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Every now and then, we speak with a blood donor who really drops a bombshell of reality on us all at once through our conversations.

Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) Vicki Monsour recently had a conversation with the family of a blood donor who, as she sadly found out, was deceased. He was a young man who was actually a big advocate of donating blood and had helped out many folks with his own blood donations; this was something the family mentioned to Vicki as their conversation transpired. As Vicki continued to talk with the family and show empathy about the situation at hand, one of the family members asked how they could use their son’s death as a way to encourage others to donate blood. They even mentioned that in lieu of flowers they were kindly asking friends and family members attending the service to make a blood donation at the local blood center in honor of their son, since it was something he truly believed in and made a practice to do himself. It takes an amazing group of people to keep other folks in mind during such a tragic time.

This conversation really resonated with Vicki, even as she hung up the phone. Vicki is a Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) that takes extreme pride in her job at Incept recruiting blood donors. She herself has experienced tremendous personal loss in her life and understands the need for blood and how the actions of blood donors help families with terminally ill family members. She actually brought this call to my attention after being touched by the family’s gesture.

Why Giving Blood Truly Does Matter

As human beings, we are all going to die. That sounds so morbid and simple to just say like that, but the sooner we accept our mortality the sooner we can truly live. That being said, people should be able to live a healthy life in this day and age. We shouldn’t have to worry about a losing a loved one to cancer. We shouldn’t have to wait on pins and needles in hopes that a parent’s heart surgery went well. We should all be able to have a serene and last moment with an ailing family member when their time has come and be able to say a meaningful goodbye. At the end of the day, it really is blood donors who make it all possible.

We always tell people their blood donations have the power to save up to three lives apiece, which is true. But sometimes that isn’t the case. Sometimes sickness can prevail over treatments, and our biological bodies act more like failing machines, as they break down and deteriorate. If you are a blood donor, at the very least, you can take pride in the fact that your blood donation might have kept someone alive long enough to say goodbye to their spouse or kids. Your blood donation might have helped alleviate some of their pain while they were hospitalized during their final days as well. Your blood donation has the power to improve the physical living conditions of those who are sick and dying. Isn’t that something to consider when donating blood?

You aren’t always just saving lives when you donating blood. Sometimes you are granting time and extending life to someone who might not be on this Earth for much longer. You are giving them and their families that opportunity for real closure. That is a truly inconceivable gift to most folks who haven’t been in a position of losing a loved one to a terminal illness.

It is funny, because when we talk to a blood donor who donates due to their own family members having received blood in a time of need, you can hear it in their voice. They give because they relate to the cause. They unconditionally understand the importance of being a blood donor and sometimes even get emotional talking about the act of donating blood, because they do it in a way that posthumously honors their deceased loved ones. They continue to carry their love for that person through the act of giving life to others.

Everyone has their own reasons for donating blood, but hopefully now you can better understand that donating blood isn’t just a way to get out of class or something you do on your lunch break. It is a way to remember a loved one and keep their memory living on.

Why do you donate blood?

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Let’s be honest, does anyone ever really want to donate blood? Do you think a blood donor woke up one day and just thought, “Today is the perfect day to have a needle stuck in my arm and bodily fluids taken from me!” Probably not. Fear not, though. That is why people like me are here. As a Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME), it is my job to conversationally wrangle a donor who might be on the fence about donating blood into willingly setting up an appointment at their local donor center.

Donating blood is a great thing and it honestly does take a certain willingness to commit to giving your blood as a blood donor. It isn’t that current or lapsed donors don’t understand the concept of giving and the general good that a blood donation does; it is just that sometimes they can need a little cajoling.

The LAMA Technique & How It Helps Rebuttals

At Incept, we heavily weigh on the LAMA technique as a method that gives us the ability to reset a call to the moment before our pitch. It is an invaluable technique that we have used with success on our for-profit side of the company, as well as in our non-profit calling campaigns. Here is how it works.

Let’s say that a donor says, “I’d love to come in and donate. I can’t pick a specific date or time to schedule right now, but I’ll make it in soon. I promise.” In an age of ailing donor bases and when every unit counts for our clients, the LAMA technique can help us turn this no into a yes.

