One hat I wear as a coach is as a facilitator at Boomerang SA with an eye to coaching the contact centre agents on those all-important people skills that are so vital to the customer experience environment.
As such, I was invited to the team building conference. In short, it was a Saturday well spent. Here’s my take on the day:
With Boomerang growing the way it is, new and interesting clients coming on board and staff stepping up into leadership positions across the board, CEO Rob Joubert reckoned the best thing to do was to get everyone together under one roof, for a weekend team-build of note. Great call Rob.
First thing I noticed stepping into the conference venue (besides the stunning view over Long Beach) was the sheer energy in the room. Granted, presenter at the time Selina Mutale was delivering some impressively straightforward guidelines to new team leaders on how to best engage their teams with a view to transforming performance from good to great; the kind of stuff you’ll never find in a book. It was obvious her advice came from years of on-the-ground call centre experience, and the applause afterwards was testament to its value.
The Boomerang team-build was themed CX-MEN, a crafty play on words incorporating CX, the latest buzzword that elevates customer service to customer experience, with a well-known band of talent called the X-Men, who get things done like, well, superheroes.
In a nutshell, the day brought a fun-filled workshop to dig into the questions: “What is your superpower, how does it link back to our values, and how do you embody those in the workplace?” With clothing and merch to match, it was an inspirational way of asking management to find their personal alignment with company values.
We heard about the Boomerang story from founder Rob and how the contact centre grew organically, then in leaps and bounds, as well as how the years have brought challenges to overcome and successes to celebrate, bringing the contact centre to the cusp on which it now lies, with rapid expansion and new clients.
Which is why it is so important that each staff member be encouraged to find his or her superpower, that set of personal strengths that can be leveraged in a positive way at work. At the end of the day, we spend the majority of our time at the office, so how do we use our “superpowers” to make it enjoyable and productive?
Rob adds: “With Covid and everyone having been locked into their workspace bubbles, there was an opportunity to get everyone together for quality time, of course observing the Covid protocols, especially considering we have appointed a group of new team leaders with the added campaigns at Boomerang.
“Getting these new leaders on the same page with regard to the Boomerang values and ethic is a vital underpinning to the job we have ahead.”
With no further ado, the Boomerang company values are Target Driven, Professionalism, Respect, Integrity and Having Fun. Each manager was asked to reflect on their own “superpowers” and how these resonate with Boomerang values.
Zaid Cornelius, a successful team lead on a UK client account, was clear that his superpowers are, as he says: “honesty and being a people’s person”, and that these align with his personal values in that he sees clear and honest communication as being key to everyday life. In the office, Zaid adds: “I embody this superpower 24/7, 365 days a year. This can be asked of anyone in the office, I’m not one to boast but I feel that I’m settled in quite firmly with the Boomerang family and it has truly been an experience like no other.”
Marriam van Niekerk of the life insurance sales team picked helpfulness as this superpower resonates with her values of care, empathy and understanding. She says: “Within the workplace being helpful, to me, is about being trustworthy, being loyal and showing respect and integrity, plus always completing tasks to the best of my ability.Respecting my colleagues and being a shoulder to depend on, that is why helpfulness is a superpower.
Marriam adds that her top moment of the day, besides the excitement, was witnessing the sense of unity among all participants.
Virginia Lekota from an insurance campaign was quick to speak up for ‘fun and passion’, saying these superpowers “drive me to achieve goals I have set for myself, as well as have a positive outlook on life”. In the office, she says, “I believe in creating an environment where people look forward to coming to work and achieve their targets. Showing my passion for sales helps motivate others. If people see your love for the job they start finding reason to love the job, to enjoy the positives and accept the negatives that come with a day-to-day sales floor.”
Simone Roussow from human resources, says that her superpower of being able to read other people really well, helps her evaluate to what degree people have Boomerang’s best interests at heart, and her ‘having fun’ powers bring on the light-heartedness that encourages staff to enjoy their work day.
Rob the CEO was asked about his particular superpowers, and says that he found himself having to choose two, these being integrity and target-driven. He says: “Achieving targets, because that is what is required, but by maintaining integrity, that’s what I’m about.”
Asked about how he sees this ethos being translated toall staff, Rob says: “If your values are aligned with another person, then a relationship becomes possible. If there is a divergence in values, in the long run this jeopardises relationship. We have chosen company values that best reflect what we are about.”
Everyone’s handprints on a giant canvas, with their superpower written in as a promise, a commitment to take forward into managing their teams, provided a powerful moment to wrap up the day.
