Archive for May, 2018

Here’s how you can prevent a call center cyberattack

Posted on: May 30th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

As we all know, information is power. But in today’s fast-paced digital world, having access to an ever-increasing amount of information has also led to an ever-increasing number of challenges. One of these challenges is the fact that organizations storing sensitive data have become a major target for cybercriminals. And unfortunately, call centers, who typically handle a lot of valuable customer information, are no exception.

Call centers often collect and store a huge amount of customer information, making them particularly attractive to cybercriminals. In fact, according to Pindrop’s 2016 Call Center Fraud Report, the number of call center fraud attacks has grown by 45% since 2013.

With the evolution of cybercrime, and cybercriminals becoming more advanced than ever, businesses – including call centers – really have to take all necessary measures to protect their data. Otherwise, the consequences could be disastrous.

In this article, we’ll discuss some measures that will help you prevent a call center cyberattack. Check out our pro tips before it’s too late!

Increase physical security

If you want your call center to be successfully equipped to prevent a call center cyberattack, then you have to put yourself in the cybercriminals’ shoes and pinpoint all the weak points your business might have. And when it comes to data security, always start by strengthening your physical security. It may sound obvious, but when the survival of your business is at stake, it’s better to play it safe.

Besides using an entry-exit system, make sure that only authorized personnel can enter restricted areas, such as your server rooms. Installing security cameras is also a good idea, but you’ll certainly need to hire qualified staff to monitor them.

Boost internal security

Once you secured the physical assets of your office, it’s time to take your internal security into consideration. It’s true that data hackers are a big threat to any call center, but if your internal security isn’t well-established enough, you may be leading your business straight into disaster.

As call center employees handle a lot of sensitive data, such as credit card information, passwords, and bank details, they can potentially pose the biggest threat to your business concerning a possible call center cyberattack. Therefore, always make sure that your employees are well-educated about different forms of cyber attacks, and also ensure that they receive all necessary training regarding data security. Don’t forget that GDPR also came into effect on 25th May, so educating your staff about data privacy and security became more important than ever.

Training your staff on data security is a great start but, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean your work is done here.  We also recommend you appoint an IT Security Officer to oversee the data security process.

As for corporate documentation, make sure that your employees only have access to information that they need in order to carry out their tasks.

Improve your encryption

Cybercriminals continue to evolve the methods they use to breach your call center’s security system, so if you want to keep your data safe, then encryption is an absolute must for your call center.

Encryption makes text unreadable by anyone other than those who have the keys to decode it, thus slowing down or even preventing cybercriminals from stealing customer information from your call center. In the era of cybercrime, encryption is a must-have element in any call center’s security strategy.

An advanced encryption system can encrypt and decrypt data without security or system administrators having access to the information. In addition, encryption can be used with any type of data, ensuring that potential criminals cannot steal your customers’ confidential information from you.

Using encryption is one of the most powerful ways to keep your data safe and secure. Even if hackers eventually succeed and steal data from your call center, they still won’t be able to use it.

Ensure you have a reliable backup solution

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of a cloud-based software solution. Reliable cloud-based technology always offers backup solutions, ensuring that all your information is protected and backed-up in the event of a call center cyberattack. As we wrote about in a previous article, unexpected events can occur anytime, so you better have a reliable backup solution for such events.

It’s no surprise that more and more companies are beginning to look to the cloud for their everyday business functions. Try and look for a proven and reliable cloud-based service provider that is equipped with essential security features, including two-stage authentication, password-required entry, and security certificates. Choosing a solution provider with the characteristics above will quickly bring your investment a high return.

If you still haven’t found the perfect call center software solution for your business, then check out our pro tips on what to consider when choosing a call center software.

Test vulnerability to prevent a call center cyberattack

The best way to prevent a call center cyberattack is to think and act like a cybercriminal. So, once your physical assets and systems are all secured, it’s a good idea to conduct a penetration test, also known as a vulnerability test. This is a test in which you simulate an attack on your systems, allowing you to identify the weak points in your network security and initiate improvements based on them.

Don’t forget, practice makes perfect. So, make sure to conduct penetration tests systematically, so you can keep your system updated and prepared for any forms of call center cyberattack. Making this a regular practice will make the difference. Remember, cybercriminals are highly advanced these days, so don’t make it easy for them to beat your systems.

What to consider when choosing a call center software

Posted on: May 29th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

In today’s ultra-competitive business environment, the recipe for success lies in the quality of your customer service: as customers grow more and more demanding, delivering the ultimate customer experience is the game changer for businesses everywhere.

As we all know, it’s in a call center where the majority of customer interactions take place. And as these days call centers are powered by state-of-the-art technology solutions, choosing a call center software is an essential and inevitable step for most businesses.

As technology advances at lightning speed, so do the call center software options available in the market. All you have to do is to find the one that is the most suitable for your business.

So, if you are looking for the perfect call center software for your business, let us help you make the right decision. We compiled a list of the most important factors you should consider when choosing a call center software.

In a nutshell, here are the factors you should consider when choosing a call center software solution for your business. In this article, we’ll discuss each of them in detail, giving you pro tips before you invest your money. Check them out now (and thank us later!).

