If you're a recent high school graduate looking forward to college in the fall this year, you might be a bit troubled by the student loan increase that happened at the beginning of the month. July 1st saw the interest rates on student loans go from 3.4% to 6.8%, with no one in our government doing much to stop it; until now at least, when the a proposal going out to reverse the increase. After looking at the numbers, you might think those are pretty steep rates that will come into play when you decide between your colleges of choice. Will it be Stanford or Michigan? Or maybe one of the more specialized Global Studies programs listed at Cornerstone.edu? Regardless of whether or not you plan on attending a traditional campus or an online education portal, you will still need to get your financial aid together in order to pursue your degree. And, while the loan increase is a bit of a bummer, it's the least of our worries. The increase only affects you, the new college freshman, and not those of us still paying off students from when we were your age. In terms of how much more students will likely be paying, again, it's not that much. Maybe $30 more a month. That doesn't sound too bad right? So, what's the problem? The problem isn't the loan rate increase, as most politicians will cite; the problem is the ever increasing cost for college itself. Consider that student loan debt has eclipsed that of credit card debt (and even auto loan debt in the United States). What was once seen as a rite of passage and an essential course of action in terms of a person's education - college - is now a cesspool of students worried about their financial futures. They may be young, but they understand that they will leave with thousands of dollars in debt and very few employment prospects for how to pay off this debt. The problem here isn't the loan increase, it's the fact that our very education system is completely and utterly broken. From primary school that should be teaching our children to enter into college to the very thing that many now can't begin to achieve, there is a fundamental issue that isn't being addressed. Oh, the politicians have discussed it, but it seems the solution is more testing; more standard tests that can easily be memorized and spoon-fed to students everywhere. College professors have complained that students who enter college now are severely behind on subjects like English, Math, and Science and are lacking in critical thinking; you know, the stuff they should be learning in high school and below. So, what's the solution? More adequate teachers? More parental involvement with their children's studies? Less restriction when it comes to school versus experience within the business world? The solution is probably all three, but we'll never know as this issue - the breakdown of the lower schooling and the seemingly unreachable prospect of higher education - is masked by minor things, such as the rate increase. The more stunning question is why isn't our government isn't doing anything about it. Well, consider that the government makes money off federal loans and students who default. Essentially, the money for college isn't being spent on better learning, but on paying off our debts. Food for thought as you fill out your college applications this summer. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
We get it. Looking for work can be scary, especially if you’ve been at it for a long time and haven’t gotten any results.
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I think one of the hardest things about networking events is just getting a conversation going with someone—without being awkward about it. Approaching someone new can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be. So, what are some natural and easy ways to break the ice?
Here are some tips and tricks for starting a conversation at a networking event:
Go Fishing At The Food Table
While waiting in line for food, start chatting up the person next to you. This is a great opportunity to get a conversation started because you already have something in common: the food. Everyone is thinking about the same thing. What am I going to try? What looks good? So instead of just standing there in silence, start a conversation.
Here are a few conversation starters for this situation:
- "Oh man, everything looks so good. I'm not sure what to get! What are you thinking?"
- "Yummy, they have ____! Have you ever tried it?"
- "Hmm, I'm not quite sure what that dish is...do you know?"
Find A Loner
If you see someone standing alone in the corner, clutching his or her drink, and looking miserable, don't be afraid to walk up and introduce yourself. Typically, these people need a little help getting the conversation going.
Here are some icebreakers:
- "Man, these networking events can be so crazy. Mind if I join you over here where it's a little quieter?"
- "Wow, there are a ton of people here! The food must be good, huh?"
Everyone loves compliments, especially when they are feeling insecure (and many people do feel that way when attending networking events). If you're struggling to start a conversation with someone, find something to compliment.
Here are some ideas:
- "Yum, that drink looks good. What is it?"
- "Cute shoes! Where did you get them?"
Talk About Sports
People love talking about sports. If you're a sports person, use it to your advantage!
See someone wearing a Red Sox cap? Say something like, "Red Sox fan, huh? Did you catch the game yesterday?" Overhear a group of people talking about last night's game? Express your interest in the conversation by saying something like, "Are you talking about ____?" and then chime in.
Just Say Hello
Sometimes, the easiest way to meet someone is to offer a handshake and say, "Hi, I'm Peter."
Simply introducing yourself with a smile and a dash of confidence can work wonders.
Keeping The Conversation Going
I know what you're thinking. Yes, yes, that's all well and good, but how can I keep the conversation going after the initial question? It's easy! Talk about something else you have in common—the event itself!
Here are some ideas:
- "I'm Gina, by the way, nice to meet you..."
- "So, is this your first time at one of these events?"
- "So, how did you hear about this event?"
- "What a great place for an event, huh? Have you ever been here before?"
After that, try learning more about them. Questions can include:
- "Are you from the area?"
- "What line of work are you in or trying to get into?"
Next step: get them talking. Remember, people generally like to talk about themselves. So, once they tell you what they do, ask questions about it. Here are a few:
- "That's very interesting..."
- "What drew you to that line of work?"
- "What do you like about your job?"
- "Why are you interested in working in that industry specifically?"
