Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMay 15, 2019
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3min204

A majority of European mid-sized call centres understand the advantage in a connected customer journey, but only 14 percent are confident in meeting current and future needs.

That is one of the findings published in a new independent research study conducted by global business consulting firm, Frost & Sullivan, which found that revealed that 77 percent of call centres surveyed recognise the connected customer journey as elevating their competitive advantage and having an immediate impact on their business.

The report, Midsized Call Centres Take a Digital-first Approach; Cloud Solutions to Power Customer Service in 2019, explores what CX means to mid-sized organisations in terms of business impact, priorities, and technological maturity.

The report is based on a survey of 600 business and IT leaders across 26 countries involved in defining and implementing customer service strategies. One-third of respondents were based in Europe, with the research conducted in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and The Netherlands.

More than 40 percent of survey respondents believe anticipating and catering to consumer needs are by far the most important capabilities in providing good Customer Experience. In Europe, 76 percent of mid-sized call centres surveyed indicate the ongoing digital disruptions across industries will significantly impact them. As a result, such call centres are accelerating investments in digital channels and emerging technologies.

Executive Vice-President of report sponsors PureCloud at Genesys, Olivier Jouve, said: “It’s no surprise that the majority of organisations are looking to cloud, AI, and big data to deliver the kind of experiences consumers expect today. For smaller organisations, a cloud-based, omnichannel contact centre is the best way to deliver predictive and personalised service across every channel.”

 


Jeremy PayneJeremy PayneApril 29, 2019
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8min369

Historically, businesses have primarily perceived call recording as a regulatory insurance policy.

The typical process was that calls were recorded, archived, and then accessed whenever a complaint was made. Some organisations still see call recording primarily in this way today.

Other businesses have moved on a step and carried out batch sampling on call records. Often, they might listen in to every 100th phone call for compliance purposes. They might also focus on monitoring new employees to help embed best practice. Alternatively, they might use the batch recordings for training purposes, picking out examples of angry customers, or high-performing agents dealing with customer queries.

Today, thanks to the latest AI and analytics, organisations can do much more with call recordings. With solutions like coacher and helper bots emerging, together with technologies like real time speech analytics (RTSA), we are seeing the advent of a new world of call recording.

Instead of simply being used reactively for compliance or training, the potential for organisations to use technology working in real-time in conjunction with the customer service representative has raised the bar, making it possible to use these kinds of solutions to drive up customer satisfaction and increase sales.

In particular, this is giving businesses greater insight into their contact centre and customer service operations. They can now listen in to every phone call. They can measure the sentiment of a customer interaction more precisely in real-time. Is the customer getting stressed? Is the agent becoming aggressive? Has the agent failed to make proactive use of the available helper bot to answer the customer’s query?

Answering these questions positively can be key to the success of a business, but it is also important to highlight that call recording today has evolved into much more than just recording a phone call. When listening to call recordings, business managers today also need to know what the agent was looking at on the screen at the time they provided information to the customer for example. Incorrect data on the company’s website could help to exonerate an agent who has made a mistake, and pinpoint a problem that needs to be addressed.

That’s why the ability to capture screen information, helping to put the call in context starts to give supervisors a clearer picture of what is happening within their customer service operation – and that drives better customer satisfaction, and improves the level of first interaction resolution. All this contextual information can then feed into a continuous improvement loop. Where one interaction is resolved successfully that can then feed the knowledge management and information systems making the whole process more accurate.

Barriers to roll-out

If you consider what is possible now and the way many organisations are starting to embrace and use these types of technologies, hand-in-hand with a human agent, the potential to also improve customer service and drive up sales has also increased enormously.

So, given all the benefits that they could achieve from this new approach, why isn’t every business moving over to it? One of the main barriers we are seeing today is cultural. Many organisations follow the ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’ philosophy. This conservative culture is often reinforced by agents who are uncomfortable with more technology listening in to everything they do; monitoring every action they take, and flagging it up to their managers if they are ‘out of line’.

Unfortunately, whenever new technology is introduced into an organisation, it comes with an associated fear factor. Agents are understandably concerned about what the change might mean to them.

