The Benefits of Gamification in the Contact Center

As I search and scroll through the feeds of the social media networks that I manage, I am seeing a trend rise in the contact center industry: gamification.

Gamification is the idea of using methods that work out to be like a game in the pursuit of accomplishing a work-oriented task, problem solving, or as a way to boost engagement. Many other industries have incorporated gamification into their business practices as they directly target their consumer base. In the contact center, this can be a huge tool for obvious reasons. Contact centers tend to get a bad rap just because of the nature of the work. Every once in a while, we hear of contact centers that outshine the competition, but that is because of the methods they employ, such as gamification and other non-traditional business approaches.

At Incept, we fully embrace positive competitiveness and love to play games with our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs). Not only does it make the day go by faster, but it really does keep our employees engaged. Needless to say, when a CME is fully engaged in their calls with their donors or customers, they are going to have an easier time producing meaningful conversations and reaping positive results for our clients.

What your contact center stands to gain

  • Increased employee engagement. The great thing about gamification in the contact center is that it can bring quiet employees “out of hiding”, especially in a work environment where most employees call desk their home base. When I was a Team Captain and would essentially help run my team on a night when my Team Leader was gone, I used gamification as a way to keep my whole team attuned to what it was that I was asking them to do. A popular and easy way that we had games in the rows were with the help of a whiteboard and dry-erase markers. Hangman was usually the game of choice. If my CMEs were able to get an appointment, they would get a guess at the puzzle and could ultimately win an extra break while I took their calls for them. It motivated them to not only press for their own performance but to keep tabs on their peer’s performance. When the going got tough, it really helped us pull together as a team to accomplish our goal before the night was over.
  • Increased self-accountability. It is always a great thing for management to notice when an employee takes their own success seriously and grabs the wheel. In our contact center here at Incept, CMEs will keep tally marks when they hit desired call metrics that we are pushing for performance and productivity. With our blood bank division, we try to aim for making an appointment for a blood donor to donate over the phone with us, and we will mark a tally if we scheduled that donor within 10 days of talking to them, if we scheduled that donor at a client-desired location (such as a donor center), and if that donor met a specific blood donation type. Many metrics can be implemented into this practice, but the key to tally marks is that it keeps our employees aware of their performance to that day, and it gives them something visual to base their performance off of rather than just a percent-to-goal.
  • It is an easy way for management to develop positive professional relationships with employees. When you come to work with the idea that your boss is going to play a game with you that day, it can make it a lot easier to be there! Keep in mind, a call-center employee does have a stressful job. Talking to hundreds of people every day, repeating scripts thousands of times per month, and the wear and tear of conversations can really leave you feeling tired at the end of a productive workday. When you have a positive boss that encourages you to do your best through something as simple as playing a game in between calls, that can help alleviate some of that stress. Not only does it do a good job at reducing angst, but it can also make an employee want to work harder as they begin to feel like they are more of a core member of the team they are on.

The relationship between a manager and his or her employees in a contact center is so important, because the idea behind the team concept we employ at Incept is that we are all part of one unit and we have no limits.

In what ways do you practice gamification among your own employees?

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Learning to Prioritize & How It Can Help You

As a perfectionist, one of the hardest skills to learn in life is prioritizing. When it comes to a to-do list or a set of responsibilities, asking me to not complete any number of them seems like a non-option. In my mind, I have been given tasks that were deemed appropriate for my skills and by not completing them, I am falling short of my potential. The problem with this type of thinking is that all too often I end up running myself ragged. I rush from one task to the next and end up becoming a detriment to my own productivity. One of the skills I have found both extremely difficult and wildly beneficial is the art of prioritizing.

The trick to effectively prioritizing your to-do list is understanding that you may not get everything done. Chances are you will run short on time, you will get caught up in a side project, or you will be stopped to answer questions along the way. Not completing every single task does not indicate failure. As long as you are able to accomplish those tasks deemed most important, you have succeeded in allocating your time appropriately.  Although, as a perfectionist, I don’t like to leave work on the table, but part of keeping myself sane means growing comfortable with handling what cannot be finished.

