Fonolo - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog Page 5
Any career that involves working with the public can be tiresome since making customers feel happy isn’t always the easiest task. You’re often relieved when they’re satisfied, while feeling helpless when they’re not. Unfortunately, 66% of customers with a problem experience rage, and agents need to know the right ways to handle these situations skillfully.
Luckily, there are some actions a CSR can take to make sure a bad conversation ends well. Here five simple steps in chronological order:
1. Don’t Take Their Anger Personally
When a customer expresses strong emotions it’s usually for a good reason, but that’s typically unrelated to the agent. Instead of getting caught up in the customer’s emotions, a rep should be listening carefully so they can identify cues that will help them fix the problem. It’s important that reps are able to distance themselves from a customer’s anger so they can listen and acknowledge the complaint.
2. Repeat the Facts and Be Empathetic
If the customer feels like a rep not only understands their problem, but can empathize with the situation as well, they’ll automatically feel less upset. A simple confirmation can sound like, “OK, so from what I understand there’s an issue with your statement?” This will calm the customer down and allow them to re-group.
3. Let the Customer Be Angry
The most effective way to start calming down an unhappy customer is to just let them vent. Reps shouldn’t judge whether or not the complaint is valid, they should simply start with the assumption that the customer’s grievance is justified. Say things like, “That must be very frustrating”, so that customers can see that the rep is not there to argue, but to help.
4. Apologize and Try to Solve the Problem
Sincerely apologize before anything else, 75% of customers want an apology, but only 28% of customers receive one. Ideally, a rep should be able to solve the customer’s problem and reassure them that it won’t happen again, but depending on the nature of the problem, that’s not always possible. This is when step four becomes handy.
5. Make the Customer Feel Like They’re Received Something
A whopping 63% of customers say they receive nothing after a problem; this simply won’t keep customers loyal. It’s important to offer something that allows the customer to get back to a happy place. Your call center should have parameters in place to allow agents to offer discounts or perks.
6. Make Sure You Always Follow-Up
One of the biggest complaints customers have about the service they receive is that it’s impersonal. What’s more, according to a recent study, 99% of companies do not follow up with customers after a service interaction to ensure customer satisfaction. Correcting a problem and then sending a follow-up is a good way of demonstrating a level of attentiveness which helps boost customer loyalty.
When customers call you they are likely already angry about something, and unfortunately your call center might be setup in such a way that adds more fuel to the fire. Case in point; refer to sections one and six below which relate to the epidemic of long hold times. Don’t keep customers waiting on hold when your call center can EASILY offer them a call-back!
Publish Date: May 4, 2017 5:00 AM
The growing pressure for businesses to cut costs and run efficiently has turned a spotlight on the BPO industry, and what these organizations have to offer. The ability to scale, manage budget, and control the customer experience are among the benefits of outsourcing a call center. However, finding the right BPO for your business can be more complicated than you think. With an array of services, and specializing in a of variety industries, it can be difficult to pinpoint what BPO has the best arsenal for your company. Every industry has a separate set of needs and expectations for their call center, and the BPO you choose should be knowledgeable in that space. That’s why it’s important to perform some due diligence before settling on a BPO. A good place to start is social media; here they provide targeted branding and materials that will help to distinguish each of their offerings.
To get a better understanding of the industry, we’ve compiled 12 of the most active BPO Twitter accounts to help you expand your knowledge, and learn more about what they have to offer:
1. Sitel – @Sitel_WorldWide
Sitel is a telemarketing and outsourcing business headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee and maintains 146 sites in 70 countries. It is boasted as a customer experience focused BPO, and shares a wide array of informative content about the rapidly evolving BPO industry.
2. PFSweb – @PFSweb
Cited as, “The brand behind the world’s leading brands.” PSFweb is a global eCommerce Solutions Provider delivering consulting, technology, operations and digital agency services for retailers. If you’re a retailer with a focus on eCommerce call center solutions, PFSweb is your go-to BPO for service advice.
3. NelsonHall – @NHInsight
NelsonHall is a BPO and outsourcing analyst company focused on business process and IT outsourcing information solutions. It specializes in customer management for banking, healthcare, and insurance providers, and delivers a healthy dose of tech-related material on Twitter to showcase specialization in IT business solutions.
4. @MassMarkets – @TMone
Looking for a US-based and operated BPO? Mass Markets executes domestic omnichannel, inbound and outbound contact center services on behalf of some of the most recognizable brands in the world. Mass Markets helps businesses understand more about outsourcing contact center solutions close to home.
5. JAMPRO ICT – @Jampro_ICT
Don’t want to outsource abroad, but can’t afford to stay local? JAMPRO explains the benefits of nearshore outsourcing to Jamaica. You can keep up with the latest ICT/BPO updates from JAMPRO on their Twitter account, and find out when their representatives will be at an event near you.
6. CGS Outsourcing – @OutsourcingCGS
CGS outsourcing services range from BPO tech support, help desk & customer support to more broad range technology solutions. They cater to a number of different industries, with a portfolio in fashion, healthcare, and hospitality. Follow their Twitter for informative blog content and updates from the blue-chip companies they serve.
7. CBE Companies – @CBECompanies
One of the most active accounts on the list, CBE, is a global BPO provider of call center solutions. Follow their profile to get the inside scoop on their worldwide operations teams, approach to the customer experience, and outbound debt collection services.
8. Telerx – @Telerx
Telerx is an industry-leading business process outsourcer specializing in the multi-channel engagement of consumers, patients, healthcare professionals, and enterprise personnel via a network of global contact centers. Telerx supports clients 24/7 in over 100 countries so expect an active Twitter profile with internal and external industry insights.
9. Infosys BPO – @Infosys_BPO
Ranked among the leading BPO companies in India by industry bodies such as Global Outsourcing 100, FAO Today, and NelsonHall, Infosys BPO is an end-to-end outsourcing provider, specializing in integrated IT solutions for the Americas, Australia and Europe. Visit their Twitter account for updates from their headquarters in Bangalore, India.
