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.

 

4 Unexpected Benefits of Cloud Contact Centers

For contact centers that haven’t yet adopted cloud software, consider this: the cloud offers everything your traditional software offers, plus these four little-known perks.

1. Scaling down – not just up – is possible.

Contact centers go through changes all the time, whether only temporary, like for the holidays, or more permanent. When needs change, software needs change as well. When a contact center quickly grows, cloud software is able to keep up with the increasing demand. On the same note, cloud software is also able to scale down with the contact center as fewer IT resources are required (like following a heavy shopping season, for example). Either way, your IT department won’t have to start from scratch with complementary software – cloud software will simply adapt to whatever you need, whenever you need it.

2. Business continuity will be protected.

Should some sort of disaster occur, a contact center that relies on traditional software could find it impossible to connect with customers. With cloud software, though, even if the brick-and-mortar contact center is unusable, agents will still be able to contact customers. Not only can information be accessed from management off-site, but cloud software makes it easy to arrange for agents to work remotely.

3. Subscription fees are a way to pay.

When a contact center purchases traditional, out-of-the-box software, it comes with a hefty upfront price. Luckily, this type of large initial investment is a thing of the past with cloud software. Thanks to cloud subscriptions, you’ll know what your low fee will be month after month.

4. Upgrades are hassle-free.

If your contact center buys traditional software and then it gets an upgrade, your IT department will have to install the upgrade themselves. With cloud software, though, the application is always owned by the software provider, even though you’re allowed to use it. This means that whenever cloud software is upgraded, you’ll have immediate access to it, no IT installation required. The provider will automatically update the software whenever a new version comes out, and you’ll access that new version the very next time you log on.

Though cloud software may not be a perfect fit for every business out there, many contact centers find that making the switch eases a number of processes. With providers continually creating new cloud software models, you’re bound to find one that suits your contact center.

 

5 Lesser-Known Benefits of Hiring Remote Contact Center Agents

Thanks to cloud software, the remote contact center agent is possible, and even preferred in some cases. There are a lot of benefits to having at-home contact center agents:

  • Cost is lowered for both you (no office space) and them (no commute).
  • Remote agents tend to be happier.
  • Your contact center will be more scalable than a 100% brick and mortar one.

Those are just the obvious benefits, though. Here are five more that you may have never considered.

  1. The cloud is uncomplicated.

With the cloud, agents have the same capabilities and accessibility they would in an office. Plus, there isn’t any installation, and your company’s data is just as secure as always.

  1. Overstaffing can be avoided.

For the contact center, one of the best ways to control cost is to balance staffing needs. Customer needs have to be met so that the customer experience can remain positive. At the same time, overstaffing – which impacts the budget – has to be avoided. Remote agents can jump in to help when needed, then log off when call volume dips again.

  1. Scheduling becomes much more flexible.

With remote agents on the team, the forecasting and scheduling process doesn’t become more difficult, but instead allows for even more flexibility. You’ll run forecast simulations the same as you always have, but agents can be located in all different time zones, working shifts and hours they prefer, which increases schedule availability.

  1. Tracking performance is the same as before.

Reporting and analytics doesn’t change when it comes to your remote agents. You’ll still be able to see real-time information, agent activities, performance, schedule adherence and shift assignments.

  1. You’ll find it easier to reach service level goals.

Even with excellent forecasting technology, call volume can change quickly. If a product is included on a “Best of” list, call volume may skyrocket. Or, you may have a day when several of your in-office agents are unexpectedly absent. Without enough agents to handle the influx of calls, emails and social media messages, wait times can increase, leading to a drop in customer satisfaction scores. To avoid this, your remote agents can be used as backup when needed.

One last thought.

When you enable some of your agents to work from home, it shows that you trust them. When agents feel appreciated, they’re motivated to perform better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Can Your Business Relate to the Millennial Community?

Millennials are arguably the most rapidly-evolving and flippant consumer base in the industry. It is a challenge in itself to understand what they desire in a product, and even moreso how to please them in the aspect of customer service.

In reality, millennials just want what everyone wants. All people generally tend to want to do the right thing, belong to a group, and avoid conflict. The difference between this generation and others is not their access to a plethora of information, but their reliance on that access of information. They rely on their online community just as much as we rely on our immediate neighborhood community.

Think of the neighborhood community you grew up in. Not so long ago, neighbors relied on each other for borrowing spices, taking care of pets, and generally looking after one another. Millennials look to devices, which many of them have grown up using, as their own community. Just as your neighbors would, these devices recommend bars & restaurants, barbers, dog walkers, carpools, and most importantly, connect them with like-minded people.

What a successful business looks like in the millennial community:

Then: Strong values. Now: Progressive values, and being able to exemplify each one.

Gusto, a payroll software company based out of San Francisco and Denver, is an excellent example of a company that makes their progressive values clear, and leads by example to see them through. Co-founder Tomer London took a two-month paternity leave after his daughter was born. In writing, any business can value a “work-life balance”, yet pressure their employees to work 12-hour work days. London takes it upon himself to set the example in his company, and follow through with the values he sets in place.

