Calling All College Students; You Owe Us

October 29, 2015

Although the effect of government is not always everyone’s primary concern, there are times when new policies can affect average consumers and their uses of information technology. The latest budget bill on Capitol Hill marks one such policy; passed it its current form, it could include a rider that allows debt collectors to robocall individuals’ mobile phones.

Current rules at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC (NewsAlert)) do not allow companies that process federal student loans, housing mortgages, or tax filings to reach consumers with automatic, computer-generated calls. According to a report on the matter at The Washington Post, such companies have pushed back in recent years, arguing that people such as student loan borrowers will comply more with scheduled payments when loan providers can reach them on mobile.

The Federal Education Department is even quoted as saying that mobile phones may be the only place providers can reach their borrowers.

“Many student loan borrowers, especially those that may just be graduating, move frequently in addition to no longer having landline phone numbers,” the Education Department said. “It can be difficult for servicers to find a borrower except by using a cell phone number.”

The link between government and private entity here is clear. The government pays private debt issuance and collection companies such as Nelnet, Navient, and American Education Services to manage the payments of borrowers. Their concern, as private entities, is to keep borrowers from defaulting on their loans. When borrowers pay on time, each month, they avoid default. However, many people either do not have the funds or personal schedule to keep pace. Even if a borrower just forgets to make payments, regardless of his monetary situation, he could end up in default. Payment managers argue that robocalls could help fix such problems.

Of course, passing of this legislation could adversely affect students and their mobile payments in the first place. Automatic texts or calls could hit hard the number of minutes or allowed texts an individual has in his phone plan. For that reason, among others, the FCC has taken the position of protecting consumers.

At this point, there is a clear standoff between the FCC and what Congress, the Senate, and President Obama will let slide. The FCC appears to continue to hold firm in protection of mobile users. There is apparent support for the bill with Republicans and Democrats, so it will not be a surprise to watch it pass. If it does make it to law, the real turmoil will be in how the FCC responds and how consumers pick up their own phones to make it known that the robocalls are helping or hurting their lives.

Contact Center ‘Fixes’ Available to All

October 27, 2015

To managers keeping a close eye on the bottom line, the call center can be seen as a mixed blessing. Yes, it’s the first line of contact for customers and can be a real help in boosting your brand. But such help comes at a price, and it’s incumbent on everyone in the company to keep those costs in line. What to do?

Industry consultant David Johnson recently wrote an opinion piece with some suggestions on how to improve operations in a contact center. Johnson looked at the bigger picture and identified some areas of concern.

“While we have reduced the absolute number of agent-handled calls, we have actually increased the average handle time (AHT) due to the complexity of the calls that ultimately end up with agents,” he noted. “That’s because the ‘simple stuff’ is being taken out of the mix of our random call arrival patterns, replaced by calls that either can’t be self-served or are so complicated that the caller prefers to talk with an agent rather than struggle through the required IVR or Web-based workflows.”

So Johnson came up with a number of options for savvy managers to consider, and they’re worth a look:

Targeted Coaching: “Instead of focusing on the bottom 2.5 percent or on pure handle time nagging for the bottom 33 percent, look for specific skills, knowledge, and behaviors that are reducing overall quality and coach to them,” he suggests.

Evaluate the Evaluator: “Do a quick time- and motion-study of your evaluators,” Johnson said. “Let them tell you how they think they spend their time and consider resetting supervisor/evaluator priorities based on what you hear.”

Remove Authentication: The call-part analysis will likely show that the longest segment of the call that can be automated is customer authentication. “Start evaluating voice biometric technology, which can trim every call by 45-60 seconds,” Johnson advises. “If you have 250 agents handling six-minute calls 45-50 times per day, that means about three million calls per year. Take just 45 seconds off those calls and you save more than 37,500 hours every year, increasing capacity by 12 percent without touching the rest of your workflows.”

There are other worthwhile suggestions in his piece, but the biggest takeaway is this: Costs can be shaved, but ironically such savings are achieved by more listening than talking.

Are You Giving Clients the Best Connection?

October 22, 2015

We’ve all heard the terms and even bandied them about ourselves on occasion, but do you really know the difference between ‘multichannel’ and ‘omnichannel’, as they pertain to technology today?

Not many people do, but now there’s help at hand.

Gerald Sinclair, Workforce Optimization Practice Manager with Uptivity, an inContact Company, recently posted a blog on inContact’s homepage where he took a look at the related but different technologies, and clarified their differences.