10. Firstsource - @firstsource
Firstsource is a BPO trusted by 100+ leading brands in India, the Philippines, the UK and the US across the banking, finance, insurance, healthcare, telecommunications, and media sectors. You can follow them for insights on customer experience, big data, multi-channel and all things digital.
11. Accenture - @Accenture
Accenture is a Fortune 500 BPO who provides strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations services. They invest in a plethora of research related to the contact center industry and issue fantastic resources for managers. Follow them for updates on Accenture reports, blogs, podcasts and more.
12. Convergys – @convergys
Convergys serves enterprises and large companies with a global suite of customer management tools. Businesses can turn to them for helpful information tailored to communications, finance, technology, retail, healthcare and government markets. Follow them for a robust array of resources about their BPO services.
Publish Date: May 2, 2017 5:00 AM
It was February 14, 1876, when Marcellus Bailey, one of Alexander Graham Bell’s attorneys, rushed into the US Patent office in Boston to file the patent for what would be the telephone. Today, 141 years later, we celebrate National Telephone Day. On this day we observe the history of the telephone and we use social media to capture our memories of how the telephone has evolved over the years. This day also brings to mind one industry that relies heavily on the telephone, call centers.
Even with the advent of social channels and self-help, the phone is still a sought after medium for answering consumer questions. Unfortunately, call centers have a bad reputation for being difficult places to work, especially for agents (aka CSR’s). According to Contact Center Pipeline, agent attrition is a top challenge for call centers. It’s easy to overlook just how tough this job is, CSRs often have to choose between conflicting priorities such as keeping handle times low, while creating a positive customer experience.
Here’s why call center agents quit and how you can avoid it.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road… to Nothing
One of the biggest reasons why agents quit is because call centers offer little to no career path. Your agents know your customers better than anyone else, so rather than losing this knowledge, give them the opportunity to expand their skills. Encouraging agents to build their skillsets can result in tremendous gains for both the call center and the agent. Start by allowing agents to apply for new job openings first, before you post externally.
Lack of Agent Empowerment =
It’s a great feeling when your ideas and strategies are put into place, but most call centers don’t give their agents this opportunity. If agents don’t feel empowered they won’t feel valued, and they’ll simply move on to the next organization. By empowering them beyond support calls and allowing them to reflect on critical issues, you’re ultimately creating agent superheros.
Less Money, More Problems
If you could offer agents a promotion or pay raise, why wouldn’t you? Everyone is working to make ends meet, and if this job doesn’t pay well they’ll just find one that does. By offering agents a monetary increase you are basically thanking them for their hard work and the result will be increased loyalty to your call center.
No Access to the Right Technology #Frustrated
Not having the right technology at hand can be infuriating for a call center agent. Make sure they have the tools to get the job done, whether it’s social media support or access to customer files via a robust CRM system. If you’re worried about budget, remember that some technology aids in lowering costs. For example, call-back technology makes life better for customers by eliminating hold-time, while simultaneously reducing abandon rates.
Other Toxic Agents (yes, really)
The interesting point here is that it has nothing to do with the role itself, and everything to do with the people surrounding it. Many people have had the misfortune of an unpleasant co-worker, one who is negative or just unfriendly. Make a serious effort to weed out the bad agents so they don’t force the good ones to leave.
In honour of #NationalTelephoneDay, here’s a little history on the telephone:
- Because Bell’s patent was submitted first (similar patents were submitted on the same day), it was awarded to him on March 7, 1876.
- Bell Telephone Company was founded on July 9, 1877, and the first public telephone lines were installed from Boston to Somerville, Massachusetts the same year.
- By the end of the decade, there were nearly 50,000 phones in the United States.
Publish Date: April 25, 2017 5:00 AM
I think it’s fair to say that people feel the need to constantly improve in their career, regardless of their profession. Some may sharpen up on their skills by attending a course, others may sit through a 1-hour webinar, and some may register for a tradeshow. In the case of the customer service profession, we find them to be a verbose group of dedicated blog followers. They love to read about the latest analyst findings, or interesting tips and tricks for how to spice up their support department.
Since Fonolo is a popular customer service blog contributor, we understand how hard it can be to find top-notch content from reputable sources. To save our dedicated readers some valuable time, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 customer service blogs to follow. Here they are in no specific order:
1. Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Shep’s blog is filled with great customer service insights. We specifically like his wrap-up of weekly customer service posts that he amalgamates from a variety of resources.
HelpScout is a help desk software solution. They aim to make every interaction more personalized. Their blog is written by a variety of contributors and boasts over 75,000 subscribers! They’ve labelled their blogs nicely, so you can easily find the blog that suits your needs. For example, if you’re looking for customer support software you could read their “product” blog, or if you’re looking for blogs on customer service “culture” you can easily jump to that section.
3. Marsha Collier
Marsha is very well-known in the industry. She’s the author of the “Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide” and over 40 books in the “for Dummies” series on best practices for eBay, Twitter, Facebook and social media. Her blog talks about technology, social media, and customer relations.
4. Kate Nasser – Smart SenseAbilities Blog
Kate Nasser is known as The People Skills Coach and has been helping global teams for the past 25+ years. Kate is an inspirational writer and speaker. She blogs about customer service, leadership, people skills, and more. In the spirit of today’s article, here’s her latest on the customer service space.
5. Customer Think
CustomerThink is a global online community of business leaders. The site serves 100,000+ visitors per month from over 200 countries around the world. This is a great place to learn about every facet of customer-centric business management in articles, blogs, interviews, and news.
Desk.com is a support software solution that can handle multi-channel, mobile, case management and productivity. Built with the Salesforce backbone, this is certainly a sought after solution in the space. Their blog talks about support strategies from customers, partners and expert bloggers.
7. Flavio Martins – WinTheCustomer
Flavio Martins has 15+ years of customer service experience. He has a passion for technology, customer relations and customer loyalty. Flavio blogs quite regularly, sharing his insightful ideas and refined perspective. You’ll find his articles to be very thought-provoking and provide action for the reader on how to improve.
