Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 5, 2019
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3min842

A fresh crop of eager professionals has benefited from the expert knowledge of CX and contact centre guru Daniel Ord at the latest High Performance Management for Inbound Contact Centres Masterclass.

Delegates from across the UK arrived in London for the two-day course, which equips participants with the skills to reshape their call centre through effective management processes and performance enhancement.

Masterclass leader Daniel is the founder and Director of OmniTouch, and has delivered public and in-house training courses in over 40 countries. This class helps students understand which metrics matter most for each call centre role, and comprehend the interrelationships between metrics and how to interpret results.

The class, which is delivered over the two days in four comprehensive modules, also debunks common call centre myths and misunderstandings, and provides knowledge on how to calculate budgets and effectively manage a team, while mastering effective wait time practises.

Ready to learn: Dan Ord (front row, second right) and his recent Contact Centre Masterclass students

Places are now available for the next Masterclass with Dan, which takes place in may 2020 at Cisco Systems HQ in London’s Park House at Finsbury Circus. A special Early Bird booking offer is available for those who secure their place before April 17 2020, saving an incredible £100 off the fee.

Further Masterclasses will be held in July, October, and December. Click here for further details on upcoming dates.

Meanwhile, those who attended the recent Masterclass have praised the experience, and are urging fellow professionals to take the plunge.

Sophie Tozer, Customer Service Manager at goto.energy, said: “It has been really useful to refresh myself in areas which are now more relevant to my company.”

Cary Rowland, Team manager at Santander Consumer Finance, said: “This is a very informative and well-run course. Dan is engaging and I would highly recommend the class to anyone running a contact centre.”

Meanwhile, Joanne Fullwood, Customer Operations Director at software firm Advanced, added: “We covered interesting and thought-provoking topics, and what we learned can easily be applied in the workplace. The pace of the course was great, and Dan is an excellent tutor, who provided us lots of opportunities to question and discuss what we were learning.”

Click here to book your place in the next High Performance Management for Inbound Contact Centres Masterclass.

 

 

 

 

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 8, 2019
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4min1135

Online complaints resolution specialists Resolver has been revealed as a sponsor for the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

The free independent service is the go-to for customers to connect with businesses around the world and successfully resolve issues. The firm joins fellow partners Worksmart, The Malcolm McDowell Academy, Cranfield School of Management, and children’s charity Barnardo’s for the awards final which takes place on March 5 at the Park Plaza Riverbank in London

The daytime event, hosted by Awards International, will see finalists from across the UK compete in 16 categories, including Best Use of Customer Insight & Feedback, Customer Retention Strategy, and Complaint Handling Professional of the Year.

Organisations have until October 18 to take advantage of an Early Bird Discount Offer, before the final entry deadline of November 14.

The finalists for 2020 will be revealed on November 26.

Resolver CEO and Founder James Walker said: “Resolver captures the lost voice of dis-engaged consumers and diffuses friction between them and the business to create better outcomes for all. We achieve this by informing consumers of their rights and managing their expectations to help achieve a smooth resolution.

“With over 5 million complaint cases and counting, Resolver Group’s business brand, Egeria Insights, are able to use this unique data to support businesses to improve their complaint handling processes through the intelligent application of natural language processing, industry benchmarking and predictive technology.”

Speaking of the partnership with the 2020 UK Customer Experience Awards, he added: “In the future, successful firms will be defined by how well they treat their customers. Increasingly, businesses across the spectrum are realising the importance of listening to what the people who use their services are saying and learning and evolving in response.

“That’s why I’m thrilled to be working in partnership with Awards International to recognise these awesome businesses that are getting in right. And I’m looking forward to celebrating the winners of the future.”

Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “As any of the millions of consumers who used Resolver to successfully lodge a complaint – either directly to a firm or through an ombudsman – will tell you, their service makes the entire process as quick as possible.

“No longer are people being put off complaining because of a long, laborious process. Thanks to Resolver, the consumer is more powerful than they have ever been before, and the onus is now on businesses to prove they are able to handle complaints more effectively than ever before. These awards will celebrate those who are doing just that.”


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamOctober 8, 2019
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3min1184

An upcoming webinar will shine a light on how midsize call centres can adapt and thrive in the digital era, with expert advice from Genesys and Frost & Sullivan.

Hosted by Customer Experience Magazine, the free webinar will take place on October 17 at 11am BST, and will feature Alexander Michael, the Director of Consulting at F&S, who will be joined by Genesys’ Nick Wingrove, the firm’s VP of Solutions Consulting for the EMEA region.

The pair will deep-dive into a collaborative report, Midsized Call Centres take a Digital-first Approach, which examines how how call centres in the UK, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands are dealing with the changes in customer engagement and their impact on business.

The whitepaper is part of a global series on how CX is the main factor in call centre operations, and explains how most call centres are taking a digital-first approach to customer engagement, with the majority considering, or utilising, cloud technology to boost performance and meet goals.

The webinar will see Alexander and Nick discuss how mid-size businesses approach CX and which technology trends will shape their operations going forward. The CX approaches of these firms will be compared with that of larger organisations, to provide insight into the most effective methods of customer engagement today.
CXM Editor Paul Ainsworth said: “Competition is fierce, no matter which industry you operate in. Mid-sized businesses face consistent pressures to define and implement strategies that will enable them to successfully acquire and retain customers.
“Knowing how your peers have accomplished this gives you an advantage. Leveraging the results from the recent Frost & Sullivan global mid-market study, you’ll get details on real-world Customer Experience initiatives.”
To register for the webinar, click here

Henry JinmanHenry JinmanSeptember 19, 2019
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7min1890

Far from replacing people, artificial intelligence (AI) has the power to enhance employee engagement and productivity and customer interactions in one go.

New technology inevitably changes lives. However, rather than fear robots replacing front line customer service representatives, it’s time to think differently and embrace automation to elevate the status of the contact centre agents and make their jobs more engaging.

The aim of AI isn’t to replace people with robots. As former Oracle director Paul Reader said: “Automation is not the future, human augmentation is.”

From contact centres to factories, AI tools such as bots can reduce costs and increase team efficiency in a matter of months. Automation can be a game changer for customer communication and overall job satisfaction.

Change the mindset, starting with your people, and AI will soon become a friend, not a foe. View this technology as the strategic enabler of employee productivity and satisfaction and see service levels, customer loyalty, and profits soar.

Here are a seven super AI initiatives to turn your mild-mannered agents into Women and Men of Steel.

1. Eliminate the mundane

AI liberates agents by taking away the repetitive or mundane tasks, leaving them free to enjoy the challenge of tackling complex or emotionally sensitive calls that only humans can handle.

It’s a smart move – by elevating the role of agents, you give them the career they deserve and in motivating them to train and hone their skills, they soon become the superheroes that every contact centre leader wants on their side.

2. Build caller context

This can take many forms, for example a bot sitting on the front of an IVR menu asking preliminary questions while the customer is waiting or  analysing previous customer conversations to build caller profiles. This gives live agents the valuable intelligence they need to answer customer queries with greater speed and efficiency when a call is transferred to them from their virtual colleagues.

The latest AI tools can even identify sentiment and notify the agent of a customer’s emotional state of mind.  Depending on the outcome of an interaction bots can direct the call to the best-skilled available agent at the appropriate moment.

