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    Blogs from Around the Industry

    What is Customer Service Technology

    Good customer service is the result of the right attention to strategy, business processes, technology, and people management. This seven-part series focuses on customer service technology and explains the what, why, how, and when of the technology. Let’s start at the beginning: What is customer service technology?

    The contact center technology ecosystem for customer service is a nightmare of complexity. At a high level, to serve your customers, you need to:

    1. Capture the inquiry, which can come in over the phone, electronically via email, chat, or SMS, and over social channels, like Twitter, Facebook, or an interaction escalated from a discussion forum or a Web or speech self-service session.
    2. Route the inquiry to the right customer service agent pool.
    3. Create a case for the inquiry that contains its details and associate it with the customer record.
    4. Find the answer to the inquiry. This can involve digging through different information sources like knowledge bases, billing systems, and ordering databases.
    5. Communicate the answer to the inquiry to the customer.
    6. Append case notes to the case summarizing its resolution and close the case.

    The technologies to do this are the ones for:

    • Multichannel communication. This category comprises technologies that support the business processes for interacting with customers over voice, electronic, and social communication channels. These technologies include automatic call distributor, computer telephony integration, interactive voice response, speech recognition, predictive dialing, email response management, chat, co-browse, virtual assistants, social media adapters, proactive outbound notification, and mobile customer service applications.
    • Knowledge management. This category comprises technologies that are used to identify, create, review, publish, and maintain multimedia content, including video, that allows customer service agents to answer customers’ questions and allows customers to find answers to their questions via Web self-service. These technologies include knowledge management, video, and customer communities.
    • Agent productivity solutions. This category comprises technologies that agents use to create and manage an incident (case) in response to a customer inquiry. It includes applications that are used to monitor agents’ answers to questions to ensure a consistent service experience in accordance with company policy and applications used to optimize agent staffing and scheduling. These technologies include case management, process guidance, unified agent workspaces, quality monitoring, and workforce management.
    • Customer service analytics. This category comprises analytics used to deliver the optimal service interaction that is targeted to the persona of the customer and the issue at hand. Technologies include next best action and interaction (speech and text) analytics.
    • Voice of the customer. This category comprises technologies that customers use to interact with their peers to share advice, best practices, and how-to information. It includes the technologies customers use to voice their opinions regarding a company’s products and services over social channels. Technologies include enterprise feedback management systems and social listening platforms.

    Original article by Kate Leggett @ https://go.forrester.com/blogs/13-06-27-what_is_customer_service_technology/

    Role of Technology in Amplifying Customer Services

    Undoubtedly, technology has always been the prime mover behind the progress of this human civilization. Thankfully, you don't have to re-invent the wheel for branding the unparalleled power of it. Similarly, the role of technology in amplifying customer service is not undeniable. Before we move to the focal point of this article we need to answer a simple question.

    In this digitally smart age, how we define a customer today? A mere consumer?

    Nope. Today's smart analytics systems define a customer through his buying pattern, social activities on popular social media platforms, interests, online searches, food patterns and others.

    And technologies play an important role in amplify customer service. Below are points that will help you to understand the whole picture in an organized way.

    Technology helps to improve customer experience and improve customer loyalty.

    Harvard business review says that- ‘we’ve found that organizations able to skillfully manage the entire experience reap enormous rewards.’

    So, what is the key metric to improve customer experience? Evidently, it's the proper communication with the right context which should be always ready for the customer's activities. Today, every marketer knows that their customers are a phone call away. Added to that, e-mails, onsite chatting services, social media are redefining the level of real-time communication.

    50 years ago instant communication was a virtual concept. Now, customer experience depends on these tech factors and it's not hard to understand that a good customer experience breeds customer loyalty.

    Technology has made payment and refund policy easier, which is very important.

    Gone are those days where people used to carry loads of cash to their favorite shopping places for payment. Technology has made most of the payment systems that we use every day, cashless.

    According to Epam, an American carries as much as $20 with them daily. Moreover, 10% American don't even bother to carry any cash with them. The most interesting part of the story is No, as they have predicted, fewer than 25% of all in-store purchases will be cash based.

