Helping Companies Meet the Challenge of Providing New Ways to Connect with Customers

SpeechTEK/CRMEvolution/Customer Service Experience Review #1

In an effort to better communicate with attendees of their multifaceted event held August 19-21, 2013 in New York, InfoToday took a new direction to summarize the diverse products and services being showcased on the exhibit floor. While SpeechTEK, CRM Evolution and Customer Service Experience retained their identities as separate educational programs, the organizers rebranded the exhibit hall under the umbrella title “Customer Solutions Expo.”

There were three separate show programs published and the booths were still organized into showcase sections around each of the three co-located events.  The multiple programs and separate websites for each event continued to make it more of an effort for visitors to find the best educational opportunities. Consolidating the name of the exhibit area was a step in the right direction and a sign that the dividing lines between the events may be further diminished in the future.

New solutions, services and technologies abounded. Visual IVR was a buzzword, sophisticated CRM integrations offered added flexibility for marketing, sales and service groups, speech-enabled personal digital assistants empowered the potential for more personalized interactions, customer feedback and VoC programs were a focus and new social and mobile platforms provided a plethora of added capabilities. In a series of blogs, we will examine a sampling of the new solutions and new directions of the participating companies.

Contact Center Vendors with New Announcements

Freshdesk  In less than three years, this India-based SaaS customer support software supplier has built a base of 9,500 customers across 80 countries. Freshdesk offers their software on a “freemium” basis—clients can try it for free for 30 days, then purchase the service on an ongoing basis via credit card. They offer a Multichannel Social Helpdesk, incorporating voice, email, website support, brand communities and proactive support on social channels to power businesses to be everywhere customers go.

The company announced the integration of In-Sync Facebook Apps, an expansion of its already deep integration with Facebook. The In-Sync Apps allow businesses to proactively share their knowledge, engage with users, and support customers directly from within Facebook.  It provides businesses with the ability to keep their traditional customer support portals in sync with their proactive social presence. The Facebook App automatically reflects information from their service portal so companies no longer have to worry about updating how-tos and engaging with their user community in multiple places. The automatic synchronization between the traditional service portal and the Facebook App also provides a balance between the higher quality – lower volume conversations in the portal and the lower quality – higher volume conversations on Facebook.  

Freshdesk founder and CEO Girish Mathrubootham believes that their new In-Sync Facebook App will allow consumer-driven businesses like eCommerce, travel and hospitality to increase social and online engagement levels by more than 60%. “Since the entire conversation and engagement lifecycle is managed right from within Facebook, users are more likely to stay on and explore the business, gaining information about the product as they go,” he said. “More casual Facebook users will also have the opportunity to see what passionate company supporters are saying and learn from their peers.”

Freshdesk takes its inspiration from acknowledged customer service icons such as the Apple Store, where putting the customer first is ingrained in every employee. Believing that happy agents translate to happy customers, the company implemented its own built-in gamification, Freshdesk Arcade, in 2012. It enables agents to compete, collaborate, and earn points for resolving tickets. Mathrubootham acknowledges that it’s been polarizing. “One senior support person wrote me that it was an ‘insult to see customer service turned into a game’.” he noted. “But a high-level manager told me he enjoyed seeing how every agent who won a trophy couldn’t wait to put it on Twitter.” Mapped to underlying KPIs, designations like “Sharpshooter” for improved FCR, “Speed racer” for faster call handling and “Customer Wow Champion” not only provides agents with incentives, the solution also allows companies to create catalogs of rewards for performance. Freshdesk believes that gamification could ultimately be used to create a new structure for paying their agents, redefining compensation in the contact center.

LiveOps  hopes to show companies what innovation can mean to their businesses. The cloud contact multichannel center solution provider showcased LiveOps Engage Web 3.0, an integrated agent desktop experience which unifies just about every detail of phone, email, chat, SMS, Facebook posts and Tweets within a single window, making it easy to use and enabling faster agent response without having to switch applications.

“Consumers have changed,” said Ann Sung Ruckstuhl, LiveOps CMO. ”They’re constantly engaging with a brand. But while most companies communicate with their customers via phone, chat, email and monitoring social media, in most cases, each channel is served by its own separate group and agents must toggle through multiple applications to find information from interactions on one channel to use on another. Until now, the business case for upgrading has not been made properly. We want companies to understand how much of a difference implementing new contact center infrastructure can make.” Among the factors she cited were:

  • Increased agent productivity – a gain of up to 50% according to a recent survey on the use of the solution and the potential for 25% overall cost savings
  • Reducing time delays created by disconnected applications resulting in businesses saving over $5,000 in unnecessary annual spending per agent
  • Diminished agent attrition. Some centers now report up to 50% attrition rates as the economy continues to slowly improve. “Millennials who now make up a high percentage of contact center staff, are bored by the role of simply taking calls on a typical system when they are fully comfortable with using a multitude of channels on their own devices. Providing single screen integration that enables users to have a 360 degree view of the customer where the most information is seen alongside a history of past interaction will keep employees better engaged and help keep them on board.”

LiveOps updated solution enables managers, supervisors and agents a more unified view and a greater opportunity to serve the social channel. For example, tweets can be routed according to sentiment and matched to the available agent with the right skills to handle the issue, giving companies the same capabilities to meet social demand as they have for voice queues. An auto-response feature acknowledges comments from social customers on a timely basis, letting them know they are being heard and templates are provided to help agents formulate appropriate tweets for common problems. Instead of setting up queues for each individual channel where agents have to open as many as 20 different applications to give customers the answers required, one agent can provide consistent information across all channels. LiveOps Engage also enables management to ascertain that only agents who have been certified are active on specific channels. An agent only qualified for voice and email can be restricted to providing service exclusively on those channels while fully certified “superagents” can not only serve customers on chat, SMS, Twitter and Facebook but can also go outbound using LiveOps human-controlled progressive dialers. “Many contact center platforms are at end of life,” said Ruckstuhl. “Using a cloud-based system enables companies to economically scrap and go, or if they prefer, take a hybrid approach.”

