Monthly Archives: June 2014

Want to be popular at blogging? Write “how to” blogs!

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I just went through my stats for my outsource blog. I write all types of content that even my professional writer friends consider to be interesting (although they criticize my punctuation mistakes.) However, the content that does well always seems to have a “how to” in the title. Hmmm. How to start an outsourcing business, how to get call center clients, how to this, and how to that.

People out there want to know how to succeed in life. You need to give them the keys to do that, and then they will give you ample traffic to your blog. It seems fair. You get paid for teaching, but the payment is in traffic which helps your overall ranking.

The economy of the new world will be more spiritual, and already is. Many people will do tasks without getting direct payment. But, they will be repaid in other ways such as appreciation, recognition, and traffic to their website. It all seems very fair, although convoluted. If you think about the karma of tything it is similar. You give to charity, and then God rewards you, but in other ways. Hmmm. Intriguing! You might get more clients, or better people to help you, or better conditions in your afterlife.

But, what about your blog’s afterlife?
Just kidding.

How to write a blog about how to blogs! Now there is a title!

How to get call center clients by monitoring better!

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The title of this entry should really be about how to keep your clients, but our readers are more concerned with getting clients, so we’ll leave it as is. Those who succeeded in the call center industry insist that trained managers and intricate monitoring systems win the game in the competitive call center industry. Nothing is better than a call center clerk who is being constantly watched and improved upon!

Just for the record, training and coaching needs to happen regularly for all call center agents, no matter what level they are at. Monitoring can key management in to see what individual callers need customized coaching at! Training programs also need to be modified and evolve over time to meet the needs of your staff. Keep track of what parts of the training program worked well, and what needs to be developed upon or changed.

Send them home…
One company I heard of watches their call center workers all day long. The minute they start slipping, they get sent home. You lose your company’s reputation the minute your phone staff starts getting cranky. I know this because I am sometimes forced to work long hours, and we get lots of complaints when I started getting upset with people who are rude to me (which happens regularly.)

Stop bad habits before they start!
Regular monitoring makes it easy to spot bad habits as they are being formed. The minute your call center worker starts getting off on the wrong foot, it’s coaching time! Stop that bad habit right away!

Keep track any way you can
You can track worker performance on paper, on an online database, but don’t do it in your head even if you have a good memory. Technology is not the goal here — keeping top-notch performance through worker tracking is the goal!

Give daily feedback
Workers like feedback if it is genuine and helpful. Be careful with negative comments. Try to phrase things in a way that praises people for what they did right, and makes suggestions for what they could do better!

Not everyone can do monitoring
Someone who is good at calls might not be good at monitoring and vice versa. You need someone anal who likes nit-picking everyone else, and who has the grace and suave to be well received when they start giving commentary. Monitoring is an art that is refined over time, but regardless of how good your training program is, you need to start with the right personality for the job!

Regular rewards boost morale
The call centers that do well have regular rewards. There is the worker of the month reward, and other creative awards that imaginative companies think of. Those who just have their grunt workers clock in and clock out lack the enthusiasm and quality of work that the more thoughtful companies have. This is what top-notch expert call center managers told me in private interviews. Happy workers are born out of a fun and stimulating environment!

Review examples of high quality interactions on tape
If you have an experienced rep who handles themselves gracefully, use particular calls they did as case studies. Sure, this is not Harvard Business School, but case studies can help with studying many subjects at any type of skill level, plus it is fun to see real experts engaged in what they are good at. Personally, I would like to see Donald Trump in action, since I do business for a living!

Have a system for checking on people
Yes, you need the right person to do the checking. But, you also need the right manager managing the monitor. You need a methodical system for checking up on your call center workers. You need to decide how often to check up on people, how often to give feedback to them, and how to handle every common type of difficulty or issue that props up.

Customer feedback is imperative
If you have your customers give any type of feedback on your callers, that can be very helpful. Customers are wary of long and drawn out forms which take a long time to fill out. But, if you can have them answer a few questions over the phone for you, or write a few quick comments in an email, that might be enough to get some insight as to how your call center agents are doing!

Keep score
If you award your callers scores for how good their calls are, they will be able to compare themselves to others, and compare their progress over time. Nothing motivates better than seeing yourself improve in a big way over the course of a few months.

Group meetings are helpful
If a bunch of callers get together with a manager and discuss calling techniques for particular situations, that can be meaningful and helpful as multiple points of view will arise. Callers who regularly attend group meetings do measurably better than those who don’t according to the experts!

