Fonolo - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
Between multi-channel strategies, keeping up with consumer demand, and maintaining service levels, running a successful contact center today is no easy task. With the enormous effort involved, many call centers are turning to outsourcers for help. Although some executives are hesitant to let a function of their business go, others realize that outsourcing a specific function is the best solution. Even the largest of corporations outsource entire departments to firms that have the time and expertise, along with a level of dedication to high-quality performance.
But what kind of promises should a BPO make to their call center clients? What makes them the most ideal outsourcer to choose? Here are four simple commitments a call center BPO should make.
1. Create a Contract that Defines SLA’s
Your BPO of choice should define the specific standards and benchmarks that they will meet for you. They should have a clear understanding of your SLA’s and a strategy on how they will be met. Typically, they’ll determine the number of agents you’ll receive and the skillset required to meet and exceed SLA’s. If you’re a new call center still determining what your service level should be, consider the 80/20 rule.
2. Embrace a Corporate Culture that Mimics the Call Center
A BPO is an extension of your brand. Meaning when a customer calls your contact center and reaches the BPO, they won’t know the difference. BPOs should operate so effectively and seamlessly that every call impersonates that of an internal operation. They should embrace your company culture, mimic employee benefits, and develop a space that embodies your brand.
3. Provide Transparency and Clear Communication
Trust and transparency are vital for meeting expectations and maintaining a healthy client-partner relationship. Your BPO should provide a clear and concise strategy, focussing on your KPIs. If your goal is to provide high-quality experiences that foster customer loyalty, your BPO should explain how they’ll achieve, measure, and manage that for you. Reporting is key, as it will be a clear reflection of success.
4. Address Automation and the Human Touch
Although BPO’s are expected to deliver technology-led innovation on an ongoing basis, automation can come at a price when not executed properly. In fact, the advancements in technology-led automated services such as AI, machine learning, and RPA (robotic process automation) could impact more than 5 million jobs in the next three years. Make sure your BPO commits to outlining their 5-10 year plan with respect to automation so you know how this will affect your ongoing relationship. To learn more, join Fonolo and BPO experts on Thursday, February 23 at 2:00 PM ET as we take a deep dive into BPO automation.
Here’s a sneak peak at the slides!
Publish Date: February 21, 2017 5:00 AM
So, your customer base is constantly growing but your call center is at max capacity. You’re now looking for an affordable solution to begin ramping up customer support. Your next logical step is to contract a third party provider, otherwise known as a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing). BPOs can provide tremendous benefits to your business, such as cost savings, and better quality and efficiency. But don’t get too ahead of yourself. Although this option could be the answer to all your problems, it could also be the biggest headache you’ve ever had, if not researched properly. It’s important to note that not every BPO is created equally, and there are certain factors to keep in mind when picking the right one for your business.
We look at 5 tips to help you through the process of choosing a BPO:
1. Quality Assurance is Fundamental
You have expectations in place for your customer service team, and you don’t want to lose them during the outsourcing process. It’s worth looking into the vendor’s track record and performance, to determine if that’s the kind of service you want for your business. The first step to qualifying your BPO is to see if its been certified with a national association. Another way is to ask for client testimonials and knowing the type of industries they service. If you’re in health and finance, you’ll have a different set of requirements compared to retail. It’s also advisable to interact with managers and other team members before signing a long-term contract. We explore this further in the next tip.
2. Manage Risk and Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Begin with a pilot project to deliver proof-of-concept first. Innovative providers will establish metrics for common processes to compare their performance against your benchmarks for those same processes. Important issues will be brought to your attention during this time such as reporting, performance, and scalability, which are all equally significant in choosing the right BPO. In order for you to measure whether or not your BPO is a cost effective investment, it’s necessary to consider all of these factors before moving forward.
3. Keep IT Capabilities Top of Mind
IDC predicted that 75% of software enterprises and independent vendors will include AI functionality in at least one application by 2018. Therefore, BPOs embracing new technologies are likely to be more future ready and have a stable outlook moving forward. With this in mind, frequent visits from a senior engineer from the off-shore vendor to the client site during the design phase can help ensure a clear project understanding. The same goes for you; visiting your outsourcing service provider can give you perspective you might miss from afar.
Finally, how can you ensure a BPO will be able to deliver on technical timelines? Have them sign a ‘Staff Augmentation‘ contract. This ensures integration is taken care of by default.
4. Visibility and Reporting is Key
Part of the integration process is to set up a clear reporting and management tool between you and your outsourced team. Even though you won’t be there physically, you still want to be calling the shots. Therefore, having easy access to frequent reports provides insight into how your BPO is performing, and allows you to set goals and metrics for your outsourced team. Recommended reports include:
- Weekly internal status report
- Monthly management report
- Customer Satisfaction Report
Furthermore, to ensure deliverables are met and maintained, the vendor should be easy to get a hold of. There should be a designated point of contact for you to reach out to at anytime during the duration of a project.
5. Ensure they are Financially Bulletproof
This is a particularly turbulent time for BPOs, politics and AI are threatening the space, which makes deciding even harder. Take time to look into the BPO’s financial health and even the economic outlook of the country its located in. If the industry is predicted to take a dive in a certain geographic location, it’s probably wise to look elsewhere. If everything looks good from an geo-industry perspective, take a look at their financial history, current holdings, and growth potential. If a BPO has previously gone bankrupt under the same management, you might want to reconsider.
Publish Date: February 15, 2017 5:00 AM
Last week Network World published an article called CRM and Contact Center are on a Collision Course. The collision thing is a good metaphor. In fact, what’s happening is a multi-vehicle collision involving CRM, Contact Center plus “Unified Communications” and “Customer Service Management”. The boundaries between all four have become quite hazy.
We also don’t have a name for the superset of it all. Which means we can’t even say “X is disrupting the Y space”, because we’re not even sure what “Y” is anymore. (And actually, it’s hard to state cleanly what the “X” is.) A massive part of the technology landscape is in a flux and we lack good terminology to even talk about it! Let’s at least try to fill in those two blanks.
What’s the Disrupting Force?
The “X” — the cause of the collision — is a drastic change in voice technology. A decade ago, delivering, storing and manipulating voice required specialized hardware and software. Engineers with the expertise to develop, install and maintain that technology were rare and, thus, costly.
The “voice-is-hard” barrier created a clean divide between the voice world and the non-voice world. A chasm separated call center from CRM or PBX from a chat server. That barrier also allowed companies on the voice side to build proprietary systems and keep prices high for both purchase and maintenance.
However, that barrier is gone now. Some people expressed that by saying, “voice became a commodity”. That captures the feel of it, but it’s not technically right. (Voice was always a commodity: purchased in bulk, mostly fungible, universally available.) Sometimes people say voice has gotten “cheap”. That’s also true, but actually confuses two trends: the technology of managing voice with the raw minutes of phone time. (It’s like confusing the cost of wheat with the cost of running a mill.) Both have dropped, but its the former that is the “X” factor here.