1. Personal fit

2. Multichannel Communication

3. Security

4. Go Cloud!

5. Improved customer service

6. Training and support

7. Price

1. Personal fit

First things first: make sure your call center software is a personal fit for your business (yes, it is so important that we’ve put it in bold!). So, as a first step, you need to define your business’ needs before choosing a call center software.

Start by answering the following questions: what is your business’s core activity? How do you communicate with your customers? Does your call center handle inbound, outbound calls or both? Which communication channels do you rely on?

Many of the call center software options available on the market share some essential features, so you really need to consider which of those features are actually essential for your business. Therefore, always bear in mind that choosing the right call center software depends on the nature of your business.

For example, interactive voice response (IVR) will be one of the most important features for call centers typically handling inbound calls such as customer services and technical support.   

On the other hand, for an outbound call center, increased productivity and efficiency are the most important metrics. A predictive dialer speeds up outbound dialing rates a lot, so outbound call centers should definitely make it a priority to have this feature when choosing their call center software.

Furthermore, these days many call centers work with both inbound and outbound calls, and utilize call blending techniques to help with this. Call blending is a powerful call center software feature, since it allows a single agent to handle both inbound and outbound calls. If you want to read more about the benefits of call blending, just check out our article about it here.

2. Multichannel Communication

In our fast-moving world, customers often spend more time connecting via SMS, chat or email, than talking directly on their phones. As a result, it is no surprise that today’s modern call centers rely not only on telephony services, but also on a variety of communication channels, such as web chat, email and SMS. As such, the ability to deal with multiple communication channels has become ever more important for call centers.

Therefore, always consider which channels your call center uses for communication, and how important they are when trying to provide seamless operations at your business. By doing this, you’ll be able to decide between the call center software providers offering different multichannel communication features.

While all of the communication channels mentioned above are essential for the proper functioning of any call center, certain channels, depending on the nature of your business, will be more critical for its basic operation. If you need some help working out which are the most important channels for your business, just check out the pros and cons of different communication channels normally used by call centers here.

3. Security

As Cybercrime becomes an increasing danger, modern organizations are facing more security threats than ever before. Although the types of cyberattacks vary, one thing is for sure: organizations storing a huge amount of information – such as call centers – are becoming a major target for cyber criminals.

As if that wasn’t enough, don’t forget that GDPR, the new legislation introduced by the European Union, also came into effect on 25th May (if you’re still unsure whether your call center has prepared for the changes required by GDPR, check out our GDPR checklist for call centers).

So, always make sure the call center software you choose uses the latest security measures to keep your data safe and secure. It’s a prerequisite for any call center that values their customers’ privacy, and I’m sure you would want your customers to trust your business enough to give you their personal data.

Speaking of GDPR, it’s definitely a good idea to look for a call center software provider that is already compliant with the new legislation. In addition to GDPR requirements, there are also several additional data security certificates that will show that their holders take data privacy seriously. If, for example, the provider you are considering holds any ISO certifications, then your data will more than likely be safe with them. As we briefly mentioned in a previous article, VCC Live®’s software complies with some of the strictest ISO certificates around, and is one of only 791 European companies in total who have received these certificates.

4. Go Cloud!

Call center software solutions come in a number of forms, and there are many on-premise, hosted and cloud-based solutions available in the market. But, as for the last few years cloud computing has become the biggest thing in the tech world, we can definitely recommend you consider a cloud-based solution when choosing a call center software.

In fact, the latest platforms launched on the market are all cloud-based, and for good reason: with this new technology, physical hardware and telephones are no longer necessary, as cloud-based call center software can connect through the internet, meaning your call center agents can be located pretty much anywhere in the world.

In addition to this, cloud-based call center software solutions are affordable, easy to use and scalable.

On the other hand, on-premises solutions are not only extremely costly but have also proved to be not 100% safe. As we already talked about in a previous article, unexpected events and operational disruptions can occur anytime. For example, in the event of a fire, an on-premise solution may go down for hours, thus paralyzing your business operations, cloud-based software options, on the other hand, can offer a safe backup solution ensuring that your business stays safe from any system-threatening issues.

5. Improved customer service

When it comes to your business’ success, one thing is for sure: with great customer service, you can truly fuel growth.

State-of-the-art call center software solutions offer several features that help you improve your customer experience, so always make sure to look for the following features: a user-friendly interface, powerful analytics, call recordings, and surveys.

Software tools have the potential to let agents provide exceptional customer experience, so don’t make it difficult for them by purchasing a software that is not user-friendly. Always bear in mind that a software with a user-friendly interface empowers them to carry out their tasks more efficiently without easily getting frustrated.

Furthermore, as you run a call center, it’s pretty likely you collect a lot of data. But what’s the point of collecting and storing information, if you don’t use it to boost your business’ performance? Always look for a software solution that comes with powerful reporting and analytics features, allowing you to monitor your performance and analyze the data you need in order to constantly improve your services.

In addition, customer calls provide some of the most valuable feedback and consumer information for your call center. So, don’t miss out on the opportunity to record your calls and use the information and introduce improvements based on it. Plus, it’s a great way to train your agents.