Self-assessment is also useful
Many callers find that assessing their own calls is helpful. When they analyze what they did right, and what they had trouble with, it becomes a learning process with good long-term results.

Good luck, and make your BPO call center a learning environment where self-growth and fun is a daily occurrence!

Who you gonna call – Ghostbusters? Nah. The Philippines!

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Sometimes you get companies that offer inexpensive work, but the quality is not that great. Other times you get expensive work, but the quality is not good enough to merit the price even though it is good. The Philippines is a lucky destination and very popular with call center outsourcers. There, you get people who are super on the phone, and the price is calculated in pennies. I’m exaggerating, but you get the point!

The Philippines has a virtual (no pun intended if you’re hiring a virtual assistant) army of half a million English speaking, highly trained call center workers who are ready for battle. They can do telemarketing, lead generation, technical support, customer care, or just chat with customers. Culturally, they have a very smooth manner over the phone. They don’t get mad at customers like I do, on the other hand their sense of humor isn’t always as good as mine!

It is good to compare. Try people in various different countries. But, when all is said and done, call in the artillery, and find a Filipino Call Center. Caribbean destinations are also known for high quality call centers and they are on American time zones which in addition to great Costa Rican coffee, is another great perk!

(1) If you want a great call center at a great price, consider the Philippines & the Caribbean.
(2) The Philippines is a lucky destination that is popular with outsourcers

You might also like:

Call centers in the Philippines are getting more expensive than India

Half a million Filipino call center workers are on American Time

Choosing the right people to help you blog

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You can’t just go to eLance and pick people to help you blog. There is a lot in the equation. Blogging is actually very complicated if you want to be successful at it. There are many metrics and analytics to consider. The value of a good blog post is based on how many readers it gets, and how many more regular readers you develop. To turn a one time or two time visitor into a regular reader of your blog might be based on more than one really good article. It might be based on consistently good articles which appeal to the reader. However, if you have a few really good articles or a few really unattractive ones, that might make the difference between having a regular reader — or not! Another factor is SEO benefit of the blog post. Some blog posts attract a lot of traffic from Google, while other ones might be popular with your regular readers, but wouldn’t show up well on search results.

Freelance bloggers do not generally care about the long term success of your blog, nor do they care about the “analytics.” That is your problem. They just want to collect their fee and pay their bills. As a manager of hired hands, you need to know who is worth it and who is not. Freelance bloggers typically want to charge an enormous amount for each piece they write. Unfortunately, the monetary benefit they create for you might be far less than their fee. To get a blog popular, you need more than 1000 pieces. If you pay $100 per piece, you will have paid $100,000 just to get your blog regular traffic which might help your site be a little more popular. Hardly worth even $5000. It is easy to lose all your money hiring the wrong people at the wrong price. You need to understand what makes your blog tick, and find people who can do it for a price that is sustainable.

Have someone write a few pieces. See how much traffic each piece gets after ten days. Measure again after sixty days. See if it gets many clicks from Facebook or Twitter. You can use that figure to compare to articles written by you or others on staff. Also, have your new writer submit several pieces over a two-week period. See if your general blog traffic goes up in a noticeable way in that period or right after that period. That will indicate if your exciting newbie got you some new “regulars” to come to your blog. If your experiment delivers positive results, you could test them over a month or two and keep your eyes on the growth. Remember, that some weeks your blog might have a good week. But, if your new writer is any good, then every week will be a good week.

Outsourcing makes the world go round!

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Some people think that outsourcing is good because it allows you to cut costs. Others think that outsourcing is bad because it takes jobs that rightfully belong to Americans and gives it to undeserving poor people in foreign countries who have names that we can’t pronounce (and don’t want to learn to pronounce.) In California, some people think that there are too many Mexican immigrants coming in while others like the affordable source of labor. The truth is that without Mexican labor, nothing in California would get built, harvested, or done. The state would grind to a stop. You wouldn’t be able to get help at your restaurant and you would be able to run most types of businesses that rely on labor. We don’t realize this, but outsourcing is the same. Without outsourcing, America, Germany, and the UK would grind to a stop.

There is an acute labor shortage in industrialized countries. There are not enough people to do many of the tasks we need to have done. Those who are hard working already have jobs. Those who are lazy don’t deserve jobs. Whatever can’t be done here, needs to be shipped to wherever some willing and capable hands (fingers) can do it.

We take this for granted, but much of America’s medical transcriptions are done in the Philippines or India while we sleep. There would be horrible delays and triple the cost if those offshore agencies were not able to handle our medical transcription outsourcing needs. Something like 80% of UK’s programming is handled offshore. Without people in India and Eastern Europe helping out, how would the UK function? They would only be able to do 20% of the work.

