Altivon - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
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Chatbots, Omnichannel and Cloud are three top trends for contact centers. Why? Because each one in its own way increases efficiency and decreases customer effort.
The value of efficiency is probably obvious. But what about customer effort? Studies show that the majority of customers would rather have an effortless experience than a delightful one (CCIQ). That’s good news, because it is much harder to give everyone a delightful experience than it is to reduce their effort.
This brings us back to leading technologies and the promise they have for reducing effort for everyone.
Chatbots: Prosperous Future or Disaster?
According to Gartner, by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their interactions without any human involvement. How is that possible? Through better web-based content, enhanced IVR, the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual agents and, yes, chatbots.
Chatbots seem synonymous with artificial intelligence and are certainly sparking the imagination. They are indeed a great example of intelligent technology designed for a specific purpose.
Leading technologists (e.g., Musk and Zuckerberg) have quite divergent views on how artificial intelligence at a more broad level will play out. In the meantime, chatbots and blended AI are making their way into contact centers, providing additional self-service options and freeing agents for more complex interactions.
OmniChannel: Distinctly Different from MultiChannel
OmniChannel success is in the eye of the beholder. From a customer experience perspective, it requires more than channel choices. Many companies offer a few channels of communication such as voice and email. Some are offering as many as 12 or more, including messaging, video and social.
Interestingly, what we are seeing is a trend toward fewer channels. Companies and customers are narrowing to the lowest friction channels. Customers can suffer from decision fatigue and may appreciate fewer choices as long as the outcome is better. Providing better channel guidance and preserving interaction content as customers switch channels can allow companies to both reduce the total channels supported and improve the customer experience.
Cloud: Just Another Deployment Model
Cloud is the favorite child today, but does it make sense for your organization? There are some important questions you need to ask to determine your best deployment strategy (cloud, premise, hybrid). Cloud can be very appropriate for some segments—you need to determine if it is for yours.
Learn more about the key decisions for deployment, read our blog “Decision Framework: Cloud versus Premise”.
For more about Driving Contact Center Change, watch our recent conversation with David Hadobas of CCNG “Contact Center Journey—from Here to Where?”
Publish Date: March 20, 2018 5:00 AM
Sheila McGee-Smith did not disappoint in her latest webinar appearance, also featuring the Auto Club Group and Altivon. As always, she wove a clear narrative through the hour-long discussion on key topics including omnichannel, analytics, artificial intelligence and the operational challenges presented by change.
Here are a few highlights
- Aged infrastructure. Contact center solutions often have a 10 year life cycle. The older the architecture the less likely it is to support modern innovations particularly in response to senior executive initiatives around using customer experience as a competitive differentiator. A poll at the beginning of the webinar showed that 30% of respondents have infrastructures that are 5 years or older. Sheila noted that the 70% with younger systems likely are in the enviable position of being able to add significant new capability within their existing framework.
- Uber as harbinger. Sheila introduced her brief discussion on the state of the industry by using Uber to illustrate how quickly expectations can change. It wasn’t long ago that Amazon was the harbinger.
- The over and under. A study of communication methods by age shows that if you are 44 or older, the typical contact center does a good job of using the communication channels you prefer. However, if you are over 44, not at all. Smartphones have changed how customers interact with contact centers, because all the channels are right there in the hand. Frank Tersigni noted that a similar analysis identified the emergence of Generation C (connected), which crosses all age and other demographics again because of the ubiquitous smartphone.
- Transforming digital transformation. Ten years ago, digital transformation was synonymous with IT. Now digital strategy drives everything and the CIOs are the most integral members of the C-suite. How IT impacts customer experience is the most important question.
- Industry consolidation requires contact center consolidation. The Auto Club Group merged in 2011, doubling its membership to over 9 million. They found themselves with 2 distinct and aging contact center architectures, neither of which could really scale or support new capabilities. They went with an IP-based software architecture to increase control and hardware independence. Older contact centers in general are seeing End of life and siloed technologies as strong change drivers. Dimension Data reports that more than 50% of respondents said that legacy systems that inhibit flexibility and progress are their biggest challenge.
- It’s the requirements…. It can be tempting to use a new technology as the motivation for change: speech analytics, artificial intelligence, cloud and omnichannel all promise strong payback. Still the best approach to change is to start with identifying the real requirements that will enable better customer experience and operational performance. Requirements must always come first.
- Go where needed. Meet your customer where they want to be met. A poll during the webinar showed that 70% of respondents already support more than 3 channels. This demonstrates the movement toward omnichannel, as organizations add channels and integrate them. This integration is key in making sure that there is always context around the customer. If an agent ends up with the interaction, they need to know what happened earlier in order to provide a strong customer experience. The Auto Club Group is currently handling inbound calls and email, integrated at the agent level. They also do outbound calling. Everything is managed through a queuing mechanism and statistics are available through reporting.