    So, here's the idea. Most of the finger happy next-gen, who are a single tap away from buying their wishes, will not care about old school and lengthy cash dealings as this are the age of seamless electronic payments. Technology has made modern payment and refund system simple, transparent and instantaneous through the web.

    Admittedly, customer's trust greatly depends on these tech factors and probably, this is the cardinal reason behind every user's thinking that e-commerce stores are safe heaven regarding this neo-modern payment and refund system.

    Advanced features like live chat can help increase the interaction with customer.

    Business is all about making a healthy relationship with customers and it greatly depends on instant communications. ‘User interaction’ is the linchpin here in this case.

    Since the advent of www2.0, the web has become awfully interactive with us and the same thing happened with marketing too. That's why marketers like to brand modern marketing as 'interactive marketing’.

    Most of the e-commerce stores and other online business offer advanced services to their customers like 24*7 online customer support, online problem docketing, live chat tools and other similar ones. It's statistically proven that those companies are getting ahead in building a large user base that are employing these advanced techniques to offer a superior level of service to their valued customers.

    Technology enables you to keep your customers updated and engaged.

    I bet, right now you are thinking about various aspects of user engagement. Visually brilliant landing pages, stellar display of product features, push notifications, deep linking and so on. You are right. These are the proven techniques to increase user engagement.

    Let's consider that, you want your customers to stay updated, in a continuous manner, with your product. What's the first thing comes to your mind? Let me tell you, it's the medium of the communication or publication as you want to reach as many users as you can. If you fail to do that, the very purpose of the product update will get defeated. Right?

    So, the best way to do this? Obviously, the best way to execute is through your website as you know that most of your users are hooked to web 24*7*365. So, if you publish your product update on the web it will penetrate most of them.

    We do live in a connected world now where internet is the lifeline

    Today, a morning Alarm goes off early if there is a traffic jam on the way to the office. Even my smart container smiles at me with a slashing tone that I have forgot to take my morning pill. Admittedly, we act like honest pets to our smart devices which govern our daily lives.

    So, the role of technology in amplifying customer service is not a unknown one both to the marketers and users. Technology is only here to shape future possibilities, turn fictions into tangible facts and to communicate people with the opportunities as we all live in a connected world. Aren't we?

    So, what's your take on this? Please, do enlighten us with your valuable visions.

    7 Ways Managers Can Keep Employees Engaged

    Original Article - https://www.ama.org/partners/content/Pages/7-ways-keep-employees-engaged.aspx

    When employees are fully engaged and immersed in their work, they can achieve astounding results. Read more about a manager’s role in employee engagement. 

    Engaged employees are easy to recognize. Distinctively energized with confidence, positivity, and an extraordinary will to achieve, their presence inspires those around them to excel. They are leaders by example. Calm, confident, yet intensely focused on the task ahead, they view any challenge as an opportunity.

    When employees are fully engaged and immersed in their work, they can achieve astounding results. Team commitment to organizational goals can spread like wildfire, thrusting your business forward with a shared drive to achieve. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that 71% of workers consider themselves unengaged or uninspired at work. If employees are apathetic, dissatisfied with management, or disengaged with their daily duties, an organization is in peril. Without a desire for excellence, employees can’t contribute to the team’s collaborative efforts, causing stagnation that can destroy a business from the inside.

    However, the blame rarely rests on one unengaged employee’s shoulders. In the business world, systemic mediocrity starts at the top, and team failure is a failure of leadership. Managers create the environment that can spur engagement, improve performance, and elicit the power of employees working together for a common goal. Through strategic leadership and positive, direct communication, managers can instill a sense of excellence and productivity throughout the organization.

    INFOGRAPHIC: The Numbers Behind MBA Online Graduates Survey

    Employee engagement begins with the leader, and teams need strong leaders to succeed and thrive.

