ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference Summary (Part 1)

The 2015 ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference brought executives,  managers and supervisors together at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Orlando, FL from May 4-7. The event provided diverse educational and networking opportunities, a comprehensive exhibit hall displaying the latest products and services, case studies, and site tours.

After an opening night reception on Monday, ICMI Contact Center Expo kicked off with a Tuesday keynote address by Dennis Snow, a long-time Disney executive renowned for his integral role in helping to shape the company’s legendary customer service culture. The author of “Learning from a Mouse” focused on three key aspects of customer care:

  1. Look at everything through the lens of the customer.  Start by trying to better understand why customers make comments or ask questions. The more we do what we do, the more that we think we know what the customer wants, which is not always the case When we make assumptions about what customers know, relationships may suffer.
  2. Pay attention to details. World-class customer service is about what the customer perceives, not what you intend.
  3. Create “Moments of WOW”.  One common misconception is that you have to hit a home run every time. But it does not always have to be a big thing. Providing  little “wows” can go a long way.

CRMXchange spoke with a number of suppliers on the exhibit floor, both to discuss their latest solutions and gain insight on market direction. We will explore their perspectives in a series of blogs. In this first installment we speak with IR Prognosis, J.D. Power, Kodak Alaris, and LiveOps.

In what ways do contact center need to change to more effectively serve the needs of the connected customer?

IRTim Poindexter, Marketing Director, Americas, IR  Contact centers tend to be very reactive to technology issues, which can have a big impact on the customer experience and the overall operations of the contact center. What could change is moving to an approach that focuses on active prevention of technology issues to reduce, if not eliminate customer experience issues. Recently, a leading financial provider turned to IR to help proactively address contact center stability leading up to Black Friday. Leveraging intelligent alerts and predictive analytics, IR’s customers were able to address issues before they happened and make it through Black Friday uneventfully.

Mark Miller, Senior Director, Contact Center Solutions, J.D. Power   We need to integrate our systems to ensure that all transactions can be linked.  This will result in getting the whole picture of the customer and how they are interacting with us.  The most relevant information should be presented to our agents working within assisted channels, so that value can be brought to each interaction. If agents understand the customers better, and what the customers has been through during their omni-channel journey, the agents will be in a better position to leverage information already exchanged and offer relevant and proactive solutions in less time.  This will drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. Agents must be able to integrate info into the conversation and interaction effectively, which will require more training and perhaps a different type of rep.  Reps of the future need to bring in the right assets at the right time, in service of the overall objective which is to serve their customers quickly, genuinely and proactively offer information that will head off future contacts in a consultative way.

Bill Holley, Enterprise Solutions Manager, Kodak Alaris Information Management Contact centers need to fully embrace the ways that customers prefer communicating with them. Not long ago, customers communicated with contact centers primarily by phone. Now, they’re using up to nine different channels. 80% of this communication is unstructured and most of it is handled using disjointed communication processes; this information ends up in siloes and disparate systems. Customers often use multiple channels related to a single case or transaction, making it even harder for agents to track and document a conversation thread and provide consistent, satisfactory responses.

Many contact centers handle text-based channels manually and often in an ad-hoc fashion. They are unable to keep up with the rapid growth of these channels and fail to handle peak volumes.

To improve response times and address customers’ changing demands, contact centers must develop the ability to extract and understand unstructured data so it can be quickly routed to the appropriate agent in an actionable format. It’s essential to be able to pull together information from across data silos, as well as scattered paper correspondence, and provide agents with full visibility of all customer communications and essential data related to the account. By creating this 360-degree view of all customer interactions and relevant data points, agents can deliver quick and consistent responses that ensure an exceptional customer experience.

Richard Pinnington, Sales & Marketing Director, LiveOps Contact centers must embrace new technologies and integrate them into the agent desktop. Social media, live chat, SMS and other technologies are drastically altering the customer service landscape. An integrated, multichannel agent desktop is a good start—but agents must also be trained in engaging customers on all channels. It can be daunting but it’s no longer acceptable for brands to interact with customers only via phone and email—connected customers demand more channels on which to share information.

How can organizations align technology, operations and people to deliver a consistently excellent customer experience?

Tim Poindexter, IR  All three components have an equal part to play in achieving an excellent customer experience. Sometimes, companies may be tempted to invest or emphasize in one area more than others, but this can lead to imbalance. With the right technology in place supporting both people and operations, harmony can be acheived. It’s a closed system; if one thing disappears or is underutilized, the whole system breaks down. With that in mind, it’s important to take an active view of the big picture rather than simply reacting to the problem of the hour. A holistic approach takes every component into consideration and as a result has a greater chance of delivering sustainable customer experience.

