The internet erupted in a collective fury last week as the FCC voted to rollback net neutrality regulations. From the internet commons of Reddit to the New York Times Editorial Page, observers noted with concern, anxiety, or full-blown rage that the policy shift was a threat to the concept of a free and open internet. The popular wrath was directed at two main sources: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and massive Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who potentially stand to gain from the deregulation. With ISPs squarely in the sights of the internet’s vengeful wrath, the rise of “hacktivism” should give ISPs significant pause about the security threats this policy change can bring to their organizations.
What is Hacktivism?
A blend of hacking and activism, hacktivists leverage security breaches or other cyber attacks to advance a political or social cause. Rather than looking for money, Hacktivists are seeking to combat perceived injustices. Examples include an attack on the state of Michigan’s website in the wake of the Flint Water Crisis, the hacking of DNC Emails, and even the data breach at Ashley Madison.
Why Should Net Neutrality Make ISPs “Productively Paranoid”?
First and foremost, there’s already been an alleged hacktivist attack as a result of the net neutrality vote. The FCC itself has claimed that it suffered multiple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that they believe had the goal of shutting down the public commenting system in advance of the net neutrality vote. These tactics are becoming increasingly common as an expression of internet outrage, and ISPs don’t need to look much further than headlines to see the anger that these policy changes have caused:
To sum…many people are very unhappy.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself From Hacktivist Attacks?
The most important thing to recognize is that attackers focus on vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Any plan to shore up security must identify and secure frequently-overlooked channels.
1. The Phone
Whether it’s PBX, VOIP-based UC systems, or a consumer-facing call center, the phone channel is a prime target for bad actors. ISPs should be certain that PBX/UC systems have secure passwords and that systems are in place to detect suspected breaches. A hacked PBX can run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in long-distance calls in a single weekend, and would be a perfect way for hacktivists to make ISPs feel financial pain for the net neutrality shifts.
ISPs who operate consumer-facing call centers should employ technology that can detect instances of call spoofing or robodialing in real-time. Executing a Telephony Denial-of-Service (TDos) attack by flooding a call center with robocalls is an effective way to completely shut down a call center, like what happened at the Minnesota insurance exchange. ISPs want to be sure to have strong anti-spoofing technology in place to prevent account takeover protect their customers’ personal data in the event of an attack.
2. Phishing Attacks
The human being is always the weakest link in the fraud chain. From Snapchat to the World Anti-Doping Agency to GoogleDocs, significant cyber threats can be facilitated by an employee clicking on a link or downloading and opening a file they shouldn’t. It is essential that ISPs exhibit a heightened sense of internal security, and ensure that all employees have received recent training on phishing attacks, social engineering practices, and basic email safety.
3. Third Party Vendors
With the rise of interconnectivity and the Internet of Things, it’s no longer enough to worry about your own security protocols and practices – you must also be rock-solid certain as to the security credentials of your third party vendors. An air conditioning vendor contributed to Target’s data breach, and Lady Gaga’s album was leaked after a collaborator was hacked. How are you being certain that your vendor partners aren’t accidentally putting your business at risk?
Next Caller's Director of Customer Success, Tim Prugar, was recently interviewed by Next Caller partner SingleComm. Read Tim's thoughts on how to leverage Next Caller data on the SingleComm Platform to deliver more personalized customer experiences here:
By: Tim Prugar
For businesses that leverage telecommunications as a primary method for selling, whether through voice or SMS channels, the election of Donald Trump to the presidency signified a potential sea change in the way that the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) would be viewed and enforced. On the one hand, Trump has spoken frequently and publicly about the need to grow American business and remove regulatory barriers that might inhibit that growth. On the other hand, Trump’s new Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has come out swinging in his vows to stop the “scourge” of robocalling, a major business tool of telemarketers. With these two seemingly competing views of how to approach telemarketing and other telecommunications-based sales outreach, what can businesses expect from TCPA interpretation over the course of the Trump presidency?
One of the only ways to make accurate predictions is to monitor, analyze, and discuss TCPA cases that are taking place right now.
