All entries tagged with “Ritz”

Recap: Contact Center Summit

In late November, Forum Events kicked off the first Contact Center Summit with great success! Directors and Vice Presidents of Contact Centers across the country gathered at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota for a productive day-and-a-half of networking.

Following an informal cocktail reception on the lawn of the Ritz-Carlton, overlooking a harbor of boats on the bay as sun set, attendees mingled with peers and solution providers before calling it an early night with high expectations for an even earlier morning!

At registration, Contact Center Summit attendees are warmly welcomed by the Forum Events team who showed them to their personal tables in the grand ballroom. Here, a series of back-to-back informal meetings take place. Throughout the day, attendees enjoy the smooth transition between the 30-minute meetings, allowing them to make strong connections with one another rather than just short, forgettable introductions.

“Really liked the one-on-one interaction with vendors. It was very efficient and much better than fighting for time at a booth in a trade show.” – Think Direct Marketing Group

As consecutive meetings took place, executives also participated in round table discussions and seminars led by industry experts. Topics revolved around customer service impacting the bottom line, building a healthy employee base and cloud-based storage. The seminars, while informative, are equally casual, allowing peers to brainstorm and share their knowledge based on experience.

After a long day of networking, it was time for the fun to start. Come dinner time, everyone had taken some time to relax before heading to the foyer of the main ballroom for pre-dinner cocktails and a packed networking hour. For many, this was a great time to reconnect with people that they had met with briefly, allowing them to move on to a gourmet dinner where everyone can sit and mingle. An event filled from beginning to end with positive interactions lead to casino evening. Here, guests hopped into a photobooth to catch the moment, while also participating in casino games including roulette and blackjack.

By day two, everyone was familiar as meetings re-joined early Tuesday morning following an equally productive breakfast.

Here is some feedback from the event. 


Why Attend an Appointment-Based Event?

Facts About Our Events:
55% of attending Delegates do not attend
any of the major national trade shows. 
96% of attending Vendors say a Forum is a more 
effective way of meeting potential buyers.
95% of Vendors say attending a Forum saves their
company time sourcing and meeting new buyers. 
40% of Vendors attend 4-7 of our events.
62% of all Delegates say they will do business with
1-3 Vendors they met at our event. 

Our niche networking concept develops a pool of potential clients who are qualified and seeking new services. All attendees are senior-level executives with decision-making abilities and sourcing responsibilities. In a traditional setting, a meeting with these clients could take several months to confirm. That’s months of empty calling that may never result in a face-to-face introduction. At a Forum, you meet with up to 30 end users who have indicated they need your service – 62 percent of whom say they plan to do business with 1-3 Vendors they connected with at a Forum! 95 percent of past Vendors report attending an appointment-based event with us saves their company time sourcing and meeting new buyers (consider this cold calling, emailing, travel and maybe – a meeting with a decision maker).
We are able to boost your numbers by generating a pool of hot leads under one roof,
guaranteeing a return on investment! 

Don’t believe us? Here’s what past attendees have to say:

"I received excellent leads; contacts I wouldn't have been able to make were it not for these quality meetings!" -Elkay

"This event was well worth my time and investment." -Kimberley-Clark

"This is an event that provides vendors the chance to really connect with potential clients without the hassle of a trade show booth!" -Detex

"Productive day and a half!" -ISS

"Very effective process in meeting with interested customers!" - Container Store

“Easily the most beneficial summit/conference I have attended. Very well organized and to the point.” –ABM

And You Know What Makes Successful Business Deals? Satisfied Clients…

Here’s What Past Delegates Are Saying:

"I was pleasantly surprised about the number of new or improved products I learned about that I can use. I can think of three suppliers whose products I will begin using immediately!" -Innovative Senior Living

"I was very surprised: This gives you the opportunity to have one-on-one contact with the vendors which allows you to get a better feel for their product unlike conventions where they are talking to several people at one time. I really like the one-on-one experience." - Bolivar Medical Center

“Summit was a success.  Vendor array across many trades and lines.  Thorough, well-presented workshops. Very well organized, productive, fun event. One-on-one sessions timed perfectly.  Food, awesome. ” 
- Burlington Stores

"As a first time participant in this Forum - I sincerely appreciate the pace, schedule and enthusiasm of the team! The event was a tremendous help to my company."
- NFL

"It was a wonderfully organized event and very relevant to our business needs…and yes we also enjoyed ourselves. Thanks!"
- West Coast Security Operations Team, The Walt Disney Company

"I have only high reviews for every aspect of the conference.  I made some outstanding contacts and will likely be partnering with one or more of the attending vendors. The event was nothing less than outstanding.  You guys did a great job!!"
- VP Security and Transportation, Valley View Casino and Hotel




Rants & Raves: Summertime & The Living Is Easy... Or Is It?

