Fonolo - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog Page 9
Live chat is an essential tool for contact centers aiming to improve customer engagement with an active online presence. Chat has been around for over a decade, but only in the last few years have companies realized its true potential. According to Econsultancy, live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel – chat was rated at 73%, compared to 61% for email and 44% for phone. Having live chat is now a standard feature for most companies looking to talk to customers in real-time.
However, providing great live chat support isn’t particularly easy. Chat is a conversational tool and performed in real-time, but it also requires strong writing skills. This means, agents need to encompass both phone and email skills simultaneously in order to be successful at chat.
So, as companies embrace live chat can we confidently say that contact centers have become masters at it yet? A little bit of help never hurt! Here are 5 simple steps you need to be cautious of when trying to be successful at chat support.
1. Practise Active Reading
How often have you experienced a miscommunication when texting with a friend simply because you read too quickly or jumped to conclusions? It happens all the time. The lesson here is to understand that it’s hard for people to express themselves through writing, so read carefully and don’t make assumptions.
2. Apply Multi-Tasking Skills
It’s common for live chat agents to handle multiple sessions at the same time – this is a skill in itself. However, handling too many chats can keep your customers waiting too long between replies. To master this step, it’s critical to set maximum chat sessions per agent. This will ensure that customers are kept happy and not left waiting – don’t lose sight of the bigger picture here; the customer experience on chat is very important.
3. Communicate Clearly
An agent with pristine phone skills understands the importance of repeating a customer request or concern. Similarly, it’s great to mirror a customer’s language on a chat session. This shows customers that you clearly understand and acknowledge their issue. When a customer feels understood they tend to relax – not to mention it develops a sense of rapport between the chat agent and customer.
4. Use Positive Language
As we definitively pointed out in the first point – a misunderstanding can happen very easily over chat. Just like SMS, chat responses tend to be short, incomplete and quickly-fired. For this reason, tone can be difficult to decipher, so choose your words carefully. Using positive language to develop your tone can avoid a chat catastrophe. We suggest sticking with a compassionate yet informative tone. Another good rule of thumb is to use an emoticon when your tone might be unclear J
5. Ask for Feedback
You wouldn’t end a phone call or email message without making sure you’ve satisfied your customer’s inquiry – it should be no different on chat. You can confirm that customers are satisfied before ending the session by simply asking, “Have I answered all of your questions today?”, or you could offer a post-chat survey. A post-call survey offers a great deal of benefits! Specifically, it provides you with an opportunity to evaluate performance and make adjustments. The key here is to make surveys simple and short. Make sure you ask no more than 5 multiple-choice questions using a five-point scale for answers. The last question could be an open-ended message where customers can express specific problems or suggestions.
If you’re new to chat and looking for some great tools, here’s a good synopsis of what’s available in the marketplace.
Live chat offers a number of benefits to companies and customers alike: It’s convenient for customers, cuts down expenses for companies, increases sales, and improves the customer experience. Additionally, 79% of customers say that they prefer live chat because of the immediacy it provides, but if agents haven’t mastered the skills to deliver a top-notch experience it will be a wasted effort. So, ensure you’re agents are trained for success. As Zig Ziglar says,
The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training them and keeping them.
Publish Date: August 11, 2016 5:00 AM
Recently, we saw a catastrophic customer service meltdown at Southwest Airlines, initiated by an unforeseen IT outage. For the most part, technology does its job to help businesses run more smoothly, but sometimes, things go a little haywire. Some businesses plan ahead to properly manage and control its customer service relationships during a crisis, and then there are others, who just sit in glass towers, crossing their fingers and toes.
Lack of preparation for unpredictable incidents like this can result in a loss of customer loyalty, or worse, a complete boycott of your company. Let’s take a look at how some of the most successful companies curb complaints and avoid turning their customers against them.
Employ Real People to Answer the Phone
Zappos is garnering huge media attention after one of its customer service reps handled a support call totaling 10 hours and 43 minutes! So, why was this interaction such a success? Basically, the CSR treated the customer as he would an old friend, stating, “Even though I never spoke to this customer before in my life, I felt like I knew her for 15 or 20 years” (awwh). And this isn’t the first time Zappos has engaged in a lengthy support call. In 2012, a rep handled a call that lasted 10 hours and 29 minutes.
Though we don’t recommend spending an unnecessary amount of time on simple inquiries, it’s surprising how many customers just want to speak to someone to feel satisfied by the experience, and this CSR went above and beyond to ensure it. Can your chatbot do that?
Have a Safety Net in Place
When hold times get long, it’s important to have a backup plan in place. When the Credit Union of Colorado was constantly battling staffing changes, weather issues, and other operational concerns they decided to deploy Fonolo’s In-Call Rescue solution. By being proactive about this and finding a solution to help, they were able to reduce caller abandonment rates by an average of 40%!
“You just can’t plan for unforeseen events in the contact center. Sadly, when the events do take place the result is a frustrated member. Fonolo is our safety net, when unforeseen events take place we know it won’t be at the expense of the member experience.” – Laura Reinhold, Member Service Contact Center Manager, Credit Union of Colorado
At the end of the day, having call-backs as a day-to-day solution or in place for crisis management is a win-win for both customers and agents. If more businesses deployed solutions like this, you’d get a lot less pissed off customers on the other end of the line.
First Contact (and One Contact) Resolution is Key to Customer Satisfaction
Besides having to wait on hold, another major source of customer frustration is repeating issues multiple times, to multiple agents. In fact, 72% of customers blame their bad customer service experience on having to explain their problem to multiple people, yet over half (56%) of customers end up having to re-explain an issue when speaking to customer service. That’s a lot of annoyed customers, and for the most part these customers end up having to jump from channel-to-channel searching for help.