- Data Mining and Analytics. The Auto Club Group is able to leverage call telemetry to connect multiple interactions to a specific postal survey and analyze interactions both good and bad for future coaching and training. They also use speech analytics in real time to quickly identify calls that require interdiction and those that should be used as best practice.
The discussion was wide ranging and delved into details from both the Auto Club Group and other Altivon customer stories.
The full recording is available at “Preparing Your Contact Center for 2018”.
Read our related blog “Replacing Aged Contact Center Infrastructure: the Time is Now!”.
Publish Date: October 11, 2017 5:00 AM
Yesterday Altivon sponsored the first in a series of healthcare related webinars focused on patient experience and the contact center. The webinar, titled “Re-Tool the Contact Center for Better Patient Experience”, presented an overview of issues facing the industry and its customers, as well as new technologies and best practices that can help address these issues.
Leading off the program was Altivon’s own Frank Tersigni, Chief Customer Officer. The main attraction was Steve Leaden, President of Leaden Associates, an independent telecommunications and IT consulting firm. Leaden has both wide and deep experience, working with mid-size to large companies in many industries not least of which is healthcare. Leaden sprinkled his presentation with customer success stories, helping to illustrate both the challenges and benefits that come with deploying technology.
A few program highlights
- Generation C. Tersigni highlighted the degree to which customer expectations are changing. Only a few years ago, the discussion centered on how to satisfy Millennials who seemed to have ‘different’ expectations. Now it has become apparent that Millennials aren’t that different at all. Instead, virtually everyone has joined Generation C (connected) and now expects choice in channels, speed in service and a great customer experience in every interaction—even healthcare situations.
- External Drivers. Leaden made a convincing argument that while there are some forces we can control, there are other external forces that must be acknowledged. In healthcare these include the wide swath of regulations, Telehealth incentives, HCAP scores and HIPAA compliance. Ignore the implication to your operations at your own peril.
- Growth Patterns. The increase in mergers as a growth strategy has left many organizations with multiple communication and contact center operations that present a management challenge…and an opportunity for greater efficiency and better patient experience.
- Contact Center Optimization. Leaden presented contact center optimization in three phases—the latest of which began in 2006. His observation from 30 years of experience is that it takes about 10 years for the technology to go mainstream. In short—the time is now to adopt speech analytics, multi-channel support, proactive notifications, EMR integration and other tried-and-true optimizations.
- The Evidence is There. The webinar included 3 polls. The first measured the criticality of patient experience—100% of attendees voted it either essential or extremely important. The second measured the number of channels supported today—40% offer 3 or more. The final poll showed this number moving to 100% in the next 12-24 months.
- Lifelong Customer is No More. Competition exists. If patients do not receive the experience they expect, then they will shop around. The paradigm of the lifelong customer is no longer valid…even in healthcare.
There is a great deal of content in the slides and audio for this webinar. We encourage you to take the time to watch it, and plan to attend part 2 and 3.
Watch the Recording Now: “Re-Tool the Contact Center for Better Patient Experience”.
Publish Date: September 28, 2017 5:00 AM
Call Center Times recently published an article submitted by Altivon entitled “Hidden Ways Contact Centers Shape CX“. The article explores ways that contact centers may inadvertently affect customer experience through a mismatch of customer expectations and system implementation. The more you know about your customers, the more you will be able to tune your technologies and processes to their needs. You may be surprised to discover the hidden ways you are already shaping customer experience.
The full article is available here on the Call Center Times web site.
Publish Date: July 31, 2017 5:00 AM
Now is not the time to take your eye off TCPA. It might be tempting to continue business as usual until the appeals courts makes a ruling. However, this approach is fraught with danger.
The transformational declaratory judgment order on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) entered on July 10, 2015 was met with immediate concern. Various telemarketing, financial and collection entities filed an appeal, effectively staying many cases until a ruling is made. Oral arguments on the appeal were made on October 19, 2016 and a ruling is expected in early 2017.
TCPA cases remain the second most common type of case filed in Federal courts (3710 cases in 2015, up 45% from 2014). These cases often involve significant costs and demonstrate the risks associated with non-compliance.
Five Key TCPA Issues Raised in Appeal
The petitioners in the appeal seek clarity on enforceability of five key issues.
- Capacity. The order defines an autodialer as having the capacity to automatically generate and dial random and sequential numbers. At issue here is the definition of ‘capacity’. The FCC originally interpreted this as current capability but now says it also includes potential capability. Petitioners consider this too vague.