I am struggling to find quality help in the United States for basic tasks such as programming, phone help, and other work. It is like pulling teeth to find someone willing to work who actually cooperates. It is not funny, and not pleasant. It is so nice to have the option to hire overseas to people who have a work ethic.

Also, there is a new outsourcing company in India that claims that they can enhance planetary movement through intermolecular technology (never heard of that.) I guess that proves that outsourcing really does make the earth go round — literally.

Outsourcing or Offshoring? Which is which?

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When I use the word outsourcing, I am thinking of a mystical character named Rajiv who kisses his sari-clad wife goodbye, mounts his elephant, and makes his way down the crowded streets of Agra with his briefcase in one hand and his mobile phone in the other. Of course in real life, people in India only ride elephants for festivals since the cost of buying 600 bananas every time breakfast rolls around isn’t getting any cheaper. But, it is a nice caricature of Indians, having them ride exotic creatures.

But, outsourcing only means giving work to another company or freelancer to do. If the work is not done by an in-house staff member, that would constitute outsourcing.

Offshoring is another concept altogether. Offshoring is when you take your work and send it to some other country far far away. But, offshoring might not be outsourcing. If you had your own branch office in Nepal and hired your own people, it would be offshoring, but not outsourcing. If you are in Arkansas and hired a company next door to do your data entry, it would be outsourcing, but not offshoring.

Then, there is Nearshoring where you take your job and give it to somebody in another state or country that is not that far away. If an American companies hires someone in Mexico that would be nearshoring.

Then, there is Backshoring when you bring your overseas jobs back to the good ‘ole United States.

Then there is Non-shoring where you have your work done by the Outsourcing boat! Just have Isaac mix me another mojito!

All of these terms delight me, but what would be a good term for having someone on another planet do your work? What if your medium consults the spirits on the planet Gorkon for some deeply philosophical spiritual matter? Off-Planeting or Off-Terra-Firma-oring? Maybe Off-Terrestrializing.

Call earth for only 3 cents per minute!

You might also like:

Outsourcing: Why everyone is doing it. One bizarre example

Don’t expect to get paid more due to your GPS coordinates

How can corporations encourage “garage entrepreneurship” in their workers?

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It is always inspiring to read about how Steve Jobs succeeded, and how a guy working in his garage became a billionaire through sheer passion, perseverance, and brain power. He made it there through “garage thinking.” Innovating on a shoe string in a garage! But, big corporations often lack innovative capabilities. Their workers are too engrained in the cubicle mentality. If you work in a cubicle, pretty soon your brain will become a cubicle if you ask me. To succeed you need tremendous drive, but you also need the independence and environment to succeed.

Using artificial conditions to foster entrepreneurship
Real start-up entrepreneurs use their garage often because that is the only place they can use. But, imagine what would happen if you put your workers in entrepreneur type positions and created a virtual garage in a huge warehouse next to your office? Or, what if you asked them to work at home in their own garage? In real life, garage type entrepreneurs start organically. I don’t think they can be artificially produced under the right circumstances. There is something innate about a good entrepreneur. Even if everyone around them tells them that it is bad to be an entrepreneur, they will want to do it anyway! I think that creating a warehouse filled with garages is a silly idea, but makes for a great blog article!

A plethora of garages
Imagine that these faux-entrepeneurs were asked to come to work unshaven wearing torn t-shirts or tank tops, whatever successful entrepreneurs wore when they started out. Let’s put a little more pressure on these folks. Real entrepreneurs will go broke and lose everything if they fail. They are under real pressure, and have real drive to make sure their invention doesn’t fail. Let’s sign a contract with these workers that if their invention sells, they get a percentage, but if they fail, they get fired and have to pay the company $5000. That contract will separate the men from the boys. No more excuses. This is the real deal. You can duplicate a dusty garage, but can you duplicate the pressure that a real entrepreneur goes through? The answer is — to a point. I’m sure that you cannot duplicate an entrepreneur’s drive to succeed, but what if someone with a quarter of that drive were put under the right combinations of circumstances — could that guy make it as an entrepreneur? It is quite possible.

Internal drives fluctuate
We all know that to become an entrepreneur you need tremendous drive and internal discipline. I remember stating businesses as a child. I was completely incompetent, yet I always worked really hard and managed to turn a profit. I have that innate entrepreneurial spirit that others lack. But, if someone with 25% of the necessary drive were thrown into a situation where they would be subjected to the same market pressures of an entrepreneur, I feel their drive would fluctuate in the up direction in many cases.

