3 Barriers to a Winning Digital Strategy

When it comes to your contact center’s digital strategy, there’s a never-ending amount of information to wade through and technology to choose from. All of these options can make it almost impossible to decide what you need to change or update and how to prioritize everything. When you do start planning, you can get so wrapped up in the digital side of things that you forget your very real audience.

Let’s go over three common barriers to creating a digital strategy that serves your customers.

Barrier #1: Assuming You’re Behind Everyone Else

One of the biggest assumptions about digital strategy is that every other contact center is doing it better. You know you have to create or improve your digital strategy but, feeling like you’re already behind your competitors, your don’t have the drive to do it.

Think of it this way, though – you wouldn’t skip over writing a business plan just because every other business has one, right? The same is true for creating your digital strategy, which is an integral part of your broader IT and business strategies.

Barrier #2: Focusing Solely on the Technology

Digital strategy is about so much more than the specific technologies you’re going to use. When you focus only on the tech, you can miss the bigger picture: connecting with people in the digital age. Your agents, employees and business partners have different expectations than in the past, and that’s due to the digital environment we now live, work and communicate in. Digital strategy has to take this into consideration. Instead of a replacement for relationship building, tech is best when used to uncover the better ways to connect and customize that connection.

Barrier #3: Converting Through Digital Interactions Alone

Your digital strategy only truly works if it makes your customers happy, right? If customer satisfaction goes down, you’re not really making progress, even if your contact center is operating in a high tech way. Since there are so many digital channels your customers are using, it can feel like the best way to spend your marketing budget is on more digital transactions. This is counterintuitive, though. Your digital strategy should leverage technology to help both your agents and your customers while leaving enough room for live, person-to-person communication.

How have you created a digital strategy that puts your customers first? Tell us in the comments.

How Business Intelligence Makes the Contact Center More Efficient

Business intelligence (BI) is a catch-all term for the data-driven applications, practices and technologies a business uses in order to collect, integrate, analyze and present business information. The overarching goal of BI is to help a business make better decisions.

In the contact center, BI can be incredibly beneficial. There’s a lot of information that can help the contact center improve customer service, so long as the right data is found, meaning is pulled from it and management decides what the next actionable step should be. Here’s how BI solutions can improve efficiency in the contact center:

Smarter time management and scheduling.

Different people are productive at different times of the day. When you’re deciding when your agents will be most productive for scheduling purposes, though, it’s not enough to simply ask them if they’re early birds or night owls. With BI, data can show when certain agents are at their best. Managers can then create a schedule that takes advantage of those peak times.

Identify relevant cross-sells and upsells.

BI tools analyze customer information and buyer persona to help agents pinpoint additional opportunities for sales. The agent can then recommend and cross-sell or upsell the products or services that are most relevant to that specific customer. It’s always easier to convent a current customer than a brand new one, so long as the products they’re hearing about are actually in-line with their interests or needs.

Analyze current and future processes.

Inefficient processes result in more errors, but BI solutions can investigate if a process is working ­– and if it’s not, when and where it’s failing. For example, you can see if more errors are occurring at a specific time of day or on the same day each week, or if a particular agent is making more errors than your other agents. Not only can this type of insight fix current processes but it can also be used to assess future ones before they’re officially implemented. A hypothetical process can be rolled out and tested with BI tools, then either thrown out or refined for actual implementation.

BI is an integral part of customer service. While there are many different types of BI solutions for the contact center, they all share the ability to glean actionable information. BI can improve customer service, raise customer satisfaction levels and improve contact center efficiency.

 

BRAND KEYS 2019 CUSTOMER LOYALTY ENGAGEMENT INDEX: VERIFIED TRUST = BRAND SUCCESS

Growing concerns regarding privacy and data security have reached a tipping point, driven by an astonishing increase in consumers’ expectations for trust and transparency in the brands they purchase, according to Brand Keys 24th annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI), conducted by the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy.

Biggest Shift In Expectations For Trust. . . Ever!

“Trust – an engagement factor in every product/service category – has become the indispensable connective tissue between brands and customer loyalty,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys. “Consumer expectations for that single value have increased across every category and brand we track, on average by 250+% since 2018. Consumer expectations increase each year – normally in the 2% to 25% range. This is an unprecedented spike.”

