by Evan Dobkin on September 19th, 2014
Everything is Changing. Is Your Business Keeping Pace? For many companies, the contact center is at the center of the customer experience – answering questions, facilitating sales, booking appointments and enabling transactions. What happens when this epicenter of customer contact doesn’t adapt fast enough to changing consumer preferences and behaviors? Does the customer get frustrated? Tell a few hundred friends on Twitter? Or even take their business elsewhere? These are the new realities of service and support.
At the same time, traditional customer interaction channels like Interactive Voice Response, remain highly relevant. Take a look at our latest strategic insight newsletter, featuring Gartner’s 2014 MarketScope for IVR Systems and Enterprise Voice Portals and insights on serving and engaging today’s digital consumer.
Read it now! Take a look at the PDF from Gartner, Serving and Engaging the Digital Consumer – from Self-Service to Agent-Assisted.
by Tobias Goebel on September 17th, 2014
A recent study conducted by International Data Corporation found that 25 percent of smartphone users couldn’t recall a time when their phone wasn’t in the same room with them. 79 percent of users confessed to having their phones with them for all but two hours of their working day. The connected dependence of consumers and their always-on, always connected mentality has dramatically altered what Forrester Research refers to as the “always-addressable customer.”
So with the growth of this “always-on” attitude, it’s critical for companies to also be on 24/7 in order to anticipate and meet the needs of their hyper-connected customers. Outbound proactive and omni-channel communications can allow companies to do just that. When brands make the effort to proactively reach out, consumers feel as if their needs are being tended to before they’re even aware there’s an issue.
Here are three concrete ways to get ahead of the curve and explore outbound and omni-channel engagement strategies that can help companies provide better and more consistent service to their customers.
Customers who feel that they’re being heard by brands are more likely to remain loyal. Surveys are a great way to engage with customers, through the channel of their choice, on their own time, to discern sentiment, identify promoters and detractors, and influence future interactions with customers. A robust survey application should include personalized content, adapting to each customer’s individual needs and concerns; support open-ended feedback capture through audio recordings; offer customers the option of speaking to customer support in real-time and allow opt-outs to ensure compliance.
Another way to step up proactive engagement with customers is through outbound messages regarding upcoming payments and past due accounts. Through an automated bi-directional communication channel, customers can submit payments immediately anytime, from anywhere, which increases collection rates and improves business efficiency. Collection tools should: use a local telephone number to encourage connection; support compliant and secure collection of payment details over the phone; facilitate the use of best practices in collections for all types of financial products and industries, and provide a consistent message across all channels.
Reminders and Notifications
Finally, companies can create their own custom proactive engagement applications that allow you to contact customers with outbound communications specifically tailored to your businesses needs. If you know something that the customer should know as well, notify them. If you know something that the customer already knows but might have forgotten, remind them. For example, outbound notifications on email, SMS, or the voice channel can be used for order status messages, appointment and prescription reminders as well as service outage notifications, depending on business needs. Ideally, proactive engagement solutions should: speak on the channel of the customer’s choice, allow you to be up and running in hours instead of weeks; operate safely and securely through Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployment in the cloud, provide easy-to-use reporting on results and KPIs and include a campaign manager and scheduler to drive outbound campaigns.
When designed properly, outbound communications provide customers with the information they need, when they need it and even before they need it. This means not only remaining flexible enough to go beyond voice and allowing customers to respond in the channel of their choice, but also giving them power to decide when they want to communicate with you as part of one seamless conversation. It also sends a message to your customers that just like them, you’re always on and plugged into their needs.
by Christine OBrien on September 15th, 2014
Obviously, when we talk about efficiency in the workforce, we’re not striving for the kind of over-scheduling that will leave even the best and brightest agents burned out. We all need a little breathing room in our day. But excessive agent idle time should be an indication to take a closer look at scheduling and utilization rates. It also raises the question of how that time could be spent in a more productive manner – not that the occasional break isn’t conducive to morale.
