Live Voting at Conferences: Innovative Ways of Using Traditional Customer Care Channels

by Tobias Goebel on July 25th, 2014

Tobias GoebelWhile we at Aspect are known for providing technology solutions to improve the customer experience and make it easy for businesses to engage with their customers, we are also known for innovation. When we planned our annual customer summit, Aspect Customer Experience (ACE), a little while ago, we put our heads together and thought of new and exciting ways to put our automation technology to use: IVR, SMS, mobile Web, Twitter, our cloud…

We came up with the idea of creating a live voting service, where members of the audience could answer a question posed by the speaker on stage. So we gathered our cloud services team and hacked away…

Using Voxeo CXP, we built an application that can take votes over the following channels:

  • IVR, using both speech recognition and DTMF
  • SMS
  • Mobile Web
  • Twitter, using a special hashtag to determine that a public tweet was meant as a vote at the conference

While this could be built in a matter of a few hours, using our cloud platform that supports instant provisioning of SMS and voice telephone numbers, the next challenge was how to visualize the results. In the Voxeo cloud, we use a powerful log indexing solution to farm through the roughly 1TB of logging data that our IVR cloud produces every day (!). This solution also supports visualizing the data through charts. We quickly decided to use this component to produce a graphical, browser-based dashboard that updates live, as votes are streaming in.

We have since replicated this for a number of other conferences with fantastic results. Collecting opinions from the audience while presenting live on stage and showing the results to a live-updating dashboard simply blows people away. The speed at which we could implement this innovative service – didn’t blow us away. We know the technology we have and how easy it is to put it to good use.

Here’s how the dashboard looked for a recent event we customized the solution for. The question for the audience was: “Where would you like to see the next event take place?”  - this is the result. Click the image to see an animated version showing how the results slowly build up:

Click to see the Live Voting Dashboard in action
Want to use this for your own conference? Give us a call! Or email! Or text! Or tweet! You get the idea…

It’s Game Over for Banks if Customer Protection is Not Improved

by Guy Cooper, GM Qivox on July 22nd, 2014

Guy Cooper, GM QivoxEarlier this month, another attempted resurgence of the infamous GameOver Zeus and CryptoLocker viruses, which have infected over 200,000 computers worldwide since April, reminded consumers not to let their guard down when it comes to safeguarding personal information online.

Criminals use viruses to gain access to personal data through phishing emails – emails dressed up to look as though they’ve been sent by a reputable bank or other trusted institution – taking control of computer files that have banking and financial information. If that fails, the virus encrypts all the files on a target’s computer and demands the user pay a specific fee to unlock the file. They can have a devastating effect on people’s finances and personal files and businesses – specifically banks. GameOver Zeus and CryptoLocker are two of the most vicious threats to customer security seen to date.

Banks need to be ready to protect both themselves and their customers from attacks like these, as the response to each strain of malware only represents a temporary respite until fraudsters work around the measures by developing alternative strains that circumvent anti-virus detection.

One of the biggest challenges facing financial services organizations and banks is to ensure that customer engagement processes are as secure as possible without compromising freedom to move between contact channels, or ease of doing business. The modern consumer expects to be able to deal with problems they have quickly and effectively, whenever and wherever they are, without disrupting their day. Smart devices make this possible. While consumers love the convenience this provides, it also poses new security challenges as banks try to meet these new demands.

For instance, if a bank sends a customer account information over SMS, this may make life easier for the customer but it is very insecure. A virus such as GameOver Zeus thrives on such insecurities, and would be able to access this information with minimal difficulty. As a result, this type of activity puts the customer’s account and finances in danger.

However, we cannot solely blame banks for inefficient security; banking is a highly competitive market, especially since switching accounts cannot legally take longer than seven days. If banks do not provide these quick and simple solutions for customers and require long-winded processes in order to access their accounts or perform banking services, they could risk losing these customers to rivals who don’t create this hassle.

This is a pivotal moment in both customer service and customer protection, because when the next generation of GameOver Zeus and Cryptolocker attack, everyone will need to be prepared. Making customers aware of the danger and how to protect themselves, in addition to enacting secure, common-sense security measures, may be the perfect balance to strike in the battle against fraud.