Here are a few key steps to prioritize your day:

  1. Create a list. A great deal of anxiety or discomfort can come simply from not having a set idea of what needs accomplished. The more clearly your tasks are written down, the more effectively you can begin tackling them.
  2. Rank your list by  importance. Although it may seem like everything holds equal importance, take some time to determine which ones affect the bigger picture. For instance, if a particular deadline ensures the company as a whole continues to run smoothly or clients are happy, it is likely of top priority. Tasks that ensure your personal goals are met or an individual deadline is achieved should rank below those that affect the company or clients as a whole.
  3. Set your calendar. The number-one thing that will keep you from following your list is not setting aside the time. By setting aside the time necessary to get things completed, you are allowing yourself to avoid distractions (to a certain extent) while ensuring that you will be ready to work when the time comes.
  4. Be prepared to reevaluate. Goals that are lower on the list may increase in importance as company, client, and personal goals evolve. Don’t be afraid to revisit your list and re-prioritize to ensure that it still matches the job at hand.
  5. Be ready to accept unfinished tasks. There will certainly be times that you are unable to complete your entire list in a day, week, or even month. Be prepared to acknowledge what has gone unfinished, keeping in mind that those items will eventually need addressed. Be sure to let others involved know that it will not be completed too. Nothing good comes from leaving teammates in the dark.

Although it takes a great deal of practice, prioritizing your day can mean the difference between a productive, smooth-flowing work day and a chaotic, stressful environment. Instead of heaping your plate to overflowing, work on serving yourself a reasonable portion of the most necessary tasks and leaving the rest for days to come.

How do you prioritize you to-do list?

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Video Content & The Contact Center: Where Do You Start?

I’ve said this in the past, but many companies either get how to pull off great video content or they don’t.

Video content on social media platforms can serve a wide variety of needs for any sort of company. It allows you to be more creative than just making an image or taking a photograph. It goes leaps and bounds beyond a status or simple tweet in that regard as well. Think beyond the process of making the content for a second, and focus on what you stand to gain. A little under 90 million United States citizens are going to view 1.2 billion pieces of video content online today alone. Of all the internet traffic out there, video content is responsible for fifty percent of it! If that is the case, then why do only 24% of [national] brands actually make the effort to produce video content?

It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated…

Our videos cost us mere dollars to produce. The only real cost at this point for Incept is my hourly wage and time spent on producing each video. Keep in mind we do this all using an in-house Macbook and iMovie. So, once again, it isn’t really that hard to keep the efforts cost-efficient.

Your camera also doesn’t have to be expensive. Any type of camera that is capable of producing HD footage is fine. There are many pocket cameras that produce incredibly sharp footage and even have a viewfinder, zoom capabilities, and more features for only a few hundred bucks.

What type of video content would you produce, though? Especially if you are a contact center?

Employee Recognition

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Who doesn’t love positive recognition? At Incept, we produce content like this because we believe it actually does have value to our employees. They share the content they are in with their families and friends, and while we can’t place a specific monetary value on that, it is definitely something that is worthwhile to us.

Internal Company Events

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We love having fun at work. Incept is unique in the way that we inject positive humor within our content, because laughter helps all of us get through the day. When we have something going on in the company that we wish to bring attention to, such as our Wacky Wednesday dress-up days, we take advantage by really playing with the concept and getting Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) involved in the production process. Who said we can’t embrace our silly side?

Agent and Customer Service Education

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This is something that can easily pay for itself. Too many companies initially strain themselves searching for ROI like it is a treasure hunt when the obvious savings and value are right in front of their faces with content pieces like this. Educational videos, especially since we are talking about content that is produced for contact centers, can go a very long way. The value of taking your contact center’s top-performing agents or a well-respected supervisor and sitting them down for a quick interview on how to provide service is something that can be viewed by all employees hoping to get on that same level. It also gives an advantage to new employees when you have a content library built up of different topics.

You don’t say?

We do say! As we look to further improve our own video quality and content, you have to keep in mind the factor of creativity. Don’t be afraid to get wild, have fun, and be informative.

Keep in mind, whether it be for recognition, education or simply just for fun, video content certainly can strike a chord with your audience when done right.

What questions do you have about small business video content production?

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The Learning Process of Transitioning to Management

Erica Heath, an Incept Team Captain and Trainer, lets us in on her growth at Incept, what helped her, and how she has learned that each day in the contact center can be different.

I still remember the very first day I was taken off the phones and put on the floor to supervise. I was extremely nervous and terrifyingly unsure of myself. Kevin Domczak handed me the monitoring phone, gave me a quick two-second rundown on how to find the booth numbers, and off I went into the great unknown world of the contact center floor.