Research from Aberdeen shows that in contact centers headquartered mainly in North America and Europe, agents spent approximately 25% of their salaried/paid-time idle, that is, time not engaging customers or receiving training or coaching. (Source: Automated Intraday Contact Center Workforce Management: Bridging the Disconnect Between Downtime and Effective Time, July 2012.) Our own research conducted shows similar findings – that the average agent spends about 11% – or 53 minutes – idle each day. That’s nearly five hours lost per agent each week, and over 229 hours every year.
For a 100-seat contact center paying an average agent salary of $17/hr, that’s a potential loss of over $389,000 annually.
Even with the high level of accuracy that most sophisticated workforce management systems have at predicting staffing needs, there are still normal fluctuations in call volume that can result in agent idle time. We touched on this subject a few months ago on the blog as well, Managing Your Workforce in Real Time. Real-time intraday management software has been able to find an average of four extra hours of agent time per month by consolidating idle time without affecting service levels, whether this time is accessible in increments of several minutes or blocks of several hours.
As a result, it only makes sense to put as much of this time as possible to optimal use. If agents spend time idle and unmotivated, it’s far more likely that they’ll see down time as an opportunity to:
- Browse the Internet
- Spend time on social media sites
- Chat with friends or coworkers
- Look for other employment opportunities
Intraday management technology can help you keep agents focused on meaningful tasks even when there are fluctuations in call volume, which not only elevates productivity but it provides a more satisfying work environment. Here are a few ways can help you make this happen:
- Deliver targeted training – Dynamically monitor agents’ call volume to deliver training by dynamically removing agents from the queue for training tasks if call volumes fall below a pre-defined level
- Maximize cross-channel customer experience – Transition staff from voice to other customer channels such as chat, e-mail, or social response based on real-time demand in each channel call/interaction volume
- Distribute back office work – Prompt the right agents to begin assigned back office tasks when call volumes decline to a pre-determined level
Opportunities for engagement don’t stop when the customer interaction ends. Aberdeen found that Best-in-Class businesses who optimize a larger percentage of agent idle time saw a corresponding improvements in customer satisfaction, number of SLAs met, and the amount of time required by supervisors to assist contact center agents. Read the full details of this report by registering and downloading the report, “Automated Intraday Contact Center Workforce Management: Bridging the Disconnect Between Downtime and Effective Time” (2012).
You can also find out more on Aspect’s SaaS-based Active Assignment solution to learn more ways your workforce could benefit from this powerful intraday management software.
by Rebecca Anderson on September 11th, 2014
Customer service is under a microscope. From horror stories to acts of kindness to humorous interactions, extreme examples of customer service circulate the web. A new one seems to pop up every week. Even the media has found these stories worthy of coverage. If we take a step back though and look outside of these exceptional experiences at typical day-day interactions a consumer has with a brand, what are the obstacles standing in the way of providing best-in-class service? The simplest answer: lack of data.
It’s astounding that in today’s world of data overload, contact centers could be struggling with data but as Aberdeen’s report “Customer Engagement Analytics: How to Use Data to Create (and Keep) Happy Customers” (May 2014) indicates, it’s not a lack of data but a lack of integration between systems that is the major pain point in the contact center. Overcoming that challenge, ‘Best-in-Class Contact Centers’ had three characteristics in common that help provide agents with the appropriate data to serve customers.
1. Provide agents with recent and historical customer data at the beginning of each interaction
In Best-in-class contact centers, customer data moves with the customer even if they switch channels or get transferred. This is especially important as research has shown that typical interactions involve at least one transfer. Companies that provide recent and historical data enjoyed a 3.5% reduction in average handle time compared to .7% reduction of those without the process.
2. Use customer contact data to support dynamic customer traffic queues
Dynamic queue management captures customer data from the ACD and appropriately routes customers to the best-suited agent. Interesting, but not surprising, is that having a dynamic traffic queue is highly correlated with the ability to integrate technology systems to gain an overall view of the customer interaction.
3. Regularly monitor customer conversations regarding company brand across social media
Best-in-Class contact centers overcome the data challenge on social media by integrating the channel into their business. Companies are tracking customer sentiment across multiple channels to monitor and manage brand loyalty.
The chart below shows a more details look at the building blocks leaders use for superior performance.