8. Annette Franz – CX Journey
Annette has led Consulting Services departments for several companies that focus on improving both the customer and employee experience by utilizing technology. Annette is a regular contributor and knows how to keep her readers engaged. Her blogs on the customer service and customer experience space are a must-read!
9. Jeannie Walters – 360 Connext Blog
Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator and founder of 360Connext, a global consulting firm specializing in the customer experience. As a writer, podcaster and instructor you’re always sure to find excellent content on Jeannie’s blog.
10. CRM Daily
CRM Daily is an online publication for NewsFactor. Over the past 15 years, NewsFactor Network has become one of the leading publishers of business and technology news. This blog focuses on the latest news in customer service and will often talk about what’s happening with well-known technology brands like Amazon, eBay and Microsoft.
Publish Date: April 19, 2017 5:00 AM
It’s no secret to the savvy traveller that most leading airlines will limit the amount of empty seats to help boost profits. The problem is, when flights get overbooked paid passengers have to be “accommodated” to give up their seat, or in Delta’s case, it makes it difficult to rebook passengers whose flights have been cancelled. The airline industry is certainly getting its share of bad press lately. Although, unlike the abomination of an innocent bystander being ripped from a United Airlines flight, at least Delta has good reason for its negative publicity.
Last week, Atlanta was hit with severe thunderstorms, flash floods, and hail resulting in a logistical nightmare for Delta Airlines. The storm came crashing in on Wednesday, but the cancellation of flights trickled into Friday, and by the end of the week 3,000 flights had been cancelled!
Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is a busy spot for Delta, with more than 60% of its aircrafts using the airport on a daily basis. You can imagine, with 3000 flights being cancelled, how many passengers were affected by the delays. Of course, the result was an outpouring of calls into the Delta Airline call center and a substantial spike in hold time. In total, Delta had 930 people complaining on Twitter, publicly shaming the airline for its long hold times. This made them the worst hold time offender on OnHoldWith.com, a community driven website that captures people complaining about being on hold.
Hold Time Complaints:
The disgruntled messages started on Twitter on Wednesday, April 5th, with 82 people complaining, but that grew by 183% in just two days with more than 230 people outraged by lengthy hold time.
Now, to play devil’s advocate, the airline couldn’t possibly prepare for such a catastrophic change in weather; parts of Georgia even experienced tornados. Gil West, the airline’s Chief Operating Officer, explains that the storm was “unprecedented” and hard to forecast. Naturally, the call center wouldn’t be staffed for this unexpected spike in call volume, but this is exactly why call-back solutions can be so valuable. Fonolo explains this scenario as, “using call-backs as your insurance policy”, so that when these unforeseen events occur your call center can be armed and ready.
Watch a time lapse video of storms moving into Midtown Atlanta https://t.co/SM40Xoqu0v pic.twitter.com/l00s8jCXCf
— AJC (@ajc) April 5, 2017
On a positive note, Delta Airlines was quite active on Twitter during the delays. They explained that travelers whose flights were cancelled could get a refund, and also offered to waive change fees for those who rebooked their plans.
We apologize to our customers that have been affected by storms this week. We’re working hard to rebook everyone as soon as possible. (1/3)
— Delta (@Delta) April 7, 2017
You are entitled to a refund if your flight has been cancelled. Waivers to change fees that were issued Thursday remain in place. (2/3)
— Delta (@Delta) April 7, 2017
If you are traveling Friday, monitor your flt status via the Fly Delta app or https://t.co/yQj0bzerMw before heading to the airport. (3/3)
— Delta (@Delta) April 7, 2017
Although overbooking flights could turn into a nightmare for both airlines and passengers, one story actually led to a beam of customer satisfaction. Check out this passenger who made a whopping $11,000 off of Delta flight delays! Cha-Ching 🙂
Publish Date: April 13, 2017 5:00 AM
What a strange place Twitter is in. Consider the incredible influence it holds in the daily news cycle. Newscasts and white house press briefings talk about “tweets” with a seriousness that makes it easy to forget that no one outside the early-adopter circles had even heard that word before 2008. Or consider how iOS treats “tweeting” as a system-level communication option, on par with email and text messaging.
And yet, the company continues to struggle against sluggish subscriber growth and impatient investors. There were rumours throughout last year, that a sale was imminent. Part of the problem is that Twitter, as a product is successful in a few different “roles”. It works as a PR conduit for politicians and celebrities; as a global chat system; and as a customer service channel. That last role gets the least amount of public attention, but the company’s recent actions show that it sees a real future in this direction.
Location Sharing is its latest Customer Service Feature
Twitter has made a number of product changes to nurture its role as a customer service channel. (See our previous coverage.) The most recent change, coming at the beginning of April, was “Location Sharing”. Now a business interacting with a customer over Twitter, can share its location with the customer, or request the customer’s location. So, for example, a restaurant franchise can use its Twitter account to direct a customer to its nearest store.
From the company’s official blog post:
“Starting today, businesses building on our Direct Messages platform can request and share locations with people. Alongside quick replies, welcome messages and Customer Feedback Cards, this is yet another feature in the canvas we’re providing for businesses to create great human- and bot-powered customer experiences on Twitter.”
The Other Customer Service Features
At the end of last year, they added auto replies, which helps companies streamline the process of answering to lots of customers.
Prior to that, they added:
- Single-link feedback buttons, to conduct survey-style information gathering from customers.
- Automated welcome messages
- Adding “support hours” to the account profile
- Larger DM (direct message) buttons
- The ability to take public conversations private
- A way to designate an “official” support account
Twitter’s Advantages: Universality & Discoverability
The last item on the list above seems minor, but it feeds into one of Twitter’s big advantages: Discoverability. Large companies often have multiple Twitter accounts and it isn’t clear, without checking out the timeline, which is the right one for offering customer service. T-Mobile, for example, operates @TMobile and @TMobileAtWork, but customer service queries should go to @TMobileHelp. Now companies can label the appropriate account with a “Provides Support” icon.
