May 19, 2020

Don't Get Hung Up on Bad Customer Service

customer service
Tristan Anwyn
3 min
Don't Get Hung Up on Bad Customer Service

Your company’s call center can make or break your customer service record. A well-run call center will provide your customers with quick and knowledgeable service that will leave them satisfied that your business cares about them and can help solve their problems. Poor customer service on the other hand casts your business in a bad light; after all, your call center attendants are the voice of your business to the customers who contact them. 

To make the most of your customer call center, make sure you tackle these four common challenges....

1. Agents Who Lack Knowledge 

When your customers call you, they expect to have their questions answered and problems solved. Your customers are used to a fast-moving social and mobile world, where information can be found swiftly and responses are instant, and they will expect the same expediency when they get in touch with you. Solution: Good training is vital, whether you have a call center staff of two or two hundred. You can run the training in-house, or invite an outside team. In either event, make sure your training program is comprehensive, and run by someone who really knows your business. Consider using an online database that your agents can access while at work to answer questions.

Read related content: 5 Tips for Delivering World Class Customer Service

2. Customers Being Transferred Multiple Times

As pointed out in the article "Top 4 Customer Complaints about Call Center Phone Systems", being transferred between multiple people is very frustrating. If you can cut down the amount of time your customers spend being passed from person to person, they'll be much happier with your service. Solution: Using auto-attendant software will help direct callers to the right person or department, cutting down the number of transfers. In case your customers don't reach the right person first time, make sure your call center staff is well-versed in who should receive the call and how to properly conduct the transfer.

Read related content: Top Tips for Training the Millennial Workforce

3. Long Hold Times 

At some point, you've probably been there. Left hanging on the phone for a frustratingly long time, oftentimes with bad, canned music or meaningless automated announcements playing in the background. Long hold times will frustrate your customers, and make your customer service look slow and unhelpful. Solution: Use good reporting to track your call center activity so you can plan your staff schedule around busier times. Cut down the number of escalated calls by making sure your staff has access to good information, and by giving them enough authority to deal with common problems. If a call needs to be escalated, offer your customers the option to stay on hold or receive a call back.

Read related content: Key Takeaways for Hiring Business Leaders and Managers

4. Lack of Engagement

Keeping call center staff motivated and engaged can be challenging at times. A lack of engagement leads to absenteeism and high turnover. This impacts your customer service both in terms of not retaining knowledgeable staff, and in terms of agents lacking enthusiasm for their work. Solution: Make good performance worthwhile for your agents with rewards, whether as large as the potential for promotion, or smaller rewards such as gift certificates or being entered into a raffle. Listen to your staff; work with them to cut down on stress and make their work rewarding. Make sure you have skilled supervisors with strong people skills in place.

Read related content: How to Create a Positive Work Culture

By tackling these steps you will improve your call center, making sure that when your customers pick up the phone they will be greeted with a quick, knowledgeable and useful service.

About the Author: Tristan Anwyn writes on a wide variety of topics, including social media, SEO, call centers and customer service.

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Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

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