When done right, customers can find an IVR system immensely useful. However, when set up improperly an IVR system can be extremely frustrating for customers.
We have all experienced these situations. You call to book a simple appointment and are all of the sudden loss in an endless maze of questions, passwords, and detail retrieval. This one frustrating experience alone is enough to turn people from a satisfied, loyal customer, to one who has one foot out the door.
Surely there is a better way to set up a user-friendly automated answering system?
Of course there is!
Rather than relying on a limited menu system, natural language IVR systems allow customers to answer open-ended questions such as “How can I help you?”. Unlike traditional IVR systems, natural language recognizes phrases that are natural for the customer to use and can ask follow-up questions or connect the customer to the appropriate agent or self-service system.
When utilizing a menu system, it is tempting to offer a variety of different choices. It can easily feel like you are helping your customers by giving them this wide variety of options. However, in reality, all of these options just lengthens the call and can be extremely confusing. In fact, when presented with a long list people find it more difficult to choose the category that best suits them remember which number corresponds to which category.
Your motto should be less is more. In order to keep options simple, it is best to present your caller with no more than 3-5 broad category options that reflect the most common inquiries. As the call progresses, you can then divide the categories into more specific branches. Remember the motto though. Less is more. Having too many steps can be just as confusing and frustrating as having too many menu options.
In addition to keeping your menu options simple, it is important to put the most frequently used options at the beginning of the list. This means doing research to find out why customers call in to contact you and prioritizing your menu options on these results.
Your caller will be aware that they are interacting with a computer, there is no hiding that. However, a personalized greeting message can really make a difference and give your interactive voice response system a more human touch. When recording, your voice artist should aim for a conversational tone that sounds natural. Don’t overuse “OK” and “thank you” as that can wind up sounding very phony and computerized.
Automated answering systems are long enough. For this reason, it is important to avoid unnecessary messaging like “your call is very important to us”. Most IVR openings include an introductory message that clearly identifies the company. This is fine, but make sure that this message is short and to the point. It should be no more than 7 seconds. Don’t waste time with marketing messages. Instead, save those messages while the caller is in the queue.
Even the best-designed IVR systems cannot serve all callers. Because of this, it is important to let them a caller get to a live person at any stage of the call. Or if a live person is not an option, at least give them an option to request a callback.
In order to respect your caller’s time, it is important to give them the capability to skip ahead and choose their option at any point. This is particularly crucial for longer menu options. Forcing a caller to wait until the end of the menu options list leads to unhappy, frustrated customers.
These days, not everyone wants to talk on the phone. Particularly if your customers fall into the younger demographic. We recommend providing an interactive text messaging “IVR” option in addition to your traditional phone IVR.
Depending on where you live and who you serve, a multi-language IVR system could be a must. This kind of IVR system could be built with plenty of self-service features and reduce the need to hire alternate language staff to handle calls. When choosing your voice talent for alternate languages, be sure you are utilizing a native speaker for the best results.
After you go live with your IVR system, it is important to regularly review your setup. Review your IVR abandonment rate, first call resolution rates, and customer satisfaction levels to see where your process and messaging could improve.
As a leader in speech technology, we have worked with businesses of all types and sizes to deliver next-generation interactive voice response systems that customers prefer to use. If you are committed to creating a user-friendly IVR system from the get-go, we are here to help.
Publish Date: May 10, 2021 9:02 PM
As we have previously discussed, text messaging can be a valuable tool for your customer service team and your entire company. From the convenience to the low cost to the flexibility, texting has made its way to the mainstream when it comes to communication between customers and businesses.
With all that being said, there are situations where we would advise against using text messaging and use alternative forms of communication with your customers. Let’s take a look at a few.
When you don’t want personal information floating out there forever. If something is sent via text, there is a strong chance that the information will be stored somewhere indefinitely (particularly if the storage of text communications is something you have set up on your business side, but also with regards to the information that is stored on a customer’s device). This is great for you to review customer contacts, track commonly asked questions, and research customer history. But what about personal information like social security numbers and passwords? It is best if that type of information is not stored in more places than it has to be. For situations where a customer will have to communicate personal information, it is better to stick with more traditional methods.
When you don’t trust your staff to reply with sound responses. What if you are not confident that your customer support team will be able to communicate in a professional tone over text? Some new hires or disgruntled employees may fall into this category. A well-formulated script can always be developed that staff can copy/paste to use while learning the ropes. But with humans, there is a possibility that they go off script and react to a nasty text from a customer by sending something that could be used against your business (i.e., the customer screenshots it and posts everywhere).
Sensitive conversations require a certain amount of empathy from the staff member. Sometimes the tone of a text can be lost by the person reading it. Is the sender joking? Being sarcastic? Downright serious? And often responses from businesses to customers stick to the facts and lack emotion. Knowing that it’s easy to see there may be times when texting just isn’t enough for your customers, and a phone call or video call be in order. This could circumstances involving an account of a deceased family member, issues arising after a disaster strikes someone’s home, or when an issue has persisted after more than one complaint.
Still have questions as to whether or not texting is a viable solution for your business? Give us a call. We’ll be happy to explore your current setup and discuss ways incorporating texting into your customer communications could improve the quality and productiveness of your business.
Publish Date: May 10, 2021 7:57 PM
One of the best ways to make your customers happier, relieve some stress on your employees, and make your business more efficient is to utilize chatbots during your non business hours. By offering a chatbot to your customers throughout your off hours, customers can get the answers and support they need on their schedule. The number of employees needed for after hours support is reduced, meaning less odd hour schedules. And by giving certain types of support during off hours, customers who need to actually speak with a representative during normal business hours will get through quicker, as call are now spread out over 24 hours instead of 8 to 12.
