Philippines Weighs Eliminating Call Center Tax Breaks

January 30, 2015

Despite all the noise about call centers relocating back to the U.S. from overseas locales, the industry is still going strong in the Philippines. A recent report noted that some 94 percent of its call center industry is with American companies, who outsource their business to the island nation.

But that success may be in jeopardy. According to a report in Business World Online, a Filipino publication, there’s a movement taking shape to do away with a current “income tax holiday” on call center business.

“The government should hold and re-think the proposed amendment to erase the income tax holiday from [a] list of incentives [currently being considered], as many foreign companies will find our country not that good for business, especially with a lot of countries giving better and bigger incentives than the Philippines.” That comment was made by Benedict C. Hernandez, current president and chairman of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP), speaking while attending an industry conference in the Philippines’ Pasay City.

As if the threat of removing a tax break for call centers wasn’t enough of a concern, Hernandez also noted that finding individuals with the necessary skill set to work in a call center is a growing challenge.

“If we want to surpass or even achieve the (industry’s) 15 percent growth forecast, we need to ‘man up’ our workstations, but now, there’s lack of qualified talent so we’re having a hard time in that respect,” he told Business World Online.

In 2014, CCAP posted revenue of $11.7 billion, up from $10 billion a year earlier. For 2015, the group is forecasting $13.5 billion in revenue, hoping to maintain its 15 percent to 18 percent growth projection.

In response to industry concerns, Philippine President Benigno S. C. Aquino III said in his closing remarks at the conference in Pasay City that the government is eager to work with the industry in building a more inclusive economy.

“Our administration is aware that among the concerns of your industry is finding individuals with the necessary skill sets to man your workstations,” he said. “This is why we have focused on improving programs like the Training for Work Scholarship Program.”

So far, Aquino said the government has allocated P125 million to roll out the program in 17 pilot state universities and colleges both in metro Manila and smaller cities.

Network Group Shares Insights for Call Center Leaders

January 29, 2015

CCNG – the Contact Center Network Group — is a member-only Professional Peer Network organization (PPN) for Contact Center, Customer Experience and Customer Service Executives, Managers, and Leaders.

Each year CCNG works with members to plan more than 25 half-day events on a regional basis throughout the United States. “Getting experienced customer care management together in a comfortable setting to share their views, issues and solutions is the key to the popularity of these events,” says David Hadobas, president and CEO of CCNG, in a recent statement about the group. “We have over 25 years of running these regional venues … and 2015 is going to be one of the best years in recent memory with so many members wanting to be involved in our events.”

It certainly is shaping up to be just that. CCNG has just announced upcoming March and April Customer Experience and Engagement regional events sponsored by CCNG members. Prominent among the sponsors will be inContact, the cloud contact center software leader.

The CCNG events bring together area contact center, customer experience and customer care management from across industries to share perspectives, proven strategies and innovative best practices. The CCNG partners sponsoring March and April’s events include inContact, as well as Aspect Software, Intradiem, and VPI, and new partners Vocalcom and Windstream ( – ).

Starting in March will be two regional events hosted by contact center leaders from Aon in Charlotte, NC on the 5th, and in Cincinnati, OH on the 19th hosted by Fifth Third Bank. The April event hosts include Time Customer Service in Tampa, FL on the 16th; in Phoenix; AZ at Best Western on the 23rd and on the 30th at Kohl’s in Dallas, TX.

“The ability to freely communicate our shared opportunities is great. It is so refreshing and valuable to be in a setting (not in conflicting industries) to comfortably share best practices,” said Michael Brouillette, Division Manager, Charlotte NC, Allstate Insurance Company. “Thank you, CCNG!”

Contact Center Outsourcing Heads South of the Border

Central America is getting seen as perhaps the next big call center region, and with good reason.

