by Christine OBrien on December 13th, 2013
Calgary-based airline WestJet lit up the social networks last weekend with its inspirational viral video, showing passengers who lined up to tell “Santa” what they wanted for Christmas – and then watched in disbelief as their gift-wrapped holiday wishes rolled down the baggage claim.
It wasn’t just the “magic” we saw in the eyes of a little boy unwrapping a brand-new Android tablet, or Mom and Dad getting the camera they always wanted. Much of the true magic happened for us as viewers with our hearts pounding in time with the WestJet volunteers as they raced down store aisles clutching lists, cutting from hidden camera operators to frenzied shoppers to careful gift wrappers. Not every wish was able to be granted (no world peace this year, rats), but the company did successfully deliver 357 gifts, ranging from socks and underwear – which, to be fair, the recipient did say he could “really use” – to a “really big” big screen TV.
WestJet won’t disclose exactly how much was spent to make its holiday wishes come true, but we can wager that given its months of planning and two major corporate sponsors, it was on par with the efforts that many companies pour into holiday marketing campaigns around this time of year.
Many retailers rely on the holiday sales to bolster year-round numbers, making it all the more important to capitalize on customer’s feelings of good will and evoke positive feelings about the brand. Businesses who are bold enough to step outside of the marketing “machine” and make a case for nontraditional spending might benefit from asking what else their marketing budget could accomplish. What good could they do for their customers? And would that say more about them as a brand than a flashy new ad campaign?
Given the viral success of WestJet’s video, it’s definitely worth asking the questions.
by Christine OBrien on December 11th, 2013
One of the biggest detractors from contact center productivity is agent underperformance. Those who lack the necessary skills and experience to deliver consistent service not only create bottlenecks and negatively affect the morale of others on the team, they can lower customer satisfaction and damage customers’ perception of your brand. It is absolutely critical to staff your contact center with agents who are capable of coming up to speed quickly and performing well from the start.
With annual agent attrition rates averaging 30-100%, the challenge is often finding and keeping qualified employees.
Consider how much time and expense is wasted in the hiring process simply sorting through applications from unqualified candidates, not to mention phone screenings and face-to-face interviews. In an ideal world, you would be able to eliminate “bad fits” from the start and only see applications from individuals with the characteristics required to succeed in an open position.
Effective applicant pre-screening can help you raise the overall quality of your applicant pool while enabling you to focus your hiring efforts on selecting from the most qualified candidates. This unique solution allows hiring managers to easily:
- Screen candidates for relevant education, experience and contact center skills early in the hiring process.
- Test potential agents’ skills (such as business reasoning, computer navigation, audio typing, etc.) to easily identify candidates with the right abilities.
- Administer personality assessments as part of the application process to screen for desired character traits.
- Provide detailed job descriptions to candidates to reduce turnover resulting from unclear or unrealistic expectations.
- Reduce the onboarding learning curve by hiring agents with the minimum skill requirements needed to start the job.
Of course, the best pre-screening is looking at what you already have. Evaluating the skills and traits of your best performers separates your top performers from lower performers and incorporate this information in building the assessments that potential new hires take. By tying in workforce performance management analytics to your defined criteria, you can match candidates’ skill and personality traits to specific positions and flags the traits and cognitive abilities that will hinder success. This helps screen candidates and narrows the hiring field so interviewers spend time with pre-qualified candidates that are best suited for the position.
With customer experience becoming a key differentiator in today’s competitive marketplace, revenue is often literally riding on the interactions that take place between customers and agents. Businesses can no longer afford to place subpar performers on the customer service “front lines.”
Read more about Aspect Job Match and how it can help you achieve higher agent retention, increased recruiting efficiency, improved new hire productivity and elevated customer satisfaction.
by Kathie Worman on December 10th, 2013
Multi skill is an Aspect Workforce Management configuration option that lets you model skill based contact routing in forecasting staffing requirements, scheduling, and tracking intra-day performance. The purpose of a multi skill configuration is to allow contact centers to strategically manage a cross trained workforce and obtain efficiencies as well as savings for payroll costs. On paper, it sure sounds good. The reality is when most corporations look to utilize skill based routing calculations in Workforce Management it becomes muddled and hard to manage. With a multi skill routing set, the calculation of required staff (in fact, the definition of required staff) is fundamentally different from that of a single-skill routing set. This difference affects both the methods and the results of forecasting, scheduling, intra-day performance and segment optimization.
