5 Tips to Hiring and Retaining Employees with Customer Satisfaction in Mind

When businesses look for customer service reps to fill their support positions, it can be difficult to gauge whether a candidate is prepared for the role.

Decision-makers who strategically craft their hiring processes and requirements are better suited for success, according to a recent Training Magazine article by Merry Gagg, a training account manager at Signature Worldwide.

Gagg explained that hiring practices should not be a guessing game, suggesting a set of questions that managers should ask themselves before diving into a stack of resumes or setting up interviews:

  1. What is a typical customer like? Locking down an idea of the average individual seeking support from a brand is key for creating effective hiring methods. Decision-makers with a clear vision of their target audience will have a much easier time in their search for compatible service staff and reaching high levels of customer satisfaction.
  2. How should customers be treated? Team leaders should visualize how they’d like their ideal service interaction to occur, and try to assess whether a potential candidate would be able to fulfill that vision. Traits such as patience, vocal articulation and professionalism are all key things to look for. Consumers remember their interactions with brands, and it is important to always make the best impression possible.
  3. How do the best current reps perform? An easy way to screen candidates is to compare applicants with current members of the ecommerce support staff. Managers can reference the attitudes and behaviors of their high-performing staff in their search for new employees to increase their chances of finding the right fit.
  4. Is there a pressing need to fill the spot? When support teams are under pressure to fill a position, leaders may find their judgment clouded when it comes to making the best possible choices. No employee should ever be hired out of desperation, and it may be better to leave a spot open than to bring in an unqualified employee.
  5. Are training resources ready to go? Although service reps often have an intuitive sense of how to handle customer inquiries, training programs must be in place to ensure best practices are followed and employees are acclimated to their new working environments. This is key to keeping morale high and making a good impression on callers.

This article originally appeared on the LiveLOOK blog, and is reprinted with permission.

Keeping the best of the best
While the best consumer-facing employees often have natural talent for handling difficult situations and finding the right answer for any problem thrown their way, there is no substitute for experience when it comes to ecommerce support.

Workers who constantly interact with consumers develop a thick skin through all of their ups and downs as a service representative, making veteran team members an invaluable part of any good support squad.

This is why business must do their best to retain their employees and keep them engaged on the job, according to an article from This Day Live. The source highlighted the importance of retention by quoting HR thought leader Robin Throckmorton, who said that 80 percent of employees are actively looking for their next job.

“It is critical you start creating retention solutions that work in your organization now! Don’t wait until you lose that first key employee,” Throckmorton said. “Once you know what employees want, start implementing some of the solutions they shared to help retain your workers.

“Whether you call the survey an employee opinion, engagement, satisfaction or climate survey, the key is you want to find out information from your employees about how they feel about your company, supervisors, work conditions, job and even intentions for staying.”

Listening to employee feedback is undoubtedly a core component of any successful business strategy, and can have a big impact on customer satisfaction. Decision-makers should never overlook the voice of their workforce if they want to create the best possible support experience.

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IP Office Leads the Way: How Doubling Down in One Product Area Can Drive Best Practices

Just over a month ago, we released the latest version of Avaya IP Office, one of the most popular SMB/MM UC systems on the market today. Over the past year, we’ve doubled the number of partners who are offering IP Office as a cloud deployment and have now shipped more than half a million systems globally—but this kind of success didn’t come overnight.

We’ve evolved Avaya IP Office a long way over the years, growing the product from something geared towards the SMB space (typically 100 users and below) to something that can scale all the way up to the midmarket, serving up to 3,000 users. Adding this scale to the product was extremely important because as our customers and partners grow, we can now grow right along with them. It also opens up the potential market served by the product.

Evolving with Our Customers and Partners

At Avaya, we have two groups of people to keep happy—our end users and our channel partners—and both want to make long-term investments in a communications solution and trusted business partner. That’s why, instead of concentrating on multiple product lines, we’re focused on continually enhancing Avaya IP Office with new features and capabilities, such as the new release 10, which adds a number benefits for businesses in terms of security, resiliency and end-user experience.

Our partners are happy with this approach because their salespeople now only need to know one single product, making it easier to sell, manage and configure the technology for a wide range of businesses (anywhere from a 10-person to 3,000-person company). And our customers are thrilled because as they expand and evolve, they have a flexible, scalable communications solution that can still meet their every need.

