What’s on Your Social Channel?

by Tim Dreyer on April 30th, 2012

Social channels

Photo courtesy of Likeable Media www.likeable.com

Tim Dreyer, Director Public/Analyst RelationsThe abundance of social media platforms has empowered users to provide feedback in new many ways. Because of this, we’re seeing a widening of the gap in a company’s ability to provide a satisfactory customer experience. Turning on social as a part of a customer service component can unleash a flood of information that organizations are simply not prepared to handle much less process.

However, companies can harness this social media feedback through the use of new monitoring platforms that better connect the consumer to the business. But having an infrastructure that brings multichannel visibility to the enterprise is essential to make sure the customers send out a Tweet or post a comment are promptly and seamlessly directed to the right person. Companies can no longer just react, they need to act on — and in many cases anticipate – issues at the speed their customers have them in order to turn socially-aired issued into opportunities.

Earlier this week, InformationWeek came out with an article on 5 Tips for Handling Complaints on Social Media. The first tip they offered was to use listening tools to monitor but more importantly, better manage the huge amount of information you can create trying to get a hold of how and what people are saying about you in the socialsphere. So while it’s an important step, it’s essential that the data collected is not just usable but contextual and referencable as well. Full integration into the CRM is key to making social a channel addition to existing customer service strategy.

You can read up here on how you can extend your contact center to include social.

Good Data = Good Customer Experience

by Tim Dreyer on April 30th, 2012

Tim Dreyer, Director Public/Analyst Relations“How can we best use all this data?”

That’s as big a question as any right now in customer service circles. In the Web-driven world, data is everywhere, and it promises to be one of the foremost tools in helping companies match rising consumer expectations.Harnessing Data for Customer Experience

Forrester’s Kate Leggett says there are four keys to good customer service: good technology, good customer service processes, a well-managed organization that values its employees, and good data. While companies often account for these first three elements, too many overlook the importance of data. As customers use smartphones, PCs, social media and landlines to contact your customer service department with their questions and concerns, companies can compile data from all of these channels to create a more uniform and well-informed service experience.

By working with data management professionals, customer service can sift through the mountain of data to pinpoint the most effective solutions based on past customer inquiries. That way, when a customer reaches out to your contact center, you have not only all their past interaction data at your disposal but also the data-sourced solutions from other customers with similar issues, allowing for a faster resolution.

Ultimately, better use of data means greater efficiency, higher customer satisfaction, and a better customer experience—and in today’s world, customer service and customer experience go hand in hand. And when this information is shared across channels and across the enterprise, companies can create a world-class customer experience and satisfy the expectations of Consumer 2.0.

Is Your Company Meeting the Needs of Digital Natives?

by Christine OBrien on April 25th, 2012

Chris O'Brien, Marketing Communications WriterIt’s no surprise that the mobile devices individuals use have a profound effect on how they consume information. Could these habits also have an impact on how they prefer to interact with customer service agents?

Recently, Time Inc., Innerscope Research, and M&RR conducted a study that monitored participants at various times of the day to determine how consumers from different generations engage with various media platforms. The report, “A biometric day in the life,” separated the sample into two types of users: Digital Natives are individuals who grew up around mobile devices and social media, while Digital Immigrants adopted these devices and channels as adults.Digital devices using today's technology

According to the report, Digital Immigrants are intuitively linear—that is, they want content to have a beginning, middle, and end. By contrast, because Digital Natives frequently switch between platforms, they tend to assemble the pieces of the story themselves. The study also found that Digital Natives switch between media platforms (magazines, tablets, smartphones, television) a whopping 27 times per hour. As a result, their emotional engagement with content was lower than that of Immigrants.

So what does this mean for the contact center? If you think of Digital Natives as the embodiment of the next-generation consumer, then companies need to become more agile, responsive, and multichannel. Indeed, more than half of Digital Natives would rather send a text than talk to someone; only 28 percent of Digital Immigrants felt the same.

Digital Natives are also more likely to embrace new modes of service such as social media and chat. With the rising adoption of smartphones and other mobile devices, the behavior of Digital Natives will soon become the standard for all consumers.

As we’ve discussed on this blog, rapid technological advances are transforming the consumer landscape—and by extension the customer contact dynamic—faster than companies can keep up. Now is the time for the enterprise to implement a platform that enables multichannel engagement and can evolve to meet emerging consumer needs.

Bridging the Gap between Social CRM and the Enterprise

by Tim Dreyer on April 23rd, 2012

James Foy, President and CEOAny casual observer can see the impact social media has had on the way we as consumers create, retrieve, and share information in our day-to-day lives. Companies enthusiastically jumped into social media to use it as a marketing channel while consumers have just as enthusiastically engaged those same companies (and legions of fellow consumers) to make known product or service issues or questions they want addressed.

