Nuance - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog Page 7
Customer experience is a prime differentiator for many organizations. Many products and services are becoming commoditized and today, the experience a company provides can set them apart. This was recently showcased in the Temkin report on Experience Ratings which highlighted companies and industries at the top and bottom of the customer experience spectrum and considered their performance based on three components: Success, Effort, and Emotion.
But this got me thinking: why should a company have to wait to see their customer experience ranking until a report is released? So I determined six call center metrics that really matter in judging the effectiveness of your own customer’s experience, so you can track how you’re performing on an ongoing basis.
When we call a company to resolve an issue we just want it fixed. That’s all we, as customers, care about: a successful resolution. The questions any organization needs to ask themselves then are:
- How well does a customer successfully solve their issues in our call center?
- How well do they navigate our IVR?
The ‘Success’ metrics that address these questions are ultimately the most critical areas of focus.
First Call Resolution (FCR): This is one of the most important metrics for any company. First call resolution (FCR) is how well your company takes care of the customer on their first attempt to resolve an issue. It’s calculated formulaically as number of calls resolved / all incoming calls.
Why it matters – FCR is important both as an indicator of external customer satisfaction but also an internal metric for effectiveness of your company’s processes and technology. Get this wrong and customers must call in multiple times – putting a strain on their patience and your systems.
Containment: This is a surprisingly straightforward measurement. All call center executives want to improve the ability of their IVR to accurately and effectively answer customer questions without having to reach a live agent. That is keep them within the IVR, i.e. containment. Containment is measured by the number of incoming calls resolved within the IVR as a percentage of total inbound calls. If the IVR is poorly designed and confusing, customers will not progress and instead “zero out” to a live agent. We’ve all been through that scenario.
Why it matters – Getting containment right keeps other metrics on track. Increasing the number of people who effectively self-serve increases their satisfaction and helps the company’s bottom line. Customers are happier, agents are happier due to decreased call volumes, and CFOs are happier due to decreased need for investments.
Nobody wants to spend a ton of time dealing with issues with their bank, insurance company, or TV provider. If this becomes necessary, we want to minimize how much time we put into it. Our effort must be low. And in fact, research shows the lower the effort, the greater the loyalty and satisfaction a customer will show to a company. Consumers like to be delighted with minimal effort and reduced friction on the way to problem resolution.
Misroutes: Put simply, misroutes occur when a company’s IVR sends a caller to the incorrect destination. When someone calls a customer service line and ends up someplace they didn’t intend, it’s usually the work of a misroute. Misroutes occur for a variety of reasons, including outdated technology that incorrectly recognizes speech or confusing phone menus that force annoyed customers to ask for a live person.
Why it matters – Misroutes directly increase the effort required to close a query. Each stop along the way creates more work and extends the call. Key metrics eroded by misroutes include average handle time, containment, first contact resolution, and more. Plus, misroutes dramatically increase costs and irritate customers, decreasing satisfaction and driving churn.
Average handle time: Some calls seem to take forever, going on and on with pushing buttons and repeating information. Looking at an aggregate view of all calls together allows a company to track the average handle time (AHT), or length of time a customer is on the phone. This is a very popular call center metric and is traditionally measured from the moment the customer calls to the time they hang up – including hold times.
Why it matters – In addition to wanting to lower handle times to improve the customer satisfaction, AHT is a prime factor when deciding call center staffing levels. Knowing the typical duration of a call allows companies to successfully model the number of agents they’ll need and how best to balance workloads during peak hours.
We live in a world driven by feelings. Consumers want “Likes” on their Facebook posts. They enjoy videos showing the good in people. They are quick to rave – or rant – on social media about how a company made them feel. Organizations that tap into these emotional needs positively will generate great interest in their brand.
Customer satisfaction: “Cust Sat”. NSAT. CSAT. The shorthand and acronyms vary and every company uses one or another. No matter which one is chosen, the two most important aspects are to 1) know that it’s the measure of the overall satisfaction of the interaction or service and 2) to get it right.
Why it matters – Customer satisfaction is the number one indicator of how well you are doing to satisfy your customers. It’s also a great way to gain insight into customers’ thoughts on the products you offer today as well as identify future direction for product development and feature updates. By keeping tabs on overall customer satisfaction, companies can make adjustments quickly to improve service levels, reduce wait time, or address frequent queries. Call centers are often the front line of issues and companies can get instant feedback as to how they are doing.
Net promoter score: If customer satisfaction is the number one indicator of IF your customer likes you, then Net Promoter Score (NPS) helps you understand just HOW much they like you. Customers may like your product or service after they get off the phone with you. But if they really liked it, they’ll pass it along to friends or post on social media. The Net Promoter Score essentially allows you to measure customer loyalty. It classifies customers into one of three categories:
- “Promoter” – customers are enthusiastic and loyal, continually buy from the company and ‘promote’ the company to their friends and family.
- “Passive” – customers are happy but can easily be tempted to leave by an attractive competitor deal. Passive customers may become promoters if you improve your product, service or customer experience.
- “Detractor” – customers are unhappy, feel mistreated and their experience is going to reduce the amount of which they purchase from you.
The Net Promoter Score is derived by subtracting the percentage of detractors from promoters to get an overall NPS result.
Why it matters – As you’d guess, the more detractors you have the lower your NPS and the increased likelihood that your service isn’t very good. Detractors are more likely to spread negative word of mouth and do so much faster than if they receive average or great service. A continually low NPS score will spell trouble and ultimately impact the brand. Companies that successfully track NPS and spark action from a high number of Promoters can improve customer loyalty and drive long term growth.
