Paying for Faster Customer Service – Brilliant Innovation or Terrible Idea?

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Segmenting customers into different levels of service by classifying them into distinct groupings (e.g., platinum, gold and silver) and doling out different levels of service may be common practice for airlines and financial institutions. However, it is normally implemented by segmenting users based on usage and/or spending levels prior to the service cycle and providing different access points like unique dial-in numbers or dedicated websites for priority service.
  • Having all customers call the same number, join the same queue and then openly soliciting them to pay an extra fee to move up in the service line is something very different that will prompt some long-time customers to wonder why their loyalty has little value to the company.

As consumers we are all becoming accustomed to paying a premium for better and/or faster service. We do this to get into premium lanes on a freeway, priority boarding on an airplane, and even to get to the head of the line at some theme parks. However, when I read last week that EE, a mobile phone company in the UK had introduced a charge for jumping ahead in the queue on customer service calls it just sounded like a bad idea that, if accepted by their customers, could fundamentally change the landscape in customer care forever. EE has implemented this new option in their customer service center by having an automated message greeting customers calling into their centers during busy times and offering to jump them up in the queue for the flat fee of fifty pence, or roughly one U.S. dollar. Although EE has not reported on what percentage of customers are opting for the offer, the good news is that, according to the articles I read, EE mobile customers are speaking out against the offer and strongly rejecting the idea of paying extra for expedited service. EE customers, especially those who have been customers for years, are unhappy that all calls are not being treated equally as they had been in the past. Several commented they are considering switching mobile carriers to those not charging such a fee. 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

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

Contact Centre Services Give the Chance to Be Even More Agile for Enterprises Large and Small

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • The world of contact centres is changing quickly, with traditional on-premises solutions beginning to look inflexible and unwieldy.
  • A combination of multi-channel functionality and analytics tools can make contact centres powerful business solutions beyond customer service.

In previous blogs, I have written of the critical importance of customer service.  In particular, this has focused on the opportunities provided by viewing social media as an integral part of a company’s customer contact strategy – both for direct communication and picking up early signs of service interruptions.  If it isn’t working properly, somebody will have tweeted about it. Read more of this post

Mobility Will Shape the Contact Center of the Future

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Technological developments are making customer service for mobile customers simple, convenient and very effective across many vertical markets and for a select group of special, high-net-value clients.
  • Thanks to a cloud-based infrastructure, delivery systems and sophisticated contact center applications these mobile systems and customer service applications are coming from new and very agile sources and spreading quickly.

In previous blogs I speculated about how mobility was affecting the contact center in terms of the end user customer, the agent and the contact center supervisor. Admittedly, I was simply projecting out a few years and commenting on how current technology was changing basic factors such as where the agent worked, the channel from which the customer entered customer support, and how the supervisor could monitor his/her center. Recent conversations with contact center application developers and people who manage centers have caused me to extend my vision further into the future. Read more of this post

Customers Expect Around the Clock Care from SMEs – Social Media is the Answer

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • Customer service is the best way to keep and lose customers, customer contact is the best way to increase sales. Social media is a cost effective way of keeping in touch with customers.
  • Increased use of video can help strengthen a businesses’ connection with its customers.

O2 has published a survey suggesting that 72% of customers in the UK will ‘never forgive’ a small business for poor customer service. In the majority of circumstances customers can accept some mistakes; it is the way they are dealt with that ultimately defines how the consumer views a business. O2’s survey also reinforces the known phenomenon that bad experiences are much more likely to be shared by customers than positive ones. Customers want to be able to contact businesses quickly and increasingly, to get that response at any time of day or night. Hosted contact centre solutions are an excellent way for SMEs to improve their accessibility to customers. Enterprises should also now expect that their contact centre solutions are truly multi-channel combining more traditional IP telephony with online features including IM and click-to-chat.  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

The Cloud – Simply a CapEx/OpEx Choice?

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • The cloud approach to telecom solutions is catching on like wildfire as a growing number of vendors offer a cloud version of their products and some report that cloud solutions already account for the major portion of all sales.
  • In addition to a shift of expenditures from a large capital outlay to a monthly operational expense the reasons companies are moving to the cloud fall into a few more categories including; flexibility in changing capacity levels, speed in adding applications to premise-based solutions while protecting current investments, and disaster recovery back-up.

While much is made of the CapEx versus OpEx comparison of premise- versus cloud-based solutions, it seems those decisions are limited, for the most part, to end users that are in the start-up or “greenfield” mode of their lifecycle. Conversations I have had with many enterprise end users regarding the premise versus cloud decision process, as well as vendors selling telecom solutions, suggest many purchasing situations fits into one of three scenarios. In scenario 1 the business has a premise-based solution but appreciates the ability of the cloud to add capacity when needed and shrink capacity when activity slows down. Such a situation could be a retail contact center with a premise-based solution that must expand and shrink based on the seasonality of their business. Adding remote, home-based agents via a cloud offering is the perfect solution. Scenario 2 are end users with a substantial investment in a premise-based solution but a requirement to add applications and broader functionality quickly and efficiently without scrapping the not yet depreciated investment. The application of a “hybrid” solution allows the business to add applications to existing solutions without scrapping the premise based solution prematurely, before it is fully depreciated. In scenario 3, a few end users see cloud solutions as a method of providing a disaster recovery, back-up system to their premise-based system that will take over operations when disaster strikes. In this situation the cloud solution can be run in parallel to the premise solution and the cloud could take over if and when the premise-based solution fails for any reason, maintaining operations. Although the disaster solution may add significantly to operating costs, in many situations company revenue streams can be preserved, which make it a feasible investment. Read more of this post

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. Read more of this post

Step Three in Mobilizing Your Contact Center – Let Management Roam

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • The ubiquitous nature of tablets and smartphones, coupled with the breadth of network access now made available via private and public clouds are making these endpoints valuable tools in managing systems and business processes remotely.
  • Changes in the contact center are occurring rapidly based on new and advanced technologies and the supervisory role of the management team will be affected positively as the use of tablets and smartphones allow supervisors to manage agents and processes more effectively, while roaming inside or outside the enterprise.

In my two previous contact center mobility blogs, I discussed making agents mobile by sending them home and providing a seamless customer experience via a smartphone. Recently while walking the aisles of the Enterprise Connect 2013 exposition this year something got my attention very quickly. Smartphones and tablets were everywhere and their use is transitioning from being a personal communication endpoint to a tool that can be used to simplify and enhance the user interface for demonstration and management purposes. A specific example of a contact center company making this transition is Voice4Net, a provider interactive voice response (IVR) and contact center applications for the enterprise, The company was introducing its new contact center management interface based on the iPad, to be used by contact center supervisors working remotely. The time to mobilize the contact center management team is now upon us. Read more of this post