Jacada - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
“I'm sorry, but I do not recognize that response.”
How many times have you heard that sentence while trying to pay a bill, change a service plan, update the address on one of your accounts, or get through to a customer service agent? The answer for most of us? Too many. Gartner predicts that by 2020 a customer will manage 85% of the relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human, so how do you think your customers feel when they are misunderstood by your company's automated voice recognition system? And why is it that your customers are being misunderstood?
We live in a diverse society—the United States really is a melting pot. Think of all the nationalities, races, and ethnicities that make up America. Now factor in age, gender, and location. Just for fun, let's throw in levels of education. Does it make sense for a 23-year-old female Mexican-American born and raised in Oregon to sound phonetically and contextually the same as a 68-year-old male from Louisiana? Are companies setting expectations too high when it comes to automated voice recognition applications?
Not at all. Companies are just making the mistake of misplacing their trust in inferior applications—and still expecting superior results. Fortunately, there are high-end applications—using the most up to date technology—able to understand not only your customers' words, but also, believe it or not, their feelings. It's true.
This impressive technology is called Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and it's a real game-changer, not only for your customers but for your call center agents, as well as your company's bottom line. When NLU is integrated into self-service applications, it represents the way we speak in our day-to-day lives—aka the way we naturally speak—and Natural Language Understanding uses "Natural" language to understand the differences in speech between different demographic groups.
Unlike inferior automated voice recognition applications, those which utilize Natural Language Understanding are able to interpret the differences in language between the hypothetical 23-year-old and 68-year-old customers mentioned above. But how? NLU recognizes the idiosyncrasies of natural language, including mispronunciations, colloquialisms, swapped words, and contractions—to name a few—so that each and every customer's needs are understood.
Not only is Natural Language Understanding able to interpret casual day-to-day speech, but it also provides empathy to your customers, a feature previously unheard of via automated conversation applications. Imagine an automated voice application that could pick up on sentiment, identify it, and then provide a relevant resolution.
Don't delay. All of this natural understanding is fueling Artificial Intelligence (AI) in self-service at an amazing rate. Interestingly enough, Gartner predicts that 15% of all customer service interactions will be handled solely by AI in 2021 -- that's a 400% increase from 2017!
Prepare your organization today for self-service that drives higher customer satisfaction, faster call handling, reduced operating costs, shorter average handle time (AHT), and higher first call resolution (FCR), which means your customers no longer have to hear the dreaded sentence, “I'm sorry, but I do not recognize that response.”
Publish Date: August 29, 2019 5:00 AM
Recently, Head of Automation Scott Merritt sat down with the TechTalk team and discussed the ways in which organizations seek to benefit from customer service automation. Most of us think of automation as the software that enables us to request an Uber on our mobile devices or get directions to a new restaurant from Siri or Alexa. Companies, on the other hand, need to look behind the curtain to find out what it really takes to make that customer service magic happen. We invite you to watch the interactive video (and enjoy the references we make along the way).
Some of the questions we'll discuss in the video:
- What are some examples where Customer Service Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be used?
- What factors are driving this push for automation in the contact center?
- How does technology debt keep you from creating seamless customer experiences?
- How does RPA impact digital self-service?
Publish Date: August 28, 2019 5:00 AM
As business leaders are contemplating the promise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation on digital transformation, many are quickly realizing that a customer’s experience is the sum of each moment: good and bad, direct and indirect, automated and manual, digital and face-to-face.
Given the significant impact that notably back-office automation has made on productivity over the last five years, it’s natural for you to gather your management and broadly find AI and robotic process automation (RPA) applicability across operations, finance, sales, service, bricks-and-mortar and beyond. But will the RPA of old, that supports back-office processes well today, stand up to serve a customer-facing employee dealing with the angry mom, the stranded traveler or the confused claimant?
A word of caution: your front is different than your back. Let’s take a restaurant as an example. The front of the restaurant is about making someone feel welcome, delivering the finished product, selling in the moment and offering a patron a clean and fun environment. If you’ve ever walked around to the back of a restaurant, you’d see the reality of all the food going in and the garbage going out.
But doesn’t the real magic happen in the kitchen? The chef would say yes; the host would say no. Both the “front of the house” and “back of the house” of a restaurant are important, but each has a different set of challenges to deliver an amazing experience.
Why the differences
The same is true today for customer-facing automation used to drive digital self-service and serve employees in the contact centre. These tools enable agents to find answers, solve problems and complete sales quickly, accurately and to the customers’ satisfaction. But the back office handles the processing of customers’ issues, like inquiry forms, service and sales orders and documentation, like loan and mortgage applications that takes longer and are more involved to handle.
Typically integrating a few systems to solve a workflow or automating a task in the back-office won’t make your agents happier or more productive, just like a new oven or dishwasher will not help the waitstaff. The same is true for poorly designed virtual assistants (VAs), (euphemistically referred to as chatbots), which the equivalent in restaurants may be the table or mobile point of sale terminals. These VAs often plague customer journeys with dead-ends and certainly NOT a path to front-office employees. Now isn’t the time to open the back-office RPA toolkit and automate like before.
