Why Your Contact Center Needs Remote Agents

When agents are twiddling their thumbs because calls aren’t coming in, it costs the contact center money. When a barrage of calls come in and wait times skyrocket, the customer experience drops. Having the correct capacity of agents without over-staffing is a tug-of-war that every contact center has had to play.

Even with insightful analytics, you can’t perfectly predict how much activity your contact center is going to have. There will be unexpected lulls and spikes in activity regardless of what the numbers prepare you for.

The goal of flexible WFM is to increase the contact center’s agility while maintaining a high level of customer service.

Traditional vs. Flexible Workforces

One way to increase workforce flexibility is to have a number of remote agents who are able to work from home. Here’s how that can help:

Hold Times

Agents in a traditional contact center can easily get overloaded with calls, leaving a lot of customers on hold. Call abandon rates increase while service quality decreases. Remote agents are often able to deliver quicker call resolution.

Ramp-Up Time

Ramp-up time in a traditional contact center can take weeks, but on-demand remote agents are able to ramp up in just a few hours.

Scalability

If there’s an unexpected rush of communication or a shift has to be covered in an emergency, the resources at a traditional contact center can’t always scale as quickly as needed. With the support of a remote workforce, though, agents can cover gaps in even a non-standard schedule at the last minute.

Encourage Customers to Use Other Channels

Unexpected spikes are going to happen. As you continue managing spikes, particularly the ones you can predict, create a contingency plan for the spikes you don’t see coming. One way to do this is to encourage customers to use other channels, like chat, email, SMS and social media.

This can limit the number of incoming calls and may also lower the number of times a customer reaches out to customer service before being helped. For example, if you have a team of agents providing social media support, they can connect with a customer after the first complaint and possibly solve the issue before is escalates.

Even contact centers that have always had rigid staffing measures can see the benefits of a flexible model, which saves resources during downtime and allows for adjustments on-the-fly.

What’s on Your Supervisor Screen? Agent KPIs to Watch

In your day-to-day contact center operations, everything under the sun can be measured, reported on, and popped to your screen. When you’re bombarded by data, only the most-used KPIs deserve a spot on your agent desktop. How do you know which KPIs are the most valuable to your team, contact center, and business?

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI), also called a metric, is a value that you can measure, one that shows just how effective your business is at achieving its goals. If your top business goal is to boost customer satisfaction, for example, you’ll probably want to keep an eye on KPIs such as call abandonment rates, survey responses, average handle time, and so forth. Contact centers use metrics to collect specific data from every interaction, service, queue, agent, survey, and more.

In any contact center, the real-time metrics that supervisors use on a daily basis generally fall into common categories, such as these:

  • Agent metrics
  • Campaign-specific metrics
  • List metrics
  • Service metrics
  • Skill metrics
  • Team metrics

Nestled in each category, there can be dozens, if not hundreds, of metrics, and the ones that matter really depend on your company’s goals.

Your Agents, At-a-Glance

Do you know what your agents are doing, right now? Supervisors need dashboards and wallboards with real-time KPIs that signal which agents and teams need to be monitored. And when there are 50+ KPIs to choose from, how do you know which ones are the most important? The more metrics you add to a dashboard, the less useful a dashboard becomes. In this blog, we will focus on some of the most-useful real-time agent metrics for contact center supervisors to watch.

Agent State

An agent’s state indicates whether or not the agent can handle an interaction. It may seem basic, but this information is very useful to the supervisor monitoring a team of agents working both in-house and remotely. Agent State provides an at-a-glance look at whether agents are ready, not ready, busy, idle, or doing after-call work. For agents in the Not Ready state, this metric also provides the reason (e.g., lunch, break, meeting, etc.).

Agent State shows what every logged in agent on your team is doing right now. If all your agents are busy, you know why the queue is filling up with calls, or why callers are still on hold. Likewise, if all your agents are ready yet the queue is backed up and customers are not being helped, you have reason to suspect your services are not running.