Parature  The cloud-based customer service software provider previewed the latest version of its Service Desk, incorporating more than 30 new features. Significant upgrades include better tracking of Service Level Agreements (SLAs), more powerful rules for routing and alerting, updates to the Mobile Service Desk, new rules-based custom email templates and a new, intuitive interface to create reports faster and deliver them in a greater variety of formats.

The improved SLA-based ticketing enables teams to prioritize their support tickets not just based on the classification of a ticket or a contractual SLA, but the convergence of who the customer is, what is their value to their company, and any contractual obligations they have.  Agents can set up their day and focus on what needs their attention through an easily understood set of icons and color schemes that communicate the SLA status of each and every ticket. Mobile Service Desk improvements allow agents working in the field to create and edit new tickets and make changes to existing ones based on new information from any mobile device.  They can also attach videos, pictures and files to the Tickets from mobile devices.

CSRs can build widgets that allow them to quickly edit a ticket, merge contacts or search for information in other systems on behalf of other agents. Service Desk is targeted to mid-market enterprise organizations that need to support their customers across more channels without incurring added costs.

Pegasystems  has been positioned as a leader in the Gartner “Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Engagement Centers (previously defined as ‘customer contact centers’). Steve Kraus, Pega’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, sees the new definition as recognition of channel proliferation, including phone, web, self-service SMS, chat, social and mobile. “Customer engagement is a commitment and mission shared by an entire company, and not just the ‘customer service’ silo. Organizations can’t always plan how they’ll serve the next channel so they must fundamentally change the way they do customer interactions.”

He sees business agility as one of the keys to success. “Companies have to define what the organization wants to accomplish. They want to eliminate the gaps that keep marketing and sales and service fulfillment and field services siloed from one another. They require platforms that don’t need extensive coding, are easier to adapt and offer faster deployment, whether cloud or premise-based.”   

Pegasystems’ Build for Change technology empowers business people to create and evolve their critical business systems. Its Customer Process Manager (CPM) enables real-time collaboration between customers, customer service agents, and supporting back-office teams across the enterprise. Pega’s Next-Best-Action Marketing solution provides predictive and adaptive analytics that enables the system to dynamically react to each interaction and anticipate customer needs. Whether the transaction is self-service or handled by an agent, actions are guided by the company’s interaction goals and the customer’s implicit and explicit intentions. In one-to-one interactions, only the relevant and required Information is retrieved and presented dynamically based on the context of the specific interaction. This helps to eliminate information overload, errors and unnecessary manual tasks to increase agent productivity and customer satisfaction.

Pega CPM enables organizations to build and dynamically change their support processes across any channel, including the web and the traditional contact center. The solution also enhances support for mobile and social channels. Agents have broad visibility into the status and history of service requests across channels, allowing customers to start their service request in one channel and move seamlessly to another with no loss of context.

“Our solution provides companies with a better way to deliver customer service by predicting customer behavior and in many cases, automating what agents do,” said Kraus. “It teaches the system, not the reps. Organizations can now look at the entire customer journey, and learn how to foster lifelong relationships. They are using Pega to take a more holistic, customer-centric approach.”

ThoughtBurst   offers high-end consulting services to companies that need help in transforming their customer-facing operations. President and CEO, Andy Pritchard, is a UK transplant who developed his operational expertise in contact center organization, sales strategy and business process management at Price Waterhouse Cooper which was later acquired by IBM. After his years in the corporate world, he saw a market need to assist organizations move from call centers to virtualized multi-channel and multi-media environments incorporating social media communities.  

Founded in 2011, ThoughtBurst offers a roster of 35 consultants with specific skills to match with a variety of client needs. One area of focus is balancing the ongoing demand for organizations to achieve cost savings with delivering optimal customer experience. “We see minimizing customer effort (CE) as a crucial element, “said Pritchard. “But how do you measure how much effort the customer is required to make? NPS (Net Promoter Score) is often employed, but it’s not always reliable. We’ve developed our own CE quotient. We believe in both asking the customer and measuring people internally as a means of bringing it down.”

ThoughtBurst translates verbatims from customers to help provide a roadmap for change for CEOs and other top executives. “We’ve found that in some cases CEOs who receive verbatims cherry-pick specific situations and focus resources on resolving them while not attending to more pressing issues. It can be almost like children in a soccer game flocking around the ball when they could be better positioning themselves elsewhere on the field.

”ThoughtBurst has developed a proprietary methodology – Customer Strategy, Operations Assessment & Re-alignment (C-SOAR™) for supporting customer-facing consulting engagements. C-SOAR™ is comprised of two components: Strategy & Assessment (S&A) which supports customer strategies and assessments and takes the lead in the creation and implementation of transformation program roadmaps; and Analyze, Design, Develop, Deploy (A3D) which takes projects from analysis through to implementation and deployment.

Their clientele includes organizations in financial services, media, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, telecommunications and state government. When Western Union tasked them with reorganizing its global contact center structure, ThoughtBurst analyzed the money transfer/bill paying service’s 3500-seat operation in 200 separate locations, both in-house and external. They determined which of the 15 outsourcers being used were performing, making recommendations to tighten and consolidate, helping to develop system and business requirements and providing a roadmap to enhance their customer service capabilities.

 

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