by Spence Mallder on May 20th, 2013
While often unseen by customers, the back office plays a crucial role in your business operations. The phrase “back office” originated from the placement of people who are fulfilling administrative tasks – way in the back, sight unseen. However, in today’s society where the customer controls the conversation and many issues are directly impacted by what happens in the back office, the traditional back office setup cannot be business as usual.
Without the confidence that your back office can execute your mission, your front office is making promises that you can’t fulfill. And that can cost you.
Forrester Research found that 17% of customer loyalty is directly related to back office efficiency. And that’s not a surprise to us. After all, when a customer interacts with a company, he or she doesn’t know which department, team or individual is working on fulfilling their request – be it a claim they submitted for an accident, a prescription they need filled for their child, or a mortgage application for their first house.
When the customer tweets about their experience with their product or service provider, they think about it holistically. And with simple interactions being handled through self-service, the complex interactions involving the back office are the ones the customer is most likely to remember.
To provide a united front – front to back – consider Aspect’s Advanced Back Office Optimization solution.
Last February, we announced our partnership with eg solutions, plc. Our collaboration has resulted in a new solution for the back office which includes our market-leading workforce and performance management products as well as a new product, Advanced Back Office Optimizer, which delivers an important and often overlooked capability. Advanced Back Office Optimizer (powered by eg) provides what is the missing link for effective back office optimization. Specifically, that ability to manage the work – individual tasks, related tasks, tasks that are being performed through multiple channels and using multiple systems – in real time. This real time work management makes sure you can define your back office goals – completion rate, quality, throughput, work queue, backlog – and more and be confident that you can reach (or exceed) your objectives. With full visibility into task status, your resource availability and skill, and the ability to allocate and re-allocate people and tasks on the fly – you are assured that the back office is fulfilling those promises you have made. This product works with virtually any workflow system already in place and, for those who are using a combination of product and manual effort for back office tasks, provides a one-stop shop where managers have visibility into the total tasks that back office resources are performing.
While Back Office Optimizer provides much needed task and quality management functionality, Aspect’s Workforce Management and Performance Management solutions provide forecasting, planning and people management as well as the enterprise insight needed to make the back office the engine of customer experience.
Aspect believes that to master back office challenges, organizations need to consider three pillars:
- People – Workforce Planning and Forecasting allows you to forecast accurately and schedule your staff based on realistic scenarios with the flexibility to adjust in real time based on changing business conditions;
- Process – Real-Time Work Management that optimizes how work is allocated and flows through the systems with real-time control over service level and achievement; and
- Insight – Reporting and Analytics that contains pre-built views into back office efficiency and effectiveness with data available to enterprise systems and workflows that take advantage of new insight.
Start seeing best-in-class results and learn more about Aspect’s Advanced Back Office Optimization suite.
by David Harper on May 17th, 2013
I have had a few interesting customer conversations as of late regarding data and data quality – and by data quality, I am not referring to free-text columns that would benefit from DQS, but rather data that is just WRONG. I don’t think any employee, consultant, architect and so on ever goes into a project thinking “boy, I wonder how badly I can mess up this dataset,” but the sad reality is that far too often BI solutions produce less than accurate information. I was meeting with a customer just a short time ago that had spent TWO years on a BI “adventure,” and in the end had an unusable environment because the results were flat out wrong – ugh! To say the business had become disenchanted and IT frustrated would qualify as the understatement of the year.
This post might call out some very basic things that you already are doing within your organization, but based on how I saw pens scribbling away at some of the suggestions I had made, I think it might be valuable to cover a few of the finer points again.
- Know what you are validating. Recently I spoke with a prospect about incorrect data they were getting out of the data warehouse. When asked what their data validation process was… well, there wasn’t one. If you don’t know what value you expect in the cube/data warehouse how you do know if it is right or wrong? My advice is create a simple spreadsheet of source system queries with their output of either row count, column values, or measure values and then perform the same query on your data warehouse and cube and compare the results. They’d better match! Even if your “unknown” bucket is out of control – which now means you do need to look into additional DQS processes.
- Have the business “certify” your values. I don’t know what the accounting firms that watch over the Powerball drawing actually do, but it is important enough to mention them whenever a drawing takes place. The business users should have the same level of inclusion. Here is a simple example that I ran into with a customer a few years back: “How do you define sales?” Simple question, right? Wrong. Is it just gross sales? Is it gross sales less returns? Is it gross less returns and rebates and payment terms? This one might not point to “dirty data” being the culprit, but I promise you, the business will still say you are wrong.
