by Tobias Goebel on March 30th, 2015
Sorry, couldn’t fit all of that into the title of my blog post, but hey, you have to get your readers’ attention in these noisy times, right? Thanks for stopping by. I’d like to explain why I think the approach some companies are taking in implementing “Visual IVR” is a bit wrong-headed. Why? Because decisions are guided by making the best use of existing technology and IT investments vs. taking a fresh look at what is good for the consumer.
What is Visual IVR?
First of all, let’s define what I mean by Visual IVR so we are on common ground. Visual IVR, as implemented by most players in the industry today, means an IVR application augmented with a visual interface. So right after calling into a company hotline, while interacting with an IVR system, smartphone technology and (most) carrier networks let us open a native mobile app or browse to a mobile Web app (e.g. pushed to the phone via an SMS text message) while a call is taking place. This app visualizes the options that the caller is hearing through the IVR, and lets them take control through this touch interface. So rather than pushing keys on the numerical dial pad (DTMF input) or using speech recognition, the user can now navigate through the IVR options using touch. This can speed up navigation significantly, resulting in reduced call duration and an enhanced customer experience. It allows for entering information more easily into an IVR system, especially alphanumeric data or names. Sounds great, right? Let me continue.
The problem with the name
As a short detour, I’d like to have a look at the name “Visual IVR” the industry seems to have selected (I find it fascinating to see how new terms come into being sometimes). It is an attempt to leverage the well-known Interactive Voice Response technology and name, which isn’t a bad idea if you’re addressing the enterprise space. Your audience knows what it is and understands its benefits. IVR is a decade-old technology, still in wide use today for a reason (which I’ll get to in a minute). Unfortunately, ‘IVR’ has never been a friend of your customers’, given too many bad VUI (Voice User Interface) designs and missing integration with the contact center.
Re-using a name with negative connotation might not be the best way to generate excitement about the capabilities of (mobile) customer service available with the ever-growing penetration of the smartphone. Quite frankly, though, I cannot offer an alternative that encapsulates what we are really talking about here, except for: mobile customer service, or customer service “on mobile”, or simply: customer service. (In 2015 I do not have to cite extensive market research anymore for you to agree with me that everything and anything in our daily lives, including customer service, takes place on mobile-connected devices these days for so many of us.) So, for lack of a better term, let’s keep using “Visual IVR” for now.
IVR exemplifies a technology-first, not customer-first mentality
The reason why keeping IVR technology in place is not a bad idea per se is that customers are still “hard-wired” to pick up a phone and dial a number when they decide they need to get in touch with a business and talk to someone — and that’s where it’s getting interesting.
As long as that’s the case, letting customers speed up navigation through a visual IVR mobile app might make sense. At the end of the day, it comes down to how many “unique IDs” a business has established and engraved into people’s minds. Their toll-free phone number, often a vanity number like “1-800-PROGRESSIVE”, is one of those IDs. Their homepage URL is another. Their Twitter handle, Facebook page, … with any of those, though, it always comes down to their brand name. That’s what stays the same. And that’s what matters to the business, anyway.
Let’s get back to the consumer dialing a phone number. The point here is: It shouldn’t take long for them to realize that once they are aware of the Visual IVR option, the next time they need to contact the business, they might skip the call altogether and just start the journey in the mobile app. And that’s why I consider it a stop-gap technology.
I don’t need the IVR to tell me what I see – my eyes work just fine thank you very much. No doubt, a Visual IVR application can wow you the first time you experience it, but hopefully you’re thinking beyond that initial encounter with this post. And if the Visual IVR experience resulted from an outbound call, then why make that call in the first place, why not send a disposable app via an SMS directly? (I will admit, there are isolated use cases around fraud protection where placing an actual phone call gives you an advantage.)
Proponents of this technology will now say that when it comes to transferring to an agent, you will need the physical phone connection so you can be placed in the call queue – and contact centers don’t have to change anything in their infrastructure to support it! And this is where my blog started – that visual IVR is something not perceived with the greatest customer/user experience in mind, but rather with the current IT investments and contact center infrastructure in mind. It exemplifies a technology-first, not customer-first mentality. It reminds me a bit of mobile deposits that banks are so proud of these days here in the U.S. Rather than fixing the underlying problem of money transfers across financial institutions, they still have you write checks, photograph them and then upload them in a mobile app. That’s like writing an email (composed in Outlook) then printing it out and mailing it via USPS.