Time in State

Time in State is how long (in minutes and seconds) an agent has been ready, not ready, and so forth. Generally, supervisors will know what duration is acceptable for service calls, chats, breaks, and after-call work, and the Time in State metric will give them a cursory view of who’s working as expected, who’s slacking, and who needs help. For example, the supervisor may want to check in on an agent who’s been in the Not Ready state for 24 minutes, with no reason given.

ACW Time

After-call work (ACW) consists of all the tasks that agents must do before they can complete the interaction, tasks such as setting a disposition, creating contacts, writing notes, setting follow-ups, and more. These tasks are important but tedious. Agents in the ACW state cannot handle a new interaction until this work is done.

ACW Time can show you which agents and teams are not accepting new interactions because they’re still working on the old. High ACW time can indicate it’s time to relieve your agents of this type of work and automate the tasks instead.

Sentiment

Displayed as faces that are happy, neutral, or angry, sentiment provides a quick glimpse at the general mood and satisfaction level of your customers, in real time. It’s not the sentiment of your agents. Happy faces mean happy customers, and angry ones spell low customer satisfaction and poor reviews.

When agents chat with a customer, for example, the system is utilizing Natural Language Understanding and other cognitive technologies to assess the customer’s satisfaction level. Positive keywords, statements, and expressions become happy faces in the supervisor’s monitoring screen and in the agent’s active interaction. Sentiment is also saved in interaction records and chat transcripts such as this.

The sentiment of an unhelpful chat session would immediately appear on the agent’s screen within the chat as well as on the supervisor’s screen. A slew of angry faces in the supervisor’s list view of active agent interactions means the supervisor should monitor those agents and step in to help.

Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is the average result of surveys where the customer satisfaction question has been answered. The best way to know how your customers feel about your service, agents, products, or anything else, is to ask them.

Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the percentage of points for all surveys where a response was given for the contact satisfaction question. The percentage is calculated out of the number of interactions, where surveys exist, by subtracting the percentage of promoters (values 9 and 10) by the percentage of detractors (values 0 to 6).

You want to have a high NPS at all times. Customers are more likely to respond positively to a contact satisfaction question if they had a good experience with a knowledgeable, helpful agent. For contact centers, NPS is key way to measure success

Contact Center Driven by Insights

Agent metrics provide detailed information about agent performance and customer satisfaction. These KPIs provide the insights you need for improving agent engagement and elevating the customer experience.

After all, customer experience hinges on empowering agents with the right training, tools, and service model. Bright Pattern’s omnichannel contact center software helps empower agents with unique tools that facilitate better conversations, boost agent performance, and deliver higher returns in customer satisfaction and agent engagement. Having a unified and powerful agent desktop that displays important KPIs helps to keep supervisors focused on teams and agents focused on customers.

You can learn more about how monitoring agent metrics can help improve agent engagement and customer service by downloading the Bright Pattern e-book.

Digital Disruption in Fintech Customer Service – an Uber Moment for All Industries?

Two years ago, during a brainstorming session at Customer Contact Week, a customer service leader from a government agency stated that it wanted its service to be as good as Nordstrom’s. What was a surprise at the time has become a new norm. Customers expect similar levels of customer service across industries.

Now, the financial services industry always an early adopter of new technology—is going through a wave of Uber- or Amazon-like digital disruption that will not stay within just financial services but will roll over into all industries. The smarter, more agile companies—midsized companies or large enterprises—will ride the wave and grow while others will struggle to stay relevant.

So what does this wave look like and what should customer service leaders in other industries be aware of? Let’s dive into what is happening in financial services and some lessons learned to see….

Fintech, Then and Now

Digital disruption has swept up the financial services industry, as traditional big banks are challenged by digital banks like Tangerine, traditional investment firms are challenged by companies like Wealthfront, and companies like Square or PayPal become digital financial services firms using innovative technology.

