Fonolo - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
Customer service is arguably the single most important aspect of any organization. With that, support departments have to understand how customers wish to communicate in order to be successful.
As we all know, the options for support are endless, phone, email, social media, etc. But there are two platforms that are starting to compete head to head – chat and instant messaging (IM). These tools both offer short messages sent and read in real time, allowing you to converse more quickly and easily – but there are some obvious pros and cons to each.
Is live chat taking the back burner to instant messaging?
It’s a hot topic of debate and Fonolo will be tackling it head on during next week’s webinar with 7. Here’s a sneak peak at what’s to come….
Publish Date: March 24, 2016 5:00 AM
Call center agents go through a lot every single day. For instance, they help resolve customer complaints, they process transactions, and they follow up with customers to ensure their satisfaction has been met. And while some of those interactions go smoothly, others are not as pleasant. In a recent survey by American Express, 35% of respondents admitted to losing their temper while talking to customer service. Regardless of how badly a caller acts, agents have to keep their cool and help the customer out to the best of their ability. But lately we’ve asked around, and we’ve heard the water cooler talk, and there are a few things agents aren’t telling you that they wish they could.
Here are 10 phrases you’ll probably never hear a customer service agent say, but if they had the chance to tell you, they would:
1. “You do realize this isn’t MY fault?” – Customers tend to take out all their frustrations on customer service, no matter what the issue is. The reality is that most customer complaints are not caused by an agent – for example, delayed shipping or long hold-times.
2. “Do you talk to your mother with that mouth?” – It’s hard to handle aggressive customers and agents have to take it all in stride. But we think reps are secretly wondering if some of their callers were raised by wolves – I mean, there’s no way your momma would approve of that kind of language, right?
3. “Well, looks like someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” – Agents get it – you’re in a bad mood, you’re unhappy with a product or service, maybe you want to scream a bit. Agents will act like they don’t notice you’re being a real grumpy Gus, but they’re really just biting their tongue, wishing they could call you out.
4. “Can we talk about this later – I’ve got better things to do?” – What they’re really thinking: Can I just eat my lunch in peace? No? You need this resolved right now? Fine. But I’m not going to like it.
5. “Oh God, this sounds like it’s going to take a while.” – Sometimes an agent takes a call and can tell right away that this one isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s in that moment that they stretch out their legs and settle in for the long haul. Some customers just like to talk and Mr. Smith happens to be one of them.
6. “It’s really not that complicated…” – Seriously though, you’re wasting both of our times with this. If you can’t work the damn thing maybe you shouldn’t own it.
7. *Click* – No, no, no. That is one hot mess I’m not willing to deal with. In the heat of the moment, a quick and dirty hang up seems like the only reasonable response, but it comes with a price (like getting fired). So, it’s probably not the wisest choice, or a tactic that agents use often, but they definitely think about it.
8. “Well if you’re so smart why don’t you do my job for me?” – We know the customer is always right, but let’s face it; sometimes they’re actually really really wrong. So, how about you let me do my job instead of treating me like a halfwit? I mean, you don’t see me waltzing into your work and telling you what to do right…? Right.
9. “Thank you, and DO NOT have a nice day.” – After what you just put me through, no, I will not bid you a good day, sir.
10. “I feel like we’ve been through so much together.” – Some customer service interactions are actually quite pleasant. The agent and customer work together to accomplish the task at hand. And although the agent to customer relationship should remain professional, we bet agents get a little emotional about their customers from time to time.
Got anymore to add? Leave them in the comment section.
Publish Date: March 23, 2016 5:00 AM
Over the years, we at Fonolo have enjoyed a successful partnership with Avaya. We’re member of their DevConnect program – for developer partners, and their Select Product Program – which allows Avaya to sell Fonolo’s products directly, as well as through its network of resellers.
Today I’m happy to announce an additional milestone in our relationship with Avaya: The certification of our flagship call-back solution, In-Call Rescue, on Avaya’s Aura platform, version 7. You can read the full press release here: Fonolo Solution Now Rated “Avaya Compliant”
This is good news for Fonolo, and for our customers who are considering upgrading to Avaya’s latest platform. This certification will make it even easier for Avaya-based contact centers to add Fonolo’s call-back functionality. Passing Avaya’s rigorous technical certification means that adding Fonolo is quick, seamless, and of course fully supported by Avaya.
“Achieving compliance with Avaya allows Fonolo to continue to deliver a valuable solution that helps businesses manage the increasing demands of their contact centers, while making it easy for them to add call-backs to their call centers, web sites and mobile applications.”
— Shai Berger, CEO, Fonolo
Publish Date: March 22, 2016 5:00 AM
St. Patrick’s Day has long been considered a great excuse to pour yourself a cold one and celebrate all things Irish, but some of us have earned the right to party a little more than others.
