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Top tips for workplace recovery

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Business continuity is critical for building resilience within your company by allowing you to work through a disruption and giving you time to recover.

Most understand the need for business continuity, but it’s often seen as too expensive or time consuming to address, but this doesn’t need to be the case.

IT and recovery specialist DSM has compiled its top tips to avoid disaster:

 

1. Carry out regular risk assessments

Taking steps to eliminate or minimise potential threats is a vital step in the operation of your business.

2. Consider possible scenarios

Planning and analysing threats to determine the impact on your business is a simple and straightforward way to protect yourself.

3. Compile an action plan

Maintaining business as usual makes a huge difference during a crisis, and putting formal contracts in place will enable fast recovery of essential operations

4. Document key business processes

In case of emergencies involving staff either being absence or busy, having basic processes on paper helps maintain the situation. Making sure no critical activities are operated by a single individual will also help.

5. Review supplier resillience

Are your suppliers capable of meeting your Service Level Agreements? A quick review and multiple sources help reduce reliance on any one single supplier.

6. Protect company information

Ensuring it can be accessed and rapidly restored will help during a disaster, but not at the risk of security, which should be a top priority.

7. Regular tests

Proving you can function should you lose a vital service, or even your entire business environment, will help prepare you for a future need for adapting.

8. Get employees involved

Encouraging all employee involvement with preparation and testing helps for staff to buy in to the importance of keeping your business ticking over, as well as providing lifelines if a senior employee is absent.

Forum Insight: 10 ways to succeed at networking events…

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Walking into an event room full of people you don’t know can be a scary experience. However, there are proven ways to conquer this fear and make networking an enjoyable and a useful process to do business. Here, we share 10 of the best practices to eradicate those networking nerves.

  1. Plan ahead: Try to obtain the attendee list in advance and highlight the people you would like to meet. On arrival, contact the event organiser and say who you are trying to connect with. If they get the chance, an introduction between yourself and the other party will be made upon arrival. It might also be beneficial to go to the registration area to ask if one of your selected visitors has arrived.
  1. Get there early: If you are one of the first to arrive, it is much easier to strike up a conversation with a small group of people.
  1. Most people are in the same position: If you do not know anyone else attending, it’s good to prepare a few opening questions: ‘Any particular presentation you’re looking forward to hearing today?’; ‘What brought you to this event?’
  1. Join a group: Approaching a group of attendees already in full conversation is a daunting prospect. So be bold, confident, and simply ask: “May I join the conversation? I’ve just arrived and I’m keen to learn what’s going on.”
  1. Build interesting conversation: Ask topical and relevant questions to the specific event. Be a good listener and don’t dominate the conversation with your own stories and business ideas.
  1. Be helpful: Share your knowledge of the industry, your contacts and sources of information. If people perceive you as an experienced and knowledgeable professional, they will want to keep in contact and maintain a relationship.
  1. Use your business card as a tactical weapon: I have a friend who renovates old wooden floors, so his business card is made of a thin piece of wood and has proven to be a guaranteed conversation starter. Be imaginative with the design and the job title displayed. Anything that says ‘sales’ or ‘business development’ could cause people to fear a sales pitch is on the way. So try and think of a job title that encourages a productive conversation.
  1. Receiving business cards: Be sure to make notes on the back to remind you of the conversation and the person. This could become much use in future interactions.
  1. Following up: If you engaged in constructive conversation with an attendee and have agreed to follow up after the event, then set a preferred method of contact and make sure to do so promptly.
  1. What not to do: Sales pitches, even if you’re asked ‘what does your company do’, keep your answer to a very brief explanation. Don’t ‘work the room’ rushing from group to group as this is not the way to form business relationships. It’s better to have had four good conversations than a dozen meaningless chats.

 

Words by Paul Rowney, director at Forum Events Ltd

Forum Insight: Savvy SEO tips for start-ups that won’t break the bank…

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With 50 per cent of new businesses failing within five years, recent research has revealed that many small businesses are missing out on opportunities to market online due to a lack of digital knowledge.

The research from 123 Reg found that 73 per cent said they did not advertise online and 42 per cent reported having no digital presence. SEO and other terminology also stumped 48 per cent of business owners surveyed, and only 53 per cent said their websites were easily readable via a mobile device.

“Being digitally savvy is especially important for start-ups. It can be the difference between your business being seen in the right places by the right people, and even small changes can have a huge impact,” comments Alex Minchin, founder and director of SEO agency Zest Digital.