So that’s why I say it is the wrong approach. Rather than putting the call into a queue, companies should leverage callback functionality, which detaches the intent to connect a customer with an agent via phone from the physical call connection required. By combining callback with mobile apps you get the best of both worlds: letting customers quickly pre-qualify on mobile (or the web, for that matter) – that is, define who they are (by logging in, for example); understanding the subject of the agent conversation – then request a callback from an agent that will have all the necessary context to satisfactorily serve the customer. Forward-thinking companies like Amazon get that and have been applying this technique on their website for years.
WebRTC: The case for a better solution
Even better: make that callback through the mobile app, using technologies like WebRTC. This embedded live help feature will ensure:
- full context by makingthe live conversation part of the mobile app so that customers can keep looking at their data
- no cost and delays are incurred with unnecessary IVRcalls
- there is no waiting on hold until anagent is available
- reduced telephony cost once the agent is connected through the app by using VoIP vs. the traditional Public-Switched Telephone Network
“Visual IVR” taken more broadly actually includes this use case: the addition of a rich visual interaction channel to an otherwise purely acoustic conversation once connected to an agent. The ability to co-browse, let the agent see what you are seeing, let them guide you in the mobile app or on the website, annotate on your screen, push documents to you, etc. NOW we’re talking. This is what a modern contact center solution should look like. But that has nothing to do with “IVR”.
When we’re dealing with mobile apps, we don’t need special-purpose frameworks for “Visual IVR”. We can simply design a mobile app that has options that work similar to what an IVR does: prequalify a caller right before a handover to an agent. That handover, however, shouldn’t happen on a phone call. That’s how we have been doing it for the last 100+ years.
Smartphones can do so much more. Let’s start leveraging their capabilities, and educating the consumers on what’s possible. Part of that education is: stop calling businesses. Start your journey with a (well-designed) app or website that integrates with the contact center.
So what does the perfect customer journey in 2015 look like, starting from a customer’s decision that they need live help? Here’s the path of most convenience:
by Rebecca Anderson on March 27th, 2015
When we buy a new piece of technology (cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) we expect to open the box, turn it on, and use it without any assistance. Technology has become so user friendly and intuitive that toddlers can pick up a device and play games or watch videos without any training.
Friendly user interfaces are more common on consumer devices. Because of this, employees entering the workforce expect business technology to look and feel like the technology they use in their personal life. If it doesn’t, these employees quickly become frustrated. Let’s apply this to the contact center. Imagine if your contact center agents had desktops so intuitive that they could get back 14% of their day. That’s how much time is spent switching between data sources in a typical contact center. It is not just a matter of saving valuable time but it translates to an average $840,000 in yearly savings for a 200 seat contact center (Aberdeen, Key Technologies to Optimize Your Agent Desktop, 2014).
According to Aberdeen, organizations that use best practices for agent desktop optimization (ADO) have a rich set of technology tools that enable: data management, drive actionable insights, and interaction management. What are some key steps that leading organizations take to make agents desktops feel as intuitive as a smartphone?
- Unified view of interactions. Organizations that are considered Leaders overcome the barrier of disparate systems by bringing all interaction data into one system. Database management technology is deployed 44% more frequently by the Leaders.
- Analytical tools. Insights into real-time and historical data from every interaction creates a more accurate picture of what is going on and becomes a source for competitive advantage.
- Interaction management. Best-in-class contact centers with AOD have the ability to handle interactions across multiple channels on one screen. These contact centers are more likely to have social media monitoring, knowledge management, web self-service, click-to-call, and click-to-chat.
When investing in new technology, it is important to look for software that has friendly user interfaces and integrates with technology that is already in place. Consumers are accustomed to this and your agents will expect it. If that’s not enough, the cost savings and productivity improvements are difficult to deny.
by Steffanie Frazier on March 25th, 2015
I just finished reading the book “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller. It got me thinking about how to apply that One Thing thinking in my career. Currently my “ONE thing” is to tell the story of how Interaction Management meets Relationship Management.
I didn’t come up with that tagline, some of my coworkers did and it does sound catchy. Being catchy is one thing, but we wanted to be sure people would really understand the full meaning behind this powerful dynamic.
I tried breaking it down into phrases, Interaction Management and Relationship Management, but that seemed dry. The term Interaction Management is used in IT to refer to the use of technologies that help manage various interactions between users. Relationship Management is a strategy in which a continuous level of engagement is maintained between two entities. That really doesn’t tell the story.
Connecting these two ideas isn’t a new concept; in fact, I found an article from 2002 (yes, 13 years ago!) from DestinationCRM.com that gives some good context by framing it around the consumer. Think of Interaction Management as the folks at the front of the Wal-Mart stores stationed to greet each of the customers. In this analogy, the Wal-Mart greeter would not only welcome you to the store, but that person would also know your name, your shopping history and preferences, and help direct you to the appropriate department so you can more quickly complete your business. While the Wal-Mart greeter might begin to recognize you and your shopping patterns over time, the memory behind the system would be the transactional systems and the repository of customer data or the relationship management.
