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Most people don’t realize the impressive scale of the contact center industry. It accounts for one in every 25 jobs in the US! By some estimation, there are 14,000 call centers in the United States and over 120,000 worldwide.
It’s a growing industry as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.6 million people had the occupation “Customer Service Representatives” in 2015. That number is up 17% over the past 5 years and 27% over the last 15.
For the last few years, this industry has been undergoing an extraordinary transformation. In the early 2000’s, running a call center through a cloud service was dismissed as impractical. A few years later, it was viewed as “just for the smallest call centers”, but by 2008 that argument was dead and the migration was in full swing. Between 2008 and 2012, the cloud market grew by some 224%. Just between August 2014 and August 2015, total number of cloud seats jumped 49.9% (both data points from DMG).
What explains this remarkable shift? And what comes next?
According to Call Center IQ, 80% primarily housed their contact center technology on premise 1 year ago. That number is down to 58% in the present, and it will fall to just 44% in the next 12 months. That information, as well as the chart below is available in their Executive Report on Contact Center Technology. (A report we featured last week in our post 7 Contact Center Reports Worth Your Time.)
IDC forecasts U.S. spending on hosted contact center services to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.7% to reach $2.0 billion in 2019. DMG forecasts that by 2016 more than 18% of contact center seats will be delivered via the cloud.
The worldwide picture follows a similar trend (just with bigger numbers). Research and Markets estimates the worldwide cloud-based contact center market will grow from $4.15 billion in 2014 to $10.9 billion by 2019, a compound annual growth rate of 21.3%.
What is motivating companies to make the switch? Let’s see what some of the industry’s brightest folks are saying:
Analyst Sandra Gustavsen states “There are obvious budgetary advantages to selecting a cloud solution such as reduced capital expenses, fewer IT personnel and predictable per-user monthly fees, to name a few. But, there are also strategic advantages in terms of scale, consistency across a network and the ease of adding future innovations that are appealing particularly to organizations with multiple, geographically-dispersed offices.”
Analyst Donna Fluss, of DMG, puts it this way: “Companies are moving their contact centers to the cloud to realize the flexibility, agility, scalability and cost benefits of this implementation model. The new seats are coming from competitive replacements of dated on-premise solutions and a growing number of first-time users who are attracted to the cloud-based model, with its low start-up costs and ready availability of experienced vendor resources to assist with implementations and ongoing operations.”
Analyst Aphrodite Brismead cites the ability to get continuous upgrades, among other features, as a prime motivator: “With access to the latest features and functionality whenever they are released, contact centers can add multi-channel features when they are rolled out rather than having to wait to upgrade. While cloud contact centers traditionally had reduced feature sets to make them faster and easier to deploy, they are rapidly catching up to their premises-based counterparts.”
Not All Roses
Deploying a cloud call center can also present new problems. CCIQ surveyed companies that recently made the switch and asked about the challenges they faced.
As the chart below shows, the top complaint was that the implementation was not as easy as expected. That’s a fairly generic complaint, and we think we can chalk that up to over-zealous sales folks trying to get a deal done. (No offense to sales people… we wouldn’t be anywhere without you!) If we look beyond that, the top complaints were integration with current systems, integration with processes, higher cost, and downtime.
A Competitive Landscape Drives M&A Activity
DMG estimates there are over 150 competitors selling cloud-based contact center infrastructure. So it’s a very competitive sector. This is driving prices down, making it a buyer’s market. It’s also driving significant acquisition and partnering activity in the last 2 years including:
- RingCentral (a cloud UC provider) partnered with cloud-based call center provider InContact (NASDAQ: SaaS)
- InContact, itself, was just acquired by NICE System (NASDAQ: NICE)
- Marlin Equity Partners acquired LiveOps
- West Corp (NASDAQ: WSTC) acquired Magnetic North
- Shoretel (NASDAQ: SHOR) acquired Corvisa
What Took So Long?
For many years, companies had a general reluctance to moving their call center away from the tried-and-true premise-based equipment model.
One reason for that was, as you can see from the chart below, the IT department has a very dominant influence on the decision making.
Those IT folks had a number of concerns that were showstoppers for many years:
- People thought the real-time, mission-critical nature of the call center meant it wasn’t a good candidate to be a cloud service.
- The high-bandwidth needs of voice, which are unique to the call center, made people worry about audio quality, dropped calls, and impact on bandwidth available for other applications in the business.
- Security and privacy concerns have played a big role. There are a number of regulations that apply different standards to voice as opposed to data. On an intuitive level, the idea of a customer’s call being intercepted and recorded by a nefarious 3rd party seems much scarier than a regular data breach.
- Call center equipment has traditionally had a long replacement cycle – 5 to 10 years was typical. This is longer than other parts of enterprise IT and it naturally means a slower upgrade rate.
Given all that, it is understandable why the call center was a “laggard” among other systems to embrace the cloud.
It’s a safe bet that cloud deployments will continue to grow in number and size throughout the industry. One day, an on-premise call center may seem as quaint as a rotary-dial telephone.
Publish Date: July 26, 2016 5:00 AM
With organizations focussing on the customer experience as a key differentiator, it’s critical that they pay close attention to consumer channel activity. As we all know the options are endless: self-service, chat, mobile apps, social media, email and the conventional phone channel. It’s no wonder why call centers have now truly become contact centers as they support customers through a variety of mediums, countries, and languages.
As time passes, digital channels will continue to grow in popularity, but what will happen to the voice channel? Dimension Data’s 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report stated that there will be growth in every digital channel, and a 12% shrinkage with the phone. The report also went on to say “that digital volumes handled by contact centers remain on track to exceed phone contacts by the end of 2016”. However, ContactBabel reported that over 65% of contact centers anticipate no change in the voice channel for the next 12 months. So which one is it?