A motivated, efficient, and high-performing sales team is where the rubber hits the road in business. Punting the right product and monitoring with all the right technology means little unless you have the right sales team, and they stay on their game.
After all, sales productivity and performance are the leading edge of most businesses; the bottom line is that sales efficiency determines, well, the bottom line. The challenge is to increase sales efficiency and performance, yet word on the street is that it’s not so simple.
The figures from an annual study done by The Bridge Group attest to this sentiment. In 2012, 44% of organisations surveyed found that increasing sales productivity was the toughest hurdle they faced. By 2017, that number was up to 49%. Let’s take a closer look at this problem and see also why outsourcing sales tasks goes a long way to solving it.
If we drill down into the data a little, we find that productivity, recruiting the right people and getting them skilled up are chief concerns. Let’s start with sales productivity, loosely defined as generating more revenue with fewer resources (time and money). In other words, the more a sales rep sells, with as little cost to company as possible, the more valuable that sales rep is.
On average, an in-house salesperson only spends about a third of their time actually selling, with the rest of their time being taken up by admin tasks, meeting and other non-revenue generating activities. In a business that incorporates sales, marketing, production, and admin under one roof, it’s easy for that to happen. In an outsourcing centre, that’s not the case. The primary focus is on selling, and a telemarketer’s time is reserved for this function.
Be that as it may, there are tried-and-tested ways to up performance, from using the right tools to keeping your sales force happy.
The right tools: By definition, a tool is something that makes life easier. In sales, CRM platforms come into their own here, as they address the time-saving notion that any process that can be automated, should be automated. With redundant and admin tasks out of the way, there is more time to dig into the direct sales toolbox and implement those with a proven track record. Sales tools help to keep track of data, organise it, and sell more.
Mapping a consistent sales process: When salespeople can follow concrete steps, worked out from the evidence of what has worked previously, it frees them up to connect with the prospective customer. This requires that a sales process be analysed, tactics be developed, and a roadmap drawn up. Of course, reviewing this plan periodically and remaining flexible with regard to evaluating new tactics, especially those proposed by the team, is the way to keep it current.
On-point tracking: If you know where you are and where you’d like to get to, it sets a starting point as well as a psychologically motivating stretch goal for your team. Consistently measured, metrics such as contact, lead and close rates, not to mention the all-important conversion rate, can not only identify places that need improvement, but can also set your team up for success in the friendly jostle for top spot on the performance ladder.
Reliable routines: Salespeople are a busy lot, and the key is getting things done. Out in the field, that presents a challenge as each salesperson must create their own schedule incorporating follow-ups, emails and travel plans. In a contact centre the schedule is formulated once by a manager, and is applied across all agents, saving considerable time and money.
Daily goals and motivating for success: Nothing motivates like success, so when achievable goals are set, reached and, importantly, recognised and celebrated, the inner motivation to do better and more is instantly sparked. In the team sport atmosphere of a contact centre, this benefit really comes into play.
Slick communication: Keeping in touch with salespeople, discussing solutions to hurdles and efficiency, is a major yet vital task of any sales manager. Team meetings and one-on-ones are the go-to here, facilitating feedback from sales agents as to what’s working and what could be done better. In the contact centre environment, a dedicated campaign manager has this as a core function.
Recruiting sales stars: The salesperson is a particular breed – unselfconscious, never discouraged, humble yet able to subtly dominate in a conversation – and the evidence suggests that personality plays a big role in determining success. So much so, that a specialised onboarding process is a considerable determinant of team success. Selecting the right candidates can be challenging for a business that has so much other stuff to do. At a contact centre it’s an entirely different situation as the experienced HR manager has long developed an eye for the sales stars, is an old hand at sorting out the wheat from the chaff as it were.
Scalability: There will be times when demand increases exponentially, as has happened with certain products and service into the pandemic. To maximise on this kind of windfall, when it comes, a sales force needs to be able to upscale and fast. Problem is, that comes with huge downside risk when the increased demand peters out. Scalability is a main reason that businesses choose a BPO partner, who assumes that risk. The upside is that, as a business, you can rest assured that if the gold rush comes, you are brilliantly positioned to capitalise on it.
Align the marketing and sales teams: The theory is that while the marketing crew makes a punt for an area where it thinks the most promising leads are, the sales team goes after those leads and converts them to revenue. In response, sales discover in real-time which leads are actually the best, and it’s marketing’s job to attract more of those leads. It’s like one hand washing the other, and what better way to maximise this partnership than to make sure that both parties are working well together. In a contact centre environment like Boomerang, we have built-in feedback processes that make sure information passes seamlessly between sales and marketing and vice versa.
