Monday, 22 September 2014

Strategies for Helping Customers with Disabilities

We all have a moral responsibility to help others with a disability to participate in society, and also a legal one not to discriminate against people with a disability.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act in Australia it is illegal to treat someone a person with a disability less favourably than a person without the disability in the same or similar circumstances. For example, it would be direct disability discrimination for a blind person to be refused entry to a restaurant because they have a guide dog. It may be considered indirect discrimination if they only way to enter a public building is by a set of stairs because people who require wheelchair access would be unable to enter the building. Particular areas of public life covered by the Act concern employment, education, accommodation, getting or using services and access to public places. To read more on this go to

Legalities aside, it’s always worth trying to consider how your customer engage with you, including those with disabilities, and if you use an outsourced contact centre, to consider what they can do to assist on your behalf.

The Australian Government offers an excellent free National Relay Service for people with a hearing or speech impairment. Using a Teletypewriter hearing or speech impaired people can make calls or receive calls using the keyboard and monitor on their TTY device with a Relay Officer providing the voice interface. From the point of view of the business or contact centre that they call, it’s just like a normal call, although a bit slower as communications are relayed back and forth. Should your contact centre need to call back the caller, however, agents need to know that the caller uses TTY (sometimes you may get a message on their phone to this effect, or just a fax tone, or nothing at all) and how to access the TTY service. This is mostly a training issue, not a cost issue, that we can all factor into our business operations to assist people with these disabilities.  In Australia all you need to do is call 136677 and ask to be put through to the TTY user phone number.

Having a hearing impairment doesn’t necessarily mean that you are deaf, of course. A core part of Customer Service training is to pitch your communications to the customer; it may be enough to speak slowly, clearly and a bit louder than usual to communicate with a person with a hearing impairment.

Another approach is to offer online help such as Live Chat on your website. Again, your contact centre can assist with this. Usually there’s a monthly access fee for the service and then it’s on usage; it may not cost much to have in place. (This is a service that we can offer you at Well Done.)

For the vision impaired, contact centre support becomes even more important. Here the training focus must be on patience, empathy and clear explanations; it’s not enough just to refer to or recite from the website. Similarly, customers with a learning or intellectual disability can still need to call for assistance, and training staff to have the patience to try to explain things in a variety of ways without being judgmental is key. Someone who has trouble taking in what they are told may need some extra prompting to note the information down, and more time to process this. Agents need training and experience to recognise this kind of disability as it’s not something most people will announce upfront; normal courtesy gives both parties a little time to assess each other’s communication style and a slow rate of exchange is often a vital clue.

A number of our clients support customers with a disability. Well Done agents regularly interact with callers from the broad spectrum of the general public. If you have any concerns about customer service delivery to your client base and would like to know more about outsourced contact centre services, please contact our Sales Team on 1300 551 796 or make an enquiry on the website contact form for follow through.

Monday, 28 July 2014


Research undertaken by independent research company Opinion Matters over 4-14 April 2014 with a sample size of 2,004 adults in Australia is worth considering for any business. We have to thank contact system provider NewVoiceMedia for bringing this research to our attention.

10 key questions were asked. The key responses revealed the following...

Switching providers

  •   58% have switched to a different business as a result of poor customer service. Of this group, there was no gender difference and the reasons given for switching were, in order:
-        46%: Didn’t feel appreciated as a customer

-        38%: Staff unhelpful and rude

-        32%: transferred too many times

  • Of those who switched, the average spend over a year for the product or service in question was $807; extrapolated to Australian consumers overall, this equates to $8 billion per year
Waiting to be answered 
  • People hated being put on hold, but we were surprised how long people reported that they would wait:

-        19% said that they were prepared to wait up to 5 minutes and 52% would wait 5-10 minutes. 
-    Generally women were more prepared to hold than men, and surprisingly, those aged over 55 years were less patient than people in the 16-24 age group.

-        The most impatient were 15% of women and 23% of men, who indicated that they would hang up within 5 minutes of holding.

