This week is International Contact Center Week, and it’s all about celebrating contact center agents and their hard work on the front lines of customer service. So, it’s only fitting that this is the same week we announce our upcoming Calabrio Customer Connect (C3) conference and speaker lineup. C3 is our annual user conference, and it is a fantastic way for Calabrio customers to come together to share and learn best practices in order to get the best return on their Calabrio investment.
This year’s theme is “Catalyze Growth,” and it’s all about putting customers first. In order to successfully grow a company, brands must find ways to keep their customers engaged. However, customer engagement starts at the employee level, and engaged employees are the key to topline growth.
Employee churn is something that every contact center faces, and brands must continually find ways to motivate employees. The numbers are staggering for what an engaged workforce can actually mean for the company. Bain & Company found that companies that increase employee retention rates by as little as five percent will typically see profit increases ranging anywhere from 25 to 29 percent. In addition, Aon Hewitt published an employee engagement report in 2015 that restated its prior claim that a five percent increase in employee engagement corresponds to a three percent increase in revenue growth the following year. It’s clear that employees are a brand’s number one asset.
To say that brands have an opportunity to realize topline growth by engaging the workforce is an understatement, but there’s just one problem: how? This is the question that companies all over the world are struggling with every single day. With new generations entering the workforce constantly and technology changing just as rapidly, old tactics are—to put it simply—ineffective. If contact centers stay the same, then they’ll miss out on growth opportunities and see an increase in customer churn. To address this, brands must move beyond workforce optimization and strive towards workforce engagement. It’s not just a recommendation; it’s a necessity.
According to Gartner, workforce engagement is all about assessing workforce expectations—particularly for generations coming into the workforce—and implementing technology solutions with employee engagement in mind. In order to effectively improve the customer experience, brands must staff their contact centers with high-performing agents. However, to retain these higher-level employees, they can’t simply focus on improving operational procedures.
Companies must find out what’s important to their employees and understand their priorities, and then implement solutions to support what they want. For example, if agents are looking for more flexibility and self-service opportunities when it comes to their schedules, the company must respond to attract and retain the best talent possible. It may take a lot of work to implement, but the reward will be happier, more engaged employees that will help drive the company towards growth.
At Calabrio, we understand the importance of engaging the workforce because, at the end of the day, it affects a brand’s relationship with its customers and, subsequently, the bottom line. We’ve always believed that the key to growth is creating a committed team and, by celebrating contact center agents year round, we can achieve the experience that they’ve been looking for. We’re committed to building and delivering the best technology to keep agents excited and motivated, and we can’t wait to reveal more about our product roadmap during C3.
There’s still time to register to attend our C3 conference in Minneapolis on October 9-12.
Publish Date: September 13, 2016 5:00 AM
Come September and I’ll be speaking at the biggest annual contact-center event in Mexico about Teleopti workforce management (WFM) in general and more importantly/interestingly, about gamification in particular. I haven’t yet figured out the best way to translate “gamification” into Spanish but what I do know is gamification is gaining a lot of steam in the Americas. I’m expecting it to be a big hit.
We all know that automated WFM forecasts workloads so as to more accurately schedule the proper human resources to carry out the work accordingly. We also know that, thanks to automated WFM, agents are much less stressed or burned out, due to under- capacity and much less idle or bored, due to over-capacity.
But, however you look at it, the work of an agent is, intrinsically, not that exciting – handling customer issues through various channels (phone, e-mail, chat or video). We know that providing excellent customer service these days is nothing short of imperative: agents are the front line of your business – those closest to your customers. As such, they exert considerable influence in making, maintaining or breaking customers. Since the nature of the work is rather repetitive and tedious, absenteeism, attrition and agent-turnover rates are still unsatisfactory high in the industry. Enter gamification.
Considering that the cost of the human resource often comprises 80-90 percent of a contact center’s costs, anything that helps boost agent satisfaction is considered mission-critical today. This makes Teleopti WFM and its gamification offering, in my opinion, mission-critical – right out of the box. To give an analogy, air traffic controllers have no clue as to where airplanes are located unless they’re right under the radar. Teleopti brings the radar to the operational team, letting them know how to prepare for the near future and maintain operational targets. Gamification helps reach those targets even more so, which may significantly impact your bottom line.
In case a refresher on gamification is in order here, it’s an empathy-based approach that introduces a service which, through fun, game-like competition, incites contact-center agents to improve their performance. As a result, it contributes to and supports the overall value that you offer your customers.
Teleopti’s gamification designers address users almost as players of a game. The designers’ attention is, as always, on the agents, placing them in the center. Designers ensure that the competitive nature is fun, fair and stimulating. The system then rewards perfomance – based on pre-determined parameters and metrics determined by you – by awarding gold, silver and bronze medals. These can be traded in for prizes – perhaps an IPad, or being the first in line for the next shift or vacation bid or a day off with pay – the prizes also pre-determined by you.
All of a sudden, we are seeing gaming concepts used in real-life scenarios – namely, work. Teleopti was the very first workforce management company world-wide to introduce from the gaming community, a game-like environment in its WFM solution – one that encourages agents to reach specific targets and improve their performance for which they are compensated. Talk about Teleopti being on its game (no pun intended! 🙂 – and ahead of the game).
