Fonolo - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
10 months ago, Avaya filed for chapter 11 protection kicking off the largest bankruptcy event in the history of the call center industry. Avaya faced a tough challenge to reach a restructuring agreement with their many debt holders, and to have it done quickly in order to minimize the damage to the brand, and the slow bleed of customers to competitors. Most of the process happened out of the public view, but in the last month, three announcements have revealed the status.
It looks like Avaya met their challenge successfully and will be exiting bankruptcy soon. More importantly, they managed to shake off a large portion of their debt, and set their sights on an IPO in early 2018.
The Tick Tock
Here’s a run-down of recent significant news:
August 7: Agreement Reached with the Debt Holders
This was the big step everyone was waiting for. Avaya announced that they reached an agreement with the majority of debt holders. This agreement is called the “PSA” or Plan Support Agreement (an inscrutably bland legal acronym, if I ever saw one) and it basically says who’s getting how much of a haircut on which debt.
September 12: The Plan is Heading to a Vote
In this announcement, we learned that the bankruptcy court approved the PSA and Avaya can start soliciting votes. Two important dates were also set: Voting will close October 27th and a court hearing to “confirm” the plan (assuming they get the votes) is set for November 15th. This was closely followed by the news that a judge was appointed as the mediator for the case. People that understand bankruptcies know that these are very positive signs.
September 28: Avaya Plans to Emerge from Bankruptcy as a Public Company
Many people suspected that Avaya wanted to do an IPO immediately after the bankruptcy. Last week, we heard the first official confirmation that this is indeed the plan. John Sullivan, Avaya’s VP and corporate treasurer, stated: “First of all, [being public means] a lot more visibility and you get more press because people will be following your stock… We always filed our financial statements even when we were a private company and there is no difference.”
Avaya Making Good Progress During the Bankruptcy
In February, Avaya put on a great conference in Vegas. When I reviewed the event (Avaya Did Good with their Spotlight Moment This Week) I said “they made good use of a unique moment in their history…” and came away cautiously optimistic.
They’ve followed that up with some progress on the product front. Here are just a few highlights:
- In February, they announced a BPO-focussed product (in partnership with Spoken Communications).
- In July, they introduced Customer Engagement Cloud. (Puts Oceana in a hybrid architecture.
- In September, their midmarket platform hit an impressive milestone: “…Avaya IP Office reaches 600,000 systems issued to businesses and organizations around the world…” As their CTO Laurent Philonenko put it in this tweet, that’s systems not users. When you see a number that big, you realize the dominating scale of Avaya’s ecosystem. They really are in a league of their own.
But the World Isn’t Standing Still
Even though Avaya’s is progressing through chapter 11 fairly quickly, competitors aren’t standing still! The past 10 months have been unusually dynamic in the call center industry:
- Amazon entered call center game with Connect, unveiling it with a massive booth at Call Center Week. This is especially significant when you consider that other cloud-based call centers use Amazon’s AWS as their infrastructure: InIn/Genesys, Talkdesk, InContact and even Avaya. (If you think that selling call center service is strangely peripheral to Amazon’s core business, read Why Amazon is Eating the World by @zackkanter.)
- Mitel bought Shoretel.
- Oracle is entering the game with “Customer Engagement Cloud”.
- Talkdesk is making strong gains. They launched an impressive partner program with a true “app store”, i.e. one-click install plus unified monthly-billing. We’ll definitely be writing more about that. (Wink wink.)
- Genesys continues to digest its acquisition of InIn, and announced a major initiative in AI called “Kate”.
- Five9 finished a major revamp of their platform, adopting the new approach of “microservices”. See Five9 Preps for Digital Era.
- Twilio is gaining ground as an alternative to “traditional” vendors. Banking giant ING recently switched from an Avaya call center to a system built internally using Twilio APIs. Start at the 9 minute mark in this video for more.
Our previous writing on the topic:
- Will Avaya’s Chapter 11 be like Aspect’s or like Nortel’s
- Avaya Did Good with their Spotlight Moment This Week
- Avaya Chugging Through Chapter 11, But the World’s Not Waiting
For a great summary check out analyst Dave Michels’ post Avaya Bouncing Back…Maybe. Analyst Sheila McGee-Smith dives into the details of the PSA in this post from August: Avaya Takes Critical Next Step in Bankruptcy Process. If you really want to get into the weeds of the chapter 11 process, Phil Edholm has been providing great coverage.
Publish Date: October 4, 2017 5:00 AM
Credit unions must be competitive in order to stand out from those big mean banks; they must establish a truly unique offering to attract new membership. One way to successfully accomplish this is through the member experience. Since credit unions tend to serve local communities, it’s important for each member to feel appreciated by their financial institution. Therefore, customer service plays a significant role in the relationship members have with their credit union. For example, if your credit union suffers from long hold times, it’s unlikely your members will feel like you’re taking their needs seriously. Also, it’s nearly impossible to attract new members if they can’t even get a hold of you.
This is why the National Credit Union Call Center Conference is so important. It connects every asset sized credit union across North America with the right tools and technology necessary to deliver the service members want. Through the speaking sessions, and forward-thinking vendors on site, it’s possible for credit unions to rise above the competition.
In fact, Fonolo has realized first-hand how to help credit unions deliver on experiences that win over members. Our next webinar, on Thursday, October 5th 2017, will be co-hosted with the National CU Call Center Conference, and will discuss how Velocity Credit Union improved the member experience, reduced abandon rates, and increased agent morale with call-backs. If you haven’t registered for the webinar yet, you can still do so here.
