reports and example insights gleaned from data analytics
    • Approach to quality and current certifications (such as ISO)
    • Approaches to hiring and staffing, and to managing turnover, both for agents and managers
    • Ratio of agents to managers
    • Process for handling problem escalation
    • Provider locations
    • References, industry reputation and track-record of consistent performance
  • Learning curves can be steep, business process issues can be complicated and technology hurdles can be high. Request a detailed timeline for program start-up that reflects a substantive understanding of the challenges ahead.
  • Contact center personnel serve as the client’s representatives to the public. Assure that provider’s internal policies and procedures on human resources management, workforce diversity and equal opportunity hiring comply with applicable federal and state law and regulations and that they are also in keeping with your company’s own standards of practice and business ethics.
  • Decide whether to include penalties if key performance indicators are not met.


Hand shakeSoliciting Bids

  • Understand the provider landscape. Do the research necessary to identify leading and emerging contact center companies and include these in the bid solicitation process.
  • Leverage technology. Vertical industry and special purpose websites and related information services may facilitate getting the RFP to companies not otherwise identified in research.
  • Determine the importance of proximity. Companies requiring substantial “face time” with contact center personnel for training, new product launches and the like may do better with local or regional providers.
  • Leverage SOCAP and its network of business partners for distributing RFPs and identifying top contact center providers.

Assessing Bidder Responses

  • While excessively long responses are counterproductive, proposals offering few details on how work will be conducted could indicate the bidder’s lack of interest, commitment or capability.Light bulb outlined hand drawn tool
  • Key performance indicators provide a “first blush” view of a provider’s capabilities. But not every client workload is the same in terms of degree of difficulty or amount of support needed. For instance, does the provider have a good feel for call volumes? Look for unrealistic staffing or pricing estimates or other indicators that the bidder has misunderstood work requirements.
  • Buildings flood or burn, power outages occur and other disruptive events happen. Determine whether the bidder has a realistic disaster recovery and business continuity plan.
  • Contact centers can attract identity thieves or other fraud-minded actors. Assess the bidder’s approach to system security and how well personally identifiable information is protected.
  • Customer care is evolving rapidly with consumers looking for more robust interactions rather than simple, impersonal transactions. Explore the bidder’s view of how this marketplace change is taking place and how it is impacting the contact center of the future.
  • Consider whether the bidder is making sophisticated use of social media and integrating it into customer contact channels. Some providers will have social-media expertise in-house while others will have to work through third parties to offer it.
  • Once noncompetitive bidders have been eliminated, consider asking finalists to prepare a detailed presentation responding to a real-world business scenario you provide. A scenario based on data meaningful to your enterprise can help eliminate ambiguity and allow more apples-to-apples comparisons among competing offers. Trusted relationships are key. Bidder presentations can also help provide additional insight into the enthusiasm, expertise and character of the providers involved.
  • Narrow the list of bidders based on presentations and a better understanding of their ability to meet contact center program requirements. Conduct a site visit to meet all key personnel, review technology infrastructure and take a final reading on corporate culture and the likelihood of building a true partnership.
  • Analyze the finalists’ offers using SWOT techniques or other approaches to determine relative strengths and weaknesses of competing offers.
  • Be sure to consider future needs when making your final decision.

Transitioning Operations

  • Anticipate bumps in the road. Allow a generous cut-over period for the new provider to take responsibility for handling 100 percent of operations.
  • Develop a plan that keeps the out-going contact center provider engaged until the newcomer is up to speed. Financial incentives can keep departing personnel motivated to continue performing at a high level.
  • Expect overly optimistic performance assurances from the newcomer. Key performance indicators may decline in the early going as provider personnel come up to speed. Be flexible but, as necessary, request a performance improvement plan.

Other Lessons Learned

Telephone operatorPlan to rebid the contact center contract every three to five years. This keeps the incumbent competitive and fosters continual process improvement for contact center operations. Retain old RFPs and use as templates for re-competitions.

Do you have useful tips, practices or lessons learned that you can share about the RFP process? We’d love to hear from you. Send your ideas to CRM Magazine at socap@socap.org.

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