Where “Trust” Matters Most

Individual attributes, benefits, and brand values make specific contributions to consumer brand engagement and loyalty. In 2019, the dozen sectors that showed the largest increases in consumers’ expectations for the value of “trust,” increasing 100% or more, were:

  1. Social Networking (300%)
  2. Online Retail (272%)
  3. Department Stores (220%)
  4. AM & PM News (Broadcast & Cable) (205%)
  5. Instant Messaging (180%)
  6. Credit Cards (160%)
  7. Insurance (125%)
  8. Investment Services (120%)
  9. Fast Food Restaurants (118%)
  10. Online Payments (117%)
  11. Ride Share (123%)
  12. Smartphones (105%)

This year the Brand Keys CLEI examined 90 categories and 822 individual brands – from Automotive and Ride Share to Computers and Fast Food. Brand Keys examined Tax Prep and Financial categories, and all Retail (online and brick-and-mortar). Social Networking, Search Engines and Instant Messaging, Cable and Broadcast News, Smartphones, Cosmetics, and Credit Cards. All showed significant increases in consumer expectations for the value of “trust,” some brands significantly more than others.

Consumers Still Shop, But They’re Not Stupid!

“It isn’t just Facebook’s, Google’s, Twitter’s and other social networks’ failures to address privacy, security, and transparency that are responsible, although making significant contributions to the paradigm shift. Charges of hacking – foreign and domestic – and misuse of data have raised consumers’ emotional hackles,” noted Passikoff.

“Data breeches in the past year alone – along with failure to disclose – by brands like Macy’s, Saks, Adidas, Panera, Delta, Under Armour, and Orbitz, have significantly increased the gap between what consumers expect and what brands deliver. There’s a new brand ‘yardstick’ for every category,” said Passikoff. “Consumers may still shop, but they’re increasingly wary.”

Categories That Dodged “Trust” Expectations Bullets

“Ten categories dodged the ‘trust-bullet’ this year,” noted Passikoff. “Trust hasn’t disappeared from the engagement and path-to-purchase process, and expectations always increase Y-O-Y, they just haven’t escalated in their contribution to loyalty the way it has in the remaining 80 categories.” Those 10 categories – and attendant increases – include:

  1. 1. Out-of-Home Coffee (8%)
  2. 2. Pizza (7%)
  3. 3. Non-Alcoholic Beverages (7%)
  4. 4. Toys (6%)
  5. 5. Snack Foods (5%)
  6. 6. Gasoline (3%)
  7. 7. Economy Hotels (3%)
  8. 8. Lip Balm (2%)
  9. 9. Parcel Delivery (2%)
  10. 10. Printers (2%)

Where “Trust” Matters Most In B2B Sectors

Individual attributes, benefits, and brand values make specific contributions to consumer brand engagement and loyalty. In 2019, consumer expectations regarding B2B “trust” increased as follows:

  1. 1. Credit Cards 160%
  2. 2. Online Payments 117%
  3. 3. Smartphones 105%
  4. 4. Wireless Carriers 99%
  5. 5. Banks 99%
  6. 6. Tax Preparation 99%
  7. 7. File Hosting 95%
  8. 8. Computers 86%
  9. 9. MFP Copiers 26%
  10. 10. Parcel Delivery 2%

“The B2B category has changed in the past half-decade,” noted Passikoff. “Values related to B2B and B2C loyalty and emotional engagement have been converging. “It’s showing up in the consumers’ desires for more personalized, customized service, with B2C response times attached to everything ‘business-related.’”

“Trust” = Engagement = Loyalty = Brand Profitability

’Brand engagement’ is best defined by how well a brand meets consumers’ expectations for values that drive purchase behavior,” noted Passikoff. “Consumers have an Ideal image for every product and service; it’s how they measure brands. In recent years a more emotionally-based process has created a more value-infused, complicated path-to-purchase as it regards ‘trust.’ If marketers think they know consumers’ trust levels for their brands, this year they need to take another look preferably using methods more precise than traditional brand tracking.”

