Calabrio - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog Page 7
Today’s connected consumers are the ones driving the revolution in retailing. With the ever-expanding array of communication and social media platforms at their disposal, allowing them to research and shop anytime and anywhere, they often end up spending more than intended.
However, with this retail revolution also comes new expectations and potential drawbacks. For instance, businesses are now increasingly expected to provide instant customer servicing. Organizations that fail to live up to this expectation are shooting themselves in the foot.
Furthermore, social media networking sites are easily used by less-than-satisfied customers to rapidly and publicly vent their frustrations, potentially sending viral shock waves around the world and resulting in lost business and worse, a tainted reputation.
Despite this unfavorable use of social media by customers, many organizations are still slow to face up to the realities of the rapidly expanding digital world. Studies carried out by social media analytics and publishing company Socialbakers claim that the overall response to social media inquiries is just 55 percent. On Twitter, the global average is a mere 32 percent. Even organizations that do use social media are sluggish, typically taking almost 6 hours to reply to Twitter inquiries and over 13 hours (!) to Facebook inquiries.
Automation – the way to go!
The increase in social media inquiries coming into the contact center can be overwhelming. However, state-of-the-art automated workforce management (WFM) solutions can combat this with flexible scheduling and real-time data extraction so as to be able to make meaningful service adjustments, such as re-allocating the right agents to omni-channel inquiries. The results of automation have also proven to save organizations substantial time and money as well as boost agent engagement, productivity and service delivery.
Step up to social media challenge – so much more than technology
Contact-center managers should take a total approach to customer interaction by providing their staff with efficient processes and effective technology. Here are some great tips that will help you get going on an omni-channel approach to customer servicing:
- Create joined-up approach to social media – Social media may already be used throughout the organization: sales and customer service may handle product inquiries and order requests while marketing monitors Facebook and Twitter for customer feedback. Make sure you have strategy in place for handling customer contact via social media. Who in the organization should be handling it? Will that communication be transparent and in-line with your corporate messaging?
- Be prepared by forecasting social media – When you begin forecasting social media, you probably have no historical statistics to rely on. Start observing patterns and acquiring knowledge: how do customers act and in which social media channels are they active? Furthermore, use automated WFM to build flexibility and scalability into your staffing plans.
- Use overtime as a last resort – Flexible scheduling decreases the need for overtime and often saves on costs considerably. When intraday changes are needed, make sure your WFM solution has its notification tools up and running that can assign – in near real-time – available and appropriately skilled agents.
- Take age before beauty – You’ve heard it all before: having the right people with the right skills at the right time is essential for effective social customer servicing. However, don’t fall into the trap of only hiring students or young people to handle social media inquiries: It’s often more time-efficient and cost-effective to train existing contact center staff with well-honed customer service skills and in-depth knowledge of your organization’s products. Social media can be learned in a matter of weeks; gaining in-depth product knowledge and service experience takes much longer. Your WFM solution should be able to identify individual agent skill-gaps and automatically schedule coaching to target these gaps and improve performance.
- Provide the right training and make learning fun! – Training agents to handle multiple channels is fundamental to serving the needs of modern omni-channel consumers.
What’s more, learning has been made fun today with the latest gamification techniques that promote employee engagement. Agent groups, for example win points or badges via online games. To improve personal performance, individuals can even compete against themselves.
Ultimately, being able to make adjustments throughout the day makes for a much more agile frontline workforce that is better equipped to deliver an excellent customer experience, at a lower cost – whatever the channel.
Publish Date: May 20, 2016 5:00 AM
A recent study found the average person checks his or her smartphone a staggering 85 times a day! And just look around in shops and cafés, on buses and trains – even while walking in the street: almost everyone is glued to a personal electronic device. The rise in mobility has created a world of 24/7 connectivity and a subsequent demand for instant information.
This puts increasing pressure on contact centers and customer service departments. Many have transitioned from single-channel to multi-channel to now omni-channel interaction. Irrespective of channel, be it voice, e-mail, chat, social media, Skype or other mobile apps, customers want and expect a consistent, satisfying and effortless experience – each and every time. As for employees, they expect an environment that encourages them to flourish and make a positive difference in their customer-servicing work.
This is where automated workforce management comes in and can play a crucial role, ensuring contact centers have engaged and knowledgeable staff on hand to provide rapid and accurate customer responses.
A survey by Business Systems (UK) Ltd. indicates that nearly half of the contact centers surveyed utilize social media and 69% utilize e-mail in customer interaction. The question is: How do you provide customers with a cohesive experience across the different channels? This is precisely where the new generation of workforce-management systems can make the difference.
Let the following four tips help maximize your omni-channel opportunities and, with the help of workforce management, ensure that your customers get the best experience.
1) Flexible design that evolves with your business – Examine how your WFM solution supports chat, e-mail and social media. Ask your WFM vendor for examples and references. Are backlogs (e-mail) and parallel chat sessions supported? Is the system capable of scheduling in a blended environment? Can it be integrated to collect data for the different channels? The foundation for efficient omni-channel WFM is not only that these core functions work well but that, as your business evolves, the configuration can easily accomodate the additional needed channels.
2) Employ the right people – Make sure you have the right agents for the right channels. Use your emphatic, tech-savvy agents for social-media channels; making mistakes in these channels often increases the workload for other channels. Use your WFM solution to understand which talents and competencies are required for the best performance in the various channels. Finally, schedule up-skilling for those who need it.