Is the phone channel getting lost in digital noise or will it remain a prominent medium?
Imagine, not needing the option to pick up the phone and speak to a live agent. This is pretty bizarre if you sit down and really think about it. Some say it’s bound to happen, others can’t wrap their minds around that realization.
Let’s uncover the truth behind the future of the voice channel. Join our live Google Hangout airing Thursday, July 28th at 2:00 PM ET, with guest speakers from Forrester, Zendesk, Plantronics and more! Here’s our very own, Shai Berger, with a quick video teaser.
Publish Date: July 21, 2016 5:00 AM
The multi-channel customer experience has raised a number of questions about how call centers should effectively measure the customer journey. More than ever before customers are moving across channels and devices to find support and purchase products. Whether it’s the phone, chat, social media, web, messenger or any number of channels, customers are doing a lot of things, in a lot of different places. Are all these touch-points working in synchrony, or are your customers pulling their hair out when they navigate from one to the other? That’s where customer journey tracking comes in; businesses can begin to understand their customer’s behaviors and uncover details that they otherwise wouldn’t catch. It can also measure how well each of these channels are working both individually and holistically.
Here are 4 risks you take by not making the customer journey a priority:
Risk #1 – Losing Customers Who Can’t Find Help
Accenture’s Global Customer Pulse Survey found that customers are increasingly frustrated with the level of service they experience: 91% because they have to contact a company multiple times for the same reason, 90% by being put on hold for a long time, and 89% by having to repeat their issue to multiple representatives. If a customer has to exert a lot of effort to find help, that’s a negative experience, and a flawed customer journey. Support should be at the forefront of your business. Fonolo has understood this from day one with its Web, Mobile, and In-Call Rescue solutions. But if you refuse to track the customer journey, there’s no way to tell which customers you’re losing because of this simple problem. Not convinced? Here are some fantastic resources to help clear things up: https://fonolo.com/resources/#datasheets
Risk #2 – Low Satisfaction Levels when Navigating from Channel-to-Channel
Did you know that 67% of online shoppers end up calling a business directly for purchases greater than $100? Customers want to feel secure when they are making a hefty purchase, and that live phone conversation provides reassurance. However, this escalation from web to phone should be seamless, but for most businesses, it’s not. By tracking the customer journey, you are also tracking the customer experience, and how well your channels are working together.
Let’s say a customer wants to deposit a cheque into their bank account. Previously, customers had to visit their nearest bank branch and deposit it manually. Now, many large banks have developed ways for customers to automatically deposit cheques through photo detection using a bank’s mobile app. This strategy did not emerge overnight; the financial industry realized there was a channel issue in the customer journey and they needed to solve it. Years ago, Amazon discovered that a 100 millisecond increase in speed equaled a 1% ($1.6 billion) revenue increase. Again, the less time and effort it takes your customers to complete a transaction and move across channels, the better.
Risk #3 – Negative Customer Experiences When Using Multiple Devices
You own a TV, a laptop, a mobile phone, and a tablet. Yet your website isn’t optimized for mobile. Common guys, it’s 2016, your customers no longer make purchase decisions using one device; instead they’re weaving in and out of different entry points. In fact, 65% begin their purchase path on a smartphone, 61% of them continue on a PC/laptop and 4% continue on a tablet. And 63% of customers tend to purchase high-value ($200 or more) items using multiple devices. It’s as if customers need to be swayed into the purchase as they jump from device-to-device, which is why improving the customer experience is so important. If any of these user experiences are not designed with this in mind, it’s possible your customers will give up completely, rather than starting over again with the original device. By tracking the customer journey from each device you can see where skews in the experience are occurring, and optimize from there.
Risk #4 – Completely Missing Opportunities to Generate Loyalty & Revenue
When you’re accurately able to follow a customer’s journey, you’ve given yourself more opportunities to re-engage and upsell them through their favorite channels. Take this scenario: A customer opens their mobile device to check if you have a product available, they add the product to their checkout cart but then their phone dies. By the time they get home and charge their phone, they’ve completely forgotten about their intent to purchase. So, what can be done to improve and excel this interaction? A reminder e-mail is one simple way to reengage your customer. But the only way to know this has happened is if you’re tracking point of abandonment, otherwise, that transaction could be lost forever. Neglecting these opportunities is a major detriment to any business’ overall revenue generation. Being attentive to your customers’ actions, without appearing invasive, can also stimulate customer loyalty. A polite nudge that invites customers to return is more positive than negative in the eyes of a customer.
Brett Shockley, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Avaya, agrees. He says that “… optimizing each interaction and creating an engaged customer relationship drives repeat purchases and increased loyalty.”
Publish Date: July 20, 2016 5:00 AM
Contact center operations and the technology that’s used to aid the experience has progressed tremendously over the years (See 5 Pictures Revealing the Evolution of the Contact Center), however, popular opinion seems to have stayed the same. If we played a quick round of “Family Feud” and asked the general public what they thought about working in a call center, we bet the top answers would be something like “menial” “mindless” or “soul-sucking”. There’s no question that customer care is a tough job, but it’s far from mindless work, and with technology, contact center operations have become more exciting than ever before. However, there are still some tried and true methodologies that remain critical to proper customer care.
Let’s take a look at these 4 common misconceptions about the call center and debunk them with some hard facts.
Contact Centers Are “Cost Centers” Not Revenue Generators
Untrue. The call center and customer service plays an extremely important role in a company’s customer retention and loyalty. Zendesk reported that 52% of consumers have made more purchases from a company after having a good customer service experience. Plus, happy customers are more likely to recommend a company to friends and family (87% of customers share good experiences with others). Therefore, when it comes to the contact center, quality service and a seamless experience can not only please customers, but can lead to more clients and greater revenue. That said, the reverse is true for call centers that provide poor experiences (95% of customers share bad experiences with others), so it’s important to stay on top of agent performance and metrics.
