What’s So Different About Incept?

At Incept, one of the biggest ways we differentiate ourselves is through a dedication to culture. We strive to create a culture where people are given the opportunity to succeed in a friendly, welcoming environment. Our goal during interviews is to showcase our team-based structure that ensures they have one person to take all of their questions, concerns, and feedback to while also knowing exactly who they can get support from. We take a positive coach approach to everything we do; if you are struggling, we would rather help fix the problem and get you back on track than get rid of you and find someone else.

We also focus on our growth and the opportunities for advancement. A lot of individuals are looking for jobs/careers that can last long-term, and we have a variety of ways individuals can plant their roots and advance throughout the company. We often point out that most of our management team started on the phones and have seen countless opportunities to take on more responsibility.

Finally, we choose to stress our dedication to values. We conduct business in a way that is assumptive without pressuring. We will not ask them to sell until the customer hangs up, but instead will coach them on ways to be more effective without pushing. We teach the Conversational Marketing Experts (CMEs) ways to sell without becoming uncomfortable with what their goal is.

This focus on culture has resulted in Incept being recognized as a Top Workplace in Northeast Ohio three of the last four years, including the highest rated workplace of any size in Canton and one of only five companies recognized as a Psychologically Healthy Workplace by the Ohio Psychological Association.

Incept’s President and CEO, Sam Falletta, was also recognized by Top Workplaces as the top CEO of a midsize workplace in Northeast Ohio for 2014. The ranking is based on employee nominations and surveys by WorkplaceDynamics. This further differentiates Incept as an excellent choice for individuals because of the exceptional and motivational leadership from our CEO.

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How To Start Each Contact Center Team Off Right: Tuckman’s Model

Fifty years ago, the science of group development made a huge leap forward with the Tuckman Model. Dr. Bruce Tuckman created what was to become the five-stage process of “developmental sequence in small groups.” The first four stages were known as Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. Later, the final stage was named Mourning.

All organizations and groups go through each of these stages, even your Contact Center. What is not widely recognized in the customer service industry is that they go through these stages each time participants are removed, added, given new significant duties, promoted, or even shifted horizontally. Even appointing new tasks to an individual member can cause this to restart. What will be discussed in this post is the first stage in the process known as Forming and how we as leaders can use this stage to create stronger relationships with our team members.

While this phase may be shortened if team members have worked and spent time together in the past, each time a major change in the group happens, the steps happen all over again. At times, this can also cause groups who have had previous success to become stuck at some point in the process and not reach the Performing stage.

Forming is a critical stage where we create clarity around the project. Also in this stage, we define the roles each person is to have for success of the group. Teaming this with a better understanding of each member’s strengths and opportunities will help the group later on when reaching the Storming and Norming stages.

Forming, as defined in Tuckman’s Model, is the stage where we find some very unique events occurring in the group. These events hopefully will pass but tend to create opportunities later in the Storming stage that will cause friction and can even halt the group from its ability to complete the goal. Events to identify with this stage are as follows:

  1. Most members are polite, positive, and anxious. There is normally a lack of understanding of the task as a whole, especially regarding each person’s role and their place in the hierarchy of the team. Many members will be excited for a new opportunity to show off their skills.
  2. Often, a lack of clarity becomes entrenched within the group during this step. This happens for several reasons. It can happen because you, as the leader, are trying hard to be overly nice so no one jumps ship. Another reason is that many times members of the team are concerned with looking stupid or ignorant, when it’s really our responsibility as team leaders to clarify the goals and what each person’s role, responsibility, and authority entails. Finally, your own ambiguity on what defines the project’s success can contribute to the confusion. Make sure you understand the goal of the project before presenting it to your team.
  3. This stage actually can last quite a while, depending on the project and the interaction. This can be reduced by bringing in team members who have worked together in the past. This can especially be helpful if they have worked on a similar project or goal before. A way to reduce this time is instructing each member of their role, responsibility and authority, but in also making sure each member understands the other team member’s roles, responsibilities, and authority and doing so in front of the whole team. This helps reduce misunderstandings as to who is to report to who and who is supposed to be handling what tasks.
  4. In terms of communication among the team, your role cannot be overstated. Any perceived lacking or cloudiness in the group can often come back to us as leaders. While in this stage, it is helpful to go through who does what quite often. Being passive-aggressive at this stage will definitely sow seeds for discontent in the Storming stage.
  5. Finally, there is only so much you can do to reduce what is to come in the Storming stage. While making clarity a goal during the Forming stage will obviously help, be prepared that nothing can prevent Storming from happening. Just remember, 90% of your success happens before the group even forms. Having everything ready for the group prior to a major change so that they can feel comfortable and safe going through the process will make a huge difference in your success.