To understand the importance of discoverability, imagine consumer Bob. He wants to communicate with a company, but doesn’t know which channels that company is active on. He knows some companies respond to SMS, some on Messenger, some have chat features on their websites, and some are on Twitter. How much patience does Bob have to explore all these options? If the first few don’t work, he’ll give up and just dial the phone number.
This is where Twitter, with its public timeline, has a unique advantage. It “de-risks” Bob’s search for the right channel because he can see whether or not the account is an active (and useful) way to get service. One of Twitter’s weaknesses – it’s public nature – turns out to be a key strength.
Why this Matters
There’s a battle in progress over which messaging platform will become the de facto channel for text-based customer support. The winner of that battle gets a valuable position in the e-commerce landscape, which can be used to gain an advantage with brand selection and even payment method.
The big, open question: Can any platform (Facebook, Twitter Snapchat, Kik, Line, etc) “win” the B2C crown? The fact that WeChat has seemingly “won” China, and achieved near dominance for online customer service, adds fuel to this fire. (See our earlier coverage: Will the WeChat Model Work in the West?)
It’s likely that Twitter will continue to make changes to support its efforts to be an effective customer service channel. This will be a huge asset for the company in the long run.
Publish Date: April 12, 2017 5:00 AM
The global market for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) will reach over $262 Billion in the next 5 years, so it’s important to recognize what’s propelling this industry forward. Outsourcing has always been touted as a cost-effective alternative for call centers, but advances in automation, big data, and cloud services, has made it even more appealing. Unless a call center can afford to acquire all of these resources, or create them in-house, BPOs offer a tremendous opportunity to harness their benefits without wasting precious time and money. However, as the industry adjusts to these technologies, the opportunity for error grows as well.
Whether you’re a BPO or a business looking to outsource, keep these 4 mistakes in mind when setting goals and expectations:
1. Sacrificing Quality for Quantity
We know that outsourcing the duties of a contact center to a BPO is always in the name of acquiring a greater quantity of resources, be it agents, or technologies, at a lower cost. However, BPOs cannot equate lower cost, to diminished performance. If your BPO is cutting corners in order to service contact centers, for example, employing unskilled workers for lower wages, or not completing rigorous training, you are simply doing a disservice to the industry. Don’t give BPOs a bad name for short term gains.
2. Not Measuring or Setting Benchmarks
As with any contact center, managers must be constantly setting and reviewing benchmarks. So, why would a BPO be any different? Not all contact centers service the same industry, and different industries have varying expectations. By tracking and reporting benchmarks, you are not only worth your weight in gold to clients, but you set your BPO up for future successes. Additionally, if you are able to prove success across multiple industries, your market penetration is endless.
3. Little to No Internal/External Communications
This goes hand-in-hand with measuring and setting benchmarks. In order to fully realize your work, communicating those metrics to clients is imperative to your mutual success. Successful methods of communication could be setting up a customer portal where they can access and manage information on-demand. This is also helpful to businesses who are outsourcing in different time zones and may not be able to regularly communicate in-person or over the phone. As you can see in the image blow, Fonolo provides its customers with remote access to the information they need for analyzing call data and minutes of hold time saved. The information you handle will be different, but you get the idea of what’s involved with proper communication between a vendor and a company.
4. Underestimating Hidden Costs
It’s important for every BPO to be up-front with any added fees or overages that a business may incur over the duration of a contract. This mistake is detrimental to both the outsourcer and the client. Steven Tadelis, an Associate Professor at Berkeley Haas School of Business says:
The key is to ask yourself, what are those measurable or anticipated factors that will help the decision-maker decide whether or not this is a project that is good for outsourcing.
It’s important to properly analyze what a business needs and not skimp out just because you want them to sign a contract. Build an honest relationship from the get-go. At the end of the day, being transparent will save everyone time, energy, and money.
Publish Date: April 5, 2017 5:00 AM
We live in a world filled with numbers. From our personal lives to our professional habitats, metrics always tend to find their way in. Our understanding of which metrics are the most relevant, and the most up-to-date, is where we typically stumble. It’s no different in the contact center space, in fact, it’s amplified. This world lives by benchmarks and call center professionals are always seeking to find the latest numbers to follow.
In light of our recent whitepaper, Top 10 Trends Shaping the Future of the Contact Center, here are the top 5 metrics to watch for in 2017.
1. Omni-Channel Communications:
Only 36% of contact centers can track a customer journey that spans multiple channels, and only 17% can locate problem hotspots that impact the customer experience.
2. Telephone Support:
ContactBabel surveyed 221 contact center managers and found that, 63% of the time, they believe the telephone is still the best method of communication for complaints. Although digital channels are growing in popularity, the phone still handles 57.7% of interactions.
3. Big Data:
Analytics, once beneficial for gaining insight into customers, is now equally useful for understanding agent performance, with 7 out of 10 managers agreeing that it has increased productivity and the customer experience.
4. Cloud-Based Call Center:
If you’ve been holding off on moving to a cloud solution due to security issues, then it’s important to know that nearly 72% of contact center leaders found that cloud / hosted solutions have actually mitigated security and compliance risks. In the next year, on-premise IT solutions are actually set to drop from 60.1% to 23.1% as cloud gains popularity.
5. Call Center Security:
89% of consumers say it’s vital for them to know that their personal information is secure. Therefore, measures must be taken to ensure that data breaches simply do not happen. Businesses agree, with 94% placing emphasis on the importance of data privacy.
Publish Date: March 30, 2017 5:00 AM
The contact center is becoming quite the paradox. It must be open-ended but also secure, both customer-centric and employee-centric, legacy-based yet modernized, and the list goes on. The reasons why are fairly simple: Consumer demands are continually evolving and so are the channels used to communicate those needs. The problem is that technology advances at a much faster pace than the contact center is able to adapt to, at least, for now.
The contact center industry is currently in a transition phase, where legacy systems will be refashioned by modern ones, and the once ‘low-level’ agent positions will be replaced by robust technology. It’s essential that your contact center is built for the future. And while the thought may seem daunting, there are a number of new ways to resolve the problems that will erode the success of call center operations around the world.
