by Tobias Goebel on February 25th, 2015
Consider them a value chain.
Context is the foundation for communication and understanding in general. Without context, messages are isolated experiences that don’t have a meaning, or the meaning of which is hard to extrapolate. Context means knowing about the involved communication parties, their whereabouts, their issues, their history, and having an idea of their intent. In customer service, context means having access to all data necessary and relevant to the customer experience, whether that is:
- Data collected during past customer interactions
- Data extracted from sources not immediately connected to the customer relationship, such as social media
- Data explicitly contributed by the customer to improve customer service, e.g communication preferences
The emerging idea of vendor relationship management, VRM, where customers take control, manage their data, their communication and other preferences, and have their own terms&conditions for doing business with vendors (and only those that comply), promises to give rise to customers more openly contributing data that can further improve the B2C and C2B conversation for sales, customer care, and support.
“Contextless” customer service communication results in messages with low informational value, which can ultimately lead to little loyalty from the customer. Companies that’s don’t apply context in their customer communication basically treat customers as numbers.
Continuity is a requirement for effortless communication. Since communication is rarely a singular event, but rather a chain of 2-way message events that take place over time, using context to provide continuity in the dialog is essential. Without continuity, communication slows down, as context needs to be repeated and confirmed. Applied to customer service, this can quickly result in frustration, as humans are used to a certain pace in everyday communication that makes heavy use of context and dialog history. If a customer repeatedly has to re-authenticate when calling a business or repeat their issue to an agent, they suffer from the opposite of what human communication is and should be about: efficiency and convenience. And whether a business wants it or not, the ease of everyday human communication is what their customer service is measured against, if mostly subconsciously.
Convenience is something that humans always have and always will strive for in whatever they do. Whether it’s about inventing tools to get help with mundane tasks, or computers to speed up business processes, convenience is a constant and everyday goal. Humans simply appreciate convenience. Human language, for example, knows the “principle of least effort”, also often called the “economy of language”: applying the minimum amount of effort necessary to achieve the maximum communication result. Consider how we’re using pronouns vs. constantly repeating the name or subject, or elliptic sentences or abbreviations in general.
In customer service, knowing about the customer’s specific circumstances (context) and applying that knowledge throughout the customer journey (continuity) will naturally result in ease of doing business (convenience) – which should be the ultimate goal of any business today.
by Mike Bourke, SVP & GM Workforce Optimization on February 23rd, 2015
It’s hard to read a blog or listen to a webinar related to the contact center without the author regurgitating the mantra of the importance of “Customer Engagement” or its synonym, “Customer Experience.” That’s not too surprising, since studies by industry analysts confirm the importance of customer engagement. Recent research by Aberdeen shows that in the past two years, the pursuit to delight customers has surpassed the need for better agent productivity as the most important goal for contact center workforce optimization systems. If agent productivity is less important, what should the focus on agent behavior be to ensure customer delight? Knowledge of human nature would tell us that the agent’s level of happiness and job engagement would be an important contributor to customer engagement, but we don’t hear much about the agent’s role.
Try this experiment. Google “customer engagement” and you’ll get about 4.4 million hits. Now try Googling “agent engagement.” You will get only about 30,000 hits. So people are talking, posting, blogging and promoting customer engagement about 150 times more frequently than agent engagement. You get even more disparate results when you Google “customer experience’ and “agent experience”. Yet agent engagement is certainly much more important than those Google results would lead us to believe. A study by Forrester in 2011 showed that almost all executives surveyed were convinced that customer satisfaction and agent experience are very highly correlated. Further, they thought that improving the agent experience was among the top 3 factors likely to improve the customer experience. The agent is clearly not getting enough recognition in the marketplace when it comes to factors that help to delight the customer.