- Check your ETL. I really can’t tell you how many times I have seen things go askew in ETL. There are a few reasons for this. First, sometimes understanding what SSIS is actually doing to your data can be confusing – simple example: The SSIS lookup task is case sensitive which can yield lots of interesting results further downstream! Secondly, what is your ETL audit and logging standards? Typically I see companies on either extreme – you are either trying to create the most verbose dump of information that is humanly possible, or there is next to none. Take a look at the SSIS toolbox at some of those data flow task options that are shipped – a few simple checks there will save you a bruised forehead down the road.
These are just three very simple principles and ideas that the Aspect BI team approaches every project with. Now, trust me, I am no saint, and I have had to eat my fair share of crow and go back and correct some of my results on projects – however, as with any project, the goal is to mitigate and minimize that risk. I highly encourage you to reach out to me or your Aspect Account Executive to discuss, diagnose, or help resolve your data issues and bring it back from the “bad side.”
by Christine OBrien on May 15th, 2013
Your customers now have you in the palms of their hands, at any time of the day, on any day of the year. Single channel communications that became multichannel are now omni-channel. Customers are now leading the charge in creating conversations that drive the relationship revolution.
Companies today must be prepared to adapt and respond to the demands of today’s customers — or risk losing them forever.
During ACE 2013, we’ll be talking about solutions your company can use to engage and interact with customers on all fronts. Unsure how to approach mobile? Attend our session, “Mobility and its Impact on the Contact Center,” to learn how to meet the demands of today’s mobile consumer with inventive consumer applications. Attend “Are Your Ready for the Omni-channel Consumer?” to find next generation solutions that can make your company a true omni-channel contact center.
Aspect Unified IP is the foundation for many strategies to increase customer engagement. At ACE, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more from Aspect experts in sessions such as:
- Aspect Unified IP 7.2: Test Drive
- Swimming with Tiger Shark – Staying Current with Aspect Unified IP
- Tailoring Your Own Experience with Aspect
- Interaction Management & ACD Migration
- The Power of IVR
For companies that want to initiate the conversation with customers, achieving maximum results with outbound contacts is key. Two sessions, “Maximizing Your Outbound Dialing Return” and “Investigating Best Practices for Outbound Contact in Today’s Compliance Environment,” can help you navigate the challenges of outbound calling and build intelligent systems to increase contact success rates.
While ACE 2013 will certainly have its share of technology experts, its primary role is to serve as a conference between industry peers and thought leaders. Join the discussion with other professionals who have maximized their company’s Unified IP offerings in the sessions:
- From Outbound to Blended and Beyond: The Time Warner Cable Blueprint
- Economy Brand Delivers World-Class Service: Red Roof Inns
- Standardization & Shared Services Combine to Drive Patient Satisfaction: Cleveland Clinic
- Teaching Change: The ESM Story
- Outbound Best Practices: Mercedes Benz Financial
ACE will be here before you know it! If you want to be a part of the conversations taking place at the conference (and enjoy some time in sunny Scottsdale!), register now to secure your spot.
by Alton Harewood on May 13th, 2013
When I speak to customers about business process optimization many have the initial reaction of, “isn’t this part of ERP or CRM?” or, “how does this differ from BPM?” They may be surprised to learn that these technologies are not synonymous. To explain, let’s talk for a moment about the high-level definitions and general use of ERP, CRM and BPM.
ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) provides a software framework for managing a company’s resources, orders, or other throughput requirements. ERP systems normally come with a preset number of capabilities and rules. Most ERP systems provide compliancy tools to meet SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley 2002 US Federal law) or other such regulations. ERP is, at its heart, a set of useful tools into which a company must fit its own rules as best it can. ERP systems contain reporting tools and sometimes a set of analysis tools to identify problems or highlight compliance issues. ERP deployments are often front loaded with a fairly long ROI track that really kicks in upon full release into the company’s processes.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, include a range of capabilities surrounding multiple customer management requirements including customer tracking, relationship milestones, case management, process alignment and a good deal of reporting and analytics capabilities. CRM helps companies most when it’s flexible and applied throughout the complete customer cycle. The result is an often-complex deployment across multiple years that results in a sine curve of return on investment as each wave of deployment brings results.