Importantly, if you’re a credit union looking to provide a better experience for your members, join the Fonolo team at the National Credit Union Call Center Conference on October 16-18th at Harrah’s in Las Vegas. Here you will be able to discuss in-person, the challenges you are experiencing in your call center, and a Fonolo team member will be able to explain how our solutions can help.
Registration for the event is still open and can be completed here, http://www.cucallcenterconference.com/cu-cuccc/
We look forward to seeing you there!
Publish Date: October 3, 2017 5:00 AM
A poor customer experience is something no company can afford to take lightly. Especially since bad experiences are so costly: 62% of customers will actually consider switching to a competitor!
Unfortunately, it’s hard for contact centers to deliver a great experience after they’ve put a customer on hold. Most callers will lose patience quickly, resulting in an angry caller and a frustrated agent. But reducing the amount of time your customers stay on hold will not only satisfy your customers, and make your agents happier, it will also significantly reduce your abandon rates!
Luckily, there’s an easy solution to this problem. In this one-hour webinar you’ll learn how Velocity Credit Union reduced abandon rates by 62% and seized the opportunity to not only improve CSat, but to increase employee morale as well. Join Fonolo and The National Credit Union Call Center Conference on Thursday, October 5th at 2:00 PM ET / 11:00 AM PT for the live Q&A.
Here’s a sneak peak at the slides!
Publish Date: September 28, 2017 5:00 AM
Fonolo is thrilled to announce the launch of its new portal available to all customers today! The team has been working diligently on MANY enhancements that will maximize your productivity, and make your Fonolo experience even better. We even put together a nifty video to show off some of our most exciting changes.
The updated portal features:
- Enhanced scheduled call-backs
- Simplified configuration for international customers
- Call-back alerts based on custom business rules
- Plus so much more!
Fonolo’s CTO, Mike Pultz explains,
Our portal has always been an effective way for call centers to manage customer call-backs. By expanding on existing features, and applying feedback from our customers, contact centers can now realize even more value from Fonolo call-backs.
Check out the video!
To learn more about these new features, or to set up a portal walk-through, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publish Date: September 27, 2017 5:00 AM
Many call center platforms today offer some form of call-back functionality. That means if your hold times are long, your callers have the option to get a call at a later time instead of waiting for an agent. These built-in call-back features work by holding the caller’s place in line (“virtual queuing”) so the total wait time is the same. You can think of this as “ASAP” call-backs.
Fonolo offers this flavor of call-back (to a huge variety of call centers), but we also offer a more advance flavor, one that is rarely part of the built-in version: “Scheduled Call-Backs”. This flavor allows the caller to choose a specific time slot for a future conversation. This small change in strategy is deceptively powerful. In fact, we at Fonolo have come to think of it as a call center “superpower”.
Smoothing Out Spikes in Call Volume
Many call centers have peaks in call volume as a result of holidays, bad weather, special promotions, etc. “Spikey” traffic degrades the customer experience and drags down key performance metrics. When agents can’t keep up with calls, the Average Speed to Answer (ASA) grows. That drives up the abandonment rate, as callers get tired of waiting on hold. Long wait times also lead to frustrated customers who then take out their anger on the agents, raising average handle time and lowering agent morale.
Call center managers usually don’t want to staff up to cover the peak levels, because that would leave excess agent capacity during off-peak days. This is where call-backs can help. If you have a deficit in agent capacity during one period, but a surplus during another, you can use scheduled call-backs to defer calls to a later time. The basic effect is “smoothing out” the call traffic.
If you want a quantitative example of this, download our free eBook The ROI of Call-Backs for Your Call Center.
Repeating the distinction from the introduction: The call traffic reshaping effect only happens with scheduled call-backs. The more common ASAP call-backs are still a great tool for improving customer satisfaction, reducing abandoned calls and shortening handle times, but they lack this one power.
The Scheduling Interaction
Asking a caller to select a time slot during their original call does add a small burden to the process. But fortunately, customers still regard this option favorably because they perceive it as the call center catering to their needs. It’s really a win-win situation.
If the interaction begins on the phone, the time slot selection can be done through an IVR-style interaction. If the interaction begins on the web or mobile app, then time slot selection can look like the screen shot below, taken from a Fonolo Web Rescue deployment.
Setting Up Your Time Slots
The key to benefiting from scheduled call-backs lies with the selection and management of the time slots. Keep in mind that the capacity of your call center has to be shared between regular inbound calls and the scheduled call-backs. Also consider what’s going to happen at the end of the day: When does your call center stop accepting calls? When do agents actually log-off? What happens to calls on hold that can’t be handled? You want to make sure that you can honor the promised call-backs in each of the slots.
Fortunately, Fonolo makes it easy to manage your capacity and the time slots offered. In fact, the recent upgrade to our customer portal included a number of improvements in this area. See the video below for a peek:
Are You Ready for the Superpower?
Scheduled call-backs have all the advantages of regular call-backs (improvements in CSat, abandonment rate, handle times, etc.) plus the ability to defer excess call volume to a later time.
We think of this as a “superpower” because, even though you are dealing with the same number of calls and the same number of agents, you get better performance from your call center, and happier callers. On top of that, you are presenting to your customers something that feels like a luxury experience; they feel like you are really respecting their time.