Businesses can even expand the solution into a simple and robust multi-channel call center. With IP Office Contact Center or Avaya Contact Center Select, companies can integrate voice, e-mail, and web chat channels, and proactively manage the entire customer interaction lifecycle. They can start at their own pace with one channel such as voice, for example, and add other channels such as e-mail as business objectives evolve. In June, Avaya also announced a highly affordable, simple-to-deploy workforce optimization solution that enables a wide range of insights into the customer experience, allowing midsize businesses to create the most value through every customer interaction.

Providing Investment Protection

While many businesses are aware of cloud, not everyone wants it right now. Because Avaya IP Office is offered as a cloud, hybrid cloud, or premises based deployment, businesses can move to the cloud at a more measured pace—adding new features and capabilities from the cloud as they become available or needed, and leveraging the investment they have in a premises deployment.

For instance, a business could start with an IP Office solution today on premises, and then migrate to cloud or hybrid cloud in a year or even five years from now—and all the features and training they’ve given to employees will stay exactly the same because the end-user experience will be the same.

Providing further investment protection, Avaya even allows customers running on old Nortel technology to seamlessly move their user licenses to IP Office at minimal cost.

A Relentless Focus on Quality

Doubling down in one product area has also allowed Avaya to put a premium on quality. Today, Avaya’s Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a measure of the willingness of a customer to recommend a company’s products or services to others—hovers around 58, which is considered excellent in almost any industry. The Net Promoter Score for IP Office has been over 70 for the last several quarters.

This sky-high NPS is all the more impressive when you consider Avaya IP Office is for small 10-user customers and larger 3,000-user customers. This ability to meet high- and low-end needs is pretty unique in the industry, and is only achievable because of the company’s relentless focus on quality and features.

Always striving to understand the needs of our customers, we’re constantly adding new enhancements to IP Office. Leveraging much of the knowledge and experience we learned at the enterprise-level with Avaya Aura, we continue to add usability and resiliency to IP Office. In fact, the latest version of the platform features built-in signaling and media encryption for endpoints and UC clients, helping preserve privacy and data integrity. This increase in security is especially significant to the midmarket, where the number of attacks reported by midsize companies increased 64% between 2013 and 2014, according to the 2015 global survey report.

Beyond other pure cloud deployments, the latest version of IP Office also takes a unique approach to resilience, providing system failover cloud to cloud, cloud to premises, premises to cloud, and premises to premises, keeping your system active and users connected through any outage.

Moving forward, we’ll continue to add enhancements to Avaya IP Office, relentlessly driving quality and features for our growing list of customers and partners.

Next time you visit Dubai, take a public transport

With happiness being a key focus in Dubai, government agencies are looking towards contributing to the goal of raising the quality of life of customers and ensuring public happiness. These agencies are quickly realizing that the key to delivering a better and more personalized experience is technology. Using the latest services and solutions paves the way to guaranteed customer retention and loyalty.

One of the leading organizations in the area of customer care, winning multiple awards for its contact centre operations including a Hamdan bin Mohammed Smart Government Award, is the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA).

The RTA has a wide remit including Dubai’s Metro, public buses, private road vehicle registration, traffic management and more, so it has a diverse customer base negotiating Dubai’s busy transport system, with a volume of customer enquiries to match. It therefore comes as no surprise that the RTA is investing in multiple channels of communications with its customers, to improve standards of service, increase efficiency and gain valuable feedback from its user. It is also looking to technology to help improve the quality of interactions with clients and to improve overall levels of customer satisfaction and engagement. It has utilized a number of different solutions to increase its outreach to customers, and over time the focus of these efforts has evolved, to include voice communications, smart apps and multi-channel engagement.

From projects and operational perspective, RTA has a big focus on alternative smart channels. It offers 173 smart services under nine apps, that can help customers complete their transactions with a click of the finger through the automation of the main services the authority provides. It is dedicated to opening up more channels of communication, with an omni-channel strategy, that includes delivering services through channels such as self-service kiosks. At present the RTA has deployed around 16 kiosks, which offer smart services to users in RTA service centres, and in future it plans to have around 100 kiosks all over the city. The Authority has a well-established customer care line, which handles enquiries across the range of its activities, running on Avaya contact centre solutions. In 2015, the centre handled over 2.5 million calls, with over 80% of calls responded to in 20 seconds, and 90% of issues resolved in one call.

To make this possible, last year the contact centre underwent a major technology refresh, to put in place the latest generation of solutions. With Avaya Aura, RTA is now using the most recent software to increase the efficiency of the contact centre. With the aim to deliver the best possible interaction experience to transport customers, Avaya aligned with RTA’s Customer Resource Management strategy to consolidate channels and mediums into RTA’s first, best-in-class contact center to host multi-channel interactions. Among the capabilities that the new technology has enabled is an advanced Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, which has helped to improve operations by automatically handling some of the more common customer enquiries. On New Year’s Eve the centre received some 12,000 calls, with the IVR handling one third of all enquiries.