Sources:

Photo Credit: http://executopia.com/methodology/modelstheories/tuckmans-team-development-3/

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Metrics Contact Centers Must Track to Ensure Quality

Incept‘s quality control process (Conversational Quality or CQ) is designed to gauge a Conversational Marketing Expert’s (CME’s) performance in all aspects of their phone call.

Quality is graded on several aspects of the call, including the following:

  • introduction
  • communication of the script and pertinent information
  • close
  • miscellaneous category for custom measurements
  • professionalism

Conversational Marketing Experts (CMEs) are scored on a scale of 0-100%, and points are deducted for infractions ranging from not following the script to not properly opening or closing the phone call. We listen for tone and inflection during the pitch and make sure that Conversational Marketing Experts (CMEs) are being professional and polite at all times.  It’s our goal that each conversation strengthens the relationship between the client organization and the customer we are speaking with.

Each Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) is CQed at least twice a month for at least 20 minutes. If we find that a particular Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) is struggling, however, we will CQ him or her more frequently. This is in addition to daily live call monitoring in the rows by the coaches and supervisory staff. Every call is recorded on our digital recording system, and we attempt to find 20 minutes with a variety of call dispositions to ensure that the Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) is handling each situation appropriately.

How do you ensure quality?

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What Types Of Incentives Boost Employee Engagement Most Significantly?

Based on a 2014 Gallup survey, less than one-third of U.S. workers (31.5%) were engaged in their jobs this past year. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” While this may not sound like a significant problem, a separate Gallup survey found a well-established connection between employee engagement and many performance outcomes, including the following:

  • Customer ratings
  • Profitability
  • Productivity
  • Turnover
  • Absenteeism
  • Quality

At Incept, we provide performance bonuses based on specific key performance indicators each week, as determined by discussions with our clients. In addition, we provide instant incentives like the following:

  • Extra breaks
  • Vending machine coupons
  • Client t-shirts and other client products
  • Public recognition
  • Supervisors taking the Conversational Marketing Experts’ (CMEs) calls
  • Team incentives
    • Catered lunches
    • Games to be played in the rows
    • Public recognition

We also have an employee referral program for new hires and paid-time-off (PTO) tickets for schedule adherence on a monthly basis.

We’ve seen our focus on employee engagement, as well as these incentives, ultimately lead to reduced turnover and increased customer satisfaction. Employee happiness really does translate on the phone and is one of the biggest reasons Incept has been so successful at delivering satisfying results.

What incentives do you use to boost employee engagement?

Photo Credit: http://www.halogensoftware.com/blog/the-history-of-employee-engagement

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Identifying & Leveraging Your Workplace Strengths

One of my favorite things about working for Incept is the approach we take to strengths-based management. We believe very strongly in identifying the strengths of our employees and, when possible, placing them in a role where they get the greatest opportunity to use those strengths every day.

Using this method, we spend the greatest amount of time allowing them to do what they are good at and offering praises and development on their successes and far less time identifying their mistakes and trying to get them to improve on their weaknesses. Not only does this improve the working relationship between manager and direct report, but it also ensures that individuals get fulfillment out of their job.

The biggest key to strengths-based management is helping an individual identify their strengths and (inevitably) their weaknesses. How does one go about identifying their strengths? There are several approaches a person can take to analyzing their workplace strengths.

Strengths-based Assessments

Firstly, there are many strengths-based assessments that can be found all over the internet. These tests will tell you about your workplace abilities, whether you are customer service-geared or more sales-minded, whether you prefer working with others or working alone. They can even tell you how you work with others and what type of environment plays best to your personality. Find a few assessments and give them a shot – you might just learn a little about yourself!

Self-reflection

The second option is to do some self reflection. Spend some time thinking about the activities and responsibilities at work that give you the greatest joy. What do you feel most comfortable doing? Do you like when you are working with a group creating a new program? Perhaps you preferred the data entry project where you had a clear start and end point with solitary work. As you begin to identify the roles that gave you the most joy you also want to identify whether or not you had success in those projects.

If you really enjoyed data entry, but you had a 90% error rate, it is likely not your strength. Take each of the roles you enjoyed and begin analyzing the success or failure you saw with each. Once you find the activities in which you found joy AND success, you have likely found your workplace strengths.