If you’ve never tried call-backs in your call center – or if you have call-backs, but just the “ASAP” kind – it’s worth your time to look into scheduled call-backs.
Publish Date: September 26, 2017 5:00 AM
One of our goals with the Fonolo blog is to help you stay current on the many aspects of the fast-moving contact center industry. To that end, we’re always on the look-out for new industry research, studies, surveys and whitepapers.
The vast number of companies doing “content marketing” means there is a lot of material out there. Sadly, that’s made it hard to find quality among all the fluff, so we’ve assembled 4 recent reports that we feel are worth your time. We’d like to express how grateful we are to the authors (and sponsors that back them) for the hard work that goes in to producing this content. They feature original research and cover topics such as consumer channel preference, the growth of chat, the ROI of social media for customer support, and much more.
How Consumers Use Messaging
Who wrote it: Twilio
Where to get it: http://ahoy.twilio.com/how_consumers_use_messaging_today
“Twilio with Vanson Bourne asked 6,000 people in seven countries how they used messaging to talk to businesses… talked to 2,000 users in United States, 1,000 users in the United Kingdom and Germany, and 500 users in India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea each… defined mobile messaging as text messages sent from phones using SMS natively or using apps such as iMessage, Android Hangouts, or using messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, LINE, SnapChat, Kakaotalk and others.”
- 89% of consumers would like to use messaging to communicate with businesses.
- 48% of businesses are equipped to connect with customers through a message.
- 2/3rds of consumers around the world use phones to message each other and businesses.
Our favorite chart:
The State of Customer Service 2017
Who wrote it: The Incite Group
Where to get it: http://1.incite-group.com/LP=17657?extsource=chrisvoss
“[we]… surveyed over 100 customer service leaders. Survey respondents represented a swath of different industries, both B2C and B2B… Their roles extended to newer digital channels like social and messenger, as well as traditional channels like call center and email. Their regions of responsibility spanned the United States and Canada, the United Kingdom, EMEA, South and Central America, and Australasia. We wanted to understand how they’re responding to the rise of social media as a customer-service channel, as well as how well their efforts in traditional channels are working.”
- Delivering an effortless customer experience was the prime topic for these executives.
- Only 15% of executives were able to measure the ROI form social media support.
- 42% of customers expect a personal response to a customer-service query via social media within 60 minutes.
Our favorite chart:
Executive Report on Customer Experience
Who wrote it: Brian Cantor, Call Center Week (a division of IQPC)
Where to get it: https://www.callcenterweekfall.com/ccw-digital-executive-report-customer-experience
“Customer management thought leaders [often] provide advice from an internal business standpoint. … They ask business people about key customer experience challenges [and] customer engagement trends.
This approach is simply unacceptable in the so-called age of customer centricity. Assessments,
analyses and decisions need to be made through the eyes of the customer.…[this report] asked end-user consumers to identify their customer experience thoughts, habits and preferences. It then compared these findings with a survey of businesses to identify gaps in the two modes of thinking.”
- “Wait time before reaching a live agent” is the most frequent source of customer complaints.
- Call centers are not obsolete: Live voice remains customers’ preferred communication channel.
- Bad experiences have a steep cost: 62% of customers will consider switching to a competitor.
Our favorite chart:
The US Contact Center Decision-Makers’ Guide
Who wrote it: Contact Babel
Where to get it: www.contactbabel.com/united-states.cfm
“[This report studies] the performance, operations, technology and HR aspects of US contact center operations. Taking a random sample of the industry, a detailed structured questionnaire was answered by 214 contact center managers and directors… The result is the 10th edition of the largest and most comprehensive study of all aspects of the US contact center industry.”
- 15% of respondents described themselves as omni-channel, 18% assessing themselves as multi-modal and 67% multi-channel.
- Web chat showed strong growth rising from 3.2% in 2015 to 4.5% in 2016 to 5.3% in 2017.
- The top reason queuing is disliked, “Not knowing how much longer you’ll have to wait”.
Our favorite chart:
Publish Date: September 19, 2017 5:00 AM
Onholdwith.com is a community-driven platform that aims to end hold time for customers. The website tracks companies who are experiencing the most complaints on Twitter from people waiting on hold. It’s our way of recognizing which businesses need to improve their call center hold times, and could benefit from a call-back solution like Fonolo’s. But the most interesting part of onholdwith.com are the tweets themselves.
By the time someone has taken to social media to unleash their innermost hold-time frustrations, the result can be truly eye-opening, and sometimes pretty darn hilarious. I mean, if you’re waiting on hold for 4 hours, you have to find humor in hearing, “Your call is important to us, please hold,” for the 89th time, right?
We’ve looked at the top 10 hold time offenders this month, and scoured their Twitter complaints to compile some of the most cringe-worthy responses to waiting on hold.
10. British Telecom
When sarcasm is your only way to stay sane…
Wonderful people at @BTCare just called, kept me on hold for 40 minutes and STILL failed to grasp the issue.
— Andy N (@Mr603) August 31, 2017
When you literally don’t remember the life you had before you were put on hold…
I’ve been on hold with Sprint customer service for five and a half years.
— Eddie McSugarNutts (@EddieMcSugarnut) August 23, 2017
When the problem IS the solution…
@ATTCares while on hold with ATT they constantly tell me how easy it is to get answers via their website. great, it my internet was working!
— Stacy Anzick (@StacyAnzick) September 4, 2017
When the hold music becomes a method of torture…
@VodafoneUK You have four songs for your hold music. Unsurprisingly that gets INCREDIBLY repetitive when I’m sat on hold for 25 minutes!