The RTA is a pioneering example of how technology can make the difference in delivering quality to customers through the creation of a seamless and hassle free experience. As we share the RTA’s vision in excelling in customer experiences to achieve happiness, my advice to you is that, next time you visit Dubai, remember to take a  public transport.

4 Things to Watch Out For When Rolling Out Video in Your Contact Center

Video-based customer engagement has continued to gain traction in the market each quarter since mid-2013, when Avaya Client Services President Mike Runda named it a top trend to watch in the “Communication Services Challenging the Status Quo” whitepaper:

“Video can also play a key role in service quality and client relationships. It can strengthen customer ties by helping clients and the service provider get to know one another better. And it can be used to resolve issues, an especially valuable capability for small or midsized business facing support issues. For example, on-site cameras can be used to diagnose physical hardware issues without a technician needing to be dispatched to the site.”

Offering video as an option in the contact center has proven to be a powerful way to provide better customer service. Elevating to a “wow” experience means going beyond just text chat. Where most contact center chats end, Ava the virtual agent searches continue, with customers being given the option to talk or video conference with a live agent. The customer has total flexibility of choice – voice over IP (Web talk), one-way video, or two-way video.

While Web talk is a great way to replace the phone for customers who want to talk rather than type, video changes everything. This transformative technology offers human empathy and the experience of seeing the other person while reaffirming that old but true cliché made famous in 1911 by newspaper editor and editorial columnist Arthur Brisbane, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

In a late October 2014 blog, “6 Developing Communications Services Trends to Watch in 2015,” we stated that video support will reach an inflection point—“if you snooze, you lose.” The blog added,

“At the end of 2013, Amazon.com became the first company to offer one-way video customer support. In 2014, Avaya became the first company to offer both one-way and two-way video support options for customer engagement. Now companies in many industry verticals are adopting—or at least piloting—some form of video. Businesses that haven’t begun to make the move to video will be challenged to catch up with their competitors.”

Improved Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores have confirmed the initial premise that video adds value to support. Customers are much happier when they engage in video conversations with agents/engineers in the contact center. Since September 20, 2014, we have seen average CSAT scores of 5%+ better on video interactions versus the overall average for contact center interactions (4.5 vs. 4.25). Why is video driving higher CSAT scores? It comes down to four key drivers:

  • Video communication is becoming mainstream, thanks to the advent of video Skype and Apple FaceTime.
  • With every blink of the eye, smile or gesture, video enables the agent to react instantly to non-verbal cues, based on the customer’s current satisfaction level.
  • Seeing the problem makes troubleshooting easier and faster, by removing inaccurate verbal descriptions. Resolution times become noticeably faster with video.
  • Video puts a face with a name, adding a personal touch to communications that enable customer and agent to truly engage and build rapport on a human level.

Here are a few quotes from our agents that provide insight as to where they have seen value… “I offered video and was able to view the actual telephone [the customer] was programming and guide him based on what I could see through the video.”

“I love using video, it seems to cut down on outside distractions and keep everyone engaged.”

Deploying video well takes a strong infrastructure and a holistic cultural commitment by customers and agents. Much of the credit for the success we have seen in video goes to our agents who are pioneers leading the way into the new video frontier. Before deploying video in your contact center, here are four key considerations:

  1. Environment: Where and what kind of worker matters. Workers in an office or working remotely matter when you are considering backgrounds, branding and lighting.
  2. Appearance: Just as backgrounds are important, so are the foregrounds where the agent sits. Do they appear to be professional and appropriate for your particular industry or company culture? Is the workplace formal or business casual? Is uniformity necessary? And after everything else, watch for video etiquette.
  3. Acceptance: Expect resistance and questions from your contact center agents. Commitment from the top of the business organization is imperative. Agents may resist or feel uncomfortable. Training or role-playing is essential. Customers may not see the benefit until they are educated and the benefits are shown.
  4. HR/local regulations: Fundamentally, after all else is solved, it comes down to the company and its employees behind the agents. Given today’s global business environment, key considerations are any in-country regulations and work council rules for customers and employees that relate to audio/video recordings and business operations.

Mastering these four key considerations can simplify the process of rolling out a successful video-based support program. Happier agents able to solve problems faster lead to happier customers. Happier customers mean more business.

How could video transform your support experience with the contact center and increase engagement with your customers? What is holding your contact center back from exceeding its customer’s needs? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

Follow me on Twitter at @Pat_Patterson_V.