Here are the 10 biggest trends that can help call center professionals stay ahead of the curve.
1. Omni-Channel Communications (in a Multi-Channel World)
As call centers expand their multi-channel offerings, making cross-channel experiences seamless will be more important. The ability to escalate from channel-to-channel was once a luxury, however today’s customers demand nothing less. Surprisingly, though, only 36% of contact centers can track a customer journey that spans multiple channels, and only 17% can locate problem hotspots that impact the customer experience. This is a major concern for most contact centers, as customer expectations are only going to increase. By 2020, the demand for omni-channel support will be amplified by the need for a nearly perfect execution.
The image below, from the ‘Inner Circle Guide to Omni-Channel Customer Contact’ by ContactBabel, reveals the current state of multi-channel, multi-modal, and omni-channel offerings by contact centers.
It’s clear that most contact centers have adopted multi-channel, however only an average of 12% describe themselves as omni-channel.
For a contact center to be truly omni-channel enabled, all applications must be able to seamlessly identify, route, and switch interactions between agents and channels, while keeping all relevant data intact. Given this massive undertaking, it’s quite likely that many organizations are currently in the process of doing just this, and are simply not accounted for in the most recent surveys.
One thing is for certain: The leap towards omni-channel will be a big one, and it should happen in the very near future.
2. Go Digital or Go Home
There is no doubt that digital channels are on the rise, and have been since the mobile boom. Greater access to information and the convenience of doing business on the go means that call centers must configure their applications to be agile and responsive. In fact, people under 55 years of age now rate mobile applications as a top choice for customer service channels.
As contact center leaders begin to catch on to the importance of user-friendly online customer experiences, digital channel planning is set to increase by the following percent over the next 12 months:
- Web chat: 44.3% to 81.1%
- Mobile apps: 41.6% to 75.45%
- Social media: 51.4% to 76.1%
A digital transformation strategy is going to be key as the cost of mobile bandwidth goes down, and omni-channel / machine-to-machine communications advance. In the example below, 1st United Services Credit Union unified their multi-channel communications strategy by deploying Fonolo on their mobile app and on the “contact us” page of their website. This allowed customers to request a call-back from an agent, no matter what channel they were browsing from.
3. ‘Hello?’ Is it the Voice Channel You’re Looking for?
For many years, telecom marketers have predicted that the voice channel would eventually fall by the wayside of its digital predecessors. Today, we are beginning to see that. Although customers are using more channels besides voice, many of those interactions often still end up on the voice channel. The truth is that although channel diversity is needed for speedy communications, the telephone still remains an important avenue for solving complex issues.
ContactBabel surveyed 221 contact center managers and found that, 63% of the time, they believe the telephone is still the best method of communication for complaints. Although digital channels are growing in popularity, the phone still handles 57.7% of interactions.
So, how can contact centers provide the
highest degree of care on the voice channel?
Two key elements are needed:
1. Training: Proper, consistent, and ongoing training will help to ensure that voice interactions are met with quality and precision.
2. Technology: Hold times have always created a concern for customers using the voice channel and must be eliminated at all costs. Cloud call-back solutions like Fonolo have been around for a number of years, but many call centers are still unsure if it’s the right fit for their business.
Tip: If your contact center cares about the customer experience, wants to reduce abandon rates, and decrease telco costs, then a cloud call-back option is a must-have solution for 2017.
4. Measure Your Performance and You’ll Go Far
This year, contact centers will see an increase in the number of implementations for performance management solutions. This is needed for both in-house and remote agents, as the option to work from home is now a reality for many growing call centers. However, this can create some concern for operations managers who must regularly evaluate their workforce both near and far. While 89% measure the quality of voice, only 50% measure performance on digital channels, down from 61% last year.
Analytics, once beneficial for gaining insight into customers, is now equally useful for understanding agent performance, with 7 out of 10 managers agreeing that it has increased productivity and the customer experience. In 2017, more contact centers will recognize the impact of tracking analytics and be able to use those benchmarks for future growth.
5. Social Media − a Not-So-Secret Weapon
Hootsuite released a report this year which found that there are over 2.7 billion active social media users, for a global penetration of 37% and an annual growth rate of 21%. Social media as a support channel remains the first choice for customers under 25, but has yet to gain the same trust and acceptance by other age groups. Though the majority of businesses have observed the need for social support, 29.3% of them are still not utilizing it; instead they’re redirecting customers to another channel. This is a temporary fix for a market base that is only growing by the day, and will play a very important role in the future of customer support.
It is absolutely necessary to have an effective social media presence, otherwise a brand might look like it’s intentionally disconnecting from its customers.
Consumers want a place they can go to give quick feedback, vent, and interact with their favorite brands. Responsive social support teams see this trend as an opportunity to create a unified customer experience.
On the flip side, any negative comments can be detrimental, and if they go unanswered it can make potential customers suspicious. The video below is a special report by ABC7 on Your Side news, highlighting the growing need for online customer support, as the voice channel suffers from long hold times. Make social media a goal in your contact center this year. Whether it’s developing a team, improving training methods, or deploying a social media management solution, this trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon
Don’t miss the last 5 trends! Download the full report below.
Publish Date: March 29, 2017 5:00 AM
Every year Fonolo recognizes contact centers who are dedicated to reducing hold time, thereby delivering a superior customer experience. This year is no different! We are excited to acknowledge three amazing organizations for their outstanding achievements. The following companies have worked diligently to improve agent engagement, while also enhancing the customer experience, and we are honored to be part of their ongoing transformation.
So, without further ado, here are the 2017 Customer Experience Excellence Award Winners (#CXAwards):
- HKT Teleservices, a subsidiary of HKT, Hong Kong’s premier telecommunications service provider, offers clients world-class global contact center and BPO services in all facets of voice and non-voice customer services, technical support, sales, retention, and other business processes.
- HomeAdvisor, is a leading nationwide digital home services marketplace providing homeowners the tools and resources for home repair, maintenance, and improvement projects.