Understanding and effectively balancing the metrics based on Success, Effort, and Emotion will help you achieve your IVR goals.
Publish Date: May 17, 2016 5:00 AM
A recent profile in the Wall Street Journal shows how the NBA Champion, Golden State Warriors, – for many years a league doormat – used statistical analysis to determine its traditional strategy of working all of the 24-second shot clock for a chance close to the basket (“down in the paint” in basketball parlance) was costing them points and victories. Instead, the numbers said players should be attempting more long range three-point shots. Many more.
Based on this, the Warriors redesigned their offense. Instead of making multiple passes and cuts in an attempt to get a lay-up (Figure 1), the Warriors get the ball to their best three-point shooters as quickly as possible, even if it meant they’d be taking the longer shot (Figure 2).
The result? After winning the NBA title in 2015, the Warriors went on to win a record 73 games during this year’s regular season, and having won their first two series are heavy favorites to repeat as champions.
Very interesting, but what does it have to do with my IVR?
When you examine the design of a typical IVR application, it looks remarkably like the complex, old-style basketball play:
The customer starts at the top, with a prompt that says something like “please listen carefully, our menu options have changed” and then proceeds to hear at least a half-dozen options that might, or might not, match what they’re calling about. If they make a wrong choice, they either have to go back to the top and start over, or they call “TIME OUT” and press 0 for an operator.
When management looks at the performance of such a design, they have to wonder, as the Warriors did, if there is a better way.
There is. It’s called Conversational IVR. Instead of reciting a long list of options, hoping the customer will find what they’re looking for, Conversational IVRs simply ask, “How can I help you?” Using speech recognition and natural language understanding, the IVR is then able to determine the reason for the call and provide either the right answer or a way to get something done.
Statistical analysis of Conversational IVRs show they increase containment and task completion. We’re seen companies leveraging Conversational IVR show a 5-15 percent increase in containment. Just like a Warrior being given the ball at the three-point line and launching his shot immediately. SCORE!
Of course, neither the Warriors nor the Conversational IVR would win if they didn’t put the right players on the floor. The Warriors have built their team around two of the best long distance shooters in the game, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, with a supporting cast of top-notch pros who understand the strategy and execute it flawlessly.
In the same way, your Conversational IVR needs the best speech recognition and natural language understanding capability, with applications designed by pros who know how to get the customer from “hello” to “happy” as quickly as possible on platform that performs without a hitch.
Who are you going to pick for your team?
Publish Date: May 12, 2016 5:00 AM
This post is part of a series that explores the use of human assisted virtual agents, and how machine learning and artificial intelligence are being applied to ultimately improve the customer experience.
Customer support automation is an important playing field for today’s Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning systems. This no longer means primarily call center automation, but rather users expect and use a mix of channels, including web and chat. And all of these can be automated. Some may ultimately wonder if a human or an automated customer service agent is better, but from where we sit – it’s not an “either, or.” Instead human and automated service agents might actually cooperate to get things done for the customer and ultimately offer a better experience. In other words, a human-assisted virtual agent (HAVA).
Before we look at two different ways of doing that, we first need to understand what the actual tasks are that we are trying to solve. And that starts with the fact that customers will have different problems to solve; these are called “intents.” There may be hundreds of them and they will range in complexity. The simple ones are requests for information (“Do you have details on product X,” “how do I switch feature Y on”?), which can be solved by finding the right answer in a data base of documents available to both the human agent and the automated agent. The more challenging ones will involve access to multiple backend-databases and involve doing transactions on customer data (“please change my payment scheme from monthly to quarterly”). In the scenarios we are looking at we may have automated some of the intents, but not all (yet).
In our first scenario, there is a chat going on between customer and agent. The virtual customer service agent sits behind the agent, but follows the conversations, and for intents where she can generate the answers she will do and suggest these to the human agent (for example, by quickly populating the agent’s screen). That way the agent can be much more efficient, and only has to focus on the more challenging aspects. Also she can check if the suggested answer is correct, which provides good feedback to our HAVA for getting better at her task (and we’ll come back to that below).
In the second scenario, it is actually the virtual agent who performs the chat conversation with the customer. Where she is confident she can answer the request, she will do so right away. But for intents not covered by her knowledge base or if in doubt if she has the right answer, she can involve a human agent in the background. Note that it will still be our virtual agent who gives the answer back to the customer, and this highlights an advantage of this model: the customer will experience an apparently perfect system from day one, even if she is still in her learning phase. And as she gets better she’ll just have to ask for help less and less, but the customer experience will stay the same. And of course the “getting better” is the other interesting point here.
The virtual agent, uses machine learning to get better at things, but most machine learning techniques work in so-called “supervised“ mode. That is, not only do you need data to learn on (lots and lots of data actually) but it also has to be hand labeled with the right answer. If you want to train a Neural Net to recognize faces, you need pictures with faces labeled with the correct name, for doing speech recognition we use thousands of hours of labeled or “annotated”, as we call it, speech. The nice thing in our two scenarios here is that we get data suitable for supervised learning for free: the virtual agent has access not only to the customer requests, but also to the correct answers as an agent provides them.
So, by creating a useful virtual assistant tool that can be refined by the customer service agent, we’ve solved several typical problems associated with virtual assistants: 1) We’ve reduced negative user experiences since we have a human to step in when the virtual assistant invariably makes errors. 2) Customer service agents are correcting the virtual assistant while doing their typical work: they do not have to be re-assigned to label lots of data to create the virtual assistant, instead they are just answering user questions. Finally, as the customer service agent is answering questions, they are also creating labeled training data that is exactly in the format that sophisticated deep learning techniques require, which will lead to a virtual assistant that performs closer and closer to state-of-the-art.