Talk to Your Coworkers

Lastly, talking to your coworkers may help uncover some of your strengths. Although some individuals may be less comfortable pointing out weaknesses, ask them about the positive experiences. Maybe you ran a productive meeting with great results, or they learned a lot from you when working on a project; their input can give you a perspective that you haven’t heard before. Obtaining input from your coworkers can help you determine where your strengths helped others or helped the workplace overall.

Leverage Your Strengths

Once you have identified the strengths you possess you must begin to leverage them in your current role. If you have found that you excel at organization, try to take on tasks that emphasize that skill. For individuals who excel at the analytical side of things, begin using your analytical mind to be more proactive – identifying problems that aren’t there yet can be a huge win for your team.

As you begin leveraging your strengths you will not only gain greater satisfaction from your work, but it will be difficult for your manager not to notice your improvements. This doesn’t mean you should ignore your weaknesses; you simply highlight the things you are already good at while spending time improving upon the areas you struggle with.

In a job market that is moving towards the specialist versus the generalist, it is important to keep both strengths and weaknesses in mind as you work towards the career that fits what brings you the most joy and success. By highlighting where you excel, you can select the career that allows you an opportunity to exercise those strengths and experience the success we are all working towards!

Photo Credit: http://www.pbfingers.com/2013/01/10/one-word-mantras/

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How to Change the Direction of Your Call Center Team Meetings

In the contact center universe, each of us has been in a team meeting that has encouraged and motivated us. We left it with an exact understanding of where we are, where we as a team are going, how does it line up with the company values, and how we are expected to get there. Sadly, in the contact center environment, we have also been in meetings where the purpose was confused, and it seemed to go on forever without finding any conclusion. Those meetings feel painful, and hurt morale.  Sometimes, we have led these very meetings ourselves, and it hurts the Conversational Marketing Experts’ (CMEs) trust in our leadership.

How can we make sure that in the future we create opportunities for growth and clear messaging between team members? How do we do so in a way that is entwined with our values? Are we using our values as clear markers on our path? Or are our frustrations allowing our meetings to get out of control?

Here are 8 steps to help make your meetings more effective, positive, and in-line with whom we are as the Incept Family and the Incept Company Values:

(Side Note: These steps are highly helpful for overall productive general meetings, as well as meetings with strategic purposes. For Special Purpose Meetings, as well as Brainstorming/Objective Meetings, other techniques would be extremely helpful too.)

Team Meetings: What Should Teams Expect?

  1. Have a Clear Purpose. This is not open floor/time to complain. Make sure that the agenda is clear as to the purpose of the meeting. All discussion must be centered on the topic at hand. This is NOT the time to go off the cuff. A team meeting can quickly devolve if your objective is not clear.
  2. Enforce Strict Timing. Set a start and finish time prior to the beginning of the meeting. If the meeting has multiple items on the itinerary, set time to each of them. If there is no concise decision, set another time to continue/finish the discussion, but never drag the meeting on. Finish on time, always.
  3. Location, Location, Location. Team meetings should take place in the rows, if at all possible. If not, they should take place in private settings away from other CMEs, so as to not distract the team or those outside the meetings. Make sure that the TV is off, and that no other events are happening nearby.
  4. Don’t Wait for the Meeting. Make sure that anything that can be accomplished or decided outside of the meeting is done so prior to the meeting. This lets the CMEs realize the value of the meeting without having to go through a ton of nonessential material. If there is an issue that tends to affect less than the whole team, tackle it with those members privately, not as a whole, especially if it is negative.
  5. Embrace the Good, Sandwich the Bad. Topics should be either “Positive, or Moving Forward or they should be approached in a “Sandwich Method”, with the most time spent on the “Top Bun” of the discussion. If something negative needs to be discussed, make it something for the team to tackle.
  6. Let Team Leadership Run Some Meetings. This is a perfect opportunity to allow possible leadership within the team take a significant responsibility, and it allows for growth opportunities within the ranks. This will also allow you to gauge how their peers would react to their future leadership within the company.
  7. Pay Attention to Your Meeting Structure. Make sure that the meeting topics are structured in a “What Was, What Is, Where Will We Be Going…” structure. It is important to give each member a clear vision of why we as a team are headed in the direction we are going. While some members do not need that much information, it regularly benefits you to give them enough understanding to see both the path behind them and the path in front of them while leaving the opportunity open for those CMEs with questions to come forward later and ask them.
  8. End With Calls to Action. Each session should end with action items. Make sure everyone is clear of next steps. The meeting should be closed with a summary of actions moving forward. The following should be answered:
    1. Who will do what by when?
    2. How and through what means will it be communicated?

