Ways to Boost Contact Center and Back Office Performance

by Rebecca Anderson on September 2nd, 2014

Rebecca AndersonDownload the white paperContact centers have been using workforce optimization (WFO) technology for as long as disco, Microsoft, and SNL have been around to make sure that the right agents are in the right places at the right time. While WFO technology has become more sophisticated and accurate, contact centers have been slow to reap the benefits of it.

In conjunction with ICMI, Aspect surveyed 417 contact center leaders in 2014 on their thoughts and experiences with workforce optimization technology and it’s clear there is room for improvement. The most alarming findings were:

  • Only 12% said that their workforce management software was accurate in predicting staffing levels
  • 44% do not have back office staff managed with WFO tools that are as effective as the contact center tools
  • 50% don’t use speech or text analytics

So how do you know whether a more advanced workforce optimization system can help your contact center run more efficiently, achieve higher customer satisfaction, increase agent engagement, and create an overall better experience?

Take a look at the report from ICMI and Aspect to find out how you can enhance your WFO system to ensure the best customer experience, a high productivity workforce and better agent morale!

Aspect Unified IP 7.3: A Contact Center Even Your CFO Will Love

by Michael Kropidlowski on August 28th, 2014

Michael Kropidlowski, Senior Manager, Product Marketing, AspectIn an era where consumers look at many products and services without distinction, high-touch customer service is being viewed by many companies as a way to differentiate themselves from their competition. But providing a consistent omni-channel customer experience, where consumers can start a conversation on one channel and continue it on another right where they left off doesn’t have to be complicated.

The hardest question for many contact centers to answer is what return are they getting for their investment? Taking into consideration such things as capital costs, implementation and operational costs in addition to the day-to-day costs of staff management, solution maintenance and agent training, it can be hard to answer the CFO when he or she asks you if the money was well spent.

The newly announced Aspect Unified IP 7.3 release brings a host of money saving features that can make that conversation go a little easier. For starters, UIP 7.3 brings additional user flexibility and efficiencies to inbound contact handling which minimizes customer time and effort and makes it easier for agents to engage them. And since this makes each engagement faster and more efficient, agents can take more calls in less time. Other cost of ownership highlights include:

  • Deployment flexibility that includes on-premises with Managed Services, hosted, or hybrid in Aspect managed data centers to reduce cost and complexity
  • A Unified Media Server helps deliver superior scale, flexibility and manageability with 2X increased agent and channel density
  • Expanded VM/database consolidation, VDI support which reduces TCO with up to 40% server reduction over previous releases
  • Simplified deployment profiles to streamline implementation

Want to see more information on Aspect flagship contact center solution? Check out our resource page.

TCPA Compliant Without Reducing Profitability

by Michael Kropidlowski on August 26th, 2014

TCPA Compliant Outbound MobileMichael Kropidlowski, Senior Manager, Product Marketing, AspectNearly everyone today thinks about the explosion and proliferation of mobile device use and how it has brought with it greater consumer convenience, entertainment or safety as a good thing. Everyone but contact centers. Today 55% of households can only be contacted via a wireless device which makes life difficult and complicated for contact centers trying to connect with their customers. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) has strict regulations about contacting consumers’ mobile devices so sending a reminder, delivering an important notification or collecting a debt without explicit consent for mobile phone communication could result in big fines. TCPA violations cost businesses hundreds of thousands – even millions of dollars a year. And these fines are becoming more frequent, the beginning of 2014 alone saw a 30 percent increase in TCPA filings.

To avoid this, some companies have reverted to having agents make manual calls. Aside from the fact that this approach takes an organization backward from a technology standpoint, it’s inefficient and opens to the door for other compliance violations such as those enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In light of all this, contact centers executing any outbound processes have to have a strategy and solution to manage wireless contacts that both keep them in compliance AND maximizes, not minimizes agent productivity. To achieve this, it’s critical that outbound operations:

  • Understand the best way to contact customers on their wireless devices
  • Know that it’s not just a telemarketer issue
  • Learn how to engage customers in an efficient, profitable and compliant way

There are better options than simply throwing up your hands, turning back the clock and returning to the days of manual dialing. A few key components of a TCPA compliant solution include:

  • Licensed option for no auto dialing and no auto message for contacting wireless phones
  • Track and Control number type (e.g. wireless) and consent on a per customer record /phone position basis
  • Track and Control attempts across multiple accounts

A good outbound call strategy can eliminate the need to choose between over complying with reduced profitability or under complying while risking significant legal and financial exposure. Aspect works with hundreds of companies to help them understand TCPA, the implications on their business and how they can be more effective with their outbound calling strategies while staying in compliance.