 Does Good Customer Service win Loyalty?
  • About three quarters of all age groups reported that they would be more loyal, or actively recommend a company that provided good service to them.
Which Communication Channels were preferred?
  • At 59%, calling was the most popular channel for communication with a business, ahead of email (32%) and social media (12% cited this as most effective). 
  • However, there were generational differences with this; 26% of those aged 16-24 believed that social media to be the most effective means to resolve an issue, with Facebook being the favoured social network for interacting with business.
  • Even so, when it came to obtaining the quickest response, the ratings changed again, with 73% opting for telephone over email (16%) and social media (3%).
We think that there is one other thing that businesses should consider with this research. Most people responding to this survey were probably thinking of their interactions with larger businesses. We might settle in for a 40 minute wait to speak to someone at a large organisation, but we won't wait anything like that for a small business. But what happens if your line is busy? 

Most of these large organisations have sophisticated queuing systems to encourage people to wait. If you have one line into your business and it's busy, what's your fall back? This is where a well briefed answering service could be of value. You need only overflow your calls during business hours to ensure that you need never miss a call. 

The research above looks mainly at switchers - the existing customers you stand to lose. What about the ones you never get as well? What percentage of your calls are new sales enquiries? If you divide the number of sales enquiries by your advertising and marketing budget, you can arrive at a very real cost of obtaining each sales enquiry - and this is before you even work out the average value of each sale that you land. Very sobering!

Well Done is an Australian owned and managed contact centre provider. To find out how to get a reception service us with us - anything from a simple message service to complex support - call Well Done on 1300 551 796 or make an enquiry on our website at We would be pleased to discuss your business requirements and quote.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Work-Life balance is no zero-sum game

Don’t you just love it when someone tells you something that you just know is right but you hadn’t actually put it into words before?

A few years ago a breakthrough book by Daniel Goleman entitled Emotional Intelligence was published. It contained detailed physiological information about what happens when we engage, or don’t engage with each other. It went a long way to explain to me why some of the people you met in school who blitzed the tests didn’t necessarily go on to be amazingly successful in their professional life, and vice-versa. Reading David Klaasen’s guest blog at HR Daily on the effect of analytical thinking and social thinking on brain activity and how this relates to leadership in business advanced this discussion significantly for me.

Essentially the research shows that you use different parts of your brain when you are thinking analytically than when you are thinking socially and, when you have activated one, the other is correspondingly restrained. Klaasen is director of a niche HR consultancy, Inspired Working Ltd, so his focus is on how this impacts leadership, productivity and business performance. 

He cited a leadership study which showed a towering imbalance in the analytical and social skills of business leaders, with the percentage of leaders scoring highly on both analytical and social skills a trivial 0.77%, indicating that social skills are not being valued in leadership selection and development.

Here’s the trick. According to Professor Matt Lieberman, neuroscientist at UCLA, social skills are a multiplier. This explains why organisations with great team work and intelligent, highly competent staff consistently outperform those with high human capital but low social capital. Social skills are the key to engaging staff and unlocking their contribution to the work.

Lieberman then revisited some classic experiments with some of the new insights in neuroscience to show that when you learn information and your goal is to share it with others, you use the social thinking mechanisms located on the midline of the brain where the two hemispheres meet and therefore do not only rely on your analytical thinking. Apparently the more active this area of the brain is during a learning experience, the better we remember what we learn and the more inclined we will be to share it with others.

Sounds like a win – win – win. We learn (and enjoy) more, we share information, and we become more productive to boot! No longer is the work-live balance a zero-sum game. It just requires a subtle shift in our thinking from the outset to harness this powerhouse of productivity and innovation.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

IVR Worst practices to avoid - best practices to adopt

IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response systems – the automated voice options you often hear when you call large organisations. Call Centre Helper is a very useful British industry newsletter. It recently posted an article on what NOT to do with IVR based on advice from a galaxy of industry experts. To turn this around, let’s consider what is the right thing to do if you are considering an IVR component to your customer service delivery...

