by Michael Kropidlowski on June 19th, 2013
It is, after all, just the beginning of the relationship revolution and that word “relationship” implies a back-and-forth exchange between your company and your customers. With high-touch, proactive, personalized outbound campaigns, your company can initiate conversations that benefit your customers by anticipating their needs and providing them with information before they know they need it.
An effective outbound campaign can also:
- Differentiate your company’s customer service offerings
- Reduce costs by preempting predictable or repeatable interactions
- Handle more interactions with the same or even reduced resources
- Preserve live agents where their skills and expertise are required
- Help your company achieve optimum levels of productivity
Companies that invest in outbound contact solutions can see big results in the bottom line, as well as employee and customer satisfaction.
In order to see these results, however, companies must implement systems that take into account the government rules and regulations that govern outbound contact. Compliance in the current regulatory environment means creating processes that help you comply with current regulations and stay aware of any new changes.
Start that process of continuous learning by attending our two upcoming webinars on optimizing your outbound contact solutions.
Discover best practices in today’s compliance environment on Wednesday July 17th with Aspect experts Serge Hyppolite, VP Sales Development, and Don Hudecek, Senior Product Manager. On Wednesday July 31st, learn how your company can develop timely, relevant, high-yield outbound IVR campaigns in the panel discussion “Outbound IVR.”
If you’re ready to create proactive contact across multiple channels, including voice, short message service (SMS) and email channels to reach out to your customers, register for either or both of these webinars today!
by Tim Dreyer on June 17th, 2013
Creating a great customer experience doesn’t begin and end during the conversation between a customer and an agent. As we’ve talked about before on the blog, back office processes, social media integration, and other workforce optimization tools are all tied into that one goal of creating a better experience for customers.
None of these solutions matter, however, if company executives don’t encourage a positive, proactive customer service environment.
A positive tone from the top sets the stage upon which all of those other interactions exist. As a recent article at the NY Times pointed out, this attitude is a matter of company-wide culture. When company executives value and prioritize customer service, this has a trickle-down effect for all company employees. When customer service goals are not only created but also stressed and taught at every level of the company, employees are better empowered to create those great experiences when they do have conversations with customers.
In the case of Nordstrom—a company known for its excellent customer service history—this means that stories of heroic customer service are circulated publicly throughout the company and employees are rewarded for going above and beyond for customers. This environment is fostered by frequent reminders of Nordstrom’s high standards for their employees.
Zappos’ former CEO, Tony Hsieh, made it his goal to make sure that the company was built around customer experience. As he often says, Zappos is a customer service company that happens to sell shoes. Now owned by Amazon, Zappos made its mark as a great company to buy from and now sells a variety of other products to its large following of very loyal customers.
Customers have an opinion on this as well—a recent Oracle study found that 81% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience!
So, how can company executives ensure they create a solid foundation for great customer service? The key is in instituting programs that are proactive instead of reactive. As can be the case, customer service policies deal with handling complaints and monitoring of those complaints. An executive leader has the unique ability to refocus these policies and, instead, create a proactive environment where the goal is to constantly delight and wow customers before a complaint occurs, as the Nordstrom and Zappos examples show.
What other company leaders do you know that are out there creating positive change in the customer service realm?
by Christine OBrien on June 14th, 2013
What if I proposed that much of the criteria you use to hire new employees is potentially flawed? Job history, periods of unemployment, and criminal records — all of these things may actually indicate less about a potential hire’s success in the job than attributes such as personality, commute times, and chosen internet browser.
Data-driven hiring is now taking the place of intuitive hiring decisions largely because it’s actually working for the companies using it. By basing hiring decisions on clear, repeatable variables that they can test, companies are finding better rates of attrition and hiring employees with greater rates of success.
Xerox cut attrition by a fifth by using a big data model of the “ideal contact center employee” developed by Evolv, Inc.
