Elevated CX Is Achieved by Empowering Agents Through Tools and Technology

According to Gallup, highly engaged customer service teams achieve, on average, a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales. So, it should come as no surprise that three out of five of our top tips for elevating the customer experience in enterprise contact centers are related to agent engagement and empowerment through tools and technology. The following are our five favorite ways to boost agent productivity:

  1. Declutter the agent desktop with an innovative UI.

Provide agents with innovative contact center technology that dynamically selects the most relevant data elements to be shown on the visible part of the desktop. Such technology increases agent efficiency by reducing the time it takes for agents to respond to customer inquiries. Findings in our 2017 trend report show that 40% of the respondents use three or more systems to handle channels in the contact center. Consolidating technologies and information is a great way to empower agents!

  1. Give agents easy-to-use technology for automatic customer recognition.

Having a contact center system that automatically looks up incoming interactions across both internal and external databases to identify customers allows agents to deliver a more personalized response to customers. When your omnichannel system can perform recognition across all channels and federate data from multiple CRMs and applications, agents are truly empowered to solve customer inquiries.

  1. Eliminate mundane transactions with AI and provide agents with AI Assist.

Most industry professionals see adding AI and bots to the contact center as a beneficial strategy for cutting costs and improving the customer experience. There is also evidence that agents feel more engaged when AI and bots are introduced because as bots handle easier transactions, agents are freed to handle the more advanced customer interactions. You can even take this one step further and use your AI to assist agents with intelligent agent reply suggestions.

  1. Automate workflows.

Enterprise process automations allow contact centers to play a larger role in the company. Such automations can be powered by incoming interactions, outbound contact lists, APIs, and a number of triggers, such as customer sentiment, across all channels.

  1. Limit downtime with active-active technology.

Enterprise contact centers can lose thousands in profits when their vendor experiences unexpected downtime. Unique disaster containment is a must in providing top-tier customer support. An active-active approach ensures that all sites of the overall geographically distributed system share the transaction load. If a site fails, the other parts of the system pick up the failed site’s portion of the transactions immediately.

The customer experience and agent empowerment are directly linked. In fact, customer experience leaders have 1.5 times as many engaged employees as do less motivated customer experience providers.

How do you empower your agents?

Important Business Intelligence Tools for the Contact Center

In order for the contact center to meet (and exceed) performance goals, the right business intelligence (BI) tools and technologies have to be in place. BI tools help contact centers improve and optimize their processes in order to heighten their success rate. BI digs deeper into the data you’re already collecting to find ways to relate your findings to the customer experience and, in turn, improve customer retention.

Aggregate Analytics

Aggregate analytics, also referred to as big data, deliver information about the contact center’s overall performance. Both structured and unstructured data is organized and delivered via an “at a glance” dashboard, or something similar. The key is to have only relevant data included so that supervisors don’t have to wade through inapplicable data.

Call Recording Tools

Speech analytics tools – a long-time staple of the modern contact center – accurately transcribe conversation audio to ensure that agents are adhering to a script or guidelines when speaking with a customer. In industries that have strict rules about what can and cannot be mentioned (like collections, for example), speech analytics are even more important than usual. Certain advanced call recording tools will allow for Voice of Customer considerations, too. Real-time feedback, call coaching and customer surveys enable supervisors to make decisions that can improve the customer experience in-the-moment.

Predictive Voice Analytics

Predictive voice programs not only record agent-customer conversations, but also use them to make predictions about how both parties will respond. Emotional changes in the agent’s vocal features can determine if the agent is speaking in an appropriate way to the customer, while emotional changes in the customer’s voice can determine a variety of outcomes, like if they’re likely to become a regular customer.

Selling Recommendations

BI tools can increase revenue by recommending up-sell and cross-sell opportunities to the agent in real-time. By considering the customer’s purchase history and buyer persona, combined with predictive voice analytics, the dashboard can alert the agent when a selling opportunity presents itself. Not only is it easier to sell to customers with a strong purchase history, but BI tools can also determine which products and services will be of most interest to the customer.

