Cloud Software

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.

6 Contact Center Technologies to Delight the Customer

Sometimes you have to rethink how you service clients in order to continue improving the customer experience. These six contact center technologies are sure to enhance each customer’s journey, which helps retain them, improves word-of-mouth marketing and elevates your reputation.

  1. Call-Back

If a caller wants to speak with a live agent even though there’s a long wait time, let them opt to get a call back when an agent is available. Allowing the customer to continue with whatever they were doing, instead of having to hang on the phone for several minutes, will keep them happy and let both the customer and the agent deal with the issue efficiently.

  1. Contact Routing Software

Contact routing software passes customers along to the right agent quickly. This technology encompasses all communication routes, including chat, email and voice. Instead of speaking with an agent and then being put on hold to be transferred, the software gets the customer to the correct agent the first time

  1. Interactive Video

When customers call to speak with a live agent via their mobile device, interactive videos play ads, entertainment or promotions during hold time. Not only does this keep the customer’s attention, but it may answer one of their questions or tell them about a product or service they might want.

  1. Two-Way Social Media Conversations

Brands have known for a while that they need a presence on social media, but now customers want a two-way conversation. It’s no longer acceptable to give customers a place to go just so they can provide feedback or learn more about you. Your agents have to actually respond now, quickly and in a personalized way.

  1. Unified Communications

“Omnichannel” has been a buzzword for a long time, but not enough companies are truly embracing it yet. The best customer experience is when the agent can be reached on any device and access up-to-date purchase, service and communication history. Going into a conversation and already having context is imperative.

  1. Voice Response Software

The days of having to listen to lengthy menus and submenus, trying to remember the different numbers to punch in your phone, are gone. With integrated voice response software, the customer can access the right self-service selection by speaking in a natural way.

Contact centers that want to compete need to embrace digital transformation and modern technology.

2018 Contact Center Trends: Punching Through the Barrier.

By Bright Pattern

Customer experience (CX) ran out of steam in 2017. Almost all companies have by now realized that CX is the differentiator and customers value the experience above almost everything. Enormous effort and resources have been thrown at CX, and there have been huge gains. But according to Forrester’s 2017 CX IndexTM, CX quality plateaued or declined for most industries and companies.

It’s plain to see why. CX was a classic land grab where companies found it easy to deal with obvious problems. But now the hard work begins. Customers are getting used to enhanced experiences and want better and better service. Companies will need to keep up with these expectations or fall farther behind. Forrester is predicting that in 2018, 30% of companies will see further declines in CX performance, which will mean declines in growth or worse.

So are we going to stay put or decline? Or are we going to punch through to the next level? 2018 will be the year where this is decided. So what will be the big stories? How will technology and automation advance the customer experience? Here’s what we think will be the trends in 2018.

 

Artificial Intelligence – It’s going to get real, very fast

In the years running up to 2018, AI has been the solution to almost any problem. And for good reason: chatbots, robotic process automation, and virtual assistants have transformed customer experience and expectations, and have changed the roles of customer service agents for the better. But now the rubber meets the road. The early gains were made by applying AI to existing business operations. The true growth moving forward will be to use AI to invent new ways to interact with the customer, reinvent business processes, and create whole new markets for products and services.

A Forrester survey tells us firms’ investment in AI rose 51% in 2017. But 55% of firms have not yet achieved any tangible business outcomes from AI, and 43% say it’s too soon to tell. That’s because AI is not a plug-and-play proposition. Unless firms plan, deploy, and govern it correctly, new AI tech will provide small benefits at best or, at worst, result in unexpected and undesired CX-related outcomes. If CIOs and chief data officers (CDOs) are serious about becoming insight driven, 2018 is the year they must realize that simplistic approaches will only scratch the surface of possibilities that new tech offers.

Take machine learning for example. Companies are quickly realizing that, ironically AI requires huge amounts of human input. Agents are tagging text and speech, customer interactions. Companies are using their customers to teach their AI, and sales reps are training the AI rather than relying on out-of-the-box learning. Add to this the data hygiene and knowledge management required to keep an automated system up to date, and you will see an enhanced adoption of the blended AI model for 2018 where humans play a critical role in constantly perfecting AI to improve the customer experience.

Bright Pattern is a leader in this blended AI trend and automating with a human touch. For instance, our APIs allow bots to integrate with IBM Watson, Reply.ai, and Alterra to provide human-like interactions that can be switched to a live agent at any time. The agents also have internal assistants and bots that use AI to guide them through the call, offer suggestions, track tone and sentiment using cognitive analysis technology and natural language understanding.

 

Digital Transformation Needs to Pick up Speed

There are now heightened expectations from the customer and companies need to rise to meet them. Digital transformation is the key to making this happen. But it’s not happening at a quick enough pace.

According to Forrester, up to 60% of executives feel they are lagging behind with their digital transformation initiatives. The trend for 2018 will be that digital transformation moves from just an IT or CIO issue to become the responsibility of the entire organization. Thinking will change, it will no longer be looked at as an investment that gets a return. Digital transformation will be seen as the one thing that will keep the company alive. In fact Forrester also has a sobering statistic for this: 20% of CEOs will fail to act: As a result, those firms will be acquired or begin to perish.