A complete list of the CLEI’s 90 categories can be found:

http://brandkeys.com/portfolio/customer-loyalty-engagement-index

Consumers Verify First, Then Trust

Decision-making has become more emotionally-driven over the past decade,” said Passikoff. “But the addition of increased desire for trust and transparency have changed category landscapes. ‘Business as usual,’ ‘Research as usual,’ won’t cut it in today’s brandscape. Based on the 2019 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index findings, consumers’ behavioral maxim is ‘verify first, then trust.’”

The result? Massive changes in what consumers want and equally massive gaps between what they want and what brands are delivering. “Real engagement metrics keep brands on the path to profitability,” noted Passikoff. “Building brand trust isn’t a matter of technique or more social networking, but the development of actual, believable brand character and values.”

Methodology

For the 2019 CLEI survey, 51,673 consumers, 16 to 65 years of age from the nine US Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers and the brands for which they are customers. Forty-five (45%) percent were interviewed by phone, forty-five (45%) percent via face-to-face interviews (cell phone-only households), and 10% were interviewed online.

Brand Keys uses an independently-validated research methodology that fuses emotional and rational aspects of the categories, identifies four path-to-purchase behavioral drivers for the category-specific Ideal, and identifies the values (including “trust” as it is characterized in a particular category) that form the components of each driver, along with their percent-contribution to engagement, loyalty, and profitability.

These assessments are leading-indicators of consumer behavior, identifying such activities 12 to 18 months before they appear in traditional brand tracking or in focus groups. Brand Keys’ research technique, a combination of psychological inquiry and statistical analyses, has a test/re-test reliability of 0.93, and produces results generalizable at the 95% confidence level. It has been successfully used in B2B and B2C categories in 35 countries.

4 Contact Center Trends for 2019

As we move into 2019, one-time contact center fads are now becoming necessary technologies and solutions. In the past, things like video how-to guides and futuristic voice detection were interesting add-ons to the traditional contact center. Today, they’re necessities, and the contact centers that don’t add at least some of them to the mix risk falling behind. Here are four technologies to consider using in your contact center

Enhance your knowledgebase with different types of media.

Text-only answers to FAQ are just one type of solution you should be providing in your knowledgebase. Not everyone learns best by reading alone, which can cause customers to contact a live agent even if the answer they need is right there in your FAQ section. To truly help any and all customers troubleshoot their problems, enhance your knowledgebase with advanced how-to articles and tutorials, plus animation, infographics, videos and any other format they’ll find useful.

Use AI to create a more personalized experience.

AI can be used to create a more personal customer experience in a way that lets the customer interact more humanly with technology. Face and fingerprint recognition can be used to place orders, or voice detection can be used to more naturally talk to chatbots. With advanced AI, though, comes more risk, which is why contact centers may have to improve their security as they employ AI technology.

Optimize the live chat window for mobile.

Even if live chat is available via the mobile website, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s optimized for mobile ­– for example, it could still take up just a portion of the web page, making it super tiny on a mobile screen. A mobile-optimized live chat page will take up the entire screen to maximize text and it will have a minimalist design to streamline the conversation. Push notifications are another must-have so that the customer doesn’t have to stare at the window until they receive a response.

Give VIPs a separate phone number to call.

When your VIP customers need to contact an agent, you want to make sure they can reach someone and have their problem solved right away. Give them a separate phone number or extension to call. They’ll get premium service and they’ll be quickly connected to your most experienced agents. Even complicated or specific issues can be solved without routing them to different departments or agents.

 

5 Ways to Use AI in the Contact Center

Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t about replacing live, human agents with robots; it’s about supporting the agent by handling more routine issues so customers can get live help for their complex issues.

Here are 5 ways contact centers can use AI.1. Replace simple IVR processes.

1. Replace simple IVR processes. Basic IVR can do something like transfer a call to the sales department. AI takes this several steps further thanks to machine learning and natural language processing, allowing it to understand what the customer is saying (as opposed to just giving the customer a string of choices). AI can get rid of annoying queues and “If A, then B” action sequences and replace them with smarter, more human interactions.

2. Act as an agent assistant. AI can function as an assistant by sitting on the desktop, collecting customer info via a bot that’s currently serving the customer, then alerting the agent about what their next steps should be. This goes back to the overall purpose of AI to help the agent perform better and to work smarter instead of harder.