3) Empower Agents – You may have the right people in place but have you supplied them with the right tools so they can do their work effectively? Are they proud of making a difference? Do they reward the organization with happy customers and long-term loyalty? Opt for a WFM solution that allows employees to feel empowered by having a say in scheduling, that offers incentives or game-like competition to reward excellent performance and lastly, that provides performance feedback, skills training and coaching.
4) Promote real-world successes – Many of Teleopti’s customers have reaped immediate operational and commercial benefits through its WFM automation and employee- empowerment tools. Promote success by building confidence and raising the status of the contact center of your business. WFM automation allows you to devote more time to customers and focus on meeting their needs for seamless multi-channel integration and rapid resolution.
Let’s take a look at some organizations to see how they have benefitted from Teleopti WFM automation:
• P&O Ferries in the UK made annual savings of £1.6 million, all the while maintaining their service levels. It also increased forecasting accuracy to 99.5% and reduced staff turnover substantially.
• Telenor in Denmark is now able to devote an extra 49 minutes per agent per day to their customers. As a result, satisfaction levels have risen by 7% and total sales per store increased by 6%.
• OTIP (Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan) achieved 7% savings in overall salary payout, improved queue times by 79% and decreased average handling time (AHT) by 95 seconds.
• Cigna Insurance Services in the UK views automated WFM technology as a part of strategic resource planning and a people-management tool that covers the various channels, including web chat.
So, what’s stopping you? There’s no hitch. With the help of well-implemented automated workforce management, providing the same level of service across all channels is today a reality that has come true.
Publish Date: May 13, 2016 5:00 AM
When it comes to making operations more efficient, most executives know they need to leverage data to identify areas of improvement. Data collection and storage is manageable, but executives can easily find themselves with a mountain of information and more questions than answers. How do you move from the collection phase to extracting insights and driving real value for the company?
One option is to hire a team of highly trained data scientists to dig through the data. While this may net good results, it is also quite costly and may not be very realistic for smaller businesses. The other option is to partner with a technology provider that has both the man and technical power to perform integrated data analysis and derive insights for you, the way Calabrio does for our customers.
If you’re in the midst of data deluge, here’s how integrated analytics can help.
- Data Mart: The more channels from which you collect customer data, the longer it takes to aggregate the data and view it as a whole. One advantage of using integrated analytics to see the big picture is the concept of the data mart. Dubbed the “inflatable kitchen” by our analytics team, Calabrio’s data mart technology is ready to go, right out of the box. In about two week, organizations are able to integrate data from all of their systems and being gleaning insights. This is a stark contrast to the months it would take to find and train the right team of people or overlay separate pieces of bulky analytics software. Instead the rapid installation of the data mart means fewer missed opportunities to start making sense of that mountain of data.
- Data Visualization: With integrated analytics, executives across the organization – from customer relations to HR – can access information about people and products in unprecedented ways. Let’s take for example a contact center manager that is curious about a particular agent’s performance. In a normal situation the manager would have to submit an IT request, wait for a custom query to be built and then wait again for the information to come back. With integrated analytics, they can simply type the agent’s number and see everything from how many calls that person has taken in the last hour to what kinds of resources are open on his or her desktop during calls.
- Predictive Intelligence: Another major advantage of capturing and processing all of an organization’s data in one place is the ability to start identifying important patterns. Whether it’s recognizing certain words that come from unhappy customers, or call lengths that result in high agent performance, integrated data can be used to predict answers to any number of business questions. Best of all, the more data an organization can collect and analyze over time, the more they can predict outcomes and take preemptive action to get ahead of negative results before they occur.
Learn more about how to make your customer data work for you.
Publish Date: May 3, 2016 5:00 AM
Why trading your manual spreadsheets for an automated WFM tool is a wise decision!
Rolling out a new workforce-management (WFM) system is scary – I get that! What’s even scarier though is holding on to rudimentary methods in a world where the ways of communication are constantly changing. It just doesn’t cut it anymore…
Picture this: I’m a call-center analyst who’s been working with the same spreadsheet for years. I developed it from scratch, use metrics I need and arrange schedules and rotations myself – time-consuming but nonetheless manageable. Apart from a few loopholes here and there, the forecasts are more or less accurate and nothing has ever been so far off that it has triggered the need for change.
At the 2015 kick-off, my company announced it had decided to explore new territories. As a result, one of the things we had to start with was introduce a whole set of new languages. To test the waters, we started with Arabic…here is hoping Farsi and Urdu will follow at a much later stage! Another challenge was to source a significant number of qualified people in a very short period of time. Little did I know at the time what a nightmare this would turn out to be.
Two months into the job, it became crystal clear that technology enhancements were a must since customers have become more demanding and the workforce more diversified. It became obvious that our agents needed to know the language of our customers so another skill was added to my Excel sheet.
Cover your eyes and ears if you want but here is what I learned over the past year: the truth is automated WFM tools have become a necessity – what, with all the onboarding of new hires, the multitude of agent skills and time zones, challenging service levels and intraday-management requirements.
Choose automation over manual workload
Contact centers, using spreadsheets for years, have gotten too comfortable with the same process in place. With the increase in contact-center demand and high call volumes, it has become almost impossible to fetch historical data from the ACD system for analysis, using spreadsheets. The good news is that a WFM solution integrates impeccably with all ACD systems and uses the historical data to populate real-time information reports. This revolutionizes the manual reporting process: you just plug the data onto your spreadsheets in an instant and save yourself hours of invaluable time.