Kern v. VIP Travel Services
Last week, a United States District Court in Michigan issued an opinion in a class action lawsuit against a series of hotels by consumers who had been marketed to on their cell phones. According to the consumers, third-party travel agents were leveraging autodialers to reach them on numbers that were registered with the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry. The consumers alleged that these agents were not only violating TCPA, but that they were doing so with the full blessing of the hotels, who they alleged had provided material assistance in the form of resources and marketing collaboration. The consumers also alleged that the hotel logos were clearly visible on the third-party agent web sites.
Naturally, the hotels objected to these allegations, and stated emphatically that the third-party agents were acting of their own accord. The courts sided with the hotels, noting that the contracts between the hotels and the the third-party agents clearly established the agents as independent contractors and explicitly stated that all laws governing marketing, including TCPA, should be adhered to. The courts found no evidence that the hotels gave consent for their logos to be used on the web site.
The theme at the center of this legal dispute is the concept of “vicarious liability.” Essentially, the consumers were alleging that the Hotels should be held responsible for the behavior of the third-party agents. In this case, the courts argued that in order to prove “vicarious liability” in a TCPA suit, the party making the allegations has to prove more than the “mere nexus” of the defendant and the caller. They have to provide solid evidence - which the courts believed the plaintiffs failed to do.
So what does this mean for businesses? First, these kinds of lawsuits still cost defendants in the form of time, stress, and legal fees. Second, businesses working in the telemarketing space (whatever form that must take) need to be aware of and tuned in to the business practices of any third-party vendors to whom they might outsource sales or marketing. Their actions can come back to haunt you. Third, make sure that you are checking the validity of a number before every single outbound dial – cross-referencing the DNC Registry, checking for changes in porting, and confirming line type.
The future of TCPA enforcement is still uncertain, but being wary, informed, and compliant will never go out of style.
Tim Prugar is Next Caller's Director of Customer Success. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Tim Prugar
The transnational WannaCry Ransomware Attack exploded across the internet early Friday Morning on May 12th, and it’s aftershocks are still being felt early this week as some machines in Asian Markets are being booted up for the first time after the weekend. For the curious, Nicole Perlroth over at the New York times provides an outstanding overview of the background events leading up to this cyber attack, but the basic facts are relatively simple. A hacker or team of hackers identified a vulnerability in the Server Message Block (SMB) Protcol in Microsoft Software, and put together a ransomware attack that spreads through a system’s file-sharing capabilities. The attack would immediately encrypt all of the system’s files, demanding a Bitcoin payment for the de-encryption and safe release of the pertinent documents. The attack, like many, was unleashed via a simple phishing ploy – an unsuspecting victim downloaded and opened a file they shouldn’t have that contained the malicious software. The rest was a nightmare for the cybersecurity community.
While the WannaCry threat can reasonably be classified as “cyber terrorism”, and patches to protect machines from being infected have already been issued, Information Security Officers should use this incident as an opportunity to pull lessons about protecting all channels from attacks from bad actors. What can fraud experts, CISOs, and Call Center Leaders learn from the WannaCry attacks?
1. The Human is the Weakest Link In the Fraud Chain
The methods through which WannaCry spread and replicated may have been automated, but the door for access was opened by a human being. Basic social engineering is at the heart of many of these phishing, SMSishing, and vishing scams, and the phone is one of the most lucrative channels for manipulating a human being to a desired end. CISOs and Call Center Leaders should be investing heavily in training agents to identify and recognize common social engineering methods and tricks, and should consider exploring technologies that are able to identify calls real-time that have been spoofed or otherwise manipulated. There is a high correlation between ANI Spoofing and phone fraud attempts, so more information allows agents to “trust but verify” with more complete data.
2. The Cost of Attacks Go Beyond Money
The big story of the WannaCry attacks isn’t the absolute value of the money extorted (some reports have it at less than $60,000), but the “collateral damage” losses of disruption to services, man hours lost, and even potential health implications. The WannaCry ransomware didn’t just infect computers in a vacuum – it infected computers at Universities, the British National Health System, train stations in Germany, and multi-national corporations based out of France and China. Similarly, when fraud teams do cold “dollars and cents” cost benefit analyses of fraud solutions for the Contact Center, they often look only at their absolute number of fraud losses, and compare that to the cost of the solution. CISOs and Contact Center Leaders should look at the problem holistically: How much time are we losing due to caller authentication? Can we quantify the damage being done to our brand due to fraud and data breaches? Are fraudsters leveraging information stolen at the contact center level to make larger, more costly fraud attacks elsewhere?
