In Teleopti’s third blog on the subject of change, Patrik Vesterberg explores the value of WFM data to drive effective CX strategies.
My two previous blogs discussed how resistance to change is the arch nemesis of customer service and five ways to redefine traditional key performance indicators (KPIs). In this latest installment on change, I consider the impact of the flood of non-stop data – driven by mobility and the internet – has on customer service.
One valuable, yet underrated tool for managing data for customer experience (CX) strategies is workforce management (WFM) technology. WFM is traditionally deployed in organizations for managing staff efficiently in order to meet service levels, avoid overtime expenditure and overstaffing. Yet it is time to rethink how you can you use WFM, as a data source and processor, to drive wider transformation. Today, WFM solutions are rapidly evolving into powerful and strategic weapons in the battle to fight the growing phenomenon of data overload.
Business leaders should encourage a creative approach to release the full potential of their company’s WFM infrastructure. Exploiting the library of data that already exists in the core of the WFM solution can result in new opportunities to build an effective CX strategy that resonates across the whole business:
Today’s WFM cloud providers, such as Teleopti, continually invest in security, ensuring that cloud deployments have the highest level of security, equal to, if not even more heavily fortified, than their premise-based counterparts. Services are provided over the web with back-up provided in separate data centers. Compliant cloud vendors also ensure their services run on platforms that have received approval from EU data protection authorities, they have to implement internationally recognized information security controls and are certified to quality standards such as ISO-27001.
A robust modern workforce management solution can go a long way to stemming the flow of data and instead channeling it to drive an effective CX program across the whole company.
Want to know more about data strategy? Join our on-demand webinar Unlock Data Strategies: Why WFM is Key to learn how to use WFM software as a key component for streamlined, intelligent operations based on data-driven understanding of both customer needs and employee preferences.
Publish Date: May 20, 2019 5:00 AM
Learn how to be a smooth operator using automated Workforce Management technology. Nick Brook at Teleopti shares 7 golden rules for releasing the benefits of Real-Time Adherence for smarter scheduling.
Life is tough for workforce management (WFM) teams. Employees call in sick or run late to their shift, the latest promotional marketing campaign is so successful that product demand and call volumes are going through the roof or demand drops and too many employees are hanging around waiting to handle enquiries. The mere thought of managing it all while accommodating shift preferences, part-time workers and shift swaps is enough to bring on a headache even before the first cup of morning coffee.
By far the biggest gripe is having to handle last-minute time-off requests with 55% of contact center professionals complaining about the issue. Even more worrying is that several factors are set to make matters worse. A 2018 Call Center Helper survey revealed that only 52.3% of organizations have deployed an automated WFM system with one in ten contact centers still relying on either pen and paper or whiteboards to schedule staff while low employee numbers continue to act as a hurdle to providing great customer service, rising from 24.5% to 30% since 2015.
Managing today’s multi-channel contact centers is actually easier than you might think with a little forward-planning and the right technology. If nothing else encourages that final leap into the cloud, perhaps the benefits of Real Team Adherence (RTA) will. Use the latest automated solutions for:
Before making changes take a step back and learn from the mistakes of experienced WFM users. Here are the golden rules:
Act now to stop that niggling headache turning into a full-blown migraine. Don’t rush in, take a considered, pragmatic approach and work with the right technology partner to keep your contact center running smoothly and at peak performance.
Want to learn more about one of the most important KPIs within the customer-service industry? Sign up for our on-demand session Setting realistic goals for adherence.
Publish Date: May 8, 2019 5:00 AM
From experience Teleopti believes successful companies start with inspired people and here CEO, Olle Dűring outlines 7 winning strategies to make your organization a great place to work.
At Teleopti we agree with the saying “to win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace ”. This is especially relevant as employees often spend more waking hours with their colleagues than they do with their own partners or families so keeping them happy and engaged should be a top priority. We have found to achieve this, people need to work in a positive environment where they can continue to grow, remain engaged and be productive. However, the reality is many companies are experiencing a crisis of employee engagement and are simply not aware of it.
It’s time to apply the principles of Workforce Management (WFM) and here is our 7-step guide:
Make your company a great place to work. Learn how to power employee engagement with WFM. To find out more, download Teleopti’s latest white paper aimed at senior executives: “A Guide to Sustainable Business Success: Powering CX and Employee Engagement with Workforce Management”
Publish Date: April 30, 2019 5:00 AM
The advent of “customer experience is king” is changing the landscape for organisations across industries, presenting new challenges and highlighting pain points many contact centers have been trying to address for years. This includes first contact resolution, being easy to do business with, reducing agent attrition and eliminating mundane and repetitive tasks.
Ultimately, the goal is to allow agents more time to focus on the complex tasks that add value to customers and businesses, while simultaneously increasing revenue. But, it isn’t easy. There are no quick wins, and these challenges will continue to take new shapes.
Messaging about artificial intelligence and how it’s going to revolutionise our personal and professional lives is everywhere. Some of us actively embrace it, and a good majority are fearful or anxious about what this technology means and how it could impact our day-to-day working environments.
While most businesses are focused on digital transformation, voice is still prevalent and shows no signs of disappearing. Most embrace self-serve options when possible, but when we have a problem too complex or sensitive to transact digitally, we revert to voice. Clearly, human agents still need to be front and centre in these conversations, and the right contact centre technology will ensure that.
For example, our Consumer Customer Experience Study in 2018 found that consumers are increasingly comfortable with machine-to-people interactions when shopping online, with 83% saying they are satisfied when dealing with automated processes. Most do not want to interact with a person while shopping online unless the service is very complicated, or they’re having difficulties finding what they’re looking for.
At the Future of the Contact Centre event held in London last month, Steve Morrell from Contact Babel demonstrated that AI will augment agents, not replace them. Lynn Gayowski’s article on No Jitter also backs up that viewpoint.