In the Network World piece, I was quoted saying “the mystique” of voice is gone. I think that captures it well, but if you really want to boil it down, I guess there’s no better way to say it than, “voice got easy”.
Being “easy” makes voice technology kind of a “free radical” that can float around and bind to larger pieces of software wherever it fits: a billing platform, an HR application and, of course, CRM. So it no longer makes sense to divide applications along voice / non-voice lines.
Another casualty is the pricing power that voice technology companies used to enjoy. Buying a call center switched from being a hardware purchase to a software purchase and then to a cloud subscription. This has caused a massive reshaping of the call center industry, as evidence by last month’s bankruptcy filing by Avaya.
What is Getting Disrupted?
“Easy voice” is doing the disrupting, but what is it disrupting? Our old definitions of enterprise software categories are getting blended together. Some people now call the entire space “enterprise communication”. But that implies something that is internal to companies, thus excluding interactions with customers.
A further complication: Those consumer interactions now also include, for example, social media and even OTT voice via Facebook. In other words, voice and text interactions hosted by consumer internet applications are mixing with, and are on equal footing to, phone calls, emails and other channels that hosted on enterprise-owned applications. How can you find a term that is broad enough to include all this stuff?
I look at “CPaaS” as a way of absolving ourselves from the whole terminology game. “Communication Platform as a Service” companies (like Twilio, Tropo/Cisco, Plivo, Vonage/Nexmo, Avaya/Zang) offer individual functions of communications (e.g. sending a text, receiving a call, processing a DTMF tone) via an API on a simple pay-per-use basis. In effect, they’re saying: “Here are all the building blocks, assemble them however you want. We don’t care what you call it in the end.” It’s kind of a cop-out, but given our current transitional state, with little agreement on what to call things, it’s a cop-out I welcome.
Some other folks have tackled this topic:
Chris Vitek published, “How Salesforce Will Replace the ACD” 6 months ago on NoJitter. He got a bit of a shellacking for over-reaching on the title. You should definitely read the comments.
…if you thought you would always have automatic call distribution (ACD) from Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, Interactive Intelligence, or Unify in your contact center, then think again — and start following Salesforce, because it is going to unplug a lot of these systems. At a minimum, the availability of these solutions from Salesforce will cause traditional contact center vendors to lose market share.
Speaking of Salesforce, I’ve focused on them specifically in two blog posts:
- 4 Clips from Salesforce’s Call Center Keynote Reveal Their Strategy
- Salesforce Has Many Fingers in the Call Center Pie
In The Rebirth of Interaction Management Nicolas deKouchkovsky (former CMO of Genesys, and Fonolo advisor) says,
The Contact Center market can no longer be looked at in isolation… Contact Centers are often used with Customer Service software…. CRM vendors have been eyeing the Contact Center space… Two adjacent industries, sales communications and customer success management, have been developing rapidly… As companies embrace customer lifecycle management and account based disciplines, we should expect bridges to be built between them.
Finally, analyst Jon Arnold published “Why You Should Consider Integrating Contact Center with UC”.
So long as UC and the contact center are thought of as separate and unrelated worlds, you won’t see what’s possible when pulling them together.
By the way, Jon is on our list of Top Analysts Covering the Call Center. (2017 edition coming out soon!)
Publish Date: February 9, 2017 5:00 AM
Are you having a rocky relationship with your contact center? Maybe you’ve been a victim of long hold times, poor customer service, or having to repeat an issue over and over to different agents. At first, like many relationships, both sides are willing to work hard and even overlook some of the red flags. But over time, once loyalty has developed, its possible that things might get a little too comfortable, taking for granted how hard it was to earn your admiration in the first place. With better communications, it’s possible for your relationship to mend, but if interactions stay the same or get worse, it might be time to cut ties and find a new call center to love.
How do you know if your call center is worth loving? Here are 3 areas to consider:
Your Call Center Calls You Back
There’s nothing more annoying than someone you like not answering a text, or returning a phone call. The same goes for your call center. Whether it’s a busy time of day or you need to schedule a call for another time, it’s important for your call center to provide a call-back option. Being able to get on with your day or speak to an agent at a more convenient time, without worrying about calling back, is truly one way to any customer’s heart.
Your Call Center Provides Multiple Ways to Reach Them
You know when you can’t reach your partner by phone, but you can find them on chat, or through text? It shows how open and available they are to you. It shows they care, and not just ignoring you in a time of need. The same goes for your call center. By providing multiple channels of communication, such as: live chat, SMS, phone, social media, email and more, it tells you that they want to hear from you no matter what.
Your Call Center Asks You How You’re Feeling
“You don’t even care how I feel!” It’s a thought that crosses our minds at least one time during any serious relationship. It may not be intentional, but sometimes your partner does something that hurts you. That’s why it’s so important to simply check-in to make sure everything is okay. A call center that cares will do just that. They’ll ask for your feedback, see what changes should be made to better the experience, and take action to ensure negative experiences are never repeated. That’s a true sign that your call center wants you to love them.
How does your call center make you fall in love? What strategies have they implemented to increase your customer satisfaction levels?
Publish Date: February 8, 2017 5:00 AM
Celebrated on February 2nd, Groundhog Day is when we wait in anticipation to see the groundhog emerge from its burrow. If he sees his shadow, there’s supposed to be six more weeks of winter, and if there’s no shadow it means that spring is near. For me, it always brings back memories of the “Groundhog Day” movie, where Bill Murray wakes up every day experiencing the same series of events he did the day before.
This had me thinking about the endless loop of tasks your call center and its agents perform on a daily bases. Realizing how common Groundhog Day and your call center are, I thought it best to illustrate some tips and tricks to avoid being trapped in the duties of your workday.
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 you’re one of them, you’re certainly missing out. Frontline agents truly understand your most important asset, your customers. They likely possess a wealth of knowledge just waiting to be used. By empowering them beyond support calls and allowing them to reflect on critical issues, you’re ultimately taking their job to a whole new level, while creating a strong agent culture.
Consider a Diverse Workday
Have you ever considered buddying up agents? It’s actually a simple initiative to implement and really allows agents to create diversity in their workday. Have agents listen to each other’s calls in group sessions and discuss good aspects of the call along with areas of improvement. Encourage learning and growing in a group setting so that agents can form relationships and improve their overall interactions with customers. This methodology also produces consistency, from the consumer’s perspective. A proper buddy-up system creates one voice throughout the organization, regardless of the agent.
Make the Most of Idle Time
The key is to focus on keeping agents engaged. Having them stare into thin air or play with their phone during slow periods of the day does not accomplish this. One idea is to use this time to incorporate agent training. Some types of training are web-based and can be picked up and completed in segments. Gamification is another approach for training, where you can include competitive activities and rewards for winners.
Implement a Reward System
To encourage teamwork, consider compensation based on group-wide performance. This emphasizes the importance of the team and encourages an environment of sharing and mentoring, leading to increased employee satisfaction. If agents fully embrace your customer experience mantra they should be rewarded – it’s that simple.