So, the idea that interaction management meets relationship management isn’t new. However, the tools and means to accomplish this have come a long way.
This is the era of the consumer. And, as a consumer, how do I want interaction management to meet relationship management for me? Well, I want to interact with the company of my choice by using self-service, email, SMS, chat, social and maybe a phone call now and then. I want the company of my choice to interact proactively (Weekend sale? Let me know about it!) And know who I am, however I choose to engage (don’t make me tell you who I am and why I am calling more than once).
Research says that companies are listening. In fact, as we highlighted in a recent infographic, 96% of companies want to improve customer experiences but only 48% of companies have integrated CRM with their interaction management system. (Contact Center and CRM Integration: A Data-Driven Approach to Delight Customers, Aberdeen Group, December 2013.)
Integration is the answer. By integrating a call center solution that supports omni-channel interaction with a relationship management solution, this blows wide open the possibilities of remarkable customer service. This demo of how an omni-channel solution could work will make you start to think differently. It is a reality and companies such as Trupanion are winning awards by doing it.
So as I tell this “one thing” over and over again I am excited. Excited to be part of something that is changing the conversation in remarkable ways.
Want to know more? Join us for our live webinar tomorrow, Integrating CRM and Contact Center for Remarkable Experiences, from 1-2 p.m. ET! REGISTER>>
by Jim McPherson on March 23rd, 2015
Two questions, one answer.
Do you want to get more value out of your CRM system?
Do you want to get more value out of your Contact Center solutions?
If the answer to either question is “yes” then integrate the two systems and you’ll get more value out of both.
Think about it. What’s the value of your CRM system if you’re not using it to improve customer experiences? And how can you maximize each and every customer experience if those interactions are not informed by the full relationship and interaction history of the customer?
Recent studies have shown tremendous business impact from these type of integrations. According to Aberdeen, companies that have a CRM and Contact Center integration strategy enjoy significantly better results in both customer centric and operational metrics. If you want better customer retention, higher life-time value of customers, improved customer satisfaction or if you want to reduce handle times, improve first call resolution and optimize performance of your customer care teams, then make this integration happen.
Want to know more about what’s possible when your customer relationship management system meets your interaction management system? Join our live webinar this Thursday, March 26, from 1-2 p.m. ET. REGISTER NOW >>
by Kathleen Schroeder on March 20th, 2015
By Aspect Software & Healthcare Intelligence
Obesity is common, serious and costly
In March 1973, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics began promoting a week long awareness campaign to help raise awareness in the importance of living healthier lifestyles through diet and exercise. By 1980, National Nutrition Week was extended to the full month of March to meet the growing interest in healthy living and nutrition. With the obesity rates on the rise in the United States, there is still a lot of work for healthcare organizations to do. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2014 Adult Obesity Facts report:
- More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.
- Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
- The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
Bite into a healthier lifestyle
We can “Bite into A Healthier Lifestyle” by better managing our weight (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2015). The ability to easily reach out and communicate with a dietician or nutritionist is the first step in providing healthy nutritional information, menus, and exercise information to maintain accountability and compliance while transitioning to a healthier life style. Take another bite into a healthier lifestyle by exercising on a regular basis. A reasonable and consistent exercise routine pairs very well with a balanced diet. Health systems provide free access to apps, portals and websites that focus on exercise and nutrition and provide helpful information about daily portion control, calorie consumption, food group balance and exercise. These applications act as a personal dashboard to track and trend our performance, acting as a single source of truth by anyone wishing to make a lifestyle change.
Aspect can help
Healthy lifestyles are a journey and a difficult one to achieve alone. Aspect’s Proactive Engagement Suite ensures a seamless conversation with your patients at their convenience, through their channel of choice. By focusing on healthier patient outcomes, you can easily develop, deploy and analyze sophisticated omni-channel engagement strategies to stay in the conversation when you are needed most. The result is exceptional proactive patient care that drives satisfaction and ultimately helps your patients achieve a healthier lifestyle. Aspect Proactive Engagement Suite helps you start the conversation with your patients today. Your patients will feel more empowered, valued and disposed to achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Isn’t that what it’s all about – healthier patient outcomes?