For instance, call center agents have to put up with a lot all year-round. Customer demands are greater than ever before – 58% of consumers are more likely to tell others about their customer service experiences than they were 5 years ago – and much of the pressure is put on agents to ensure those experiences are in fact positive. But that’s not all; here are some other good reasons why you should reward your call center agents with a Guinness (or two) this St. Paddy’s Day.
They Smooth Over Customer Issues with Grace
Your call center agents handle customer issues all day long. From the pleasant to the unruly, they do their best to make each customer feel good by the end of the conversation. Being able to navigate through different personalities, and different wants and needs, is no easy task. Without them, you’re more likely to be confronted with a riot, rather than a celebration, on a day like St. Paddy’s.
They Have the Patience of a Saint
St. Patrick himself would have been impressed by a call center agent’s ability to keep calm during tense customer encounters. They are the mediators that keep your brand reputation alive by preventing angry customers from leaving, and making happy customers even happier. Statistically speaking, 73% of consumers say friendly customer service reps can make them fall in love with a brand. Now that’s something worth celebrating.
They Have a Sharp Eye for Detail
Agents pay close attention to each of your customers’ concerns, even checking in periodically before they have an issue to let them know how much they value their business. Staying on top of little details can be tedious and tiresome, but these workers see great value in going that extra mile. They also know that by being detail oriented they are more likely to avoid negative experiences with customers in the future. This is a win-win for them and for your business.
They Work When the Rest of the World is Asleep
Customer service has turned into a 24/7 job, and it takes a special kind of person to remain alert and greet customers happily in the middle of the night. While most of us are at home sleeping soundly or relaxing with a glass of wine, call center agents are waiting for the next customer to call in frantically asking why their flight was cancelled, or their laptop refuses to turn on. Being able to reach a human at any time of the day to fix our problems is a luxury that should not be taken for granted, and these workers deserve to be recognized for this convenience.
They Keep up in a Fast-Paced Environment
Call center agents can’t control their workload; they always have to be ready and alert to take a call. Most of us can plan our day and if we don’t finish our work, we can always reprioritize or take our work home. Call center agents, however, can handle calls at their own pace, but they cannot reorganize a customer’s demands to fit their energy level. They must adapt to this fast-paced environment of customer relations. That definitely deserves a Guinness.
The list could go on and on, but you get the picture. So, cheers to all those hard-working call center agents and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!
Publish Date: March 16, 2016 5:00 AM
Few people would argue that technology is rapidly changing our culture, but it is the rate at which these changes are happening that may be surprising to some. In five years, it is estimated that our technology will be 32 times more advanced than it is today. Social media is one of the primary drivers of these advancements because it turns every business into a 24/7 global establishment.
Here are 4 things to keep in mind if you want to successfully perform in today’s environment.
1. Understand the Disruptive Smartphone
There is more computing power in your smartphone than they used to get the first man on the moon. Just the clock of the iPhone is 32,000 times faster than the lunar landing computers, according to ZME Science. The muscle and wide use of mobile devices are what make smartphones a disruptive technology, which is a technology that creates a new market and changes our culture.
The processing strength and social media connectivity in smartphones mean that you can do almost all of your customer care on an iPhone. It is generally worth the cost to supply key staff with a smartphone and data package. This way customer care can be accessed at all hours of the day or night. Since most consumer issues that require immediate attention are played out in the social media arena, you can use mobile devices and an on-call schedule to demonstrate responsiveness to your customer base.
2. Have Customer Care Live in the Cloud
Another tech tool that many consider to be disruptive is software as a service (SaaS). Using a cloud-based care center, a company can share software at a fraction of the normal price. This software can handle much of the customer service functions automatically, giving your business the appearance of around-the-clock interactivity.
SaaS systems have the added benefit of cooperating across multiple functions, including operations, manufacturing and accounting. They can go beyond the normal scope of consumer complaints and address other client needs. This has been shown to increase the overall customer experience, leading to brand loyalty and continued sales.
3. Create a Dialogue
One of the older tools of the Internet age is the forum. Originally, most online communication happened in forum rooms, where everyone could discuss a single issue. Forums are still widely used as part of a continuous customer service program. With forums, you are letting the public-at-large do the bulk of your customer service work. This is a common format in technologically rich environments, such as Microsoft operating systems. There are millions of users that have found issues and either fixed or developed workarounds, and they are happy to share their ideas. They do the talking, and it only takes one staff member from your company to monitor the group, making sure everything stays accurate and on the up-and-up.
4. Let the Users Speak
With more than a billion websites plus Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you cannot control what people say. Negative reviews should be addressed immediately, and if a solution is found, it should be splashed across social media. You also should encourage positive user content and promote it – a win-win for your business. Make sure this positivity runs across your marketing platforms and be sure to keep your language and branding consistent.