Many of the old-school companies are now either buying the financial tech (i.e., fintech) companies who plan to usurp them, partner with them, or just leverage the technology into their customer services operations.

To reduce effort and increase personalization, banks have turned to biometrics to authenticate. Rather than being greeted with an impersonal “name, rank, and social security number please” message, biometrics do the work and the agent can then greet them personally. Similarly, with 90% of consumers preferring online banking regardless of age, companies have rolled out chat text communication, and other forms of self-service. And more innovative companies are looking at video to increase personalization. OmniChannel banking is here, where the best of digital self-service is seamlessly blended with agents.

The shift to digital self-service can be significant to business. Take a look at Wells Fargo, for example, which announced earlier this month that it’s eliminating up to 10% of its workforce as a result of customers moving to digital channels and self-service. This is similar to AIG’s announcement a couple years ago to slash over a billion dollars of expenses as the company made similar moves to self-service and digital channels. Many of these shifts to digital channels and self-service are lessons other industries should heed and learn from.

So how do you compete if you are a midsize financial services company or large enterprise bank—or even in another industry? Customer service and customer experience remain the top strategy to win, especially when coupling this with disruptive digital approaches.

Let’s look at some key ways to win in financial services, ways that also are relevant to other industries too.

Key #1: Digital Channels of Choice

To stay relevant, it is key that your company handle not just classic channels such as voice, chat, email and text, but also emerging digital channels like bots, messengers and video.

Chat was the fastest growing channel most recently, but experts predict new messaging channels will overtake chat in the next wave. Forrester is actually predicting the average number of channels people will use often will increase from 9 to 11. Agents need to be able to communicate over these new channels and be able to hop across them if they have the right skills for the new channels.

Similarly, channels that customers prefer need to be offered to customers as a way to communicate with their digital banks. So the first takeaway is to provide customers with their digital channel of choice, both classic and emerging.

Key #2: Maintain One Conversation in Context

As communications happen over an increasing number of channels, you need a way to unify all these siloed interactions. If you want to keep customers and deliver frictionless communications, look for the entire customer journey rather than individual communications for each channel.

If you are communicating with a bot and then an agent, the agent should have at his or her fingertips all the context from communication on previous channels so they can provide an effortless customer experience. A single unified desktop that allows agents to see the full conversation in context empowers agents and makes for a much better experience for customers—whether you’re a digital bank or are in any other industry.

Key #3: Digital Conversations for a Mobile World

In addition to unifying all your channels in context, it is important to communicate with people where they are. In our super-busy, high-tech world, people are often looking at their mobile phone on trains, planes—and all too often—their automobiles. People are on the go. COPC recently reported that mobile care will increase 41% in 2018.

So make sure that your top channels can be accessed on mobile devices wherever the customer may be. Bright Pattern, for instance, allows in ap chat, file sharing, video chat, and more.

Banks had some of the most useful apps when they first created the deposit-by-picture feature. Yet, when you hit the “contact us” button in most apps in other industries, you are routed to a general phone number where an IVR asks you what language you speak rather than offer personal service.

Companies should take a mobile, personalized approach to their communications. Put the conversation where people are—and that is on the go.

Key #4: Cloud Customer Service is a Key Enabler

So how do you do all this—add digital channels, communicate seamlessly across them, respond to new channels, and more? Look to the cloud. A true “born from the cloud” customer service architecture where all channels are native versus bolt-on can give you a nimble platform in which you are the disruptor versus disrupted.

Cloud-first architecture is a truly agile, nimble platform because it doesn’t rely on legacy technology ported from old on-premises solutions. A cloud platform approach will break down the silos and deliver a simple solution that business users can make changes to without requiring costly IT and professional services. Our e-book explains how to safely transition your contact center to the cloud.

Final Thoughts?

The wave of disruption is everywhere, rolling through financial services and hitting other industries too. Ready to join the world of digital disruption sweeping through financial services? There is a brighter way to deliver disruptive customer service that smart companies are using, and it starts in the cloud.

