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Mike Aoki – “I’ve Been In Your Shoes.”

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Mike Aoki knows his way around a contact center. In the early 1990’s, he handled 50,000+ calls as a Bell Mobility customer service agent; later in the decade, he managed a 12-person contact center training team responsible for the professional development of 900 agents. In short, he has truly, “been there, done that.” Which is why today he has emerged from the trenches as a leading authority on customer service. Here are some ideas he shared with us recently.

Q1:  Technology, of course, is everywhere.  Which ones are having the greatest impact on contact centers today?

Without question, it’s Artificial Intelligence (AI). The biggest technology trend there is. Just a short time ago, it was a buzzword. Today it is actually being applied across the industry – and more and more broadly every day.

Q2: Beyond AI, what else is emerging that we should pay attention to?

After A.I., I think employee engagement, wellness, and retention will become the next big thing in the contact center industry. Contact centers realize AI can handle "easy" customer interactions. That leaves highly-challenging situations where emotional intelligence and relationship-building are crucial. As a result, experienced agents with great people skills will be in high demand. So, you need to retain your best people, especially as they are offered opportunities elsewhere.

Q3: A sales-focused contact center. What makes a good one?

I am probably biased here because I am a trainer. However, proper sales training is a must. It is like the old saying, "The only thing worse than training someone and having them quit, is NOT training someone and having them STAY."

Q4: You must get asked about key things you have learned about increasing sales in the contact center. What are some of the tips you can share?

As an agent, don’t sound like a robot. If you have to use a script, practice it until it sounds smooth. You should be saying it naturally, not reading it. Better yet, go beyond a script to be yourself. Build rapport with your prospects. Ask good questions to discover their needs. If you do those things well, closing becomes much easier.

Q5: Are there company behavior patterns you see regularly that impact most contact centers?

Yes, and I would place them in two buckets.

First, external behaviors. For example, a company that doesn’t proactively reaching out to the rest of your organization such as marketing to build communication channels. If you aren’t doing this, your contact center will likely be left out of the information loop.  As a result, you constantly have to react to what other departments are doing, rather than being a partner in change.

Second, internal behaviors. Not focusing on employee engagement and employee wellness. The result:  low morale, high turnover, and poor CSAT/NPS by disgruntled people.

Mike Aoki is the President of Reflective Key Notes, a leading customer sales, and customer service training facility based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.  He is also a highly sought-after industry thought leader with recent media appearances on the Customer Experience Radio Show and in Contact Centre Pipeline and the Toronto Globe & Mail.  Follow Mike on Twitter  @mikeaoki.