Leveraging artificial intelligence to quickly and accurately perform basic contact centre functions enables agents to focus on providing high quality, specialised services and answering complex queries. They can get more done in less time and cross all dull, repetitive tasks off their to do lists permanently.
In this new world of disrupted or disruptor, contact centre agents will be the life source of businesses. Their value and skills will continue to grow rapidly, along with the technology designed to support them and their prestige in the workplace. Today and tomorrow’s specialised agents dispel the ridiculous myth that agents are “the factory workers of our day.”
To remain competitive, organisations will need to overhaul their contact center processes, systems and business practices to provide an exceptional customer service. Combining artificial intelligence technology with skilled agents who focus on customer experience means organisations will be stronger, more successful and more profitable.
A Streamlined, Omnichannel Contact Center Helps Agents Focus On Productivity And Improves The Customer Experience. Learn How With Our Infographic. >
Publish Date: April 12, 2019 5:00 AM
New business models and organizational change have put the debate over centralized versus decentralized workforce planning back on the table. Kanogo Njuru at Teleopti advocates a balanced approach using Workforce Management (WFM) technology to blend all types of service organizations.
In the past, workforce planning was often managed by local teams out in the field. However, as technology has progressed to automate many of the traditionally time-consuming forecasting and scheduling processes, more and more organizations have seen the advantages of centralized planning. Contact centers, in particular, have enjoyed the benefits technology brings when addressing critical long-term strategic challenges, while optimizing workforce management and end-to-end processes for improved productivity, staff satisfaction, customer service, and financial control.
It is also a trend that is not necessarily limited to the contact center world and the same debate over centralized versus decentralized planning can apply to all sorts of service models for example in retail, cleaning services and hospitality. In all instances, the aim is to improve customer and employee satisfaction and boost profitability through optimized, automated forecasting and scheduling.
Over the years, seismic shifts in business have had a transformational impact on people. Mergers and acquisitions have brought uncertainty along with fluid internal staff structures while the rise of e-commerce has turned old ways of working on their head. How do organizations change the corporate culture to adapt to the new world order? How do they find, manage and keep good talent? How do they bring together thousands of full or part-time employees at head office locations or at remote virtual contact centers around the world and of course take into account home workers? What is the best way to forecast and schedule effectively? All these questions have renewed the debate around centralized versus decentralized workforce planning.
Some organizations take a conscious decision not to centralize all their Workforce Management (WFM) processes at once if at all, regarding it to be counter-productive. There is a commonly held belief that centralized planning takes power away from local people, leading to a sense of loss of control and a demoralized workforce. Then, there is the pragmatic approach. Planners often share a special relationship with their local teams and they truly understand what their staff wants and how they work best hence the old saying - if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Other companies may choose to centralize certain functions like payroll but decentralize others such as HR and recruitment. Whichever WFM model organizations choose to adopt, good communication is essential to overcome mistrust and feelings of fear. By combining a sound communications strategy with technology, a balance between reducing unnecessary costs, while also promoting consistency and higher standards of operations, customer service, and workforce satisfaction can be achieved.
Fortunately, the latest WFM solutions are highly flexible and offer speed and agility to support the needs of today’s multi-channel customer experience (CX) operations and other service organizations. Being cloud-based, they eliminate the need for expensive hardware and large in-house IT departments, are fast to implement, easy to scale and simple to use. Let’s take a closer look at five key benefits:
1. One single solution – can support a whole network of planners and brings consistency to a variety of centralized and decentralized WFM processes – from forecasting and scheduling enough staff to manage changing customer requirements to keeping track of employee sickness, personal schedules, and team preferences. Even if different planning teams operate in different locations, the deployment of one solution makes it easy to connect the dots, bringing together the various elements involved in successful workforce planning such as staff information, employee requests, and forecasting while accelerating the transfer of important workforce data to accommodate specific special projects or marketing campaigns. What it more, using one WFM platform opens the door to centralized planning in the future and makes the transition a smooth and seamless one.
2. High levels of scalability – support both centralized and decentralized workforce planning through agile forecasting and scheduling that adapts to changing customer and business requirements and by helping to create effective skills matrices that identify and deploy the best talent. The latest WFM solutions can flex up to accommodate a growing network of different planning teams in different locations or they can provide end-to-end visibility and superior management of organization-wide workforce planning activities from a central point.
3. Self-service for choice – whether an organization adopts a centralized or decentralized workforce planning model, the addition of self-service empowers employees to control their working lives, to view their schedules and those of their colleagues, request shift swaps or book time off at the click of the mouse or using their mobile devices.
4. Fairness and transparency through automation – consistency and greater visibility of WFM processes both in smaller, decentralized planning teams and in centralized departments that plan for thousands of staff across the organization is made possible through automation. Transparency and openness create a sense of fairness that appeals to staff while satisfying organizations with a strong Union or Works Council presence. Managers have the information they need to ensure all employees take it in turns to do the more unpopular shifts and plan vacation time equitably while employees have total visibility of each other’s schedules and time off through self-service functionality.
5. Effective Change Management - certain customers like Germany’s biggest online retailer OTTO, cite the strategic impact that WFM technology has on actively advancing corporate change management programs. The flexibility, transparency and collaborative nature of today’s WFM technology has helped OTTO to strike a good balance between achieving high productivity levels (1,600 agents working 2 million shifts and 4,500 shift rotations - handling over 24 million enquiries per year!) and transferring the program’s core values of empowerment and fairness into 15 virtual contact centers. What is more, they have achieved this through a mixture of centralized and decentralized workforce planning methods across the company.
Centralized? Decentralized? Does it really matter? What really matters is striking the balance between operational or business efficiency and promoting a collaborative framework that leads to engaged employees and satisfied customers. It’s time to welcome WFM technology as the catalyst for change.