— Mark Summers (@marksummers24) September 8, 2017
6. Direct TV
When your money just isn’t good enough…
.@DIRECTV keeps me on hold for 25 minutes then hangs up on me. You would think the $4K a year I pay them would at least warrant a callback.
— J.T. (@BetTheTurner) August 16, 2017
5. Virgin Media
When “a Michael” shows you no love…
Just spent 15 minutes on hold for a Michael to hang up on me, so id appreciate it if i could do it over live chat?
— Grant Susse (@grantsusse) September 5, 2017
4. Sky Broadcasting
When a department transfers you to another department that’s NOW closed…*rage*
Are you having a laugh?? Been on hold for 50 minutes and now you tell me it closed at 8? I was transferred by another department? pic.twitter.com/vZEPlTgNH0
— meg (@whatmegsaid) August 2, 2017
When your wait time is eclipsing your entire day…
I think I’m going to be on hold with Telus for the entirety of this solar eclipse. This tweet marks 40 minutes on hold.
— James Myer (@JamminJames_) August 21, 2017
When hold times are so long you apply for a job, get it, go through training, and fix the issue yourself before someone picks up the phone…
I got a job at Comcast and completed training so I could fix my own cable because it was faster than being on hold with customer service.
— pookie (@Kollelorcollege) September 1, 2017
When you could have done something “better” with your time…
Things I could have done in the time I’ve been on hold with @verizonfios
Cooked and burned the roof of my mouth on 14.85 hot pockets
— The Dirty Llama (@TheDirtyLlama) September 8, 2017
Publish Date: September 13, 2017 5:00 AM
Consumers today are more demanding than ever, especially when it comes to the call center experience. If you leave callers on hold, they will complain to your agents (leading to longer handle times) and they will vent on social media.
Meanwhile, call centers are under pressure to live up to these expectations while keeping costs contained. If your company has long wait times, and if you don’t have the budget to staff up, you should consider adding a call-back solution.
Simply put, replacing hold-time with a call-back is the closest thing to a “magic bullet” that you’ll find in the call center world.
4 Reasons to Love Call-Backs
1) Improve Customer Satisfaction
Surveys tell us that customers rank “waiting on hold” as one of their biggest complaints about customer service. If you eliminate something that causes dissatisfaction, it’s logical to assume you will get increased satisfaction. However you measure client happiness – Net Promoter Score (NPS), repeat visits, repeat purchases – you can expect to see improvement. So that’s the “carrot” side of the equation. For the “stick” side of it, see the next section in this post, “Hold Time Damages Brands”.
2) Reduce Abandon Rates
When hold times are long, many callers will simply hang-up. Abandonment leads to higher repeat calling (which can strain the call center system) and, of course, frustrate customers. Offering a call-back reduces abandonment because, even if the total wait ends up being the same, a customer who has opted for a call-back is very unlikely to abandon. (Our own numbers show a 98% reconnection rate.)
3) Reduce Telco Cost
A less obvious advantage of call-backs is the ability to lower contact center costs. When a caller is waiting on hold, there is a phone line being kept open, with per-minute telco costs accumulating. If that call is turned into a call-back, the line doesn’t have to be active until the agent is available.
4) Smooth-out Spikes
Most call centers have some type of call volume spike. Some are predictable based on time-of-day or day-of-week. Some are unpredictable because they result from an external event, e.g. the network is down, a product got recalled, or a special promotion launched.
How do you handle “spikes” in call volume today? If you staff to the peak volume, you will have excess agent capacity at other times. Call-backs also help “smooth-out” spikes in call volume by deferring calls (in a customer-friendly manner) till a time when there is more agent capacity.
For more details on these reasons see:
- Things I Wish I Knew Before Adding Call-Backs to My Call Center
- The Do’s and Don’ts for Implementing Call-Backs in the Contact Center
- 7 Signs Your Call Center Needs a Call-Back Solution
Hold Time Damages Brands
When it comes to consumer patience, the fuse is really short these days, especially if you put someone on hold. As hold times go up, your social media timeline will start to show angry tweets.
See OnHoldWith.com for a sample platter of hold-rage. You can even look up your own company; although it might be an unpleasant surprise.
How We do Call-Backs at Fonolo
It used to be that adding call-backs to your call center required installing hardware or software offered by the vendor of the call-center system. Fonolo’s innovation was to make it easy to add call-back functionality to any existing call center by pursuing a cloud-based platform-agnostic approach.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity, though. There’s a lot of work “under the hood” required to make that possible. Some of that work is spelled out in our many patents on the topic.
We aren’t the only solution on the market, though, and we like customers to make an informed decision. For advice on what to look for when adding call-backs see “Make Call-Backs a Priority”. That post includes 6 key questions that you should ask your vendor before deciding.
What if Your Platform has a Call-Back Option?
Some call center platforms already have call-back functionality built in. If you have the ability to take advantage of this, please do! By all means, you should experiment with call-backs, especially if there is no added cost.
Using the built-in call-back feature of your platform does have some 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.
- If you’re looking for a feature rich product with things like scheduled call-backs, intelligent reporting, web and mobile front-ends, etc. then the free version in your current platform will likely fall short.
- Some built-in features rely on algorithms to determine when a customer should be called back, which requires accurate data on staffing levels, call volumes, hold times, handle times, and other variables that change in real-time. To learn more read, “Why You Shouldn’t Trust a Call-Back Algorithm”.