“The term multichannel defines the various channels that are made available to connect with an organization,” Sinclair said. “If you ever shopped online or ordered something via a mobile app, you have already participated in a multichannel customer interaction.”

He went on to note that companies may offer several ways for a customer to interact with their organization, but the experience is not always consistent. As an example he said that he might be able to purchase items online in half the time it would take to call the organization and place the order by phone.

But it’s also worth noting that while ‘multichannel’ is the term in vogue, it’s been around for a while in various forms.

“Consumer shopping via TV, catalogs, contact centers, in-store, [and] door-to-door were all available prior to the technology explosion, allowing even more ways to engage,” Sinclair says.

Omnichannel, on the other hand, refers to a more consistent relationship and message across all channels.

“Omnichannel connects the dots between each available channel. In addition, it also explains the simultaneous use of two or more channels,” Sinclair says. “If you have ever logged on to a rewards or coupon site on your mobile phone and displayed the discount during checkout in a retail store, you have experienced an omnichannel interaction.”

He notes that whichever technology a company chooses to use, they can benefit from either.

“Organizations that are not investing in multichannel customer engagement strategies are at a high risk of missed profit opportunity and falling to their competition. Furthermore, organizations that are implementing an omnichannel strategy will experience a 3.4 percent increase (on average) in customer lifetime value,” Sinclair says. “As businesses become more customer-centric, it is vital for them to evolve and adapt to an omnichannel experience management program to create a holistic, positive and efficient customer service experience.”

UCCX Scripting – Agent redirect caller to trigger

Dears,


Two of our customers are requesting this functionality (on UCCX 8.5 & 10.5):

– A call arrive to an agent through an UCCX script
– Agent has to transfer the customer to another agent (e.g wrong skills)
– Agent puts the customer on hold
– Agent calls a trigger where there is another script
– In the script we select another agent (most adapted) in a CSQ
– First agent complete the transfer between customer and second agent.

Could you please let me know if this is something allowed and if yes, how to do that?

We want to avoid hunt group to target the second agent. (to be sure he will be available)


Many thanks in advance

Dorian

Outsourcing Company Expands with Wounded Warriors

October 19, 2015

We hear a lot of talk about how we owe a debt of gratitude to our returning veterans, but one Florida-based company has actually done something about it, and is now going even further.

The company is StatesideBPO, whose U.S.-based call center agents are Americans with disabilities, U.S. Veterans, and U.S. Veterans with disabilities, all working hard and dispersed across 40 states.

Back in 2014, StatesideBPO selected inContact to power its contact center operations with the company’s Cloud Contact Center Platform. After experiencing the reliability, flexibility and scalability of the cloud firsthand, StatesideBPO has announced it will extend its investment into inContact’s cloud technology by adding agents and solutions to its existing multi-country inContact agreement.

“InContact allows StatesideBPO to extend multi-channel capabilities to our clients for their contact center and customer service needs,” said Garrett Mullins, Chief Sales and Client Service officer at the company. “This allows StatesideBPO and our clients to reduce costs and increase productivity by sharing a common contact center platform.”

Stateside BPO’s unique mission of providing Americans with disabilities with such jobs enables customers to interact with dedicated, highly educated, full-time agents. “This means your customer experience is intelligent and compassionate, and succeeds in a high volume of fulfilled call rates,” StatesideBPO says on its website. “Our management, agents, and contact center services are focused, organized, and dedicated to proving a return on investment while maximizing your customer’s experience.”

StatesideBPO’s expansion of inContact solutions includes a suite of Workforce Management (WFM) tools designed to improve contact center operations and increase efficiency. Such WFM will enable StatesideBPO, and its clients, to balance employee needs and staffing levels with customer satisfaction and call volume levels, ensuring the most appropriately skilled agent is available for each customer interaction.

“The BPO market has recognized the cloud advantages and is leveraging those assets by disseminating them directly to their clients,” said Paul Jarman, inContact CEO, in commenting on the enhanced contract. “We are pleased to have earned StatesideBPO’s confidence to expand their inContact solutions and integrate additional functionality with their existing cloud contact center core.”

StatesideBPO supports a wide range of industries including energy, healthcare, pharmaceutical, retail, and high-technology companies.

Contact Centers Raise the Bar for Others

October 14, 2015

Those in the contact center business are fully aware of the importance of delivering good, quality customer service 24/7. But it helps when those at prominent levels recognize their contributions as well. Such recognition can serve as a template for others to follow, while also giving a well-deserved pat on the back to those that go above and beyond.