Evolv, a start-up company that helps organization use big data to find new hires, developed the model of the ideal contact center employee after working with numerous companies and finding out which variables actually predicted success in a customer service position.
Surprisingly, Evolv found that:
- Personality matters a lot: Creative types tend to stick around for more than six months, while inquisitive people often don’t.
- Distance counts: Individuals who live near a job and have a reliable form of transportation are more likely to stick with it.
- Connecting is great, to an extent: For some reason, ideal employees are those that use one to three social networks, but not more than four.
- Choose your browser wisely: Hiring companies found that individuals who filled out job applications using deliberately installed browsers, such as Firefox or Chrome instead of Internet Explorer, performed better and changed jobs less often.
- Previous assumptions may be off-base: For some types of customer support positions, employees with a criminal background actually perform a bit better, while job-hopping candidates show no difference in attrition than those who have a solid work history.
Big data isn’t only changing the way companies view their customers, it’s changing the way companies focus on one of their most important efforts—talent acquisition and hiring. With new tools and sourcing options, companies can better predict candidate success, happiness, and longevity in a job. If that isn’t a case for the benefits of big data, I don’t know what is.
How is your company using new data tools to find employees — and is it working?
by Christine OBrien on June 12th, 2013
How can companies create systems that not only empower employees but also provide exceptional service to customers at every step of the process? A comprehensive suite of workforce optimization (WFO) tools not only provide solutions for these issues, but also help companies comply with regulatory requirements and better focus enterprise resources.
Better yet, gaining control and insights into all aspects of the contact center helps companies fulfill the expectations of today’s consumers and create revolutionary relationships.
With this increased control, companies enjoy greater operational productivity and efficiency culminating in a more routinely positive customer experience. Companies can harness these benefits by working with WFO tools that align with these goals.
1. Create a collaborative contact center environment
Allow agents to tap into company experts with a single click to save time, effort, and guesswork. Collaboration software seamlessly links all knowledge workers to find the right answer more quickly.
2. Formalize and automate an escalation policy
Integrated interaction management and WFO solutions make it possible to create a routing strategy that automatically matches the agent with the correct skillset, availability, and past performance with customer issues defined by issue type, customer value, and churn potential.
3. Capture the total customer experience and cultivate continuous operational improvement
Customer interactions can be tracked across multiple systems ensuring that the agent has a comprehensive view of the customer’s experience and behavior. Most importantly, these insights are incorporated into an agent’s workflow for immediate access.
4. Schedule the best possible combination of agents, back office staff, and experts across all channels to deliver the most helpful customer experience with every interaction
WFO solutions enable predictive modeling that creates powerful “what-if” scenarios that can guide decisions on the fly and cover a full range of possibilities. In addition, these solutions simplify and enhance the staffing process with advanced forecasting and scheduling tools.
5. Motivate and empower customer experience contributors to deliver their best performance
By providing a proactive, teaching environment, employees can stay focused on customer issues and help raise service levels. Automatic training is triggered when a knowledge deficit is identified, thereby keeping agents aware of varied requirements.
To learn more about how WFO tools can optimize your company’s workforce—including social media solutions and cross-channel data gathering—download our free white paper 5 Ways to Optimize Your Workforce for Customer Contact in a Social Marketplace.
by David Harper on June 10th, 2013
I would say historically that 99% of my conversations around business intelligence have focused on the “business first” angle. I do feel that this will continue to be the trend as we engage with the business for better insights, self-service, and user empowerment. However, I recently had the opportunity to attend a Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) class offered by Microsoft in Redmond and a very interesting conversation started around BI for IT.
This conversation wasn’t about what type of IT dashboard can I create or what metrics do IT look at, but rather, what are the driving factors that make IT review its current strategy, or force them to look in a new direction. So what are these drivers? How a business conversation is deeply rooted in IT? Let’s look at a couple of examples.