Outsourced Centers Can Benefit When Live Chat is Added to the Mix

January 21, 2015

In the never-ending quest to stay one step ahead of the competition, keep customers happy and deliver a satisfactory “customer experience” all at the same time, progressive call centers are pulling out the stops. The seemingly next logical step in this ever-escalating carousel of “one-upsmanship” is now apparently offering live chat – and there seems to be evidence to support it.

WhaTech, a global information technology resource, took a close look at the results of a recent survey undertaken by business publication Contact Center Pipeline, and the findings were impressive. The industry publication said that “…more than 66 percent of contact centers surveyed were using live chat.”

WhaTech notes that this “is significantly higher than usage estimates in the past and clearly leads us to believe that live chat adoption is on the upswing. We can probably hazard a safe guess that the scenario is applicable to smaller organizations as well that do not operate large, well staffed contact centers 24×7.”

So, given this knowledge, how can a smart contact center manager leverage the information to their advantage, while keeping costs down and interest high? It’s a fine balancing act, but it can be done mostly through a conscientious effort and by being proactive about a live chat offering. WhaTech mentions a few ideas on how to successfully execute this initiative by assuring there’s:

  • A short message on your homepage, announcing the presence of live chat on your website and the benefits of clicking on the chat icon;
  • A reference to live chat and its presence on your website in all your marketing collateral, including your newsletters, product alerts, auto responders and other transactional collateral if your website happens to be engaged in Internet commerce; and
  • A quick mention of live chat during phone-based support calls if you provide phone support.

But once you have live chat up and running, you need to back it up as well. WhaTech notes that a fast response to any inquiry is critical.

“Customers like promises that are delivered,” the site says. “If your chat reps have promised to email a customer a Web link in response to a product inquiry, a how-to PDF manual which explains how to use one of your products, or a link to your YouTube ( – ) channel which features a product demo, that link should be emailed to the customer within the hour if it is not readily available with your chat reps immediately, for reasons beyond his or her control.”

In short, live chat can help give you the edge you need over your competitors. Just make sure that the promise made is also the promise delivered.

For a Brighter Financial Outlook, Move to the Cloud

  By TMCnet Special Guest
Dave Paulding, Regional Sales Director, UK and Middle East, Interactive Intelligence
 

The top priority for any CFO has to be the financial security and viability of the business. They must work to ensure an organization has the tools to make or save money, while at the same time invest wisely into new solutions. Moving to the cloud is a case in point, as it can offer significant cost savings and potential for new revenue streams, but there may also be the fear of the unknown.

A survey for Interactive Intelligence suggests that many are putting this fear aside and leaping into the cloud. It shows that nearly three-quarters of businesses operating a contact center are looking to move to the cloud. So, with many of their competitors likely to be taking advantage of the benefits that the cloud can bring, what do CFOs need to consider if they wish to level the playing field?

Not All Expenditures Are Equal

When an organization moves to a solution provided in the cloud, such as communications as a service, the first difference CFOs will notice is that expenditure for these services moves from being mainly CapEx to being mostly OpEx. No longer will the business need to buy most of the hardware associated with communications over IP, such as servers, distribution boxes etc.; instead, the functions of these devices will be provided remotely.

The advantages of this are numerous, but probably the most important to a business today is flexibility. Using OpEx to purchase key functions requires less administration than CapEx, meaning decisions can be taken more quickly and services implemented more rapidly. This also provides business agility, allowing solutions to be increased or reduced overnight with little expense.

How much of the cloud solution is paid for through CapEx and OpEx depends on the type procured and how much of the IT infrastructure businesses want to transfer.

All-in or Hybrid?

Some might think that basing all their telephony systems in the cloud would save money, with services being accessed through a public network or a VoIP, meaning that there is no carrier relationship onsite. This would completely eliminate CapEx costs for their phone system, requiring only a monthly rental or per use payment.