In Part 2 of this blog series, we will have a closer look at two specific tasks in this context and how we solve them with machine learning techniques using this data.
Publish Date: May 11, 2016 5:00 AM
Temkin Group recently released their 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings, which grades companies across different industries on the basis of customer experience. It may not come as a surprise to my colleagues in the healthcare industry that health plans were rated lowest of all 20 industries evaluated. (No health plans were even ranked among the top 50 companies, though Tricare and Kaiser can claim the top two spots within the payer vertical.)
This doom and gloom comes as consumers have raised their expectations around consumer experience, based on the online self-service standards now set by retailers, delivery services, banks, and credit card companies. In addition, more than 16 million new consumers have enrolled in health insurance through Affordable Care Act-related programs (like the exchanges), and these members are often novices when it comes to health benefits, needing more guidance than a commercial member and more interaction with the plan, by default. Combine this with the growing emphasis on member engagement and chronic disease management, and health plans have their work cut out for them.
But all is not lost! I thought Kelly Rakowski’s recent article in Managed Healthcare Executive did a nice job of laying out three areas in which health plans can improve the member experience and potentially move up in the Temkin Ratings (perhaps because they’re topics I’ve steadily beat the drum about over the past couple of years):
- Application and enrollment – As Rakowski states, “(payers need to) provide personalized, two-way communication to educate consumers about healthcare plan options that meet their individualized cost and care needs, and guide them through the application and enrollment process.” Plans need to ensure their websites are informative and easy to navigate throughout the “shopping” experience. Some plans are leveraging tools like web virtual assistants and chat for this, and many are employing proactive engagement channels like text, email and automated voice to inform applicants of status changes and actions required.
- Operations and claims management – As it stands, members have a difficult time getting consistent claims information across various “channels”: whether on the phone, in the IVR, or through the member portal. And with the rise in individual members and high-deductible plans, this component is more important than ever. Rakowski is right that “providing clear information and appropriate levels of service and support to answer customers’ questions…is paramount to an excellent consumer experience.” Plans need to employ the same omni-channel approach that banks do, ensuring that data is shared across systems (whether mobile, web, IVR, etc.) and that members have easy access to help through virtual assistants and other intelligent self-service capabilities.
- Care management and member support – Rakowski accurately points out that “(payers) should create vehicles to engage early with members, utilizing technology as well as clinically trained customer care agents…” More members are new to their respective plans these days and those with chronic or other complex care needs must be identified and interacted with early. I’m surprised at how many top plans are just now discussing the use of text messages and automated voice calls to improve enrollment in programs, boost adherence around scheduled nurse and health coach calls, or drive compliance with quality measure–related services. Some progressive plans are using self-service methods like virtual health coaches to provide guidance and education around chronic diseases. And, this is one area where member interaction is frequent enough to warrant voice biometrics (using your voice as your password) as a tool for increased security and enhanced member experience.
There’s a lot at stake here. Exchange members are increasingly fickle and bring a different set of expectations for service than what health plans are used to, and this results in lower retention rates and higher shopping rates than health plans are used to in their commercial business.
As a JD Power report recently put it, “health plans need to take a more customer-centric approach and keep their members engaged through regular communications about programs and services available through their plan. When members perceive their plan as a trusted health partner, there is a positive impact on loyalty and advocacy.”
Here’s hoping the next year brings an elevated member experience, and a spirited climb up the basement stairs into the daylight!
Publish Date: May 10, 2016 5:00 AM
It’s sad but true: Data breaches have become a way of life, but unless you’ve experienced one, it’s difficult to realize just how painful they can be. Yet with research from the Ponemon Institute that shows that the average cost of each stolen record can be as much as $200 – and can forever tarnish a company’s reputation – it’s clear that organizations of all sizes need to do all they can to protect their data.
To that end, companies are looking for consistent and effective ways to safeguard client or proprietary data. Implementing traditional security tools and attempting to anticipate hacking problems can dramatically reduce vulnerabilities. A recent article from Workflow highlights four additional steps your organization can take to improve security efforts even more.
1. Focus on what you should keep. One essential way to lower your overall risk is to create clear policies about what types of documents or records you keep in the first place. Not every record needs to be kept, and when you think about it, not every part of a record needs to be kept either.
Adopting a partial document archiving strategy can keep more sensitive data – such as social security numbers or credit card information – out of internal systems when documents are stored. This step can successfully limit what hackers can get their hands on if they’re able to access your network.
2. Take advantage of redaction. One of the hot trends in document archiving today is the storage of captured documents, scanned documents or other documents that are stored as images. These digital images have a wealth of information in them, but the risk is that hackers can get all of this information if they get their hands on these records.
One effective solution is redaction. Automatic redaction features can help users block access to their most sensitive information. For example, specific identifiers like social security numbers may have little or no business value inside a document management or archival system – and may present added risk. If users can use PDF solutions to automatically redact this information, hackers can’t access this data. Business-class PDF solutions enable users to search for words or phrases or even patterns as the basis for redaction – critical steps in saving time and improving security.
3. Protect endpoints, including multifunction printers (MFPs). We’ve written previous articles on the security risk MFPs pose, and unfortunately, the risk still exists. You also need to guard system endpoints. Look at USB ports and other access ports, and monitor them better to prevent certain kinds of insider threats and data loss. Network management systems also help. By keeping an eye on the system, and tracking sensitive data as it goes through the system, businesses can decrease the chances of being involved in an embarrassing and costly data breach.