The contact center is generating helpful information every single minute. Data is regularly being collected, sometimes passively. With BI tools, supervisors can gather and review all pertinent data to see where improvements can be made.

2018 Contact Center Trends: Punching Through the Barrier.

By Bright Pattern

Customer experience (CX) ran out of steam in 2017. Almost all companies have by now realized that CX is the differentiator and customers value the experience above almost everything. Enormous effort and resources have been thrown at CX, and there have been huge gains. But according to Forrester’s 2017 CX IndexTM, CX quality plateaued or declined for most industries and companies.

It’s plain to see why. CX was a classic land grab where companies found it easy to deal with obvious problems. But now the hard work begins. Customers are getting used to enhanced experiences and want better and better service. Companies will need to keep up with these expectations or fall farther behind. Forrester is predicting that in 2018, 30% of companies will see further declines in CX performance, which will mean declines in growth or worse.

So are we going to stay put or decline? Or are we going to punch through to the next level? 2018 will be the year where this is decided. So what will be the big stories? How will technology and automation advance the customer experience? Here’s what we think will be the trends in 2018.


Artificial Intelligence – It’s going to get real, very fast

In the years running up to 2018, AI has been the solution to almost any problem. And for good reason: chatbots, robotic process automation, and virtual assistants have transformed customer experience and expectations, and have changed the roles of customer service agents for the better. But now the rubber meets the road. The early gains were made by applying AI to existing business operations. The true growth moving forward will be to use AI to invent new ways to interact with the customer, reinvent business processes, and create whole new markets for products and services.

A Forrester survey tells us firms’ investment in AI rose 51% in 2017. But 55% of firms have not yet achieved any tangible business outcomes from AI, and 43% say it’s too soon to tell. That’s because AI is not a plug-and-play proposition. Unless firms plan, deploy, and govern it correctly, new AI tech will provide small benefits at best or, at worst, result in unexpected and undesired CX-related outcomes. If CIOs and chief data officers (CDOs) are serious about becoming insight driven, 2018 is the year they must realize that simplistic approaches will only scratch the surface of possibilities that new tech offers.

Take machine learning for example. Companies are quickly realizing that, ironically AI requires huge amounts of human input. Agents are tagging text and speech, customer interactions. Companies are using their customers to teach their AI, and sales reps are training the AI rather than relying on out-of-the-box learning. Add to this the data hygiene and knowledge management required to keep an automated system up to date, and you will see an enhanced adoption of the blended AI model for 2018 where humans play a critical role in constantly perfecting AI to improve the customer experience.

Bright Pattern is a leader in this blended AI trend and automating with a human touch. For instance, our APIs allow bots to integrate with IBM Watson, Reply.ai, and Alterra to provide human-like interactions that can be switched to a live agent at any time. The agents also have internal assistants and bots that use AI to guide them through the call, offer suggestions, track tone and sentiment using cognitive analysis technology and natural language understanding.


Digital Transformation Needs to Pick up Speed

There are now heightened expectations from the customer and companies need to rise to meet them. Digital transformation is the key to making this happen. But it’s not happening at a quick enough pace.

According to Forrester, up to 60% of executives feel they are lagging behind with their digital transformation initiatives. The trend for 2018 will be that digital transformation moves from just an IT or CIO issue to become the responsibility of the entire organization. Thinking will change, it will no longer be looked at as an investment that gets a return. Digital transformation will be seen as the one thing that will keep the company alive. In fact Forrester also has a sobering statistic for this: 20% of CEOs will fail to act: As a result, those firms will be acquired or begin to perish.


Moving to the Cloud Will Become Even Safer

Here’s some good news! The cloud is going to get even more business-friendly in 2018. We all know that moving to the cloud provides a way to avoid capital investment in volatile technology and focus on core competencies. And it enables companies like Bright Pattern to provide rapid innovation delivery, instant upgrades and provide integrations with other cloud systems.

Every tennant on the Bright Pattern Call Center solution enjoys the very latest, most advanced version of out software. This includes data, configuration, user management, and tenant individual functionality. Every company, department and user is on the same version and the latest patch level.