If you have decided that intelligent virtual assistants and chatbots are the perfect complement to your customer service team, the next step is to plan out what they will actually support with. After your business closes and before it opens again the next day, what are some of the most popular things that chatbots help your customers?
First, chatbots can continue to answer general questions your customers may have. Any answers that have been programmed ahead of time are ready to be sent to customers who ask. Many companies start with the question and answer sheets that representative use, and then they will ask all employees for the most common questions they receive. This is an ongoing process, but once a question/answer pair is programmed into the chatbot customers will be able to get their answer any time, day or night.
Bots can also be integrated with data sources to provide specific information to customers. This could include the status of a customer’s service (i.e., is it in progress or completed), the making or cancelling an appointment, and even reordering a product.
Let’s take a doctor’s office for example. Sometimes a patient gets sick in the middle of the night and needs to see the doctor first thing in the morning. Rather than wait to call when the office opens the next day, they could use a bot to check for openings and setup the appointment immediately. This allows the patient to get a little more rest, and it does not require additional staff for the doctor’s office.
Certain troubleshooting issues your customers may be having during off hours can be remedied by a chatbot. This is definitely something many customers would appreciate. From password resets to interactive problem-solving applications that are industry- and product-specific, there are plenty of common troubleshooting issues that can be solved without a human representative on the other end of the line.
Ready to explore the benefits can provide your business after hours? Give us a call. DiRAD is excited to partner with you to plan and develop an innovative chatbot to improve the customer experience you are offering.
Publish Date: May 10, 2021 7:48 PM
The way that businesses and customers interact is always evolving. From face-to-face meetings to ordering products by mail to online forms, each step was seen as an improvement in some way by both customers and businesses.
And it’s no different with the next step – Business Text Messaging. In today’s day and age, communication between a business and a customer can effectively be done via SMS/text messaging. In fact, many on both sides of the conversation actually prefer to communicate this way.
Business texting can improve customer service, consulting, and negotiating. Any number of conversations that would traditionally be done over a phone line can be had via text.
It can be done from one mobile device to another, which is very convenient for small companies and startups. But the beauty of business texting is that text messaging services can be set up to go through your main phone number to someone at a computer. No new equipment is necessary.
The ability for employees to correspond with multiple customers at once. With text interactions, when there is a line of communication open between a customer and an employee, that does not restrict the ability of other customers to reach you. Text interactions allow any employee to correspond with multiple customers at once, without making the client feel like they are going to wait on hold too long.
Lower costs and resources to manage a support team. With the ability for employees to have multiple text messaging chains active simultaneously, you don’t need as many people to handle the phones. If you can guide your customers to engage with your business over text, it becomes cheaper for you.
Easy archiving. Texts are stored in applications like the one DiRAD offers. You can run reports and track interactions in an instant. Customers may also save the texts (even if for a short period of time), so they can reference your response instead of having to call back again.
Customers enjoy the convenience of texting a business. In today’s world, everybody is busy. Finding a dedicated window of time to call and possibly wait on hold is sometimes impossible. Giving customers a texting option so they can shoot you a message with their questions and concerns allows them to go about their day, knowing that an answer will be there when they look at their text messages later.
Text solutions can include popular apps that consumers use. Being able to communicate with your customers on messaging apps they typically use (i.e., Whatsapp and Twitter) only increases the probability they will use it, allowing you to provide a positive customer experience.
Text solutions offer the ability for more comprehensive communications. In addition to the messages themselves, communications via text can include attachments such as photos (i.e., a pic of the problem a customer is having), forms (i.e., the form the customer is looking for), or marketing materials.
Are you excited about the opportunities that text messaging can bring to your business? Do you have ideas of your own that you are planning to use texting for? Whatever the situation, when you are preparing to introduce a texting solution to your customers, contact DiRAD. Our professionals will help you develop a plan and figure out the best way to implement it within your company.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:54 PM
Your company or organization just invested in a new, state-of-the-art Emergency Notification System. You worked with your vendor to set it up and are feeling good about the time and resources you put into this very important project. Moving forward, should any type of emergency arise, all who need to know will be notified in seconds and they will know how to respond to the message, right?
Possibly, but in order to make sure the new system does what you want and expect it to do, you need to test it. So where do you start?
After the system is set up and enabled, it is a good idea to test it to a small subset of your audience. You can start with testing to the team that worked on the new system, but eventually testing to a small group that is representative of your total audience (members of different departments, people in different office buildings, customers in different areas) will allow you to see the system in action on a more realistic level.
Once the system runs clean to your small group, it’s time to test it for everyone. This is very important. We know you don’t want to be an inconvenience to users, but every system needs to be thoroughly tested with all users and all methods (voice, email, SMS). You need to find out if there are any holes in the system during a test, and not wait to find out during a real emergency. Everyone and endpoint should be tested.
Some of the top things that you should be testing for include:
With every test of your system, run it through all the channels you plan on utilizing in a real emergency, including email, phone calls, texts and push notifications.
Ideally, when you test your new Emergency Notification System you would do so under the most realistic circumstances possible. Don’t give anyone a head’s up that it is coming. Don’t wait for a day or time that you think is most convenient to your users. Just go ahead and test the system. But we understand that some organizations may not be able to test the system in this manner.
Many organizations will give users a head’s up that at some point in the future the new Emergency Notification System will be getting a test run, but they do not specify a time or date. This type of massage can be useful because it can include important information, including:
A warning message like this will also get users talking about the system, and if, after a while, they do not receive an emergency message, they will let you know. This can help bring holes within the system (i.e., rooms in the building where WiFi does not reach – so emergency notices do not get to any users there) to your attention.