Aspect models the relationship between customer engagement and agent engagement as shown here. In a conversation between two human beings, you really can’t separate their experiences. They influence each other significantly, continuously and symbiotically. If the agent is really enthusiastic and positive, it has to affect the customer in a positive way. If the customer is angry, it will be perceived by the agent, and sometimes the agent gets angry as well. The attitude of one party will definitely affect the other, and this dynamic can often induce antagonistic spirals if negative feelings come in or virtuous spirals if positive feelings come in. The secret for the enlightened contact center is to take steps to ensure that agents start with as much positive energy as possible to create those virtuous spirals, and to do this, agents need to feel really empowered and engaged in their jobs.
Engagement Quotient as a Holistic Measure
Knowing that both customer engagement and agent engagement are important to ultimate customer satisfaction and that you really can’t look at them separately, we need a measure to capture the level of engagement of both the agent and the customer. This gives you an objective view of how well your contact center is succeeding with a comprehensive measure of engagement. At Aspect, we call this the “Engagement Quotient” of EQ for short. We have developed a formula that embodies the notion that customer engagement is more important than agent engagement, but only by a factor of 2 or so, which is quite different from the factor of 150 that we might impute from the relative presences of these factors on the web. In essence, since customer engagement is our end objective, enhancing customer engagement by whatever means is somewhat more directly powerful than enhancing agent engagement, which indirectly improves customer engagement. Also, the total Engagement Quotient is inversely proportional to N, the number of interactions required between agent and customer, which is a measure of customer effort. We are currently working with outside analysts to verify the integrity of our EQ calculation using actual call center data.
The Aspect EQ Workforce Optimization Portfolio
We’re serious about driving agent and customer engagement, and we have refined our WFO portfolio and renamed our WFO offering to embrace the contribution that WFO can make to customer and agent engagement. The new name: Aspect EQ Workforce Optimization. In March, Aspect will be releasing the 8.1 version of our Aspect EQ WFO software with many new features. Most think about WFO as a way to enforce contact center rules and practices rather than as driver of customer and agent engagement, but consider the following chart highlighting the primary engagement effects of some key WFO capabilities:
The chart above shows the primary engagement beneficiaries of these important WFO features, but many of them also have a secondary beneficial effect both directly and indirectly through the virtuous cycle effect mentioned above. The power of WFO to influence customer and agent engagement in a positive way is undeniable, and that makes WFO increasingly important in the rapidly changing contact center environment. Continue to follow our blog as we unfold more information about computing the EQ of your contact center and using advanced WFO tools to drive that engagement quotient for customers and agents.
by Kathleen Schroeder on February 19th, 2015
According to the British Journal of Anesthesia, organ donation and transplantation (ODT) is a modern day success story: everything about it can be seen in a positive light. For the donor and their relatives, something good has emerged from a disaster. For the recipient, there is the opportunity for a new independent life, free from many of the constraints of supportive therapy. For the medical profession, there is an opportunity to bring about a cure for an otherwise intractable acute or chronic disease, and for society as a whole, it provides an exceedingly cost-effective solution.
February 14th was National Donor Day. Even though transplants are widely considered success stories, the challenge of recruiting donors is never ending. In fact, the statistics are shocking. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- In the US alone, 123,211 people are on a waitlist for an organ
- One organ donor can save up to eight lives
- The gap between the number of donors needed, and actual donors, continues to grow.
- Right now, there are more than enough people waiting for an organ to fill a large football stadium twice over.
Proactive outreach, ease of process navigation, and donor satisfaction are key components for making more success stories a reality.
Data from optn.transplant.hrsa.gov and OPTN/SRTR Annual Report. ** Data include deceased and living donors.
Successful donor recruitment lies in your health system’s ability to educate the population of the need. Proactive outreach solutions can help you bridge the gap between donors and recipients.
Engage donors by:
- Increasing engagement by proactively sending educational information on how to become a donor and providing links to registration sites.
- Providing outreach information on community days initiated by your health system for new donors.
- Notifying donors/donor families of seminars your health system provides to prospective donors.
- Increasing insurance compliance by providing links for donors/donor families to update/add donor information in their insurance profile.