4. Keep up on security best practices. Having an ear to the ground also helps when trying to safeguard business systems. Keeping up with items like the SANS 20, a list of recommended security controls, or news from places like Kaspersky Lab, can help business leaders to circle the wagons in an age of prevalent cybercrime.
Admittedly, it’s challenging to stay ahead of hackers, but following these best practices will help level the playing field and help you improve your overall security.
Publish Date: May 5, 2016 5:00 AM
If you manage – or ever even touch – your company’s IVR, you know the ‘classic three’ KPIs: misroutes, call containment, and first call resolution (FCR). Nearly every contact center executive depends on them, as they have a direct impact on customer satisfaction and controlling costs. But what’s the relationship between the three and how do organizations make sure they aren’t putting too much emphasis on one, which could adversely affect another?
Many companies have learned this lesson the hard way over the years. And although fundamental, businesses need to be reminded from time to time to review how they are using the metrics and increase focus on getting to know their customers – the why, when and how they contact them. This continuous effort needs to be part of the metrics discussion to create a clear path for IVR design and improvements.
Who’s making the magic work?
The best way to learn is by looking at others already leading the way. Consider the success of Amtrak, which receives more than 20 million calls per year. You can be sure they keep an eye on ways to efficiently automate as many calls as possible, while making sure they strike the right balance between customer satisfaction and cost savings. In fact, nearly 25 percent of all calls are handled within its IVR – and of the people that choose to self-serve, 54 percent reach full resolution within the automated system. By analyzing the right mix of metrics and applying tweaks to their self-service, Amtrak has seen a 53 percent lift in customer satisfaction and massive cost savings.
Enterprises and agencies globally (like American Airlines, NYC311, The State of Michigan Office of Child Services and Delta) are also reaping the benefits of analyzing KPIs and caller population to make important design changes to their IVR. The analysis can reveal important ways in which newer technologies should be used to reduce misroutes, contain calls and costs, and complete a query in the first call. By applying predictive logic, voice biometrics, proactive notifications and conversational use of natural language and dialog, interactions become intelligent, streamlined, easy, and agile – all imperatives for a great caller experience.
Join me for a Nuance-hosted webinar, “A New Twist on Self-Service Metrics: How to Get More CSAT and Cost Control from Classic KPIs”, where we’ll share more tips in greater detail on:
- The best way to identify the root cause of poor call routing, call containment, and first call resolution
- How even the most efficient contact centers misuse these popular metrics, and how it impacts customer satisfaction
- Strategies for striking the right balance across all three metrics to deliver the most effortless customer self-service experiences possible
Publish Date: May 5, 2016 5:00 AM
During the Nuance Automotive Innovation Day held March 7th in Palo Alto, CA, I had the opportunity to connect with Margarete Wies, Vice President Advanced UX Design at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America Inc. Here’s what she had to say about the future of the connected car.
Fatima Vital: What is top of mind for automakers when it comes to next generation infotainment?
Margarete Wies: People are used to taking their digital lifestyles wherever they are. They don’t want their digital life to stop when entering a car. Our customers expect in-car infotainment that supports a seamless integration – an expectation accelerated by the Internet of Things. The vehicle infotainment system becomes the digital core of the car offering technologies to enhance safety, privacy and convenience. Future Mobility is not just about cars, it is about ecosystems.
FV: How have you viewed this rapid evolution of the connected car over the last few years and more importantly, the consumer appetite?
MW: Streamlining our lives by connecting the car to the Internet of Things is a rapid evolution we experienced in the last few years. As a reaction to our customers’ appetite we launched the Mercedes-Benz Companion App. This is a great example of how we integrated contextual intelligence into customers’ habits and are evolving with their digital lifestyle. In addition to door-to-door navigation, the new Companion App uses machine learning to provide a personalized user experience by learning from customers’ actions and their environment. It extends customers’ existing behavior on their mobile phone seamlessly into Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
With our Apple Watch app, we are extending the user experience even further by assisting our customers when they are outside of the vehicle as well. The user receives important notifications about his car, walking directions to the final destination and to the parking location of the car.
FV: There is a lot of content and information being brought in, built in and beamed into the car. Where do you see the biggest challenge from a UX point of view? And how is Mercedes addressing it?
MW: Managing complexity is a big challenge. Digitalization enables us to reduce complexity, to create more convenience, better accessibility and ease of use. Our user experience design plays a significant role and follows the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy of sensual purity, which conveys a sense of simple, purist modernity.
So for our role as creators and product makers, how can we create a better user experience while living with technology? We are addressing it through a natural interaction between the human and the machine, utilizing artificial intelligence for contextualization and personalization – providing technology only when needed. The car anticipates my actions and knows me in ways that delight. I’m still in control of the experience, supported by the intelligence.
Take the sensitive Touch Controls in the steering wheel of the new E-Class. Like a smartphone interface, they allow the driver to control the entire infotainment system using finger swipes without having to take their hands off the steering wheel, and with minimum driver distraction.
FV: As you look 5-10 years out, what is Mercedes’ vision for the connected and autonomous car?
MW: We see the car growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport. The interior of the vehicle becomes a contextual and highly personalized digital living space. The intelligence of the car allows for continuous exchange of information between vehicle, passengers and the outside world. The passengers in self-driving cars can use their newly gained free time while traveling for relaxing or working as they please.