I had only been a Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) for a few months before Kevin appointed me his Team Captain for the Vein Invaders – most people in the contact center didn’t even know my name or that I even existed as an employee. However, while I was a CME, I lived by the core Incept values, and I showed up to work every day and did the best I could do without complaining. I started at Incept with the intent of using it as a part-time job (I have a degree in Education), but the more I got involved at Incept, the more I respected the company. It only took a slight push from my supervisor to make me realize that moving up at Incept was a good decision for me.

Looking back at my first day on the floor, I was a mess. My hands were shaky, I was unsure of myself, and every time I heard a CME snap with a question I prayed that I knew the answer to what they were asking. After my first experience, Kevin gave me a pep-talk and deep inside I was hoping that he did not change his mind about me, and that he still wanted me to be a leader for his team. Lucky for me, Kevin had faith and took the time to mold me into a worthy Team Captain.

It helps to have a supervisor who trusts you and backs your decisions, but it also helps when you have faith in yourself. After my first day on the floor, I realized I needed to act confident and remain calm in my role, even if I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable right away. I knew I had the skills I needed to be a leader, and I was determined to put them to good use, but I needed to make sure that I could show others my determination and strengths. The next time that I stood up to supervise, I was tenacious and did my very best to help everyone that I could. Soon I found that there was no reason to be nervous, because I knew the answers to most of the questions that the CMEs asked me.

It is a learning process, but when you transition from being a CME on the phone into a management position the most important skill you learn is putting on a brave face and diving headfirst into whatever challenge you come across without being afraid of making mistakes. There are going to be days where you don’t necessarily know all the answers, and that’s okay. Seeking out the answers gives you a chance to become more skilled as a manager.

For those of you looking to move up at Incept, live by our core values, and I guarantee you will great leader material: show integrity in the workplace, don’t ever be satisfied because everything can be improved, be compassionate to the people around you, act like everyone is a customer, stay present while you are at work, and always show tenacity by being ready to tackle any obstacles in your path!

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Let’s Talk Results… The Role of A Trainer In The Contact Center

Part of the telecommunications industry and being a contact center is having the ability to provide a consistently great level of customer service for any type of product or service that your contact center might take calls for. An example of this is the service we provide at Incept, as we are able to call outbound recruitment calls and serve as a main inbound center for nonprofit organizations (such as blood centers). On the flip side, we are adaptable enough to also be able to operate and provide customer service for companies that are software as a service-oriented or even for utility companies trying to communicate better with their own customers (not to mention prospective customers) on their behalf.

How are we able to be truly successful in providing world-class customer service on so many different fronts? That is where the New Employee Results department comes into play. They are the department that trains every new employee that comes in, and Brian Wells has experience as a trainer of both blood bank recruitment and results (retention, accounts, etc.) Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs).

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Brian was able to talk to us about what it takes to be a multifaceted trainer, what the differences are with cross-training employees in different core workflow programs, and how he is able to consistently teach our new employees.

Closing Thoughts

To be competitive in the industry, contact centers are going to have to be willing to be open-minded to venture into different business opportunities. For Incept, that means keeping on our toes and being able to provide customer service for any sort of client need.

At the end of the day, the training department of your contact center and the trainers themselves are where successful employees are shaped to be adaptive. Those efforts accumulate to form either a contact center that is able to provide customer service and WOW the customer or a center that simply provides run-of-the-mill, standard-quality service.

What are your thoughts?

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Outside Of The Office: Teaching English In South Korea

At every company, every once in a while, we are able to find an employee who is truly unique. Timothy Serafino is an Incept Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) who is getting ready to embark on an adventure. His wife and he are going to travel to South Korea where they will stay for one year to teach children English. At Incept, we are obsessed with everything that revolves around the concept of having a conversation, so we just had to find out more.

We support life opportunities like this, and if you knew Timothy personally, you’d know that he has an infectious desire to just integrate himself into our world. Let’s talk with Timothy about what he will be doing during his stay and how Incept has helped prepare him.

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Have you ever traveled to a county to help teach or learn about another culture?

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Using Encouragement To Drive Success In The Contact Center

My name is Myranda Butcher, and I am a Program Results Coach at Incept. My primary role is to coach and develop the skills of our employees, and I approach every “session” with a positive and encouraging attitude.

