All entries tagged with “Sarasota”

What Your Peers Are Saying: 2014 Contact Center Summit

Following the 2014 debut of the Contact Center Summit, feedback has been pouring in from Directors and VPs of contact centers across the country. Taking place at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota - here are some of the comments we have received:

“Excellent venue and very good selection of vendors.”
- US Airways 

“The event was well planned and staged.”
- TriNet

“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 

“Had a very nice time meeting with several different types of companies that offer some very helpful services.”
- Apria Healthcare 

“I spoke to vendors that I never would have spoken to on the phone.”
- ASK Telemarketing 

“Enjoyed the one-on-one format.”
- Jackson Hewitt Tax Service

“I truly believe this environment created a better way to understand what products the vendors had and how they could support our work. And I must say, the networking was fantastic!”
- Universal North America 

“This is by far the best summit I have attended!”
- TrialCard

Sponsors of the Contact Center Summit 2014 include: 

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. 

Rants & Raves: Are You Running on Empty?

By Kathleen Peterson of Powerhouse Consulting
Guest Speaker at the Contact Center Summit 2014 at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota in Florida. 

"Running on, running into the sun ... but I'm running behind" Jackson Browne

If your auto is running on empty, the gasoline gauge has passed that red line used to show that you're almost out of gas. The term "running on empty" is used when you have drawn on all your resources and are barely struggling through, or when you have used all your energy and are exhausted.

We all know that when our gas gauge is heading towards E, we had best get to the station to refuel or we will be stranded ... unable to carry on. Despite this clear indicator there are times when we do run out of gas and face the consequences of the distraction that led to it! Too bad that as humans we have no such gauge to indicate we are running on empty.

There are many references to this phrase, including Jackson Browne's hit song "Running on Empty" where he croons:

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I'm running behind

Clearly this song was not written about the tank of gas in our car. It speaks to the demands we all place on ourselves; we wind up simply running blind and running behind. We are more doing than being; we are more busy than productive. There is a kind of bravado existing in the workplace - the bravado of "doing" - donning the "busy" badge as if is a testimonial to our own importance or commitment. I am here to say that I think it is time to check your life's fuel gauge!

As professionals we are challenged to maintain a full tank - that level of energy sufficient to tackle all the activities associated with our collective "deliverables." Lately I have seen far too many folks seeming beaten down, exhaling as if they simply have nothing left. There is no fight and no energy left for innovation. What remains is just unadulterated aggravation. If you see yourself in this scenario it is time to stand up, shake off the blues, and refuel!!

In their book, The Power of Full Engagement, Loehr and Schwartz write, "We're wired up but we're melting down." They write about how we "fuel up with coffee and cool down with alcohol ... we become short tempered and easily distracted." So are we more productive?
As a leader you might be tempted to measure an individual by how many extra "hours" they put in. If you come in early and leave late, are you setting an example? Let's rethink these productivity indicators. The best leaders are balanced; they are able to recognize the value of rest and renewal and set that example. Of course, when we work on a special project or major initiative there will be times of great demand. We will work the extra time required to fulfill the objectives. However, if your new norm is "overwork," you are on a very slippery slope.

We have equipped ourselves with devices whose initial offer was to keep us in touch, up to date, and more productive. In reality, we spend all kinds of valuable fuel just trying to locate them! A friend recently had a near breakdown when she couldn't find her phone. In fact, she refused to leave the premise until it was located. As it turns out, the phone was found and a great relief washed over my friend as she brought herself up to snuff on all the nothingness that had occurred in the relatively short time the device was "missing." She even experienced resentment toward her own attachment and beat herself up for the time and effort involved in the search. What a waste of time and energy! Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.

What kind of energy do you really have to invest in your profession and in yourself? If you are involved in your company's Customer Experience effort, running on empty is a hazardous condition. And this condition puts the objective at risk. Leaders that are out of gas often don't even know it. Unlike our vehicles that simply come to a complete stop when out of fuel, our bodies and minds do not! We will continue to spend fuel we don't have until we blow out some part of us that might just stop us in our tracks!