    1. Set a Time and Method for Regular Updates

    The primary force behind employee engagement is the communicative environment in which the work takes place. While managers must set realistic expectations and properly delegate to employees, communication is critical. While leaders want to avoid micromanaging their team, they must have a finger on the pulse of operations. Consistently positive interactions with the group and beneficial relations with individual employees are ideal to foster engagement while developing the insight to be an effective manager.

    Each employee has a unique communication style, and effective leaders need to understand what works best for him or her. There are myriad ways to check in with employees that will make them feel at ease and able to speak freely. Training sessions, written memos, email communications, and regular meetings can all work toward positive engagement with employees.

    2. Give Employees What They Want and Need

    Don’t just assume that every employee has all the tools, training, and support from supervisors they need — check in with them personally and find out. Being clear about the purpose when meeting can be beneficial as well.

    Before trying to discern what an employee wants or needs, think about the goals in doing so. This could include:

    1. Minimizing resistance
    2. Reducing personal anxiety
    3. Ensuring clarity of objectives
    4. Sharing information or company vision
    5. Obtaining clarity
    6. Minimizing uncertainty

    3. Blend Work and Play — Make It Fun to Engage

    Blending work and play can transform a workplace, and a touch of humor can go a long way. Engaged employees usually feel that their professional lives are enjoyable, find happiness in their vocation, and have fun being great at what they do. To engaged employees, the lines between work and play are blurred.

    When employees are happy, growing, learning, and becoming better, they feel alive and energized. When employees are engaged in their work and contributing to their organization, they expertly combine work and play.

    Smile every once in a while. Showing a human side in a position of authority is disarming, endearing, and can be incredibly beneficial. Most employees get much more done when they are enjoying themselves, feel comfortable with management, and take a playful but diligent approach to their career.

    4. Implement Incentive Programs to Recognize Great Work

    A great way to improve employee engagement and encourage excellence is adding monetary incentives to typical compensation and benefits packages. This rewards professional achievement for individuals and stimulates team performance. In the same spirit, make sure the pay and benefits for the team are competitive. Employees may be uncomfortable or reluctant to divulge unhappiness about their compensation with management, so employers should do some market research.

    Positive feedback, recognition, and appreciation for a job well done can be very effective at creating an environment of professional engagement. Managers should never fail to recognize an excellent work ethic, stellar performance, or outstanding results. By expressing gratitude immediately rather than waiting for a quarterly review, leaders are encouraging success, boosting morale, and increasing employee engagement.

    5. Set Attainable Short-Term Goals

    Being a great manager means setting expectations, delegating authority, and measuring employees’ effectiveness. World-class leaders convey precise expectations that aren’t too high, delegate just enough authority to not overburden employees, and measure effectiveness in terms of reasonably attainable goals.

    When managers clearly assign tasks that an employee can accomplish quickly, they will find success and gain the confidence to achieve more. However, if they set unreasonable expectations, delegate too much responsibility, or judge too critically at the beginning of a working relationship, they can cause an employee to disengage.

    Some of the best employees thrive on failure, using such experiences to grow, but this only happens in an environment of support and confidence. Set a few easy goals when an employee starts at the company and he or she will be confident from the beginning — and more likely to stay engaged.

    6. Clearly Define the Long-Term Goals and Vision

    Engaged employees maintain their sharp focus when they feel like they are contributing to a worthwhile endeavor. When the core mission statement is clearly defined and employees can see the same vision for the business that managers do, every task has a purpose. When everyone understands the reasons behind the work they’re doing and shares in a singular purpose, collaborative engagement thrives throughout the workplace.

    Making the long-term goals known and vision clearly understood is especially important for senior managers. Every employee is engaged in his or her work as a result of the direction senior leaders provide. Their team should understand the enterprise’s long-term goals, how they drive the overall strategy, and the purpose behind that strategy. Employees are then fully engaged and immersed in the strategic vision, driven to excellence by the knowledge that every task, action, and success is important as a small part of a greater design.

    7. Be Transparent: Communicate Well and Often

    One of the keys to effective leadership is cultivating an environment of transparency. Employees are engaged when they feel comfortable telling the truth and trust managers’ word. Leaders don’t have to be great commanders to be great communicators, but they must be trustworthy communicators to be great commanders.

