What impact does today’s technology have on call center capacity? How can technology be used to solve our problems?
Even though AI currently drives the majority of software, humans are still necessary. The people in the seats are the ones who interact with another human in order to persuade them to take action. Technology, on the other hand, is available to support them.
In this episode, Isaac Shloss from Grupo NGN and I, talk about his experiences in helping call centers as an IT specialist, relative to contact center technology. He has helped multiple companies expand from a small regional-based company to a large multinational enterprise.
Learn more about successful use of technology in the call center world.
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Or go to Jason’s HUB – www.JasonCutter.com
Connect with Isaac on LinkedIn.
I am an Information Technology specialist with more than 20 years experience – almost exclusively focused on the Contact Center industry. The majority of my carrier has been spent managing the IT departments for large BPOs, including a top 10 US teleservices provider where I built the technological and telecommunications architecture needed to expand the small, regionally based company to a large, multinational enterprise. I current service as the CTO for a contact center center technology provider, and I am also a board member with PACE where I vice chair their Government Affairs committee.
Jason: Hey everybody so glad that you’re joining me for another episode of the scalable call center sales podcast. As always, I am excited to be joined by an industry expert, a guest today. His name is Isaac Schloss from Grupo, N G N, which focuses on contact center technology in the call center industry.
[00:00:19] So he’s working for a service from. That’s focused on helping call centers. Now here’s, what’s interesting and fun. And the moment I was introduced to him, I was like, this is going to be a blast because he has a different perspective. Isaac is a IT specialist with over 20 years experience. Focused in the call center industry.
[00:00:39] So he has been a part of helping carriers, uh, deal with their it departments. Uh, it departments of large BPOs helping, uh, you know, he has on his resume helping a top 10 us tele service provider, where he built the technology and the telecommunication architecture to help them expand from a small regional based company to a large multinational enterprise.
[00:01:04] And so his role now at Grupo is CTO. He’s also the board member of pace and he serves as the vice chair of the government affairs committee. And what’s going to be fun about this. I already know in advance is that he’s looking at the call center and that ecosystem from the it side, which is different than usually I talk to.
[00:01:24] And usually we have on the show. So it should be a blast. Isaac, welcome to the call center sales podcast.
Isaac: Thank you for having me. It’s good to be.
Jason: Yeah. So again, I, I set up a lot of this. I’m just so excited. I, I, I was going to do a little intro and then jump into it afterwards. But I think this is fun because you have, again, your experiences from the I T side and focusing on it.
[00:01:47] And obviously this is a sales podcast, so it’s about how that integrates. Let’s talk about before I dive into a whole bunch of stuff that I want to ask about. W w where do you see like the landscape from the, it support it framework for call centers, contact centers, sales, or, or otherwise, like, where do you see that having shifted, you know, obviously over 20 years you saw what it was like before and where it’s going now, you know, talk about that past and maybe the present and where you see that.
Isaac: I’ve seen a big rollercoaster. I saw, you know, when I first got into contact centers in 1999, so a while ago, um, you know, it was very much around the human aspect. It was around because everything was analog. You had the tape recorder in your desk, you had to press record on and hope you remembered to press record before you started the sales disclosure.
[00:02:40] And, uh, you know, you had to, in some places manually dial phones still. And, uh, there was all of it was around getting your people to do the. And then about 10 years later, we started adopting more off shore. Um, maybe even a little nearshore, but then we started thinking, okay, how can we get rid of people with technology?
[00:02:59] And the technology will replace the people and you and I have even talked about that a little bit to where there’s certain things where people can’t, you can’t replace that. And I think. You can it’s it seems like practical, or it seems like it’s a, it’s obvious to see that. Uh, and now we’re seeing more of a shift to the people side.
[00:03:16] So I think what we’re seeing is now the, the shift went from people heavy to technology, heavy to how can we use technology to make our people better? And I think that’s the direction we’re going over the next five years where we’ll be in 10 years might be a little hard to say, but I think the next five years is how do we get technology to better enable it?
Jason: And I love that shift where you know, what you’re saying is years ago, or maybe even not that long ago, the goal was how do I use technology to replace people, save on staff, cut down costs, you know, do all these things, right? Like if you look at auto manufacturing, how do we get robots to put together cars so that we don’t have people we have to rely on and not just to save money, but people are human.
[00:04:02] They make mistakes. Great robot generally. Doesn’t so how do we replace that? And then that shift, which I think is fascinating, what you said, which is okay. So we found out there’s things we can replace. There’s things we can optimize. We can’t replace certain things. We need people to do it. How do we just make them better?
Isaac: And you know, it’s, I, I’m a great example. I love to use is AI. AI is one of those buzzwords where it’s, you know, we need AI, we need AI. And nobody really understands what AI is, but everybody wants it. Uh, you know, gamification when it’s the same thing, when it came out, I don’t know what gamification is, but we gotta have it.
[00:04:34] Cause that’s what everybody else has. Uh, with AI, a lot of the AI systems that are out there aren’t really AI. In fact, I’d say 95% plus we don’t use AI. It’s more. Uh, a decision tree, especially when you talk about an IVR, for example, it’s I listened for key words. So if I hear the word sale, if I hear the word buy, if I hear the word purchase, okay, that’s a sales call.
[00:04:57] Send that down. My sales channel. That’s not really AI that’s decision tree. And instead of using, you know, what would they call DTMF tones in the button presses? It’s just keyword searches. Yeah. When you talk about like the automotive industry, I can have robots assemble an automobile because I can give it a pattern and say, every automobile needs to be exactly like this.
[00:05:18] You know, maybe sometimes you’re going to be putting leather seats and instead of cloth, maybe, sometimes it’s going to have a CD player and other times it’s not, or a GPS. And it or not, but people are very unique. And your experience that you’re looking to have with the company you’re interacting with is going to be completely different from mine.