I hope some of these keys were helpful. To learn more about staying relevant in this world of digital disruption, see Bright Pattern’s free e-book, 5 Keys: Effortless and Personal Omnichannel Customer Service.

Vonage Looks to Create Significant Strategic Advantages with the Acquisition of NewVoiceMedia

The recent announcement of Vonage’s acquisition of cloud contact center-as-a-service (CCCaaS) provider NewVoiceMedia for an equity price of $350M in cash was a carefully considered decision designed to leverage the strengths of both companies in the ever-evolving contact center space. “We thoroughly explored a number of companies as we looked for the right fit in cloud contact center before announcing our intent. We found the strategic benefits to be compelling,” noted Omar Javaid, Vonage Chief Product Officer. “The combination of Vonage’s robust UCaaS and CPaaS solutions with NewVoiceMedia’s pure-play cloud contact center offering provides a seamless user experience, with end-to-end communications to enable increased employee productivity, mobility and ease-of-use, as well as enhanced customer engagement and more productive conversations. NewVoiceMedia will provide us with global scale and round out our robust product offering in the high-growth cloud contact center market. This is a large market that is adjacent to UCaaS and is undergoing the same on-prem-to-cloud migration taking place in UCaaS.”

NewVoiceMedia delivers a cloud contact center solution that is distinguished by its specifically CRM-focused, go-to-market approach. As businesses adopt CRM tools to improve customer engagement and to drive digital transformation, these solutions offer what Vonage believes to be a superior, integrated experience with leading CRMs: for example, NewVoiceMedia offers a tight integration with Salesforce. This is particularly important for better, real-time, omnichannel interactions across chat, voice and SMS, as well as more robust analytics and data capture.

“By orienting NewVoiceMedia’s technology stack to a programmable, microservices architecture, we will be able to increase the number of programmable solutions offered on Nexmo, the Vonage API platform,” said Javaid. “There is a natural linkage between our programmable communications platform and cloud contact center in which components-such as queuing, IVR and speech analytics among others–can be accessed via APIs and embedded into a company’s existing solutions to improve functionality, making every customer communication count.”

“Once the deal has closed (which is expected in Q4), we will focus on fully integrating the solutions,” he said. “Since they complement each other so well, we plan on accelerating our strategy to create OneVonage, our combined, microservices-based, cloud communications platform. With OneVonage, we will provide solutions, all fully programmable, including packaged applications such as PBX, Contact Center, Collaboration and Team messaging, as well as programmable communication APIs.”

Javaid believes that by fully integrating NewVoiceMedia’s cloud contact center solutions into Vonage’s UCaaS offering, the company will be responding to the strong customer demand it has seen among mid-market and enterprise customers for such integrated solutions. “Up until now, we have addressed this demand by integrating third-party contact center solutions,” he said. “By owning NewVoiceMedia, we can more deeply integrate our products and deliver a superior solution versus competitive offerings.”

While the solutions will be merged, the companies will continue to operate independently. According to Javaid, NewVoiceMedia, which has more than 700 customers and more than 400 employees, will continue to operate on a standalone basis for the foreseeable future.

Vonage expects to realize annual run rate synergies of about $10M by the end of next year and hopes to see these results go “meaningfully higher” by the end of 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cyara’s Top Tips to Enhance Customer Experience

Customer experience (CX) expert Cyara has compiled six best practices that businesses should internalize to raise customer satisfaction. These insights, gleaned from Cyara’s front-line teams, celebrate #CXDay2018, a day to recognize the professionals and companies that make great customer experiences happen.