So it was with some excitement that inContact, a leading provider of cloud contact center software and contact center agent optimization tools, announced the winners of the inContact Mojo Awards, celebrating the leadership and commitment of various entities to delivering outstanding and memorable customer experiences.

The announcement came in the wake of the inContact User Conference (ICUC) in Salt Lake City earlier this month. The show is an annual gathering of contact center industry professionals from a wide range of industries. Three days of training, industry best practices sessions, networking and technology demonstrations were capped by the awards program celebrating inContact customers that are setting an outstanding example in the contact center industry.

“We are continually impressed at our customers’ ability to creatively leverage our powerful cloud technology to deliver legendary customer journeys,” said inContact CEO Paul Jarman in announcing the winners. “It is this spirit and drive that the inContact Mojo Awards were designed to celebrate, and we are pleased to recognize stand-out organizations from a variety of industries including financial services, healthcare, education, retail, fashion and industrial manufacturing.”

The 2015 winners include:

  • 211 LA County, providing access to social services and disaster support for the country’s most populous area.
  • Ashland, Inc., manufacturer of chemical specialty and performance products.
  • H-E-B Pharmacy Solutions, a division of one of the nation’s largest independently owned food retailers.
  • JustFab, a lifestyle fashion company that offers an engaging and personalized shopping experience to over 35 million members worldwide.
  • Michigan Public Health, a non-profit institute dedicated to improving community health through collaboration and state-of-the-art practices.
  • St. Joseph’s Indian School, an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of American Indian youth.
  • UMB Bank, providing a comprehensive suite of banking products and services to businesses and individuals in eight states.

“Our 2015 Mojo Award winners represent true leadership in the contact center marketplace,” Jarman added. “We are proud of their significant achievements and the example they have set by putting customers at the heart of their businesses.”

Call Centers and the EMEA Region: A Different Look

October 13, 2015

Recently released research is adding more fuel to the fire about the expanding popularity of the cloud as it relates to contact centers, especially in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

According to research giant Frost & Sullivan (NewsAlert), the growing consumer preference for self-education and self-help, along with the various ways these consumers broadcast their thoughts, ideas, and more about brands on social media, is enabling a huge change within the contact center industry. Vendors and end-users alike are adapting to new interaction channels that provide richer self-service capabilities. Because of this, Frost & Sullivan says, vendors will have stay ahead of the innovation curve to gain market share.

That’s the gist of F&S’s new report, the “2015 EMEA Contact Center Systems Buyers Guide,” released last month.

“Contact center systems suppliers in EMEA will need to expand more heavily into adjacent customer support areas such as omni-channel support, big data, and mobility,” said Frost & Sullivan Information & Communication Technologies Principal Analyst Nancy Jamison, in commenting on the study. “Integrating disparate solutions will quicken the move to omni-channel customer care.”

In recent years, the recovering global economy has affected some buying decisions and held back investment in new systems and upgrades, the report notes. Now, the emergence of hosted and cloud services, which allow companies to reduce capital and operational expenditure on contact center solutions, is even further affecting market revenues.

“Over and above discussing roadmap plans for various trends, buyers should understand how contact center systems providers are addressing the cloud,” Jamison says. “Whether it makes sense for a company to move all or part of their systems to the cloud, it is imperative for end users to understand its bearing on their infrastructure and business in the long run and make the right choice.”

Frost & Sullivan works in collaboration with clients to leverage innovation that addresses global challenges and related growth opportunities. Click HERE to access a free download of an Executive Summary of the report.

‘It’s the Cloud on Line One’

October 08, 2015

To those in the technology industry, the cloud is a “no-brainer” issue, due to cost savings, better security and easier upgrades. Yet there are some in the business world who haven’t yet gotten the word, although that is changing.

One of the newest converts is a major retailer that has “seen the light” and is moving its call center operations to inContact’s unified cloud platform.

The company – which, according to standard inContact company protocols was not identified – was reportedly impressed by inContact’s “functional and flexible cloud based solution, [which] will provide the support needed as the company expands operations and grows its workforce,” according to an inContact statement.

Inside sources note that with the retail company’s ongoing growth leading to more than 1,000 stores nationwide, the inContact implementation is said to include more than 200 agents in two contact centers, with plans to leverage the scalability of the cloud platform to further expand their customer service operations.