Until the courts rule on the appeal, a good course of action here is to ensure you have human intervention in your dialing processes. Be sure that you have consent for every number you autodial.
- Predictive Dialers. Petitioners argue that predictive dialers are not autodialers. These dialers work from a pre-defined list. Petitioners contend that this excludes them from the autodialer category, because autodialers are defined to both automatically generate and dial random or sequential numbers.
Using a predictive dialer with a list of numbers that have given consent is the better path while waiting for a ruling.
- Called vs. intended party. The order sets out a ‘one and done’ policy. The caller must determine whether the called party is the actual intended party after one call attempt. If the called party is not the intended party, then no additional calls can be placed. The burden is on the caller to determine if the called party is in fact the intended party even if there is no answer. The petitioners object to this because of the distinction between the called party and the intended party. The petitioners argue the burden is unrealistic to meet. There are about 100,000 phone numbers reassigned each day. Petitioners argue that if a call is placed in good faith to a wrong number, the ruling should not exclude additional attempts to reach the intended party. The FCC counters that there are tools available that can identify most of these changes, virtually eliminating the issue.
The one-and-out policy is arbitrary at best. Nevertheless, while waiting for a ruling do all you can to limit wrong number dials. Use a scrubbing tool every day, if needed, to limit your exposure.
- Revocation of consent. The original order allows consumers to revoke consent to receive calls in any way they find reasonable. Petitioners say this places an undue burden on callers. For example, if a person checking out at the supermarket tells the cashier that they no longer want emails from the store, how does that verbal communication end up reaching everyone who might place a call to that consumer? The FCC argues that it is not the consumer’s problem. The petitioners counter-argue that it is in everyone’s interest for the process to be more formalized and standardized.
Until a ruling is made, do what you can to provide an easy method for consumers to revoke consent and for you to track. Be prepared as well to respond to revocation made in other ways, such as emails to customer service, verbal requests to an agent and so on.
- HIPAA-based Exemption. HIPAA-protected communications were previously exempt from consent requirements. After the order was issued, however, healthcare providers became subject to its regulations. Petitioners argue that this ‘inadvertently chill[s] beneficial patient communications’. If a consumer revokes consent for communication from a drug store, for example, how does the pharmacy notify the consumer if there is a medical necessity? Rite-Aid joined the appeal, asking for an elevated standard for HIPAA.
In short, under the current rules set all HIPAA calls must have consent, whether they are informational or commercial. Until and unless the rules change, you are at risk if you use an autodialer and do not have appropriate consent for calls subject to both HIPAA and TCPA.
TCPA Procedural Decisions
Two important decisions have been rendered in the absence of a ruling on the omnibus appeal:
- Gomez. An offer to a plaintiff does not moot a class action certification.
- Spokeo. Plaintiff must show an injury in fact (in each alleged violation) comprised of:
a. Invasion of a legally protected interest
b. ‘Concrete and particularized’ injury – the injury must actually exist
As a result of the Spokeo decision, a new line of defense has developed. In this early testing of the ruling, only a fraction of TCPA cases were dismissed due to lack of standing. Meaning you are not actually injured and therefore not in a position to file a claim. However, the majority of cases still advance due to the strict liability nature of the TCPA and the subsequent chilling effect if ruled to the contrary.
Proactive Steps for Contact Centers
- Avoid co-mingling ATDS and Manual dial numbers at all costs. Invest in customer experience solutions that keep separate your ATDS and manual dialing. It is unlikely that the Circuit court will reverse a present capacity determination if you use a ‘flip a switch’ approach to move between ADTS and manual dialing. Make an effort to keep separate ATDS eligible interactions and make capital outlays that demonstrate a good faith effort at compliance.
- Create simple language to gain consent. Make sure you have obtained the required type of consent, store that consent and importantly, track and make your agents aware of the status of consent (validity or revocation.)
- Treat text messaging as a mobile call. The courts do, and that position is unlikely to change.
- Use as much human intervention as possible in any platform. Be cautious of technology that alleges to be a manual dialer but ‘quacks’ like an ATDS—high abandon rates are a sure giveaway. Labeling technology as a ‘manual/safe’ dialer is not a defense if it acts as an ATDS.
- Create and maintain a TCPA compliance manual. A demonstration of ‘good faith’ and a proactive posture in adherence to TCPA provisions will buttress a defense.
- Train your agents in TCPA adherence and record proficiency. Agents are the front line of preventing TCPA violations.
- Maintain a solid quality assurance program.
- Scrub your call lists at least monthly for reassigned wireless numbers. Try to do so daily or even in real time, if feasible. It is noteworthy that the best databases can only scrub for 80% of wireless numbers. To assist in avoiding violations relating to the remaining 20%, scrubbing of frequent litigators is an important and affordable tool.