Featured Speaker Kathleen Peterson of Powerhouse Consulting speaks out on her summertime sadness when organizing her annual vacation.

The Call Center has historically been linked to "production" environments in which the dynamic is to process as many calls as possible in as short a time-scale as possible. The focus on how many calls came in and how many calls each person handled has historically caused a perceived conflict in quality. The agents on the phone are often torn between the call they are on and the
calls in queue. This is further amplified in some centers with reader boards alarming, lights
flashing and managers running around like lunatics. No wonder there is a resistance among Customer Service departments to acknowledge that they are, in many cases, Call Centers, or atleast use a Call Center as a key delivery channel.

These conditions certainly do not have to be true. Just for the record, in a well-run Call Center,
the agent is responsible for the call and the management is responsible for the queue. So what to
do to create a high performance service culture within a Call Center environment? Here are four
key areas to evaluate in your quest for Call Center mastery.

1. Make sure that the Call Center is part of the big picture.
To take on the responsibility of the queue, management must view the operation as a total process, one that is connected to the enterprise. This connection must be made in terms of the organization’s values, vision and mission. Is it clear what role the Call Center plays in the overall objectives of the company? This clarity will allow for inclusion and recognition instead of being thought of as a back-room operation. Call Centers do not generally generate their own activity (queues); these are typically a result of marketing promotions, product enhancements, billing issues, service additions, changes in policies or procedures, and so on. This being true it would follow that the parts of the organization responsible for these functions should partner in the planning and audit process. This involves acknowledging that the Call Center is part of a total process, not simply a random series of phone calls coming in and being handled by our staff.

2. Evaluate your planning process.
Queue management begins with an effective "forecast" of demand. Strive for accuracy within plus
or minus 5%. An effective forecast is tied to the other objectives we have for our center. These
include customer retention and satisfaction, sales, employee satisfaction and shareholder return.
In order to evaluate the planning process, we must determine if we have allocated the proper
resources to the task. The forecasting tasks include storing and analyzing historical data, creating
and adjusting schedules, managing the intra-day queue, reallocating staff and managing the
scheduling software system, if you use one.

The forecast person is sometimes known as the "capacity manager." This person should also be responsible for formalizing the flow of information between other departments and the Call Center. The position of capacity manager should not be shared; to be effective there needs to be a dedicated source. This person may need the support of the Call Center manager (and occasionally even more senior management) to be certain that other departments provide theinformation necessary to achieve a high level of accuracy. Historical data is only the starting point for an effective Call Center forecast.

Call Center managers must radiate credibility to their counterparts. They have to be kept "in the loop." In order for that to happen, their peers must respect them and feel confident in sharing vital information with them - information such as two million sales brochures going out in Tuesday’s mail or listing the Call Center’s toll free number as a response mechanism, for example. The Call Center manager, as well as the "capacity manager," needs to be aware of this information in order to know how many people to schedule for what is likely to be an increase in the number of calls. Sometimes, those information handoffs are never made. The result: lost revenue and frustrated customers. All the staff-forecasting software in the world cannot overcome a problem like that. To make matters worse, Call Center morale can take a nosedive when reps are faced with angry customers who know more about a sale or product launch than they do. A strong liaison with other department managers and a calendar prepared by the capacity manager or forecasting team can solve the problem.

Conversely, the Call Center can and should provide vital management information to other
departments. Inbound Call Centers are staffed, to a large extent, on the basis of the number of
inquiries and/or complaints they receive on a given number of issues. If, for example, an
automobile manufacturer’s top consumer complaint last year was that customers’ keys broke off
in the door, it is incumbent upon the Call Center to share that data with the engineering
department. Fixing that problem will mean happier customers and fewer calls to the Call Center.
Fewer calls will mean a need for fewer reps on the phones and will cut overall costs of the center.