3. Be part of the quality assurance team. AI solutions can analyze agent and customer conversations and give live feedback to team leaders and QA teams about both what is being said and how it’s being said. AI listens and interprets more than just words  it can also ascertain stress level and clarity of speech.

4. Help stabilize workforce management.AI can not only predict upcoming spikes in communication based on data but it can also recruit agents to fill in the gaps in the schedule. Also, since AI can handle a number of more basic customer needs on its own, it reduces the number of employees needed at any one time and levels out major peaks and valleys.

5. Improve the customer experience. AI can analyze the customer journey to determine where the hottest touchpoints are as well as different areas for improvement. It can also understand customer patterns and predict experiences in order to deliver an excellent experience before the customer even realizes what they need next. AI is finding its way into all sorts of brands, organizations and business processes. One of the places where it’s making the most impact is in the contact center. Managers are using AI to create better experiences for everyone, from agents and supervisors to the customers themselves.

5 Important Contact Center Metrics for Agent Productivity

As a contact center manager, you can’t just wing it. You have to know which metrics to measure and how to use them. Here are 5 contact center metrics related to agent productivity that may be critical for you to track.

1. Average Call Abandonment Rate. This metric refers to how many calling customers hang up before reaching an agent in order to give the customer a great experience, they need to actually stay on the phone! The issue could be that agents aren’t getting to the call in time or that the IVR has too complex a queue.

2. Average Time in Queue. This metric takes the total time callers are waiting in the queue and divides it by the number of calls that are answered. If customers are waiting for too long, you can find a way to make agents more efficient (like gamification) or consider adding a callback service.

3. Inbound Contacts per Agent. This metric measures the inbound contacts an agent handles, which isn’t limited to calls but also includes chat, email, social media and texts. You’ll be able to see how efficient your agents are and also figure out where they can make improvements. It’s possible they need help handling a certain type of interaction, like live chats, but are adept at all others.

4. Average After-Call Work Time. There’s going to be some amount of after-call work for the agent to perform, but if this is eating up too much time, you need to know about it. Yes, your agents have to do thorough, accurate work, but taking extra time cuts into time they could be spending with another customer. Monitoring this metric could tell you if the paperwork is too complicated, if the agent needs additional training or if there’s a lack of motivation.

5. Occupancy Rate. Occupancy rate gives you a bird’s eye view of an agent’s productivity. It includes all duties related to customer contact, including the contact itself and after-contact work. This metric is pretty straightforward: if the occupancy rate is too low, that means the agent is spending work time doing something non-work related or something for work that doesn’t involve customer contact (like training or another type of duty).

Other important contact center metrics for productivity include average speed of answer, average handle time, first call resolution and service level.

Intouch Insight predicts 2019 Predictions

1- CX management will shift from reactive to proactive. Customer experience and voice of customer programs are designed to collect data from multiple channels, collate and analyze the data and provide retailers with the information they need to respond to clients. Typically, retailers react to customer issues, by merely closing the loop when something has gone wrong – attempting to “fix” the problem. However, reacting to a negative experience will no longer be enough. In 2019 retailers must proactively manage their customer experience, or risk becoming obsolete. There will be more focus put on proactively acting on customer insights, anticipating issues before they happen and predicting opportunities to improve the customer experience. CX platforms will need to support organizations at whatever stage of action their company is at, and will need to scale to maximize ROI on CX investments.

2- Acquisition of key players will result in new technology options. The recent acquisition of Qualtrics by SAP is a signal that there will be more acquisitions in 2019. But what does it mean for customers? History shows that most acquisitions fail, post-acquisition integration takes longer, and consolidation of key departments (e.g. customer service, product development) leads to poor customer service and slower product development. As a result, customers will turn to faster, more nimble companies that are better able to focus on their needs.

3- Mainstream adoption of cutting-edge technology will redefine the CX landscape. Artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will become ingrained in the customer experience. Using technology like connected sensors, retailers will generate more location-level insights about CX. This will help them understand how physical location environment contributes to customer satisfaction, CX, revenue, upsell, etc. The more data that can be automatically extracted, the more insights retailers will have to make the right CX and business decisions.