Before you change your routing set, there are a few considerations that will help you get the most out of a multi skill configuration. You must first have an understanding of what you expect from Workforce Management. A fundamental problem is to define your strategy on how you want your calls to be handled by agents and not model how it is happening today. In other words, just because it what is happening, is it truly the best way? Other considerations include:
Size of staff groups
We have all heard that the larger the staff group the more efficient it will be. Ignoring the powerful pooling principle will force Workforce Management to apply algorithms and run simulations using a very fine level of detail thus creating a larger margin for error. Therefore, it is always recommended to create staff groups that are twenty or more to receive the full benefits of your configuration.
Define workload in the multi skilled model
Understanding the workload of the agent pool will assist you in defining the additional parameters within the application for modeling. Baseline strategies can be as simple as defining which call types an agent is expected to handle during a shift and which call types you would utilize agents for JIT (Just in time) strategies.
Understand the ACD routing
Contacts that are routed to an agent after they have been in queue or met other ACD thresholds cannot be modeled within the application. These post call routing strategies are designed to get the call answered after the service level goals cannot be met. The purpose of Workforce Management is to staff to meet service level objectives; therefore it is easy to see where the two would disconnect.
Check your processes
Who is able to make skill/application changes to the ACD agent profiles? How is that translated to Workforce Management? How is Workforce Planning Analysts notified of contact routing changes? Do you have a solid intra-day performance management process for segment entry and reforecasting? How often are staff groups and ACD profiles audited to insure accurate modeling? All of these questions need to be answered before you move to a multi skill routing set.
Once you have an understanding of your multi skill environment and have built your routing set are you done? Unfortunately this is not a “set it and forget it” type of environment. It is a good practice to periodically review your staff groups, agent skill sets and ACD routing to insure your configuration best models your current situation.
by Donna Fluss, CEO, DMG Consulting on December 9th, 2013
Back offices are people-intensive organizations that often handle and process large volumes of complex paperwork. Senior executives would like to minimize these operating groups, as they are expensive and not typically revenue generators. For the past 10 – 15 years, enterprises have invested in business process management (BPM)-type initiatives to eliminate their back-office departments and related costs. Most of these consulting-intensive engagements have not achieved their goals. There are now more back-office employees than at any time in the past, and in many organizations the staff keeps growing.
Back offices would benefit from an emerging set of tools and automation that improve workflow and efficiency, and reduce the amount of re-work that these departments perform. Real-time work management applications have been introduced into the market to address the back-office processing challenge. These solutions perform the role of “traffic cop,” delivering the right work to the right employee at the right time in the right way. They also track and control work so that supervisors and employees have oversight and insights into what is happening at a task level in the department overall and for each employee, in real time. In essence, real-time work management solutions are the 21st century replacement for “pigeon holes,” which have been used to distribute work for much of the past 50+ years (and are still used in a surprising number of organizations all over the world).
If your department is still using pigeon holes, manually distributing and tracking work items, or not realizing the expected benefits from a BPM initiative, it’s time to take a look at the new real-time work management applications. Implementing these solutions will give your business an opportunity to re-think, optimize and automate existing processes. Selecting the right solution and a partner with proven expertise and vertical know-how will yield significant benefits, including staff-related savings and quality improvements. It’s time to invest in your company’s future.
by Dawn Ely on December 6th, 2013
The holiday season is here, and with it comes one of the busiest times of year for contact centers. On the blog last month, we offered advice to help your company prepare to meet the needs of customers reaching out to you for their holiday shopping, travel, and transportation needs. Whether your customers are tweeting, emailing, or calling in with questions the old-fashioned way, your agents can help make the season brighter by providing excellent service on every channel, every time.
