Shaping the IVR of the Future Will Require New Technology and Some Common Sense

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • As any customer service satisfaction survey will reveal, today’s interactive voice response (IVR) systems, which were designed to encourage self-service, cut costs and speed up interactions, are brimming with problems and often result in an increase in customer calls to live agents and diminished overall customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • While there has clearly been an increase in the technological tools and data applications available to boost IVR performance, it is also clear that common sense often remains the key missing ingredient in many implementations.

As I have discussed in previous blogs, despite the intent to make customer service faster and better, I believe IVR systems continue to cause more problems than they fix in today’s customer service marketplace. Without a doubt, they continue to be the source of a growing amount of frustration in the minds of the customers they were designed to help. While there is little doubt that the expanding set of technological advances ranging from the ubiquitous nature of cloud applications and services to the availability of big data analysis and context-related personalization will help, we should not overlook the benefits of common sense to improve customer service using today’s available tools and those yet to be introduced. Read more of this post

Customer Surveys Are Everywhere, but Are They Helping?

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • With recent advances in survey technology, customer post-interaction surveys are pervasive. However, my experience is that their effectiveness is well below an acceptable level.
  • From an enterprise perspective, the real measurement of success in the customer service world is customer satisfaction and reducing the number of contacts needed to solve a customer issue. So, shouldn’t surveys focus on those issues?

As someone who has spent the last 15 years examining contact center technologies and processes in great detail, I realize I am often overly critical of customer interactions in which I am personally involved. My long-term intent is not simply to criticize the operations of companies with which I interact, but more focused on making the customer service world a better place. Therefore, I never miss a chance to complete a post-interaction survey whether it be via e-mail, callback, text or the U.S. Postal Service. In addition, since many of my contact center vendor clients develop and offer survey solutions, I am always on the lookout for ways they may improve their products and services to enterprise clients. Read more of this post

Effectively Incorporating Presence Management into Customer-Centric Strategies

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • The advent of unified communications (UC) in telecommunications, coupled with the convergence of enterprise networks to IP-based infrastructure, introduced a great deal of promise for presence management in the contact center marketplace. But, it is obvious that most enterprises have yet to maximize the potential benefits of presence management in their contact centers.
  • Used properly, presence management can result in subject matter experts (SMEs) across the enterprise being effectively and efficiently converted into on-demand experts to assist customer service representatives in more quickly and accurately answering customers’ questions, improving the overall customer experience and enhancing corporate profitability.

In a unified communications system, a ‘presence’ feature indicates to a user whether or not another UC user on the network, or sometimes even outside the enterprise network, is available and able to communicate with colleagues, agents and customers. In the contact center, the initial manifestation of this UC capability is often the creation of a ‘buddy list’ which can be used by agents to reach another agent or other knowledge worker with a single click on the keyboard and little wasted time and effort because they know who is available and who is not. When customer service representatives (CSRs) working in a contact center need assistance, they often need to reach out to an SME for help. Traditionally, this help was limited to within the physical boundaries of the contact center and consisted of a simple glance around the room to see who might be available to help. Read more of this post

Are Cloud Contact Center Offerings in Need of a Strategy Booster Shot?

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Although cloud-based contact center solutions have been popular for several years now, many companies that have not yet made the move from a premises-based to cloud-based solution are being held back by the lack of a solid business case analysis.
  • Vendors wishing to drive cloud-based customer service sales need to provide the materials and tools that drive a strong business case analysis, or stand to lose market share in the next few years.

Last week Aspect Software announced an aggressive upgrade program to stimulate the contact center market to move from dated premises-based automatic call distributors (ACDs) to its newer Aspect Hosted and Zipwire cloud-based customer care software solutions. The campaign, entitled “Ask a CFO,” is targeted directly at Aspect’s major contact center competitors – Avaya, Cisco, Genesys and Interactive Intelligence, which have been encroaching on Aspect’s installed base recently. The program provides discounted pricing, as well as the newly-developed Aspect Value Analyzer tool, to assist prospects in developing a cloud solution business case. Given the fact that Aspect is coming off a two-year corporate turnaround during which it changed out its executive team, redesigned its channel organization, reorganized its disparate family of offerings and added several new cloud-based products, this is an excellent strategic move. It is the perfect time to become more aggressive in seeking a larger portion of mind and market share that was lost during the company’s turnaround efforts. Read more of this post

The Growing Role of Text Analytics in Voice of the Customer Strategies

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • As customer care organizations recognize the importance of including ‘voice of the customer’ (VoC) tools in their contact center analytics toolboxes, the capture and analysis of unstructured data will grow in importance.
  • Because text analytics provides the ability to include large streams of input from a broad collection of unstructured data sources, it is a very complementary solution to other analysis tools such as speech analytics and post-call customer surveys.

In previous blogs I have commented on the growing importance of collecting, managing and using “big data” effectively to drive proactive efforts designed to improve overall customer service. Today many companies base their customer feedback analysis, or so-called VoC solutions, on a single data collection tool such as post-call surveys or speech analytics. While these tools can provide excellent insights into the customer’s thought process, emotions and purchase intentions, they are often limited by their focus on a single source of information or the fact that customer inputs are confined to a set of multiple choice questions posed to a customer. I am finding that as VoC campaigns mature, companies are beginning to realize that capturing the benefits of big data analytics requires broadening the collection of data to all the data that is available to them. This should include analysis of voice calls, web chats, responses to open-ended questions of customers and notes recorded by contact center agents and other front-line employees. Read more of this post

Is PureCloud’s PureMatch the Next Customer Service Trend or Just PureFolly?