Teleopti compiles reports and statistics on a daily basis. When agents come into work the following day, they can see if they’ve earned a medal or won a prize on the agent MyTime portal. It’s something they can constantly look forward to. Gamification thus brings beneficial byproducts – in the form of reduced absenteeism and reduced turnover.
What kinds of metrics are used to compensate/reward agents? Adherence, pre-set targets, the number of handled calls, AHT, etc: these can all be measured. Targets, however, must be selected, ensuring agents won’t just rush through calls, turning them over quickly and thus negatively impact customers. Safeguards must also be set against system-rigging. Contact center staff that sets up the parameters have to think about this. Teleopti will be right alongside you, helping you to set these up.
Gamification is already being used in many ways and in many industries, not least in marketing, health, technology and design. Companies, such as Yahoo, LinkedIn, Amazon and Duolingo have incorporated gamification as part of their business strategy. More specifically, in the health industry, for instance, there is something called a “surgeon stimulator” which is a tool used for emergency services that incorporates gamification to help surgeons in training.
At the end of the day, it’s all about providing fun and positive reinforcement so that agents perform to the best of their ability – in a manner that’s interesting and that holds their attention. Be on your game, stay ahead of the game; take on gamification!
Publish Date: September 2, 2016 5:00 AM
As head of business development for Latin America, I’m a relative newcomer to Teleopti, having climbed on board just a few months ago. But in the short period of time I’ve been working with the company, I’m continually struck by how Teleopti truly practices what it preaches. By this I mean how Teleopti not only operates as a company, really taking care of its employees internally, but how this action is also reflected in its innovative, developmental work on its workforce management (WFM) solution. Basically, the motto is: take care of your employees – engage them, empower them, satisfy them – and customer satisfaction will follow to boot.
It was no surprise to learn that Teleopti ranks among the top 100 best places to work in Europe – for the past three years in a row! Nor was it a surprise to learn that Teleopti won the 2016 Frost & Sullivan WFM Solutions Customer Value Leadership Award. Both these recognitions, in my opinion, back up my view.
With still very fresh eyes, I see Teleopti as representative of a company that focuses on its people – one of, for and by the people. Everyone at Teleopti is so friendly, helpful and easily accessible. It is like a big family that really cares. This employee care permeates not only throughout its corporate culture but also characterizes its WFM solution development – with employee focus in its DNA. Backed by knowledge and proof that engaged employees raise productivity and customer satisfaction, Teleopti has made and continues to make the well-being of customers-service representatives its prime focus.
It is, in my view, what singles Teleopti out in the industry. In fact, Teleopti is one of the last remaining pure breeds of its kind,with a focus on WFM per se. Unlike Teleopti, the vast majority of competitors have branched out into the wider workforce-optimization space, dabbling a bit here and a bit there. They end up doing a bit of everything but no longer have expertise in anything. This single-minded focus of Teleopti – i.e. making the life of contact-center employees easier and more enjoyable – has put the company leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in this area. Focusing on pure WFM and putting employees in the center – and doing this exceptionally well – this is what makes Teleopti stand out and rise above the crowd.
Empowering your agents – how to concretely
How does this translate in real life? Well, let’s face it: the working life of a contact-center agent is not all fun and games – no bed of roses exactly. First, we need to help alleviate the monotony, boredom or stress caused by over- or under-staffing through better volume forecasting and then assigning agent resources accordingly.
Then, what’s called for is an injection of fun, motivation and encouragement. Enter gamification: Teleopti was the very first WFM supplier to develop and introduce this on the market recently. Some still don’t know the meaning of this: in a nutshell, it makes the life of an agent more fun and enjoyable at work, through competitive, game-like features that win agents awards and rewards – based on their performance.
Furthermore, did you know that it’s a proven fact that if you can clearly track your performance – see it right there in front of you on your screen while working – that you’ll improve your performance? Of course, Teleopti offers this.
Give them scheduling freedom – through mobility
Another example is agent access to their shift schedule and, more importantly, the ability to request shift swaps instantly – when necessary. Imagine Jim, a contact center agent, is at Starbucks and soon on his way to work. He gets a call from his wife, asking him to stay home that afternoon to take care of their daughter who has fallen ill at school. Jim whips out his smart device and via the corporate network’s self-service agent portal, accesses an updated schedule of colleagues – visible in plain view right on his display. He can either swap shifts or ask his supervisor for permission off that afternoon. This is all done in automated fashion and instantly, with notifications received in response. Now how’s that for work-life balance?
Teleopti offers this level of mobility and more. Floor managers, for example, with tablet in hand, can walk the floor, monitor their teams’ performance, trouble-shoot or coach right there and then – on the spot.
It’s a mobile world we’re living in and there are no signs of it letting up. Everything is pointing and heading more and more in this direction. And it’s no wonder, with smart devices getting cheaper, better made, more available, more widely adopted and more “authentic.” By the latter, I mean that access is now quicker, easier and safer – more than ever before. We wouldn’t want a fellow-agent hacker or any other hacker for that matter messing around the corporate network, gaining information or making changes that would favor them, would we?
Omaha, Nebraska, home to countless contact centers, is the capital of this industry in the U.S. Unfortunately, it’s an industry that’s marked by high attrition that’s atrocious and rife. Agents can and do quit, moving across the street to another contact center for a mere 5 US cents/hour pay increase.