Businesses need to do more to listen to these concerns but also educate agents about the potential benefits of the new technology in helping them perform their role. Indeed, smart organisations will work transparently and openly with agents to look at how the technology can be used to make their job better.

Humans can, for example, be especially good at empathy and working with customers who might be in a moment of crisis or an emotionally charged situation. So it makes sense for businesses to free up agents to engage with customers in this way, while deploying bot technology in the background to give them the practical information they need to answer the customer queries and follow the best available next step.

Ultimately, it has to be about empowering the agent, rather than focusing on the mechanics of finding the information the customer is looking for. With the latest call recording technology, the agent can concentrate on the interaction itself, safe in the knowledge that bots are working in the background to provide the information they need to resolve each individual query.

Agents can also can gain from the enhanced training capability on offer. Businesses can use the approach to capture the kinds of phrases or behaviours used by best performing agents or sales staff and build that into the coaching and helping engines to benefit contact centre and customer service staff as a whole.

This kind of ‘hand-in-glove’ harmony between man and machine is critical in this context. When businesses get it right, it can enhance the agent’s life enormously as well as benefitting the business and the end customer. In summary, the latest call recording technology can bring significant benefits to organisations but it needs to be introduced in a way that overcomes the cultural fear that some organisations and their staff have about bringing in the latest advanced technologies. Get all that right and businesses stand to improve their compliance position, enhance employee engagement – and drive up customer satisfaction into the bargain.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 24, 2019
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2min643

“Calm down” has been voted the worst thing to say to customers over the phone, according to a new poll of more than 100 call centre and customer service professionals.

In a survey carried out by enterprise communications company Fuze at the recent Call and Contact Centre Expo in London, 22 percent said “calm down” is the most frustrating response to give to customers, followed by “you’re wrong” (20 percent), and “let me put you on hold” (15 percent).

The full list of the top ten most frustrating responses of 2019 are:

  1. Calm down
  2. You’re wrong
  3. Let me put you on hold
  4. Let me speak
  5. That’s not my job/responsibility
  6. That’s against policy
  7. I don’t know
  8. There’s nothing I can do
  9. It’s no big deal
  10. I’m new here

Bradlee Allen, Product Evangelist at Fuze, said: “Call centres are key points of interaction between a brand and its customers, but the experience can be frustrating for both parties. Appeasing the customer is a priority, but responses like ‘calm down’ and ‘let me put you on hold’ only add to frustration and usually mean resolution takes longer to achieve.

“The key is making it easy for customers to connect with a brand and choosing the right communication technology to create a seamless, simple experience that delivers fast resolution and optimum customer satisfaction.”


Brendan DykesBrendan DykesApril 24, 2019
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7min424

Everyone is someone’s customer, and every single one of us knows how we want to be treated.

Yet we’ve all had experiences that have influenced our opinion of a brand, but actually little or nothing to do with the product or service itself. It is why the quality of service and experience provided by contact centres is critical to the well-being of any organisation that prides itself on the quality of its CX.

As the late Maya Angelou said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Intensifying competition and the growing power of consumers have together made customer experience the only means by which you can achieve truly durable competitive advantage in retail today. 

It is not possible, however, to provide a joined-up customer journey if the tools you have to manage it are incomplete. Simply throwing cash at CX technology will not lead to success. Here then is a seven-step plan to guide your contact centre transformation.   

1. You must acknowledge the need for change.

The first step towards the recovery of your CX is admitting you have a problem and having a genuine and consistent commitment to solving it. Don’t focus your energies entirely on customer complaints as a guide to your transformation. These are negative emotions. Look at positive feedback as well, to identify what your organisation is getting right so you can start replicating it. 

2. Be clear about the Customer Experience you are trying to deliver

Unfortunately, many organisations still have an incomplete definition of CX. Either that or their division into functional silos means that CX has become the proverbial elephant being examined by three blind men. In other words, everyone comes up with their own idea based purely on knowledge of their own silo, mistaking or misconceiving the true nature of CX and what it should deliver for the organisation.

