How To Win Friendly Agents And Influence Customers

How To Win Friendly Agents And Influence Customers

Tehrani, Rich

Speak with any contact center manager, and though many of their practices and opinions may differ, most will agree that the biggest problem in any contact center is agent retention and turnover, followed by customer churn. Companies spend time and money training new agents, only to have them leave once they are fully trained, which costs the company money in two ways: the costs to replace the agent with a new employee, and the lost costs of training the departing agent. Customer churn costs a company money, as we all know the often-quoted adage that it costs far more to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one. This month, I decided to look into two solutions that can help contact centers lower their attrition rates by keeping both agents and customers happy and in touch with the pulse of your company.

First, I recently spoke with Pathlore Software Corporation CEO Steve Thomas. he provided me with a great example of a client using Pathlore’s software.

In Irving, Texas, Brink’s Home Security is bundling technology to not only boost on-the-job performance, but also to stem turnover. In the security industry, turnover often pushes 50 percent for call center employees.

Earlier this year, Brink’s installed a Web portal from Computer Associates, and linked it to an online learning management system (LMS) made by Columbus, Ohio-based Pathlore Software Corporation. Here’s how it works.

The Web portal sorts and tabs the huge amount of data that Brink’s stores, so employees can use their computers to keep up on the company’s policies and procedures as well as the latest news. Linked to the portal is the LMS, which delivers, tracks and reports on corporate training over the Internet,

To learn more, I posed some questions to Steve.

RT: What’s the link between training and turnover?

ST: Simply put, more training spells less turnover, Harris Interactive’s study of 1,000 U.S. employees found that 61 percent of workers who receive training, education or mentoring are very likely to stay in their jobs for the next five years.

RT: How does the learning management system work?

ST: Call center workers – or others at Brink’s – can log onto the Brink’s LMS through the portal from a computer to learn about alarm systems, for example. The LMS serves up a course on the topic, and can test know-how at the end. To close the loop, the LMS records the worker’s score and stores a record for that person’s manager. Employees take the training in an e-learning lab that is outfitted with computers.

RT: In general, what does a system like this cost?

ST: An LMS costs anywhere from $75,000 to $150,000, plus integration services. Brink’s also purchased a Web portal from Computer Associates and educational content from NETg and Vivid Learning Systems.

RT: What’s been the reception from Brink’s workforce and executive team?

ST: We recently hosted a few of Brink’s managers at our global users conference in San Diego. They said the portal and LMS have gained support from the top down and the bottom up. From what we see, employees are using the tools, and this includes people who work the third shift who found it hard to attend training classes scheduled during the day.

RT: How can other call centers take advantage of this technology?

ST: The Web portal and LMS are a method of getting training where it’s needed at a fraction of the cost of classroom training. I suppose any call center that wants to do that might benefit from this technology.

If your business is faced with new regulations, then an LMS is one way to get a lot of people up to speed quickly on the basics of those rules. And if someone wants to refresh his or her memory about a regulation, it’s easy to pull up a class on the topic via the LMS, and brush up on the finer points.

RT: What kind of results can Brink’s show for its efforts to date?

ST: Since implementing the LMS this year, Brink’s says employee retention has increased. Again, a lot of factors have contributed to improving morale and retention, but the LMS has helped them make that improvement. The Web portal and LMS have played a part in helping in other ways, too. Brink’s has increased its customer base by at least six percent over fiscal year 2002. Additionally, Brink’s increased alarm installs by more than 10 percent versus last year’s numbers, which is almost double the industry’s growth rate.

RT: What’s next for Brink’s?

ST: They’re looking to build even more interest in their online learning system by creating new opportunities for their employees to access training. There’s no doubt the portal and LMS will give them more flexibility and choices for doing that.

Relationships + Humor = More Sales

Relationships are the most powerful sales tool any company can possess, whether the relationship is with the Web site or individuals within an organization. In my experience, humor has always been an integral part of relationship building. The best salespeople I have met have always been funny. Many teleservices outsourcers have told me over the years that their best agents are aspiring comedians. So it should come as no surprise chat bringing humor to the masses through the Internet can boost employee and customer relationships and thus increase sales.

Ray Hansel and Marysue Lucci, the founders of RMH Teleservices, a leading teleservices outsourcer that went public in 1996, decided that their next venture would be Marastar Communications, a company that helps get messages across by adding humor to virtually any concept.

The company uses animated characters in mini-cartoons to communicate messages. I have successfully used these characters to get coworkers and even potential customers to laugh and respond quickly to my correspondence. There are many uses for these animated messages, and aside from a variety of sales-related animations called Salezmail (www.salezmail.com), there is also a product called Toon Up Your Call Center that focuses on motivating and training agents to be polite, effective and follow through on issues, among other activities a company would expect from its agents.

The animated characters in these skits deliver useful information in a non-threatening way. An example is an animation that can be sent to customers if you want to gently remind them to get back to you. It consists of two elephants facing each other. One elephant is thinking out loud and trying, but failing, to remember an important detail. The caption at the end reads, “Even an elephant can forget sometimes.” At this point, you add a custom message requesting that your client contact you.

The animations are Flash-based and can be sent as links in an e-mail or as an icon of the animation, which can then be clicked on. The animations can also be printed in a mini-poster size or added to PowerPoint presentations. Toon Up Your Call Center allows managers to see how many times agents access each of the animations. I have viewed close to 80 of the animations that Marastar has produced and they are all excellent in quality, have sound and get the required message across.

The sheer volume of e-mail, coupled with an ever-increasing Spam problem, make it necessary for all of us to look for new ways to communicate with one another in a way that people will remember. I truly believe that animated messages are a new way to disseminate information and drive home important messages. I suggest you give it a try yourself. Visit www.marastar.com to demo the animations.

Sincerely,

By: Rich Tehrani,

Group Editor-in-Chief,

Technology Marketing Corporation

Rich Tehrani

Group Publisher, Group Editor-in-Chief

rtehrani@tmcnet.com

Copyright Technology Marketing Corporation Feb 2004

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