Articles and White Papers

Carol Trostle is a nationally-recognized authority on call centers and a frequent contributor to call center publications. Click on the associated links to obtain the complete articles, which are summarized below.

Whitepapers

Managing Hidden Costs of Contact Center Teams in The New Economy

Turnover rates have remained low during the economic downturn and slow recovery as many employees stayed with current employers thankful to have a job. All that is about to change! A November 2011 survey conducted by Right Management concluded “a whopping 84% of employees said they plan to search for a new job in 2012”! Managers need to be proactive and take action now to prevent an exodus as the economy recovers. We believe Front line Managers are the key to boosting company profit and productivity.
Take a brief benchmarking survey to download this free whitepaper >>

Articles – Q&A with Carol

Agents to Leaders … how do they get there?

Q: “We are trying to strengthen the leadership team in our Customer Service Center. To do that, we have hired some experienced Supervisors and Managers from other call centers. Employees are becoming frustrated and some have left as a result saying there are no management opportunities here!

I’d like to promote from within and develop current employees. Some are great with customers but just don’t demonstrate management ability. How can we strengthen our leadership team with current employees?”

A: Congratulations for recognizing the value of promoting from within. Earning a reputation for career development within your organization is one of the best ways to become a great place to work. We all want to become known as the employer of choice.

Successfully developing leaders from the ranks of agents requires a program that begins long before the promotion paperwork is done. A career development program requires some planning and support from your management and other departments. First you must recognize leadership potential. Look for leaders before you hire and in your current workforce. Read full article >>

Stop Feeding the Irate Caller

Q: “As a call center manager, I take calls from irate customers that get out of hand and get transferred to me by phone representatives. In the past, this happened 3 or 4 times a week. The number of irate calls I take has increased dramatically. To handle the increase, I have identified a supervisor to handle some of these calls. She and I are hearing the same complaint from many of these customers… the phone representative was rude! We train them in phone courtesy as well as the technical training on our products and services. When I monitor calls they seem courteous and knowledgeable. Do we need to increase the time we spend monitoring or look into new training?”

A: Hopefully neither! It may take some attitude adjustment activities! The fact is customers have become more demanding. Competition is fierce and service often makes the difference when making a purchase or staying with a company.

In short, customers want the same things they always wanted. The problem we are seeing today is our phone representatives aren’t always aware of customers’ expectations. If they don’t know what customers expect how will they deliver? Read full article >>

Service to Sales! A Powerful Transition!

Q: “These days we are trying to lend support to our companies sales efforts and make a difference in the bottom line. I have been asked to consider how our Customer Service Center can contribute to increasing revenue. We have been encouraging our staff to recommend upgrading services during inbound calls. We are a large bank and are now offering products that are new to our customers and employees. Our managers are having a hard time selling this new concept to employees who were hired and trained to focus on service. We are not seeing the results we had hoped for. Most of our best Service Representatives just don’t get sales! And as Vice President of Customer Service, I’m not sure I get it either. What suggestions do you have?”

A: This is a great question and supports the trend to diversify products and services worldwide! This diversity introduces a challenge to convert service thinkers into sales successes.

We are seeing two conditions that cross all industries in the area of customer contact. First, we have applied technology in our centers that make us more efficient. We send from 10 to 80 % of our inbound calls to Voice Response for routine calls. Next we send from 10 to 45 % of our customers/prospects to the Internet. These are both positive steps, yet we are feeling the impact. Read full article >>

Reduce Entitlement Mentality! But How?

Q: “I’ve read your answers to questions about attendance and absence and have applied some techniques successfully. However, our managers continue to have problems within their departments with entitlement mentality. A suggestion has been made to let employees take a “stress health” day off without pay. Another view is to allow X number of days off for sick or personal days employees feel entitled, no- compelled to take time off! How can we turn this way of thinking around?”

A: My answer to this question may seem counter productive! Employees care more than ever about their mental and emotional state and will take time off to fight burnout and stress. We as employers consider personal/sick time a benefit to be used wisely when needed. The entitlement mentality puts a twist on it that says; “I have the time coming, so I might as well take a day off.”