These types of stories circulate in the millennial community. In the click of a button, millennials can find exactly what people are saying about your business, whether these people are customers or employees. They rely very heavily on these reviews and take them very seriously: they will not be your customer if they don’t like what they see.

Then: Strong, ethical leaders. Now: Strong ethical leaders, and being able to connect with them.

Speaking of leading by example, executives of businesses can be reviewed just as much, if not more, than the business itself. Glassdoor is one of the most prominent resources when it comes to researching businesses and jobs. In the snapshot below, you can see how employees review Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and actually read through each review.

To millennials, the ability to connect with the leaders of a business is crucial. For the millennial employees in a company, feeling ethically and morally aligned with the person they are working for drives productivity and purpose. The same goes for consumers. With business leaders under a constant spotlight, it is easier for consumers to decide with whom they’d like to do business. After Uber’s many PR disasters, and CEO Travis Kalanick’s inability to mend them, the hashtag #DeleteUber went viral, causing about 500,000 users to reportedly delete their accounts.

The force of the online millennial community is strong. Your business is under a spotlight, but that doesn’t have to be frightening. There is no secret code to learning what millennials like and what they don’t like. Your business does not have to look like Hillary Clinton trying to appeal to young voters through cringe-worthy and outdated slang. In fact, a majority of the Democratic millennials who did not vote for Hillary simply felt that she was untrustworthy.

The millennial generation holds businesses to a higher, more personal standard. If they feel comfortable doing business with you and trust you, chances are they will let their online “neighbors” know. On the other hand, if you’re deemed untrustworthy or unpleasant to do business with, they will certainly make sure their online “neighbors” know to never do business with you.

Fortifying the Career Path of the Contact Center Agent

Employers are experiencing a serious talent shortage, according to a 2016-2017 report from ManpowerGroup. Part of this could be because more and more employees want to work for an employer who will help them advance their career, and they’re happy to leave an employer who prevents them from doing so.

At the same time, contact centers are harnessing the power of AI and chatbots, eliminating the need for agents to perform repetitious, monotonous tasks. As a result, the agent’s role is becoming elevated. Customers want more adept service, too – when they have a complex issue, they want customized service from a knowledgeable, human agent who can creatively problem-solve and who is empowered to make important decisions. This circles right back to benefiting the contact center, because the way to stand out from the competition is to offer top-notch customer service.

Due to the changing workforce, smart contact centers are giving agents the opportunity to advance in their role as well as their career. As management puts trust and faith in their employees, agents feel that their long-term success is important to the company, which improves their performance and loyalty. Even if customer service agents move out of their current job and into a higher position, they bring with them in-depth customer knowledge that they gleaned during their time as an agent.

Even if an agent isn’t yet ready to move up and out of their position, they can become more essential to the contact center and more helpful to the customer by become an SME, or a subject matter expert. SMEs are the go-to agents who have deep understanding of a specific process or product. The SME can help train agents in the same field, deal with escalating calls, and enrich the self-service knowledge base. They may also be asked to work closely with other departments at the contact center, like marketing or product design.

If you’re unsure of where to start when it comes to elevating your workforce, start by asking agents what they’re most interested in. Let your employees shadow parts of the business that they want to know more about, then hold a meeting with the employee to learn about their experience. If your employee shows a strong interest in a different or more advanced area, speak with management to find out how to best accommodate the agent.

 

 

 

 

3 Contact Center Metrics Improved by Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics predict future events by combining various techniques that analyze historical and current patterns. Predictive voice analytics can have a major positive affect on integral contact center metrics, including customer retention, follow-up call success and quality assurance.

Customer Retention

One of the customer service industry’s main goals is customer retention, and experts believe that it costs more to acquire a brand new customer than to keep an existing customer. Predictive voice analytics, which analyze the customer’s voice during customer-agent interactions, can determine if the customer is at high risk for ending their relationship with the company altogether. It can then inform the agent that they need to put more focus on retaining the customer. On the flip side, predictive voice analytics can also tell which agents aren’t doing enough to keep the customer coming back. This is more effective than random checking for quality assurance, which can take a long time to identify poor-performing agents.

Follow-up Call Success

Often, the first contact with a customer isn’t the one that has a positive outcome (i.e. a sale); it’s the follow-up call that proves to be more advantageous. However, it’s difficult to know which customers are a priority for follow-up contact. Instead of leaving it up to your agents to determine which customers are worth a follow-up call, predictive analytics can analyze past interactions and study voice features to determine if the customer’s tone and behavior predicts a favorable outcome during the next interaction (like making a payment or finalizing a sale). Predictive analytics can create a ranked list of customers, organized by their likelihood to say “yes.”

Quality Assurance

Predictive analytics are a richer way of assessing quality assurance than traditional methods. Routine QA testing often ignores customer patterns, and it is also unable to learn in real-time. Predictive analytics, however, can analyze all types of data, both structured and unstructured, to give a well-rounded view of agent behavior and how it impacts the customer. All customer-agent communication is assessed in-the-moment, allowing the contact center to get an accurate view of agent performance immediately instead of having to wait several weeks.