3. Provide a warm handover

Using Natural Language Processing (NLP), AI can understand the initial query and so provide a warm handover to a live agent who already knows what the person is calling about and doesn’t have to ask any unnecessary questions, one of the biggest irritations for customers.

4. Good memory, good rapport

Today’s AI tools are so sophisticated that they can measure customer satisfaction levels based on tone of voice and vocabulary. They speedily recognise repeat callers from voice and then use this intelligence to flag up pertinent information to customer service agents and alert managers to recurring issues that require multiple repeat calls.

Memorising the Customer Experience based on historical evidence drives proactive call resolution and builds customer trust.

5. Deliver your best ever service

All forms of AI technology such as bots perform like the model employee – they never get tired, are never sick, and because they don’t suffer from emotions, never have a bad day and they don’t need holidays!

Always predictable, they offer customers a great, consistent service any time of day or night and there’s no limit to the number of users one bot  can talk to at once. No matter how many people are already talking to it, yours can answer them right away in natural language – leading to lifelong, positive customer relationships. Meanwhile, agents benefit from additional time to deal with more difficult and complex cases that only humans can handle or can even ask bots for advice on how to respond.

6. Humans and bots in harmony

When AI works hand-in-hand with the live agent team, contact centres benefit from all the perks of a human workforce plus the consistency of artificial intelligence to boost first call resolution for enhanced Customer Experience.

7. Agent assistance

Help new agents hit the ground running and become superheroes in a matter of days. The beauty of AI is that it acts as an agent’s personal assistant. Let new joiners ask questions and allow experienced agents to share their customer success stories with an agent assistant to increase the company knowledge pool.

Agents can even ask the bot questions while in conversation with a customer to deliver fast, efficient responses.

 


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 11, 2019
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7min1762

In the world of customer contact, the nurturing of a diverse and inclusive culture not only creates a team that reflects the market it is serving, but it generates an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work and unlock their full potential, which ultimately yields productive employees and stronger, more creative teams.

In a recent interview with Helen Gillett, Managing Director of Affinity for Business, and Petra Mengelt, Head of B2B Business Relations at Mash Group Plc, we explored the role of D&I in the world of customer contact and demonstrate how your biggest asset – your people – can set your business apart from the competition.

Here, we explore some of the key takeaways from the interviews.

Why diversity and inclusion can benefit customer contact

For many years, companies have thought of diversity and inclusion as affirmative action or box-checking, but it is everything but that. Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is not an HR issue. Instead, it is about diverse thinking, perspectives, experiences, work styles, and cultural backgrounds, as opposed to counting heads.

Statistics show that organisations that embed D&I in their culture have a distinct advantage to their competitors. Research by McKinsey & Company shows that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams are 21 percent more likely to outperform in profitability and 27 percent more likely to have superior value creation. Additionally, the most ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform the least ethnically diverse. Meanwhile, leading consultant John Bersin also shares that diverse & inclusive companies have 2.3x higher cash flow per employee than homogenous companies.

From a customer contact perspective, an environment of diverse cultures combined with individuals of different ages, genders, abilities, and sexualities creates a plethoric pool of opinions, skills, and ways of approaching challenges that work to benefit both the business and its customers. In a setting where unique challenges arise frequently, it is only favourable to have a diverse team that can share ideas and create best practices through collaboration.

How to create a culture of diversity & inclusion in your organisation

When it comes to creating a culture of inclusion, good intentions are a start, but implementation and accountability matter more. It is vital that organisations seek to cultivate a culture of D&I and make it a core part of their DNA. Here, we share three actionable steps to making a culture of D&I a reality in your customer contact centre.

1. Start from the top

Responsibility for affecting change should not be driven by HR. Instead, it starts with business leaders. Accountability is an essential factor in establishing a culture of D&I. When executive leadership incorporate talent as an active agenda item, that’s when it becomes intrinsic in the culture of the company.

2. Communicate to educate

Creating opportunities for employees to learn more about one another as people, rather than just colleagues, is a great way to build a sense of trust and community in your team. Petra encourages a culture of always asking questions to aid this, and also to dispel any negativity that may stem from misunderstandings.

“It’s important to never ever leave anything that stems from cultural difference hanging or unresolved, otherwise there is always a risk of encouraging negative stereotypes. I am always asking questions such as ‘can you explain what you mean?’ to create clarity,” she says.

3. Lead by example

It’s a well-known mantra that people don’t leave companies; they leave leaders. In order for a culture of D&I to thrive, employees must feel as if they are being coached by a leader who truly has their best interests in mind.

As demonstrated by Helen’s own comments on being honest about her journey, an effective way to do so is by leading by example. If a leader can bring their authentic self to work, their employees will feel confident enough to do the same. This can be especially important when discussing inclusion and mental health, as Helen shares: “Having leaders tell their stories lets people know that mental ill-health can happen to anyone and it’s not anything to be ashamed of – it’s ok not to be ok.”

Click the image below to learn more about how a culture of D&I can improve your customer contact experience.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 3, 2019
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3min1867

Financial services compliance solutions firm Worksmart has joined the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards as a sponsor for the event, which will take place in London next year.

The firm, which has been supporting Britain’s leading financial service businesses through the challenges of regulatory compliance for over two decades, is bringing its considerable influence to the awards final next spring, where companies will compete in 15 categories, including Best use of Insight & Customer Feedback and Complaint Handling Professional of the Year.

Worksmart is the firm behind cutting-edge complaints software Caresmart, which has revolutionised complaint tracking and resolving for organisations keen to protect their reputation with both customers and regulatory bodies. It joins fellow partners Cranfield School of Management and Professor Malcolm McDonald in backing the awards, which are once again also sponsored by children’s charity Barardo’s.

2020 will be the fourth year of the event, hosted by Awards International, and finalists will descend on the Park Plaza Riverbank on March 5 to present details of complaint handling initiatives before a panel of leading experts including representatives of award-winning firms such as Capita.

Entries remain open for the awards, and hopefuls have until October 18 to take advantage of an Early Bird discount offer. The final entry deadline is on November 14, with shortlisted finalists set to be announced on November 26.

Julie Pardy, Director of Regulation & Market Engagement at Worksmart, said: “We’re delighted to be a sponsor at the UK Complaint Handling Awards, as it promotes best practice in complaint handling. Our complaints product, Caresmart, helps companies resolve complaints compliantly and in a way which ensures the best possible chance of retaining the relationship with the customer for the future. As such, sponsoring these awards is the right thing to do.”


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 2, 2019
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2min1871

Customer Experience Magazine is giving away three tickets to this month’s Winning With Complaint Handling Conference, which is taking place in central London.

This not-to-be-missed one-day event on September 25 will bring together Gold winners from the annual UK Complaint Handling Awards for a series of panel discussions that will help you improve your brand’s complaint handling techniques and strategies, and offers insight into how to bring your level of customer service to an award-winning standard.

Brought to you by Awards International, the event will be chaired by CEO Neil Skehel, who will be joined by the one-and-only Daniel Ord, founder and Director of OmniTouch International, to oversee the day’s activities, which include discussions from award winning brands including Capita, Three UK, HSBC, and more.

Held at the Park Plaza riverbank, the conference will offer unparalleled networking opportunities to help boost your complaint handling power.

Neil Skehel explains: “This isn’t just another conference – you are an integral part of this event and your priorities will shape what we discuss. It promises to be an educational and inspirational experience for everyone involved.”