Publish Date: April 8, 2019 5:00 AM
Erlang C has been a WFM firm favorite for decades. Now there is an alternative. Rebecca Philp at Telelopti explains the differences and five advantages of Erlang A.
For many years, contact centers have used the Erlang staffing calculator to forecast how many agents they require to meet agreed service levels. Calculations are based on two mathematical formulae: Erlang C and Erlang A. Paradoxically, Erlang C came first, invented by Danish mathematician A K Erlang in 1917 followed by Erlang A which was devised by Swedish statistician Conny Palm in 1946.
Erlang C is predominantly used for queuing calculations based on call volumes and the number of agents necessary to achieve certain service levels. However, Erlang C assumes that people have infinite patience and while waiting times might appear to decrease, the queues grow infinitely. Erlang A, on the other hand, better reflects the psychological realities of customer patience. It recognizes that every customer has a finite patience span before they become frustrated and simply hang-up. By estimating average patience time or average time to abandon (ATA) to calculate average waiting probability, contact centers have a better chance of creating accurate forecasts and schedules that are relevant in today’s multi-channel world.
Of course, all contact centers really want is better forecasting accuracy – at least that’s what Teleopti’s customers tell us and whether they apply Erlang C or Erlang A principles, is a matter of choice and largely depends on the individual merits of their own contact center.
For the purposes of this exercise we throw the spotlight on the advantages of Erlang A and how they relate to automated Workforce Management (WFM) solutions.
Consider the latest WFM solutions as vast vessels of knowledge that capture those all-important average abandon rates now and in the past. Understanding historical data to predict the future helps contact center leaders build proactive rather than reactive schedules.
Most contact centers know the total number of calls they receive, the number answered and the number abandoned. Simply key this information into a WFM system using Erlang A to do all the work of calculating average patience times to give accurate schedules for staffing levels. The changes might only be small but can make all the difference between irate customers, abandoned contacts and a smooth customer experience.
By taking average patience times into account and then using Erlang A to calculate the number of employees required to meet demand, and maintain service levels, typically fewer resources are needed. This can reduce the temptation to overstaff and therefore reduce costs too.
With better forecasting, more efficient schedules and reduced costs, boost productivity by maximizing idle time. Use WFM technology to schedule offline activities such as administration, training and weekly huddles. Allowing employees to give their full attention to customers during busy periods.
With rising customer expectations of what good service means, abandonment rates are an extremely important indication of how well service levels are achieved. The problem is that most contact centers didn’t have the technology to view them easily or analyze them properly – until now. Fortunately, modern WFM systems promote intelligent resourcing. By tapping into real-time data, contact center managers have the power to predict how many agents they need regardless of channel with a little help from either Erlang C or Erlang A.
At Teleopti, the laws of mathematics are essential to continual improvement and form an intrinsic part of our product development program. We apply both Erlang A and Erlang C principles to enhance and develop a comprehensive range of new technologies that drive efficiencies and performance in today’s contact centers. You simply choose the option that suits your set up best to give you the most benefit.
Speaking of driving efficiency - try out our Teleopti WFM Calculator and find out how you can benefit from investing in a WFM solution
Publish Date: March 25, 2019 5:00 AM
Join Dave Hoekstra, WFM Evangelist, as he enters the realm of customer service integrations. If you’re interested to discover the integration potential between your existing platforms and a new WFM solution, Dave offers Teleopti’s four key considerations.
In today’s digital world, there are so many options to deal with. We are constantly bombarded with choices as to which product will suit our needs. The options that are available to us in our personal lives are staggering, but the same conundrum applies in the customer service world. It is not uncommon to have completely different software solutions for phone calls, chats, emails, and CRM cases. In some instances, that can be four or five different vendors to manage, with four or five different reporting structures. When evaluating potential vendors, did any of these questions come up in your contact center?
One question that is often overlooked during the process might be one of the most important:
At Teleopti, we are often asked if we can integrate with a platform that is already established. Once the platform is in place and running, it is usually not an option to change the platform simply to ensure integration with a potential WFM solution, so the question now turns to:
The good news is that the answer to this question is almost always “yes.” Whether we are talking about a well-established platform that has been in the contact center space for years (for example, a mammoth company that has made ACD software for 30 years) or a new, cutting edge CRM platform that is just entering the customer service field.
So how does Teleopti approach the question of integration? To just say “yes” is easy, but it quickly falls apart if there is nothing to back up such an answer. There are consequently several factors that play into answering “Yes.” So, you can understand your WFM integration potential better, here are the important factors that Teleopti considers before answering, “Yes, we can integrate with that!
Usually, the answer is yes, but there are situations where we simply cannot get the proper data that we need for the integration. A good example of this is if you use an off-the-shelf email program to answer your customer service emails. If that program does not track how many emails you receive and provide some sort of reporting, you have to resort to manually counting all emails. For most well-established software platforms, this isn’t an issue, but for some platforms that are newer on the market, things can get a little more difficult. A good rule of thumb is if you can run a report that shows how many interactions were received, especially by interval, you are in pretty good shape for an integration.
There are several tried and true methods of getting data out of your platform, but it all depends on the capability of the platform. We might be talking about flat file transfers, API connections, XML, or ODBC (database queries), but usually, if we can get information out of the platform systematically, things are looking up. Teleopti has integration experts that can help determine the right way to extract data from your platform and get it accurately into the WFM solution.
With phone systems, this is easy. We are counting how many phone calls came in during a specific interval. But with complex databases like CRM, POS systems or banking systems, things get a little messier. Are we counting the number of cases that are opened, or does it make sense to count closed cases? What about cases that are opened, put on hold, and reopened several times over the course of a week? How many customers came into your store, or should we count total transactions? If you are having trouble answering these questions, so will a vendor like Teleopti. Understanding what needs to be tracked can be an integral part of creating a strong integration.