For example, look at a recent U.K. study of social media customer service published last month by Sitel and TNS. It found that more and more consumers are using social media to getResponding to social consumers information or resolve issues with companies. The study shows changing behavior as people are adopting a “tweet first” approach when looking to get information from — or resolve an issue with — a company. In fact, 17 percent of the Gen Y segment responded by saying companies should improve response time when a query is posed on Twitter.

Predictably, service-minded organizations are turning to common ground by building or expanding their presence on social outlets like Twitter and Facebook. Initially, these moves were more reactive than proactive as a way to stem negative, brand-damaging posts from going viral. But as customer engagement begins to deepen on social platforms, companies are seeing the benefits of a proactive social-service model. They are adapting a more collaborative approach, allowing their customers to play a part in shaping and managing their own customer-company relationship.

Just employing social CRM is not what makes a social business, however. Weaving social ideas and practices into every part of a company’s operations internally as well as externally is what classifies a business as truly social.

From customer service agents to IT to finance and beyond, every person within an organization is an integral part of making a business social and, for that matter, making a business successful. Removing the silos and replacing them with an enterprise philosophy that promotes collaboration will bring all that is good about social CRM home to the (social) enterprise. This collaboration-powered enterprise allows for expertise and knowledge to be shared and socialized across any and all departments – all of which ultimately translates to an enriched customer experience. It also means delivering much sought-after answers to those consumers’ questions and issues we talked about earlier.  So, we have come full circle here.

All of this reinforces our view of next generation customer contact – that is, always looking for ways to bring people (within and outside the enterprise) and information together to improve the customer experience in ways not previously possible. It removes communication and workflow bottlenecks and produces smarter, more efficient business processes and ultimately, more profitable customer interactions.

Please Don’t Tell a Customer You “Can’t” Help

by Christine OBrien on April 19th, 2012

Chris O'Brien, Marketing Communications Writer Customer service is becoming a deciding factor in the customer satisfaction game. As someone who both works in the customer experience industry and is – like everyone reading this – also a consumer, this offers something of a unique perspective. I could recount a dozen best practices that would pretty much guarantee a satisfying experience, and I recognize good service when I see it. But what I’ve also discovered is that a company can guarantee that I will never do business with again just by relying on one little word: “can’t.”

 Here’s an example. The other day, after spending hours online researching the perfect birthday gift for my husband (in case he’s reading, let’s just say it’s a “watch,”) comparing models, features, prices, packages, and styles, I decided to try and save aEcommerce customer experience few bucks by ordering the item from a company that promised free shipping. Several online reviews had mentioned this company’s questionable customer service, but I shrugged those off.

“I won’t need to worry about service for this,” I figured. What could go wrong? This was a quick transaction on an in-stock item. It should arrive within a few days without any complications.

 Right.

Later that day, an email notified me that my item had been backordered and would now ship at the end of next month – about six weeks late, not even close to being on time for a birthday present.

Not only that, they had already charged my credit card!

I picked up the phone to call customer service and cancel the order. After being asked to repeat my order number and explain my request to two different agents, I finally reached the individual who promised to help me.

What I got from him wasn’t exactly “help.”

“I’m sorry,” he explained, “but the label has already been printed. I can try and cancel it. But worst case, the item will be shipped to you and you’ll need to pay the return shipping.”

I was a little bit dumbfounded. “I ordered this less than 24 hours ago based on the information that it was in stock,” I said. “If it’s not in stock, then it’s your error. Please just cancel the order and return my money.”

Again, I was given an apologetic line about the order already being in the system. “At this point,” he said, “there’s really nothing I can do.”

Wow. Really? Nothing he or anyone within his organization could do to salvage a customer relationship, keep my impression of their brand from being dragged through the mud, and ensure that I would invest future money with his company? There was not a supervisor he could speak with, a phone call he could make, a process that could be interrupted for the sake of continued customer loyalty?

Apparently not. He ended the call by promising to “try.” He let me know to watch for a cancellation email – one that I have to assume might or might not come.

Ten years ago, would I have felt as a customer that I had the “right” to flawless service? Maybe not. Expectations have changed. I fully anticipated that the agent I reached would resolve my problem immediately and to my complete satisfaction, at any cost. If a process stood in the way, I fully expected it to be worked around.

This is the reality of today’s consumer-driven environment. Organizations that continue to underestimate their expectations will be making a grave tactical error.