6. Training and support

So, you finally found the ultimate personal fit for your business: it’s 100% secure, cloud-based, and allows you to communicate with your customers on multiple platforms while having powerful features that are suitable for your business. Although your work is almost done, there’s still one further factor you should consider when choosing a call center software: easy-to-understand training materials and training sessions.

In our opinion, it’s better to choose a company that provides on-premise or video training sessions for your business, as this is the fastest way to acquire the knowledge your team needs to become up-and-running.  

As Murphy’s Law says, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, especially in the event of an operational disruption or error, where you’ll have to act quickly. So, be prepared for such events, and always choose a provider that provides effective technical support so that you can quickly get back to normal operations.

In fact, some call center software providers will not only provide you with training sessions and technical support but also act as a consultancy offering you some of the most valuable industry knowledge around. For example, here at VCC Live®, we provide dedicated account managers for our clients.

If you’re still unsure which of the call center software providers you shortlisted offer the best level of support, then go and check out some online reviews. As we already mentioned in a previous article, online reviews are powerful when life is so dominated by the internet.

+1: Price

It is no coincidence that price is an extra factor on our list. It’s natural that you’ll want to choose a call center software provider with the highest performance at the most reasonable price. Of course, it’s true that cost is essential for any call center, but don’t let it be the ultimate deciding factor. Thinking in the long-term, it’s better to invest more in a call center software that is the most suitable for your business, empowering you to provide better service for your customers.

Wrap up

Choosing the right call center software solution for your business can be a real headache. But we are pretty confident that if you follow our guide, then you can be sure you’ll end up with a reliable software solution that will allow you to grow your business and provide top-notch customer experience.

Call center careers: what are the possibilities?

Posted on: May 25th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

As businesses try to keep up with growing customer demands, the call center industry is becoming ever more important: today’s customers require effective and exceptional customer experience while being valued by the business they choose. As the industry grows, so do the opportunities to start a career at a call center.

Although most people still think it’s not possible to move up in a call center, the truth is that call center employees have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of career opportunities.

So, are you thinking about starting a career in the call center industry? In this article, we’ll discuss the different career opportunities a call center offers. Don’t delay, check them out!

Call center agent

As it’s said, start at the bottom if you want to reach the top. It’s true that call center agents start at the bottom of the call center career ladder, but if you want to develop a career in the industry, it’s an excellent stepping stone to higher positions. In fact, as we already discussed in a previous article, 80% of call center supervisors start as call center agents.

Working as a call center agent means being the first point of contact for customers getting in touch with the company. In principle, you’ll either handle incoming calls and provide customer service, or make outbound calls and sell the company’s products or services.

Furthermore, as these days many call centers utilize the technique of call blending, meaning that agents handle both incoming and outgoing calls, highly-skilled agents are often required to carry out both activities. For further information on call blending, check out our previous article about it here.

As most call centers support their customers using a variety of communication channels, agents are often required to communicate with customers via phone, email, SMS and web chat.

Of course, it’s not very likely that you’ll be required to deal with all the duties above during your first day at a call center. Responsibilities vary greatly, based on the nature of the company, and the agents’ experience and personality.

The biggest challenge for agents working in the call center environment is to stand out from the crowd. True, it’s difficult to get noticed, but it’s definitely not impossible. So, in brief, always keep track of your performance metrics! Hitting your KPIs is probably your best chance to get noticed by the people on top.

If you’re too an ambitious agent and want to build your call center career, then check out our 6 handy lifehacks on how to excel in your agent job.

Call center supervisor

If you’ve already tackled step one in your call center career, then it’s time for you to take your skills to the next level and continue your career as a call center supervisor.

The main responsibility of a call center supervisor is to coordinate a team of call center agents. In addition to this, the position requires strong technical and people management skills.

Amongst other things, you’ll have to cope with escalations on a daily basis, set targets for your agent team, measure their performance, offer them guidance and feedback, and report to the call center manager. So, it’s no surprise that being a multi-tasker and tech-savvy is a prerequisite for call center supervisors.

Furthermore, as a supervisor, it’s more than likely that you’ll be involved in the recruiting and hiring process of new agents. So, in brief, call center supervisors deal with a lot.

Call center manager

The next step in the call center career path is occupied by call center managers. By the time you reach this level, you’ll really have to see the whole picture as managers are responsible for the overall performance and budget of the call center.

In brief, call center managers cope with processes, technology, customers, and employees. As for daily responsibilities, the list is definitely long, but it’s worth mentioning the following tasks: setting objectives, reviewing KPIs, evaluating call center teams, preparing performance improvement plans and creating a business strategy for the call center. Sounds tough, huh?

In addition to this, call center managers are responsible for all agents working in the call center, and also have several supervisors reporting to them. As the call center’s backbone, they keep in contact with other departments and make sure that the call center machine keeps running.

Head of call center

So, finally, here we are: at the top of the call center career ladder. But what does a head of call center actually do?

The head of call center oversees the call center as a whole. The duties and responsibilities of this position involve a wide range of activities, including handling budgetary management, measuring call center efficiency (click here for pro tips on that), improving customer experience, developing plans for the future operation of the call center, and overseeing the recruitment process.

Being a call center manager requires a high level of knowledge of the industry, along with a deep understanding of technology and data. Although the head of call center is a position that comes with huge responsibilities, in return, you’ll be able to actively participate in decision-making processes, improve customer experience and shape the future of the call center’s operations.