There are two main reasons why your front is different than your back. Firstly, at Jacada we often see a dozen or more systems for integration while engaging in a back-office project. But if you have 10, 20, 30, even 40 running applications on a contact centre agent desktop, you’re not alone. There is plenty of digital debt on the desktop of your average agent, and most applications can’t be or aren’t ready for replacement. The same is true for VAs: dozens of systems are often required to make a great experience. But the time for attended RPA to step in and collaborate is now! Yes now, and not after we migrate to “insert new CRM vendor here” or “rip out that old tool Larry made last year.” Digital debt will live on in some cases and because the front is different than the back, look to use well-designed contact center automation to drive quick wins and increase agent engagement.
Second, back-office systems rarely speak, truly speak. Customers and agents speak all day long. Creating automation with conversational flow, grounded on natural language processing (NLP), is often more than what traditional RPA can handle. Instead, delight customers by creating good conversations in digital self-service that will transition to an agent seamlessly. Often these systems cannot provide the emotion needed for the front-office, like empathy. In addition, customers interacting with the VAs expect faster transaction handling, satisfaction via one step resolution and most importantly, a pleasant customer service experience.
Connecting the front and back
The human body will not work unless the front and back function as one. The same with business operations, whether restaurants or contact centres. They must be seamlessly connected to provide an excellent customer experience. Do so and your customers and your staff will thank you.
Regardless of your digital debt, keep your customer dialogues conversational, guide your agents and create seamless self-service journeys. Savvy contact centres are reaping the benefits of AI and automation tools designed specifically for them to transform complex desktop environments into intelligent solutions for their employees. Remember that traditional back-office RPA is powerful; however, attended RPA in the front-office should provide design-once, end-to-end and low-code for both agent-assisted interactions and self-service.
So, the next time you visit your favourite restaurant, think of all the automation that makes the entire restaurant run smoothly. And just like a restaurant, you will have systems and processes that span the front and back of your organization. Always keep your customer and agent-facing experiences a high priority. These experiences are the faces and “front doors of your brand”. Protect them. Serve them up well. Deliver them on a silver platter if you need to. Because in many cases, it’s our people who save us when the fish is bad, the wine is too warm, or the table is wobbly. Remember to tip your waiter and always remember that your front is different than your back.
Matthew Storm is Vice President, Marketing, Jacada (www.jacada.com).
Publish Date: June 6, 2019 5:00 AM
There was a time when customers only had a single choice when it came to contacting a company's customer service department. They had to dial a number to reach the department by phone—and make sure that they did so during the company's customer service department's hours of operation.
Call centers are comprised of various parts, each one integral to the organization's mission to keep customers satisfied—and therefore loyal—to the company.
On the front lines are the call center agents, taking call after call, representing the “voice” of the company in the form of live customer service interaction. Their success, especially in producing a low first call resolution rate, is instrumental in keeping customers satisfied, directly affecting the company's bottom line.
So, what are the problems facing call center agents today? What obstacles do they encounter during their live interactions with customers? You may be surprised to find that the individual issues that call center agents face are all connected.
Call center agents are human beings and therefore, do not have perfect recall. Even with the best training efforts, a call center agent will not be able to produce every policy, product, plan, fee, and so on, that make up the company's services and/or products from top of their head. It can be frustrating to flounder around, looking for the right answer to provide a customer. Imagine how a customer feels when having to wait minute after minute as the agent struggles to find the answer.
To access information easily and efficiently, a call center agent must have the right tools, which leads to another problem call center agents face—a lack of proper information and process organization and orchestration. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications simply fail to provide call center agents with the best means to successfully manage customer questions, concerns, and complaints, because they lack the ability to understand the context or user interaction. Unfortunately, many call centers “buy in” to CRM vendors sales pitches, making it more difficult for their call center agents to perform in a way that satisfies customers, saves the company money, and increases its bottom line.
High Wait Times
If information is not organized in a manner that is easily accessible to a call center agent, that leads to yet another problem—keeping customers on hold for long periods of time. Lengthy average wait times result in a negative customer experience which is the exact opposite of the company's intention in establishing a call center. Anyone who has ever had to call their cable company, their cell phone service provider, or basically any large business, has had to endure waiting unnecessarily for a call center agent to access the tools and information required to resolve their problem. Also, keep in mind that long wait times negatively affect the agent as well. Keeping customers on hold for long periods of time results in increased stress for the call center agent whose main concern is providing the best service possible.
Failing to Provide a Solution
The goal of any call center agent should be to achieve one call resolution. However, when a call center agent is unable to provide a satisfactory experience to a caller, it is not always the agent's fault. The issues mentioned above serve as speed bumps at best and as dead ends at worst. A lack of proper tools impedes call center agents from being able to successfully navigate each call, resulting in unnecessary transfers to other departments, or worse yet, in customers having to call several times and speaking to several call center agents to attain resolution. Such incidents cause the company to operate inefficiently and lose money—a result that not a single call center agent desires.
Call center agents want to do a good job, but they can only do so much on their own. Without the proper tools, even the best-intentioned agents will fall short, resulting in unhappy customers and a loss of revenue for their employer. By providing your call center agents with the best available technological options in the market, you will see an increase in both employee and customer satisfaction.
Jacada has two approaches to solve these problems (and others) that we refer to as Intelligent Agent Engagement. Both approaches battle contact center complexity with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
Publish Date: May 23, 2019 5:00 AM
All industries encounter operational obstacles; those with call centers come across an extra set of issues during day-to-day operations.