3. Hackers and Fraudsters Are Very, Very Good At Exploiting Vulnerabilities
Some hackers and fraudsters are organized criminal enterprises; others are impish troublemakers. Either way, these people are experts at identifying weaknesses in security systems and exploiting them for their own gain. Just as the architects of the WannaCry attack masked their malicious software to get a foot in the door, so too do those looking to commit account takeover or identity theft through the Contact Center mask their phone number to minimize the likelihood of detection. By using ANI Spoofing, fraudsters look to mimic the phone number of an existing customer to bypass ANI-matching authentication procedures, or look to mimic a completely random phone number to hide their own identity. Either way, these fraudsters are leveraging spoof as the main method for their attacks, and any technologies that can detect these spoofing attempts real-time provide an added layer of much-needed security at the Contact Center level.
So what can CISOs and Contact Center Leaders do in the wake of the WannaCry attack to ensure that all channels are adequately defended from bad actors?
Security Leaders would be wise to conduct a thorough audit of Contact Center authentication and security protocols to ensure that vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the call flow are identified, isolated, and addressed in a timely fashion. Tools such as blacklists, voice biometrics, and anti-spoof technology are all strong safeguards to keep bad actors out, but they are used best in tandem as a layered solution to provide the highest possible level of Contact Center security.
Tim Prugar is Next Caller's Director of Customer Success. He can be reached at email@example.com.
By: Tim Prugar
Last week, I had the pleasure to sit in The Standard Club in Chicago, Illinois and listen to Dan Gingiss present to a room full of Customer Experience Executives regarding his philosophy on social customer service. With a single, calmly delivered thesis, Dan changed the tone of the room from interest and curiosity to stunned realization: there is no longer any such thing as an offline experience.
This point is even more pertinent during the recent whirlwind of airline controversies. Whether it’s assaulted passengers, threatened parents, slapped cell phones, or retaliatory reservation cancellations, it’s clear that what happens on airplanes or in airports is not probably going to find its way on line, but is certainly going to do so. An endless spate of blog posts have been penned expounding upon the need for empathy and knowing the full situation before reacting (or in these cases, overreacting). However, when these PR nightmares explode online, brands typically have at least a few precious hours to huddle, fact-gather, game-plan, and ultimately craft an A/B tested response with more complete information.
But what if you’re a Contact Center agent, and your “Customer Service Nightmare” is happening with you, on the phone, in real-time?
The strongest agents have an ability to de-escalate, gather information, express empathy (or even sympathy!) and work rapidly towards a resolution. However, even agents possessing those incredible professional and social skills start the conversation from behind the proverbial 8-ball. So what can brands do to ensure that a contentious customer service phone call doesn’t become a viral social media debacle?
It’s simple. Arm your agents with more information before they even pick up the phone.
If I’m experiencing a CX nightmare, and the first thing I have to do is spell, respell, repeat, and re-respell my last name? I am certainly not going to de-escalate any time soon. If it takes upwards of 2 minutes to link my call to the item I’m calling about that was never delivered? Not helping the situation. If agents are able to acquire information as basic as the name and home address of the caller, or as advanced as the caller’s email address or social media profiles, they are immediately better equipped to skip the friction-filled portion of the call and get right down to collaborating with the caller to solve the issue.
There is no situation where more information or more context cannot better prepare the customer-facing brand representative to do their job more effectively.
Keep yourself off of the internet for bad reasons and on it for good ones. Give your agents the information they need to handle every interaction, every time.
Tim Prugar is Next Caller's Director of Customer Success. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Knowing The Marketing Source Of Your Phone Calls Is Not Good Enough
Companies investing in lead generation Internet marketing frequently (and surprisingly) fail to track phone conversions, since Google Analytics and other backend website management platforms don’t support it.
But even companies that have set up phone tracking, to determine the marketing source of the phone conversion (SEO, PPC, etc.), are still missing a crucial piece of the puzzle: Lead validation.
Lead validation is the process of listening to recordings of phone conversations and reading website form submissions to separate sales leads from non-leads. As you’ll see in the presentation below, The Critical Importance of Lead Validation in Internet Marketing, validation makes all the difference in the world because about half of all conversions are NOT leads.
