All entries tagged with “guest blog”

Guest Blog: The Front Door

Featured Blog from Raptor

Technology is a critical component in the education of our nation’s children. “Overall education technology spending globally will reach $19 billion by 2019,” states Fortune magazine (April 28, 2015). However, there is one critical area where investments are lagging behind:

The Front Door.

In an increasingly technology-driven era in our schools, many of the institutions that educate our children are not implementing the technologies available to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe. For example, up to 80% of schools still rely on the pencil-and-paper method of signing in their visitors. Barring the introduction of smart paper and pencils with biometric sensors on them, this method is useless in practice for protecting our students.

Those days need to be behind us. In an age where technology can allow you to lock the front door of your home from halfway across the world, there’s no excuse for leaving the front door of our schools standing wide open for sexual predators, gang members, or any person who would do our students harm.

Every school wants to keep their students safe, and their actions need to back that up. There are a few areas that should be non-negotiable: every visitor, volunteer, or vendor needs to be accounted for, every visitor, volunteer, or vendor needs to be verified, and every visitor, volunteer, or vendor needs to be screened, in every school, every day.

So what is stopping you from taking this basic step in school security? Our mission it to protect every child, every school, every day.

Visit www.raptortech.com to find out more about the Raptor Visitor Management System.


The Duralife 123 Challenge: Do Your School Lockers Pass the Test?

Guest blog from Scranton Products

School personnel including teachers, principals, facility managers, PTA members, and superintendants all around are taking the Duralife 123 Challenge to find out if their school lockers pass the test. Lockers line the hallways of schools and face harsh wear and tear every day as students unload their books and belongings, open and close them between every class, and even draw on them. Will your school lockers pass the test? Take the Duralife 123 Challenge to See for Yourself.

Impact

You may think that metal lockers are more durable than plastic lockers, just like some of the school personnel who took the Duralife 123 Challenge, but they quickly found out that High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Duralife Lockers are far superior.

The first test of the Duralife 123 Challenge is to use forceful impact against a metal locker, then again against an HDPE plastic locker.

After hitting both lockers with a hammer, the school personnel found that the metal lockers were easily dented with little force while HDPE plastic lockers could be hit as hard as possible and did not leave a mark.

Traditional metal lockers are usually made from 16 gauge steel which is less than 1/16 inch thick material. This thin material makes metal lockers prone to denting and other types of damage. But Duralife Lockers are made of 1/2 inch thick rigid HDPE plastic, which makes them 59 times greater in resistance to impact than metal lockers.

See Video


Graffiti 

Graffiti is a big issue when it comes to school lockers. Students may write all over their lockers, leaving damage and making your school appear in a negative light. It’s important to avoid a locker material that makes it difficult to clean graffiti off, and it’s also costly to utilize various cleaning methods in an effort to do so. You may also have to end up replacing the lockers or repaint them which is very costly. 

The second test of the Duralife 123 Challenge is graffiti. School personnel wrote on a metal locker and a Duralife Locker with permanent markers, and then they attempted to clean the marker off. As they tried to wipe the marker off the metal lockers very little came off and the graffiti was still very visible, , But when they wiped the marker off the HDPE plastic lockers, there was no residue left with little effort.

See Video


Noise

One big issue with metal lockers is the noise they produce when students close them. Hearing this loud sound ring throughout the halls is enough to give anyone a headache, and it’s particularly distracting to the students in class when they hear various locker slams in the hallway.

The third and final test of the Duralife 123 Challenge is noise. School personnel slammed a metal locker then slammed an HDPE plastic locker to see which one made more noise. Metal lockers made a loud sound, while HDPE plastic lockers made a more muffled, quieter sound.

See Video


So take the Duralife 123 Challenge today and find out if your school lockers pass the test. If not, click here to check out Scranton Products and find out where you can buy Duralife Lockers.


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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