For your chance to win, follow these simple steps before the closing date of this Friday September 6:

1. Follow Customer Experience Magazine on LinkedIn
2. Like the contest post
3. Complete and submit the Contest Entry Form below


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10min7990

Explaining to a child how to cross the street in front of their school without being hit by a car only takes a few repetitions and their knowledge can then be generalised to most roads and vehicles.

It would instead require huge quantities of images for an AI to learn the same and it would make mistakes as soon as confronted with situations which are slightly different from what it had seen in his training data set.

The current breed of artificial intelligence – in its most advanced version – is built upon a metaphor of the human brain as a computer made of interwoven neurons. Through a ‘training’ process, the system can ‘learn’ to ‘recognise’ identical patterns without being programmed by a human and then apply this ‘knowledge’ to real world situations, more and more with a better accuracy than humans themselves.

The limit of this metaphor is that it takes a huge quantity of data to obtain this type of result and those hard-learned skills are confined to the very domain where the AI was trained.

The abstraction and generalisation capabilities of humans are still a mystery to AI researchers, but an element that may guide them in their quest is the emotional nature of human beings. We memorise much better when feeling strong emotions than in ‘boring’ situations. Children’s ability to quickly learn how to properly cross the street is certainly related to their feeling of danger and somehow fear of what could happen if they made the wrong decision.

A machine obviously doesn’t feel – we’ll leave to the sci-fi fans the debate of whether consciousness could emerge as a property of complex systems such as neural networks. AI is high on IQ and low on EQ some might say. But progress in mimicking the functioning of the human brain could require an acknowledgement and a modelling of the emotional nature of homo sapiens.

Current AI algorithms are not yet able to learn from less data and improve their abstraction and generalisation capabilities using emotions. But they are improving at recognising them within humans, exploring correlations between symbolic representations of emotions and human expressions, whatever their format.

Progress being made

Some research has already be done on the range of human emotions, thanks to the EU-Emotion Stimulus Set, and people like Houwei Cao, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at New York Institute of Technology, who is busy working on algorithms that can read emotions.

Initial efforts were called ‘sentiment analysis’, trying to guess an individual’s state of mind based on what they write or say. This has now taken a larger perspective by adding language patterns, voice tone, facial movements, sentence structures, and eye motions into the mix.

For instance, a mouth shaped in a particular way, plus voice with a specific pitch compared to its baseline, plus use of words tagged as being positive, equals happiness. Of course, to the average philosopher, that is a rather partial and limitative definition of happiness. But it only needs to be operational in the specific context where it is used.

Emotional AI applied to customer engagement

Indeed, those efforts are improving AI’s relevance to the business world and the fields of application are numerous.

Whether it’s customer engagement or support, a hiring process, or addressing disputes, emotional AI can play an important and useful role for humans. Employees can base their interactions on its insights, adapt their response to emotional changes in the customer and have a more effective communication with the person on the other side of the line or table.

For instance, the stakes are high for the call centre industry: born out of financial necessity so businesses can afford to serve and support large customer bases, it often turns out to be a source of frustration for users despite well-scripted conversation scenarios followed by the responding agent. When there’s pressure, good manners and empathy can be forgotten. Emotional AI can act as a reminder to employees, so it doesn’t happen.

It is also true of the sales forces whose likelihood to convert a prospect into a customer is directly linked to their ability to empathise with the individual(s) they want to strike a deal with. Indeed, approaching another human with an offering that is rational (adapted to its needs and budget for instance) but presented without taking into account their current state of mind is at best a waste of time and at worst a loss opportunity.

Emotional AI can help a business stand-out from its competitors for the quality of its customer engagement. But what will be the acceptance of emotion-driven algorithms by humans?

There will be challenges

In the age of GDPR and stringent privacy rules, considerations about voice, face, and writing being processed by emotional AI algorithms is something that businesses will need to explain to customers, since there is a very thin line between individual mood monitoring and intrusive Orwellian surveillance.

Will a customer value consideration for his or her feelings or mood by a computer as much as genuine empathy expressed by another human-being? If after asking how I am doing – something most people won’t need an AI to remind them to ask – the next question about my latest holiday is in fact an AI-scripted line, the whole introduction might sound a bit phony.

Eventually, could overly relying on AI to read other individuals state of mind turn us all into sociopaths unable to properly relate to other humans, like GPS has slowly but surely decreased our ability to use a map to navigate in the real world?

However, those questions might be irrelevant in the not-so-distant future. With the growing sophistication of virtual personal assistants – think Alexa, Siri or Google Home – we may soon delegate our buying decisions to those machines. This would imply that vendors’ own AI systems now have to pitch our AI agents instead of ourselves. And the billions spent annually by marketing departments on branding and ads designed to appeal to our emotions would fall flat.


Becky LynnBecky LynnAugust 7, 2019
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5min2161

There are many common customer service metrics in place in contact centres: CSAT, NPS, FRT, CES, AHT, FCR, the list goes on.

Some are more valid than others and some are simply outdated and add confusion and conflict to both the organisation and customer. When measuring customer service, it’s important to firstly be clear as to what you are scoring against.

The front-line agent? The organisational growth? The customer journey?

Different measures all suit different purposes.

When we look at the front line, the first thing organisations need to do (if not already done) is remove AHT (Average Handle Time). 

This antiquated stat only serves to pressure the agent into a quick wrap-up and offers nothing to the customer in return except reducing the quality of service. Whilst it may be important to measure AHT as a business to understand trends and consumer behaviour, this should never be used as a KPI at the front line.

NPS (Net Promoter Score) is the most commonly used measure for organisations when tracking their customer service standing. But again, is this really a fair way to verify front-line performance when so many other factors contribute to the decision the customer makes?

The initial reason for their interaction, the organisation processes and tech, the level of empowerment the agent has to enable them to assist – an agent cannot be rated on NPS alone!

So what can you use to measure your agents’ performance? At Top Companies for Customer Service we use five key criteria to evaluate the Customer Experience, all of which can be used at both front line and an organisational level.

These are: Timeliness, Ease of Use, Reliability, Staff Knowledge, and most important of all, Personalisation.

These pillars of excellence are adopted from customer expectation research carried out by our partner Ipsos Mori, and encompass many elements of other classic metrics. The difference is that all our findings are gathered from a customer perspective and provide the measure of a journey from start to finish. For example, we do not measure AHT, but instead ask if the length of time of the interaction was reasonable based on the specific experience had.

Our research shows the key Drivers of Customer Dissatisfaction are a mix of both soft skills and basic hygiene factors, including: Agent Knowledge, Understanding and Caring Attitude, and Ease of Access. Whereas the Drivers of Satisfaction – Effort, Loyalty, and Advocacy – are predominately enhanced by strong personal skills.

Our findings reveal the measure that should be top of contact centre KPIs is FCR (First Contact Resolution).

When you have trained, coached, and empowered your agents to enable them to confidently, calmly, and swiftly respond and resolve the customer enquiry without barriers and technical issues holding them back, you will see FCR increase and in turn Customer Satisfaction, Effort, Loyalty, and Advocacy stats will advance in the right direction.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 1, 2019
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2min1952

The UK’s largest independent multi-sector ombudsman, Ombudsman Services, has created a new partner platform to facilitate its communications with businesses operating in its four key sectors of energy, communications, heat, and private parking.