Mercedes-Benz is setting the pace in Autonomous Driving: In 2013 with the “Bertha Benz Drive,” when the S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle drove 100 kilometers along a historic route to demonstrate the feasibility of autonomous driving on both interurban and urban routes; In 2016 with the new E-Class, the world’s first series vehicle with test license for autonomous driving in Nevada; With the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion research car and its groundbreaking aesthetics and technology, which we demonstrated at CES 2015 in Las Vegas to show what the self-driving car might look like once its shape has been emancipated from the need to have a driver.
New technologies such as artificial intelligence give us the opportunity to focus on human needs even more. We can use the time in our moving space in a more valuable way. The future car will offer you more flexibility and more quality time to do what you want.
FV: What would you personally enjoy doing in a fully autonomously driving car?
MW: Well, what makes our time in the car special? Maybe it’s the time we spend interacting with others. I would use my car as my “third place,” spending quality time with my family, using it for relaxing and entertainment, as well as for my office space.
Publish Date: May 5, 2016 5:00 AM
Although it had been a while since I saw the original Star Wars trilogy, within minutes of watching The Force Awakens I immediately was reminded of the essential and integral role robots play in the films. Not only do they have distinct personalities, they have emotional intelligence, guiding and complementing their human counterparts, and acting (both literally and figuratively) as wingmen. From the co-piloting abilities of the droids to the etiquette protocol and translation assistance that C-3PO provides, the assistive nature of these machines beckons a future with even tighter, more natural integration between technology and society.
We have entered what MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee term “the second machine age,” an era in which we are learning to harness the power of digital technologies to apply massive data sets, algorithms, and machine-learning capabilities that improve how we do things. Although still nascent, the robots and virtual assistants currently being developed leverage large amounts of data and knowledge to determine a person’s intent, process the request, and then respond and react appropriately.
Inference, not interference
But today’s technology doesn’t stop with call-and-response activities. One of the goals of machine-learning and AI is to automate certain tasks by replicating how a human would process, handle, and perform them. This means that as denizens of “the second machine age,” we are beginning to design new systems that can successfully handle complex problems and find alternative options when an unforeseen complication arises.
This human-machine experience becomes even richer when systems are able to recognize and leverage interpersonal factors such as body language and tone to understand and emulate human intention, instead of requiring specific directives. Machines that can learn the subtleties of human behavior and simply know what action best matches the environment and situation have endless potential. These systems are not only assistive and able to solve complex problems, but are also able to classify information as positive or disappointing and respond empathetically in tone and gesture. Starting to sound like a familiar gold-plated droid?
We are quickly approaching this level of contextual interaction and problem-solving capabilities, which is, at its core, what C-3PO and the protocol droids do—they empathetically assist. And it is the way they respond that help foster deeper relationships between man and machine, not only helping us accomplish tasks, but providing a sounding board, a second opinion, or basic advice. As we continue to make advancements in robotics, sensors, cognitive computing, and artificial intelligence, we are charting toward a future where intelligent machines not only exist, but become an extension of ourselves, working toward a common goal. We are entering a new era—one full of partnership and promise…
May the Force be with you.
Publish Date: May 4, 2016 5:00 AM
In 2014, Pharrell Williams sang and danced his way into our collective consciousness with his infectious hit “Happy”, inviting us to clap along if we felt “like a room without a roof,” urging us to emotional heights that could not be contained by four walls and a ceiling. If only consumers felt that way about the companies they do business with.
While most companies who sell to consumers claim that when interacting with them, their customers are able to accomplish what they set out to do without too much effort, these companies are failing customers emotionally.
When the Temkin Group asked consumers how they felt about their most recent interactions with any of the 294 companies included in the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings survey, no company got an excellent rating, synonymous with customer delight. Even more disappointing, 40 percent of companies were rated as poor on the emotion metric, indicating their customers were left feeling at least somewhat upset by their interaction with the business.
You might think if a customer can do what they need to without breaking a sweat, that would be enough. Yet providing an emotionally-positive experience is the most important factor in earning and keeping loyal customers. How consumers feel about an experience heavily influences their future purchasing behavior – and Forrester has found that negative emotions have a much bigger impact than positive ones. Make a customer angry and they’re not only likely to stop doing business with you, they’ll tell everyone they can about their negative experience. In a recent survey, Wakefield Research found 78 percent of customers will take action after a single bad interaction!
On the flip side, positive experiences can go a long way when it comes to creating the coveted “promoter” customer, the one who readily tells friends and family that they should also patronize your brand. Eighty-eight percent of consumers will take positive action if they have a good experience with your business.
Want more promoters and fewer detractors? Of course you do. Here are three things that can improve the emotional impact of your customer interactions:
Anticipate their needs
One of the most effective ways to improve your customers’ experience is to predict their needs and proactively offer solutions before they experience a negative consequence. A good example of a company that does this is Southwest Airlines, which got the highest rating of any airline in the Temkin survey. When Southwest has to cancel a flight, they immediately reach out to their passengers using text and voice messages that offer rebooking options. The result for Southwest is happier customers and a reduced influx of calls into their contact center.
Don’t provoke them
Some interactions are more likely to spawn negative emotions than others. Attempting to collect a past due account is one of these. Customers are often defensive when it comes to their finances, especially when dealing with a cash flow problem. Having a highly motivated but inexperienced employee calling them to make a demand for payment can start an argument faster than you can say “you can’t get blood out of a turnip.” A better approach is to use a digital communication such as a voice or text message that objectively presents the fact that an account is late and provides interactive response options for resolving the issue. If the customer then selects the option of speaking with a representative, it’s their choice and more likely to result in a positive outcome, from both a transactional and emotional perspective.