Happy Agents, Better Customer Service [INFOGRAPHIC]

by Tim Dreyer on July 18th, 2014

Tim Dreyer, Director, Public Relations and Analyst Relations, AspectIt’s amazing how much more productive you can be when you’re happy. Distractions and bad moods have a way of breaking your focus and keeping you away from tasks you need to get done. It’s really no different for customer service agents. A recent article in DestinationCRM noted that research has shown that an agent’s perceived happiness directly affects the satisfaction of the customer they are talking to. Two thirds of those customers surveyed said that their experience with a customer service agent significantly affects how they feel about the brand.

Erica’s infographic below has some great stats that confirm: happy agents mean happy customers — and who better to talk about agent happiness than our very own “super agent?”

Happy Agents, Better Service

Are You Ready and Protected for Paym Mobile Payments?

by Guy Cooper, GM Qivox on July 17th, 2014

Guy Cooper, GM Quivoxpayem logoThe financial services sector has encountered many changes over recent years, making it hard to keep up with ever-evolving customer needs while patching new technology on top of existing legacy systems. However, providers in this sector cannot be dismissed as being behind the times, and they certainly cannot be accused of not trying.

Keeping up with demand is not easy, and the financial services sector – particularly banking – has generally embraced the changes of customer contact and engagement by offering multiple channels to satisfy customer needs. It’s not enough though, banks are desperately trying to hold on to customer loyalty – something that the sector could once be proud of – but is becoming less abundant with a new generation of customers who are not afraid to switch providers, and do so with increasing ease. Banks are therefore determined to offer customers the best possible service in order to keep this loyalty, and retain customers. But, along with this evolution in customer service, banks must also consider the security implications and ensure that they implement relevant technologies, and strategies, to safeguard sensitive customer information.

One recent innovation of note is Paym, a new mobile, peer-to-peer banking solution launched this year in the UK that enables users to quickly send money to anyone else with a mobile number and a Paym account. As of April of this year, most well-known banks and building societies have signed on to support the Paym launch. The few notable exceptions include the Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest, and Nationwide, all of which are planning later adoptions. This type of mobile banking platform aims to make the process of sending protected payments without disclosing account details as easy as sending an SMS. There are many existing ways of making payments using a mobile phone, however the Payments Council initiative provides the first collaborative effort to link every bank account with a mobile phone number.

A technological and strategic initiative of this magnitude will present inherent risks to both the bank and the consumer, and will provide an opportunity for fraudsters to target this emerging and fast growing remote banking channel with new and inventive methods of deception. Already widespread, fraud factories’ numbers continue to swell, focused primarily on the theft of account holders’ identities.

One of the main challenges banks will need to overcome is making sure that customers have trust in both them and the security of the new payment method. A few things to consider:

  1. Customers have become used to having to jump through hoops to access their online banking, and by removing this, there is bound to be doubt in the customer’s mind that it is secure.
  2. The inconvenience of having a card blocked, or a legitimate card transaction being declined (thus causing the customer embarrassment), highlights the importance of getting this service right.
  3. While banks recognize the opportunity for an additional revenue stream for mobile and remote banking, without the correct security safeguards, a false positive detection could lead to a hampering of revenue streams and consequent reputational damage.
  4. Banks must ensure that they implement a solution to support a robust security process while remaining transparent to the customer through their payment process. Essentially, the less intrusive the process, the better it is.

The introduction of Paym will no doubt cause a stir for both banks and customers alike as this new paradigm struggles to take hold. It’s inevitable that there will be some mishaps due to the large-scale implementation across all banks over a short period of time, but those who have the foresight to ensure that their security is up to par will thrive. Paym will be the latest application to demonstrate which banks are taking their customers’ security seriously and which may need to up their game.

Are We Bending over Backwards for Consumers, or Getting Bent out of Shape?

by Alyx Kaczuwka on July 15th, 2014

Alyx KaczuwkaBy now you’ve probably read the Craigslist post from a restaurateur who compared old and new video footage of patrons in his or her restaurant in an attempt to understand why his service wasn’t being regarded as highly as it had been. (It was flagged on Craigslist, but numerous copies of it have been reposted to the blogosphere. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out.) 