It’s important to keep in mind that if there are any hiccups with your Emergency Notification System, they are most likely to be uncovered when testing is done as if there is a real emergency (i.e., unannounced, to all users), or during an actual emergency. That is why even the person kicking off the notification should be surprised and given only a few minutes to start the process. This uncovers delays and improvement areas, such as if the person has the login information readily available, or if she has to go find it.
Mass Notifications & Alerts
Custom-designed notification systems communicate urgent messages across all channels, to any number of people.
To make sure you learn the most about your new system, test it at an unexpected time. The less obvious the time is, the more likely users will be involved in normal situations, which will provide the best feedback for how effective the system is set up.
One caveat: we do not recommend testing a non-emergency system at inconvenient times for customers. For example, if you are testing the system to your customer base, don’t have texts or phone calls go out at times when they are sleeping or on holidays. They will definitely not appreciate being interrupted.
When testing your system, users definitely need to know that what they are receiving is a test. That should be obvious from the moment the message starts (whether with a headline that reads “THIS IS ONLY A TEST” or a voice recording that states the same).
But the message should also contain information that is as close to what a real-life emergency message would have. By doing this you can check to see how the message actually is received by users (i.e., if the messages are being truncated into multiple messages). You also want to test responses, as well as texts to people in every part of the building, different buildings, or different cities.
It’s a good idea to use a system that allows people to acknowledge the system. This way you can collect data on how people are using it (i.e., who is receiving messages, how quickly are they responding).
The last bit of advice for those tasked with setting up and managing an Emergency Notification System – make sure your new system has an emergency ‘STOP’ on it. You want to have the ability to cease an outbound campaign immediately for any reason. This could be that the wrong message was sent, the emergency has ended, or that it was going to the wrong users.
Is it time for your organization to update its Emergency Notification System? Have questions regarding what may be the best system for you? Give DiRAD a call. We’re happy to walk you through how today’s technology can be an important part of your organization’s entire emergency plan.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:51 PM
Has it been 10 or more years since your contact center designed? Are you hearing from your customers and employees that others are doing customer service and support better than you? Then now is the perfect time to take a look at what new systems and features are available to businesses that allow them to provide a customer experience (CX) that meets and exceeds what today’s customer expects.
A decade is a long time in business, particularly these last 10 years. As you can imagine, a lot has changed when it comes to what a contact center can do for companies and their customers. Here are some of the most popular contact center features that you may be missing out on if it's been a while since you upgraded yours.
Contact Center Technology
Take customer service to the next level with an adaptable contact center & live answering solutions.
How does your contact center solution stack up to these latest features and benefits? If your current support level doesn’t offer these services (and more) then it is time to research how you can improve the customer experience you offer.
In fact, at this point in time, most customers have come to expect these capabilities (and more) from the businesses and organizations that they interact with. Although the new technology can be viewed as disruptive by businesses, it is disruptive in a good way in the eyes of consumers. Appointments can be made in the middle of the night through text. Queries can be answered through Internet-enabled devices while driving just by speaking. Whatever the channel, with whichever device the consumer prefers. That’s where it is headed, and in many ways, we are already there. So if your contact center is still using the same technology and same processes as it was a decade ago, modernization is going to be needed soon in order to deliver the CX your customers expect.
Are you ready to upgrade the customer experience your business can offer through your contact center? Connect with DiRAD today. Our experienced team will be happy to discuss what the goals of your business are, and how today’s contact center solutions can help you achieve them.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:44 PM
For years one of the reasons companies have held off switching from traditional landlines to VoIP technology was that landlines are about as reliable as you can get. While that may be true, the days of VoIP being unreliable are behind us. And the benefits VoIP technology offers have led to a shift, with many successful businesses choosing VoIP over landlines.
If you are part of a business that has not switched over to VoIP, there may be good reasons. But with the advancements made to the technology and infrastructure, reliability is not one of them. Take a minute to understand just how reliable VoIP can be:
Is your business ready to make the switch to VoIP and enjoy all of its benefits? Or is your company just getting off the ground and you want to learn more about the benefits and reliability of VoIP technology? Give us a call. DiRAD will consult with you on your bandwidth needs and the size of the project you are trying to implement. We work with businesses across the country as a trusted adviser to ensure the next phone system employed is the right phone system for your needs.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:40 PM
Call center benchmarking is key to managing an efficient call center operation. Not only will the metrics help you save money on your bottom line, but they will also ensure your team is performing optimally, and help you to stay compliant with best practices, and keep up with the competition. By analyzing the data, call center managers can spend their time and energy on making the changes that will have the greatest impact.
Service level is the percentage of calls that are answered within a predefined time. You can calculate this percentage by adding the calls answered within the predefined time and calls abandoned within the threshold, divided by the sum of the total calls answered and abandoned. Then multiply by 100 to get a percentage value.
Average Speed to Answer:
This metric measures the average amount of time for calls to be answered by an agent during a specific time period, including the time callers are waiting in a queue. Obviously, the lower this number the better. No one likes waiting on hold when there is an issue. In fact, according to a study by Velaro, about 60% of customers won’t wait on hold for more than one minute.
This call center KPI measures the number of callers that hang up before an agent answers. A high abandonment rate number suggests an issue in your process and is worth evaluating further. Typically, people will abandon a call because of how long it takes to reach a human. This could be due to a complicated menu system, or not enough staff to handle the call volume.
