Industry News

Are you investing enough in your customer service?

It might be time to take a leaf out of the big gun’s book, after earlier in the week Vodafone pledged to invest £2 Billion into their customer service over the next two years. OK, so maybe it’s not feasible for your company to do this on the same scale but it’s time to think about how you look after your customers and those you employ to carry out that role.

In Vodafone’s case, the refreshed outlook on customer service follows a damning report by Ofcom in 2016, highlighting issues with the company’s billing system and the way they handed customer’s complaints. The company previously routed a substantial amount of its calls to centres based in South Africa and India, increasing customers’ frustrations but since the report they have looked at re-shoring their contact centres.

Vodafone are increasing their in-shore call centre roles, with 2,100 new jobs in locations around the UK including areas of Wales, the Midlands and Scotland as well as almost half the new roles being allocated to the company’s Manchester call centre.

Mobile network EE was supposedly the first operator to bring their calls back to the UK in 2014 after previously using off-shore call centres. Other giants are following suit, with EE’s parent company BT also choosing to reduce outsourced call centre roles and bring these back to the UK and Ireland, hiring around 1500 new call centre employees.

With this in mind, why is it so important to a customer that the support they speak to someone UK based? A survey carried out by Which? found that call centres, in particular those not based in the UK were the nation’s biggest pet peeve in 2015. This all boils down to customer service, a dislike of automated phone systems, being passed around from person to person and likely feeling that your call isn’t as important if it’s been directed to the other side of the world.

“Overseas call centres soon sparked a consumer backlash spurred on by difficulties associated with language barriers and the concern that jobs were being taken away from the UK.”

The cost of operating a call centre overseas is comparably cheaper to employing UK based contact centre operators, it seems some companies are prepared to save money at whatever cost, even if this means reduced customer satisfaction. Yet as we’ve discussed, the importance of customer satisfaction is being recognised and having UK based staff to deal with customer queries and support is almost a marketing tool now!

A 2016 consumer survey found that:

86% of customers would pay up to 25% more for better customer service

Are you focusing enough on training agents to handle calls?

Could your customers be better directed through your automated system?

Are you investing enough in your customer service?

If you’re unsure about any of those questions then it’s time to see how IVR-Recordings can help!

Sources:

http://callcentresummit.co.uk/the-evolution-of-uk-call-centres/

http://callcentresummit.co.uk/vodafone-pledges-2bn-customer-service-investment-next-two-years/

 

What you can learn from the Zappos company culture

Online retailer Zappos has long been the beacons of customer service excellence. It was the highest ranking newcomer in Fortune magazine's 'Best Companies to Work For' the company goes to great lengths to make sure both customers and employees are happy. 

Take a look at the video below to see if there's anything you could implement with your teams.

zappos-2.jpg

Tips from the Top 50 UK Contact Centres

Why choose the phone when there’s so many other ways to communicate?

There might be many more methods of getting in touch with people, companies, customers or friends but does that mean that they’re actually better than the good old phone?

Aside from being face-to-face, the only way to really gauge how someone is feeling, their mood, how helpful they are and how enthusiastic they are is to speak to them. With your voice and not a keyboard.

So yes, times have certainly changed and we’re a lot more tech savvy now (apart from my mum who still doesn’t understand how to use a mouse let alone Google something..) and despite there being tons of apps that can be used to make a call like Hangouts, Facetime, Skype or Whatsapp, we still believe that the good old fashioned phone is the best way to keep in touch for a business.

Why is it so much better?

  • Immediacy
  • Technophobes friendly
  • Time Saving
  • Human
  •  Security
  •  Reliable

Easy to use – with the push of a button your call will be re-directed through an often very complex and long IVR system or tree, where there are many menus and options for the customer so that their call can be directed to the most appropriate department or contact. Even my mum knows how to navigate a telephone menu, it’s minimal and straightforward in comparison to using an online chat system where you often have to enter your details before you’re able to be connected to an agent.

Timely – We know waiting on hold is boring, it’s why iNarrator was born, to keep you entertained when you’re on the phone. The average time waiting on hold to the top 50 customer service companies last month, was a mere 1 and a half minutes. This is super speedy when compared with the average wait for a response from live chat (5 minutes), social media (30 minutes) and email which averaged anywhere between a snails paced 1 hour to a 1 day wait.