Be better prepared for the holidays by checking out the blogs below:
Top 10 Reasons Why Aspect is the New Aspect
By Tim Dreyer
Aspect is passionate about helping enterprise contact centers deliver truly remarkable customer experiences across every conversation and every channel. Wherever our customers are looking to remove communication and workflow barriers or automate more productive business processes, Aspect wants to be there to help them build it… READ MORE
Creating Delighted Customers with Multi-Channel Customer Contact
By Christine O’Brien
What lessons can best-in-class companies provide for organizations that may not be creating the same delight for their own customers? Aberdeen Group in its white paper, “Multi-Channel Contact Center: Delight Customers Where They Live,” distilled the behaviors of these best-in-class companies into three key recommendations for multi-channel contact centers… READ MORE
A Big Shortcut for Big Data
By Spence Mallder, SVP, GM Workforce Optimization, CTO
Although it’s a slow evolution, enterprises are coming to realize that big data can be extremely valuable. In the contact center, knowledge about the customer and history of customer interactions can and should affect how agents engage customers. But big data typically requires big dollars and big disturbances to your existing systems… READ MORE
Top B2B Tech Trends for 2014
By Alton Harewood
Technology observers around the world are looking ahead to 2014 identifying the key trends and developments. Gartner recently released their top 10 Strategic Technology Trends that appears to be largely based on the progress of the 40+ technologies they are focused upon in their “2013 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.” A Forbes contributor also recently released a more subjective list of seven trends to watch. The customer revolution and the consumer power that it brings continue to be a driving force for technology adoption and innovation… READ MORE
Infographic: Making Customer Service Less of a Holiday Hassle
By Tim Dreyer
A new survey offers timely insight into shoppers’ attitudes about customer service around the holidays, revealing that three out of four consumers (74 percent) think this experience is more of a hassle now than at any other time of the year. In fact, an overwhelming majority (91 percent) of those surveyed believe that companies should be better prepared to address customer service issues that arise throughout the holiday shopping season… READ MORE
Sorry, I’m Not Sorry: Consumers Lacking Holiday Spirit for Customer Service
By Jim Freeze, SVP, CMO
It’s clear consumers are looking to be delighted by brands not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. And as customers take more control over their relationships with companies, delivering a consistent and exceptional customer experience is paramount, especially with low expectations for retail sales and the shortened shopping season this year… READ MORE
How is your company preparing for the holiday season? Leave us your thoughts in the comments!
by Kim Martin on December 5th, 2013
Social customer care is an emerging area of customer contact fueled by the demands of today’s most active, socially connected customers who are looking for businesses willing to engage and respond on their terms. Enacting a well-planned social strategy not only lets you proactively send the right messages at the right time, it lets you respond to individual issues as they arise on a channel many customers are already using on a daily and even hourly basis.
However, too often businesses fail to recognize these opportunities to connect with customers and participate in the social conversation as it occurs.
According to one commonly cited study, nearly one-third of respondents (32.9%) felt they have been either neglected or outright ignored by companies on social media sites. When confronted with this kind of “antisocial” behavior, 45% of customers who responded said they’d feel angry and 27.1% said they’d stop doing business with the company altogether. That’s not all: when a customer complains to a company over social media and the company fails to reply, 88% of respondents said they’d feel less likely to buy from that brand again.
Considering that more than 70% of customer complaints on social media go unanswered, you could be taking a big risk with customer loyalty that feeds bottom-line earnings.
Learn what steps you can take to ensure your business isn’t neglecting this important customer segment. Join us as we explore the topic of social care with our peers from KANA, Oracle and LiveOps at the upcoming live web event produced by destinationCRM.com and CRM magazine, Social Media Goes Beyond the Contact Center, on Wed., Dec. 11 at 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET.
We’ll cover how to:
- Understand the context of social chatter and customer intent across all channels.
- Empower service agents to resolve issues faster and increase customer satisfaction with a socially-enabled contact center.
- Use social media to get ahead of service issues.
- Build an end-to-end strategy with actionable plans encompassing sales, marketing, and customer service.
Hope you can make it! REGISTER NOW>>
by John Amein, VP Product Management on December 4th, 2013
In the many conversations I’ve had regarding the merger of Aspect and Voxeo, one of the most common topics of discussion is open standards, and specifically, how the Voxeo commitment to open standards will translate in the merger of the two companies. At Voxeo, our development process has always involved a commitment to ensuring our products are “unlocked” at every layer – enabling customers to integrate easily with other applications and reporting tools, even if those products are from our competitors.