- Keep records! Use technology to control pass-through calls and document what platform was employed to initiate each outbound call. Do not just keep records of consent and revocation, or cell versus landline calls.
- Foster a close relationship with your vendors to promote compliance on current and future changes. It is vital to police your technology and lead-generation vendors. A defense of ‘My vendor told me we were compliant’ or ‘my vendor had a document from attorney X stating their solution is TCPA compliant’ will not immunize your organization against liability. Be vigilant and gather your own independent reviews.
- Hold any third party agents to your standards. If they violate the TCPA, the called party will also pursue you, especially if you have deep pockets. Third party vicarious liability is massive.
- Know the rules. You need to comply with a changing combination of federal, state and local regulations. For example, in most states you cannot call on holidays. Also, in five states (TX, AZ, NJ, WY, LA) you cannot call a mobile phone without consent whether using manual dial or ATDS.
The courts will likely rule on the appeal in early 2017 and any practical changes will likely go into effect in the summer. In the meantime, do your best to be compliant with the TCPA as is and be prepared to respond.
Our thanks to contributor Abdo Rabadi, J.D., Contact Center Business Consultant and Trends Analyst at Blue Kite Consultants. He can be reached at 317.682.0151 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publish Date: November 15, 2016 5:00 AM
Friction-less Self Service
Self-service as an option is a win-win proposition for customers and contact centers alike. Customers feel more in control and contact centers are more efficient. In fact, the pendulum has swung from self-service as a tool to increase call deflection and reduce costs to self-service as an option that is actually preferred by customers and when done well increases loyalty. As long as there is a safety net for interactions that require assistance, everyone wins— self-service success.
Self-Service Study Results
This proposition is backed up by numerous studies:
- Use of web site help or FAQ increased from 67% to 81% from 2012 to 2015
- 70% of consumers expect a self-service option for questions and complaints
- 48% of people surveyed prefer self-service after a sale
To optimize success of your self-service options, make sure they are convenient and fast. By their very nature, they are already low friction.
Six tips for Self-Service Success
Here are 6 tips for self-service success:
- Strive to provide accurate, relevant and complete answers during first self-service contact.
- Make web/mobile self-service easy to find and use. Whenever possible, contextualize.
- Invest in content. Link communities and forums. Make content consistent across channels and easily available to agents.
- Answer social media swiftly. 55% of social users want an answer in less than 4 hours.
- Use voice as an escalation channel. You will not be able to eliminate voice and email interactions—these form the safety net that makes customers comfortable flying solo. Expect voice calls to be fewer in number but longer in duration and potentially more difficult to resolve. Agents may require more training and experience. Voice calls become an opportunity to build loyalty.
- Connect self-service to assisted service. Don’t just provide a phone number. Give the agent background and context so that the customer continues their journey rather than back tracking.
For more on self-service, read “Self-Service Automation”.
Publish Date: August 29, 2016 5:00 AM
Look around the technology landscape and it is impossible to miss a trend toward subscription based, cloud focused applications. Whether it is your email, creative software, productivity tools, CRM or contact center management, everything is moving to this model, at least as an option.
What is not so clear is whether the software is ready for this model. Some providers sidestep this issue simply by changing the pricing model without changing the software. Others move the software to the cloud without optimizing the code for the new environment.
A true cloud platform has some key features that make it most efficient for the cloud environment. Here are nine characteristics of this modern architecture:
- Built to Scale. Moving to the cloud should make software more affordable for the small installation and capable of handling very large numbers of users. This requires that the architecture be built on objects that can be massively paralleled. This service oriented architecture (SOA) features objects that include communications, data operations and technology that can work independently on requests. The system can dynamically adjust any area to have more resources as needed.
- Microservices. In the true cloud platform, applications are componentized into microservices that are actively monitored and automatically provisioned. Microservices enable horizontal scaling. They make it easier to add new features.
- Elastic Load Balancing. Requests are distributed to independent microservices. If a failure is detected, the service is restarted. New features, upgrades and maintenance releases are all rolled out through distributed requests without interrupting service.
- APIs. There are clearly defined programmatic interfaces for every device including browsers, desktop applications, tablets and phone apps. These interfaces are publicly available. Data is protected by encryption.
- Continuous Deployment. New features and fixes can be deployed without any service stoppage.
- Designed for failure. The architecture assumes there will be failures and is designed to recover from them. Because it is a distributed architecture, working components can take over from failed ones. Resources are dynamically allocated as needed.
- Connection to Other Apps. A true cloud platform can connect to other applications in the cloud or on premise, and can sync control.
- Data collection. Storage is cheap. Save everything. Report later. Following this design philosophy allows users to find patterns and efficiencies over time.