Chief Customer Officer: Enhancing Customer Experience

by Tim Dreyer on April 18th, 2012

The chief customer officer coordinates functions across the enterprise

Image courtesy of Curtis N. Bingham, CCO Council

Tim DreyerMeeting the expectations of today’s consumer requires traditionally siloed functions such as sales, marketing, and the contact center work together more effectively. To support this business objective, an increasing number of companies are creating the position of chief customer officer (CCO) to break down these silos and ensure that the consumer is a top priority for the entire enterprise.

As Inc. Magazine notes in “Make room for the chief customer officer,” the scope of the CCO varies from company to company. Some organizations have made the position part of the executive management team, while at others the CCO is the head of a department, such as sales, but has the additional responsibility of promoting customer issues across the company. The degree of authority of departments and budgets also differs greatly among companies.

Similarly, last year Forrester conducted a survey of 155 CCOs to get a better idea of their responsibilities and impact. The survey found that the development of the CCO role is still in its infancy. Indeed, 82 percent of the sample has been in their positions less than two years, indicating that companies have recently recognized the need for an increased emphasis on customer experience but might still be grappling with how the CCO can have the greatest impact.

We have been vocal advocates for an enterprise-wide approach to customer experience, so it’s heartening to see companies embracing it. A critical element of this strategy is to ensure all of the departments that will collaborate on customer experience—sales, marketing, customer contact, IT, and public relations—have a unified communications platform to facilitate information sharing and decision making.

It’s both technological and cultural shift but one that best addresses the way consumers want to engage with the companies they do business with. What are the biggest silos in your organization that you’d like to take a hammer to?

Going Mobile to Serve the Next-Generation Consumer

by Tim Dreyer on April 17th, 2012

Tim Dreyer, Director PR/Analyst RelationsIn the current business climate, trying to stay one step ahead of rising customer expectations is a formidable challenge. The rapid consumer adoption of mobile technologies underscores the task companies are facing. Gartner forecasts sales of tablets will exceed 100 million in 2012. Similarly, 472 million smartphones were sold in 2011, and Gartner predicts that market will grow by 39 percent this year.

These sales figures highlight the need for companies to integrate a mobility component into their customer experience strategy. But as consumers get unprecedented speed and access to information, how should companies adapt their approach?

Against this backdrop, many businesses have refocused their efforts on customer experience. A new survey shows that customer engagement is a top priority for retailers in 2012, and mobile figures prominently in their plans.

On this blog, we’ve talked a lot about how customer experience leaders deliver a robust offering across channels so that customers can engage in the channel of their choice. There’s a compelling reason for this approach. The more consistent you can make the experience across channels, the stronger the bond with customers, which translates into revenue growth.Mazda Connect application

Mazda is the latest example of a company extending its reach to consumers through mobile applications. In Canada, the company rolled out Mazda Connect, a multilingual application available on iTunes. It offers customers the ability to locate dealers, access interactive service manuals, view maintenance videos, and connect instantly to social media platforms. Thanks in part to Mazda Connect, the company’s Canadian sales in December were among the best in its history, and sales have continued to increase with growth of more than 34 percent  over last year in March.

Mazda’s efforts represent the next wave of customer engagement: customized tools that provide mobile customers with targeted information. However, when undertaking these kinds of initiatives, companies must consider the entire customer engagement ecosystem. By the time customers turn to the contact center, they’ve likely exhausted self-service offerings, customer forums, and other information channels.

The advent of mobile means this progression can take place in an increasingly compressed time frame—sometimes just a matter of minutes. Effective solutions need to not only understand the customer mind-set but also how all of these elements fit together.

To develop Connect, Mazda tapped Aspect. Our decades of experience in the contact center helped to create an app that strengthened the company’s relationship with its customers. By focusing on the user experience, the Aspect Digital team helped to establish digital communities that serve as an approved information source.

Mazda Connect was successful because it embraced three important characteristics:

  • An immersive, interactive brand experience for Mazda’s end users.
  • A comprehensive understanding of the uniqueness of individual users
  • The means to sustain deeper engagement with customers

We want to congratulate Mazda on its success and look forward to working with them going forward.

Changes on the Healthcare Horizon

by Amy Wagner on April 16th, 2012

Amy Wagner, Principal Managing ConsultantThanks to everyone who attended our webinar last week on Tackling the Business Impact of Healthcare Reform. If you weren’t able to join us, you can watch it now on-demand.

As pointed out during our discussion, we anticipate that new healthcare regulations associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will bring large numbers of new members into the system. Plans that adopt improved controls, tools and reporting will be better equipped to effectively comply with regulatory changes.Healthcare and the PPACA

All areas of the healthcare sector should be preparing now for the changes the new law will bring. Here’s an overview of what to expect:

Physicians’ offices

With the expansion of coverage, doctors will have a larger pool of prospective patients, theoretically increasing revenues. If many of those patients are on Medicare or Medicaid, low reimbursement rates could offset those revenues. Under the Sunshine provision in the law, doctors must disclose every payment from drug and biotech companies over $100, including drug samples. This could add complexity to office accounting. The law gives precedence to primary care doctors, which could put specialists at a disadvantage. The law also effectively prohibits doctors from having an ownership interest in a hospital.