[00:05:35] So AI can only go so far. AI, I think is great. When you’re talking about the analytics side, kind of the aftermath what’s happened here. Um, you know, how could I have done better, but trying to handle that entire interaction. Just using automated, uh, artificial intelligence. Isn’t we’re not there yet with our technology.
[00:05:55] We’re not even close.
Jason: Yeah. And I think when companies try to do that and use either AI or things that I love what you said about it, it’s think it’s AI, but it’s actually not, it’s not that complex. It’s not actually artificial intelligence. It’s not machine learning. It’s just programmed in. Um, the consumers can detect that in some sales, some service that works, right?
[00:06:19] Like at some level, going through that decision tree, some level of AI. You’ll answer your question or you’ll get what you need or whatnot. But for most other things, especially what we’re talking about in dealing with on the sales side, it, you can’t do that. Right. And you need the people and you need the people to do what they are there for.
Isaac: Exactly. Yeah. There’s a, there’s a Seinfeld episode where, uh, you know, I don’t know if you’re familiar with showing up a Kramer. Who’s one of the main characters. His phone number is really close to the phone number for movie phone. So all of a sudden he starts getting all these calls for movie showings and he’s enjoying answering, and he’s like, press one.
[00:06:57] If you want to see movie XYZ. And then he can’t tell if they’re pressing. Why don’t you just say what you want to see and, you know, there’s a certain aspect of it where you go through Moviefone and you say, okay, well you just listed five movies. I don’t want to see any of them. I want to see movie number six.
[00:07:12] I know it’s in your theater. Why do they have to get through all five of these? Or why do I call in? And I have to listen to your hours of operation and here at my current balances and here my payment options, when I’m calling to let you know that my card has been stolen or something like that, I mean, We’re we think too often from business perspective that we know the customer and we know what they want.
[00:07:32] So we structure things around our institutional knowledge of how products work and that’s what a lot of these automated systems are built upon. Whereas the consumer. Doesn’t understand it from your perspective, they don’t know how you look at things. They don’t know your individual terminology. So they want to call in and have an experience that’s unique to them.
[00:07:51] And if they don’t get that from you, I don’t care what business you’re in. I don’t care if you’re Amazon, Google, you know, one of the big names you’ve got a competitor. And if it’s getting too, too frustrating to deal with you, I’m just going to contact your competitor.
Jason: Yeah. And that’s one of the things I talk a lot about these days where, you know, every company that I’ve experienced feels like they’re the best and the most special, and everyone should want to work with them.
[00:08:17] Right. And you should, I mean, you should think that however, the customer doesn’t care. If they have a bad experience on the sales or the service side, they will move on to the others as special, a unique snowflake as every company might think they are. They’re not right. Like it, especially on the side that, you know, we were talking about before this, uh, before recorded, which is the lead gen and the contact side and the performance marketing side.
[00:08:41] I mean, if someone’s not happy, they’ll just fill out a different lead form and get a call from another 10 people. They don’t need you, uh, especially if you’re not meeting their expectations. I love what you said about when you call in, you’re getting the hours of operations and this and that. And all you have is this one specific thing.
[00:08:57] I think that’s a great reminder for anyone listening. Total sidebar is that at some point or regularly, call into your own phone number, go through the process. Like a customer would either sales or service and see if that’s the experience you want them to have. Right. How was that?
Isaac: And I would like to see the executives, the people who have very, very little time in their day to be doing that, because there’s going to be frustration.
[00:09:22] You’ve got to take time out of your day to do that already. So now you’re the frustrated customer calling. And if it takes me a minute and 52 seconds to be able to press a button for what I want to do two minutes of my day is a big ask. So, you know, I think that’s a beautiful idea because you’ve got to live your customer’s experience to understand your.
Jason: Yeah, I love it. I mean, whenever I get one of those systems, I just start immediately yelling service to service service to 0 0, 0. That’s it. And that leads into kind of the topic that you mentioned, um, that I want to point out when we’re, especially, we’re talking about technology, call centers, BPOs inside sales service.
[00:10:03] What you said, which is we want people, we need people to do what they do, right? Until the robots have taken over the world and AI is running everything. We still need people. The reason we have contact centers is for the contact. It’s the people in the seats have to be the human that interacts with another human to help persuade them to take some action.
[00:10:26] Um, and technology is there to support them. Until it can replace them. So based on that, what are, you know, let’s talk about the technology here and then we’ll dive into the BPO business, the technology that’s currently available, but the, I wouldn’t even say the fo AI stuff, but just like what’s there, what’s some of the great things that you’re seeing out there that is supporting and making the.
[00:10:56] Sales or service person in that seat, more effective or efficient or helping the business run. Like what categories of, uh, of technology is actually helping things.
Isaac: Well, obviously it’s gonna be different whether you’re talking an inbound channel versus an outbound channel, if it’s digital versus voice.
[00:11:15] Uh, but I think that at the heart of it, it’s simplifying the customer experience. You know, we we’ve already gone over this a lot, you know, I, I’m a, I’m a contact center solutions provider. I compete with companies like five nines in contact. Readily aware that there are competitors to me. So it’s about my people doing it better, my product being better, but also my people behind it being better.
[00:11:36] So when a customer calls in, I want to create a better customer experience. So how do I get them to cut through all the red tape and get to the person the fastest, um, there’s new technologies being developed that are helping you better identify your customer. We’ve had that for years where we can look at the caller ID, although that’s easy to do.
[00:11:54] Uh, or we can have them enter an account number or something like that to identify them. But I’m seeing technologies now where we’ve got one word, you, you identify why they’re calling much more specifically and something beyond the press, one for sales, two for billing, something like that. Uh, we have a technology, for example, where you go to the website and we track, you know, based on what you allow to be tracked, what’s going on in the website.
