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Connecting with Microsoft Partners at WPC14

7/21/2014 - 0 Comments
 
We recently had the pleasure of attending the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., last week. Our expectations were high, and we weren't disappointed. At the Monday morning Vision Keynote address, Microsoft leaders articulated the organization's "clear and differentiated vision for the future in a mobile-first, cloud-first world."

Enterprise solutions that are secure, functional and rich with features is what Microsoft brings to the table, and with new ways of offering their software, Microsoft continues to stay at the forefront of its class. The launch and success of Office 365, a cloud based subscription suite of office software that makes your business more productive with its Software as a Service (SaaS) approach. According to Microsoft, 60% of Fortune 500 companies have purchased Office 365 in the past year.

Throughout the Commons Expo, networking opportunities were plentiful. Signing up and scheduling meetings in the Connect Portal was another way to schedule networking opportunities. And after-hours parties, sponsored by corporations, was a more informal way to visit with potential business partners.

The headset manufacturers that Avcomm offers each had a presence at the event. Jabra's sound booth invited guests to hear the difference using either a Speak 510 speakerphone or the new BIZ 2300 series headset. Additional headset models were available to play with; Jabra lives by the motto "Devices Make Experiences" and that hands-on availability encouraged visitors to test a variety of devices. Tony Everson, Jabra's Director of Strategic Alliances - Microsoft, was enthusiastic about this year's WPC.

At the Sennheiser booth, the new SP 10 and SP 20 speakerphones were prominently featured front and center. Plugging the SP 20 Microsoft Lync certified speakerphone into his cell phone, Area Sales Manager Jon Leighton (Telecom - Northeast) showed off the equalizer function of the device. The solid speakerphone, with stainless steel on its face, is a sleek device with powerful sound.

On Tuesday, Plantronics unveiled a new program at WPC called Plantronics Device-as-a-Service for SMB and mid-market customers to acquire Plantronics solutions along with cloud services. This makes it easy to acquire a complete solution, in a pay-as-you-go manner with 12-, 24-, and 36-month payment options. More information about the program here.

One of our favorite finds at WPC was the new Windows Apportals app. With this, we quickly created our very own Avcomm Solutions app! Microsoft says Windows Apportals "allows you to integrate your entire Line of Business (LOB) stack into a single, modern, touch-based experience. The concept behind Apportals is simple – introduce the same nested folder structure common in a desktop OS to the modern mobile OS." Users can set security levels to provide targeted information for your users.

Next year, WPC will take place in Orlando, a tempting way to mix business along with a family vacation to see all of the sights Orlando offers!

Did you attend WPC in Washington, D.C.? What was the highlight of your experience? You can share your thoughts on the Comments tab at the top of this post.

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Building Your Team

7/8/2014 - 0 Comments
 
GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAL!

World Cup Soccer action is now a daily discussion here at Avcomm Solutions. While the majority of our employees are not rabid soccer fans, we thought it would be a fun team building activity. Each employee drew team names out of a hat and prizes will be awarded to those holding the final four teams. During this month of soccer action, it has been quite a learning experience for everyone and has been fun to watch employees' excitement as their teams win.

Whether it's a major sporting event, season or holiday that brings the team together, employees appreciate when companies take the time to throw a little fun into their daily grind. Studies confirm that employees who are engaged in their work and loyal to their workplace, are less likely to leave employment. With the costs of hiring and training new employees, the benefits to retaining the employees you already have are sure to impact the bottom line.

Another activity that we've recently done is allowing employees the opportunity to give to a local charity as a corporate body. Here in Nebraska we have an annual event called the Can Care-a-Van where a TV station goes across the state to organize collections for local food pantries. Over the course of a week's time in May, we asked that employees bring in their pantry donations and donated more than 80 pounds of food to the cause.

We hosted a Cinco de Mayo party in May, and each employee brought in a Mexican-themed dish for lunch so the team ate lunch together. The opportunity to eat together, and sample new recipes, was a great change of pace and a lot of fun. At Christmas, a cookie exchange brought the team together to trade delicious cookies, and a recent bridal shower for an employee was another great reason to party! At Avcomm this past Christmas, we had the office Elf on a Shelf named Sheldon. You never knew where Sheldon was going to turn up! One employee found Sheldon hiding in their pencil cup one morning, behind the pom pom!