Learn more about keeping your contact center profitable and compliant with the new Aspect Unified IP 7.3.

Burstability: The Next Big Play for Your Contact Center This Season

by Maddy Hubbard on August 22nd, 2014

maddyhubbardThey say it’s never too early to start thinking about “the season.”

One would naturally assume the holiday season, but not in this case.  We’re talking football season, and more specifically, college football, which is rapidly approaching. On August 30th, the first Saturday of the college football season, there are 60 games scheduled to be played, 50 of which will be televised (where is “The Ocho” when you need it to broadcast the other 10 games?) You may be asking what college football has to do with a cloud contact center. Let’s take a look at a few possible demand-driven scenarios that may occur on this day:

1. According to pizza.com, Saturday is already the most popular day to order pizza.  One can only imagine that demand increases when there are so many football games to watch. Pizza delivery restaurants will be busy with orders, not only by the traditional method of voice, but also via web and mobile applications. After all, it’s sometimes difficult to make a voice call from a house full of screaming fans!

2. The Ohio State University is playing Navy at noon eastern on a network generally available in the premium sports channel package.  Once Buckeye fans discover they may not be able to see the game, they’ll call their cable or satellite provider inquiring about adding the channel or college game packages so they don’t miss a second of the action. It’s dizzying, I know, but such packages exist!

3. The just-released AP Top 25 Poll ranks Florida State #1 and includes a record-tying 8 Southeastern Conference (SEC) teams.  Ticket offices for Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium and Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium will likely be very busy on days leading up to home games with inquiries for available tickets.

In each of these scenarios there will be sudden bursts of activity, lasting through the College Football Championship Game on January 12, 2015.  Then, pizza delivery restaurants will return to a less hectic Saturday delivery schedule, cable and satellite providers may have fewer customers in search of special channels and packages and the phone lines at football ticket offices will be less active.

Sudden changes in call center activity shouldn’t mean sudden stress. When you need burstability, the ability to scale quickly – up or down, the Aspect Cloud automatically makes capacity available to you when you experience a ramp-up, meaning no need to wait for resources to be deployed.  This minimizes periods of agent wait time and minimizes abandonment rates.

Our Cloud also allows you to leverage state-of-the art technologies without major investments in hardware and infrastructure.  You can be up and running in days — before the first kickoff.  Not weeks or months, after the urgent need has passed you by.

The Omni-Channel Workforce and the Brave New World of Customer Interaction

by Eric Hagaman on August 20th, 2014

keyboardEric Hagaman, Product Manager, Aspect

In an increasingly omni-channel world, where customers want to be able to engage companies whenever and wherever they please, a more intelligent approach is needed to manage the skilled labor necessary to address this rising consumer demand. And not only in the voice channel, but in all of the communication channels as well. The contact center industry has spent decades refining the intricacies of forecasting, scheduling and intra-day tracking of adherence for inbound and outbound voice calls. The next frontier is wrestling with the management of the workforce across all of these channels. Unfortunately, these other channels don’t have the same dynamics as the voice channel, and you can’t use the same planning and forecasting techniques to manage the workforce efficiently in these non-voice channels.

Chat is a perfect example. Forrester notes that chat is the third most heavily used form of interactive customer communication after voice and email, but it is by far the fastest growing at about 8% per year. Aspect’s own research shows chat is actually even ahead of email. Unique to customer contact via the chat channel is the practice of assigning multiple, simultaneous chats to one agent. Assigning one chat contact to an agent is generally considered underutilization of resources due to gaps in time spent waiting for customer message composition after the agent composed and sent his or her reply. Without any other guidance, most workforce optimization managers would use some simple rules of thumb to estimate staffing levels required to meet service level targets. Their estimates are likely rooted in their experience with voice, but chat is a completely different world with different rules of conversational engagement, different timing, and different physical processes involved in working with multiple customers simultaneously.