How do you make sure your meetings stay on the right path?

Photo Credit: http://hyattlassaline.com/efficient-team-meetings/

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Don’t Be Afraid To Say Yes!

From the moment I started my career with Incept, I began learning that the vast majority of the opportunities I would be faced with would come from tasks that I originally felt incapable of doing. When I started with this company 5 years ago, it was for the sole purpose of working my way through college. I had heard great things about their management, the culture, and the lives the work benefited and thought that if I was going to spend a lot of time working it might as well be enjoyable.

I had never worked in a contact center before and to say I was nervous was an understatement. At the time that I had accepted the position with Incept I thought to myself that I was in over my head; being a shy person and agreeing to talk on the phone all day every day was just silly. As I went through training and graduated to the floor, however, I quickly realized that the opportunities this role could bring were only limited by what I chose to do with them.

After a relatively short time on the phones I was approached by one of my managers about a new opportunity. When asked to assist with coaching other Conversational Marketing Experts (CMEs) my initial thought was that there was no way anyone would listen to someone who had been doing this job for less than 5 months. Instead of letting the nerves get to me, I decided to say yes.

As I became a coach, and then a trainer, I quickly realized that the best opportunities often arose out of situations that I was a little scared of. Many times I was asked to take on responsibilities or tasks that I had no experience with and felt less than capable of doing (let alone doing well). Instead of shying away from these responsibilities I went in full force. I spent time learning from others who were already skilled at the role, researched the things I didn’t know, and tried to be as open to constructive criticism as possible.

After a few months of training, an unexpected opening became available on the recruiting team. I accepted the opportunity immediately but spent a great deal of time on a variety of tasks convincing myself that I wasn’t capable of filling the role. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to work for someone who had more confidence in my abilities than I had in myself that I really began thriving.

Although I was consistently pushed to go outside of my comfort zone and try new tasks that I was not experienced in, I learned more in a one-year period than I had in my previous seven years of working combined. I spent that year taking on responsibilities and gaining experience in a field that I had no prior knowledge of.

Since that first year in recruiting I have become much more confident in my abilities. I provide input without reserve, and I know my processes inside and out. I firmly believe that accepting opportunities and saying yes to things that I was unsure of has gotten me to where I am today. By opening myself up to these new opportunities I have had 5 successful years at a company that I feel truly values my hard work.

Jimmy Carter once said “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” Those 10 simple words could quite possibly be the biggest lesson you will learn in your entire career. If you spend your time wavering on difficult decisions, turning down opportunities because you lack the confidence to say yes, or doubting the skills you bring to the table, you will continue to miss out on what could be the most fruitful experiences your career and life have to offer.

When was the last time you went out on a limb?

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5 Steps to Avoid Settling in Hiring Decisions

Occasionally in the hiring world you will be tasked with filling a position that seems to take all of the time and energy you’ve got left. Especially when dealing with a critical role within your organization it can feel nearly impossible to find a candidate that fits all of the specific qualities and responsibilities you require.

When you have been searching for the perfect candidate for what seems like forever, it can become very easy to settle on a candidate that almost fits what you are looking for. Next time you feel like you may be settling, take a moment to follow a few simple steps to get yourself back on track:

  1. Take a breather. Bringing on a new hire for a specific, specialized role can be very demanding. Between reviewing hundreds of resumes, phone interviews day in and day out, and interviews where you ask the same questions over and over again, the process itself can be exhausting. When you have been searching for the right fit for months it is easy to get caught up in the struggle and begin considering your need to settle. At times, I have asked myself if I am being too harsh or expecting too much; perhaps the candidates I have turned down are better than I originally gave them credit for. When these questions start to arise I know that it is time to take a break. I take time to remind myself that I have created the job description that is necessary for success, and if I haven’t found a matching candidate, I haven’t found my hire.
  2. Revisit the potential fallout of hiring the wrong candidate. Before you make an offer to a candidate about whom you have reservations, remind yourself what happens when you don’t wait for the right fit. A bad hiring decision can not only cost the company financially, but it can also have lasting negative effects on coworkers, company culture, and future hiring decisions. Remind yourself of the benefits of finding the right fit and become steadfast in your search for an “A” player again.
  3. Reconsider your source of applicants. If you don’t like the fish you are catching, perhaps it’s time to look for another lake. If you are posting your jobs to a single source you could be greatly limiting the type of applicants you receive. Instead, try posting to a few different sites and evaluating the candidates you hear from. You may find that one source works better than another or that two sources provide a nice, diverse candidate pool; no matter the outcome, it is important to pay attention to your data. By trying new sources you can ensure that your postings don’t go stale and that you are opening yourself up for a larger audience of job seekers.
  4. Revisit the needs of the role. Although you do not want to settle, revisiting the job description can ensure that everyone is on the same page and that you are keeping your eye on the ball. By reviewing the role’s needs and responsibilities you can ensure that you are clear and focused on what qualities your candidates must have. Upon review it is okay to revise and edit the qualities you want in a position. If you find that you are in fact being too harsh, don’t be afraid to make revisions in order to find the right fit – just ensure that it still fits the needs of the company.
  5. Get a fresh start! Now that you have taken a breather, reminded yourself of the importance of the task at hand, reconsidered your sources, and revisited the needs of the role, it is time to get back to work. Begin your process anew by forgetting about the candidates who haven’t worked out and focusing on the ones who might. As you begin to meet with new candidates, keep your quality standards in mind and keep pushing towards that perfect “A” player!  