  • L stands for Listen. Donors and customers want you to hear what they are saying, but, more often than not, you will have to listen to what they aren’t saying to get a good idea of what they are really trying to convey. Someone who says they are too busy to donate this weekend due to a jam-packed schedule is sometimes actually saying they would be more likely to donate if you offer them a more convenient time at a later date. Listening is a skill that gives you the ability to pick up on certain verbal cues that allow you to personalize your rebuttal.
  • A stands for Acknowledge. In telecommunications, the absolute easiest way to build immediate rapport with your customer or donor is to simply reverberate what they have said to you. This clearly lets them know that you understand their initial concern or problem and you can empathize. All this step is doing is putting your listening skills into verbal action. “Sir, I can definitely understand that you might currently be in a position that prevents you from scheduling your next blood donation. This time of the year with the holidays coming up is pretty busy for everyone!”
  • M stands for Make a Statement. For me, making a statement means giving a realistic explanation of the features and benefits you can offer the donor to make them feel good and, more importantly, comforted by scheduling an appointment to donate blood. I also like to throw in real facts about the current need for blood to add viable meaning to my statements. “What we are able to do for folks like yourself who are busier but still want to help is actually set you up with a date next week instead of this week. That will enable us to make sure we give you a reminder call back the day before to check with you and make sure your time is still OK. If it doesn’t work out for your schedule after all, we can simply change the time however you see fit. We’ll also make sure you receive our direct number should you need to contact us ahead of time. We really try to schedule to help with blood unit estimates for the hospitals we serve, as well to prepare the staff to accommodate any given number of donors such as yourself.”
  • A stands for Ask a Question. When asking the question, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. The pitch. You’ve just made a very clear-cut statement on how you can make this appointment convenient for you donor and have clearly stated the features you are able to offer your donor. Simply and smoothly roll your question into the end of your statement, and make sure it is in trial close format. A trial close format is just a question that doesn’t give the donor a “yes or no” choice. Instead, it makes them choose. “With that in mind, sir, we really appreciate O+ donors like yourself and could use the help around the holidays more so than other points of the year. Would you prefer to donate a life-saving whole blood donation on a weekend or would a weekday be easier for you?”

The LAMA technique is really a chance for you as a rep to set the pitch up a few times in a call as opposed to maybe just once. The best thing is this: it is a technique that works for multiple programs and not just blood donor recruitment!

How have you successfully used the LAMA technique in your calls?

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Here at Incept, one of our values is never satisfied. Along with this value, we use the philosophy that we should always improve everything. This is why if you speak with any our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs), they will tell you that when recruiting a blood donor, they always try to schedule an appointment within the next ten days out. The reason they do this is because we have found that the closer the appointment is to the date of the call, the greater the likelihood that the donor will show up for their appointment. For example, if a donor schedules an appointment for tomorrow, they are more likely to show up for their appointment than a donor who schedules an appointment for three weeks from now.

We know that donors schedule an appointment with pure intentions, which is why our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) would never deny a donor an appointment that would be the most convenient for the donor’s schedule. With that being said, we know that things come up that are out of the donor’s control. It seems that these days we find our schedules fuller with each coming day. And I hate to say it already, but the holidays are right around the corner. This means everyone’s schedules are going to get even tighter. This is why when the donors don’t have preferences, our CMEs jump at the opportunities to schedule them to donate as soon as possible.

When a donor comes in sooner, it means that patients receive the blood components that they need to save their lives even faster. When always improving everything results in saving more lives, it is easy to see why we are never satisfied.

To take this concept one step further we realized that we had the opportunity to increase our productive donor rate. Our productive donor rate is calculated by comparing how many donors scheduled an appointment to how many donors gave a successful donation. This opportunity came in the form of direct mail. We know that our donors are busy, and we also know that they aren’t all able donate or schedule to donate within the next ten days. But we realized that we could help remind the donors who have scheduled their appointments more than ten days out via postcard.

