How to Motivate Contact Center Agents

There are several reasons to motivate contact center agents: hiring new staff can get expensive; training new hires means there’s lag time between when they’re hired and when they can start working; and company morale can decrease if there’s a high rate of turnover. Here are 5 ways to motivate contact center agents.
All of the tools your agents use, from software to hardware, should work flawlessly. Faulty technology makes it impossible for agents to be efficient. One necessary type of tool are those that reduce customer frustration. Agents can get frazzled after speaking with one angry customer after the other. Software that allows for queue callback or voicemail can make customers happy, which in turn delivers agents fewer frustrating inquiries.
2. Setup seamless automation.
Quality contact center software will automate manual tasks so that agents don’t have to perform them with every single call or chat. Data should also be synced across all customer service tools. When their workload is streamlined, agents have more time and energy to handle more pressing issues.
3. Help agents hone their specialties.
Instead of having all of your agents trained in every area, figure out the strengths of your individual agents and help them specialize. Some agents may excel at handling agitated customers while others will have in-depth knowledge of your products. When you have agents who are experts in certain areas, they’ll be able to answer queries and solve problems more quickly than if they only had limited knowledge of the niche.
4. Open the lines of communication.
Your contact center agents are the closest people to your customers. It’s important that your agents know they can speak with you openly. Not only will you hear great ideas you haven’t thought of before, but agents who feel valued and needed are more likely to perform well in their job.
5. Use analytics to acknowledge excellence.
With call center reporting, you can see how agents are performing. When you find an agent who spends a short time on calls and has a high FCR rate, for example, you can reward them for their performance. You can also see which agents have positive customer reviews and reward them accordingly.
When your agents are motivated and happy, they’re better able to deliver the sort of customer experience you expect.

4 Ways to Maximize Self-Service with IVR

The contact center’s primary goal is to help customers who need information, whether that’s completing a transaction, accessing their account or troubleshooting a product they’ve just purchased. Many of these needs don’t require a live agent and can instead be handled with self-service and IVR technology. Here’s how to help your customers help themselves.

Get to Know Your Customers

Determine the main reasons why customers get in touch with support. Then, setup custom IVR channels to handle those queries. Knowing customer requirements and coming up with coinciding self-service strategies will free up agents who usually field the same types of calls all day long. It’s important to track trends over time, too, because as products and services change and evolve, your customers’ needs will as well.

Automate the Simplistic

Simple or mundane tasks should always be included in your IVR menus. Providing customers with company information, like store hours, locations or directions, doesn’t require the help of a live agent. Additionally, tasks like updating account information or making a payment can be handled 100% via self-service. Even some in-depth technical issues can be taken care of with IVR, so long as the step-by-step instructions are clear.

Create Effortless Menus

If you’re offering customers want they need via IVR but they’re still not using it as much as you want them to, it could be because the menu options are too confusing. Company-speak is fine to use internally, but customers won’t understand technical phrases. Menu items should be basic and comprehensible to everyone.

Know When to Escalate an Issue

Self-service is only beneficial as long as the customer wants to handle things on their own. When they get frustrated, it’s time to have a live agent step in and swiftly handle the problem. When a customer is having trouble with IVR (for example, after trying more than once to enter information) or they specifically request to speak with a live agent, they should be transferred as quickly as possible.

IVR positively affects the contact center’s bottom line while providing customers with a communication alternative.

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Chatbots for Customer Service

Consumers are getting increasingly comfortable interacting online with artificial intelligence.  As a result, more and more brands are using chatbots and, furthermore, chatbot technology is evolving. According to Adweek, it’s possible that a majority of customer service queries will be answered by chatbots instead of humans by the end of the year.

Big companies see the value in chatbots: Facebook now allows for Messenger to work with third-party chatbots and Microsoft’s Bot Framework is a tool for building chatbots. Retailers, customer service departments and contact centers all recognize the importance of chatbots and must keep up with emerging technology to ensure their AI is as up-to-date as possible.