Here, Alex shares three instantly achievable tips for small businesses looking to get started with SEO:

  1. Sign up to Google Analytics and Google Search Console and add the necessary code to your website: These are two free tools that will enable you to measure performance, even if you don’t understand it all immediately. You cannot improve something that you’re not measuring, and these tools will measure things such as; the number of visitors landing on your website, the best performing content, keywords driving traffic, any broken links or pages, and the links from other websites that are pointing back to your website. 
  2. Start local: Most searches in the micro and small business world include local modifiers such as your city or county, e.g. “Plumbers in Croydon”. An easy way to start to build some gravitas towards your website is to feature on business directories. This creates ‘citations’ (mentions) of your business name and confirms your address and other details, in addition to pointing a link back to your website. It’s crucial to make sure your information is kept consistent, so finalise your details and use the same information as a template for all directories. These things will help to increase the strength and trust of your website. Just be sure to focus on reputable directories such as Touch Local, 192, Freeindex, and Opendi for example. 
  3. Focus on the real basics and design each META title and description for each of the key pages on your website as a minimum: The title tag and descriptor underneath the search result is considered as a ranking factor by Google, and can positively influence your rankings for a particular keyword. Your title should include your keyword and brand name as a minimum, but try to be as creative as possible with the character limit (55 is the defacto) that you have available.  In the META description, it’s more important to include your value proposition and key information, for example “free delivery on all orders”, or “free quotation”. Remember, you’re trying to stand out to win a greater share of the clicks against the other websites competing for the same keyword so details and USPs are key.

“It’s widely reported that somewhere around 90 per cent of all purchasing decisions begin with a search engine and a search query.  SEO can therefore play a huge part in the marketing strategy of a small business.

Alex continues. “Sharing your expertise through content and delivering value to your target market is the name of the game, and it’s a playground that, whilst dominated by some larger brands, isn’t policed by them. It’s entirely possible for a small business to compete and win on this channel, and doesn’t have to involve a huge cost in doing so.”

Forums vs Expos – how to maximise your precious time out of the office…

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With a majority of ‘expert’ advice on Expos being somewhat outdated or, like with many businesses, asserting too much emphasis on easy routes rather than methods that actually work, it’s no wonder people get frustrated and disconcerted when they are looking to effectively network and source new connections without it lessening quality time spent in the office.

Amplified by the dominant presence of social media quick fixes such as: setting up a LinkedIn profile; increasing your Twitter presence; scheduling a large number of email marketing campaigns; and collecting as many business cards as possible at industry events – are key solution in helping you to be astute in intelligently selecting what methods best suit you and your way of working.

Expos can also have a somewhat ‘lazy’ association to it: people picture the huge halls and countless stands as a way of picking up leads and justifying their time out of the office, but realistically a large percentage of exhibitors won’t be of necessary relevance, or the person you need to speak to has decided not to attend at the last minute.

So set aside any previous experiences you may have with networking and Expos, and garner some quality connections by attending one of our Forum Events. Our formula ensures that buyers can increase their knowledge of how, why and where to invest without hanging around waiting for the wrong supplier; as well as ensuring that all suppliers are provided with qualified leads and valuable business is made as a result.

Events relevant to you may include the Call Centre and Customer Services Summit taking place on April 24-25, 2017. Contact the team today…

Guest Blog, Debbie Nolan: Cultivating customer engagement with social media…

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The ubiquity of social media has changed the relationship between brands and consumers, government and citizens, and businesses and their suppliers at an unprecedented pace. Tech savvy, time poor consumers have now taken charge of how they get in touch with their favourite brands. This power shift means that organisations must embrace social media as a primary communication tool to ensure that they meet consumers’ needs and provide the best customer experience possible.

The rise of social media reflects consumer comfort in a digital environment. Customers are used to finding solutions and information independently online, regardless of their location, or the time of day. While this represents a challenge for brands, it also presents an opportunity. For example if social media queries are handled quickly and effectively, this can greatly enhance a company’s relationship with its customers.

To ensure this, forward-thinking organisations are deploying a more proactive approach to social media to speak to their customers on a more personal level and add value through advice or assistance, without the need for users to make contact first.

 

A tailored social media solution

This style of proactive social media was trialled in Arvato’s seven-year partnership with the Dutch Central Government. The driving force behind the move onto social media was to become more open and transparent in communications to citizens.

