In-depth conversation with Evelin Gazdag, the account manager of United Call Centers, Part 2.
Following the first part of the interview, this time we will touch upon topics such as the day-to-day life of a contact center, the practical management of individual campaigns, the challenges of expanding in the international market, or why corporate social responsibility is important for United Call Centers. In the continuation, we will receive answers to these questions.
If one is only superficially familiar with how the multiskill model works, they may even assume that it is counterproductive to have the operator toggle between different campaigns on a call-by-call basis. What do you think about this?
Not everyone is suited for such a thing. But if someone doesn’t enjoy doing this, either at the operator’s or manager’s level, both of us will realize that early on. You can see who is able to dynamically adapt, who can handle a lot of information at once, and who is able to switch between different tabs and systems, either in a figurative sense, in the head, or in practice, on the computer. What is certain, that we are able to offer many people a job by performing such tasks. You can find younger or older individuals, males and females from Hungary or from anywhere else in the world. For those who excel at this, age, gender or geological location plays no significance at all.
What is important to pay attention to at the management level?
For example, that no one would be overloaded. We know which of our campaigns will receive more calls. We distribute the three or four largest ones among the operators, but more than two customers, who would provide enough work for the whole day won’t be assigned to anyone at the same time. There are those who can handle such scenarioes well, but there are those as well who wouldn’t be so comfortable that. In such cases, we make sure that in addition to a large campaign, there are also smaller ones where only a few calls are received every hour. This makes the pace more balanced.
We try to ease operators’ situations, for example, through an inbound call management software, every project has a different color - there are people comprehend them this way. When you receive a call, you aren’t oblidged to go through a long, robotic sign-in text, because the IVR - Interactive Voice Response, more commonly mentioned as an automated telephone menu system - tells you anyway, since the customer knows as well who they have called, a simple introduction suffices. Of course, initially, when the model was still brand new, there were introductions on behalf of another campaign. But these were withing the margin of errors. There has never been a conflict about this, most of the time it doesn’t even turn heads. Of course, every day brings a new set of challenges, but as of today this mode of operation is part of the daily routine.
One of the most common criticisms of outsourced services is that call center operators are not professionals, so they may not be able to provide adequate assistance to a customer. What do you think about this?
Allow me to share an example. Among our clients there is a global company that creates custom-made souvenirs, perhaps this is our most complex campaign at the moment. A lot of material and information is involved, because there are a lot of products, each with a different manufacturing time and place, and the list goes on. Operators need to know everything about these things. Everything is written down. If you are able to use these documents well and rifle through them smoothly, you won’t be confused by anything after a few days.
On the other hand, there is a five-day training, 8 hours a day, when we share all the information with the team members, and this only includes inbound customer service! There is correspondence training afterwards so that the administrator may also be able to handle the emails. And, of course, there are outgoing calls as well, contacting individual stores, for example in the event of a failure of an online terminal or a customer complaint. This team typically includes those individuals who already possess routine, they know how to handle an incoming call, as it provides a good basis for being capable with this well as well.
Clients can also benefit from such a collaboration in the sense that they need to systematize their knowledge before outsourcing if they want the training to be effective.
Fortunately, we possess clients who really pull all strings in order to succeed together, they provide us with their own knowledge base, which we can then integrate into United Call Centers’ system to make things work smoothly. Of course, this is a challenge as well, but it can be handled well. The easiest way to make a customer satisfied is to be professional and keep in mind that they put a lot of energy into joint projects as well.
How does this manifest itself during daily work sessions?
Our relationship with many parties aren’t as much resembling a client-trustee dynamic, since it seems like as if we were part of the same company. I often feel that these relationships are not business-like, but rather it could be compared to that of a friendship. We had a partner who had an issue because two of their colleagues left after each other and they called us what to do until they found new people. I told them that I they didn’t have to hire anyone! Outsource the work! We are here, we are professionals, we will handle it. We will take the calls, while they don’t need to be concerned about training someone for this purpose.
A certain extent of trust is essential for a close cooperation like this.
It is very important that our partners would be open to concepts that we suggest. There are many clients who have already worked with a call center or who outsource their internal customer service, that’s why there are some insistencies on how certain processes should work. But if someone wishes to hand over a task to someone else, they must accept the knowledge base and the experience which we possess. In such a collaboration, we must also feel comfortable. It is also an important challenge in the work of campaign coordinators that clients have an “oversight into company”, that there wouldn’t be such a category like an insider’s confidential information. Trust is essential. There are campaigns where we can even see financial data, but never has it happened that even a single operator thought about taking advantage of this.