- Short or shrinking processing window. This is a great example of how BI is changing the view of IT from the business perspective. The insatiable appetite for data is making IT rethink how we process and load information. What was almost always considered a batch or MOLAP process is now becoming much closer to real time. Not only are they asking for the frequency to change, but also the volume of information has spiked. Sadly, we can’t always go back in and put in a bigger pipe, so how do we do more with what we have before trying to sneak a cool six figures into the capital budget.
- Big Data + Dev Tools = Big Problems. I am not specifically talking about semi / unstructured text data here, but rather reiterating that lots of data flowing through a small pipe reaches critical mass very quickly. Now combine this with dev tools and we have just created a Martha Stewart worthy recipe for disaster. Simple real world example: I worked with a reatailor that needed to first extract from binary, transform to CSV, then load to a data warehouse every day from about 255 POS system in less than two hours. When the solution was first being worked through, simple SSIS tasks (such as the lookup task) worked great. When I then tested it with multiday files that were each 10 million plus rows, we sort of ran into an issue – sadly, nobody liked my idea to just sell 100 products and cull the remaining 400,000 from inventory. Now, this is where I could make a very good push for PDW and a bigger pipe, but we will save that for a future article.
- Heterogeneous data and data sources. Has the cloud impacted your life yet? What about that pesky FTP site from the 3rd party company? How about Mary in Accounting that has her formula riddled spreadsheet that just might contain the secrets of the universe? The sheer number of ETL sources is also now causing some heartburn in the trenches. How and where you handle your business logic, is also now a bigger slice of the pie. Another plug for PDW here, but their stance is ELT vs. ETL – so does this mean that our methodology should also be changing for standard systems?
The list goes on (trust me), but I thought I would call out just a few of the common themes that I have heard in conversation lately. Do any of these sound like your organization? Which one did I miss that should be on the top 10 list? If you are an IT shop struggling with some of these choices – or if you are a business minded person who is tired of beating up your IT staff with a wet noodle, there is help! Aspect has helped navigate and advise our customers in these scenarios. Please reach out so we can row the life boat in your direction!
by Dawn Ely on June 8th, 2013
May was a busy month for Aspect! From a new product release to ACE 2013, we’ve been doing our best to offer our customers the benefits of next-generation technologies for their contact centers and back offices. In our May blogs, we offered a range of advice, covering topics including improving your customer’s service experience and managing your social media responses appropriately. Each one reminds us of the importance of looking forward and keeping up with the Relationship Revolution taking place in the call center and beyond.
Check out some of the blogs that offered great advice this past month:
How to Improve Your Customer’s Service Experience
By Christine O’Brien on May 6, 2013
In recent months, we discussed the benefits of benchmarking to jumpstart a company’s growth and provide realistic goals for improvement. In her webinar on the subject, Kate Leggett, Principal Analyst from Forrester Research, discussed how companies can initiate their own improvement plan with a benchmarking self-assessment… (READ MORE)
When Good Data Goes Bad
By David Harper on May 17, 2013
I don’t think any employee, consultant, architect and so on ever goes into a project thinking “boy, I wonder how badly I can mess up this dataset,” but the sad reality is that far too often BI solutions produce less than accurate information. I was meeting with a customer just a short time ago that had spent TWO years on a BI “adventure,” and in the end had an unusable environment because the results were flat out wrong – ugh! To say the business had become disenchanted and IT frustrated would qualify as the understatement of the year… (READ MORE)
Optimizing Your Back Office Performance
By Spence Mallder on May 20, 2013
While often unseen by customers, the back office plays a crucial role in your business operations. The phrase “back office” originated from the placement of people who are fulfilling administrative tasks – way in the back, sight unseen. However, in today’s society where the customer controls the conversation and many issues are directly impacted by what happens in the back office, the traditional back office setup cannot be business as usual… (READ MORE)
ERP, CRM and BPM vs. Business Process Optimization
By Alton Harewood on May 13, 2013
When I speak to customers about business process optimization many have the initial reaction of, “isn’t this part of ERP or CRM?” or, “how does this differ from BPM?” They may be surprised to learn that these technologies are not synonymous. To explain, let’s talk for a moment about the high-level definitions and general use of ERP, CRM and BPM… (READ MORE)
Customer Service Lessons from a “Kitchen Nightmare”
By Tim Dreyer on May 24, 2013
Amy’s Baking Company, a small bistro with almost 100,000 Likes on Facebook, unwittingly served up a series of textbook examples showing how not to handle customer service issues… Besides the obvious lessons from the Amy’s Baking Company disaster (don’t call your customers “punks,” for one) we see some key takeaways for other customer service providers… (READ MORE)
What ideas did you take away from our May blogs? Are there any topics that we missed that you’d like to see covered next month?