Accuracy of Call Forecasting:
This metric measures the difference between the number of calls predicted to arrive during a specific timeframe and the actual number of calls that arrived during the timeframe in a call center. Basically, it measures the ability of call center managers and directors to accurately forecast inbound call volumes. How accurate (or inaccurate) you are will affect other call center performance benchmarks. For instance, if the actual call volume is above the forecasted number, customer service levels will suffer. This means your average speed of answer and abandonment rates will increase. If the number is well below forecasted levels, your call center will be overstaffed, which should result in great customer service, but it also means you are spending more on labor than you should.
Adherence to Schedule:
This metric looks at an agent’s degree of compliance with their assigned schedule. Adherence to schedule is measured by taking the total time a call center agent is available and dividing it by the time they are scheduled to work. A high deviation from schedules indicates you are losing some serious revenue in your business.
This KPI measures the amount of time agents are on live calls & completing work associated with calls. This metric can be used by call center managers to determine whether the call center is overstaffed or understaffed, and how effective the service is. Unusually low or high occupancy rates can be problematic. Low occupancy rates suggest you are overstaffed, while high occupancy rates could be an indication that volume is too high and quality might be suffering.
This KPI measures the time agents are speaking with customers on the phone. Shaving time off your call center duration often means saving money; however, lower call durations are not always great. In fact, it can be an indication that your reps are not giving complete information and could lead to expensive callbacks and a lower customer satisfaction rating.
Call Wrap-Up Time:
How long it takes an agent to complete all work associated with the call once the call has ended. This KPI is important as it helps to determine how much interaction is actually customer-facing. Some typical culprits for long call wrap-up times are slow computer systems and poor training.
This measures the number of days lost per year due to agents being out. Agents are human, so last-minute call-ins due to emergencies or illnesses are to be expected. However high agent absenteeism can have a big impact on the quality of service.
This measures staff turnover annually. Attrition is higher in call centers compared to other industries. However, a high agent turnover can seriously cost your organization. It is not cheap to recruit and train new agents. If you are experiencing high agent attrition, it is time to look at your recruiting and training processes and overall call center culture in order to better retain agents and reduce costs.
This KPI requires you to conduct customer surveys to measure their satisfaction. This is a good way to judge whether your agents are delivering poor or high-quality customer experiences. Call center managers should analyze satisfaction surveys and make adjustments as needed to ensure that customers are getting the best experience possible.
First Call Resolution:
First call resolution is an important benchmark that measures the percentage of all calls where issues were resolved on the first attempt. This KPI not only helps to measure customer satisfaction but also measures your agent’s efficiency. Ultimately this KPI is an important factor in call center profitability.
If your call center is performing below these benchmarks, it is time to make some changes! With 20 years of experience in call and contact center implementation, DiRAD Technologies is here to help. Give us a call at 518-438-6000 or send us a note to chat about the areas you would like to improve.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:39 PM
When it comes time to analyze your company’s communication systems (including phone systems) and how they impact the bottom line, where should you start? What costs should you look at? How do find out how they impact revenue?
At DiRAD we can help you make the important decision as to which communication tools are going to help your business succeed in the next 5 to 10 years.
A great first step is to take a look at what the costs of your current systems are, so you know what you are spending. What are your monthly costs and annual costs (for support, maintenance and service) that are part of your contract? Are there any additional fees you might have to pay for onsite service or in order to grow?
You will also want to be aware of some of the costs that may not be so easy to calculate, but can be a drag on the success of your business:
In today’s day and age you will also want to take a look at what people are saying on social media about your company’s customer service. Are people complaining about things like:
It’s scary to think of how many customers companies lose just because they didn’t pick up the phone. A new communication system can help keep better track of all incoming and outgoing calls, as well as offer other, more convenient alternatives for customer to reach you (i.e., chatbots for after hour calls).
VoIP Phone Systems (Nextphone)
Locally-supported & cost-effective VoiP phone service Capital Region businesses trust.
If you have a good grasp of what your current expenditures are you can easily pinpoint where savings will come in when switching from a traditional phone carrier to a modern Internet based communication system. With a new VoIP system, there doesn’t have to be any additional capital costs, because you really do not need phones. For each employee, a USB headset that connects to their computer will work just fine. If your company does want to have phones for employees and workstations, they can be set-up, and the cost, if any, would depend on the number of phones and the type of phone required.
The question that comes up at this point is typically “Why does it cost so much money to make calls from our phones, but if we use VoIP, it doesn’t cost more?” The most direct part of the answer comes down to Trunking.
Trunking is the term that describes the incoming phone lines that connect to the telephone poles outside. Customers are paying for phone lines every month, whether they use them or not. This includes a number of tariffs and taxes. With a VoIP business phone system you no longer need that connection. Everything rides the Internet which most businesses already have a connection to. And while there are typically some fees for VoIP, they aren’t as pervasive as the tariffs and taxes associated with phone lines.
SIP Trunking is another alternative that can save companies money. Essentially SIP Trunking is an internet-based pipe that can be used with your old phone system. It most cases this can dramatically reduce monthly trunking costs.
With VoIP, businesses no longer have to pay for yearly support on their phone systems. It’s included in their subscription.
But there are other areas where companies who use VoIP save money because of the advantages that VoIP offers. On the extreme side of things many companies have found that by switching they are able to save on the cost of office space (or at least downsize the footprint of their physical office space). Today’s technology makes it very easy for employees to work from anywhere. This saves on real estate, equipment costs, power and improves employee morale. Some startups do not even invest in a typical office these days.