The postcard reminder is sent a week prior to their appointment and includes their appointment date, time, and location. This prompts the donor to take a look at their schedule to make sure that they haven’t overbooked themselves. The postcard also provides a reschedule phone number for the donor to call in the event there is a conflict in their schedule.

The results of this test have shown that our productive donor rate increased by approximately 3%  just by sending a postcard reminder to donors who have an appointment scheduled further than ten days out. So if you ever find yourself thinking that you have done all that you can, I encourage you to challenge yourself to be never satisfied, because in the end you will find that you can always improve everything!

In what other ways do you identify improvement opportunities?

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You’re being pressured from all directions to collect not only more units but the right type of units, by location, by day, and based on the ever-changing inventory needs of the blood center. Additionally, the staff you have in place has probably never been trained on the sales skills necessary to make every interaction a strong one.

How do the most successful blood centers handle these competing priorities?

Taking an approach by which we use our strengths to our advantage at Incept, we propose letting clinical staff reinforce the message that our trained team of sales people have delivered. How do we recommend you do that?

  1. Examine your donor base. Look at counts of current donors, lapsed donors, and super-lapsed donors by blood type and by previous procedure type. This will allow you to strategically decide what procedure you need from what donor type and ensure you have the quantity of donors you need to reach your stated goals.
  2. Set your strategy. Generically speaking, it would look something like this:
    Of course, your conversion strategy needs to change as your inventory needs change, but having your entire team on the same page is critical to success. Remember, if a donor says no to automation, you should always default to a whole blood request.
  3. Look at your contributors. I, of course, recommend using tele-recruitment to drive your conversion strategy. But that starts with training! Spend several hours educating your tele-recruitment staff on each procedure, where it is used, how long it takes, and the benefits to the patient and the donor.
  4. Create a compelling script to educate your donor and convert them to the procedure needed. An example of a conversion script for platelets would be something like this:

Because you are a/an [insert blood type], the component of your blood most needed is platelets. Platelets are the part of your blood that is used most commonly for patients undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplants, or dealing with weakened immune systems. The process of donating only platelets takes longer than a traditional donation; however, because we take only the platelets and give you back your red blood cells, we are able to draw 5 to 6 times as many platelets than we are able to collect during a normal whole blood donation. Platelets are highest in demand at this time, and because you are an ideal candidate, we’d love for you to help area patients with a platelet donation for your next visit. We are currently scheduling at our [insert center] for [insert next two available days]. Which of these days works best for you?

Now you’re ready! You have your strategy, a trained staff, and a compelling message. Start dialing! Choose your tele-recruiters who have high sales aptitudes. Track their results separately to ensure quality and performance. The best way to grow your platelet donor base is through conversion and allowing your sales team to do the conversion. This will enable your clinical staff to reinforce the message, answer questions, and make the donation process an enjoyable one so that you gain an automated donor for life!

Try this conversion process and watch your results increase!

Let's talk... results


I have just a quick thought I wanted to get out there: I really almost hate hearing the word “boss”.

It just has some type of condescending ring to it. It implies imperative and thankless commanding. As a young leader at Incept, more specifically in my role as a Team Captain for our nonprofit side of the company, I try as hard as I can to disassociate myself from the standard and preconceived notions of what a “boss” or supervisor can be.

Why do people tend to associate negative connotations with the word?

On one end of the spectrum when considering a company’s administration, we have the true “leader”. A leader doesn’t just dictate tasks and sit behind a desk delegating all day, but (especially in Incept’s case) they get on the front lines with their coworkers to literally make sure success is achieved.

While trying to research modern differences between a boss versus a true leader, there is one theme that stands vastly apparent: a leader truly is enveloped in a team mentality. A leader is a problem solver, while a boss looks for someone to blame for the problem. True leaders are not afraid to get their hands dirty. An example of this type of mindset at Incept is when a supervisor helps alleviate stress by taking phone calls for his or her Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs). Rather than a boss, a Team Lead at Incept will literally cultivate a healthy work environment by being directly amongst the Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) he or she manages and not just barking orders from a desk. We call this being “in the rows” with a team. It gives him or her the chance to control the atmosphere and have a hand in directing motivation and productivity.