Here’s an example to think about.

A team of chat agents has been assigned to provide customer service, with a maximum of three concurrent chats per agent. Using the pattern of historical chat volume, the Workforce Management (WFM) manager observes the average handle time of an employee handling one chat at a time and divides that by 3 (since each agent is handling up to a max of 3 sessions) then uses standard single skill voice channel erlang-based methods to arrive at a required number of agents for each time period to meet a 70% in 30 seconds Service Level Goal. Using this method, the staffing looks like the Current Industry Practice line below.

However, when an agent’s workload goes from one chat session to two and then to three, new dynamics come into play. Here are some of the more obvious ones:

  • The agent is getting routed more chats from the queue
  • From the perspective of a customer, that agent is now responding more slowly because they are working on replies to multiple other customers interleaved with their responses to a single customer.
  • The agent is now switching mental and business contexts as their attention moves from one customer to another and some time is spent getting back up to speed on the contents of that conversation before composing a reply.
  • Unproductive time can impact multiple customer chats.

The actual number of chat staff required to meet required service levels computed taking all of the dynamics of chat is shown in the Actual Staff Required line.

chatagentsscheduled

You can see that it’s much higher than what would be estimated using current industry practice.

Another way to look at this is from the perspective of service levels. In the chart below, the Current Industry Practice line shows that the contact center would be well short of their required service level if they were to schedule based on required staff computed by estimating handle time and using voice channel methods. Using the Aspect Multi-Chat Calculator, taking all of the particular dynamics of chat, multiple simultaneous chats, and multiskill staff into account, the actual service level would be very close to being met throughout the day if we staffed using the Aspect Model.

chatexpectedservicelevel

As we noted above, the industry has had years to think about how to forecast, schedule and track the voice workforce. Not so for other customer communication channels. When you start to peel back the onion, you will find a whole new set of metrics that we need to incorporate in our forecasting models such as: chat concurrency (how many simultaneous chats is the agent handling), agent composition time, customer composition time, agent wait time, customer wait time and number of messages exchanged in a session. For WFO professionals, it’s a radically different way of having to think about customer engagement.

Fortunately, Aspect is leading the charge in this brave new world of omni-channel customer interaction. For more information about the Multi-Chat Calculator and other features of Aspect’s Workforce Management solution, visit our web page or feel free to contact me directly at eric.hagaman@aspect.com

Omni-Channel Service Could Make Fast Food Even Faster

by Mark King, SVP Europe & Africa on August 18th, 2014

Mark King, SVP Europe and Africahamburger-1198649-mFast food is something that many of us enjoy; being able to receive whatever food you crave quickly, and with minimal effort, makes it a popular choice for households worldwide.

The recent news that Domino’s will be embracing a new omni-channel system brings to light an interesting discussion on how the fast food market can make the most out of an omni-channel approach.

Fast food is a huge industry and one that operates in almost every corner of the UK. According to VoucherCodes.co.uk, Britain spends a huge £29.4 billion per year on fast food, with the average Brit spending £109 per month so they can tuck in to their favourite dishes.

To maintain the industry’s success, customer satisfaction comes first and foremost. Customer satisfaction with both the product and the service is essential; but arguably it is easier to get the latter right because all customers want is the food that they ordered as quickly as possible. Deploying an omni-channel system will no doubt help to deliver this expected experience for a business like Domino’s.

Deploying an omni-channel strategy boosts customer loyalty in its ability to offer a personalised customer experience. To paraphrase the fast food giant Burger King – “have it your way.” True omni-channel in this business means being able to make an order via any channel the customer wants to use, any place; any time and seamlessly transition to another channel while maintaining the context of the conversation. Imagine if you were able to just tweet your order and then receive a text letting you know when to expect your large Mighty Meaty pizza and chicken wings.

