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.

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

Call Center Superheroes and More from Call Center Week

by Christine OBrien on July 28th, 2014

callcenterweekvideo

At Call Center Conference Week, Super Agent Erica reported in person where we had the chance to catch up with many of the attendees and have some great conversations about what goes into creating and delivering a remarkable customer experience. Some of of the things we wanted to know included:

What IS the ultimate customer experience?

What is one channel or function you’re looking to add to your call center?

What kind of “superhero” would it take to swoop in and save the day at your call center?

And let’s not forget: “Show me your dissatisfied customer face!”

Dissatisfied customers look like this

Everyone we spoke with not only delivered some really entertaining facial expressions, but they also had insightful answers and ideas about trends in the contact center space. Many thanks to all who stopped by to say hi to Erica and all of us with Aspect. We loved seeing you!

If you want to keep tabs on more of Erica’s efforts to raise awareness of amazing customer service, be sure to follow her on Twitter and Facebook!

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.

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.

Case Study: Staying in Customer Conversations

by Christine OBrien on June 26th, 2014

Chris O'Brien, Marketing Communications Writer, Aspect

I used to be one of those people who watched Lost every week, were you? In the office, coworkers tended to polarize into two groups: those who were hopelessly obsessed with analyzing the last episode’s clues and those who remained hopelessly out of the loop. There were also, of course, always a few people who labored under the delusion that they might one day “catch up” and be able to hold conversations with those of us who watched religiously.

It’s not that we wanted to exclude anyone. Often we’d even take a non-watcher in hand and try and explain why there might have been a polar bear on an island or what might have happened to Walt. But those conversations are hard to have when you’re painfully aware of how much information the other party is lacking.

In the contact center, failing to have the tools to interact with consumers on channels such as social media can leave your company out of your customers’ conversations. Today’s customers are active in the social sphere; they tweet about their new purchases, post about receiving poor service at a store, and write blogs about their opinions on everything from which restaurant has the best food to which car insurance offers the most value for their money. Yet numerous businesses still don’t have Twitter, Facebook, or other social media accounts. If your company helps people book vacation packages and someone tweets about looking for a hotel, wouldn’t you want to be part of that conversation?

For STD Multiopción (STD), their lack of a social media presence was making them feel left out of their customers’ conversations. When trying to meet the needs of their business process outsourcing (BPO), promotion management, contact center and e-commerce customers, they were limited in the channels they could use for communication. They knew they had the right protocols and agents to handle a social media addition to their contact center and were both nervous and excited to take the next step in expanding their channels. During their search for a unified, integrated solution which would enable them to manage multiple social media challenges within their contact center, they looked for a system that could handle a high volume of interactions, give them real-time updates, have training tools for agents and managers, and adhere to a Style Guide created for dealing with certain customer profiles.

When STD discovered Aspect Social, they knew they had found the perfect fit for their social media management needs. Aspect Social is a cloud-based solution which can manage numerous social media accounts through a single tool and gives agents the ability to directly interact with customers on their favorite social channels. The solution was also attractive to STD for its ability to manage communication volumes, its multi-channel capabilities, and its integration possibilities. Aspect Social fit well with the rest of STD’s tools, and they were excited to see the results of their new system.

STD was able to join the social sphere in a short period of time and begin interacting with their customers in an organized way that stayed true to their Style Guide. Since social media is a new outreach method for them, they are still learning how to best utilize their accounts but are very happy with their results thus far. STD is now using the information gained from their social interactions to improve their business and contact center operations. As the company continues to change in the coming years, they look forward to using Aspect Social to help them stay connected with their customers.

Are you feeling left out of your customers’ conversations? Consider using Aspect Social to manage your social media interactions, exceed your customers’ expectations, and provide excellent service via tweets, posts, and more!

Can I Text Your Contact Center?

by Tobias Goebel on June 18th, 2014

Tobias GoebelHow many of your customers text your company’s 800-number expecting answers to questions or a callback? How many of your customers reply to your reminder and notification texts? Let me guess: you probably don’t know. You might even never have asked yourself the questions. If so, you’re ignoring a channel that has been around for over 20 years, works on old feature phones just as fine as on smartphones, and could prove to be the next big thing in customer care.

So why are you ignoring it? SMS has a lot more going on than you might think:

  • It doesn’t need the latest smartphone, it works on old feature phones just as fine
  • It’s inherently personal: cell phones are rarely shared
  • SMS has your customer’s attention: studies show that 90% of texts are read within 3 minutes and reach the intended recipient!
  • SMS conversations can be had wherever, are silent, and asynchronous in nature: they don’t require undivided attention, which is hard to get these days anyway
  • It can start outbound, with a reminder or notification from you, or inbound, with an inquiry from your customer
  • SMS is persistent: Dialogs are archived on a phone automatically, allowing the user to check back on things like confirmation numbers or other data otherwise hard to remember (addresses, names of medication, etc.).