Invest in Technology
Finally, make sure to arm your agents with the right technology. This can be anything from the right chair to an intelligent CRM system. If you’re worried about budget, remember that some technology aids in lowering costs and can improve the experience for both customers and agents. For example, call-back technology makes life better for customers by eliminating hold-time, while simultaneously reducing abandon rates and telco costs in the contact center.
Give them a Good Laugh
If you really want to boost morale and help break up a dull day, send out a mass email with a YouTube clip like this one! Our favorite internet Groundhog is sure to brighten their spirits and get them through the rest of the day. Personally, I crack up laughing every time.
Employees who are truly engaged are ultimately your top performers. Start with hiring the right call center agent, and retain the good ones by eliminating the robotic nature of the role. Be sure to empower your reps to make out-of-the-box decisions, reward them for their good work, and keep them informed using the right technology.
Publish Date: February 2, 2017 5:00 AM
Today’s consumers are extremely demanding and nowhere is their patience shorter than when dealing with your call center. If you leave callers on hold, your agents will hear the complaints (which extends handle times) and your social media timeline will show angry tweets. (Have you looked up your company on OnHoldWith.com? You might be in for an unpleasant surprise.) So having hold times of more than a few minutes is just asking for trouble.
What can a call center manager do? Sure, more agents will reduce wait time, but agents are expensive! Luckily, in this case, there is another answer: Replace hold time with a call-back. If you’re considering a call-back solution for your call center, here are some things you should check off your list before proceeding.
Reviewing the Reasons:
First, a quick refresher on why call-backs will improve your call center:
1) Improving Customer Satisfaction
Surveys regarding customer service complaints consistently show that “waiting on hold” is at the top of the list. Obviously, eliminating something the causes dissatisfaction, will lead to increased satisfaction. However you measure client happiness – NPS, repeat visits, repeat purchases – you are certain to see improvement.
2) Reducing Abandon Rates
When hold times are long, many callers will simply abandon, i.e. hang-up. Abandonment leads to higher repeat calling (which can strain the call center system) and, of course, dissatisfied customers. Offering a call-back reduces abandonment because, even if the total wait time is 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) Lower 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) Smoothing Out Spikes
If your call center has “spikey” call volume, you’re faced with an extra challenge: 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 excess agent capacity.
For more details on these reasons see:
- 3 Secrets to Successful Call-Backs
- The Do’s and Don’ts for Implementing Call-Backs in the Contact Center
- 7 Signs Your Call Center Needs a Call-Back Solution
Things I Wish I Knew Before Adding Call-Backs
1) Spend Effort Getting the Timing Right
Part of any call-back system is playing the offer message. This is usually something like, “Instead of waiting on hold, you can get a call-back from the next available agent by pressing 1 now.” The “Time-Till-Offer” or “TTO” is the amount of time a caller spends in queue before hearing a call-back offer. Many companies don’t realize how critical the timing of this message is.
Although this sounds complicated, it’s actually good news. Changing TTO is an easy “lever” to adjust and has a big impact on the performance of your call-back deployment. I definitely advise you to put effort into getting this timing right!
For more on this topic download our eBook, “The ROI of Call-Backs for Your Call Center”.
2) Don’t Make Callers Wait Twice
After the queuing is complete, a call-back system has to somehow connect an agent with a caller. Familiarize yourself with the two main ways of doing this: “agent-wait” or “customer-wait”.
In the customer-wait scenario, the call-back system tries to estimate when the next agent is going to be ready, and calls the customer a few minutes ahead of that time. This maximizes agent efficiency, but it results in a negative experience for the customer. From their perspective, they requested a call-back only to be placed on hold again. If the system incorrectly determines agent availability, then hold time can be long, negating the advantage of having call-backs in the first place!
The alternative is the agent-wait scenario. Here, the agent is already on the line when the customer answers the call. This is a better experience for the customer, but the agent has to wait while the customer’s phone rings. Luckily, the idle time is typically 10 seconds or less.
Sometimes “agent-wait” and “customer-wait” are called “agent-first” and “customer-first”. To avoid confusion just ask your call-back vendor to walk you through the timeline, so that this isn’t one of those things “you wish you knew”!
3) Provide Callers with an Escalation Path to Voice
The vast majority of contact centers are using multiple channels to interact with their customers. Each channel has its strengths, but the voice channel really stands apart. That’s because, when you have a tough issue to discuss, when there is an urgent matter, or when the other options have left you frustrated, there’s an instinctive desire to talk to another human.
This isn’t a criticism of self-service channels, since they are cost effective and most customers prefer them now anyway. But, remember that even the best self-service systems can’t cover every possible path. There will be dead-end moments, where the customer needs to talk to an agent. This is one reason call-backs are so important: they allow your callers to escalate smoothly to a voice conversation from any other channel.
So make sure your call-back solution has strong multi-channel capabilities, like pre-built components that can be added quickly to your web page or mobile app. And make sure that all the relevant teams in customer service are aware of your new call-back functionality.
Until recently, adding call-backs to your call center required installing hardware or software offered by the vendor of the call-center system. For example, Avaya sells CallBack Assist for its platform and Cisco sells Courtesy Callback for its platform.
Fonolo changed all this by introducing a new way to add functionality to an existing call center: A cloud-based platform-agnostic approach that is easy to deploy on any call-center.
The secret to being platform-agnostic is that the interaction between the call-back solution and the call-center is accomplished purely with phone calls. Because all centers can accept phone calls (by definition!) this makes the Fonolo solution universally compatible. We make it simple to use, but a lot of work “under the hood” is required to make that possible. Some of that work is spelled out in our many patents on the topic.
For more details on picking a solution, see “Make Callbacks 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?
Many platforms, both on-premise and cloud-based, have at least some form of call-back functionality. Even in these cases, the Fonolo approach has advantages. It’s tempting to just go with the built-in back feature, but there are several potential downsides to consider:
- If you change platforms in the future, you will have to start over. (As a bonus: having call-backs in place from a 3rd party during a platform transition is great way to mitigate any hiccups that might occur.)
- If you have a multi-site or multi-platform scenario, you will need to configure each call-back solution separately.
- If you send some of your calls to a BPO/outsourced call center, the call-back strategy won’t extend to those calls.
- If you’re looking for a feature rich product with intelligent reporting features, turning on a module in your current platform likely won’t provide that
Call-backs are one of those rare win-win situations in the call center world: Callers have a more pleasant experience and the call center gets a more efficient operation. If you’re exploring this option today, we are happy to help any time. Sign up for a live demonstration to learn more about how call-backs work.
Publish Date: January 31, 2017 5:00 AM
Industry watchers have been on the edge of their collective seats over the last year, wondering how Avaya is going to resolve its financial troubles. On Thursday, Avaya ended the speculation by announcing that they would enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Aspect’s successful bankruptcy last year is an obvious 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? That’s the big question, and we’re grateful to have some big brains weigh in…
A Long-Time Coming
Avaya’s struggle with its legacy debt has been well known for many years. Here’s some of our previous coverage:
- Genesys Buys InIn – Biggest Merger in Call Center History?