A report by Parature found that the telephone (81%) still took precedent when customers were asked which customer service channel they use regularly. However, when asked where their interactions typically begin, online (57%) was the most popular channel. For assisted service, telephone (36%), live chat (33%), and email (25%) were all highest on the respondents list of preferences. With so many channels in the mix, customers can’t be sure about where to go first. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to create a channel funnel. Basically, don’t try to resolve an issue that’s better equipped for another channel like the telephone (and then make the customer wait on hold to reach an agent).
Be smart, be quick, and train your agents to do know proper channel escalation tactics to achieve first contact resolution, and if you’re really good, one contact resolution. Apple has the right idea with their brick and mortar Genius Bar — they know that support complaints for laptops/electronics are best handled in person. They’ve created a channel that customers recognize as their go-to for serious support issues. It may seem like an inconvenience at first, but at the end of the day it’s a reliable channel customers can depend on for the product they offer.
Publish Date: August 10, 2016 5:00 AM
Are voice interactions becoming a smaller part of the customer service picture? That’s a pretty important question for everyone involved in the call center industry. I shared some conflicting data in a blog post a couple months ago (Is there #VoiceShrinkage in the Contact Center?).
Then, last week, we put that question to a great panel of industry experts in an online discussion (highlights here). We’re no closer to an answer, but I think we have a better handle on why we don’t know.
Why Do We Even Care About This?
The “multi-channel” puzzle is the THE defining challenge of customer service right now. That is: Which channels of company-to-consumer communication are important and where should companies invest their time and energy?
I’ll fully put all the cards-on-the-table… I have a keen interest in the trajectory of the voice channel because my company sells a product that is uniquely tied to contact centers (Call-back solutions). So it’s vital to me, but important as well to everyone involved in the industry.
The Case for Shrinkage
The argument that voice is shrinking is straightforward: interactions that would have been phone calls are being replaced by alternate channels. Instead of picking up the phone, we tweet, email or chat. So if one imagines a “fixed pie” of all customer service interactions, then the slice of that pie occupied by voice is getting smaller.
Analysts have been painting that picture for a while. As an example, consider this chart from Dimension Data:
It’s a popular chart; we’ve used it on this blog several times and in last week’s panel discussion. You can see clearly how it supports the idea of “voice shrinkage”. The report also includes the statement that 35% of all interactions are now on “digital” channels and the bold prediction that “digital interactions will overtake voice by the end of 2016”.
But consider this: It is possible that the chart and prediction are both correct without voice shrinkage. How? Because the whole pie is growing!
Many analyst reports echo the claim that total interactions are increasing. (The Dimension Data report mentioned above said 74% of call centers surveyed expected such an increase.) There are several factors that may be contributing to this “Interaction Inflation”. The next few sections look at them one at a time.
1) More Ecommerce
More 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. See the graph below from Meeker’s “State of the Internet” report.
2) Newer Interactions are More “Countable”
The fact that companies are paying more attention to new channels, and the fact that those interactions are more “countable” is likely contributing to interaction inflation.
As an example of biased counting, imagine I used a company’s web site to look-up availability of an item, then did a web chat to see if shipping is free, then went back and completed the order via self-serve. That might be counted as 3 interactions. If I called in and did exactly the same thing, that will probably count as 1 interaction. (Perhaps, an even deeper problem here is that no one has defined what counts as a single “interaction”.)
3) New Types of Interactions
There are new types of interactions that simply didn’t exist before. These are not replacing phone calls or any other kind of channel. They are “net new” to the universe of interactions.
An example: The other day, I got a spam SMS message. My carrier (Rogers) is on Facebook Messenger so I quickly sent them a message about it with the phone number (it took 10 seconds). A few minutes later, I got a message back saying thanks. I only did this because the effort required on my end was miniscule. I would never have called about it; not worth the effort. So, when effort is so close to zero it opens the door for new interactions.
Another example is all the complaint-tweets about hold time that you can see on OnHoldwith.com. These are tweets ABOUT an ongoing phone call; they are obviously not replacing a phone call.
The Case for Voice Growth
Even if the pie is growing, that still doesn’t mean conclusively that there are more phone calls to companies. Unfortunately, we don’t have direct data on how many calls are received by call centers. Each company knows how many calls it handled itself, but no one is sharing this information in a central place.
Even if we did have a count of total calls, that may not tell us the whole story. A measure of total minutes spent might be more accurate, because there is ample evidence that the voice channel is increasingly used for more complex interactions. (I.e. nobody speaks to an agent anymore to confirm a reservation). One report claims that service calls take 16% longer than 7 years ago.
In the Voice Shrinkage post I offered some indirect data by looking at employment stats. (Make sure to read all the caveats at the bottom.) Other indirect data points mentioned in that post: Surveys show that more companies are expecting call volumes to grow rather than shrink over the next year.
ContactBabel put it well in a recent report: “Telephony [is] by far the largest inbound interaction channel. It has ubiquity, is a real-time two-way channel that is able to cover many different topics, and if queue length is reasonable, has one of the quickest speeds of response of any channel, despite popular perceptions. … [It] is in the process of reinventing itself as the channel of choice for lengthy, important or complex interactions.”
Phone Calls Have Been “Dying” for a Long Time
The meme of the disappearing phone call has a long history. Just look at this piece from Wired in 2010: The Phone Call is Dead by Clive Thompson. Granted, he was talking about personal calls rather than person-to-business calls, but he made similar points:
I predict that as this sort of hybrid coordination evolves… we’ll make fewer [calls], as most of our former phone time will migrate to other media. But the calls we do make will be longer, reserved for the sort of deep discussion that the medium does best.
With the data available, we can’t make a strong case for voice either growing or shrinking in absolute terms. Personally, I think we have just as much proof either way. But we do know that the voice channel is keeping its role as the “final escalation” and as the channel where the “make-or-break” moments of customer loyalty happen. Maybe that’s more important anyway.