Even though the solution we are looking for is obvious, we want people to come to work. It is a fact that employees will take more time off to deal with stress and burnout by staying home for a day. Depending on the company paid leave policy, these same employees may “run out of time” and fall into disciplinary action. Read full article >>

CRM

Q: “Our company is considering CRM. What should we bear in mind as we contemplate our decision?”

A: CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a worthwhile, yet costly, endeavor so it should be considered carefully to ensure you get a return on your investment. First let’s focus on the basics of CRM and how it can be used. Then Richard will offer some points to consider when you evaluate CRM products.

CRM software allows your customers multiple ways to communicate with you. Options include phone, email, web chat, Voice over Internet Protocol and a host of others. CRM integrates all these forms of customer contact into a central history database where they can be retrieved or viewed together. Thus, CRM allows you to track a customer issue from the original point of contact through to resolution. Read full article >>

Quality Assurance

Q: “We are thinking of reviewing and revising our call-monitoring program. Before we get started are there some key points we should consider?”

A: Let’s start with the term “monitoring.” I would like to see call centers replace that word with “service observing.” It sounds less threatening and, in my opinion, customers would also prefer that we focus on the service they receive.

Next, who owns this program? There are varied opinions in the industry about who should conduct service observing. Some lean toward a dedicated staff that is responsible for listening to calls, scoring and giving feedback. I am not part of that group! Read full article >>

Benchmarking: It’s Obviously Important, Right?

Q: “How important is it to benchmark my center against others?”

A: This is a great question! The short answer is it is important to conduct benchmarking with other centers. However the reasons for conducting benchmarking studies and the degree to which one implements the results are not so obvious.

The reason you should consider benchmarking studies is to ensure that you are “in the ballpark” when it comes to standard service levels and best practices. If your competitor’s standard service levels are 95/20 (95% answered within 20 seconds) and yours are 95/30, consider yourself in the ballpark. It is doubtful that any customers would notice a difference between the two service levels. However, if you were at 80/30 (80% answered in 30 seconds), then the difference would be noticeable and you would not be in the ballpark of providing a close level of service. Therefore, benchmark just to ensure you are providing at least a close level of service. Read full article >>

Motivating Low Performers

Q: “There are a few Reps that I just can’t seem to motivate. They perform at a consistent level of mediocrity. Is it training they need or incentives? It seems I’ve tried everything, but it doesn’t appear that these low performers care about the quality of job they do.”

A: At one time or another, every manager struggles with low performers that appear to be either incapable of performing to standard or are unmotivated. One common reaction is to send the low performer back to training, but this is likely a wasted effort. Most people have the capability to perform to standard and, in fact, most want to perform well on their job. So the problem may not be training. According to Thomas F. Gilbert, professor of psychology and author of Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance, look for de-motivating factors that lead to poor performance. Your goal is to find solutions that will cost less and will have a greater impact than solutions involving training. To accomplish this, ask yourself the following three questions in order of least expensive/greatest impact: Read article >>


Presentations and Workshops

We are often called upon to speak as experts in our industry for numerous conventions and organizations. If you haven’t had the chance to see us speak in person, here are some of our presentations!

Employees Not at Work? Where Are They?

Take a closer look at unscheduled absences and why your employees aren’t coming to work. This presentation looks at the cost of unscheduled absences and shows you how to calculate your absence rate. Learn the top five ideas for reducing absences. Download presentation (PDF) >>

Keeping Your Customers: Lessons to be Learned from Call Centers

Analyze your customer satisfaction and customer loyalty and learn the differences between them. Learn traits that are characteristic of call center employees and customers and learn 20 Call Center Tips. Download presentation (PDF) >>

Top Gun Web Agents: Find ’em, Get ’em, Keep ’em

View the differences between web agents and call agents, and what determines a “Top Gun” web agent. Learn some of the important things to consider when interviewing candidates for these positions in your company. Download presentation (PDF) >>

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