The culling of non-leads from campaign data and campaign testing has enormous implications on lead production and marketing ROI. Read the presentation now:
Next Caller Philosopher-King Michael Cho was recently asked by Execs in the Know, a global network of customer experience professionals, to put together some thoughts for a guest blog post. You can read Michael's insight on optimizing the call center not only for excellent customer service, but also to increase revenue below:
By: David Schwartz
In our fast-paced world, the challenge of reaching customers in the most productive manner has become more and more interesting. Companies have looked to various customer relationship management (CRM) systems to increase their sales and retention. As a direct result of CRMs, many businesses have indeed managed to boost sales when it comes to direct-to-customer outreach.
Salesforce, the world’s largest CRM company, released the Lightning Partner Community cloud capability back in 2013. This cloud allows customers to access information on their account, as well as to make purchases directly.
For a long time, however, a major challenge has remained with regard to companies selling to companies (B2B). These customers, which are actually companies themselves, want to know more about the end-customer. In order to address this challenge, Salesforce recently introduced a new layer of Lightning Partner Community cloud.
In a recent article, Natalie Gagliordi discusses this new capabilities of the cloud. As Gagliordi explains, the layer will enable the B2B customers (i.e. the reseller) to access the same information as the original seller.
Perhaps this new development will allow the B2B sales process to become smoother, a much needed improvement in a constantly changing era.
Yesterday, the FCC RoboCall StrikeForce presented their final report, actions, and recommendations. Next Caller Account Executive Tim Prugar sat in on the webcast, and here are his takeaways.
There are few greater pleasures in life than taking a seat in a cozy chair, slipping on some headphones, and watching an hour-long livestream of a government hearing. Yesterday, at 1:00 PM EST, that’s precisely what I got to do. Believe in yourself kids…dreams really do come true.
Before getting to the meat of the presentation, a solid recognition, admiration, and appreciation of the work that the StrikeForce members put in is in order. The StrikeForce was assembled in Late July, and over the course of 60 days the committee engaged in over 100 meetings, produced a 47 page report, and rolled out an aggressive timeline for continued action steps. From my estimation, this committee worked at blazing speed, and should be commended for that.
Now, onto my key takeaways:
1. The FCC Has Fantastic Taste in Music
The waiting music the FCC plays on its website before the livestream kicks in? A soft jazz version of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”, inarguably one of the greatest songs ever recorded.
2. Both the FCC and Carriers Will Focus on Increasing Consumer Information
One of the largest tangible outputs of the StrikeForce was the launch of a brand new FCC website:
The site approaches RoboCalls from a perspective of lessening their impact. The site gives consumers information on what RoboCalls are, the legal regulations surrounding telemarketing, remedies that customers can take to protect themselves from RoboCalls, as well as a clearly identified place for lodging complaints.
As technical solutions are much more difficult and costly to build, look for both carriers and government actors to create better-educated consumers, particularly those consumers that fit demographics that are at-risk for phone fraud.
3. VOIP Throws a Wrench in the System
One of the trends that came up multiple times during the report is that any technical solution to be launched by Carriers to stop RoboCalls and Call Spoofing needs to be able to detect both calls that originate from traditional landlines as well as internet-based VOIP calls. AT&T stated explicitly that the majority of call spoofing originates through VOIP, so being able to analyze and detect these type of calls is of primary importance. Look for Carriers to heavily invest in R&D or vendor solutions that can analyze landline, mobile, and VOIP to detect spoofing…preferably real-time.
4. Info-Sharing and Cooperation Among Carriers is a Must
One of the most celebrated outputs of the StrikeForce was the “Do Not Originate” (DNO) List. The DNO list, as documented here, allows organizations who do not make outbound calls displaying their inbound number (IRS, 911) to petition to have their number blocked by carriers when it displays as the outbound number. The IRS made written DNO Requests for a series of numbers, and reported a 90% reduction in reports of IRS scam calls following the deployment of a DNO.
A successful adoption of a national DNO Registry requires cooperation across Carriers. In addition, the StrikeForce made recommendations to increase sharing of information on “bad actors” across networks, effectively creating a “telecommunications profile” of a phone scammer. The committee also suggested creating “Call Categories” as an industry that will limit false positives when blocking spoofed or potentially fraudulent calls.