Encouragement has always come naturally to me. It’s not about telling people what they want to hear. It’s about telling people what they should hear. This world is overflowing with negativity, and it is the reason why most people are surprised by kind words. Consistent negative feedback is the primary reason why it is difficult to retain an employee in most industries.

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” – Anatole France

The best possible way to teach someone how to perform a task is to avoid reprimand whenever possible. It is ALWAYS okay to make a mistake, because then you learn how NOT to do something. I like to call this strategy, “failing your way to success.” Consistent “correction” will always lead to self-doubt. If you feel that you cannot do something, most likely you will always be unable to.

I have been in a coaching position at Incept for three years. In this time, I have learned that our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) will respond to criticism with immediate action but will also carry a sense of resentment. Encouragement, on the other hand, creates a sense of security. If the CME feels as though they are doing well, they will continue to do well and strive to better themselves. This philosophy is best summed up with the following quote:

“When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When I am coaching a CME, I will make it a point to focus on what they’re excelling at. I stress to them how great of a job they are doing in those areas and the kind of impact they have on the company and our clients. When I address the areas that need improvement, I always approach it as a team effort. I explain to them what we need to improve, the reasons why we need to improve that area, and how WE can fix the issue together. This provides that sense of security I mentioned earlier: they are made aware that they do not have to figure it out on their own. This approach not only helps the employee better their performance (which helps the company achieve the goals set by our clients), but it also helps to prevent turnover.

Encouraging someone else will inevitably make you feel good. I will confess that the joy I find in encouraging others partially stems from how good I feel after I have empowered someone else.

George Burton Adams noted the same experience:

“Note how good you feel after you have encouraged someone else. No other argument is necessary to suggest that you should never miss the opportunity to give encouragement.”

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Retain Customers By Explaining The Features and Benefits

Arguably the strongest retention technique and sales tactic is not a special offer, a gimmick, or something for free. While these may glimmer at a customer and initiate a trial, they will not add to the lifetime value of the customer nor will they promote the use of the product or service. What becomes ingrained in the customer, keeps hold of them for extended periods of time, and promotes a repeat customer are the features of the product as well as their benefits to the customer.

To fully understand the power of feature-and-benefit statements as a retention technique or sales pitch, you have to first acknowledge their relationship. This relationship denotes the importance they hold together and the lack of impact they have apart. For a product to offer enhanced capabilities sets the product apart. However, if the customer does not perceive a benefit, these features have no relevance or interest. Alternatively, for a product to claim it saves time or poses another benefit to the customer without explaining why or how also does not grab the attention of the customer or promote long-term value.   When a product or service has clearly defined features that create a perceived need from the customer, then you have achieved the buying experience or retention that you intended.

Features & Benefits in Retention

Many times, customers sign up for an offer or purchase a product based on one feature or offer that looks interesting and never fully explore the potential of what they have gotten.  The most powerful and long-term retention technique is to show the customer the rest of the features of a given product or service and the benefit they pose. Generally speaking, this alone is often enough to persuade the customer to take a second look. If not, follow-up these features and benefits with a second offer that shows the customer appreciation for utilizing the product (such as a free month of service or extra gadget to use in conjunction with what they already have).

Features & Benefits in Sales

The best way to sell a product or service to a customer is through features and benefits in unison with emphasis on the benefits. If you can create a need or reason the product will produce a favorable experience for the customer, you have essentially sold them on the product. Utilize special offers or trial periods as a second-attempt technique once the customer has the full understanding of the unique things the product or service will do for them. This will promote the long-term customer, as well as the repeat customer, instead of one just looking for free offers and the “flash in the pan”.

Either way you look it, features and benefits in conjunction create a longer customer relationship and a more solid sale or retention when used properly. Paired with a second offer, it makes the customer feel that they are making a smart decision and makes you look like a hero!

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Improvement Through Leadership: How A New Team Captain Helps Others

This blog comes to us from NaChrista Wood! She is an up-and-coming Team Captain at Incept and now finds herself growing into new roles while she helps others improve.

Starting out as a Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME), I came across a lot of obstacles. These obstacles included second attempting, quality calls, and outbound percentage. To be honest, second attempting was not my strong suit at first, which truly affected my outbound percentage. It was difficult trying to “LAMA“ donors, as I felt I was being too pushy. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept of being assumptive. I always felt as if I should give the donor the option of committing to a day and time suitable for them. From this, I have learned this is not acceptable, as second attempting is part of a Conversational Marketing™ Expert’s (CME’s) job.