Guest Speaker: Paul Reyes-Fournier
Paul has served as the chief financial officer for social service organizations, churches and schools. He created his own marketing firm, RF Media. Paul holds a BS in physics and an MBA.
Publish Date: March 10, 2016 5:00 AM
Agent morale can be a key indication of flaws in your business. Happy agents – those who are excited to be at work – can signify a healthy and successful corporate culture. Whereas stressed and overworked agents can suggest a business culture that is failing them, and most likely failing its customers. Interactions between agents and customers directly affect the overall customer experience. In fact, 58% of customers will never use a company again after a negative experience.
On the flipside, companies that are focused on providing a superior experience have seen a 10-15% increase in revenue and a 20% increase in customer satisfaction. So why do only 31% of organizations recognize and reward employees for improving the customer experience? If agents are incentivized and equipped with the right tools and training, not only will you see improved agent morale, but a boost in service levels and revenue as well.
Here are 5 ways to get your agents more excited and more eager to deliver excellent customer service experiences.
1. Deploy a Call-Back Feature
Call-backs have been proven to boost agent morale and lower abandon rates. Just take a look at this case study on Tech CU, which illustrates that call-backs not only lowered abandon rates by 37%, but found that their “call center agents also feel better about not seeing a queue of calls on the reader board.” Agents can now spend more time building relationships with their members rather than fielding complaints caused by long hold-times. With call-backs, negative interactions are painlessly transformed into positive ones, and that’s something agents can get excited about! To learn more about deploying a call-back solution in your call center, feel free to contact Fonolo to set up a free demo.
2. Allow Agents to Work Remotely
With significant advances in online and mobile communications, our work environments have changed. In fact, regular work-at-home has grown by 103% since 2005 and 6.5% in 2014. This represents the largest year over year increase since before the recession. Call center work, which is predominately completed over the phone with the help of an internet connected computer, is qualified to support work-from-home positions. So, how often should agents work from home? The latest telecommuting statistics tell us that, “two to three days a week seems to be the sweet spot that allows for a balance of concentrative work (at home) and collaborative work (at the office).” Revive and revitalize your agents by providing them with some work-from-home options.
3. Use Gamification to Drive Success
In an article by CRM Magazine, Vikram Bhaskaran, Director of Marketing Communications at FreshDesk said, “When support reps are bored or [un]motivated, they start making little errors, like typos or sounding irritable, without realizing it.” This is where gamification can help. According to a report by Aberdeen Research, organizations that deployed gamification have seen their annual revenue grow nearly twice as fast as their peers. With solutions like UserVoice Helpdesk, call centers can track and rank agents throughout their work day, which in effect stimulates competition and a more energetic and engaged workforce. Plus, gamification will dramatically raise service level performance.
4. Offer Professional Advancement
One of the biggest reasons why agents quit the call center is due to little to no opportunity for growth. Call centers tend to have a reputation for being flat organizations, but encouraging agents to build their skillsets can result in tremendous gains for both of you. Your agents know your customers better than anyone else, and rather than losing this knowledge economy, give agents an opportunity to grow. Let them apply for new job openings within your organization before you post externally. You’re bound to benefit from the extra effort being put in by agents who are gunning for a promotion, while agents won’t view their work as a means to an end.
5. Don’t Hire Toxic Agents
Your call center has developed a certain culture and in order to maintain that environment you must hire like-minded agents. If you start watering a garden with poison, eventually all the plants will get spoiled. The same goes for your agents. If you start adding agents who break down your existing culture and bring negativity to the table, even your happiest agents can turn sour. When AirBnb went to 24/7 customer service, they had to completely reevaluate their staff. As a company that thrives on delivering great customer experiences, it could only afford to retain agents that were happy about this change in operations. If you’re not sure what qualities to look out for in a good agent, check out “4 Signs You’ve Hired the Right Call Center Agent” to get a better idea.
Do you have tips to get call center agents more excited? Share them in the comment section below.
Publish Date: March 9, 2016 5:00 AM
Yesterday, Avaya took a big step towards their goal of creating their own open platform for developing communications solutions. Their “Engagement Development Platform” has been operating for over a year, with some notable successes. By rebranding it to the catchier name “Breeze”, and opening a marketplace for developer add-ons (aka “snap-ins”), Avaya is shifting it into high gear.
Tomorrow, Avaya SVP Gary Barnett, will give a keynote address at Enterprise Connect and, no doubt, will focus on this topic. This has been a passion of Gary’s for a while (our coverage of their recent partner event) but it’s for real now, folks!
Breeze is a big — and ambitious — bet for the company. As I’ll explain below, it’s much harder for a player like Avaya to adopt a platform strategy, compared to a start-up.
Today’s Buyer is Different
The core concept behind Breeze is to break apart monolithic “UC” or “Contact Center” applications into small pieces that can be mashed together quickly with other pieces from Avaya or from other vendors. In a post last year, Zeus Kerravala (member of our Top Analysts list) called EDP Avaya’s “secret weapon”.