Designed and built by digital agency Code Computerlove, the creative for the new site reflects Ombudsman Services’ refreshed brand identity that was launched on its new consumer platform last year.

Ombudsman Services’ partner site – partners.ombudsman-services.org – features clear and concise information, cleverly presented with the use of bespoke-designed icons and use of video.

It emphasises how Ombudsman Services can help to resolve disputes in an efficient and ethical way, reduce service failure cost, and drive improvements in customer service.

Jodi Hamilton, director of relationships at Ombudsman Services, said: “Improving our digital capabilities lies at the heart of our organisational strategy and the launch of our new business-to-business partner platform forms part of our ongoing programme of digital transformation.

“Further features will be added to the partner site as we base our iterations on data-driven insight and our business customers’ requirements. There is increased competition in our sector, so getting ahead and staying there with regards to our digital presence is a vital element of our growth.

“The aim is to create increased visibility of our services. By giving our business partners a dedicated place to come for useful information, resources and content, we aim to increase B2B engagement across our key sectors. We have worked hard to define both our consumer and business-to-business proposition and our new site is an excellent reflection of our strong brand identity and brand difference.”


Rob CrutchingtonRob CrutchingtonJuly 31, 2019
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6min1886

Contact centres are challenging places.

There is certainly plenty to think about with the rising cost of salaries, managing schedules to meet customer demand, looking after staff wellbeing, PCI DDSS compliance, and now the added requirements of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Initial concerns about how the new GDPR regulations would affect contact centres, in terms of increasing costs and complexity of managing enquires, have to some extent dissipated. For those contact centres taking payments and already PCI DSS compliant, it was a relatively straightforward process to embrace GDPR regulations. They had typically invested in secure technologies, encryption, and working with third party compliant companies in terms of PCI DSS. On the whole they were able to extend their technology and processes to protect personal data and meet GDPR requirements.

However, other organisations are still evaluating how new ways of streamlining processes can help meet GDPR data governance and management regulation, but are uncertain how to choose the best solution. We have identified three ways that contact centres can apply technology to help them remain compliant:

1. Mobile automated identification & verification (ID &V)

Often a significant amount of time can be spent on identifying and verifying the caller. Having a person perform this task is expensive and means that customer data is at risk. A customer engagement platform is an alternative way to offer a cost-effective, secure solution to automate the screening and identification process.

It can take the customer through set identification questions using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to simulate agent conversations, or it can use SMS text messages to authenticate the device being used. On initial registration and once the two-factor authentication process has been successful, the platform will accept and authorise payment requests that are automatically debited from the card holder’s account.

The advantage of this approach is that all information is encrypted and the agent is not exposed to any personal data, thereby complying with GDPR and PCI DSS. The data is processed and stored securely elsewhere. In addition, having signed up to the service, the customer has agreed to a data handling agreement that sets out how their information can be shared with a third party, ensuring confidentiality.

2. Customer self-service screening using IVR

Accepting credit and debit cards via IVR has long proved to be an effective and secure way of taking payments. It allows customers to pay quickly, via their own unique identifiers – a PIN, date of birth, even voice recognition. Again, reducing or removing agent contact time is a more secure way for contact centres and their customers to comply with PCI DSS. Since everything is fully automated and confidential, the client information is stored centrally and securely within the system hosting the data, taking it out of scope for both PCI DSS and GDPR.

Capturing customer data via IVR also enables calls to be routed to the right agent with the correct skills, in the event of a request to speak to an advisor. The agent then has all of the relevant information available to manage the call successfully, but with key identification data screened, thereby ensuring GDPR compliance.

3. Cloud-based third party payment solutions

The third option to consider, and one that has gained significant traction over recent years, is to choose a cloud-based payment service provider. A trusted third party that complies with PCI DSS demonstrates proven adherence to a recognised security standard, which can also help contact centres to meet the GDPR legislation. Companies can apply a process of ‘de-scoping’ to reduce the number of requirements (tick-boxes) for GDPR, in the same way that they might do for PCI DSS compliance.

Of course, like PCI DSS compliance, the responsibility for GDPR cannot be entirely removed from the contact centre, however the effort required can be dramatically reduced by working in partnership with a payment solution provider.

Aligning GDPR and PCI DSS: the route to successful compliance

There is no doubt that GDPR has improved standards around privacy and data protection, but at what cost? Contact centres that have worked hard to blend people and technology to enhance data and payment processes in the last year, have typically done everything they can to comply with both GDPR and PCI DSS.

For the rest, the good news is that it’s not too late to review what’s in place and make the switch, to new technology and/or a third party solution provider, to enable a secure, multi-channel seamless route for customer payments. The choice is there for the taking.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 29, 2019
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3min1911

A global research study has found that businesses in the UK and elsewhere are overrating their Customer Experience, and are underperforming when it comes to providing omnichannel communication.

The 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark report polled contact centre leaders in the UK, US, and Australia. Results reveal that businesses are confident in artificial intelligence’s (AI’s) role in delivering exceptional Customer Experience, but they overrate their own CX performance.

The CX Transformation Benchmark found that 63 percent of contact centre leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved, and 68 percent of those surveyed agree that consumers want to use virtual assistants to interact with them.

However, compared to consumers, businesses give themselves higher net promoter scores for every method of communication tested. Businesses overestimate most channel-specific NPS by broad margins. For example:

Automated assistant/chatbot: While consumers award automated assistants an NPS of -8, businesses estimate they earn an NPS of 25, for a gap of 33 points.

Email: The consumer NPS for email is -9 while the business NPS is 19, for a gap of 28 points.

Text: Consumers give text a -2 NPS while businesses estimate 25, for a gap of 27 points.

Meanwhile, the report shows that businesses are 15 percent more likely than customers to agree that they make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved in their preferred channels, and that they provide a consistent Customer  Experience across the purchase journey.

While 93 percent of businesses surveyed agree that consumers expect companies to provide a seamless experience when moving between channels, only 24 percent of businesses globally give themselves an excellent rating on allowing consumers to switch seamlessly between methods of communication.

Paul Jarman, CEO of NICE inContact, said: “We are at an inflection point for AI in the contact centre. AI innovations are at their best when paired with the human touch and deployed to address targeted customer and agent experience opportunities. AI in the contact centre has the potential to add significant value to CX outcomes and operational performance.


Joey GreenwaldJoey GreenwaldJuly 26, 2019
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11min2482

I rarely use and never want to pick up my phone anymore.

That is, the phone part of the phone. I happily use my mobile phone all of the time – to communicate, read, and for entertainment. But using the call functionality and dialling a human? No, thank you.

It’s partly because I get dozens of unwanted robocalls every week, and partly because I’ve wasted a lot of time on hold. It’s also because one of the few things that I can control in life is my time – and when I’m on the phone, the person on the other line has effectively hijacked my time.

This is especially true when it comes to getting customer support via the phone. If I need help, I’m probably not feeling particularly sociable. The last thing I want to do is pick up the phone, talk to an agent and hope they can solve my problem – or worse, risk bouncing around a poorly implemented interactive voice-response system (IVR). I’d much rather search for and find an answer online. Better yet, I’d like to type a question and let a well-trained chatbot instantly find the answer for me.

