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Valur Svansson - Blog

Live video support: is it right for your contact centre?

Technology is continuously evolving, and keeping abreast of the latest tech solutions for your contact centre is key to keeping both customers and agents happy. Some solutions, however, are informed by tech outside of the contact centre. Live video chat is one such result.

Whilst live video support has been in the contact centre sphere for several years, its adoption has remained relatively low. Why? It just wasn’t the right time. Now, however, the market is more ready than ever to take on a new branch of customer service as more and more consumers grow accustomed to using video calling on their smart phones.

Video-calling apps such as FaceTime and Skype have normalised the experience of communicating via video, so much so that 2017 saw WhatsApp carry 55 million video calls a day, equating to roughly 2 billion minutes. With the increased availability of 4G and the introduction of 5G, and with so many smartphones on the market which can accommodate the proliferation of video-calling apps, consumers now have more options than ever to make a call via video.

Meeting millennial expectations

With the prevalence of mobile phones, you would be hard pushed to find someone without a phone, especially millennials who have grown up surrounded by more technology than any generation before them, and are – for the most part – particularly adept at navigating the digital world through their mobile devices.

It is this saturation of mobile phones and expectation for video-calling to be available that makes video support all the more viable. Since so many customers are already carrying around a mobile device with them, they are likely to be using it to seek customer support in way or another, whether over the phone, email or via in-app support. Many of these devices will be video-call-enabled and many customers would be open to having the option to speak to a customer support agent via video, especially if it makes their journey more efficient.

Whilst live video support could seem gimmicky, not only are younger customers adept at using it, but they may also be expecting it as part of their experience.

Brands are getting on board

As a result of growth in video use, contact centres are being encouraged to take up live video support in order to meet these evolving consumer expectations and improve the customer experience. Furthermore, if a contact centre can show they are keeping up with the times, this will engender stronger customer loyalty and encourage a good reputation, especially amongst younger consumers who will want and expect to see to see the person they are speaking with, especially on a more complex call.

Live-video support is already being used by some brands. Amazon, for example, has embedded a video support service in its Kindle devices so that consumers can use the Mayday feature to get live help on any issue with their tablets and e-reader, and footwear retailer Schuh offers video support as an option on their website. Whilst it’s not a novelty, video-chat is on the rise and it’s up to contact centres to decide whether it’s the right choice for them.

Important considerations

There are several steps to consider when contemplating introducing live video chat to a contact centre. The most important thing to remember though, is that implementing video support doesn’t have to mean a massive overhaul of existing solutions with camera-ready agents and a production team on retainer. Starting small with webcams and some agents who are up for giving it a go are all you need to get started.

Here are a few other steps to consider when introducing live video support to your customers:

Check in with the team: Whilst some agents might want to dive straight in and will be eager to embrace the opportunity to shine in front of the camera, learn a new skill and chat to customers that way, others would rather not and prefer to stick to the phones. It’s important to communicate with your team and seek their opinion on whether it would be right for them. Afterall, happy agents mean happy customers.

It won’t just happen: Introducing video support will require a whole new skillset for agents. Training on body language and facial expressions is crucial, as agents will now be interacting with a customer face-to-face as if they are sitting down opposite one another in an office. Agents must learn how to conduct themselves in a way that best represents the business and will help the customer feel most at ease. The introduction of video chat may also mean an update of policy documents and manuals, so there will be some leg work involved before the video chat option is even up-and-running for your customers.

Being screen-ready: If your contact centre is not looking its best, you may feel it wouldn’t give the best impression to show it off in the background of a video. Whilst the customer isn’t expecting a full-scale production when they are using video chat, putting up some plain backdrops or making use of a conference room may make all the difference and also make the agent feel more comfortable if they have a set area and some rules of how to conduct the call.

Change of pace: If agents are usually completing other tasks whilst they’re on the phone with a customer, like updating forms on their computer screens, they may no longer be able to do so. The customer will be expecting to have the agent’s full attention and if the agent is constantly looking away to their computer screen, this won’t necessarily be possible. Whilst the agent will need to consult their screen now and then, streamlining the process and introducing the likes of Robotic Process Automation to the system to help them with simple, repetitive tasks will mean they’ll have more time to interface with the customer.

Do a test run: There’s little point in rushing head first into full-scale video chat mode. Instead, test the solution out with a few agents on a specific type of call. This will allow them to test the waters and also get immediate feedback on the way they conduct the video call to see where changes need to be made. Testing also allows the opportunity to get customers feedback to see if they are happy with the change.

There are many benefits to introducing live video-support to a contact centre – more personalised interaction with customers, an opportunity for agents to learn a new skill, strengthening a brand’s reputation as one who is keeping pace with evolving customer expectations – but there are also the hurdles to consider. It may not be right for your contact centre, and that’s alright. After all, the most important factor to consider when introducing new technology is whether it will enhance and improve the customer experience. If you think video chat will do this for your brand, it is a step well worth taking.