Sum up

As you can see, there is plenty of potential for a career in the call center industry. Of course, building your call center career won’t be easy, but with continued excellent performance, your efforts will definitely pay off. If you really make the effort and excel in your duties, chances are that the call center industry will fulfill all of your expectations.

VCC Live® receives Great User Experience and Rising Star Awards

Posted on: May 24th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

Exciting things are happening at VCC Live®: we’re more than delighted to announce that we have been awarded the Great User Experience 2018 Award and the Rising Star 2018 Award delivered by FinancesOnline.

The expert team of FinancesOnline examines and analyzes hundreds of B2B products and customer reviews to find the possible best solutions that allow businesses to grow. FinancesOnline contains more than 5,000 detailed business software reviews in 140 categories, and we’re proud of the fact that this reputable software platform featured our product in a detailed VCC Live® overview on their site highlighting all the great features our software offers.

VCC Live® is a top performer in FinancesOnline’s top 10 best call center software due to its feature-rich, up-to-date technology solution that empowers businesses to perform a wide range of call center related actions on a single platform, without any initial investment. The software review platform highlighted VCC Live Pay, our one-of-a-kind payment feature, allowing customers to handle payments over the phone while keeping their transactions 100% safe and secure.

The experts from FinancesOnline agreed that VCC Live®’s comprehensive software offers everything a call center needs while supporting work from more than 150 countries all around the world. Amongst other things, they’ve highlighted the following benefits:

  •      All-in-One cloud-based platform
  •      Powerful features, such as a predictive dialer and VCC Live Pay
  •      Variety of communication channels including phone, email, SMS, chat
  •      Excellent integration capabilities
  •      Multi-country operations

As discussed in the review, VCC Live® is more than just a software company: after the setup and training period, our support team and dedicated account managers continue to offer ongoing support as needed. Furthermore, our agile development methods ensure that our clients enjoy the benefits of a customized and state-of-the-art call center software solution.

All of these great features have allowed us to receive these two awards from FinancesOnline. Winning these two awards is proof of the success of our aim to keep delivering the latest technology solutions to the call center industry.

About the awards

Software solutions that provide an intuitive interface and well-designed tools are distinguished with the Great User Experience award by FinancesOnline. We are proud to have received this distinction under the best call center software category. The B2B review website also discerned us as a Rising Star for 2018, indicating that various call center companies all over the world believe VCC Live® is reliable in handling their daily operations.

Implementing a Business Continuity Plan in call centers

Posted on: May 22nd, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

“I recently traveled to Africa to negotiate with one of our African partners. Power outage is quite common in Africa, so I suggested that the company should utilize a reliable, cloud-based backup solution that could deal with such issues. Although the management supported my idea, they still insisted on having a physical backup server at their headquarters, rather than choosing a cloud-based solution physically placed elsewhere.

Amazingly, just at the time, I was about to tell them how dangerous it would be to store their primary and backup servers in the same room, a massive storm started and proved my point. Without any warning, the power went out in the entire building, and as they did not have any backup solution, the company’s business operations were paralyzed for several hours. Needless to say, after that it was easy to convince them about the importance of a reliable and cloud-based backup solution.”

Gábor Kocsis, Customer Journey and Business Development Consultant Partner, EMEA at VCC Live®

Imagine the same thing happening to your call center: there’s no doubt that your business would be seriously impacted. As the main task of any call center is to communicate with its customers, if communication is interrupted for any reason then the inevitable result is that the call center will start losing revenue and generating costs. However, with a properly implemented Business Continuity Plan (BCP), unfortunate events such as the scenario above can be easily avoided.

Before we go deeper into the topic, let’s quickly clarify what a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is. A Business Continuity Plan ensures that business processes can continue during a time of emergency or disaster, such as power outage, cyber attack, data breach or natural disasters.

According to a study conducted by the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council, 73% of businesses continue to not have a Business Continuity Plan in place, or if they do, they don’t take the time to make sure that the plan actually works. It’s true that designing, implementing and executing a reliable Business Continuity Plan takes significant time. But when the survival of your business is at stake, isn’t it worth the effort?

So, what are you waiting for? Check out our article, and make sure your call center is prepared to recover quickly from any events of emergency or disaster.

Analyze your situation

When it comes to creating your Business Continuity Plan, always start by identifying the risks your call center may experience in the event of a disaster. Then, imagine how the most critical component of your call center – such as your infrastructure, servers, computers, computer telephony integration, IVR and other applications – would be affected by such an event. By doing this, you will be able to understand the possible threats and the potential costs that your business would need to face if these critical components stopped working.

As a call center supports its customers using a variety of communication channels, it’s essential that the uninterrupted performance of these channels is ensured as part of the call center’s Business Continuity Plan. Therefore, the next step in creating your Business Continuity Plan is to identify your critical communication channels, for example, web chat, email, SMS and incoming calls.

While all of these communication channels are extremely essential for the proper functioning of any call center, certain channels are more critical for its basic operation. If you need some help, just check out the pros and cons of different communication channels normally used by call centers here.

For most call centers, the ultimate critical communication channel is still inbound and outbound calls, as they represent the largest part of operators’ workload. For example, if you run telesales campaigns, your most critical communication channel is obviously outbound calls. As simple as it sounds, if your agents are not able to initiate calls, then your call center will soon start losing revenue.

On the other hand, when customers are unable to contact a customer center via email or chat and are redirected to a telephone customer care line, incoming telephone lines become even more important for call centers handling customer service activities. And, as we already talked about in a previous article, failure to handle these activities effectively, and the resultant complaints from customers and negative reviews, will definitely impact on your call center’s reputation.

After you identified the most critical components and communication channels at your call center, try and make it a priority to come up with efficient backup solutions to restore these components to normal functioning as soon as possible following a major disruption.

Consider having a cloud-based backup solution

Providing continuous service to your customers is vital to the success of your call center, and so service interruptions and outages of any kind will simply not be acceptable to them. For call centers, which typically rely on technology, having a reliable backup solution as part of their BCP is a prerequisite.

Not so long ago, if call centers wanted to secure their data, they had no choice but to purchase and establish an on-premise backup server. Besides being extremely costly, physical backup servers have proved to be not 100% safe, especially if physically stored together with primary servers.

Still, many companies store their servers and backup servers in the same room, which, of course, can result in major problems for the organization in the event of any disaster, such as a fire in the building.  

Luckily, as today’s cloud computing boom continues, more and more businesses are moving their data from physical backup servers to cloud-based platforms, and for good reason: with an expert backup call center solution in place, your business can stay safe from any system-threatening issues, and can meet your business continuity requirements and expectations.

Cloud computing has evolved a lot in recent years, and now cloud-based backup call center solutions even allow users to run their application from virtual servers. By transferring your workload to a backup call center solution, you can minimize your call center’s operations downtime and the number of lost calls. This is a proven and efficient way to overcome operational disruption.

Even better, if you use a stand-alone solution, independent from your primary service provider, it provides further security to your business continuity.

In brief, a reliable cloud-based solution can easily be implemented and is much more cost-effective than having a physical backup service. So, if you haven’t already done so, we recommend you look into moving your business to the cloud today, as this is one of your best chances to keep up with technology advances and ensure your Business Continuity Plan is sufficiently secure and future-proof.  

Test and monitor your Business Continuity Plan

So, you finally finished creating and implementing your Business Continuity Plan, but that’s only the beginning. Many companies focus solely on measuring their efficiency (if you need help in measuring your call center’s efficiency, then check out our article on it), and still think it’s enough to know that their recovery systems and processes are up and running. Well, your recovery systems may be up and running – but what if they already become outdated, or simply do not match the performance of your primary servers?

So, make sure you start testing and monitoring your Business Continuity Plan before it becomes too late. Ongoing testing and monitoring will provide your call center with the tools to successfully assess a possible disaster and its impact on your services.

However, without proper testing and monitoring processes, your business won’t be able to know if it’s prepared for an unexpected disaster and have the right tools to overcome the difficulties.

Unfortunately, companies often invest a lot of money and time in testing and monitoring their primary systems – while ignoring their backup environment. So, don’t make the same (serious) mistake, and make sure you monitor your backup solution just as strictly as your primary systems and servers. After all, your backup solution will take over the role of your primary servers and systems during any emergency or disaster.

Take away

As you can see, having a well-structured Business Continuity Plan, with well-structured processes and solutions, appropriate technology backups, and continuous monitoring and testing procedures is a vital prerequisite for any call center that wants to survive a potential disaster. So, don’t forget to spend the time creating a reliable Business Continuity Plan for your call center, so that it can run smoothly and uninterruptedly, even in the event of an unexpected disaster.

Articles and entries on vcc.live/blog do not constitute legal advice. Should you have any legal questions, please contact your lawyer or legal advisor. VCC Live® will not take any responsibility or liability for any damages, disadvantages or losses that may arise from the results of any interpretation of the contents of the blog.

The future of call centers: chatbots and agents working together

Posted on: May 18th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

As today’s digital revolution continues, the evolving technology of chatbots is becoming ever more important, and for good reason: chatbots can deliver exceptional customer experience.

It’s no doubt that chatbots are the next big thing in the tech world. According to a research conducted by Oracle, 80% of businesses are already using or plan to use chatbots in their customer service by 2020.

But are they still capable of delivering excellent customer service without any human intervention? And if so, does this mean that call center agents will soon have to say goodbye to their jobs? Although there’s been a lot of buzz around the rise of AI and how it will replace human labour, the answer here, in our opinion, is without a doubt NO.

Our belief is that the ultimate aim of chatbot use is not to replace human call center agents but to improve overall customer experience. Chatbots have been proven to efficiently and effectively handle repetitive and monotonous tasks, but they are not able to provide a holistic customer experience. And this is where the concept of customer service chatbots and agents working together comes in (indeed, if you look, you will realize that in many call center workplaces the two forces already rely on each other).

Bearing this in mind, rather than writing another article on the rise of the robots, we are instead going to take more of a deep dive into the topic, to show you in practical terms how chatbots and call center agents can work together to create better customer experience.

 

Sharing the workload

We have all dealt with the struggle of seemingly never-ending and low-value repetitive tasks, such as spending the whole day answering the most commonly-asked questions a company receives. It’s no surprise that everyone (human, that is) would be happy to stop spending their time on these soul-sucking activities before they totally burn out. This is one area where customer service chatbots can definitely help.

Many companies already started to implement chatbots in their customer service, letting them carry out the kinds of repetitive tasks mentioned above instead of call center agents. In recent years, chat solutions have gained a massive popularity in the call center industry, and as already mentioned in a previous article, if used properly, it can even boost your sales.

As a consequence, agent workload is reduced, allowing them the time to comfortably handle more complex tasks. The result? Customers get answers to simple questions within seconds, while agents deal with higher value activities. It’s a win-win situation!

 

The age of automation

In today’s CX-driven world, customers can choose from a number of platforms when they want to communicate with a particular brand. As a result, businesses receive far more inbound conversations on various channels than they used to.

While your call center agent team on its own would struggle to respond to all of your business’ incoming conversations, customer service chatbots can handle thousands of conversations simultaneously across all channels. As a result, after a while you’ll only need to employ a smaller but more skilled call center team, which will inevitably lead to a higher level of customer service across the board, while giving the opportunity to your agents to improve their skills (if you are too an ambitious call center agent, make sure to check out our article on how you can get promoted to call center supervisor). Once again, it’s a win-win for everyone!

 

Customer service chatbots act as a backup

As already mentioned, in many call center environments chatbots rely on call center agents, and call center agents rely on chatbots. There are a lot of situations in a call center where both chatbots and agents can serve as a backup for each other.

For example, customer service chatbots can be programmed to answer routine questions and therefore provide automated conversations with your customers. But if any problem occurs, a live agent can always intervene in the situation and take over the communication.

On the other hand, while call center agents are on the phone, customer service chatbots can suggest answers and supply all required information. By doing this, communication with clients becomes smoother, and without interruptions.

 

Chatbots are the new personal assistants

Having a personal assistant isn’t increasingly just the privilege of management. In fact, in many call centers, customer service chatbots are already programmed to serve as personal assistants to call center agents. True, the vast majority of consumers still prefer to talk to agents via phone when it comes to complex issues. And as call center agents know it very well, it’s quite challenging to handle incoming calls, especially if they’re complex ones.

However, chatbots have the ability to serve as personal assistants to call center agents, quickly gathering all necessary customer information, such as the customer’s history with the company, to help inform agent interactions and allow them to efficiently resolve the issue. As a result, customers can enjoy personalized conversations, and agents can take advantage of new opportunities when taking more complex calls.

 

So, we can see that customer service chatbots are already starting to work alongside call center agents, and it’s more than likely that this trend will continue to grow over the next few years. Together, they form the perfect partnership: input from call center agents help chatbots provide better customer service, while chatbots take the responsibility for routine work off of agents’ shoulders, so they can focus on high value issues. Did I mention already that it’s a win-win situation?!

Call center life: 6 handy life hacks to be the call center star

Posted on: May 17th, 2018 by dorarapcsak 2 Comments

From the very beginning, call centers have had a bad reputation for being stressful, soul-killing places to work at. While the stereotypes about call centers are often exaggerated, one thing is for sure: being a call center agent is challenging, especially if you want to rock your job. You not only have to hit (often seemingly impossible) targets, but also be tech savvy, flexible and patient. Let’s face it: call center life is not easy.

But, don’t worry! As it’s the small things that make a difference, we compiled 6 handy life hacks that will definitely help you outshine your peers while making your call center life easier. Check them out today, and you too will become the star of your call center agent team!

1. Break the negative stereotype

People’s negativity towards call center jobs is rooted in long-established stereotypes connected with call centers themselves. But, if you work in the industry, you know there is much more to call centers than people think. So why not share your opinions with the world?

Rather than feeling uncomfortable by your call center agent job just because of the stereotypes associated with it, try and break the stereotype by educating other people about your job. For example, tell them about the skills your job requires, and how many issues you resolve during an average day. By having a positive attitude and knowing the value of your work, you will feel motivated to improve your performance and provide a great example to your peers.

2. Absorb knowledge

In a perfect world, a good call center agent always has the right answer to every question. But as it is not a perfect world, there will always be some customers who ask the unexpected or impossible, so try and make it your priority to absorb as much information and knowledge you can, whenever you can. Whether from your supervisor or your colleagues, always be ready to learn new things.

Learning your call center scripts by heart is a great first step, but that’s only the beginning. Stay updated on as many projects as possible, even if you’re only working on some of them. Be the one who delivers the knowledge and help their peers in difficult situations. Take any insights you have on your working environment to management, and they will quickly begin to see you a valuable asset to the organization.

As we already talked about in a previous blog post, it’s definitely not easy to ladder up in a call center, but with the attitude above you will easily be able to stand out from the crowd and stay ahead of the competition.

3. Always be polite and helpful – even with rude customers

Customer service is all about helping people, so it’s no surprise that politeness is one of the most important characteristics of a successful call center agent. Agents deal with many calls during an average day, and while some of the customers are a pleasure to talk with, there will always be upset customers on the other side of the line being rude, often without any particular reason.