An example of the savings can be found right here at DiRAD. Many of our call center agents work from home, some even a few states away. They all have the same technology and access to the same information that agents based in our office do. No special setup is needed – they just login and put on their headset.
With a new unified communication system companies often see savings due to less IT infrastructure/overhead needed, as well as the consolidation of tools that occurs because not as many different programs are needed.
Chatbot & Virtual Assistants
Utilize chatbots with AI-driven conversational speech capabilities to enhance your customer service offerings.
Employees can be more productive and plan their schedules more efficiently with an updated system. Instead of getting up and walking down the hall (or a few flights of stairs) to talk to someone, unified solutions provide “presence” for employees to use. Presence is the ability to see who’s available, at their desk, on a phone call, in a meeting, out of the office, or some other status. Now employees can figure out when to schedule a quick meeting. Presence also improves accountability, as all employees will be aware of what others are doing.
With a properly designed unified communications system used by employees who are trained on using it, the customer service experience will be better. Whether it comes from business texting, AI-driven chatbots, or a 24/7 outsourced contact center, by giving customers a way to find the answers they need when they need them through the method of their choosing, you are deepening the relationship with your customers. As potentially unsatisfied customers are turned into more and more satisfied customers, additional revenue will be generated. That will either come from those customers directly or the customers they refer to your business.
From a cost perspective, if you can calculate that your company would break even by switching to a new solution, it may be time to make a change. But even if you can’t get to break even with the hard numbers, the soft benefits mentioned above (i.e., improved customer service and productivity, knowing your company is in a better position should an emergency arise) add up quickly and often make switching an easy decision for companies.
Still have questions? Is your current phone contract coming to an end? Want to know more about what new technologies and options are available for your company to use as a unified communication solution? Give us a call. DiRAD is always happy to discuss what the best options are for companies, as well as when a good time to switch may be.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:37 PM
Chatbots are an exciting technology that offers businesses across a wide variety of industries unique solutions for interacting with customers. The advancement in chatbot technology has been very exciting for business owners and tech geeks alike. However, what is yet to come is far more exciting! Check out this chatbot trends infographic to get a glimpse of the future of chatbots:
As chatbots become more mainstream we can expect businesses to leverage chatbots for more advanced functions. Below are 4 advances in chatbots that we think all businesses should be aware of.
Currently, natural language processing is what tells a chatbot that “Hello” is a standard greeting, and to respond appropriately. It can also interpret your messages and understand the intent of your messages. For example, it can differentiate between a question or a statement. These seemingly trivial details have a profound impact on the chatbot’s ability to successfully converse with a user.
However, at this stage of the game chatbots can still misunderstand the nuances of human communication. Small differences in speech patterns, utilizing slang, accents, and more can make programming Natural language processing chatbots very difficult. Combine that with the fact that many words have different meanings and it can be difficult for a chatbot to decipher the correct meaning of user interaction.
Expect chatbots to continue improving and perfecting their understanding of natural language. Utilizing voice interface capabilities, sentiment analysis, and advanced speech processing, the chatbot user experience is continuously improving.
Chatbots are developed in one of three ways: retrieval-based, generative, and generative + retrieval.
Retrieval-based chatbot development means the bot is trained to rank the best response from a set of predefined responses. These responses can be entered manually or based on a knowledge base of pre-existing information. Retrieval-based bots are able to answer questions about store hours, status on orders, etc… very easily and are the most common type of chatbot.
Generative-based chatbot development is when a chatbot is trained using a large number of previous conversations. The chatbot generates a response to the user based on this bank of past interactions. Generative models are good for conversational chatbots, however, responses might be arbitrary and not make a lot of sense.
Generative + Retrieval-based chatbot development is a mixed model that takes the best of both worlds. The generative model helps to improve small talk capabilities, while the retrieval bases system helps to resolve support queries and provide information.
In the future, you can expect chatbot development to be fine-tuned with human and machine intelligence to create machine learning models. Once this becomes the new norm you will start to see self-learning chatbots that can take on more and more functions successfully.
Each industry has unique needs and goals to fulfill, so it should be no surprise that industry-specific chatbots are in demand. For instance, chatbots for real estate are currently leveraging artificial intelligence to guide buyers through the home search process with conversational language and MLS data. This industry-specific trend will only continue. Expect increased chatbot specializations that provide solutions to industry-specific needs.
67% of US millennials said they are likely to purchase products and services from brands using a chatbot so it is no surprise that Alexa can add items to your Amazon shopping cart. Mastercard even launched a chatbot just for customer payments that is capable of answering account balance questions, set payment alerts, and collect final payments from customers. While shopping chatbots are in their infancy, you can expect these to become more mainstream as improvements in functionality and security make these bots more dependable and accessible to users.
It is important to understand what these advances in chatbot development can mean for your business. The last thing you want to do is be outdone by your competitors. If you have not considered a chatbot strategy for your business, it is time to give DiRAD a call or send us a note. Our experienced professionals will be happy to discuss how the next generation in chatbots can help your business stay ahead of the competition and achieve your goals.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:35 PM
Imagine having an unlimited number of employees who are available all day every day to help your customers with their questions and support-related issues, all with no waiting, on the device of the customers’ choosing. And in their language, whatever that may be. That’s basically what Chatbots can provide. They can completely change how your business interacts with your customers, and add value to ordinary interactions.
The biggest benefit of Chatbots to businesses and customers is that the bot is available all day every day, and it is not just limited to one bot at a time. Many copies of the bot can run at once so customers never have to wait to “speak” to someone.