Cyara CEO Alok Kulkarni offers six ways a business can elevate the experience of its customers:

  1. CX should be at the center of any digital transformation.
    Customer interactions are an integral part of the CX landscape and need to be a key component of digital transformation initiatives. For many companies, digital transformation investments are insufficiently allocated to the contact center, with the result that customers continue to wrestle with legacy systems. Recent studies show that while digital channels for customer interaction are growing rapidly, voice is still the preferred communications channel for pre- and post-sales support.
  2. Without CX measurement, businesses are flying blind.
    From the anecdotal to the hard stats, CRM professionals need to know how their CX is performing. CX leaders rely on a variety of metrics—from the big-picture metrics of Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) to real-time metrics such as dropped calls and correct connections. These real-time metrics deliver the true insights into the “now” needed to quickly identify and address problems customers are experiencing as they look for help.
  3. Great CX innovation requires cross-team collaboration.
    With the push for continuous integration and real-time innovation of front-line customer experience systems, it’s critical for organizations to successfully collaborate across development, testing, and operations teams, as well as between IT teams and business teams. Having a shared vision and collaboration tools are key to advancing in an agile, fast-paced mode of development.
  4. Spikes happen. Systems fail. Be prepared.
    Whether it’s Black Friday, annual insurance enrollment, or holiday travel, each business sector has its seasonal volatility, major product launches, and other high-volume periods. Spikes can also be unpredictable, such as a dramatic increase in insurance inquiries after a natural disaster. “Make sure you load test and ensure your system can handle massive volumes of in-bound enquiries, rather than finding out you under-provisioned just when your contact center is deluged,” says Kulkarni.
  5. Stay informed and learn from the experience of others.
    Cyara works with companies of all sizes across many industries and geographies — including their unique attributes, industry-specific regulations, and compliance requirements. Certainly, every company has its own brand values and personality—so implementations certainly vary—but the principles of world-class CX leaders remain consistent. “The attributes I consistently see with those who are most successful include prioritization of the customer experience, a cross-team dedication to excellent customer service, a culture of CX innovation, and a strong commitment to continuous improvement,” says Kulkarni.
  6. Make it personal.
    “As a CX technology provider, I’m a big proponent of applying technology to automate, test, manage, and deliver on your CX. Today, there’s also a great deal of excitement about what’s on the horizon with AI and chatbots. All that’s great, but all this technology has to be applied in service to each individual customer’s experience,” adds Kulkarni. Technology must help support the company’s commitment and mission, it must empower both its customers and its front-line agents, and it must personalize each and every touchpoint with the customer.

 

 

What You Need to Know to Sell with Online Chat

Countless articles tout the benefits online chat brings to the sales process. The question for many organizations now centers on how to combine the customer service aspect of live chat with conversational selling.

Companies can get lost in the vast array of strategies and approaches for integrating online chat into the sales process. When implementing a chat initiative, keeping true to the basics is central to your success.

Here are the four steps you need to follow to sell with online chat.

  1. Pick the Right Metrics

Online chat that focuses on customer service often also opens the opportunity for software sales. However, without appropriate metrics in place, it’s difficult to know when success is being achieved.

KPIs for live chat sales conversations must include the following:

  • Engagement to lead
  • Lead to qualified lead
  • Pipeline amount (quantity and dollar amount)
  •  Sales (quantity and dollar amount)

Similarly, chat agents must strive to provide a great experience for everyone, be they customer or prospect. Therefore, customer service teams need to measure customer response during and after the conversion process.

Important online chat metrics regarding customer experience include:

  • Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Response time
  • Agent Availability measurements

Be aware that customer success metrics like Average Handle Time (AHT) might fall lower in the ranks of importance. Companies should not put much stock in the total length of chat discussions.

Customer service agents need to strive to make visitors happier when they leave than they were when they arrived. If customer success agents can do that in 30 seconds, great. However, if it takes eight hours, that’s fine too, as long as issues are solved, and the level of customer satisfaction opens the way to further transactions.

Train live chat agents not to dwell on non-business-related conversations but to spend all the time they need to solve the problem. That way, they will complete the chat session in a timely manner and to the visitors’ satisfaction.