Knowledge – If you’ve ever used an online chat box then you will know how stressful it can be to get your queries across to an advisor using a keyboard, rather than speaking to someone over the phone. It takes time to type out your initial query, followed by the advisor asking you several more questions to help them decide on how best to advise you, something which could be done in a fraction of the time if it was to be done over the phone. It’s reassuring speaking with an advisor over the phone as their knowledge is readily available for you to request. I’m much more likely to respond with “Yes, actually there is…” when asked “Is there anything else I can do to help you?” over the phone, whereas I would much quicker to disconnect from an online advisor. Which brings me to our next benefit of speaking over the phone…

Personalised – Stock answers or scripts can only be used to a certain level over the phone because someone is reacting to your conversation in real time, they can’t sit back and mull over what to respond because that would create an unprofessional awkward silence. We’re not saying it’s impossible to be personable or friendly via live chat but you can’t beat having an actual conversation! Live chat has changed the sound of the office, where once there were rooms of melodic tones and happy chatter now there’s the pitter patter of typing.

When it comes to personalising a call we’re quite thankful that the switchboard is a thing of the past, after finding out that to advertise the appropriate manner in which to answer the phone in 1910, saying ‘Hello’ was quite frowned upon. As the phone was once quite an exclusive mode of conversation, it was used mainly by the middle classes and therefore service had to be perfect. Callers and office workers were sent the AT&T Telephone Pledge, where they promised to be as “Courteous and Considerate over the Telephone as if face to face” Something we think should still be a Golden Rule today!

Reliable – The phone is direct. Using the phone to resolve an issue is a two way conversation without playing email ping pong or having to go back and forth on a live chat, it’s one interaction where your query is likely to be resolved. The phone is still the dominant form of customer service, making up 68% of customer service interactions. Which shows how reliable it is still considered to be when there are now many other methods of contacting customer service departments.  

 

Who likes using the phone?

The idea that people might actually prefer to speak to a company over the phone might seem a little farfetched to some but there’s plenty of reasons why the phone comes up trumps, and we’ve already mentioned a few.

It might divide opinion but using social media as a dominant means of communication isn’t just changing the way customers and clients interact with your business but it’s changing how your employees do too. Hark back to the days before the internet went mainstream, circa 1999, and think of office life and how equipment has changed and developed. Without the chitter chatter of the phone your office becomes silent, you might be using the internet to speak to customers but is a reliance on online chat as a tool for customer service encouraging a stony faced generation of arthritic fingered advisors who are losing the ability to converse?

A recent study of how the top 50 UK customer service companies handled customer queries, across a range of methods, positions the telephone as the best method for communicating with customers. Pitting the phone against live chat, social media and emails, the phone came out top in all five categories. Each communication method was tested in the following and the phone scored best;

Timely – 87.2%

Easy to Use – 93.9%

Reliable – 94.9%

Knowledgeable - 89.5%

Personalised – 75.0%

The survey found that customers were most satisfied when the advisor asked their name and introduced themselves, coming across as friendly in their conversation was another aspect that callers reported added to a positive experience, something that isn’t as easily achieved over a typed conversation.

There were of course some elements that customers didn’t like about contacting customer service over the phone, which will be worth noting so that you can strive to make sure your callers don’t face them!

 

PHONE PET PEEVES

  • Making multiple attempts to call – Yes this one might be difficult to avoid if you’re a busy company but there are steps you can take to at least improve the caller’s experience. Why not offer a call back service or have informative and entertaining on hold marketing and messages, so that callers are more inclined to stay on the line. Just take a look at the average times people stayed on the line waiting when they didn’t have anything to listen to, compared to when they did and you’ll be sold!
     
  • Speaking too quickly or unclearly – It’s vital that your staff are trained in call handling, a customer is going to have a much better experience and become less irate if they’re not straining to understand what is being said to them. Provide your staff with some guidelines and have regular top up training to ensure the quality of the service is at the standard you expect.

There are of course benefits for using email or live chat alongside having call handlers available, but you need to make sure you’re offering the right type of contact and support for your business. You need to assess the type of contact each method is used for. For example the phone will usually be used when a customer has a complaint or a query that can be quickly resolved. Email is better for marketing or sending information that doesn’t require an immediate response or to confirm details, plus it can be used at all hours. Social media is more the fun side of communicating, where your customers may post how happy they are with their product or have a more general enquiry, it’s more light-hearted and informal than a telephone call would be. What suits you best?

If you’re a small business then it may be unwise to offer lots of ways to contact you, unless you’ve got the manpower and time to respond to and monitor each platform or method. It might seem like a great idea to be present everywhere but if you are only appearing as easy to reach, when in actual fact you don’t have enough staff to answer your calls or keep an eye on the inbox and social media channels, then it would be better to focus on one primary point of contact. Don’t spread yourself too thinly!

Is the phone best?