Customers Don’t Use the Phone For Support Anymore
We’ve heard it all before, web and mobile are going to overtake phone for customer service. I don’t know if you’ve tried to contact service via these avenues lately, but I can tell you on a personal level, the phone is absolutely integral to customer service, and the overall customer experience. Statistically speaking, 57% of customers have to switch from web to phone to resolve an issue, 75% think calling is the most effective way of getting a quick response, and 46% of customers prefer to talk to customer service on the phone about complicated issues. There’s no doubt that the telephone is still the number one channel for customers to connect with you.
Chatbots Will Eventually Replace Humans in the Call Center
There’s been a lot of “botmania” talk ever since Facebook announced that it would allow businesses to use them for online customer care. So, will chatbots erase our need for human customer relations altogether? At Fonolo, we recently tackled this topic in a Google Hangout (Chatbots: New Reality or Just Hype?) and although it might be early in the game for predications, one thing seems true: chatbots will never completely replace human interactions. Chatbots serve as an add-on for customer service to inform customers and drive sales, not replace personal interactions, especially not for support. Parmy Olson also covered this in a recent article for Forbes, “Could Chatbots Replace Human Jobs?”, and to sum it up: Bot integration is a long way out, so, let’s not get too manic about replacing our personal customer service agents just yet. Humans will always serve a purpose when it comes to maintaining support.
Call Center Managers Are Only Concerned With Cost-Per-Call
Metrics are an important way to keep call centers running smoothly and customer service performing optimally. Cost-per-call has always been an important KPI and still remains to be, however, the industry has matured and developed new metrics that also focus on customer satisfaction and quality. First Contact Resolution (FCR), One Contact Resolution (OCR), and Quality Scores are among the metrics that contact center managers now use to measure the quality of their interactions. The customer experience has become a major competitive differentiator for businesses, and though some operations managers still struggle with it, 93% of managers have listed it as part of their key priorities for improvement.
Publish Date: July 13, 2016 5:00 AM
At Fonolo, we’re always on the look-out for new industry research, studies, surveys and whitepapers. It’s the only way to stay current on the many aspects of the fast-moving contact center industry. No doubt you’ve noticed that the popularity of “content marketing” has resulted in a dramatic increase in the quantity of content from vendors, analysts and industry groups. Sadly, that’s made it hard to find the quality among all the fluff.
We’re here to help! Assembled below are 7 recent reports that we feel are worth your time. They feature original research and cover topics such as multi-channel trends, metrics, operational strategy, and much more. We are grateful to the authors (and sponsors) for all the insights and we’d like to pass along our recommendations to our loyal readers.
1) Executive Report on Contact Center Technology
Who wrote it: Call Center IQ
Where to get it: http://old.callcenter-iq.com/technology/white-papers/2016-executive-report-on-contact-center-technology
“Featuring a combination of exclusive market research, in-depth commentary, and insightful case studies, this report reveals how contact center technology is evolving – and must continue to evolve – in this era of customer centricity. More importantly, it will empower you to leverage contact center technology to create a more efficient, more effective, more customer-centric engagement experience.”
- Today’s organizations are indeed moving to the cloud: twelve months ago, 80% primarily housed their contact center technology on premise. That number is down to 58% in the present, and it will fall to just 44% in the next twelve months.
- Decisions about contact center technology are most commonly made by C-level executives and IT departments. The contact center/ CX team guides these decisions in only 26% of organizations.
Our favorite chart:
This is a great visualization of the continued trend towards cloud and cloud-hybrid architectures for call centers.
2) The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel Customer Contact
Who wrote it: ContactBabel
Where to get it: http://www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm
What it covers:
- Volume, growth and cost of digital channels, compared to voice calls
- The channels that customers prefer best what they actually use, and why
- Detailed focus on specific channels, including: Email, Web Chat, SMS, Social Media, Self-Service (including Visual IVR)
- The effect of smartphones
- Web RTC & video
- Facebook Messenger & WhatsApp
Our favorite chart:
ContactBabel asked call centers how they expect the mix of inbound channels to change between now and 12 months in the future.
3) Global Contact Centre Benchmark
Who wrote it: Dimension Data
Where to get it: Here
This report is regarded as unique because Dimension Data has been asking the same questions, with the same methodology, since 1997. Hence, it gives us a unique view into the evolution of customer service.
35% of all interactions are now on “digital” (i.e. non-voice) channels. They further predict “digital interactions will overtake voice by the end of 2016”.
Our favorite chart:
These nested pie charts show how the customer service channel mix has changed over the years.
4) Executive Report on Metrics, Agents and Operations
Who wrote it: Call Center IQ
Where to get it: http://old.callcenter-iq.com/call-center-management/white-papers/2016-executive-report-on-performance-metrics-agent/
What it covers:
- The top performance objectives for today’s contact centers – and the best metrics to use when evaluating success
- The most important factors when interacting with your customers
- The biggest inhibitors standing in the way of contact center excellence
- Game changing initiatives for conquering those challenges and achieving unparalleled results
- Urgent (and not-so-urgent) solutions for engaging – and empowering – your agents
Our favorite chart:
CCIQ asked the call centers in their survey which factors they felt were inhibiting their contact center’s performance the most.
5) The Future Of Customer Service
Who wrote it: Forrester / Kate Leggett
(Member of our Top Analysts Lists)
Where to get it: Here
(NOTE: This is a paid report)
What it covers:
“This report summarizes the top 10 customer service trends for 2016 that application development and delivery (AD&D) pros supporting customer service operations must pay attention to in order to deliver customer service excellence.”
Our favorite chart:
Based on a survey of 4473 US online adults, this chart shows which channels were used the most in the past 12 month period.