[00:12:17] And we send that over to an agent. So let’s say. Uh, your, your ring, uh, Amazon ring and you sell doorbells and one of your, as they call their customers, neighbors there, they’re out. And they’re looking at the different packages and they’re just not sure what package they want to buy. You know, they’re comparing two of them together.
[00:12:33] You can send that information over to the agent when they contact the agents. When the agent gets it, it’s like, oh, you’re looking at home security products. And you’re looking at the professional one versus the small house one. I’m guessing you want to know the difference. So I already know I’m talking to Jason cutter.
[00:12:50] I already know he’s interested in home security and I already know what two products he spent the most time looking at. He goes from being really frustrated because he doesn’t know the difference between the packages and which one it is and getting to somebody who already knows why he’s calling, gives them that humor human experiences says, yeah, that can be a little confusing here.
[00:13:09] This one comes with 10 cameras. This comes with five, two door sensors, tenders, sensors, improving that customer experience. So it’s all about deescalating, any sort of frustration before the call gets to the eight. Uh, so if you create a good experience, your agent may have fewer obstacles to overcome, and now they can focus on, you know, more of the revenue side of things, whether it’s a sale retention, you know, something along those lines.
Jason: And what I find fascinating and true about that example is. As much as some people will say, well, it feels weird that you know where I’m at on the site and what I’m looking at and what I might be clicking on. Obviously now with a lot of compliance and the laws around cookies changing, you have to enable that so that it’s there.
[00:13:52] People, people may say they don’t like that kind of stuff. But before that experience to then not have to. Go through all of that and have somebody kind of be a couple of steps ahead from zero in that conversation is great. I mean, it’s, it’s essentially taking out the challenge that we all have had that frustrates everybody, which is you call in, you talk to somebody, they say, oh, you need to talk to this other department.
[00:14:17] Then you have to tell your story. Then they transact what you have to tell, like that frustrating thing, even on the sales side, which is, I filled out this form, why am I now talking to a salesperson that literally has no idea what I wanted? Like, they didn’t even read the info I filled out in that form or anything about me.
[00:14:33] And then it’s like, wait, why am I like, why did I even fill out the form in the first place? If you register, literally don’t even care.
Isaac: Right. So if you’ve got an airline you fly with, and I remember I went on spring break this week, or this year I took my family to Mali and I remember just checking all the different airlines and going through Expedia and trying to find the best rate, you know, flying five people.
[00:14:53] That’s a lot of money, right. So I’ve got to find the best deal. And, you know, I got stuck a couple of times and it would be great if I could’ve just click the button on Expedia’s website. And when I talk to somebody say, oh, you’re looking to go to Maui from Phoenix. I date XYZ. You’ve looked at these four airlines.
[00:15:07] It’s five, you for me, I’m going to be super excited about that because I didn’t press a single button. I didn’t have to enter my loyalty number or anything like that. All of that is fed through. And that’s just, that’s one of many examples, but again, I think. Customers are starting to be willing to give up some of the privacy, as long as they see it’s not being abused.
[00:15:26] I mean, you look at the Facebook things that are out there where somebody, you know, based on how you draw the number three, I can tell what kind of person you are and it’s, oh, you’re this beautiful, loving person. It’s all fluff nonsense, but people don’t realize they’re willing to give up all of their personal information, whoever hosts that, right?
[00:15:44] This is different. This is, we’re not going to sell your information. We’re not going to give it away. We’re going to use your information. You can have it right in the. We’re going to use that information to service you on this call. And this call only makes a better experience.
Jason: So one of the things, obviously that happened in the last year and a half in the call center contact center sales space that you and I both, uh, deal with is.
[00:16:08] Everyone had to go remote at least for some period of time, right in the U S and you know, many countries, some have come back to work, some came back pretty quickly. Some are still remote, um, which is, uh, wasn’t a never thought to be possible in a contact center call center space, right? You don’t not have everyone in the office where you can see them all the time.
[00:16:28] You would never have 5,000, 500,000 people working from home. Like. Uh, it was not a paradigm that was possible. Then it happened. Where do you see technology facilitating that in the work from home, the back in the office, the messy hybrid, which is some people are in some people aren’t, there’s different shifts.
[00:16:50] Like where do you see technology supporting that? Not just what the company needs, but what the, you know, that individual agent or rep is doing to be pretty.
Isaac: I think we’re going to see a big shift away from some of the technologies I’m seeing right now about putting cameras in people’s home. Um, there’s a lot of that.
[00:17:11] That’s been a big thing. It’s, it’s a newer thing to calling it, workspace monitoring, where they’re focused on watching the individual. And I’ve seen demonstrations where, you know, I’ll see a young lady, she looks Filipinas sitting in her home and there’s a camera on. She, you know, gets up from her desk to grab her cell phone and sit down at her computer and her supervisor danger and says no cell phones allowed.
[00:17:34] And that’s what they’re trying to show is how we control a tightly secured environment. In my personal opinion. It’s only a matter of time before there’s a lawsuit behind that. You’re going to have something to get hacked, and now you’re going to be walking someone sleeping, or maybe even a child sleeping.
[00:17:48] Um, you know, you’re going to see, uh, parts of people’s lives that they don’t want you to see, and they’re going to feel violated and it’s going to get messy. So I think that area is going to go away. I think what’s going to be a bigger focus is. How do we worry less about security in the agent environment?
[00:18:07] Uh, you know, what are you talking about? Like, uh, credit cards or medical insurance. You’re usually talking about something about PCI or, or HIPAA or something like that. So, you know, the PII or the Phi, we’ve got to protect that. We do protect that, but we can protect it by creating a secure, locked environment for agents I’ve seen, I’ve got customers that get wanded down with like a metal detector wand before they can go into a clean room.