It can be difficult to maintain customer satisfaction without obstacles, so ensuring that your call center has the best, and most cutting-edge solutions is a necessity that not a single company can afford to go without.
Fortunately, there are several solutions that utilize forward thinking, cutting edge technology to ensure that companies can meet and exceed customer expectations. These “smart” solutions assure a positive customer experience and secure customer loyalty—not to mention cut down on operational costs and increase profits.
Some of the primary concerns regarding call center management are long hold times and an inability to provide one call resolution. While there may be several factors that cause these issues, the underlying factor that results in these issues is that call center agents have inferior navigation tools and a lack of intuitive applications at their disposal.
The best way to resolve customer service center operational issues is to apply the smartest solutions. Jacada, through its Intelligent Self-Service and Intelligent Agent Engagement, specializes in providing smart call center solutions to your operational problems.
Intelligent Self-Service incorporates virtual customer assistants, smart digital routing, and contextual guidance to streamline the customer service journey so that it results in a successful outcome. Due to its digital framework, Intelligent Self-Service also saves your company money.
Intelligent Agent Engagement
Intelligent Agent Engagement improves live customer interaction. Intelligent Agent Engagement technology works with the call center agent, not instead of, providing the Customer Service Representative (CSR) with digital tools such as the Smart Agent Assistant and the Unified Agent Desktop. Humanity and technology unite for improved operational efficiency.
Intelligent Solutions for Today's Call Center
Whatever your call center's problems may be, there is no doubt that the only way to resolve them successfully is through an intelligent solution. Jacada can provide truly Intelligent Solutions because it uses only the most modern, up to date, and cutting edge AI, Natural Language Understanding (NLU), and robotic automation technologies available in all of its virtual and digital solutions.
Whatever your call center's intended focus may be—live interaction or automated assistance—Jacada's suite of intelligent solutions will have your call center running more efficiently and more economically. If you want to provide your customers with superior customer service—both live and automated—smart solutions are still the answer. Not only will Jacada's solutions result in happier customers, they will also produce more satisfied employees, creating pleasant synergy felt throughout the entire department.
Publish Date: May 21, 2019 5:00 AM
There was a time when customers only had a single choice when it came to contacting a company's customer service department. They had to dial a number to reach the department by phone—and make sure that they did so during the company's customer service department's hours of operation.
Much has changed. Today we can contact a company's customer service department via an app on our smart device, we can chat with either a human being or a bot on the company's website, we can send messages via social media platforms such as Twitter, and yes, we can still dial a toll-free number and access a live agent.
While that last option is still available, it is becoming more and more rare. Companies realize that “going digital” offers many benefits—not just for the company, but for the customer as well.
Today's companies are adopting digital solutions at increasing rates. However, the digital surge is not meant to coerce customers into using digital resources, but rather, to enhance the overall customer experience.
Customers value a pleasant customer service journey—one that offers resolution without long wait times, multiple transfers, or repeated calls. Companies are aware that the top of the line digital solutions available in today's market can provide customers with that exact experience—and at a savings to the company.
The better the technology, the more that customers want to use it. In fact, eventually, they prefer to use the company's digital customer service platforms rather than waste valuable time on hold waiting to either connect with a live call center agent or wait while the agent rummages around for the correct information needed to provide resolution.
Digital solutions also provide higher value, plus personalized and capable self-service resources that customers are ultimately very grateful for.
There is no denying that digital adoption is the way of the future, especially when you factor in sociological reasons. Millennials, the generation also referred to as Gen Y, are on the verge of outnumbering both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Millennials will soon also have more purchasing power than the two previous generations.
Gen Y feels completely comfortable with all things digital. In fact, over two-thirds of millennial females are at ease solving customer service issues without speaking to a live agent, according to a Capterra study. And over half of Millennials of both sexes enjoy being able to resolve issues on their own, without the assistance of a live call center agent. Think about those facts for a minute—the soon to be largest customer base actually prefers to interact with digital platforms over live call center agents.
When considering all these factors, plus factoring in the potential savings, it is easy to see why companies are pushing for digital solutions to resolve their clients' customer service issues.
Jacada, a provider of both digital solutions and agent engagement solutions seeks to assist customer service organizations in their efforts to provide the next level of customer care.
Publish Date: May 16, 2019 5:00 AM
In today's world we have come to realize that technology makes our lives easier. Incorporated into almost all daily used devices, from smart phones to smart refrigerators, technology simply makes our personal lives easier to manage thereby creating a more efficient use of our personal time.
If we utilize technology in our personal lives in order to make our lives run smoothly, economically, and efficiently, doesn't it make sense to apply it in work situations as well?
One of the most remarkable forms of technology one can use to make a call center run more efficiently is Artificial Intelligence. Once a science-fiction device used to enthrall readers, AI is now used in more applications than one might think.
What distinguishes these applications from one another? One word: quality.
Intelligent interaction at your customers' (and agents) fingertips
AI can be used to enhance the customer service experience both for your customers and your call center agents. Earlier when we mentioned that quality is what sets AI applications apart, we had a very specific experience in mind. How often have you heard complaints about digital systems? How often have even you yourself been frustrated by a low end, poor quality automated system or chat bot? That's where quality comes in. Jacada can provide truly Intelligent Self-Service because it uses only the most modern, up to date, and cutting-edge AI, Natural Language Understanding (NLU), and robotic automation technologies in all of its virtual and digital solutions.
