Global Leader Selects inContact to Help Grow Business

May 29, 2015

In the expanding world of cloud computing, it’s understandable that the leaders would know each other. It’s a small world so far, and they’re all growing together.

That’s why it makes sense that a global leader of cloud business software announced that it has selected inContact’s cloud contact center platform for its own call center needs. The company – which, according to inContact business protocols, preferred to remain anonymous – said it’s leaving behind its old premise-based software for a better solution.

“As successful businesses grow, their customer support needs expand and evolve,” said inContact CEO Paul Jarman, in announcing the newest addition to the inContact family. “They outgrow their existing software and face difficult and expensive options to upgrade older technology. Our cloud software is easy to customize and has built-in scalability, for companies to add new customer service channels or to increase agent capacity, without the overhead and maintenance costs that accompany a premise-based system.”

According to both parties, the new enterprise customer will implement inContact’s proven, multi-tenant cloud solution with Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) options. The company was reportedly frustrated by the static and inflexible nature of its existing premise system, and faced significant upgrade costs to grow. Hence, it turned to another cloud leader for answers.

“inContact’s ACD features a skills-and-proficiency-based contact routing engine that automatically identifies which available agent is best-suited to handle particular customer service needs,” the company noted in a release. “Priority routing provides a faster and more satisfying experience for both agents and the customers they serve.”

It’s no wonder inContact was chosen, as the company continuously innovates in the cloud and is the only provider to offer core contact center infrastructure, workforce optimization and an enterprise-class telecom network for the most complete customer journey management.

Data is the Contact Center’s Friend. In Small Doses

May 28, 2015

Despite your best efforts at making your customer contact center the best it can be, if your customer agents aren’t as up to speed as your technology is, you may be on the path to failure.

That’s the gist of thought from a recent blog post by Chris Lawson, a regular contributor to the inContact blog and managing partner at Lawson Concepts, a company that provides market-leading technology solutions and services for contact centers.

“Those of us who manage contact centers tend to think of the customer experience as something like a short auto trip: You drive from point A to point B, usually taking the shortest path that gets you there quickest,” Lawson says.

But he goes on to explain that just like a road trip, a call center experience can provides all sorts of bumps, detours and unexpected surprises. Having a plan always helps, but even the best of plans can go awry. A military strategist once said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy because the most brilliant plan loses touch with reality.” It’s the same with the customer experience, Lawson says.

Studies show that putting customers on hold is what really drops customer satisfaction scores, which may mean your journey is already behind schedule in the first 60 seconds of the trip while an agent frantically searches for a document that addresses a caller’s specific request. “In all likelihood, those legacy applications [which] agents use are not integrated,” Lawson reasons. “After searching, agents are forced to cut, copy and paste data or, worse yet, ask the customer to repeat information.”

The challenge is this: As you add documents and change them – something which happens in most contact centers daily – agents must try to memorize more and more locations. They search shared network drives, web sites, help systems, SharePoint sites, emails and more. “When (if!) they find the right spot, they must then search within it for the right document and skim its content to determine if it holds the answer they need,” he says. “If not, it’s back to square one. This process may repeat again and again, all while the customer is on hold.” And that is what leads to customer dissatisfaction.

Lawson recommends studying the various touch points of information flow, in order to uncover logjams and better serve customers. “You’ll begin to understand how contact center and back-office agents come up with answers—what they go through and whether, indeed, the answers are what they should be. As an objective third party, we can side-step organizational barriers that many times blur symptoms as well as root causes.”

For contact centers trying to stave off customer defection, it’s a problem worth examining and addressing.

There’s a Fine Line Between Too Much, Too Little Call Center help

May 27, 2015

Despite your best efforts at making your customer contact center the best it can be, if your customer agents aren’t as up to speed as your technology is, you may be on the path to failure.

That’s the gist of thought from a recent blog post by Chris Lawson, a regular contributor to the inContact blog and managing partner at Lawson Concepts, a company that provides market-leading technology solutions and services for contact centers.

“Those of us who manage contact centers tend to think of the customer experience as something like a short auto trip: You drive from point A to point B, usually taking the shortest path that gets you there quickest,” Lawson says.

But he goes on to explain that just like a road trip, a call center experience can provides all sorts of bumps, detours and unexpected surprises. Having a plan always helps, but even the best of plans can go awry. A military strategist once said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy because the most brilliant plan loses touch with reality.” It’s the same with the customer experience, Lawson says.

Studies show that putting customers on hold is what really drops customer satisfaction scores, which may mean your journey is already behind schedule in the first 60 seconds of the trip while an agent frantically searches for a document that addresses a caller’s specific request. “In all likelihood, those legacy applications [which] agents use are not integrated,” Lawson reasons. “After searching, agents are forced to cut, copy and paste data or, worse yet, ask the customer to repeat information.”