Bill Holley, Kodak Alaris  Contact center agents need full visibility of all elements of a customer request and all relevant background data in order to provide quick and comprehensive responses. It’s critical to eliminate data silos and isolated processes. One way to accomplish this is by adopting artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions that can learn from past customer interactions and provide easy access to knowledge that enables better agent responses. This technology automates response management and automatically suggests the best possible answers to agents who can then focus their time on more challenging customer questions and on revenue generating opportunities. Because the nature of customer interactions is very dynamic, a self-learning system is important for maintaining excellence in customer experience management.

For example, a loan application or an insurance claim requires tight integration between the workflows that process customer information. There are several steps in the approval process and a variety of communications between an organization and its customers, as well as key third parties like an appraiser. The integration of processes and communications need to be managed with technology solutions that automate workflows, eliminate mundane manual tasks and ensure that the appropriate actions are initiated, involving resources with the best skills for the task in the correct priority order. All of these must work together seamlessly to deliver excellent customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Richard Pinnington, LiveOps Integrating people, technology and operations to deliver consistently outstanding customer experiences is important. Start with the right people—you must have people who put customers first, who understand the customer mindset and who want to help. Add the right technology: an integrated multichannel agent desktop and cloud-based platform is ideal to make it easy for your agents to personalize each customer interaction. And solid, yet adaptable, operations bring it all together. Establish standards for outstanding customer service, offer training and support for agents to deliver, reward those who meet and exceed your standards—and show how much you appreciate both your agents and customers. The goal is always an outstanding customer experience.

What specific benefits does your solution deliver that differentiates it from other offerings in the marketplace?

Tim Poindexter, IR  Our unique benefits include the ability to:

  • Identify trends in real time and take action.
  • See your entire technology environment from one point of view.
  • Predict capacity overloads before the cracks start to show. Fast.

Specific features for IR Prognosis for Contact Center include:

  • Remote Agent Monitoring
  • Applications Monitoring
  • Call Processing
  • Call Recording Assurance
  • Multi- channel monitoring
  • Rapid service availability restoration
  • User call quality experience
  • Visibility across SLAs
  • Multi-vendor management
  • Real time analytics

Mark Miller, J.D. Power  We have many services, including benchmarking, performance improvement and certification.  Our benchmarking is different from all the others in that we compare our client’s performance to cross-industry verified top performers. Our unique cross-industry perspective helps our clients see what excellence looks like, regardless of industry.

Through our J.D. Power Certified Contact Center Program, we are invited to view top performers and what they do across the live phone, IVR self-service and Web self-service channels.  We codify our findings in our best practices scorecard which we make available to clients for self-assessment.  This knowledge allows them to better understand their own gaps and make the right investments to reduce cost and increase CSAT, which drives higher revenues. Our benchmarking toolkit has over 200 best practices that come primarily from top performers, but also are generated based on our unique perspective about what really affects the customer experience. When our research indicated that holds and transfers were very common and created huge customer experience issues that were not being properly addressed, we added several new best practices on modifying the training, coaching and QA strategy to account for holds and transfers.

Each year we publish the importance weights for each interaction type, and the impact to the customer experience around first contact resolution, holds, transfers, repeating information, understanding the rep and more.

We compile critical operational data for over 80 KPIs and allow our clients to see how they compare to top performers, which helps them make better business decisions.  Lastly, we offer networking opportunities to work with top performers outside of your industry which facilitates free information exchange and a new perspective on how others approach the challenges you face.

Our contact center certification program is the most recognized and meaningful of its kind, because almost everyone recognizes the J.D. Power brand so it has a unique impact on consumers, executives and employees. It’s based on VoC data rather than solely operational data.  If you are certified with J.D. Power, you fall within the top 20% of all companies. This certification affirms that you deliver an outstanding customer experience in the channels you serve and because it comes from J.D. Power, it is trusted and gives you differentiation in the marketplace.

Bill Holley, Kodak Alaris Kodak Info Insight Platform has been designed specifically with the needs of contact centers in mind and has helped over 50 contact centers around the world achieve significant improvements in managing customer interactions across digital channels.

Info Insight was designed to deal with the most challenging types of communication, unstructured text. Its use of the latest Artificial Intelligence capabilities allows it to read and truly understand customers’ messages – which tend to arrive as completely unstructured communications – and classify them accordingly without being limited to pre-defined keywords. Artificial intelligence offers self-learning capabilities; it continuously enhances the knowledge base in the contact center, learning from each new question and expert answers. This creates a dynamic knowledge base, eliminating the limitations of a static knowledge system that is time-consuming and cumbersome to keep current. The benefit is comprehensive and consistent customer answers with shorter response times. For agents, it eliminates of a lot of repetitive tasks and shortens learning curves, which leads to less attrition.

Info Insight can handle any text communication regardless of the communication source and multi channel format, including social media. It also offers web chat and knowledge management. The solution connects communication channels that are often handled in disjointed, siloed processes and isolated databases and systems. This provides contact center agents with a complete 360 degree view of all relevant customer data.