What is the difference?

While surfing around some of my sources, researching the topic of a boss vs a leader, I came across the following image below.

If anything the easiest thing to notice about the comparison above is the style of communication that a boss has compared to a leader. The boss sounds imperative, threatening, even untouchable in certain circumstances as the buck is passed along, while a true leader seems like almost a walking, talking, motivational rally point for his or her employees.

Have you ever considered the cultural atmosphere around your office? Regardless of if it is positive or negative, who has the most authoritative interactions with your own representatives? Whoever is in charge could have a hand in the source of your employee’s sulking or splendor. Something to sleep on.

Does the word boss have a negative sound to it or not? What do you think?

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So we have been talking about the impact that live coaching with our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) has on the quality of calls they produce along with their initial productivity.

Some people just seem made for this job. They have the gift of gab, their words flow smoothly, and they just have a naturally keen ability to deal with people. Others need some encouragement and development to reach that status (and that is OK) – your job as a coach (more so as a leader) is to identify the good things your Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) does and foster a sense of collaboration and desire to keep improving.

In my opinion, one of the most crucial parts of coaching a Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) is following up with them and checking on what you asked them to improve on in your initial coaching session.

Here are some of my own methods that help me develop my Conversational Marketing Experts:

High-impact Follow-up Coaching Tips

  • At the end of your first coaching session, set a date and time to do a follow-up, and stick to it.
  • Ask your rep to take ownership of their areas that need work, and ask for a date by which you can expect improvement to have taken place. Remember to be reasonable and S.M.A.R.T about goal setting, and hold them to it on their coaching form.
  • Have a specific area of improvement that you are listening for based upon your initial coaching. Example: Second-attempting, rebutting, information verification, etc.
  • Reinforce the good things your rep already does in his or her calls.
  • Personally take a few calls for them, and have them listen to you doing what you want them to work on and how to do it correctly.
  • Begin to pinpoint specific areas that need to be improved upon by focusing on metrics that directly affect back-end performance.
  • Continue to listen in and do live monitoring specifically on actionable items that you and your rep have agreed needs improved on over the next day(s) following your follow-up.

There you have it. It is as easy as that. Coaching and training people to improve can be an expensive cost to any contact center, but what price do you put on creating high-quality calls? Do a majority of your reps make calls that you can show your clients without shame? If you want to be able to say yes to that question, consider how much of your coaching is actually followed up upon.

What are some ways that you make sure your reps are improving their call quality?

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I have to clean my kitchen every day. If I forget, don’t have the time, or simply feel too lazy to do the work, my kitchen will continue to deteriorate to the point where it is no longer able to function with any efficiency. Employees, at any level, need constant maintenance just like kitchens.

Follow-up training for employees is just as important as the initial training (or new hire training) they receive. It is something often overlooked or dismissed due to cost. However, the investment in continued training will pay off in increased dividends in the bottom line, company growth, and reduced turnover.

There are three critical areas that are affected by follow-up training:

  1. Customer Service - New ideas and technology lead to constantly changing tactics. Keeping your employees well-trained and well-equipped provides competitiveness and strength. Re-teaching customer service techniques also helps to keep ideas fresh and employees ready.
  2. Product Knowledge - Your employees are better able to assist donors by improving efficiency and building a reputation for quality. Employee morale will also increase due to this reputation, building your employee satisfaction and loyalty.
  3. Employee productivity - Employees can often be stressed by the thought of trying new ideas or tactics due to fear of making a mistake. Employees may fear being fired for these mistakes, breaking expensive technology, or simply failing in front of their colleges. Training provides a safe place to make mistakes with little or no consequences, which allows us to step outside of our comfort zone and ultimately improve our skills.

Continued or ongoing training provides several advantages to both your company’s front-end numbers (in increased sales and profits), as well as your company‘s back-end numbers (in increased employee satisfaction and reduced turnover).

Try it and watch your results increase!