This means that businesses are able to offer pseudo-live customer service 24x7x365. Obviously, this helps customers because it offers them support exactly when they need it. And it benefits businesses because they’re not paying employees to speak with the customers every hour of every day. If your business serves customers who speak different languages, your bots can be programmed to accept queries and respond in multiple languages. So Spanish speaking customers are able to get the support they need even if you do not have a Spanish-speaking employee working at the time.
In today’s world, many people would rather text to get their answers than to speak with a live customer service rep. Why not give them this opportunity? Chatbots can be set up on websites, to respond to texts, and interact with users on social media messaging like Facebook Messenger, Kick, and WhatsApp. Your chatbot is also able to converse with callers on the phone, using natural language recognition to interact with the customer. By giving customers access to your support services through the devices they are most comfortable with, you are providing an added value to them. And by communicating with customers through chat and text bots, the entire conversations are preserved, meaning the history of those interactions are available should a live employee need to pick up the service ticket at any point (no need for the customer to retell the situation, further frustrating them).
It’s not just the scope and availability Chatbots offer that is leading to their adoption by many businesses across the globe.
Chatbots have the potential to be more accurate with their answers. Answers to queries are programmed into the bots, so what is entered is presented to the customer in exactly that manner. We use the following scenario to illustrate where this can be very useful:
A potential customer is on your website on a Friday, and opens the chatbot to quickly find out when your physical store or office opens the following morning. A Chatbot will be able to instantly output the time for the site visitor to see. A human answering the query may not always remember that tomorrow is Saturday, and that on Saturdays the opening time is one hour later. It is a very innocent mistake, but one that can be avoided with a Chatbot.
There are countless scenarios like this that play out on a daily basis. And although it does not seem like a big deal to most businesses, to that customer who received the wrong information it can mean the difference between being a satisfied customer to being a former customer.
The sheer volume of information that a Chatbot can manage is basically limitless. As long as it is trained with all the expected questions and answers (and intents), over time a Chatbot can be as knowledgeable as your highly-trained and experienced support staff. By incorporating all the institutional knowledge that your staff members have accrued through the years, your support team will be as strong as ever even when employees retire, move on to different positions, or leave the company altogether.
The speed of Chatbots is amazing as well. They are capable of looking up and digesting information in real-time, whereas a human might have to reference other materials (whether online or offline), find out what the best answer to the query is, and interpret it for the customer. As long as the question being asked has a corresponding answer in the Chatbot’s database it would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) for a human to provide a result quicker than a bot.
A properly trained and programmed Chatbot will have an answer for everything a customer would need to know about. And a Chatbot that can answer all your customers' questions is what you should strive for. But the training and programming it takes to get there uses up time, energy, and other resources. Understanding what it will take to deliver the type of bot that your business needs before you start development on it are very important. That holds true whether you are building a Q&A bot that uses static knowledge or an interactive, “intelligent” bot that integrates with your data sources, calendars, or proprietary systems. Both bots are designed to ingest text in many different ways (Natural Language Recognition), so a customer doesn’t have to say/type an exact match to get the right answer. But building an interactive bot takes a lot more time to develop.
Understanding Voice/Sound: Chatbots are improving their voice interface capability, implementing sentiment analysis and advanced speech processing to continuously improve the caller experience. Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa are examples of a continuous improvement process based on the millions of audio samples received every day.
Answering Unexpected or Strange Queries: It’s also impossible right now to program a bot to provide all the help a “domestic human” could. If a customer asks about a Chatbot’s family, it is unlikely that an acceptable answer can be delivered. That doesn’t mean designers aren’t getting closer. As developers come up with new ways to connect information and leverage the ever-expanding volume of Internet data, stumping a bot is getting more difficult by the day.
Speed: If Chatbots can provide customers the information they need fast it can only help your business. Some of today’s Chatbots provide almost instant answers to most questions. Sometimes there is an unnoticeable lag in response, but soon they will have the answer before you’ve finished your question.
Want to learn more about what a Chatbot can do for your business? Have a problem you think a virtual assistant can help solve and want to talk it out? Give DiRAD a call or send us a note. Our experienced professionals will be happy to figure out how the next generation of Chatbots can be a key to your successful business.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:33 PM
Many professionals tasked with upgrading their business’s phone system do not have a background in communications technology, and may not even know where to start. There is a lot of confusion in the industry, and it can take lots of research to figure out exactly what you may need.
To help out anyone who is tasked with improving their business phone system, we have developed this guide to make the process easier.
As we get started, let’s define what is meant by a ‘business phone system’. A business phone system is a system of phones that are connected and offer features that would not be found if someone just installed a collection of phones in the office. These features could include conference calling, call transferring, forwarding, and call stat reports. Many of today’s systems (including VoIP systems) use the Internet for calls versus traditional telephone lines.
For over 100 years, if you wanted to make or receive calls from your business office, a landline was probably the only option you had. This was THE technology that connected homes and businesses around the world. With a landline, a person needs to be physically at the phone to use it. There is not much flexibility to it. For many years this was what customers would expect from a business or service provider, and it was what was delivered.
But in the 1990s, investments were starting to be made into alternative technologies, including the Internet and cellular. These new technologies created new connections for communications to be transmitted, giving businesses more options to find the best system for their goals. VoIP (VoIP, or Voice over IP, means the telephone conversation travels over the computer network vs. old landline phone wires) systems allow users to make or receive calls from almost anywhere as long as there is an Internet connection. This flexibility and mobility allows businesses to more easily provide the service and support that customers have come to demand.
Today, a business phone system is typically either an on-premise (PBX) or cloud-hosted system. Either one can be VoIP-enabled.