Take complaints seriously
It’s been said that complaints are like medicine, sometimes hard to swallow but good for you. That’s true, but only if you resolve the issue raised by the customer and then work to change the behaviors that generated the complaint in the first place. To do this, you need an effective complaints management program. Your program should not only deal with formal complaints submitted directly to you or to third parties like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but also be capable of identifying negative emotions expressed by a customer during an interaction that don’t result in a formal complaint.
These are ticking time bombs that you want to root out and defuse like a champion minesweeper. To do this, you need tools like speech analytics that examine your customer interactions for keywords, phrases, and in the case of telephone contacts, acoustic characteristics that indicate customer stress or dissatisfaction. The most sophisticated of these tools allow supervisors to intervene while the customer is still engaged, providing real-time coaching to customer service agents or taking over if necessary.
If you do these three things, will your customers start dancing and singing like Pharrell? Your “voice of the customer” surveys are a good place to look for the answer. But don’t stop with just these three initiatives. Use the feedback to create a model of what matters to your customers, and keep a short list of pain points to eliminate or fix to keep them happy.
Publish Date: May 3, 2016 5:00 AM
Last week, my wife and I drove to Berlin for the weekend, and when we tried to find ‘Hotel Bellevue’ all the high-end navigation system in my premium brand car could tell us was ‘nothing found.’ This made me panic for a moment, afraid, that I made a reservation at a non-existing hotel (this was my wife’s immediate assumption), but I realized that was not the case and eventually we found the hotel and spent a lovely weekend in Berlin. Still, it made me think, why did that happen?
Today’s connected car navigation systems allow access to a variety of different location based content services (LBS). Some of the content resides within the car and some of the content sits in the cloud. Location based cloud content (‘off-board’) typically includes Hotels/Restaurants, Fuel Stations, Parking, Traffic, etc., whereas the on-board content includes the navigation map, which is augmented with a complete destination address list and a limited set of POIs (Point-of-Interests). What’s happening here is important: the cloud resources are extending the on-board capability by a long list of POI categories (such as restaurants, train stations, hospitals, medical doctors, schools, tourist attractions, landmarks, etc.) and individual listings by name like Hotels/Restaurants, Landmarks, Amusement Parks, and so on.
The problem is that cloud and on-board content are accessible via different menu items in my car’s navigation menu. Before performing a POI query, I have to specify which type of search I want the system to perform. For the user, this means a breach in the user experience. It’s inconsistent and leads to confusion. As a consumer, I don’t know if the information that I’m looking for resides in the vehicle or in the cloud, and I don’t even want to bother. Now going back to my weekend trip… It turns out my wife had chosen the on-board menu path when searching for the Hotel in Berlin. Can you blame her? How is she supposed to know that this information is only available via the cloud?
Voice is the most natural interface so I am using the voice recognition feature a lot in my car. But, current voice recognition applications still require that drivers first say, “POI Search” followed by the query, such as, “Hotel Bellevue” or “Fuel station nearby.”. We need to fix this: remove the gate command (“POI Search”) and instead, just say what you want – no extra steps. For example, searching, “Hotel Bellevue in Berlin” with voice technology, which is partly embedded and partly in the cloud, will return the desired result. The voice system needs to have the hotel name in its vocabulary and be able to classify the search query as a POI/hotel search. To solve this technological challenge, access to and deep knowledge of big LBS databases is essential. Therefore, Nuance recently signed partnerships with major providers of POI and address data including industry giants like HERE, Infogroup, Factual, and AutoNavi.
But let’s not stop there: future in car voice user experiences will need to go even beyond what LBS can provide. Music and radio as well as news, other entertainment, and even CRM services should be incorporated into the voice experience. The All-In-One menu is the goal here. The user can enter his query haptically, by gesture, or by voice, and without following hierarchic voice menus or using gate commands like POI Search, Radio or Address Entry. The technology will classify the query into the right context.
Voice technology and content need to grow together to create smart, contextual and, ultimately, proactive experiences for the driver. Technology that finally adapts to the personal needs of the user – isn’t that what we all want?
Publish Date: May 3, 2016 5:00 AM
We have all been through that frustrating moment: a website or IVR asks you for a password and you have no clue what it is. You type or say a likely string of letters, numbers, and special characters, but it fails. Maybe you run around looking for the scrap of paper on which you scribbled it down. This experience is stressful.
Stress is a part of everyone’s day to be sure, but companies should not be adding to it. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, companies need to design customer touchpoints that minimize what psychologists sometimes call “microstressors.” In an ideal world, companies would provide products, services, and support so effortless that customers never need to contact them at all.
A recent Temkin report on Experience Ratings sheds some light into the companies and industries at the top and bottom of the customer experience spectrum, looking at the specific component of “effort” within those experiences. Temkin describes effort as the ease in which a customer can complete an interaction. While we agree with this stance, we would extend the goal to minimizing stress in general. Stress shares the similar physiological manifestations as effort, such as increased heart rate and increased sweating. One can think of heightened effort as a driver of stress, or at least being highly correlated with it.
And minimizing stress and effort is no longer a nicety, it’s a requirement for businesses to succeed in a customer-centric world. That’s because reducing customer effort has become imperative to achieving positive business results. Eighty-seven percent of consumers agree that customer service has a significant impact on their decisions to do business with a company.