  1. Extend Your Online Chat Agents’ Duties

Limiting live chat agents’ roles in directing visitors to the content they need can result in your business leaving money on the table. Customer success agents must seek out potential lead opportunities in addition to providing assistance.

Chat agents could offer to pass prospects to an inside sales person for more in-depth discussion. Alternatively, they could find a means to collect prospects’ contact information, for example by directing the customer to a video that requires registration.

 

Chat agents should be given the opportunity to train and partner the sales team to better understand the product and solutions they are supporting. Often, the first interaction a prospect will have with a company is with the customer support team, so it’s essential that they can effectively triage product related questions and recognize lead opportunities.

Empowering customer service agents with the metrics that focus more around empathy and customer satisfaction rather than chat length is the key to live chat lead generation. Again, it comes back to fostering directed dialogue rather than focusing on how quickly customer care agents complete an online chat session. From training to performance review to the behavior of leaders, organizations can nurture an environment that uses empathy and understanding to drive toward success.

  1. Demonstrate Commitment to Live Chat

Chat implementation can be relatively simple. Just a few lines of JavaScript and away you go. The key to success, though, is a commitment to the program and ongoing training, optimization, and monitoring.

The pitfalls to employing chat usually center on taking an uninspired approach to the medium where the code is thrown up but then not adequately staffed and aligned with appropriate goals.

For true success, implement personalized, interactive, data-driven training programs and provide updated education at regular intervals. Additionally, integrate the management structure into this initiative by having agents give themselves a quality score that they can share with coaches on a weekly basis. Self-evaluation can be a great way to create the opportunity for constructive critique and conversations about improvement.

  1. Don’t Rely on Chatbots To Be Your Brand Ambassador

Chatbots certainly have their place, especially when it comes to directing customers to content that can answer high-level, basic questions. At the same time, chatbots in no way replace the human touch once questions get a little deeper.

Converting visitors into loyal, high margin customers requires a host of conversational skills. A strong live chat agent needs to read between the lines, assess the bigger picture of the sales opportunity at hand, hold multiple parallel discussions at once, and respond to their conversation partner with timing, wit, and emotional intuition.

Moreover, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. The best way to get someone to connect with your customer support agents is for them to develop a relationship with one another.

When salespeople have rapport with clients, they create a mutual base from which to partner and support each other’s goals. Although IBM Watson has drafted ads for Toyota that helped them close some business, chatbots are often inadequate for complex sales applications. Unlike writing copy, customer care requires the dynamic art of two-way conversation.

Chat strategies that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) can serve customer service agents well, but only by augmenting human agents. Through deep learning, natural language processing, and multivariate analysis, organizations can analyze more variables and more extensive data sets than is humanly possible to help customer care agents perform better. Thus, the goal of these systems should focus on arming humans with information they can use to engage the customer more effectively.

Creating the Most Successful Online Chat Scenarios

The very best live chat agents aren’t the ones who are naturally gifted at charming the customer. They’re the ones who record metrics for constant improvement, possess superior situational awareness, and use AI to supplement their instincts and experience as needed. The combination of these traits will pave your way to successful customer care.

About the Authors:

Dean Shaw is the Global Chat Program Manager for SAS, Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. Dean leads SAS’ Chat Program that focuses on enhancing the customer experience, drive leads, and generates robust Voice of Customer analytics.

Tony Medrano is CEO and Co-Founder of RapportBoost, the leader in applying artificial intelligence to optimize live chat conversations in order to drive dramatic and sustained improvements in conversion rate, order size, customer satisfaction, renewal rate, average handle time, first contact resolution rate, agent retention and happiness and other critical contact center metrics. He can be reached at tony (at) rapportboost.ai.

CRMs Versus Contact Center Solutions: Are They the Same?

Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is powerful in its own right, but it’s not a complete contact center solution. CRMs like Salesforce, Zendesk, and even ServiceNow are ticketing/case management workhorses, allowing businesses to store customer profiles, identify sales opportunities and leads, track service issues, manage campaigns, and see a customer’s journey from day 1 to now. CRMs manage the external interactions and customer relationships for a business, but they don’t facilitate them. What CRMs lack is the ability to connect customers to agents and gather meaningful data from those connections.

Contact center software provides the means to initiate omnichannel customer interactions, manage them, and translate them into data. Contact centers utilize communications tools like chat, SMS, voice, email, and messengers to get customers from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. All about smart problem resolution, contact centers use intelligent routing to distribute customers to the best agents available (not just the first available agent), AI and cognitive technologies to drive interaction analysis and assist agents, and quality management tools to keep teams and SLAs on track. More than that, contact centers have the ability to record calls and screens, keep chat transcripts, provide self-service, collect survey data, report on customer satisfaction rankings, and evaluate agent performance with quality management tools like monitoring and coaching.

Most CRMs incorporate some communications tools, like email and messaging, into their platform. But they can only offer all the solutions of a real contact center by integrating with one. Salesforce, for example, offers live chat powered by Service Cloud, plus the ability to click to dial using a Google Voice integration, among other nifty things. Its messaging capabilities are add-ons, and the contents of real-time interactions are not logged automatically, creating a disconnect between the interactions and the customer’s profile and tickets.

Contact center platforms are designed to provide personalized omnichannel routing skills, analytics, reporting, and QM effortlessly. CRMs are not because it’s not their core competency. To have a complete view of a customer’s journey, you need to be able to combine CRM and contact center functions, and you get there with integrations.

Using Bright Pattern integrations, for example, your CRM becomes a robust contact center solution for the enterprise. Integrations add integrated UI, activity history, automatically saved contacts, click-to-call, screen pop, automated identification, prioritization, and self-service features to CRMs. A Bright Pattern integration with Salesforce, for example, also adds single sign-on functionality (sign in to both your CRM and contact center simultaneously), automatic push and pull of data, and desktop communications within Salesforce via the integrated Agent Desktop widget.

When CRM and contact center features are integrated, customers can reach you on any channel they want, agents can see the customer’s journey and anticipate their needs, and supervisors oversee quality management in order to boost customer satisfaction.

Though contact center software might offer some CRM-like capabilities, contact centers are not CRMs. Likewise, CRMs are not contact center platforms. Integrations are the key to getting a customer service platform that is personalized to your needs and effortless to use.

How to Create and Improve Your Customer Experience Model

To create a consistent, customized experience for your customers, you need a well-rounded view of the entire experience and all its parts. When you’re able to see the customer experience in full, you’ll streamline targeting and optimize communication.

By streamlining targeting, you learn which customer segments are interested in specific products and services, plus which channels you should use to target these specific customers. You’ll then uncover the best ways to communicate with that specific segment, including the sort of messaging they respond to.

What You Need to Create a Customer Experience Model

Creating a customer experience model takes into account all of the different parts of the customer experience you may have already tackled, like data, the customer journey and personas. Here’s where you’ll bring them together.

Who and Why

During this stage, you’ll understand your customers and see them as humans, not as metrics. This is where you’ll define customer personas. A persona considers the goals, motivations and needs of your VIP customers, which is based on data and research. You’ll gather and understand personal details, like who they are, what they want and why they should care about your product or service.

When and What

This is where you’ll map the customer journey, which highlights the key interactions your customers have with you. In addition to when the touchpoints take place, you’ll also determine what happens at each one – what are the customer’s perceptions and experiences along the way?

How

To pull everything together, you’ll work to figure out which processes and systems you need in place.

4 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience Model

  1. Choose a business objective. It should be a high-level objective, one that directly relates to your strategic plan, and it’s also good if it has broad impact. Focus on creating results for just that objective.
  2. Choose one channel – and it’s okay to start small. You may choose one type of email communication or one social media channel, for example.
  3. Your plan should include performance targets and metrics. You’ll want to measure and report regularly so that you and your team know how well the strategy is working.
  4. Communicate with your team. Explain the reasoning behind the customer experience model, the changes that will take place and the results you’re after.

