The coronavirus may have triggered the world’s largest work-from-home experiment. A few days back, NTT urged 200,000 employees to work from home fearing the virus spread in Japan. For leaders in Macau, Hong Kong, and Singapore, working from home is a sensible option to stave off a crisis while keeping employees safe. Of course, not all jobs/roles are aligned to work-from-home. Reports show that jobs within shipping, factories, and education, are struggling to adapt. However, call centers, especially those run on cloud telephony solutions will not have a problem. Can I temporarily switch my call center to a work-from-home model? Yes. Switching your cloud telephony solution to a work-from-home model on a temporary basis is easy. It’s something a team lead can organize while sitting at his/her own house. Instead of the calls landing in the call center, the call gets routed to the agent’s desktop or mobile. As far as the customer is concerned, he or she will not even know that the agent is working from home. (Note: in case you have a legacy call center, please read my colleague's article on how a legacy call center can switch to work-from-home mode) Online versus Offline Mode. In fact, since you can log in to your cloud call center account from anywhere, agents can simply log in to their system and get back to making and receiving calls as usual. Agents can function in what is known as an offline mode. What is an Offline Mode? Offline mode means that you can route calls to agents’ mobile phones or even landlines, instead of them taking calls via desktop. This is important when your agents may not have access to good headsets or speakers at their residence. How does the team lead reroute calls? The team lead needs to go to the reporting portal and change the logic as to where the call will land. Agents can take calls on their mobile phones, landlines or their desktops. Security & Privacy Issues Some businesses do not want the agent to be able to access customer details from their home because of data privacy issues. This means agents may not have access to their CRM data while logging into the call center. But with this limited functionality, the call center can function efficiently from home. This partial capacity is definitely preferable to the call center being down. Customers are aware that there is a problem, definitely appreciate this partial service to a complete outage. Conclusion The Coronavirus is not the first emergency situation when call centers have to switch to a work-from-home model. We have faced multiple situations like this. For instance, when there was a strike in of the Indian cities, many of our clients enabled their call center agents to take calls from home. Massive rains or snow could also cause call centers to declare a "work-from-home day". Note: We're proud to say that all our clients were easily able to switch to work-from-home in all these emergencies. In [...]
Over the past two years many AI-based tools have entered the call center. This includes AI-based Voice Bots, Digital Assistants and Speech Analytics tools. This year, we can expect these technologies to continue to grow and mature. Three AI-based trends that will grow within sales and support call centers this year are: AI-driven Voice Bots AI-driven self-assistance Live and Historical Analytics to improve performance. AI-driven Voice Bot Compared to a voice-enabled IVR solution, an AI-based voice bot isn’t limited to simple, monosyllabic responses. Using tools such as intent analysis, it understands, for instance, what a person means when they say, “I’m busy!” or “not really!” These bots can be set up in about 10-20 days and are increasingly taking over L1 tasks in the call center. Last year, we launched our voice bot, and its uses ranged from serving simple cancellation requests to reminding customers about payments. These bots have reduced agent workloads by nearly 90%, leading to faster resolutions, lower wait times and happier customers. As customers and call center managers get more familiar with this technology, we expect to see widespread applications for voice bots in the call center. AI-Driven Self Assistance Self-service is a growing trend in customer support. Last year, call centers who implemented self-service reported 3 to 5 times increase in productivity. 40% of customers also prefer self-service for simple transactions and queries. And, since self-service frees your agents to attend to escalations and other complex interactions, it improves the overall customer experience. Unsurprisingly then, this year we are seeing a surge in the demand for AI-driven self-assistance to answer FAQs or manage quick transactions such as giving order status, and booking or canceling orders. This includes AI-driven chatbots and voice bots across websites, phone calls and other digital channels. Live & Historical Analytics to improve performance This year we can expect speech analytics and sentiment analysis to be the new tool for measuring performance. These tools can measure customer happiness from their tone of voice. It can alert supervisors when callers or agents use curse words. It can alert supervisors and managers if callers or agents raise their voices for extended periods during any ongoing call. Speech analytics can be used on historical data too. It can analyze every single call recording within a given timeframe—something that no human Quality Assurance team can realistically achieve. Since it is virtually impossible for any call center manager or supervisor to otherwise access such information, we expect these speech and sentiment analysis dashboard to be invaluable to them. AI within the call center is now less about hype and more about implementation. The expectations have been set over the past few years. I look forward to 2020 being a year of reckoning.
. Making sales calls isn’t easy. Making sales calls after waking up at the crack of dawn, riding an hour-long commute and then sitting cramped up in a cubicle – doesn’t make it easier. There are definite merits to letting your inside sales team work-from-home. But it’s important not to overlook the challenges. Are work-from-home sales teams productive? What ground rules should managers follow to ensure happy and productive remote workers? Can sales representatives be productive while working remotely? “There is no question of remote workers being unproductive,” says Remya Lakshmanan, a senior program advisor at a successful Edtech startup. Over the past four years, Remya has managed profitable inside sales while working remotely, from home, both in the US and in India. She tells us that many employees at her company get the option of working from home, though they may check in to the office as and when they want to. “We’ve converted equally or far more than those who work from the office.” “There is a lot of time saved. Even from the company's point of view. One to one and half hours to commute, settling down, taking tea breaks and lunch breaks are something that you wouldn’t have to do. You’re in a much healthier state of mind when you are working from home, in your comfort zone.” Studies reiterate this. A Stanford research study found that there was a 13% increase in productivity when call center employees were allowed to work from home. What are the challenges of managing a remote sales team? When working from home, staying connected, motivated and consistent are the big challenges. Is your work-from-home staff feeling isolated, ignored or forgotten? What can a manager do to maximize the productivity of their sales development representatives? 6 Insider tips for maximizing your work-from-home sales team’s productivity 1. Manage time efficiently. The most obvious point to start with is time management. A remote worker must learn to micromanage their time. It can take them a few months to learn how to do this. One key is to schedule calls to prospects when they are free to talk. This will depend on your geography and sector. For example, in her sector, in India, Remya found that it was best to talk to leads in their evening, on their commute home. Our contact center metrics support this. We found that answer rates for our outbound calls were highest between 5 to 7 p.m (45.77%). In the US and other regions, however, she recommends using text messages and emails to fix appointments. Cold calling mostly meant that “you’re not even going to get a human on the other side..it will go through to voicemail almost always. More formalized invites to talk are better.” She recommends sending calendar invites and fixing appointments before calling, to save time. (Also read: Call Scheduling) 2. Be consistent Being home 9 to 5 gives you a lot of independence. There is no one to check [...]