And, we offer the insurance of an on-premises option using exactly the same cloud software for call centers, ensuring an additional level of control. Moreover, switching to an onsite option or back to the cloud is as easy as downloading the export file of your account and uploading it into another system.

The cloud will continue to be a dominant force in the digital transformations of virtually all successful companies. With continued innovation from Bright Pattern, we do not see this trend losing steam in 2018.

Self Service is about to get personal

Personalization will be key for companies looking to keep up with customer expectations. The empowered customer is now king, but they do not want to have every option available to them at all times. Their time is precious and they want to have a self-service experience that is hyper-relevant to them.

Companies who know what product a customer has for instance, will be able to serve up a limited set of options and disregard the irrelevant. They will learn which channels a customer prefers and route them without having to ask. Organizations that take customer experience seriously through personalization will stand out from the noise and create loyal customers.


The Employee Experience Will Be Enhanced, Not Just the Customer Experience (EX=CX)

The customer service employee experience is changing rapidly, so companies need to find ways to ensure that their agents are well motivated and rewarded for taking on new responsibilities. As blended AI becomes more prevalent, the role of the agent or customer service representative will change. Forrester predicts more and more agents will quit because of work overload. An example of this trend would be tagging. A live chat agent can look through a chatbot transcript to see where the chatbot didn’t understand the customer. The agent can tag an intent to that particular phrase. This additional task adds to an already complex list of responsibilities, applications, and processes that today’s agent must own, use, and follow. Without the right tools companies put employee experience at risk.

Bright Pattern provides the most effective agent desktop in an all-in-one call center app, which offers a decluttered user interface that selects and displays the most relevant information based on context. Higher levels of employee and agent engagement are known to improve the customer experience.


Automation Spreads From the Back Office to the Front Office

The big news in automation for 2018 will be the migration of many tried and tested robotic processes from the back office to help out in the front office. Automation will enable agents to focus on helping customers and spend less time on navigating systems or post-contact wrap up. Additionally, automation at the desktop will improve quality by decreasing errors of manual data entry, reducing rework, and decreasing complaints. Reducing manual tasks allows for a better focus on listening to the customer, empathizing, and providing a frictionless experience. In 2018, we’ll see better collaboration between the front- and back office, and see the almost immediate ROI that robotic process automation has traditionally been known for.

Channel Proliferation is a Party That Won’t Stop

It’s not news that consumers like to interact in the channel of their choice. And that channel can change on a whim and by the second. A conversation started in a messaging platform can migrate to a call that can shift to an email and back to a message. But companies need to do a better job of offering a true omni channel experience. According to Dimension Data and their 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report, only 8% of organizations say that they have all of their channels connected and, in fact, as many as 70% say that none or very few of their channels are connected.

And new channels are coming on stream all the time. Customers are communicating with brands using just emojis. Video chat is starting to be adopted. Screen Sharing, virtual assistants, in-app messaging will all continue there rise in 2018.

The big news here is that this explosion of customer expression will not be stopping any time in 2018. So how can a company keep up, let alone stay ahead?

The simple answer is to have a simplified multichannel setup for call center managers to enable a true omni channel communication style. In practice this means a conversation must be able to be continued when switching or changing channels. It means adding a messaging or content channel to an existing communication is a must. And finally the rich context of the conversation must be maintained at all times.

To do this in 2018, you must have the agent tools to simplify multi channel interaction handling. Bright Pattern has created a web-based agent desktop to make multichannel communication seamless. It keeps all the information needed in the visible portion of the desktop, it intelligently extracts the relevant elements of context to display eliminating switching, alt-tabbing, and scrolling through long pages, and it transparently rearranging the desktop when the the conversation changes from one channel to another.


2018 is going to be a big year of disruption for the contact center. The technology that’s coming online and the shifting attitudes of business leaders will lead to some huge developments. At Bright Pattern we are well aware and well prepared for what’s to come. Because just like you, the expectations of our customers will not stop growing.