Whether you’re spending too much time on too few minor tasks or you’ve been operating in static mode, unable to outperform the current work model, a WFM solution will help you maximize your capabilities.
Choose quality over quantity
No company wants to see their top performers head for the door; a strong indication that your organization’s vital signs are not in the best of health. High attrition rates do not behoove organizations and imply that your employee program and retention strategy are poor if not downright failing. Fortunately, WFM tools allow you to dive deeply into employee performance to clearly identify strengths and weaknesses and re-balance skills and preferences.
As an employer, you should know where your resources are allocated in order to create cost- effective teams, based on historical call volumes, skill sets and internal productivity metrics. WFM tools also help distinguish active from passive agents so you’ll know who is to be rewarded and who is in need of training. With automated WFM, adherence and KPIs can also be closely monitored and quickly adjusted – something almost impossible to do manually.
Another key feature of automated WFM is the ability to help team leaders monitor adherence levels, identify where things are wrong and make changes as they go along. The best contact-center leaders are the ones who bring in different personas with multiple functionalities in multiple interactions on multiple devices together. This can only be done using an automated WFM tool – there’s no doubt about it.
Choose efficiency over cost
As a contact-center manager, your biggest fear when investing in a WFM solution may be getting saddled with a bad product that doesn’t deliver on its promise, leaving you with having to pay for unnecessary features. If you consider your contact center too small for such an investment, you may be wrong. It’s been proven that if contact center with more than 50 agents wish to remain competitive, there is no other option but acquire automated WFM – and even more dire when operating across different time zones and in different languages.
Imagine all the hours you’ll be saving on forecasting for both multi-channel and multi-site environments. Think about the beauty of optimized staff utilization: the right agent with the right skill in the right place at the right time. Think about well-informed happy agents that are empowered by work-life balance…and there you have your retaining strategy!
Furthermore, keep in mind that integrating your own workforce analytics with the right WFM tool can create a paradigm shift within your contact center, saving you hours of tedious work only with better benefits.
We tend to get stuck in our ways and we keep on thinking: “Spreadsheets have worked well for me, why change?” It’s high time to change your mentality and put those spreadsheets away. Prevention is better than a cure. Do not wait until your abandon rates skyrocket and you lose all your star performers. Envision the change and roll with it.
Publish Date: April 29, 2016 5:00 AM
Springtime is traditionally a time of renewal, refreshment and rebirth. We think about spring cleaning our homes, offices, cars and anywhere else we have spent a lot of time during the long and often gloomy winter days. And now that spring has sprung we see flowers in bloom, hear birds singing once again, and look forward to spending time learning about our new contact center software and solutions.
According to research recently conducted by my company, Saddletree Research, in conjunction with the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) at The University of Southern Mississippi, spring 2016 will be a time of renewal and refreshment in the contact center as well. At the end of 2015 we interviewed 121 customer service professionals with the objective of understanding what issues were top-of-mind among contact center executives heading into the new year. We presented our subjects with an extensive list of potential contact center issues for 2016 and asked them to choose all that they felt applied to them. Since participants were allowed to select more than one response, total responses will be greater than 100 percent. The top five issues are illustrated in the graph below.
Topping the list of potential issues for 2016 was the creation of a customer experience optimization strategy. More of our participants chose this particular issue than any other, with revising or revisiting key performance indicator (KPI) metrics falling a few percentage points behind. If you look at the second through fifth selections while keeping in mind the issue at the top of the heap; i.e., customer experience optimization, the big picture starts to take shape. Traditional performance metrics, for example, typically focus on agent time-and-motion management rather than on ensuring an optimal customer experience. So, measuring the time it takes an agent to get one customer off the phone so he or she can get on with the next customer call probably won’t encourage an agent to take whatever time might be necessary to ensure a smooth customer communication culminating in first call resolution.
Increasing the home agent workforce broadens the geographic reach of human resources efforts, positively impacting the customer experience. Workforce turnover issues continue to be a problem for the contact center industry and undoubtedly confound any contact center’s efforts to provide an optimal customer experience.
After presenting the list of potential issues to our research participants and asking them to choose all that apply, we presented the same list to them again but this time we asked them to choose only one response. We asked them to choose the one issue that was the most important to them going into 2016. Their responses are illustrated below.
When asked to choose only one major issue, replacing or upgrading older technology solutions was identified by the majority of our study participants. Again, this makes absolute sense given the overall drive to create or improve the customer’s experience. It’s tough to provide a 2016-style customer experience when you’re using circa early-2000s or older technology.
I recently participated in a webinar in which we discussed the process of migrating to an updated workforce optimization (WFO) solution suite. At one point in the discussion we polled audience members regarding the average age of their contact center technology solutions. The result of the audience poll was both surprising and enlightening. I encourage you to watch a replay of the webinar and compare your professional experiences with those of your peers.
In the years to come, I believe that 2016 will be remembered as the year of the technology refresh. As the creation and management of a customer experience optimization strategy continues to evolve as a high priority in the majority of U.S. contact centers, it stands to reason that investments will have to be made in updated technology solutions. As our research project results clearly indicate, it’s time for a spring cleaning in the contact center.
Publish Date: April 26, 2016 5:00 AM
Imagine this scenario, a young woman is walking down the street on her way to work listening to music on her smartphone with her wireless headset while playing on one of her apps. When you think about it, this isn’t some hypothetical story that is hard to imagine. It’s our everyday life. We have become obsessed with our mobile devices. In a 2014 survey of US Consumers, 91% of people say that their mobile phone is just as important as their car and deodorant.
