by Christine OBrien on July 28th, 2014
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!”
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!
by Maddy Hubbard on July 10th, 2014
Cloud 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.
by Spence Mallder, SVP, GM Workforce Optimization, CTO on July 2nd, 2014
Improving 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.
Workforce 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.
by Christine OBrien on June 26th, 2014
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!
by Tobias Goebel on June 18th, 2014
How 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:
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.
by Rebecca Anderson on June 12th, 2014
It’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
by Christine OBrien on June 11th, 2014
Is your business in the market for a new contact center solution? If so, you’re not alone. According to new findings from a recent survey of 385 contact center software buyers, conducted by Software Advice, 46% of those surveyed were purchasing contact center software for the first time. The majority of them were using manual methods to assist with inbound and outbound interactions such as spreadsheets, word processors, or pen and paper. These buyers desired a more modern solution that would help them provide better customer service and optimize business processes. The other 54% of those surveyed were looking to replace a current solution, perhaps due to outdated technology or a desire to expand their operations.
Many of the conversations between Software Advice and the customers surveyed revealed the specific features they’re looking for in their new contact center solutions. Requested by 42% of buyers, call recording was the feature that most buyers desired in order to improve quality assurance and employee training. The second most requested feature was computer-telephone integration (CTI), which assists with giving agents access to a customer’s history during an interaction. 39% of buyers felt that CTI would help them better track customer interaction history as well as assist with note taking. The chart below illustrates these results:
Most-Requested Features for New Contact Center Solution
Another interesting result highlighted by the survey was the top reasons businesses gave for wanting to purchase new contact center software. While many buyers simply had exceeded the abilities of their current solutions, others were looking to improve their contact center’s efficiency and operations. 67% percent of survey respondents wanted to increase efficiency through using a contact center solution, while 61% were looking to improve their workforce’s organization. These results demonstrate the need that many contact centers have to provide quick, reliable customer service that is structured for success.
Top Reasons to Purchase
If you’re ready for a contact center upgrade, Aspect has a variety of solutions that directly address the needs highlighted in Software Advice’s survey, including state-of-the-art call recording capabilities as part of our market-leading workforce optimization suite, as well as intelligent multichannel contact routing. Also be sure to check out Aspect Mentor, designed to help you elevate agent productivity.
Interested in learning more about the insights revealed by this survey? Check out the results at softwareadvice.com.
by Maddy Hubbard on May 30th, 2014
Ready to find out how a cloud-based contact center can benefit your business, whether you have a team of five agents… or five hundred?
Call Center Week is taking place June 9-13, and it’s the “place to be” for anyone serious about call center innovation, customer experience trends, and the future of the industry. It also happens to be where our Zipwire team will be showcasing our multi-channel contact center capabilities that are reliable, scalable and easy to use for organizations with needs ranging from 2-500 seats. Coincidence? We don’t think so.
Why Zipwire? Come see for yourself!
Aspect’s incredibly powerful yet simple cloud-based solution doesn’t bury capabilities in complexity, making it possible to deploy an inbound, outbound or hybrid contact center solution with robust features like multi-session chat, fully-featured agent and supervisor desktops and advanced reporting and recording capabilities – reducing your go-live effort and overall resource allocation. With pay-as-you-go pricing that scales with your business and a 100% uptime service level agreement, our Zipwire contact center gives you the reliability and ease of use you expect from the cloud with the robust multi-channel communications capabilities your business needs to deliver a superior customer experience. It’s just that simple.
Stop by booth #25 to see how Zipwire is making it easier than ever for companies of all sizes to deploy their contact centers in the cloud. And while you’re there, register to win a Go Pro Hero 3. Lady Luck may be in your favor!
Not registered yet for Contact Center Week? Use Zipwire’s discount code to receive a 30% discount when registering: 15CCW_ASPECT
For more information about Aspect’s simple, streamlined contact center cloud solution, visit zipwire.aspect.com
by Maddy Hubbard on May 26th, 2014
For most companies, there is a natural ebb and flow in the number of inbound customer service inquiries and proactive outbound notifications handled throughout the year. Tax preparation firms get most of their business during tax season, shipping companies experience increased traffic during the holiday season, and outdoor amusements like theme parks and golf courses are busiest during the warmer months. Additionally, there are numerous organizations that experience unexpected rises in customer traffic during emergencies such as data breaches, power outages, and natural disasters. Organizations need to be nimble enough to adapt to changes in volume from all channels, including voice, email, social, and mobile.
Cloud-based contact centers such as Aspect’s Zipwire solution can help lower your total cost of ownership by using scalability to adapt to increases and decreases in customer engagement. Unlike a typical contact center solution, you don’t have to carry seat costs throughout the year to prepare for seasonal changes in usage. The money you save during your company’s off-season can be useful during times such as the busy holiday shopping period, when you’ll need additional agents to engage with anxious shoppers. Additionally, your company can save costs by letting your vendor worry about the telecommunications network, your contact center’s infrastructure, and maintenance responsibilities. Your IT team will be free from maintaining your contact center’s software and hardware.
Scalability also allows your contact center the ability to make changes easily and quickly. When call volumes spike, you can easily bring in more agents and not worry about paying for last-minute additions. You can also incorporate more training and software programs as you need them, not as required by a contract or package. This gives you the freedom to scale your operations up or down as your business needs dictate. It’s a win-win solution for companies who are looking to save costs, especially small businesses that don’t have the people or resources for a complex contact center solution.
Is your company in need of a scalable contact center solution? Sign up for a free 30-day trial of Zipwire now, and get started using a cloud-based system in just minutes.
by Jim Freeze, SVP, CMO on May 8th, 2014
For years now we have shared, reviewed and recommended products on social networks such as Yelp, epinions and Buzzillions. Research from public relations firm Weber Shandwick found that consumer reviews are much more influential on consumer electronic purchases than those from professional critics. This week, Amazon announced that shoppers can now add items to their Amazon shopping cart on Twitter, getting one step closer to a true “social” purchase. By simply responding to a tweet with a product link using the hashtag #AmazonCart, consumers can add the product to the Amazon shopping cart. This news is one more proof point that all aspects of the retail experience have moved social.
After reading the news story, I have to ask myself, “What does social shopping mean for the customer experience?” If the simple use of a hashtag to add items to a shopping cart can accelerate Twitter’s transactional functionality, it can also amplify consumers’ ability to find information about products they are interested in. Take the following hypothetical examples:
- Feedback from friends – A shopper places an item in his or her Amazon shopping cart on Twitter that a follower already owns and has tried. Good or bad, that follower will want to inform the shopper about experiences with the product, impacting the decision to buy.
- Crowdsourcing to a new level – When considering a purchase, consumers may hop on Twitter to see if there is anyone who has recently bought the product that they can reach out to for an opinion. Different from sites like Yelp or Travel Advisor, this customer can solicit reviews from individuals they trust.
- Group purchasing mentality – If you are evaluating between buying Brand A or Brand B and notice that many more people on your social networks have bought Brand B, there may be a group mentality that fuels interest in Brand B.
The above are simply examples of what could happen when social shopping takes off. I think each hypothetical only adds to the need for companies to be engaged on social media and responding to customers. Imagine if, as a retailer, you had visibility into the purchases your customer were about to make online. Designing your contact center to make sure every social interaction delivers on your customer promise will foster loyalty. Powerful workflow capabilities tuned into the needs of the contact center ensure that customers receive consistent, informed responses to inquiries posed in the social space.
Shopping-turned-social only amplifies the need for social customer service. Don’t get left out of the conversation.