In a recent survey the phone again proves itself as the most popular choice of contact, handling half of all inbound calls, compared to the channels you would think are growing like social media, only accounting for 2.7% of interactions. Despite expanding the ways in which we can now reach customers and they can reach us, since the 1950s, the phone has remained as the most dominant method of customer communication.

The phone was the fastest growing method of contact during 2013 and was also predicted as the busiest method of contact throughout 2014 and 2015.

"The results also reiterate the fact that voice is and should continue to be a dominant channel in the contact centre.”

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves!

With the telephone being the most personal and human way to interact, aside from face-to-face, it’s important to brand your company similarly. Whilst callers are waiting, does your IVR Menu or on hold marketing reflect the way your agents will speak with the caller? Adding in a personal touch before your customer is even connected is easy with On Hold Marketing and can be tailored, with regional voices or area specific offers.

Although times have changed, you can see that there is still a huge market for telephone based companies and customer service departments. It may seem like a dated option when compared with more high-tech means of communication such as video chat or social media yet it’s evidently the most reliable and easy to use method, having stood the test of time.

Sources

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2010/08/what-would-emily-post-say-about-droids-in-cafes/

Omnichannel infographic

Utility Company in Hot Water

If keeping your customers happy doesn't come quite as naturally as you’d hope in your business, then maybe the fire that Scottish Power has come under will spur you on to improve or polish your existing customer service protocols.

The energy giant found themselves in hot water with Ofgem, the government regulator for the gas and electricity market in Great Britain. They conducted an investigation into how Scottish Power handles it’s customer’s complaints, handle customer calls and conduct their billing, during the implementation of a new IT system.

The company has been handed a fine of £18 Million to compensate vulnerable customers who were failed by the way their queries or complaints were dealt with, with £15 Million to be paid to callers who were affected. The investigation found that customers had been treated unfairly and that there was little in place to protect them from the havoc that arose when Scottish Power implemented their new IT system.

If you’re part of a small company then hopefully your complaints department receives minimal calls, Scottish Power can’t say the same and received a staggering 1 MILLION complaints between June 2013 and December 2015. The reasons for the complaints varied but were mainly surrounding the unacceptably long periods in which customers were placed on hold when trying to contact the supplier, callers had to make several attempts or wait for extended periods of time before they were able to speak to an advisor.

The trouble arose when the new IT system didn’t perform as it should have, increasing complaints to the company. However it wasn’t just the increased volume of complaints that has caused Ofgem to step in, but also the way these were dealt with and the time it took to resolve them. A simple update to your on hold marketing to acknowledge that there is a higher volume of calls than usual or that you’re aware of a problem, could help to keep customers peachy during a longer wait.

There’s also lesson to be learned here, you need a solid contingency plan for all aspects of your business but particularly for when you introduce something new, do you have a back-up plan if something goes wrong? You should treat your customers with the same high level of service no matter what dilemma the company is facing!

This is the perfect time to highlight how important communication is, whether it’s a quick post on social media, a mailshot or postal campaign - don’t forget to cover the phones! As we recently wrote, the phone is still the most effective and efficient method for customers to contact businesses, so adding a message to your On Hold Marketing to keep callers in the loop about news or company updates is vital and shows you’re prepared.

So if this story has got you panicking then it’s time to make sure your on hold is current, that you’re fully prepped on a backup plan and that your team know the importance of excellent customer service!

The rise of AI

There’s no denying that technology and artificial intelligence (AI) has progressed significantly over the last hundred years. From the Turing Test in Alan Turing’s 1950 paper ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, to IBM’s super computer, Watson winning Jeopardy in 2011 and not to mention countless references in popular culture with AI as the centre of their plots.

IPsoft have unveiled the “first cognitive agent who understands like a human”. Their virtual agent, Amelia, who assists customers contacting a call centre is currently being trialled by several companies, with the ultimate intention to see if she can replace call centre operators.

Amelia is said to be able to understand how customers feel, learning as she completes tasks. IPsoft are using ‘cutting edge technology that emulates the human brain’, becoming more intelligent the more she has to deal with and respond to.

AI is a controversial subject, particularly when it can threaten your job; only recently did articles emerge giving you the option to see how safe your job was from being taken over by robots! We are all aware that this kind of technology exists and is used in technical roles and top secret places that only James Bond is familiar with, but it seems that recently the thought of introducing such advanced systems is going to affect normal, everyday roles in business.

Amelia can read and understand text, process new information and queries, effectively learning from her experiences, but is this going to make humans redundant in customer service roles when a robot can supposedly provide customer service to rival that delivered by your employees?