- Minimizing your health system’s exposure by proactively notifying new donors of the legalities of becoming a donor.
- Actively engaging donors through chat, SMS and text with links to donor registration sites.
- Easily reaching out with interactive surveys to learn how you can improve your recruitment processes.
Engage your donors with proactive, outbound solutions. Help turn transplant uncertainty into more positive realities.
Learn more about Aspect’s proactive outbound engagement solutions for healthcare.
by Mark King, SVP Europe & Africa on February 17th, 2015
We’ve touted the idea before with many of our customers, and the buzz is that YouTube is increasingly presenting itself as a key touch point for customer service. While many organisations do already upload videos onto the popular video-sharing website, such as sponsored blogger posts, product demos, promotional clips etc., we’ve suspected for a long time that in fact, we want to use YouTube’s community as a self-service channel.
In order to find out, the Aspect marketing team in the UK ran a consumer survey of 100 people living in the UK over the age of 16 and the results speak for themselves. It seems that we are all customer service reps now, as increasingly, we prefer to do our desk research first before ever contacting a company, whether we’ve bought something or not. Whether we feel it’s a hassle to go out of our way to make contact, or simply that we think it’ll be easier and quicker to find out the delivery times of our barbeque, or the length of a dress, or even to make a booking for a bowling lane; essentially, it’s clear that customer service strategies seriously need to consider the implications of the self-serve consumer culture that’s rapidly making a beeline for contact centres.
According to the survey, more than 3 in 5 of us (61 per cent) say that we’d immediately hit the net’s search engines for information about a product or service before money has changed hands, with a third (33 per cent) sticking to the same method for finding out information – such as how to use something, spare parts or delivery updates – even after we’ve made a purchase. Company websites were also popular among those asked, with 15 per cent opting for visiting a particular supplier’s website before purchase, 1 per cent more than using a reviews website.
YouTube was found to be an increasingly popular form of customer service, as when asked, 77 per cent of those UK consumers sampled would sooner head to the video upload site to find out how to resolve an issue, than contact the company they’d bought from. Curiously, 4 in 5 of us (84 per cent) get frustrated if we can’t find a satisfactory answer online within just 10 minutes of searching.
But what does this suggest to a customer service manger? I’m not saying “set up a YouTube channel NOW and populate it with How To videos” – that’s not the point, the point is that we are increasingly relying on each other to help solve our issues without ever speaking to someone from the organisation we bought from (or are intending to buy from). But I don’t think this indicates a lack of control or that customer service professionals should be worried about what’s going on behind the keyboards of the world’s consumers – I do think however that there is a truly fantastic opportunity to take a fresh look at self-service – beyond an IVR, FAQ engine or knowledgebase.
Self-service has evolved alongside the communications space, into a multi- and omni-channel environment, and with Aspect Multi-Channel Self Service, we understand how new channels, including social media, SMS and even web chat, can truly be a part of this. Self-service strategies draw calls and interactions away from the contact centre into cheaper channels that can handle the most common issues. As a call avoidance strategy, it is effective. As a customer experience strategy, it is right on point with ensuring that today’s consumer is getting the help that they want, when they want it, in the way that they desire.
by Tim Dreyer on February 13th, 2015
Great leaders are such a vital part of the success of any organization, be it a country, a company or even a contact center. So how does one shamelessly tie in the U.S. holiday, President’s Day with the issues facing today’s contact centers? Not everyone can do what great contact center managers do, so what if we imagine what some of the U.S. Presidents’ famous words would look like if those presidents were marginally effective contact center managers?
“You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time, especially since my company built a community to aggregate customer knowledge and shared experiences. Customers don’t miss a thing now.”
“Speak softly and carry a big stick…with maybe a Jabra wireless headset and a mobile workforce app. Because what am I supposed to do with the stick?”
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…and a disaster recovery plan designed and deployed during the Harding administration. We’re hosed if we go down.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. But ask it between the hours of 8 AM and 4 PM Eastern Standard Time. And don’t leave a voice mail because we might not get back to you until the middle of next week.”