Finally, Info Insight combines the ability to automate transactional processes with improving the efficiency of customer communication workflows. This connects the contact center with business processes, making communication streams and transactional workflows fully transparent. Info Insight was designed and built as one platform, so it’s scalable as an enterprise expands from a solution that handles email communication only to a full multi-channel solution.

Richard Pinnington, LiveOps  LiveOps Engage presents agents with a single 360-degree view of the customer with all interaction history, regardless of channel, available to inform the next engagement. Our customers are able to fit the right solution for themselves, because they can add the specific channels they need. All interaction types, regardless of channel, are then delivered to agents through a single queue to a single, easy-to-use agent desktop that greatly streamlines the agent’s workload, improves productivity and eliminates the hassle of toggling between applications.

LiveOps customers enjoy seasonal flexibility and scalability with the company’s unique pay as you model. It’s easy to deploy agents from anywhere and with WebRTC, all they need is a laptop and internet connection. Finally, LiveOps customers also have the option to easily synchronize contact data with their CRMs, such as Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Zendesk and Saleslogix among others.

How does IR Prognosis for Contact Center empower companies to improve voice quality in both the contact center and back office via application monitoring?

Tim Poindexter  To provide a positive user call quality experience in a contact center environment, you need to keep a close eye on contact center applications and infrastructure. Prognosis is a performance management solution that gives you the ability to monitor and manage both call and voice quality and Contact Center infrastructure in real time.

  • Avoid delays and outages that frustrate your customers
  • Resolve more calls first time
  • Support your customers’ multi-channel choices
  • Keep agents happy

In what ways will your Voice of Experience (VoX) platform enable companies to better manage the complete customer experience while building loyalty and driving profitable growth? 

Mark Miller The VoX platform allows us to use all of our unique research, informational and consulting assets to pinpoint gaps across the enterprise and correct them within our clients’ resource constraints.  We can look at the entire customer experience from brand image, pricing, people, process and channel mix.  We then integrate client-provided data, and flow the specific information and best practices needed straight to the specific business groups where it is needed most.  Once on the VoX platform, we can show progress made at the individual, team, department, divisional and brand level to help our clients refine their performance to further reduce costs and improve client loyalty and revenues.

What were the reasons you transitioned your division’s identity to Kodak Alaris Information Management and how will it affect your business model?

Bill Holley  What was formerly known as the “Document Imaging” division of Kodak Alaris is now the “Information Management” division. This new name represents our vision and our plans for the future.

Information is the lifeblood of any business or organization, large or small, forming the basis of each decision and action. That’s where we excel—helping organizations harness the value of information to better serve customers. Providing tools to help transform paper-based processes into digital processes and turn the flood of digital text communications into manageable workflows that deliver greater value.

Dozens of contact centers, including many globally recognized brands, have improved response times, increased customer loyalty and reduced costs using Kodak Alaris’ Info Insight technology platform.

With the ease that customers can move from company to company, what do you suggest organizations do to build customer loyalty?

Richard Pinnington   Providing solid products or services with outstanding customer service and fair pricing is the best way to keep customers loyal. Engage on social channels, responding to inquiries or comments with personalization. Offer promotions or loyalty points/programs. Special discounts for special customers are well-received. Show customers, don’t just tell them, that they are important to your brand and valued for their continued patronage. When it comes to customers, you need to know them, serve them and, perhaps most of all, don’t waste their time. It doesn’t hurt to be a “cool” brand, either.

What is the disconnect in the way customers view the service they receive, and how companies view the service they provide?

Richard Pinnington  “Good” and “service” are subjective; it’s really all about perspective. It’s fairly common to have a “disconnect” between two groups of people, especially when there is a power-related relationship. Either the brand or the customer could be perceived to be the “power player” in a customer service situation. Brands may feel their standard response to customer concerns or questions are just fine, while the customer may feel that they are not being treated as a person but rather as a number. Customers may feel their requests are reasonable, while brands are unable to set a precedent by giving the customer what they want because the brand won’t be able to do that for every customer.

Another element of this, as with most things these days, is social media. It’s so easy for a customer to post something negative (even less-than-positive) about a brand and it will spread. True or not, the whole story or a small part of it will spread across the internet – it just takes a few “likes,” re-tweets and comments. That makes the “disconnect” seem even larger than it may be, and perception can be contorted. Customers generally have high expectations for service and satisfaction—and only the most customer-focused brands can deliver consistently outstanding experiences.

How does the addition of WebRTC to LiveOps Engage help companies lower TCO while improving employee productivity and satisfaction?

Richard Pinnington  The LiveOps WebRTC Solution is the first cloud contact center that truly transforms a browser into a full-featured agent desktop with a phone. It is seamlessly integrated with the cloud-based contact center, so there is no need for plug-ins, software, landlines, desktop phones or expensive on-premise servers or PBX. The total cost of ownership is about half as much with LiveOps Engage with WebRTC as with a standard set up.

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