But, do you think agents would be as apt to leave when they’ve got all this supporting technology available at their fingertips – technology that makes their work-life balance easier and better and their working life more enjoyable? I think not. You must do what it takes to keep your employees happy, satisfied, engaged and empowered. This is getting at the root of being able to deliver outstanding customer satisfaction.
The fourth of July – U.S.Independence Day – came and went recently. On this note, I’d like to conclude with: “Join the revolution! Long live raising agent empowerment – and getting customer satisfaction to boot!”
Publish Date: August 26, 2016 5:00 AM
Speech analytics is one of the most exciting and valuable applications to be introduced into contact centers in the past 15 years. It is the only application that converts phone conversations into transcripts, insights and actions. (Text analytics does the same thing for written communications like emails, free-form feedback from surveys, chat/SMS sessions and social media interactions.) With the right best practices, contact centers can use the findings from speech analytics to identify which agents need coaching and the areas where they need improvement; which competitors are winning away customers and the reasons why; what products are or are not satisfying customers; recommendations for new products and services; and a whole lot more.
The challenge with speech analytics is that it is a sophisticated analytics application, unlike most of the systems used in contact centers. Its findings typically apply to many areas of the enterprise. So for companies to realize optimal benefits from speech analytics, they need to approach this tool differently from most contact center solutions. This sounds easy, but has proven to be very difficult.
Here are a few best practices to help companies use speech analytics effectively:
Speech analytics solutions identify opportunities for companies. In many organizations, the problem is that these findings are shared and used only within contact centers, which limits their impact. Speech analytics can make substantial, quantifiable contributions to contact centers, but this is only one of the many use cases for this highly flexible and effective application. A properly implemented speech analytics solution should pay for itself in 3 to 6 months, with broad contributions across the enterprise.
Publish Date: August 23, 2016 5:00 AM
Magnus Geverts at Teleopti looks more closely at raising the customer service bar in contact centers
Customer Journey mapping is becoming an increasingly popular term in contact centers. Many organizations are using customer journey initiatives to drive customer value and growth. But what does the term ‘customer journey’ mean and why is it important to the contact center? Quite simply, the expression refers to the interactions a customer has with an organization from beginning to end – from when they first establish a need for a product or service to when they no-longer use the product or hopefully, keep coming back to become a repeat customer.
Organizations recognize that these customer journeys occur across multiple channels (eg, email, Web Chat SMS and website), over time and because humans are fickle, they can appear random and stuttering. Sounds familiar? Contact centers today are already multi-channel environments supported by agents who have to use all their experience, skills, knowledge and sometimes diplomacy to win over customers daily, often in difficult situations.
Empathy and Touch-Point Mapping
In an attempt to add clarity and structure to the customer journey, companies use techniques such as empathy and touch point mapping to establish how a customer feels at each stage of the journey (empathy mapping). Then draw up a list of all the possible points of contact a potential or actual customer has with the business before, during or after purchase (touch point mapping). This means tracking a customer’s conversation, real or virtual, every step of the way from the customer seeing an advert or user review, visiting a website for product info or walking into your online shop or store.
Does all this sound very complicated and a little too scientific? Although the very idea of the customer journey appears very clinical and detached from human experience, the concept also opens up some distinct and real possibilities for today’s multi-channel, multi-faceted contact centers.
Top tips for achieving customer value leadership
At Teleopti, we are proud of our achievement to win Frost & Sullivan’s 2016 EMEA Customer Value Leadership Award. It’s an incredible milestone that, we believe, recognizes our work on raising employee engagement. At the same time, it reflects our dedication to understanding our customers’ individual journeys, essential to increasing satisfaction levels.
For example, our consultants stay with customers and support them long after the installation phase, ensuring not only that their workforce management (WFM) solution is up and running properly, but that it’s tailored, fine-tuned and maximized in its usage, therefore fully meeting each customer’s needs. A thorough and detailed hand-over of the customer from pre-sales and consulting to service desk secures the well-formed circle of continuous customer care.
We’d like to share some of the lessons learned since we started out nearly 25 years ago. Here are our top three tips for acknowledging the importance of the customer journey to improve customer service and attaining the holy grail of true customer value leadership in the contact center:
Following the above points is a step towards creating a highly efficient contact center that boasts well-motivated, productive agents who actively drive customer value and support business success.
Publish Date: August 19, 2016 5:00 AM
Speech analytics solutions gather insights into the performance of contact centers and other operating areas within an enterprise. These solutions analyze recorded conversations, which means that they “know” what is happening in the contact center and can often identify what needs to be done to resolve the issues. Speech analytics provides the following types of information to contact center managers:
Using Speech Analytics Findings
It’s surprisingly easy to gather basic findings from speech analytics. The process is to create a search using key words/phrases and then run the application to see what it captures. Within a day or two of implementing a speech analytics solution, managers often collect so much information that they are overwhelmed. For this reason, DMG recommends that organizations start small by creating a list of 2 to 5 issues that they want to address. Since recordings are captured within the contact center, many companies start by concentrating on improving or optimizing that department and agent performance. This is an excellent approach, as it gives speech analytics analysts an opportunity to learn to use the solution prior to rolling it out throughout the enterprise. Here are some typical findings when speech analytics is used in a contact center:
Share Speech Analytics Findings
Some companies have started to tie speech analytics findings to their gamification environments, while others share team findings with all supervisors to encourage healthy competition. While there are some countries where regulations prohibit findings from being shared broadly, the point is that it’s important to let the staff know why and how the speech analytics solution is being used and to reward agents, supervisors and managers for using the data to improve the member experience and reduce operating costs.