And it makes sense. Our phones are the beginning and end points for navigating through our daily lives. We use our phones as our morning wake up calls, for online banking, to look up information, as appointment reminders and shopping. Given how dependent we have become to mobile technology, you can see how it creates one of our greatest opportunities to reimagine our approach to our customer experience programs.
If you are working on implementing your own mobile customer experience program, here are a few “getting started” tips to help you along your journey:
- Define Your Strategy – Know exactly what you are looking to accomplish. Build your mobile strategy around what’s right for your business and customers, rather than focusing on what’s happening today.
- Understand the Mobile Journey – Technology has made it possible for you to have a 360-degree view of your customers. Having a consolidated view across all touch points (smartphone, web, tablet, applications, challenges) is key to understanding your customer behavior and will insight new strategies.
- Focus on The Mobile Experience – Embrace peer recommendations. Consider establishing online communities to address customer needs. Proving a platform for customers to easily find answers or solve a problem will go a long way for your brand.
- Track Insights – Define your desired outcome and link it back to your business objectives and short-term KPIs. By measuring your progress you will be able to identify strengths and weaknesses that will help shape best practices for your long-term planning.
Hopefully, these tips will prove to be of value to you as you prepare to take the next step in establishing your mobile customer experience strategy. Look for future blogs from me as I explore each of these areas in more detail.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and best practices as I’m sure we all have something to learn from one another.
Thanks for listening and best of luck.
Publish Date: April 22, 2016 5:00 AM
When you close your eyes and imagine a contact center, what do you see? Is it a dim and dusty room filled with rows of headset wearing agents, half-heartedly responding to customer complaints? Or, is it a buzzing and dynamic environment equipped with 21st century customer engagement and analytics technology that empowers businesses to predict customer needs?
If you saw the second scene, welcome to the digital age – and new reality – of the contact center. If you saw the first, it’s time you joined the rest of us.
As companies increasingly adopt an omnichannel approach to customer engagement, new levels of importance are being placed on the contact center’s ability to analyze the data coming from every channel. But, if the cost of going digital still seems to outweigh the benefits to your team, here are three reasons why you should reconsider.
- Given the ubiquity of personal communication channels today—Facebook, Twitter, What’sApp, Slack, and so on – it’s no surprise many customers, especially those who fall into Gen X and Y, are using these same channels to reach out to the companies that they buy from. Gone are the days when a customer’s first instinct was to pick up the phone to contact his or her cable provider or airline carrier. Customers are writing emails, posting on social media and text messaging to get through to your business. Why? For one thing, it’s more convenient. Many have realized it’s faster to “take to the Twittersphere” than to wait on hold or navigate automated menus.
- Analyzing multiple avenues of communication is just the start. The important part is analyzing data across channels, rather than in silos, to develop a complete view of the customer. As a result, companies must be able to analyze and aggregate data from each of these interaction channels to better understand their customers. If they are not, they run the risk of missing valuable insights, leading to poor interaction with customers and customer churn.
- After successfully integrating omnichannel data, the contact center has the opportunity to be seen by executives as a fundamental step on the customer journey. This is important because contact centers can often be ignored when sales and marketing strategy decisions are being made. It’s not that executives don’t consider the information valuable, but that there is a misunderstanding about where the customer journey starts and ends.
The reality is that it doesn’t end. Post-sale data is just as pertinent to pre-sale strategy as audience segmentation. Therefore it’s critical that contact centers make a space for themselves at the table. Without omnichannel contact center data, executives have only a limited view of customers, which can negatively impact a brand’s overarching strategy.
Learn more about how omnichannel is driving contact centers to go digital.
Publish Date: April 20, 2016 5:00 AM
Well, spring is coming to Sweden. The days are growing longer and birds are filling the sky. For those who don’t know me, I fly gliders; that is, airplanes without an engine (gas is way too expensive). It’s a great pastime and to soar across hundreds of kilometers of Swedish landscape like a big plastic eagle is hugely enjoyable. Go check out your nearest gliding club!
Anyway, when I fly, I have a fair number of things to think about. What I focus on at any given time depends on the situation. At start or landing, I tend to look for things on the ground as I want to avoid hitting them but at 1,000 meters, I don’t really care. If I am racing, I tend to look for which route will give me the best lift but if I am flying with someone on their first flight, I tend to pick a route which is quite gentle and not going to result in the use of the plastic bag we always carry with us. I don’t want all the hundreds of pieces of information I could have; just the three or four that will let me quickly make a choice and which helps me with the important business of keeping the green bit below the blue bit.
Similarly, the modern contact center has literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of WFM information available to resource managers. It’s tempting to collect all of this information and throw it at users but does this let them run the business effectively and achieve the goals established? It depends on the situation!
I recently visited a business process outsourcing (BPO) company in Sweden. Each resource manager had three screens with many windows open. Heads were swiveling rapidly as one piece of information was analyzed with another in order to draw a conclusion about a line of action to take. I got tired just watching.
The modern contact center is growing in scope and complexity of tasks expected. This now means that a resource manager is expected to work with a huge range of issues. Decision and actions must take place quickly and need to be made with confidence. WFM vendors are constantly figuring out ways of how they can help with this challenge. We at Teleopti are constantly looking to recruit developers with experience in developing good user interfaces.