Customers can receive help from an automated Intelligent Customer Assistant who will be able to provide what traditional automated response systems cannot: empathy. In addition to empathy, customers interacting with the Intelligent Customer Assistant can expect faster transaction handling, satisfaction via one call resolution, and most importantly, a pleasant customer service experience. The ICA is also multichannel, available via both voice and the web through the company's website.
Another Intelligent Self-Service solution is offered through Jacada's Visual Assistant. The Visual Assistant is able to provide service via a multitude of convenient platforms, including the company's toll-free number, website, mobile app, and even via SMS or text messaging.
Jacada Interact is another solution which utilizes AI to successfully streamline the customer service experience by incorporating industry-leading AI and Jacada’s own robotic automation technologies to create intelligent bots. Jacada Interact does not require any programming knowledge, instead its user-friendly interface allows you to build and manage automated customer service sequences through an easy-to-use Designer program.
With the help of AI applications such as these, superior customer service can be provided without expensive operating costs such as call centers and other phone or chat channels.
Using such advanced AI in your call center applications streamlines both operations and the customer journey. Imagine a scenario when everyone, customer, call center agent, management, CEO and the Board are all satisfied? Such a situation is not just a call center manager's fantasy—with Jacada Intelligent Self-Service it is an achievable reality.
While most companies are trying to automate the customer service experience, they still recognize the importance of providing a pleasant customer journey to their customers and using Intelligent Self-Service is the smart way to accomplish that.
Learn more by visiting our website at jacada.com.
Publish Date: May 14, 2019 5:00 AM
A few weeks ago, Gartner revealed a pretty stunning prediction: by 2020, 40% of bots and virtual assistants launched in 2018 will have been abandoned. This development was actually pretty predictable. Core technologies to build intelligent assistants have matured rapidly and are widely available. It triggered a vendor "gold rush" building chatbots. In addition, many scripted bots declared themselves intelligent, adding confusion in the marketplace. Companies implementing chatbots are finding it much harder than they expected, thus the current adjustment.
Chatbots and virtual agents are here to stay! Gartner also predicted rapid penetration of these solutions, from less than 2% last year to over 25% in 2020. There are several fundamental trends driving this adoption. The volume of customer interactions continues to rise while expectations of rapid service grow. Enterprises must harness self-service and automation to scale their customer service. Conservational dialogs make the assistance experience enjoyable and companies more accessible.
The "conversation" needs to shift to what it takes to make an intelligent assistant project successful. On April 25 we will hold an interactive webinar to address YOUR questions. Join here!
[About the author] Nicolas De Kouchkovsky is a recognized industry expert in customer engagement and customer service. He is a fractional CMO helping small and midsize software companies. Nicolas was previously CMO at Genesys, driving the company’s expansion into the broader multi-channel contact center market. He is also the author together with Opus Research of the Intelligent Assistance and Bot Market landscape.
Titles: Author with Opus Research of Intelligent Assistance and Bot Market Landscape
Founder & Principal of CaCube Consulting
Publish Date: April 11, 2018 5:00 AM
It seems automation is everywhere these days, allowing people to accomplish a variety of tasks faster, and the customer service industry is no exception, where technological advancements continue to transform the customer experience, and businesses continue to discover the benefits of real-time automation. Here are the top 5 customer service automation trends in 2018:
#1: Desktop automation
Today, it's critical that your customer experience design and customer service capabilities are prepared to meet the expectations of today’s customers, however, too often agents struggle to cope with the behavior and complexity of so many applications, which are simply not designed with the goal to deliver the optimal customer experience. In 2018, look for more and more companies to be adopting desktop automation, which harmoniously blends the array of existing applications into new customer friendly workflows and tasks that empower agents to focus on the customer instead of wasting time dealing with time consuming system navigation and data entry. In addition, as a byproduct of fully optimizing the way customer service agents interact with their desktop, regardless of channel, they will have more positive energy to personally engage customers, resulting in happy, loyal customers and agents!
At the same time, 2018 should see the continued emergence of robotic process automation (RPA) technology, which is already stirring the winds of change in contact centers by automating the various small, repetitive, everyday tasks which have traditionally played such a significant role in its day to day operations, including opening cases, checking order status, record updates and many more. RPA is thus delivering effective, cost saving solutions to customer service operational and technology challenges. In fact, a KPMG report claims that labor automation through RPA can reduce an organization’s operational costs by 75 percent! At the same time, RPA brings consistency to the customer experience, has a near zero percent error rate, and greatly reduces handle times by enabling the customer service agent to integrate data into fields across all associated systems with only one entry, enhancing the overall customer satisfaction.
#3 Visual IVR
With already over 1 billion smart phones users worldwide and growing, the trend towards Visual IVR will continue to gain momentum as well, offering a communication channel that enable users to leverage their devices for customer service on the go by transferring the existing IVR technology onto their phone screens. By simply logging into the company’s website or mobile app customers can access an intuitive, user-friendly visual IVR menu interface. Users can to touch their way through visual menus, speak to a specific call center agent or even view holding time and choose a call back option – all from the comforts of their smart phones. The truth is Visual IVR actually is fulfilling many of the promises Voice IVR was meant to. Now you can deliver an automated and personalized and digital self-service experience to your voice callers, all at the same time!