Counteracting the argument that a computer can’t interact in the same way you and I can, IPsoft describe Amelia as intelligent enough to adopt human behaviour, equipped with an EQ to sense emotions and react to these accordingly. She’s also able to search for an answer in several ways, by answering if she already knows, searching on the internet or internal databases, and if she doesn’t know the answer she will ask a colleague for help. She’s able to observe how the human colleague responds, helping her to learn about this process for future enquiries.

We’re not too convinced, there’s a good reason that we like to record our IVR with warm and friendly voices, you can’t beat good old fashioned human interaction and the ultimate goal when you have a customer on hold is for them to receive brilliant customer service from your agents, it’s meant to be a relief when they speak to a person. We’re not denying that Amelia is a brilliant invention but we’re not sure how necessary it is to replace human employment with a robot that can be deployed from the cloud…

The UKs worst call centres named and shamed by Which magazine

Last week we were at the Greater Manchester Business Expo. Once we’d explained what we do, we would repeatedly have people telling us we should contact a company they’d called recently, where they’d had to wait ages for their call to be answered, the music was terrible and once their call was answered the contact centre agent was disinterested and unhelpful.

In my experience the organisation I’ve heard the most complaints about is HMRC, I called them the other day and after stating what I was calling about the automated woman said “Garbage garbage, is that right?” I was then placed on hold for 45 minutes.

At the end of May Which revealed the UK’s most dreaded call centres. In a survey with more than 7,000 responses, there were three large companies which were placed at the bottom of the customer satisfaction scale.

Naming and shaming BT, TalkTalk and Scottish Power, the survey focused on several areas of customer satisfaction, from staff knowledge and politeness to waiting times and of course the dreaded phone menu system.

The areas the survey focused on are so important when giving your customer the right first impression, why would you torture them with terrible music and then let them be greeted by someone who is poorly trained in call handling?

The survey highlights several areas that the worst rated companies need to improve, but it’s not a bad idea for a company of any level to ensure that they’re doing the same thing to keep their customers happy!

Another survey carried out by Hello Operator noted that customers prefer unscripted calls, with 69% of those surveyed revealing that they would have an improved call experience if the agent they spoke to didn’t sound like they were reading from a script. Their survey also revealed how important manners are when speaking to a customer or potential client.

Can you say that you provide each of the following for your customers?

  • Acceptable call answering times
  • Phone menu clarity and ease of use
  • Understanding customers’ needs
  • Excellent Customer service
  • Staff knowledge

In order to reduce the rage customer’s feel, take the first step by ensuring your on-hold marketing is modern, professional sounding and easy to use – call us today on 0161 850 3033 (we promise not to make you listen to awful music!) 

Will you be compliant on 13th June 2014?

On Friday 13th June 2014, the Distance Selling Regulations 2000 and Off-Premises (Doorstep) Regulations 2008 will be revoked and replaced by Consumer Contracts Regulations. So if you're a trader selling goods, services or digital content to consumers, there is a new set of regulations which will apply to you. Sorry if you're B2B as we know a lot of you are but these are big important changes which are worth knowing about, whether you’re B2B or B2C.

There are a number of changes, some of which include the information that must be given to consumers before making a purchase, their rights if they change their mind, delivery times and much more but we're going to look at the changes around the use of non-geographic phone numbers such as 0845, 0844, 0871, 0872 and 0873 for customer helplines.

First of all it's worth pointing out that you can still use non-geographic numbers for your sales lines (for now), as the changes affect customer telephone helplines for after sales service.  The regulations state:

"No phone charges in excess of basic rate for post-contract phone queries"
 
In plain English this means if you offer a telephone helpline for consumers to contact you about something they’ve bought, there should be a number available on which they call for this purpose, costing them no more than the basic rate.

So to comply you must offer a customer service line to consumers on at least one of the following numbers: geographic numbers or numbers which are always set at the same rate, which usually begin 01, 02 or 03 and mobile numbers which usually begin 07, or free of charge i.e. 0800 and 0808.

OFCOM has proposed reforms around call charges to 0800 and 0808 numbers so they will soon become free to call from mobiles.

Of course if you need any of your telephone messages re-recording to reflect any new phone numbers you've implemented give us a call on 0161 850 3033.

 

The above information is as a guide only.  Latest information and guidance on the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations can be found on the government's Department for Business Innovation & Skills website.

by Steve Hindley you can find Steve on Google+

Welcome to the new IVR Recordings Website

Hello and welcome to our new look IVR Recordings website, we hope you like the refreshed style and additional content.


We've got lots of information and audio samples of IVR Message Prompts to make your call centre sounds great. If you need professionally recorded IVR Prompts for your telephone IVR System then we're the people to talk to!

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