Last year, we added more user-configurable filters in several of our views and this month we’ve added more enhancements to real-time-adherence (RTA) information. At the touch of a single switch, a resource manager can quickly see who is not adhering and, with another touch of a switch, an overview of operations is given as well as who is working on what. This can then be combined with multiple text filters. Huge data sets can quickly be reduced to something manageable, then prioritized and sized for a given situation. This then allows managers to focus on achieving business goals rather than spend time trying to understand what is happening. This delivers better results with less effort!
Whilst we have improved several interfaces, there are other areas we could improve. Which ones do you find the hardest to use? If less information were presented, would that be better? Could we show data in a different format, such as a graph, in red or as a notification? Let me know your thoughts via: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And remember…blue side up, green side down; happy landing!
Publish Date: April 15, 2016 5:00 AM
I recently gave a webinar entitled: “Adherence from a strategic and employee perspective.” Adherence is one of the most important KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) of the customer-service industry. My aim then was, and is now, for contact-center managers to understand that decisions about adherence have an impact on forecasted need and attrition, team-leader administration and agent stress levels.
Not making strategic decisions about adherence – or not making the right ones – often leads to sub-optimization and agent discomfort. The areas addressed/recommended here are the following:
- What to think about when deciding on objectives for adherence
- Avoiding unnecessary administration and sub–optimization related to adherence
- When coaching employees, use adherence to increase the service level
- Making adherence a joint concern among resource planners, team leaders and agents
In calculating the service level you want to achieve, two important metrics must enter into the equation: shrinkage and occupancy. Shrinkage is scheduled time not interacting with customers. For occupancy, see the circle diagram further down for clarification.
In the table below, everything being equal, lowering adherence from 95 to 85 percent necessitates an additional 4 FTEs for that 15-minute time interval. If the adherence target is not met, you’ll be understaffed, which translates to too high an occupancy rate, which leads to stressed-out agents, which, in turn, potentially results in agent burnout, higher absenteeism and attrition further on down the road.
Beyond calculating for efficiency and costs, calculating realistic target levels for occupancy and adherence should also be done. In fact, they should be strategic decisions. Why? Because they impact the overall stress levels of your agents, which ultimately affects your entire business – for good or for bad.
Occupancy and adherence
Take the blue square to the right to represent scheduled telephony time. To calculate the percentage of occupancy, divide the green and yellow parts of the circle by the complete circle. For adherence, divide the complete circle by the blue square.
There is no hard-and-fast rule regarding the right occupancy level: it depends on your situation. For example, if you were to have a sales campaign that gave agents the incentive to earn commissions on sales, they’d be highly motivated to respond to as many interactions as possible. In this scenario, they’d want high occupancy (i.e. low wait time). Agents could, in fact, feel stressed out with too low an occupancy rate, waiting for calls!
The reverse scenario is a contact center where nurses deal with medical emergencies. Although a high level of ready time/adherence is generally a good working model, too high an occupancy rate could be a strain for these nurses, leading to understaffing and hence, negative stress. You’d need to plan for an occupancy level that gives enough wait time so nurses can take breaks and catch their breath.
If you’re using an automated workforce-management program, you may notice low adherence for some or many agents in relation to the scheduled adherence target. Don’t just jump the gun and immediately blame those agents in question or worse, fiddle with the schedule – adding activities after the fact to make adherence look better. I’ve seen many team leaders do this. Not only is this costly but it also prevents accurate analysis of identifying the weak spots. Instead, be glad that low adherence is signaling a problem in order for you to be able to come up with constructive measures.
Tackling where it matters
Perhaps a closer look should be taken at your policies and processes. Targets may not be realistic. Furthermore, are resource planners that schedule vacations, activities, etc., leaving enough idle time? Do team leaders, in coaching agents, keep them motivated and aligned with adherence targets? Do they actually help and enable them to adhere? These two entities – planning and operations – must cooperate as a team, working together toward achieving the same goals.
Furthermore, do not use adherence for its own sake. Instead, utilize accurate forecasting and intraday management tools. They are not to be underestimated. Intraday management takes into account the short-term perspective: a schedule is, after all, flexible but changes need to be made before the fact, not after.
Final word of advice – involve your agents!
In all my years of working with contact centers, I cannot understate the importance of including agents in problem solving. We don’t often involve them, yet they’re the ones who often have the best answers. Become more transparent. Share adherence data as self-assessment for agents and in coaching. Make adherence your carrot, not your whip! At Teleopti, we call it scheduling and monitoring – with a human touch. This leads to a spirit of cooperation where agents help improve efficiency.
Share, for example, an actual service-level chart, such as the one depicted to the right, to help them understand the impact of adherence. By letting them be part of the solution, you’ll be amazed how empowered and motivated they’ll feel. I’ve seen it happen again and again! They’ll take actions and find solutions – “We can fix that,” or “We’ll cover the lunch break better,” etc., resulting in a win-win outcome.
Publish Date: April 8, 2016 5:00 AM
Many of us rely on GPS navigation while driving to avoid getting lost on our way to a destination. However, a good GPS isn’t static; it will offer up alternate routes depending on things like traffic and road closures. Essentially, it knows that there is never just one way to get somewhere and it adjusts its strategy accordingly.
In the same way, customers choose to use different channels to meet specific needs they have (conflict avoidance, convenience, speed/immediacy, etc.), just like GPS systems offer different routes to meet specific needs (e.g., convenience, fastest route, avoid tolls, etc.). With companies increasingly adopting this omnichannel approach, new levels of importance are now placed on the contact center’s ability to analyze the data coming from all of those channels in one comprehensive package. By doing so, the contact center can go beyond traditional interaction—it can truly gain a holistic view of their customers and become one of the most effective customer engagement tools in a company’s arsenal.
