Jan

10

Customer service is often the most misunderstood, underfunded, and disconnected area of the corporation. These limitations are to the detriment of the enterprise however, and a refined and technologically proficient customer service staff will ultimately help improve the bottom line.

The logic here is that the customer service area is often the first point of contact—and in some cases, the only point of contact a customer has with the company. Within your enterprise, you may well have several different divisions, and your HR department may have gone to great lengths to create job descriptions that pigeonhole staff members according to a variety of arbitrary definitions. “We don’t do that here. You have to go talk to the warehouse” (or whatever department is responsible). No customer wants to hear that!

The fact is, your customer wants a single point of contact. They don’t want to be transferred to the warehouse, or the accounting department, or anywhere else—they want a single, well-educated and knowledgeable person to solve their problem, no matter what it is. This is done by educating your customer service staff.

In fact, your customer service people should be the most knowledgeable people in your company. Rather than a stovepiped organization with divisional knowledge, create a broader-based organization with institutional knowledge. A good customer service staff person should know more than just the basics, and what’s in the manual. They need to be trained and cross-trained so that they understand everything about the organization.

Creating a professional customer service organization isn’t an easy task—it requires careful planning, attention to hiring practices, competitive pay rates, and of course, regular training. Within the customer service area, there are actually several different types of training that are required to optimize the customer service function. Personnel should be trained to answer technical questions and take orders, obviously. But beyond that, training can be a continuous process. Because the customer service staff represents the company, they are unofficial salespeople as well. They may not be part of the official sales staff, but a good customer service organization will nonetheless generate sales just over the course of taking calls. Training on new product lines will allow those staff members to offer upgrades when the opportunity arises, offer complementary products and services, and much more. As such, the customer service staff should be afforded the same type of sales training that the regular sales staff receives.

And finally, it’s important to note that on-demand training is well suited to customer service. Downtime is the bane of the customer service manager’s existence, and on-demand training lets staff take training as it is needed, in small increments, so as not to disrupt the workflow.

This article is brought to you by eLeaP. Get more ideas on learning management systems from eLeaP.

Jan

4

Want to outsource your call center? One frequent objection is that the third party call center staff is less likely to be able to answer all the questions customers throw at them, and it’s a legitimate concern. Simply answering calls and taking orders may sound like a simple enough task, but in reality, when customers call it’s seldom as simple as that. Customers want to know whether a product can be used in a different way than advertised. They want to know details about the company’s other products, or they want to know about the shipping schedule. They may be calling the order desk but all they really want to know is how to fix the product they already have. Can a third party call center halfway around the world handle these requests?

The point is, customer calls are never routine, and that’s why some companies resist outsourcing this function. The argument is that call center employees that are in-house can more easily access other departments, transfer calls that are outside of their domain, or obtain information that goes beyond the basic order-taking function.

But what that flexibility hinges on isn’t access, it’s education. In-house call centers can be just as stovepiped as any other function, and often, that is precisely the case. Keeping it in-house doesn’t necessarily solve that problem. What does solve the problem—whether the call center is in-house or in Bangalore—is educating the call center staff on how the company operates, how the products function, and even minor maintenance and repair that would be traditionally outside the domain of order takers.

This is facilitated in two ways: First by removing the isolation that often exists in the call center. Even in-house call centers are often set apart from the rest of the company, with call center staff having very little access to other parts of the company. But as the call center is often the point of first customer contact, it’s vital for those staff to be knowledgeable about the entire operation. In-house, this is just a matter of policy. When outsourced, isolation can still be overcome, especially with the availability of collaborative technology and audio conferencing.

The second way this flexibility is facilitated is through e-learning.  With easy, modular training units, a call center staff member can quickly and easily learn precisely what he or she needs to learn, in a short period of time. This can be just as easily delivered to the outsourcing provider’s call center staff, as the company’s own in-house staff.

Successful outsourcing is never a 100 percent hands-off proposition—providing that agency with the knowledge it needs to do the job right, and represent your company in the best possible light, is essential, and providing corporate e-learning modules to the agency will help to make a more successful outsourcing arrangement.

This article is brought to you by eLeaP. Get more ideas on learning management systems from eLeaP.

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