by Gail Staines on June 6th, 2013
During the short 8 months I have been at Aspect, I have to say that I have become a huge user and supporter of Lync. I joined Aspect in October 2012 to primarily launch Aspect’s new Strategic Funding Initiative (SFI). Through SFI, clients and potential clients have access to funding opportunities and writing assistance. In addition, I research and write RFIs/RFPs primarily from the education sector, but also from health care, government, and nonprofits on behalf of Aspect.
While most of my career has been spent in the education, higher education, and nonprofit worlds, I have to say that the corporate world is quite different from the world of education. It’s a nice mix of being able to use my education and IT background in a setting where we provide effective solutions that meet the needs to today’s educators. I come from a long line of teachers and principals in my family – “education” is sort of the family business. Being able to now show how easy Aspect’s and Microsoft’s solutions meet today’s teaching and learning environments is thoroughly enjoyable.
Another very enjoyable part of my job is that I have learned how to use – and love – Lync. Through Lync I can IM/chat or talk with one or several people and we can share our computer screens with each other to share our work or teach others what we are doing or using. Lync also has an answering machine feature, and saves a transcription (and voice message) of all calls and conversations. If I need to contact someone – no phone call – I just ‘ping’ them via Lync to see if they are available.
The best thing about Lync is that it is so EASY to use! It only took me 10 minutes to learn. I can envision educators being able to chat with colleagues as well as teach and collaborate right from their desktop or laptop. No more hardwired phone needed in the classroom! And, it results in huge cost savings.
I hope to have the opportunity to tell you more about my experiences with Lync and our vision for its applications in health care and education settings!
Gail M. Staines, External Funding Specialist, previously served as a Sr. Fellow in the Office of Academic Affairs at Saint Louis University as well as the Assistant Vice President for University Libraries. She holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University at Buffalo where she was a visiting professor in the School of Informatics for many years. Dr. Staines served as the Executive Director of the Western New York Library Resources Council (a nonprofit consortium of all types of libraries). A very successful grant writer for over 20 years, Gail has written and procured 99% of the grant proposals she has submitted. Author of GO GET THAT GRANT, and other books and articles, Dr. Staines is a frequent presenter both nationally and internationally.
by Matthew Brown on June 5th, 2013
The lack of mobile applications for contact center agents has created a noticeable void that companies are just now starting to recognize. While there are a few applications that provide basic communication or presence functionality, the applications required to empower agents to manage schedules and other important tasks relative to their job are missing.
While many companies devote large amounts of resources to ensure the contact center is staffed and managed appropriately through workforce optimization solutions, intraday schedule adjustments are left out due to the drain on supervisory or administrative resources. The inefficiencies created when agents are unable to adhere to the schedule (taking unscheduled breaks, arriving late or leaving early, calling in sick) can cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. On the reverse, there are advantages to intraday scheduling which allow contact centers to respond to unexpected call volumes that require additional agents or take advantage of low volume offering agents training or performing additional outbound marketing call campaigns.