3. Ensure you have executive buy-in

It is vital your CEO or CFO is on board to sponsor any contact centre transformation initiative and lead from the top down. But also consider whether you need a dedicated position such as a Chief Customer Officer. Whoever fulfils this role owns the Customer Experience and has the authority to ensure the requisite focus.

4. Work hard to ensure your organisation is fully on-board and aligned

Remember that people are capable of being very parochial, which is often caused by anxiety  about what change will mean to their own work and targets. To counter that, consider establishing a ‘CX Council’ to bring together all departments that have any role in the Customer Experience and empower them to work as a team with a unified vision of putting the customer first, no matter what.   

5. Get on your benchmarks

After mapping the customer journey, your next step should be to assess the current state of your strategy, people, processes, and tech. Come to a decision about how you are going to measure the delta of change in terms of positive customer emotion, not just reduced holding times or other operational metrics.

6. Collaborate to differentiate

This is an important one, because by working with a true solution partner, rather than simply a software vendor, you can set yourself on the right path to true omnichannel engagement and avoid the all-too-common operational pitfalls. Use the expertise of your partner to identify opportunities for business alignment along with ways of applying technology to speed up your transformation journey.

7. Build your business case

Providing good Customer Experience will have a positive impact on your organisation’s bottom line, which is certainly a legitimate justification for any CX initiative, but you still need a solid business case based on logic and metrics rather than intuition. If you have the right partner, they should be able to direct and inform this process.

These are seven great steps to set any organisation on the path towards recovering its CX and providing great customer service again. We cannot pretend it is always easy. Such a journey does inevitably involve a substantial measure of cultural upheaval. Customer experience needs to become a collective obsession within the enterprise.

CX culture and practices have to evolve every day and encompass what is always a changing technology landscape. But once this mindset is firmly embedded right across the organisation and all those internal barriers and silos are banished, at least as far as CX is concerned, the tangible bottom line benefits will flow in. You will also have a much happier and more fulfilled workforce.


Cassie WalkerCassie WalkerApril 23, 2019
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6min584

In order to run a successful contact centre, operational efficiency needs to be continuously upheld.

There are different components to contact centre efficiency, including how your staff interact with customers; how streamlined procedures are; and whether operations are running in a cost-effective manner that does not impact the Customer Experience.

Despite the varying definitions of efficiency, it all boils down to two things: supporting customers and improving performance. It’s important to keep these two goals in mind and implement basic practices to drive efficiency.

Optimise team efficiency through training

Making use of team productivity is important to ensuring efficiency. A study by Aberdeen Group found that contact centre agents spend around 25 percent of their paid time idly and not communicating with customers. Therefore, it is vital that this time is dedicated to developing your agents’ skills and knowledge surrounding best practice and customer service.

This is achievable through continuous, digital training. Agents are consistently sat at their desks with a computer. Therefore, during their idle time, it would be a great opportunity for them to complete quick online learning on their computer, or even mobile. This is why digital learning is an extremely beneficial method of training for contact centres, as a learning can take a few minutes a day, which is equal to 0.7 percent of a 35-hour week.

Investment in training means companies will see significant drops in average handling time (AHT), as the consistent level of training creates more competent employees who can apply their knowledge in real life call situations. This increases first-call resolution (FCR), which then reduces AHT. A lower AHT drives efficiency, as customers are dealt with in a quick, coherent manner.

Leverage experienced agents

Another basic to maintaining contact centre efficiency is having a system in place that helps new staff get up-to-speed as soon as possible. Contact centres face a very high employee turnover rate: they have a 26 percent employee turnover annually, whereas the average rate for the UK is 15 percent. Therefore, effective onboarding is vital. This can be done by utilising more experienced agents and drawing on their knowledge to help new staff adjust to the business’s processes.

As part of the onboarding process, experienced agents can help to coach and monitor live calls. Monitoring calls and having a support system of more existing agents will give new staff more confidence in their job and ease the onboarding process. A high level of employee confidence is key to increasing efficiency.

Measure performance and set targets for achievement

It is important to measure performance within any organisation. Having a clear set of data can help not only evaluate, but also benchmark individual and team performances. Analytical dashboards help identify knowledge gaps and the areas that need improvement, meaning contact centres can administer valuable, cost-effective training that will improve performance.