Chatbots seem to be most effective when combined with social messaging, where many of today’s consumers are spending their time, even more so than on social media itself. Additionally, young consumers prefer text and messaging for communication, which makes chatbots even more appealing. The key is to present them with interactive chat where they already are – on the social media or social messaging applications they’re already using. Customers are hesitant to download and learn new applications when they already have their preferred messaging apps.

What exactly do customers want from chatbots, other than accessibility? Chatbots Magazine published the results of a Bentley University study on the topic and found the following:

· Face or icon for the chatbot.
· Single search bar where all questions can be asked.
· Single chatbot instead of one for each department.
· Comprehension even if a question is asked in a “lazy” way.
· Simplistic speech that is still highly useful.
· Anticipation of what the customer’s next question will be.
· Patience no matter how complex the query is.

It’s expected that a growing number of brands will build their own chatbots to ease the burden of customer service on their live agents. Social messaging is expected to continue growing, too, which will make those new chatbots even more prevalent in daily customer-company communication.

Why Your Contact Center Should Be Multilingual

While many contact centers have English-speaking support agents, customers often need multilingual services. Customers that come from various locations around the world look to brands that can offer help in their native language. Here’s why contact centers should consider being multilingual.

1. English isn’t 100% comprehensible to everyone.

Even customers who speak English as a second language may have difficulty understanding complex sentences and ideas. The more in-depth their support query, the more likely it is that they’re going to have trouble communicating with an English-speaking agent. This can also cause problems when it comes to understanding things like terms of agreement or the ordering process.

2. Multilingual support gives contact centers a competitive edge.

In a market where many contact centers are not multilingual, offering support in different languages can give your business an edge. Having multilingual live agents, both on the phone and via chat, as well as a website that can be viewed in different languages are excellent marketing to

3. Speaking the customer’s first language enhances personalization.

Today’s customers want personalized, one-on-one support experiences. By being able to communicate with them in their primarily language, they’ll feel important and catered to. When a customer knows they’ll receive customized support, they’re more likely to reach out to an agent if they have a problem or question.

4. Communication will improve, which increases the chance of success.

It’s easier to cooperate with a customer if communication is clear. The customer will be able to understand that the support agent is working on their behalf and both parties will understand the other’s point of view. Fluently speaking the customer’s language decreases the chance of misunderstandings and, in turn, can help support agents increase the rate of first call resolution.

5. You’ll have a chance to analyze your market.

To decide which languages your contact center should support, you’ll need to analyze your market, possibly in a different way than you’ve done in the past. Determine the geographical areas that make up your target audience, then figure out which additional languages are needed to accommodate those customers. In addition to language, features like dialects and location-specific customs should be considered.

How to Deliver Multilingual Support

Knowing why you should offer multilingual support doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to setup your contact center to meet those needs. The first step is to recruit agents who have advanced language skills – knowing which languages you most need to support will help you narrow down your options. Offer help materials, like FAQ website pages and product support documentation, in a variety of languages. Utilize translation software for when multilingual agents aren’t available to serve a customer or to help agents communicate in languages that aren’t supported yet by the contact center. To track performance, add location- and language-specific questions to post-support surveys, such as, “What is your primary language?”

Brands that reach customers globally or that are looking to expand should prioritize multilingual customer support. Optimized customer support has a better chance of meeting customer needs, which promotes brand loyalty and credibility.

4 Trends that Improve the Customer Experience

When customer service teams want to differentiate themselves from the rest, they focus on improving and optimizing the customer experience. Companies are more than willing to go above and beyond for the sake of meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Here are four trends that will help distinguish your contact center.

Relying on Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere, from video games to the automobile industry. Customer service has been impacted by the increase in AI, too. This technology can be used to chat with customers about easy-to-solve issues, which frees up live agents for more difficult and complex matters. Automation with AI can reduce customer wait time, interact with customers and collect important data for the contact center to later analyze.

Implementing an Omnichannel Strategy

One major gripe that customers have is repeating themselves to various customer support agents in order to get an answer or have a problem solved. Channel integration isn’t the same as omnichannel service. Today’s companies can’t just respond to a customer, they have to know as much as possible about the customer and their problem beforehand in order to provide customized, relevant support. Customer service requires empathy and a human touch in order to connect meaningfully to the customer.