    Managers should be completely transparent, forthright in their speech, and follow through with actions that align with and back up their words. Through the power of personal integrity, employees will reciprocate their sincerity with dedication, respect, and loyalty that isn’t forced or coerced, but earned. 

    Managers who are accessible, fair-minded, and open to others’ ideas will earn their employees’ trust and unlock their professional potential. When employees respect a manager’s word, they listen, are engaged, and can contribute to the shared mission and achieve remarkable results.

    INFOGRAPHIC: The Numbers Behind MBA Online Graduates Survey

    Learn More

    If you’re a working professional who’s ready to develop the critical thinking skills and practical managerial expertise that drive the world’s top companies, the online MBA program from the prestigious Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management is a great way to get started. Discover a values-centered, collaborative, and experience-driven online MBA program designed for working professionals.

    Sources
    Inc.: 6 Ways to Keep Your Remote Workers Engaged and Productive 
    eSkill Blog: 10 Steps to Keeping Employees Engaged and Motivated
    Business.com: How To Keep Your Employees Happy, Engaged, Productive And Loyal 
    Dale Carnegie Training: Engaged Employees Infographic 
    Entrepreneur.com: 5 Steps to Getting (and Keeping) Employees Engaged at Work

    LOCATING THE BEST VENDORS FOR YOUR FRANCHISE

    Contact us for information on how we can set up all of your franchises with our products and get special pricing and customer service that can't be beat.

    Partnering franchisees with the right vendor is a winning proposition for everyone.
    By Danny Goldberg (original article - https://www.franchise.org/locating-the-best-vendors-for-your-franchise)

    The association between a franchise company and its franchisees is often compared to a family relationship. The franchisee looks to the franchise system for all the training, knowledge and support it can possibly give.

    New franchisees need a community of laborers and experts of sorts, to help them expand. In the business world, this community represents the vendors that supply the ancillary products and services that help make a company run smoothly. 

    The Little Things
    New franchisee owners need and want more than just a star product or fancy commercial. In many instances, most of a franchisee’s needs translate to all the little details that keep business owners from becoming overwhelmed. This is especially true with franchisees’ largest need and expense: their employees.

    Some franchise companies tend to overlook the details that are required to build an effective staff for their franchisees. Their primary focus is on opening the store and helping to sell products or services. Consequently, the employee headaches some new franchisees face may be hidden from view. Is the franchisee complying with labor regulations? Are illegal aliens being hired? What’s happening with the employee payroll?

    In this case, offering pre-screened vendors that remove some of the responsibilities and burdens associated with payroll, human resources and benefits can help franchisees to focus more on enlarging their businesses. This step will help to minimize the frustration these new owners feel when they become overwhelmed by new responsibilities and ensure that the brand’s logo doesn’t disappear from their neighborhood.

    As an added benefit to the corporate office, this step also provides a business model that’s easier to implement and manage since nearly all of the franchisees are using the same vendors.

    Big Vendor versus Local Vendor
    Most vendor options will either fit into a big, national vendor or a local vendor category. The big vendors are the companies with expansive buildings and manicured lawns. If one visits them, he may not even get a hint from where their products or services come. In many cases, the representative who calls on the client is a clean-cut kid fresh out of college. These are the representatives who wine and dine prospective customers and offer them everything they could possibly need for their new business. Potential customers are dazzled and stunned by their pitch. One quickly signs on the dotted line and one of two things happens: Everything comes true or the vendor-representative is never seen again. The people from the corporate office who have courted the client suddenly seem to disappear. When an issue comes up, someone calls the office and the problem goes up the corporate ladder. One quickly realizes it’s a very tall ladder on which no one seems able to make a decision on how to help.

    The local vendor might be a regional company with offices in the same building from which it delivers services or manufactures the products. In most cases, the representative who comes to clients seems more experienced, sincere and personable. Often, it’s a vice president or even a company owner.