He also makes an important point about its target audience:
EDP is targeted not at network managers or communications professionals, but at software developers, business analysts, and ISVs to create unique, communications-enabled applications.
Recognizing, and adapting to, the changing buying behavior for Enterprise IT – especially in the mid-market – is extremely important. This is a subset of the “consumerization of the enterprise”, which is the driving force behind phenomenons like Dropbox and Slack. Rather than starting with a requirements document, an RFP and then a procurement process, adoption begins at the bottom — by the folks closest to the problems — thus circumventing the traditional buying model.
The Platform Advantage
What makes this move important for Avaya? One clue is success other platforms, like Twilio, are having in the market. My post last week talked about the new “Lightning Voice” offering from Salesforce: Salesforce Has Many Fingers in the Call Center Pie and made the point that Twilio has maneuvered into a very advantageous position in that ecosystem. Lightning Voice (which “empower reps to connect with prospects faster with click-to-call, auto-logging of calls, and call forwarding to take calls from anywhere”) is built on Twilio’s platform.
Is this Salesforce’s opening move in becoming a call center provider? If so, it’s interesting to speculate what happens if call centers start being seen as just “front-ends” to CRM systems. Or maybe the future of the call center looks like cloud call center upstart TalkDesk — also built on Twilio! Either way, the company providing the communication platform wins.
So certainly executives at Avaya (along with Cisco, Genesys, and Aspect) are asking themselves: Why isn’t our technology powering Lightning Voice, or these other new players? Without a platform play, those other legacy vendors are getting left out of this game. (This is partly why Cisco bought Tropo.)
Challenge #1: Channel Conflict
For Avaya, the challenge of launching EDP/Breeze goes beyond the technical issues.
The majority of their revenue comes from its vast channel network. Thousands of “Value Added Resellers” and “System Integrators” around the world resell Avaya’s products and make money by installing and maintaining the systems.
These deals follow a top-down model where the CIO or CTO makes a big-dollar commitment. What happens when you introduce a parallel bottom-up approach, where developers / managers in a company can buy small “as you need it” licenses and build from there? Friction will inevitably be created between those two models. These are tough waters to navigate.
Challenge #2: Committing for the Long Haul
A second challenge for Avaya is the gaining developer trust. Twilio’s CEO Jeff Lawson recently penned a great post last week about this:
“The problem with building or buying an API as a “strategy” is that strategies change, often rapidly. They shift with new leadership, they shift with corporate priorities, they shift with the breeze… When budgeting season comes around, guess which projects get the axe? Anything … that hasn’t made a “needle moving” amount of profit…
APIs are a long commitment. Once you build them, they take time for developers to adopt and grow into revenue…You seed developers with ideas, you help them find use cases, and after developers build, you watch their apps go from prototypes, to betas, to production systems with happy customers. It requires patience and deep commitment…”
In other words, Avaya has to make developers and companies believe that it is a safe investment to build solutions on Breeze, and that the next C-level reshuffling won’t “deprioritize” it.
The introduction of Breeze is necessary and timely. Through Fonolo’s great partnership with Avaya (Avaya resells Fonolo via their SPP program) I’ve had a front-row seat to the progress with EDP/Breeze. They have put in serious resources and internal effort to get it this far. Now that the “Snapp Store” is live, we will soon see whether Avaya can create a true developer community. It will take a committed leader with a long-view to stay the course, which is why I’ll be paying close attention to Gary’s keynote on Wednesday.
- There’s more great coverage of Breeze by Beth Shultz on NoJitter.
- Thanks to Dave Michels for feedback on drafts of this post.
Publish Date: March 8, 2016 5:00 AM
Last week, Fonolo hosted yet another insightful Google Hangout, discussing the true challenges of outsourcing your call center. This fabulous panel of BPO experts shared their thoughts and comments on critical issues that your contact center should keep in mind. To save you some time, we’ve extracted video snippets showcasing highlights from the discussion.
Let’s take a quick look at the panelist introductions: Neal Topf, President at Callzilla, Mike Elmalem, Director of Business Development at Affinity Global, Eric Berg, Vice President at All-Calls Call Centers, and Shai Berger, CEO and Co-Founder at Fonolo.
Do call centers avoid offshoring because of consumer perception?
Eric Berg published on article on Contact Center Pipeline where he cited a study from Purdue University that found that 65% of consumers would change their buying behavior if they learned that a company, with which they were doing business, used an offshore call center, even if they were satisfied with its customer service. Because of this, many organizations are seeing value in bringing contact center jobs back to America. In fact, the percentage of calls being outsourced to foreign countries has decreased consistently over the past few years across almost every industry: 30% in 2008 versus only 12% in 2014.
