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. Continue reading “Gambling with Customer Transaction Information Can Be Risky Business”

Social Media: Who Owns This Important Channel In Your Enterprise?

Ken Landoline
Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Responsibility for the social media channel within an enterprise is normally awarded to the organization that brings it to the enterprise based on a specific original need.  However, this may not be the best place for it to reside long term.
  • While marketing, public relations, IT and customer service can all make a strong case for social media ownership, the best solution may be the formation of a cross-functional team to optimize the total value of social media information.

Due to its broad scope of useful information, the social media channel is difficult to place into a specific department within the enterprise.  Marketing and/or public relations departments often initiate and manage social media tracking programs within the enterprise, because the gathered information summarizes customer sentiment (good and bad) and often requires a rapid response to avoid public relations and marketing issues.  I may have a natural bias on the issue, since I am deeply involved as an analyst tracking contact centers and customer care, but customer care groups have a right to be intimately involved in managing social media efforts based on the fact that they are the primary interface to the customer base in most corporations.  Others have argued that IT shops have a right to manage social media streams because of the technical nature of the source information: Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Smaller, less sophisticated organizations may simply assign social media tracking to a lower level or even a summer intern with a good understanding of the media streams and practical knowledge of how the information is created and by whom. Continue reading “Social Media: Who Owns This Important Channel In Your Enterprise?”

The Superior Customer Service/Personalization Trade-Off: A Decision Based on Trust

Ken Landoline
Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • An in-depth understanding of the customer, on the part of the enterprise, has the potential to provide a superior customer service experience and establish the groundwork for a high level of customer satisfaction, loyalty and longevity, assuming the enterprise makes appropriate use of the information.
  • Many customers are still reluctant to share personal information with a customer service provider because there remains a strong distrust regarding whether or not the information will be used appropriately and contained within the boundaries of the enterprise to which it was entrusted.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the ITEXPO Conference in Miami Beach and act as moderator for two breakout panel sessions focused on the topics of “customer personalization” and “creating a consistent and quality customer experience” during customer service interactions. The three panelists on the stage with me at each session represented companies that develop, sell or use technologies designed to improve customer service interactions. The companies included InAppCare, Nuance/VirtuOz, Phone.com, TSG Global and VHT. Oddly enough, both sessions gravitated to an audience-prompted discussion regarding trading private and personal information for the potential of getting better service from the enterprise. While many argued that they thought customer care solutions were far from successful in meeting their expectations and needed improvement, it was implied that they were not willing to trade their privacy to improve the situation, at least not yet. Continue reading “The Superior Customer Service/Personalization Trade-Off: A Decision Based on Trust”

Cloud-Based or Premises-Based Contact Center: Which Makes Sense for Your Company?

Ken Landoline
Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Performing total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) calculations is usually essential to assessing whether or not a cloud contact center is right for your company.  However, there are a couple of basic questions to be answered beforehand that may make the decision a lot simpler.
  • Many cloud-based contact center offerings have reached technical and reliability parity with premises-based offerings, removing major factors that were initially delaying the growth of the cloud-based customer service market.  Therefore, I am optimistic that cloud-based contact center offerings have a strong future and will be applicable in many, if not most, environments.

It is a new year with new budgets, and like many customer service professionals, you may be evaluating the pros and cons of investing in new equipment and technology for your contact center operation.  Perhaps you are even considering the economic and practical tradeoffs of a cloud-based versus premises-based contact center operation.  While it is very valuable to do detailed total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) analyses before making such a major decision, there are some facts you should consider about your customer service environment beforehand that may get you going in the right direction very quickly, based on your company’s particular characteristics and circumstances.  While there is little doubt that a cloud solution can improve operational flexibility and scalability, as well as get a system up and running more quickly, premises-based solutions may make more sense for companies with IT staffs already in place that are planning to stay with the considered technology for more than four or five years. Continue reading “Cloud-Based or Premises-Based Contact Center: Which Makes Sense for Your Company?”

Mobile Self-Help Applications Continue to Miss Customer Expectations

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Customers’ expectations for high-quality mobile self-help solutions are growing rapidly and now higher than ever, yet customers continue to be disappointed by the solutions that are ubiquitous today.
  • Brand assessments and Net Promoter Score (NPS) evaluations are closely linked to the customer’s perception of a company’s ability to meet customer service needs.  Successful mobile solutions will be a critical element of positive customer assessments in the future.

Just about a year ago, I wrote a blog entry about the growing need to connect mobile self-service and agent-assisted customer service into a continuous and seamless customer experience.  The basic message was that providers of customer service technologies need to better accommodate the growing number of customers using their mobile devices to access customer service on demand.  It was somewhat uplifting recently to see the findings of a market research study performed under the sponsorship of the VHT Corporation (formerly Virtual Hold) that quantified and corroborated many of the underlying drivers which motivated me to write the original piece. Continue reading “Mobile Self-Help Applications Continue to Miss Customer Expectations”

Unified Communications Is More a Way of Working Than a Technology

Gary Barton
Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • SMEs should talk to providers about the benefits of UC solutions and demand that providers present solutions with broader efficiency rather than a specific vendor or technology.
  • SMEs should consider UC as a way of improving both internal working practices (e.g., hot-desking) and customer service (e.g., contact centres).