- Nutrisystem, Inc., is a leader in the weight loss industry, having helped millions of people lose weight over the course of 45 years.
A Word About this Year’s Winners:
“We are thrilled to acknowledge these recipients for their commitment to outstanding customer service,” said Shai Berger, CEO, Fonolo. “With Fonolo’s innovative cloud-based technology, it’s easy for contact centers to add call-backs and improve the customer experience. This year’s winners have eliminated an unprecedented amount of hold time, thereby exceeding consumer expectations. They deserve to be recognized for this exceptional achievement.”
Remarks from the Recipients:
We are delighted that our continued focus on delivering excellent customer service has been recognized. The Fonolo solution was very easy to implement and the team has been great to work with since transitioning to production. Their service has substantially improved our abandon rate at a time when call volume increased substantially.
– Gene Oliver, Vice President of Information Technology & CIO, HKT Teleservices (US)
We launched Fonolo a little over a year ago and we didn’t see the dramatic, immediate results we anticipated. However, once we utilized Fonolo’s expert staff to help us analyze call data, we recognized that Fonolo was having a valuable impact. Fonolo helped us determine what the proper settings should be, and at that point we saw a noticeable abandon rate improvement.
– Matt Zurcher, Senior Vice President of Customer Care, HomeAdvisor
We are always evaluating our customer relationships and customer experience with our brand. One of those primary touch points is our contact center. We like to provide a positive and convenient experience, and that’s where the Fonolo solution set has been able to assist us. Fonolo’s In-Call Rescue call-back option allows our customers to hold their place in queue without having to stay on the phone line. This added convenience has been well received by our customers and our team.
– Bill MacBride, Senior Vice President of Customer Care, Nutrisystem Inc.
To read the full announcement visit fonolo.com/news.
Publish Date: March 28, 2017 5:00 AM
Every time a customer comes in contact with your brand, whether it’s in-store or online, each interaction is a touch point that contributes to the customer experience. Consumers are demanding more, and their choices are ever expanding, which means that better service will lead to greater customer loyalty.
Here are 5 customer service mistakes that are negatively effecting your support operations.
1. Ignoring Customers on Social Media
As a consumer, if I’m tweet venting, I’m pretty upset. Not only do I want the brand to know about my complaints, but my ultimate goal is to have the issue go viral so that appropriate action is taken to rectify the situation. There is nothing worse than simply being ignored on social media. At the very least, acknowledge the complaint and make some sort of effort to correct it.
2. Trying to Hide Your Customer Support Number
WHY!?!? This is absolutely maddening. If a customer wants to call you, make it easy for them to locate your number. You will only upset them more, increasing their anger and frustration right before they make the call. Your customer service agents don’t deserve to get the brunt of these complaints.
3. Taking a Long Time to Answer Chat
If your chat window is open, but all agents are fully utilized, why would you show that chat help is available? It could take several minutes just to send a greeting message. That’s a long time for a customer who’s waiting to address a simple inquiry. Their attention span online is quite short and you don’t want them closing the window and having to start over again. Rather than making this mistake, find a way to disable the availability of the chat feature when agents are fully utilized and are unable to address customers in a timely manner. ‘
4. Hiring the Wrong Contact Center Agent
The continuous challenge of agent churn has nothing to do with your ongoing operations, and everything to do with your hiring process. Hiring the right customer service agent is incredibly important to the success of your contact center. After all, onboarding committed, motivated, and qualified agents helps your call center achieve its purpose. Make sure you prepare a solid list if questions for each candidate, score them based on their answers and be sure to ask for references. This is a great way to ensure that you’ve hired people that fit your ideal agent profile.
5. Putting Customers on Hold
You CANNOT provide an exceptional experience if you leave customers waiting. When your phone service is not up to par, consumer frustration grows. Their rage doesn’t just end on the phone; customers will candidly share this information with the rest of the world using numerous social media channels.
We, the folks at Fonolo, created a way for consumers to productively use their ‘on hold with’ time and let companies know how they feel. We feel that greater awareness of the problem will increase the likelihood of change in the call center world. The moral of the story is you do not want to be listed on this site.
Publish Date: March 23, 2017 5:00 AM
The call center industry is a large and evolving space. With so many moving parts and new trends to understand, contact center professionals are always looking for leadership and guidance. Who are the people they can turn to and trust? Whose opinions and predictions are most valued in this industry? Fortunately we have the answer for you. Our yearly roundup of the top analysts in the industry keeps call center professionals like you informed on the best influencers to follow. These thought leaders are always quick to provide updates and analysis on the latest news and innovations in the contact center space.
Congratulations to the 16 who were selected!
Publish Date: March 16, 2017 5:00 AM
St. Patrick’s Day is a great excuse to drink green beer, dress up like a leprechaun, and embark on shenanigans with those close to you. Unfortunately, for most contact center agents, St. Patrick’s Day is just another day at the office * cue the violin *.
Why not take this opportunity to engage your agents by putting together some fun St. Paddy’s inspired games? They’ll soon forget about missing out on those packed pubs and impending hangovers with some friendly competition between co-workers. Plus, you get to enjoy a boost in agent morale and excess energy from all that chocolate and bonding!
We’ve put together 5 fun games that are easy to execute in any office and will make your agents feel lucky to have a manager like you:
What’s St. Patrick’s Day without dressing up in green? In addition to letting your staff come into work wearing their favourite green attire, grab some extra accessories to create this fun interactive relay. First, you’ll need to divide your staff into two teams; and choose two team leads or floor supervisors to play the role of leprechauns. Then give each team all of the following accessories to use in the relay:
- Leprechaun hat
- Green / orange glitter or feather boas
- Green / orange Bowties
- Striped socks
- Pots filled with gold chocolate (these will come into use later)
Ready, set, GO! Watch them use teamwork, communication, and patience – all great qualities for customer service agents – in a race to make their leaders looks like jolly leprechauns. The team that puts the costume together first, wins and gets to keep their pot of gold chocolate. The other pot will be used later on.