- Genesys Buying Avaya’s Call Center Biz? 6 Big Brains Weigh in
- Avaya’s Big Bet on Breeze
In the last year we’ve seen other large companies restructure debt through bankruptcy (Aspect), divest and rename (LiveOps / Seranova) and get acquired (InContact / Nice, InIn / Genesys). But Avaya’s move last week has the potential to cause much more disruption. For the call center industry, this isn’t just any company. Avaya’s products, partnerships, and reseller network dominates this space like no other player.
Big Brains Weigh In
“My guess is the endgame that splits the company into separate businesses (contact center, UC, and networking) will continue. I also expect that several of the interested parties that failed pre Chapter 11 will return to the table… That said, I don’t expect the asset sale/auction we saw with Nortel; because Avaya has a viable business under all that debt. The judge will examine various options … and unlike [CEO] Kevin Kennedy, [he] doesn’t require agreement from the debt holders. That’s the good news. The bad news is Chapter 11 is hell. Avaya will pay a steep price in terms of lost revenue, customers, employees, and goodwill. Accounts will be lost, and competitors will be stronger. Avaya filing Chapter 11 will dominate industry news for months (and half the stories will be about the end of telephony). Everyone will know Avaya is in bankruptcy. Fewer will know if it’s chapter 7 or 11, and still fewer will know when it’s all done and over. ”
Read more: http://talkingpointz.com/avaya-running-out-of-options-to-avoid-ch11/
“For months, speculation has been that Avaya would sell its contact center business in order to pay down debt, leading to a more sustainable capital structure going forward. CEO Kevin Kennedy stated that such would not, in fact, be happening…. The contact center business has been called the ‘crown jewel’ of Avaya by many… One can imagine that Avaya contact center partners do face less uncertainty with the business staying as part of Avaya than they would have with it as a separate entity. Many, though certainly not all, Avaya contact center partners also offer the unified communications solutions and a single, unified Avaya is simpler for them.”
Read more: http://www.nojitter.com/post/240172269/avaya-keeps-crown-jewel-contact-center
“I believe that Chapter 11 was the only viable solution for Avaya –no one was willing to buy the company and take on its debt, so that was a non-starter. Breaking up the company into piece parts, particularly selling off the contact center business, also didn’t make sense, as Avaya’s contact center solutions are so closely tied to its unified communications solutions. Filing Chapter 11 gives Avaya a chance to restructure while continuing to invest in R&D, which is key. What concerns me is that while this is the first step, the actual details of the restructuring still have to be worked out in consultation with key stakeholders and the court, which means there’s still uncertainty. While the Chapter 11 filing may not impact existing customers, I’m not sure how many new customers will be willing to take a chance with Avaya. As the Chapter 11 filing only impacts U.S. operations, I expect the company to show continued success with its networking business, which is bringing in new customers from around the globe.”
“Avaya’s comment of moving to Software as a Service seems to me like buzzword bingo. Perhaps it is a condensed version of their strategy, but it doesn’t resonate within the contact center end user community, nor with me. The Nortel acquisition was in 2009, when the market clearly had already moved away from hardware. What makes anyone think they have their strategy right this time?”
“Industry-wide, there’s a collective sense of relief, and while nobody welcomes Chapter 11, it removes a lot of uncertainty among both buyers and sellers. At least Avaya now has a clear path forward, and with no takers for select pieces of the business, the contact center landscape becomes more stable. For me, the big takeaway is that the company is growing, well-managed, performing well, and heading in the right direction technology-wise. The move to Chapter 11 was a financial decision, not a business decision, and I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail in terms of the bigger picture. This is not a replay of Nortel, where reckless spending, greed and corrupt management ruined the business. Avaya has certainly been beaten down, but there is a healthy foundation to re-build on, and I think the market is better off having them in the game even if they emerge as a smaller player.”
“The contact center will continue to shift away from premise-based to the cloud, and phone will continue to trend toward sharing its spotlight with email, chat, SMS, social, and others. Make no mistake; even though customers have more ways than ever to contact support, the goal is still to maintain one conversation in one central location. This puts the onus on cloud-based platforms that can support this. I’m certainly interested to see if Avaya, by shedding hardware in favor of software, can remain relevant in this rapidly evolving marketplace.
“Transparency with existing and potential clientele as well as partners will be crucial for Avaya to successfully emerge from the Chapter 11 process. The company has a strong solution set across networking, communications and contact center markets. Aspect’s Chapter 11 process last year has taught us that keeping customers and partners well-informed on the details and quickly emerging from it are important to successfully navigate through the process. It is therefore also important for Avaya to take quick action working with debtors and authorities to minimize the time span of this process. Doing so will ultimately determine if the company will face significant erosion in market share due to confused or concerned customers and partners or if it will quickly recover to maintain and grow its share with a healthier financial structure.”
“The chickens have come home to roost – it’s not possible to redo a giant hardware-based vendor into a nimble cloud-based provider”
If you want further thoughts on Avaya’s future, and you’re in a listening mood, UCStrategies released a podcast yesterday featuring a 10 more “big brains”: Nicolas De Kouchkovsky, Roberta J. Fox, Joseph Williams, Dave Stein, Steve Leaden, JR Simmons, Jon Arnold, Marty Parker, Phil Edholm and Dave Michels.
Publish Date: January 24, 2017 5:00 AM
Is your business stuck in the past? Too comfortable or resistant to change? For many leading brands, reinventing or pivoting is a natural part of growth and development, but for others it’s an ongoing battle. The common reaction of, “Oh no, we can’t do that, what if our customers don’t like it?” stems from not understanding your customers’ needs and wants. A strong brand not only recognizes what matters to their customers, but also understands how to deliver it. That’s the motivation for our newest vlog series, #GETTOKNOWYOURCUSTOMERS. We want you to see your customers on a personal level, their likes, dislikes, and how they interact with your brand.
We’ve narrowed down a few industries that have great potential for development: finance, travel, healthcare, and retail. Each episode will feature a diverse selection of customers being asked some tough questions: How do you see this industry today? What’s missing? What is a standard interaction like? What do you want out of your experience?
The #GETTOKNOWYOURCUSTOMERS video series will be shared via Fonolo’s YouTube channel, so be sure to subscribe for the freshest content.
Here are the vlogs you can look forward to, and when:
Finance – “How to Get Millennials Excited About Banking” –> April 20th
Travel – “Airlines: Are You Going the Distance for Passengers?” –> July 20th
Healthcare – “Ways to Connect with Patients Painlessly” –> September 6th
Retail – “Why the Customer Experience Is Important for Shoppers” –> October 19th
Publish Date: January 19, 2017 5:00 AM
First Call Resolution is one of the most commonly watched call center metrics. There’s good reason for this attention: When done properly, FCR captures both efficiency and effectiveness of a call center. Many other metrics fall into trap of sacrificing one for the other. For example, if you focus on reducing handle time, you can end up with shorter calls (and a superficial improvement in efficiency), but a less effective customer service operation overall.
