Meeting the New Challenges of Employee Training, Coaching and Engagement

Since the contact center agent is the face and voice that often defines a company in the eyes of existing and potential customers, workforce recruiting must focus on identifying vital traits, skills, and abilities in individuals. But even when those who meet the highest qualifications are put in place, they must be trained, continuously coached, and kept actively engaged to be successful.

Companies which can recruit and retain qualified and motivated front-line personnel are positioned to operate more efficiently while building customer loyalty. According to a McKinsey report, “Failure to keep talented employees can have significant repercussions… attrition can erode customer satisfaction while increasing operating costs. Each new agent hire is estimated to cost the contact center $10,000 to $20,000 in training, direct recruiting costs, and lost productivity during ramp up.”

Taking every step to keep top performers onboard is now more critical than ever. Although many consumers have become comfortable with online self-service tools, once they decide to call into the contact center the issues are almost always more complicated to resolve. Since people are already frustrated at being unable to find answers on other channels, they are on edge from the moment when an agent picks up the call.

This dilemma has only grown more acute during a crisis in which many customers are already panicked. According to a recent blog on CrmXchange by Uniphore, 60% of consumers said they were given different or conflicting information on current conditions from the news, leaving more questions than answers. Adding more fuel to the fire is that customers are often faced with longer wait times as companies adapt to a new wave of work-at-home agents. Nearly 40% who were put on hold with a company after calling about crisis-related issues stated that they were annoyed or frustrated.

Further McKinsey research suggests a need for companies to take a proactive stance when interacting with their contact-center employees by focusing on engagement and finding ways to increase their comfort and happiness wherever they are working. They found a startling difference in outcomes. Engaged and satisfied call-center employees are:

  • 8.5x more likely to stay than leave within a year
  • 4x more likely to stay than dissatisfied colleagues
  • 16x more likely to refer friends to their company
  • 3.3x more likely to feel extremely empowered to resolve customer issues

So how does a company ensure that these valuable assets are happier and more productive? Actions in three areas can have a major impact– targeted coaching, employment of updated training techniques and applying proven strategies to enhance employee engagement —and they are available for all contact centers to take.

A focused educational alternative now makes it possible for a business’s entire workforce planning team to benefit from the latest innovative thinking without ever having to take so much as a step away from their home offices.

CrmXchange is presenting a premier online virtual conference: Techniques for Training, Coaching and Employee Engagement, to be held from June 15-19. The event is being produced in conjunction with the Quality Assurance and Training Connection, (QATC), a membership association created specifically for quality assurance and training professionals in the contact center environment.

The web conference is structured to benefit contact center leaders at all levels – supervisors, managers, directors, and VPS. The fully interactive event enables attendees to meet with industry experts and colleagues who will answer questions in real time while providing updated strategies and techniques. The schedule is designed to provide direction to meet the changing needs of businesses transitioning to a greater percentage of work-at-home agents but will also provide guidance for companies still maintaining on-premise employees.

Among the topics to be covered in-depth are:

  • Learning how to work in a remote world
  • Best methods for coaching and training remote and on-premise agents
  • How to optimize agent performance in the new reality
  • Developing an effective instructor competency program

The event will kick off on Monday, June 15 with a focused keynote address entitled “Do Better Work – Finding Clarity and Camaraderie in a Remote World.” It will be presented by Max Yoder, CEO and Co-Founder, Lessonly who will offer stories of the best ways for businesses to navigate the path to working from home, providing specific examples of how to foster understanding, accountability, and progress from disparate teams.

Other areas to be explored in this targeted, complimentary virtual conference include:

  • How to Foster Agent Engagement and Human Connection Through Coaching Your Remote Contact Center Team in a Post-Pandemic World
  • Nurturing Employees to Become Ambassadors and High Performers
  • Agent Coaching and Engagement for Remote Service Excellence
  • Creating a Solid Gamification Strategy to Engage Employees Near and Far

In addition to the educational sessions, attendees can visit the booths of leading suppliers in the online exhibit hall. They can then download white papers, videos, product data sheets and other vital content from leading solution providers and organizations such as CallMiner, NICE inContact, Calabrio, NICE, Lessonly, C3 Software and Sharpen.