Given the breadth of modern technology, it only makes sense that customers are interacting with companies using the same channels they use for personal purposes—and that doesn’t always include the telephone. It has evolved to include email, social media and text messaging, so now companies can analyze data from multiple avenues to understand customer behavior.
However, if a contact center looks at each channel’s data in a silo, in turn, the organization has no choice but to look at the contact center’s fragmented data in a silo. If both the contact center and the larger organization continue to take the silo approach, they will miss valuable insights that can drive customer engagement strategies. By failing to make adjustments and changes based on those insights, they risk poor interaction with customers and, ultimately customer churn.
If a contact center can integrate data from all aspects of the omnichannel approach, then the company as a whole has the opportunity to treat the contact center as another step on the customer journey. Post-sale data will affect pre-sale strategies, and the contact center can adjust its efforts by using the most comprehensive view available of customer engagement data. This will then cement the contact center’s importance to the overall organization, not just to the post-sale customer relationship. As more and more data is collected and analyzed, the contact center will become increasingly critical to a brand’s overarching strategy.
While analyzing multiple avenues of communication is a great starting approach for the contact center, it’s not the end of the journey. The important part is analyzing that data across those channels to develop a complete view of the customer—and then rolling those findings up to the greater organization. Not only does this allow the contact center to better understand the customer, it allows the brand to make more informed decisions. By building on their existing omnichannel strategies to include a cumulative view of customer data, the contact center can be more efficient, responsive and accountable. Then, just like a good GPS, a company can adjust and improve strategies while providing the best methods possible for a customer to continue along the journey.
Publish Date: April 5, 2016 5:00 AM
Teleopti signs multi-site deal of the century! Xargquog Tourist Board supported in time-travel tourism drive
Stockholm, April 1, 2016
Today, Teleopti, the world’s leading supplier of workforce-management solutions, signed a supply contract with the Xargquog Tourist Board (XTB) to deliver their advanced, state-of-the-art workforce management solution. This comes in conjunction with the inauguration of their new contact center specifically supporting tourists visiting the Milky Way and earth.
XTB provides tourist support services for a range of destinations and for any desired length of time across the universe. A specially designed Milky Way tour, the Horse Head nebula and the not-to-be-missed Big Bang buffet dinner are just some of the highlights being offered.
Their brand-new contact center, floating on the dark side of the moon and employing some 6,000 sentient beings, will be taking bookings from tourists from some 1,000 worlds for suitable earth accommodation, easily confirmed from their home world via sub-ether voice, hyperspace e-mail and parallel universe chat. They can also book tickets for leading events, including the end of the dinosaurs, the formation of the Himalayas, and, of course, Elvis in Vegas.
The contract, the largest to date in all known universes, will be delivered in incremental phases and is slated to be completed by Sol year 2017. The solution will be hosted in a nebula-cloud solution, allowing XTB access to the latest technology and a secure, robust service.
Cllickk-Pfuir-7-Smith, customer-support manager for XTB, stated, “We were very impressed with the ability of Teleopti to deliver such a large system as well as cope with our special requirements, such as time zones, multi-language skills and complicated union regulations. Our agents are from over 300 different worlds. The flexibility of Teleopti to adapt to our different needs and allow agents to set preferences is very much needed. Happy staff makes happy tourists!”
Teleopti, headquartered in Stockholm on the planet earth in the 21st century, supplies a WFM solution to a wide customer base located in various universes, subdivided by planets, markets and territories.
Publish Date: April 1, 2016 5:00 AM
Most executives know that collecting data is central to making operations efficient. However, the typical data collection systems don’t allow companies to extract the full value from that data. Companies have to stop thinking that collecting and storing data is enough. Whether structured or unstructured, the purpose of data is to extract insights to support more accurate decision making.
Today, data scientists, trained to decode the meaning within the data, are “must haves” for companies that want to uncover new levels of intelligence. Managers and executives, across departments, who don’t yet see data science as critical to corporate strategy will continue to look back at missed opportunities when it’s too late.
Today’s business “FOMO” (fear-of-missing-out) is a high stakes game—if companies don’t get data science initiatives running quickly, they’ll miss out on reduced operational costs, deeper customer engagement, innovation and most importantly—top line growth.
The Data Science Landscape
A LinkedIn study found the number of data scientists has doubled over the past four years. Headcount has increased across all types of industries and departments because data analysis allows managers to look beyond investment risks and base decisions on real trend information from inside the organization. While data science is becoming critical, it’s not necessary to hire a team of scientists—software is becoming more and more sophisticated to help achieve the same results.
There are mobile and web analytics tools on the market like Mixpanel and Looker which support analysts, product managers and engineers in better understanding the performance of their software and how their users engage with them. Kissmetrics is another tool for digital and content marketers to analyze what’s working and what’s not working, to change the user journey and to prompt visitors to click. But that’s just skimming the surface of how data can be used to drive results. From product development, engineering, finance, marketing and beyond, analytics is taking the guess work out of decision making.
The immediate obstacle is in adoption. Making data science an imperative at a company may be a cultural challenge. Changing the way people think about data or hiring people who see data as intel that shares a richer story about a business, is an operational investment, but one that will eventually yield dividends.