A warehouse filled with faux garages is a wonderful concept to think about and write about. I would love to see this concept documented on CNN one day and see it breed some real entrepreneurs that will change the world like Steve Jobs!

7 principles of Steve Jobs: #1. Do what you love!

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Although Steve Jobs never had principles for innovation, he did have 7 principles that drove him. These principles are Steve’s, but the interpretation is mine, based on my own experience fused with some of Steve’s commentary.

1. Do what you love
In any career there will be serious problems, setbacks and frustrations. If you don’t love what you do, no matter how good you are at it, you will be likely to quit or lose interest if you experience any big problem down the road.

2. Put a dent in the universe
It is hard to succeed in a big way if you have small goals. It is natural to think small, but train yourself to think big. If you have big goals and huge aspirations, you stand a chance to make a big difference in the world. Maybe not as much as Mr. Jobs, but, more than most other people!

3. Kick start your brain
Steve believed that having a wide variety of experiences helps you think more broadly. If you throw yourself in a variety of difficult situations, you will learn to think effectively in a wide variety of contexts. If you are always in the same place dealing with the same issues, you will not have the opportunity to grow much!

4. Sell dreams, not products.
One steakhouse sells steak, but the other sells sizzle. Which one gets the business? Nobody cares much about having a new toy, unless that toy will transform their lives. Even if you are in a small business catering to small clients, if you provide amazing service that makes their lives so much more pleasant, you will leave them with a dream-like nice feeling that they will remember! Salesmen tend to be good at selling dreams, but those dreams often turn into nightmares if they fail to deliver on promises. Have your product deliver dreams — not your salesman.

5. Say no to 1000 things.
I once read that the difference between a successful person and a very successful person is that a very successful person says no a lot more of the time. In real life, to get optimal products and optimal people, you have to narrow down your selection. Most people are mediocre. But, even among the very best people, their characteristics might not perfectly fit a team. The normal company selects one new employee after 100 points of contact such as an email, phone call or interview with a prospective employee. To have perfect employees, it might be better to go through 10,000 prospects to find that perfect one and a few backups.

But, in the innovation process, saying no has its place as well. You might need to try thousands of experiments and refinements until you get it just right! It is a long and tedious process, but if you do it right, you get a product that will be awe inspiring! if you settle for the third mediocre idea that you test out, and say, “Good enough,” you will never be world famous! Remember — good enough is the enemy of better!

6. Create insanely great experiences
I keep telling this to BPO companies. Why just drag yourself through your processes and beg people for more when you do a mediocre job on what you are doing already. Even the way people answer the phone tells me a lot about how good or bad they are. If you are passionate about your work, the way you answer the phone communicates that to the world. The way most BPO companies answer the phone, I know right away that I am going to have a miserable experience that I will regret for the rest of my life. Instead of offering acceptable or mediocre customer experiences, why not be the best in the universe? You’ll make more money, and will definitely be remembered.

7. Master the message
Many sales experts and motivational speakers are saying the same thing Steve is. Don’t sell by selling. Sell by telling stories that are magical about how someone’s life was transformed, or could be transformed by a particular product or service. If they do the math and realize the product will be good, they might go for it. But, most people think emotionally, so you have to make them feel an amazing feeling about your idea, otherwise, they will not be that active in supporting it, especially in bad times. I remember in a movie about rap artist BIG, someone compared living for paper, with living the dream. You have to sell your dream to others to get their support. So, master the art of crafting emotionally riveting stories to implant your feeling in the hearts of your listeners!

You might also like:

Steve Jobs Principle: The more people you network with outside your field

Do you use the Steve Jobs principle: Think Differently?

Putting clients on hold at a call center is a big problem

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Call centers operate for their own profitability. If you have agents sitting around with nothing to do, you’re losing money, right? Not exactly. If you have too few agents, then when a caller calls at a busy time, you will have to put them on hold. Customers really don’t like being put on hold. It tries their patience, and wastes their time. You might be paying a certain rate for call center workers, but the time of your client calling in might be worth $100 per hour. Each minute you keep them waiting is close to $2 in lost productivity. First of all, your client’s time is worth more than your agents’ time. Second, if your client fires you as their call center, you could stand to lose tens of thousands per month! I am amazed that when I personally call call centers, it is almost impossible to reach a competent manager. They just never seem to be at their desk. Where are they hiding? Do they want to avoid getting new clients?