- Measure everything. Perform continuous analysis to identify user trends and checking reliability of requests.
For a more in-depth look at these architectural features, read “Hadoop the Shard”.
Publish Date: April 6, 2016 5:00 AM
Frost & Sullivan recently announced that Interactive Intelligence has received its prestigious award for Cloud Contact Centers. According to Frost & Sullivan, “Interactive Intelligence has produced a winner with the strategy behind the design of PureCloud. Its rapid scalability, flexibility, ease of use, and affordability address key needs in the market. With its strong overall performance and potential to increase its market presence with PureCloud, Interactive Intelligence has earned Frost & Sullivan’s 2016 Visionary Innovation Leadership Award for Cloud Contact Centers.”
Frost & Sullivan sets the bar high in their definition of what a visionary innovation leader should be:
- In tune with market trends and demands
- Grounded in what is possible
- Willing to take risks
Interactive Intelligence won this award in part for their ability to support continuously evolving customer service needs. We are particularly pleased that Frost & Sullivan value the ability to ‘evolve’ – a central tenet of our mission. We believe that contact center solutions must enhance contact center effectiveness, elevate customer experience and evolve to meet customer interaction requirements.
Innovation is not a new development at Interactive Intelligence. The company has rich history of producing quality products that meet market demand in new and more efficient ways. PureCloud continues that tradition by retooling the platform to take advantage of the cloud environment while ensuring continuity for the contact center.
CIC users have the option to take advantage of some or all that PureCloud has to offer. Check in with us if you are interested in learning more about PureCloud and how it could be the next evolution for your contact center.
Publish Date: April 5, 2016 5:00 AM
Late last year Gartner published their report “Top Strategic Predictions for 2016 and Beyond: The Future is a Digital Thing.” The report is packed with insight and observations relevant across industries and applications. We thought it would be interesting to put these in context on the contact center.
Of the 10 strategic planning assumptions, a few jumped out as clearly impacting the contact center:
- “By 2018, 20% of all business content will be authored by machines.” Are you ready to have your self-service content built this way?
- “By 2018, 6 billion connected things will be requesting support.” Are you working on your Internet of Things strategy?
- “By 2020, smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions, and the post-app era will begin to dominate.” Have you started to move in the direction of automated processes?
Given enough basic data, machines are already capable of generating new content. Marketing campaigns are personalized with your name and based on your buying preferences. Google a product and an ad for that product is likely to show up on your Facebook timeline. Gartner gives examples of reports generated today using structured templates, like fantasy football newsletters and near real-time earthquake dispatches.
For the contact center, machines can generate the script for each call, tailored to what is already known about the caller and basic demographic data. Calls can be routed for a personalized experience.
Look for these basic capabilities to grow into more content-rich areas. Support pages and FAQs are great prospects for machine-led improvement. It is common now for self-help pages to conclude with a rating scale and question on how well the page answered the question. Feedback from the visitor can be used by a machine to pull additional data into the page or create new pages to address the specifics that the visitor desired. Making this a real-time process is within our grasp.
One of the cool ‘next up’ concepts is contextualizing the content based on location, activities and device. This will, we hope, lead to smarter ad placement and content than today’s rather brute force approach (you searched for it so you must want to buy it). This contextualization is reminiscent of the scenario in the movie Minority Report, where personalized advertising appeared in public spaces as the character came within close proximity of each sign. Maybe this kind of contextualization will make the video programming at the local gas station more appealing than its seemingly random play today.
For the contact center, begin to consider where customized, contextualized, automated content could be best deployed. Many contact centers already leverage pre-made content for scripts, chat responses, etc. In the coming years, automatic generation will be a big productivity lever.
At the same time we leverage machines for answer generation, we will increasingly field questions generated by machines. The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to revolutionize the way we manage and repair everyday things. By incorporating computing technology in everything from doorbells and refrigerators to coffee machines and cars, manufacturers have made it possible for things to identify problems, improve efficiency and even self-repair.
Cars have had computers in them for years. Typically, these produce warning messages that can then be downloaded by a service mechanic to determine the problem through diagnostics. Tesla vehicles already ‘phone home’ for corrective software downloads without any human interventions according the Gartner. Now imagine if your car could tell you it had a defective part, schedule an appointment at your preferred garage, notify them of the parts needed and add the appointment to your calendar. It could even tell you if it is safe to continue driving and recommend any modifications to your driving pattern prior to the repair. We are not there yet, but this is probably a fairly simplistic example of what the IoT can deliver.
For the contact center, this means that you won’t be dealing just with humans anymore. Requests for support will increasingly come from things. This will require a completely different approach from human customer service but will have the same (or greater) demands for speed, accuracy and completeness in service response.