So the question remains, do contact centers avoid offshoring because of consumer perception?
Listen to Eric explain this article and what the other panelists have to say.
What regulatory stipulations should call centers keep in mind?
The protection of a customer’s proprietary information and intellectual property should always be a critical consideration in any BPO transaction. Security and data privacy are also among the top concerns for customers considering a BPO. These functional areas can often be subject to stringent legal requirements.
So the question remains , what regulatory stipulations should call centers keep in mind?
Listen to Neal address security concerns, and hear what the other panelists have to say.
What common mistakes should contact centers look out for?
Gartner predicted that 80% of customers service outsourcing projects that were designed to cut costs would actually fail. Many problems contributed to this fail including, incomplete processes and lack of management. But this doesn’t mean that outsourcing should be completely ignored. Gartner also predicted that when executed correctly outsourcing projects could result in cost savings of 25-30%.
So the question is, what common mistakes should contact centers look out for?
Listen to Mike as he starts off what he explains is a “huge” topic.
Publish Date: March 3, 2016 5:00 AM
You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology, not the other way around. – Steve Jobs
The invention of brand new experiences that your customers can fall in love with is no easy task, I mean, even the greatest of visionaries struggle. Sometimes we need a little help in the inspiration department to get our creative juices flowing. That’s why we’ve scoured the interwebs to find out where you can find visually and verbally stimulating content for some serious CX brainstorming. From quizzes, to infographics, to motivational quotes, here’s our list of places to find your CX inspiration and bring them to life.
1. Your Customers Aren’t Looking for a Fling [Infographic]
This quiz found in Entrepreneur will motivate you to personalize your customer relationships.
2. Customer Service Quotes to Ignite Your Customer Support Team [Infographic]
Here you’ll find 12 great quotes that will give your customer service agents a bit of a boost.
3. The Happy Customer Formula [Infographic]
Discover ways to impress customers of all ages and keep them happy with this fact-packed infographic.
4. 6 Keys to Successful Experience Design [Pyramid]
Are you looking for ways to make the user experience better? Here are 6 key steps to take for designing a great UX.
5. 37 Ways to Improve Customer Experience [Pictographic]
This pictographic by Shane Goldberg is a visually challenging piece. It hits targets that we tend to forget about when it comes to the customer experience.
6. What is User Experience? [Infographic]
It’s more complex than you think, and this graphical interpretation outlines how to optimize the user experience, and what to consider before you get there.
7. Using Social Media as a Customer Service Tool [Infographic]
This is a must-see infographic found in Social Media Today. It captures every single avenue you need to consider when it comes to creating the best customer experiences through social media.
8. The True Cost of Not Meeting Your Customer Expectations [Infographic]
Are you having doubts about investing in the customer experience? Let this infographic by Ekaterina Walter dispel any arguments you or your colleagues might have.
9. ROI of Customer Experience [Infographic]
Do you want to quantify spending on the customer experience? This infographic breaks down the monetary returns in 2016.
10. Poised to Disrupt [Infographic]
You’ll find a few customer experience infographics here, but we like the “Poised to Disrupt” image. If you’re looking for forward thinking customer experience ideas, these are some areas you need to consider.
Publish Date: March 2, 2016 5:00 AM
There has been speculation for many years about Salesforce introducing its own call center. The argument is that Salesforce drove the conversion of CRM to a cloud-delivered service and now that call centers have also crossed that chasm, it’s a logical expansion path for Salesforce.
But there’s more to this than just two pieces of enterprise IT functions that have both become “SaaS-ified”. After all, many other IT functions that have followed that same path. Call center and CRM have a special relationship because the former relies heavily on the latter. In fact, some people have come to view the call center as simply one of many “front-ends” to CRM. CRM is eating the call center. (Hmmm, sounds like a good blog post title… )
The little-noticed announcement of “Lightning Voice” from Salesforce earlier this month gives another clue towards their strategy. More importantly, it reminds us that Salesforce already has many fingers in the call center pie.
Lightning Voice is CRM-Triggered Outbound Dialing
According to Salesforce Lightning Voice “will empower reps to connect with prospects faster with click-to-call, auto-logging of calls, and call forwarding to take calls from anywhere.”
Sound familiar? It’s basically the pitch that is the core of many “sales enablement” companies like Inside Sales, Sales Loft, Velocify and Frontspin. Most of these products are tightly integrated with Salesforce, since that’s what their customers use for CRM. So Lightning Voice is not just another competitor, it’s a competitor with a big advantage. (Also worth noting that Salesforce is a major investor in InsideSales.)
There is definitely a danger of stepping on partnership toes. In fact, that’s the dominant thought in two pieces covering Lightning by Lauren Horwitz of TechTarget.
1. In Salesforce Lightning platform plans, availability revealed, the subhead is “…it may encroach on Salesforce’s partner ecosystem.”