If you want to make FCR a focus of your call center, you need to design a plan to measure it and this can be tricky. Continue reading for some tips on measuring FCR and interpreting it properly.
The Basics of FCR
On the surface, First Call Resolution is an easy metric to understand. You simply count all the calls where the customer’s need was fully addressed during the call and divide that by the total number of calls. The key is that a second call (or other type of transaction) is not required to handle the same issue. See the image below.
How do You Determine Resolution?
There are several ways you can determine whether a call was resolved or not. No matter which option you choose, there are always going to be some grey areas and edge cases that are specific to your company.
- Repeat Call Tracking
This is a fairly simplistic approach to measuring FCR: simply track repeat calls from the same phone number within a certain window of time. While it is simple to implement, the flaws are obvious: the same person might call from a different number, the follow-up call may not happen immediately, etc. But, if you understand the limitation, this can be a good approach to look at changing FCR over time.
- Post-Call Surveys
This is a popular approach where callers are asked directly whether or not the issue was resolved, soon after the call. The questions can be asked via email, IVR or a human agent. Many companies contract a 3rd party to conduct these surveys. This approach yields high accuracy, but can be costly.
- Agent Questioning
You can instruct your agents to specifically ask a question like, “Did we solve the reason for your call today?” and make a note of the answer in the CRM.
- Speech Analytics
An approach that is growing in popularity is to use software that analyzes the phone calls and determines automatically whether a call had a successful resolution or not. This can be accomplished by looking for key phrases in the dialog. For example, the same closing question may be used as above but now, the agent doesn’t need to manually record the answer. Speech analytics can also perform a more advanced form of repeat call tracking by looking for phrases like “called before” or “last time I called”.
The Danger of Conflicting goals
Even if you’ve properly designed a system for measuring FCR, you have to be careful not to sabotage the effort by having other goals that conflict with FCR reduction. For example, if you instruct agents to keep handle times short, you may force them to choose, in some cases, between keeping a call short and solving the problem.
One Contact Resolution
An alternative to First Call Resolution is “One Contact Resolution”, popularized by the SQM group. (Their book on the topic is available here.) You can also learn more by watching, “5 Ways to Master One Contact Resolution”.
SQM defines OCR as “the percentage of customers who resolved their inquiry or problem on their first contact and did not use another contact channel prior to, or after, using the contact center”.
OCR addresses a critical flaw in FCR in that it doesn’t take into consideration whether other contact channels were used. If you’re only focused on the voice channel, that’s fine but most customer service organizations today want to focus on the big picture so it makes sense to take other channels into consideration. This is especially true if email, social media and chat are all channels that draw from the same agent pool as the call center.
The Benefits of FCR
Is all this effort worth it? The implications of handling every issue with one call are very powerful:
- More efficient use of agent time. (That’s the most precious commodity in a call center, after all.)
- Higher caller satisfaction. (The need to call again is top complaint from consumers.)
- Fewer inbound calls. (Freeing up resources like telco lines, IVR ports, etc.)
It’s clear from this why FCR is considered such an important metric.
Publish Date: January 17, 2017 5:00 AM
I recently read a great analogy on what it feels like to call customer service today. Imagine being a child again and asked to do your math homework – a subject you’re unfortunately not very good at. You end up procrastinating the task for as long as possible because deep down you know it will take much longer than expected, and somewhere in the process you’ll be throwing up your hands in frustration. Speaking to a live agent is amazingly similar to doing your dreaded math homework.
Calling customer support is an incredibly annoying task that often becomes overwhelmingly frustrating. First, you’ve got to find the correct phone number for your region, then you have to listen to the maddening automated system to navigate your way to the right department, and more often than not, you’ll be stuck with some elevator music while you wait on hold to speak to an actual human.
In an effort to make this experience a little less frustrating we’ve constructed some ways that you can avoid hold time and get an answer to your question quicker.
Here are 5 tricks to follow:
1) Take Your Problem to Twitter
When people are stuck on hold, they often talk about it on Twitter. By resorting to Twitter you can publicly shame a company for forcing you to wait on hold. Be sure to include their handle and any popular (yet relevant) hashtags so it gets picked up by other Tweeters.
One hashtag we recommend is #onholdwith. Onholdwith.com is a site that scans Twitter for EVERYONE waiting on hold and categorizes them in real-time by company and industry name (magical). The site provides a quick dose of reality for anyone who believes their customer service line is operating flawlessly. Here’s a great example of a Tweeter waiting on hold and ensuring her tweet is catalogued on the site:
I’m #onholdwith @axainsurance. #28minutesandcounting Absolutely ridiculous and wasting my time at work. Do you ever answer the phone?
— Nat Ilenkovan (@natilenkovan) December 28, 2016
If companies respond to your tweet (which they should) be sure to ask for a special offer to appease you for the inconvenience.
2) Pretend Like You Speak a Different Language
Ok, I know this is a strange one, but a little bird told me it actually works. Most large companies offer a second language option (in Canada it’s French, in the USA it’s Spanish). Go ahead and press the number for the second language.
At this point, you are transferred into a queue for that language. Just hit “0″ a few times and you will get to a rep. They will answer in the language that you chose, but if you start speaking in English, and you don’t tell the rep that you intentionally hit the opposite language, you may have saved yourself a ton of time! The call center workers are all bilingual and the wait times are almost always shorter for the queues that offer the less popular language option.
3) Jump on Live Chat – It’s Instant
We phone customer service because we want instant gratification. If we email it will likely take 24 hours for a response, if we search self-service but the question isn’t commonly asked we’ll hit a dead end, and if we tweet but the resolution requires a more in-depth explanation the rep will just tell us to call the contact center. At this point, you just need an answer and live chat might be the perfect medium for this kind of support.
Of course you’ll need access to your computer or phone, but you’ll likely experience a quick resolution with the added benefit of a conversation log, which you can’t get after a phone conversation. The problem with chat is that if you hit a roadblock, and the agent simply can’t help you any further, it’s back to the phone. The other problem is that you have to start all over again as most companies don’t have a chat-to-voice escalation plan, but it’s worth a try before the phone call is made! Unfortunately, the voice channel is a fail safe route.
4) Get Customer Service to Call You
When you’re forced to phone support because all other avenues have failed, and you have to squeeze the call in at 9:00 AM on a Monday, chances are you’ll be waiting on hold. You may not even be angry about the issue you’re phoning about, but because you’re stuck on hold the rage just begins to build. However, today there are easy fixes to this common call center problem. Rather than forcing you to wait on hold, a call center could offer you a call-back. Meaning you have the CHOICE to either wait on hold, or request to have an agent call you when it’s your turn in line.
Call centers who do not offer this feature either don’t see it as a priority, or they’re operating on old software that doesn’t allow them to use this modern solution. However, they might not realize that even though their call center is on a legacy platform, they can still utilize the benefits of today’s call-back solutions – so there’s really no excuse not to offer this feature. In fact, if the organization doesn’t offer you a call-back it’s a clear representation of how they value your business.