[00:18:31] Um, Then that’s, that’s great. If your client requires that the other side of it could be, why don’t we just take that information away from them? You know, we talk about AI. We talk about voice interaction. That stuff has practical application. For example, entering a credit card number. If I’m talking to you and you’re about to buy something for me, instead of you giving me the credit card number done, sitting in a hotel room, just outside of Chicago right now, instead of you and I, I could be a telemarketer from here.
[00:18:56] If I wanted no problem, there’s nothing wrong with them. You can’t tell if I’ve got a pen and paper right here that I’m writing on this lower table. Take that away. Transfer the call to an IVR where we process the credit card number and then give the call back to the agent. Um, and then that’s where you could also use some of that AI to listen to the recorded call and hear, well, did the agent say something?
[00:19:17] Oh, I got a message that said it didn’t work. Why don’t you go ahead and give me your number again and I’ll just take care of it later. Uh, so I think those are areas for the workspace monitoring, I think is the biggest piece of the puzzle needs to be fixed. So things like being able to watch the agent’s screen.
[00:19:33] And here are the audio on their PC, you know, make sure they’re not listening to Spotify in one year and listening to the customer and the other ear, um, you know, that type of monitoring and just making sure the agent doesn’t have access to sensitive data. And then that way for agent is working at home or working remote, making sure it’s just a secure and consistent environment, no productivity loss, everything works the same.
[00:19:56] It’s as easy to get into. And there are solutions out there that do it yet. Our solution has been around for 20, some odd years. Uh, I was a customer of it for 15, and I know that, you know, before it was cool to send your agents on, we were experimenting with work at home and it was very firewall friendly, but that was one of the first things we had to sell for as a, as a customer of the product that I know a manufacturer is, how do we handle PCI?
[00:20:22] How do we handle Phi and the solution? Taken away, just take it on a scope and then it doesn’t matter if the agents at home working for bank XYZ because they never hear bank account numbers. So what is it?
Jason: Yeah, and I think those are great solutions. I know low tech ways I’ve done in the past is when they transfer for usually a, like a third party verification or someone internal that offshore office takes it to a certain point.
[00:20:47] It doesn’t collect that, you know, that personal information, the social security, the bank account numbers, and literally just does it. You know, I’ve had tech build things like what you’re talking about. And I even have heard that there’s companies now with solutions via tax, which is, you know, the agent triggers something to.
[00:21:05] The color, they get a text. I mean, most everybody is using a cell phone and in that text is a link for them to then the customer to then open up a page that then allows them to enter in that personal information. And then again, the agent never sees it. So I think that’s a great solution. And when I hear about the video monitoring and all of that, All I can think about is just, that’s a company culture that’s focused on micromanaging and controlling everybody and not full of people who understand.
[00:21:39] Why they’re there, why they want to be there, what their role is like, they see it as a job and it’s a battle of management versus the employee of like productivity versus non, which it’s tough to win at scale because you’re just going to have high turnover if you’re, if you’re managing by that classic model.
Isaac: Well, it depends on what you’re talking about with video monitors. You’re talking about video camera monitoring. Absolutely.
Jason: I’m talking about like the I’m watching you, you just picked up your cell phone and now I’m gonna yell at you about picking up your cell phone versus having a company culture where.
[00:22:09] Are held to KPIs and they’re working hard and they know why they want to be there versus I need to do as little as possible and just get. Right
Isaac: now being able to watch their screen though. So that’s different having a camera, right. Watching their screen, you know, you’ve got somebody working at home and they say, Hey, every time I click on the shopping cart, I get an error.
[00:22:28] It might help to watch their screen and see, okay, what, what did they click right before that? What else is going on? What does the error message look like? So I can do a screen capture as a supervisor. Um, another interesting thing, and this is something that, you know, as a technologist, I’ve always struggled with in the context of.
[00:22:43] I’m always asked to come up with solutions to fix human problems. And I can’t always do that. So, you know, I I’ve even had the joke before of, Hey, can we hook a cattle product to their seat so that when they don’t click and to call fast enough, it wakes them up a little bit and they, you know, and obviously people are joking.
[00:22:59] In a broader sense. That’s worth, they’re asking if I write. Yeah, yeah, exactly. There’s that little bit of I’m joking, but yeah. Um, you know, I had a call center in Manila one time and they had these really, really poor, uh, contact rates and no one could figure out why. And so. Instead of operations taking matters in their own hands.
[00:23:19] They said it fix it. So I personally got in as the VP of it for that company. I I’m listening to the calls and I’m and everything’s sounding okay. I started watching the agent’s screen and I see they’re just not picking the right disposition for what the customer says. So the customer says, you know what?
[00:23:33] I’m not interested in. Hangs up. Agent clicks answered. And
Jason: I was the first one in the list every time.
Isaac: Bingo. So always then I come down, I say, okay, well, from a technology perspective, I can make not interested the first one, but now you might inflate your contact rates and your conversion rate is going to be garbage.
[00:23:51] So this is where you’ve got that human element where you need to do some coaching. You need to do some training, you need to motivate your agents, not just slap them on the hands when they’re doing something wrong, but give them more of an incentive to do. Right. And that’s where things like. No gamification employee engagement start to come in, because now you’re talking about looking at things to help incentivize agents who improve their base.
Jason: And, and training and leadership, right? Because I, that, that’s why I jumped in because I was excited. Cause I thought I knew the answer, which was, it was the first one in the list, which is every, every CRM phone system that deals with humans that will, you will always have a majority of that first option.