Retry rules, if formulated intelligently, can make an agent’s life easier and reduce unwanted calls for your customers. There is a fine line between being pesky and being persistent. And when you are telemarketing or cold calling, that line becomes even finer. Often, contact center agents need to call leads more than once to be able to speak to them. Sometimes their phones will be busy, and at other times, they will simply be unavailable. Often, people just won’t answer. But the business demands that you keep trying. However, you don’t want to put off your prospects by constantly calling at the wrong time. So How best to set up your call retry rules on your dialer? Let’s explore. Why have retry rules? When you are using a retrying system, whether it is on your power dialer or predictive dialer, the idea is to save your agents’ time. When you have a system in place for call retrying, it can only better agent productivity because the system is lining up calls for them, making their work that much faster and easier. Retry rules basically mean that you program your dialer to retry calls within a specified framework. So the dialer does the initial work of sorting the numbers and deciding which ones to call and in what sequence. What are the best practices for setting up your dialer retry rules? If a number is busy at the first try, retry immediately. Set this up on your dialer’s rules engine. So that, every time you get a busy tone or message on a prospect’s number, the system redials it automatically. When a call goes unanswered. Do not retry a prospect at the same time of the day as the previous retry. For example, if a prospect hasn’t answered your call at 1 pm on one day then the chances of them answering at the same time the next day are even lower. So ensure that the number is dialed at another time. When a number is invalid. Don’t waste time on retrying a number that is invalid. Ensure your dialer detects an invalid number and does not retry them. Clear these numbers from your database immediately. Prioritize based on the number of tries. It makes more sense to place new data,(new phone numbers), at the top of the list, followed by those you have already tried calling once and then twice and so on. This way, you can target multiple phone numbers, almost simultaneously. Watch out for certain time slots. It has been seen that 11.00 and 13.00 hours and 15.00 and 17.00 hours are usually the busiest hours for any working people. If your target market is someone who doesn't keep regular office hours, then the rules reverse, and these become the best times to dial. Having retry rules in place gives you the flexibility of dialing prospects at the times they are most likely to answer. It, thus, increases the chance of pick-ups. Studies say your data is exhausted [...]
Business dictionary, defines cold calling as “calling a prospect (who does not know the caller) for a sales appointment”. But, since your sales representative may make some email or social media contact before calling, I prefer this broader definition: Cold calls are calls made to people not expecting them. This includes: Calling cold prospects. Calling respondents to a marketing campaign. Re-engaging existing customers (somewhat out of the blue). Your challenge? Ensuring high productivity for your Sales Development Representatives. You want high conversions, low cost of acquisition and most optimal use of your workforce. And of course, keeping in mind that cold calling is a really tough job: you want to reduce your teams’ frustrations, ease their pain points and keep them working at their best. Can technology help? Here are 10 tools that can specifically improve the cold calling process. Dialers It takes 18 dials to connect with a buyer.* So automate it with a power dialer, and save valuable time for your SDR. Automating the dialing process also reduces cognitive load on your salespeople. This lets your rep cover more ground, and stay focused on selling rather than browsing through databases and dialing. HOW IT WORKS: A manager/supervisor just uploads a contact list from your CRM /Database/ XL sheet into a dialer. The dialer systematically dials out each number. It rules out busy tones, voicemail diverts and answering machines, and connects agents to live callers. Agents don’t have to wait for people to answer or retry engaged numbers. The dialer can be scheduled to retry numbers that didn’t connect. BUSINESS BENEFITS: An automated dialer can give up to 250% increased productivity. I’ve illustrated this using some of our own data: Auto dialer scores over manual dialer in agent utilization Using dialers increased our total talk times from 30% to 68%. That means dialers let your SDR spend more time talking/selling. ACW decreases. Surprisingly, we found our ACW decreasing by 8% when we used dialers. This was due to the dialer’s integration with the contact list/database/CRM. Because this decreases the need for manual data entry, it reduces ACW. Answering Machine Detection & Pre-recorded Voice Messages In a Keller Center Study *of the 6,264 cold calls placed, only 28% were answered. How many hours are your SDR’s wasting in leaving voicemails? If they answer 70 voicemails in a day, they will waste about 25 hours each month *. Save that time by using an AMD or Answering Machine Detection. HOW IT WORKS: Your AMD is generally inbuilt into your Autodialer. When it hears the beep of the answering machine it disconnects. A pre-recorded voice mail message can be even more effective especially if it includes a scheduled call back time. BUSINESS BENEFITS: AMD saves time for your agents. Like the dialer, this results in increased agent utilization and talk time. Your agents spend more time talking to actual prospects. Screenpop/CRM Integration The toughest part of cold calling is being completely in the blind. Any information your sales representatives have about [...]