A poor experience can easily be avoided by creating a seamless, effortless, and speedy experience for the customer. But that’s a lofty goal. How does one create an effortless experience?
Here are three ways we suggest approaching your customers to provide a stress-free journey and reap the positive business results:
1. Be conversational. Poorly worded menus can cause customers to end up going to the wrong place.That menu takes 26 seconds to play out. Even worse, imagine you were calling about a bank account you were trying to access online. Might you have chosen option 1 by mistake before hearing that option 4 existed? Imagine you had called to open a new bank account. Might you have chosen option 1 before hearing that option 6 existed? Say you wanted to know if your local branch was open. What option would work? Making such decisions takes cognitive effort and can lead you to the wrong self-service or call center agent.
Instead, whenever you have a problem or a question or want to buy a product, a conversational IVR allows you to simply ask the automated, conversational interface for what you want and have the system respond appropriately. And it should work the same, whether you’re on the phone, using a mobile app, or on a company’s website.
2. Get personal. In today’s hyper-competitive business environment where the consumer is overwhelmed by choices at every turn, personalized service is a necessity, no matter your industry, if your company is to survive and thrive. Revisiting the password example from earlier, one can also minimize customer effort by doing away with typed passwords entirely. Have you ever called a friend or family member who knows your voice so well that all you have to do is say “Hi” into the phone and they know who’s on the other end of the line (even without Caller ID)? In those cases, your voice is your unique identifier. That is the reasoning behind voice biometrics, which allows your customers to authenticate using the sound of their voice.
3. Measure how effective you are. It would be cool if we could regularly track a customer’s heart rate and pupil dilation as they interacted with an IVR, getting a direct measure of their effort level. For now, duration is a key factor in measuring effort. The number of steps required in a task and the difficulty of each of those steps can both be by tracking the amount of time a customer is on the phone with your company. Companies should make every effort to minimize a customer’s time on the phone with your IVR, your queue, and with an agent.
Publish Date: April 29, 2016 5:00 AM
This post is designed to deliver helpful information related to optimizing your infrastructure. More specifically, this content will help network and server managers optimize IT infrastructure for network printing.
Today, print management is undergoing a revolution. Historically focal areas have been centered on reducing the “cost per page” metric. Examples include applying authentication at printers/MFPs, reducing print volumes and utilizing cost effective printers, and eliminating excessive high cost devices. This approach only addresses part of the issue.
If you expand the scope of the problem, you will find that IT organizations continue to wrestle with increasing costs associated with the explosive growth of data, including supporting ever growing print streams and document rendering activities. There are opportunities to optimize computing, storage, and network assets while ensuring users printing needs are met.
This series will explore the most common way network printing is deployed in large organizations. In addition, we will take a look at alternative solutions that will lower TCO and optimize CPU and network resources, while maintaining user performance and security requirements. A strong partnership between the printer and server management teams can yield significant benefits for users, as well as position IT as a value- add partner to business units.
How Moore’s Law affects network printing
The growth of data is outpacing the decline in processor, networking, and storage costs historically brought about by innovation.
Businesses are struggling to scale up their networks and data centers to keep pace with the explosive growth of data. Until now advances in network, processor and storage technologies have enabled businesses to absorb increases in data volumes with relatively inexpensive infrastructure upgrades. However, the rate of technological advances in data processing, storage and compression is slowing while the growth in data continues to accelerate.
Moore’s Law, the well-known adage in the semi-conductor industry where, in effect, the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years increasing computational power or performance exponentially without diminishing returns, has been documented as slowing down.
Yet silicon is approaching its limits for transistor density. Soon CPU manufacturers will need to deliver compute power using next-generation technology, such as quantum or molecular computing, which will inevitably make computing, storage, and networking technology relatively more expensive for a given amount of processing power.
As a result, the growth of data is outpacing the decline in processor, networking, and storage costs historically brought about by innovation. Therefore, businesses can no longer count on an ever-cheaper supply of network bandwidth and server CPU cycles to handle an ever-expanding volume of data.
Now businesses must look for more economical solutions that decrease the demands placed on networks and data center servers. Network printing is one area that places very high demands on networks and servers. New approaches to organizing network printing components have emerged that eliminate the demand for server CPU cycles, that eliminate print traffic on WANs and that cut LAN print stream bandwidth load in half.
The most common network printing architecture
It also worth taking a closer look at the most common network printing architectures, what roles the print servers play, and explain how print streams affect WAN and LAN network traffic and print performance.
Traditional network printing over a LAN or WAN requires print servers. In a large office environment with thousands of users, there are often dozens of print servers deployed within the corporate LAN infrastructure. When a branch office or retail store is considered, a Wide Area Network (WAN) connects the main office to the branch offices. Within the branch office, LANs support the local network traffic.
Since network printing streams can take up large amounts of bandwidth, print servers are often placed within the branch office to optimize WAN bandwidth, which is usually considerably lower speed and more expensive than LAN bandwidth. Occasionally, print servers are located in the corporate IT center to send print jobs to remote printers across the WAN. While this type of deployment provides central management, performance issues such as latency can make this an unacceptable option to users.
The role of the print server
The primary role of the print server is to be a traffic cop. It manages where the print jobs go, as well as queuing to ensure print jobs are prioritized appropriately. Print jobs from desktop clients are sent to an assigned print server, along with the proper “directions” for the specific print job and target printer. Print drivers are often maintained on the print server, and then downloaded by users on individual desktops.