6) State of Multichannel Customer Service Report
Who wrote it: Microsoft
Where to get it: Here
What it covers:
- What customers view as the most important aspects of a good customer experience
- Most frustrating aspects of a poor customer experience
- Service expectations for self-service, social and mobile channels
- Importance of service in a customer’s choice of, or loyalty to a brand
- What percentage of customers leave a brand or organization due to a single poor customer experience
- Consumers now regularly use at least four different channels when interacting with a brand or organization for customer-related questions and issues.
- In addition to the growing number of channels being used, channel preference is also changing based on the customer’s perceived value for time spent.
Our favorite chart:
This chart shows what causes the most frustration to customers as part of the customer service process.
7) State of Service Report
Who wrote it: Salesforce
Where to get it: https://www.salesforce.com/form/conf/2015-state-of-service.jsp
What it covers: Based on a survey of 1,900 global customer service leaders, this report analyzing their responses to discover:
- The most common goals, obstacles, and success measures for today’s service teams
- What sets high-performing service organizations apart
- The areas in which service is supercharging efforts to grow business
Our favorite chart:
This is a unique view into how different call center leaders rank the importance of different metrics. It’s no surprise that “Average Handle Time” was ranked #1 across the board. (See our recent post 3 Pitfalls When Measuring Average Handle Time.) But it is interesting to see that only “underperformers” are ranking Net Promoter Score highly. Has this metric passed out of fashion? Hmm, maybe this is a topic for the next blog post!
Publish Date: July 12, 2016 5:00 AM
The standard impression of a call center workplace is quite negative. Professionals might describe it as dull, boring, and monotonous. But the truth is there are ways we can make the contact center a fun and lively place to be! Sometimes a quick change is an easy way to increase motivation and productivity throughout your organization. Are you ready to take on some new ideas?
Here are 5 fresh concepts to inspire the spirit of your contact center.
1. Suggestion Box
Agents have a lot to say, but might be too shy to express their thoughts, or worried about how their comments will be perceived. Having an easy way for call center agents to voice their concerns is easily achieved through a suggestion box. You can even make them anonymous to encourage a candid submission. Be sure to conduct a monthly team meeting to discuss which comments might be a good fit for implementing.
2. Rotating Roles
Call center employees who are trained to handle multiple roles are less likely to experience apathy. Not to mention if your employees grow beyond their current duties job rotation can be a key retention strategy. This concept also enables all team members to feel empowered and helps to build team confidence. Agent engagement is key to improving workplace morale, and this idea is sure to get them there.
3. Smile, Smile, Smile
Sometimes agents really need to focus on having a positive outlook, especially on days when they’re dealing with irate callers. Rather than telling agents to act this way, why not implement a way to encourage them to smile. Print out oversized pictures with funny animals and have each agent place them at their desk. They can pick a picture that resonates with them and at times when they need to a little friendly encouragement they’ll have a silly animal to turn to.
4. Automated Call-Backs
I’m sure you already know that call-backs are a great solution for eliminating hold-time and reducing abandon rates, but did you consider the effect it has on employee morale? The dreaded spike in call volume and long hold-times means a frustrated customer – all of this pressure lands on the agents lap. The alternative solution is better and agents LOVE the call-back option. Calls are shorter and more pleasant when every conversation can start on a positive note. It’s also a great way to meet service levels.
Offsite team building is a great way to connect with colleagues and leave the intensity of the call center behind. Encourage sportsmanship by starting a team for a variety of sports that workers at all levels can join. This also connects senior leadership with front-line staff in a new and fun way. Who knows what you might learn about your call center that you never knew before!
As you implement these fresh and easy strategies be sure to avoid call center ideas that completely miss the point. Here’s a few to steer clear of.
Publish Date: July 7, 2016 5:00 AM
Customer service has never been work for the weak. It takes someone with great self-control, a calm temperament and tremendous organizational skills to be successful. But even those who display the assets of a fantastic agent can experience a sudden drop in morale. For instance, increased workload, poor management, difficult customers, and more, can create a negative outlook in your agent’s eyes. As a call center manager, it’s important to observe your support team and get a sense of their general disposition. No, you don’t have to play therapist, but you can do a few things to re-engage those lethargic agents.
Don’t let agent burnout run like wildfire through your contact center. Here are 5 tips to help call center managers contain the stressors that lead to high turnover rates and help you retain top talent in the workplace. This is also an optional playlist to help liven up a dull workday (Think Michael Scott in The Office) — Who knew Queen was writing about agent engagement this whole time?
1) Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy…?
Give your agents realistic metrics to follow. Although it’s important to challenge your agents and set the bar high, making them meet these expectations 100% of the time is nothing but a pipe dream, and won’t get anyone very far. By setting realistic goals for your agents, they feel accomplished and happy that they’ve succeeded at the end of the day. Nothing kills an agent’s confidence and creates turnover faster than feeling like you’re always losing. Use gamification strategies that let agents work towards hitting milestones. As we’ve said before, customer service is a marathon, not a sprint.
2) Don’t you, forget about me, don’t don’t don’t don’t
Although your customer service agents might put on a brave face when they’re handling an unruly customer, I assure you they’re secretly looking for acknowledgement. The sad part is that only 31% of organizations recognize and reward their agents for improving the customer experience. Given that 89% of businesses now compete mainly on the customer experience, this is an important skill to harness. Agents can’t be expected to come into work bright eyed and bushy tailed with little to no recognition. Incentivize agents with awards and quarterly bonuses; this validates their work and will raise performance levels accordingly.
3) It’s more than a feeling…
Today, service is more about quality, than quantity. Rather than tracking an agents call log, pay closer attention to their First Call Resolution (FCR), One Contact Resolution (OCR), amount of open/unresolved cases and their customer satisfaction rates. It should be noted when your agents are keeping customers happy and doing their job to resolve issues timely and effectively. Be fair to your agents and weight their performance across the board. Focusing solely on cost-per-call might seem economical but in the long run making happy loyal customers is the real moneymaker.