5) Time Your Call
Although there’s no single best time to call a contact center, there are some days and times that you could avoid if the call is not urgent. Mondays and Fridays in a call center are almost always busier. Meaning more people are phoning on those particular days, especially if the call center is closed on the weekend. It’s also more likely that staff are absent on Mondays and Fridays.
In terms of timeframes, the period between 10 AM to 12 PM always tends to be busier. It makes sense too; people at work are calling during their breaks, parents are calling after dropping their children off at school, etc. You can expect “higher than normal” hold times during these periods, so if you can avoid it, why not?
Surveys regarding customer service dissatisfaction consistently show that waiting on hold is a top complaint. Hopefully these tricks make the task a bit more pleasant, or the call center is smart enough to use call-back technology.
Publish Date: January 12, 2017 5:00 AM
As consumers become more empowered, organizations need to think about what it truly means to be “customer centric”. The best brands are the ones that have complete control over the entire customer experience. These are the companies that understand the nuances of the marketplace and know how to tailor service accordingly.
Since customer expectations are changing just as rapidly as the advances in technology, enhancing the customer experience is an ongoing goal for most companies. Dimension Data found that over 82% of companies recognize the customer experience as a competitive differentiator, and 77.5% recognize it as the most important strategic performance measure. To stay competitive in the year ahead, it’s essential that you understand the most important trends.
Here are 10 leading customer experience trends for 2017.
1. First You Get the Knowledge, Then You Get the Power
Dimension Data’s “Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report” found that personalization of services supported by data analytics is the top trend that will change the call center industry in the next 5 years.
In this comprehensive report by Forbes Insights called “Data Elevates the Customer Experience”, business leaders were asked a number of questions about the effect of data analytics on their organizations.
When asked if data analytics has changed how managers deliver superior experiences, Figure 1 shows that 42% believed there will be a visible change in the next 2 years.
Figure 1: Data Analytics Still Two Years Away from Transforming the Customer Experience
When asked where their organization is reaping the most benefits from data analytics, 62% agreed that decision making is faster, while 47% saw an increase in sales revenue (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Data Analytics Speeds Decision Making
However, the report reveals that visibility into customer activity is low, with only a handful of enterprises (6%) currently capable of seeing the entire breadth of their customers’ experiences. Moreover, Dimension Data’s study of contact center analytics found that, while 71.5% say analytics enables better agent performance, 49.3% don’t share customer intelligence outside of the contact center. This is arguably why only 34.2% use analytics to personalize solutions and services, and only 23% can provide a customized customer experience based upon user profile and analytics.
So what can call center leaders learn from this? First of all, they must be ready to lean on metrics to drive growth in 2017, and secondly, they must learn how to dissect and share data better across each channel to improve the customer experience.
2. Virtual Assistants Are the New Black
Gartner reports that by 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without using a screen, but rather through voice. Yet, to date, mass adoption of virtual assistants has been slow to transpire. Curiously, there are two main reasons for this delay:
Virtual assistants have been marketed as a consumer application, where a human can engage in two-way communication within a personal device. However, in 2017, a new wave of enterprise applications that harness intelligent virtual assistants are poised for proliferation (Siri, Alexa, and Google Now). For example, Amazon Echo will allow guests of the Wynn Hotel to query Alexa for room and hotel information. Additionally, Domino’s Pizza has introduced customers to ‘Dom’ their virtual ordering assistant.
This new generation of virtual assistants is dependent on the development of improving speech recognition technology.
#2 Speech Recognition Technology
In the call center, speech recognition software has been used to handle incoming customer calls; however, the technology has often left customers feeling frustrated and searching for human support.
Ongoing research in the field of speech analytics supports the prediction that the technology will propel virtual assistants forward in 2017. In a report by Opus research, 247 out of 500 decision-makers (49%) have deployed speech analytics at their enterprises and organizations. Of those respondents, 83% achieved their expected return on investment within 12 months, with one-third receiving a return on investment in just 6 months.
Two years ago, The Wall Street Journal published an analysis of the top four virtual assistants: Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google Now. Reporter, Geoffrey A. Fowler, observed how well the technologies responded to speech recognition, and found that Apple’s Siri had the greatest speech capabilities, while Amazon’s Alexa scored the lowest.
Over the past couple years, with rapid technological advancements, Amazon Echo, powered by Alexa, has displayed growth in speech recognition, launching as a customer service and hospitality tool.
With constant improvement, speech recognition can be used to successfully handle up to 85% of incoming customer calls, lower costs, and improve the experience in 2017. By year-end 2018, 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant technology across all engagement channels.
3. The Chatbot Will Demand Customer Respect
Today customer service needs to be around-the-clock; more than half of customers say a business needs to be available 24/7. In order for a company to provide consistent, timely support, chatbots are a useful alternative to satisfy customer expectations (while preventing agent burnout). Chatbots work alongside human agents to provide a top-notch, optimized, cost-effective customer engagement strategy that can skyrocket an organization to the forefront of today’s customer experience world. As companies begin to harness this technology, learn from past mistakes, and improve capabilities through AI and speech recognition, chatbots will begin to earn the respect of users.
With chatbots, consumers can access flight data, redeem rewards, find answers to questions, receive offers, and much more. This, all at a reduced cost per contact for businesses. Today, businesses should expect chatbots to respond to short, straightforward, automated queries as explained below. Despite its simplicity, bot innovation should not be brushed aside as juvenile. Not only does it serve as a 24/7 customer service hotline for frequently asked questions, it allows for human agents to dedicate more time to assisting more complex issues, thus freeing up other customer service channels, and redistributing time and cost more effectively.
So, how will chatbots bring greater experiences in 2017? Well, it’s simply in the way they are built. The more often bots are used by humans, the more they will learn and adapt to the language, and the more intuitive they will get.
4. Self-Service is Even More Important
Over 90% of US contact centers deal with a significant proportion of non-voice interactions, such as email or web chat, as well as telephony. Most customers today don’t want to waste time and energy navigating complex IVRs and connecting to an agent over a simple query. Part of a balanced experience is empowering customers to solve problems or issues themselves. In fact, almost 74% of decision makers vote customer experience as the top reason for offering self-assisted service channels.
Aberdeen reports that companies with self-service programs enjoy an 85% year-over-year increase in customer retention rates, compared to those without self-service. Therefore, by including easily accessible online FAQs, mobile and web based self-service options, businesses can yield significant returns.
That said, it’s important to note that the quantity of self-service tools are not what makes the difference, but rather the quality. Self-check-in and check-outs are notorious for delivering poor customer experiences. So, when deploying self-service options in 2017, ensure that extra effort is made with design and UX. Furthermore, if technology does fail – be it by user error or by design – ensure there is an easy way to escalate beyond any channel.