John F. Kennedy
“I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say. But that was before we implemented call recording and I had to explain to our chief experience officer why stayed silent on a customer call for 35 minutes while they tried to resolve a billing issue.”
“The Buck stops here. But those tweets about how bad our service is keep coming. We should look into that, Alben.”
Harry S. Truman
“Let every sluice of knowledge be open and set a-flowing. Because how else are we going to deliver an omni-channel experience? Customer history and internal data may as well be in a chamber pot if we don’t use it to better the customer experience. Look at me, my genius is a-flowing!”
by Kathleen Schroeder on January 30th, 2015
January is National Birth Defect Prevention month. How are you helping your expectant mothers minimize birth defects? According to HealthSparq, provider-specific studies show that proactive patient engagement leads to a 30% increase in care plan adherence.
Care plan adherence through patient education and regular contact with a primary care team is the first step to promoting healthy living throughout a woman’s formative years leading up to a pregnancy.
After a woman discovers that she is pregnant, she needs information to help her progress through pregnancy and to support the healthy development of her baby. There are many classes about nutrition, healthy habits, smoking and alcohol cessation, exercise, labor and delivery, fetal health, disease management during pregnancy and baby care. A future mother can be enrolled in one of many proactive outreach programs by her doctor and care team to better manage her care and in turn contact her to enroll her in classes that are truly meaningful. These are just a few examples of how Aspect Healthcare can help you create an engaging environment that connects women and care teams to get their babies off to a healthy start. Other benefits of proactive outreach are:
For expectant mothers:
- Increase engagement by sending educational information based on appointment type or pregnancy stage
- Remind expectant mothers of upcoming lab tests and pre-appointment requirements so encounters remain on schedule
- Provide a secure link that allows expectant mothers to reschedule their appointment if necessary
- Allow expectant mothers to pre-register for appointments to save time the day of their appointment
- Increase insurance compliance by providing links for expectant mothers to update/add insurance information to their profile prior to their appointment
- Provide patient focused information about hours of operation, directions, parking information, upcoming events, new physician announcements, and special services for expectant mothers.
For the care team:
- Reduce ‘no show’ rates by allowing expectant mothers to reschedule before their scheduled appointment
- Improve patient arrival times, keeping you on schedule
- Increase number of expectant mothers seen and ultimately your revenue stream
- Capture lost staff and physician time by automating patient communications
- Reduce front office workload, while simultaneously increasing the frequency and quality of patient communication.
- Ease patient access to commonly requested information such as hours of operation and improve call routing when human assistance is required.
- Get expectant mothers into the system quickly and efficiently
- Create long-term loyalty between expectant mothers and the care team
- Provide more accurate schedules for the care team
- Deliver value-based care focused on preserving mother and baby wellness
- Improve patient adherence to their pre-natal care plan
- Increase awareness of and participation in wellness programs that will improve overall health of the mother and baby
- Follow-up with expectant mothers about their clinical well-being after appointments if needed.
- Increase access by freeing up appointment time for new expectant mothers
- Reduce billing inquiries and insurance payment delays
- Improve profitability and ROI, allowing for more expectant mothers to be seen during the course of a day.
Proactively engaging with expectant mothers is key to the health and well-being of newborn children. Be proactive, your new mothers will thank you for it.
by Tim Dreyer on January 28th, 2015
How can you make an industry analyst in the contact center space love you and your company? That’s a trick question. You can’t. The better question is how can you engage them so they know what is new, cool and exciting about your company? Here are a few tips to consider:
Take them to a cool place. Cape Cod, cool. Cancun, cooler.
Procure and secure the right equipment you need to present your story effectively. Something will go wrong inevitably (it did), but prepare for worst and hope for the best. But remember, your idea of ‘best’ does not always match up with your hotel’s. Then take a Selfie with the equipment. It’s good luck I think.