The real fun of speech analytics is that you don’t always know what is going to be found; use this to your advantage, and reward behaviors and performance that promote your company and its bottom line. By starting small and applying findings in the contact center, you’ll earn the respect of managers inside and outside of the department, which presents a great opportunity to broaden the use of speech analytics to other operating areas. Once you show how impactful speech analytics can be in the contact center, other managers will want to use the solution for their own departments.
Publish Date: August 18, 2016 5:00 AM
Having worked in the contact center industry for many years, I’ve become very familiar with how important random call sampling is to quality assurance. It’s a practice that most, if not all, contact center leaders rely on to measure agent performance and ensure quality customer service. Still, it’s also rather limited in what it can tell you about the overall state of your contact center.
With traditional quality assurance programs, interactions are selected for review based on certain qualities, such as the longest or shortest call, or—you guessed it—completely at random. Sometimes, a quality evaluator will catch something in a sample, such as an agent going off script, but 99 percent of the time the sample is clean and doesn’t offer insight to improve contact center operations.
The best way to experience a bigger impact to your contact center performance is to supplement your random sampling with a powerful contact center analytics tool such as Calabrio Analytics. Through a sophisticated analytics engines and machine learning algorithms, Calabrio Analytics automatically categorizes interactions and can even run Predictive Call Scoring on every customer conversation.
You can also check all interactions for predefined words or phrases, providing evaluators with a better sample for quality analysis in the following areas:
By leveraging analytics technology concurrently with random sampling, contact center leaders can ensure they are keeping up quality standards. Learn more about how analytics is helping organizations improve customer satisfaction.
Want to learn more about how Analytics can benefit your quality assurance program? Mary will be speaking on this topic at Calabrio Customer Connect, our two-and-a-half-day user conference which includes more than 14 hours of comprehensive, hands-on technical sessions led by Calabrio experts. Register now!
Publish Date: August 12, 2016 5:00 AM
Smart contact center leaders know that the benefits of a strong quality assurance program stretch far beyond the walls of the contact center. By continually assessing agent performance and call quality, organizations can protect their bottom line by pinpointing areas to improve the customer experience. This ultimately leads to increased customer retention and loyalty.
Technology has made huge advances in recent years as the contact center has shifted from an unsightly but necessary business function to the cornerstone of customer experience. Analytics technology has reshaped the contact center space, and organizations that have embraced it to improve the quality of customer interactions are gaining the upper hand competitively. Here are three ways your call center can improve quality assurance through analytics.
While random sampling should absolutely be a part of any contact center’s quality assurance measures, it should not be the only sample. Evaluating your agents’ longest or shortest calls, for example, can be useful in identifying service outliers and opportunities to coach agent behavior.
However, for companies to really understand interactions within the contact center, evaluating interactions at random will not give a complete picture. Instead, I recommend supplementing random sampling with analytics. Through speech and text analytics you can pinpoint the most relevant interactions allowing you to find and evaluate:
The quality of a call is not wholly measurable by the conversation alone. Equally important to the words being spoken are the actions going on behind the scenes on the agent’s desktop. What applications does the agent have open? Are the right applications being used during a call? What does the agent do after a call ends?
With desktop analytics, quality analysts can associate customer interactions with agent activity in order to understand how that activity might affect the outcome of the call. Desktop analytics also outperform simple screen recordings because they not only show an agent’s activity during individual calls, they show activity between calls and throughout the day.
With the rise of omnichannel and self-service options for customers, First Contact Resolution (FCR) has become harder to measure. However, repeat contacts still negatively impact on customer satisfaction scores and contact center operations. According to SQM Group, half of all contact center inquiries are a result of the customer’s issue not being resolved the first time. Customer frustration levels increase with each call and customer experience deteriorates.
The ability to flag and get to the root cause of repeat contacts is an important way of maintaining customer loyalty. Traditional quality assurance processes deliver inconsistent and inconclusive insights into agent and the customer. The addition of analytics to the quality assurance process allows organizations to identify and evaluate interactions that are relevant to FCR and take steps to reduce repeat contacts, whether it’s addressing a training issue or making improvements to processes that impact the customer.
Read this Calabrio sponsored white paper by DMG Consulting for best practices in analytics enabled quality assurance.
Publish Date: July 29, 2016 5:00 AM
Has “employee empowerment” become a worn-out buzzword or over-used contact-center cliché? Absolutely not! Let’s go back to the heart of the meaning of the term “empowerment.” Then let’s review the millennial mindset in order to understand what empowerment means to them. Finally, let’s reiterate why doing everything in your power to promote agent empowerment is crucial to you and your staff – not to be overlooked or dismissed as hype.
Empowerment is based on the idea that: Giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunities, motivation, as well as holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and satisfaction.
Problem – changing nature of workforce & mindset
Employees who don’t feel empowered often complain about having no say, no decision-making power or no control over their work. This often leads to burnout and, in the case of contact-center agents, quitting. Many contact centers suffer from high attrition rates. This means recruiting, re-hiring and re-training – costly in terms of time, energy and money.