Sometimes, the answer is no. Maybe you don’t have a lot of employees handling that type of media, so a full integration might not provide the full benefit of a larger deployment. In that case, we might recommend manually entering the data into Teleopti WFM using our easy import methods. Instead of the software doing the work for you, entering the data into a template and adding to Teleopti WFM might be the smarter path, and it is easy to do! Discussing these options with a Teleopti representative might save you a lot of time, money, and headache. But if you see a certain channel is a huge source of customer demand and pull on employee resources, then it is worth creating the groundwork for higher automation, greater accuracy and lower effort in the long run.
Rest assured, if your data exists, you can probably integrate your WFM solution with it. It’s certainly a probability with Teleopti; we have out-the-box integration options to many platforms whether communication, CRM, or QM etc. Understanding the how and why of integrations can really assist in the decision-making process. Teleopti is always willing to assist in reaching those goals but knowing what makes sense before you start the journey can make the journey a pain-free process.
Speaking of integrations, read more about Teleopti Payroll Integration, an export of data generated from employee work schedules in Teleopti WFM, which can be imported directly into a payroll system.
Publish Date: February 25, 2019 5:00 AM
Customer experience is today’s number one USP and it’s revolutionizing the way we do business. While the contact center remains the catalyst for service excellence, every single department must play its part. Rob Clarke at Teleopti sheds light on a few golden rules for corporate-wide customer service.
When research and analyst company Econsultancy conducted a survey for digital marketing trends, it asked companies to state the single most exciting opportunity for 2019. Customer experience came out on top: 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience, 73% of buyers point to customer experience as an important factor in purchasing decisions and 65% of buyers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising. All this underlines what organizations have suspected for some time. Rather than focus on products and price, companies are changing their business models to put the customer at the heart of everything and it’s permeating every single part of the organization.
There was a time when the contact center dealt with customers, leaving the accounts department to worry about the numbers, marketing to think up smart publicity campaigns, product management to develop exciting new offerings and operations to make sure the warehouse had enough stock to fulfill sales orders. The shift from product to customer service is turning everything on its head. To be truly customer-focused requires energy and attention from every department. The conversations that accounts, marketing, product management and operations have with customers, inside and outside the organization, are just as relevant and reflect the soundness or otherwise of newly introduced corporate ‘customer first’ programs.
To deliver the best customer experience, the entire organization has to work together, pool its knowledge and re-think processes. Everyone should develop the skills traditionally associated with customer care representatives and become highly adaptable, good communicators, problem solvers, excellent listeners and rapport builders. Organizations should ask themselves a new set of questions - what are our customer service goals? How should we plan our people and processes? What technology do we need to support a customer focus? Essentially, how do we galvanize our people to deliver on our customer first promise?
As seasoned experts in the field of customer care, contact centers have a strategic role to play. They are the driving force of customer service best-practice principles, ethos and learning throughout the organization. The following three areas are a good place to start:
A good customer experience strategy starts with people. Look for candidates with high levels of emotional intelligence. These are the ones who instinctively understand how the customer is feeling and use that information to find the right words to influence a positive result. The best people are able to blend their intuition with science, for example, reading through a conversation with a Chatbot before picking up seamlessly with the customer. They also exploit their powers of conversation, empathy, creativity, intuition and negotiation to find the right solution for customers.
Customers really don’t care if you can handle 100 calls every hour and keep them to 2 minutes each if they feel rushed or are passed from pillar to post, customer satisfaction suffers. Consider moving from time-based to service quality metrics such as First Contact Resolution (FCR). Focus on the metrics that matter to your customers and you’ll be on the right track.
Successful contact centers know instinctively to work closely with other departments to get the answers and support they need to think outside the box and come up with new ideas for delighting customers. All employees should expand their spheres of liaison and influence beyond HR, marketing, resource planning, quality and training to create an effective, interconnected customer care network. Then, use collaborative tools such as internal chat, enterprise social media and CRM systems to share learning and tips for improving customer service across the whole organization.
Whatever their contribution, all departments should share a common ethos, consistent processes, measurement criteria and the right tools to make it happen. Make Workforce Management (WFM) the common facilitator. Use the latest solutions to:
Build a robust Workforce Management (WFM) framework to fast-forward your organization-wide customer care program by ensuring customers get the service they want by placing the right data and people in the right place at the right time.
Publish Date: February 4, 2019 5:00 AM
According to Patrik Vesterberg at Teleopti, tried and tested isn’t always best. Here, he explains why change is good and outlines a flexible philosophy to kickstart the transformation of your customer interactions.
Change comes in many forms, new people, new ways of doing things and new technology, in fact, anything that threatens the status quo, and it can strike fear into the bravest of souls. Fear of the unknown and fear of disempowerment are two reactions. The third is quite simply that taking the “but we have always done it this way” route means a lot less effort and makes life easy. But does it?
The truth is resistance to change has long-term limitations and can even signal the death knell for organizations. For instance, if today’s multi-channel customer engagement centers had not morphed from simple call centers to something much broader, many companies could have lost the majority of their customers and gone out of business a long time ago. It’s a sobering thought.
Rather like the Darwinian theory of evolution, only the fittest survive and this comes down to adaptability. In modern terms, the ability to do more with less differentiates the winners and the losers. Customer satisfaction is fast becoming the most popular measure of success for modern organizations in a world where there is a trend towards declining brand loyalty. It’s a fine balance between keeping a grip on all resources and meeting the round-the-clock needs of today’s consumer. How do organizations achieve it? Flexibility is the name of the game.
Digital channels including email, web chat, instant messaging and social media are now accepted channels for service provision and their use is being driven by customer demand. In a recent survey by industry analyst, ContactBabel over 90% of the respondents described their customer service as either multi-channel or omni-channel ie they offered more than telephone or postal support. The desire to provide 24/7, fast and simple service means that organizations are searching for ways to power this without huge resourcing investment. Answers include the provision of self-service options, introducing automated artificial intelligence (AI) bots and allowing people to work from home and flexible employee contracts.