In such situations, don’t forget, the customer is not mad at you, they’re mad at the company you represent. Also, if the customer knows that you’re trying your best to help, the chances are likely that it will calm them down.

So, try and resist the urge to respond to them in a similarly angry way. Instead, remain calm at all times (make it your challenge for the day!), and offer constructive and positive advice, rather than criticism. For more details on this, check out our pro tips on how to handle incoming calls in a professional way.

Remaining angry will, by contrast, not make your manager happy, as they won’t want to hear that you act as badly as some of your customers. Besides, you’ll be in a bad mood for the rest of the day, which will negatively affect your performance for the rest of the day. Trust me, it’s not worth it.

4. Don’t be too hard on yourself

It’s part of every call center agent job to deal with (often angry) complaining customers. And unfortunately, customers often say nasty things to poor call center agents. So, whether you like it or not, if you work as a call center agent, you have to be prepared for such situations and learn how to handle them with ease.

In addition, even the most experienced agents can get into a situation where they simply cannot find the solution to a problem. This will probably happen to you as well, and even worse, you may make a misguided decision that eventually escalates into a bigger problem. Well, everyone learns best through their mistakes, so it’s important to not be too hard on yourself.

In both cases, don’t forget you’re only human, so don’t be afraid to turn to your colleagues or supervisor for help, to make sure that next time you’ll know how to approach such problematic issues.

5. Energize your work environment

Like it or not, you spend third of your life at work, so why not take the time to spruce up your work desk? There are tons of great sites out there full of office desk decoration ideas – just visit Pinterest, for example, for some office inspiration.

In particular, employees tend to place personal stuff, such as a family photo or mascot, on their desks. And don’t forget, if your desk is too empty, management might think you’re not engaged enough with the company. So, why not show them that you care about the place you work at?

As well as your desk, your office environment also doesn’t have to look plain and boring. After you spruced up your desk, you can even share some office decoration ideas with your peers. It’s a great team building activity and will liven up your call center life.

If you’re working in an open office and simply can’t focus on your work, check out this infographic, and find out how you can survive and thrive there.

6. Make work fun

Who said call center life can’t be enjoyable? Well, there are plenty of ways to make every day just that little bit more interesting. For example, you’re on the phone with people all day long, so chances are you’ll deal with a lot of weird calls. Collect some of the funniest calls you’ve had, and (making sure you are not crossing the line of professionality) share them with your peers. Besides having a good laugh together, it’s one way to turn a negative call into a positive experience, and it’s also a great way to break the ice with your call center team.

So, there you have it. 6 simple tips which we guarantee will make your call center life more satisfying, inspiring and just plain fun! Try them out today, and you’ll soon see the difference. Good luck!

Multichannel communication: email vs. chat vs. phone

Posted on: May 11th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

In today’s ever-changing world people can choose from many means of communication, depending on what is most convenient for them at the time. In the world of call centers, while telephone conversations, emails, and instant chat messages all meet the purpose of connecting a customer with a call center operator in order to receive professional support, different situations may require different types of communication.

Some people prefer the immediacy of a phone call conversation, others prefer the comfort of emails. There is no single channel that can meet the expectations of all your customers, but what can you do to keep in touch with your clients efficiently, but still stay focused and not open too many channels that only scatter your operational processes? Should you expand your communication channels and add a chat service to your phone and email support lines? Or maybe try to deal with more of those incoming email enquiries via phone conversations instead?

As there is no perfect solution to these questions, we offer here an overview of some of the benefits and disadvantages these communication channels possibilities bring, hoping this will in turn help you make the best choice for your call center. Read our article, and discover whether email, chat or phone is the best communication channel for your call center.

 

Email

Is email a communication channel of the past? Definitely not, as we already discussed it here. Without doubt, email is an essential mean of multichannel communication. The appeal of email is well known to both call centers and customers, and has been appreciated by both sides for years.

For customers, writing an email when they have time to properly focus on it, and reading the answer once they decide to do so themselves, gives them control over the tempo of the communication. However, it also increases the risk of miscommunication, and on the call center operators side the potential for misunderstanding the customer’s issue and/or questions. Here are some further advantages and disadvantages of email communication:

+   No immediate response required: for either the customer or the operator handling the incoming email queue. As there is usually an accepted SLA rule at each call center, this allows operators to take their time when answering, and customers to take their time when acknowledging a reply.

+   Keeping a copy of the communication: while call centers can record and keep copies of phone conversations, customers rarely have this opportunity and are breaching the law if they make unauthorised recordings. Emails, however, give both parties a written trace of the communication, which is particularly useful if there are disputes later on.

+   Convenience and time: while getting in touch with an operator and having a conversation over the phone is only possible during a call center’s opening times, email is not restricted by working hours. This can be especially useful if you have to take into account time differences between states and countries.

       Long queues and expectations: while it is true that operators do not necessarily have to answer emails immediately, this can lead to an accumulation of long email queues, which slow down operators work. And the longer a customer waits for an answer, the more thorough and exhaustive they expect the answer to be, in which case receiving a pre-created template or short, unclear message from the operator will not be happily received.

       No potential for clarifying questions: often an operator needs to ask clarifying questions in order to fully understand a customer’s issue, which is much harder when communicating via email. This may mean several messages are exchanged back and forth before the issue becomes clear, leading to an unsatisfied customer and a decrease in the operator’s First Contact Resolution KPI.