St. Paddy’s Trivia
Okay, so that game probably got rowdy and the office is now buzzing. Have your staff go back to their desks and enjoy their chocolates. After a few minutes, drop them with a little trivia surprise! Use the channels your call center uses to see how your staff handles timely and accurate communication.
Find a few pieces of trivia about St. Patrick’s Day. Send one question out to each department. Maybe you have different teams dedicated to different channels or maybe your staff does it all. But to make it fair, make sure they are all responding from the channel they use for work. The first agent, from each department to respond to the question, will not only get a professional pat on the back but an additional reward of your choice, a $10 e-gift card will suffice.
The Amazing ‘Treasure Hunt’
First switch teams around so that other agents can work together. Give each team the same activity to complete, for example, “Complete a St. Paddy’s puzzle” or “Color this picture of a rainbow”. Each completed task will lead to another team building activity – think ‘The Amazing Race’ but with a lot less scenery. The team who completes every activity first wins. We recommend anywhere between 4-6 activities depending on the complexity.
This game will not only bring agents closer together, it will also help them communicate more, resolve conflicts better, and ultimately develop a stronger team.
Pot o’ Gold Dump
Okay, it’s time to bring back those gold chocolate coins! Hand out one coin to each agent, and then once again divide agents into teams. Put each team into a single file line and place an empty pot about 5-10 feet away from them. Each team member will then take turns throwing a chocolate coin into the pot. The person throwing MUST get their coin into the pot before moving to the next person. The first team to successfully get every coin in the pot wins!
Rainbow Coin Toss
Last but not least we’ve got rainbow coin toss. For this one, think bocce ball or curling. You must first take a picture of a rainbow (a good idea would be to use the best colored rainbow from the scavenger hunt for this). Tape the rainbow against a wall and place one pot at the end of it. To make things fair, agents will be divided into teams and given the same amount of coins to throw, roll, or slide at the pot.
Coins will need to indicate which team they came from, so simply add the same St. Paddy’s sticker to both sides of each set of coins. For example: The Shamrock team will have shamrock stickers on both sides of their coins while the Leprechaun team will have leprechaun stickers on both sides of their coins.
It will be up to each team to decide whether they want to designate someone to throw each coin or have multiple people toss the coins. Each team will take turns throwing a single coin at the pot. They can knock each other out or knock their team’s coins closer. When all coins have been thrown, count which team has the most coins closest to the pot. Winner takes all!
Do you have some fun games to boost agent engagement? Feel free to share them with us!
Publish Date: March 15, 2017 5:00 AM
Industry watchers are carefully assessing the progress of the Avaya bankruptcy, which is now 50 days old. (Fun tip: The number of days is easy to track because the bankruptcy happened the same day at the US presidential inauguration! So when the press makes a big deal about Trump’s first 100 days, you’ll know Avaya has been in Chapter 11 for 100 days too.)
The duration is important because as the bankruptcy continues, the patience of partners, analysts and customers wears down. Each day is also another opportunity for competitors to pick away at Avaya’s customers. See, for example this “knives-out” post by InContact that tells Avaya customers to “keep moving forward, no matter how the bankruptcy is resolved.”
Here’s a quick look at some coverage of the bankruptcy so far.
How Long Will it Take?
A big question on everyone’s mind is how long will the process take. Two recent cases provide alternate extremes. Aspect’s successful bankruptcy last year is a positive comparison, one that even CEO Kevin Kennedy made in his announcement. But another comparison that folks are throwing around is Nortel’s disastrous bankruptcy from 2008 that took over 7 years to resolve. Which model will Avaya follow? We tackled this question in Will Avaya’s Chapter 11 Be Like Aspect’s or Like Nortel’s?
For a closer look at the mechanics of this process, the most detailed analysis I’ve seen is from NoJitter’s Phil Edholm: Analyzing the Avaya Path Through Bankruptcy. He outlines a scenario where the process could go the “Nortel” route and be split into pieces:
…bond creditors … may conclude that they would be better served selling the assets and breaking Avaya into pieces…. the contact center business had been valued at more than $3.7 billion in the sale discussions prior to the bankruptcy. In fact, an EBITDA analysis of the total Avaya business shows that the business assets are worth somewhere between $6 billion and $7 billion based on projected EBITDA and assumed multiples. From this total, subtract $1.5 billion for unfunded pension liabilities, and the core continuation plan would need to return between $4.5 billion and $5.5 billion of value — a combination of debt, cash, or equity — to provide bondholders a necessary level of comfort. The bondholders will contrast an offer that is a mix of cash and equity against an all-cash break-up option.
The Sale to Extreme
The first big news of the bankruptcy process hit last week when it was announced that Extreme (NASDAQ: EXTR) bought Avaya’s networking division for $100 million. Technically it’s not a purchase, but rather a bid that sets a minimum price for an upcoming auction. But expectations are that Extreme will end up being the ultimate owner.
The networking division was the easiest to break out from the rest of the company. Analysts I’ve spoken to have long thought of that division as a distraction for Avaya, and preferred to see full energy expended on the call center and enterprise communications products.
Zeus Kerravala writes:
Customers should take comfort in the fact that Extreme is an enterprise pure play with a vision that’s similar to Avaya Networking’s — networks are too complicated and too manually intensive to meet the needs of a digital organization. Avaya has built its Fabric Connect technology on the concept of a transparent core in which a network administrator can make changes at the edge of a network for proliferation throughout the network rather than on a box-by-box basis… Both have a next-generation data center solution on the roadmap and without getting into details, I believe the market can support both based on vertical deployment and use case.
How Will the Product Line-Up Change?
Avaya has been criticized in the past for having a complicated product portfolio with a naming system that was difficult to understand. This reorganization may be a chance to streamline. Part of the refresh is a focus on APIs via the new “Breeze” platform. We covered that here: Avaya’s Big Bet on Breeze.
Phil Edholm did a great analysis on this front: Avaya Positioning Its Portfolio for the Future.