Looking for ways we can help you break down the data silos in your contact center and earn your customers’ loyalty through more positive, seamless experiences? Learn more about Aspect’s contact center solutions.
by Robert Moore on September 8th, 2014
The role of the contact center is changing as consumer preferences evolve at an accelerating pace. A recent blog by Spence Mallder, GM Workforce Optimization and CTO points out that recently, customer experience has overtaken productivity as the top priority for contact center workforce optimization (WFO) programs. It’s an example, albeit an important one, of how the world of the workforce optimization leader is changing as the dynamics of the contact center continue to change.
The infographic below takes us on a quick tour of new challenges and priorities for contact center workforce optimization leaders, some of the key WFO tools and technologies they are using, and the beneficial results that they are seeing from best-practice use of their WFO tools.
by Kathleen Schroeder on September 4th, 2014
Because of escalating healthcare costs and the need to decrease medical errors while improving quality, many providers are looking for ways to make the delivery of healthcare services more efficient. One strategy might be found in an unlikely source of inspiration – the same assembly line approach that also originally inspired Henry Ford’s automotive manufacturing.
The concept is LEAN, or Lean Production, a Japanese approach employed by Toyota Production System and that can also be used to help health systems eliminate waste from their current workflows.
There are actually several potential areas of inefficiency where LEAN can be applied to a healthcare contact center:
- Transport: Transportation takes time. A traffic jam or inclement weather can keep your staff away from their scheduled shift. Work at home for some agents can help eliminate time spent on the road and increase time available for patient calls. Work-at-home environments allow agents to log-in immediately and avoid increased abandonment rates. Decreasing the amount of time an agent has to travel leads to optimal staffing – work-at-home agents are more willing to pick up split shifts and cover shifts during another agent’s absence.
- Inventory: An excess of resources impacts the bottom line, while too few resources impact production! In a healthcare contact center, inventory is a great parallel to staffing and forecasting. Overstaffing and understaffing are very real problems within contact centers unless health systems have a viable work force management system.
- Motion: Unnecessary movement to accomplish a task is wasteful. When your staff has questions or concerns and can’t effortlessly reach out to other co-workers, subject matter experts or knowledge bases for help, average handle time dramatically increases. Your staff would benefit from having the capability to instant message team leaders and clinical personnel or, in a few simple key strokes, access the information they need to respond to the patent’s request.
- Waiting: Any time spent waiting for a service is perceived as an inconvenience by a customer. Patients are no different; in fact, the severity of their condition may significantly decrease their willingness to wait. Having the ability to measure the speed of answer and the abandonment rate allows leaders within the contact center to adjust the staffing or key performance indicators.
- Overproduction: This kind of waste is defined as the creation of excess product. In a healthcare contact center setting, overproduction often occurs when patients are asked unnecessary or repetitive questions. Agents exert additional effort to capture information that is not clinically or financially relevant. Standardized work flows go a long way to streamline patient encounters and decrease overproduction.
- Over-processing: Over-processing often occurs when unnecessary steps are added to patient facing processes that do not add value. When applied to a healthcare contact center setting, multiple patient transfers can be dubbed as over-processing. With an ACD, proper skill based routing cannot occur successfully. Patients are asked non value-added questions prior to their transfer to another staff member or clinician. An automated phone tree can also decrease over-processing by decreasing average handle time and allowing for workgroups with specialized skill sets, to focus on the value-added service they can provide their patients.
- Defects: This word needs no definition and has added gravity in the healthcare industry. Miss-scheduled appointments, bad triage encounters or, an erroneous bill can all have a terrible impact on a patient and their overall experience. Creating a knowledge base along with quality assurance and quality management can eradicate these errors. A good call recording and analytics program can aid in the development and automation of the quality assurance initiative.
A contact center in the healthcare industry has many parallels with LEAN ideology. Linking the technology and the processes to this ideology will create a culture that focuses on high performance and efficiency and ultimately superior patient experiences. Let Aspect Healthcare and Healthcare Intelligence show you how to make LEAN a reality for your health system.
Aren’t your patients worth it?
by Rebecca Anderson on September 2nd, 2014
Contact 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!
by Michael Kropidlowski on August 28th, 2014
In 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.
by Michael Kropidlowski on August 26th, 2014
Nearly 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.
by Maddy Hubbard on August 6th, 2014
Last 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.