While this appears to offer better long-term budgeting, it is worth noting that if the VoIP connection is lost then so is all access data or calls, which can be very costly indeed. This is particularly true for those businesses that rely on telephony for purchases or financial transactions, such as a retailer or a bank. Every minute that a customer can’t be contacted is time lost for selling. Research from CA Technologies estimates that the global amount of revenue lost to IT downtime is $26.5 billion annually, and among those departments most affected are sales and finance.

The safest option is to create a private cloud by purchasing and installing an infrastructure on the premises. However, this relies heavily on CapEx and can be very costly both in terms of installation and continuing maintenance, making it only suitable for the largest organizations.

The most cost-effective option is a hosted hybrid model that offers the best of both public and private cloud networks: infrastructure operated by the vendor is deployed on a company’s local network with voice and data kept on the premises ensuring continued access and security, while the logic and routing is in the public cloud and offers the public cloud price model.

When moving to a hybrid solution, CFOs need to be aware of who owns the onsite equipment and its cost. Some vendors might just rent out the equipment for a monthly tariff that could be supplementary to the service charge while others will offer the opportunity to buy the equipment for a lump sum or a payment plan spread out over a certain period. Again, it is worth checking how these are priced.

Only by being aware of the full picture, can CFOs effectively advise on and sign-off the most appropriate cloud solution for their enterprise. This ensures the procurement of innovative technology at an affordable price that will streamline the business.

 

Outsourced Operators Need To Bring the ‘Real’

January 16, 2015

For customers, calling into most contact centers is seen as something akin to going to the dentist: You really don’t want to, but sometimes you just have to.

Surveys show that customers can always tell when the operator is reading off a script, and they rightfully resent it. After all, they’ve called in for a specific reason, and feel that no scripted response can adequately address their concern. They’re not far from being right.

So it makes sense to give your call center personnel the freedom to go “off script’ when needed, to assure a good customer service experience and make the customer feel valued.

In a recent blog post, Gavin Gustafson, Communications Manager at inContact, addressed this very same issue.

“Let’s face it: When it comes to customer support, no one likes to feel like they’re talking to a robot,” Gustafson noted. “Most often, customers call in to resolve issues or concerns that couldn’t be addressed via other channels (social or email, for example), and they want their questions answered immediately.”

So what to do? “One solution is for agents to leave the ‘robot talk’ at the door and make every attempt to sound like a real person,” he said. Gustafson then went on to outline some suggestions on how call center agents can better engage customers.

Personalize: Historically, companies have relied on static scripting for resolving customer issues, Gustafson said, citing a Smart Customer Service on call scripting. “However, as indicated in the piece, research from shows the majority (69 percent) of survey respondents say their customer service experience improves dramatically when agents don’t sound like they’re reading from a script,” he said.

Empathize: “One of the best ways for agents to establish a connection with customers is to demonstrate that they truly care about their concerns and are committed to resolving them,” Gustafson said. “Another way to think about this is for agents to put themselves in their customers’ shoes: What really matters to them? What do they want? What are their pain points and how can they best be addressed?”

Be Flexible: Forcing customer service agents to adhere to the company script can prevent them from being flexible in responding to individual customer complaints and resolving issues. “In other words, focusing on the script can take away from the agent’s ability to effectively listen to the customer’s concerns,” Gustafson said.

In short, while scripting does have a place in the call center environment, industry experts believe that “considering individual customer needs can make a huge impact on the overall customer experience.” And after all, isn’t that what you should be aiming for?

Every Call Center Needs a Regular Tune-Up

January 14, 2015

It’s not just a cliché that a New Year calls for some new resolutions; it makes good business sense to look at the year just passed, throw out what didn’t work and try something new.

That’s the gist of a new blog post by Jennifer Waite, Product Marketing Manager at inContact, a leading provider of cloud contact center software and contact center agent optimization tools. Waite takes a bird’s-eye view of the modern contact center and offers some suggestions to help reach its full potential.