Omni-channel is the future of customer service and speed is key in driving it to be more and more important to consumers. Fast food is supposed to be the quick solution to hunger and now that these new channels are available, customers will be expecting more from their fast food providers, and the market should fully take advantage of this.

Seek Out These 11 Advantages in a Cloud Contact Center

by Alyx Kaczuwka on August 13th, 2014

Alyx Kaczuwka11 key advantagesIf you’re considering a Cloud-based contact center solution, you probably already realize that not every Cloud was created equal. In fact, when you look past all the promises, some solutions turn out to be much more “fluff” than substance – and that’s no way to power your enterprise’s customer experience.

We’d like to invite you to consider 11 key advantages that Aspect’s Zipwire has over the competition,  which includes how our history of contact center innovation has come together with fresh and innovative strategies that create a consistent customer experience on voice, mobile, web and social channels, all delivered over our patented Cloud architecture.

From ease of acquisition and deployment to the flexibility to burst and scale your contact center along with your business needs, we’ve made it easy to implement an omni-channel solution that creates cost efficiencies, reduces customer frustration, and gets you closer to the goal of first-contact resolution. The true benefit comes through easy integration of self-service channels, proactive outbound notifications, surveys, Cloud-based workforce management, advanced list management and the ability to integrate one-click contact center access into your mobile applications.

In our new white paper, Zipwire Cloud Contact Center Solution: 11 Key Advantages, learn more about our reliable, secure Cloud architecture and how each of these benefits can bring you closer to understanding the customer journey and aligning your contact center activity with customer needs.

Give it a read, and let us know what you think!

Omni-Channel Self-Service Takes Center Stage for Banks and Financial Providers

by Guy Cooper, GM Qivox on August 11th, 2014

Guy Cooper, GM QivoxAccording to a recent survey conducted by ING, the use of mobile banking has increased significantly, with an estimated 31% of the UK population now using it, while the use of cash has dropped to 46%. I suspect this trend will continue but at an even faster pace, as British customers seek out the quickest, and simplest way to do business with their banks and financial services providers.

The main thing that customers look for these days is a simple and straightforward solution to their problem, not bells and whistles, or “going above and beyond.” Your customers are busy people who don’t want to have to stop their day to talk to you in order to make transactions, which is why we’re seeing such a massive uptick in mobile banking being used to perform financial services.

It’s quick, as secure as it needs to be, and therefore it’s hassle free – and it’s available to anyone, anywhere. Banking has evolved beyond going in to your local branch and using the bank’s website, to every channel possible.

In 2014 most of us are not without our smart phone in our pocket or bag. Banks and financial services providers therefore need to be where their customers are. We’re talking true omni-channel integration of all mobile channels, with no discrepancy in service during a single interaction or across many. It is only when all channels are perceived as one by banks and financial services that customers can be confident enough to say, “Hey, doing business with you is really easy!”

Of course, one idiosyncrasy of the industry is the constant battle to prevent fraud. With mobile, criminals have another medium to potentially exploit. Matching up ease of doing business with the absolute need to authenticate a user is no mean feat, but self-service is helping to strike that balance.

A typical customer conversation that starts on social media, requesting an account change, then moves to email for identity verification, which then may slip into mobile web to request a call back from a live agent to solve more complex queries, is what truly forward thinking financial services firms should be aiming for. The customer has extended very little effort at all, and they skip the contact center queue. In many instances they may not even need to be contacted by a live person, and the business has resolved the query quickly and satisfactorily, with little resource. We then have a happy customer.

The mobile banking revolution is here, and it will continue to change and grow as the technology develops. It is not a time for fear, change is inevitable and those who embrace it will truly reap the rewards.

Keeping Healthy Connections through Proactive Outreach

by Kathleen Schroeder on August 7th, 2014

Kathleen SchroederWhile many healthcare organizations continue to focus on what happens when patients are physically in the hospital or at the doctor’s office, successful healthcare systems are taking steps to maximize patient engagement and retention before, during and after patient visits.