Register now at no cost for the complete four-day event: there is no limit on how many people a company can sign up. For those who cannot attend the live presentations or have the time to visit the exhibits during the event, links to all sessions and the exhibit hall will remain open for one full week after the event is completed.

Amid COVID-19 and Social Distancing, Consumers Prefer Calling Customer Service

Guest post from Uniphore

There is a major shift in customer sentiment since COVID-19: they want more human interaction and are more likely to leave brands based on a bad experience.

Full results are chatbots, but among the highlights:

People still hate calling helplines:

  • Nearly
    one third of callers (28%) are left on hold for long wait times (sometimes
    over 2 hours!)
  • 72%
    said they have hung up on a call when waiting to speak with a live person
  • One
    third of respondents would prefer to deep clean the bathroom than be put
    on hold

The issue is that they’re more important now than ever. 

  • More
    than 60% said they were given different or conflicting information from
    the news, leaving more questions than answers
  • Only
    5% of respondents tried to reach out to a company via chatbot, and 9% have
    written an email, reinforcing the notion that in these trying times,
    humans still want to connect with humans via voice technology

Contact center employees are among the essential frontline workers, providing necessary information to all. But they’re clearly overwhelmed, proving that voice AI software is more essential now than ever before. 

  • Of
    those who were put on hold with a company after calling about coronavirus,
    almost 40% said they were annoyed or frustrated.
  • More
    than 43% of respondents were not able to speak with a healthcare
    representative after calling a helpline
  • 40%
    of respondents noted they did not even receive helpful healthcare
    information when finally able to contact a healthcare call center

For all brands – whether you’re a healthcare provider, insurance company, retailer, or hospitality company –  excellent customer service is still vital to a brand’s identity.

  • 68%
    said they would stop patronizing companies they had a bad customer
    experience with

Click on the link below for an infographic of global survey  results on this topic and how this shift is impacting industries like healthcare, financial services, travel and retail:

uniphoresurvey-2020

Companies That Are Serious About CX Need to Up their Mobile Customer Support Game

It is no secret that customer experience (CX) has become perhaps the most compelling influence in the consumer’s decisions to initially do business—and build an ongoing relationship  –with a company. CX can be defined as the sum of all experiences a customer has in their interactions with a company and its products or services. Understanding these interactions, specifically what makes them positive or negative, is central to making improvements. Effective CX is determined by the quality of the experience customers have when they seek product information and seek support—tasks they now mostly use mobile devices to accomplish.

Engaging mobile consumers requires businesses to become more creative. Mobile devices are more than just hand-held web browsers. People have long since become accustomed to using mobile devices for a very wide range of activities, beyond calls: social media, taking/viewing photos, GPS navigation, downloading music and videos or watching live entertainment

SMS, or mobile text messaging is also a long-term primary use case, in social and now increasingly in business contexts. In fact, with the rise in mobile device usage, messaging is the default user behavior. But it goes beyond SMS texting alone. Mobile phone users throughout the world are sending messages back and forth, using Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, and other emerging channels of mobile chat messaging. However, in the US where most of us are text messages, companies are just starting to learn more about these emerging channels and how they can use them to improve communications with their customers. These are developments that are taking hold and it’s becoming more critical for businesses to be knowledgeable about them. This particularly true for organizations that wish to expand their global presence.

According to research by Forrester, people don’t wish to go out of their way for support. This   put companies in the position of having to keep up when their customers are blazing new trails. As Forrester put it in a recent report, “Customers will explore emerging channels to reduce friction. Customers want to move between channels without having to repeat their situation every time. They want to get service at any point in their pre- or post-purchase journey.” This need for flexibility and responsiveness becomes a serious problem when customers are unable to reach a company’s agents as quickly as they would like to. Then, once connected, customer frustration ramps up rapidly when they can’t adequately resolve their issue through a voice-only conversation. So, the undermined customer loyalty and increased cost becomes a lose-lose scenario for businesses.

Of course, there are more effective methods to deliver mobile customer service that enhance as opposed to detract from the customer experience., Mobile service specialist UJET will share detailed information on how organizations can to transition from voice-only interactions to engaging their customers on a variety of rich and responsive messaging channels. On Thursday, May 27 at 1:00pm, UJET will present a complimentary webinar on CrmXchange entitled “Mobile Support For Cost-Effective and Enhanced Customer Experience.”

Josh Mazgelis, Solutions Consultant, UJET, will draw on his 25 years of contact center experience. He will discuss how to cost-effectively deploy the company’s cloud-based mobile-focused customer satisfaction platform to enable customers and reps to share photos and videos, take screenshots, and even combine voice and text together. Among the topics to be covered are:

  • Enabling end-users to easily share multimedia with agents
  • Elevating the customer experience with Rich Communications Services
  • Using data intelligence to customize and improve support channels

Register now to see how your company can upgrade its mobile service. If you can’t attend the live webinar, a link to it will posted 24 hours after it is presented.

Now is a Better Time Than Ever to Update from Manual to Automated Forecasting Models

Even in the best of times, determining the right staffing levels needed to keep a contact center operating efficiently while adequately meeting customer demand is a delicate balancing act. Staffing too many agents needlessly drives up costs: staffing too few at peak times causes service levels to suffer. The first step in making informed forecasting calculations is to accurately estimate the volume of calls coming into a business’s contact center. Of course, this is easier said than done, particularly in an environment where many organizations are experiencing dramatic call spikes driven by concerned and often panicked customers.

While there are many ways a company can try to figure out the number of calls coming into the contact center, the method will ultimately depend on which sources of information to which it has access. Obviously, the most effective way would be to obtain an accurate calls-per-day figure from an Automated Call Distribution (ACD) system. But even though these systems have proliferated over the years, far from every company that could benefit from such a solution has one in place. For many businesses that do not have an ACD or effective call logging solution, the option becomes simply asking staff to manually log the number of calls coming in.

Trying to match agent availability and skills with staffing needs while keeping track of work hour limits and labor costs is a daunting task, especially when done manually or with Excel spreadsheets. Some companies still employ downloadable templates to do their scheduling in Excel, often employing Erlang C formulas.

While using Excel can be a viable option for some smaller companies, it can turn into a tedious, time-consuming and inefficient process, particularly when there is a need to scale up rapidly. Making it all work is dependent on the contributions of a few lead users who have the requisite knowledge and system access. These lead users must frequently create new tables or worksheets …sometimes entire new files…to set up new staff groups, forecast time periods, call types, forecast variables, or forecast methodologies, These files then must be stored and linked together. If they include elements an entire team to needs to access, the files must be stored on network shared drives. In addition, spreadsheets tend to get progressively more complex, hard to maintain and error-prone

In an evolving period that calls for rapid response and flexibility, businesses are becoming increasingly frustrated with the limitations of Excel and are now seeking a simplified and more accurate planning process. Contact center managers and executives are seeking to find ways to connecting themselves with the tools that can take their WFM practice to the next level. Now they can take advantage of a focused educational presentation to help them expedite the timetable to understanding and implementing a more time-effective solution.

Genesys will present a complimentary tutorial “Best Forecasting Methods In the 21st Century.” on CrmXchange. The webcast, scheduled for Thursday, May 28th at 1:00pm ET. will be led by Shawn McCormick, Senior Solution Architect, Genesys. Shawn brings to the table more than two decades of experience supporting the Workforce Management/Workforce Engagement needs of companies of all sizes from just about every industry sector. He started his career as a manager doing scheduling on paper from a forecast sent down from corporate and thus respects the tradition while embracing the enhanced possibilities offered by WFM technology.

Among the topics he will delve into are a review of what is actually possible and how automated forecasting plays a role in preserving business continuity. This includes:

  • Considerations for the manual planning processes and the perspective of faithful Excel users
  • If automation is right for a specific company – what needs to be looked at to make the correct assessment
  • How the use of AI enables businesses to perform the planning process more accurately and rapidly than ever.

Register now for this topical webcast: if you are unable to attend the live presentation, a link will be posted 24 hours later to allow you to access it.

 

 

 

 

Discovering the Value of Attended Automation as a Digital Transformation Tool to Enhance the Productivity of Remote Agents

It was a transition that was already in progress before the current emergency unfolded. The migration to a reduced population of work-at-home agents, coupled with the unprecedented spike in demand for information, has dramatically accelerated the need for digital transformation. While just about every business already knew it had to digitize its operations to remain competitive, many are now scrambling to get up to speed.

Three key process automation technologies: Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Cognitive Intelligence and Attended Automation are the core elements in any digital transformation initiative. Attended Automation is the orchestrator that binds them together by ensuring that agents are aligned to both customer-facing and back-office processes. It acts as a kind of digital personal assistant to all employees, giving them real-time, context-specific guidance when needed in interaction processes.

In its truest form, Attended Automation is comprised of software robots that reside in each employee’s desktop. These robots have cognitive intelligence that enables them to navigate the dynamic desktop environment: a robust functionality that empowers them to bubble up when they sense an employee needs guidance. They communicate with employees via intelligent, interactive screens that are fully customizable.

When businesses adapt Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or chatbot solutions to support both the automation of repetitive tasks and the accessibility of self-service channels, the central focus will continue to be on humans. It is live people who are responsible for the proper functioning and sustainability of these solutions. Applying Attended Automation technology to customer-centric operational processes further augments the role played by humans.

Attended Automation was initially designed to work in collaboration with live agents to enable them to focus on high-value tasks that require a human touch. But with the need to keep business continuity in crisis mode becoming the new norm, it has also become a tool to allow people to achieve their full potential while helping them adjust to organizational change. This in turn helps companies maintain service consistency and process efficiency while keeping their growing number of remote agents on-target.

Learn more about the benefits by attending a complimentary webcast presented by NICE on CrmXchange on Tuesday, May 19 at 1:00 PM ET. It’s entitled “Keep Your Remote Agents Engaged and Productive with Intelligent Attended Automation” and will be delivered by Karen Inbar, Director of Marketing for NICE Advanced Process Solutions, an expert with a 20-year track record in the high-tech field, including stints at leaders such as Microsoft and SAP.

Among the topics she will address include using intelligent attended automation to:

  • Positively impact service operations and consistent delivery within a new distributed working environment.
  • Enable remote agents to adapt to their new working environment during an uncertain and turbulent period.
  • Practical ways in which intelligent Attended Automation helps agents stay informed, productive and empathetic to customer issues.

Register now at no cost for this timely and informative webcast. If you are unable to at attend the live session, a link to the webcast will be posted within 24 hours of the presentation.

The Key Ingredients to Increase Brand Loyalty

By John Thompson, Head of Business Development, Americas, Sitel Group

What does it take to keep customers loyal to a brand? A loaded question with a variety of correct responses. Today, we are going to be focusing on the four key ingredients that directly impact the customer experience as it relates to brand loyalty: transparency, employees, change and corporate social responsibility. Let’s dive into the recipe.

Providing Transparency

Earlier this year, Burger King released the infamous moldy burger campaign to promote the fast food chain’s efforts to eliminate artificial preservatives and other additives from its menu. Did the rotting burger look appetizing? No. Did it catch people’s attention? Yes.

The eye-catching image set Burger King apart from the dozens of fast food commercials consumers are inundated with each day. The vision itself of a moldy burger wasn’t mouthwatering, but it told the consumer much more about the values of the brand. The fast food chain was breaking the mold (pun intended) and changing things up for the betterment of the consumer. Not only was the advertisement catching the average viewer’s attention, it was being honest with customers in a bold way.

While unconventional, this marketing tactic focuses on appealing to customers by offering complete and utter transparency. No, the burger did not look appetizing, but it told a bigger story of how the brand was committed to showing the efforts it was taking to deliver fresh and real food, by being real with the viewers.

Engaging Employees

Happy and loyal employees equal happy and loyal customers. A large portion in the recipe for the success of delivering a standout experience to consumers is by making sure that your employees are engaged. This starts with training from the get go. In fact, more than one in three (37%) U.S. employees would leave their job if they weren’t offered training to help them. So, what does good employee training look like?

It begins with teaching employees how to properly communicate with customers. While this may sound like a given, more than half (51%) of employers don’t offer soft skills training like how to speak to a customer or client effectively. Whether it be stepping up in line to order a tasty burger or dialing the support number on the back of a product, the way employees interact with customers in these mundane moments can leave an everlasting impression of the brand. In order to establish customer loyalty, it is pivotal to train employees in the art of communication.

Adapting to Change and Demonstrating Corporate Social Responsibility

Fresh ingredients mattered to Burger King’s customers, so it got rid of preservatives to appeal to the desires of a largely health-focused audience. The brand demonstrated how to adapt to your markets to keep customers loyal. Especially in these uncertain times, adapting to the wants and needs of your market matter more than ever.

The landscape for how brands market to customers is changing each and every day because of COVID-19. One brand that is getting it right in the CSR (corporate social responsibility) messaging category is Coca-Cola. The beverage giant recently launched an ad in Times Square that communicated the importance of social distancing with the message, “Staying apart is the best way to stay connected.” Rather than shying away from addressing the current health crisis, Coca-Cola faced it head on and used its platform to communicate an important message to its customers.

Adapting to change and conveying messages that align with the current concerns of your market matter enormously when it comes to establishing brand loyalty. Customers like to engage with brands that are making a difference. In fact, 70% of customers want brands to be positive contributors to society.

In order to keep business thriving in crowded marketplaces, brands must find ways to keep customers loyal. The practices above are necessary to implement. Brands that focus on building customer relationships and delivering an unparalleled CX will have the loyalty of their biggest assets – their customers.

John Thompson

As Sitel Group’s Head of Business Development, Americas, John Thompson has a passion for customer engagement and how the adaptation of virtualization and digitization complement traditional global contact center strategies. This passion stems from Thompson’s 15 years’ experience in the customer experience (CX) industry. Throughout his career, he has held a variety of leadership positions and has co-founded two start-up companies. Thompson holds an MBA from Creighton University and a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University. He resides in Omaha, Nebraska.

Meaningful Agent Training For Meaningful Customer Experiences

How important is agent experience when delivering exceptional customer experience? Eighty-six percent of CX executives believe it is the #1 factor. When it comes to customer satisfaction, agent satisfaction is the key. In the live Virtual Conference webcast, Lauren Comer from NICE InContact walks us through a comprehensive worksheet to help us better understand how to conduct meaningful agent training for more meaningful customer experiences.

It’s simple: satisfied and engaged agents are more likely to stay in their jobs and to have a positive impact on the overall customer experience. But how do we make sure we keep our employees satisfied and engaged? After all, the types of problems agents are handling are increasingly complex, and they need to solve these problems in a way that is efficient and satisfactory for the customer. The answer lies in training: creating more time for it and adding in higher-value skills.

We know what you’re thinking: creating time is easier said than done. After all, you cannot simply add time to your day. When we think about how we can gain more time for training, it is not about adding time, it’s about being more efficient with our time. We can do this by focusing on three things: accelerating new agent onboarding, training smarter with analytics, and pushing miniature bite-sized learning packages.

When accelerating new agent onboarding, it’s not about cutting onboarding time shorter. You’ll want to keep that duration the same while focusing on the activities and skills that really matter to the customer experience. Today, the majority of onboarding time is spent on contact center processes, technology used to service customers, and learning to use the knowledge base. The solution is an all-in-one intuitive agent interface. It’s simple: less complicated technology leads to less training required on systems. Instead, your agents can spend more time on service and use freed onboarding time on value-added training.

Many businesses have a one-size-fits-all approach to ongoing training. This is too manual to identify agent-specific skill sets, and too time consuming to be prescriptive in training. By using analytics to pinpoint agent-specific skill gaps, businesses may evaluate agent interactions based on experience through customer sentiment, customer complaints, specific words and phrases, as well as feedback from customer surveys.

In general, businesses do not prioritize setting aside time for ongoing training and development. The perception is that there is not enough time because of the typical contact center training mold. These training sessions tend to be formal, classroom style training that last at least one hour and require the presence of every employee. Instead, push “just-in-time” bite sized training. These are short, custom learning packages that are accessible from contact handling surfaces. Pushing bite-sized training packages can transform idle time into training time.

Creating time for training will transform how your agents develop and adapt overtime, becoming better equipped to handle the increasingly complex problems being thrown at them. Meanwhile, focusing that training to include higher-value skills such as problem solving, multi-tasking, and emotional intelligence will hand them the toolkit to success.

In the last 12 months, forty-three percent of contact centers experienced an increase in contact complexity. Prepare your agents by modeling what effective problem-solving looks like, identifying common problems in your contact center, ensuring all agents understand all of the problem-solving resources available to them, and allowing room for hands-on role play.

In fifty percent of contact centers, contact volume has increased in the past twelve months. Meanwhile, sixty-seven percent of agents indicated a number of channels as a factor contributing to stress. Today’s digital omnichannel world requires new juggling skills from agents. Get ahead of potential stress by providing your agents with hands on exercises for multitasking practice, sharing best practices across peers, and incorporating screen recordings into QM practices.

Just as well, emotional intelligence is key to successful customer interactions. When your agents have superior emotional intelligence, they are better at managing their emotions as well as the emotions of others. Teaching emotional intelligence is tricky. You cannot just teach the agent the empathy piece, but you also have to teach them to cultivate that emotion into effective problem solving. Do this by creating a list of recommended words and phrases by incoming sentiment /scenarios and provide hands-on exercises with your agents using active role play.

To reiterate, the keys to meaningful agent training is time and value. Creating more time for training, maximizing time with the right tools, and rethinking the training model will set you up for success. Focusing on higher-value skills like problem solving, multitasking, and emotional Intelligence will better prepare your agents for the evolving and increasingly complex contact center. You can listen to the full webcast here: https://bit.ly/3dOPln9

 

Infusing Digital CX With Human Intelligence

In today’s contact centers, there are plenty of avenues for using technology to provide a great customer experience. How can we make sure to maintain a personal touch? In the live Virtual Conference webcast, Dave Hoekstra from Calabrio demonstrated how to infuse digital CX with human intelligence to create a meaningful customer experience for not only your customers, but for your agents as well.

In today’s contact centers, we are constantly hearing the terms “AI” and “machine learning”. What does all of that mean? Really, we are talking about the ability for machines to display human-like intelligence; a concept that CX has fully embraced in recent years. Years ago, customer service was strictly face-to-face. Over time, the customer experience has evolved into omnichannel experiences for the customer such as e-mail, chat boxes, and SMS messaging. In 2020, IoT data will grow at 50 times the rate of other data. CX must keep up with this trend, however, it is vital to maintain humanity in these exchanges.

Customer expectations for CX are increasingly rising, demanding instant responses, personalized services, and omnichannel experience. With these rising expectations, maintaining customer loyalty is more complicated than ever.

The problem is that most businesses don’t know what their customers want. Why? Because they are simply not listening. Only one in four companies actively use their customer feedback, while only one in three actively use their customer interaction analytics. Ninety-eight percent of invaluable customer intelligence is sitting on the shelf. Businesses must turn this information into actionable intelligence to push them toward their goals.

Here is what we know: customers prefer human contact. Eighty-six percent of customers claim they prefer human contact to chat bots. Seventy-one percent of customers said they would be less likely to use a brand if it didn’t have customer service representatives available. While many believe phone contact is dying, calls to businesses are expected to exceed 169 billion per year by 2020. In response, businesses must humanize their customer relationship.

As previously mentioned, businesses are sitting on a goldmine of information. Using sentiment analysis, businesses can take information such as recordings from phone calls to identify human emotion in order to really understand what is going on in the day-to-day processing of our customers.

Another focus area is employee and agent empowerment. By empowering human intelligence in the contact center, businesses can drive an agent-centric approach while giving their employees the flexibility and balance they need. The integration of AI in this equation provides a personal assistant to your employees rather than taking their place. Thus, improving work-life balance, allowing for flexible planning and scheduling, and happier agents. That’s the key: happy agents lead to happy customers.

AI Assistance may also improve training and development. This can include VoC (Voice of the Customer) training, automated quality monitoring, a more intelligent way to schedule training opportunities, and cross-functional job training. Businesses are still living in an environment where operations are siloed because agents’ skills are very specific. Enter: training across job functions. Here, businesses can get ahead of the curve by recognizing where their employees’ strengths and weaknesses are before they are out in the field.

All of this leads to more empowered employees. Employees that are more engaged are:

  • 8.5x more likely to stay than leave within the year.
  • 4x more likely to stay than dissatisfied colleagues
  • 3.3x more likely to feel empowered to resolve customer issues

It’s time to hear your customers out. First. audit your technology stack. Take a look at all of the different ways your customers can get in touch with you and figure out what works best. Second, tap into the conversation to gain a comprehensive view of the customer. Finally, focus on your people. Customers matter but so do your agents. It’s time for companies to focus on the people who are engaging customers on a day to day basis. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE WEBCAST

 

AI-Driven Modeling to Improve the Agent and Customer Experience

Are traditional analytics and contact center practices enough to drive customer satisfaction? During this live Virtual Conference webcast, Larry Skowronek and Michelle Carlson from NICE Nexidia lead a conversation about how AI-driven data modeling can be the key to achieving greater success. To further explain, Larry and Michelle walk through the state of analytics today, an overview of sentiment analytics, an overview of predictive behavioral routing, and how to combine sentiment and predictive behavioral routing to maximize customer satisfaction and drive progress.

Today, we generally see a large disconnect between business and how they evaluate customer interactions. Eighty percent of companies claim they deliver “superior” customer service, while in reality, only eight percent of their customers actually agree. This is partially because the state of measuring customer satisfaction is deeply flawed. Manual reviews of calls that require a human to evaluate transactions lead to highly subjective, interpretive, and inconsistent feedback, which not only requires higher costs, but also fails to move the needle forward.

Customer contact centers are a dynamic and evolving animal. The only way to respond to change is with change. Enter: Sentiment Analytics. Sentiment Analytics is a way to use machine learning to train a model that measures whether our customer interaction was positive, negative, or neutral on a granular scale. The machine can take our otherwise subjective behaviors and turn them into subjective data that is highly valuable and actionable. This data is consistent, accurate, and without bias. Most importantly, because it is a machine, it can do as much work as we throw at it, so we can receive and analyze data for every single customer interaction.

This AI-based model has proven to be statistically accurate, according to several CX centers that use it. But how exactly does this model measure customer satisfaction. The model reliably measures every interaction, including:

  • Spoken words, like “Awesome”, “I’m annoyed”, and “This is ridiculous”.
  • Laughter detection.
  • Pitch and tone.
  • Cross talk: customer and agent interrupting one another.

These models may also differentiate calls that start positively and end negatively, indicating worst practices, as well as calls that start negatively and end positively, indicating best practices. The reliability and accuracy of these models have allowed businesses to gain deep insights on the overall customer experience and quickly translate those insights into action. Finally, these models create a hyper-personalized customer experience. This is a monumental advantage, as eighty-four percent of customers say that personalized customer experiences are key to winning their business.

For a perfectly personalized customer experience, sentiment models can aid in Predictive Behavioral Routing (PBR), which uses sentiment analytics to match the customer to the appropriate agent and therefore improves the overall customer experience. By bringing Sentiment Analytics and PBR together, businesses can seamlessly operationale their sentiment data by:

  • Calculating customer sentiment on 100% of interactions
  • Using this sentiment combined with personality, make the best connection for the customer.
  • Immediately improve customer experience with AI-powered routing.

So, what does this process look like in real time? In one example, a Fortune 500 company’s customers were initially being transferred all over the contact center. They then optimized their customer calls based on sentiment dada. Here’s what happened:

  • They saw a 15% decrease in negative sentiment on PBR (predictive behavioral routing) routed calls.
  • They saw a 13% increase in positive sentiment on PBR routed calls
  • They saw a 6.4% decrease in average handle time in PBR routed calls
  • This required 0 hours of coaching, training and employee change management.

The combination of sentiment and behavioral routing will improve customer satisfaction metrics, reduce costs for manual listening and surveys, improve customer satisfaction via targeted coaching and performance management, and increase employee satisfaction. Your analytics practices are valuable, but should be evolving to keep up with dynamic consumer expectations. Your employees and customers alike will thank you for it.

To listen to the full webcast click here: https://bit.ly/2ULJgPB

Can we build machines that understand us?

Tobias Goebel,  Mar 2020

The question of whether we can build machines that truly think is a fascinating one. It has both practical and philosophical implications, and both perspectives answer a key question very differently: how close to the real thing (human thinking) do we need to get?” In fact – does rebuilding the exact human ways even matter? And are we too easily impressed with anyone claiming they have accomplished this Franksteinian feat?

From a purely practical perspective, any machine that improves a human task on some level (speed, quality, effort) is a good machine. When it comes to cognitive” tasks, such as reasoning, or predicting what comes next based on previous data points, we appreciate the help of computer systems that produce the right outcome either faster, better, or more easily than we can. We do not really care how they do it. It is perfectly acceptable if they simulate” how we think, as long as they produce a result. They do not actually have to think like we do.

The question of whether machines can truly think has become more relevant again in recent years, thanks to the rise of voice assistants on our phones and in our homes, as well as chatbots on company websites and elsewhere. Now, we want machines to understand — arguably a different, more comprehensive form of thinking. More specifically, we want machines to understand human language. Again we can consider this question from two different angles: the practical, and the philosophical one.

John Searle, an American professor of philosophy and language, introduced a widely discussed thought experiment in 1980, called The Chinese Room. It made the argument that no program can be written that, merely by virtue of being run on a computer, creates something that truly is thinking, or understanding. Computer programs are merely manipulating symbols, which means operating on a syntactical level. Understanding, however, is a semantical process.

Searle concedes that computers are powerful tools that can help us study certain aspects of human thought processes. He calls that weak AI”. In his 1980 paper, he contrasts that with “strong AI”: But according to strong AI, the computer is not merely a tool in the study of the mind; rather, the appropriately programmed computer really is a mind, in the sense that computers given the right programs can be literally said to understand and have other cognitive states.

Cognitive states are states of mind such as hoping, wanting, believing, hating. Think (sic!) about it: proponents of strong AI, and they do exist, claim that as soon as you run an appropriately written computer program (and only while it is running), these computers literally are hoping, are wanting, etc. That surely must be a stretch?

Searles thought experiment is summarized by him as follows:

Imagine a native English speaker who knows no Chinese locked in a room full of boxes of Chinese symbols (a data base) together with a book of instructions for manipulating the symbols (the program). Imagine that people outside the room send in other Chinese symbols which, unknown to the person in the room, are questions in Chinese (the input). And imagine that by following the instructions in the program the man in the room is able to pass out Chinese symbols which are correct answers to the questions (the output). The program enables the person in the room to pass the Turing Test for understanding Chinese but he does not understand a word of Chinese.

Goebel Cartoon

This is a simple but powerful thought experiment. For decades now, other philosophers have attempted to shoot holes into the argument, e.g. claiming that while the operator him- or herself might not understand Chinese, the room as a whole actually does. Yet all of these replies are eventually refutable, at least according to Searle, so the argument is being discussed and studied to this day.

Strong AI is of course not necessary for practical systems. As an excellent example of that, consider the social chatbot Mitsuku. (A “social bot” has no purpose other than to chat with you, as opposed to what you could call functional or transactional chatbots, such as customer service bots.) Mitsuku is a five-time winner (and now a Guinness World Record holder) of the Loebner Prize, an annual competition for social bots. She is entirely built on fairly simple “IF-THEN” rules. No machine learning, no neural networks, no fancy mathematics or programming whatsoever. Just a myriad of pre-written answers and some basic contextual memory. Her creator is Steven Worswick, who has been adding answers to Mitsuku since 2005. The chatbot, who you can chat with yourself, easily beats Alexa, Siri, Google, Cortana, and any other computer system that claims it can have conversations with us. (Granted: none of the commercially available systems do claim that social banter is their main feature.)

Certainly, Mitsuku by no means aims to be an example of strong AI. It produces something that on the surface looks like a human-to-human conversation, but a computer running the IF-THEN rules is of course nowhere near a thinking machine. This example, however, shows that it neither requires a machine that “truly thinks”, nor a corporation with the purchasing power of an Amazon, Apple, or Google, to build something that serves a meaningful purpose: a single individual with a nighttime and weekend passion can accomplish just that. And Mitsuku, with its impressive ability to chitchat for long stretches of time, is meaningful to many, according to the creator.

Goebel Mitsuku Graphic

 

It is easy to get distracted by technological advancements and accomplishments, and the continuous hype cycles we find ourselves in will never cease to inspire us. But let’s make an attempt to not let them distract us from what fundamentally matters: that the tools we build actually work, and perform a given task. For chatbots, that means that they first and foremost need to be able to have a meaningful conversation in a given context. Whether they are built on simple rules or the latest generation of neural network algorithms shouldn’t matter. Despite that concession, it will probably remain forever human to marvel at advances towards solving what might be the biggest philosophical question of all: can we ever build a machine that can truly understand?