Another automation technology in customer service more and more companies are beginning to leverage is the chatbot, virtual assistants who can provide fast, cost-effective and human-like customer service. The vast amount of customer data that is collected by companies is used essentially as a data warehousing for an AI system. Together with Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology, this data can be translated into deep machine learning that creates progressively higher and higher levels of intelligence, and providing them with the ability to ‘learn’ the correct answer to any question over time. As customers today expect to receive instant service across all channels at all times, intelligent virtual personal assistants can be easily deployed on almost any interface, including voice response, mobile apps, SMS, the web, and instant messaging.
#5 Big Data Analytics
Today, the trend toward big data analytics is also helping to automate how businesses communicate with customers. Utilizing complex data sets from various sources, companies are gaining important insights into customer behavior and preferences, and by leveraging these analytics, brands can identify customer pain and passion points more effectively, while even anticipating what customers will ask for in advance, to quickly resolve each customer interaction, which drives sales and lasting customer loyalty. In fact, according to Salesforce, 57% of consumers today are willing to share personal data with companies that send personalized offers and discounts. With such access becoming ever easier, look for more and more brands to finally make the push to leverage customer data from their CRMs to create more tailored and automated customer experiences in 2018.
Indeed, as contact center automation enhances effectiveness and quality, delivering clear, wide ranging benefits at various touch points, the world of customer service is changing rapidly and for the better.
Publish Date: March 21, 2018 5:00 AM
The verdict came by email. Martha Mitchell learned that her request for 10 customer service agents was denied. All managers were expected to “Do more with less”. As director of customer experience, Martha was responsible for the contact center of 300 agents and a product support team of 20. She understood that there were only two ways to do “more with less.”
The first was to reduce the level of inbound traffic that required human assistance. The second was to shorten handling time for the calls that did. Focusing on the first option, she examined data from the IVR, website, and speech analytics and found that about 30% of inbound contacts were contained within the self-service option. The data showed that improvements in the menus and navigation patterns for billing and payment queries could increase containment to 40%. This equated to three agents.
Another interesting finding from her research was that over half of queries originated from smart phones. Martha learned about technology that presented menu choices and navigation patterns on smart phones. This allowed users to complete their interaction from their phones just as easily as from a PC. This was worth exploring and she asked one of her supervisors to contact the vendor.
Martha then looked at first call resolution rates. As with most contact centers, about 25% of inbound calls were follow-ups. Speech analytics revealed two reasons. First, agents could not grant even modest concessions, and this meant delays as approvals were sought. She fixed this by specifying concessions agents can grant at their discretion. The other major cause was lack of information. For this, she asked one of her supervisors to research knowledge management software. She understood that these systems could produce the information agents needed as easily and quickly as a Google search.
Now she was half way to her goal of achieving productivity gains equivalent to 10 new agents. She needed to reduce handling time by 20%. She was intrigued with virtual agents, also referred to as “chat bots.” These use a combination of natural language speech recognition and artificial intelligence to handle complex conversations in a free flow form like human agents. As a bonus, bots can also automate back office processes. Now she had the productivity uplift of 10 new agents.
Automation in the contact center began in the 1970s with the invention of the automatic call distributor and has accelerated ever since. Today the contact center is one of the most productive organizations in the enterprise. The good news is that intelligently deployed automation not only cuts costs but also improves quality and reduces compliance exposure. While fewer agents may be required, those that remain on staff enjoy higher morale because they can focus on the more challenging interactions rather than mundane repetitive work.
Founder and Chief Analyst
[About the author] Dick Bucci is a 35-year veteran of the telecommunications industry. Past experience includes executive level positions in sales and marketing with leading telecommunications product vendors and value added resellers. His market research and consulting career began in 2001 with Frost and Sullivan. In 2009 he formed Pelorus Associates, a consultancy that provides market research reports, custom consulting, white papers, and public relations services to 35 companies based in five countries.
Publish Date: November 14, 2017 5:00 AM
When it comes to providing the best customer service, there are certain skills that everyone staffing your contact center should possess. The following may seem basic for many but it is surprising to me how many times these basic skills are overlooked. More often than not, it is the people themselves who make the difference when it comes to an organizations ability to provide great customer service. Here’s a list of 10 customer service skills that every person involved in customer service needs to own to be able to provide the best customer experience possible. Let’s take a look:
#1 Effective Listening
The foundation for providing great service is, first of all, the ability to simply listen to what a customer is saying. Customers are already often frustrated about something when they call, and nothing compounds that frustration more than to feel misunderstood and misinterpreted. Listening isn’t just about hearing what is being said, but also what is not being explicitly said in order to offer the best solution.
Empathy is essentially the ability to see and feel the world through the eyes of another by experiencing their emotions. In customer service, empathy means the ability to identify with and, hence, validate the customer’s problem and the consideration and respect for the customer goes a long way in giving the customer a sense of trust in the process. So, put aside your own viewpoint, and try and see things from the customer’s point of view.
Maintaining a sense of empathy will also help in maintaining one’s self-control, and that’s important because customer service reps are sometimes going to be the primary target of customer frustration. However, at the same time, it requires the skill to listen to emotion without emotion, to always be aware that that the customer anger is not directed at you personally, even if their language is, so stay calm and under control at all times to diffuse these situations.