A PBX usually requires a capital investment of equipment – the CPU and the phones. In a typical PBX model, you might pay upfront for the PBX equipment, and then pay for support on a regular basis.
A PBX needs to be connected to the outside world. This connectivity has usually been provided by the phone companies you are familiar with. Because of this, not only do you have to buy the phone system and the support from a vendor, but you also have to buy the connectivity.
However, you can now buy connectivity that travels over the Internet, so you don’t need the phone lines to the outside world. Companies (like DiRAD) sell this connectivity. It is called SIP Trunking. SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol. It’s the VoIP standard. The great thing about SIP is that you don’t need to buy capacity ahead of time, separate phone lines or a contract with a big carrier. SIP trunking tends to be much cheaper than wired connectivity. Many companies have already moved over to SIP trunking, so they’re feeding their old PBX with new VoIP lines.
Cloud systems are increasingly becoming the standard, but there is still 80% or more of the market using the old PBX technology.
Cloud-Hosted Systems operate on a subscription model. You pay for usage each month. Usually it’s per-user at a fixed rate. Some companies also charge for per-minute usage, while others (like DiRAD) do not. Most cloud-hosted systems do not charge for installation, but some companies will charge a nominal fee for setup (DiRAD does not).
You may also hear the term “omnichannel communications”. Phone systems with omnichannel communications allow companies that are operating with cell phones to address the new challenges of accountability and consistency of customer experience. DiRAD’s phone system allows you to send calls to mobile phones but retain the unified customer experience of a standard phone system.
Now that you are more familiar with what business phone systems encompass and what the different types of systems are, it is time to start taking stock of what, if any system you currently have, and what you need in a new one.
Are you a startup investing in a new office that is being designed from the ground up? Are you opening up an office that doesn’t have to be connected to an existing location? If so, your options for a system are wide open.
But if you are upgrading an existing office, or opening a new one that needs to integrate seamlessly with an existing location, you will want to take stock of what the current setup is. Some questions to ask to figure out if building off the current system or going in a different direction makes the most sense include:
If you currently have a landline set up, financially it may make sense to build off of it. But if you are starting from scratch, or if you have a VoIP setup, going with VoIP most likely makes sense. Both the short-term and long-term investments will probably be less with a VoIP system, in addition to being built for more flexibility.
As you start looking into a new phone system for your business, make sure you are aware of what you need from your phone system. This holds true whether you are a small business or a large enterprise. Know what features of a system your company can’t do without, and what seems to be missing from your current system. If you have a good grasp on what you want out of your new system, when you are speaking to communications solution providers it will be easier to figure out which options are best for your business.
Some of the initial questions they will ask are:
If you are able to provide these answers, they will be able to start building a framework for what may be a good solution for your business.
Not sure what you really need out of your phone system? Don’t worry. Professionals at communication solution providers (like DiRAD) can help you figure it out. But over time we have found that many businesses have the same features in mind when it comes to their systems:
Keep in mind that while a phone system by itself is not going to be a revenue center for your business, a well-designed system can help you retain customers, keep employees honest and reduce overall costs.
Equipped with a better understanding of what you can get from a new phone system, and specifics about what you want from it, it’s now time to talk to the professionals. Set up an appointment to start discussing your business and your communications system needs. Plan to spend an hour to two hours on your first call. It’s important to get all your questions answered, and just as important for the provider to all of their questions answered.
In addition to making sure they know the features you need from your phone system, some of the questions that you may want to ask early on in the process are:
Don’t ever be shy about asking any questions you have. This allows you to make a more informed choice when it comes to a provider. You want to make sure you choose a reliable partner that you trust will have your best interests in mind as they guide you through the decision-making process and beyond. Feel free to ask for recommendations and follow up with them. Talk to the businesses they recommend and ask what it is like to work with the communications provider on a regular basis. Does it align with how you wish to work with your partner? Does the conversation make you feel more comfortable or raise more questions?
Still not sure where to start? Give DiRAD a call. We are experts in the unified communications system industry, with over over 35 years adhering to one credo: Take care of the customer first, and everything else will take care of itself. We will work with you to make sure you find the business phone system that is right for your situation.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:30 PM
Ever wonder how important your customer service team is?
Spoiler….it’s more important than you think.
As business owners, we all know that acquiring a new customer can cost significantly more than keeping an existing customer. However, customer service is often the weakest point in a business, costing billions of dollars per year. Most of the issues happen in the customer support center. And we aren’t talking about just phone calls. Customers now have multiple channels to reach out to customers they do business with including social media, email, chat, and text messages.
How you respond to their inquiries and complaints can be the difference between a returning customer and one that heads to your competitors. In fact, 33% of Americans say they will consider switching companies after only one instance of poor service, and more than 50% have scrapped a planned purchase due to bad service. Learn more about the costs of bad customer service in the full infographic below.
So how do you up your customer service game to keep your customers happy? Customers want an easy, friendly, and fast experience. They are also looking for options on how to interact with you. Gone are the days of just offering email and phone calls during business hours as a way of communicating. Customers expect to be able to reach out 24/7 and via email, phone call, text, or chat. Unified communication solutions allow you to meet and exceed your customer expectations to improve customer loyalty and improve the bottom line.
Whether you choose to implement your communication technologies in-house or outsource to a contact center, it is important to partner with the right communications expert. It is not enough to simply have the capabilities to chat with a customer on their preferred platform, at any time. The implementation must be done right for a frictionless customer experience. This is particularly important if you are utilizing AI technologies such as IVR. Partnering with the right company can steer you in the right direction and ensure that the implementation of these various technologies improves your customer experience.