5. Mobile Will Take the Lead
In 2017, mobile search will generate 27.8 billion more queries than desktop search. Consumers use mobile devices more frequently to access information about the brand, products, and to make purchases.
However, according to Gartner, through 2018, the lack of in-line contextual knowledge or support in mobile applications will lower customer satisfaction by 5%. As shown in below, bad mobile experiences can hurt a brand’s reputation dramatically, and even lower engagement.
For many businesses, building new support technology within an existing mobile interface is time consuming and costly. If companies want to capture customers, and remain competitive, a cloudbased solution like Fonolo’s “Mobile Rescue” is a fast and functional alternative. Mobile Rescue lets customers easily connect to a live agent, directly from within a brands mobile app. With one tap, customers can request support and avoid hold time.
Don’t miss the last 5 trends! Download the full report below.
Publish Date: January 11, 2017 5:00 AM
Is your call center feeling sluggish or slipping on important metrics? For instance, the global metric for call wrap-up time is six minutes. Do you find things are just taking longer than expected? Or not getting done at all? It’s possible that there are pesky time wasters living in the call center, quietly dragging operations down. These issues usually don’t happen overnight, they exist for months, if not years without making a sound, and suddenly things are moving at a snail’s pace. So, what’s plaguing your call center’s productivity and what can be done to eliminate them? We explore common trends that limit efficiency and their corresponding resolutions…
1. Waiting for Something to Happen
Do you have agents waiting around for the next big spike to come? For a long time, call centers believed that staffing up and having agents working overtime during busy periods was the best way to solve this problem. But that means there are periods in the day when agents are doing nothing, when they could be doing something. To increase productivity and get more tickets completed consider adding a call-back solution, like Fonolo. Call-back technology can help smooth-out spikes so that agents can handle calls, while also managing back office work, rather than burning out during high traffic times.
2. Dialing Every Customer Manually
Save your agents time and energy by integrating a predictive dialer. These dialers place outbound calls on behalf of agents so there is no idle time between calls. They automatically dial several contacts at the same time until one answers, and then transfers the call to the most appropriate agent. These dialers increase efficiency and are great for contact center agents that need to maximize the time they spend on the phone. If your call center lacks this ability, Five9 offers a comprehensive predictive dialer, that was the highest rated by customers in 2016.
3. Not Knowing When Enough is Enough
Calling customers or potential customers over and over again might seem like good salesmanship, but sometimes agents need to learn when to move on. Make sure your call center has rules in place over how often agents can dial the same number. If a customer isn’t returning your call, there’s reason for it. Don’t pressure agents to overcall; it’s a waste of their time, and an annoyance for customers.
4. Asking Customers to Repeat their Reason for Calling
Say your agent started a conversation on live chat, but needed to escalate to voice. Without the right software, agents can waste a lot of time transferring customers from channel to channel, and having to rehash an issue all over again. An imbedded “Chat-to-Voice” feature improves the multi-channel experience. When customers hit a road block on chat, agents can now send them to a live voice representative without having to start over. Using Fonolo’s solutions, contact centers can escalate conversations from chat to voice, all while preserving context. It provides a seamless method of communication and enables better first contact resolution rates, which means more time for your agents to address other issues.
5. Spending More Time Talking, and Not Doing
Do you spend more time figuring out how to solve problems rather than actually solving them? If your agents are constantly being pulled away from work to discuss internal issues, this is bound to effect their productivity levels. Ensure that all meetings have a designated time limit and remain on track. Additionally, be cognizant of which team members to include in a discussion. Sometimes, too many opinions can cause dysfunction, and veer off course.
6. Getting Sidetracked by Menial Tasks
Email support can be a tedious task. Ensure that agents are not wasting precious time writing emails if the issue can be resolved through a different channel faster. Moreover, have agents reply to emails during a designated time of day. This prevents them from being sidelined with incoming emails while other work needs to be completed. Agents should be able to focus on a specific channel and complete tickets within that timeframe, otherwise they’re just running back and forth, not accomplishing anything on their list. It’s better to complete one thing fully, rather than only finish half of a number of things.
7. Asking Too Much Out of Unprepared Agents
This one’s fairly obvious but worth mentioning. It’s no secret than if an agent is poorly trained, they’re going to waste company time trying to figure things out. As much as you might be inclined to send a poorly trained agent out onto the floor, this is a weak strategy for success and productivity. If necessary, spend extra time training agents, the outcome could be the difference between a productive day or a day wasted. Plus, these wasted days could go on for a while before you start to see the consequences. That being said, retraining and reviewing skills periodically is a good way to ensure that efficiency is at its highest.
8. Not Setting Team Goals
Do your agents have clearly defined goals and objectives? If not, they may be wasting time figuring out what the heck their job is even responsible for. Call centers big and small should have benchmarks in place in order that keep everyone working towards one predetermined vision and plan. In large call centers, this could be done in teams, so that each team has a set responsibility in mind. Also, distributing awards when certain goals are achieved can help boost productivity levels as well.
9. Updating Customer Information
As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, average wrap-up time should not exceed 6 minutes, and that’s being generous. If agents are spending more time filling in customer information than actually talking to customers, that’s going to make a dent in productively. However, improving speech analytics can help reduce or totally eliminate wrap-uptime. CallMiner’s Eureka software, for example, automatically categorizes each call into existing (or expanded) disposition codes. To put it simply, speech recognition will automatically fill out the form with reasons for calling, among other important notes. This is truly a god-send for improving efficiency and eliminating wasted time.
10. Letting the Customer Take Control
A lot of companies boast about spending extra time resolving customer complaints. But the truth is, too much time is wasted time. If an agent spends a whole shift helping one person, instead of helping others, that’s counterproductive to the call center. There are plenty of reasons why an agent might spend that much time with a single customer, but your organization should have a knowledge portal or better accessibility to information so that handle time is quick and painless. Plus, if an agent can’t answer a question fast enough, then it makes more sense to call the customer back, rather than keeping them on hold.
Publish Date: January 4, 2017 5:00 AM
We’re always on the look-out for new industry research and we try to point our readers at the best ones we find. But, just like you, sometimes we’re not in a reading mood and, for those times, videos can also provide great information in a “lean-back” mode. Companies put out lots of product videos these days. Sadly, they are often filled with stock video, unnecessary animation and generic, buzz-word filled dialog.
In today’s post, we’ve assembled some videos that are actually informative. They cover aspects of the contact center that are all connected somehow with this year’s main trends.
Avaya Oceana and Chatbots
Avaya has been in the news a lot for its financial situation. That’s to be expected when rumors of bankruptcy or splitting-up swirl around the largest player in the contact center space. Despite that uncertainty, the company is continuing to innovate in important areas. This video covers Oceana, Slate and how they can be used together to provide chatbot-style customer service.