Millennials – also referred to as Gen Y – born in the early eighties to around 2000, represent a staggering 79 million in the USA alone. Soon they’ll outnumber baby boomers as the largest age group in the workforce. It’s not by chance that their sheer number is prompting organizations to re-assess their people-management practices – and nowhere is this more evident than in contact centers.
What is the millennial mindset in terms of work? At work, Millennials want to feel they’re making a difference. They’ll work hard if the work feels meaningful. Also, growing up in a world where they’ve been privy to constant feedback and being heard, they want to be motivated on the job as well as acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done.
But once their shift is over – and they definitely want flexibility in scheduling and a say as to when they’re off – let it be known that they value their priorities and interests. Responding therefore to this mindset – i.e. empowering them – is no longer an option for employers but a necessity.
It’s hardly a coincidence that the term “call” center has evolved into “contact” center – given the many channels of communication used today. Gone are the days of bored or stressed-out employees endlessly and in rote fashion, answering or making phone calls. As the front-line of your business – often the first point of contact for many of your customers – Millennials are a crucial component of your business operations and now, more than ever, can potentially play a determining role in delivering outstanding customer-service experiences – an increasingly competitive area.
With the advent of “chatboxes” or “chatter robots” more and more taking care of standard, routine customer inquiries, agents can take on more challenging, complex and interesting problem-solving tasks. Being human means it feels good to share and help solve problems and Millennials are no exception. It’s a proven fact that when agents feel motivated by their work and do a good job of it, their productivity also improves.
Solution – killing two birds with one stone
Surely, you want to improve customer satisfaction and first-contact resolution rates. But if your contact-center staff is not feeling engaged, motivated or properly rewarded, they won’t put their best foot forward. They won’t have to either: they’ll simply find better work conditions elsewhere.
So perhaps you need to review your modus operandi. Are you supplying you staff with the necessary tools so they can carry out their tasks in the best way possible and feel satisfied in doing so? In my opinion, this is the best way forward.
This means that when a particular customer makes contact, you staff has instantly available at their fingertips, updated and relevant information about that particular customer.
This means, for example, automatically routing more complicated problem-solving tasks to more experienced staff or chat and e-mail inquiries to agents skilled in writing – in other words, matching skills and tasks to suitable agents. Obviously and in all fairness, more highly skilled agents want tasks that are more challenging. This improves their engagement and work satisfaction; it’s dynamic; there’s movement – it’s not just the same old thing, over and over. It’s a proven fact that highly engaged frontline team members create superior experiences for their customers over non-engaged employees.
This also means providing agents with a mechanism that allows them to clearly track their performance – how can you improve if you don’t know how you’re performing – that also has built-in, healthy, competitive gamification features and a reward system that motivates them.
Finally, this means offering scheduling flexibility so agents can request days off or swap shifts through a self-service portal via their mobile devices – anywhere, anytime. As such, they feel they have a say over their work-life balance; over their life outside work.
In conclusion, Millennials are tech-savvy and demand work-life balance. They’re constantly checking their smart devices and are used to finding/getting instant responses to their questions. Just providing them with work hours and a pay check no longer cuts it. Let your workforce-management practices be no exception: respond to millennial needs accordingly.
I’ve presented some tips that Teleopti can help you with. Read more about engaging and empowering your staff in Teleopti’s sponsored white paper by leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm DMG.
Publish Date: July 28, 2016 5:00 AM
When it comes to delivering excellent customer service, most people would say the cable industry isn’t exactly a shining example of customer satisfaction. Historically, their reputation in this arena has been acceptable at best, and more often described as “nightmarish.” So if you’re wondering what you could possibly learn from reading this—don’t worry, I’ll explain.
While it’s true that cable providers have had their problems in the past, the latest Telecommunications Report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) tells us that customer opinion for some of these companies is actually on the rise. According to the report, customer satisfaction scores for Comcast, the largest Internet and cable service provider in the U.S., rose 15 percent between 2015 and 2016—from a 54 to a 62 out of a possible 100. Comcast’s improvement was second only to Time Warner Cable, which rose 16 percentage points from a 51 to a 59. In addition, Comcast reported its largest first-quarter gain in subscription TV customers in nine years. How did they do it? By making a significant investment in customer service technology.
Having the tools to effectively listen to and better serve your customers is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have—and that’s the case for all industries. More and more experts agree that customer experience is an organization’s only true competitive differentiator. A major component of that is the customer service provided by contact center agents.
Calabrio ONE customers have known this all along, and they know that having the right technology in place allows them to:
While companies like Comcast may still have a way to go on the grand scale of customer satisfaction, their leap in the right direction is a true testament to how powerful customer service technology can be, and why every business should be devoting resources to the right contact center management software.
Learn more about how voice-of-the-customer analytics is helping organizations improve customer satisfaction.
Publish Date: July 5, 2016 5:00 AM
Digital transformation in the Contact Center: this was the topic that I presented in the Dominican Republic recently. Now, you may say to yourself ” Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before.” However, the audience reacted positively upon hearing some striking – even astonishing – facts that I laid out. I’d like to share some of these with you today.
Speed of technology adoption
It’s said that a picture speaks a thousand words. Look at the two photos below: hard visual evidence of how fast we humans have evolved with the digital world: Below, to the left is a picture taken in 2006 during the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI. If you look in the lower, right-hand corner, you’ll see one lone flip-phone user taking a picture. Now look at the picture to the right, taken in 2014 during the announcement of Pope Francis I. Quite a contrast, isn’t it – in the mere space of just eight years!