2019 is going to be an exciting year for the customer experience management industry but technology providers will have to step up their game to bring forward truly innovative and collaborative solutions. Service providers will need to work closely with their customers to ensure they are putting the right practices in place, to not only meet but anticipate their CX needs. Nailing the CX program in 2019 will impact a retailer’s profitability for this year and the future.

4 Reasons Why Gamification in the Contact Center Works

Customer satisfaction is about much more than the products or services the customer receives – it’s about how they interact with customer support even when situations are challenging or frustrating. In order to continue pleasing customers, agents have to stay motivated, which isn’t always easy. With gamification, contact centers have found fun, unique ways to keep morale (and performance) high.

What is gamification? It’s a workplace strategy that uses game and play activities to motivate employees and to measure their progress. Here’s why it works:

  1. Training is more fun and interesting.

Training can be a slog and it can also be intimidating. With gamification for training purposes, new hires can feel like they’ve already been put to work – challenge them to learn a new technology quickly or to revise current customer support techniques. If agents see they’re productive and valuable right from the beginning, they’ll be more motivated once they start their job for real. Presenting training in a gamified way can also keep their attention more than something like a lackluster training video might. Gamification can also help employees retain the knowledge better.

  1. Employees compete with one another in a healthy, productive way.

Gamification relies on healthy competition to get agents working harder and smarter. Incentives like bonuses and rewards motivate agents and also force them to pay attention to how other agents are doing their job, which helps them learn from one another. In order to not favor certain employees over others, management can continually mix up the goals so that every employee has a chance to shine.

  1. Management can assess agents at their best.

When gamification works, agents are motivated to work as efficiently and productively as possible, which then provides important data for management to assess. Seeing an employee’s results when they’re performing to the highest of their ability can uncover weaknesses or strengths and give management an honest view of what to expect. For example, it may show management that a certain agent is simply not right for the job even when doing their best or it can uncover advanced skills you didn’t know an agent has.

A happy workforce is a productive one, and gamification introduces everything from training to improved performance in an appealing way. Gamification methods can help you get the most out of the investment you made in your agents.

 

3 Useful Ideas for Contact Center Workforce Management (WFM)

Agents are the ones on the front line of your contact center and they hold a lot of your business’ success in their hands. Agents are costly, too – according to Tenfold, they can account for up to 70% of a contact center’s expenses. Here are three ways enhancements in WFM can make the contact center more efficient (and socially conscious).

  1. Spot and handle employee problems as soon as possible.

Intelligent business tools can give a bird’s eye view of your contact center, showing management when there may be a slowing down in performance by an agent. Management can then decide how to tackle a problem, like by finding out if there are any issues that are affecting the agent or giving them new goals to strive for to boost performance. It’s not always easy for management to know when morale is flagging, so knowing when their performance starts to dip is a good indicator that something may need your attention.

  1. Make in-the-moment decisions thanks to real-time data.

With real-time monitoring of agents and content needs, management can pinpoint chunks of free time that can be better used for other tasks, like training or complex customer service issues. Also, by seeing fluctuations in demand, management can find out if any agents are interested in voluntary overtime or time off, and those schedule changes can be made on the spot. Ultimately, any time data is viewed in real-time, changes to the workforce can be immediately made to mix up staffing or pull agents for special projects or training.

  1. Use statistics to adhere to affirmative action guidelines.

Socially responsible contact centers have to make sure that they’re following affirmative action guidelines. The more employees you have, the harder it is to stay on top of these demographics, though. WFM tools can gather diversity metrics to give you realistic data about your workforce in terms of age, disabilities, gender and race, highlighting gaps you didn’t know where there. You can use this information to guide future hiring if you feel that your contact center could be more diverse.

In Conclusion

Even contact centers who are their most efficient today have to keep an eye on cost pressures. WFM tools let contact centers reduce the number of agents while using the ones they do have in a way that focuses on their strengths.