The first lesson is that what works for one company or purpose won’t necessarily work for you, so your first question must be why do I want an Interactive Voice Response system? Often the scale of the client’s operations is the determinant. Here are some common purposes we encounter at Well Done:
  1. Urgency - The simplest purpose clients want an IVR for is to choke off non-urgent enquiries after hours. Is this an emergency? Hell, yes, many will decide - and proceed to talk to our agents anyway, but the question will deter some and you can still provide good customer service to those who proceed … An IVR like this could also send your callers to different skills based queues on our systems – one for simple enquiries, and another for complex enquiries requiring escalation.
  2. Function – some clients direct particular calls to a contractor so they don’t have to handle them; some want to be able to direct enquiries to different trained staff. Some clients sift the easier work and send this to us so that their experts can handle the more complex enquiries. Some clients send calls to different answer-points on our systems based on IVR responses on their systems (e.g. entering their postcode, or selecting an issue). With an IVR you can have one national number but still control your call routing.
  3. Cost – sometimes the simplest questions can be answered perfectly well with an IVR response at a minimal cost. Bill paying by credit card is often handled this way by larger organisations.
  4. Service – you may be able to provide better service through streamlining enquiries; wait times for high volume queues requiring simple assistance can be dramatically reduced through IVR streaming of calls. People will be more prepared to wait to discuss a complex matter with an expert, or be happy to leave a voice message for a call back from this team rather than wait.
Secondly, the IVR experience should add value for your callers, so it’s worth considering the customer’s experience first, and then review the performance to check that everything is still working as it should down the track.

Bearing in mind that most smaller organisations won’t want more than 1-2 options for an IVR and that it’s really only large organisations with high call volumes that will push the limits, we ask:

What’s annoying and not useful for your customers?
  • Long waits coupled with the same On Hold message; if the wait is longer, some apology or reassurance doesn’t hurt.
  • Overly long descriptions of options, too many options; IVRs should siphon off the main reasons people call to streamline and improve the customer experience;  2 -5 options is really as much as I’m prepared to negotiate, with the most important ones first!
  • If you ask me to enter my phone number or account details via keypad, use them. I expect that you will have these in hand when I speak with you, particularly if you are a very large company, yet this often doesn’t happen…
  • Odd multiple voices, dull voices, machines that tell me to have a good day … Make sure your voice artist can be contacted to update options; it’s annoying to get multiple voices on the one line (it’s one conversation as far as I am concerned). Choose a voice that matches my idea of what your company stands for, and preferably one that sounds helpful and clear, not dull and officious. Keep your language simple and oriented to my needs. Keep the greetings and pleasantries to an acceptable minimum – I know that I am interacting with a computer, not a person.
  • Not rewarding the time I spent calling you… Don’t send your customer back where they came from; make sure you provide more service or information. If the option selected is to hear specific information then don’t provide more than one level of IVR options beyond this; for example, at this point I might appreciate the option of speaking to a person. If you’re closed, tell me first up, not after I have gone through the IVR maze. (This can be done through the time context of your IVR messages.)
  • Giving me no option to interrupt an instruction or speak to a person – afterall, I called you for help! There was conflicting advice from the experts on this one. It’s true that many will opt to speak to a human being and perhaps defeat some of the efficiency of having an IVR, but looping people through options that aren’t helping is a sure way to antagonise. 
  • Asking me to do something I can’t understand on the keypad.  For example, most people don’t know how to enter ALPHA information into an IVR (you need the * key entered to do this); if you have a complex interactive IVR database behind your system, try to configure it so that all keypad responses can be numerals only. Keep it simple – lots may be going on back at the home-front to distract me!
At Well Done we can code simple IVR options within our system. Often these are announcements that have a time context once your call enters our system. Complex sequences may require database application development, or your 1300 number provider may be able to code your IVR routing so that calls of different kinds can be pointed to particular diversion-points on our system. We can discuss the handling of those calls that you decide to route to us. It’s wise not to consider IVR options in isolation. They are but one channel in your communications with customers, and it’s best to consider the total customer experience when planning your service.