United Call Centers is increasingly beginning to gain a foothold in the international market. By your opinion, what new challenges entails with this?
Since I have been here from the beginning and the task was given, perhaps I see the international line a little differently compared to others. Obviously, it would be nice if I spoke perfect English, but despite this I still love working with them. Many supervisors, project managers are Hungarian, so we can communicate with each other. The fact that they work in an international environment is evident to me. Of course, there are potential pitfalls, as international clients may have a different mentality in certain cases, cultures aren’t the same, the composition of projects and the implementation of foreign assignments differ as well, but you should not be afraid of that.
The task is given, and as of my part I try to help in as many ways as possible. If there is a Hungarian line to international cooperation, it will surely be the case with me. It’s also a test of strength, but I love it. For each new project, I usually ask if there will be a Hungarian part? I like to pass on our knowledge to colleagues who are taking the international part to make this whole business better. And so we can carry these services perfectly. The fact, however, that regardless of where the client company is based, is that every culture is very different. It is a task for the international team to solve every day that clients - be they English, Americans, Poles, Russians, and so on - see certain things differently because of their own background, which is why it is not always easy to pass on our vision, knowledge, and the feeling of how something could be the best.
What does the slogan of "More than business" mean to you?
It is important for us to constantly improve ourselves. We must familiarize ourselves with other cultures, we need to embrace new information. We put our hearts and souls into each project with equal efforts, both domestically and internationally, regardless of how many operators the client employs or how much revenue it generates on a monthly basis. We invest the same amount of energy in smaller campaigns that generate twenty calls a day, just as for larger ones, where we may receive up to two hundred calls a day - from administrators to team leaders to account managers. And we treat this the same way at the international level as well.
Team management is very important. How do you talk, how do you communicate, how do you interact with colleagues, how do you encourage them to fare well? It doesn’t matter if you are a good leader, but on the other hand the operators cannot talk, they are unable to communicate, they are unable pass on the information to the person they called in an understandable manner or that would see the positive side of the call as to why this is beneficial for them. If your operators do not consider the issues as one of their own, if they don’t believe that it’s a good thing, and this will be beneficial for the contacted individual what we’re doing now, then it won’t matter even if other assignment roll in. We spend a lot of time and energy developing our leaders, our operators, but that’s not enough if they don’t develop themselves. It also matters a lot what you bring from home, what environment you grew up in, what you have experienced, what types of work you did, what you read, what you watch, and so on, but essentially, it’s a team effort. The company adds one half, but you have to add the other half as well.
Are you a perfectionist in this regard?
When a new service is launched, it should be done correctly so that no follow-up questions may arise afterwards. People shouldn’t ask how we are managing with tasks, what can they know about processing, what percentage equates to success, what do you do and how do you do it? This is how we need to tackle each campaign. There should not be an instance where the client has to call attention about a report! We will share our experiences and pass on the information! We will ask and get ahead of things before they would resort to approaching us, because that’s our job, that’s why we are. This is how we can achieve obtaining satisfied customers, and that if during a conversation it arises that someone needs an outsourced customer service or a contact center then they would recommend us!
You also need a good team for quality work and expansion, right?
The company is developing dynamically, we must pay attention to what treasures we possess. I like to build from the inside out, I like to have people highlighted who have experienced first hand how all of the processes works. They take calls, talk with clients, know how to quickly switch between tasks. But there are also those of course who came from outside and were appointed to leadership positions from the start. We immediately managed to discern a certain potential within them.
Fortunately, the pool of administrators is large, we are able to swiftly respond to anything. We are in contact with many people, yet technically everyone knows everyone. This really is an environment that resembles one as of a family, even though it is a company which operates on an international level. There is no such thing where an operator wouldn’t be aware of who the head or owner of the company is, because they might have not seen them in his or her life. I feel that this matters a lot. They are also there at corporate gatherings, we talk and are available for each other. We know what kind of a person everyone is, what their purpose is, what their expectations are, who brings what to the table. This is what sets us apart from other players in the market.
United Call Centers is especially active when it comes to corporate social responsibility. What do you think a company like ours can offer the world?
In addition to paying attention to our core values and supporting our employees at all levels, we wish to give good things to the community as well. We constantly organize donations and blood donations. We’ve created the “UCC tells a tale” telephone line to try to help kids whose parents can’t tell a story for some reason. We are a family friendly workplace. There are a lot of moms and expecting mothers working with us from home. Many people are initially worried about what would happen if the child cried into the phone. But that’s just how things work right now, that’s how the home office works. And people have learned how to handle this by now. These are small things, but they mean a lot to us and make many of us pride. We strive to find ways to make the world a better place bit by bit every day.
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