By Nathan Teahon, Vice President of Operations
The use of virtual agents is continuing to grow in the telemarketing services industry. It’s certainly a popular way to reach a wider talent pool without geography constraints. Employees have to be the right fit for working in a virtual environment, but for those that fit, they love working from home.
When managed correctly, a virtual call center offers significant advantages over brick and mortar outsourced telemarketing organizations. However, there are pros and cons to everything, and using a virtual telemarketing services model has its challenges. The biggest challenge is the effort it takes to ensure a high level of motivation and strong communication. The best way to ensure success is to be proactive with setting up recognition programs, rewards, contests, and formal processes to ensure everyone in the organization is listening to all employees. Below are a few ideas that we have found to be successful at Quality Contact Solutions which are great in a virtual environment, and I also advocate for them in the traditional brick and mortar outsourced telemarketing provider world as well.
Standard monthly programs where someone is consistently rewarded and recognized are always healthy programs for every company. An Employee of the Month program is a common one, and is common for a reason. Being named Employee of the Month is an honor, and when you have won that honor on more than one occasion that also is something that carries a lot of pride with it.
In the last year, we have started a different program. We call it our HUG of the Month. Hug stands for Help Us Grow. That acronym has several meanings, and one is that we always want to continue to grow as individuals, as teams, as a company. We owe that to ourselves and to our clients. The HUG of the Month is essentially the best out of the box idea that has had a positive impact for one of our clients. Anyone can win the award, from operations managers to agents to the IT department. We know we are at our best when we are being creative, and we know that we can foster a more creative environment if we are actively working to get everyone involved in the process.
Working on the front lines in telemarketing services is hard. However, there is no other industry in my mind that allows for the type of creative games and competition to make it fun and exciting each and every day. In a brick and mortar call center you can walk up and down the aisles with cash. That becomes a little more difficult in a virtual environment. For a long time we focused on gift cards of one type, and then they had to be mailed out. It worked, but the instant gratification of winning an incentive was lessened. And by the time you got your card it was difficult to remember what you won it for.
We have since developed a gift card portal in which everyone has a running account. When an incentive is won, the amount of the incentive is redeemed to their account. This is a great way of getting that instant gratification because you can see the amount grow in your account each time you earn something. Additionally, each person is in control of their account. You don’t have to redeem instantly. You can let your account build up and redeem a high amount when the holidays come around the corner. There is also more variety to choose from. Each individual can see on their dashboard which cards are available as well as the quantities.
The management of incentives and the redemption of these incentives can at times be an ugly and messy process. This portal makes the process clean for both management and the individual user. Below are examples of what the user sees in their dashboard as well as checking out.
This last point isn’t necessarily unique, as it is something that I think every outsourced telemarketing company claims to do on a regular basis. However, I would say that it’s my experience that this becomes something that falls by the wayside if there isn’t a structure for it. Everyone is watching their billable vs. non-billable time. Usually schedules are planned in such ways that you need to maximize the time to hit hours commitments. But listening to calls as a group is invaluable for multiple reasons.
We conduct a lot of monitoring sessions with clients. Coming away from those sessions, there are always calls that the client will love. It’s important to consistently play those calls for the entire group. First off, there is a sense of pride that comes from having one of your calls played for the entire team because the client recognized that it was an excellent call. Then, there is obviously the training aspect of everyone getting to hear the approach that resulted in such positive feedback. As an agent, I was constantly pulling the best things I heard from other agents and incorporated it into my presentations. This is a great way to recognize individuals for a job well done, but to also allow the group to hear what is working for others.
These are just a few key points, but we find that it is important to always be looking at new things that we can implement that will have a positive effect on the day to day lives of our team. Sometimes as we are working through those new ideas, it is also important to analyze if we are doing a good job of staying consistent with the tried and true as well.
Nathan Teahon is the Vice President of Operations for Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing services organization. As a highly competitive person, Nathan brings his “A” game to work every day, ensuring that each of his clients wins on a daily basis. Nathan carefully balances the operations resources and client goals to ensure his clients receive the highest possible results at the lowest cost. Nathan is a true, born and bred telemarketer. He grew up in the business and intimately knows (and has played) every position on the field, including supervisor, quality assurance, call center manager, program management, account management, and call center psychologist. Nathan can be reached at [email protected] or 516-656-5133.