I’m not alone

It’s human nature that we don’t want to rely on other people – and the phone – to accomplish certain tasks or gather information. That’s part of what’s driven the internet explosion.

Take Ticketmaster. The event ticketing company launched a self-service website in the early 90s, where event-goers could, for the first time, purchase tickets online rather than going to in-person kiosks – or making phone calls to human ticketing agents. This is illustrated perfectly by the following excerpt from Paul Allen’s memoir, The Idea Man, about Ticketmaster’s very first online sale:

When customer number one had completed the first transaction, our Web people called him and said, ‘Congratulations, you just bought the first concert ticket in the history of the Internet! Can you tell us why you decided to buy online?’ The man said, ‘Because I don’t like talking to people, and I don’t like talking to you.’ And he hung up.”

More than 25 years after Ticketmaster’s first online sale, there’s proof that people are relying less on phone calls than ever before – and it’s having repercussions across various industries.

A few stats to consider:

  • The number of landlines in use is down dramatically. A report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (via Statista) showed that, in 2004, 92 percent of U.S. households had a working landline. By 2018, that number dropped to 42 percent because of the growth of mobile phones.
  • British telecom service provider Ofcom released a study in 2018 revealing that the number of monthly mobile voice call minutes was on the decline among its customers, from an average of 159 minutes per month in 2016 to 157 minutes in 2017. But while phone calls were down, data consumption skyrocketed, from an average of 1.3 GB in 2016 to 1.9 GB in 2017. 
  • Pew Research reported that response rates for phone surveys plummeted to six percent in 2018. The steady and sharp decline has continued since 1997, when response rates were as high as 36 percent.
  • Nearly 60 percent of contact centre leaders believe inbound call volumes will decrease over the next five years, according to a 2018 McKinsey survey, while 40 percent said the number of calls will fall dramatically, perhaps to zero, in the next decade.
Dial it back: Inbound calls to contact centres are dropping dramatically

Automation takes over self-service

In this era of internet-enabled instant gratification, we as consumers expect to get fast answers to virtually any question – without making any calls.

This includes the realm of customer support. The phone call is no longer the primary medium for support – instead, phone calls are the last resort, and this isn’t just because consumers (like me) prefer it. Businesses do too, as companies are implementing AI-powered support automation technology to both improve the customer experience and better manage operational costs. Here’s some data behind that shift:

  • A recent report by call centre industry analyst firm ContactBabel found that only 25 percent of customer support agents believe that customers prefer human support.
  • 41 percent of consumers would choose live chat as their preferred support channel, according to a study from Kayako, while 32 percent prefer phone calls, followed by email and social media (note: the survey did not include chatbots or virtual assistants as an option).

This doesn’t mean that businesses can totally dismiss phone support. However, it does point to the fact that most consumers would prefer not to dial company support unless they absolutely have to. 

As Forrester analyst Kate Leggett wrote: “Today, customers have more choice: more products to buy, more information to influence purchasing decisions, and more devices and channels over which to seek customer service. What they don’t have is more time. It’s no wonder that self-service interactions have overtaken all other channels.”

It’s worth restating Leggett’s words: “What they don’t have is more time.”

That’s why we often turn to Google or a company’s online forums for answers. But a traditional search online or in managed forums can leave you with an endless list of links to sift through. This is where AI comes in. It might take us several minutes or hours to find an answer amidst a library of online information, but applied machine learning (ML) technology can surface the information we need in an instant.

AI also allows companies to provide a uniform quality of service, 24 hours a day, with little to no downtime. Effectively trained chatbots (a.k.a. virtual agents), with brains powered by AI, are becoming the new face of customer support.

The ContactBabel report found that 16 percent of all companies plan to implement artificial intelligence solutions for customer support within the next year, more than doubling the current installed base. Additionally, 27 percent of large contact centres (with 200-plus agents) expect to implement AI/ML within one-year, which means more than 50 percent will have AI/ML in place by 2020.

I know I speak on behalf of consumers everywhere when I say that the era of AI-led support can’t come soon enough. To paraphrase the great R.E.M., it’s the end of phone support as we know it…and I feel fine.


Ruby KhaliqRuby KhaliqJuly 19, 2019
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11min2291

We’re flush with new ways to engage with customers, but businesses should be more data-driven, rather than simply throwing more manpower on the frontlines.

In the era of new contact centre touchpoints, the touchpoints themselves matter less and less because they should be managed in a unified way. That’s not to say we should disregard the touchpoints – in fact the opposite is true. We should be able to add them and monitor the data from customer interactions to create contact centres that offer better service and embrace innovation when it comes to engaging with customers.

In real terms, that means putting an end to seeing telephone, web chat, or mobile app communications as an island in their own right. Each channel will have its own considerations and technological challenges to take on board – that much is true. Yet as agent desktop interfaces better integrate the new channels that emerge, we should start to think of how we can solve new business challenges and get smarter, as well as becoming more efficient.

Hearing the voice of the customer

For many contact centres, voice has been their bread and butter for years. The difference now is that voice is used less – at least in its traditional sense. Meanwhile, phones are being used in different ways, particularly with the growing use of smartphones. Voice now has a closer relationship with other digital channels, and as a result, firms should prepare all channels to account for customers flowing between each.

Smart move: Digital channels are becoming ever closer for customers

Although customers are generally using phones less for voice calls than they used to, we’re now seeing an increase in phones being used as a digital backstop. If a customer doesn’t get the response they expect from digital channels, they will probably pick up the phone to speak to an agent. This brings to the surface the importance of managing the two types of contact centre interactions – those driven by bots and those driven by humans. Human agents will want to deal with the queries where they feel like they can add value. The simple issues such as the loss of a password can be dealt with automatically.

Agent time is both precious and costly and so should be used for issues where it is necessary. It’s important then, for businesses to find the right match between interactions handled by chat bot, and interactions that require a human touch. The best approach is to use a mix of both, where bots escalate to an agent when needed, without customers feeling like they are being passed between non-connected entities. 

We also have to prepare for a new era of voice interaction. There were 9.5 million active smart speaker users in the UK last year, which is an increase of 98.6 percent against 2017, according to eMarketer. Consumers are getting more comfortable in asking these devices to perform basic tasks and provide them with information. The next step is for them to be the conduit to getting in touch with the outside world. That doesn’t just mean communicating with close friends and family as is the case now but increasingly, with brands. In fact, voice assistants are just one part of a larger move towards a more integrated IoT service, which also includes connected cars.

We’re using bots to answer more customer questions with speed and accuracy. Doing the same thing with voice-activated devices will cut out the middle-man where needed, while still basing the approach on the voice model that has operated in contact centres for years. But as with any channel, it’s vital that voice plugs into a bigger picture view of customer interaction. Omnichannel rules the roost and provides a great deal of insights that are valuable for businesses.

Data insights enhancing Customer Experience

On the whole, companies have to get better at proactively engaging with customers and artificial intelligence (AI) will help to do this. For example, with the right data coming from previous customer interactions and insights it is able to obtain from initial contact, AI can be used to provide a more targeted response, and through a combination of virtual assistants, machine learning and customer data analytics, businesses are able to predict customer needs.

Insight: Data can provide a more targeted response for customers

Not only that, they can proactively address these needs to prevent repeat contacts for similar issues, deliver superior experiences to retain existing customers and improve offers or interactions in a way that attracts new customers. 