Learn more about Aspect’s proactive engagement solutions for healthcare.
by Joe Gagnon, SVP & General Manager, Cloud Solutions on March 18th, 2015
The magic of The High Performance Life (THPL) is that all of the effort that you put in along the way to improve your performance in Life, Learning or Fitness does indeed come together to create great meeting or a great presentation. It comes together, interestingly, in a most inauspicious way. Mostly because the journey has you doing much of the same activity along the way – the improvement is hard to see but for sure it is building and bonding and getting stronger with every step on the path. And when “the big win” happens it really feels great and you just know it. No special props, no big think, just you being yourself. Your preparation, your commitment, your dedication to excellence and improved performance is why it happens.
Today was one of those days. On stage with my buddy Jason Dorsey, at South by Southwest (SXSW) together we rocked the house (of about 175 people) who came to listen to us talk about Content and the Millennial Challenge. We played off each other, we entertained, we informed, we challenged and we delivered. The feedback at the end was unanimous – we were, for many, the best presentation that they had been at during “South By.” The moment was powerful for all and proof that the THPL journey does deliver and when it does, it fills the tank with “natural fuel” that will take us to the next time when an over-delivery is the order of the day. Till then we will go back to the basics that got us here and remind ourselves that We can Dream, We can Plan, but it is the Practice it and Do it where it all comes together.
Loving life at SXSW……
Reposted with permission from The High Performance Life blog.
by Robert Moore on March 12th, 2015
One of the most important trade shows in the world of WFO is the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals annual conference, hosted at the Omni Hotel in downtown Nashville. Aspect maintains a high presence at this show with platinum sponsorship, since the attendees are squarely at the center of our WFO audience, and it’s a great opportunity to demonstrate Aspect’s thought and product leadership to a concentrated group of industry experts.
Aspect prominently displayed its new WFO 8.1 icon and widget-based user interface and touted the new Aspect EQ branding for our broad and rich WFO portfolio. Enabling high levels of engagement for both customers and contact center employees is a key objective of the Aspect EQ offering, hence our emphasis on an Engagement Quotient as a measure of overall engagement. In this video taken at the Aspect booth, Mike Bourke, SVP and GM of Workforce Optimization describes the Aspect offering and show proceedings.
Last year, Aspect brought to market a remarkable new user interface for agents in the form of WFO 8, and this year, WFO 8.1 extends the productivity and ease-of-use advantages to include supervisor functions. In this short video, Eric Hagaman, Product Manager for WFO and WFM explains some of the new capabilities of WFM 8.1.
The rapidly growing interest in effective WFO tools is demonstrated by the 20% increase in attendance this year with 70 breakout sessions distributed over three days. There were also three sessions dedicated to Back Office WFO this year, compared with none last year, a harbinger that WFO in the Back Office will be an important consideration for buyers in the future.
The big news for Aspect is the dramatic increase in traffic at the Aspect booth. There was a constant din of activity around the booth with much attention being focused on the new user interface. The number of Aspect Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) was up by an impressive 25%, which is large by anybody’s standards and a clear indication that Aspect was stealing the show. To borrow from our new Aspect EQ WFO branding, I guess you could say that Aspect had a high Engagement Quotient with our customers at SWPP. We look forward to attracting even more attention next year as we continue to make great technical improvements to the Aspect EQ portfolio.
by Rebecca Anderson on March 11th, 2015
They enable new and exciting capabilities. For example, have you ever been frustrated trying to troubleshoot an issue with a customer service representative over the phone? How much easier would it have been if you could simply show the agent what was in front of you? With an omni-channel environment taking full advantage of WebRTC technology, this is possible. Agents can see exactly what customers are seeing via document, photo, or video sharing. This makes for a better experience for consumers which ultimately impacts the bottom line for business.
Nancy Jamison, Principal Analyst at Frost & Sullivan and Aspect’s Joe Gagnon, GM Cloud Solutions, sit down and discuss the business possibilities that exist with the cloud. Watch this short clip to discover how your business can benefit from modern technology.
by Maddy Hubbard on March 9th, 2015
When was a kid, I loved to watch reruns of a certain cartoon that focused on life in the future. Flying cars, homes and businesses high in the sky on adjustable columns, moving sidewalks, a robot maid, and of course, video phones.
While our automobiles and home foundations are still firmly planted on the ground, the future – real-time embedded audio and video – is here, now! With WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications) standard, businesses can directly embed audio-only or audio & video conversations and collaboration functionality into their website or mobile customer care apps. This will mean a fundamental shift in how consumers interact with businesses, with live help being only a button-tap away. And Aspect is at the forefront of this new development! Prequalification of a customer’s contact request right on the website or within a mobile app will result in completely bypassing an IVR and 100% pre-qualifying contacts before reaching your agents!
