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

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

Improving High Contact Center Attrition Rates – Not Easy, but Worth the Effort

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • A recent Dimension Data survey report based on an annual contact center global benchmarking survey concluded that front-line customer service staff (contact center agents) are leaving their positions at a growing rate.
  • The cost of replacing a contact center agent can amount to a year’s salary when the direct and indirect costs of recruiting, interviewing, training, start-up times and the disruption of customer service and satisfaction are considered.

I recently reviewed the summary findings of Dimension Data’s “2013/14 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report,” which is based on an extensive survey of 817 contact center decision makers across 79 countries and 11 vertical markets and has been implemented each year for the last 16 years.  Given the rapidly changing technology in the contact center industry, it was somewhat surprising to me that the study reports customer satisfaction levels are down for the fourth consecutive year and first-contact resolution rates were still showing no improvement.  However, most disturbing to me is that the agent attrition rate is up 26% since last year’s survey.  As anyone who works in customer care knows, the human resource portion of a contact center budget typically represents anywhere from 65% to 75% of total contact center expenses.  Given that the direct and indirect costs of replacing an agent could in many cases amount to an agent’s annual salary, and the average annual agent ‘churn rate’ across contact centers is approximately 35%, this trend can cut into company profitability very quickly, if not reversed. Read more of this post

We Suspected Contact Centers Would Move to the Cloud; Now We Know Why

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Improved cloud-based contact center solutions as well as the CapEx-OpEx tradeoff argument appeared to be good enough reasons for some contact center managers to move their operations into the cloud.
  • In retrospect, based on feedback from companies that have made the shift, there are more reasons than we may have thought driving this shift, including some that may not have been seen beforehand.

I have written before on the potential benefits of cloud-based customer care solutions and the company attributes and vertical market requirements that, in many cases, made it a relatively simple decision to move contact center solutions to the cloud.  The most common identified drivers of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions were the increased number of technology solutions worthy of consideration and the budgeting advantages of paying a monthly fee versus making a large upfront capital expenditure on hardware and software.  In retrospect, and after discussing the topic with enterprise decision makers, system developers and several others involved in the customer care industry, I realized there may be several other drivers behind the trend to the cloud.  The list is probably longer than this and growing, but here are the additional reasons I have identified: Read more of this post

Contact Center Trends in 2014: Can the Pace of Big Change Continue?

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • It’s that time of year again – time to talk about what is coming next year.  So many fundamental changes have occurred in the contact center world in the past few years in terms of the cloud, mobility, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and multichannel customer care, it is hard to imagine what else will happen next.
  • I believe that so many big changes have occurred in technology, standards and business processes that for the next year or two contact center managers will focus on ensuring they are taking advantage of everything available to them to optimize agent workloads, customer satisfaction and center effectiveness.

Now that we have just entered into the last calendar quarter of the year, it is a natural time to start thinking about the top industry trends we expect to see developing in the coming year or two.  I have been thinking about the developments in the contact center areas that have recently changed the industry.  As a start, I looked back over the trends that had been predicted by many over the past five years.  These included broad industry-changing standards, technologies and business approaches such as the moves from hardware to software, from time-division multiplexing (TDM) to Internet Protocol (IP) and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), and from single mode (voice) to multimode customer service. Read more of this post

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. Read more of this post