From this empirical data, the author drew this conclusion: the restaurant’s staff was behaving as he expected, but customer behaviors had changed dramatically. The customers were making more demands, such as being re-seated at a preferable table, or getting assistance with connecting to the wi-fi and group photos; they lingered after finishing their meal before requesting a check; and ultimately they were spending nearly twice as long in the restaurant.

But why? The video suggested it was all because of their mobile devices. Connecting to wi-fi, reviewing table and entree recommendations on Yelp, taking food photos for Instagram and group photos for Facebook, and catching up on email and news after dinner are all typical behaviors for your mobile customer. Instead of using this data as a means to look for ways to improve the customer experience, at the end of the post, there was an unfortunate request to the customers: “[C]an you please be a bit more considerate?”

I would encourage this restaurateur to think of the simple ways the restaurant, instead, can be more in step with its customers’ mobile lifestyles. Small details like finding out which tables were getting a bad rap on social media for being too loud and close together and rearranging the floor plan, printing cards with the wi-fi password and situating them at tables or in menus, or determining if a higher or lower level of lighting might reduce the number of group photo re–takes, are all obvious actions to keep these customers satisfied and coming back. Mobile devices are here to stay, and ingrained in the lifestyles of customers in all industries. In the contact center world, we’d never request that our customers “be a bit more considerate” if our agents’ live chat volume went up or if calls were taking twice as long to resolve. We’d delve into our channel utilization, contact resolution and agent scoring dashboards to find out if the reasons were related to staffing levels, agent education or changes in customer preferences, and optimize our processes to ensure happy customers.

How Omni-Channel Techniques Can Help Make IVR Sexy

by Tobias Goebel on July 14th, 2014

Tobias GoebelIVR applications are the necessary evil of customer service. Without the pre-qualification of callers or the self-service features of IVR systems, contact centers would be too costly to run while maintaining acceptable hold times, sacrificing the customer experience in the end. But often, IVR applications are more painful than need be.

Omni-channel service has the promise of improving the experience for the demanding mobile consumer. It ensures that regardless of the channel used, and whether I am talking to an application or a person, the full history of my interactions as well as my complete customer records are always accessible, and the information is used intelligently to guide me throughout my customer journey. You could almost formulate this mantra of customer service: I shall never have to repeat or explain myself, ever.

Apple Inc. recently picked up this principle when they introduced us to what they call “continuity” in iOS 8. As they say: “Handoff lets you pick up right where you left off.” Their concept will remove the barriers between devices. Going further, they will even allow Mac’s or iPads to take phone calls. Doing this will work towards the vision of a seamless experience in ANYTHING we do, not only when interacting with businesses.

Applied to IVR, the omni-channel concept can empower highly personalized experiences. The key, however, is to also maintain “state” beyond the current call. This becomes particularly important when things don’t go as smoothly as expected. Who among us cannot relate to the frustrations felt when navigating through an IVR for many long minutes to complete a transaction, only to end up…

  • …in a queue with wait times of 20 minutes or more
  • …being told that you are calling outside of business hours and to please call again the next morning
  • …experiencing a dropped call from your carrier

Needless to say, most IVR systems deployed today do very little in the way of allowing me to continue a conversation where I left off the next time I call. They treat me as if they know nothing about me and my recent struggles.

Furthermore, frustrations arise when starting a self-service transaction in one channel…

  • … and not being able to complete it in another
  • … and having to repeat myself when transferred
  • … and not being able to continue the conversation with an agent while staying on the same channel

Luckily, omni-channel platforms exist, like Voxeo CXP and the Aspect Interaction Management product line that can help you build smarter solutions. Listen to the following IVR interaction of Max, who calls his mobile carrier, Prime Telecom, to update the expiration date of his credit card:

As you could hear, the call ended in a disconnect. Max’ call probably got dropped by Prime Telecom. He needs to call in again. He expects to have to go through the same menu structure again. To his surprise, though, the IVR remembers him. Listen in to his experience:

Instead of calling in again, Max could have decided to turn to Prime Telecom’s mobile Web app. This, too, knows his recent call and offers to resume the unfinished transaction:

omnichannel

Now THAT is a pleasant experience. Max feels that his mobile provider really cares about him and builds its self-service solutions with omni-channel care in mind.