Customer Journey KPIs Every Contact Center Should Track


The customer journey can be a difficult thing to map and understand. With so many touchpoints along the journey, the map isn’t predictable and linear, yet it’s still necessary to monitor and analyze. These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will help you gain insight from the customer journey and move on to improve it.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Even if a customer prefers self-service to live agent support, they don’t necessarily want to put a ton of effort into solving their own issue. Self-service shouldn’t be a difficult-to-implement alternative to normal customer support. Instead, it should meet the needs of the type of customer who seeks out self-service via quick, easy-to-find answers and the ability to make changes sans agent assistance.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Some of the most important customer journey touchpoints will occur when the customer interacts with a support agent. CSAT is the measure of the customer’s satisfaction before, during and after they contact customer service. If CSAT scores are dropping, it may be time to look closely at agent productivity, ticket management and self-service options.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The NPS will tell you if your customers are going to recommend your products and services to others. You have to go deeper here, though – why will your customers recommend your products and services, or what it is that’s keeping them from doing so?

Customer Churn / Retention Rate

Customer support teams for subscription-based products and services have to pay special attention to retention rate. If you see a lot of customers leaving around renewal time, it’s necessary to figure out why you lost them. What part of the customer journey is causing customers to change their mind? There’s a snag somewhere.

Customer Success

Customer Success isn’t a single KPI, but instead a customized KPI program based on your specific business, customers and goals. A Customer Success strategy may include Up- and Cross-Sell Rates; Average Revenue per Customer; or Rate of Adoption, which starts with defining beginner, intermediate and advanced customers or users. You may also want to include Retention Rate, NPS and CES in your customer success KPIs. Think of Customer Success as an overarching customer journey strategy based on what success means for you.

Customer journey KPIs may be difficult to track, but they come with a big benefit – often, improving one will have a positive impact on another.

4 Best Practices for Your Social Media Customer Service Strategy

The days of wondering whether or not your contact center needs to have a presence on social media are over: the answer is a resounding “yes.” Now, the main questions revolve around how you should be listening and responding. Here are four tips that will help your agents build beneficial relationships with customers through social media.

  1. Use the right platform.

Not all social media platforms are created equal. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for image-focused brands, like retail shops, while LinkedIn may work better for B2B companies. The ideal social media platform is the one where your target customers are ­– don’t waste time on the others.

  1. Keep track of mentions.

Staying on top of customer needs doesn’t mean staring at your feeds all day long. There are plenty of listening tools out there to help you monitor when your company or product is mentioned online, even if your profile isn’t tagged (which it probably won’t be). Modern contact center software with social media integrations will put these mentions right in your help desk. (P.S. Make sure to monitor for common misspellings, too.)

  1. Respond quickly.

Customers use social media for convenience and speed, and you need agents who can respond quickly. Since social media is based on live feeds, customers have different expectations than with other communication platforms. Whereas a 24-hour response time may be okay for email support, a 30-minute or 60-minute response time is expected on social media. You may need to adjust your scheduling to accommodate for this quick response time, especially during something like a product launch.

  1. Customize your tone.

Tone is important for customer service overall, but with social media it can trickier to (1) figure out the right tone for the situation at hand and (2) fit an appropriate tone into a character limit, like on Twitter. Here are three quick tips for getting the tone just right in-the-moment:

  • If the customer uses a casual tone, like through slang, exclamation points and emoticons, you can reciprocate.
  • If the customer doesn’t seem to be 100% fluent in the language, keep your tone basic and avoid nuances.
  • If the customer is agitated, be more empathetic and apologetic than usual.


While social media support is a necessity for contemporary customer service, you can simplify the process by following these basic, tried-and-true tips.

How Bots Help You Learn What Customers Want

There are many reasons why businesses increasingly turn to artificial intelligence (AI) to augment and enhance their customer communications. That everyone else is doing it too isn’t a good enough reason for you to jump on board any ship, so we’ll just tell you why your contact center should be utilizing AI and cognitive technologies: AI can learn exactly what your customers want.