When you replace hold-time with a call-back, your callers get a more pleasant experience and the call center gets a more efficient operation. Yes, it’s that’s elusive “win-win”. Sign up for a live demonstration to learn more.
Publish Date: September 12, 2017 5:00 AM
Here’s an obvious statement for you, “Make sure customers are 100% happy with their experiences”. This truth goes without saying, since happy customers - those who actually like doing business with your brand - are also more likely to be loyal to your brand. And as you know, a happy customer is the result of having positive experiences with your business, which leads to increased customer satisfaction and ultimately revenue generation.
In a recent whitepaper we highlight some notable statistics around the importance of Customer Satisfaction (CSat), Customer Effort Scores (CES), and Net Promoter Score (NPS). While CSat tells you how happy customers are, NPS measures customer loyalty, and CES helps you understand where grievances lie. CSat, NPS, and CES are best used together to achieve an accurate understanding of your customers and predict long-term business needs.
If you want to improve your customer satisfaction strategy, boost customer retention, and impact the bottom-line, then it’s worth considering how these statistics can help you.
1. For every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent, so make sure you test your customer journey and ask for customer feedback.
2. Improving the customer journey has the potential to not only increase customer satisfaction by 20%, but also to lift revenue by up to 15%, while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20%.
3. McKinsey & Company found that measuring satisfaction on the entire journey is 30% more predictive of overall satisfaction.
4. 80% of organizations use CSat scores to measure the customer experience, but there are a number of other metrics that go beyond surveys and questionnaires when it comes to gauging CX. Download the whitepaper to read more.
5. On a global scale, the average amount of time for calls to be answered, including the amount of time the caller waits in queue is 28 seconds.
6. 5-8% of your callers will hang-up before an agent answers. Make sure you consider a call-back solution to correct this problem.
Use this list not only to gauge where your contact center stands amongst the pack, but also to make strategic decisions in your future plans.
Publish Date: September 7, 2017 5:00 AM
The concept of a “North Star” metric has become a fashionable discussion among start-up culture. The idea is that companies should find a single, simple metric to focus on and, if they choose well, it will align everyone on the team with the actions needed for success. Check out this deck on that topic from Sean Ellis, who popularized the “growth hacking” phenomenon.
Call centers are highly focused on metrics too. If most call center teams had to pick a “North Star” it would be service level, which measures the length of time callers wait to reach an agent. It’s kind of surprising that, despite all the enormous changes that have occurred in customer service technology, the dominant metric remains service level. Even more surprising is that most call centers would name the same target value for that metric: the magical “80/20”. Why is this so?
Service level is always given as a pair of numbers: a percentage value and a time value in seconds. An “80/20″ service level means 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds. That exact combination is considered by many to be an industry standard.
Many people assume this standard is based on careful analysis which revealed that 80/20 was a good target to set, but in reality, it appears 80/20 was arbitrarily chosen in the early days of call center technology. The original logic behind it is lost in the mist of time. (See Why 80/20 is Probably the Wrong Service Level for your Call Center.) Despite this murky origin, it has served as a focal point for call center teams.
There is some value in the fact that it’s a common goal that everyone across the industry understands. So when colleagues are discussing service levels at an industry event (say, the excellent ICMI Call Center DEMO conference this month, which Fonolo will be attending) they can properly compare notes and trends.
Service Level Pitfalls
There is also a danger to sticking to the default 80/20 target, since this isn’t the right number for every organization. If you strive to meet the wrong target, resources get allocated the wrong way. The next section will address how to choose the proper service level. But before we get to that, two notes of caution:
- The very nature of the service level metric means that variability can get swept “under the rug”. Let’s say your call center successfully met your 80/20 target all day. So you know that 80% of the calls were answered in less than 20 seconds, but what you don’t know is how bad the other 20% were. Were their wait times 30 seconds or 10 minutes? This variability is critical.
- If you have multiple skill groups in your call center, another issue arises. Averaging across the groups to get a single service level can obscure problems in specific groups. Measuring each group separately is smarter, but that leaves you with too many numbers to interpret. This is actually an argument against dividing your workforce in to skill groups.
Picking the Right Service Level
Picking the right service level for your company is matter of balancing your company’s desire to deliver high customer satisfaction (Net Promoter Score); versus the cost you’re willing to bear to achieve it. That’s not an easy process, but here are some questions to get you starterd:
- How important is it to minimize your customers’ wait time? (Do you have data connecting that to Customer Lifetime Value or Propensity to Buy?)
- After how many seconds in queue do your customers start to hang-up? (In other words, when does Abandonment Rate start to rise?)
- Can you map Abandonment Rate to customer satisfaction or lost revenue?
Fortunately, there is a large amount of writing on this topic. (That’s one benefit of “service level” having such a long history.) Here are some recent books we can recommend:
- Optimize by Patrick Botz and Dick Bucci
- Call Center Management on Fast Forward by Brad Cleveland
- Call Center Rocket Science by Randy Rubingh
Here is some further reading from our blog:
- Why 80/20 is Probably the Wrong Service Level for Your Call Center
- Call Center Metrics: 4 Pitfalls You Need to Avoid [Whitepaper]
- The Danger of the 80/20 Service Level Continues
How are You Handling Service Level in Your Contact Center?
We’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Publish Date: September 5, 2017 5:00 AM
There are many different ways of learning how to grow your business or providing better service to your customers. Some companies use industry reports and trends, others bring in an expert to help, and some rely on mimicking competitors as a way to succeed. What’s funny is that with all the resources we have at hand, our customers can actually be the most insightful.
By examining conversations with your customers you may be able to uncover new ways of succeeding. The contact center is a great place to gather such invaluable intel. Take your chat conversations, customer surveys and recorded conversations, and you’re sure to discover some hidden gems. Here are 5 things that only your customers can teach you:
1. They Can Teach You About Your Current Product / Service
Without the customer you really won’t know if there’s a major issue with your product or service. If you’re a tech company, and you keep getting tickets on the same problem, that’s intelligence that the customer has given which creates action in your company to fix the problem. If you’re a cleaning company, and your customers keep complaining about the service they receive, you know you have a quality control problem. All of these indirect suggestions are coming from the customer. Make sure you watch for trends and patterns so you can see the issue before it becomes a PR disaster.
2. They Can Teach You About New Products / Services
Similar to point one, your customers can teach you about products and services you can add to your roster. We’ve had customers suggest new product ideas that have created great success for Fonolo. Remember, these customers are evangelists of your brand or they wouldn’t be suggesting a new and better solution. Unfortunately, agents don’t always know or have the authority to relay this information. A great example of a company who created a product from a customer’s suggestion is Amazon. The Kindle tablet actually came into existence because of a customer’s desires, not as a result of an engineer.
3. They Can Teach You How to Better Serve Them
Respected brands have diminished due to mishandled situations in dealing with an unhappy customer. Sadly, these brands didn’t realize the value of the customer voice. Don’t fall into this silos way of thinking. Remember that today’s customer is listening, researching, and posting. Put in the research to fully understand your customer base and learn how you can better serve them. Whether it’s a small change on your website’s self-service page, or adding call-back technology so customers don’t have to wait on hold, there are many changes call centers can make today to improve the customer experience.
4. They Can Teach You About Your Competitors
Your customers are talking to one another and are referring companies that provide a more than satisfactory customer experience. You want to be the company they refer and the only way to do that is to be better than the competition. You’d be surprised how much your customers can tell you about the competition. For example, if there’s a feature I’m not getting with my phone provider, but can get with another provider at the same cost I make a point to let my phone provider know. Why not take that information and not only fix what you have, but make it better
5. They Can Teach You About Super-Customers
In most businesses, 20% of customers provide 80% of the sales revenue. This group of super-customers is incredibly important to growing your business. A super customer spends a lot on their first order, they devote time to your website, they engage in email, and they use multiple product lines. Your customer will show you if they’re a super customer or not. By understanding who your super customers are and rewarding them for their loyalty, you can retain them for even longer.
Publish Date: August 31, 2017 5:00 AM
In case you’ve been living on an island in Tahiti, with no communication to the outside world, you may not know how important mobile apps have become. In that case, let’s recap. Mobile apps are software applications designed to run on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. They dominate the time spent on mobile devices by 74% compared to mobile time spent on the web. Additionally, 75% of US adults will use a smartphone in 2017, while Millennials become more willing to make purchases within apps, (nearly 50% of them are making five or more in-app purchases annually). Today, most consumers are multi-channel users, meaning they channel hop from desktop, mobile, and phone, throughout a transaction; this makes mobile support increasingly important.
A mobile application is essential for a multitude of reasons, namely to support customer service and enhance the experience. Importantly, mobile apps can put out fires that could otherwise cost you big time. Here are 4 ways your mobile app helps to prevent customer service disasters:
1. Keeps Customers Connected Beyond Space and Time
As we mentioned earlier, the modern consumer is a multi-channel user, and are more likely to switch channels at any given time to complete a transaction. This is especially true in the morning, when mobile use surpasses all other channels and consumers are making purchase decisions on their way to work. By limiting accessibility to only online or over the phone, you are risking customers abandoning a purchase completely. Plus, if a customer needs to make a request outside of business hours, having 24-hour self-service via your mobile app can systematically prevent a common call center disaster known as “spikes in call volume”.
2. Quick Access to Mobile Support
Today, the mobile phone also doubles as the home phone. When a customer needs help they are likely using their mobile phone for assistance, which is why your mobile app is a key resources to bridge your communication. Solutions like Hotline, provide businesses with the ability to chat with customers in-app without having to navigate outside the app. It also includes important in-app FAQS if customers prefer to resolve an issue on their own. These solutions ensure that the customer is only a click away from help, which improves the experience but also the effort your customers put into choosing to do business with you. Customer Effort Score (CES), is a metric that is increasingly important to overall customer satisfaction, and if you want to keep CSat high, and CES low, your mobile app should be equipped with customer support.
3. Deployment of Mobile Call-Backs
Another fundamental way to keep customer effort down and satisfaction up is by implementing a call-back feature within your mobile app. Some customers need to reach a live phone agent as soon as possible, especially if they fail to resolve their issue through chat or FAQS. Therefore, it’s important to provide an easy way to escalate to voice. Fonolo has a nifty little solution called “Mobile Rescue” which asks customers for their call-back number if they are looking for assistance over-the-phone. For more evidence about how mobile call-backs can help improve metrics and avoid catastrophes, download “The Contact Center Playbook for Improving CSat”.