4) Everybody’s working for the weekend
Work with your agents to develop a schedule that works for them. Stress on the job is only compounded when you’re employees are confined by restrictive schedules. Give agents options like annual hours, flex-shifts, and the option to work remotely. Remote work has been proven to help with a number of things. For instance, in a study by Stanford University, remote work options reduced employee turnover and job attrition rates by over 50%. It has also proven to decrease stress levels and drive better productivity. This not only gives agents autonomy but shows you trust them, which in turn creates mutual respect resulting in a more dedicated workforce.
5) Give me one reason to stay here, and I’ll turn right back around…
Sometimes, that’s all it takes, and arming your agents with the right tools is one way to keep them motivated at work. For instance, 75% of customers would like the option to be called back rather than wait on hold, yet many call centers still don’t provide a call-back option. When you provide agents with the proper infrastructure you reduce the burden put on them to manage angry customers (because you’ll have less of them), and at the same time you’ll also improve the customer experience. It’s a no brainer!
Publish Date: July 6, 2016 5:00 AM
Nowadays, customer service is more than just responding to queries; it’s a full blown strategic department aiming to strengthen the customer experience. Yet delivering experiences that consistently impress the customer and stand out from the crowd remains a difficult endeavor for most contact centers. Executives are placing bandage solutions on problems and failing to realize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. CX management is about managing customers, processes, agents, metrics, and technologies – these things just can’t turn around overnight. Although it requires a tremendous amount of time, effort, and attention to detail, the upside is worth the investment. Companies that excel in delivering a superior customer experience realize a growth in revenue and earn stronger loyalty among a customer’s lifetime.
If your serious about building a compelling customer experience, it’s time to develop thorough, well-thought out answers to these three critical questions.
Question 1: Social Media
Social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook have influenced customer experience management in a big way. Companies are investing in new technologies to keep pace and maintain good customer relations. Are you active on all the social channels your customers communicate on?
Why you should answer yes – You must be present where your clients are active. Be there to respond to any and all comments and questions, whether they’re big or small.
Question 2: Cross Channel Communication
Companies are now communicating with customers through multiple channels. For ease of use, they are utilizing CEM technology for a single view of the customer. Do you have the technology to handle cross-channel communications without a drop in customer service quality or consistency?
Why you should answer yes – Multiple channels should be viewed as a cohesive entity, not separate and unconnected. This is critical to the success of the customer experience.
Question 3: Investment in Call Center Agents
Contact centers have generally been viewed as a last stop for customers to air their grievances, but now organizations are seeing contact centers as another way to drive business, increase customer profitability and strengthen relationships. Do you invest in your call center agents?
Why you should answer yes – Businesses are at risk if they do not capitalize on the link between satisfied employees and happy customers. Incentivizing your agents will ensure happy customers.
Publish Date: June 30, 2016 5:00 AM
“Ten years ago there was no web chat, smart phone apps, social media, and very little email. Today, digital interactions account for over 35% of all interactions and, at the current rate, will overtake voice in two year’s time.” – 2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report
Seeing as digital channels are still in their relative infancy, we can deduce that the customer experience will evolve in ways that have yet to be realized. It takes time, effort, and extensive customer listening to truly smooth out the kinks in any customer journey. Which begs the question: Will you be a party to that change? Today, 93% of corporate leaderships place customer experience improvement on their list of strategic priorities. Saying this I’m reminded of the most recent episode of ‘Silicon Valley’ where Pied Piper’s UX design falls completely flat (500,000 downloads returned a measly 19,000 daily active users). And although the technology itself is brilliant, the everyday consumer wouldn’t know that because the user experience wasn’t clear, leading them to abandon the product completely.
Customer experience should create a flawless journey for customers, where every action they take has a viable reaction. But how can you know what changes your organization needs to make this happen? Here are few ways to stay in-tune to your businesses customer experience outlook:
Use Metrics to Measure Your Customer’s Journeys
Poor experiences are a direct reflection of a poor customer journey. In a recent Fonolo webinar “5 Ways to Master ‘One Contact Resolution’ co-presenter, SQM Group, reported that when a company resolves a customer issue using One Contact Resolution (meaning one attempt to contact a company using only one channel), customer satisfaction levels will reach 89%. But if a customer has to use even one other channel to resolve an issue, their satisfaction will lower significantly: 49% to be exact. Researchers have also found that satisfaction on customer journeys is 30% more predictive of overall customer satisfaction than measuring happiness for each individual interaction. Ironically, 50% of C-suite executives said their organization uses no consistent measure of their customers’ experience. That’s crazy. Benchmarking customer experiences are a must for the success of any business. Here’s some more reading by SQM Group to help you become a benchmarking expert: http://sqmgroup.com/omni-channel-research-benchmarking/
Spend Time Understanding New Technologies That Improve CX
The latter point blends nicely into this next topic.
When you’ve anticipated problems in the customer journey, you can then move towards resolving those experiences using new agile technologies. And you won’t be alone: 50% of product investment projects will be redirected to customer experience innovations by 2017. And although resource-related costs account for 76% of the full operating budget in 2015 only 10% was reserved for technology, the lowest level in 3 years. But evidence shows there’s a significant benefit of investing in technology for the customer experience. For example, 89% of current users agree cloud has reduced operating costs, and 50% of outsourcers agree Business Intelligence Systems will do the same. At Fonolo, our case studies have found that call-backs themselves have helped reduce operating costs and improve the customer experience.
It’s the job of management to use metrics and to research the right solutions that will provide overall cost savings and benefit the customer experience.