Impact of technology adoption
Did you know that in the 1960’s, the average lifespan of a company was estimated at 55 years (Standard & Poor’s 500)? Today, that life expectancy has dropped to about 20 years and by 2020, it’s anticipated to drop to 15 years! This means that in that space of 35 years, a business today likely survives only 15 years – a drop by 40 years! The main reason? Failure to adapt to and adopt the digital world.
Time it takes to reach 50 million consumers
In the 1900’s, it took 75 years to reach 50 million consumers by phone. By radio, it took 38 years. With the advent of TV, this was reduced to 13 years. With internet, it took a mere four years. Facebook and social media took it down three and a half years. Web chatting has reduced this to two and a half years. Today, with apps, it takes just 30 days to reach 50 million consumers! In less than a century, we’ve moved from 75 years to one month to reach 50 million consumers! Such acceleration is mind-boggling, to say the least, with huge implications for businesses.
What is a digital contact center exactly?
Not too long ago, contact centers were referred to as ‘call’ centers as work was primarily conducted via phone. Today, the correct term is ‘contact’ center, with many centers offering numerous interaction points, or in industry parlance, “omni-channels.” This means agents can, beyond the phone, handle interactions through web chatting, e-mail and social media.
Customers now also go directly to a company’s website or launch an app to communicate. Thanks to big data and data mining, whatever was captured when first browsing will almost all be there. No need for them to repeat their account number, passwords, etc. Analytics then provides data on…you name it; anything and everything you deem relevant to your business, be it the level of customer satisfaction, buying behavior or first-resolution rates.
What forces are transforming and driving digitalization?
Today, four fundamental forces are transforming and driving the digital contact center: mobility (the method), social media (the community), big data (the context) and the Cloud (the delivery mechanism). But it’s the evolution in the mentality regarding mobility that’s the real clincher here: Today’s expectation is that any information or service is always available from any device – I repeat: always available from any device – in the context and moment needed.
Transform now – no time better than the present
Living in a mobile world
It’s 2016 and for good or for bad, we’re living in a digital world. The vast majority of consumers and customers carry mobile devices on them. Tablets, thanks to their mobility, will soon be surpassing laptops in numbers. Everyone wants the flexibility of mobility and immediacy.
Enable your agents
Mobility also allows agents to be notified via SMS of schedule changes and sudden shift availability that need to be filled. They can also communicate their schedule preferences and availability, and view change approvals while at home or on the move. Many contact centers are also now going remote, meaning agents can work from home. Such options also raise satisfaction and provide the business necessary resources during times of high volume – without needing to find extra office space.
Raise customer satisfaction
Through automation and omni-channel capability, you’ll be that much closer to making the appropriately skilled agent available on the right channel for customers. Abandonment rates and waiting times will be reduced, and first-resolution rates increased – and with it, customer satisfaction.
Be there – virtually
Time is money. Mobility also helps speed up decision-making processes. As a contact center analyst or administrator, you want to be able to make decisions remotely – as if you were on premise.
How to start the transformation process?
It’s easier than you may think. A multitude of sophisticated contact-center software exists on the market. You’ll surely not mind giving up the inhibitors to digital transformation: i.e. the manual processes, the monolithic systems, the closed standards, the data silos, the complexity – and being stuck at your desks. Make finance see that a digital transformation is of utmost priority – in other words, do or die.
WFM – for starters
Start by installing automated workforce management (WFM)! Of all digitalized products utilized in contact centers, WFM is number One. Not only does it put a stop to scheduling nightmares but, considering staff costs often represent up to 90 percent of a contact center’s total costs, WFM is the single, most cost-effective automated tool in use.
Furthermore, enabling agents with scheduling preferences as well as engaging them with healthy competition – through gamification – makes for happier and more satisfied staff. We all know that satisfied employees perform better and stay longer with the company. Then continue with implementing open standards, modular systems, automation, mobility and data analytics.
I believe the urgency of my message is clear: Those unable to keep up with digital world and respond to what consumers are looking for will die. If you don’t adapt and adopt now, you’ll end up like AOL, RadioShack and countless other companies: unable to adapt and left out in the cold, they perished.
On a final note, I’d like to part with a quote by famous American author and futurist, Alvin Toffler:
“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Publish Date: June 29, 2016 5:00 AM
I sat down recently with Calabrio’s Margaret Potter, data scientist, to discuss the importance of data science and analytics to business. In this Q&A, Margaret shares her unorthodox journey to becoming Calabrio’s resident “math lady,” and why the people behind the tools are still the cornerstone of success when it comes to analytics.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your background. Anything unexpected?
Margaret: I came to data science pretty late. I worked as an architectural drafter, and I loved solving spatial problems and working with clients who were remodeling their homes.
I went back to school to study mathematics after the market crashed to become a math teacher. Becoming a data scientist wasn’t on my mind, and I never expected to love it so much. Every day I have problems to solve, and every day I’m trying to help real people improve their businesses. In some ways, it’s a lot like my previous work.
Q: What first interested you about data analytics?