5. The Government Has a Tolerance For False Positives
One of the largest concerns for Carriers when cracking down on RoboCalls and Call Spoofing is pretty straightforward: what are the legal and business ramifications for blocking flagged calls that are actually legitimate?
The FCC made it clear that, if Carriers are doing their due diligence and making a good faith effort when blocking calls, the FCC will push for “safe harbor” to protect Carriers from litigation, either criminal or civil.
As Commissioner Rosenworcel stated, “If you need to break things to get this done, just ask.” This was my second favorite quote of hers on the day, finishing slightly behind “I DON’T BELIEVE IN PARTICIPATION TROPHIES.” The FCC should hire Mike Gundy.
6. The Carriers are Expected to Foot the Bill
So it’s easy to agree in theory that RoboCalls and Call Spoofing are bad. It’s even somewhat easy to agree on the technology that’s most effective for stopping said calls. Where things get tricky is identifying how, and who, exactly, will be paying for the R&D, technology, training, and deployment. Luckily, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler laid out the government’s position pretty clearly:
The Carriers will be expected to foot the bill, as stopping RoboCalls is “the cost of doing business” and falls under the umbrella of supplying a high-quality service.
It will be interesting to see what impact that stance will have on timelines, innovation, and deployment.
By: ShirWan Little
Lets face it, few things are as annoying as answering the phone and being immediately greeted by a recording trying to lure you into handing over your credit card information. This increasingly common situation is a result of robocalling. Currently, robocalling scams account for over $350 million in financial losses every year in the United States. Moreover, the robocalling scourge has become the most common complaint that the FCC receives from the public. The “Do Not Call List” was created over ten years ago to resolve this very problem. Unfortunately, the Do Not Call list has failed miserably at this goal. Let’s dive into why the DNC List fails to stop these fraudsters, why robocalling has become so popular and what the FCC is doing to try to stop it.
Do Not Call
At the creation of the “Do Not Call List,” the majority of robocalls were legitimate telemarketers selling real products. Against those calls, the “Do Not Call List” has remained largely effective. However, a lot has changed since the “Do Not Call List” went into effect in the early 2000s. In particular, the widespread availability of commercial Voice over Internet Protocol(VoIP) services. The advancement of VoiP technology made international calling, and phone spoofing (falsifying caller ID information) very cheap. Consequently, the majority of modern day robocalls blatantly ignore the “Do Not Call List” in attempts to commit fraud.
Tricking the Caller ID
Today, anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection can flood millions of phones with robocalls from any location in the world. Spoofing is perhaps the most nefarious aspect of this type of fraud; people are more likely to answer phone calls when seemingly legitimate organizations appear on caller ID. Furthermore, caller ID is often used to verify one's identity when gaining access to banks. For that reason, robocalling scams rely heavily on phone spoofing. For instance, one of the more notable scams entails fraudsters masquerading as IRS officials and demanding immediate payment for overdue taxes. Over the past two years this scam alone has cost taxpayers $31 million.
"Do Not Originate" vs. Do Not Call
In spite of these findings, many in the telecom industry have been hesitant to adopt solutions to stop robocalling, citing concerns that existing alternatives will inadvertently block a portion of legitimate calls. Nonetheless, the FCC has continued to urge these companies to take action. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler even wrote letters to the chief executives of the largest companies in the telecom industry asking them to produce solutions to reduce robocalls. Currently, all of the notable alternative solutions fall into 3 distinct methods; "Do Not Originate" list, Authentication/ Identity validation and filtering.
The “Do Not Originate” list, basically the opposite of the Do Not Call list, would stop robocalls at the VoIP gateways that connect VoIP calls to the traditional phone system. While VoIP robocalls can be placed from anywhere in the world, all such calls pass through these gateways to enter the traditional circuit-switched phone lines.3 This list would allow commonly spoofed entities such as the IRS, FBI and banks to register their outbound numbers in a database. Calls from those numbers that originate from certain gateways would then raise red flags and most likely be blocked. Additionally, this approach can be implemented without any changes in telephony protocols and does not require cooperation of other phone carriers. Yet it still is no substitute for authentication.