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Contact center queuing and routing based on traditional automatic call distribution (ACD) technology has always been a very linear process in which the next customer is typically matched with the next available agent. However, “who is next” never really translated to “what is best” for the customer or the enterprise.
  • PureMatch, an innovative application in the newly released PureCloud customer service offering of Interactive Intelligence, takes a new approach to matching customers to agents, which could prove to be better for customers and agents – or not.

Interactive Intelligence’s PureCloud – the company’s new cloud-based communications, collaboration and customer engagement offering, due out in Q4 of this year – is provided via the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. PureCloud reinforces the company’s thought leadership image in the customer service industry by offering several interesting and innovative applications, including: PureCloud Social Customer Service (SCS), an application that enables customers to view agent profiles and performance prior to selection of the agent; PureMatch, a system that automatically pairs customer interactions with contact center agents, based on multiple attributes and criteria; and PureCloud Directory, a corporate directory that makes enterprise user profile content available including skills, work experience, location, etc. Although all these applications are relevant to customer service operations, I believe it will be the criteria-based matching of PureMatch that will get the most attention in the contact center space. Read more of this post

Enterprise Connect 2014: WebRTC and Video to Occupy Center Stage

Cindy Whelan

Cindy Whelan

Summary Bullets:

  • Video and WebRTC occupy a major role for Enterprise Connect conference sessions as well as planned announcements.
  • Cloud and mobility are constants in the collaboration marketplace, as enterprises increasingly embrace usage-based collaboration and communications solutions as well as manage employee demand for mobility options.

Next week, I will join my colleagues in Orlando, Florida at Enterprise Connect, one of the longest-running voice/UC/collaboration trade shows in the industry and a great opportunity to spend some time with companies I speak with frequently and get a look at new entrants to the market.  A quick glance down a recent list of upcoming show announcements included (not surprisingly) a long list of WebRTC and video-related launches along with a healthy dose of contact center enhancements.  I’m particularly interested to get an update on where WebRTC stands in the collaboration and communications service landscape.  Last year, WebRTC figured prominently at Enterprise Connect, with an entire mini-conference on the topic, and that is the case again in 2014.  WebRTC is still in its early stages: there are a number of aspects of the service still under development, and WebRTC is still not supported by Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple Safari web browsers.  Over the long term, WebRTC has the potential to be a real disrupter in the market, letting vendors and service providers implement easy-to-use voice and video applications for B2B and B2C communications.  Video, specifically ‘personal’ desktop applications, is another topic that seems to be generating a fair bit of buzz and publicity in advance of the show, as providers add services and features that take the complexity out of video conferencing in a bid to make it as easy to use as audio. Read more of this post

Contextual Routing Takes Contact Center Efficiency, and Customer Satisfaction, Up a Notch

Cindy Whelan

Cindy Whelan

Summary Bullets:

  • Context is an important element in helping contact center agents respond to customer needs efficiently; it also supports cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
  • Customer online activity provides a wealth of information; using this data in real time to address negative experiences supports customer retention and protects brand perception.

Everyone should be well aware that every time a mouse is clicked on a website or a call is made to purchase a product or service, both transactional and personal information is collected in a database.  Contact center operators collect a wealth of information from customer interactions; this information is often stored and reviewed at some later date for a variety of purposes, including employee training, outbound marketing campaigns and customer satisfaction surveys. Read more of this post

Tis the Season for Contact Centers: Give Agents the Tools for a Happy Holiday

  • Cindy Whelan

    Cindy Whelan

    The contact center is a critical element in building customer satisfaction and improving the customer experience; agents’ ability to respond to customer requirements effectively can set the tone for future business or sour the relationship.

  • A recent survey from Dimension Data highlights declines in customer satisfaction and first call resolution rates.  Contact center operators need to ensure coordination across contact center operations and provide agents with the tools and processes to resolve an issue or escalate that first call as frequently as possible.

Dimension Data recently completed its annual Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, a global survey of 817 contact centers.  The Summary Report included some interesting findings in the area of customer satisfaction and first contact resolution:  customer satisfaction scores have declined from 82% to 77% from 2011 to 2013, and first contact resolution rates have dropped a whopping 12%, from 85% to 73% from 2009 to 2013. These declines are surprising given increased enterprise focus on the customer experience during these time periods, the growth in customer data collection, and the improvements that have been made to contact center tools and multi-channel agent contact options. Read more of this post

Gambling with Customer Transaction Information Can Be Risky Business

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • The use of credit cards to complete sales transactions in a contact center has become commonplace, but assuming all contact centers have taken appropriate actions to mitigate the risks associated with these transactions is a mistake.
  • Since standards are not yet fully developed, customer service managers should implement agent-assisted solutions that enable agents to obtain personally identifiable information, such as credit card numbers and codes, without ever actually seeing or hearing it themselves.

Contact center compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), often referred to as PCI compliance, brings key security benefits to customer service operations and non-compliance can often have severe, long-lasting consequences.  PCI is the global data security standard that businesses and their customer interaction centers are required to follow in order to accept credit/debit card payments and to store and process related information at their site and/or transmit cardholder data between locations.  The obvious and immediate benefits of PCI compliance are likely to be increased customer security and trust, decreased customer churn and an improved status with credit card payment partners such as American Express, MasterCard and VISA, which will often require PCI compliance of their business partners.  Longer-term indirect benefits can include the fact that your center will likely be better prepared to include other security regulations as they are rolled out, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), if applicable to your business situation.  The bottom line is that if you operate a contact center that handles customer personal and financial information, PCI compliance is becoming more important, if not mandatory. Read more of this post