Customer Service Awards Blog

How Would Your Development Team Program Customer Service?

Posted by Maggie Gallagher on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 @ 10:11 AM

Most of the time, the engineers and other professionals at software firm Olark are busy manipulating code as they try to push their product forward. But once a month, those computer gurus tackle a much different task: handling customer service inquiries from their users.

The company calls it their “All Hands Support” policy, intended to keep staffers throughout the organization in tune with the needs of clients. “Everyone in our 40-person company continues to contribute to our customer service efforts in some way,” says Karl Pawlewicz, the company’s spokesman.

Customer service is, in fact, at the very core of the San Francisco-based company. Founded in 2009, it offers a live chat platform that businesses large and small can use to address the real-time needs of their buyers. Today, more than 12,000 organizations around the globe use Olark’s easy-to-implement solution in order to address customer needs.

Olark.pngBy giving all of its employees a taste of the customer service experience, they’re able to create a better product, Pawlewicz suggests. “It keeps our entire company in close contact with our customers' successes and frustrations, and ensures each department is aligned on customer priorities,” he says.

The idea originated from the early days when Olark’s four founders were living together in Palo Alto and developing the software platform. “They each took turns on customer service so they wouldn't burn out and so they could stay close to customer feedback,” according to Pawlewicz.

At a time when a lot of customer service is being automated through artificial intelligence and bots, Pawlewicz says it was important for Olark’s principals to create a solution that was simultaneously economical and person-oriented.

“We’re looking for ways to develop a hybrid approach, ensuring technology makes humans more efficient, rather than replacing them,” he notes.

Building Empathy

Creating a better customer service experience is about more than spreading the workload around ‒ it’s also about developing a culture that turns employees into advocates for the company. That can can be a challenge for a geographically-diverse organization, where many employees work from home throughout North America, South America and Europe.

To develop that cohesiveness, the company, which recently won the Gold Stevie Award in the 2017 Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service for Customer Service Department of the Year ‒ Computer Software, hosts in-person retreats once a year. There, the company leaders preach Olark’s core values. Among them: “assume good faith,” “practice empathy” and “help each other grow.”

But the most unconventional of the company’s axioms is “chill out.” As its website describes, Olark  wants its employees to “seek activities that recharge you and allow you to bring your best self to work.” So it’s no accident that the company has amateur musicians and even a couple of part-time farmers among its ranks.

Olark has some off-beat customs, to be sure. Its employees join in to sing Darius Rucker’s  “Wagon Wheel,” the firm’s unofficial anthem, whenever they get together. And they have secret, gift-giving gnomes to celebrate birthdays, since they’re apart for the other 51 weeks each year.

“Creating this positive environment helps our team maintain a healthy work/life balance and come to work every day refreshed and renewed,” explains Pawlewicz. (L1)

That balanced approach has paid off in the form of excellent customer service, decided by Stevie Awards judges. Pawlewicz says the honor has been a major shot in the arm for workers at the burgeoning company.

“It's a testament to the hard work that our customer service team puts in every day, and we hope it will be a compelling proof point for future candidates who consider working at Olark,” he says.

Tags: sales awards, Customer Service, customer service department, Buisness awards

Redefining the Average Call Center

Posted by Maggie Gallagher on Thu, Apr 06, 2017 @ 10:16 AM

A common thread among successful, enduring brands is always putting the customer first. Selling to existing customers is much more inexpensive than attracting new ones. Research shows that companies spend five times more to attract a new buyer than to retain a previous one.

Yet a primary mechanism for delivering customer service – a large call center operation – can be limiting. Often, these facilities are trying to lure local job seekers who have little attachment to the brand. And that becomes evident in their interactions with the customer.

Arise.pngArise Virtual Solutions is trying to fundamentally change that paradigm. The Miramar, Florida-based company provides a cloud-based platform that allows businesses to utilize a network of “micro” call centers around the country. Often, these are semi-retired adults, stay-at-home parents, or even people with disabilities who work out of their homes.

Because the talent pool isn’t confined to a small geographic area, companies can look for individuals who have a higher level of work experience or who possess specific skills, such as the ability to speak a foreign language.

It also enables organizations – whether they’re manufacturers, retailers or service providers – to recruit representatives who share their values and interests. That aspect resolves some of the high turnover issues that plague a lot of traditional call centers. It also turns those individuals into advocates for the brand.

A cycling equipment maker, for instance, is able to staff people who are avid fans of the sport. As a result, they have a clearer understanding of the questions that customers have and are able to suggest products that will fit their needs.

In the 2017 Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service, Arise was recognized for its innovative solution. The company was awarded the Gold Stevie® in the Best Use of Technology in Customer Service - Business Services category.