A large financial institution customer of Aspect was experiencing these typical schedule adherence challenges and also found it difficult to respond to and track traffic from agents calling in for unscheduled shift exceptions. As a result, utilizing intraday scheduling well was not possible while the supervisors were spending time tracking and managing the process, providing little value to the business. The agent calls were costly and oftentimes were transferred into workforce management systems inefficiently or ignored completely losing their value to “right now” schedule adjustments. Aspect recognized that these inefficiencies could be addressed with Aspect Workforce Mobile, an Aspect solution.
Through the work of Aspect’s Professional Services Innovations Group, a team that develops tailored applications and products, the Aspect Workforce Mobile application was deployed to give the customer’s agents smart phone access to Aspect Workforce Management. The application makes it possible for agents to view and make changes to their own schedules and access their performance metrics on their smartphones. This direct access allows agents to update their schedules, bound by business process rules within Workforce Management, which is then immediately available to the Workforce Management system to process new intraday schedules to account for the change. This automation provides immediate value without tying up resource time from supervisors or administrators allowing them to focus on more productive activities. Further, with the user-friendly interface of Aspect Workforce Mobile, the bank’s supervisors can now manage employee schedules, view and approve requests, evaluate intraday statistics and receive real-time alerts from their smartphones.
By eliminating scheduling inefficiencies, introducing intraday schedule automation, and empowering agents and supervisors the bank is able to provide more consistent customer care to their customers.
For more information on how your company can benefit from a tailored application, take a look at the Aspect Workforce Mobile data sheet.
by Tim Dreyer on June 3rd, 2013
This year’s ACE event marked the first opportunity for our customers to see and experience what we have been calling “The New Aspect.” We have written about the changes the company has made around our new brand identity, our commitment to product innovation and the renewed enthusiasm seen by our employees but the blogs and articles don’t quite do the enthusiasm justice. ACE provided our customers with the opportunity to build relationships with the Aspect executive team and network with industry peers at an exceptional in-person event featuring practical education, training and networking sessions, as well as deep insights into the future of customer contact.
In his opening remarks, CEO Stew Bloom talked about the convergence of collaborative technologies and the redefining of how business processes are fueling the creation of a next generation contact center market. He set the tone for the conference by talking about how Aspect is helping customers envision, build and operate strategies that deliver re-invented experiences in a world where experience is everything and the relationship between consumers and organizations is undergoing a very noticeable revolution.
Our guest analysts Sheila McGee-Smith, Paul Stockford and Art Schoeller continued the theme by sharing their views on the issues facing contact center operators today including the rise of mobility, the need for multichannel integration, and how to deal with big data. The lively discussion, including great questions from the audience gave attendees the message that the event was not for the casual observer. By design, the ACE conference was an immersion and discussion platform on the issuing facing our customers today with tactical insight and education to address those issues from peers and Aspect alike.
Attendees gained insight from Time Warner Cable on the blended interaction benefits and ROI they have experienced using Aspect’s Unified IP 7. They learned from Red Roof Inn on how through the use of Aspect’s Workforce Management solution, have been able to maximize agent productivity. And they gathered advice from the Cleveland Clinic on how integrating the Aspect Unified IP and Workforce platforms are able to help them share and utilize patient information to deliver better overall experiences.
Presentations from each track are available to download as PDFs from the ACE page in the Aspect Community. To access the page, you will need to sign in as an Aspect Community member. Membership is free and available to all Aspect customers!
If you weren’t able to join us this year, I hope can we look forward to seeing you at the next ACE event!
by Tim Dreyer on May 30th, 2013
Then Ms. Mayer responded within minutes, asking how she could help:
Now we know that 99.99% of customers don’t have 3.5 million twitter followers and a primetime news show like Morgan so naturally Mayer had to respond. Most customers who complain to or about a company on twitter are not going to get an immediate response from the CEO. However, it does show the growing expectations for response people have on social platforms. People who use Twitter and other social applications to reach out to a company for service issues or questions have the same response expectations there as they do using the phone. The question is, is your company prepared to help?