Arvato conducted extensive research into the Dutch public’s use of social media, including the types of questions being asked online. It was decided that Twitter was the most suitable channel to interact with citizens in an open, simple and, eventually, proactive way.

A pilot programme, built on a model of proactive two-way dialogue, was initiated and delivered by a team of multi-skilled agents in partnership with Arvato who continually identify relevant, key topics being discussed by the public.

After some initial success, an even more proactive approach was implemented, which involves sharing key information and monitoring conversations in detail to engage with citizens on relevant topics and current events.

The trial’s success included:

  • The number of followers increased by 26 per cent over the first 12-month period, without any paid-for promotion.
  • More than a million Dutch citizens were served via Twitter, by the team responding to almost 6,000 queries over a 12-month period.
  • All enquiries are responded to within two hours, and although agents do not engage on policy discussion, complaints and enquiries are always acknowledged with relevant information and guidance provided.

 

Executing proactive social media

The first stage of establishing a proactive social strategy is to assess which business services it will suit best. Trialling the approach in one key area will provide learnings to inform the expansion of social engagement across the service lines and channels that will benefit most.

Once this has been decided, encouraging customer service representatives to deliver a more personal service using their own intuition and experience is the best way to exceed consumers’ expectations on social media.

This can be achieved through training that helps advisors respond instinctively in real-time situations by letting them naturally expand on the initial, preferred responses to common queries and complaints. Building staff confidence in their own opinion and expertise helps to create advisors that genuinely engage with customers.

Employees must also be trained on the unpredictability of social media and the necessity of responding to reactive enquiries as quickly as possible. The right processes must be in place for escalating queries and complaints efficiently.

While carefully mapping out procedures for common enquiries and eventualities is integral to the success of any social media engagement strategy, flexibility is also an extremely important factor to consider. Consumers tend to frequent social media at different, often antisocial times, so organising a staffing model to meet these fluctuations in demand is key.

 

You can view the Dutch Central Government’s Twitter feed here.

Debbie joined Arvato in 2013 to boost growth in the public sector and contact centre markets. With over 25 years of sales and business development experience, Debbie specialises in generating and maintaining customer relationships. Her career includes roles at Wescot Credit Services, Dixon Stores Group and Transcom Worldwide.

 

Industry Spotlight: PeopleTECH – how to get the most out of social media in contact centres…

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The past decade or so has witnessed the astonishing rise of social media. It has changed the way we communicate with friends and family; how we consume news; how we share photos; how we look for a new job and much more – there are an estimated 1.65 billion active daily users on Facebook alone.

Social media has also changed how consumers interact with brands. Because consumers are so savvy and switched-on to the immediacy of social media, they know a few tweets can save them time spent on frustrating calls and long waits for engineers. Twitter and other social channels are plugged into marketing, PR and sometimes even the CEO; therefore issues will often get addressed as a priority.

This means brands have had to invest in social media, and bring that into existing customer experience channels. At times this has even meant that many brands focus on social at the expense of other channels. But while this is understandable in some ways, it is also a mistake. Organisations that provide omnichannel service will prosper far more than those who concentrate on social media channels at the expense of others – this is how to really get the best from social media in the contact centre.

Provide agents with the right training

When a consumer is expressing dissatisfaction with a service or just want a question responded to on social media, it requires a slightly different approach to other channels. With a phone call, live chat or face-to-face interaction, it is taking place in private. Social media interactions are taking place in public.

While the Millennials that make up a lot of the workforce within a contact centre have grown up with social media, there is a difference between how it is used personally to how it is used professionally. Make sure you staff are clear on what they can and cannot say on social media.

Don’t put all your customer experience eggs in one basket

Social media is an intrinsic part of both everyday life and also customer experience. But brands and their contact centres should be very wary about not over-focusing on social media. More than half of consumers who expect a brand to respond to a Tweet, demand that response comes in less than an hour, rising to 72 per cent when they have complaints.

When companies don’t meet these expectations, 38 percent of the public feel more negative about the brand. But is it realistic to meet those demands all the time? Social media is actually a limited channel for addressing customer queries or complaints, and interactions are often transferred to a different channel to be fully resolved.

So while any brand that doesn’t use social media as a customer channel looks to look at their strategy very hard indeed, it is imperative not to overlook other channels or over-invest in social media – it just isn’t sustainable.