This is clearly the type of interaction customers are hoping to have, and providers who can solve the challenges associated with IVRs will not only benefit from heightened customer satisfaction but also smoother and more efficient processes on the contact center side.

If you have an IVR system in place today and wish to improve it, reach out to us to learn how to sprinkle this extra bit of omni-channel dust onto your self-service experience.

4 Ways Cloud Solutions are Impacting the Contact Center

by Maddy Hubbard on July 10th, 2014

maddyhubbardCloud technologies are finding their way into every aspect of the business and the contact center is no exception. According to a new infographic and research by ICMI, 30 percent of contact centers have budgeted for a move to cloud technology in 2014. And that is on top of the contact centers already using cloud-based contact center applications.

Despite the statistics on adoption and growth, many companies are still hesitant to move their contact center off premises. Other companies are realizing significant competitive advantage by putting some – or all – of their call center in the cloud. No longer simply about saving money and avoiding capital expense, the cloud has become an important strategic consideration for businesses of all types and sizes.

Following are four ways cloud solutions are impacting the contact center – and bottom line business results:

1. Keep up with rapid change and improve the customer experience.

Consumer communication preferences continue to evolve and their expectations for fast, convenient and knowledgeable service are higher than ever. No longer do you need to be a big enterprise with a huge IT department and extensive infrastructure to afford to deliver great customer service. A recent Aberdeen Group study found that 45 percent of respondents cited improved customer experience as the largest driver in choosing a cloud-based deployment. For starters, a cloud contact center makes it easier to adopt new self-service and agent-assisted interaction channels like social, chat, two-way SMS and mobile web – giving your customers anytime, anywhere omni-channel access. The cloud also significantly eases outbound proactive engagement such as notifications, reminders and surveys. Equally important, a cloud contact center equips your representatives with advanced agent desktop tools and streamlined access to centralized data to effectively and quickly handle customer requests.

2. Adopt the latest technology and deploy new services faster.

The cloud provides immediate access to new functionality as it is available – without expensive, time-consuming upgrades. It also enables you to deploy new cloud applications in days rather than weeks or months – freeing you from the underlying details to focus on innovation. Finally, the cloud gives you access to modern systems that significantly ease changes, such as updates to network announcements, call menus and routing, and provides the agility and performance needed to quickly take advantage of opportunities, support new marketing campaigns and deliver targeted messages around product launches and promotions.

3. Improve disaster recovery.

Gartner estimates that only 35 percent of SMBs have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place. In a benchmark survey by the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council, one in four respondents said that they had lost most or all of a datacenter for hours or even days with losses ranging from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars. The business case for disaster recovery in the cloud is easy. Providers enable seamless failover of operations and web-based agent and supervisor desktops that enable your team to log in from anywhere, even if your primary site is inaccessible. Many even offer a 100 percent uptime guarantee SLA. The same strategies can be used to provide instant failover in support of unexpected and seasonal bursts in traffic.

4. Enhance security and better protect sensitive customer data.

Cloud providers offer advanced technologies and expertise to secure systems and isolate and safeguard data. Rarely do small and medium sized businesses have staff dedicated to security technologies, policies and training – and companies of all sizes feel the cost and resource impact of keeping up with standards and certifications. Compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) alone can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We’ve all seen the high-profile data theft and loss stories on the news. Cloud providers can help you more easily prevent data theft and loss.

Want to try it out?  Get your contact center going in the cloud in just minutes!  Sign up for a free 30-day Zipwire trial.

Contact Center Metrics: Creating Optimal Patient Experiences

by Kathleen Schroeder on July 7th, 2014

Kathleen SchroederPatient expectationsBy Aspect Software and Healthcare Intelligence

When speaking of the optimal patient experience, many healthcare organizations focus solely on direct patient care initiatives. Only recently have healthcare systems realized that the total patient experience starts with front end processes. Patients today expect to have multi-media channels for contacting a physician, the phone answered in a timely fashion, and their needs met at the first point of contact. They also want the agent answering the phone to be knowledgeable about their particular issue and be treated respectfully, with compassion, empathy and understanding.