There is no doubt that managing a sales team is a full-time occupation that not only requires technological as well as people skills, but also a finger on the pulse of trends and new sales tactics. In a business with other areas of focus, such as admin and production, it can be an onerous task. But it is a task overlooked at the firm’s peril.
This is one reason many businesses have already or are looking to outsourcing their sales process, in the knowledge that their BPO firm of choice, like Boomerang SA, specialises in all the contingencies of managing a flourishing sales team. At Boomerang, this is what we do, and we’re really good at it.
A bird in the hand, they say, is worth two in the bush. Well, there’s truth to the cliché or it would not have found its way into the compendium of useful human wisdom. It certainly holds true when it comes to customers, in that retaining the customers already on your books is worth two (or a lot more as it turns out) potential customers.
Customer retention, customer stickiness, increasing customer lifespan, building client relationships – this is the jargon you will hear bandied about the marketing desk, and it means one simple thing: “How do we keep our present customers happy, coming back for more, and sending their friends our way?”
There is a cost to getting new customers on board, and the longer they stay the greater the return on investment (ROI), a phenomenon that keeps the number crunchers at the core of your business smiling. In other words, there is a direct correlation between customer retention rates and making a profit.
Consider these figures:
● Keeping existing customers is 5X cheaper than acquiring new ones.
● Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by between 25% and 95%.
● Eighty percent of your future profits will come from 20% of your clients (general reference here is the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule).
● Sixty five percent of business comes from existing customers, who are more likely to spend more and purchase more frequently.
● Existing customers are 60% to 70% easier to sell to 4 , compared to the 5% to 20% likelihood of selling to a brand new prospect.
● The quality of customer service plays a huge role, with almost 50% of customers switching to a competitor if they experience bad service.
Of course, how to allocate budget spend between customer acquisition and retention then becomes a debate, but for the purposes of this article, let’s focus on retention strategies, since it is apparent from the documented research that retaining customers has an indisputable positive influence on the bottom line. The figures attest to the common sense notion that looking after your customers keeps them buying and brings repeat business.
Effective customer retention strategies are called for, whether they be of the tried-and-tested variety or the experimental variety.
At Boomerang, we understand that although sales figures speak volumes, it is the quality relationships we forge with customers that keeps them coming back. Smart businesses know that the first sale is just the beginning.
And as experienced customer service professionals, we do this on the behalf of our clients. Here are some of the ways in which we keep customer retention in sharp focus:
1. Our passionate and engaged employees are skilled at relationship building When one of our agents picks up the phone, or responds to an online chat, they are trained to be ‘leaning in’ to the conversation, letting their customer feel important and acknowledged, like talking with a new friend that we’re interested in getting to know better. At Boomerang, we give our agents a reason to care. This is the human factor, and relationship building will never go out of style. Marketing expert Noah Fleming 4 makes the spot-on comment that “I don’t believe you ‘close’ a sale, you ‘open’ a relationship. The sales transaction is the start of a relationship, not the end. Effective marketing is an equilibrium – it’s the equal balance of getting customers, and keeping them.” So when we treat customers like the people they are and not ‘sales generating objects’, they respond like real people, revealing what their real needs might be. Then we’re in business, as this customer may well come back a second time.
2. Listening superpowers and openness to feedback We listen to hear, not just to respond, not only during the call but afterwards too. Surveys, after-sales calls and requests for customer feedback are intrinsic to Boomerang’s service offering, and in this way we position ourselves to really hear our customer’s needs, and make changes where required. We are not only open to feedback, but welcome it with open arms, and customers respond by reaching out to tell us what we’re doing well and what we could do better.
3. Customer satisfaction Measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT) is an indispensable way to understand how well, or not, we are doing our job. The standard way to measure CSAT is through responses on feedback requests sent after contacts. The information gathered is useful, not only for celebrating the success of getting it right and encouraging more of that behaviour, but also, and more importantly, seeing where we get it wrong. Negative feedback helps us to find and fix any weak links in our customer service chain, and at Boomerang we use this invaluable CSAT feedback in upskilling our agents.
4. We are responsive Especially when it comes to inbound queries, the quicker we are off the crease the better. There’s nothing like a prompt response to get a customer smiling, and we have positive measures in place that ensure we stay on the ball in this regard. Also, agents are trained to do whatever is on their power to resolve issues quickly, to deal with complaints promptly, courteously and efficiently. Customers remember this, and remember bad service even more readily.