Publish Date: August 4, 2016 5:00 AM
Newsflash: Only 1% of customers feel that their expectations of good customer service are always met. That factoid presents a gapping problem in the customer service industry and it’s about time we do something about it. If you’re experiencing higher than normal call volume, unbearable wait times, frustrated customers and depleting agent morale it’s time to get your customer service back on track.
Why you might ask? Other than keeping customers happy, customer service is the backbone of customer loyalty and revenue. By ignoring service and satisfaction you are ignoring up to 55% of consumers who have intended to make a purchase, but backed out because of poor customer service. In fact, 52% of consumers have made more purchases from a company after having a good customer service experience and 73% of consumers say friendly customer service reps can make them fall in love with a brand.
So, how can you get your customer service back on track and revenue back to your business? Here are 3 tips you need to follow:
1. Take Out Your Measuring Tape:
There’s no way for customer service to get on track if there are no metrics in place to guide expectations. Managers should first analyze their existing data and designate benchmarks to determine the road to success. Put KPIs in place and always follow up and review these metrics.
Here’s a great whitepaper with some important dos and don’t: Call Center Metrics: 4 Pitfalls You Need to Avoid
2. Stay Hip to the Trends:
We know that trends come and go, but it’s not a bad idea to stay informed about the next big thing in customer service. At one time, cloud was a touchy subject, and now it’s commonplace. Don’t be the last to know what the buzz is, that’s a surefire way to muddle operations because you’re simply rushed to get things done. By staying ahead of the game, you’ll never feel like you’ve fallen behind, and your team will feel adequately supported.
If you haven’t yet, take a look at this trends guidebook to get you all caught up: 8 Mega Customer Service Trends for 2016
3. Deploy the Proper Tools:
Once you’ve set metrics and researched ways that can give your customer service a boost, you may require some technical help in reaching those goals. For instance, a call-back solution can help to reduce spikes in call volume, improve the customer experience, and substantially raise agent morale. Here are 5 other customer service tools that can help you manage agent workflow and get your contact center operating smoothly.
For more proof about how technology can impact your customer service levels take a look at this Fonolo case study: How a Major Cable Operator Eliminated Over 400,000 Minutes of Hold-Time
Publish Date: August 3, 2016 5:00 AM
Last week, Fonolo hosted yet another insightful Google Hangout discussing the voice channel as a relevant medium for contact centers. This fabulous panel of contact centers experts was determined to uncover the truth behind the future of the voice channel. To save you some time, we’ve extracted video snippets showcasing highlights from the discussion.
First, let’s take a quick look at the panel of speakers: Ryan Nichols, Voice GM at Zendesk, Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations, Ian Jacobs, Senior Analyst at Forrester, Chris Thompson, VP of Enterprise Marketing at Plantronics, and Shai Berger, CEO and Co-Founder at Fonolo.
Will Voice Continue to be the Channel of Choice for Complex Issues?
20 years ago customer service existed in a world dominated by voice. Many calls would be simple inquiries such as billing questions, tracking a package, or resetting a password. Today, digital channels have emerged and are sophisticated enough to handle many consumer inquires, but there are situations that still drive customers to pick up the phone and call customer service.
Our good friend Roy Atkinson points to data from the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, which shows that the more complex the issue from the customers perspective, the more likely they will need to speak to a live agent.
Hear the panel of experts discuss if they see this continuing or fading away as digital channels become smarter. Ryan from Zendesk starts us off.
Are New Channels Crowding Out Voice?
Dimension Data’s Global Contact Centre Benchmark report shows that 35% of all interactions are now on “digital” (i.e. non-voice) channels. They further predict “digital interactions will overtake voice by the end of 2016”. But are we sure that new channels are displacing phone calls? Maybe they are just growing the total number of interactions? Or, maybe they are cannibalizing from each other – for example, people get answers from chat that might have come from an IVR self-service.
Listen to the group as they discuss if we are inherently misleading ourselves when we analyze this data or if new channels are ACTUALLY crowding out voice. Ian from Forrester starts the conversation.
How Do We Explain the Rise in Agents Working at Call Centers?
This report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzes data for the occupation “Customer Service Representatives”, where over the last 5 years you can see a steady increase. In fact, the number of people holding that title is up 17% over the past 5 years and 27% over the last 15.
One might view the report and assume that the increase in hires is simply the result of more people needing to handle the digital explosion. But since one agent can attend to multiple chat requests, is that response in fact plausible?
Hear from the experts as they attempt to dissect this data. Chris from Plantronics starts us off here.
How will Digital Channels Impact the Customer Experience?
Forrester surveyed close to 4500 online adults for a report that summarizes the top 10 customer service trends for 2016. The chart shows which channels were used the most in the past 12 month period. Telephone support was ranked the second most popular, but it’s also important to note the other digital channels ranked higher or close to the voice channel – self-service at just 1% above voice and email trailing behind by just 7%. If there’s one takeaway here it’s that customer expectations are ever changing!
Listen to these thought leaders as they discuss how the multi-channel universe will ultimately impact the customer experience. Shep Hyken begins the dialogue.
Take note at what the panel has to say as we wrap up this highly interactive conversational debate.
Publish Date: August 2, 2016 5:00 AM
The philosophy “Keeping up with the Joneses” relates to the need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and the greatest benchmarks. For customer service professionals, ‘the Joneses’ are your customers, your industry, and your competitors. With technology constantly evolving and consumer behaviour consistently on the prowl for change, the modern call center MUST keep up.
How do you feel about the service you’re providing to customers? Are you proud and confident about it? Most importantly, does it surpasses that of your trendy neighbour (or in this case your competitor)?
To avoid letting your chic neighbour outshine your customer service efforts, keep these 3 strategies in mind and pay close attention to how they work together!
Read A Lot!