Other workplace fun ideas have included volunteering for a community event together; Office Olympics; Christmas Cubicle Decorating Contest, Christmas party, summer picnic, and more. Working hard, and having some fun, too, keeps the Avcomm staff ready to best assist our customers!

Leave us a comment and let us know what you do at your workplace for fun and team building.

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Say What? ActiveGard and other technologies provide hearing protection for heavy phone users

6/30/2014 - 0 Comments
 
Did you know that headsets can provide hearing protection for the safety and well being of your employees?

Contact center agents, 911 dispatchers, and those who talk on the phone for the majority of their workday are at a higher risk of exposure to acoustic bursts. An acoustic burst is a sudden and unexpected variation in volume level. Noise hazards include white noise, spikes, shrill alarms, fax machine signals and more. When these hazards occur, we cannot react fast enough to pull the receiver away from our ears. Over time, these acoustic bursts can lead to acoustic shock, which causes ear pain, headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and even permanent hearing loss.

The United States and the European Union have issued guidelines to protect workers' hearing. The EU Noise at Work Directive defines two critical levels for noise exposure throughout a working day. For up to 80dB(A) the employer has no obligations. Between 80dB(A) and 85dB(A) the employer should offer hearing protection and education. For levels exceeding 85dB the employees must be provided with, and wear, hearing protective equipment. For leading U.S. recommendations, the upper maximum exposure limit is 85 dB(A) (time weighted average over a full working day).

Avcomm Solutions offers three major headset brands: Jabra, Sennheiser and Plantronics. The manufacturers build their headsets with the technologies needed to protect wearer's hearing.

Jabra contact center and office headsets have SafeTone hearing protection, which offers PeakStop and Intellitone technologies, to eliminate potentially harmful sound spikes. PeakStop actively protects the user by keeping the absolute sound level and the energy of the peak in the safe zone at all times, preventing potentially harmful sound from reaching the ear. Intellitone regulates the average sound level down to 85dB.

All Sennheiser contact center and office headsets are equipped with ActiveGard, a patented technology that actively guards your hearing from acoustic bursts or shocks. ActiveGard limits the sound pressure at a level of 103dB (EU and US regulations say maximum 118dB) and reduces and removes dangerous energy from an acoustic burst. It also eliminates the distortion from an excessive incoming signal.

Plantronics contact center and office headsets offer Sound Guard, SoundGuard Plus or SoundGuard Digital technologies, as well as Anti-Startle to protect the headset wearer from sudden loud sounds. AudioIQ and ClearLine technologies are additional hearing safeguard technologies found in Plantronics products. Multistage and limiting technologies ensure hearing is protected during each call.

Another tool in protecting agents' hearing is audio processors, or amplifiers. These offer additional hearing protection technology to enhance the protections found in the headset. Used together, clear conversations, hearing protection, and the best in functionality for corded headsets is possible.

The variety of headset and amplifier options available on the market today can be confusing to operations directors, contact center managers, and purchasing agents. Contact us at Avcomm Solutions for help in choosing the right set-ups for your organization, and most importantly, your agents. Their hearing safety depends on it!

For more information about hearing technologies, follow the links provided here:
Sennheiser
Jabra

Plantronics

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Incentives in the Call Center Environment

6/26/2014 - 0 Comments
 
Angela Garfinkel's recent blog post about the 3 types of employee motivation programs for call center agents provided guidelines for programs that work – in both the short- and long-term. How and when to offer these programs is critical in their overall success toward meeting goals and enhancing productivity in call centers. Another key factor is what to offer for incentives. We gathered a list of ideas for incentives that have had success in various organizations. We would also love to hear about programs that your organizations have implemented that were proven to be beneficial. Please share your successes in our Comments section.

These ideas are listed in order of least to more expensive:
Choice to work on projects they prefer. When an agent has met goals and earned the incentive, giving them a choice in the work that they do helps agent feel in control, and promotes buy-in and interest.

Certificates referring to goal met. Certificates can then be posted in the agent's work space, or a community area, such as break room.

Employee of the Month Parking Spot. This is a particularly valuable incentive if your organization has a large parking lot, and a parking space close to the building would be desirable.

Shift bids. This is an easy one: give agents the chance to bid on a preferred shift time before other employees can bid.

Favorite candy or soda.

Complimentary team lunch. This can be a catered lunch on site, or if possible, meet the team at a restaurant and spend an hour or two eating and getting to know each other.