Analyzing Big Data

While much of the customer experience is about interaction and communication, big data still has a pertinent place in understanding customer behavior. Big data can actually help the contact center connect on a more personal level with customers. There’s so much information that can be tracked now, from customer behavior at every point of the journey to customer preferences regarding any number of attributes. Data helps customer support do things like figure out what a customer is going to want before they even ask for it and determine the best way to reach a customer on the channel of their choice.

Providing Real-Time Communication

Using things like AI, which can automate several processes, and ominchannel strategies, which can cut down on the length of time it takes to solve a problem, gives customer support agents the extra time to handle some queries personally. Real-time communication, specifically via mobile and social media, is in demand, especially by younger generations who are used to communicating in these ways. Being able to provide immediate support improves the customer experience and builds trust in customers.

5 Barriers to Overcome When Creating an Omnichannel Strategy

If a contact center is going to understand how important omnichannel is, to them and their customers, they need to know the benefits of seamless interaction across all channels. Furthermore, it has to be understood that a one-size-fits-all solution will no longer work; it won’t provide a modern, enjoyable customer experience. Everything from antiquated technology to a lack of understanding or concern regarding omnichannel service can get in the way of creating a true omnichannel experience.

1. Not Providing All Departments with a Single View

Every department needs to have a synced, singular view of the customer, no matter what channel they’re on. Just as the different channels need to work together, so do the contact center’s various departments.

2. Not Understanding the Depths of the Customer

In the past, customer buying history was the main – and often, only – important detail to pay attention to and track. Today, omnichannel goes far beyond buying history, looking at what happened before, during and after the buying process. This plays into being able to define what omnichannel means to your specific contact center – it’s not a metric, but instead of way of offering a certain type of customer experience.

3. Poor Technology and Missing System Integrations

Even with the best omnichannel plan in place, contact centers can’t attain their goals if they don’t have a system that supports them.

4. Poor Management Regarding Big Changes

Instating an omnichannel system requires everyone at the contact center to get updated on the new processes. This requires training and education, as well as someone who is going to lead and manage the change.

5. Providing Consistent Service on Varying Channels

It can be incredibly difficult to provide the same level of service when switching from channel to channel. Specific strategies and specialty training have to be in place in order to provide high quality customer service on everything from email and phone calls, which have no communication limits, to something like Twitter, which has a distinct character limit.

While an omnichannel strategy puts the customer first, it requires a lot of setup and management on the backend, in the contact center. While switching to an omnichannel strategy or updating your current one can take some time and effort, ultimately what’s best for the customer is what’s going to be best for the contact center.

Learn from this Sample Customer Journey: Booking a Flight to Boarding the Plane

Today’s customer journey considers the beginning-to-end experience that the user follows to complete a task. Often, the journey involves numerous channels and devices that all must interact with the customer wherever, whenever and however they want.

Air travel can be exhausting, both physically and mentally, especially if the many plans that have to be in place don’t come together. Delayed or canceled flights, difficulty scheduling backup flights, lost luggage and missed connections are just the beginning of the travel headache. Done correctly, the customer journey of a person who’s traveling can be greatly eased with intuitive messaging and thoughtful touch points. Consider this modern customer journey for the traveler:

• Book your flight online well in advance to secure the best ticket price.

• Receive a push notification from the airline’s mobile app that allows you to check-in the night before your flight.

• Choose the way you’d like to receive your boarding pass (saving it to your phone, via email, etc.).

• At the airport, visit a kiosk to scan the boarding pass on your phone and then print your baggage ticket.

• Show security your digital boarding pass.

• Receive immediate flight status updates through your preferred contact method (text message, email, app push notification, etc.).

• While on the flight, go to the airline’s website on your phone, tablet or laptop to watch movies.

Traveling of the past was often rife with long lines to get to an agent at the airport, paper boarding passes that can get easily lost and difficulty keeping up with the latest flight changes. The reason the new, digitally-enhanced customer journey flows so well is because the airline (or booking service) the traveler uses offers online and mobile access; remembers personal information, allowing the company to send customized alerts to individual travelers; has multiple digital options for doing necessary travel tasks, then syncs those options (saving the boarding pass to your phone then scanning it at the luggage tag kiosk); and generally keeps travelers in-the-know regarding their trip. Once on the flight, the company is further able to keep the traveler happy and entertained by offering in-flight Internet service and other types of free entertainment.