There’s also the intelligence that businesses can uncover to shape their products better – all from the way they monitor customer interaction. When firms automatically capture and analyse interactions, they can make sure they never miss the vital signs that should be spotted immediately. They are able to identify gaps in products, processes, and interactions – and make sure agents meet the needs of demanding customers.

One of our customers is a coffee company who was looking to carry out a strategic launch of a premium product. They automatically analysed all their calls and as a result, they were able to better train underperforming agents with targeted coaching. By analysing interactions at the contact centre, it enabled them to better understand how agents were pitching the product and it also helped them to see how well the new product was being perceived. Using these measures, the company increased sales penetration using best practice, and increased basket size by pushing promotions at the right time.

Finding focus

I’m excited by the prospect of new touchpoints and technologies coming together to offer a better service to customers, better performance for agents and better efficiency for businesses. And with voice assistants, IoT and other connected ways for businesses to interact with people, the whole area of customer services has been blown wide open. There’s so much potential for innovation.

World of possibility: A connected planet is changing how we look at customer service

But with all these touchpoints, it’s vital that businesses can connect the dots across the different channels they use. It’s an approach that includes not just the communications channels but the knowledge captured from CRM systems and contact centre insights. We know that the channels will probably change in the future as consumers find new ways to interact with brands but in the grand scheme of things, that shouldn’t matter. What is important is a technology agnostic approach through providers that incorporates the channels, and provides a single dashboard that enables businesses decisions to be made based on insights, rather than just intuition.

The thing with data is that the findings are hard to dispute, so long as you are confident in the original sources, sensors and algorithms. The future won’t necessarily be dictated by the latest flashy communications channel. Instead it will be led by smart approaches, and increasingly, that means taking steps to focus on automation, analytics and innovation of Customer Experience in a meaningful way. 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 15, 2019
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4min1990

UK financial services and utilities businesses are underperforming when it comes to complaint handling, despite their growing belief that customers are satisfied with their performance.

That is according to Huntswood’s Complaints Outlook 2019 report, which combines research from financial services and utilities firms with survey responses from over 5,500 consumers. The nationally representative survey was carried out by Huntswood’s research partners, YouGov, and has revealed a perception gap between businesses and customers – 69 percent of firms believe that their customers are satisfied with their complaints are handled, while the reality is that only 26 percent of customers actually report being satisfied.

When asked, 87 percent of firms interviewed also said that their complaint handling staff are well equipped to do the job, however 61 percent of customers are currently dissatisfied with the empathy of the staff member they interacted with and 59 percent are dissatisfied with the knowledge of the staff member they interacted with.

Resolution times also remain an issue – 49 percent of firms believe they are resolving complaints at the first point of contact, yet only 18 percent of customers claim that their complaint was resolved immediately.

Complaints Outlook 2019 also reveals a disconnect between the perceived importance of complaints handling by businesses and a lack of focus on building required professional skills. This is evident in the fact that, despite 96 percent of businesses agreeing that the impact of the complaint handler on customer satisfaction is high or extremely high, 52 percent admitted that their employees do not complete professional complaint handling training programmes or qualifications.

With increased regulatory scrutiny around the treatment of vulnerable customers, 75 percent of the firms interviewed believe that their staff are equipped and empowered to deal with customers in vulnerable circumstances, with the remaining quarter feeling they are only part of the way to achieving this.

Furthermore, 57 percent of firms believe they are creating advocates in at least half of all cases, however only eight percent of customers surveyed had a positive complaints experience and shared it with friends and family.

This perception gap should be treated as a warning to firms, with 60 percent of customers adding that they would change provider as a result of a poor complaints experience.

Paul Scott, Chief Commercial Officer at Huntswood, said: “Firms are increasingly recognising the value that can be derived from the complaints journey.  However, despite this, our research shows that there are discrepancies between how financial services companies believe they are dealing with complaints and the reality for customers. Complaints are an unavoidable part of business, so it’s critical that they are handled well and that customers feel valued throughout.

“Firms should therefore be looking to create an effective complaints handling operation, underpinned by a robust strategy which focuses on providing the best possible outcomes for customers. Doing so can deliver enormous benefits, such as deeper relationships with existing customers and an increase in new relationships from customer advocacy.”


Sharon WilliamsSharon WilliamsJuly 10, 2019
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7min2021

Recruitment has never been an easy task, regardless of which industry is facing the challenge.

Difficulties in finding the right people, at the right time, with the right skills, is something all organisations encounter. One such industry is contact centres. Outsourced contact centres are extremely people-focused, meaning that it’s imperative to get the recruitment process right from the offset and meet the challenges faced head-on.

In a contact centre environment, there is a need for recruiters to not only meet seasonal demand, but to be able to find the right person for each position, focusing on retaining employees that are skilled, motivated and committed to the role. A successful contact centre will find, train and retain staff that can meet customer expectations and work to make sure teams have the right attributes to properly represent the organisation they work for.

However, there are numerous outsourced contact centres getting recruitment right, and by following a few simple steps, recruiters can build a successful recruitment strategy that gets it right every time.

Staff on demand

Numerous industries are known to face issues with peaks and troughs of demand, but one that certainly suffers the most is retail. With huge seasonal spikes throughout the year – Black FridayChristmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter – this industry understands what it’s like to see a huge rush of customers that can vanish as quickly as they appear.

Seasonal spikes: Retail knows all-too well the pressures of fluctuating demand

To cope with these hectic periods, it’s essential for organisations to be confident that the recruitment channels being used will reach the right people, quickly and effectively. Advertising locally on buses and billboards, for example, can be more targeted and help to enhance brand recognition for an organisation looking to seek local Customer Service Advisors, as an addition to online.

Additionally, contact centre organisations need to prepare for these peaks by working closely with their customers to understand when the demand might rise and fall, and what levels of staff will be needed accordingly. By reflecting on busy periods of the past, recruitment teams can work in harmony with marketing teams to figure out what works, what could change and then put a plan in place for the next peak time.

Talking the talk

Contact centres have undoubtedly evolved. Just look at the name; what was once referred to as a call centre has grown to become much more. The omnichannel world that consumers now live in means they expect to receive the same customer experience, regardless of which channel they use – whether it’s social media, a phone call, email, online chat, or through instant messaging. They expect answers instantly, and they want their queries answered or issues resolved in as few steps as possible.

Digital demand: Customers need queries answered – quickly – across all channels

Because of this, the skill sets required of Customer Service Advisors has also changed. Advisors now need to be proficient in communicating across a variety of channels, utilising strong written and verbal communication skills to make the experience as seamless as possible for the customer. This eclectic way of working means that Advisors need to be flexible, adaptable, and able to multi-task, providing the same, exceptional experience with each customer interaction. A coherent selection process will ensure that recruitment teams are finding the right people for the job.

Capturing brand personality

When it comes to the selection process, this not only needs to be tailored for each job role, but also for each brand – this is the very nature of an outsourced contact centre. Each organisation that is represented by the contact centre will require something different, and this shouldn’t just come through when the Customer Service Advisors are answering queries; it should start at the beginning of the recruitment journey.

CV savvy: Recruitment strategies should must help brands find the best people

Recruitment teams should actively work with the client to build the job description, which should then underpin the selection process. Recruitment strategies should also be tailored for each brand to find the most suitable people; who are the organisation’s target market? How do they communicate? Can brand advocates be chosen to ensure the Customer Service Advisor has a genuine interest in the brand? This ensures the brand’s personality can be captured in each customer interaction, through style, tone of voice and language used.