Focusing on targets can also enhance performance, as employees are aware of what is important to achieve within the centre. Aligning metrics with goals and making them clear to employees gives a purpose to their work and encourages collaboration.

Boosting efficiency in a contact centre isn’t done overnight; it requires measurement and consistent tracking of what is affecting performance. However, being able to identify areas for improvement is the first step, as these can then be resolved. Implementing these basic procedures, like using idle time for productive and effective onboarding, will have a significant impact on each agent’s performance and confidence. Competent and knowledgeable agents will then increase customer satisfaction and overall efficiency within the contact centre.


Daniel OrdDaniel OrdMarch 22, 2019
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9min566

Daniel Ord is the Founder of OmniTouch International, and one of the global Contact Centre industry’s most influential figures. 

With over 30 years of experience under his belt, Daniel is bringing his expertise to a wider audience with a new Masterclass on High Performance Management for Inbound Contact Centres. The two-day Masterclass will take place in Manchester in July, and in London in October. 

 

Have you attended any conferences lately?

After the speeches are done and the workshops concluded, you have the chance to cluster around a table in a coffeeshop or bar and get to know other people who attended the event.

This is when one of my favourite questions comes up: “So how did you get into the Contact Centre industry?”

If you’re an introvert and get goosebumps around networking, then I guarantee you that this question works as a great ice-breaker. 

A happy accident?

Whether it’s Customer Service, Customer Experience, or the Contact Centre, I’ve rarely met anyone who doesn’t have an interesting story about how they accidentally ‘fell’ into the industry.

Some folks come up from being an Agent. That’s cool, because we all know you’ll never forget what it was like to talk to customers. Learning how to persuade, calm, and influence is one of the biggest gifts you get from doing this work.

Others – like myself – fell into the job through management level transfer or acquisition. 

I’m lucky enough to have transferred over from Finance to Operations, and I’ve always been grateful to have that background in numbers of logic to call on when running large centres.

The higher up the management ladder you go, the more you need to work ‘up and out’ in your organisation

When I first got into the industry, I faced the common challenge I think many of you have – most of my seniors thought my job was easy. I mean after all, on paper you just put a bunch of ‘operators’ in place and answer calls or emails or chats… where’s the complexity there?

As time and market forces increasingly put the customer in the centre of the organisational universe, things got a little better. However, I found that at least half my time as a VP Operations was spent talking to senior folks across the organisation – time well spent.

Teaching them about the industry, about customers and about our value proposition. Helping them ‘get it’.

Today, in all my management level Contact Centre courses, I advise folks to make a real organisational impact by getting up and away from your desk and office….and not just walking around your centre, though of course that has value!

I’m talking about booking time with the heads of other functions and getting yourself invited to senior level meetings. You’ve got to make yourself visible and talked about. You’ve got to help people in other job roles solve problems or create opportunities, because if you don’t, your centre – and everyone who works there – will suffer benign neglect.

It’s not an easy industry

I always say that in the Contact Centre industry we have to be masters of many domains. That includes:

  • Operations – after all everything starts here
  • People management & organisational design
  • Leadership & financial management
  • Customer Service & Experience
  • The role of technology in the lives of our customers & people

I can’t think of another industry that places this many demands on its leadership.

And a word of caution…

If you’ve worked a long time for one or two centres, you begin to think that the way ‘you’ work here is the way the ‘industry’ works. Nobel-Winner Daniel Kahneman talks about the danger of ‘WYSIATI’: What you see is all there is.

He teaches that we humans tend to make decisions on incomplete information, thinking that what we see or know now is all there is. Do your best to push back against WYSIATI – I think the best Contact Centre leadership does. 

But no matter how you got there…it’s what you do when you’re there

So you’re there. That’s so cool.

You’re the Contact Centre Manager or Director, and they’re counting on you to be efficient and effective.

When asked what I think is the most important thing to learn first about Contact Centres, I always give the same answer:

Operations!

I can hear some people say “no, it must be customers!”,  or “no way, it’s people!”

But Centres are unique and complex ecosystems. You’ll make better decisions about both your people and your Customers when you’ve mastered Operations. 




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