How do you avoid settling when it come to making hiring decisions?

Photo Credit: http://mashable.com/2014/10/27/setting-up-shop-hiring/

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Customer Service Tips: Dealing With Escalations

This blog comes to us from Incept Saves Coach Jordan Roman.

Hello, my name is Jordan Roman. I call for Incept‘s Blood Bank division (Incept Saves) and have been doing so for about eight months now. The one thing I’ve had the hardest time getting used to and handling is the upset and/or angry donor. This can be one of the more uncomfortable situations to deal with, but mastering the skill of calming down a donor will greatly benefit any Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) and, furthermore, anybody in customer service. So let’s get into it.

Stay Neutral

One thing I cannot stress enough is that the old saying is proven to be true. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Staying calm and neutral in an upset donor situation is key. Use a professional vocabulary, and be as informative as possible. Use a slow, calm voice in response to donor concerns. Another important thing to remember is that you have to care. Show these donors you really feel for them and understand their problem. Let them know you are only here to accommodate the best that you can.

Identify the Problem

The first step in dealing with an angry donor is to identify the problem and the origin of the donor’s rage against you or the client you represent. More times than not, the predominantly voiced concern is not usually the reason the donor is angry. This is cause for one to delve deeper with probing questions. For example, if the donor rages on about call frequency or getting the calls in general, find out why the don’t want the calls. It is possible that the donor cannot donate due to a medical deferral that has been constantly miscoded.

This will lead to copious calls with an upset donor. I find the more we call these donors, the less information we receive from them, because most of the call consists of them wanting to be removed from our calling list. Information is power and the more we can get the better we can update records to not be called (if we should not call them).

Offer Solutions

Once you have undoubtedly discovered a donor concern the next step is to act as the doctor and remedy the situation. Let the donor know you will update their profile with this more detailed information. If they do have a medical deferral that has been miscoded, remember to get a date if the program allows. If they’d like to be removed from the calling list, do it the right way. Explain that it may take up to 72 hours to take effect. Again, try to be as informative, professional, and neutral as possible.

Close Positively

Last but not least, remember to close sincerely. Bad food always has negative comments regarding its aftertaste. We don’t want to be bad food. You want to leave the donor (or customer) with the idea that no matter how mad they get at us or how much they refuse to donate, we still always appreciate their past support. You wouldn’t believe how closing positively can benefit CMEs and the clients they call for.

Consider this example:

I took an inbound call a few months ago. The caller stated she felt bad for being completely rude to one of my coworkers who had called her earlier that day. However, since the girl was so polite to her and very genuine about helping her in any way possible, she scheduled an appointment with me and scheduled four of her friends as well.

That is, by far, the best example of success through sincerity.

Conclusions

Of course, by nature, our occupation will put us in the handsets and cell phones of unwilling and angry donors. Knowing this, being an expert in diffusing these volatile situations, and turning them into results is a must in the CME toolkit (and for anyone else in the customer service industry, for that matter).

What other tips do you have on dealing with customer call escalations in positive ways?

Image Credit: http://griffinwear.com/

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Happy Fourth of July from Incept!

If you count all the way from 1776 to 2014, then you know America is celebrating its 238th birthday.

From the Incept family to yours, stay safe, enjoy the company of your family and friends, and have an excellent Fourth of July! Happy birthday, America!

Image Credit: http://www.gannett-cdn.com/

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