The challenge is this: As you add documents and change them – something which happens in most contact centers daily – agents must try to memorize more and more locations. They search shared network drives, web sites, help systems, SharePoint sites, emails and more. “When (if!) they find the right spot, they must then search within it for the right document and skim its content to determine if it holds the answer they need,” he says. “If not, it’s back to square one. This process may repeat again and again, all while the customer is on hold.” And that is what leads to customer dissatisfaction.

Lawson recommends studying the various touch points of information flow, in order to uncover logjams and better serve customers. “You’ll begin to understand how contact center and back-office agents come up with answers—what they go through and whether, indeed, the answers are what they should be. As an objective third party, we can side-step organizational barriers that many times blur symptoms as well as root causes.”

For contact centers trying to stave off customer defection, it’s a problem worth examining and addressing.

School on the Line? They Might Be Calling From the Cloud

May 21, 2015

Anyone who’s attended or graduated from a two- or four-year college knows the drill by now: Once you’re done, you’ll be getting calls on a regular basis, asking for a donation. It’s not the worst call to get, especially if you look back on your learning years with a certain fondness. When I get such calls, it’s usually from a current student at the school, and I like to ask them about campus events, what their major is and so forth. Having worked in such centers during my time at school, I know how much that human interaction means to the caller.

And it would seem that academia has gotten wise to the benefits of using the latest technology to make their call center efforts even more productive. According to a recent blog by Carlen Self, who describes herself as an ‘advocate for cloud-delivered customer interactions’ at cloud call center leader inContact, the cloud is now fulfilling a bigger role in schools’ efforts.

“Collegiate contact centers are most often small groups staffed by representatives who have a wide range of tasks and responsibilities in addition to answering the phone,” Self notes in her post. “They also have volunteers and part-time students who help out. These representatives reside in small departmental groups spread throughout the campus. When aggregated, the combined groups comprise a significant contact center enabling the school to take advantage of economies of scale to provision these groups with advanced technology, improving efficiency and effectiveness.”

Those economies of scale she refers to include utilizing cloud contact center solutions, like the one available from inContact.

Such solutions “easily address the fluctuation in demand for administrative needs, academic services and auxiliary offices around the campus,” she says. “The cloud contact center platform can deliver technologies which have historically been unattainable due to the prohibitive cost of premises-based solutions.”

Among the contact center capabilities in higher education available are routing for multimedia contacts; queue announcements; the availability of an automated attendant and campus directory; self-service applications and more.

In short, Self observes that by utilizing cloud contact center solutions, “higher education can keep pace with the technological savviness of their constituents – students, potential students and alumni – while lowering operating costs.” And at the end of the day, isn’t that what the call center is all about?

Customers Set to Gain from Software Update

May 21, 2015

inContact, the cloud contact center software leader that helps organizations around the globe create customer and contact center employee experiences, has just announced its first 2015 release of new cloud software. According to the company, this release was driven by customer needs within enterprise service operations, along with the increasing importance of unified customer-journey management.

“With this new release, we are building on our framework and support of contact centers as the vital link for managing the customer journey,” said Paul Jarman, inContact CEO.

The update is highlighted by a number of new features including:

  • A new multichannel interface for the company’s inContact Agent for Salesforce, to increase ease of use and agent productivity while handling inbound and outbound voice, voicemail, email, and inContact chat interactions.
  • Updated campaign management capabilities in the company’s Personal Connection Outbound Solution, which features inContact’s patented “No-pause” connections between agents and target customers. “New features support more proactive and personalized steps in the customer journey with updated campaign management and support for enterprise-level, ‘agentless’ campaigns,” inContact said.
  • Additional performance metrics for the inContact Workforce-Intelligent Contact Center. With the availability of key new data points, inContact Workforce Optimization customers can create and manage event rules to automatically administer agent proficiencies in the inContact ACD.
  • Access to new Contact Detail Data, which will enable inContact customers to report on as much or as little detail as required to understand the detailed customer experience at the contact level, or to represent the so-called “big picture.”
  • New APIs and resources for rapidly expanding the inContact Developer Ecosystem with 25 new or updated “RESTful” APIs, including an added Reporting scope and functions for advanced Do Not Call list management. Single Sign-on functionality streamlines enterprise security management.

This latest release is expected to help inContact advance enterprise capabilities with multichannel agent interface for Salesforce, provide new outbound campaign management, utilize automated actions in WFO, discover new reporting options, and see additional APIs for the growing developer ecosystem.