Who says customer service folks can’t scour the media for relevant content? Simply pinpoint a few really informative websites and sign-up to receive alerts as they promote their content. Even following relevant Twitter handles or LinkedIn groups can keep you abreast of the latest trends and developments as they happen.
Here are the Tweeters, LinkedIn groups, and customer service driven websites that I follow regularly:
- Flavio Martins – @flavmartins
- Annette Franz – @annettefranz
- Kate Nasser – @KateNasser
- Colin Taylor – @colinsataylor
- Jeff Toister – @toister
- Customer Service Professionals
- Customer Experience Management Professionals
- Customer Service Champions
Watch for Feedback
If you don’t become an avid reader after the first tip, you’re sure to become one now. Getting feedback from your customers is key to implementing the right kind of change. According to a report by Deloitte, 55% of companies view call / contact monitoring as the best way to gain customer feedback. You can also collect feedback from surveys, customer interviews and social listening – which means read, read and well, read a little more.
The truth is, you simply can’t fix what you don’t know is broken or needs improvement. Your competition does this, so learn what they know and put your best foot forward.
Adopt a Responsive Approach
There’s no way you can keep up with the Joneses’ if you don’t adopt this last strategy. Creating an agile approach to your customer service efforts is critical to enforce change at the drop of a hat.
Customer feedback is at the heart of this strategy. You can use their feedback to establish the most prominent consumer needs and implement change accordingly. This encourages teams to collaborate and focus on issues that actually matter, which is especially important in complex call centers where competing priorities exist.
Publish Date: July 28, 2016 5:00 AM
It’s time for a mid-summer’s round up of the worst onholdwith.com offenders we’ve seen this month. At the beginning of 2016 we released the “Top 10 Twitter Complaints to Start the Year” and it looks like we still have some familiar faces on the list, as well as some new offenders to shake a finger at.
Brand new to this month’s list is: Citibank, who catapulted all the way up to number two! Purolator also out #failed UPS with hold-time this month – inching into the 8th spot – knocking UPS off the list (but we won’t count UPS out of our year-end offender list just yet). And – in a somewhat surprising turn – this month’s highest complaint holder was Southwest Airlines, who jumped from seventh place to first place. Southwest recently encountered massive flight delays and cancellations due to poor weather, which essentially created a customer service catastrophe. Maybe next time they should have call-backs on tap to avert this kind of crisis.
Also worth mentioning, is our favorite #onholdwith tweet that comes from this Southwest Airlines passenger who is desperately trying to locate his plane’s pilot on the airline’s behalf:
2 canceled flights, 7 hours of lines, 4 hours on hold. I finally got confirmed only to find out that the pilot is not here. @SouthwestAir
— Joe Andosca (@joehioh) July 21, 2016
Were you on hold this month? Recognize any companies on our onholdwith list? Take a look at our infographic breakdown to find out:
Is customer service putting you on hold? Simply use the hashtag #onholdwith to get your voice heard! If you want to see real-time complaints visit onholdwith.com.
Publish Date: July 27, 2016 5:00 AM
Most people don’t realize the impressive scale of the contact center industry. It accounts for one in every 25 jobs in the US! By some estimation, there are 14,000 call centers in the United States and over 120,000 worldwide.
It’s a growing industry as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.6 million people had the occupation “Customer Service Representatives” in 2015. That number is up 17% over the past 5 years and 27% over the last 15.
For the last few years, this industry has been undergoing an extraordinary transformation. In the early 2000’s, running a call center through a cloud service was dismissed as impractical. A few years later, it was viewed as “just for the smallest call centers”, but by 2008 that argument was dead and the migration was in full swing. Between 2008 and 2012, the cloud market grew by some 224%. Just between August 2014 and August 2015, total number of cloud seats jumped 49.9% (both data points from DMG).
What explains this remarkable shift? And what comes next?
According to Call Center IQ, 80% primarily housed their contact center technology on premise 1 year ago. That number is down to 58% in the present, and it will fall to just 44% in the next 12 months. That information, as well as the chart below is available in their Executive Report on Contact Center Technology. (A report we featured last week in our post 7 Contact Center Reports Worth Your Time.)
IDC forecasts U.S. spending on hosted contact center services to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.7% to reach $2.0 billion in 2019. DMG forecasts that by 2016 more than 18% of contact center seats will be delivered via the cloud.
The worldwide picture follows a similar trend (just with bigger numbers). Research and Markets estimates the worldwide cloud-based contact center market will grow from $4.15 billion in 2014 to $10.9 billion by 2019, a compound annual growth rate of 21.3%.
What is motivating companies to make the switch? Let’s see what some of the industry’s brightest folks are saying:
Analyst Sandra Gustavsen states “There are obvious budgetary advantages to selecting a cloud solution such as reduced capital expenses, fewer IT personnel and predictable per-user monthly fees, to name a few. But, there are also strategic advantages in terms of scale, consistency across a network and the ease of adding future innovations that are appealing particularly to organizations with multiple, geographically-dispersed offices.”
Analyst Donna Fluss, of DMG, puts it this way: “Companies are moving their contact centers to the cloud to realize the flexibility, agility, scalability and cost benefits of this implementation model. The new seats are coming from competitive replacements of dated on-premise solutions and a growing number of first-time users who are attracted to the cloud-based model, with its low start-up costs and ready availability of experienced vendor resources to assist with implementations and ongoing operations.”
Analyst Aphrodite Brismead cites the ability to get continuous upgrades, among other features, as a prime motivator: “With access to the latest features and functionality whenever they are released, contact centers can add multi-channel features when they are rolled out rather than having to wait to upgrade. While cloud contact centers traditionally had reduced feature sets to make them faster and easier to deploy, they are rapidly catching up to their premises-based counterparts.”
Not All Roses
Deploying a cloud call center can also present new problems. CCIQ surveyed companies that recently made the switch and asked about the challenges they faced.