In a typical call, a customer is greeted by an IVR menu that offers that all-too-familiar range of options (e.g., “Press or say 1 for billing… Press or say 2 for support… Press or say 0 to speak to a representative….”). Although efficient for routing callers to appropriate agents and service departments, automated phone menus do little when it comes to learning the true purpose of a call.

In stark contrast, an AI-enabled contact center can ask the customer a direct question (e.g., “How can I help?”) and the customer can blurt out a specific answer (e.g., “My laptop broke.”). There’s no need to offer options and divine why customers called based on their choices or levels of abandonment.

With just the customer’s answer, the AI-driven contact center can zoom in on keywords, gain information about products or services, detect emotional weight and sentiments, perceive subjects of conversation, use natural language understanding, and so forth—all while recording the conversation and storing data.

The same goes for chats and SMS conversations. Chatbots can skip past all the pleasantries and get to the heart of any issue by simply asking, “What do you want?”

The data gathered from that one question is gold. The next time your customers contact you, let them feed you the very information that empowers your business.

Learn more about how AI assistance and bots can transform your contact center practices.

Don’t Make These Mistakes When Buying Speech Analytics Software

Speech analytics software is a major and important investment for the contact center. Your speech analytics software should help with compliance and customer service while getting you the highest ROI possible. Avoid these mistakes when searching for new speech analytics software.

  1. Assuming speech analytics will do everything for you.

Speech analytics software isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it solution, no matter how smart the technology may be. The software gathers data that you then have to review, make sense of and act on in order to improve your contact center. Only then is it truly powerful; otherwise, it’s simply a data collector.

  1. Not taking advantage of the software’s potential.

Speech analytics software has a number of standard benefits, like agent training and quality assurance. When you purchase modern software, though, you have access to a host of other features you may not even know are there. New speech analytics software may include escalation language and objective compliance, for example.

  1. Choosing software with poor recording quality.

To truly reap the benefits of speech analytics software, it has to be able to record clearly and transcribe accurately. If it can’t, you won’t get a dependable analytics report. Remember, you can’t improve audio quality after a call has been recorded.

  1. Purchasing software for executives who don’t listen to calls.

Software brands know how to dazzle customers to get more sales. However, if contact center management isn’t currently listening to and analyzing calls, this may not change even after pricey software is purchased. It’s better to get in the habit of analyzing calls so that you know the software will actually be used (and also so you’ll have a clearer view of your needs).

  1. Relying on software that doesn’t account for conversational language.

Your agents have to say certain things on each call, like “thank you” when signing off. Your speech analytics software has to detect that these keywords are mentioned in each conversation. However, if your software only detects exact words instead of conversational language, a version of “thank you” will go ignored, and the agent could get marked for not following procedure, even if they did.

In Conclusion

When buying software, identify your contact center needs, then find a solution that checks those boxes. Make sure you’re learning from your analytics, too, instead of just letting it auto-run in the background.


4 Scheduling Strategies to Help Workforce Management

Workforce management is a complex job that has to take intricate and changing details into consideration. Scheduling involves everything from anticipating trends and scheduling agents for high-volume times to taking into account individual needs, recurring activities and one-time events. Since workforce management is such an important and challenging responsibility, we wanted to share a few scheduling strategies with you.

1. Hire part-time workers.

Even if you’ve never hired part-time workers before, it’s worth talking about with your HR department, especially if you know you need more schedule flexibility. Part-time workers know that they could be scheduled for any hours or days during the week, so they may be more flexible when it comes to setting or changing their shifts.

2. Stagger start times.

You know that you need to be properly staffed during peak volume, but those times may change based on special promotions or new product offerings. By staggering start times – like having some people arrive at 8 a.m. and then creating start times for other employees at 15-minute intervals – you’ll have coverage during busy times as well as flexibility for when those peak volume times change.