According to HCP Associates’ Top 10 Changes in Patient Expectations, technology brings four fundamental changes to the patient experience:

  • Access to Information: Eight of ten people do their health care research using the Internet, the vast majority using Google. They also post about their experiences with providers, good and bad, and these posts are all just a search phrase away. Search engine rankings not only make your practice more visible, higher rankings have a profound effect on how prospective patients view your capabilities, status and popularity as a provider.
  • Quality of Service and Care: It is necessary not only to say what you do, but to do what you say professionally, effectively and consistently. In short, your operational processes from the first telephone encounter to discharge should be equal parts quality of care and quality of service.
  • Differentiation:  Providing quality of service equates directly to the perception of competence. You may be getting away with doing things the way they have always been done, but not for long. The industry is changing, and perceptions and expectations continue to change with it. Those who fail to adapt will likely become the employees of those who do.
  • Access to Care: The primary decision metric for most patients is accessibility. Waiting to be seen when you are sick and scared, whether it is for an appointment or in the waiting room, does not enhance the patient experience. In fact, it complicates it on numerous levels including clinically. It impacts physician and patient referrals, patient retention, patient acquisition, patient attitude, patient perception and a host of other issues. Prompt, professional and accessible service wins every time.

Meeting patient expectations is about more than accommodation—it is risk management (happy patients do not sue.) It keeps you competitive and results in improved clinical care (good patient experiences lead to better outlooks, outcomes, an enhanced sense of security and well-being.) These are tall orders for all healthcare organizations, but these goals are attainable with the right tools and the right people.

How can technology help you meet patient expectations?

The patient experience is about more than customer service and provider expectations.  The optimal patient experience encompasses the entire patient journey, beginning with the first point of contact.  Meeting the needs of patients will ensure a life-long journey with the patient. If you are not successful with engaging and satisfying the patient at the initial point of contact, then the quality of care may not matter. They will search for another provider who they feel they can trust and who will meet their needs.

Offering multi-channel methods for contacting a physician’s office is critical. Today’s patients have varied lifestyles and demands on their time, expecting to be treated like a valued consumer – not just another caller. Talking to a “live person” may be important to one patient, but not another.  State-of-the-art multi-channel options such as texting, on-line scheduling and chat are available to help your organization respond to patients’ individual preferences. Interactive chat can help you capture new patients by offering website visitors a warm invitation to chat, encouraging them to take the next step of actually contacting your organization.

It is surprising how many healthcare organizations cannot tell you how many dropped calls they have, what their first-time call resolution is, and how satisfied the patient was with the contact experience. Does your organization have the capability to call back dropped calls? Dropped calls, prior to the patient talking to an agent, or during the conversation, are a reality. Fortunately, technology is available to re-engage with the patient.

Utilizing the right contact center technology can help ensure that you not only meet patients’ expectations, but that you exceed them. This is all part of the journey to establishing a life-long relationship with the patient.

Customer Experience Takes the Lead Over Productivity

by Spence Mallder, SVP, GM Workforce Optimization, CTO on July 2nd, 2014

Spence Mallder, SVP & GM Workforce Optimization & CTOImproving the customer experience has long been the siren’s call of industry analysts and B2C enterprises, but when out of the spotlight, most would have admitted that driving new revenue, cost reduction and risk avoidance were their primary objectives. However a new day is dawning. A recent Aberdeen Group survey regarding workforce optimization (WFO) programs shows that for the first time, the quality of customer interactions really is more important than agent productivity — and by a substantial margin. In the two short years between 2012 and 2014, the surveyed businesses became almost twice as likely to rank quality of customer interactions as the number one priority driving contact center WFO programs. The commoditization of products and services in many industries has left customer service as the only real differentiator, and the implicit threat of posts about negative experiences propagating through social media channels gives the consumer much more power and commands much more attention than ever before.