This type of customer journey takes into account the cornerstones that customers need: consistent and proactive service, optimized features, collaborative options and seamless transitions.

Live Chat vs. Virtual Agents: A Story of Overcoming the Divide to Work Together in Perfect Harmony

live chat vs virtual agent

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, Creative Virtual

In the not too distant past it wasn’t uncommon to come across organisations struggling to decide between using live chat or a virtual agent on their website for customer support. The customer service marketplace took a very polarised view of these technologies with proponents of each making strong arguments for why their preferred solution was the best for cutting costs, boosting revenue and bettering the customer experience. Even today, some companies still view this as an either-or decision: either they give customers the option to get support online from human chat agents through live chat or they provide a virtual agent so that customers can self-serve online through automated chat.

However, this view is changing and the divide created by the live chat vs. virtual agent debate is disappearing into a discussion of how to bring these two technologies together to work in perfect harmony. Before going any further, let’s take a quick look at each of these solutions individually:

Live Chat – Live chat, also sometimes referred to as web chat, enables organisations to offer customers and prospective customers a one-on-one conversation with a live chat agent. Initially live chat was just used on websites, but now it is also utilised on other engagement channels such as messaging apps and SMS. In the past, supporters of this technology would often highlight the importance of the human touch provided by live chat as a key argument of its superiority over virtual agents.

Virtual Agents – Over the years these automated conversational systems have been given a variety of names, including virtual agent, chatbot, avatar, virtual customer assistant, bot, virtual assistant and chatterbot. In its infancy this technology was used by organisations as basic FAQ systems on websites, but today’s virtual agents are much more advanced and capable of engaging users in sophisticated natural language conversations across many contact channels. In the live chat vs. virtual agents argument, advocates of virtual agents would draw attention to the significantly lower cost per conversation, consistent responses, the ability to have unlimited concurrent conversations and the 24/7 availability of support.

A view within the marketplace of these two solutions being joined up certainly hasn’t happened overnight. Forward-thinking companies seeing the potential of bringing live chat and virtual agents together have set the stage for this change. For example, back in 2012 Creative Virtual was shortlisted for an Econsultancy Innovation Award in the category of ‘Innovation in Customer & User Experience’. Our entry showcased the integration of the virtual agent we provided for a leading telecommunications company in the UK with the live chat product offered by one of our partners. The integration provided a seamless handover from the virtual agent to a live chat agent within the same template. This handover was also signalled by the virtual agent avatar ‘walking off’ and a different avatar representing the live agent ‘walking on’. At the time, this was an extremely innovative approach to combining self-service with human-assisted service in a way that created an improved user experience. Around the same time another Creative Virtual customer, an online financial services company in the US, deployed a virtual agent in front of their existing live chat offering. Their goal was to reduce repetitive questions being handled by live agents which they easily achieved through an 80% reduction in live chat volumes.

These are just two early success stories that helped to draw attention to the potential benefits of bringing these technologies together. This narrative has also been greatly influenced by the evolution of customer expectations. While customers were once ok with simply having the options to communicate with organisations via multiple channels, now they still want those engagement channel options but with a seamless, omnichannel experience.

Widespread adoption of technology, such as smartphones, along with generational changes are having a big impact on how customers want to engage with brands. The future of the contact centre lies in a combination of virtual and real support. Organisations still viewing live chat and virtual agents as an either-or decision and as stand-alone tools instead of as complementary solutions are going to struggle to provide quality digital support experiences for their customers.

In order for live chat and virtual agents to work together in harmony, they need to be powered by a single knowledgebase and backed by a central knowledge management and workflow platform. This gives organisations the ability to keep information up-to-date and consistent across all self-service and human-assisted support channels which builds confidence with customers. Implementing a feedback loop that’s linked with the centralised knowledgebase and workflow enables live agents to provide real-time feedback on content that can easily be reviewed and used to action updates. Live chat agents become knowledge experts sharing the responsibility of keeping self-service channels up-to-date.