Contact centers can’t just gather metrics to assess their current performance and then call it a day. They must also use what they’ve learned from the past to create goals for the future. Predictive analytics can help shape those goals realistically.

 

 

The Omni-Channel Self-Service Journey

Contact center management knows that success is based on customer satisfaction. The omni-channel contact center was designed to improve the customer experience by unifying multi-channel platforms to offer a seamless experience at any time and on any channel. As more contact centers adopt the omni-channel approach, they’re figuring out ways to make it part of customer self-service.

Omni-channel self-service means that service channels are not separated into silos; instead, they’re synced in order to support the customer’s entire journey, no matter what path they take. Here’s an example of a self-service journey a customer may take:

• You’re ready to shop for a new smartphone. On your current smartphone, you log into your cell phone provider’s app and start browsing their selection. You choose a few phones to take a closer look at.

• Later that evening, you want to continue phone shopping, but this time you login to your account on your desktop. The phones you looked at on your app show up at the top of your screen in case you want to check them out again.

• You want to learn more about one of the phones, so you click on an explainer video that guides you through the phone’s different features.

• You order the phone online, but then realize that you may have been able to save money. You submit a support ticket and ask for a live phone call back.

• The next morning, you get a call from a rep for the cell phone provider and they immediately start talking about the phone you recently purchased and your options for getting a credit on your first bill, no need to provide any extra information.

• Once the phone call has ended, you immediately receive an email with a recap of everything you discussed, the credit you can expect to see on your bill, and helpful links to learn more about your new phone.

Omni-channel service aims to meet the customer wherever and whenever they need help. The best part about having an omni-channel strategy now is that your contact center will be able to scale as new communication channels are introduced down the road. New communication platforms are quickly becoming available, like live video, wearables and virtual reality tools. With both cloud technology and an omni-channel approach, your contact center will find it easy to integrate a new channel as soon as it becomes available.

 

5 Easy Ways to Reduce Customer Service Costs

Bog contributed by Bright Pattern

How can customer service leaders meet increasing expectations for delivering great customer experiences while keeping operational costs in check? Hiring more agents is only part of the equation. The other part is to use advanced digital technologies to modernize contact center operations, reduce costs, and boost customer engagement.

Here are some suggestions compiled by Forrester Research on how to remake the contact center into a customer engagement center:

    1. Make self-service more interactive with chatbots. Adding an option for live conversation can help customers that might be getting “stuck” in self-service.
    2. Examine the customer’s digital journey. Use analytics and other methods to track customer behavior on websites and mobile apps. Finding pain points that may be driving higher call volumes, and explore ways to make the customer journey better.
    3. Add robotic process automation (RPA). These bots can simplify and streamline routine processes like customer onboarding, which reduces the cost per customer and leaves agents free to handle exceptions or complex inquiries.
    4. Give your agents virtual assistants. Agent-facing bots can help agents perform better by shadowing conversations and proactively suggesting next steps to resolve calls quickly and successfully.
    5. Use AI to optimize resources. Essential behind-the-scenes operations like call routing and field service scheduling can be offloaded to AI-based processes that speed up performance while also analyzing trends to develop further service improvements.

Using one or more of these digital transformation strategies can help contact centers maximize their

How AI Serves the Customer Journey

By Nick Deininger

Artificial intelligence is quickly becoming a ubiquitous technology in consumer devices and services. What does it mean for the future of the contact center and how organizations serve customers?

AI-enabled bots and intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) are already transforming post-sales service by enabling better self-service and allowing more forms of customer engagement. But the role of AI is not limited to post-sales interactions. For contact centers, intelligent assistants can significantly improve the customer experience by gathering data, predicting the customer’s needs, and learning about the customer’s behavior.

As Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research principal analyst, recently pointed out, contact centers can use AI to fuel all phases of the customer journey.

Presales:  Showcase more options and overcome hesitations. Predictive analytics and machine learning can help target product recommendations, offer cross-sell or upsell opportunities, and present a coupon or other incentive at just the right moment to take the potential customer from shopper to buyer.

Onboarding: Get customers started quickly. Once the journey begins, intelligent assistants can answer questions before customers even need to ask. AI can drive basic onboarding, such as account activation, to even more complex tasks such as tracking the user’s progress, offering tips for new features, and keeping tabs on customer satisfaction. AI can also capture a potential trouble ticket and route it to a human agent for immediate attention, even before the user asks for help.

Post-sales: Make it easier for customers to serve themselves. Efficient, easy-to-use self-service is clearly becoming the preferred method of customer interaction, and factors heavily into customer satisfaction ratings.  AI capabilities such as cognitive analysis and natural language understanding enable bots to respond intelligently to customer chats and lead natural-sounding conversations.

Anytime: Know when to connect a customer to a live agent.  Done correctly, AI bots seamlessly connect with human agents at any time, for uninterrupted conversations with the customer.

In a world where bots and machine learning are commonplace in all sorts of apps and devices, using AI to boost customer experience is more than smart. It’s becoming essential for every contact center.