[00:24:30] Um, and really what I’ve found is one way is again, shifting the culture, helping the team, understand the value of picking the right disposition, which is if you pick no answer or not available over and over. That means the leads are bad or something is wrong. And then we have a serious problem and we might be missing opportunities.
[00:24:49] If you’re picking the wrong one in another category, it might make you look bad. Like you said, the conversion rates now, like you’re in trouble because you’re not converting. Um, and helping people realize the value to the business and to their jobs. In selecting the right thing because of that data and what it means.
[00:25:06] Um, it’s the, you know, there’s, again, I agree with you because I was raised the same way. Like whatever somebody can mess up, they will. So how do you put things in place and how do you make it so that they can’t do that or, uh, you know, parameters in place or, you know, gamification and. Proper training, but just expect it.
[00:25:24] If that’s the first thing in the list, they’re always going to pick that. Um, and I think this goes into another thing that I know that you, you and I had chatted about, which is, you know, one of these big challenges, especially in this environment where I’ll talk about it, at least in the. Is hiring is really difficult.
[00:25:42] Every company I talked to really wants to hire more people everywhere you go, not just call centers, but restaurants like everywhere you go help want, and everyone needs something. And obviously they want to hire hiring is difficult. That’s a whole different topic. Um, but there’s just this thing that happens in a lot of organizations where they just treat people like numbers.
[00:26:02] I’m going to hire 10. I’m going to hire 50 if they work out great. If. But I’m just going to push them this whole, like monitoring and micromanaging thing, not healthy, but like, you know, not appropriate, just pushing on people. Where do you see that? Like where do you see that needs to change? Or how can companies change based on everything you’ve seen in all the contact centers you’ve dealt with that have done it different.
Isaac: Yeah, I’ve worked for the companies that the employees were, the numbers I’ve worked for, the companies where they had a, a very big goal of making, uh, the, the business be the place to work. Like I worked for company synergy solutions and Phoenix. They’re actually the ones that convinced me to move to Phoenix and a regular topic of conversation.
[00:26:46] This came from the chairman. This came from the president or your friends. Who’s actually now over at Amazon re. We’re talking about earlier. Uh, but you know, one of their big focuses was how do we get known as a place people want to work at? And one that’s to, you know, compete with other companies pulling for the same resources, but two, how do you create that culture?
[00:27:06] Where the employees have a vested interest in the success of the company, because that cuts back on your attrition rates. And that’s where things get really expensive, because you’ve got to train your new employees. You’ve got to go through all that. Some of your clients will pay for attrition train.
[00:27:19] Some of them are, you know, again, if you’re an outsourcer. Um, so I think a lot of that is creating that good culture at work, creating that fun environment. Um, You know, we’re all we all show up. We’ve all got to do our job. People need to be on time. People need to come back from breaks on time. I think that’s something that you’re going to have everywhere.
[00:27:36] But beyond that, how do you make it fun? How do you make it rewarding? Uh, everybody’s going to pay about the same. You try to compete just on pay. Uh, you’re either gonna over compete and you’re gonna lose money, which none of us want to do, or you’re going to, you know, just, I mean, your only other alternative is really to be the same as everybody else.
[00:27:55] So what do you do beyond that? How do you create a good working. And sometimes it’s about making the employees feel more valued. Uh, you know, because you know, a customer comes in and complaints, you listen to the recording and you hear that customer just laid into that agent. And you say that agent, Hey, you did a really good job.
[00:28:11] That person was. The person was an idiot. You know what I mean? You know, don’t tell anybody I said that, but you know, that person was outlying, you know? Um, but, but ha let them feel like you have their back and then create the fun environment, you know, in the lunchroom, have the ping pong tables and the, the, you know, maybe a karaoke machine or something like that.
[00:28:30] I’ve seen call centers where they’ve got pots set up for their agents to take naps if they have long rapes or, or, or meditation rooms, uh, you know, getting gamification, uh, to where while they’re working, maybe they can. Play a game or they can compete with friends or dress up an emoji or something like that.
[00:28:47] You know, something just to distract them from a monotony because in the context in a world, that’s, that’s one of the other big killers is boredom. You know, I sit there and it’s call after call after call the exact same thing. I can read these disclosures in my sleep. Give them something fun to keep them occupied throughout it.
[00:29:05] You know, I’ve seen supervisors, uh, play cards with their agents during calls or, you know, toss a ball back and forth. And, you know, there’ve been studies that show that when people are physically active, They actually stay more focused. So, you know, chewing gum, while you’re talking on the phone can help you stay focused or candy or something like that.
[00:29:23] Tossing a stress ball against the wall, something like that. So create an environment that promotes that. Um, you know, again, remembering that they’re people too, you know, telemarketers are, or customer service agents are people too, so help them to enjoy their life.
Jason: Yeah, I love that advice. And I love where you started with that.
[00:29:43] With the example of the company you were at, where that was, the goal was to be. Thought of as the best place to work because I’ve seen companies put those things in place, the ping pong table, the free lunches, the meditation room, you know, the spiffs and the contest because they’re checking boxes because they think that that’s what they should do to increase employee engagement and retention, but not necessarily a fundamental belief from the top down where it’s like, okay, if you guys want ping pong tables, go ahead.
[00:30:15] Like otherwise just get back to work. And when that’s the sentiment from above like that stuff, isn’t, it’s like giving someone a gift with guilt and obligation behind it. Like it’s, it’s, it feels different. We’ve all received those. Um, and I think that’s the key is making sure that it’s an alignment. From the top down and then it will be effective.
[00:30:34] And at the same time, keeping in mind that all of those things you’re talking about will not have the right effect if they’re done to essentially bribe people to work, because they’ll feel entitled to it instead of still part of something.
Isaac: Yeah, look, look, and see if your employees are smiling, looking, walk through your contact center and see the look on your agent’s face.
[00:30:55] Do they, do they look like they’re full of dread? Do they look like they’re just utterly exhausted? And if that’s the case, you need to change something. If they will genuinely happy to be there, they look excited about their coworkers. You know, that sort of thing. Then foster that environment, but happy employees tend to stick around you lower your retention costs or they’re more productive.
[00:31:14] They want to be a part of it. Um, you even listen to their ideas. I mean, I’ve seen some of the best ideas come out of the very bottom of the company or the entry-level person. Hey, why don’t you do it like this? Because we never thought about it. That’s a great idea. And you can really improve it. Um, you know, I’ve been in this industry a long time and I’ve been in leadership for a long time.
[00:31:37] And if somebody says, well, what, what do you expect out of your team? I say, I want people better than me. I want people I can learn from because the day I stopped learning, especially as a technologist, that’s the day I need to read. Because I have to constantly be learning. So I accept the fact, I embrace the fact that I might not be the most talented programmer on my team or the most talented network administrator.
[00:31:58] My value I bring to the table needs to be pulling people together at that table. And then those individual resources are the experts in their different areas. I want to learn from that. So, uh, watch your agents, watch your employees, see how, see how they react and, and try to make sure that they’re all happy or as happy.
[00:32:15] Yeah. I
Jason: love it. I think that’s great. So I want to shift gears a lot, um, and specifically focus on the BPO industry. So we’re talking about third party outsourced service providers, whether it’s outbound. You know, dials, inbound, sales, inbound service, and support, whatever that might be, but a BPO business process outsourced onshore offshore doesn’t matter.
[00:32:43] But just that whole category of, you know, third-party one of the challenges I know we’ve talked about this and I’ve experienced this for years is. Their margins are thin. It’s usually pretty competitive and what they’re willing to invest or how they have to approach their business model is going to be different than a first party sales or service center where they have the money, right?
[00:33:04] Like service is already bad, bad enough, or challenging enough. It’s usually seen as a cost center for most organizations. And then you take that as an outsource and then it gets even more difficult. I know for me, I have spoken to. Many BPO’s and want to help them, but their margins are so thin. They don’t know where to allocate those funds.
[00:33:24] What are some things that you’ve seen? Like, you know, there’s obviously the challenges that they’re facing, like what specific things could they do, or even more than that? Like what challenges do they have that they don’t even know that they’re dealing with, that they could be facing. I don’t know if that’s too broad for you or, or
Isaac: it is.
[00:33:45] I mean, so again, speaking from experience, you know, one of the things I see as waste, you know, you’ll have areas where you’ll have a knee-jerk reaction because we were, our internet went down on Tuesday, so go out and buy five carriers so that we’ve got lots of extra redundancy. In two years later, I’m paying for five different internet providers and I rarely ever need more than.
[00:34:06] So sometimes it’s just about cutting out that cost. Um, there’s also saving money that costs you money. So you might not make an investment in a better piece of technology that you need, uh, because oh, that’s going to be a big capital expenditure. Okay. Yeah. But the ROI on that is that, you know, maybe I need.
[00:34:28] Twenty-five percent less agents, or maybe my handle times go down 15% or maybe I can increase my sales because I can create a better structure for my agents to deliver the message. Um, you know, so some of that, that cost cutting costs you more in the long run. Uh, a great example of this. I worked for a company once I’m not going to name names.
[00:34:51] Uh, but I worked for this company and, uh, I, the, the, the CEO used to brag about having the best low cost context that our platform in the world it was on. It was even on Gartner’s magic quadrant, which shocked me. Cause I know you’ve got to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars on the magic quadrant first place.
[00:35:07] So why did cheap. Contact center solution in the world was on Gardner’s is beyond me, but I went to one of the call centers and I said to the call center manager, you know, what, what do you like the most about this platform? What do you like least? And the call center manager said, well, I can’t really tell you what I liked the most, but if I can get something, I would love the ability to disposition my car.
[00:35:30] What do you mean disposition? I mean, the concept of not being able to split the cost so far, and I asked him to split, it was, oh, well my clients call me and they say, Hey, how many people called? And I can tell them that. Then they say, why are they called? I don’t know. And then I can ask around, but I can’t.
[00:35:46] Yeah, exactly. So, but sometimes we’re so focused on increasing that margin that we cut out little things that then causes to lose clients or cause frustration for our staff running our contact centers. So wasteful spin spending or not having enough foresight to spend in the proper places, uh, can be costly.
[00:36:08] Uh, I think beyond that, attrition is really a big cost factor for a lot of contact centers, especially BPOs. You know, if you’re, if you’re an in house contact center, like you said, you know, you’ve usually got a little bit more, more money to play with. You can run nice incentive programs, but if you are in charge of outsource services for your company, and that includes managing your BPO.
[00:36:28] You want to keep that rate as low as possible. So you’re going to negotiate really low rates, and then that BPO gets there to say, okay, I’m getting. $25 an hour and it’s got to be a US-based employee. So if I’m paying that employee $14 an hour, just to convince them to show up, and then I’ve got that supervisor making $20 an hour, and then I’ve got the life they’ve got this, my fully loaded costs might be 20 to $23 an hour.
[00:36:52] So I’m making $2 an hour. That’s a lot of work for very little payoff. So if I have to pay for attrition training or something like that, I don’t get reimbursed. Anytime I bring in a new hire that’s cost, a little money. That’s eating at my profit. So creating that environment where your agents stick around.
[00:37:08] Okay. Really can help with that kind of improving that margin because you’re not wasting that money on losing the agent or even just the quality loss you get, because maybe your sales DEP or you don’t meet enough of your performance factor to bill for the full hour or something like that. So broad answer.
Jason: Yeah. And one, I think that even the attrition side and the retention part of it goes to what you talked about with the second part, which. No want to cut costs, but at what expense, right? The phrase that always jumps in my mind is dropping dollars to pick up pennies, um, where companies see an expense like training and retention and Finn into that like training and leadership training, not just helping the agents, but helping the leaders who were probably agents last week.
[00:37:56] And now they’re managers this week and they have received zero training as well. And being a manager, which is totally different skills. If you invest in those, then it would actually go down the line and help with your retention numbers, which would then help the business. Overall. I have been fortunate enough a few times too.
[00:38:14] Contracted by BPOs who get that, who understand the value of that investment versus, you know, the immediate cost. Um, but yeah, most, most just see that and go, no, we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing. Right. Right.
Isaac: Yeah. And th and those often have the experience of where they’ll say. I could have one $80,000 a year employee, or I can have you on my support structure, my Madden structure, or I can have two $40,000 your employees.
[00:38:40] Well, two’s better than one. It’s going to cost me the same amount of money. So I’m gonna get those two forties, but they lack the wisdom and experience and skillset to where maybe between 1, 180 could get done as much as three forties or at least have a better vision. Uh, but it’s, it’s more that shortsighted vision of leadership to where we don’t necessarily need those, those seasoned leaders.
[00:39:01] Uh, but then you get a cell phone of your problems,
Jason: right. And then you’re just on this hamster wheel of, I have high attrition. So what do I do? I need to hire more people and then I lose a manager. And then what do I do? I got to promote somebody who doesn’t have any experience. And then just over and over again.
[00:39:18] When we’re talking about the BPO’s and the call centers themselves. I know one of the things that I have seen from talking to other people, uh, I had, uh, Richard comment as, uh, one of my first guests on the podcast. And he does brokerage mostly for call centers. You and I had talked about this in advance, the same topic, which is one of the challenges for BPS.
[00:39:36] Is not necessarily their own internal service levels and their sales levels. Like some of them are actually really good at what they do, but they’re not actually good at selling themselves and building a sales team or department to actually grow themselves. Uh, maybe they were started by a service minded or a technology minded individual, not a sales minded one.
[00:39:58] And they’re literally. Like they can’t sell it once they get a client. It’s great, but they can’t sell it. Where do you see that coming in? How often do you actually see that being a challenge and you know, what have you seen successful companies BPO’s call centers do for their own sake?
Isaac: So selling landing a new client, for example.
[00:40:18] Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So some of the things I’ve seen wrong is that having a dedicated sales team, not having somebody that goes out there whose only job is to focus on bringing those new clients you see in a lot of the BPS. The, uh, there’s a mystery hand in the background, changing the air conditioning problem.
[00:40:36] Uh, in a lot of those BPOs, you see that they’ll have the president of the company be the only salesperson for the company, but then they’ll expect him or her to also then make all the decisions on budgeting and to be in charge of opening new locations and to do this at the other. And that, that really hurts.
[00:40:54] I think one of the big trends I saw as a, I wouldn’t say it was a roadblock, but an interesting question I saw the last year or two I worked in BPOs was the question about. A lot of the clients that would come in, uh, companies are coming in and say, Hey, uh, a great example. Uh, I, the, uh, ASP CA the American society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, we were working with them, you know, the Sarah McLaughlin commercials, uh, for animals, um, you know, th they were talking to them about being a potential client from the BPO I worked in at the time, and their questions were things like, well, how often do you let your employees bring their pets?
[00:41:31] Uh, because they were, you know, they believe in animal care and, you know, I went to their offices in New York city and, you know, they’re like, oh yeah, we all bring our cats and dogs every day to work with us and stuff like that. So sometimes it’s seeing the mirror culture, culture at the BPO that mirrors them, uh, other times it’s like, okay, well, you can’t exactly replicate what we have, but how do you get your employees to have fun?
[00:41:54] How do you get your employees happy? Um, they want to see that because I think. Uh, they’re, they’re concerned about the trition. Uh, even if they’re not paying for the attrition costs, they still suffer the quality loans. Um, you know, I’ve had clients like Shutterfly in the past where it’s like an eight week, 12 week training program, something ridiculous like that, because there’s so much product knowledge and they want those agents to do everything perfectly.
[00:42:17] And then you get that person in and then their loss. Okay. Yeah, I can replace. But it’s going to take me three months to replace them. So it’s not like if I have people constantly walking in the door, it’s a three-week process and then it takes them another three months to get good. Um, so that’s, that’s, you know, certainly another thing, uh, the brand identity, I think is finally, is this the last piece, you know, again, I’ve talked about replicating the environment, uh, but you can’t always replicate the environment.
[00:42:42] That’s, that’s kind of the point. Like, um, I worked for a company that was in the confectionary division. They made brownies and they, they were very. Hesitant to outsource because they said, unless you can smell the brownies coming off the production. You’re just not going to get, you’re just not going to be able to understand it.
[00:43:00] So eventually we started setting things up with them to where we do field trips to the factory. So the agents could smell the factories and, or the smell of the brownies, and they ship us big cases of brownies and we’ll be feeding the agents brownies all day long and stuff like that. Uh, in our game of vacation environment, we made cases of their brownies.
[00:43:17] One of the big prizes the agents could redeem so that, you know, we were trying to create a, a replica of the culture because ultimately when you’re going to outsource. That’s your biggest concern is how do I get, you know, when Jason calls in, I want Jason to feel like he’s talking to the brownie company.
[00:43:33] I don’t want him feeling like he’s caught talking to Grupo. NGN, you know, who’s Grupo, we don’t, the consumer doesn’t know them, but they know the brownie company. So creating that replica of the culture is very important as well. So I think if you could sell for that and get the customer or the prospect comfortable that it’ll make it easier to close some of those.