Facilitate Two-Way Communication with Agents
Metrics, although very necessary, might not reveal some of the most obvious misses in the customer experience. Your agents in the front-line can readily provide you with insights that can help. In turn, 92% of contact center leaders see high value in sharing metrics in real-time with front-line agents. The top 5 metrics of greatest value when shared in real-time with agents are number of calls in queue, service level, customer satisfaction, schedule adherence, and first contact resolution – in that order. However, 54% report that no information is passed to agents when customers drop out of self/assisted service. There is a great opportunity being missed here to improve the customer experience. Is it possible that this lack of reporting – resulting in diminished communication – is caused by insufficient technology as mentioned above? It seems plausible. According to Salesforce, only 17% of respondents of their 2015 State of Marketing Report said their company had fully integrated their customer data across all areas of their organization.
So, what can we take away from this? Once again, I’ll turn to a food analogy. In today’s business economy, technology is like the meat, cheese and condiments between two buns: benchmarking metrics and successful communication. It powers both and provides managers with the insights and tools they need to facilitate an all-around great customer experience. Chew on that.
Publish Date: June 29, 2016 5:00 AM
Bloggers conversing about the call center space will often write about how to make an agent’s work-life more enjoyable. They do this because call center agents get the short end of the stick when dealing with difficult individuals – we get that. But what about call center managers? We’re forgetting about the people who are managing those agents and are faced with making difficult decisions every day.
Attention: CONTACT CENTER MANAGERS – This time the article is for you and we’ve made it as enjoyable as possible. Sometimes you just need to laugh at the stresses in your job. Unexpected events occur and call center managers need to make the best out of pretty terrible situations. You’re expected to be a leader, think outside the box, problem solve in a creative manner, keep the customers happy, and save the company money while you’re at it. Good luck – my feeling is that you’ll be bookmarking this page just to get you through those days!
So, here are some humorous memes made just for you.
1. Yes, you have no other choice. The calls and inquiries are coming in regardless of who decided to be sick that day. No call-back system in place makes this situation even more dreadful for inbound calls. Just ask Mark Edelman whose entire center came down with the flu epidemic the first day they started using a call-back solution. Thank goodness something was in place for them!
2. I’m sure all managers are familiar with this complaint. Customers have no sympathy for technical issues. If you’re a telecommunications company, with a technical issue to boot, hopefully you can get some magical help from Willly Wonka, because you’re sure to hear the anger from customers calling in. A few years back, Rogers felt that pain during one of their bigger outages – check out all the people who were roaring on Twitter.
3. If you’re a contact center manager handling call escalation, I’m sure you have trouble understanding how a customer can become so irate. You just need to laugh it off! Being in customer service you have the defined skill of acting pleasant no matter what. Just remember to smile because the customer can undoubtedly hear your facial reactions.
4. King Rafiki knows what it’s all about. It’s certainly not a bad idea to find some peace and relaxation before your day starts. Whether that’s meditating, having your morning coffee, going for a walk, or watching a few minutes of the Lion King – allocating time to yourself is critical to the success of your day.
5. Call center managers are surely nodding their head to this one. Let’s put the jokes aside for a second. Hold time is actually a sensitive topic for the folks here at Fonolo. We get that waiting is inevitable, and although this meme makes a good point, we still think you should think of the alternative.
Think of the same situation in line at a bank. You’re being told that the wait time is 20 minutes, or you have the option to hold your place in line, leave the bank and have a teller come to your house when your turn arrives. Clearly, this in-person option isn’t realistic, but there is a viable option that’s similar and can be offered over the phone. It’s considered virtual queuing.
WAIT, before you say…..
Think about having an easy to add call-back solution that doesn’t interfere with your existing business process, requires less than a week to deploy, and only entails 5 minutes of training? Now I’ve gone on a marketing rant when really the solution speaks for itself – here’s more about how Fonolo works.
Publish Date: June 23, 2016 5:00 AM
Did you know that a typical business only hears from 4% of unhappy customers? That’s an incredibly low number, and might be why you’re sitting there scratching your head, wondering why you’re losing customers (or not attracting any new ones). What’s even more shocking is that of the 96% of customers who don’t report their dissatisfaction, 91% of them won’t ever return to your business. That’s a lot of customer churn, without ever knowing why. However, more and more businesses can blame customer churn on one major issue: poor customer experiences. According to a report by Walker, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator for B2B by 2020. Unfortunately, 80% of contact centers say their current customer service systems won’t meet their future needs. If you haven’t already, now is the time to build and implement a strategy that can improve the customer experience today, and be agile enough for the future.
This infographic reveals 5 exemplary customer experience tactics that can help you rebuild and sustain your business for years to come:
Publish Date: June 22, 2016 5:00 AM
Is your call center still forcing callers to wait on hold? If so, you are missing out on a great opportunity to increase customer satisfaction and reduce call center costs: Deploying a call-back solution.
The basic idea of call-backs (aka “virtual queuing”) has been part of the call center world for decades. But it’s becoming more popular because A) Consumers are less patient and more demanding (See onholdwith.com for proof); and B ) Adding call-backs no longer requires expensive, equipment-based solutions, but instead can be easily added via a cloud-based service (like Fonolo) that works on top of legacy call center platforms.
However, like any technology project, there are pitfalls to avoid. If you’re exploring the idea of adding call-backs, here are some do’s and don’ts to help you.
1) Do Offer Call-Backs at the Right Time in the Queuing Process
The call-back process begins when the caller hears an offer message, something like, “Instead of waiting on hold, you can get a call-back from the next available agent by pressing 1 now.” So when should that offer be presented? This is a key variable in every call-back deployment. It’s usually referred to as the “Time-Till-Offer” (TTO) and is defined as the amount of time a caller spends in queue before hearing a call-back offer.
Changing the TTO will impact how many callers hear the offer. For example, if the average hold time is 2 minutes, but the offer isn’t played until 3 minutes in the queue, most callers won’t hear it.