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Recently we talked with Josette Schneider, Incept’s Conversational Quality Manager, to discuss  monitoring our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) and conversational quality. Below Josette provides some insight on developing the most effective conversational quality process.

A new program is brought to the Conversational Quality Department. What are the steps to determine the conversational quality process?

  1. We determine how long the test phase is going to be.
  2. Once the test phase has been completed but prior to rolling the program out to the room, the Contact Center Results (CCR) Team and the Conversational Quality (CQ) Team meet to discuss quality procedures and verifications, if any.
  3. Both teams establish the quality assurance processes, forms, and quality measures.
  4. Once these have been developed, they are submitted to the Client Results Representative for client approval.
  5. Once approved, the process is put into place.

How often is a CQ process evaluated to ensure it is continuing to find and improve quality in phone calls?

  • We don’t have a specific time period when we reevaluate processes. We determine this by program changes, big jumps in quality scores (both low and high), and even client complaints. We will run the current process along with a process that we are testing and determine which process truly reflects the Conversational Marketing™ Experts’ (CMEs’) performance and quality. There are times when an entirely new process is implemented and times when revisions are simply made to the current process.

What is the best number of calls/minutes to monitor to ensure the CME is doing everything right?

  • There really is no basis for the best number of calls or minutes a CME should be monitored. Each call center has their own way of determining this. Some use a number determined by management or past history. A percentage of companies determine this by statistics, and other companies use the number of calls available to be monitored. Incept uses a set number of calls per CME for some of our programs, a specific percentage of calls for other programs, and all CME statistics are looked at when CQ-ing.

If a CQ is not good, what is the best way to evaluate it to improve the CME?

  • If a CME receives a low score or even several deductions for the same infraction, a consultation is scheduled right away with the CME. During this time, we try to get to the root of the problem. Is the CME just not following the process or were they unsure of how to handle that situation. The CME listens to their calls that were evaluated and they are discussed between CME, CCR rep, and CQ rep. Once the calls have been listened to, either the CME’s supervisor or a CQ rep will complete a detailed coaching on the CME. The coaching will be reviewed with the CME and another CQ will be completed. Depending on the CME’s quality score or infractions, the number of times the CME is coached and reevaluated may differ. We also use role playing wherein the CME will listen to someone in management make the calls to get a better feel for how they should be handling different situations.

The quality of phone calls is so important to any campaign. What are the steps your company uses to develop an effective conversational quality process?

Let's talk... results


How does voice inflection paint a mental picture?

A Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) at Incept will use their voice every week to have hundreds of productive conversations that are aimed to produce results in the form of blood donations for our clients. The voice in this type of work serves as our most essential tool in the contact center. It is not only a big part of what defines us on a humanistic level, but when it is used as a tool, the efforts to get people to donate become personal too.

Do I really sound like that? Did I pronounce this the right way? Does my voice sound assumptive and confident? All of these are questions I have heard from new Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs). You might have even heard some of these questions from your own organization’s representatives. I’m going to give you a few bullet points on easy ways to make sure you are maximizing the impact that you, as a person, have with your point of contact just by allowing your voice to develop on the phone.