Social media and the Single Digital Channel 

The best use of social media within a contact centre is as part of an omnichannel strategy, providing to consumers a unified, consistent and contextual customer experience, across ALL channels. In addition to omnichannel providing this seamless experience, the right tools can also give brands unparalleled information and data relating to that customer and their likely intent.

This data includes an awareness of what the customer has done previously, allowing frontline customer service staff to offer a better service to that customer, resolving issues quicker and offering help at the right time and via the right channel.

The Single Digital Channel (SDC) is also important and should be a customer experience goal for any brand. This gives an agent access to all media types from their desktop, with all contact interaction taken by customers – voice, email, chat, social media – waiting in one queue to be addressed by the right agent. The ‘right’ agent can mean the next available agent, one with a particular skill-set or area of expertise, or even one with a prior history with that customer.

Social media is a channel that can play a major role in delivering the right customer experience. But it shouldn’t be the sole focus. There can be a danger that brands will focus too much on this and let other channels suffer, when they would be far better advised to include social media as part of an overall omnichannel strategy.

 

Mike Hughes is a director at PeopleTECH consulting and one of the UK’s foremost customer experience experts, having worked with companies such as Thomas Cook, BskyB and France Telecom.

PeopleTECH combines experience working with some of the world’s biggest companies, with a deep understanding of digital transformation, helping to drive efficiency and profitability by offering a bespoke and agile approach to improving the customer journey. 

italk’s ‘proactive’ approach to workforce management…

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Staff motivation and retention seem to be recurring challenges that a majority of call centres are faced with. This is why, at telecommunications company, italk, we have invested considerable time and energy in perfecting our sales technique and ensuring our managers really get the most out of their workforce.

 

What does getting the most out of employees mean to us?

We train our staff to focus on the right kind of sales, rather than stress over impossible targets. We incentivise and support the team and, crucially, show how instrumental they are to the success of the company. As a result, we have high retention rates and a rapidly growing business model; this was highlighted earlier in the year when we were named Vodafone’s Fixed Partner of the Year.

Based on our successful and long-standing methodology, we share our top tips for getting the most out of your workforce:

 

Focus on training

We put a lot of impetus on creating a bespoke training programme for all new hires, primarily focusing on the product and the ‘italk sales technique’. Rather than rushing the training process, we spend several days in the classroom environment to ensure all agents feel completely comfortable and confident before they go out onto the sales floor.

We work closely with all new hires to try and eliminate fear, which we have found to be a huge barrier for success when selling over the phone. Once our agents have passed the training process, we then monitor them closely to quickly identify any possible issues; working with each individual on a case-by-case basis and providing more bespoke training when required.

As managers, our role often involves offering moral support, and we encourage a feeling of inclusivity across teams with more experienced members of staff helping to train and mentor new hires from the offset.

 

Promote positivity

The techniques our agents use focuses on value rather than the hard sell approach, and works within a positive framework. We aim to only sell our product to those who really need it, targeting the benefits our clients will gain from switching to our services which are usually cost-led.

We encourage our agents strike up engaging conversations with prospective customers, to spend the time required to understand their needs, as we believe this not only delivers a better service overall, but helps our employees to feel valued; in turn boosting motivation and job satisfaction.

 

Be real

For us, adopting a realistic approach has led to an open dialogue across the workforce, as many of whom have been used to a call centre environment dictated by high sales figures and a lack of genuine communication when it comes to career prospects.

We don’t want to flog or force our products, and our sales targets reflect this expectation. As a result, we have a very high staff retention rate and our agents are actually selling more. Customers tend to respond better to genuine conversations rather than scripted sales spiel.

 

Recruit internally

Furthermore, our high retention rate is also linked to our policy of hiring internally. Giving our employees the opportunity to move up within the company provides a clear vision and a drive to succeed.

Most of our managers — including our managing director — started out on the phones, and this visible progression helps to motivate staff members and showcase how hard work is greatly valued. We have created an environment with almost endless opportunities for progression in the sales team and beyond, and it’s an exciting prospect for everyone involved.

 

Get your employees involved in the brand

The first thing we do with new hires is get them invested in the italk brand. We’ve found that in order for people to do an exceptional job; they really need to believe in the product and the benefit it provides to customers.

A focus on high-quality marketing and our new website — which launched a few months ago — helps to instil pride and continue our passion for creating a brand with real personality.

 

To find out more about italk, click here