TTO also impacts the Take-Up Rate, which is the fraction of callers who opt-in after hearing the message. To understand the relationship between these two values, it helps to put yourself in the caller’s mindset: Some people will take an offer that is made immediately, while others will opt to “wait it out”. But after a few minutes on hold, callers are more likely to opt-in, so the Take-Up Rate grows. After a while, this effect flattens out. The chart below is an example of this relationship (but may differ in your situation).
For a real-world example, watch this short video of a Fonolo customer talking about adjusting the TTO in his call center:
When to Offer the Call-Back
Another way to increase Take-Up Rate is to make multiple offers. This is actually the best way to maximize the overall call-back rate. (This is definitely an ability you want in you call-back solution.)
This was just a quick taste of the thinking that goes into the offer message. If you want to go deeper into this topic, a great resource is our eBook, “The ROI of Call-Backs for Your Call Center”. For now, just remember: Changing TTO is an easy “lever” to adjust and has a big impact on the performance of your call-back deployment.
2) Don’t Make Customers Wait a Second Time
When the caller’s turn has arrived at the front of the queue, it’s time for the call-back system to connect the agent and caller. There are two ways to handle this: “agent-wait” or “customer-wait”.
In the agent-wait scenario, the agent is already on the line when the customer answers the call. This is a better experience for the customer, but the agent has to wait while the customers phone rings. Luckily, the idle time is typically 10 seconds or less.
In the customer-wait scenario, the call-back system tries to estimate when the next agent is going to be ready, and calls the customer a few minutes ahead of that time. This maximizes agent efficiency, but it results in a negative experience for the customer. From their perspective, they requested a call-back only to be placed on hold again. If the system incorrectly determines agent availability, then hold time can be long, resulting in a frustrated customer and negating the advantage of having call-backs in the first place!
3) Do Make Call-Backs Available from All Channels
Customer service has completely changed by the addition of new communication channels like email, social media and chat. For a quantitative view on this trend, a great source is Dimension Data’s Global Contact Centre Benchmark. Dimension Data has been asking the same questions, with the same methodology, since 1997 yielding a unique view into the evolution of customer service. Their most recent report shows that 35% of all interactions are now on “digital” (i.e. non-voice) channels. They further predict “digital interactions will overtake voice by the end of 2016”. See the chart below.
Each channel has its strengths, but the voice channel has a place of distinction. We know, at an instinctive level, why a live agent conversation stands apart: When you have a tough issue to discuss, when there is an urgent matter, when the other options have left you frustrated, we want to talk to another human to cut through it all. It’s the final escalation.
Many companies invest heavily in their self-service channels, but then give little thought to what happens when customers reach a dead-end and need to talk to an agent. This is one of the many reasons why call-backs are such an important tool: they allow your callers to escalate smoothly to a voice conversation from any other channel.
To make the most of this ability, your call-back solution needs to have strong multi-channel capabilities, like pre-built components that can be quickly added to your web page or mobile app. Read more here.
4) Don’t Make Callers Repeat Information to Agents
Customers really dislike repeating information they’ve already provided. Even without call-backs, this is sadly still a common occurrence in contact centers. It’s sometimes due to a lack of interoperability between proprietary call center infrastructure, and sometimes the result of outsourcing calls to a third-party call center.
Any context that was established with the caller prior to requesting a call-back should be preserved while the caller is in the virtual queue, and then brought back when the call-back occurs. In other words, your call-back solution should maintain call-attached data.
5) Do Explore Your Options
There are, clearly, many aspects to consider when selecting a call-back system. It’s important to have a vendor you can trust to make sure all the angles are covered.
A logical starting place is whether your existing call center platform has a native call-back option. Many platforms, both on-premise and cloud-based, have at least some form of call-back functionality. Although it’s convenient to have a built-in call-back feature, there are several potential downsides to consider:
- If you change platforms in the future, you will have to start over. (As a bonus: having call-backs in place from a 3rd party during a platform transition is great way to mitigate any hiccups that might occur.)
- If you have a multi-site or multi-platform scenario, you will need to configure each call-back solution separately.
- If you send some of your calls to a BPO/outsourced call center, the call-back strategy won’t extend to those calls.
Call-backs are one of the few call center technologies that are truly win-win: Callers have a more pleasant experience and the call center gets a more efficient operation. If you’re exploring this option today, we are happy to help any time. Sign up for a live demonstration to learn more about how call-backs work.
Publish Date: June 21, 2016 5:00 AM
OCR is defined as the percentage of customers who successfully resolve an inquiry or problem during their first contact using only one channel. A simple way to think about this is ‘one contact – one channel’.
Although FCR and OCR are highly correlated, many call centers who track FCR fail to consider OCR since it factors in whether the customer used another channel to resolve the same inquiry – making it a more difficult metric to measure.
Interestingly, 77% of customers who use two or more contact channels to resolve the same inquiry or problem do so because of a service failure in the first contact channel. For the average call center, an alarming 42% of customers are not able to resolve their inquiry or problem on the initial attempt.
More and more, contact centers are realizing the importance of OCR, but can’t seem to find ways to master this critical metric. Fortunately, we can assist. In this one-hour webinar you’ll learn how to properly deliver, measure, and improve OCR.
Here’s a video snippet from our featured speakers!
Publish Date: June 16, 2016 5:00 AM
If you work in a call center, you know what a challenging environment it really is. Managers are constantly being asked to do “more with less”, while facing increasing call volumes. Meanwhile, there’s tremendous pressure on agents to meet and exceed target metrics – in an extremely high-stress environment. These factors often contribute to an understaffed and overworked call center, which results in long hold times, high call abandonment rates, and a poor customer experience.
In an environment like this, it’s hard to make the case to spend additional dollars to improve efficiency or, for that matter, morale. But as a call center employee, you can make a very powerful case to your boss that offering a call-back option (and thus eliminating hold time) can do just that. So here’s how to convince your boss that your call center needs call-backs.