Publish Date: July 22, 2019 11:45 AM

Why contact centres shouldn’t worry about rising call handling times

Reports of increasing average call handing times (AHTs) have caused a stir in the contact centre world with brands fearing that longer call times mean a failure by the contact centre team to resolve a call.

Indeed, the time that an agent spends on the phone with a customer – the call handing time – is a crucial step in the creation of a seamless customer journey. The industry standard 6 minute AHT – which can vary depending on the sector – provides a key metric to understanding and measuring the performance of a contact centre. By monitoring AHT, road bumps in the customer journey such as inefficient processes and gaps in agent knowledge can be identified and resolved to help improve the customer’s relationship with a brand.

Given that the contact centre can often be the customer’s first port of call for a query or complaint, it’s essential that the service they experience is to a high standard. Transgressions like long wait times and inexperienced agents are to be avoided at all costs if a brand wants to deliver the best possible customer experience. 

Increased AHTs may just be inevitable

But a long call handling time isn’t necessarily a bad omen and may be a sign of things to come. Indeed, there are a number of key reasons why AHTs are increasing, and they aren’t all bad:

Self-service and digital transformation: With the rise of chatbots and intuitive, comprehensive knowledge bases, fewer customers need to make contact with the call centre to resolve simple, single-issue queries. The customers who do pick up the phone are therefore more likely to be calling with complex and challenging issues which require more time on the phone.

Resolution on the first call: Whilst longer AHTs mean customers are on the phone for longer, it could also indicate that agents are working to provide a call resolution of more complex queries the first-time around. Customers would rather be on the phone for just a bit longer if it means their query is dealt with the first time they call.

Agents are striving for a better customer experience: As contact centres are increasingly training their agents to listen to the customer, rather than stick to a script, in order to deliver a better customer experience, longer call times are inevitable as agents strive for a personalised customer journey. Not only will the customer feel like they are being heard – the reason they picked up the phone in the first place – it also boosts customer satisfaction when their issue is dealt with smoothly and efficiently. 

Providing an excellent customer experience is more than AHT

Whilst longer calls could mean that customers are being given plenty of time to speak with an agent to deal with increasingly complex queries, it could also be a sign that agents are poorly equipped to support customers, or that agents have to wade through complex processes to complete routine tasks. What’s more, a low AHT is not necessarily always a good thing either, as short calls could indicate that customers are getting frustrated, cut off or not given enough time to resolve their query.

But the AHT’s part in the success of a contact centre and its role in the customer journey should not be considered as a standalone metric. There are many aspects that make a great contact centre and of course the primary focus should be on delivering quality customer service. With agents providing an excellent experience, then everything else should follow suit.


Publish Date: June 13, 2019 5:59 AM

7 ways speech analytics can improve employee experience in the contact centre

After years of obsessing about customer experience, business leaders are finally recognising the importance of the employee experience; a world-class customer experience is hard to deliver if employees are unhappy, untrained or underappreciated.

Focusing on the employee experience often highlights issues that, if left unresolved, will have a detrimental effect on the customer experience. These need to be resolved quickly and efficiently, with minimal disruption to both the employee and customer. Introducing new and automated technology, such as voice recognition software and speech analytics, into the contact centre to assist agents in their customer service delivery, is a great step forward in improving the employee experience on all fronts.

Speech analytics is a valuable tool. The technology is capable of unearthing useful information that might not have been spotted without it. For example, thousands of hours of call recordings can be analysed in seconds, with metrics such as phrases, anomalies and top-performing agents identified instantly.

In particular, speech analytics can help improve the employee experience in seven key ways:

1.To reduce stress on agents. By using speech analytics to optimise communications – tracking key words and phrases, attributing calls correctly – customer journeys and contact channels will become more efficient. This contributes to happier customers, which in turn reduces the pressure on agents as they will have more time to focus on the important parts of the call.

2.To improve job satisfaction. If calls are better routed, agents will have more time to focus on the customer and their needs. They will be able to take the time to speak with the customer, and do what they are trained to do – solving problems rather than fielding enquiries. Customers will feel like there are being heard and agents will feel appreciated, encouraging them to continue delivering high quality service.

3.To save agents’ time. Many contact centres experience the same challenge with call dispositioning: agents rush to quickly assign a disposition code, and many calls are not correctly attributed. Another common issue is calls being attributed to an ‘other’ category – and effectively not categorised at all. This means that reviews of calls and outcomes are based on incorrect data.

With speech analytics, calls can be automatically assigned to the most appropriate disposition code. This saves agent time and also improves the relevance of reporting.