For example, our platform for IVR, text, and mobile web application development and deployment, CXP (formerly known as VoiceObjects), has the ability to run on voice portals and VoiceXML voice platforms from many companies, including competitors of Voxeo and Aspect. This ability means customers can build, deploy, and operate CXP applications in any of these environments and even mixed environments, achieving portability of applications with no additional development effort. In contrast, development tools from other vendors may constrain their customers by locking applications to only that vendor’s voice platform even though the platform supports industry-standard VoiceXML, or requiring additional applications to be written or purchased to support operations, performance management, run-time management, control, and real-time analytics.
I am pleased to declare that we are introducing the “unlocked” approach as part of Aspect’s product strategy.
All Aspect products going forward will now be developed with an open, unlocked mindset. The Voxeo approach toward supporting competitor platforms remains the same with Aspect, ensuring Aspect customers will enjoy the same freedom going forward as they did with Voxeo.
Aspect is focused on only one thing: Make it easy for our customers to engage with their customers. Therefore, we in Aspect will strive to make interoperability as easy as possible for our customers, so we earn your business through great product and great support, not by implementing a technology shackle. We know your end goal is to deliver truly remarkable customer experiences across every conversation and every channel, to remove communication and workflow barriers and to automate more productive business processes, and we want to be there to help you build it.
I would like to encourage you to reach out to me or to anyone at Aspect or Voxeo at any time if you want to learn more about product integration, our commitment to open standards or how we can help you deliver on your customer experience goals.
by Bryan McCloud on December 3rd, 2013
A year into my first job at a contact center I got two surprises in the same week. I was offered a front line management role and a rescued husky puppy named Sierra. Accepting the management position was a no-brainer and Sierra eventually won me over with those blue eyes. I decided that night I was going to be the best manager/puppy parent the world had ever known. I had plenty of room for Sierra to be a house dog and the team I took over seemed engaged. This was going to be easy, or so I thought.
To put it lightly, the first month was a train wreck. At home Sierra was gnawing cables, couch cushions, and even a wax candle! Yes, you read that correctly, my dog ate a candle. At work, my team could not put up a decent QA score to save their life. No matter how much I coached, they always missed something from the 30-item checklist that was our QA form. They were great at having conversations, but terrible at remembering to cover all the little details. At the end of month one I found myself out $400 in home repairs and next-to-last in the QA rankings. At this point I went into damage control mode. I put up a gate confining Sierra to one room and at work my team was forced to read directly from the QA checklist on every call. After a couple of weeks, dog chewing was down and QA scores were up. Morale, however, was at an all-time low on both fronts.
I had the behavior I wanted from both, but to get it I had turned my dog into a prisoner and my team into robots.
One night, a relative stopped by and questioned my mental stability for keeping a husky in the house. She advised a dog like that is meant to be outside and that keeping her cooped up went against her very nature. A light bulb flipped on. Instead of asking my people (and puppy) to change in order to meet expectations, it was on me as a leader to find a way to let them be who they are and still succeed. My team was at their best when having genuine conversations with customers, not when robotically going down a checklist.
That night, I put together two things: an outdoor kennel the size of a small house and a document I entitled “A Different Approach to Quality.” There, I listed six simple questions that encompassed all 30 of the items from the QA form. As an example, one of the questions read “Did I leave any surprises for the customer?” That question alone covered 6 of the 30 QA items including advising of late fees, current balance, etc.
The next morning I showed Sierra to her new digs and scheduled a meeting with my team. Even though they were being held to the same standard, the idea of only worrying about 6 things instead of 30 seemed much easier to them. Scores stayed high and morale instantly shot back up. Pretty soon other teams were asking to use the new approach and within a year our entire organization moved away from a QA checklist to a more conversational-based requirement. As for Sierra, in true husky fashion she had pulled the entire cage over 400 yards into my neighbor’s field just so she could play with his dog.