1. Tell them that call-backs reduce abandon rates.
Call-backs allow people to keep their place in line, without having to be on the phone. That means they’re much less likely to abandon the call. (Not only does this help the call center improve its target metrics, it also improves the experience you offer callers.)
A study from ContactBabel found that 32% of contact centers saw a reduction in abandon rates after introducing call-backs. At Fonolo, we’ve seen it multiple times, including with Technology Credit Union – who experienced a 37% decrease in abandoned calls, and also with Bright Horizons – who saw a 33% reduction.
2. Show them how call-backs improve call center efficiency.
By improving the calling experience – that is, by freeing customers from the pain of hold time – several things happen. Firstly, call-backs improve First Call Resolution (FCR) rates, leading to a more efficient use of agent time and improved caller satisfaction (meaning fewer repeat calls from the same customers).
Secondly, call-backs lower average handle times (AHT). Quite simply, calls are shorter when customers are less annoyed, resulting in greater agent efficiency for the call center.
Finally, call-backs allow companies to smooth call volumes at peak times by deferring calls until volumes are more manageable (i.e. when the call center has extra agent capacity). Rather than hiring additional agents for peak periods (at considerable cost), this allows companies to make greater use of existing resources. (Tell your boss that this is exactly how you do “more with less”.)
3. Teach them that call-backs improve agent morale.
Call-backs not only improve the customer experience, they also improve the agent experience, something every call center (and their HR department) should be concerned about.
At Fonolo, we’ve found that agents love the call-back option. It means that calls are shorter and more pleasant when every conversation can start on a positive note – in this case, the customer receiving a call with an agent already on the line, ready to help them – rather than having to field complaints about long hold times. Put more succinctly, happier callers = happier agents.
When employees are engaged, they’re both more productive and less likely to leave, resulting in increased efficiencies for employers.
Publish Date: June 14, 2016 5:00 AM
Today, the customer experience is arguably the number one determinant of an organization’s success. Aberdeen reports that companies with strong omni-channel strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel strategies. And according to Deloitte, 62% of companies view customer experience delivered by the contact center as a competitive differentiator. There are plenty of numbers we can throw around about the customer experience, but not everyone understands what great customer experiences include, or perhaps, what they don’t include?
Let’s discuss some of the worst advice we’ve been given – or heard others been given – when it comes to the customer experience, and how the numbers prove them wrong.
BAD ADVICE #1
“Improving the customer experience won’t affect your organization’s overall revenue.”
Interesting perspective – but not true in the least. This opinion is probably why only 35% of companies with the least positive CX impact claim to see a link between customer experience and business results, while 73% of companies with the most positive CX impact admit there is a correlation between the two. Basically, companies who understand that the customer experience actually drives results are more likely to see results. Remember: It’s never too late. The first step is admitting there’s a problem, and taking the right steps towards change.
Here are the top reasons why businesses choose to improve the customer experience:
BAD ADVICE #2
“You don’t need around-the-clock customer service to provide a great experience.”
For some small businesses that may be true, but if you are a large company – like an airline or a hotel – your customers will look for you at all hours of the day. In a recent episode of “Hotel Impossible” the front desk at a busy Hawaiian resort was only open from 9 AM to 7 PM, which meant all checks-ins after that time were given written directions to “find” their room key. This is completely unacceptable. People save up their whole lives to travel to exclusive destinations like Hawaii. To travel that far and have to hunt down your own room key sets a terrible first impression, a negative customer experience, and is a poor start to any hospitality driven business.
But 24 hour customer service is not restricted to the hospitality industry. eConsultancy discovered 83% of online shoppers need support to complete a purchase. Can you imagine how many abandoned online shopping carts exist without after-hour support? When we think about it this way it’s easy to see that the cost of implementing around-the-clock customer service is made up by the amount of sales you’ll make in return!
BAD ADVICE #3
“Social media doesn’t help to improve the customer experience.”
That’s really interesting (said in the voice of Regina George)…since 67% of companies believe that social customer service is the most pressing short-term priority for the contact center. It’s important not to get caught being among the other 33% of companies that don’t value social support. And if you can’t take it from us, at least take it from Jeff Bezos, who makes an eye-opening point about how important online customer satisfaction really is;
“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.”
Since 46% of millennials “count on social media” when buying online, it’s about time we stop fighting the war against social support and admit that the customer experience can only get better when its utilized – #truestory.
BAD ADVICE #4
“Customers prefer to have someone else do all the work for them.”
Of course restaurant patrons don’t want to prepare their own food (most of the time), but depending on how efficient the customer journey is, consumers really don’t mind starting and finishing a transaction all by themselves. Today, customers actually prefer self-service options over asking for support help. The 2015 Aspect Consumer Experience Survey found that, “73% of consumers want the ability to solve product / service issues on their own; one-third say they’d ‘rather clean a toilet’ than speak with customer service.” And the demand is only growing; 90% of consumers now expect a brand or organization to offer a self-service customer support portal.
But keep in mind that giving customers the option to quickly find live agent assistance when needed, makes the self-service experience even better (check out this website solution for escalating online customers to a phone call).
BAD ADVICE #5
“Call-backs are not a necessity for helping to improve the customer experience.”
Where do people get this stuff?
Customers don’t just want call-backs; they need them to ultimately feel satisfied with their experience. Accenture’s “Global Customer Pulse Research Study” cited that 69% of respondents were “extremely frustrated” when placed on hold for a long time. Moreover, 77% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service. Time is money, and if a company is willing to take both away from a customer, it’s easy to neglect a purchase.
Check out Fonolo’s recent success stories for more examples on how call-backs improve the experience, while lowering costs.
Publish Date: June 8, 2016 5:00 AM