I often joke that the difference between India and the USA, is that in India, service waits for you while in America, we wait for service. Of course, the quality of the service from coolies, rickshaw drivers, and other people in their category is very far from being polished or pleasant. But, at least they are usually there, and waiting. If you could combine quality and considerate service with the, “They wait for you instead of you waiting for them” principle, you might have a call center that is more popular than you think.

Sit down and think about it. Do you run your call center for your personal pleasure, or for the pleasure of those who call in needing help? I created a business proverb a year or two ago.

If in a conflict between a customer and a substandard worker, you side with the worker, you’ll end up with more bad workers and fewer customers.

If you operate your business for the benefit of your customers, you will end up with more customers, and fewer you’s, if that is possible. Think about it!

Only 1% of customers feel they get the service they deserve

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Only 1% of customers are completely satisfied
A CEI survey revealed that only 1% of customers feel that vendors are meeting their expectations. Of course, there are different industries, different countries and different individuals involved. But, I have a lot of personal experience working with many companies. It is really only my accountant who meets my expectations for service. She does a great job, and offers a few valuable tips without being asked. Additionally, she answers her phone even when she is busy and doesn’t miss deadlines. Everyone else I have ever dealt with has let me down one way or another. Some companies let me down every single time!

Most people will pay for better service
86% of customers according to the survey would be willing to pay more for better service. Would they pay enough to justify your costs? It is not clear. However, if customers are dissatisfied with 99% of the companies out there, if you are the 1% that doesn’t disappoint them, then imagine how fast your business will grow!

Resolve problems quickly
The best way to resolve problems is to avoid having problems in the first place. But, if you have a problem, try to solve it fast before the resentment grows in a customer. Sometimes the problem is that the client wants something that it is not your policy to deliver. Or they feel they are entitled to special treatment and then get upset if they don’t receive it! Putting unreasonable requests aside, try to resolve all problems as fast as humanly possible. Listen to the client, understand how they feel, and find solutions. Sometimes you can’t solve their problem, but you can find other ways to make their problem better. Or, you can give them something of value for free to show you care, even if you were not able to rectify whatever they were calling about. Being cared about will score you lots of points in the eyes of many clients, especially in this world where nobody else cares!

Customer service as an investment
Training your employees how to be the smoothest at customer service is important. Selecting those who will be naturally inclined to do a good job is also important. It pays to invest in good service. After all, how many clients will you keep if your service is nonexistent or horrible?

Can a top level executive really take a year off?

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The concept of a Sabbatical comes from the Hebrew tradition (that wasn’t always religiously followed) of letting the land rest every seven years. That way it would be refreshed for following years. If it were me, I would plant soybeans to get some nutrients back into the soil, but that is just me.

There is even a mystical river in Jewish tradition called the Sambatyon River that spits up rocks six days a week but rests on the seventh. Where is this mystical river? I bet it would be a good tourist attraction. It might only exist in the ethereal realm somewhere near Shambhala!

But, what about an executive taking time off? I take a week off or ten days off regularly. I work seven days a week and need a change of scenery otherwise I lose my mind. Taking a month off would be a stretch, but a year? Most executives can’t afford to do this because they would lose their job permanently. Sure, they might be able to reapply and get back in if their boss liked them, but there would be no guarantees. If you run your own company, your company might not exist after you hire some other guy to manage it for a year. Most people are screw-ups, so if you plan on being totally uninvolved, make sure that new manager is thoroughly tested over a three year period at a minimum.

But, maybe it is a good idea for this to be a cultural norm. Professors get to take a year off. Why can’t executives? Maybe larger companies could have a dental plan, health benefits, and a 30% paid sabbatical. If there were some system in place like a maternity leave which is standardized in many countries, then people could take that break they really need.

Executives are decision makers by trade. They live in a changing world, and the articles I read suggest that CEO’s burnout and crumble after around — you guessed it — seven to nine years. The opportune time to take a break is in exactly seven years. It is like taking a cruise on Princess Cruises — “Come back new.” Well, that is what they say in their commercials. Taking a break from work will not help with tactical decisions. But, tactical skill would come back quickly in only a few months. Strategical decision making skills could be greatly refreshed from taking a year off and seeing the world. You would be very deeply rested and have a completely new perspective on life, especially if you lived in different countries during this time or went back to school to take a few refresher courses.

After all of this time I’m spending writing about sabbaticals, I’m beginning to think it is far past due for me to take one! But, where will I travel to? Bali, China, Dubai, The Himalayas, and of course — the Sambatyon river (if I can find it.) My intuition tells me that it is in North Africa somewhere if it indeed exists. Maybe I’ll find the lost tribe roasting marshmallows on a camping trip on the banks of that river.