“The start of a New Year brings resolutions and ideas for change,” she notes. “This may be a good time to take a look at your quality monitoring form to identify potential revisions that will bring positive outcomes for your contact center and agents.”

A good quality monitoring form makes it easy for call centers to adapt to needed changes, including both yes/no questions and rate-scoring questions. If your form seems to be falling short and not providing the strong raw data you need, it might be time for a change.

“Making changes to your form will allow you to implement new processes and expectations that will enable you to achieve the goals you have set for the year,” Waite says. “One way to successfully do this is to ensure that the goals set for your organization are represented as elements in your scorecard.”

Those elements can be widespread and varied, but there are several points to consider, as she mentions. They include:

  • Are there elements that speak directly to your previous year’s goals, or are they outdated? If so, remove irrelevant past goals to ensure that your evaluation form is concise and unencumbered.
  • One of the easiest ways to help align your behavioral scoring is to create clear definitions of each behavior and definitive definitions of each scoring element.
  • Look for other ways to bring attention to the behavior you are looking to drive in your team. Make sure that new agents are hearing about your goals in new hire training and post signs and messages throughout your center to keep these items top of mind. You can also incorporate these goals into any incentive you are offering so that everything is delivering one clear message of your expectations.

Waite’s overarching point is, you can’t just expect people to know what you want. Your success depends on telling them, and then guiding them in the right direction. It’s where teamwork in the call center truly comes in to play.

New Partnership Announced by inContact

inContact, a well-recognized leader in the cloud contact center solutions space, just announced it has formed a partnership with Outbox, a company that provides cloud solutions for the global enterprise.

Outsourcing: A Numbers Game That Adds Up

January 07, 2015

The big trend this year in call centers is going be ‘performance metrics’, where the powers that be will start taking an even closer look at what they’re getting for their money. That means more pressure on managers and workers to deliver ROI along with consistently good customer service.

One way that some companies might overcome this scrutiny is by taking a fresh look at their metrics and see exactly what’s happening. And according to JaNae Forshee, Senior Workforce Optimization Practice Manager at call center leader inContact, it will be time well spent.

“Performance metrics in contact centers are similar to casinos,” Forshee wrote in a recent blog post. “At least, it’s not uncommon to see the practices that are antiquated, or measured because ‘they always have been’, ‘we pay bonus on that metric’, ‘it’s attainable’, and ‘everyone’s doing it.’ Have you heard or used those phrases before? If you answered yes, then you are rolling the dice in your contact center,” she concludes.

But all is not lost. Forshee lists a number of ways companies can move beyond the old ways and bring their measurement standards up to speed. They include the following:

Ask Why and How: “Typically, contact centers roll over past measurements and add new metrics without asking the why/how question,” she notes. “Pretty soon, metrics are being managed rather than performance, which was what the metrics were supposed to control and improve in the first place.”

Focus on the Metrics that Matter the Most: “Performance Metrics can be categorized into two areas: Service (quality) and Efficiency (cost-focused),” Forshee says. “Take the time to review the metrics at all levels to ensure they contain both service and efficiency metrics. As long as you have agents, there won’t be a shortage of things to measure. The trick is to measure the right stuff.”

Double-sided Metrics: “Because there are countless metrics that can be measured within your center, it is important that they don’t contradict behaviors or goals that your organization is trying to meet,” she observes. “Otherwise, your agents may feel overwhelmed and feel the ideal performance is not attainable.”

Be Realistic: Make sure you are getting the true number for your metrics. “Anyone can manipulate the numbers to make things look better than they really are,” Forshee says.

‘R and R’: Reward and recognize those that are performing well. “Employees like to know that their efforts are not going unnoticed by their manager,” she says. “If you have high performers or have improvements in performance, celebrate them. A little praise goes a long way, so don’t forget to reward the wins both big and small.”

In short, your metrics have taken on a bigger role in your organization. Just make sure you’re measuring all the correct parts for the greatest return on what you’ve invested.