There is no doubt in my mind that the future of customer engagement is a blend of artificial intelligence (AI) and human thought. The combination of virtual agents and live chat powered by a single knowledgebase is defining current best practices and, with continuous innovation, will influence the future of customer engagement for organisations around the world.

Curious about how live chat and virtual agents can work together in perfect harmony for your organisation? Register to join me for CRMXchange’s upcoming Tech Tank – Customer Delight: Live Demonstrations of Breakthrough Innovations.

How to Improve Your Website’s Live Chat

In order to provide your customers with the level of service they deserve, it’s necessary to know what they expect from live chat. Every customer wants to have a personalized chat session with an agent who’s capable of solving their problem as thoroughly and quickly as possible. According to Zendesk, “Customers who chat are three times more likely to make a purchase than customers who don’t.” Here’s what you should know about offering a live chat option on your website.

1. Be Proactive and Anticipate Customer Needs

Proactive customer service means that the agent can anticipate a problem in advance and reach out to the customer at the exact moment – or even before – they need help. To do this, you need to understand when customers frequently need help. Often, customers could use some guidance before the purchase when they’re deciding whether or not to move forward. If you’ve noticed that a customer is clicking certain products on your website and adding them to their cart, you can have a live chat window pop up that asks if they need help.

2. Offer Omnichannel Support on Multiple Chat Apps

While live chat will most likely live on your website, there are all sorts of additional live chat apps available, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat. If your customers are using any of those apps frequently, you’ll want to offer live chat support there as well as on your website. Make sure that customers can switch from one messaging app to the other without having to restart their query.

3. Be Smart About Widget Placement

The live chat widget should be easy for customers to find. If customers have to hunt around for it, they may opt to call to speak with a live agent instead. Note that placement is influenced by the purpose of the chat window. If the goal is to increase conversions, chat should be on every page of the website. If it’s to cater to customers who have an escalated problem, it can go directly on the support page. If it’s to help customers better understand technical products, it can go on the product page.

Live chat is an excellent way to connect with customers while increasing brand awareness and company reputation. Contact centers that manage a high number of calls can also offset some of that communication, which lowers cost.

How to Evaluate Customer Feedback Metrics

Contact centers that understand their customer metrics are able to get a clear idea of what they need to do to manage and enhance the customer experience. Customer metrics are based on several sources, including surveys, social media, customer ratings and comments, and interaction logs. By collecting, analyzing and acting upon customer metrics, the contact center can enhance their value as a company while improving customer loyalty. Here are four must-have criteria for evaluating customer metrics.

  1. The metric cannot be ambiguous.

The metric has to be clearly defined and straightforward. You need to know exactly what you’re measuring. The definition of the metric may also clarify what you are not measuring in addition to what you are measuring.

  1. The system for scoring has to be clear.

You need to know how the metric is scored and calculated. To do this, it’s necessary to understand the questions or items included in the metric and how those questions or items are combined to get a score. Note that in situations where natural language processing is used, it’s important to know how the scoring system processes sentiment.

  1. The metric has to be both reliable and valid.

Two important measurement properties for customer feedback analysis are reliability and validity. Reliability refers to how precise or consistent the measurement is. Validity ensures that the right information is being measured. Each metric has to be both reliable and valid.

  1. The metric provides the contact center with insights that they can use.

Customer feedback metrics are only beneficial to the contact center if they can spur positive organizational changes. To do this, the contact center must know the consequences of the customer metric. What changes will improve the marketing, sales or the service team? How will that improvement then increase revenue or lead to growth? What will happen if those changes aren’t put in place?

Cutting-edge contact centers know to rely on customer metrics in order to understand and improve their customer relationships. Once you’ve analyzed the data and deployed a solution, you should notice that your metrics improve and that your customers are positively impacted by the changes. If your metrics don’t improve, consider that you may have used the wrong solution. Re-start the feedback loop to take another look at the data and to find an alternative way to troubleshoot the problem.