Margaret: I started with the development team that works on Calabrio Workforce Management (WFM). We began talking about the potential uses for all of the data that gets collected in WFM. We would come up with a really cool idea, and then someone would eventually say, “Yes, but that’s really analytics, not WFM.”
It made me hungry to work on those problems.
Q: Why is data analytics an important field?
Margaret: For a long time, statistical tools have been used to describe and interpret past events. Data analytics in its current state is about so much more. We’re using it to predict things.
Sure, forecasting is about predicting, but it’s usually about predicting how much of a resource we need, like contact center staff. We’ve been doing that for a long time and we’ll continue to do that.
Analytics is different. We’re using analytics to predict things that can affect how we do business. For example, in Calabrio Analytics we can predict call evaluation scores. Instead of just scoring a random sample of calls, we score all the calls, and an evaluator then scores a small random sample to verify the auto-scoring. That way evaluators can concentrate on problem calls. This is a fundamental change in how that evaluator approaches his or her work; it’s a change in process.
That’s the other thing that I love about data analytics—it has the potential to make each of us more effective at our work—more relevant. We help businesses take customer interaction data, find patterns in the data, and use those patterns to better understand their customers. Ultimately, we want our customers to find ways to use their data to make their businesses better—to create more efficient workplaces with satisfied customers and engaged employees.
Q: What’s one misunderstanding someone has had about your role?
Margaret: People seem to think that because I love math and working with data that I’m not a people-person. I love interacting with people, and I’m fascinated by human behavior. Part of what we do at Calabrio is to ask questions about human behavior (usually agent or customer behavior) and then look to the data for an answer. I love connecting my nerdy, math side to my human side. That’s one of those things that brings me joy in my work.
One more thing about analytics in general. Analytics isn’t hocus pocus. We use known, reliable predictive models (machine learning models) and some more traditional statistical models.
Q: What’s your favorite part of a new project?
Margaret: I love the trajectory of a project. First, we’re in the dark and everything is poorly defined. By hashing it out, the team gives a project a sense of direction. Then we start exploring the data trying to figure out things like, “Are we right?” and “Can this really work?” Once we’ve done that, we get to work on the next problem—how can we put this in the product so that it’s actually useful to people? Watching a project move from something shapeless and nebulous to something well-defined and useful is very rewarding.
Q: What does a business stand to gain from investing in analytics? What could they lose out on if they didn’t?
Margaret: A business leader who decides to forgo data analytics isn’t empty-handed; they can still make decisions informed by years of experience. That’s valuable and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Your competitors have access to the same tools that you do—both the information from years of experience and the information that can be extracted from customer data. Ignoring one of those tools could leave you at a competitive disadvantage.
Analytics will never replace people, but it will make people better at their jobs. With analytics tools, business leaders now have access to solid data on which to base their decisions, rather than hunches. Don’t ignore your business expertise, but make sure you supplement it with insights from the data you are already collecting.
Q: What’s one tip you might give a business about how to approach advanced analytics?
Margaret: Don’t expect to solve all of your problems at once. Start by tackling one problem (or question) and then using the insight you gain from analyzing your data to make a change. Try to choose something simple that will give everyone a chance to see how it works and why it’s valuable.
Change is hard, so set yourself up for success. By starting with small projects, you can begin to incorporate analytics as a natural part of your business process. After a while, it will become a habit and you’ll start asking analytics questions about everything.
Q: When you aren’t working with data, what do you like to do in your free time?
Margaret: I love to walk, which is good because I like cooking and eating good food. I also like to take road trips and see places I’ve never been before.
Publish Date: June 14, 2016 5:00 AM
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being in this industry for more than a decade, it’s that when things change, they change very quickly. At Calabrio, we like to stay ahead of the curve so we can meet our customers where they want to be tomorrow, instead of where they were yesterday. We do this in many ways, one of which is staying up to date on industry research.
One of the places I look for trends is in the 2016 Dimension Data Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, the most extensive global contact center survey in the industry. Below are the top three insights from the report and what you can do to make sure your business stays ahead.
Learn more about the trends changing our industry and how Calabrio is helping customers navigate.
Publish Date: June 9, 2016 5:00 AM
Magnus Geverts at Teleopti says it’s time to wise up to the explosive growth of Chatbots while keeping human agents happy with effective workforce management
Thanks to the rise of mobile texting and messaging apps, ‘chatbots’ or “chatter robots” are causing a stir in the world of customer service. In fact, Business Insider UK recently wrote that the most powerful tech companies think chatbots are the next best thing since the iPhone. In fact, Facebook now allows businesses to deliver automated customer support, e-commerce guidance, content and interactive experiences through chatbots on Facebook Messenger. The company is rumored to be launching a “bot store” – a move which could be as revolutionary for technology as when Apple launched the App Store.
Chatbots are computer programs that mimic conversations with people using artificial intelligence. This is not science fiction, “bots” are the next step in the evolution of the Internet and are fast transforming the way people interact and the future of customer service. So what role will they play in contact centers that are at the very heart of customer service and certainly first point of call for many customers?
After all, the millennial generation has come of age and is old enough to make a significant dent on consumer spending. These tech-savvy individuals have high expectations and demand round-the-clock service as well as an instant response. Automation and self-service are the way to go, making chatbots an important part of today’s multichannel contact center environment.