4.To highlight strong performers. Before speech analytics, most contact centre agents were appraised on the basis of a random sampling of calls, which were then reviewed by the line manager, or another individual. This means that the agent’s performance may be judged harshly (or favourably) on the basis of an unlucky sampling – or a reviewer in a bad mood. There are also issues with different standards applied by different supervisors and line managers.

With speech analytics, all calls can be scored according to fixed rules applied by software. Instead of judging an agent’s performance on their worst day, a complete view of their performance over time can be seen, and any trends identified. This removes bias from the process and ensures a fair appraisal for all agents. Agents are more likely to feel positive about the appraisal process and satisfied with outcomes.

5.To coach colleagues more effectively. Speech analytics gives a clear view of an agent’s performance. This means that coaching and training can be more accurately tied to their genuine needs. Agents also want to learn. With speech analytics, the learning priorities for every agent will be brought to light. which in turn makes for happier and more productive agents – and a better return on investment in training.

6.To enhance the recruitment processes. Dealing with customers is a tough job, and some people just don’t enjoy spending lots of time on the phone. A common problem for contact centres is that people don’t know they hate contact centre work until they get started. By that time, they’ve consumed hundreds or thousands of pounds of onboarding training and other resources. Speech analytics provides a bias-free way to evaluate new candidates and test them with realistic simulations of actual calls.

7.To improve employee retention. Keeping hold of good agents isn’t just good for the bottom line; happier employees are more likely to be loyal to their employer and stay within their job. It’s also a good way to improve corporate culture and reduce any disruption on other colleagues, which also improves their experience of work.  

Whilst in the past the focus has been on customer experience, there are many other aspects to a contact centre that make it tick. The employees are one of the most crucial, especially in delivering that all-important world-class customer experience. Helping employees with technology such as speech analytics that makes their job easier and more satisfying, will not only ensure that they can deliver on the customer front, but will also make for an overall improvement in the working environment and office culture.

Publish Date: May 14, 2019 9:43 AM

8 ways speech analytics can improve customer experience in the contact centre

Voice recognition software, largely thanks to Alexa, Siri and Cortana, is both gaining in acceptance and growing more effective. The power of speech analytics is also creating new opportunities for contact centres, with organisations eager to harness this power.

In short, speech analytics is about unveiling information that has previously been obscured. With speech analytics, thousands of hours of call recordings can be turned into actionable insights. Instead of laboriously listening to calls and scoring interactions, metrics such as phrases, anomalies and top-performing agents can be identified instantly.

This understanding opens the way for contact centres to improve what’s at their core: the customer experience. The key to ameliorating the customer experience however, is to first know how to quantify it. Speech analytics is a powerful tool to help achieve this, both in terms of successes and challenges.

The following are the top ways speech analytics can be used to improve customer experience in the contact centre:

1: To improve first call resolution rates. Customers who have to call twice, or more, to resolve a query, may not remain customers for long. Speech analytics can help identify customers who call more than once so an investigation can be made into why their call wasn’t resolved the first time around.

2: To improve customer loyalty. People frequently abandon suppliers who fail to meet expectations and the contact centre is a key part of this value equation. Speech analytics can help resolve the problems and failings that cause customers to walk away. 

3: To pinpoint broken processes. Speech analytics can search for phrases that indicate a complaint or a mention of another channel which can then be addressed accordingly.

4: To identify customer communications issues. Issues such as automated customer emails with broken links or invoices that include an out-of-date phone number, are communication problems that often come through to the contact centre, issues that can be easily identified and remedied with speech analytics.

5: To keep customers contained in one channel. Few things are more frustrating than having to switch channels and repeat the details of a query – especially if the customer is struggling with a complex problem. With speech analytics, the issue can easily be located, without the customer having to cross channels.

6: To identify escalation drivers. Speech analytics can also help contact centres learn what makes customers demand a supervisor and if these types of issues can by anticipated or eliminated altogether.

7: To simplify customer journeys. Speech analytics software can search for key words and phrases that indicate frustration, repeated steps or unnecessary actions. This evidence helps determine which stages of the customer journey can be simplified or streamlined.

8: To improve IVR containment. Interactive voice response (IVR) systems can do an incredible job of saving time and money, but only if they perform well, and manage to completely meet customer needs. Of course, there will always be some customers who struggle to navigate the IVR system (or don’t want to) but any improvement in the IVR containment rate will reduce demand on agents and help to control costs. Speech analytics can help identify the moments when customers abandon the IVR system so the causes can be addressed.

Whilst the customer experience is only one of the many aspects of a contact centre that speech analytics can help improve, it is the most prominent. An exceptional customer experience is the first thing customers will appreciate and if the contact centre can provide a comprehensive, quick and simple journey for the customer, their reputation will only improve.

Publish Date: April 15, 2019 6:36 AM

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