The recruitment journey

Developing a CX strategy starts with recruitment. With the end customer in mind, a recruitment strategy can be developed that ensures the right team is sourced and trained in line with the organisation’s requirements. Recruitment doesn’t have to be a challenge; a clear understanding of the organisation’s values from the outset is a simple way to get the journey heading in the right direction and, coupled with the right approach to customer service, means that contact centres can commit to delivering an exceptional CX, every time.


Bradlee AllenBradlee AllenJuly 9, 2019
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6min2093

As any reader of CXM knows, Customer Experience is a key business differentiator.

Businesses working in every sector, from IT to healthcare to retail, needs to deliver fast, effective, and memorable customer service to stand out from the crowd.

Consumers are fickle, and with positive, memorable experiences now driving their choices over which brands to engage with, they won’t be afraid to shop around if a business fails to meet their expectation.

Yet while CX is a top priority for business leaders, the task all too often falls elsewhere – to the customer services team. Ensuring the drive of the leadership team is mirrored by those on the front line who are interacting with customers first-hand, is critical.

The right technology will empower frontline workers to deliver the best experience possible, even when they’re spanning different geographies and time zones. Without it, the disconnect between a brand and its workers can damage relationships and make it more challenging to attract and retain the best talent to drive successful CX.

What do customers expect when communicating with brands?

Can it: Is your customer comms lacking?

Knowing that customers want fast responses and resolutions, here are five ways that cloud communications can better empower customer services teams and deliver experiences that delight customers every time:

1. Access to the right agent at the right time

In traditional on-premises systems, customers must be dealt with by whichever agent is present and available in the contact centre at that time. In contrast, a cloud-based system removes these limitations, meaning that the most experienced or relevant member of the team can be connected to customers even if they’re not in the office

2. Any device, any location

Switching to the cloud means frontline workers can log in and access the same dashboards and communication applications from any location, using any device. This not only opens up a huge opportunity to bring in remote agents, but also ensures that everyone is working with the same information, providing a more unified interaction with the customer.

3. Improved availability

The cloud enables better support of different time zones and language requirements, allowing businesses to expand their skills pool to attract specialists. This support can also make the business more accessible and attractive to international customers.

4. Managing workflows

By switching to a cloud-based system, businesses have the flexibility to bring in remote agents as soon as a queue starts to build. At the same time, analytics dashboards can allow businesses to pre-empt such queues before they even happen, ‘switching on’ additional agents when needed. This feature is ideal for companies with seasonal peaks and troughs where the business requires ‘all hands on deck’ one week then a skeleton staff the next.

5. Consumer-like experiences

Lastly, switching to the cloud ensures companies can provide a consumer-grade experience with ongoing upgrades to keep technology fresh and relevant. This makes it easier for agents to interact with colleagues and customers in a way that feels familiar and easy.

Digital workplace transformation is happening across the business world to support the increasingly fluid nature of modern workforces and an ever-demanding customer base.

In these highly collaborative environments where workers are logging in from outside the office, the seamlessness of cloud-based communication platforms will enable businesses to keep up with this pace of change, ensuring customers always receive the experiences they want and deserve.


Sion LewisSion LewisJuly 5, 2019
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8min2869

Working in a call centre has been seen as the very epitome of the “McJob” – a low-paid, unrewarding role that’s usually viewed as a stepping stone to more responsible, better-paid and more meaningful employment.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Customer service representatives (CSRs) play perhaps the most important role in any organisation. They are a business’ window on the world; the face of the corporation. Great CSRs are worth their weight in gold- they solve problems, mollify irate customers, and turn anger and frustration into loyalty and respect.

Businesses need to treasure their CSRs and give them the support to solve customer complaints. If businesses are serious about delivering quality customer service, two things need to change. First, there needs to be a revolution in the way that we view contact centre work. Secondly, we need to give these workers the tools they need to conduct efficient conversations and to resolve customer questions quickly.

It’s time to value CSR

Businesses have little hope of delivering first-class customer service if they don’t value their CSRs, and a look at the hospitality industry is instructive here. In the UK, being a waiter is seen as a low-skilled ‘starter’ job.

But across the Channel, the French take waitering incredibly seriously. Waiters and sommeliers are typically highly trained and very knowledgeable about food and wine, and anyone who has eaten at a decent French restaurant will be familiar with the waiting staff’s air of authority and gravitas – all of which adds to the dining experience.

It’s the same for any sort of customer service. You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t provide a great customer contact experience you will likely lose much of the goodwill that customers feel towards your brand. Unfortunately, many CSRs today lack the tools and the insight they need to provide fantastic Customer Experience.

Change is on the horizon

When a call comes in, it’s common for customer service staff to spend a significant amount of time authenticating the customer; once they’ve passed security, the CSR can then find themselves without a full picture of the customer and their history, and often lack the information they need to resolve the complaint quickly and efficiently.

There are signs that this view of customer service is about to change, however. AI-powered chatbots, for example, are increasingly taking responsibility for more routine enquiries, removing much of the drudgery of customer service roles and enabling operatives to focus on higher-value tasks.

But chatbots alone won’t transform the role of the CSR. If we are to change perceptions about customer service and make it a fulfilling line of work, we need to get rid of the irritations and inefficiencies that continue to bedevil the role. For example, CSRs typically spend only a quarter of their time actually helping customers. And here, AI can again come to the rescue.

The bigger picture: Businesses can now provide every CSR with all the information from an entire customer journey

Equipping CSRs for success

Smart companies that put a premium on customer service are deploying AI-powered contact centre software that enables them to provide a more in-person experience for online customers by anticipating questions and needs based on their history and where they are in the current journey.

Unfortunately, CSRs often do not have access to vital information such as purchase history or previous complaints. As a result, they go into conversations blind and spend significant amounts of time establishing basic facts before they can resolve the customer query.

Anyone who’s spent time on the phone to customer services will be familiar with the frustration of having to explain their situation multiple times to different customer service employees. By harnessing the latest generation of customer contact tools, businesses can provide every CSR with all the information from entire customer journey, from acquisition, through conversion and into post-sale support, providing companies with everything they need to create an exceptional CX.

Artificial intelligence can deliver meaningful and immediate benefits that put CSRs in the driving seat in every conversation. The benefits are legion: AI can filter out routine customer interactions that can be resolved by a chatbot or self-service, enabling agents to focus on more complex or high-value work. It can ensure seamless transition from bot to agent within the same chat window, meaning the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves.

Meanwhile, the latest generation of contact centre tools consolidate data from every customer interaction and manages data from disparate systems to deliver real-time actionable insights for faster issue resolution – all of which means that customers spend less time explaining and complaining.

Small wonder that Forrester found that businesses with mature deployments of AI-powered contact centre software saw a 63 percent increase in net promoter score (NPS) and reported an average of eight points higher than their lesser mature counterparts. Furthermore, half of these organisations saw an increase in conversation rates, 56 percent reported an increase in revenue, and 40 percent saw an increase in order size. Even agent satisfaction increased under the more mature organisations with nearly 50 percent reporting an increase in overall job happiness.