A key question for the service organization and companies at large, says Gartner, is how to measure service success as experienced by a thing. If the customer is unaware of the need for service (because it is handled by the thing) then how does that customer judge the company? Is there a feedback method available when things solve their own problems?
To get ready for this future, Gartner recommends reviewing your customer journey maps for where things could take over portions or paths. Consider how this would change how you handle the interaction. Get involved with the product development process to the extent that you can be prepared for service requests from those things. If you are in a business where things are beyond your company control (e.g., doctor offices receiving requests from medical devices), stay on top of things affecting your industry. It is a big challenge no doubt, but one that must be addressed in the coming years to stay competitive.
Smart agents for mobile interactions
Mobile apps today tend to be very focused on a simple task. In the future smart agents will move beyond apps to provide greater utility. Early examples are Siri and Google Now. These will broaden to specific business tasks, says Gartner. Future smart agents will gather user behavior data, predict user needs and act autonomously. This kind of agent could work on behalf of your customer or be employed in the contact center to take care of certain workflow processes. This can improve overall productivity.
The potential benefits can be great. Think of customers asking smart agents to start an appeals process or file a claim. Routine tasks can be completed without human intervention. More complex tasks may require the smart agent to conference in a live agent, who can then provide further instruction to get the process moving again.
Similarly live agents can kick off smart agent action during an interaction, freeing the live agent to move forward with the customer or switch to another interaction while waiting for the smart agent to complete the task. Either way, the interactions are more efficient.
Get started by reviewing your customer journeys and determining where smart agents have value. Follow technology development and be ready for the future!
Publish Date: February 4, 2016 5:00 AM
Aristotle observed more than 2 millennia ago that ‘we learn by doing’. In that spirit, Altivon is hosting a series of learning events in early December. These web-based sessions focus on transferring the learnings from two Contact Center implementations in two very different industries. If you have any interest in best practices and overcoming the challenges encountered during complex projects, be sure to attend at least one session.
The first session, December 2, will focus on a contact center implementation at AAA. Learn about project decision drivers and process as well as the overall solution architecture. Then delve into the specifics of the implementation including challenges encountered during the project. Gain insight into how the project is expected to improve customer experience, reduce agent headcount via virtualization and reduce operational cost by simplifying infrastructure and eliminating multiple points of integration. Register now.
The second session, December 3, will detail a Blue Cross Blue Shield contact center project. This session will include an overview of decision drivers, process and deployment followed by an in-depth discussion of the implementation itself. The featured speaker was directly involved in the project, which was aimed at improving member service/experience, transitioning from call center to contact center and cost savings through simplified infrastructure. Register now to gain clear insights on project implementation.
Both sessions will also include a quick review of trends to watch in 2016. A lot is going on in contact center technology and best practices. Don’t miss this chance to learn from others who learned by doing!
Publish Date: November 10, 2015 5:00 AM
One of the more common conversations in our industry today is around whether to deploy a new contact center in the cloud or on premise or perhaps something in between. It may even be hard to know where to start in examining the options. The choice can seem simple, but has far-reaching consequences. And it isn’t always black and white. Asking vendors to propose 2 configurations (cloud and premise) or more is not the answer, because you will end up comparing apples and oranges. So what can you do?
We advocate a decision framework. There are nine key decisions that you must make that will influence or even determine which choice you make. Factors like budgeting style, load variability, and regulatory requirements can push you in one direction or another.
Complex Drivers Behind Simple Decisions
Whenever there is choice, decisions must be made. Gas or electric? Canoe or kayak? Alpine, cross country or telemark? Whether you are buying a car, navigating water, selecting skis or picking contact center technology, trade-offs are always made. Usually there are underlying considerations that can help narrow the choices. How will you pay? How will it be used? What unique situations must it handle? By reviewing these key considerations, you are more likely to make the right choice for your situation.
In contact centers, choosing between cloud and premise can be confounding because:
- It seems black and white, but there are many shades of gray
- Physical, operational and fiscal implications are significant and not always obvious
- Inconsistent information from the marketplace spreads fear, uncertainty and doubt
Fortunately, the same fundamental decision framework for contact center technology can be used to both identify system requirements and review proposals. The framework begins with nine fundamental decisions that will lead to the best solution for you. We use this framework with every client.
To read more about this framework, read “Cloud versus Premise: a Decision Framework for Contact Center Technology”.
Get your own total cost of ownership (TCO) comparative analysis for a cloud versus premise solution.
Publish Date: October 19, 2015 5:00 AM
It may not be glamorous, but testing is a critical component of customer experience. After all, it doesn’t matter how friendly your agents are or how great your products are, if call quality is bad and telephony systems are slow your customers will be unhappy.