Demand for unified communications (UC) solutions seems to be growing, but remains far from achieving critical mass.  SMEs often ask why a business should pay for features such as IM or shared workspace when services such as Skype and Dropbox provide some of that functionality for free.  An obvious answer to this is security and reliability; a business-quality solution should provide a much more stable service than free applications.  However, it is not an unfair question for SMEs to ask.  Paying for a suite of UC services is likely a waste of money if working practices are not changed to best utilise those services.  So, SMEs should be wary of UC underachieving unless providers show how it can help increase customers’ efficiency. Continue reading “Unified Communications Is More a Way of Working Than a Technology”

Video in the Contact Center: A Solution Looking for a Market and Finding Modest Niches

Ken Landoline
Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Video applications are flooding the marketplace, making large gains in mindshare if not market share.  The technology has become better, simpler to implement and manage, and less costly to maintain.
  • Despite the popularity and growth of video in general, video conferencing penetration of the contact center has been minimal at best.  Implementation of the technology remains limited to niche segments of the customer care/helpdesk marketplace.

It seems video conferencing technology is infiltrating just about everything we do today.  Immersive telepresence, desktop video, room-based video, and mobile video on smartphones and tablets are becoming commonplace as the technology gets better and the cost and complexities of video solutions diminish.  Given this increasing acceptance of video in our lives, I wonder if and when video-enabled contact centers will become a reality.  As I discuss the topic with customer care executives and vendors of contact center applications, most tend to agree that there is a value proposition for video in the customer care environment.  The future benefits they see include video’s potential to enhance personalization, promote customer loyalty, and improve sales effectiveness as agents and customers see each other eye to eye.  Others mention video’s potential to enhance self-service functionality with pushed video clips as well as improvements in the wait in queue with the use of targeted advertising clips (i.e., video brochures).  In addition, customer care executives generally agree that the proper use of video in the contact center could be a significant competitive differentiator for those that get there first and develop the optimal blueprint for success. Continue reading “Video in the Contact Center: A Solution Looking for a Market and Finding Modest Niches”

High Definition Voice, a Boon to the Contact Center – Really?

Ken Landoline
Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • As VoIP and SIP become commonplace in the contact center environment, high definition voice is a potentially appealing enhancement to improve agent/customer communications, which some believe would result in shortened call times and therefore reduced phone bills.
  • However, with complaints about customer service escalating, there seem to be more pressing customer service issues to tackle that cannot be solved by simply broadening the bandwidth of the voice connection in order to improve audio quality.

Recently I have been reading and hearing a great deal about how high definition (HD) voice is, or soon will be, changing the world of voice services. The major cellular carriers are planning to introduce HD voice on their mobile phone connections in the coming year, the new Apple iPhone 5 has HD voice capabilities, audio and videoconferencing providers are already offering HD voice as an enhancement to their teleconferencing portfolios, and several landline carriers (at least those outside the U.S.) are providing HD capabilities on their public phone networks. However, for HD voice to really make a difference the connection must be HD quality (between 50 Hz on the low end and 7 kHz or higher on the high end) from end-to-end, as opposed to standard voice lines that transmit between 300 Hz and 3.4 kHz. Therefore, it is not likely that customers calling into a contact center today can be connected via an end-to-end HD voice connection and that HD voice will improve the quality of the conversation between customers and agents. Continue reading “High Definition Voice, a Boon to the Contact Center – Really?”

Contact Center Investments Make Good Cents

Jerry Caron
Jerry Caron

Summary Bullets:                

  • Customer service in general and contact centers in particular play a crucial role in the health and image of virtually any business
  • The contact center market is stepping up with innovations to meet growing demands, and IT departments and business leaders should carefully examine their level of investment given the importance

The annual global spend on advertising, or customer acquisition, is roughly $500 billion. The customer relationship management (CRM), or cross-selling, market stands at approximately $50 billion. The contact center slice of the pie is $9 billion. These figures were trotted out at last week’s Genesys G-Force conference in Barcelona by the company’s top sales executive in an effort to make the case that perhaps enterprises need to adjust their priorities a bit. That Genesys—one of the contact center market leaders—would make that argument is hardly surprising, but given the irrefutable influence that customer service in general and contact center activities in particular have on brands, the fundamental point sits on a solid foundation despite the self-serving platform upon which is was delivered. Continue reading “Contact Center Investments Make Good Cents”

Harnessing Big Data in the Contact Center: A Slow but Worthwhile Struggle

K. Landoline
K. Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Contact centers have been dealing with the ‘big data’ issue for years as they strive to develop the elusive 360-degree view of the customer across an assortment of structured and unstructured data collected from billions of customer interactions each year.
  • Despite a long history of dealing with big data, there has been little progress in utilizing the information to optimize operations in most contact centers, and thanks to a lack of centralized management capabilities, data silos continue to be a major hindrance to the development of the ‘intelligent enterprise.’

Managers dealing with contact centers on a daily basis are perplexed with the industry’s sudden fixation with big data since they have been obsessed with the issue for more than thirty years in their voice call centers.  Now, the shift to the multichannel contact center, through which recorded phone calls, e-mails, faxes, Web chats, social media, and survey feedback data flow, makes the challenge even more complex and unwieldy.  How to deal with the volume, velocity, and variety of data moving through the multichannel contact center today and use the information to improve enterprise operations is a discussion worth having if we ever hope to reach the dream of the much-discussed ‘intelligent enterprise.’ Continue reading “Harnessing Big Data in the Contact Center: A Slow but Worthwhile Struggle”