SMS is a great way to start your own mobile customer experience journey. If you haven’t started it yet, Aspect offers various products and services to help you embrace this channel. Have a look at this SMS-driven customer experience example:

FromSelfToLiveServiceOnSMS

Aspect provides the following capabilities to achieve this experience:

  • The Voxeo SMS Gateway provides the foundation with its integration into SMS aggregators and mobile carriers for worldwide SMS delivery and retrieval through a central API, to provision long codes globally, as well as short codes and SMS-enabled toll-free numbers in the US.
  • Voxeo CXP, Aspect’s application lifecycle management suite with drag&drop support helps you build “Interactive Text Response” applications (think text-based IVR), or “virtual agents” on SMS, whether they are keyword-based or fully conversational in nature, using natural language understanding technology (multi-lingual, of course).
  • Proactive Engagement Suite enables automated proactive outreach while ensuring compliance with regulations
  • Advanced List Management lets you configure and manage contact lists for proactive outreach (whether it’s automated or agent-driven).
  • SMS Hub, an extension of Aspect’s Unified IP contact center platform, lets your agents converse with customers over SMS, either triggered through an inbound or outbound message.

While Voxeo CXP helps you build and manage automated SMS conversations and learn from usage and trend reports to improve the system over time, SMS Hub for Unified IP makes sure your customers receive the human touch when they need it. SMS Hub helps route requests to the same agent who handled a customer before and it can also let customers choose (or the agent suggest) to continue a conversation on the voice channel. With SMS Hub, customers who start a conversation on web chat can even choose to continue on SMS if they have to leave the browser for whatever reason. Or maybe you build the solution such that the customer gets an SMS message if a chat ended prematurely. The possibilities are endless but the result creates a continuity of contact and a true omni-channel customer experience.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Let us know. We want to keep innovating for you by making SMS Hub or any of our Voxeo platform solutions the best they can possibly be.

5 Habits of Highly Successful Contact Centers You’re Likely to See in the World Cup

by Rebecca Anderson on June 12th, 2014

Rebecca Andersonworld cupIt’s been called everything from a religion to a way of life to a darn fine reason for naming one’s firstborn Maradona. The World Cup officially kicks off today, leading up to one 90-minute game scheduled for July 13. It’s the start of an event for which soccer (or “football” if want to communicate intelligently about the game anywhere outside the U.S.) players have spent years training their mind and body. The road to the Cup hasn’t been easy and the journey was no cakewalk either. Just to get to the tournament, 204 teams competed for 32 spots, 820 matches were played, and 2,350 goals scored. And we thought the training for contact center agents was rigorous!

While we may not be trapping, and passing, or shooting calls through the queue, there are a few key principles we like to think top-rated contact centers share in common with this year’s heroes of the World Cup.

1. Teamwork

Superstars may dominate the headlines and draw unprecedented fan attention, but isn’t it interesting that teams with the hottest stars are often eliminated by teams with better teamwork? Remember Spain’s win in 2010 when it beat Ronaldo’s Portugal in the last two tournaments, and the way Germany triumphed over Leo Messi’s Argentina in the quarter-finals. Superstar customer service agents can help raise the bar on overall quality of service for your team, but one star player isn’t going to be enough to carry you to victory. It takes true teamwork to make that happen.

2. Skill

Some World Cup players seem to have gotten in line twice when they were handing out the genetics (and a third time, and a fourth…) that set them apart from the pack. However, at this level of the game, genes alone won’t take you to the championship. In the same way, agents may be gifted in dealing with customers but they need coaching and practice to refine their skills every day.

3. Passion

World Cup players tend to share a passion for the game that means dedicating their lives and bodies to an elite level of athleticism. Customer service agents with a passion for people and helping others are the ones who deliver remarkable experiences that delight consumers. Without this passion, they would just be going through the motions. And champions never go through the motions.

4. Leadership

As far as I know, not one team competing in the World Cup showed up without a coach. The players have the skills to the play the game but they need someone to direct their energy into a strategy to win. Customer service departments filled with skilled and talented agents will be wasted if they do not have a strong leader guiding their abilities toward the right business objectives according to a well-planned strategy.

5. GOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!

Of course no analogy between the World Cup and customer service would be complete until we talked about goals. Winning the World Cup is the ultimate goal of any team but it takes the scoring of many, many, many goals leading up to that point to get there. Customer service departments may have one “be-all-end-all” goal on which they base their success, but it always takes hitting smaller, incremental goals and objectives to reach it. For example, to have a high net promoter score, you need to have low average handle times and high first call resolutions.

Championships don’t happen by chance and neither does great customer service. How is the excitement of the World Cup infecting your workforce, and how are you planning to help drive your team to greater success?