All forms of flexible working make sound business and operational sense. They allow an organization to flex their customer care muscle when most needed.
Keep people informed and cascade the customer message throughout the organization. Customer service goals in each department should support the overall corporate goal. To help reinforce this it may be necessary to remodel key performance indicators, those measurable values that demonstrate how effectively goals and objectives are being achieved. Consider switching from traditional KPIs such as revenue targets, average handling time (AHT) or Net Promoter Scores to concentrate on customer satisfaction (CSat) metrics.
During times of organizational change or simply when there is high customer demand, it’s tempting to operate and take decisions in isolation. If new technology is introduced, encourage the whole team to establish how the system can best be configured to meet their specific needs. Involve them in the decision-making, give them the right tools and the authority to do their job and see customer service soar.
Next, ensure that all departments with direct customer contact work together to close the loop. For example forge relationships between customer service and marketing to find out when the next big campaign will hit the streets so everyone is prepared for an influx of new sales enquiries. Break down barriers and build trust through cross-functional get-togethers or an online forum to exchange knowledge, best-practice, and learning. Customers will pick up on this unity and customer satisfaction will flourish.
Not just at the end of ad-hoc customer surveys but from the very beginning. Listen to front-line staff and encourage them to devise new and improved ways to serve customers and even pre-empt what they will want in the future. Instill a customer first approach that permeates the whole company by eliciting customer stories from all departments e.g. credit control, sales, marketing, and operations – they all deal with people on a regular basis, people who are customers in one way or another. Finally, returning to those customer surveys, make them a living, breathing mechanism and take on board feedback both good and bad, to make meaningful changes to customer interactions.
Most organizations are reactive when it comes to customer care. Such as in the contact center itself, someone calls in and staff looks up various pieces of information to solve a specific enquiry at a particular period in time. This approach doesn’t take into account any contextual factors that predetermine the outcome of customer interactions. These could include the customer’s bad mood from having been passed from department to department.
The aim should be to capture customer data and apply intelligence to it in four ways. Be contextual, suggestive, pre-emptive and predictive to put the query and the resolution into context. If technical support advises that a customer has spent the last 30 minutes trying to sort out a problem with their new smartphone, an empathetic greeting such as “Hi Joe, I understand you’ve been talking to tech support but it looks like you still haven’t got the answer you need, let me help you…” will go a long way towards calming potentially inflammatory interactions. Pre-empt the way customers like to interact with the company, check out if they prefer email or instant messaging to telephone or email and make the necessary adjustments.
Change the way you work, remodel your KPIs, disband departmental silos and listen to customer feedback and you’ll begin to transform customer experience and overcome that arch nemesis, resistance to change.
Publish Date: January 22, 2019 5:00 AM
According to Magnus Geverts at Teleopti, exceptional customer experience goes beyond connecting the dots between different channels. It’s all about understanding and anticipating a customer’s every need. Here are five steps to building a contextual customer service.
Retail eCommerce continues to flourish and growing consumer confidence in mobile technology is fuelling mobile commerce. According to the digital market research company eMarketer, mCommerce sales in the UK are quickly approaching half of the country’s retail eCommerce market. By 2021, purchases made online via mobile devices will account for 51.7% of total retail eCommerce sales, up from 43.3% in 2017.
What makes this particularly interesting is that the nature of mobile devices means that businesses potentially have the opportunity to know more about their customers than ever before. GPS-enabled smartphones allow organizations to see where their customers are. They also know if a customer has been browsing a mobile website or app and use that information to understand what the customer might need in the future. QR (quick response) codes on products automate and accelerate a two-way interaction. Customers retrieve all the information they need quickly while organizations have the intelligence they require to direct customers to the correct place within their self-service function to complete the final purchase.
It’s a trend contact center analyst ContactBabel calls ‘The Great Mobile Opportunity’ (The UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’guide 2018/2019) and it has the power to revolutionize customer service and the role of the contact center. So how do organizations make the most of this mobile data to take customer service to the next level?
Contextual communication is the next step up from omni-channel in the contact center. Firstly customer service should be fully optimized for mobility. Then digest what’s being said on social media and listen to conversations that consumers commonly conduct using apps on their mobile devices using Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter. Then, use this valuable intelligence by putting it into context for the customer.
The challenge is that most customer services are reactive. Someone contacts the customer service and an employee looks up various pieces of information to solve a specific enquiry at a particular period in time. No account is taken of contextual factors that predetermine the outcome of customer interactions.
It’s time to move away from a reactive customer service and exploit your data in the following ways:
Take data and apply intelligence to it. Give employees the context of why a customer is contacting you in the first place. If a customer has spent the last 30 minutes with technical support without success, make this information available to prepare the employee. A greeting that reflects empathy such as, “Hi Joe, I understand you’ve been talking to tech support but it looks like you still haven’t got the answer you need, let me help you…” will go a long way towards calming potentially inflammatory interactions.
Use the data you already have to suggest certain types of interaction with customers. For example, seeing that a customer has left your website and looked at another brand is not the end but a great opportunity to reel them back in with a response like: “I see that you’ve had a problem with your current car how can we help you by putting you on a special trade-in program with a 3-year free warranty?”
Based on previous interactions, a customer’s preferred communication method can be determined, so use this information to pre-empt how to deal with them the next time around, for example “I see you’ve been on our website, would you prefer me to give you a call on the following number?”
You know that a customer has bought a pair of shoes from your fashion department but did you know they also purchased a sofa from homewares? Make sure your data and processes are consistent and sufficiently integrated to facilitate joined-up customer responses along with the opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell other products and services.