4. Added Value and Retention
Let’s say a customer has a negative experience with your business, but you have no way to personally say you’re “Sorry”. Your mobile app acts as a gateway for providing customers with gifts and rewards they may otherwise fail to receive. For example, if you place an order using the app SkipTheDishes, and it takes too long or cannot be completed, the Skip team can easily credit you with points or refund your order as a peace offering. This is extremely important in avoiding disasters and retaining your loyal customers. Some interactions just don’t go as planned, and your mobile app is a great way to make amends and keep customers happy.
Publish Date: August 29, 2017 5:00 AM
We’ve been chatting a lot about customer satisfaction (CSat) recently, but for very good reason; measuring the degree to which your product / service meets customer expectations is critical to the success of your brand, regardless of the vertical or size. In our most recent whitepaper, we provide a playbook for contact centers to use as a guide to improving customer satisfaction. Here, we’re going to discuss 6 secrets your call center can adopt to ensure high caller satisfaction.
1. Understand Your Customers’ Expectations
For every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent, so make sure you collect customer feedback to get a good understanding of what they expect from you. If managing and distributing a survey isn’t something you want to handle internally, it can easily be outsourced. Check out SQM group, the contact center industry leader for measuring, benchmarking, and improving CX. SQM offers five customer surveying methods (phone, email, IVR, online and face-to-face) that provide valuable insights for customers.
2. Make Sure Your Metrics Are Accurate
Have you ever considered that your data might not actually be reliable? This is a scary thought considering you make decisions based on data, but a recent report by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business revealed that a wide cross-section of industries often overestimate their customers’ satisfaction. This leads them to rely on unrealistic expectations when making marketing decisions and allocating resources to address marketplace issues. Make sure you watch and double check numbers to maintain accuracy.
3. Test Your Own Experience
Contact your own company and see what the process feels like. What is it like to chat with an agent, how does it feel to call the contact center, what’s the process when looking for self-service? Not only can you personally test these experiences, you can also have a focus group perform the tasks and gather feedback that way. Once you’ve completed that step, do the exact same thing with your competition. How does it compare? Are you better or worse? Fix the area(s) that need improvement and / or give yourself a pat on the back for outperforming.
4. Keep Your Agents Happy
According to Contact Center Pipeline agent attrition is a top challenge. Studies have shown that call center agents quit most often because of their work environments rather than their compensation. Companies need to find more ways to increase agent engagement, improve coaching, and motivate employees. Most importantly, just be nice and friendly. It’s the right thing to do and will help your bottom line.
5. Don’t Leave Customers On Hold
Rather than forcing customers to simply wait on hold, your support center should be offering a call-back during periods of long queue times. Just keep in mind that a call-back solution can also hurt your contact center. There are two types of call-back methodologies on the market, and oftentimes the call center manager doesn’t realize the vast differences between the two, read “How a Call-Back Solution Can Fail Your Call Center” to learn more about this topic.
6. Offer Training and Professional Development
A well-trained team makes all the difference in the world. They are more efficient, able to provide better service, and more likely to stay with your call center. All of this translates into superior customer service, which creates the high CSat score you desire. Provide training opportunities to your agents and you will see your customer loyalty increase. Plus, setting your agents up for success will make them feel less stressed, and that relaxed tone will translate over the phone.
Publish Date: August 24, 2017 5:00 AM
Call centers get a bad wrap for being stress inducing, soul sucking, and just plain dreadful places to work. That may be true for some, but if you’re a savvy call center leader, making the most of your work, and walking away from each day unscathed, is completely possible. Not all of us know the secret to keeping a positive and productive outlook at work, but thankfully we have the Internet for that. Reddit, the popular site best known for viral memes and gifs, has a number of threads dedicated to the contact center. In these ingenious forums, veteran call center employees share tricks of the trade, words of wisdom, and general hacks that have helped them to enjoy working in this environment.
We’ve compiled 25 of the best contact center hacks from these Reddit threads, to help you become more successful in this field of work, (and avoid sitting in a straitjacket):
1. The mute button is a great feature for venting (very cathartic on stressful calls). Just keep in mind it can be your best friend when it works, and your worst enemy when it’s not working.
2. NEVER say or give off any kind of hints to the customer that you’re a newbie. Why? It makes the customer less confident in you and they could use it against you in the call.
3. Make your notes as you go. Most employee computers have access to a note pad. Open it up and (briefly) write down the steps you take while you are helping the customer. Then when it’s time to close the call, you will have your notes already done, and just copy/paste into your Call Log.
5. You’ll learn best through experience, so don’t be hard on yourself! Analyze the complicated calls and take notes in case the issue comes up again. Also…don’t be afraid to seek the help from your colleagues. Listen to their calls when you’re not on one yourself, and pick up on what you like or what you think are good techniques.
6. Show empathy to the clients, not sympathy. Don’t cry with them, but let them know that you’re there to help and listen. You’ll take care of their situation the best you can. If the customer knows that you genuinely want to help it will calm them down.
7. If you have questions, research it then ask your supervisor. If the supervisor tells you something that conflicts with your research then press the issue and ask more questions, don’t just go with what they tell you.
8. Use your natural speaking voice and cadence whenever possible. If you sound relaxed, it can help relax the customer in turn, leading to better calls.
9. Don’t be afraid to put a customer on hold so you can ask for advice from a colleague or supervisor.
11. Buy silly putty, a Rubik’s cube, or other fiddle toy. Do you macramé? Bring your cord. You’ll be sitting a lot, with varying periods between phone calls. The goal here is to keep your brain solid and inside of your head.