3. Focus on quality.
Do you tell agents on the phone to act differently during busy periods? I have repeatedly asked
this question of Call Center managers and often get an emphatic "well, yes, of course". "Exactly
what do you tell them to do?" I ask. Some say, "We just tell them to hurry up!" Others say, "We
tell them not to cross sell." So, we sacrifice revenue opportunities in favor of calls in queue. Ask
yourself, "Does the answer to this question - what to change when it is busy - initiate a quality
conflict for the people taking the calls?" If so you are making a mistake.

We must understand that it will always take longer to do it over than it will to do it right. If we ask
front-line staff to compromise quality because we have a queue issue, we will be setting the stage
for the oft-found belief of Call Center staff that management cares more about quantity than
quality. This is not to say that our front-line staff may not be able to reorganize the workload or
make some adjustments in their behavior during peak periods, just not at the risk of quality.

4. Commit to training.
Training is the single most important investment in the Customer Service Call Center. In most
Call Centers, initial training is often lengthy and ineffective; ongoing training is often canceled and
monitor programs leave much to be desired. Training also acts as a morale booster. One of the
major contributors to turnover is when staff feels as if their growth doesn’t matter to the
organization. To improve quality, improve training.

Call Centers must also be creative about training because we simply cannot take staff off the
phone for instructor led programs, as you can with other departments. The use of the
Internet/intranets, video tapes, CD-ROM and computer-based training all lend themselves to
dynamic scheduling and self-paced learning.

When preparing your budget, plan for a minimum of ten hours per year per person for training.(This is a minimum – not a recommendation; I believe it should be much higher). Then measure
whether the training took place.

Study the error rates and types of errors in your center to adjust the training curriculum. Have
your training people do an analysis of the types of calls handled and the skills required, so they
can maintain a skills matrix and prepare individual training plans.

Finally, make your monitor program an absolute training vehicle and not necessarily a strict
performance measurement tool. The monitor program is like providing your front-line staff with a
"personal trainer". This is a very expensive program when you figure in all the supervisor hours
and in many cases, the technology investments. We must demand a performance return on this
investment. Hold your monitor scores up against other measurements. If the program is effective
(assuming your turnover rate is not in the double digits), you should see improvements in handle
time, service level and occupancy.

Naturally, the right kind of training is essential - product knowledge training, Customer Service
training and training in how to use the phones, computers and software needed to run a Call
Center enterprise. However, when training lasts eight, ten, twelve weeks, there’s a risk your
people will be overwhelmed with information. On-the-job training can go a long way toward
teaching reps the practical skills of applying product knowledge to a factual situation or learning
how to diffuse an angry customer.

The configuration of your people should also drive the type of training provided. For example,
while all staff may be trained in answering basic product inquiries and complaints, several reps
might be assigned to specialized teams which deal with technical issues, high ticket items, high
volume customers or customers with special needs. Those special needs must be addressed in
the training curriculum. Be aware, however, that productivity is a potential tradeoff though in an
environment with many small teams. Larger generalized groups of representatives can take more
calls than a consortium of smaller ones.

Many Call Centers receive training from a designated corporate training department, somewhat
disconnected from the Call Center. It is important in a Call Center for the trainers to report to the
Call Center director and to have continuous exposure to the Call Center environment.
Within that framework, trainers can take on a mentoring role during the first 90 days a trainee
spends on the floor. It is key for trainees not to feel they have been cast adrift the moment the
initial training period is over.

Kathleen Peterson is the Founder and Chief Vision Officer of PowerHouse Consulting. Kathleen Peterson is an acclaimed Contact Center consultant and industry visionary. Kathleen has emerged as one of the most sought-after experts in the field of Customer Experience and works with the world's top customer-focused companies. She is widely published in prestigious journals in the US and abroad. Kathleen is a featured speaker at conferences and Fortune 500 companies. She has shared her humour, philosophy and experience in keynotes in the US, London, Paris, Turkey, Dubai, and Hong Kong. 

Kathleen will be speaking at the Contact Center Summit in Sarasota-FL this November, covering the topic of "Backstage at the Customer Experience."


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