       Lack of empathy and emotion: we have all experience of how the written word cannot always clearly convey our emotions. This is why it is easy to misinterpret or overlook the frustration of a customer. If operators are not able to read a customer’s emotions between the lines, they can easily provide a reply that further damages the customer’s already fragile mood.

 

Chat

Chat is fast becoming the ’next big thing’ in multichannel communication, with instant messaging windows popping up on more and more company websites. It’s gaining wider popularity and as such more attention in the call center industry, especially since the younger generation and millennials seem to prefer texting so much more than actual conversations over the phone. Also, as we already talked about it in a previous blog post, when used properly, it can even help you boost your sales. So why is chat so popular?

+   Smaller queues, less waiting: instant messaging is not called instant for nothing, because, as opposed to email, it allows customers to get in touch with call center operators instantaneously and easily. Furthermore, in comparison to emails, chat allows operators to ask clarifying questions which help them understand the problem better and provide the needed support, thus helping to achieve a better First Contact Resolution KPI, and better customer satisfaction.

+   Proactivity and sales support: while calls and emails are usually reactive (meaning that operators respond to communication initiated by customers), chat can be used as a proactive means of communication. Customers browsing through a webpage can be contacted directly and offered both help in finding what they need, and information about other products or services and sales and promotional packages, thus helping to boost sales results.

+   Multitasking: chat allows operators to browse and look for supporting information while chatting with a customer, without the need to mute the line and leave the customer listening to hold music or an awkward silence. Furthermore, while an operator can only handle one phone call at a time, chat allows operators to handle up to an average of three chats at the same time, making it a very cost efficient solution.

       Written communication lacks emotion: just as with emails and written communication in general, one of the drawbacks with chat is the inability to clearly read people’s emotions. Unfortunately, even though chat is a more convenient way to communicate using writing, the danger of misreading a customer’s emotions is still applicable.

       Speed of writing: while it is true that instant messages are faster than emails, typing is still not as fast as a spoken conversation would be. While the customer receives a reply within moments, some people type slower than they speak, meaning that delays in replying are still possible, especially if chat traffic is heavy.

       The traps of scripting: a large number of customers reacts badly to scripted replies and message templates. While well-developed FAQ pages offer help for operators to find the right answer and information quickly, it can also be a trap. If agents start copying and pasting replies to customer questions without fully understanding the customer’s needs and updating the template answer to make it more personal, this can have a negative result on customer satisfaction.

 

Phone

As the foundation of call and call centers, telephones are probably still the most preferred and used way to contact customer care centres. They allow immediate contact and two-way communication, which is invaluable when trying to solve an issue effectively (read our pro tips on how to handle incoming calls in a professional way). However, a long time spent waiting in line for someone to take a customer’s call, complicated IVRs, or being put on hold one too many times can easily lead to customer frustration rather than the feeling of achievement.

+   Feelings and empathy: as mentioned above, it is hard to convey or read emotions in written communication. This is where phone support provides the greatest help for operators in both reading and handling customer’s emotions. Hearing the tone of voice, attitude and urgency in a customer’s voice can help an operator adjust to the customer’s emotional state and communication style.

+   Average Handling Time: people speak faster than they write. While it is true operators can handle more than one chat session at the same time, phone conversations can be handled quickly and easily, with the right scripts and FAQ platforms providing help. This allows agents to achieve very good results in their Average Talking Time KPI per call. Furthermore, phone calls are still the fastest way for customers to ask a question and receive the support they need.

+   One call, one immediate resolution: having a phone conversation provides the best possibility to discuss an issue thoroughly and to immediately provide/receive the needed support. It not only make it possible to ask clarifying questions, it also allows customers to follow step-by-step instructions from operators and give immediate feedback about the effectiveness of a solution, which means this is still the best way to achieve high First Contact Resolution KPI results.

       The Age of Millennials: while the phone is still one of the most preferred communication channels at the moment, this will most probably change in the near future. With young people today having constant access to mobile devices, and millennials seemingly preferring to type and text rather than call, phone calls’ popularity is quickly dropping among the younger generation.

       “Please hold the line”: a phrase that puts off a lot of people when speaking with a call center operator. While agents can look up information quickly in written text and then copy paste it in a chat window without asking for a customer to be patient, during a phone call the operator always needs to ask for the customer to wait until they find the needed information.

       Unreliable phone lines: even with today’s advanced technology, it is not unusual to experience problems in the telephone line or voice quality, not to mention the intrusion of background noise that can be experienced at either the customer’s or operator’s end.

 

These days, multichannel communication offers a number of possibilities, so no matter which communication channel you use, you will always be able to achieve the main task it is meant to serve – to connect a customer with a call center operator. But one size does not fit all when it comes to call center solutions. Picking the right type of communication channel is of the utmost importance for your call center, and requires careful thought.

In some cases, a call center can work perfectly by following the “less is more” principle and using only one or two channels. In other cases, however, the principle of “the more, the merrier” will be more appropriate, meaning more communication channels leading to happier customers. The decision of what’s right for you is still yours, but the good news is: whatever choice you make, the call center industry is ready for it.