Authentication and Filtering
Authentication is the most effective way to prevent spoofing. There are a few different ways to implement this methods, one of the more promising is through the use of third party APIs to analyze the meta data of callers. Authentication is crucial to stopping robocallers from impersonating others and to facilitate effective filtration. The main drawback of this method is that it would most likely require the difficult task of gaining the cooperation of the major telecom companies to be successful.
Filtering works by checking each incoming call against a white list of trustworthy phone numbers or a black list of numbers you should reject. Although filtering can be very helpful in reducing robocalling it still has several drawbacks. Most notably, if there is nothing in place to stop spoofing, filtering can be easily circumvented by spoofing a new number.
A Cocktail Approach
In total, the three methods complement each other very well. Each of the methods does its part to reduce robocalling in a different way; if used in combination with one another, these methods could eliminate the current robocalling epidemic. The “Do Not Originate List” eliminates the ability to spoof high-profile numbers like the IRS. Authentication makes fraudulent calls less likely to pay off by stopping robocallers from impersonating others. Filtering can help block all confirmed fraudsters.
by: David Schwartz
For every marketer in the world, the question that is often most prevalent is: “What next?” We have all this customer data, we sell certain types of products. What can be done to make the two connect? How can our offerings meet the needs of our customers, knowing what we know about our specific market?
In “How Marketers can use Data to Target and Connect, Intelligently,” Renzo DiPasquale sets out to solve the puzzle. He lays out three ways for a company to successfully create a marketing strategy that relies on the data readily available:
1. Get Personal.
First, DiPasquale suggests getting personal with customers. Creating content that fits a customer’s profile will make the customer happy to shop at your company. It will also ensure that the customer comes back to shop with your company in the future.
2. Go Mobile.
Next, DiPasquale urges companies to go mobile. It is absolutely crucial for companies to market to customers on their smartphone, particularly as shopping continues to move from brick and mortar to phone.
3. Get Educated.
The final suggestion is possibly the most important: educate thyself. Learn what technology is out there that can help you improve your data. Possessing and utilizing the best marketing tools can often make or break a company.
In 2016, there is so much data available. The only question that remains is: how will companies use the data to ensure optimal customer experience and retention?
This coming week, Next Caller will be attending the biggest conference in performance marketing and lead generation, LeadsCon...and it's right in our backyard! If you are in New York and interested in learning more about our advanced customer intelligence and enriching leads, stop by our booth #332 in the Exhibition Hall. Next Caller offers the most profound insights into your customers - over 50+ data points of contact, demographic, and home information - from an email address, phone number, or name and physical address.
We’re also delighted to extend an invitation to our Taste of New York Networking Reception in the Exhibition Hall on Tuesday, August 23rd, from 5-6 PM. Come join us for a bottle of red and a bottle of white as you take in a true New York experience. We’re looking forward to meeting you.
We're excited to partner with the LeadsCon Community, and to give visitors to our city an exhaustive list of things to do, places to eat, and subway directions!
Comprehensive LeadsCon information can be found here.
You have 30 quick seconds to make a million fast decisions.
First impressions about a company via customer service channels make lasting impressions to the customer and whoever the customer decides to share them with (friends, family, social media). When Sir Patrick Stewart waited 36 hours for his Time Warner Cable appointment he took his thoughts to Twitter on their initial customer support. It resulted in a media backlash that had the TW social media team on their toes.
In most cases, the single point of contact with a company is when they reach out to customer service.
How will you, mighty customer service representative, measure up to the clock?
1. Be Prepared
If you’re a customer service agent that is provided with a technology to pull customer data, such as a name, phone or account number, address, etc. on your computer screen before every call, consider your job made 10% easier. If you don’t, you still have the ability to do one simple thing: ASK. By referring to the customer by name throughout the entire call, as well as opening their account to read through any previous service notes, you are a step ahead of the game to kindling the fire on a great call.
2. Be Kind
You’re on the customer’s side. Your job is to have their back. When you answer the phone, are you answering in a tone that you’d use with your best friend? Setting and keeping a genuine and friendly tone during the conversation welcomes your customer to your company, starts to build trust and showcases your brand voice in a positive manner. Not only that, it will benefit the bottom line. According to JitBit, businesses lose upwards of $84 billion per year due to poor, untrustworthy customer service.