Interested in retaining more customers and saving money? Let’s Chat!
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:25 PM
It’s almost 2020. Does your business have the communication technology, training, and personnel in place that will help it flourish in the next decade? How can you tell?
If you are like most business owners, managers, or employees, you may not know if your company’s communication system is ready for the next 10 years. Many people are busy doing their job and not putting a lot of thought into whether or not their communication technologies are hindering their company’s performance, or limiting its potential. But when people research whether there is a better way to communicate they often find that there is, and by upgrading to new technologies and systems their ROI improves.
We’ve seen it time and time again. Not just from one type of company or from one industry. There are organizations across the board, from small businesses to large enterprises, that suddenly start asking about what communication technologies are available to them and are amazed at what is possible. Non-profits, insurance companies, and more have something to gain (and nothing to lose) by asking “How can we be communicating better?”
So where should you start to see if your company is ready to succeed in 2020 and beyond? The first thing is to take stock of what your business is still using to communicate. We assume that telegraphs are not in use, but what else would be a red flag when it comes to outdated technology?
If your business or organization still utilizes a premise-based phone system, it’s a good time to look at what better options are available. Premise-based phone systems tend to follow an outdated business model that means they are more expensive and less efficient than the latest technologies. Most of the time a business will have to buy its capacity upfront and pay whether or not they use it. Since the technology is often proprietary, businesses are at the mercy of the manufacturer to decide when it’s end-of-life and an upgrade is mandatory.
Does your business still fax? The fax machine has long been an outdated device in many offices. We do still see it prevalent in some industries, including banking, real estate, and medical. But that doesn’t mean that it should be or will continue to be. There are better options out there that provide a secure, easy-to-use alternative to faxing for electronic signatures (DocuSign and PandaDoc being two popular ones).
You should always be looking to improve things within your organization. This includes how your business communicates, both internally and externally. There’s always the possibility that there is something new or different that can help save costs, increase revenues, or both. When it comes time to turn the calendar to 2020, what are a few communication tools that most companies should be looking into?
SMS communications (texting) are omnipresent in almost everyone’s personal life. And it has started to permeate how people interact with businesses. And why not? It’s a technology people (both customers and employees) are familiar with. It’s fast. And it’s easy to use. Incorporating SMS communications into your customer service and solutions may be a great competitive advantage in the next year or two. But beyond that, it is going to be something that customers expect from most, if not all, businesses that they communicate with.
And don’t forget about social media platforms. They could be the key to success in the next decade. And it’s not about one platform over another, or making sure you are on all platforms. It’s about finding out where your customers like to be, and providing a channel for them to communicate with your business there. In some countries, the use of WhatsApp has eclipsed texting. In the United States, Instagram, Snapchat, and ones that may not have been launched yet should all be researched by your business as possible customer channels to leverage.
Whatever unified communication technologies you want to get the most out of in the next decade, know you don’t have to do it all in-house. Partnering with a communications technology expert (like DiRAD) can save you time, money, and headaches. Quality experts will help explain what options are available, and what package of solutions make the most sense to help grow your business.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:22 PM
Everyone agrees the health and safety of our students is priority number one. Schools, communities, and local leaders want to do all that they can to make schools as safe as possible with the limited resources that they have. And one way that schools are doing this today is by upgrading their phone systems to a VoIP (Voice over IP) system.
A VoIP system is when which allows users to make or receive calls from almost anywhere as long as there is an Internet connection. The conversation travels through the computer network instead of the traditional landline phone lines.
When a VoIP system is set up at a school, the benefits to the school are much like that of any set up at any other organization or business:
On top of that, there are a number of features that make a VoIP system particularly beneficial to schools, especially during emergency situations:
In some scenarios a VoIP system can be more reliable than a legacy system. The VoIP infrastructure is massive and geographically distributed. A total power failure to a school (whether caused by mother nature or man-made) would not affect the phone system. Even with no power, a staff member could login from anywhere and carry on communications with emergency personnel, as well as access and use all the features of the system.
A VoIP system can more easily integrate with other technologies. This would include other products such as emergency onsite notifications and integration with digital signage.
In emergency situations, seconds matter. And if responding personnel can be certain of where an emergency is taking place they can get there sooner. With enhanced 911, schools have the ability to transmit the room number, or building location, to emergency services when they are contacted.
It does cost money to upgrade a phone system, so being able to find a way to pay for any necessary upgrade costs must be accounted for. But in addition to all the benefits mentioned above, over the long term it usually saves schools money when the switch over to a VoIP system.
And sometimes a school’s IT staff will have been trained on an older system, and have reservations about a change. We have even talked with some that have repeated some myths that have persisted through the years that are just not true. This includes that “VoIP will steal network resources and affect bandwidth”, and that “VoIP is not reliable”. These are false statements, so properly educating all staff that will be involved in a phone system upgrade decision is very important.
The fact is that there are numerous options available to schools, depending on their current set up. Today’s IP phones are capable of using the wireless network so even if your school is not wired for ethernet you can still use VoIP. And phone system providers like DiRAD can provide equipment that you may need to send the phone signal over the legacy wire to old phone sets if that is what you decide on (an option for areas that may have dead locations with respect to network availability).
So in most cases, there really is no reason for a school to stick with a landline phone system. A VoIP system will not only improve school safety, but also save money and provide more features for the staff to take advantage of.
Interested in learning more about upgrading your school district’s phone system to a VoIP system? Give DiRAD a call. We’re happy to answer all your questions regarding the benefits a VoIP phone system can have during emergency and non-emergency situations.
Publish Date: April 29, 2021 3:21 PM