#4 Clear Communication
If you are not a great communicator, you will probably not make it in customer service for very long. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively verbally (and written) is essential. This means getting to the problem at hand quickly and keeping the small talk to a minimum. In other words, finding the balance between being friendly and conversational and giving the right answers in a removed, professional style. Clarity isn’t just important for making your customer feel good and secure; it can also have a big effect on your bottom line.
#5 Positive Language
Language is a powerful tool and the way in which you use it will determine whether your words are received positively or negatively. Especially in the realm of customer service, small shifts in the way reps communicate by using only positive language can reap tremendous benefits. Being optimistic can help a customer stay positive, too. By simply using positive language that reflects confidence in finding a solution, this will reassure a customer and improve the entire customer experience.
#6 Persuasive Speaking
While speaking clearly and positively are both essential aspects of effective communication, it doesn’t end there. Keeping your customers at the center through active persuasive speaking skills can dramatically help your customer interactions. The key to persuasive speaking is always putting the focus on the target of persuasion, i.e. the customer. For example, always calling a customer by name, using the active tense in words or phrases, as well as avoiding your personal thoughts or opinions that take the focus off the customer.
#7 Time Management
Proper time management in customer service means supplying customers what they want in a timely, efficient manner. While there is obviously a need at times to spend more time on particular customer issues, customer service reps need to be aware when they cannot help a customer. If you don't know the solution to a problem, the best kind of customer service means transferring a customer over to a rep that does. Sometimes, trying too hard to help a customer will cause more harm than good.
#8 Learning Ability
One of the most essential customer service skills is indeed the ability to learn about and internalize everything there is to know about each product or service, as well as the various solutions for various circumstances, and to have them on the tips of one’s fingers. This also includes company offers, sales, as well as the knowledge of all call center technology to deliver customer service with full confidence.
Adaptability means being able to take that knowledge and use it to adjust to any situation at any given time, making it one of the most essential customer service skills. One service interaction may completely differ from another, so customer service reps need to be constantly prepared to handle the pressure of coming up with the right solution for every problem that gets thrown at them at the moment.
#10 Desire to Improve
In customer service, there’s always room to improve. Customer service reps who aren’t looking to improve themselves and find solutions to their own problems are going to be hard-pressed to consistently find the solutions to other people’s problems.
Publish Date: November 3, 2017 5:00 AM
More and more customers are choosing to use low friction channels as their point of contact for customer service. Chat, which includes automated chatbots and interfaces to chat with live agents, is perhaps the most suitable of all such channels.
What is the one thing your customers want more than anything else when it comes to customer service?
They want to obtain a relevant, accurate and complete answer to whatever the question is that they have. They want to do it the first time they contact you. And, they want to get on with their lives.
Abandonment rates from customers who have a question that they are unable to have answered are high. It is also a fact that the vast majority of customers say that the most important aspect of good customer service is a company that values their time in the same manner that they do.
Understanding this, it’s no wonder that a growing number of customers are seeking to leverage self-service and agent-assisted digital communication channels for their customer service needs. These are the channels that offer the least amount of friction.
Perhaps the most notable of the low friction channels is that of chat which is rising in popularity all the time. In fact, according to the Dimension Data Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report 2016¹, Web chat experienced a year-over-year rise of 33.8%.
This is not all that surprising, since the same report points out that average wait time for a response to an e-mail contact is 299 minutes, while for social media it is 78 minutes. Web chat, in contrast, averages four minutes in comparison.
Why do customers like it?
The beauty of chat, as far as the customer is concerned, is that they are able to quickly get to their answer, without first having to navigate an arduous interactive voice response (IVR) menu.
Another key benefit is that it enables them to resolve their challenge in near-real time, which harks back to their desire to not waste their valuable time. Most people today are adept at communicating via text and short messages, which means that live chatting with a company is not all that different to texting with a friend.
People like to multi-task when they can, and chat provides them with just such an opportunity. Instead of feeling as if they are wasting time trying to resolve an issue, they can do other things while in the midst of such a chat.
Don’t forget your agents
Remember that while chat offers customers many advantages, all of these will be worth nothing if the agent handling the contact is unable to resolve their problem effectively and rapidly.
This means that your agents need to be well trained, and properly equipped to perform at their absolute best so that they can provide the client with the necessary clarity, ease, and simplicity that today’s consumers expect.
Also, ensure agents have a complete view of the customer. When they make contact with the client, they need to already have a complete, contextual understanding of the customer’s previous transactions, calls and issues, so that they are well-informed and ideally positioned to reliably solve the customer’s queries.
Focus on getting it right
For most contact centers, delivering the highest level of customer service requires that you properly manage your different channels. If you are going to add chat, whether it be automated or not, you will need to ensure that your agents are skilled in handling or assisting this particular channel. Of course, automated chatbots often require far fewer agent skills.
Ultimately, most contact centers will be unable to effectively offer every contact channel that customers’ demand, as this will dilute resources too much.
The best approach is to concentrate on just a few channels so that you can serve your customers at a high level. In the end, offering a channel like chat as your low friction channel, rather than as just one of several such options, will likely not have a major impact on your customers. They will naturally choose the available channel that they feel will be both easy and effective.
There is no doubt that chat is truly a win-win scenario. From the client side, it gives your customers exactly what they are demanding, namely lower-friction access to fast, personal service.