As the chart below shows, the top complaint was that the implementation was not as easy as expected. That’s a fairly generic complaint, and we think we can chalk that up to over-zealous sales folks trying to get a deal done. (No offense to sales people… we wouldn’t be anywhere without you!) If we look beyond that, the top complaints were integration with current systems, integration with processes, higher cost, and downtime.
A Competitive Landscape Drives M&A Activity
DMG estimates there are over 150 competitors selling cloud-based contact center infrastructure. So it’s a very competitive sector. This is driving prices down, making it a buyer’s market. It’s also driving significant acquisition and partnering activity in the last 2 years including:
- RingCentral (a cloud UC provider) partnered with cloud-based call center provider InContact (NASDAQ: SaaS)
- InContact, itself, was just acquired by NICE System (NASDAQ: NICE)
- Marlin Equity Partners acquired LiveOps
- West Corp (NASDAQ: WSTC) acquired Magnetic North
- Shoretel (NASDAQ: SHOR) acquired Corvisa
What Took So Long?
For many years, companies had a general reluctance to moving their call center away from the tried-and-true premise-based equipment model.
One reason for that was, as you can see from the chart below, the IT department has a very dominant influence on the decision making.
Those IT folks had a number of concerns that were showstoppers for many years:
- People thought the real-time, mission-critical nature of the call center meant it wasn’t a good candidate to be a cloud service.
- The high-bandwidth needs of voice, which are unique to the call center, made people worry about audio quality, dropped calls, and impact on bandwidth available for other applications in the business.
- Security and privacy concerns have played a big role. There are a number of regulations that apply different standards to voice as opposed to data. On an intuitive level, the idea of a customer’s call being intercepted and recorded by a nefarious 3rd party seems much scarier than a regular data breach.
- Call center equipment has traditionally had a long replacement cycle – 5 to 10 years was typical. This is longer than other parts of enterprise IT and it naturally means a slower upgrade rate.
Given all that, it is understandable why the call center was a “laggard” among other systems to embrace the cloud.
It’s a safe bet that cloud deployments will continue to grow in number and size throughout the industry. One day, an on-premise call center may seem as quaint as a rotary-dial telephone.
Publish Date: July 26, 2016 5:00 AM
With organizations focussing on the customer experience as a key differentiator, it’s critical that they pay close attention to consumer channel activity. As we all know the options are endless: self-service, chat, mobile apps, social media, email and the conventional phone channel. It’s no wonder why call centers have now truly become contact centers as they support customers through a variety of mediums, countries, and languages.
As time passes, digital channels will continue to grow in popularity, but what will happen to the voice channel? Dimension Data’s 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report stated that there will be growth in every digital channel, and a 12% shrinkage with the phone. The report also went on to say “that digital volumes handled by contact centers remain on track to exceed phone contacts by the end of 2016”. However, ContactBabel reported that over 65% of contact centers anticipate no change in the voice channel for the next 12 months. So which one is it?
Is the phone channel getting lost in digital noise or will it remain a prominent medium?
Imagine, not needing the option to pick up the phone and speak to a live agent. This is pretty bizarre if you sit down and really think about it. Some say it’s bound to happen, others can’t wrap their minds around that realization.
Let’s uncover the truth behind the future of the voice channel. Join our live Google Hangout airing Thursday, July 28th at 2:00 PM ET, with guest speakers from Forrester, Zendesk, Plantronics and more! Here’s our very own, Shai Berger, with a quick video teaser.
Publish Date: July 21, 2016 5:00 AM
The multi-channel customer experience has raised a number of questions about how call centers should effectively measure the customer journey. More than ever before customers are moving across channels and devices to find support and purchase products. Whether it’s the phone, chat, social media, web, messenger or any number of channels, customers are doing a lot of things, in a lot of different places. Are all these touch-points working in synchrony, or are your customers pulling their hair out when they navigate from one to the other? That’s where customer journey tracking comes in; businesses can begin to understand their customer’s behaviors and uncover details that they otherwise wouldn’t catch. It can also measure how well each of these channels are working both individually and holistically.
Here are 4 risks you take by not making the customer journey a priority:
Risk #1 – Losing Customers Who Can’t Find Help
Accenture’s Global Customer Pulse Survey found that customers are increasingly frustrated with the level of service they experience: 91% because they have to contact a company multiple times for the same reason, 90% by being put on hold for a long time, and 89% by having to repeat their issue to multiple representatives. If a customer has to exert a lot of effort to find help, that’s a negative experience, and a flawed customer journey. Support should be at the forefront of your business. Fonolo has understood this from day one with its Web, Mobile, and In-Call Rescue solutions. But if you refuse to track the customer journey, there’s no way to tell which customers you’re losing because of this simple problem. Not convinced? Here are some fantastic resources to help clear things up: https://fonolo.com/resources/#datasheets
Risk #2 – Low Satisfaction Levels when Navigating from Channel-to-Channel
Did you know that 67% of online shoppers end up calling a business directly for purchases greater than $100? Customers want to feel secure when they are making a hefty purchase, and that live phone conversation provides reassurance. However, this escalation from web to phone should be seamless, but for most businesses, it’s not. By tracking the customer journey, you are also tracking the customer experience, and how well your channels are working together.
Let’s say a customer wants to deposit a cheque into their bank account. Previously, customers had to visit their nearest bank branch and deposit it manually. Now, many large banks have developed ways for customers to automatically deposit cheques through photo detection using a bank’s mobile app. This strategy did not emerge overnight; the financial industry realized there was a channel issue in the customer journey and they needed to solve it. Years ago, Amazon discovered that a 100 millisecond increase in speed equaled a 1% ($1.6 billion) revenue increase. Again, the less time and effort it takes your customers to complete a transaction and move across channels, the better.