Jason: Well, and I think the other point too is, you know, that’s what you’re selling is that experience as the outsourcer, that’s the same as what the company is expecting. But then also having that dedicated sales team internally, not just the president, the founder or the CEO, somebody who’s doing the sales because they’re probably busy and that’s not enough of a force to, to keep everything going and manage a sales pipeline.
[00:44:15] Um, I was gonna ask, but I think you’ve mostly answered it. So if you did, you know, let me know. I was going to ask the last question, which is where, what are you seeing now different with the. Buyers, which would be the companies who are looking to outsource or looking for a contact center, looking for a BPO, looking for a partner.
[00:44:37] What are you seeing now with what they’re looking for versus before? Obviously one of them is, you know, somebody mirroring their culture so that when I call up, I know I don’t feel like it’s different than it used to be. Right. When you get. That it was literally different. Is there anything else that the buyers are looking for now that may be shifted over the last either year and a half, five years?
Isaac: Well, other than culture, I think it’s technology. Uh, they want to know that you can meet their needs, not just today, but in two weeks, two years, two decades. Um, this is kind of a commonality I’ve seen over time, but I think the, the end customers are becoming more savvy and more aware. Is that when you’re an outsourcer and your client comes to you and says, we want you to do this new thing, your deadline was two weeks ago.
[00:45:26] I mean, by the time you find out about it and you’re past due, and you’ve got to get it out the door now, so they want to see that you can come to them and do that. Quickly and easily. They also want to know that if a new communication channel comes out or if they just want to try something a little bit different, you have the agility and the technology to make that happen.
[00:45:43] I’d say on top of that, they want you to start making recommendations to them. They don’t want to have to come in and say, We want to start communicating on SMS, use that example earlier. So I want to start sending payment links to them over SMS. They want the BPO’s to come to them and say, Hey, we could make this more efficient.
[00:46:03] If we do that, which requires your BPO people to be more technologically savvy as well and more. Aware of the technology they use and constantly looking for something better. And I think that’s where trade associations, like pace are very helpful because you can network with companies that are doing new and different things.
[00:46:20] Um, we grew up on gen, we bought a company, uh, we, we had during the pandemic, whenever he’s laying people off, we were buying companies and we, we met a company at pace. I’m like, wow, that is a fantastic product. We need that. Let’s buy it, um, because you need to, you need to bring more of that to the table.
[00:46:37] You need to have that anticipation so you can have a well-rounded offering. So when you were the BPO, you need to make sure that you’ve got solutions, that you can go to your customers and say, Hey, let’s try something new. And.
Jason: Got it. So being a proactive solution provider, that’s looking to, to actually help your clients, the, the company you’re servicing for, um, in a way that they might not be expecting.
[00:47:00] And you’re just giving them better experience and giving them more value, which is interesting because it’s the same thing you would do as a salesperson. If you really want to make your clients successful. Your customer, the consumer B2B, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to go above and beyond. You’re going to give them solutions.
[00:47:13] They weren’t thinking about, instead of being an order taker for what they think they want. Um, and, and I could see where that’s valuable. So. Isaac. I know for people listening or watching, they, uh, you’re very active on LinkedIn. That’s one of the ways that we’ve chatted many times. So if people want, they go to LinkedIn, they look up Isaac Schloss, they can find you on there.
[00:47:36] I also know for your company, if they want to find out more information, They can go to a group O N G n.com. There’s a ton of resources. I’m actually going to put some other links in the show notes regarding cloud communications and the thing called shadow coach and insight. So those will be in there, or people can just go to Grupo ngn.com two.
[00:47:55] Start there as a hub for all kinds of things. Any other interesting things coming up or any thing that, uh, you know, people watching or listening should go find or, or look from you guys?
Isaac: Yeah, absolutely. I think, uh, you know, for me personally, uh, I’m heavily involved at, you mentioned the beginning with pace.
[00:48:12] Professional association for customer engagement. Uh, we’re having, we’re hoping to do it online. Uh, unfortunately that didn’t happen or sorry in person it’s going to be online. Uh, at the end of the month, we’re going to be doing a compliance, not really compliance. It’s just our overall association. Um, uh, event I’m heavily involved with compliance.
[00:48:30] I’ll be speaking in a compliance officer forum, I’m doing a couple of round tables. It’s going to be a great event. It’s free registration this year. So I encourage people to go there. That website, I want to say is pace association.org. Uh, you know, Jason, I’m sure you’re familiar with them, so maybe you could throw their link in there.
[00:48:46] Uh, we publish the video, um, but, uh, you know, that LinkedIn is a great way to connect with me. Uh, I do attend a lot of industry events, uh, so, you know, Can I try to have a lot of that posted on our company websites. I’d love to, you know, just engage with people. I’m a talker, as I’m sure you guys could tell watching this, uh, this podcast.
[00:49:05] So, uh, you know, just connect with me and I, I love you chat.
Jason: I appreciate it. And that’s awesome. And I know that we’re going to connect to your soon. Hopefully it leads gone, uh, in October, 2021, depending on when people are checking this out. So looking forward to that, Isaac, thanks again for coming on the show and sharing all of your experience.
[00:49:23] I appreciate it. And hopefully it was useful to some people.
Isaac: Thank you for your time today, this was important. Did you get some inspirations of ways to help your call center sales team win bigger, stronger, and faster. Hope you are fired up to scale your sales operations. If you got value from this podcast, please go in and leave a rating and review also make sure to forward this episode to anyone else, you know, in the call center space, we appreciate your support in growing the scalable call center sales podcast, fam.
[00:49:55] And if you have any comments, ideas, or feedback, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.