BPM (Business Process Management) should allow a business to handle creation and improvement of a broad spectrum of processes that directly – or indirectly – impact a customer. As companies providing BPM software solutions emerged, so too did the circles of continuous improvement that described the key steps. These steps are commonly accepted to be a continuous improvement process that includes observation, design, modeling, execution and monitoring. Sometimes the circle is improved by optimizing and re-engineering. BPM is not normally used in isolation. In recent years, the manufacturing originated Six Sigma theories that have been well-published and tied to BPM as companies seek to improve their processes and compliance. Since 2002 Lean Six Sigma has been a familiar concept in many large companies. Continuous improvement carries with it some of the difficulties of continuous marginal improvement. Identifying and clearly showing ROI from process changes can be both simple and complex especially for small adjustments. The benefit of BPM is cumulative and ongoing, and again, is usually realized sometime after the initial delivery of the solution.
How then does Business Process Optimization differ?
Simply put, business process optimization differs in its intent – what it makes visible, and its time to value (ROI). Here’s how these differences make themselves evident in practice:
Intent. The goal of business process optimization is to take an existing process, map the steps within the process to best practices, and enable the organization to complete the process faster while automating delivery of the end product of the process to the right person at the right time. This differs from CRM, for example, in that there is a push to the worker rather than a period of what I call “human latency” in which there is a delay between one worker in the queue to the next, or cases in which – shudder – a worker cherry-picks the next easiest task. How significant is this? It’s as significant as being able to stand beside the worker watching their desktop as they go from one task in their workload to another. It provides an enormous amount of control for the business to ensure workflow is being processed in the manner the business requires and for which the worker is being paid.
Visibility. Traditionally BPM, ERP etc. rely on historic reports and email or similar notifications concerning process and ownership of “the next step”. Business process optimization is more proactive, providing real-time information so that a business can see the workload state, and it achieves optimum queue time by pushing work to the worker. This helps improve the customer experience by identifying workload bottlenecks faster and eliminating human latency to ensure optimum work throughput.
ROI expectation. By deploying and using a set of operational management principles, the ROI is maximized and time-to-value is minimized when compared to ERP, BPM and/or CRM:
- A standalone business process optimization solution can be deployed within three months, as opposed to the multi-year deployment common with BPM, ERP and CRM.
- Business process optimization solutions provide native integration methods to reduce points of failure or process complexity within existing systems.
- ROI is expected within 20-25 weeks with early adopters experiencing improvements in the region of 20% FTE savings inclusive of administrative requirements.
This speed-to-ROI is a significant reason why businesses are examining business process optimization using a formal suite of capabilities.
I hope that this summary and outline helped you understand the difference you should expect from a well-delivered business process optimization solution. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Leave a comment below!
by Tim Dreyer on May 10th, 2013
Whether it’s teaching us to ride a bike, celebrating our birthdays or baking us our favorite cookies, moms have a way of making every experience special and memorable. Heck, they make them great. As Mother’s Day is approaching, I can’t help but think of how exceptional customer experience is a lot like the kind of love and care Mom used to give. Who was there to fix a problem? Mom. Who was there to answer a nagging question? Mom again. Who was there to ask why we were charged so much last month for our wireless data plan when we were on WiFi practically the whole time? Well, not Mom on that one but you get the point. If companies can ensure that each touch point a customer has with them creates an engaging, positive interaction they can provide the same memorable experiences Mom used to make. Here’s how.
No matter our age, the first person we turn to for a listening ear is often our mother. Moms are happy to listen to us whenever we want and really by whatever means we want. Companies who strive for exceptional customer service need to listen to their customers in the same way. But not just hearing, listening. For example, companies who use speech and data analytics are able to extract relevant concepts and conversations and convert them into usable data. The data can then be integrated with customer records (CRM), attached to transaction history, and used in any number of ways. The main way being remembering what we told them the last time we called. Moms seem to remember everything we tell them so when companies apply what they hear from customer conversations, it creates a feeling of importance just like Mom did. Awww.
Everyone has heard of a Mother’s intuition. Moms always seemed to know how to steer us from trouble before it started. Today, companies have the ability to have that same intuition by taking the data that is created through analytics and sharing it with the broader enterprise. By doing this, the whole company will know and understand their customers and be better able to anticipate their future needs such as when they may have a service issue or be ready for an upgrade.
As much as our Mom’s love us, and as much as they never want us to move out on our own, they begin teaching us almost from the moment we step into the world. By showing us how to tie a shoe or write our name, our Moms taught us the little things to make our lives easier. In the contact center, companies can apply this motherly care philosophy through Aspect Quality Management which takes the learnings from conversations and monitoring and makes it available to supervisors to provide coaching opportunities to agents. In addition, live monitoring of agents’ audio and screen interactions can be conducted by supervisors to provide real-time help, enhance coaching and improve agent efficiency. This applied learning improves agent quality performance and as a result, creates a more complete and positive customer experience.