If a print server is deployed within the LAN to support remote printers, it must send print streams across the WAN to the remote printer in the branch office. Depending on user requirements, this may not be a cost effective use of WAN bandwidth, causing many IT organizations deploy print servers locally within the branch office where it utilizes the LAN to distribute print streams.
When you look how documents are printed and routed to the network printer, the desktop application initiates a printing request and sends the request and print stream to the print server, which in turn puts it in a queue and assigns it to the proper printers queue. The print server uses the “directions” dictated by the desktop print driver for the target printer. Print data streams can vary in size from very small (small page counts with minimal formatting) to very large (hundreds of pages with embedded images). Deploying print servers to serve users’ needs should be carefully architected based on printing requirements and planned bandwidth requirements.
WAN bandwidth is much smaller and more expensive, which makes it a poor choice for sending large scale print streams from a print server housed in a data center to a large scale printer at a remote branch office. In this case, it is better to deploy the print server locally in the branch and service the users across the LAN, which optimizes less expensive ample bandwidth. This way the users get the performance they need using cost-effective network bandwidth. What happens when you have lots of branch offices with small numbers of desktop PCs, such as bank branches, or retail stores?
Total cost of ownership
IT departments are always trying to lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their hardware and software assets. TCO includes not only the acquisition price, but also the maintenance of both the hardware and software that resides on it. In addition, per unit support costs (i.e., help desk) can also be applied to desktop PCs and servers, as well as each unit share of power, cooling, and heating costs. According to Gartner, the average annual TCO for a server is estimated to be $6300.
When you take into account the average annual TCO costs of servers, this presents an interesting dilemma to IT managers. Is it cost efficient to deploy network printing using the traditional print server architecture in these types of environments?
In future articles, we will explore an emerging alternative to the traditional print server architecture that optimizes less expensive computing resources as well as network bandwidth.
Publish Date: April 28, 2016 5:00 AM
If you’re a consumer electronics company, life isn’t always easy. From callers checking their order status and rescheduling installations, to customers inquiring about member rewards or tech support, those companies’ IVRs have a lot to handle.
With so many customers and demands, one leading electronics retailer is tasked with managing more than 1.8 million calls every month! To efficiently manage this high number of calls and help customers get the answers they need, the retailer chose a Conversational IVR from Nuance.
We spoke with Nuance’s Principal Project Manager Jim Stoeckel, who oversaw this particular IVR deployment, and has more than a decade of experience working with companies in this exact situation – high call volumes, increasing customer expectations, and an antiquated IVR that’s not up to the task. Jim shared key learnings for how other companies can have a successful implementation.
What drove this electronics retailer to upgrade its IVR? What was the problem and why did it need to be solved?
The retailer’s previous IVR was made up of several individual applications, each set up to address specific reasons a customer might be calling. Depending on the number you dialed, you had a different experience and could complete different tasks. Nuance streamlined the process by providing one application that would allow callers to accomplish any task, from one place.
The Nuance-hosted application also deployed a Natural Language menu, to allow for a more conversational and friendly application, while also enabling callers to be connected to the right agent as necessary. And because different product categories need different handling, Nuance deployed Natural Language technology to assist with product selection. Nuance’s conversational approach spurred more human-like exchanges like this:
IVR: “What can I help you with?”
Caller: “I want to buy a TV.”
IVR: “Sure, what TV are you looking to buy?”
Caller: “Samsung 40-inch smart TV”
IVR: “I’ll get a team member to help you out.”
In the old IVR application, callers had to sit through a list of options and then select “Sales” or “Purchasing” from maybe two or three menus down, then have to select a category such as “Appliance” or “Home theatre.” This resulted in a longer caller experience which often led to callers reaching the wrong department or being misrouted.
Is the retailer using any kind of data to be predictive?
Yes, the IVR knows who’s calling and will predict the reason for their call, such as an upcoming order or appointment. This helps callers reach their desired resolution with less effort than traditional IVR menus could provide. We did this using an upfront proactive notification functionality, in partnership with the company’s existing customer information systems, in an attempt to predict the reason for a customers’ call. We find that having even small amounts of data – such as past purchasing history, membership reward information, upcoming order or appointment information, as well as current subscription service status – allows our predictive technology to more accurately assist callers.
Are you seeing any metrics that show the success of this deployment?
While we’re currently in the process of reviewing metrics for the last six months, we have some key metrics around one of their busiest weeks. Overall, the application was focused on reducing misrouted calls (improving routing with NLU), improving self-service, and increasing containment. Once the application was deployed, we saw a 30 percent reduction in service agent transfers, as well as an improvement in routing – meaning callers are getting to where they want right away. In addition, all tasks for self-service showed improvement from the previous application, the repeat callers dropped from 35 percent to 25 percent (reducing overall call volume), and containment stayed positive.
While we’re currently in the process of reviewing metrics for the last six months, we have some key metrics around one of their busiest weeks. During that week we saw a 30 percent reduction in service agent transfers, as well as an improvement in routing – meaning callers are getting to where they want right away. In addition, all tasks for self-service showed improvement from the previous application, the repeat callers dropped from 35 percent to 25 percent (reducing overall call volume), and containment stayed positive.
What made this a successful implementation?
People, people, people. The retailer was very knowledgeable, in terms of both the business and in the IVR sector. The company understood what was needed and allowed the Nuance team to provide recommendations and use our expertise to help guide them in the right direction. By having a true partnership with the customer, we were able to combine our deep experience in creating powerful IVR applications with the retailers’ knowledge of its’ own business to deploy an application that produced positive results for both customers and the business.
Publish Date: April 28, 2016 5:00 AM