Tell us about your experience creating customer service models!

4 Ways to Create a Flexible Workforce Management Plan

There’s an increased need for better work-life balance, greatly due to the millennials who are now part of the workforce. Meeting these needs means that contact centers have to be more flexible when it comes to workforce management (WFM). Here are four ways to create a more versatile schedule.

  1. Approach your goals with flexibility. Scheduling is a direct result of your contact center’s needs, which in turn are the results of your goals. Your goals are going to shift, though, and by not preparing for this, you won’t be able to effectively shift schedules, either. Get comfortable with fluid goals that account for product or service launches; new types of communication platforms or tools; and the impact of natural elements, changing seasons and cultural events.
  2. Create pre-defined flexible shifts. You can’t simply ask the agent when they want to work and then expect them to create a schedule that happens to fit in with your needs. What you can do, however, is give them a few options, such as:
  • Four long shifts followed by a fifth very short shift.
  • Partial day trades, where agents can trade some of their hours from one shift.
  • Slant shifts, where they work the most hours on Monday and then decreasing shifts the rest of the week.
  • Split shifts, where the agent creates their own schedule for certain days of the week and then commits to always working other days and times every week.
  1. Let agents update their changing availability. Use WFM technology that allows your agents to update their availability when they’re able to work additional days or times. Then, if the contact center has an unexpected need for more support, you can send an email or text message to those agents to fill in.
  2. Offer your agents makeup time for time-off days. If your contact center has a slow period, you can offer some of your agents the option for unpaid time off, with the agreement that they’ll be the first ones offered extra shifts when there’s a greater need. The contact center won’t have too many agents on at once and the agent knows they can eventually make up the pay.

Flexible WFM is a necessity if you want to continue attracting valuable, skilled agents without alienating the ones who want a more fluid approach to when they work.

4 Expert Tips for Creating a VoC Program

Voice of the Customer (VoC) may be a term used by businesses and contact centers, but it’s also a straightforward technique: collecting customer feedback – their “voice” – to figure out what their expectations are and whether or not you’re giving them the experience they want.

A VoC program has four parts to it:

  • Listening by collecting data
  • Understanding and gleaning insight from the data you’ve collected
  • Distributing those insights to your team
  • Taking action

Here are four ways to knock your VoC program out of the park.

  1. Create the plan backwards.

It’s difficult to create an effective VoC program if you don’t know the end goal. Figure that out first, taking into account your customer personas, and then start creating the roadmap that will get you there. From there, add the metrics you’ll need to collect and strategies for collecting them.

  1. Ask new questions.

If you’re going to use surveys as part of your VoC strategy, limit the number of questions you ask the customer. To do this, remove any questions you already know the answer to. The idea here is to uncover the most valuable information, which is the info you don’t yet have – this isn’t the place to get confirmation on the answers you already know.

  1. Think outside-the-box when listening.

In the past, rankings, scores and structured surveys were the main ways of collecting VoC data. Those techniques alone don’t work anymore, though, especially with so much unstructured data out there. Today’s data needs to include things like chat logs, social comments, social reviews and voice recordings.

  1. Just get started.

Start collecting data ASAP while you work on the rest of your VoC program. It’s easy to fall into the trap of waiting for everything to be perfect before you start gathering VoC information, but the truth is that your VoC program is going to continually evolve and change, and you’re going to be refining your strategy for as long as you have customers.

Don’t be afraid to jump in by choosing one touchpoint and one metric and just starting – refer to your customer journey map to choose an important one. To measure, isolate the treatment group so you can split-test your strategy.

By tuning into the voices of your customers, you have a better chance of improving customer engagement and the customer experience as a whole.