Contextualize the workforce by deploying the latest cloud Workforce Management (WFM) solutions. Use them to create a ‘go-to’ place for all your talents and resources and identify the employees who have the highest levels of emotional intelligence to add context and real value to customer interactions. Give employees real-time help with unified systems that allow them to see when expert help is available across the organization then maximize WFM data to ensure the customer is put through to the right employee, right away.
If you change the reactive to contextual, suggestive, pre-emptive and predictive, both employees and customers will benefit from a superior experience. Think about contextual as the new supercharged omni-channel.
Publish Date: January 7, 2019 5:00 AM
According to Carlos Muňoz at Teleopti, excellent customer service and business success are inextricably linked. He explores how to transform your customer service from a cost center into a profit-making powerhouse using Workforce Management.
Is your customer service a tortoise or a hare? This was the question we asked earlier this summer to explain why customer services can, on occasion, be too fast and efficient for their own good. The same applies to constant cost-cutting. Put too much emphasis on doing more with less and risk alienating good staff along with loyal customers.
Sadly, too many organizations view the customer service as a drain on resources rather than a valuable, profit-making entity but it’s time to think again. The inspiring words of Vasili Triant from Cisco who was a guest speaker at our recent Americas User Forum hailed ‘Customer experience is king’ as the mantra for customer services everywhere. The simple logic is if the customer experience is good, increased revenues will naturally follow. Building a contact center that is fuelled by the customer experience makes sound business sense but where do you start?
Customers today want choice, but they also expect personalized interactions when they engage with brands. A customer service should look to offer a whole customer experience rather than seek to solve a series of individual interactions. Consider the following approach:
Concentrate on what makes a satisfying customer experience. Ask yourself “what is important when you are dealing with a brand?” and use this litmus test to make your company’s customer experience an individual, personalized and memorable one.
But first, listen to your employees because they know if your customers are happy and what works. Listen to what’s going on in your social media and turn it into valuable customer information for your employees. Then combine this intelligence with speech analytics and silent monitoring to capture the voice of the customer.
By all means, consider emerging technologies like AI but ask yourself what they really mean for individual customers and the business?
Don’t just leave it in your CRM, make it intelligent. Bring it all together in one place and make it actionable across all channels. Data should be four things: contextual, suggestive, pre-emptive and predictive so that employees have all the right information at the right time to go beyond basic, reactive enquiry handling towards anticipating a customer’s every need – from the channels they prefer to the products they might buy in the future. Watch out for more on contextual data in my next blog!
Once you’ve injected your customer service with a customer first culture use cloud-based Workforce Management (WFM) to create a highly effective resource that builds customer loyalty and realizes demonstrable business benefits:
This is another way of saying how you communicate with different customers across different generations. With the average company typically relying on 9 channels, question whether you need them all and decide which ones your customers really want to use? All modern consumers want is a consistent and satisfying experience whatever the device or communications channel. Use a cloud-based WFM solution, with modern multi-channel algorithms, combined with good planning processes to switch employees between channels as required.
Put intelligence at the front end of customer self-service and leverage machine learning to solve simple interactions. This leaves employees with time to devote to more complex or sensitive issues. There’s also a good business reason to go down the automation route. The latest online Savings Calculators that use data captured from real customers to estimate ROI reveal startling results. Through optimized WFM processes, the typical medium-sized customer service with 250 agents, sickness rates running at 6% and an annual attrition rate of 23%, can expect to save 500 hours a month and a 4% reduction in sickness and attrition rates year-on-year
Aim to build a tightly integrated technology eco-system that unifies different systems. That way, employees can quickly locate subject matter experts and work with knowledge workers across the business to drive effective, satisfying customer interactions.
Take a step back, put yourself in your customers’ shoes then deploy the latest cloud-based WFM technology to elevate the status of the customer service. Keep it simple by improving the customer experience and building loyalty then watch the contact center transform from a cost center to a profit center.
Telia, the dominant telecom and mobile network operator in the Nordics and the Baltics, is on a mission to provide star-quality service at every level of the customer journey. Read how Telia made this ambition a reality with Teleopti WFM.
Publish Date: December 19, 2018 5:00 AM
What are some of the key trends that will mold business and customer service operations in 2019? Dick Bucci of Pelorus Associates, a market research, consulting, and marketing communications firm that specializes in the contact center industry, dives into 5 trends impacting customer service and which companies need to stay on top of.
Pelorus Associates has authored comprehensive market research reports on workforce management software since 2011. Our latest report, 2018 World Market for Workforce Management Systems, examines 30 individual trends affecting business and customer service. Here are five trends that we believe will continue to have a broad impact on contact center management practices and technology deployment.
If you think you’re getting a little more love from your bank, you might be correct. Big banks and, to an even greater degree, the smaller community banks, are listening to their customers and trying a little harder to dissuade you from wandering off to their competitors.
Customer retention strategies are most vital for products and services that involve frequent repeat buying. Successful customer retention initiatives benefit the firm in two important ways. One is increasing the lifetime value of a customer. The other is increasing the likelihood of up-selling or cross-selling to existing long-term customers. These individuals have built trust in your company and will be more receptive to offers that provide greater value and higher revenue.
United States unemployment dropped to 3.7 percent in September 2018. Unemployment has also been sharply declining for European Union nations since 2013. Job seekers have more options today and this is certain to exacerbate the already difficult job of recruiting and retaining qualified customer service representatives. Management must strive for a collaborative and even fun workplace and review recruitment and compensation practices to be more competitive with other job opportunities. Agent software must be easy to learn and easy-to-use.
In 1917 Danish mathematician A.K. Erlang developed a model for predicting how many circuits the telephone company would need to serve the city of Copenhagen. While useful, the model was designed for a world where the telephone was the only practical way to communicate over distance.