Strategize on the message. We felt we had so many good things to share like a great 2014, market momentum and a portfolio that has come together from a combination of partnerships and acquisitions. We wanted to share the top talent we have brought on and the market strategy we’ve put together that provides our customers with a vision to address the change in consumer engagement preferences. And we needed to be organized in how we presented it. So we ate food and talked. A lot.
Rehearse. We rehearsed. Then we rehearsed some more.
Stay away from the scenery. Look, but don’t touch is the general rule at a good analyst summit. Time is best spent preparing, presenting and socializing. Because our summit wasn’t just about presentation pontification, it was about relationships – talking about what our analysts are covering, what they are seeing in the market, and asking for their opinions. But that ocean though…
Start the day off with a strong coffee, preferably with a fancy decoration in the foam. Repeat mid-morning, late morning and early afternoon.
Kick things off with a warm welcome. Thank the analysts for coming; tell them you’re happy they’re there. Mean it. Because if you aren’t, don’t invite them. Industry analysts can smell B.S. from a mile away, or in this case, a Gulf away.
Let them hear from your CEO unless your corporate direction comes from your Director of Analyst Relations (it doesn’t). Aspect’s CEO is Stew Bloom who at our summit talked about disruptive business models and how changes in consumer expectations and preferences make the moment right for model disruption in the customer engagement market. Strong vision backed by sound strategy and solution sets win confidence.
Get ALL your executives involved. Give them something to tweet about, something to write about. Analysts have clients. They make recommendations. Letting them know what you have on the horizon helps them with their customers and in the end helps your name get in front of customers.
Bake some treats with product puns in the frosting. Ok have someone else bake them but hand them out in the afternoon. Sugar is a conference presenter’s best friend.
Find comfy chairs and couches. Admire them then move on. Remember, look but don’t touch…or sit.
Have some fun. Pour a few drinks with exotic fruits and mysterious ingredients. Take Selfies. But not too many.
Then when it’s all over, track back. Follow up with them to make sure they have everything they need and all…if not most, of their questions have been answered. See what they are saying about the event on Twitter or when they blog. Just don’t get creepy about it. No one likes a troll.
by Yin Warren on January 27th, 2015
One of the top consumer complaints when calling contact centers for service is long hold times. The longer consumers wait the more frustrated they become. And if they get frustrated enough they lose patience, abandon calls and take their business to competitors. However, it’s not easy to balance agent staffing levels to always match call volumes. It’s inevitable that customers will have to wait for service at times, but there are better ways to handle these unfortunate situations. One option is to improve the customer hold time by reducing wait times and allowing customers to use wait time more productively – all achievable via a well-designed callback option within a mobile self-service solution.
Mobile self-service is an ideal solution for contact centers because customers today rely on their mobile devices to access service or information quickly. Adding mobile self-service to your IVR empowers your customers by providing easy-to-use self-service tools. This leads to happier customers and prevents customers from zeroing out to an agent. According to IBM Retail Research, 72% of customers prefer self-service over picking up the phone and 91% would use self-service if it was available.
One way to address this is through Aspect’s InQueue Self-Service, one of the solutions available in Aspect’s mobility suite. InQueue Self-Service gives the customer options of a callback and self-serve through a link to a web app. Customers can attempt a solution to their inquiry via mobile self-service without losing their position in the callback queue. The mobile app either cancels the callback if self-service interaction was successful or the caller receives a pre-qualified callback from a knowledgeable agent. While the solution can be deployed on-premises, cloud deployment has the added benefit of avoiding upfront capital expenditures or having to overprovision for failover, seasonal bursts or future needs.
The following diagram illustrates how our InQueue Self-Service solution can help companies exceed customer expectations with the use of mobile technology.