We’d love to hear of any valuable customer service lessons that you’ve learned from Mom so as we show our appreciation to our Mothers’ this weekend, let’s imagine Mom with a headset and our full history on a computer screen in front of her.
by Christine OBrien on May 8th, 2013
The Relationship Revolution isn’t just about building relationships with customers. It’s about building any relationship that helps you further business goals in a positive way. Creating relationships with colleagues—from the IT arena to the contact center—can be just as crucial for business success.
For two days at ACE 2013, participants will have the opportunity to connect with and collaborate with other industry leaders and professionals.
Make the most of your time at ACE by beginning the work of networking now. With social media, everybody has the opportunity to make dynamic new connections even before they leave the house. You can even have a list of potential contacts ready so you can spend your time at the conference actually getting to know the people you want to know.
Start networking now by:
- Letting your social networks know that you’ll be at ACE and asking if they know of anybody also going that you should make a point of meeting
- Posting a few messages on Twitter with the hashtag, #AspectACE13, about your plans at the event
- Following the Twitter hashtag and responding to other comments about the event
- Building relationships over at the Aspect Community–an online space that allows Aspect users, technology experts, and business innovators to share ideas and discuss best practices
- Connecting with other ACE participants over on our Facebook page
Continue using social media throughout ACE 2013 to build even more relationships. Follow Aspect on Twitter to keep up with conference news and changes. Use #AspectACE13 for your tweets and post event photos to Instagram and your other networks. Watch out for the people you wanted to meet earlier. Respond to other conference participants on the hashtag to meet more.
Before you know it, you’ll have built more lasting relationships than a simple business card pass could do. At that point the rules are simple—follow up to create positive, enduring relationships with your industry colleagues.
What other tips do you have about pre-networking for an event?
by Christine OBrien on May 6th, 2013
In recent months, we discussed the benefits of benchmarking to jumpstart a company’s growth and provide realistic goals for improvement. In her webinar on the subject, Kate Leggett, Principal Analyst from Forrester Research, discussed how companies can initiate their own improvement plan with a benchmarking self-assessment.
By looking at four areas of development—strategy, process, technology, and people—companies can avoid common customer service pitfalls.
Forrester’s best practices self-assessment survey addresses each of these areas and, with directed questions, helps companies realize where they are excelling and which areas need improvement. The survey drills down further into specific topics, including how the company handles case management, multichannel communication, and customer data management.
Once you’ve downloaded Forrester’s self-assessment tool, get the most out of their benchmarking exercise by:
- Distributing Forrester’s tool to multiple people in your organization in order to get input from different departments and viewpoints
- Identifying the top 10 service capabilities that most need improvement
- Developing an action plan to address these capability gaps over a predetermined amount of time
Companies may find that issues can be addressed by implementing new multichannel technology solutions, such as Aspect’s Unified IP software, refining and focusing metrics, updating current processes or procedures, or providing better employee incentives.
As Leggett claims in the webinar, a great customer service experience is essential for creating happy customers that are loyal to your brand.
Alignment with best practices can help your company provide the experience your customers want, and expect, in the new Relationship Revolution. Take the steps now to communicate with your customers when, where, and how they want.
Download Forrester’s benchmarking tool to jumpstart your company’s customer service improvement plan.
by Christine OBrien on May 3rd, 2013
The month of April saw a variety of posts from Aspect bloggers and executives, from employee empowerment to providing customers with the “love” they feel they’re lacking, The effort to provide the best customer service using the latest call center and workforce optimization solutions continues to be an important point of discussion. And of course, looking ahead, we’re making final preparations for ACE 2013 and looking forward to another fantastic networking event with opportunities to share ideas and best practices.
Here’s a look back at a selection of our “best of” from last month in case you missed them!