The Story of Data
Whether you’re trying to optimize inventory management for ocean freight or to understand a consumer’s decision to purchase one salad dressing over another, data science, at its roots, is really about people. Ultimately, data science strives to understand the human condition and what drives peoples’ behavior. The best way to understand consumer behavior is to analyze customer interactions with speech and text analytics. Measuring the sentiment and emotion in the voice of the customer is a company’s most important step toward putting the customer at the center of corporate strategy.
Sure, every company says they are customer-centric. But it’s not about being “centric.” A company has to be customer conscious, with all of your corporate and digital senses.
As companies undergo digital transformations, data analytics will be the first step toward customer consciousness. As McKinsey noted, companies will be able to “anticipate emerging patterns in the behavior of customers and tailor relevant interactions with them by quickly and dynamically integrating structured data, such as demographics and purchase history, with unstructured data, such as social media and voice analytics.”
Get Wise with Data
Before the growth of data science and machine learning, we were unable to attain customer consciousness, an organization’s ability to think and act as the customer using knowledge, experience, and insight—all powered by data. Management teams now have the opportunity to have more holistic perspectives and evidence-based strategies than ever before.
Customer consciousness is the byproduct of an organization employing data to be more people-centric, and the contact center is the origin of the customer. Speech and text analytics help to catalyze the contact center to becoming a nexus of deeper customer engagement, where innovation is sourced through customer recommendations. With stronger insights, companies also learn how to sell more to existing customer bases.
Companies that understand their customers and what their customers need have an edge over their competition, and venture capitalists are accelerating this demand in the enterprise. As reported in VentureWire, “investors poured a record $572.3 million into customer relationship management, the most ever in a single quarter for the category since Dow Jones Venture began keeping track in 1992.”
When a company leverages a data mart that combines analytics from the contact center, workforce management, CRM systems, website, social media, surveys, product engagement etc., a management team will finally be able to answer some of today’s most complicated questions:
- “Can a company cite trends from its customer interaction data?”
- “How do I understand what is frustrating my customers?”
- “What types of conversations in the contact center lead to higher revenue?”
- “What can we update, feature or iterate on in order to optimize market opportunity?”
Data science is the most accurate way to invest in and reap the benefits of analyzing the customer experience. Companies with the right software and talent can glean insights that not only reduce operational costs, but also inform decisions—heard first from the customer—that alter product development, reaching wider markets and yielding more revenue from existing customers.
The best news yet is that this practice is just beginning, and you’re probably not missing out. Yet.
Publish Date: March 30, 2016 5:00 AM
Jeremy Hamill-Keays, Product Manager, Teleopti reveals the major headaches and explains how a cloud-based approach to WFM has all the answers
With the IT landscape transforming at lightning speed, contact centers must keep up to remain competitive. According to the “Dimension Data 2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report”, “workforce management is one area in which the contact center environment is clearly behind the curve…and losing efficiency.” Surprisingly, 29% of contact centers are still without any sort of workforce management (WFM) systems whatsoever. Even more worrying is that two of the major growth opportunities are sorely neglected: “86% of social media and 79.6% of web chat operations aren’t automating their planning, tracking and monitoring adherence.” That’s before the whole issue of the Cloud comes into the equation!
Many customers are reaping the benefits of deploying cloud-based contact center solutions to manage their customer interactions but what’s stopping them from applying the same approach to their agents’ schedules? Agents are the first point of call and have the power to make, or break, brand and customer loyalty.
Here are the top ten questions that customers ask along with the answers to help create the most efficient contact center ever:
- Q: Does WFM in the Cloud really simplify life?
A: Yes, because someone else implements the technology and takes care of all the hardware, software, upgrades and support saving infinite amounts of time and money. Deployment is rapid and the building block approach means functionalities can be turned on as needed to maximize further efficiencies. Automatic back-ups eliminate worries about disaster recovery and contingency planning. In short, peace of mind.
- Q: Is functionality the same for WFM in the Cloud as on premise?
A: It depends on the vendor and this is where your own investigations are important. Speak to colleagues and their satisfied customers to ‘try before you buy’. Read what industry experts say. Although they’re not in the business to recommend suppliers, they provide an objective overview of some of the top players.
- Q: Aren’t cloud solutions more expensive than premise-based ones?
A: No. The latest solutions mean zero investment in server hardware and software licences and zero investment in operating, supporting and upgrading the same equipment. The majority of users achieve return on investment (ROI) within the first month and significantly lower their total cost of ownership (TCO). What is more, all new functionality, maintenance, innovation and 24/7 support are included in a flat, monthly user fee, paying simply for the number of agents necessary.
- Q: Can I integrate a WFM cloud solution with my current premised-based, contact center infrastructure?
A: Absolutely! The latest systems link effortlessly to existing ACD/CTI solutions using web-based services for smooth, fast collection of data and real-time statistics.
- Q: Are WFM cloud solutions flexible and scalable?
A: Yes, infinitely flexible, they enable contact centers to grow or shrink to meet fluctuating market requirements; not as technology dictates. For example, if seasonal business patterns require extra staff, scalability is the most compelling argument because server capacity can be scaled up and down in a matter of minutes all within the same monthly fee.
- Q: How can I be sure that Cloud is secure from cyber attacks and data theft?
A: Today, WFM cloud providers are established, stable and trusted with sound, proven offerings and security policies in place. The reality is that cloud-based contact center solution vendors continually invest in security and typically offer a more secure IT environment than their premise-based counterparts.
- Q: How do I know if the server capacity and speed of access can handle our needs?
A: While it’s true that the more data there is, the slower the transmission, cloud vendors generally provide more than enough bandwidth for real-time applications, such as voice, and can accommodate anything from 15 to thousands of agents.