At the same time, it can be a goldmine for your organization, as it affords the opportunity to gather a host of digital insights that will allow you to craft a smoother customer service experience for both your agents and your clients. Done right, chat will deliver the kind of fast, easy-to-use and simple service that your customers will love.
Publish Date: November 2, 2017 5:00 AM
Today, the emergence of robotic process automation (RPA) technology is stirring the winds of change in the business world, offering benefits which have a lot of appeal to various organizations and departments. However, one particular unit where robotic software provides a specific value for businesses is in their call centers where manual processes play such a significant role in the day to day operations. By automating these repetitive processes, RPA is delivering efficient, cost-saving solutions to customer service operational and technology challenges, and hence, helping call centers achieve more while completely changing the customer experience for the better. Let’s take a look:
Optimizing Operational Costs
On a tactical level, the cost savings of RPA are far-reaching, both regarding operational and infrastructure costs. As businesses begin to scale, the hiring of new employees is both costly and time-consuming. Throw in the typically high turnover rate in BPO markets, and the whole process becomes a severe drain on a company’s ability to reach its optimal operation cost. With RPA, instead of hiring new employees, or even outsourcing labor, businesses can instead deploy cheaper robotic resources to perform many of the same roles. In fact, a KPMG report claims that labor automation through RPA can reduce an organization’s operational costs by 75 percent! At the same time, RPA ‘s ready-made automation technology is fully adaptable, so it can be fully implemented without changing anything in the current system’s architecture. In fact, most RPA software doesn’t require coding to program; the only real criterion is to know call center workflows and processes. The result is that RPA empowers business call centers to manage their operation, and thus lessening their dependency on the IT department. It was for this reason that Frank Casale of the Institute for Robotic Process Automation (IRPA) suggested that “most IT infrastructure support jobs will be eliminated over the next three years,” and even further downsizing operational costs.
Boosting the Customer Experience
On a strategic level, the real value of an automation tool that handles all the small, repetitive, everyday tasks that fuel daily operations within the call center, such as opening cases, checking order status, record updates and much more, is in empowering call centers to deliver a superior customer experience. How so? First of all, all call center staff can react to customer interactions in various ways, for better or for the worse. Therefore, depending on which agent the customer speaks with on a given day, that customer can have a drastically different experience. RPA brings consistency to the customer experience, while at the same time, RPA has a near zero percent error rate, so the experience is seamless for the customer. This also includes the post-call, customer follow-up needed to finalize the issue at hand, validate customer satisfaction or offer new business opportunities to those same satisfied customers. Furthermore, when a customer does reach a call center agent, instead of questioning the customer for data and jumping from one system to another just to access the relevant order information in the systems, which can be timely and frustrating for the customer as well as the agent, RPA enables the customer service agent to integrate data into fields across all associated systems with only one entry, which speeds up the handle time considerably, and enhances the overall customer satisfaction.
Indeed, RPA is officially ushering in the era of automation in the call center, and the benefits of improved greater employee efficiency, optimal customer satisfaction operational profitability is becoming harder to ignore, for agents and customers alike!
Publish Date: October 25, 2017 5:00 AM
As customers have more brands to choose from than ever, the businesses that win the battle of the customer service wins the game. In today’s world, more and more brands are chosen based on whether customer experience matches their rising customer centric expectations, and customer service plays the most critical role in creating that experience. It’s no surprise then that the top trends in customer service heading into 2018 all have one thing in common, the customer themselves. Let’s take a look:
#1: Personalizing the Customer Experience
Last year the Microsoft State of Global Customer Service Report reported that 72% of customers expected call center reps to already know their contact information, product details, and service history as soon as they make contact. Unfortunately, only 17% of these brands have so far actually integrated their customer data across their digital assets, and it would suffice to say that these expectations have only risen since then. Today, however, big data analytics has now made it easier than ever to track customer preferences, trends, and insights with fantastic accuracy. With such data more accessible than ever, look more and more brands to finally make the push to leverage customer data from their CRM to create more tailored experiences in 2018 and beyond.
#2 Customer Service on the Go
Did you know that of the 60% of customers today who opt for self-service, only 20% actually succeed, while the remaining 80% end up in the call center? Not succeeding on the self-service journey takes a toll on customer satisfaction, along with the costs savings IVR was meant to provide. It’s no surprise then that with already over 1 BN smartphone users worldwide and growing, IVT is being replaced in favor of Visual IVR. Visual IVR transfers the existing IVR voice technology onto phone screens where customers can see and touch their way through visible menus, speak to a specific call center agent or even see how long they will need to wait in line, and then choose a callback option, all from the comforts of their smartphones. Visual IVR is thus finally fulfilling many of the unfulfilled promises Voice IVR, including self-service empowerment, agent efficiency and cost savings for the call center.
#3 Artificial Intelligence is Here
As customers voice their complaints across all channels, via phone, online chat, e-mail, social media, etc., many companies are still failing to respond fast enough to satisfy their customers across the board. Slow response times are the primary culprit why lousy customer experience creates an estimated $62 billion lost by U.S. businesses each year. Thankfully, the antidote has arrived to keep up with the explosion of omnichannel customer service, chatbots. These intelligent virtual assistants can provide fast, cost-effective, human-like customer service and can be easily deployed on almost any interface, for instant customer service at all times. In short, by cutting response times down to the minimum, while providing a round the clock presence, chatbots not only increase the efficiency of the call center operations in various ways, they also drastically improve the overall customer experience.