2. And in Salesforce Lightning upgrade may create winners and losers, Lauren writes:
Recent upgrades to Salesforce Lightning may benefit customers who can now build new apps — but how will it affect partners who have apps that tackle the same problems?
I think Salesforce’s maneuvering around the different pieces of the call center puzzle is not accidental at all.
But No Inbound: Is it a Third Rail or Phase 2?
Note what was not in the announcement: inbound. Handling inbound calls is still the crown jewel of the call center vendors. Outbound has long been seen as a low-value feature that lots of players could peel away from the core call center offering. Inbound is what drives the sale of multi-million dollar call center systems.
Perhaps Salesforce is stopping short of offering inbound voice features out of deference to the many call center partners it has. Companies like InContact, LiveOps and Transera have invested heavily in Salesforce integration. It’s a partnership that works well: Agents sit in front of Salesforce-based consoles with the “screen-pops” driven by the inbound calls. Both the call center vendor and Salesforce get to sell a seat license per agent.
Also on that list is TalkDesk, the superstar newcomer that has conquered the low-end of the market with a largely self-serve model (“Create a Call Center in 5 Minutes”). Salesforce was a major participant in TalkDesk’s recent $21M round of funding.
Another reason to avoid inbound is that it is more demanding to deliver. Inbound is mission critical for most companies. If your call center can’t accept calls, you could be losing sales or even customers every minute. If you can’t make outbound calls, consequences are less dire.
What’s Under the Hood?
As reported by Re/code’s Arik Hesseldahl, Lightning Voice is powered by Twilio. Guess who is a major investor in Twilio? Yep, Salesforce. And guess what powers Talkdesk? Twilio.
What to make of all this? Perhaps Salesforce is watching TalkDesk to see if a Twilio-powered call center can really scale up. If it does, Lightning Voice could expand into inbound functionality and – boom – every call center vendor is under major threat: Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, Aspect, Five9, InContact, Interactive Intelligence. (Their combined call center revenues add up to around $4B annually.)
When companies deploy a new call center, a big part of the process is CTI integration – getting the call center software and CRM software to work together so that the agent’s get the right info. For many VARs, this is what pays the bills. As Paul Fischer points out this could all get streamlined with Lightning Voice. So there’s another constituency that is threatened.
The Power of a Platform
Companies like TalkDesk and NewVoiceMedia have built call center businesses on top of Twilio, which has allowed them to grow very quickly. They bypassed the years and millions of dollars that the previous generation of companies had to invest in building all the core technology of a call center. But that’s a double-edge sword. If they can do it, so can others. And no one is better positioned to do that than Salesforce.
The big take-away here is the power of a platform and API for voice. No matter what happens, Twilio is the big winner. This is why Cisco bought Tropo (formerly part of Voxeo), and it’s why Avaya is placing such a big emphasis on their new Engagement Development Platform.
Publish Date: March 1, 2016 5:00 AM
Ambitious companies that want to thrive in today’s marketplace must focus on delivering exceptional customer service. To win and retain customers, businesses must differentiate themselves from the competition, and customer service is playing a dominant role in achieving this. In fact, 89%of marketing leaders expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience by 2016, as compared with 36% four years ago. This seems fitting since even a 10% improvement in CX scores can translate into more than $1 billion in revenue.
Each year it’s essential to know which trends will affect your industry, your employees, and your customers. Here’s what customer service leaders should be focussed on this year.
1) Consistency Across Channels is Vital
With so many ways to interact with companies (e.g. web, social, mobile, voice), it’s only natural for customers to switch channels when one proves to be ineffective. The goal for customers is to receive answers quickly and easily, and if that means jumping from Twitter to email to chat, then so be it! Not surprisingly, 60% of customers actually do this. They’ll change channels depending on where they are and what they’re doing, and will expect a seamless, consistent experience while they’re doing it – across all platforms.
Gartner Research predicts that customers will handle 85% of their relationships with a company without ever interacting with another human by the year 2020. Companies that understand the importance of multi-channel customer service are diligently laying the groundwork to deliver a seamless experience across all mediums.
2) Customer Service Tools Are Critical
Customer service teams are always looking for new ways to operate more efficiently – ways that make the experience better for them, and better for the customers they’re serving.
This year it will be more important than ever for your customer service teams to provide quality support. At the end of the day, it’s all about understanding the customer and predicting what they will want next. So, there’s no better time than the present to implement a strategic cross-channel CRM strategy.
Today, there are a number of great solutions out there to help your business manage its customer service needs. Here are 3 examples:
Zendesk provides customer service and support ticket software. Their “beautifully simple” user interface is designed for convenience and scalability.
Freshdesk is a web-based help desk software that allows small businesses to support customers over email, phone, the web, Twitter and your company’s Facebook page.