Stretching Your Vocal Chords for Success on the Phone Lines

  • There is a fine line between “game show host” and sounding enthusiastic. It is OK to sound excited about what you are trying to pitch. In our case, it is awesome and encouraging to hear newer Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) sound enthusiastic about donating when talking to donors. We want that. We want our CMEs to sound interesting, exciting, and motivating when it comes to the donation process. However, you don’t want to have so much voice inflection or sound so overzealous that you come across like a radio disk jockey or game show host. Such an approach can be off-putting. When you sound “overproduced”, you don’t sound personal or natural. Ultimately, donors won’t take you seriously when you’re trying to recruit them to donate. Keep in mind you want confidence to show through in what you are saying, not misguided exuberance.
  • Get them on your side by emphasizing the donor’s previous donations. More often than not in the industry of tele-recruitment for blood donors, the call center that is making the outbound calls will typically have some type of donation history available within the scheduler to assist in the recruitment process. At Incept, we are able to see how many times a person has donated, where they like to donate, and even their blood type. This gives us the chance to personalize our pitch to them. Half of the battle with recruitment-type calling is making the point of contact (donor) feel they are doing a good thing and build enough positive rapport with them to make them want to continue. When you can effectively convey how important a donor is to their respective program, it makes it so much easier to deliver a solid, assumptive trial close to your pitch. Focus on the good and emphasize the good your donor is doing before you initially ask them to donate to reap the benefits of this technique.
  • Volume and speed indicate more to a donor than you think. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. When I sound excited about a subject, I usually speak about that subject in a faster and more enthusiastic way. If I am bored with a topic in a discussion, I most likely speak slower and am less enthralled overall. These type of things can show through if you allow them to. They can either help you or hurt you. When you are excited about something and sound excited in your pitch, the donor is not only going to listen more, but your interaction with that donor is going to be much more fluid in your call flow. The opposite can be said for a recruiter that sounds dull. Sometimes it isn’t about what you are saying in your pitch, but how you are saying it that will determine the outcome! Keep that in mind!

When thinking about good voice inflection, think about reading a children’s book. Sure, the words might be few and simple, but the way you read them is what makes the story interesting and paints a mental picture.

What do your representatives do to makes sure their voice inflection helps in their efforts to boost results?

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In order to set up your donor base calling in a way that maximizes your results, it’s important to begin with a proven strategy to ensure you are getting the most out of your work. Setting up your list of donors and calling straight through will not give you enough results to justify the work. Taking some time to analyze and prioritize your list will yield much better outcomes.

Firstly, you must determine your needs:

  • What blood types and/or donation types are most needed right now?
  • What recruitment difficulties do you run into on a regular basis?
  • What are the center’s long-term and expected blood needs?

Establishing your needs will help you to ensure that all of your subsequent decisions are working in the right direction: to fulfill the actual needs of the blood center.

Secondly, divide your list into categories to better understand the calling universe:

  • How many current, lapsed, and super-lapsed donors are available?
  • How many whole blood and automated donors are available?

You may be surprised at how many resources you have in each category once you look at them. You may find that some categories need to be bolstered, while others may need whittled down in order to get the right donations from the right donors.

Thirdly, match up your short-term needs with your donor segments:

  • Is your immediate need a large quantity of red cells? Try focusing on both automated donors and O- donors to get the volume you need in the area you need it in.
  • If your immediate need is platelets, try focusing on all previous platelet donors, donors that tested high for platelets during a whole blood donation, or those of A/B blood types.
  • If you find that your current donor base for automated donations does not meet your current need for blood products, try supplementing your calling by working to convert all donors of a necessary blood type to do that donation or increase your volume of donors that have lapsed in the past.

Once you have determined your needs and categorized (or segmented) your donors, you will be able to determine which segments will best fulfill your many needs at one time. You will also be able to prioritize the time you want to spend strengthening or cutting down your segments based on the size and importance of each segment.

Now that you know what donor segment you need to focus on in order to meet your current needs, it’s time to focus on meeting your center’s long-term blood needs:

  • The best way to take care of your donor base and ensure that your needs are met long-term is to keep in regular contact with your donors, and let them know that they are appreciated.
    • Keep in contact with current, lapsed, and even super-lapsed donors regularly
    • Do not attempt to call a donor more than 3 times in one week
    • Wait at least 3 weeks after speaking with a donor before calling them again.
    • Follow a consistent contact schedule to ensure that donors are contacted throughout their donation cycle
      • Recruitment calls
      • Reminder call one day before appointment
      • Thank-you call one day after appointment
      • Educational information in between donations
  • Use various contact methods, such as direct mail, email, social media, and text messaging to reach all donor types.

While meeting your short-term needs is valuable, it is vital to ensure you are actively building relationships with your donor base and educating them on why they are so important. The more time that is spent nurturing your donors throughout the year, the less often critical times will come up and cause you to make a change in strategy.

Following the strategy above when setting up your donor recruitment calling is essential to both protecting your donor base in the long term and to getting the most out of your efforts every day.

Let's talk... results