Risk #3 – Negative Customer Experiences When Using Multiple Devices
You own a TV, a laptop, a mobile phone, and a tablet. Yet your website isn’t optimized for mobile. Common guys, it’s 2016, your customers no longer make purchase decisions using one device; instead they’re weaving in and out of different entry points. In fact, 65% begin their purchase path on a smartphone, 61% of them continue on a PC/laptop and 4% continue on a tablet. And 63% of customers tend to purchase high-value ($200 or more) items using multiple devices. It’s as if customers need to be swayed into the purchase as they jump from device-to-device, which is why improving the customer experience is so important. If any of these user experiences are not designed with this in mind, it’s possible your customers will give up completely, rather than starting over again with the original device. By tracking the customer journey from each device you can see where skews in the experience are occurring, and optimize from there.
Risk #4 – Completely Missing Opportunities to Generate Loyalty & Revenue
When you’re accurately able to follow a customer’s journey, you’ve given yourself more opportunities to re-engage and upsell them through their favorite channels. Take this scenario: A customer opens their mobile device to check if you have a product available, they add the product to their checkout cart but then their phone dies. By the time they get home and charge their phone, they’ve completely forgotten about their intent to purchase. So, what can be done to improve and excel this interaction? A reminder e-mail is one simple way to reengage your customer. But the only way to know this has happened is if you’re tracking point of abandonment, otherwise, that transaction could be lost forever. Neglecting these opportunities is a major detriment to any business’ overall revenue generation. Being attentive to your customers’ actions, without appearing invasive, can also stimulate customer loyalty. A polite nudge that invites customers to return is more positive than negative in the eyes of a customer.
Brett Shockley, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Avaya, agrees. He says that “… optimizing each interaction and creating an engaged customer relationship drives repeat purchases and increased loyalty.”
Publish Date: July 20, 2016 5:00 AM
Contact center operations and the technology that’s used to aid the experience has progressed tremendously over the years (See 5 Pictures Revealing the Evolution of the Contact Center), however, popular opinion seems to have stayed the same. If we played a quick round of “Family Feud” and asked the general public what they thought about working in a call center, we bet the top answers would be something like “menial” “mindless” or “soul-sucking”. There’s no question that customer care is a tough job, but it’s far from mindless work, and with technology, contact center operations have become more exciting than ever before. However, there are still some tried and true methodologies that remain critical to proper customer care.
Let’s take a look at these 4 common misconceptions about the call center and debunk them with some hard facts.
Contact Centers Are “Cost Centers” Not Revenue Generators
Untrue. The call center and customer service plays an extremely important role in a company’s customer retention and loyalty. Zendesk reported that 52% of consumers have made more purchases from a company after having a good customer service experience. Plus, happy customers are more likely to recommend a company to friends and family (87% of customers share good experiences with others). Therefore, when it comes to the contact center, quality service and a seamless experience can not only please customers, but can lead to more clients and greater revenue. That said, the reverse is true for call centers that provide poor experiences (95% of customers share bad experiences with others), so it’s important to stay on top of agent performance and metrics.
Customers Don’t Use the Phone For Support Anymore
We’ve heard it all before, web and mobile are going to overtake phone for customer service. I don’t know if you’ve tried to contact service via these avenues lately, but I can tell you on a personal level, the phone is absolutely integral to customer service, and the overall customer experience. Statistically speaking, 57% of customers have to switch from web to phone to resolve an issue, 75% think calling is the most effective way of getting a quick response, and 46% of customers prefer to talk to customer service on the phone about complicated issues. There’s no doubt that the telephone is still the number one channel for customers to connect with you.
Chatbots Will Eventually Replace Humans in the Call Center
There’s been a lot of “botmania” talk ever since Facebook announced that it would allow businesses to use them for online customer care. So, will chatbots erase our need for human customer relations altogether? At Fonolo, we recently tackled this topic in a Google Hangout (Chatbots: New Reality or Just Hype?) and although it might be early in the game for predications, one thing seems true: chatbots will never completely replace human interactions. Chatbots serve as an add-on for customer service to inform customers and drive sales, not replace personal interactions, especially not for support. Parmy Olson also covered this in a recent article for Forbes, “Could Chatbots Replace Human Jobs?”, and to sum it up: Bot integration is a long way out, so, let’s not get too manic about replacing our personal customer service agents just yet. Humans will always serve a purpose when it comes to maintaining support.
Call Center Managers Are Only Concerned With Cost-Per-Call
Metrics are an important way to keep call centers running smoothly and customer service performing optimally. Cost-per-call has always been an important KPI and still remains to be, however, the industry has matured and developed new metrics that also focus on customer satisfaction and quality. First Contact Resolution (FCR), One Contact Resolution (OCR), and Quality Scores are among the metrics that contact center managers now use to measure the quality of their interactions. The customer experience has become a major competitive differentiator for businesses, and though some operations managers still struggle with it, 93% of managers have listed it as part of their key priorities for improvement.
Publish Date: July 13, 2016 5:00 AM
At Fonolo, we’re always on the look-out for new industry research, studies, surveys and whitepapers. It’s the only way to stay current on the many aspects of the fast-moving contact center industry. No doubt you’ve noticed that the popularity of “content marketing” has resulted in a dramatic increase in the quantity of content from vendors, analysts and industry groups. Sadly, that’s made it hard to find the quality among all the fluff.
We’re here to help! Assembled below are 7 recent reports that we feel are worth your time. They feature original research and cover topics such as multi-channel trends, metrics, operational strategy, and much more. We are grateful to the authors (and sponsors) for all the insights and we’d like to pass along our recommendations to our loyal readers.
1) Executive Report on Contact Center Technology
Who wrote it: Call Center IQ
Where to get it: http://old.callcenter-iq.com/technology/white-papers/2016-executive-report-on-contact-center-technology
“Featuring a combination of exclusive market research, in-depth commentary, and insightful case studies, this report reveals how contact center technology is evolving – and must continue to evolve – in this era of customer centricity. More importantly, it will empower you to leverage contact center technology to create a more efficient, more effective, more customer-centric engagement experience.”