5. We delight our customers At Boomerang, we encourage our agents to personalise their chats with customers, to identify emotional drivers and to respond to these needs. In addition, we add value and reward loyalty where we can. A pertinent example would be the 1 Call Assist product we have developed in-house that is offered to customers of our insurance clients. Thanking and appreciating a customer for choosing our service among all the competition out there goes a long way too.
6. Strong employee loyalty Of course, all good things begin at home, and when we treat our employees with respect they go the extra mile for the customers they serve. The way our leadership treats employees, drives how employees treat on another, and how they in turn treat customers. What happens inside the organisation is felt outside. So customer retention starts at the top.
7. Quality products While there are many soft skills that keep customers coming back, we keep a keen eye on the fact that the product or service offered must be up to scratch. And if there are quality problems, to give this feedback to our client so they can be sorted out. So, although optimisation or getting new customers on board may be seen as the sexier aspect of marketing, the bread-and-butter that maintains any business is certainly the way in which it approaches customer retention. The first purchase is just the beginning, the real business value lies ahead.
1. Alan E. Webber, "B2B Customer Experience Priorities In An Economic Downturn: Key Customer Usability Initiatives In A Soft Economy," Forrester Research, February 19, 2008.
2. According to research done by Fred Reichheld at Bain & Company.
3. Paul Farris in Marketing Metrics.
4. Noah Fleming is a Marketing Expert, Consultant and Author of “Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving“. Quoted on ngdata.com.
The burning question: do you outsource your contact centre and back office process functions, be it B2B or B2C telemarketing, inbound customer services or outbound call centre services, or do you build your own in-house teams?
Growing companies are learning what their multi-national and larger counterparts already know – outsourcing contact centre and back office services can improve efficiencies, reduce costs and done right improve customer satisfaction.
Here’s the usual scenario. Businesses have at its core staff who know its products or services inside out. So when it comes to customers calling in wanting a fix to a problem, or seeking information, employees are brilliantly positioned to help them.
Thing is, there are more and more customer calls, emails and information requests coming in. That’s a great thing because it means you are attracting more customers, but a not-so-good thing in that it is pulling your people away from their primary responsibilities, which is to focus on the core business of making the product or delivering the service.
So, there’s a decision to be made, as telemarketing and customer service now need their very own department (again, a good thing, because it means business is growing). There’s a choice to be made, do you gear up and manage this function in-house or, like other products you may source and buy in, do you outsource the contact centre function. Like most choices, there are the pros and cons but in balance, business process outsourcing (BPO) comes up on top.
Here’s why. First off, at a BPO centre like Boomerang SA, in the words of CEO Rob Joubert: “Contact centre, telemarketing and customer services – that’s our core business and it’s what we do really well. We know all the ins and outs, so when it comes to these services, we can be more effective than companies who do not have these functions as core business. We have spent years learning the art of delivering professional contact centre services and we have invested in the people, process and technologies required to deliver great customer experience”.
Like other specialist services you might outsource, pay point management for example, contact centre management and staff have honed the service to a fine point. There is the capital investment in appropriate technologies and the associated maintenance costs of running a contact centre that has already been footed by the outsource partner, and there is little reason for your business to reinvent the wheel as it were. In the choice to outsource, your business has immediate access to trained staff and dedicated specialist management resources and your staff can focus on increasing productivity in your core business.
Rob adds: “Not only do we match or exceed the quality of in-house off-shore contact centres, but we are able to do this regularly at a better price point.”
But what about the concern: “My staff know my business best and call centre agents are just not going to have that same passion?” After all, brand loyalty is seen as being strongest in the founding company itself.
Quality outsource services providers will be cognisant of this bias and take active steps to counter it by creating dedicated teams of people who are immersed in the client company culture, people that embody its values and receive ongoing training to keep them up to date with products and services offered. Employees dedicated to a client strongly associate with the client brand.
As a growing business, ever aware of mounting costs in a changeable environment, there emerges a need for flexibility. As business volumes change, you will need to ramp up or scale down the number of call centre or telemarketing agents to meet this change. Here’s where outsourcing really comes into its own, as this risk is passed directly to your BPO partner, and there is no call to suddenly find a budget to meet increased costs.
Rob gives a real time example: “At Boomerang we are geared for short notice scalability. We serve a retailer, for example, in the UK that has demand variations impacted by Covid, where they provide essential services. We doubled up our agents in a month to provide uninterrupted services to them.”