4 Easy Steps to More Productive Meetings

Meetings can dominate our workdays. Yet, all too often we come out of them thinking “that was a waste of time”. To add to the frustration, meeting invites rarely have agendas or clearly identify what the goals of the meeting are. Even with these glaring challenges we can all take these basic steps to improve our meetings:

1.Invite the right people to your meeting

When setting up a meeting, some people are tempted to include everyone who has ever had anything to do with the project. The problem is – the more people involved, the harder it is to make a decision. With smaller groups there is more flexibility when scheduling a meeting. If it is not absolutely necessary to have some people on the meeting, don’t invite them and instead, let them do something more productive.

2.Take time to introduce the topic

Don’t assume that the audience knows everyone or why they are on the call. We all need a sense of direction, so before you start, give people a heads up of what is going to be covered. Make sure you answer these questions: “What is the topic that needs to be discussed?”, and “What do we want to accomplish on this meeting?”

3.Listen with intent and speak clearly

Sometimes, it can be difficult not to interrupt, especially when on conference calls. But it becomes much easier if you listen with the intent to understand what the speaker is saying. The meeting just might be less of a waste of time than you originally thought.

When you speak, take time and pause to emphasize a point. Stick to 1 or 2 points. Even repeat the points. You are more likely to be successful with your message if you strive to have people focus on 1 or 2 key points only. Let’s face it, they are probably heading off to another meeting after this one, which will undoubtedly require them to focus on more things.

4.Summarize next steps at the end of the meeting

Even if it is not your meeting, don’t be afraid to state your understanding of the decision made and next steps, such as immediate actions and people responsible for their execution.

If your meeting is 60 minutes long, it doesn’t mean that the entire hour needs to be filled. Focus on a key item that needs to be accomplished and don’t be hung up on other things. If it’s accomplished, end the meeting.

While these recommendations may not make all meetings go more smoothly, these steps can help eliminate the common frustration of ineffective meetings. When you approach meetings more strategically, you are more likely to save time, solve problems, improve communication, and reduce costs.

Ways to Better Engage Customers Through Agent Blending of Social and Digital Channels

As summer approaches, the idea of a smooth, blended margarita on a patio becomes more of a reality. Ah…the warm sun and a blended drink – very refreshing. Can blending be this satisfying for a contact center? Absolutely.

Blending has been around since the 90’s, so why bringing this up? With more pressure to engage customers combined with the social media revolution, contact centers have an increasing number of channels to support.

Remember, it used to be just a ‘call center’. Now it’s chat, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, forums… the list goes on.

You are probably familiar with the concept, but before we dive into the details – let’s level set on what we mean by ‘blending’. Blending is when a contact center agent handles different types of work in a given shift. Agent blending can take three forms:

  • An agent handles one type of work (chat, SMS, twitter, etc.) for a period of time then switches to the other type of work.
  • An agent handles one type of work at a time but alternates between each type of work – based on what is delivered to them (chat, then twitter, chat).
  • An agent handles multiple types of work at the same time (a chat interrupts work on twitter response).

Why Blend?

It’s been well documented that blending is more efficient if deployed in a strategic way. The more staff that can do various types of work improves the utilization of agents. However, don’t assume that all agents have equal proficiency in verbal and written communication or are great at task switching. Take advantage of those agents that are capable to drive greater efficiencies

What Type of Blending Should You Deploy?

This goes back to management 101. If you cannot measure it, you can’t manage it. And if you cannot manage it then the original benefit of becoming more efficient is lost. Be careful with option three. Often, the constant interruption and complexities of implementation outweigh the benefits.

So, How Do You Obtain the Desired Results From Blending?

Most implementations focus only on the blended routing aspect of the solution. In other words, the technology can route all interaction types to an agent. But the real management and efficiency derived from a blended solution comes from reporting. And this is where the focus should be.

There are three critical needs to focus on in relation to a blended solution and reporting:

  • First by default, the reporting solution may inaccurately report agent performance when an agent is logged in and available to handle more than one type of work within the same day. We have seen deployments where the blended agents are reported as working more than 25 hours per day due to double counting. I wish I had an extra hour each day.
  • Second, changes to the agent desktop may be required to accurately report the agent’s blended work activity. These agent desktop customizations can be costly and complex.
  • Finally, focus on reporting and the needs of the workforce management system (WFM). It’s the WFM system that helps determine the schedules of the agents to be available at the right place and the right time. So, focus on reporting needs effectively manage and obtain the efficiency from your blended contact center solution.

10 Steps to More Effective Business Partnerships

First of all, I want to define “partner” as a significant supplier of ancillary goods or services, who is neither the primary vendor nor the purchaser. Partners include: contractors, consultants, service providers, outsourcers, etc.

You trust them with your business results, customers, and reputation. The wrong business partnerships can result in increased costs, poor results, and significant frustration.

Often, too little effort or too much process and paperwork leads to the wrong partner choice.

Partnerships are relationships! With this in mind, let’s look at 10 simple ways to improve business results, by improving relationships with your business partners:

  1. Select partners carefully. Don’t start with the A’s in the phone book. Make sure you know the important things to be done and find the right partner that can do them.
  1. Don’t ask for the world at a bargain price. You’re not shopping at Walmart. Good results require good people/products/services, so you have to pay a fair price.
  1. Sign a good contract that protects both parties and is negotiated fairly. Deal with business constraints upfront. Last-minute price bashing or bait and switch tactics are bad ways to start this relationship.
  1. Consider long-term consequences of the relationship. Cultural fit is important, as are considerations on price increases over time, obligations, key resources/services, change requests, termination conditions, etc.
  1. Make it personal. Identify people responsible for success and get to know them. Communicate often and openly to address issues and opportunities quickly.
  1. Have mutual respect for each other. Don’t be quick to dismiss others’ concerns and remember to listen, understand, and stay focused on the business results. Defensive and negative behavior is a no win game.
  1. Be loyal. Loyalty is important in any relationship and the grass is not always greener. This does not mean settling. Instead, always aim to improve things, and don’t break something that is working well.
  1. Be a reference for good work. This usually leads to more good work.
  1. Don’t nickel and dime. Flexibility is key. Stay focused on the key items.
  1. End the relationship quickly if it’s not working. Business is hard, don’t waste time when it is not happening.

I am sure you get the picture. And no, I’m not a marriage counselor. This is about what is best for your business and reducing frustration when dealing with key business partners.