The move makes sense on several levels. “InContact’s complete cloud solution has the agility to reduce the complexity of contact center operations for growing companies,” inContact CEO Paul Jarman said in a statement about the deal. “Having the product scalability to manage agents’ schedules and enhance self-service options will greatly impact the way retailers manage seasonal traffic fluctuations across multiple contact centers.”

According to both companies, the retailer will implement the key building blocks of inContact’s inbound and outbound solutions including support for email, chat, SMS messaging, and social media in addition to traditional voice channels.

“The powerful combination of Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) ensures all inbound calls are assigned and routed to the ideal agent for each customer’s specific issue,” inContact said. “For outbound communications, inContact’s new customer selected the award-winning Personal Connection (PC) dialer, which increases productivity by seamlessly connecting agents with clients by eliminating the telltale awkward pause of typical legacy dialers.”

Implementation of the new system is set to begin shortly.

‘Hello?’ Call Centers Answer the Important Questions

October 07, 2015

No matter how many Tweets, Facebook (NewsAlert) postings or Chat windows get opened, customers still reach for the phone when they want to contact a company.

That’s the main takeaway from a new report issued jointly by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) and cloud contact center leader inContact.

“I am willing to pay more for a product or service with a good customer service reputation” was just one of the key respondent items highlighted in the report, “Smarter Service for the Connected Consumer: Delivering Customer Experience Excellence in the Contact Center.”

Researchers polled some 576 people to help determine how contact centers operate within today’s business world, and to try to ascertain what contact center leaders believe to be critical for future growth.

“Contact center teams normally act with the best intentions, as agents aspire to serve and satisfy consumers quickly and efficiently,” wrote Anna Papachristos, summarizing the report for 1to1 Media. “But, as evolving customer behaviors and emerging technologies begin to make waves, contact center leaders must reassess current offerings to ensure that their organizations can weather this perfect storm of change.”

Among some of the findings of the report, broken down by percentage of respondents:

Phone (NewsAlert) (97 percent) and email (87 percent) remain the top channels for agent interactions;

  • Those in charge believe that 1-800 numbers to live representatives (78 percent), online self-service (70 percent), and email (69 percent) are the most important methods of communication;
  • A majority of contact center leaders use customer feedback data (a/k/a, “analytics”) to improve escalation procedures in their organizations (54 percent), while also empowering their contact center managers (76 percent) and agents (64 percent) with real-time key performance metrics.
  • Contact centers use interaction data and metrics to identify areas for customer satisfaction improvement (45 percent), manage overall agent performance (42 percent), and identify customer trends (39 percent).

Overall, the study found that a majority of consumers (81 percent) prefer assistance from actual representatives when necessary. Speaking to a human as opposed to pushing buttons allows the customer to more clearly state their problem with the company to communicate and more quickly find a resolution.

Cloud Contact Centers Get an Upgrade

October 01, 2015

Former Disney (NewsAlert) Chief Executive Michael Eisner was once famously quoted as saying, “If it’s not growing, it’s going to die.” While he might have been talking about the entertainment industry, his words can pertain to just about any area of business.

That may be part of the motivation behind the latest release from inContact. The cloud contact center leader has just debuted the fall 2015 release of its award-winning cloud contact center platform. “As part of the release, inContact is establishing the core technology components of a complete cloud customer interaction platform and redefining the comprehensive cloud solution for the contact center marketplace,” the company said in a statement.

In the rollout, inContact says it has included five components that are unified in an all-in-one cloud system. They are:

Global Cloud Infrastructure, which is reported to be a highly scalable, reliable, redundant and secure foundation for inContact’s 24×7 global, carrier-grade infrastructure;

Omnichannel Interactions (NewsAlert), including cloud multimedia routing for all customer interactions, including traditional channels;

inContact Voice as a Service, the company’s trademarked and optimized voice quality solution for contact centers built on its carrier-grade, global network. It includes “the most flexibility, connectivity options and monitoring available from any contact center provider,” inContact says.

Workforce Optimization, with a robust suite of tools in the cloud to help organizations transform the quality of customer interactions by improving agent performance, and optimizing operations;

Analytics, incorporating consolidated inContact data analytics cloud with simple to sophisticated reporting and analytics tools to provide maximum visibility and control of contact center operations.

“No other cloud contact center provider offers the depth and breadth of technology, people and partners, that we bring to the table to help companies achieve their goals,” said inContact CEO Paul Jarman, commenting on the latest release. “With our comprehensive approach in the cloud, we are making it easier and more affordable for companies of all sizes to create and manage stand-out customer experiences while meeting their key business metrics.”