12. Have funwith your callers. Talk with a smile on your face; you literally can hear it. Make a fake grimace until it becomes natural; no one can tell the difference, except for the guy in the cubicle across from you, and I guarantee you, he’s seen worse.
13. Be nice to all your coworkers. You don’t want them to hate you. If they do hate you, it’s not the end of the world. Eight months ago, I had a call center nemesis. Nowadays, we’re buying each other birthday presents and making inappropriate jokes.
14. If you get a weird caller, share the story. At least someof your coworkers thrive on gossip, and can probably give you tips for handling situations in the future.
16. If you mess up, tell your supervisor IMMEDIATELY. Firstly, because they’re probably going to find out anyway, and secondly because you want to establish a reputation as a trustworthy, honorable person for when you really mess up.
17. Learn your agent information database. Learn how to get around it quickly. If it has a search engine, which most do, focus on putting in the correct keywords to get the script or article that you need to solve the customer’s problem. For example, sometimes “credits” will be found under “adjustments”.
18. Troubleshoot the issue that is actually happening, not what the customer believes is happening. For example, the customer says, “My router isn’t working”. Instead of just taking that at face value, ask probing questions to find out the true problem, like “Are you seeing any error messages on your computer screen? Are the status lights on your router off, on or flashing?”
19. Understand that many elderly people do not see the computer and the internet service as separate entities. When they say “My internet is broken”, they may very well mean that they don’t see a particular desktop icon they are used to seeing, or that their homepage has changed. Many detailed probing questions are necessary to deal with these type folks correctly.
21. Bring a book, crochet needle and yarn, cards to play solitaire, school books or something that can help you study between calls. Snacks (healthy preferably), sit next to someone you enjoy speaking with.
22. If you have any room to move up and get off the phones, do it. We need more people who have been in the agent’s shoes leading the team.
For Call Center Managers:
23. Get plenty of spare equipment for your agents. Phone bases, headsets, keyboards, mice, screens and seats will all get broken, some within the first week, as a few agents will play employment roulette just to find out what they can get away with.
24. Go cloud. It will be cheaper for quite some time and less maintenance.
25. Take calls. I work at a call center. The site director frequently sits with us and takes calls. One dayhe came and sat with us for almost 4 hours making calls. Supervisors all take calls and transfer the “sales” to us to bolster our numbers. I’ve never seen anything like it in a call center. The site director taking calls BLEW my mind.
Publish Date: August 22, 2017 5:00 AM
Talkdesk rose quickly from humble origins to make big waves in the call center space. Their fast growth has made industry veterans rethink their assumptions. It was thought that the core capabilities of call centers (queuing and routing voice calls at high volume) were “tough” problems to solve. That toughness was supposed to be a barrier against new entrants, but Talkdesk used tools like AWS and Twilio, combined with a large team of off-shore developers, and proved that assumption wrong.
Talkdesk continues to punch through barrier after barrier in catching up with the old guard. All the major call center vendors have some form of partner program, and most have adapted those programs into some form of “marketplace” experience. A few months ago, Talkdesk joined that club too, but they’re doing something different.
Having a Marketplace is “Table Stakes”
Talkdesk launched a marketplace for add-ons in May. (NoJitter covered the announcement here.) This was a logical step in Talkdesk’s evolution, but they are taking a bolder approach to it, compared to others.
All other vendor marketplaces are effectively “showrooms”. That is, they provide a nice presentation of partner offerings that can be sorted and filtered by type, with descriptions appearing in a standardized format. It gives the impression of an App-store-like experience, but that illusion ends as soon as you want to implement something. Doing that actually involves contacting the partner and going through a traditional, stand-alone purchase and deployment. That’s not to say there isn’t value in these “showroom” style marketplaces – the discovery process is itself important – but they could be better.
TalkDesk’s App Store is the “Real Deal”
What makes AppConnect different is that you can actually click and install the “apps” and get started right away. As they state themselves: “We didn’t want to provide a window-shopping experience that most enterprise app ‘stores’ offer…”
To make good on that promise, Talkdesk requires all apps to offer
- A “one-click” install process
- A 30 day trial
- Pay-as-you-go billing
Regarding installation, it’s more than exactly one click, but the intention is clear – installation happens “on-demand”, without the need for separate conversations with the partner. You can watch the install process here.
Regarding “pay-as-you-go” billing, the more relevant fact may be that the billing happens through Talkdesk, so the customer sees only one monthly bill. This is a big reduction in friction and should boost adoption.
Because participation in AppConnect requires conforming to all constrains listed above, many potential partners will be unable or unwilling to join. Talkdesk has explicitly opted for a quality-over-quantity approach. So it’s not surprising that there are only 11 apps listed right now.
Compare that with:
- Genesys AppFoundry added its 100th listing over a year ago.
- inContact has 44 entries in its inCloud Ecosystem (iCE) Partner Program.
- Avaya has Snapp Store (a play on “snap-ins” which are the components of its Breeze development framework). It contains nearly 100 entries, combining submissions from Avaya itself, its Twilio-esque subsidiary Zang, and 3rd
Fonolo first got involved with Talkdesk by sponsoring their OpenTalk event last spring. Today, we’re happy to announce a formal partnership. You can read the press release here. We’ll have news regarding AppConnect very shortly, as well as some other cooperative efforts with Talkdesk. Exciting times ahead!
Publish Date: August 15, 2017 5:00 AM