    Yes, there are big vendors out there who are able to overcome the inherent problems that prevent them from giving good customer service. More and more local vendors, however, are proving their worth to businesses and customers by focusing hard on their client relationships and client services. The trick for franchise companies is to choose the local vendor wisely before committing to any agreement.

    How to Choose the Right Vendor
    There are many factors that come into play when choosing the right vendors. Ask questions that will indicate how the relationship with them will be affected by how they conduct business.

    Over-communication. Does this vendor seem the kind of person who will “over-communicate” with you? While over-communicating seems like it might be tedious, in a client-vendor relationship, it keeps any potential issues at bay.

    A good vendor should not only follow up to ensure the success of the program, following up should also be a weekly routine. Vendors who make it a habit to contact the corporate office and chat about what’s working and what’s not, can catch issues that may fall between the cracks. The more proactive calls that are received, the less reactive calls a system is likely to get from unhappy franchisees.

    Monthly Reports: Does the vendor offer monthly reports that indicate how the business process is going? Monthly reports should show what’s selling and what is not. It’s also the perfect place to document any questions, comments or concerns affecting the business. For example, if the vendor is managing payroll, are there any indications in the data that can help streamline the business? 

    Discount Pricing: What kind of price breaks is the vendor offering based on the volume the franchise system will be giving them? Does the franchise company have to ask for the break or is the vendor bringing the company an offer? Is the vendor open to renegotiating this break if business is booming or does it seem like it’s just interested in short-term profits?

    Meeting Attendance: Will this vendor be willing to participate as a speaker at regional meetings or corporate outings? Does it show interest in attending national conventions and advertising at them? Does the contact person seem interested in getting to know the franchise system’s personnel better by attending corporate social functions? Is this vendor willing to sit in on district manager meetings so it can offer solutions to issues affecting the program?

    Non-exclusivity: A lot of vendors want exclusive agreements in exchange for their discounts. Insist on a non-exclusive agreement. If the vendor refuses, avoid it and look for another vendor. If such a vendor’s facility burns to the ground overnight and it has no way to provide its product or service the following day, its 30 percent discount is not going to help the company’s business.

    Support—Don’t Suppress
    Some franchise companies insist that franchisees must use pre-selected vendors. Contractually, the franchisee has no choice. New owners rarely consider how this will affect the way their business is managed. When the franchisee hires his brother-in-law to do the payroll instead of the vendor specified in the agreement, problems may arise between the new business and the corporate office.

    Franchisees who come to realize the constraints they’re under with such an agreement might view the franchisor negatively. Not surprisingly, their relationships with corporate quickly sour as many of these owners look to bail out a year or so down the road.

    Franchise systems that provide franchisees the freedom to not use their pre-approved vendors fare far better in their relationships with them. In this scenario, franchise organizations offer franchisees a list of approved vendors that have already demonstrated their value to the program. In essence, these franchise companies are telling the new franchisee that the corporate office has done its due diligence to find the best vendors possible.

    When a new franchisee is hiring staff, is the owner thinking about how his brother-in-law’s personnel company will conduct drug testing and background checks or how it will handle unemployment compensation management and COBRA issues? Will the brother-in-law be able to advise him about the efficiency of direct deposit payments or what the latest options are available for health, vision and dental insurance?

    Should a business owner choose a vendor that’s not on the franchisor system’s preferred vendor list, he may encounter issues that the corporate office won’t be able to help him with. In this scenario, the burden of responsibility shifts to the franchisee when he chooses to work outside of the system. The new business may fare better—or it may not. If the franchisee fares worse, the choice was his and his alone. Ultimately, the owner is left frustrated and unhappy.

    Closing Your Agreement
    Once a franchise system has found the perfect vendor, it should practice due diligence and first check out the company. Is this really how this vendor works or is this just an empty pitch from a sales representative? Ask for a few references and follow through on thoroughly checking things out. Just don’t ask if the reference was satisfied with the vendor. Probe and ask the reference to explain “why.” What is it that made this vendor so much better than the rest? For example, is this company truly equipped to do business in all 50 states?