- Today’s organizations are indeed moving to the cloud: twelve months ago, 80% primarily housed their contact center technology on premise. That number is down to 58% in the present, and it will fall to just 44% in the next twelve months.
- Decisions about contact center technology are most commonly made by C-level executives and IT departments. The contact center/ CX team guides these decisions in only 26% of organizations.
Our favorite chart:
This is a great visualization of the continued trend towards cloud and cloud-hybrid architectures for call centers.
2) The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel Customer Contact
Who wrote it: ContactBabel
Where to get it: http://www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm
What it covers:
- Volume, growth and cost of digital channels, compared to voice calls
- The channels that customers prefer best what they actually use, and why
- Detailed focus on specific channels, including: Email, Web Chat, SMS, Social Media, Self-Service (including Visual IVR)
- The effect of smartphones
- Web RTC & video
- Facebook Messenger & WhatsApp
Our favorite chart:
ContactBabel asked call centers how they expect the mix of inbound channels to change between now and 12 months in the future.
3) Global Contact Centre Benchmark
Who wrote it: Dimension Data
Where to get it: Here
This report is regarded as unique because Dimension Data has been asking the same questions, with the same methodology, since 1997. Hence, it gives us a unique view into the evolution of customer service.
35% of all interactions are now on “digital” (i.e. non-voice) channels. They further predict “digital interactions will overtake voice by the end of 2016”.
Our favorite chart:
These nested pie charts show how the customer service channel mix has changed over the years.
4) Executive Report on Metrics, Agents and Operations
Who wrote it: Call Center IQ
Where to get it: http://old.callcenter-iq.com/call-center-management/white-papers/2016-executive-report-on-performance-metrics-agent/
What it covers:
- The top performance objectives for today’s contact centers – and the best metrics to use when evaluating success
- The most important factors when interacting with your customers
- The biggest inhibitors standing in the way of contact center excellence
- Game changing initiatives for conquering those challenges and achieving unparalleled results
- Urgent (and not-so-urgent) solutions for engaging – and empowering – your agents
Our favorite chart:
CCIQ asked the call centers in their survey which factors they felt were inhibiting their contact center’s performance the most.
5) The Future Of Customer Service
Who wrote it: Forrester / Kate Leggett
(Member of our Top Analysts Lists)
Where to get it: Here
(NOTE: This is a paid report)
What it covers:
“This report summarizes the top 10 customer service trends for 2016 that application development and delivery (AD&D) pros supporting customer service operations must pay attention to in order to deliver customer service excellence.”
Our favorite chart:
Based on a survey of 4473 US online adults, this chart shows which channels were used the most in the past 12 month period.
6) State of Multichannel Customer Service Report
Who wrote it: Microsoft
Where to get it: Here
What it covers:
- What customers view as the most important aspects of a good customer experience
- Most frustrating aspects of a poor customer experience
- Service expectations for self-service, social and mobile channels
- Importance of service in a customer’s choice of, or loyalty to a brand
- What percentage of customers leave a brand or organization due to a single poor customer experience
- Consumers now regularly use at least four different channels when interacting with a brand or organization for customer-related questions and issues.
- In addition to the growing number of channels being used, channel preference is also changing based on the customer’s perceived value for time spent.
Our favorite chart:
This chart shows what causes the most frustration to customers as part of the customer service process.
7) State of Service Report
Who wrote it: Salesforce
Where to get it: https://www.salesforce.com/form/conf/2015-state-of-service.jsp
What it covers: Based on a survey of 1,900 global customer service leaders, this report analyzing their responses to discover:
- The most common goals, obstacles, and success measures for today’s service teams
- What sets high-performing service organizations apart
- The areas in which service is supercharging efforts to grow business
Our favorite chart:
This is a unique view into how different call center leaders rank the importance of different metrics. It’s no surprise that “Average Handle Time” was ranked #1 across the board. (See our recent post 3 Pitfalls When Measuring Average Handle Time.) But it is interesting to see that only “underperformers” are ranking Net Promoter Score highly. Has this metric passed out of fashion? Hmm, maybe this is a topic for the next blog post!
Publish Date: July 12, 2016 5:00 AM
The standard impression of a call center workplace is quite negative. Professionals might describe it as dull, boring, and monotonous. But the truth is there are ways we can make the contact center a fun and lively place to be! Sometimes a quick change is an easy way to increase motivation and productivity throughout your organization. Are you ready to take on some new ideas?
Here are 5 fresh concepts to inspire the spirit of your contact center.
1. Suggestion Box
Agents have a lot to say, but might be too shy to express their thoughts, or worried about how their comments will be perceived. Having an easy way for call center agents to voice their concerns is easily achieved through a suggestion box. You can even make them anonymous to encourage a candid submission. Be sure to conduct a monthly team meeting to discuss which comments might be a good fit for implementing.
2. Rotating Roles
Call center employees who are trained to handle multiple roles are less likely to experience apathy. Not to mention if your employees grow beyond their current duties job rotation can be a key retention strategy. This concept also enables all team members to feel empowered and helps to build team confidence. Agent engagement is key to improving workplace morale, and this idea is sure to get them there.
3. Smile, Smile, Smile
Sometimes agents really need to focus on having a positive outlook, especially on days when they’re dealing with irate callers. Rather than telling agents to act this way, why not implement a way to encourage them to smile. Print out oversized pictures with funny animals and have each agent place them at their desk. They can pick a picture that resonates with them and at times when they need to a little friendly encouragement they’ll have a silly animal to turn to.