aberdeen graphWorkforce optimization has long been largely an automated overseer of contact center policies on agent performance, quality monitoring, actual vs. planned staffing and adherence to intraday schedules. The primary goal of traditional WFO has been to minimize labor costs while maintaining a targeted level of service. We need to start thinking about WFO from a new vantage point. How can we use the rich portfolio of tools in a robust WFO offering, such as Aspect’s Workforce Optimization 8.0 solution, to ensure remarkable customer experiences?  Here are some ways that Aspect is already putting it into play:

  • Fix the agent WFO experience: There is a direct and incontrovertible relationship between the quality of your customer’s experience and happiness of your agents. Your WFO system is in many ways representative of your internal brand and can be a powerful enabler or a huge frustration for agents. Aspect recently released a highly simplified and intuitive user interface in its WFO 8.0 solution. Agents love it, and it is changing the very culture of contact centers where it is installed. View this short video explaining this new user interface that is changing the face of workforce optimization.
  • Extend front office WFO into the back office: Tarp Worldwide estimates that 60% of a customer’s satisfaction is attributable to the enterprise’s back office operations.  Workforce management software can be easily extended from the front office to the back office with much improved labor and operational effectiveness.
  • Implement automated intraday staff management: Although automated staff management is a fairly new concept for WFO, it is very powerful, since it can intelligently and rapidly adapt staffing to real-time call volume changes. One of the key benefits of this new technology is its ability to turn unproductive agent idle time into productive time that can be used for other tasks, such as proactive agent training resulting in much higher morale and better experiences for customers.
  • Identify agent behaviors resulting in high customer satisfaction with speech analytics: Use speech analytics to rapidly understand agent behaviors, phraseology and call flow that result in high customer satisfaction ratings, and institutionalize them as best practices. When used properly, speech analytics is one of the most powerful tools available for improving the customer experience. Our white paper discusses what to look for in a robust speech analytics solution.
  • Use performance management with tight integration to quality management: Many contact centers are not getting full value from their performance management solutions or are not using them at all. Customer satisfaction surveys from your quality management solution need to be accessible in a robust performance management system, so you can easily view agent performance data in many different ways to reveal new insights regarding how to achieve good customer experiences.

Of course, this is just a sampling of the many ways you can apply WFO technology to directly improve the customer experience. Expect to see more WFO innovations as the consumer becomes increasingly empowered, and the customer experience becomes by far the most important metric for contact center success.

Don’t Lose Customers to Competitors Because of Mishandled Contact

by Marc Jaro on June 30th, 2014

Marc JaroA single errant post, unanswered email, or negative phone call can wreak havoc on a company’s reputation. If one person tells another and that person tells another, there’s no telling of how many people will hear the story. As one survey found, 31% of customers are more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one. The web and social media enable news to travel faster than ever and make it nearly impossible to stop.

With your company’s good name on the line, it’s a good idea to find the proper solution and training to make your organization technically ready to respond to all types of inquiries and provide the best and most customized service. Then the word that will be spreading across social media will be a positive one.

In my experience, when customers want to reach out to a company, large or small, multi-national or local, they have the same goal: resolve an issue, ask a question, or make a purchase. Even though customers may have a connection to the company from a local store or online presence, the “face” of the company is the contact point. If the sales person in the store does not have the correct attitude or helpfulness, customers will recall that. The overall customer experience with your company is just as important as calling and speaking with a customer service agent or sales representative on the phone.

The right contact center technology along with social media monitoring fosters consistent and positive customer experiences. It has the potential to go even further and can turn a customer’s negative experience into a positive one. Specific solutions can integrate seamlessly with your contact center workflow to identify the call type, resolution outcome, and number of calls to resolution; the contact center can then use that data to make beneficial changes to how the customer experience is resolved, on the first call!

We’re seeing more and more evidence every day of the impact that positive (and negative) customer experiences are having on customer loyalty. Bain & Company found that a customer is four times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related rather than price- or product-related.

In today’s customer-driven economy, it’s become all too easy to walk away from a transaction and immediately move to a competitor who will offer a similar product or service. The experience you provide truly may be the key point of differentiation that keeps your customers coming back.