    Next, get what was discussed and agreed upon in writing. Avoid the boilerplate type of preferred vendor agreement that many law offices have ready in their back pocket. Create an agreement that truly states what is expected of the vendor and also how it will be done.

    Building Value for Franchisees
    When franchisees are first setting up shop, they’re clambering for a lot. They need help. They’re suddenly hit with quickly putting together all the pieces of the puzzle from A to Z. Most importantly, they need people—vendors with expertise in specific areas that can do each job correctly. If the franchisee discovers that corporate is only offering A, B and C, the new owner may panic, become frustrated, and may ultimately fail.

    Getting the franchisee set up right is a winning proposition for everyone. The franchise firm avoids conflicts, minimizes failures and enhances the franchise’s reputation for value.

    Franchise systems can’t do everything for the new franchisee. But if they can design a more comprehensive program that will remove some of the burden and stress new owners’ experience, the franchise will become the better choice for entrepreneurs looking for that next new money-maker.

    Danny Goldberg is the president of EEnucleus, LLC, which is located in Scottsdale, Ariz. He can be contacted at dgoldberg@eenucleus.com or at 866-504-3434 ext 118. 

    Source: 

    franchise.org

    Your Customer Service DNA

    Keep checking back at PagerGenius.com for customer service blogs and other tidbits about keeping your business moving forward with technology. 

    Your Customer Service DNA (www.hyken.com)

    Some people are just naturally good at providing great customer service. They are people pleasers. They pay attention to details. And, it seems to come naturally to them. So, are they born with it, or do they learn it? How do they recognize that this is what they are good at?

    Just a few weeks ago I went through an exercise and one of the questions was about my “entrepreneurial DNA.” I took a different approach to the question. It wasn’t just about being an entrepreneur. I realized that there was a point in my life that I could look back and say, “That’s when I knew I was passionate about taking care of customers.” I didn’t know it then but looking back I can see that it was what defined me. That was my “Customer Service DNA.”

    The same could be said for any profession. The president of a major bank looks back and says, “That’s when I knew I was good at numbers and wanted to work in finance.” Or, the artist at some point realized, “That’s when I fell in love with painting.” It could be a career or a hobby. It’s what you’re passionate about. With enough thinking, many people can look back and realize there was a point in their life that defined who they are today. That leads me up to my defining moment, and I refer to it as the Snow Plow Moment.

    I was just sixteen years old. I had spent $900 on an old Jeep with a snowplow. The snow plow was worth about $700, so the jeep was worth only $200. It was a “hunk of junk.” My goal was to make money in the winter plowing driveways. Before the first snowfall, I had secured 15 customers in the area. The first snowstorm came that winter and all worked perfectly. Same with the second snowstorm. It was that third snowstorm that was the defining moment.

    It was 4:00 am and I was getting ready to plow the driveways, and my car wouldn’t start. Nothing I did was going to get that engine to turn over. I was upset. Not because the car wouldn’t start, but because I promised these people that I would plow their driveways. They were going to wake up and not be able to get their cars to the street.

    A friend of mine had a brand-new Chevy Blazer with a plow. He plowed parking lots and athletic fields for schools. Maybe he could help me. So, at just a few minutes past 4:00 am I called him. His mom answered the phone. I explained the problem and she woke her son. I told him how much I charged for each driveway and that I would be happy to give him all the money if he would pick me up and help me take care of my customers. He did, and my customers never knew there was a problem.

    At the young age of 16, I knew that all I wanted to do was take care of my customers. The money didn’t matter at that point. They depended on me, and that’s all that mattered. It would have been easy to call them and tell them my car wouldn’t start, but that was not me. As I look back at my youth, I can see how certain “moments” defined me. That was the Snow Plow Moment, and today that is how I treat each and every client. I’ll do what I have to do to take care of them. That’s my customer service DNA.

    So, what’s your version of a Snow Plow Moment? Looking back, what moment helped define who you are today? Once you recognize it, it will give you a renewed sense of purpose. It’s who you are and why you do what you do.

    Original article - https://hyken.com/customer-care/your-customer-service-dna/