If businesses are serious about putting the customer first, the place to start is in the contact centre. They must value these problem solvers and provide them with the tools they need to turn angry, frustrated patrons into loyal customers.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 1, 2019
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4min1794

Entries are now open for the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards, Britain’s biggest celebration of CX-inspired initiatives to resolve consumer problems.

2020 will be he fourth year the awards ceremony will be held in the heart of London, and March 5 will see finalists descend on the Park Plaza Riverbank venue to present before an expert panel of judges from across various sectors.

Some of the most recognisable brands in utilities, finance, and more were represented at the 2019 finals earlier this year, and now organisations have the chance to join the winners in the Hall of Fame by entering before the deadline of November 14. Those who enter before October 8, meanwhile, can take advantage of a special Early Bird discount, that can save up to £100 off the standard entry price.

There are 15 categories to choose from for 2020, encompassing both industry and discipline-specific areas. They incorporate both B2B and B2C initiatives, and include categories specifically for SMEs, so that all types of organisation have the chance to earn recognition.

New categories include Zero to Hero – Transforming Customer Relations, while as always, the day will see one Overall Winner crowned from the category champions.

Celebrating success: Firstsource Solutions was named Overall Winner at the 2019 UKCHA finals in March

Event host Awards International has been accredited with the Gold Standard in the Awards Trust Mark Scheme from the Independent Awards Standards Council, meeting all 18 criteria to qualify for the highest trust mark possible.

Awards International CEO, Neil Skehel, said: “We are thrilled to launch the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards, and are excited to see the initiatives put forward by organisations, big and small, from right across the UK.

“This annual event has become one of the most relevant dates in the business calendar for companies that are revolutionising how they interact with customers and implement resolution strategies.

“The best companies don’t shy away from complaints – they use them to strengthen their reputation and retain a loyal customer. Joining the awards this year means you can showcase your amazing initiatives whilst rewarding your team’s dedication.

“As with events such as the upcoming UK Customer Experience Awards and UK Digital Experience Awards, the UKCHAs will also be a prime networking opportunity, promoting excellence and best practice sharing, by gathering hundreds of leading business professionals together under one roof.”

Click here for further details on how to enter for 2020.

Meanwhile, for those keen to glean insights from previous winners, the Winning With Complaint Handling conference is taking place in London on September 25. This unique one-day event will offer practical techniques on transforming complaints into improved products and services, and provide guidance on creating customer loyalty through outstanding complaint handling strategies.

Click here for details on applying to attend, and for a special discount offer.


Martin EllinghamMartin EllinghamJune 28, 2019
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10min2785

金継ぎ

This might sound like a strange question in the context of financial services, but have you ever heard of Kintsugi?

No matter if not because I’m about to explain exactly what it is – and why it matters to your complaints handling team. For those who haven’t come across it before, Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery. Fixing broken pots and dishes might not sound that impressive (or seem to have much bearing on complaints and Customer Experience) but the philosophy behind it is both fascinating and highly useful.

In Kintsugi (which translates as ‘golden joinery’), the broken pottery is repaired in a specific way. The pieces are held together with a special mix of lacquer and gold powder – creating a golden seam that serves not to hide the break but highlight it. The piece of pottery is not as good as new; it wears its golden scars with pride.

New beauty: The art of Japanese Kintsugi can be applied to complaint handling

They are now part of its history and something to be cherished. Whatever caused the item to break has, instead of rendering it useless, helped it become more beautiful. For people used to seeing broken things as being at the end of their journey, it’s an interesting concept to get used to.

However, it’s a philosophy that I think can have a profound effect on how you approach complaint handling – and the entire Customer Experience.

The problem with product-driven CX

Delivering great CX is a challenging task for any company – especially in the complex world of financial services. There are so many different elements that need to come together to keep each customer happy. Some of them you won’t even have control over. After all, how can you account for the things going on in a person’s day that will influence how they interact with you?

Thankfully, overall, customers are incredibly happy with the products and services they receive from companies. The UK banking sector is above the all-sector average for customer satisfaction, so it must be getting something right.

The problem arrives when customers aren’t happy with the products and services they receive. Too many businesses build their CX around the core product. So, when this doesn’t suit the customer’s needs or doesn’t work out as planned, the company isn’t sure how to handle the situation. Sure, it has a complaints handling team, but when the sole focus of CX is on delivering a great product, there’s little any agent can do to add value or retain the customer.

The importance of repairing relationships and building customer trust

When businesses lose a customer, there’s a tendency to label each case as a ‘lost cause’. This is especially the case when a product or service hasn’t lived up to expectations because companies don’t want to be faced with their failures. I don’t mean this as a harsh criticism; it makes sense when an organisation’s outward-facing reputation is built on the success of its offering.

Customers want to purchase from a company they can trust to deliver the goods. However, businesses have less and less control over how their brand is perceived. When a customer has a poor experience, they’re easily able to post reviews online detailing exactly went wrong. There’s no way for companies to prevent this – other than to deliver the best possible CX.

Review regret: Only the best possible CX will prevent online reviews from negatively impacting your brand

In situations where customers are already unhappy, aftercare and complaint handling become vital. Too many customer relationships break down because there’s no effective way to resolve issues and mend the trust between consumer and company. This is where the following philosophy of Kintsugi could make all the difference – both to the retention and acquisition of your customers.

How to apply Kintsugi to complaints handling

As I’ve mentioned already, there are so many elements that go into creating great CX. You can’t deliver the perfect experience 100 percent of the time – it’s simply impossible. However, when things don’t go completely according to plan, you can pick up the pieces and mould them into something new; something stronger.

If you apply the idea of Kintsugi to your CX, you can change the way you look at the customer journey. Instead of hiding the issues customers have had with your products and services (again, you can’t), focus on mending these relationships through complaint resolution to make sure people come away with a positive experience of your overall business.

Resolve to evolve: Mending customer relationships is essential to positive experiences 

By accepting that the customer journey doesn’t always go smoothly, you can transform the perception of your CX and your brand. When people look at a Kintsugi bowl, they don’t focus on how it broke – they see a new, more beautiful object that has taken the place of the original. The same will be true of your CX if you have an effective complaints-handling operation in place to rebuild trust with customers who have had a less than positive experience up until the point they complain.

Creating an opportunity with complaints

If you can make golden repairs on your customer relationships, you can turn negative experiences into positive ones. As well as making those consumers more loyal to you, the approach means people are far more likely to become brand ambassadors – helping you attract new business. This is why complaints are an opportunity for financial services companies, rather than a source of shame.

To make the most of this opportunity, however, companies need to know that their complaints handling teams are operating as effectively and efficiently as possible. For an unhappy customer trying to resolve a complaint, the frustration of having to do something as simple as repeating their details and queries to several different agents is magnified hugely. It’s just one example of how poor complaints handling can exacerbate a negative CX and highlights the need for companies to get the basics right.

When a customer gets in touch to talk about their complaint (whether over the phone or online), they have to be given the confidence that their issue will be resolved as best as possible – regardless of who they talk to. This means making sure that every agent has access to up-to-date information on each case, allowing them to make progress, support the customer and take important steps towards improving the overall CX received.

The way you approach complaints in your company will make a huge difference to how successful you are. If you apply the ideals of Kintsugi to complaint handling, you’ll shift the whole focus of your CX – and your business will be better for it. However, having the right mindset is just one piece of the puzzle.

金継ぎ

 




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