3. Offer over-time and time off.

During peak times, like the holidays, encourage agents to work extra shifts by promising over-time – most people could use extra cash flow this time of year. You can balance this out by offering voluntary time off without pay during slower periods – depending on their circumstances, some agents may be happy to take a day or two off even if they’ll get a smaller paycheck. If you find yourself over-staffed during slower times, consider what you can have agents do to contribute to the contact center, like take a training course, practice cross- and up-selling, or tackle special projects.

4. Plan supervisor time.

Your agents aren’t the only ones who need to be on board during peak volume ­– your supervisors should be accounted for, too. Some contact centers will have supervisors log in to field customer calls, while others may simply be more available on the floor to quickly answer questions. Ultimately, having supervisors factored in to your schedule means that complex queries and angry customers can be dealt with swiftly.

Workforce management has a multitude of moving pieces. There’s no one correct way to approach it, but experimenting with new strategies may get you closer to a balanced schedule.


3 Reasons Your Contact Center Should Implement Voice-Enabled Self-Service

By harnessing the power of voice technology, your contact center can alleviate some of the stress placed on your workforce and your bottom line. When it comes to important, urgent or complex issues, most people still want to speak with a live agent. However, for simpler tasks like asking basic question, ordering products or checking delivery status, customers would rather depend on self-service. Here are three reasons why you should consider conversational self-service.

  1. You’ll get rid of complicated menu trees.

Old IVR models have lengthy, complicated menu trees that today’s customers don’t have the patience to deal with. With an old touch-tone or directed dialog-based IVR system, the customer would hear something like, “For account balance, say ‘account balance’ or press 1; for bill pay, say ‘pay my bill’ or press 2…” etc. With voice-enabled self-service, though, the customer can say something much more natural, like, “I want to check my account balance,” and be directed to the correct place the first time around. This streamlined approach to self-service means that fewer customers will opt out of the self-service module in order to speak with a live agent.

  1. Customers prefer it. 

Today’s customers don’t just opt to use self-service when it’s convenient, they actually prefer it, and conversational self-service is an even simpler, quicker way to engage with a company than before. The customer will have a similar experience to speaking with a live agent but without hold times, lengthy conversations or even niceties that can sometimes extend a call. The customer experience with conversational IVR is intelligent, personalized and efficient.

  1. The results are impressive and big companies are noticing.

When American Airlines upgraded their IVR system with Conversational IVR from Nuance, the saw a 5% decrease in the number of calls handled by live agents. When they realized their old IVR system had become antiquated (up to nine different voices; only some speech-enabled applications) they decided to modernize with a new system that would offer a more streamlined experience. They’ve gotten excellent feedback, finding that customers love interacting with the new system, which feels very much like chatting with a live agent.

Your customer service performance can only be based on your contact center’s weakest channel, not the strongest. With an advanced voice-enabled self-service system, interaction time is lowered, customer effort is eased and tasks are simplified.

Soft AI in the Call Center

From Guest Blogger Bright Pattern

There is a lot of speculation about how AI will affect the call center in the coming years. The alarmists claim AI will be able to completely replace human interaction and the call center will be completely automated.

A more practical prediction centers around how AI will augment the human operator and enhance the customer experience in seemingly invisible, yet powerful ways. This idea is something called Soft AI.

Soft AI applies big data, natural language processing, and machine learning to the call to anticipate customer needs, augment the call, and automate processes where necessary.

Big data finds patterns and meanings in the enormous amount of data a call center generates. For example, a call can be prioritized by looking at the caller’s history and the behavior of similar callers. Call intent can be identified even before the caller speaks by tapping into external databases like weather for instance, which might predict the subject of the call.

Natural language processing can be used to listen in to a call with a human agent and trigger immediate responses to the caller’s requests without the agent being distracted from what they do best, offering a reassuring human voice to the customer.

And soft AI can automate where possible based on the request. It can decide the channel assistance can be delivered in based on the most popular method for the user and the content. Routine tasks can be handled purely by virtual assistants but when people are more comfortable talking to another human, AI can route the call to a live agent. 

The immediate future is not about creating perfectly human-like artificial agents to handle everything. It’s about augmenting the human experience and letting the live agents do more, offer more, and be more efficient in everything they do.