BONUS: Your Exit Strategy
It's that time: your drink is dry and you're ready to move on. When the conversation starts to wind down, don't try to force more. Remember, you're there to mix and mingle—don't chain yourself to one person all night.
If you'd like to exit a conversation, try one of these lines:
- "Alright, I'm going to get some food now that the line has died down a bit. It was great meeting you!"
- "Have you met Lisa? She works in your industry as well. I'm sure you both will have plenty to talk about. I've got to say hello to someone, but I'll be back."
- "Well, I think it's time for me to head out. I would love to talk with you again, though! May I have your card/contact information?"
Remember these conversation starters (and enders) during your next networking event to get the most out of your time there. Happy networking!
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This article was originally published at an earlier date and was inspired by the author's personal experiences and the advice of Susan RoAne, author of How to Work a Room.
During the pandemic, organizations had to interact with their customers digitally. Contact centers provided the company’s “human face.”
Without face-to-face interactions, it is a lot harder to understand how your customers feel, since you cannot experience customer behavior directly.
Running a contact center is like steering a submarine: you need a periscope to see what is going on.
What Does A Contact Center Manager Use For A Periscope?Bigstock
Contact center managers have two tools—post-call customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys and sentiment analysis.
CSAT surveys ask customers to react after their encounters with the company, prompting them to give a numerical score.
Sentiment analysis uses speech analytics to take customers’ “emotional temperature” during the conversation.
I believe that sentiment analysis is a better “periscope” than post-call surveys.
Post-Call CSAT MeasurementBigstock
How It Works
When the interaction ends, the automated survey asks the customer to give a numerical score. This measures how they feel about the interaction. Customers may also be asked to say why they gave this score.
Survey Wording Issues
One popular CSAT measurement is the net promoter score (NPS). Customers are asked how likely they are to recommend the company to their friends and relatives.
NPS’s strongest advocates believe asking how likely customers are to recommend the company is better than asking how happy they feel. It’s not clear how carefully respondents think about the question. They are asked to respond unexpectedly. They rarely have the time or the interest to consider the question carefully. Their response will most likely reflect their emotional state.
NPS’s scoring system may not match up with how customers think. NPS classifies anyone giving a score of 6 out of 10 or below as “detractors,” or people who will complain about the company. Customers giving 9 or 10 out of 10 are classified as promoters, or people who will tell everyone how good the company is. Those giving 7 or 8 are classified as “passive.” Respondents are unlikely to think in such depth. If their problem has been solved, they will give a high score, if it hasn’t, they will give a low score. Some respondents have even given a 7 or 8, because “they never give 10 on principle.”
About 3% of customers respond to post-call surveys. This is too small to be considered a representative sample. Where results show poor CSAT, this may reflect angry customers’ motivation to show their feelings or get “revenge” on the agent. It does not necessarily indicate how all customers feel.
Inconsistent customer reactions and low sample sizes make aggregating CSAT data a frustrating task. Inaccuracies potentially baked into each result are then compounded by the volume of results.
At a high level, ranking agents’ average CSAT or NPS scores can raise some red flags if an agent has a lower score than the team average. The same can apply to team or queue averages.
How It Works
This is a much newer technology than post-call surveys. Speech analytics software can be programmed to identify and indicate whether customers are expressing positive, neutral, or negative feelings.
It is trained to recognize such feelings based on samples where the speaker’s feelings are known. The system uses artificial intelligence (AI) to construct a picture of which combinations of phrases, pitch, pace, and volume match feelings that have been identified in a recording by the AI’s trainer. Where mismatches are discovered, the system can be further trained.
For sampling purposes, the sounds on a voice call can be split into each party on the call and analyzed separately. Sentiments can be identified even when both parties are speaking at once.
This is the major differentiator between sentiment analysis and post-call surveys. Sentiment analysis is usually applied to all calls. It can be applied to all parts of a call, showing users how customers’ feelings change throughout the call. The sample size is likely to equal the population being studied, so the statistical significance of the data cannot be denied.
Sentiment analysis reflects how the customer feels without having to process and respond to a question.
One limitation is that because there is no question, you cannot tell why the customer is angry. The root cause might be the agents’ behavior, the issue with the product, or be unrelated to the call at all.
Since the sample size is so much larger, there is more scope for aggregation and analysis. You need to build a set of benchmarks to establish what is “normal” for your population. If a water-utilities contact center handles issues relating to wastewater disposal, customer sentiment will be fairly negative as a matter of course.
League tables showing average sentiment by agent, team, or queue can quickly identify where improvements can be made. Comparing or correlating this with other data such as call length or first contact resolution, you can see how contact center operations affect customer perception. You can see what makes customers angry or happy, and then tune your offerings as a company accordingly.
Sentiment analysis clearly produces more data than a post-call survey, but it's usually more expensive to collect. Cloud computing is making speech analytics and sentiment analysis more affordable for smaller contact centers.
What do you use as a “periscope” on your contact center? How useful are the results? Do they match your expectations or are they surprising? I’d love to hear more!
Here are links to some other articles on NPS, customer feedback, and customer sentiment: