5 Trends in the Customer Service Industry

Every year sees new changes to the customer service industry, and 2018 has been no different. This year, the focus has been on improving customer service in order to meet growing expectations. Here are 5 trends that are influencing the industry right now, and they’ll likely continue – and be built upon – in 2019.

  1. Chatbots are providing customer care.

According to IBM, by the year 2020 as much as 85% of customer interactions will not be handled by a human. For the contact center, this means making sure chatbots are providing a great experience for the customer – poor technology or chatbots that are used incorrectly can seriously impact your bottom line.

  1. Cloud-based customer service software is the norm.

Contact centers that rely on cloud-based solutions can have remote agents located around the world. This means that different time zones and extended hours can be covered, offering customer service practically any time and from anywhere. This software can give a complete history of customer interaction, including past communication and notes that agents make about a customer.

  1. Success of the team has become a priority.

If individuals can provide great service, then teams of excellent agents can do even more. Teammate success is now a priority and contact centers are investing more in educating and training their teams. One way of making customer service teams more successful is by hiring agile agents who can handle more than one type of job.

  1. Increased reliance on self-service.

Self-service has been trending for a long time, but now companies are taking self-service to the next level by personalizing it. For example, customers may be shown only certain self-service options based on the products or services they have. This means that customers can get quicker access to the information they need without having to weed through an entire knowledge base.

  1. Software will seamlessly integrate.

Contact center technology systems are a big expense and they carry out integral jobs, like analyzing data and storing all sorts of customer information. Since software is so essential to the contact center, it’s important for different software and tools to integrate with one another. We’ll continue to see software that’s specifically designed to work seamlessly with complementary software so that you can piece together the best system for your contact center.

Have you noticed trends in the customer service world? Tell us about them in the comments.

3 Ways to Prioritize Your Agents for a Better Customer Experience

A great customer experience isn’t coincidental. It’s carefully crafted, highly intentional and, most importantly, it’s hard.

A mere 8 percent of customers think they’re receiving an awesome customer experience, according to a study from Bain & Company. And of those who have a really great experience, 68 percent of them attribute it to a pleasant agent, according to another study from American Express. Furthermore, 62 percent said the agents’ knowledge and resourcefulness was key to their positive experience.

You know knowledgeable and empowered agents provide a better customer experience, yet you’re still plagued by insane turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficient workflows and misaligned processes in the contact center. Why?! And what can you do to fix it?

Start prioritizing your agent experience.

Think about it, when your agents feel they’re working well – when they’re efficient, effective and aligned – they work harder. They know what your expectations are and how they’re impacting the greater vision of your company. Agents that are motivated, engaged, and empowered are happier and more satisfied with their jobs. And, they’ll provide better customer care.  They can see how their actions impact a real, live human by creating a better customer experience.

But if they’re stuck in a broken process, fumbling through outdated technology paired with a manager that has too much on their plate, their ability to drive positive experiences flounders into a sea of nothingness. And if they’re frustrated, the results on your team morale are toxic.

You’re searching high and low for coachable moments, without any time to actually coach, amplifying the negativity. And to top it off, the outdated tech stack your center’s using is mismatched with what your customers are using. For instance, your customers (and your agents, for that matter) are used to texting, sending pictures or videos, chatting on a live chat or using social media to communicate, switching from one place to another without losing context.

But your business is not.

It’s time for contact centers to put agents’ success at the top of the priority list. Start building your agents’ confidence and empowerment. But what exactly does agent success look like? Here are five ways to prioritize your agents and improve their (and your) success.

Three Ways to Prioritize Your Agents

  1. Start (and continue) coaching

The single most important thing you can do as a contact center manager is coach your team. But managers are struggling to train their people well. On average, managers are spending 53 percent of their week looking for coachable moments rather than actually coaching. Yet, studies show frequent touchpoints, with specific examples increase employee satisfaction, engagement and performance. And, it creates a culture of trust company-wide.

  1. Use the right tools

Efficient tools and processes increase agent productivity and satisfaction. Think about it: If your agents have to fumble through a messy process, touch eight different tools in under three minutes, just to find a clue to answer the customer’s problem, they’re going to get a little flustered. But offering up the right tools (with coachable moments built in), with processes meant to enhance the workflow, not stifle it, creates more effective and efficient agents – and happier customers.

  1. Empower them

Empowered agents work with more autonomy. They see more first contact resolutions and have clarity in where they’re impacting your company’s vision. Workers place a high value on employee empowerment, whether they’re in a contact center or somewhere else in the company. It’s simple, they want to feel supported and respected. They’re hungry to perform at or above your customers’ expectations, but they need the right tools to be successful and effective.

Sharpen has created a solution designed to remove the inefficiencies that are plaguing your agents, their quality of life and their ability to provide a positive customer experience every time. Join their webcast as they talk about key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.

Trends in Agent Empowerment

Although businesses highlight the importance of customer service and retention, customer service managers continue to report an overwhelming amount of issues. Alarming turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficiency and inadequacy are some of the issues plaguing contact centers today. The root of the problem? Agent success, or lack thereof.

Think about it – when employees feel they are working efficiently, effectively, and with constant support from supervisors, they work harder. In contact centers today, agents feel frustrated. Too often, contact centers will use outdated software, leading agents to become frustrated and be less efficient with their time. The lack of support from supervisors is apparent, while agents rarely have any means to track their progress, leaving the agent confused and directionless. To top it off, outdated technology used by most contact centers is mismatched with the technology used by the general public today including SMS & MMS text, live chat (not with a robot), social media, and way more.

It is time for contact centers to put their agents’ success first in their line of priorities. In order to do this, they must focus on empowering their agents. What exactly does agent empowerment look like? Empowered agents have access to the tools they need to do an excellent job, are fully supported by their supervisors, are capable of making decisions for themselves, and are well respected by their colleagues.

Millennials entering the workforce place a high value on employee empowerment whether in the contact center, or in another industry. It’s simple – they want to feel supported, respected, and feel as though they have the tools they need to be successful and effective. These tools include a way to track progress, up-to-date technology, effective training programs and constant feedback.

Sharpen has developed a holistic solution designed to eliminate common inefficiencies that ultimately impact the agent, their quality of life, and their ability to provide a perfect customer experience. Check out their webcast on August 2 as they discuss key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment, and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.

Why Happy Agents Make Happy Customers

Guest Blog From Bright Pattern

Customer service agents are often the primary point of contact with your customers. It makes sense that you want your customer-facing employees to be helpful, enthusiastic, and happy to be doing their jobs. After all, your company’s reputation, satisfaction ratings, and profitability are at stake.

So how do you create a contact center environment that motivates agents?

Live by the Agent Empowerment Model

Through a recent survey of contact center decision makers, Bright Pattern identified the top three strategies for creating engaged agents.

Of our survey respondents,

  • 70% said to improve agent training
  • 64% said to provide agents with better tools
  • 49% said to offer better self-service

At Bright Pattern, we believe in the agent empowerment model, which means providing agents with the tools and technology they need to succeed. This model aligns with our survey results, and it’s been driving our roadmap since the beginning.

Here’s what the agent empowerment model looks like in practice:

  • Declutter the agent desktop with an innovative UI.
  • Give agents easy-to-use technology for automatic customer recognition.
  • Eliminate mundane transactions with AI and provide agents with AI Assist.
  • Automate workflows.
  • Limit downtime with active-active technology.

How Everyone Benefits

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits you can expect when your contact center operations revolve around the agent empowerment model.

Higher Customer Ratings and Sales

According to Gallup, highly engaged teams achieve, on average, a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales.

Faster, More Efficient Problem Resolution

Agents who feel more valued by their employers are more motivated to resolve calls satisfactorily, find creative solutions, and improve their own knowledge and customer relationship skills.

 

They have access to a knowledge base and can, at any time, reach out to subject matter experts to resolve customer problems faster and more accurately.

 

Less Employee Turnover

The costs of replacing and retraining agents can be a tremendous drawdown on operational budgets, and the loss of institutional knowledge when an experienced agent walks out the door also impacts customer service center performance.

Using AI to automate frequent requests and routine tasks makes the agents’ work less transactional. This increases agent satisfaction because agents can focus on helping people.

Higher Customer Experience

Empowered agents also have the right tools to provide a consistent customer experience and resolve issues fast, on any channel, any time. They depend on a single, integrated application combining unified communication tools, access to information, knowledge bases, and customer data in context of the moment, all of which ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

Get Started

By making some smart investments, you can vastly improve agents’ attitude, abilities, job commitment, and engagement levels—all of which have proven positive impacts on how they serve your customers.

What is the Effortless Customer Experience?

Going above and beyond customer expectations to surprise them and deliver that “wow” factor isn’t unimportant, but in terms of retaining customers and gaining their loyalty, it may not be as important as you once thought.

Matthew Dixon of Gartner (formerly CEB) wrote an article and a book about the power of the effortless customer experience, explaining how effortlessness is more impactful than greatness.

Satisfied vs. Dissatisfied Customers

The first thing to understand is that satisfied and dissatisfied customers behave very differently:

  • Customers who are highly satisfied do not always become loyal customers.
  • Customers who are dissatisfied become disloyal customers and talk to others about their experience, which spreads negative word-of-mouth.

Additionally, Dixon found that the more effort a customer has to put in to solve their problem, the more disloyal they become.

Redefining Customer Experience Goals

It stands to reason, then, that the contact center’s main goal shouldn’t be creating highly satisfied customers because they may not be loyal no matter how much you do for them. Instead, the goal should be to avoid creating dissatisfied customers.

How do you do that? By making it as easy as possible for an unhappy customer to resolve their problem.

Dixon’s research showed that customers who were able to solve their problems with a low amount of effort were more like to buy from the company again and even to spend more.

Clearing the Way for the Customer

When it comes to the customer experience, there are a few main culprits that always seem to stand in the way of ease and resolution:

  • Being transferred
  • Non-personalized service
  • Having to repeatedly contact support
  • Repeating information
  • Switching channels
  • Tedious policies and processes

While there are numerous ways to make the customer experience more effortless, here are two big ones:

  1. Create a rich self-service portal that will solve all (or most of) your customers’ issues without having to switch between multiple channels to find a resolution. The self-service portal should be simple and user-friendly.
  2. Avoid the next issue. First call resolution is the ultimate goal, but it’s not always possible, especially if the first issue gives way to a connected second issue. Figuring out what the follow-up issues tend to be will give you the power to prevent problems.

Have you found any ways to make the customer experience more effortless? Tell us in the comments below!

 

How Financial Service Providers are Improving ROI with Omnichannel Customer Service

As more financial service providers move to the cloud, they are looking for sophisticated omnichannel technology to improve ROI and digitally transform their customer communications. Whether you are a bank, brokerage firm, credit union, or other financial service provider, you can provide best-in-class customer service with omnichannel contact center technology.

Omnichannel Technology for Financial Service Providers

Differentiate yourself by providing multichannel interactions via voice, email, SMS, social messenger apps, and video. Financial service providers should select a contact center solution that includes the following features to improve ROI.

  • Outbound Calling Functionality – Make sure you select contact center technology that will enable your agent to be more efficient. Predictive, preview, progressive, and manual preview modes let campaign operators tailor their dialer for any list quality and/or desired agent engagement.
  • Banking Functionality – The banking industry has faced a number of challenges, one being the increase in omnichannel interactions. Consumers are demanding an omnichannel experience, and banks have become competitive with offerings like in-app mobile deposits and video ATMs. It is necessary to implement an innovative omnichannel experience to keep pace with competitors. Just make sure your channels work together seamlessly to improve the overall experience.
  • Integrate with Existing CRMs, Out of the Box – Increase agent productivity with an integration UI, click-to-call, screen pop, and activity history automatically saved with each ticket. Bright Pattern has out-of-the-box integrations with top CRM providers, including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Zendesk, Oracle Service Cloud, and ServiceNow.
  • Unified Agent Desktop – Many omnichannel contact centers comprise multiple technology vendors, making it difficult for agents to navigate. Select a platform that allows agents to work in a single user interface for all supported channels. Use a technology that pulls important data to the front of the agent’s screen to reduce scrolling and hopping from pages to locate important customer data like bank statements and payments due.
  • PCI Compliance – As a financial service provider, you must comply with strict regulations to protect consumer data and avoid litigation. Bright Pattern is compliant with PCI DSS 3.2, the highest level of PCI security, which provides the framework for your business’s compliance.

For more information, view Bright Pattern Omnichannel Contact Center Technology for Finance and Banking.

4 Best Practices for Analyzing Quality Assurance Data

If you’ve ever called a business, you’ve heard the recording that goes, “This call may be monitored and recorded for quality assurance.” The best contact centers don’t just record customer calls, though – they also monitor them and then make changes to improve the customer experience. Here are four best practices to help you put call analysis to work.

  1. Clarify your goals and processes.

It’s impossible to know what parts of call analysis to pay attention to if you don’t have a game plan. Which KPIs will you measure? How many calls will be evaluated and within what timeframe? Who will review the data? What will be the process for recommending and implementing changes? There’s going to be an overwhelming amount of data coming in and you need to know what to do with it.

  1. Get everyone involved.

Determining goals and processes should involve the whole team, from management and executives to the agents themselves. Everyone should feel comfortable making suggestions and providing feedback. Also, make it clear that quality assurance is an evolving and collaborative process. Quality monitoring can sometimes be stressful to agents because they feel like their every move and decision is being judged. By emphasizing constant improvement instead of perfection, agents will be more relaxed and effective on their calls.

  1. Pay attention to repetitive comments.

Trends should get a lot of attention, whether they’re positive (compliments) or negative (complaints). While single incidents on either end of the spectrum are not unimportant, tending to the more common issues will have the biggest impact. Start with the major influencers before working on one-off issues.

  1. Allow for subjective ratings.

Scores shouldn’t always be taken at face value; allow some wiggle room for context. For example, you may have an agent who has lower-than-normal Average Handling Time scores. However, their customer satisfaction scores may be higher than average. It’s possible that they’re taking extra time to better understand and soothe the customer, which could be more valuable to the contact center than if they sped through the call just to solve it quickly. Before trying to fix a problem, make sure that there’s an actual problem to fix.

By monitoring phone calls and then using the information you discover to your advantage, you can streamline the agent-customer communication experience, improve contact center performance and greatly increase customer satisfaction ratings.

4 Contact Center Tips for Forecasting and Analyzing Data

Picture this: there’s a sudden spike in call volume, but you don’t have enough agents to handle it. Wait times increase and customers become dissatisfied. You get on top of the problem as quickly as possible and scale your workforce up to handle the demand. Soon, call volume evens out again, and now you’re over-staffed and draining your budget.

Improving forecast accuracy can limit these scenarios. Data, history and experience, combined with your own judgement and common sense, make forecasting much more accurate and predictable. A quality system will combine historic data with real-time data for accurate forecasting.

Here’s how to improve your forecasting:

  1. Choose quality forecasting software.

Your forecasting software should gather historical data from the past two years to show you daily, monthly and seasonal patterns and trends. It should then monitor performance, document results, and continue to measure and evaluate data on a recurring schedule. Most importantly, your software should repeat this process ­– the repetition is what makes the forecasting so accurate and dependable.

  1. Look at both data overviews and specific segments.

Look at historical data, which will give you an overview of NCO and handle time. Also view data in hour, day and month formats. Continue to break data down to view it differently – turn monthly forecasts into daily forecasts, daily into hourly, and hourly into half hour views.

  1. Compare one month to the same month last year.

Point estimates are too simplistic an approach when it comes to contact center forecasting. A point in the future won’t necessarily match the same point in the past, even if it’s the same hour, day and month of the year. You have to look closely to determine if any data is out of the ordinary, and a good start is to compare this year’s month to last year’s month (i.e. January 2018 to January 2017).

  1. Don’t ignore aberrations.

Investigate data that’s exceptionally high or low to figure out if it was caused by a one-off event or if you should be prepared for a regular occurrence. Situations that affect call volume include:

  • Billing cycles
  • Business mergers
  • Change in hours of operation
  • Competitor activity
  • Holidays
  • Marketing campaigns
  • New technology implementation
  • Planned maintenance sessions
  • Weather and natural disasters

Balance customer demand with staffing numbers to keep costs low while managing wait times and ensuring customers satisfaction.

 

The Modern IV: Why Contact Centers are Going Visual

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems make a lot of promises. They strive to give customers easily accessible, efficient ways to communicate. This is supposed to limit the stress placed on the contact center while also lowering costs.

Traditional voice IVR systems aren’t pulling their weight, though.

There’s a lot of call abandonment. Customer satisfaction scores are low. Lengthy call trees with a multitude of options lead to dead ends. Even the voice quality is poor.

When a customer wants to speak with a live rep, they press “0” to be transferred to one, and even then the experience is lacking. They have to speak with an operator first, explain their issue, wait while they’re routed to the correct department, explain everything again…

Cost benefits of IVR only exist if customers actually like it. If it’s not increasing customer satisfaction (or, even worse, decreasing it), you won’t see a return on investment, and the expense becomes not worth it.

The solution is this: visual IVR, something that modern contact centers are utilizing more and more.

Customers have sophisticated devices (even the iPhone is essentially a mini computer that people carry around in their pocket), and contact center IVR should be just as sophisticated, too. With so many screen-enabled gadgets out there, visual IVR is quickly replacing voice IVR.

Visual IVR menus can be attractive, intuitive and a cinch to use. People can read the menu and touch the buttons or links they need, or they can request a call back or see how long the hold time would be to chat with an agent. Even if a customer wants to speak with an agent, there’s virtually no hold time, routing is much more reliable and the experience is better overall.

Visual IVR is helpful for agents, too.

If a customer decides to speak with a live agent, they can start the process through the visual IVR menu. By the time they reach an agent, the agent can see the breadcrumb trail of everything the customer did. This will help them pick up the query where the customer left off instead of asking them to start explaining their issue from the beginning.

Whichever type of support they choose ­– self-service, live or a combination of both – modern IVR solutions allow customers to get quick, accurate support without putting unnecessary strain on contact center agents.

 

 

Unbeatable Omnichannel Technology Helps BPOs Get an Edge on the Competition and Retain Clients Longer

From Guest Blogger Bright Pattern

As more consumers use digital channels to talk to friends and family, the more they expect to find top brands on all their favorite digital channels, such as chat, forums, and social messengers. Companies need to respond by meeting their customers on these channels, or else risk losing them to the competition.

Business processing outsourcing companies (BPOs), in particular, need to respond swiftly to new client demands and offer a service that is impressive and efficient without breaking the bank.

Omnichannel Technology for BPOs

BPOs can use omnichannel contact center functionality to differentiate their offering and stand out among the competition. They can also experience cost savings when consolidating from multiple vendors to a single platform that provides all necessary channels. BPOs should select a contact center solution that includes the following features to gain and retain top brands.

  • Easily Add More Channels – As a BPO, some of your customers will need only inbound/outbound voice, but other brands will need to scale to a full omnichannel solution and add new channels as they grow. Choose a vendor that has all the channels necessary for your customers today, with continuous innovation plans for future channels.
  • Unified Agent Desktop – Many omnichannel contact centers comprise multiple technology vendors, making it difficult for agents to navigate. Select a platform that allows agents to work in a single user interface for all supported channels. Consider running specific use cases with the vendor to see how it prioritizes different channels and whether it allows agents and customers to move seamlessly from digital channels to voice.
  • Strong Integration Ecosystem – As BPOs, you may need to support multiple customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. Select a contact center provider that provides out-of-the-box CRM integrations with top providers and has a well established integration ecosystem for workforce optimization (WFO), workforce management (WFM), Natural Language Understanding (NLU), artificial intelligence (AI), and bot capabilities.
  • Flexible Reporting Options – Retain customers by providing them with quality control and oversight options, including direct client access to monitoring, call grading, ad-hoc reporting, and customer survey data.
  • Fast Client Ramp-Up – Select a vendor with a web-based Agent Desktop in Citrix that can work through firewalls, one that boasts built-in softphone and other telephony features for easy deployment.
  • Compliance – As a BPO, you work within several different industries, including contact centers with strict compliance requirements. Ensure compliance by partnering with a vendor that’s third-party certified for compliance with PCI, HIPAA, TCPA, and other top security standards.
  • High Availability – Select a vendor with a strong disaster recovery plan and near 100% uptime. Any time your provider is down, you are losing money. Inquire about uptime, active-active disaster containment, and service-level agreements (SLAs).