Tuesday, March 23, 2010
1. Why your system isn’t working
2. What is being done about it? And more importantly
3. When it will be back working!
There’s nothing pleasant about this situation for our clients. But reacting in a professional manner is paramount to maintaining solid and healthy relationships with their customers.
Our most memorable experience of receiving an "avalanche" of calls was the July 2007 storm when electricity suppliers experienced major power outages. The storm was so bad some customers didn’t get power for days on end. Getting connected was a priority. But connecting with customers in the immediate hours after the storm hit was the first task at hand.
Usually we receive around 2,000 calls across our electricity retailer and power supplier clients. The day of the storm we received more than 10,000 – and that was just the customer we spoke with! Other customers who rang to let us know they had no power in their area were given information automatically through a prompting system which let them know that electricity in their system was down and what was being done about it.
While we can’t speak to everyone on the day (if we did we would have had to take hundreds of thousands of calls!) our clients knew we could take care of everyone’s needs by prioritizing calls needing immediate attention and giving necessary information to all other callers.
Customers in danger because of the threat of live wires, fire or property damage were asked up front if their situation was an emergency, meaning we could get to them first. Prioritizing calls is essential in times of crisis.
For the next few days agents were fixed to their seats and there was a real buzzing atmosphere in the office. It took over the whole business, not that our other clients knew. It was business as usual for our other clients who still had their dedicated staff looking after their needs.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Placing the right people to work in a call centre is central to our clients’ success. Call centre teams need to have a positive attitude, great manners, an element of resilience and perseverance, be reliable and have drive and motivation. I say teams because they need to work as a team. Support amongst crew members is essential.
That’s not to say everyone needs the same skill sets. Call centres have two types of operators and each uses a different part of the brain.
Inbound operators receive all their calls and answer a lot of customers questions. They are real problem solvers. They are polite, manage customers and sometimes mediate with them if a client has a large-scale problem on their hands. They also have excellent research computer skills to search for the right answers – especially when they are using two to three different databases on different screens.
Outbound operators use different skill sets. They thrive on competition and love to make a sale. They are resilient enough to know that because the last caller said no, there is a higher chance the next one will say yes. They don’t mind having their results placed up on a board for everyone to see at the end of the day because they get a buzz each time their name goes up with a "Bing!" after making a sale.
While the majority of agents are young and in their early 20’s, operators can quite often be in their 40’s and 50’s and are very suitable to call centre work. Many employers also aim their centres towards this group because perseverance and resilience are absolutely key for a successful agent making outbound call. Tact, diplomacy, problem solving and multi-tasking are also essential to agents taking calls from customers and for those a bit older with more life experience, these skill sets come a bit easier.
Most centre operators thrive on the team environment. While it takes individual effort to make a sale or mediate with a customer, it’s the support network that creates motivation. When we first started out in business we knew this and wanted to create a work environment, which was positive and supportive and fostered that team camaraderie.
We think we’ve done a pretty good job. We placed our offices in downtown Auckland in the heart of the CBD, not in some industrial precinct without a cafe in sight where they couldn’t see their friends at lunchtime or easily pop into the shops. Our offices are spacious, creatively furnished and modern and equipped with state of the art technology. This creates a fun culture, quite unlike any other call centre in New Zealand.