Today’s customer service operations are much more complicated. Contact centers are expected to operate at peak efficiency 24/7 while achieving multiple and sometimes conflicting goals such as achieving high levels of first contact resolution while keeping handle time down. Multi-skilled agents must seamlessly communicate in different channels and even different languages. And increasingly “agents” may not be people at all, but computer-generated voices powered by artificial intelligence.
Dr. Erlang could never have anticipated a communications environment like this. Today and into the future a customer service must deploy modern workforce scheduling and forecasting software that can accommodate this ever-changing and increasingly complex environment.
Businesses seeking to win over today’s consumers need to have a thorough understanding of customer preferences and possess the agility to respond faster than their competitors. The same desire for personalization extends to customer service employees who seek more control over their training, schedules, and career growth. Self-service apps provide employees with access to their schedules and include empowerment tools for work-hour preferences and self-assessment via mobile app and all web-based devices.
A generation or two ago (depending on your age) it was not unusual for individuals to spend their entire careers at just two or three employers - all in the same industry and often performing the very same or similar jobs. Not so anymore. “Secure employment” has become an oxymoron. Economists are now talking about the so-called “gig” economy where workers become Independent contractors that sell their skills on an opportunistic basis.
A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors (think Uber). The millennial generation has embraced the gig economy. Customer service work is ideal because scheduling can often be arranged to accommodate their other part-time “gigs.” Since this generation virtually sleeps with their smartphones, contact centers must adopt technology with powerful mobile interfaces that permit contract workers to learn about shift opportunities and respond from their smartphones. Workforce management and other customer service applications should be cloud-based to reach potential employees who prefer to work remotely.
With brand loyalty on the wane and the convenience of the Internet for price shopping, delivering a superior customer experience is a major point of competitive differentiation. As the front door to the enterprise, customer service personnel and technology can greatly influence the quality of the customer experience and consequently the economic health of the organization. It is very important that companies deploy management practices and leading-edge technology that both anticipates and capitalizes on significant trends.
Head to the full Pelorus Report
Founder and Chief Analyst
Publish Date: December 13, 2018 5:00 AM
Disclaimer - the solution is not an easy fix and might even go against your instincts!
We see it time and time again, Contact Centre Managers are constantly fighting the battle between meeting their service level agreements by having the right number of staff at the right time with the right skills, whilst also striving to retain their staff.
Employee retention has been one of the biggest Contact Centre challenges for a long time, and yet, Contact Centre annual attrition rates rarely fall below 50%.
We know what you are thinking - 50% seems high!
What we’re referring to here is your ‘gross’ attrition at ‘skill’ level. Very often certain types of attrition are excluded for reporting purposes and some are in fact encouraged, but in resource planning, you need to include everyone who leaves an advisor position.
For example; An advisor leaves Banking to move to Loans? That’s a ‘leaver’ as you’ll need to replace a Banking advisor, even though at a department level that shows as 0% attrition.
Had to fire a Sales advisor? That’s also a ‘leaver’ as you’ll need to replace them too. An advisor gets promoted to team leader? Yep – they need to be backfilled – they’re a ‘leaver’ too.
The best way to calculate this is to add up the number of people at each skill level you had to replace last year and divide it by the total number of people with the skill. For example; I hired 30 new service and 20 new sales advisors last year (50). I have 50 service advisors and 40 sales advisors (90) = 50 / 90 = 56%. That’s your long-term resource planning figure.
However, for the purpose of this article it’s the ‘involuntary’ attrition rates and the voluntary out of department attrition we would ideally like to minimise.
A high attrition rate isn’t just bad for the employee, it’s also a huge problem for the business:
There are normally a number of factors closely related that can cause a Contact Centre to hemorrhage staff - corporate culture, often sitting at the centre of it all.
This might seem like an obvious one and yet no one wants to hear it as it increases your costs. However, in the long term it may save money if you offset it with the cost of hiring new staff; the cost of training them and the cost of having to employ a larger offline training team; the lost staff hours required for ‘buddying’, the cost of customers having to call back and the cost of ‘brand damage’ etc.
And for your employees it’s not just about the money, a decent salary will make employees feel valued.
Making sure employees feel valued can be tough. Start by regularly communicating and investing in your people. Do it well, genuinely and honestly. It is here that good contact centre managers shine over bad ones – good managers can communicate their message sincerely and are heard and believed.
Employee loyalty is often commensurate with how valued they feel. Ask yourself - How are you investing in your people? New technology? Office environment? Training? Rewards?
Using tools like Gamification can help promote cohesion and a fun work environment that stimulates and motivates employees. Gamification plays into our innate desire for reward, feedback, status, competition, altruism, and achievement. Gartner recently called it “a powerful tool to engage employees, customers, and the public to change behaviours, develop skills, and drive innovation”.
You can find more information on how to implement Gamification in the contact centre here.
Nothing makes a Contact Centre tougher to work in than consistently failing your service levels and picking up call after call of angry customers. It’s normal for agents to burn out under these conditions.
Workforce management (WFM) solutions can help you schedule and forecast the right number of staff, with the right skill sets to meet your service level agreements and create a more pleasant and positive work environment for your employees. Most contact centres today will already have a workforce management solution implemented. It’s a case of better understanding your solutions and learning how to optimise it in order to achieve the results you are aiming for.
WFM consultants can not only help you implement better planning and scheduling, they can also support you by coming up with a clear strategy and learn new ways workforce management technology can be utilised in your contact centre.
Some of the above will cost money. Some of it requires skill. None of it is easy. But, if successful, it builds a wholesome centre that delivers quality – which ultimately is more enjoyable and better for the customer as well as your agents!
Publish Date: December 7, 2018 5:00 AM
Keep it simple, that’s the message from Nick Brook of Teleopti when it comes to forecasting for multi-channel. Here are his top five tips.