Eight major developments for 2019

  1. Companies will begin to treat customer support and communication as an integral part of the product, brand and service. Companies are beginning to take notice that you can create a cult-like following if you take care of your customers and don’t treat customer support as a checkbox or a cost center. It’s long overdue that companies view customer support as an integral part of the product, brand and service.
  2. Blending of different technologies in cloud computing space is going to continue and accelerate. In the computing cloud space, we’re seeing a trend of companies integrating their technology with devices like Alexa and Google Home that consumers speak into. We see brands, solutions providers and devices coming together and this will evolve faster and faster. Unless communications solutions providers fully leverage new capabilities and services, they’re not going to be in the forefront very long.
  3. Organizations will continue to move to cloud-based customer support solutions. Cloud-based solutions expedite digital technology progress at an exponential pace. Think about supporting new products, customers, and locations. Which companies are consumers going to recommend to their friends, family and co-workers? It will be the companies that have the best customer onboarding, support and transparency. We believe that the recipe is for non-analog, true digital, cloud-based, multi-channel, auto-scaling support communication platforms. We expect Web RTC to continue to make inroads here. From a deployment standpoint, even large, complex contact centers can be deployed in three to four weeks via a robust cloud service platform, compared to four to six months for legacy technology-based solutions.
  4. Companies will realize the need to up their game in how they provide support in their mobile apps.
    Quality of service needs to become a priority. Most mobile apps today have poor customer support. It’s a very dated concept to present a default phone dialer that pushes the customer outside of your mobile app. When a customer is in your app, you have access to a wealth of information about them. It is particularly crucial for connected devices (e.g., Nest, Noon, Fitbit) and on-demand services such as food and grocery delivery to provide in-app support. Support solutions need to leverage available customer data to streamline information exchange and resolve disappointing experiences where customers feel their time and effort are wasted providing answers to a company that should already have access to their information.
  5. Context-aware solutions maximize what we know about a user.                          The recipe for achieving delightful end user support experiences are to minimize average support session durations and maximize agent effectiveness. In-depth awareness of end user context is becoming an increasingly important ingredient. This requires the ability to evaluate key available customer data and detect specific context patterns in real time, at any given point in time. The way to optimize the end user experience is to enable the contact center to assess a customer’s current context, for an expanding set of scenarios, and to leverage that intelligently in support. We see this evolving relatively quickly into a standard end user expectation over the next few years.
  6. Customer service will become progressively more user profile and data-driven (the way marketing has).
    Marketing communications service providers have established deep capabilities and proven results in the last decade, in part by optimizing their communications strategies around finely honed sophisticated user profile segmentation. As a logical extension to context awareness, leveraging and maximizing the available data about each customer can offer real differentiation opportunities for the modern contact center. By drawing insights from basic profile metrics like lifetime customer value (LCV), evaluating core customer historical data, channel and more advanced preferences like voice or personality of the support entity, it’s possible to elevate support experiences, strengthen brand appreciation, increase LCV, and help drive positive organic social media reach and impact.
  7. Companies will continue to move to a single support center solution.
    Operating a contact center by combining multiple technologies, e.g., especially different communication channels and services will come with increasing opportunity costs. The longer a contact center relies on different core technology solutions, the greater the gap to competitors with modern single contact center platforms. The single contact center platform offers a variety of growing benefits across several disciplines, including the ability to:

○        Offer modern customer support experiences via seamless in-session cross-channel support

○        Optimize agent workflows via cross-channel adapters (i.e., calls, chats, messaging)

○        More effectively manage agent resources across channels

○        Provide visibility into comprehensive cross-channel dashboards, with quick actions to adjust to overall contact center conditions

○        Apply simplified, deeper and more comprehensive routing logic across all scenarios and channels to reduce time to resolution and leverage skilled agents more effectively

○        Provide out of the box, cohesive and integrated reporting and business intelligence across the entire suite of contact center operations, including across channels, virtual and human agents

○        Work towards a single 360-degree customer view by enabling data flows and integrations from the contact center across business units within a company, rather than just within the contact center

Automation of processes will have more impact than AI.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are overhyped for many real life applications, including the contact center industry. For example, instead of trying to identify specific patterns in images or data (an AI/ML sweet spot), it will be much more useful to increase the volume of satisfying self-service support sessions through intelligently applied automation to resolve common questions and provide guided user flows through defined business processes. By leveraging human intelligence primarily for those support scenarios that can’t be effectively automated, call center operations will be further optimized.

Blog Contributor – Anand Janefalkar, CEO and Founder of UJET,