Customer Service that Learns from, Rather than Resists, Social Media
By Stewart Bloom on April 17, 2013
Businesses are now tasked with recognizing the second-order effects that occur 24/7 and facing the challenge of adjusting their strategies in response to these new customer expectations. The power of the relationship companies have with consumers is now with the customer rather than the brand… (READ MORE)
Empower Employees While Upholding Business Goals
By Jane Hendricks on April 3, 2013
Empowerment without compromise is about putting employees in control of their own destiny, while also tracking and measuring results to make sure they align with company goals. Empowerment of this type requires a strong technology foundation… (READ MORE)
Unified Approach to Customer Contact Brings Productivity Gains and Cost Savings
By Kelly Burke on April 8, 2013
Homeward Residential offers mortgage services that help customers secure and preserve their dream of home ownership. Whether borrowers enjoy stable finances or loan payments become difficult, contact center agents are expected to provide them with consistently positive customer experiences. Although Homeward Residential had technologies in place to manage customer interactions, the contact center’s fragmented infrastructure stood in the way of meeting its performance objectives… (READ MORE)
Realize the Power of Change at ACE 2013
By Christine O’Brien on April 19, 2013
With a proactive technology plan, your company can avoid the increased operational expenses, greater competitiveness risks, and lost revenue that can be associated with legacy ACDs. Next-generation Unified IP enables your company to provide the multichannel environment you need to meet and exceed customer expectations… (READ MORE)
Customers Still Find Themselves Looking for Love [Infographic]
By Tim Dreyer on April 24, 2013
Being aware of the problem means we have the opportunity to look for solutions, and customers seem to be asking for consistent service from the channels of their choice. With the right tools and a company-wide commitment to focusing on the customer, that’s something we should all be able to deliver… (READ MORE)
Let us know what you thought about last month’s discussions. Are there any topics you’d like to see covered in May? Leave a note in the comments below!
by Christine OBrien on May 1st, 2013
Likewise, Sykes Enterprises implemented workforce optimization tools and processes that helped them raise employee productivity, business process efficiency and overall profitability.
New WFO tools don’t just make business easier; they revolutionize customer options and transform the workplace for employees.
ACE 2013 participants will have a chance to explore these new technologies in sessions such as:
- Aspect Workforce Management 7.5 – Leading the World in Workforce Management: Test drive Aspect Workforce Management 7.5′s new capabilities, including self-service shift bidding and dynamic analysis modules.
- Workforce Optimization Customer Input Forum: Do you have a wish list for workforce optimization? Share your feedback with Aspect’s product management team in this interactive session.
- Coaching for Success with Aspect Performance Management: Find out how our management workflow application automates, measures, and monitors coaching processes and can be used to assign training to the agents that need it most.
- Aspect Speech Analytics—the Key to Analyzing Customer Interactions: Learn how speech analytic tools are helping contact centers improve first call resolution and detect early warnings on product or service issues.
Participants will also have the opportunity to learn from other companies that updated their WFO technologies in order to improve productivity without sacrificing quality. Employees at these companies benefited from increased flexibility and a company-wide attention to information gaps.
Hear about the power of new WFO tools from company representatives during these sessions:
- Managing Brand Warriors: The StarTek Story
- Charter Communications—Charting a Course to Gain More from Your WFM
- Sykes—More than Metrics: Plan for Profitability
- Red Roof Inns—Economy Brand Delivers World-Class Service
Adapting to new demands by making use of new tools is the hallmark of a successful business. Ensure that your company is on the front-line of new WFO technologies by registering for ACE 2013 now.
by Tim Dreyer on April 29th, 2013
Cellular One, a regional wireless carrier, had some problems. I’m sure you’ve heard similar ones before—an outdated technology system that failed to live up to customer expectations and frustrated employees that were frantically busy during rush times and bored during slower times.
When Cellular One came to Aspect, they were looking for a single-platform solution that could deliver on customer expectations and enhance overall customer experience. Specifically, the company needed automated intelligent call routing and outbound dialing systems as well as a self-service voice portal that allowed customers to resolve issues at any time of the day.
Aspect solutions helped reduce call volume by 40% through self-service capabilities and decreased average handle time for calls by over 30%.
Now, with integrated interaction and workforce optimization solutions from Aspect, Cellular One customers enjoy personalized service that draws data from past interactions and speed resolution services that enable them to choose the most relevant department for their issue. These new options and quality of care resulted in improved customer satisfaction scores in customer surveys.
Instead of frustrated agents that are barely able to keep up with the workflow, Cellular One employees now have the ability to address self-service customer issues during down times. Further, workforce management tools allow managers to forecast call volumes throughout the day and over the course of the year for more appropriate staffing models.
Matt Roskuski, senior vice president of sales and operations at Cellular One, states: “With fewer, more selectively-delivered calls, our agents are better able to focus on adding value to every interaction.”
With the support of a more motivated and focused workforce, Cellular One is now able to provide exceptional customer service that consistently exceeds expectations in the wireless market where customers expect anytime, anywhere service.
Read the case study to learn more about Cellular One’s story of success. If your company uses Aspect solutions, how have they helped your company achieve its goals and measures of success?