Testing can identify current or impending issues. It can verify quality. It can test peak conditions to determine the limits of the system. It comes in a variety of forms:
- Health checks. These periodic tests can be particularly useful to validate performance and ensure that your systems continue to meet the needs of your customer base.
- Load testing. You need to know the peak limits of your systems, but that can be hard to determine from operational data. Load testing helps identify weak points and hard limits. Then you can either run your operation within those bounds or extend your system where needed.
- Soak testing. This type of testing provides an understanding of the sustained load your systems can handle.
- Functional testing. Before you add new functionality to your production operation, it is good to know that it actually works as expected. Automated regression testing gives you that confidence.
- Cutover testing. Switching on new technology in your contact center should be a non-event for your agents and customers; they should suffer no slowdowns, outages or transitions. To help make sure that is always the case, cutover testing is a must.
Ideally, testing is a standard part of your contact center environment, allowing you to monitor your service at all times. Testing in this way enables you to quickly identify and resolve customer experience problems in your production environment.
Just like the sound guys at a concert check the mics before the main event begins, you should make sure your voice systems are ready for prime time. With automated testing, it is as simple as 1-2-3.
Read more about Customer Experience Monitoring and our partner TekVision.
Publish Date: June 8, 2015 5:00 AM
Baseball season is in full swing and with it the dreams for new-found success. Adrian Gonzalez opened the Dodgers season with pizzazz, hitting five home runs in the first three game series. That is a first in major league history.
Of course, overly enthusiastic fans are speculating on how great the Dodger season will be if he can maintain the pace. That would give Gonzalez 270 home runs and undoubtedly would put the Dodgers on top in league play. It would also be almost 200 more home runs than anyone has ever achieved in a single season, and more than the total home run record for any team ever. Fun to talk about but unlikely to happen.
Home runs are certainly attention getting and sell tickets. They help teams win games. But there are only a small number of players who can routinely hit homers. Counting on home run kings to win every game is a high stakes bet.
Statistically, the vast majority of hits are singles. Teams that have a large roster of players with high batting averages play ‘small ball’, getting players on base and advancing them for a chance to score on a good hit or increase the runs batted in on a homer. Home runs with the bases loaded are called ‘grand slams’ for a reason. Baseball teams that feature a few star hitters and lots of utility players have a strong offense.
Contact Center Home Runs
What’s all this got to do with the contact center? The home run equivalent in the contact center comes when something extraordinary happens. It’s what gets the social media headlines. Steaks delivered at the airport. Lost stuffed animals returned with a storybook of its ‘vacation’. Home runs are delighted customers, saved from the brink of loss. They are unusual one-time experiences.
Contact Center Singles
Contact center singles on the other hand are the everyday interactions that go well. They happen more often and more team members are able to reach the mark. Every team member is expected to be able to regularly gain success and together they create a winning experience.
We all can list companies that we know will provide a good experience each time we call. The specific agent does not matter—everyone is capable of delivering good service. We can all probably also list companies where results vary. Contact center teams built to consistently hit singles have a solid foundation for reliable experience.
Contact Center Team Success
There are several ways that contact center teams can achieve both home runs and reliable base hits.
- Skilled routing. Route your calls based on the skill required. This fundamental matching can be a real hit, enabling faster call handling and happier customers.
- Behavioral routing. Route calls based on the personality of the caller. Connect the best match agent to that caller and the call will go more smoothly.
- Callbacks. Give the caller a chance to schedule a callback, then select the best agent for the call and give that agent as much background on the call as you have.
- Speech analytics. Monitor in real-time the interaction between agent and caller. If the call strays into foul territory, intervene. If opportunities come up in the call, offer additional products or services that might advance the call to the next base.
- Map the journey. Understand the journey your customer is on and match your interaction to it. Know where they have been and predict where they are going.
- Avoid next issues. If you understand the journey, you can anticipate issues that may prompt additional interactions. Help the caller avoid these issues.
- Resolution flexibility. Give agents and supervisors the power to solve problems before they escalate.
- Proactive service. Don’t just wait for customers to contact you. Reach out through outbound notifications with advice, hints, program changes, incentives and so on.
Home runs will always get the glory. Make sure your contact center hits some every year. But remember that singles put runners on base and bat in runs, giving the opportunity to consistently win games.
Adrian Gonzalez had a chance for fourth home run in Game 3 but he chose instead to hit a single to send another teammate home, giving the team a better chance to win the game. Build a team of base hitters and a few super sluggers and you are set up for a winning season. Play ball!
Publish Date: April 14, 2015 5:00 AM
A recent article in Forbes magazine highlights the increasing connection between mobile care and brand experience. There is no question that the ways people make purchases and resolve customer issues have changed dramatically with the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets. The buying public is more mobile and far more educated about their options before and after purchase. They increasingly judge companies by how well they modernize and mobilize their customer care.