Desk.com offers multi-channel customer support to manage requests from social media, email, phone, chat, and more.
3) The Importance of a Personalized Experience
Today, 99% of consumers think customer service agents sound scripted. But there’s still hope: Research shows that 75% of businesses are committed to creating more personal connections.
The process of personalization can be incredibly powerful. Take this study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, where researchers tested servers in the hospitality industry to examine the effect that mints had against a control group (where no mints were given) in increasing tips.
1. The first group had waiters giving mints along with the check, making no mention of the mints themselves. This increased tips by 3% against the control group.
2. The second group had waiters bring out two mints by hand (separate from the check), and they mentioned them to the table (i.e. “Would anyone like some mints before you leave?”). This increased tips by 14% against the control group.
3. The last group had waiters bring out the check first along with a few mints. A short time afterward, the waiters came back with another set of mints and let customers know they had brought out more mints, just in case they wanted another.
That last group saw a 21% increase in tips! Researchers found that it was the perceived personalization of bringing out the second set of mints and mentioning it to customers (i.e. “I thought I might see if someone could use an extra mint”) that made the difference. Point being: It had nothing to do with the mints; it was the personalized experience that increased the tip percentage. Keep this study in mind when applying personalization to your customer service teams!
4) Staying in Tune with Social Media Best Practices
Social care is best delivered when employees across departments are trained to engage with customers. As more consumers turn to social media to try and resolve issues, your training requirements will need to keep pace.
In the past two years, there has been a 2.5x increase in customer service conversations on Twitter. In order for brands to keep up, it’s essential that they stay in tune with best practices. Check out this infographic surveying 14,040 Twitter users who followed or interacted with a brand’s customer service Twitter account. The resulting research displays best practices for brands who want to shift from simply handling customer service to nurturing relationships.
Don’t miss the last 4 trends! Download the full report below.
Publish Date: February 25, 2016 5:00 AM
We are thrilled to announce the launch of Fonolo’s first annual Customer Experience Excellence Awards. This awards program recognizes contact centers who deliver superior customer experiences and who are dedicated to reducing customer hold-times – something we are very passionate about here at Fonolo.
We have a deep history of helping call centers improve the customer experience and we look forward to celebrating the successes companies have had using our call-back solutions.
Call centers that are committed to creating excellent customer experiences should be recognized,” said Daniela Puzzo, Director of Marketing, Fonolo. “Our clients understand that by replacing hold-time with a call-back they are drastically improving the customer journey, and differentiating themselves from their competitors.
Watch the official announcement on our YouTube channel:
Winners of the 2016 Customer Experience Excellence Awards will be announced on April 5th 2016 and honorees will receive a reward on our behalf.
Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates and be the first to know about the winners.
Publish Date: February 24, 2016 5:00 AM
Have you thought about implementing a call-back feature in your workplace? Are you weighing out the benefits? Call-back solutions could be instrumental in creating a positive working environment for your staff. It has the capacity to motivate staff, decrease stress levels, and empower employees to make their days more rewarding and more productive.
Phone queues are a highly stressful pain point for customers. So, when customers are happier, they’re treating your staff better. A call-back feature means you don’t leave your staff bearing the brunt of a customer’s dissatisfaction during long queue times. Happier staff means lower attrition and burnout rates, along with improved engagement.
1. Many call centers don’t provide adequate customer service training to their agents, and while technology shouldn’t replace good training, a call-back feature can reduce the number of times operatives struggle with angry customers. Since this is extremely demotivating for staff it should be your priority to prevent this.
2. A call-back feature prevents customers from having to endure the frustrating ‘on-hold’ process, thus creating the feeling that their time is of higher value to the business. This puts your employees on a positive footing when opening a conversation with a customer and reduces the number of angry customers they have to deal with on a daily basis.
3. A call-back system can reduce hectic peak periods so the working day is more manageable for call center staff. This levelling out creates a better working environment and reduces the level of employee burnout.
4. A call-back feature frees up essential time that allows staff to plan and prioritize tasks. Staff can make better use of their time by utilizing a matrix or app. Time management systems like the Covey matrix allow staff to categorise their work from ‘urgent and important’ to ‘neither urgent nor important’. This empowers employees to take control of their working day.
5. A call-back feature turns idle time into productive time and boosts morale! You might think that a complete lack of work reduces stress levels yet the reality is that it often actually increases them. A call-back feature means staff always has work and aren’t bored during idle periods. Keeping a steady working pace makes work more fulfilling overall.
6. A call-back feature tends to lead to a higher customer satisfaction rate, which, as any call center operative knows, leads to a higher staff satisfaction rate. Customers that feel valued and haven’t been kept waiting in a lengthy phone queue are more likely to feel relaxed. Which in turn, means they are more likely to respect your employees. It’s a positive cycle.