Customers expect service wherever and whenever they want it and in the channel of their choice - by phone, email, Chat, SMS and social media. What’s more, they want consistency across all channels. This customer requirement for an omni-channel experience has typically been a challenge for workforce management but it doesn’t have to be that way. Having the right number of agents in the right place, at the right time is easier than you think. It’s a case of remembering the basics and keeping it simple.
It’s about a robust forecasting process and for the best results follow this five-step approach:
Understanding and validating historical data is critical, whatever the channel. Modern workforce management (WFM) solutions capture huge amounts of data to create a library of valuable information. Use it to spot deviations from normal events such as unexpected spikes in call volumes or even different average handling time (AHT) patterns. The first step to creating meaningful forecasts is to eliminate these ‘out of the ordinary’ events and focus on what usually happens during typical demand periods in all channels.
The next step is to revisit the ‘out of the ordinary’ events that can adversely impact the efficiency of the contact center such as systems outages, negative comments on social media or news in the press. WFM technology helps to flatten the common spikes in demand. For example known “outliers” such as Christmas and Black Friday, which happen every year but on a different date can be made ‘special events’. Planners and forecasters simply tap into the powerful integration capabilities of automated WFM solutions to gather accurate data from diary and CRM applications in real-time and pinpoint these special events easily and quickly.
WFM solutions flag up trends based on historical data, which planners can choose to acknowledge or they can generate new forecasts by month, week or by the day. These forecasts should be based on knowledge of upcoming activities such as new marketing campaigns or future changes in business operations. To introduce a new channel rather than second-guessing what’s required, simply use historical data from well-established similar channel types to make sound forecasting decisions.
Once you’ve created longer-term forecasts concentrate on daily forecasting to support flexible planning on the go. Intra-day scheduling allows planners to reschedule the contact center workforce during the day based on fluctuating arrival patterns for all types of enquiry and all channels while factoring in shrinkage ie events that take agents away from the frontline such as unexpected sickness, time off, ad-hoc breaks or training. What is more, planners can be confident that service levels are met because WFM ensures the right people are skilled and scheduled to handle the calls and tasks needed to achieve this.
Always be prepared for the unexpected such as weather conditions that prevent agents from getting to the office or major systems outages. Remember to incorporate buffers to allow for unexpected spikes in activity and unplanned absences. The latest forecasting technology enables planners to conduct ‘what if’ scenarios for all possible eventualities across all channels, making WFM a strategic forecasting tool and an intrinsic part of business continuity planning.
With pressure on to do more with less and still deliver an exceptional customer experience, it’s tempting to cut a few corners. This is a fatal mistake and can unravel all the good work you’ve achieved. A few simple housekeeping rules like keeping records of previous forecasts, building both operational and business changes into forecasts, networking with other parts of the organization consistently and on a regular basis will make all the difference. You’ll be rewarded with better contact center performance and customer satisfaction on all channels, all year round.
Want to dig deeper into forecasting? Download our white paper Tips and techniques for accurate effective forecasting.
Publish Date: November 27, 2018 5:00 AM
Sales of cloud-based Workforce Management (WFM) solutions are on the rise and Olle Dűring, CEO at Teleopti outlines five reasons for contact centers to make the move to cloud without delay.
The order book at Teleopti promises a rosy future for cloud-based Workforce Management (WFM) solutions. According to the analyst ContactBabel cloud-based WFM is set to at least double with 24% of organizations planning to switch in the next two years. However, some contact centers are still reluctant to adopt a cloud-based approach.
There could be a simple explanation for this caution, most notably long replacement cycles in organizations that only change their systems out of necessity or after a major corporate-wide review. Other contact center leaders may believe they don’t have the resources, time or manpower to assess what solutions are available, deploy and then manage their new infrastructure. Some worry about losing business while transitioning to the cloud and fear it will not offer them the same high levels of functionality, speed, reliability, security and integration. It’s time to look at the positives and benefits of cloud-based WFM.
Many organizations who have bought into the cloud model have already enjoyed a variety of tangible benefits, in particular no more major investments in hardware and software, easily accessible WFM data 24/7, automatic back-ups and disaster recovery, the ability to scale up and down the number of users as required with updates and new features added automatically.
Here are five very good reasons to make the switch to cloud-based WFM without delay:
Someone else implements the technology and takes care of all the hardware, software and upgrades saving “infinite” amounts of time and money. Deployment is rapid, new functionality can be turned on as needed while automatic system changes reduce bug fix cycles.
Real-time data feeds, updated in seconds, enables faster, more proactive decision-making. Integration in the cloud means that connecting with other cloud systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) and contact center technology is made easier.
Cloud-based WFM outperforms in terms of ROI. While no two contact centers are the same, zero capital investment, faster deployment and easier integration mean ROI is typically achieved quickly. Illustrating this to purchasing and finance departments to support a move to cloud can be made easier by using online savings calculators to estimate the potential savings from a given start point.
As cloud WFM is delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS) it removes up-front costs. All new functionality (within the bought package), maintenance and innovation are included in the user fee, paying simply for an agreed number of agents. Cloud WFM also allows for a streamlined IT team without the unnecessary hiring of additional staff to manage the software.
Teleopti WFM Cloud is easily integrated with existing infrastructures. Statistical logging from a contact center platform is through the Teleopti CloudLink, which collects the contact center data and sends it to the Teleopti WFM Cloud. The contact center platform can be either premise-based or cloud-based.
Look for a WFM cloud service provider you can trust which is well-established with a proven track record in the industry. Ensure the vendor provides its services over the web to organizations around the world but stores data in an appropriate territory. Finally, make sure the solution runs on a platform that has received approval from EU data protection authorities, has implemented internationally recognized information security controls and is certified to quality standards such as ISO-27001.
To find out if you have the right provider, ask them the following questions:
It’s time to make the leap to Cloud WFM. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner! To find out more, read our e-book What’s keeping you from Workforce Management in the Cloud?
Publish Date: November 15, 2018 5:00 AM