Join us at Enterprise Connect’s WebRTC Conference-in-a-Conference on March 16 from 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, FL. Come to booth #5 to see live demos of our Aspect RTC Platform and learn how you can improve the customer experience while reducing costs with embedded live help, high-def video and co-browsing.
Don’t worry, when the Conference-in-a-Conference wraps up, we’re not going home!
On Wednesday, March 18th, at 1:30 PM, see Aspect SVP and General Manager of Cloud Solutions, Joe Gagnon participate in the panel discussion “Improving the Contact Center Agent Experience,” followed by Tobias Goebel, Director of Emerging Technologies who will take part in the “Delivering an Improved Mobile Customer Experience” panel discussion.
And if you’d like to learn more about how Aspect can help you deliver remarkable customer experiences across every conversation and every channel, set up an on-site demo or 1:1 meeting with our experts in our suite. Email Samantha Johansen today to schedule a time to meet!
Register now for Enterprise Connect with discount code: ASPECT and receive a free expo pass or a discount on full conference registration. We hope to see you there!
by Robert Moore on March 6th, 2015
In his recent blog, Mike Bourke, SVP & GM Workforce Optimization at Aspect, explained how the level of customer engagement is very directly linked to the level of agent engagement in an “Engagement Cycle” whether it be a positive or negative exchange. We all know that in a conversation between people, enthusiasm can be infectious, but so can discontent. The blog points out that more progressive contact centers take concerted steps to ensure that agents feel empowered and engaged in their jobs, so they naturally radiate a positive impression to customers from the start, thereby setting in motion a more harmonious cycle of customer engagement.
For many enterprises, especially those in service-based industries like banking, mortgage origination and insurance, the back office is the very heart of the business where most of the value is actually created for customers. The customer may conduct transactions with only the front office, but there’s important work getting done in the back office. So how does the back office affect that all-important customer engagement?
Engagement Across the Enterprise
Just as there is a symbiotic cycle of interactions between customer and agent, there is a cycle of interactions between the back office and agent. After all, the back office must deliver on the promises made by the front office. However, there is usually no direct contact between back office employees and the customer, so the human interaction benefits of engagement and empowerment do not directly affect the customer’s ultimate experience. The primary contribution being made by the back office is the quality and speed of service being provided to the customer, delivered by the face of the front office.
For the back office, productivity is usually more important than engagement in achieving the best experience for the customer. We could think of this as a kind of gradient in importance of engagement and productivity as shown in the picture. The further removed an employee is from the customer, the higher the importance of sheer productivity and the lower the importance of engagement. The two are related of course. It’s hard to have really high productivity without some level of employee engagement, but as far as managing performance and customer satisfaction, you have quite different objectives.
This creates a dichotomy for workforce optimization tools. You want to use them in the front office to deliver great employee engagement, and you want to use them in the back office to deliver great employee productivity. How can you do both? Here are some thoughts:
- Use a flexible performance management tool in front and back offices to collect, analyze and correlate employee performance data and establish distinct metrics and KPIs that reinforce the behavior you want in each part of your business
- Use a proven back office work routing solution such as Aspect EQ Back Office. The productivity gains to be had by dynamically monitoring work progress and reallocating work to people in real-time can yield operating cost reductions between 20-40%
- Use quality management in the front office that incorporates customer measured quality as an important factor in assessing overall agent performance
- Use your workforce management system to give your front office workers somewhat more flexible schedule preferences and looser adherence than required in the back office
Of course, you would like to see improved morale and reduced turnover in both the back and front offices, and you can effect these sorts of sweeping improvements by providing employees in all parts of the organization with WFO software tools — ones sporting modern icon and widget-based user interfaces such as those we all enjoy on our smartphones. See what a great user experience looks like with Aspect’s WFO UI.
WFO in the Back Office
Workforce Optimization tools have historically been the domain of the front office contact center, but enterprises are increasingly using WFO as an essential tool to manage back office employees as well. Some analysts put the growth rate of WFO in the back office above 20%, while WFO growth in the front office is closer to 6%. It’s not surprising that workforce management, performance management, quality management, analytics and other WFO solutions would benefit the productivity of large back office labor pools. What is surprising is that enterprises have only recently started to implement WFO in the back office on a large scale.
As WFO becomes more pervasive in back office operations, enterprises will not only see higher productivity, they will be able to share employee resources between front and back offices to more easily adapt to unpredictable volume spikes and lulls. You are essentially diversifying your portfolio of labor resources while maintaining or reducing cost. There will likely be some temporary disruption to the organization, since changes in reporting structure may be necessary to facilitate this sharing, but the economics are compelling. Expect to see enterprises thinking more strategically about both the back and front offices when purchasing or replacing their WFO solutions.