by Tobias Goebel on March 4th, 2015
SMS is going through an astonishing renaissance as a B2C customer service tool. A recent study from Harris Group showed that:
- 64% of consumers would prefer to use texting over voice as a customer service channel.
- 44% of consumers with texting capabilities would prefer to press a button to initiate a text conversation immediately, rather than waiting on hold to speak with an agent.
- 81% of all consumers agree that it’s frustrating to be tied to a phone, waiting for customer service help.
- 77% of consumers with texting capabilities aged 18-34 are likely to have a positive perception of a company that offers text capability.
Enough reasons to embrace this channel? But what exactly is it about this channel that makes it so attractive for the consumer?
- It’s personal: A mobile phone typically belongs to one person and isn’t shared
- It’s ubiquitous: Works on ANY cell-phone – even older feature phones that predominate in some regions of the world
- It’s asynchronous: Doesn’t consume a user’s entire attention, i.e. they can pursue other tasks while interacting via SMS
- It’s user-friendly: The user can advance in a dialog at their own pace – with none of the speech recognition challenges that frustrate IVR callers
- It’s persistent: Dialogs are archived on a phone automatically
- It’s less intrusive: SMS dialog can be conducted silently, during meetings, in presence of others, while traveling, etc.
- It’s cheaper to provide than IVR or telephony
If you think about it, the entire range of advantages listed above also applies to Twitter – sometimes even more so. Take ubiquity for example: Twitter is usable via the SMS channel. Also, it is integrated into virtually any modern operating system. Through the swipe of a finger, users of Windows, iOS, Android, Mac OS X have quick access to Twitter. Often even from within apps, incl. browsers, for quick share.
When you think about it, Twitter and SMS are essentially the same type of channel (text-only – restricted in the allowed message length – and usable over a mobile phone). There is a major difference however – SMS messages are always private, while Twitter is public by default, with the option of taking a conversation private via Direct Messages (DM).
DM is a channel that Twitter is enhancing frequently, recently with a push towards group chat capabilities. Also, SMS is delivered via mobile carriers that charge for it, whereas Twitter messages are delivered “over-the-top”. And data plans are common.
Customers today use Twitter to complain, ask for help, get opinions from peers, and escalate issues. Many people simply like Twitter for its ease of access, the responsiveness of the staff (that can handle more than one Twitter chat in parallel, much like Web chat), and its inherent simplicity as a communication channel.
All these considerations led Aspect to embrace it for self-service as well. We recently sold a first instance of Aspect Social Self-Service to a carrier that is on a mission to dramatically improve their customer experience. Using the Aspect Customer Experience Platform (CXP), they saw the potential of designing customer self-service logic once, and deploying it on multiple channels such as Twitter, SMS, (visual) IVR, mobile Web, and eventually other instant messaging services as they emerge.
CXP and its media platform driver concept ensures it can support any channel capable of “carrying a conversation” – making it a safe bet as a strategic platform. Our customer is currently in an internal pilot phase that is already proving successful – of particular note is that it shows a constant user base inquiring about account balances and minutes used. See below for the flow they implemented:
Wait, you might think, automated Twitter responses?? Haven’t we read tons of stories how that backfired? Don’t people hate bots and expect humans on Twitter? Yes, they will, if done wrong. The key is to evangelize your new offering as a supplement, not a replacement of your main Twitter presence. You’re doing this not to avoid the personal contact, but to increase the choices of service your customers have.
The advantages of self-service on Twitter are insanely fast response times (usually one second, vs. minutes or hours with live agents), high accuracy of the response due to tight backend integration, and the fact that you can easily monitor the automated account with live agents and handover conversations seamlessly from self- to live service when using Aspect Social. That’s giving you and your customers the best of both worlds.
Want to know more or pilot your own innovative customer self-service solution? Talk to us.
by Christine OBrien on March 2nd, 2015
You may have seen him featured on 60 Minutes, 20/20, The Today Show, The View, and many other network spots – Jason Dorsey is best known as the leading authority on young adults in that 18-25 age range called “Gen Y” or the Millennials. Dorsey isn’t just a bestselling author, speaker, and winner of Entrepreneur of the Year for his unique, research-driven approach to helping businesses solve generational challenges, the “Gen Y Guy” is a Millennial himself.
It takes one to know one.
We’re pleased to bring Dorsey’s energy and insight as a featured keynote speaker to this year’s ACE conference, CX 20/20: A Vision for Consumer Engagement.
If you haven’t yet registered for ACE, don’t wait! You won’t want to miss Dorsey’s keynote, as well as inspiring keynotes from Aspect leadership and the vast number of value-packed workshops, breakout sessions, networking opportunities we have planned during this three-day event. REGISTER NOW >>
Why Millennials Matter
The Gen Y and Millennial generation has come of age in a world inundated with technology, surrounded by the constantly shifting expectations of what’s possible. As Dorsey points out in his Top 10 Millennials & Gen Y Questions Answered, this audience is not so much tech-savvy as tech-dependent.
Gen Y’s and Millennials share a few other identifying characteristics that help set them apart from other generations in today’s workplace and society. For example:
- Gen Y loves instant gratification. The less time you ask them to wait “on hold” – if at all – the happier they’ll be.
- Gen Y often has a feeling of entitlement. This is certainly not true of every individual, but it might not hurt to make a Millennial caller feel a little “catered to”
- Gen Y has big expectations – and often no firm grasp or appreciation of the steps involved in delivering.
With this generation representing an estimated $2.45 trillion of purchasing power worldwide, it’s worth taking note of how your business can make key shifts in the Millennial customer experience to make a real difference.
Hear more at ACE!
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.