#4 Don’t Be Anti- Social
Why do customers find social media and messaging support so attractive? It’s because they already spend much time on their phone, now they can get customer support from the comfort of the apps they are already on, and resolve their issues quicker than ever. In fact, according to Social Media Today, the average person will spend 116 minutes on social media every day! And 60% of that social media time spent is on a mobile device, and these numbers are only going to continue growing as platforms develop even further at the expense of traditional media avenues. This transformation in customer behavior is forcing companies to respond and to follow the customers where they are. The bottom line is if your brand wants to offer a customer experience that will keep customers coming back, don’t be anti-social.
#5 Automating Business Processes
As RPA software robots can automate repetitive rules-based tasks by imitating the way live agents engage with applications, RPA is already dramatically changing the way companies approach many of their vital business processes. While the customer is not even aware of its presence, since the customers don't actually interact with RPA bots, however, the increased speed of the internal processing they most certainly are aware of. Throw in easy integration with a relatively low cost, and it’s no surprise that RPA currently has such a high rate of adoption compared to other automation tools. In fact, according to Gartner, demand for RPA tools is growing at about 20% to 30 % each quarter. Expect to continue to see this trend continue to skyrocket in the coming years.
Today, providing easy and fast customer service, no matter what channel your customer chooses is the name of the game and is essential to keeping customers loyal and driving real business value. Are you ready to play?
Publish Date: October 25, 2017 5:00 AM
It’s no secret that the holiday season is often the busiest time of the year for many businesses. In fact, 20-40% of annual sales for retailers are generated over the last two months of the year, so the pressure on holiday retailers is high. For many customers, the way in which a company delivers its customer service determines whether they choose to give that company their business. The bottom line is poor customer service costs money, and customers are willing to abandon your brand even after a single negative experience. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that create such a challenge for call centers this time of the year and the solution that is primed to deal with them once and for all.
While the holiday shopping season equals more sales opportunities, it also means that call centers experience a giant spike in call volume as customers flood the lines with all sorts of inquiries, questions, and complaints regarding their purchases. If these spikes are not efficiently managed, this can result in a corresponding spike in dropped calls and long holding times that leave customers unsatisfied. More than any other time of year, customers just want to get answers to their questions as quickly as possible so they can check off their holiday shopping list. You need to take into account that people will hang up when they can’t reach a live agent, and 45% will drop an online purchase if their questions are not speedily answered. You begin to understand that, while the holiday season may be a fun time for shoppers, it’s make or break time for businesses depending on how well they are set up to manage these spikes.
Call time isn’t the only thing consumers are concerned with. They also pay attention to whether customer service reps answer questions effectively to resolve problems. In fact, expectations customers have for contact centers tend to be even higher over the holidays than they are the rest of the year. However, when the hold times begin to grow, and the customers’ patience starts to run out before they even start the conversation, it only makes the agent’s job increasingly harder, and more unlikely to meet those expectations. Put it all together, and it’s no wonder a comprehensive solution is crucial to take advantage of high volume surges like the holiday shopping season so that retailers can celebrate as well.
The Ultimate Solution: Jacada Visual IVR
Today, with over 1 billion smartphone users worldwide and growing, web self-service is now the most commonly used communication touch point—the first and only channel ever to exceed the phone. However, Voice IVR’s has severe limitations that drive customers crazy, including the endless menus, confusing options, poor voice recognition, limited ability to collect information and more. Therefore, despite the widespread investment many brands have made in Voice IVR, many customers are calling anyways, especially during the holiday season. In fact, studies show only around 20% resolve their issue on their own without calling a contact center. Therefore, for many companies, the trend towards Visual IVR is more critical than ever for efficient call center management, and today the provider used by more organizations globally than any other is Jacada.
Transformation: A Personal Digital Experience for Your Voice IVR
Today, 84% of customers report frustration when agents lack access to the necessary personal information which is required to address their question. On the other hand, Jacada Visual IVR delivers a personalized customer-specific digital experience to voice callers, allowing customers to transition from the digital channel to the agent with full context, significantly reducing call handle times and improving self-service success rates by more than 10% based on their deployment at Fortune 500 companies around the world.
Centralization: All your Digital Assets in a Single Location
Jacada Visual IVR enables agents to pivot an inbound call to a digital interaction and thus surface all of a brand’s digital assets, in a single location, to voice callers. This significantly increases the chances that customers will also pivot and utilize a company’s various digital assets to efficiently solve all their self-service their needs.
Mobilization: A Cross-Channel Customer Service Experience
Jacada Visual IVR enables a cross-channel customer service presence, offering customers a seamless transition from self-service to assisted service, whether on the web, mobile or voice engagement, while consistently maintaining the context of the customer’s original intent.
Virtualization: An Interactive Virtual Agent
Jacada Visual IVR deploys the Jacada Intelligent Assistant, an interactive virtual agent to guide the digital customer journey. Available 24/7 across all channels, the Intelligent Assistant utilizes natural language processing which allows it to understand the intent of the customer and intuitively help customers with all their sales and customer service support related needs.
Despite the challenges of the holiday season, call centers that adopt the most beneficial solutions, such as Jacada Visual IVR, to best assist their customers, employees, and companies as a whole, can fully take advantage of the holiday season, and turn into one to be truly celebrated.
Publish Date: October 6, 2017 5:00 AM