Through several coaching forms, as well as guidance from Supervisors, Coaches, and Team Captains, I have been able to improve. Without their help, I feel as though I would still struggle in that department. I myself have recently become a Team Captain, and now I am able to help others in the same position I was in once before. This position is very rewarding, as I am able to guide other Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) to making solid appointments by use of LAMAs and encouraging them to be more assumptive.

Answering questions, setting goals, holding team meetings, and establishing strengths and weaknesses are all part of my job now. This position holds a lot of responsibility, but it is definitely worth the while. Being a part of management at Incept has taught me patience and believe me, I needed that. It has also taught me to be disciplined, responsible and hold a sense of determination.

Without these qualities, this position would be rather difficult. I wish to see a lot of Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) work their way up into management, as all of us working here at Incept have the ability to improve and succeed. I honestly believe anyone can become a Team Captain, Coach, or Supervisor, as long as one comes into work every day with a positive outlook. Leaving negativity at the door is best, as it will truly offset one’s day if not. Although, at times, this job can become overwhelming, one must be able to overlook those moments. There will always be an off-putting donor or some complication during phone calls, but one should not let those times discourage them. One may never know what the donor on the other end is experiencing in their lives when we give them a call.

Being able to keep this as part of one’s mindset can change the way one talks to other individuals. From this, I hope everyone is able to realize one can simply change their outlook on their performance by their attitude. One’s attitude toward work, friends, family, and the world affects the way in which one perceives any situation.

One may struggle at first, but there are always areas for improvement.

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Why Your Business Should Know About The Cryptolocker Virus

There is a new bully on the cyber-block, and it means business. Literally.

The CryptoLocker Virus is a virus that encrypts all of a user’s data and holds it ransom for the sum of up to $300 for a decryption key that is private and unique to that user. You have between 72-96 hours to pay these computer thieves or fear that your files might be lost forever.

The CryptoLocker Virus is a piece of malware that attaches itself to emails and further (more immediately) begins encrypting all that user’s data once they open and download the attachment which can deceivingly be disguised as a zip file. Once it is in your system, it will then become active each and every time you start your computer up. The emails that it attaches itself to are even quite convincing and will most likely be from someone you know.

This virus has been around since about the summer of 2013 but has been making its rounds in the business world. One of the most damaging things about this virus is the fact that if you are connected to a shared network that you use between you and your colleagues, those files and folders on your network can all be corrupted just from your computer. This can result in many huge problems for companies with very sensitive data caches. While it is possible to manually remove the CryptoLocker virus through starting up your computer in safe mode and using the command prompt screen, once you remove the virus, all of your files will become impossible to decrypt for your use again.

What can you do to defend your business?

First of all, do not pay these thieves. That is what they are. Thieves preying on the unsuspecting. There are a ton of reports that state if you pay CryptoLocker’s ransom that your files will in fact be restored and usable, but why fuel this madness any further? Why encourage cyber criminals to continue creating this kind of “ransomware”?

As of December 2013, the makers of Cryptovirus have made almost $30 million off of this dastardly computer bug. Once again, it is shockingly surprising that if you are one of the people who spring to pay the ransom for your files, they will become decrypted, but we can’t help feel that only encourages them to keep swindling folks.

The smartest thing for you to do if you are connected to a network and your computer displays the ominous red and blue-bordered CryptoLocker shield display screen is to immediately unplug your computer from the network by pulling the ethernet cable out of the back or disconnecting from the network by using your network control panel (Windows users). After all, keep in mind that everything on shared networks is game for this virus, and the sooner you take damage control by unplugging it or disconnecting from that shared network, the fewer files will become encrypted.

Viruses like these are why it is so important for small businesses (and individuals alike) to make it a task to back up all system files weekly if not multiple times per week. While $300 might not be a huge expense to companies with millions of dollars, it is a lot easier to simply restore your system back to a previously saved backup point or to simply give the infected computer a factory restore, and then reload and reinstall previous programs and files.

Either way, take heed. Back up your files, and you shouldn’t have to worry much about this cyber-sickness. Take a good look at the image below. That is what Cryptolocker will look like for modern PC users using Windows 7 and 8.

Image Credit: http://blog.malwarebytes.org/

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