Mobile self-service options provide a better customer experience and reduce the number of calls agents receive, making more efficient use of call center resources. Aspect’s InQueue Self-Service is a win- win for both companies and customers.
by Christine OBrien on January 23rd, 2015
The millennials are coming. By 2015, millennials—76 million strong—will have a combined purchasing power of $2.45 trillion worldwide, according to a recent study conducted by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. When millennials are looking to interact with companies/brands online, Facebook is the most popular platform as 62 percent “like” at least one brand on the social media network. Also consider the fact that the majority of Twitter users are between 18-29 years-old.
Born and raised in the golden age of technology, millennials consume information when and how they want to, expect immediate access to information via a number of contact channels, and perceive stellar customer service through an entirely different lens than their preceding generations. But clearly, companies are missing the mark when it comes to servicing millennials’ needs.
There will be severe consequences for companies that fail to adapt their customer engagement strategies to this generation. No longer can companies hang on to the antiquated tactics that worked on less tech-savvy consumers of the past. So here’s the critical question for businesses as the millennials’ purchasing power rises: Is your company’s contact center sophisticated enough to sufficiently cater to this generation? For example, does it boast omni-channel service—SMS, email, live chat—that provides millennials with anytime, anywhere access to information or social media software to enable social customer care that creates real value?
Here are two ways to ensure your existing contact center is measuring up for millennials:
Create Consistent Messaging: Whether it be through social media, mobile Web, text or live chat, millennials want answers. As a result, your company needs to implement consistent messaging across both live and self-service channels to keep prospective customers satisfied. For instance, the service over the phone should mirror the experience over social media. In addition, as consumers move between channels, they want a seamless transition to pick up where they left off. For example, if a millennial at work has to abruptly leave a live chat with a company, the phone call later that night should include the context of the earlier communication.
Social Media Engagement: We’ve all seen countless millennials swiping through their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds numerous times a day. Your company should leverage this power of social media to have meaningful, two-way conversations with your millennial customers.
By providing this next generation with a broad range of ways to contact your company, your millennial customers will feel attended to and noticed, leading to greater bottom line revenue for your company. For example, Aspect’s cutting-edge call center software, Zipwire, brings all contact options together in one place on one unified platform; your agents will be able to keep talking, typing and conversing with customers through the channels that are most convenient for them. By providing more channel choices and self-service features, agents will be empowered with useful, relevant and impactful information to give customers the flexibility, convenience and autonomy, which defines a digitally driven lifestyle that’s fast becoming the global norm.
Interested in learning how a modern contact center can improve your customer experience? Contact an Aspect representative if you’d like to keep the conversation going.
by Rebecca Anderson on January 19th, 2015
You’ve likely heard of, if not tried Siri, Cortana, the Lowes robot (OSHbots) or Amazon’s Echo. These virtual assistants are only becoming more popular and more relied on. Whether it is reporting the traffic or identifying the proper stain for new cabinets, the basic purpose behind each is to help consumers to help themselves. Attempting alternate methods of customer service before contacting a live agent is nothing new. We “Google it,” look up a tutorial on YouTube or crowd source our query through Twitter or Quora. We believe that we can do simple tasks faster and possibly better ourselves than with the assistance of a customer service representative.
Aberdeen’s February 2014 report on self-service, Optimizing the Self-Service Experience: Help Customer Help Themselves, demonstrates that consumers both want to use self-service to solve simple issues and are happy with the results when they do. Companies on board with self-service stand to benefit, they enjoy 85% year-over-year increase in customer retention rates compared to companies without self-service. This means higher customer loyalty with less operating costs. Self-service implementation even has a positive effect on contact center KPIs. New research from help desk reviews and comparisons website Software Advice shows that first-level resolution, call abandonment rates, and speed to answer had the most considerable improvements .
Demand hasn’t exactly kept up with implementation though. According to Aberdeen less than half of companies currently have a self-service portal. However they do recognize the need for self-service with over 75% planning to adopt in the future.
Advances in self-service technology have helped match consumer preferences to reality. A few of Aspect’s newest technologies support self-service on social, SMS, and improve the experience on smartphones. For more details take a look at Aspect InQueue Self-Service, and Aspect Text Self-Service.