Money. We found an anecdote on the Internet about a manager who spent his incentive budget on currency in denominations of $1, $5, $20, and $50 bills. Employees would reach in the bag to select their reward. People who selected the $50 got cheers, and the ones who got $5 knew that there were still $50 bills left in the bag!

Company gear. Items such as clothing, mugs, or office supplies can be nice incentives.

Goody bags of useful tools for desk or home. Tape, mini staplers, Post-It notes are a few ideas.

One extra 15-minute break time the day they meet goal. This can provide a nice change of pace for a day.

Small tokens/prizes. Koosh balls, small photo albums, crossword puzzle books or a decorative item for the agent's workspace can be a nice reminder of accomplishment while agents are on calls.

Afternoon snack from a fully-equipped snack cart. How fun to have a cart roll past your desk at an appointed time and you get to choose any snack from the cart!

Gift certificates for massages, manicures, pedicures, movie passes. This idea works if your agents would value these types of gift certificates.

Gift cards to favorite stores or restaurants. Amounts can range from $5 (meeting a daily goal) up to $50.

Fun team activity. Bowling, miniature golfing, volunteering together on a Habitat for Humanity build, attending a hockey game or other sporting event, are just some activities that could build team morale.

Flexible hours, paid time off. This incentive involves your workforce management team, and would be more difficult to implement. For some agents, time is their most valuable resource; giving them some flexibility in their schedule, or an extra day off, could be a powerful motivator to reach goals.

This is not a comprehensive list of incentives, and we are always interested in hearing from you! Have you tried any of these incentives? Do you have a tried and true incentive that works well for your agents? Click on the orange Comments tab at the top of this post and please share your thoughts!

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B2B Telemarketing Motivational Ideas That Work

6/19/2014 - 0 Comments
 
Experts estimate the onboarding process of new call center agents can cost up to $10,000 per new hire. The recruiting process brings qualified call center agents to your organization; the training and mentoring processes integrate the agent into the organization's methods, procedures and beliefs; and strategic employee motivation programs can keep the agent feeling valued and appreciated. Call centers that overlook the human side of working will find the recruiting and training processes occurring more frequently than organizations that take the time to implement incentive programs. Great B2B Telemarketing employee motivation programs include 3 major components:

    1) Short-term: It is critical to provide specific, measurable and attainable goals to your B2B telemarketing call center agents on a daily basis. If the overall goal of the program is not attainable because a rep is newer or for reasons out of the call center rep's control, be sure to adjust your goals so that they are attainable by each person on the team. If you're afraid of the team shooting too low, set both a goal and a super goal. Super goal is usually about 25% higher than goal.

    Be sure you are clear and specific about your expectations for accomplishment for that day and provide updates throughout the calling shift regarding actual performance and what level of performance is needed to finish at goal for the shift.

    Periodically it works really well to provide a daily incentive to help boost performance over the top, particularly if you've had a couple of bad days in a row or have hit a plateau in performance. Be careful about overdoing daily incentives with your B2B telemarketing agents though because they will stop working if they are expected and not special.

    2) Long-term: In a call center, I consider long-term to be a monthly incentive/recognition program. A month may not seem like a long time, but when you consider the real-time changes that the B2B telemarketing call center agents are dealing with, a month can be a considerable amount of time. I recommend that there be two levels of incentive/recognition on a monthly basis. One recommendation is setting a team goal and then rewarding the team for achieving their goal and also reward individuals for their individual contributions. Don't just give a top prize to the best seller each month though because it will end up demotivating the people who continuously end up as #2 or #3 and you need the entire team to feel like they are contributing and being rewarded appropriately.

    3) Ad-hoc: What gets measured gets done. What gets rewarded and recognized gets done well. When you identify a specific area of opportunity with your B2B telemarketing agents (closing %, average order size, upsell %, etc.), a great way to get specific focus on improvement is through an ad-hoc incentive/recognition program focused on improvement in the focus area. I like the "Beat Your Best" contest where each B2B telemarketing rep is given an opportunity to earn recognition/incentives based on exceeding their best number(s) they have had within the past week, past month, etc. This gets people individually focused on improving and it will impact your team's performance overall.
By balancing the short-term, long-term and ad-hoc incentives and recognition programs, you will be rewarded with sustained levels of performance with your B2B telemarketing programs.


The author of this article, Angela Garfinkel, is the President and Founder of Quality Contact Solutions. Quality Contact Solutions offers B2B telemarketing solutions that achieve sales results.

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