7. A call-back feature allows staff to brief themselves on customer data before the call-back is made. This reduces the amount of time it takes to resolve the issue by looking up customer details. Employees also feel better equipped to handle phone calls as they feel in control of the situation and have all the necessary information at hand.
8. Having a call-back feature essentially provides greater ability to manage time and productivity. In turn, this gives operatives increased opportunity to engage in proactive activities such as making more outbound calls – in a nutshell, a call-back feature assists you in maximising sales as well!
Guest Blogger: Hannah Spruce
Hannah Spruce is a Content Author at High Speed Training, a UK-based online training provider that offers a popular customer service eLearning course, amongst others. She writes about a variety of topics for their blog, the Hub. Hannah holds a Master’s degree in Contemporary Literatures and has a passion for poetry as well as coaching athletics in her spare time.
Publish Date: February 23, 2016 5:00 AM
Customer service is a costly undertaking and getting more expensive, which is why most businesses will consider routes such as outsourcing when aiming to save on expenses.
Should your contact center outsource part or all of their operations? This is a common debate and often poses much discussion around the executive table.
There are pros and cons to both sides of the equation – and the right answer can be different for every call center. To make an informed decision it’s important to investigate the true challenges of outsourcing.
Companies with the best outcomes will be those who invested the time to fully understand the task at hand. There’s no better way to accumulate this knowledge than by listening to the professional themselves. As luck would have it, we have a one-hour live conversation discussing this exact topic. Join us on Thursday, February 25th at 2:00 PM ET as we highlight the most important topics to consider before deciding if outsourcing is right for you.
Here’s a sneak peak at the slides
Publish Date: February 18, 2016 5:00 AM
It can be tough to maintain a healthy diet while working in a call center, but a balanced lifestyle is extremely important for those doing deskwork. According to researchers at the University of Leicester sitting at a desk and typing at a computer can raise your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Plus, 61% of Americans snack at their desks, which add up to plenty of extra calories. At Fonolo, we are in no respect healthcare practitioners, but we do recognize the importance of happy, healthy, and engaged employees. That’s why we found some great tips for helping call center professionals eat right, stay fit and perform well at work.
Keep a Food Diary
Before we dive into the meat and potatoes of it (pun intended), let’s start by logging your intake. This is a great way to actively begin making changes to your work diet. You’ll then be able to tell if your diet is too fatty, fried, or if you’re missing any essential vitamins, minerals or nutrients. This food chart can help you understand what the standard daily nutritional intake looks like and you can restructure it in a way that fits your lifestyle.
Variety is the Spice of Life
When you’re juggling a full-time job, family, and extracurricular activities, it can be difficult to get creative with your diet. But getting too comfortable with a certain diet routine might be affecting your health. The Harvard Chan School of Public Health recommends adding a colorful mix to your meals (and we don’t mean sprinkles), and remember that potatoes don’t count as vegetables. This can be best achieved by preplanning your weekly meals. Here are 21 #MealPrep ideas that are anything but boring to give you some inspiration.
Save Your Money; Pack a Lunch
This brings us to another very important tip: resist the urge to eat out. We know your coworkers will invite you to go grab a bite, but meal preparation is key to maintaining a balanced healthy diet. This will not only help you keep tabs on what you’re consuming, but now you can use your lunch breaks to do other healthy activities. Take a look at this Forbes article for ‘The 10 Best Exercises To Do At Your Desk’ or simply take a walk, hit the gym or do some light yoga.
Water is Your Friend
It’s easy to misjudge your choice of thirst-quenchers especially when vending machines full of sugary liquids are a hop, skip, and a jump away from your desk. We get it; you need energy to stay sharp and pop, juice, energy drinks, and coffee/tea can all supplement the need for a quick boost. But it’s best to skip the sugary drinks altogether and limit coffee/tea to one to two servings per day. Your best bet is sticking to water or herbal beverages the rest of the time.
We should also mention that alcohol, in moderation, can actually be beneficial, however, we recommend saving that for an after-work night cap.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
It’s a fact that it takes our brains around 20 minutes after we begin eating to recognize that we’re full. By slowing down your eating you not only allow for your brain to catch up to your stomach, you also allow your stomach to digest food quicker and more easily. Concentrate on chewing your food before swallowing, this will help you become more aware of how quickly you’re consuming the food and how much you’re actually taking in.
Be Happy, Not “Hangry”
The point of this blog is to promote healthy ways to eat, and skipping meals isn’t part of that mantra. More importantly, you run the risk of nutrient deficiencies linked to fatigue, poor mental function, and other health concerns. That’s no way to stay productive and engaged at work. Call center professionals should be happy not “hangry”. Eat well, eat regularly and exercise to keep you performing optimally.
We hope these tips will help you regain control of your sometimes hectic lifestyle. If you have any other healthy eating pointers please share them in the comments below.
Publish Date: February 17, 2016 5:00 AM