4. Automated Call-Backs
I’m sure you already know that call-backs are a great solution for eliminating hold-time and reducing abandon rates, but did you consider the effect it has on employee morale? The dreaded spike in call volume and long hold-times means a frustrated customer – all of this pressure lands on the agents lap. The alternative solution is better and agents LOVE the call-back option. Calls are shorter and more pleasant when every conversation can start on a positive note. It’s also a great way to meet service levels.
Offsite team building is a great way to connect with colleagues and leave the intensity of the call center behind. Encourage sportsmanship by starting a team for a variety of sports that workers at all levels can join. This also connects senior leadership with front-line staff in a new and fun way. Who knows what you might learn about your call center that you never knew before!
As you implement these fresh and easy strategies be sure to avoid call center ideas that completely miss the point. Here’s a few to steer clear of.
Publish Date: July 7, 2016 5:00 AM
Customer service has never been work for the weak. It takes someone with great self-control, a calm temperament and tremendous organizational skills to be successful. But even those who display the assets of a fantastic agent can experience a sudden drop in morale. For instance, increased workload, poor management, difficult customers, and more, can create a negative outlook in your agent’s eyes. As a call center manager, it’s important to observe your support team and get a sense of their general disposition. No, you don’t have to play therapist, but you can do a few things to re-engage those lethargic agents.
Don’t let agent burnout run like wildfire through your contact center. Here are 5 tips to help call center managers contain the stressors that lead to high turnover rates and help you retain top talent in the workplace. This is also an optional playlist to help liven up a dull workday (Think Michael Scott in The Office) — Who knew Queen was writing about agent engagement this whole time?
1) Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy…?
Give your agents realistic metrics to follow. Although it’s important to challenge your agents and set the bar high, making them meet these expectations 100% of the time is nothing but a pipe dream, and won’t get anyone very far. By setting realistic goals for your agents, they feel accomplished and happy that they’ve succeeded at the end of the day. Nothing kills an agent’s confidence and creates turnover faster than feeling like you’re always losing. Use gamification strategies that let agents work towards hitting milestones. As we’ve said before, customer service is a marathon, not a sprint.
2) Don’t you, forget about me, don’t don’t don’t don’t
Although your customer service agents might put on a brave face when they’re handling an unruly customer, I assure you they’re secretly looking for acknowledgement. The sad part is that only 31% of organizations recognize and reward their agents for improving the customer experience. Given that 89% of businesses now compete mainly on the customer experience, this is an important skill to harness. Agents can’t be expected to come into work bright eyed and bushy tailed with little to no recognition. Incentivize agents with awards and quarterly bonuses; this validates their work and will raise performance levels accordingly.
3) It’s more than a feeling…
Today, service is more about quality, than quantity. Rather than tracking an agents call log, pay closer attention to their First Call Resolution (FCR), One Contact Resolution (OCR), amount of open/unresolved cases and their customer satisfaction rates. It should be noted when your agents are keeping customers happy and doing their job to resolve issues timely and effectively. Be fair to your agents and weight their performance across the board. Focusing solely on cost-per-call might seem economical but in the long run making happy loyal customers is the real moneymaker.
4) Everybody’s working for the weekend
Work with your agents to develop a schedule that works for them. Stress on the job is only compounded when you’re employees are confined by restrictive schedules. Give agents options like annual hours, flex-shifts, and the option to work remotely. Remote work has been proven to help with a number of things. For instance, in a study by Stanford University, remote work options reduced employee turnover and job attrition rates by over 50%. It has also proven to decrease stress levels and drive better productivity. This not only gives agents autonomy but shows you trust them, which in turn creates mutual respect resulting in a more dedicated workforce.
5) Give me one reason to stay here, and I’ll turn right back around…
Sometimes, that’s all it takes, and arming your agents with the right tools is one way to keep them motivated at work. For instance, 75% of customers would like the option to be called back rather than wait on hold, yet many call centers still don’t provide a call-back option. When you provide agents with the proper infrastructure you reduce the burden put on them to manage angry customers (because you’ll have less of them), and at the same time you’ll also improve the customer experience. It’s a no brainer!
Publish Date: July 6, 2016 5:00 AM
Nowadays, customer service is more than just responding to queries; it’s a full blown strategic department aiming to strengthen the customer experience. Yet delivering experiences that consistently impress the customer and stand out from the crowd remains a difficult endeavor for most contact centers. Executives are placing bandage solutions on problems and failing to realize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. CX management is about managing customers, processes, agents, metrics, and technologies – these things just can’t turn around overnight. Although it requires a tremendous amount of time, effort, and attention to detail, the upside is worth the investment. Companies that excel in delivering a superior customer experience realize a growth in revenue and earn stronger loyalty among a customer’s lifetime.
If your serious about building a compelling customer experience, it’s time to develop thorough, well-thought out answers to these three critical questions.
Question 1: Social Media
Social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook have influenced customer experience management in a big way. Companies are investing in new technologies to keep pace and maintain good customer relations. Are you active on all the social channels your customers communicate on?
Why you should answer yes – You must be present where your clients are active. Be there to respond to any and all comments and questions, whether they’re big or small.
Question 2: Cross Channel Communication
Companies are now communicating with customers through multiple channels. For ease of use, they are utilizing CEM technology for a single view of the customer. Do you have the technology to handle cross-channel communications without a drop in customer service quality or consistency?
Why you should answer yes – Multiple channels should be viewed as a cohesive entity, not separate and unconnected. This is critical to the success of the customer experience.
Question 3: Investment in Call Center Agents
Contact centers have generally been viewed as a last stop for customers to air their grievances, but now organizations are seeing contact centers as another way to drive business, increase customer profitability and strengthen relationships. Do you invest in your call center agents?
Why you should answer yes – Businesses are at risk if they do not capitalize on the link between satisfied employees and happy customers. Incentivizing your agents will ensure happy customers.
Publish Date: June 30, 2016 5:00 AM