While mining the installed base is the core of the current revenue stream, for every Avaya customer that replaces its system with Cisco or decides to deploy Skype for Business, Avaya needs to acquire a similar customer from another vendor. This is going to be a challenge. Over the last 10 years, the combined Avaya/Nortel installed base in North America has shrunk by 25% to 35%. Cisco leverages its strong position in networking to help drive VOIP, and Microsoft uses its desktop productivity dominance to promote Skype for Business adoption. Avaya does not have a similar adjacency to leverage. It has strong contact center share, but the ability to translate contact center position to winning in the UC space is not proven.
The Engage Conference Was Closely Watched
Avaya’s annual customer conference (“Avaya Engage”) happened last month and they were under a lot of scrutiny to deliver an upbeat vision for their future.
We covered the event here Avaya Did Good with their Spotlight Moment This Week:
Those bearish on Avaya usually point to the declining revenues as the most damning evidence. Kennedy briefly acknowledged this, saying “the revenue is what it is” then quickly pivoted to talk about more flattering metrics. (e.g. “Revenue per employee” which has been increasingly steadily, because they’ve shrunk their workforce dramatically.)… So, how can you be bullish in the face of declining revenue? Because the whole pie is shrinking.
Analyst Dave Michels covered it as well with his usual flair:
It was a good event – unique in many ways. A confident, yet humble Avaya was on display. But, there was a cloud over Vegas and not the type that Avaya needs. Actually, it wasn’t clouds overhead but vultures… [Avaya] is in the second stage of grief regarding their financial predicament – denial.
Publish Date: March 14, 2017 5:00 AM
The recent renaissance in self-service has been driven by several factors. First, the past 20 years of online commerce have allowed us to hone the technology and techniques for making good self-service interfaces – first on the web, and then on mobile devices. The art and science of building good user experiences (UX) has become a mature profession. Second, the smartphone revolution brought that UX to everyone’s pockets. Third, the majority of today’s consumers are very comfortable with these tools and actually prefer them to human interaction. (The younger they are, the more strongly they prefer self-service, so this bodes well for the future.)
The growing popularity and effectiveness of self-service implies that its counterpart, human-assisted service, i.e. the purpose of call centers, is on the decline. Sure, there are some transactions that still require an agent, but if one extrapolates from current trends, isn’t it reasonable to assume that eventually all interactions will be self-serve? Does that mean centers are headed for obsolescence, like floppy disks and 8-track tapes? Not so fast.
Why Does Anyone Still Call a Contact Center Agent?
Every self-service implementation has its limits: there are edge cases that require speaking to an agent. When users hit these “dead ends” it’s important to manage the hand-off as smoothly as possible, maintaining as much of the context as possible. (Call-backs are great way to do this.) The worst thing to do is make the user start over.
But why have dead-ends at all?
Sometimes it can be baffling why a certain interaction didn’t “make the cut” for self-service. I fly Air Canada frequently so I’m very familiar with their customer service quirks. For example, you can’t book online if you’re flying with a child under 2. Why? I called and the process was totally normal and the agent couldn’t tell me why human assistance was required. That doesn’t seem like such a rare situation. (For more such examples see No, I Don’t Want to Call You by Dave Michels, which partially inspired this post.)
Perhaps you’ve run across such strange dead-ends in your own interactions? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
What do these gaps tell us? Since agent-assistance is so much more expensive than self-service, shouldn’t they all be eliminated? Are they last hold-outs on the path to “self-service nirvana”? I think the answer is no.
Why We’ll Never See Perfect Self-Serve Coverage
Here are a few theories on why we won’t see “perfect coverage” with self-service:
1) Diminishing Returns
There is some cost to adding and maintaining each option, and when you get to the edge cases, the associated savings via reduced call volume isn’t worth it.
2) Moving Target
Products, services & policies are always in flux, so you end up asymptotically approaching perfect “self-service nirvana”.
3) Preserving Simplicity of the UX
This is one I can respect. Adding every option to the interface is going to hurt usability at some point. It’s better to do a good job for the 99% of cases. Good product managers always talk about how important it is to say “no” to new features. So the mix of self-serve / agent-assisted is a balance of those two forces.
4) Large Org Weirdness
Large organizations just have a way of getting trapped doing things in sub-optimal ways. Maybe they contracted out a certain type of support call to a BPO and it’s a 3 year deal they can’t get out of. Maybe the call center manager doesn’t want a category of calls to be offloaded because then their staff (and budget) will be reduced. This boils down to someone at the top like a Bezos or Hsieh being relentless about customer service.
Voice Calls Aren’t Decreasing After All
To add further perspective to this issue, let’s talk about the amount of phone calls made by consumers seeking customer support. Given the growth of self-service, you would think that number would be shrinking, right?
While we can’t say anything conclusively, we actually have evidence that points in the other direction. See Nobody Knows if Voice is Growing or Shrinking and Is There Voice Shrinkage in the Call Center?
So the picture is more complicated than you might expect.
How can we make sense of an increasing amount of agent phone calls, while self-service is also increasing? One factor is that online purchasing means more interactions shift from in-store to some form of “remote” interaction: phone calls, emails, or other online channels. This counts for both the purchase itself and the subsequent returns or service.
Another factor is that new service channels make some transactions possible that didn’t exist before at all. Consider the Uber ride – the initial request via app, the potential phone call with the driver, the post-ride rating of the driver – these are all interactions that are “net new” to the universe. The transaction they replace, a traditional taxi ride, also has interactions – hailing the car, communicating your address, handing over cash – but they would be invisible to any accounting of “customer service behavior”.
Where does this leave us? Here are 3 broad conclusions that seem safe:
- The total of all remote interactions is growing, driven by ecommerce and new behaviors like the Uber example above.
- As per the 4 reasons above, self-serve will never reach “perfect” coverage.
- All call center managers agree that the complexity and duration of the phone calls they are getting is increasing. That’s because all the easy transactions are handled by self-service.
And finally it seems safe to say no, the call center is not going to fade away.
Publish Date: March 1, 2017 5:00 AM