Training offshore call centers on expertise
Training offshore call centers on expertise
How can you get your offshore call centers and their agents to get a grasp of what they’re selling? To buy into the ethos and spirit of your brand? And not to sound like some robotic auto-responder that’s simply relaying what they’ve been told?
Finding that special mix of personality and professionalism in any call center team doesn’t just come naturally if simply left to their own devices. It takes a whole lot of groundwork and systems put in place to make it easy for an agent or team, whether local or international, to rise to the occasion.
Don’t loosen the reins completely
If your offshore call centers handle the day-to-day management of all your call services, it may be tempting to completely let go of the reins. You may be busy in your business and finding a contractor to take over is exactly what you need.
It’s a nice thought, however, the reality is you want to set up a system that not only ensures great management but lets you pull the reins tighter so you can jump in at any time if your call center targets start going downhill.
Rather than no control, you want all control, but in a way that’s easier and more effective with the little time you have, to ensure service goals keep climbing.
Start from the cloud
A cloud-based phone system should come first and foremost before you even consider any remote working possibilities.
It’s designed exactly for this purpose, doing away with the need for linked computer systems or office-based servers, assigning unique online profiles and phone numbers to agents, who can login from anywhere with an internet connection.
From one central platform you can open up lines and assign them to who-ever you have on hand. If you’re using an Australian-based server, you can also assign international agents numbers with local area codes, so outbound calling can always feel familiar and close.
Become mission control
Set yourself up to always be the centre of command, with all your offshore call centers and agents arranged like satellites circling around the same call center objectives and protocol that you’ve set.
With a cloud-based platform it’s all the same system and while you may have your services as far off as Manila, it won’t look that way online. Instead it can be viewed on a clean interface that places everyone in your team, both onshore and offshore, on a level playing field. Where you can use real-time data and have a live view, from the macro to the micro, of how everything’s going, from the overall performance of a team to the activity of a single agent – without bias of where anyone’s based and where the results will speak for themselves.
And here you can judge expertise on things like:
- Experts in the software they’re using: if they feel at ease and well schooled in the software they’re using, flowing from one call to the next, reducing queue wait times and downtime, updating customer details with the right information and consistently kicking sales and customer service goals.
- Experts in delivering the best customer experience: taking into account the entire customer journey, from when they pick up the phone to dial, to who they talk to, to how an issue is resolved, and what kind of follow up and feedback they get after this has been done.
- Experts in giving good feedback: so every agent feels empowered and able to give you the right feedback back to you, when things aren’t going to plan and improvements need to be made.
- Experts in disaster control: to jump into action and divert calls to other teams and offshore call centers on hand, should any kind of natural disaster or service failure strike, so your service delivery is never interrupted.
For this, you need a good manager on hand
You may have brilliant call center software, but it’s your offshore call center managers that will make your services either sink or swim.
Knowing this, it’s crucial you focus on training them up, closely and regularly, so they know your phones systems inside out. And what they know will translate straight across to the whole team. What they don’t…well then everyone will be missing out!
As well as this, you want to mentor them in ways to lead and inspire the team. Throw in a series of creative ways that can bring out the energy and spirit of the team and project a positive idea of what they’re working for. This includes:
- Fun and ongoing training, that doesn’t involve tedious slide presentations, with interactive games they can play amongst the team, and other challenging modules they can complete in their own time.
- Setting challenges once in awhile, from who can convert the most leads to who can grow the best mo, and offer rewards when they punch above their weight and show they’re experts in your brand.
- Get in touch often over VoIP and web chat, checking in often with the team manager, as well as jumping in the trenches and getting to know individual agents and finding out a little about them.
These kinds of interactions help to establish a sense of team and being ‘hands on’ with your offshore call centers despite the distance. And the natural consequence of this is it will generate positive thoughts and actions to the company (that’s you!) they’re working for.
Don’t expect a miracle overnight
Give your offshore call centers and teams time to settle in and get used to the software they’re handling and the new customers they’re dealing with.
Initially there will be cultural differences offshore teams will have to navigate with Australian customers; getting up to speed with local lingo, tone of voice, conversation style, humour, sarcasm, irony and little quirks that overseas agents may be slow to understand at first.
Don’t lose patience with this. All it takes is time and training for them to get their heads around the way Australians are experts in self-deprecation and how to artfully mangle the English language. Understanding that ‘no worries maaaate’ isn’t someone having a stroke. Recognising that when someone says ‘yeah’ or ‘naaaaah’ they’re being more decisive than they sound. And when they say ‘I’ll call you back tomorrow’, that’s Aussie speak for never, so be sure they book in a call-back time.
Get them up to speed with user personas
It’s also handy to give your offshore call centers any marketing user persona analysis you’ve gathered of the customers they’ll be selling or responding to. Highlighting their needs, and the kind of words and language they respond to the best, will help your offshore agents handle your customers better.
When analysing user personas, you want to hone in on the individual preferences your customers may have, including:
- personal history
- relationship with your company
- stage in the buying journey
- main pain points they need solved.
With call centre software you can build up a history and profile for every contact, based on things like previous phone interactions and any other information that may be linked to their call number.
This Yelp User profile is a great example of how far you can dive into the detail of knowing who your customers are.
When you build a profile, don’t be afraid to include even the smallest, quirkiest details if you think it will make a difference. It can help managers and their team shape a better mental picture of the contacts they’re dealing with. It will also help to shape the language and calling scripts they use when talking to different customers.
And it’s not unreasonable to expect your team to be across this kind of detail. This can be set up in your service agreement when you take on an offshore call center.
Set realistic goals for your offshore call centers
While offshore service may have the capacity to scale more to call volume demands, with more agents and teams on the ground to take calls, you also don’t want to set any benchmark too high – whether this comes out out of excitement or an expectation that somehow being offshore gives them superpowers.
Instead, set realistic targets for sales results and customer service scores. You can do this centrally and then make changes as you go; tweaking calling scripts, adjusting targets, assigning calls to teams with the best experience, training teams in areas of weakness, and setting up an environment of close mentoring and encouragement so they can succeed rather than fail.
With these and great call center software in place, you’ll see all your offshore call services humming from the comfort of your cloud-based home.
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Flickr CC: Mai Lee