Hospitals

Hospital emergency rooms could see a drop-off in uninsured patients as the requirement for health insurance coverage kicks in. As emergency room care is the most expensive form of care, this could result in cost savings for hospitals. Non-profit hospitals will be required to submit a community needs assessment. They will also need to tread carefully when billing patients on financial assistance; hospitals must first limit charges to such patients and then avoid extraordinary collections actions. Medicare and Medicaid patients account for more than 50 percent of the care provided by hospitals. The expansion of these programs and the government’s cost-cutting initiatives may impact hospital revenues.

Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities

Nursing homes receive the bulk of their revenues from Medicare and Medicaid, and the PPACA will cut reimbursements. At the same time, the new law encourages patients to receive care in their homes, which is less expensive, creating additional competitive pressure. To remain profitable, facilities may have to raise prices for private-pay patients.

Managed Healthcare

The PPACA requires all Americans to have health insurance, either through their employers or through health insurance exchanges. This will have the effect of increasing the eligible pool of customers, but may also increase the number of high-risk individuals. MCOs will not be allowed to place lifetime limits on coverage for individuals and cannot deny coverage for a pre-existing condition of a child. Adults with pre-existing conditions will be covered under a temporary national high-risk pool. Coverage for dependent children will be expanded to age 26.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the case currently with the Supreme Court to bring you any updates on policies and regulations as they take effect. Until next time!

Luxury Car Owner’s Manual Gets a High-Tech Makeover

by Christine OBrien on April 12th, 2012

Chris O'Brien

16th Annual Webby Awards Honoree

We’re proud to announce that the Hyundai Equus Owner’s Manual has earned Aspect the distinction of being named an Official Honoree in the 16th Annual Webby Awards, in the Mobile category of Utilities and Services (Tablets and All Other Devices.)

Hyundai’s objective for the Equus was to set it apart from its current line of vehicles and attract the class of buyers who would appreciate its performance and understated elegance. In doing so, Hyundai worked with Aspect developers to create a first-of-its-kind application to be given to each new Equus owner along with a shiny new tablet computer – a searchable, intuitive owner’s manual and reference guide that also schedules service appointments, pinpoints dealer locations, provides interactive feature demonstrations and more.

2011 Hyundai Equus commercial

Like most car owners, I have an owner’s manual. And I take it out of the glove compartment every six months when I realize I still don’t remember how to reset the dashboard clock to account for Daylight Savings Time. Of course, my little car is nowhere near the caliber of vehicle that is the Hyundai Equus, Hyundai’s entry into the high-end luxury category of cars among the likes of the Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Jaguar. To compare the features of my car to those of a luxury-class vehicle? Well, I’m guessing it’s a little like comparing a Razor scooter to a carbon-framed Trek road bike.

The success of Equus sales (exceeding its yearly forecast within the first six months) indicate how much consumers appreciate the smart integration of technology into everyday life, especially when we see applications pushing the boundaries of what’s been done before, solving old problems in new ways.

Our congrats go out to each member of the Aspect Digital team, as well as the marketing division of Hyundai for their creativity, vision and innovation. For more details, read the full announcement about the Webbys and the other honorees, as well as our press release.

Microsoft “Lyncs” Employees to Workplace Harmony

by Tim Dreyer on April 10th, 2012

Tim Dreyer, Director PR/Analyst RelationsBest Places to WorkWhy is Microsoft one of Chicago’s best places to work? Aside from the pride of working for a globally recognized technology brand and the cool G-Note you can score for making a successful hiring recommendation, there is one element of Microsoft’s work environment that helped the company claim a top-five spot in Crain’s Chicago Business’s annual Best Places to Work in Chicago list. And that reason is Lync.

Microsoft’s Lync, a next-generation communications platform connects people anytime, from virtually anywhere. Lync provides intuitive communications capabilities across presence, instant messaging, audio/video calling and a rich online meeting experience including PC-audio, video and web conferencing.

And while this brings internal employee collaboration to new levels of productivity and customer contact from standard service to deeper engagement, it also helps Microsoft employees strike a harmonious work-life balance. By enhancing contextual conversations and allowing easy sharing of  files, desktops and controls, there is very little lost in working remotely. Productivity through telepresence brings flexibility to Microsoft employees, making them happier employees.

Want to see how Aspect works with Microsoft to bring solutions like these to the market? Check out some of our clients who are reaping the benefits of Lync-based unified communications.