“As customers interact with companies they expect multichannel, personalized experiences that are connected throughout the journey. Cloud technology is well-suited to the task due to its agility, openness and flexibility as companies envision the desired journey for their customers,” Jarman added.

Speech Analytics Role Seen as Growing

May 14, 2015

With call center use rising and more people seeking help for a variety of problems, it’s no wonder that contact centers workers are feeling the stress. Who wants to go to work where you’re berated and belittled all day long?

In an effort to deal with the problem head-on, savvy call center managers are taking a closer look at the nascent field of speech analytics, where what people say and what they actually might mean are carefully analyzed and parsed, to better help staffers deal with calls before they become a problem.

To that end, Gerald Sinclair — Practice Manager with Uptivity, an inContact company – posted a blog taking a closer look at speech analytics and explaining how they can identify a caller’s needs so that help is immediately at hand for future calls addressing the same problem.

“In call centers, there are a lot of moving parts that need to work together collectively in order to provide a great customer experience, but also meet company metrics and goals,” Sinclair noted. “When this does not occur, or there is a breakdown in processes, it is often difficult to determine the root of the problem. Speech analytics can often provide this insight and operate like a ‘psychiatrist for your business’. Speech analytics is the process of analyzing recorded calls to extract intelligence and provide better insight into what takes place on call interactions.”

How your agents perform in the call center can have a long-lasting and far-reaching impact on your business. Think about it: One bad interaction with an agent can cause a caller to quit, then continually re-tell the story and bad-mouth your efforts. Studies have shown that people trust what their friends tell them, and there’s no way to stop that “bad press” once it takes on a life of its own.

Conversely, a good experience not only enhances the customer’s impression, but they’re more likely than not willing to share that story with friends as well.

Citing industry analyst Donna Fluss, Sinclair tells of a “’rapid three-to 12-month payback, high net present value and high internal rate of return’ for adopters of speech analytics.” He goes on to note that “by reducing operational expenses, improving the customer experience which leads to increased revenue, and lowering customer attrition rates, speech analytics is clearly a worthwhile investment.”

Then there’s the legal aspect as well. “With speech analytics we are able to confirm, validate and, in some cases, prove that agents are abiding by industry regulations,” Sinclair says. “We can also identify problem areas and training opportunities before an escalated or litigation scenario arises. This technology can save companies on fines and/or lawsuits when utilized as a risk assessment and management tool.”

In short, the careful application of speech analytics can provide untold benefits not only to your customers, but to your workers who must deal with them as well. With competition the way it is, what are you waiting for?

Unifying Customer Interactions a Reachable Goal

May 12, 2015

In a move that will be seen as both a solution to customers and a challenge to managers, contact centers will – sooner rather than later – be transitioning over in a big way to ‘advanced analytics.’ While it may sound scary at first, it’s a move that makes sense based on how customers are currently interacting with contact centers.

In a recent blog post, inContact Communications Manager Gavin Gustafson dissected the idea of analytics and how it can be used to benefit both callers and call center workers. For background material, he incorporated some recent work by inContact partner CallMiner’s (NewsAlert) Jason Napierski.

“For contact centers, developing a ‘big picture’ understanding of customer interactions across the entire lifecycle is critical to providing exceptional experiences for customers,” Gustafson noted. “One way to do this is through the use of contact analytics, which captures unstructured data from recorded calls, emails, chat transcriptions, or other customer interactions to identify trends and root causes of issues.”

He then went on to list some of the benefits of contact center analytics and why organizations should be embracing their use:

Unified View of Customer Interactions: “With contact analytics in place, companies can use a single system and process for analyzing contacts across all channels,” Gustafson observed. “The benefits of using this type of software are two-fold: 1) Contact centers can develop a unified data view of all types of customer interactions (resulting in consistent analysis across channels), and 2) Companies can follow the complete customer journey (regardless of the channel used), which can help determine the root cause of repeat contacts and poor first contact resolution.”

Performance Measurement: A distinct benefit of contact analytics systems is their ability to measure various performance indicators by detecting the presence of certain language characteristics. “Armed with this type of automated scoring, contact center managers, supervisors, and agents can proactively address issues or gaps in knowledge to improve performance with additional training or coaching,” Gustafson said.

Customer Experience and Satisfaction: “According to a recent survey by Censuswide, 70 percent of U.K. customers speak to an average of two to five customer service representatives before resolving a single issue,” Gustafson notes. “Whether implementing real-time monitoring or post-contact analytics, analyzing interactions across channels allows companies to measure and improve the customer experience across 100 percent of contacts. The end result? Increased customer satisfaction, reduced customer churn, and an improved customer experience overall.”

In short, change is coming down the pike. It will be the proactive managers who see the trend and get ahead of it. Those that don’t are destined to be left in the dust.

‘Trust’ Extends to Those in Your Call Center as Well

May 07, 2015

We’ve all been there: You call up a company with a question or basic process-inquiry. You get the recording, make your choice, yell “Representative!” and wait for a real person to come on the line. They then transfer you to someone else (AFTER you’ve given them all your info), only to repeat the process all over again. Maddening.

And now, as it turns out, costly as well.

Brian Olesen, Director of Enterprise Operations at cloud contact center leader inContact, just posted a blog on the problem in general and how it’s specifically impacting one particular industry: Financial services.

“Over the past two decades, the financial services industry has witnessed a number of transformative events including the rising popularity of online banking, increasing levels of technological advancement, and increasing levels of government regulation. Banking isn’t what it was when I was a branch teller over two decades ago,” Olesen writes. “It is the next big change, however, that will dwarf all of these. Naturally, some financial institutions will adapt and others will not. The Customer Experience – the combined set of processes and business interactions that define how a customer conducts business. Companies that get it will thrive, and those that don’t will die a painful death.”

Olesen cites a recent Ernst and Young comprehensive survey that looked at 32,000 retail banking customers across 43 countries.

“They found that customers expect superior customer experiences with ‘the way I am treated’ ranking as second only behind ‘financial stability’ as the most important reason for trusting their bank,” Olesen notes. That’s a sobering statistic all by itself, but the survey also indicated that poor customer experience is the most common reason for closing accounts – even more so than fees, rates, locations, and convenience.

Now, think for just a moment: How are your people interacting with those who call you? Frightening thought, isn’t it?

Based on the survey’s finding, Olesen offers three suggestions on how to better interact with your customers, so that they STAY customers. They include:

Empower Your Employees: “Allow employees to solve customer problems by providing them with the right tools and resources,” he suggests.

Empower Your Customers: Provide customers with easy ways to raise issues by removing roadblocks.

Leverage Technology: “Continue to evolve your technology assets leveraging best of breed tools for self-service, the contact center, and the Web,” Olesen says. This way, you’ll always be a step ahead.

“By focusing on the customer experience, companies can improve customer retention and ensure repeat business for years to come,” he concludes. Wise advice, indeed.

Numbers Game: Survey Says Better Call Center Reporting Needed

Numbers Game: Survey Says Better Call Center Reporting Needed

May 05, 2015

It’s easy to say that more reporting capability in the contact center is a necessity, but in an era of tight budgets and major issues, proving it is another matter. Or at least, it was another matter until a new report from DMG Consulting and Connect First brought out a set of new statistics that underscore the point: having better reporting tools on hand in the contact center should be a priority, and upgrades in that direction are a smart idea.

The Connect First / DMG Consulting report titled “Guide to Contact Center Reporting,” turned to a pool of contact center leaders to get better information on both historical and real-time standards of reporting. These include the so-called “cradle-to-grave” reporting tools and just what goes into those requirements as far as data retention goes (both customization and ad-hoc analysis), and what difference the cloud is making as far as contact center reporting goes.

More specifically, the report noted that, for around half of those surveyed, getting enhanced reporting tools in the contact center was a “top goal” for 2015. Meanwhile, 36.3 percent of executive respondents at the enterprise level noted that there was a clear need for enhanced reporting.

The report didn’t just spell out the need for better reporting tools; it also provided some insight into just what to look for when it comes to evaluating and ultimately selecting such tools. Though there would likely be some differences between firms in which only assets are needed as part of a reporting package, reports suggest looking for things like system performance alerts and notifications in real-time, as well as detailed diagnostic reports for performance. The user should also have the ability to define the lengths of the intervals going into the reporting, and reports should be able to immediately, right out of the box, be able to provide the necessary information to business units. Given the environment these days, it may also be worthwhile to look for customization points, mobile capability, and the ability to download to third-party tools for use therein.

There’s an old adage about how if something can’t be measured, it can’t be managed. While that might sound like the Dilbert strip fodder writ large, it’s a point so essential that noting it could be mistaken for belaboring the obvious. Having the right tools on hand, meanwhile, is an equally necessary part of the operation; if a contact center doesn’t know where it’s not doing well, its ability to improve is limited accordingly. If it can’t improve, it’s likely to fall behind, impact the overall customer experience, and potentially even drive business to competitors who do know what’s wrong and can improve accordingly.

With so many contact center authorities looking to make the jump to augmenting reporting tools, and some clear evidence to suggest its necessity, looking into these new tools and finding the right ones for an organization might be a good idea to undertake this year. No one wants to lose business, after all, to the companies that did take the need for contact center reporting tools to heart.