It goes to show whether you are a puppy parent or a manager, sometimes we need to let our people (and dogs) simply be who they are. It’s on us as leaders to find a way to put them in a position where they can thrive.
by Christine OBrien on December 2nd, 2013
A new global study conducted by comScore, Inc. and UPS as part of the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper series shows that online shoppers desire more options and better service in their shopping experiences. Released at the end of September, the study covers the opinions of over 14,000 frequent online shoppers in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Mexico. This interactive map gives an overview of the survey results.
The study revealed some interesting trends in online shopping, such as shipping time and mobile use, and how these factors differ among countries. For example, 83 percent of consumers in the US are satisfied with the online shopping process, making this population the most satisfied of those surveyed; the least satisfied shoppers were in Asia at 50 percent. Flexibility about delivery and returns were ranked lowest in providing satisfaction across all countries. Consumers in Canada and the U.S. are willing to trade shipping speed for cost (such as free shipping for a minimum purchase amount), but Asians desire their items to be delivered in four days or less. Most online shoppers worldwide would be more inclined to do business with a retailer that provides a hassle-free returns policy, especially if it includes no-cost return shipping.
For consumers connected via mobile and social channels, the study found that shopping on mobile apps plays a major role in reducing comparison shopping, especially in Mexico and Europe. Shoppers in Asia and Europe prefer to access retailers through mobile or digital channels, while over 33 percent of Canadian and Australian consumers prefer in-store shopping. Most consumers surveyed are connected via social media and are open to retailer promotions through those channels. This is particularly true in Asia and Mexico, where “liking” a brand on Facebook is most prevalent at 81 percent and 76 percent respectively.
With the holiday shopping season upon us, how can your company provide your online buyers with an excellent customer experience? Be prepared with these tips:
- Get to know your customers – Which countries does your company serve? Use the global study results to determine a plan of action for serving these customers and meeting their unique preferences.
- Evaluate your online service offerings – Review surveys submitted by customers after their online shopping experience. Are there any areas your company could improve in to make shoppers more satisfied?
- Think social – With a majority of consumers using social media, use this as an opportunity to connect with them. Provide customer support for online shoppers on Twitter, or offer promotions to your Facebook fans. If your company needs a boost in the social department, consider a solution that includes social media management tools to expand your contact center’s social capabilities.
- Go mobile – Mobile apps are quickly becoming a go-to shopping trend. Consider developing an easy-to-use app for your customers to access wherever they shop. Evaluate the app on a regular basis and provide updates when needed.
Do you have any advice for improving the online shopping experience? Tell us in the comments below!
by Jim Freeze, SVP, CMO on November 25th, 2013
It won’t be a holly, jolly season for brands this year, as consumers give a great big “Bah Humbug” to customer service. And sorry, but they’re not really that sorry about their Grinch-y attitude as just 20 percent of Americans feel guilty about being rude to a customer service agent.
Their lack of sympathy for the blight of the customer service agent may be because they feel justified given their low expectations of holiday care.
- Nine in ten (91 percent) believe customer service should be better prepared for the holidays, but only 36 percent have higher expectations of customer service during this time of year.
- More than a third (37 percent) would rather eat last year’s fruitcake than contact customer service during the holidays.
- Another 74 percent say it’s more of a hassle to contact customer service during this time than any other time of the year.
Many are even taking more control over their experience. Some consumers are doing all they can to avoid customer service altogether, with nearly one in four (38 percent) saying they would rather give money than deal with customer service during the holidays.
For those that do contact brands during the season, many may try a different means of communication. While 48 percent say phone is the best channel to contact customer service during the year, just 33 percent say the same of the holidays. The decline is due to more consumers saying chat, email, text, social and in-person are the best channels during the holidays (67 percent) compared to year-round (52 percent).
It’s clear consumers are looking to be delighted by brands not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. And as customers take more control over their relationships with companies, delivering a consistent and exceptional customer experience is paramount, especially with low expectations for retail sales and the shortened shopping season this year.
You can check out our infographic which illustrates consumers’ expectations of holiday customer service.
*According to a survey of 2,500 Americans, of which 2,201 have contacted customer service, commissioned by Aspect Software.