Here are a few tips to monitor "refueling" and the management of your most precious resource ... your energy! Think about clever ways to build breaks into your day.
(1) Take breaks at least every 90 minutes. According to Loehr and Schwartz, this is one spectacular way to re-energize. You might take a brief walk, have a complete workout, or simply go to lunch. Renewal is the objective of intermissions every 90 minutes.

(2) Take your vacation and make it restful. We have all embarked on vacations that are more work than work. In some cases, these adventures are also designed to demonstrate to others how "cool" or "crazy" you are. If your vacation plans will not yield a renewed you, RETHINK the plans!

(3)  Eat right (and consistently). Avoid the trap of crap foods we draw from when we are running. Grab an apple, eat some fresh summer veggies. Reducing junk by any measure and replacing it with energizing foods is a deliberate step! And that is the true key ... being deliberate

I could go on, but let's leave it at this. Take the time to inventory your fuel and your fuel sources to assure that you are not running on empty. To be a great leader and fulfill your organization's Customer Experience objectives, you must have the energy it takes to facilitate organizational energy and action. For now, just take care of yourself, maintain your good nature, and gain peace of mind.

Kathleen Peterson will host a seminar on Backstage at the Customer Experience at the upcoming Contact Center Summit at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota on November 17-18, 2014. Kathleen is the Founder and Chief Vision Officer of PowerHouse Consulting.

Forum Update: Ever Been to Sarasota in November?


Complimentary to all Delegate Attendees 

Venue Confirmed:

Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, FL
November 17-18, 2014 


We're pleased to announce the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota is the confirmed venue for the Total Security Summit, Facilities Management Summit and Contact Center Summit this November. This luxury venue is renowned for its elegance in the heart of downtown Sarasota. Our guests will enjoy breathtaking bay views while meeting with solution providers in a relaxed and intimate environment. 

By attending a summit, you will be experiencing the best of Sarasota - with gourmet meals and nightly entertainment on the grounds of the city's most highly acclaimed resort.

About the Summits...

The Summits are unlike any networking experience. The appointment-based strategy introduces attendees to solution providers based on their own personal needs. Unlike a traditional trade show - delegate attendees are seated at their own tables and meet with providers relevant to upcoming projects. Attendees also casually network over meals, cocktails and seminars. 

What Past Attendees Are Saying...

"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."

"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

"Much more informative than tradeshows. Better use of the investment of time, opportunity to form relationships that are more meaningful and lead to partnerships."
- Beckman Coulter

“I enjoy the one-on-one meeting format. I can get more information and explain my organization’s needs in more detail in each 30 minute meeting. This is my first Forum experience and I can’t imagine going back to the old crowded, noisy and distracting tradeshows!” 
- Chinese American Service League

“This was a great networking event and the most convenient way to source vendors. It was definitely a personal touch where the vendors could focus on my organizational needs.” 
- Lake County Health Department

Register for the Summits, here.




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."

Forum Events Kicks Off the 4th with Team Wars!

The Forum Events team took just a few moments out of their office event planning duties to participate in a fun round of team building exercises for a cause. Located in sunny Sarasota, the team paused for some good ol' challenges in honor of Independence Day. The office is divided, with Forum originating in the UK - many of our staff are english, therefore it only seemed fair to play in true revolutionary war style - the red coats versus the blue coats! 

Teams competed in a build-a-bike competition. Each team was given a children's bicycle in a box with tools and had to race to build the bikes. Although it's up for debate who finished first, the bikes will go to Forty Carrots, a local charity focused on developing children and their families. The organization is dear to the Forum Events team as Forty Carrot's parenting school, preschool and professional training center greatly impacts all aspects of the Sarasota community.

The team then took to an equally divided hot dog eating contest. Again, the winner is up for debate but there were no hard feelings at the patriotic catered lunch that followed. 

We hope everyone enjoyed the fourth of July weekend safely and are back to making business better this week! Looking forward to meet everyone at upcoming events, 


The Forum Events Team





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