Mobile Care Roadblocks
Here are a few misconceptions that can hamper effective mobile care:
- “Mobility is the Realm of Marketing.” True, it is easy to envision mobile apps that support sales and communication. But this is just the beginning of the brand experience. Customers expect to have a consistent and engaging experience, whether they are researching, shopping, or getting assistance after purchase. Just walk by an Apple store and you can see that post purchase experience is important. Translating that into a robust mobile experience requires a customer service strategy. As Maribel Lopez says, “brands spend thousands to millions of dollars to build mobile applications, but few companies deliver a simple, intuitive customer care experience.”
- “Customer Care is About Support Calls.” Sure, mobile care has to be able to address problems that customers encounter. But mobile care is also about the bigger journey. When a future customer has a question about how a product works, that customer should be able to get an answer through mobile care. When they buy a product and need help in understanding some of its functions, that requires mobile care too. Each customer experience contributes to the overall brand experience, and that contributes to brand success…or failure.
- “Mobile Care is Reactive.” Sometimes. But reactive care always starts in negative space. The customer has a problem. Frustration and even anger may be in play. Proactive care, on the other hand, provides the right information at the right time, which may involve active notifications, suggestions that address the next probable issue and journey-based interfaces. Mobile care gives companies an opportunity to change up their customer experience, and to become a customer ally rather than adversary.
Mobile Care Enablers
The ubiquity of mobile devices is forcing companies to re-evaluate how they deliver customer care and build a great brand experience. At the same time these devices greatly improve the chances of success.
- Broader Communications Options. Customers have many more tools available to them through their mobile devices. Text, email, voice, video, and photos are just the start. Companies that leverage these options can provide faster, better and more effective customer care throughout the customer journey.
- Blurred Lines. Mobile devices make it easier to move between different apps and interfaces. Mobile care can take advantage of this to smoothly move customers through each interaction. When one mode of communication becomes insufficient, another can be used—for example, moving from text to video conferencing.
- Data Flow. Mobile care can be designed to capture the customer journey such that agents can step in when needed without a complete recap from the customer. Whatever steps were taken should be visible to the mobile care agent, providing context and enabling efficiency.
- Choice. Truly effective mobile care provides choice to customers in everything they do. The device they use, the path they follow, the time and place of the communication are all up to the customer. Mobile devices give them the connection; mobile care gives them the experience.
Each journey begins with the first step. Companies beginning their journey to mobile care should be guided by a strategic vision for the brand experience. It may not be feasible do all things for all people all at once, but a strategic approach will make clear the path that leads to better mobile care.
For more information about mobile care and the brand experience, read the Maribel Lopez article from Forbes “Is Mobile Care Killing Your Brand Experience?”
Publish Date: April 3, 2015 5:00 AM
If you are located in the greater Baltimore or Kansas City areas, be sure to sign up for our seminar featuring Kathleen Peterson.
Kathleen Peterson of PowerHouse Consulting is well known for her regular ‘rants and raves‘ concerning the contact center. She is also an acclaimed contact center consultant and recognized industry visionary.
Kathleen recently published the new book “Backstage at the Customer Experience”, now available online. Here is a quick thumbnail of how she describes backstage at the customer experience.
The Customer Experience is among the top business strategies in today’s competitive marketplace. That experience has many of the same components found in theatre; we want our staff who interact with our customers to “perform” in a way that attracts and retains customers. This is not a new or novel perspective; Shakespeare wrote over 400 years ago in As You Like It – “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” For those in the Customer Experience business these words ring true.
We must ask ourselves however what it takes to achieve a performance meaningful enough to our customers (audience) to make them want to return and recommend us based on their experience. The experience is the stage, but let’s face it, as with so many things it is what takes place behind the scenes – backstage that ultimately determines the winning performance. So while the front line – those on the main stage have an enormous impact on the performance outcome – they are only able to perform as well as they are managed.
This session is designed to inspire the on stage and backstage players to act in the interest of the Customer Experience. To look for new ways to view the often demanding tasks associated with putting on the show every day, to take a new tack on an old task and produce different and better outcomes. To take the show on the road -that is the road to the executive level where alignment must be reached in order to deliver on the Customer Experience strategy.
Rethinking Customer Experience
Kathleen will be headlining a midday seminar series hosted by Altivon and featuring lively discussion of customer effort, customer experience and contact center case studies.
Signup for our April seminars in your area:
- Baltimore, April 14 (more event details here)
- Kansas City, April 15 (more event details here)
Publish Date: March 24, 2015 5:00 AM
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