Want to submit entries in the 2018 Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service? Request your entry kit here and it will be emailed to you when it's available. 

A more flexible workforce

For firms that use the Arise platform, the advantages go beyond the talent level of the customer service workers. The technology also provides a flexibility that traditional call centers don’t offer.

Based on call volume, for example, companies can increase or decrease the number of on-duty reps in under an hour. As a result, users can turn a fixed cost into a variable cost – and save money in the process. The company calls it being “right-staffed.”

Consequently, an industry that was once dominated by large brick-and-mortar operations is undergoing a seismic transformation.  A trade group survey found that as many as 70 percent of call center managers intend to move to a cloud-based infrastructure in the near future.

As one Stevie® Award judge put it, technologies like those offered by Arise offer a “desperately needed” tool that can “accommodate a flexible workforce.”

The array of benefits has led to impressive growth for the company, which was founded in the mid-90s. Today, the Arise network includes thousands of micro call centers throughout the United States as well as in Canada and several European countries. Those individuals provide support for companies in a wide range of industries, from healthcare to retail and banking.

Arise has garnered a number of recognitions over the past few years, including accolades from the Outsourcing Institute and the International Customer Management Institute, or ICMI. Arise CEO John A. Meyer indicated the Stevie Award represents a major achievement for the organization.

“It is truly an honor to be recognized by the Stevie Awards and our peers,” Meyer said in a statement following the ceremony in Las Vegas.

Learn more about Arise Virtual Solutions.

Tags: best customer service, customer service awards, customer service excellence, Customer Service

How to Excel at Customer Satisfaction From, Customer Service Awards Winner, Accenture

Posted by Liz Dean on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 @ 03:28 PM

Accenture Utilities BPO Services’ Revenue Cycle Operations Team for BC Hydro in Vancouver, Canada, won the Stevie® Award for Back-office Customer Service Team of the Year in the customer service awards categories of the 2011 Stevie® Awards for Sales & Customer Service. (Entries for the 2012 awards are open through January 18 - submit your entries now.)

Maureen LachnitAs the pressure on businesses to lower risks and control costs while still achieving high customer satisfaction performance grows, so has the importance of business process outsourcing. Here we look at how Accenture Utilities BPO Services’ Stevie Award-winning team has helped find this crucial balance.

What is Business Process Outsourcing?
Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a valuable strategy for companies seeking new ways to achieve high performance by controlling costs, reducing risk, fostering collaboration, and increasing transparency. In its Office Support surveys of its clients, Accenture is achieving a stunning satisfaction rating of 98% overall. 

Three Ways Accenture Utilities BPO Services’ Revenue Cycle Operations (RCO) Team Succeeds at BPO and Customer Satisfaction:

  1. Fosters Employee Appreciation
    Accenture Utilities BPO Services' Revenue Cycle Operations (RCO) team is made up of groups of dedicated employees from the Billing, Credit & Collections, Payments, Security, and Support Services departments. RCO team leader Maureen Lachnit is a firm believer in staff appreciation. Her motto is: “Always do the right thing. If you take care of your people, the business will succeed.” 
  2. Encourages Change from Within
    Accenture Utilities BPO Services encourages employees to create and run committees in order to drive changes in the workplace that involve both system and process improvements. The RCO team has several committees, including both the Events Committee (in charge of all in-house as well as all community-based events), and the Working Committee (which strives to enhance employee morale through the Grow BPO campaign by highlighting company achievements and focusing on areas of future growth).
  3. Cultivates Corporate Citizenship
    Community outreach is at the heart of everything Accenture’s RCO team does. On December 15, 2011, BC Hydro and Accenture held their annual Holiday Cheer Event, a joint partnership to help raise donations for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. BC Hydro and Accenture employees raised the grand total of $31,245 for the Food Bank in just two hours at this event. In 2010, the RCO team gave back to local charities by raising hundreds of dollars for the Union Gospel Mission and the Burnaby Christmas Bureau Angel Project.

About Maureen Lachnit
As the lead of Revenue Cycle Operations, Maureen Lachnit has dedicated over 30 years of her career to Accenture.  She started as an Application Clerk and continued her journey through various departments.  Maureen strives to keep her team focused on Accenture’s core values and fully supports initiatives like the RCO Events Committee.  She is committed to helping engage employees and to providing staff with opportunities for growth. Her keen business sense drives improvements and innovations and ensures that Accenture maintains and exceeds client expectations and satisfaction.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company, with more than 244,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries.  Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments.  The company generated net revenues of US$25.5 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2011.  Their home page is www.accenture.com.

Tags: customer service awards, Accenture, Back-Office Customer Service Team of the Year, The Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service, Customer Service