Direct contact, direct business impact
Messaging a business directly is a fast and convenient way for people to get in touch with questions about products and services, appointments and customer service support. Plus, messaging allows businesses to build personal connections with the people who are interested in them.
Just take a look at some of the ways the use of chatbots can make customer communication easier:
Facebook isn’t the only chatbot game in town, but because of Messenger having a reach of around 900 million users plus vast connections with advertisers and a healthy developer ecosystem, it provides the most attractive platform on which to implement bots.
Don’t forget the humans!
Automation of customer service has been widely implemented by contact centers for many, many years. Chatbots adds a new dimension to this, allowing contact centers to automatically respond to even more complex tasks. As customer service becomes more and more automated, the tasks and enquiries that actually require personal handling are becoming more advanced and necessitate a higher set of skills from contact center agents. Good training and employee loyalty will be ever more important as experience and knowledge will be a premium when dealing with complex or delicate customer enquires which cannot be answered by a robot.
The best way to build customer engagement and loyalty will be via happy, knowledgeable contact center agents with a work/life balance that suits them best. Therefore, a sophisticated yet easy to use workforce management solution will be essential. Through advanced forecasting,scheduling and competence management, the humans in contact centers will remain more productive and valuable than bots will ever be.
At Teleopti we believe a combination of bots and well scheduled human agents with the right skills, could be today’s silver bullet solution for effective customer service. It is time for contact centers to take the trend for chatbots seriously by maximizing agent productivity and improving social customer service with a little help from clever, automated technology for bots and humans.
Publish Date: June 9, 2016 5:00 AM
We all know that automated workforce management (WFM) technology is the power behind effective agent schedules. A skillfully crafted schedule enables and inspires contact center staff to deliver an efficient, highly personalized service to customers and the latest automated WFM solutions keep contact centers one step ahead. They are flexible enough to scale with the business which means new agents and communications channels can be added quickly as and when required. They also ensure the right staff with the right skills are on hand to provide rapid responses and a consistent, satisfying and effortless experience across all channels – voice, email, social media, Chat, SMS and Web “call me” requests.
Teleopti customers have seen stunning results through well-implemented automated workforce management schedules including P&O Ferries increasing accuracy to 99.5% and making annual savings of £1.6 million into the process. While Telenor in Denmark added an extra 49 minutes per agent, per day to their customer service team – what’s not to like?
Automation helps customers to help themselves
However, scheduling applies to so much more than managing agent time and talent. Now that the Millennial generation is old enough to be part of the mass consumer market, self-service options have come into their own. Today’s younger customer is tech-savvy, totally at ease with using technology to source and buy products with their personal devices. What’s more they want to do it themselves, at a time to suit them, and while doing other things like watching TV or monitoring social media.
It is fast becoming recognized that organizations which offer self-service options like IVR and the latest Web Chat capabilities are rewarded with reduced costs and satisfied customers. According to TechTarget, industry analyst firm Gartner predicts that companies who integrate what they term as ‘customer communities’ (web-based gathering places for customers, experts and partners to discuss and engage with a company) into their support offerings could expect a cost reduction of 10%-50% mainly from the deflection of calls to a contact center. Similarly, Forrester Research highlights the growing usage of web self-service methods including customer communities and online chat with self-service adoption increasing, in this instance interestingly among people 59 years and older.
Many companies have successfully deployed self-service technology to give their customers the freedom to carry out a wealth of activity in the comfort of their home, in the office or on the move without having to speak to an agent. When was the last time you talked to an agent to get your credit card balance or utility provider to give a meter reading? Chances are your experience was powered by clever Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology or a sophisticated encrypted software package that makes you believe you enjoyed the same brilliant service as when speaking to a human being.
It’s time to take control of self-service
However, it’s all very well providing a wealth of self-service options but how do you get them to work for you? Will it ultimately mean more contact center agents will be required? Will customers expect 24 hour service when 24 hour communication channels are available? Will customers still pick-up the telephone no matter what?
The beauty of cloud-based automation is that it’s easy, especially when it’s combined with a creative approach to scheduling. The trick is to center automated self-service capabilities around your contact center. Here are three ideas to get you started:
1. The latest technology solutions automatically flag up how customers want to interact and which channels are being used. At times of low telephony demand agents can simply log off the telephone so they can respond to text based communication channels such as emails, social media and switch to Web Chat as soon as the system tells them someone is waiting. Agents are free to focus on priority tasks and customers have greater choice on how they interact with you. If call volumes increase the other channels can be switched off, provided the right service level expectations are set.
2. Over time, encourage self-service through Web Chat. Typically, agents can handle three times the number of Web Chat enquiries in the same time it takes to handle just one telephone enquiry, saving agent time. More complex enquiries can still be handled via voice calls typically answered by more experienced agents to ensure first time resolution.
3. Introduce a dedicated self-service portal for priority customers including a free Web Chat service, many mobile providers still charge for free ‘phone telephone numbers. Agents have more time to devote to complex enquiries and customers receive the quick response they want, especially as some solutions make it possible for agents to hold silent conversations behind the scenes without the chatter’s knowledge!
By maximizing the powers of automated WFM technology and simultaneously harnessing self-service in a way that reprioritizes contact center operations, organizations can overcome the limitations of headcount and standard opening hours whilst delivering a seamless, 24-hour service to customers. It’s time to take control and schedule for self-service.
Publish Date: May 26, 2016 5:00 AM