Genesys Buying Avaya’s Call Center Biz? 6 Big Brains Weigh in
Fonolo Call-Back Solutions for Avaya Call Centers
The “Salesforce for Service” Keynote from Dreamforce
There’s no doubt that Salesforce has strong aspirations in the contact center space. The introduction of Lightning Voice, the acquisition of HeyWire, the investment in call center start-up, these are all clear signs of their intent. At their recent Dreamforce event, the “Salesforce for Service” keynote revealed even more. The full hour is here but if you want just the highlights, we published a post with 4 segments (2 minutes each) that were the most enlightening. The first of those 4, about embracing conversational commerce, is below.
4 Clips from Salesforce’s Call Center Keynote Reveal Their Strategy
Salesforce Has Many Fingers in the Call Center Pie
KLM’s Success with Customer Service Over Facebook Messenger
This video isn’t about the call center, per se. But it is about the biggest “X factor” in the customer service space today: The rise of chat platforms as customer service channels, for both human and automated interactions. Airline KLM has seen enormous growth in communication over Messenger, where they’ve recently deployed bot-based service.
App Fatigue is Driving Bot Mania
Chatbot Backlash Boogie Woogie
It Ain’t Easy Being a Contact Center
For a change of pace, here’s a non-technical video about the mundane struggle to get customer service. Justin Robbins, is the Content Director at ICMI, and makes a guest appearance in this NBC video titled Customer Service Nightmares. It’s good to step back from the nuts-and-bolts of technology to appreciate how what we do affects millions of ordinary people.
It Ain’t Easy Being a Contact Center
3 Customer Service Stories We Can Be Thankful For
A New Name in the Cloud Call Center Game
It’s a new name, but not a new company. At this past ICMI conference, LiveOps Cloud officially relaunched as Serenova. This follows their recent acquisition by Marlin Equity and separation from the LiveOps BPO business. In this video interview with Fast Leader, Jim Rembach interviews Troy Parish Serenova’s VP of North American Sales.
Call Center Cloudification Update
LiveOps Cloud Releases Redesigned CxEngage Platform for Contact Centers
Publish Date: January 3, 2017 5:00 AM
It’s no mystery that contact centers experience higher than normal call volumes during the holidays. Frantic customers, with last minute requests, are hoping to get everything done before businesses close for the New Year. It’s a stressful period for any customer service agent, and managers should always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Having a CRM solution and a call-back option in place will certainly help during this chaotic time. On top of that, you can use the holiday season as an opportunity to engage with staff and keep them motivated. After all, if you want customers to leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling after interacting with your brand, you’ll need to have cheerful agents!
Here are 5 ways to make your call center happy for the holidays:
Contest: Bring Joy to the Workspace
Desks, cubicles or even your office walls/hallways; designate an area for agents to flex their creativity and get a little holiday bonus as a reward (a gift card will do). This is a fun way to get the festive spirit flowing and make the call center environment feel a little more like home.
We love this ambitious effort by an anonymous cubicle resident. How can you be sad with those Who Ville inspired lights all around?
Festive Bake-Off: Treat Your Team
Setup a station for agents to create some fast and simple treats to enjoy through the day. Or, on a separate occasion, invite staff to bring their own holiday baked goods to share with the office. There’s nothing like fueling up for a busy day in the call center than with some sweet holiday munchies. Here’s an easy yet festive snack that your staff can make together:
Super Secret Santa: Crafty Mug Exchange
A lot of coffee will be consumed over this busy period in the contact center, so why not create a fun gift exchange that doesn’t require agents to actually go shopping? Grab some white mugs from the dollar store and some colorful permanent markers. Assign a number to each staff member and to each mug; only the agent will know who they are designing their mug for. And as an added touch, let them fill the mugs with sweets and chocolates. Have them exchange mugs during their break and watch the personalized mugs put a smile on their faces, and caffeine in their veins!
Snuggle Up: Merry Onesie Day
Holiday onsies are all the rage this year, and for good reason, they’re super cozy and fun to wear! Let your staff relax a little in their pajamas during one of those notoriously busy days. Not only will your agents have a laugh over their coworkers hilarious onsies, but they’ll probably be way too cozy to get stressed out during the work day.
The Big Bash: Mocktails and Cheer
We know it might be hard to find time, but it’s essential to show your agents just how appreciated they are during this busy stretch. Let them blow off steam with a drop-in party lounge. Offer some fun mocktails and depending on budget, present them with a holiday buffet or even something as simple as pizza. This will offer an escape during their down time and help them get through those spikey call periods.
Here are 17 holiday mocktail ideas to get the party going:
Publish Date: December 13, 2016 5:00 AM
What’s driving the enormous interest in chat bots right now? A year after Facebook’s launch of its bot platform (which TechCunch called “the new app store”) it now has 33,000 bots. Competing platforms have high numbers too: 19,000 for Kik and 10,000 for Line.
Most impressive – to me, at least – is the number of companies that have invested in bots as a new channel for customer service. This early adoption is uncharacteristic. I certainly applaud the willingness to experiment with an unproven new channel. But I’m puzzled by the eagerness, especially compared to the slow uptake we saw with social media, chat and other channels by the same companies. Have they learned from those experiences and decided to be more aggressive this time? Or is something else going on?
Mobile or Bust
The most recent Black Friday / Cyber Monday set another record for mobile sales. For that same weekend in 2015, 37% of US online purchases were made from mobile. [Source: Total Retail Survey, 2016, PWC.]
So from the perspective of “being where your customers are” it’s a no-brainer to a have strong mobile presence for both pre-sale and post-sale customer interactions. So the only question is: how?
For the last decade, the main strategy for driving engagement on mobile has been through apps. But, for traditional vendors, this has had mixed results. Simply put, it’s getting hard to get folks to download a new app, and even harder to get them to use it for any length of time. When you combine that with the nature of most retail interactions, where engagement is sporadic, the rate of repeat use is very low.
KLM invested in a mobile app, but recently came to realize the futility of driving attention in that direction. Their social media manager Karlijn Vogel-Meijer said:
Why would we push people to our app? We want to be where they are (in social apps).
Meanwhile, KLM has seen enormous growth in communication over Messenger, where they’ve recently deployed bot-based service. Naturally, this is where we’ll be investing time and effort.
Newly released data is sobering: 5 out of 10 apps are used fewer than 10 times and 2 out of 10 are used only once. (That report analyzed 290 billion visits and 85 billion app launches.) Another way to put it: “At the end of 30 days, only 3% of all apps retain their new users.”
Meanwhile, the costs of earning downloads continues to go up. The chart below, from Activate, compares that cost over the last 3 years, with the growing number of apps over the same time period.
Back to the Bots
Chat platforms are an alternate way to engage with mobile consumers. Going through them eliminates the “app barrier”. That’s been the case for several years already. But in the pre-bot era, that channel required all interactions to have a human agent on the other side. For self-serve interactions, customers had to go to a mobile app or mobile web site. With the introduction of chat bots, the chat channel covers both bases: self-serve and human-assisted.
Boiling it down: Companies aren’t being pulled toward chat bots, rather they are getting pushed in that direction because of the failure of apps (and mobile web) due to the lack of engagement from mobile consumers.
Publish Date: December 8, 2016 5:00 AM