3. Be Purposeful
The customer called for a reason. They may voice their frustrations immediately, not caring about your kind voice or that you know their name. What actions do you take then? By listening to the customer speak and release their dissatisfaction, you can zoom in on what the larger issue is at stake. You can then hold the reigns to define the purpose of the call to keep things on track and help your customer get to their desired resolution.
Here’s a Customer Service MadLib Style Script for you to act as a baseline on how to keep the empathy in your word choices when you may be challenged by a difficult customer:
[After listening quietly to customer on phone]
______________ thank you for sharing your experience with me. I completely understand why you feel
I am disappointed that _____________ has happened. Our company takes ownership of this and apologize. (Sum up customer story)
My goal is to resolve this. I will _____________________ and I look forward to working with you!
(Realistic Customer Expectations)
In a nutshell:
Write that down on a Post-It and stick it to your computer monitor, friends!
All of this happens within the first 30 seconds of the call. And the power is all in your hands.
A member of the Next Caller team, Zach Shaw holds a Philosophy degree from Princeton University with a certificate in Computer Science. Every so often, Zach shares his musings about the intersection of big data and technology with some age-old philosophical questions.
In her recent book Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle explores the effects of our constant use of social media on our mobile devices. Originally, the constant connection brought about by new technologies was seen as an extension of our personal identities. However, as Turkle notes, there are many adverse effects from these information communication technologies (ICTs) - foremost the replacement of face-to-face communication by digital interaction. People do not learn empathy through the use of social networks. They learn how to get the most likes on their profiles. Our self esteem is intimately linked with our popularity on such websites, and we'll do everything in our power to boost that popularity, including sacrificing an intimate conversation with a friend or family member. Even when we are conversing face-to-face, our mobile devices make it possible for us to be 'alone together.' We can be physically together with another person, but completely inattentive to them as a human being. As a society this is a major development, and, in the eyes of Turkle, a major problem.
Not lagging behind, the customer service space has adapted to such technologies. We can tweet about our bad experience on an airline. We can email the customer service department about our phone malfunctioning. We can online chat with a representative about our order on Amazon.com. Communication to address our concerns with a product or service has been extended by these ICTs; consequently, as customers, it is easier than ever to solve our problems. Yet, when we really are frustrated we still resort to the phone.
A customer service phone call is uniquely outside the grasp of distracting mobile technologies because both individuals on the call are focused on achieving the same goal: solving the customer's problem as quickly as possible. You, the customer, want your concern addressed, and, until it is, you will give your undivided attention to the phone call. Conversely, the representative will lose his or her job if not engaged. So in this one case, the ability to have limitless distractions and data at your fingertips does not hinder the quality of your conversation.
Let's compare this to a typical conversation with a friend. You both have several different goals. You each want to improve your status on Facebook. Maybe one of you wants some encouragement to work harder at your job from the conversation. The other friend wants to talk about the latest gossip. There is somewhat of a prisoner's dilemma here. Because you both took the time to hang out, let's assume that you both enjoy hanging out more than going on Facebook. Given that assumption, let's give the value of 1 happiness point to each of you for the action of going on Facebook, and the value of 5 for the other two activities of face-to-face conversation. However, if you choose to go on Facebook, you are guaranteed 1 point whereas, if you choose to engage in the face-to-face conversation where you both are pursuing different goals, it is likely that one of you will not achieve your goal.
Even if you are very risk-averse, you would probably choose the conversation at first - that's why you both are hanging out. But if the conversation starts to veer off course of your individual goal to another topic (I assume in my model your friend's goal instead), it is more beneficial for you to stop paying attention to the conversation and to go on Facebook. If there is a more comfortable, egotistical alternative to genuine empathy, we will take it. Therein lies the dilemma of being 'alone together.'
Conversely, returning to customer service calls, the conversation is actually improved by recently developed ICTs. Certain technologies allow representatives to access demographic information about their customers which these representatives can use to better meet their customers' needs. With new innovations like omni-channel integration, representatives can specialize their knowledge to specific products or services, and thus better achieve the joint goal of any customer service conversation: addressing the customer's concern. Instead of destroying the quality of these conversations, new technologies are enabling better communication in the customer service space.
In spite of the stigma arguments like Turkle’s have started to propagate against ICTs, customer service providers and call center professionals need to take advantage of these new technologies in order to maintain customer loyalty.