- Q: Is the Cloud reliable? If the internet is down, do we lose touch with our schedules completely?
A: If you choose a vendor with superior functionality that works with an equally strong internet provider such as Microsoft, you can’t go wrong. Microsoft runs one of the world’s largest cloud networks, providing more than 3 terabits per second capacity to over 2,000 networks with back-up stored in geographically separated data centers at least 800 kilometers apart.
- Q: What about the legal aspects if the data center is located in another country?
A: Look for a vendor that provides its services over the web to organizations around the world but stores its data in one single country. The vendor should certainly not store sensitive data on its own WFM application.
- Q: What about regulations and compliance?
A: Emerging standards are guiding customers and vendors to comply with governmental and industry regulations but assess the whole IT supply chain. Consider a WFM vendor whose cloud-based 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.
By leveraging cloud-based applications for WFM, unmatched efficiencies, unparalleled flexibility and scalability are gained, as well as the richest features and the latest functionality. What have you got to lose? To find out more download the Teleopti ebook “What’s keeping you from Workforce Management in the Cloud?”
Publish Date: March 18, 2016 5:00 AM
Jeremy Hamill-Keays, Product Manager, Teleopti takes a look at how workforce management fills the gaps
Running a successful contact center means being proactive and not reactive – once the level of service starts to drop it can often snowball, one delay leading to a bigger delay and so on. So it is important to be able to see changes coming, a well-run contact center should always be able to forecast customer demand and schedule the right people to be in the right place at the right time. However, in the light of changing call volumes and agent availability this is not an easy task on a day-to-day basis. While the best laid plans can forecast customer demand there will always be surprises, for example there could be an unexpected change in the weather and then the only guarantee is that the day will not go as planned.
So while it is possible to forecast customer demand it is not possible to be 100% accurate. Likewise it is possible to calculate agent availability and agent absences through illness, training, leave etc but it is not possible to know which agent will be sick and when. As each agent has a specific shift pattern individual absences can sometimes have a marked impact on service. That is why proactive planning is needed and a Workforce Management (WFM) solution which allows you to reschedule during the day taking into account unplanned changes in customer demand and unplanned agent absences is what you are looking for. It is important to be able to schedule agents during the day as well as into the future so make sure your WFM vendor has an intra-day scheduler to deal with this situation. For example perhaps you produce a plan which is 90% correct but then to compensate for the 10% which cannot be planned, it is possible to change break times and lunches or move people between skill groups, front office and back office work, etc. The changes are often only by a few minutes but those small changes can make all the difference between meeting service levels during peaks and losing valuable calls.
To many agents and not enough enquiries AKA a trough
Having too many agents and not enough enquiries is a luxury contact centers cannot afford – literally! If a contact center is regularly overstaffed during quiet periods it suggests that something is wrong with its strategic forecasting and scheduling. In this case the trick is to try and get it right the first time which means the WFM solution helps to create an accurate forecast leaving the rest of the time to manage exceptions. If this balance is not correctly achieved even with the best WFM solution in the world, time will be spent firefighting on the day.
If on the other hand there is the odd day when the contact center is overstaffed, then there is always the opportunity to move agents onto other tasks for example outbound calling, social media or to spend time on additional training or other activities.
The art of avoiding peaks and troughs is to recognize that running a contact center involves two processes. The first is strategic planning to try and get it right first time. Secondly, to recognize that there will always be a margin of error and to manage that within each day. Both of these processes are equally as important. Therefore the ideal is to work with a well-designed forecast and schedule but be able to fine tune the resources during the day to ensure service targets are consistently met at minimum costs.
Publish Date: March 11, 2016 5:00 AM
Providing the best customer experience possible is at the top of every company’s priority list. Brands know that customers want personalized, proactive service that validates their purchase decision. Customers want brand interaction to be seamless and easy, and brands know that they risk losing their competitive advantage if they fail to deliver.
With this pressure mounting, it is important to realize that you can – and should – lean on your vendors to provide you with the tools and services you need to both meet and exceed customer expectations. In the contact center, it’s your job to respond to customer queries in a timely manner – and we believe that your contact center systems providers should do the same for you.
If your vendor isn’t hosting user groups or soliciting your suggestions, it may be time to start shopping. This feedback should roll right up into innovation. Two-thirds of Calabrio product enhancements are a result of direct customer feedback.
The WFO space has been traditionally characterized by high-cost systems accompanied by poor service. If this isn’t a business model you would use for your own organization, there is no reason you should accept this from your vendor. The best relationships are partnerships based on trust and commitment earned through actions, not just words.
Even when some vendor relationships don’t feel much like a partnership, many contact centers feel there is no means of escape because of complex upgrades or expensive contracts. If this describes your organization, the best course of action may be to conduct a Total Cost of Ownership analysis to truly understand both the hard and soft costs of your vendor relationship. You might find that switching vendors, even mid-contract, may actually be more cost-effective in the long run – even if the upfront costs seem daunting.
The key is to gather the right information and insights needed to make the right decision for your organization. That’s why we’ve created this TCO ebook. We like to think of it as a first step in showing our commitment to you so you can start asking the right questions and getting the answers you deserve.
At Calabrio, we believe our customers are our greatest assets. We truly want to earn your business each and every day, so by equipping you with this tool, we hope you’ll feel you can rely on us the way your customers rely on you.
Download our TCO ebook.
Publish Date: March 8, 2016 5:00 AM
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