Let’s take a real-life example to make our point.  Meet Karen. She is a typical healthcare consumer. She works hard at her job, and when she’s not, she’s keeping up with her family on her smart phone. At night, she helps her children do their homework and when they’re done, she gets some time to watch TV and browse the internet on her tablet.

Later the next day, Karen is sitting at her doctor’s office, rapidly strumming her fingers on the arm rest of her waiting room chair. Her doctor is uncharacteristically late and she’s getting annoyed. She has access to her tablet but not her corporate email account and is imagining how many emails are piling up. “Why is this taking so long?” she thinks to herself. Then the receptionist calls her over with a forced smile on her face. “I’m sorry, but your doctor has had an emergency come up and will need to reschedule your appointment.” Karen is upset about the amount of time she wasted and leaves without rescheduling.

This wouldn’t have happened if Karen had been proactively notified that her doctor was unavailable and was able to easily reschedule her appointment – in one convenient exchange.

Actively Engage Your Patients

According to HealthSparq, provider-specific studies from Johns Hopkins and the University of Rochester show proactive patient engagement lead to a 30% decrease in patient no-shows. And this isn’t the only benefit to your patients and healthcare system.

Benefits of proactive communication for patients:

  1. Increase patient engagement by sending educational information based on appointment type
  2. Remind lab patients of test requirements so their tests remain on schedule
  3. Provide a secure link that allows patients to reschedule their appointment if necessary
  4. Allow patients to pre-register for appointments to save time the day of their appointment
  5. Increase insurance compliance by providing links for patients to update/add insurance information to their profile prior to their appointment
  6. Provide patient focused information about hours of operation, directions, parking information, upcoming events, new physician announcements

Benefits of proactive communication for providers:

  1. Reduce ‘no show’ rates by allowing patients to reschedule before hand
  2. Improve patient arrival times, keeping you on schedule
  3. Increase number of patients seen and ultimately your revenue stream
  4. Capture lost staff and physician time by automating patient communications
  5. Reduce front office workload, while simultaneously increasing the frequency and   quality of patient communication.
  6. Ease patient access to commonly requested information such as hours of operation and improve call routing when human assistance is required

Long-term benefits for both patients and providers:

  1. Get patients into the system quickly and efficiently
  2. Create long-term loyalty between patients and providers
  3. Provide more accurate schedules for providers
  4. Deliver value-based care focused on preserving wellness and preventing readmissions
  5. Improve patient adherence to their care plan
  6. Increase awareness of and participation in wellness programs that will improve overall population health
  7. Follow-up with patients about their clinical well-being after an emergency department visit, a hospital admission, or even a routine visit for a chronic condition.
  8. Increase access by freeing up appointment time for new patients
  9. Reduce billing inquiries and insurance payment delays
  10. Improve profitability and ROI

Keeping patients like Karen engaged and loyal to your healthcare system is vitally important to your long-term financial viability. The significance of patient communication in reaching this goal cannot be overstated. It costs 90%less to get current patients to return for future care than it does to attract new ones. The real value of a solid proactive outreach effort comes from the ability to deliver a quality patient experience that alleviates lost revenue because of factors such as low HCAHPS scores or attrition.

Be proactive, your patients will thank you for it.

Learn more about Aspect’s proactive patient engagement solutions for healthcare providers.

Top Contact Center Challenges Met by Simple Cloud Solutions [INFOGRAPHIC]

by Maddy Hubbard on August 6th, 2014

maddyhubbardLast year, over 30% of businesses had already implemented Cloud-based contact center solutions, and another 30% now have current budgets in place to begin taking advantage of the many benefits offered by Cloud technology.

Research conducted by International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) highlights both the challenges contact centers face and the specific benefits that can be achieved by moving key functions to the Cloud. Greater simplicity, integration, agility, insight and security are all possible with a lightweight, scalable Cloud solution like Aspect’s Zipwire – one that’s designed to meet the unique challenges facing today’s contact centers and agents.

Check out the infographic below, and discover the many ways your contact center could benefit from a simple, Cloud-based offering like Aspect’s Zipwire solution.

ICMIcloud_infographicV2-newBP