 

Moving to the Cloud Will Become Even Safer

Here’s some good news! The cloud is going to get even more business-friendly in 2018. We all know that moving to the cloud provides a way to avoid capital investment in volatile technology and focus on core competencies. And it enables companies like Bright Pattern to provide rapid innovation delivery, instant upgrades and provide integrations with other cloud systems.

Every tennant on the Bright Pattern Call Center solution enjoys the very latest, most advanced version of out software. This includes data, configuration, user management, and tenant individual functionality. Every company, department and user is on the same version and the latest patch level.

And, we offer the insurance of an on-premises option using exactly the same cloud software for call centers, ensuring an additional level of control. Moreover, switching to an onsite option or back to the cloud is as easy as downloading the export file of your account and uploading it into another system.

The cloud will continue to be a dominant force in the digital transformations of virtually all successful companies. With continued innovation from Bright Pattern, we do not see this trend losing steam in 2018.

Self Service is about to get personal

Personalization will be key for companies looking to keep up with customer expectations. The empowered customer is now king, but they do not want to have every option available to them at all times. Their time is precious and they want to have a self-service experience that is hyper-relevant to them.

Companies who know what product a customer has for instance, will be able to serve up a limited set of options and disregard the irrelevant. They will learn which channels a customer prefers and route them without having to ask. Organizations that take customer experience seriously through personalization will stand out from the noise and create loyal customers.

 

The Employee Experience Will Be Enhanced, Not Just the Customer Experience (EX=CX)

The customer service employee experience is changing rapidly, so companies need to find ways to ensure that their agents are well motivated and rewarded for taking on new responsibilities. As blended AI becomes more prevalent, the role of the agent or customer service representative will change. Forrester predicts more and more agents will quit because of work overload. An example of this trend would be tagging. A live chat agent can look through a chatbot transcript to see where the chatbot didn’t understand the customer. The agent can tag an intent to that particular phrase. This additional task adds to an already complex list of responsibilities, applications, and processes that today’s agent must own, use, and follow. Without the right tools companies put employee experience at risk.

Bright Pattern provides the most effective agent desktop in an all-in-one call center app, which offers a decluttered user interface that selects and displays the most relevant information based on context. Higher levels of employee and agent engagement are known to improve the customer experience.

 

Automation Spreads From the Back Office to the Front Office

The big news in automation for 2018 will be the migration of many tried and tested robotic processes from the back office to help out in the front office. Automation will enable agents to focus on helping customers and spend less time on navigating systems or post-contact wrap up. Additionally, automation at the desktop will improve quality by decreasing errors of manual data entry, reducing rework, and decreasing complaints. Reducing manual tasks allows for a better focus on listening to the customer, empathizing, and providing a frictionless experience. In 2018, we’ll see better collaboration between the front- and back office, and see the almost immediate ROI that robotic process automation has traditionally been known for.

Channel Proliferation is a Party That Won’t Stop

It’s not news that consumers like to interact in the channel of their choice. And that channel can change on a whim and by the second. A conversation started in a messaging platform can migrate to a call that can shift to an email and back to a message. But companies need to do a better job of offering a true omni channel experience. According to Dimension Data and their 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report, only 8% of organizations say that they have all of their channels connected and, in fact, as many as 70% say that none or very few of their channels are connected.

And new channels are coming on stream all the time. Customers are communicating with brands using just emojis. Video chat is starting to be adopted. Screen Sharing, virtual assistants, in-app messaging will all continue there rise in 2018.

The big news here is that this explosion of customer expression will not be stopping any time in 2018. So how can a company keep up, let alone stay ahead?

The simple answer is to have a simplified multichannel setup for call center managers to enable a true omni channel communication style. In practice this means a conversation must be able to be continued when switching or changing channels. It means adding a messaging or content channel to an existing communication is a must. And finally the rich context of the conversation must be maintained at all times.

To do this in 2018, you must have the agent tools to simplify multi channel interaction handling. Bright Pattern has created a web-based agent desktop to make multichannel communication seamless. It keeps all the information needed in the visible portion of the desktop, it intelligently extracts the relevant elements of context to display eliminating switching, alt-tabbing, and scrolling through long pages, and it transparently rearranging the desktop when the the conversation changes from one channel to another.

Conclusion

2018 is going to be a big year of disruption for the contact center. The technology that’s coming online and the shifting attitudes of business leaders will lead to some huge developments. At Bright Pattern we are well aware and well prepared for what’s to come. Because just like you, the expectations of our customers will not stop growing.

4 Unexpected Benefits of Cloud Contact Centers

For contact centers that haven’t yet adopted cloud software, consider this: the cloud offers everything your traditional software offers, plus these four little-known perks.

1. Scaling down – not just up – is possible.

Contact centers go through changes all the time, whether only temporary, like for the holidays, or more permanent. When needs change, software needs change as well. When a contact center quickly grows, cloud software is able to keep up with the increasing demand. On the same note, cloud software is also able to scale down with the contact center as fewer IT resources are required (like following a heavy shopping season, for example). Either way, your IT department won’t have to start from scratch with complementary software – cloud software will simply adapt to whatever you need, whenever you need it.

2. Business continuity will be protected.

Should some sort of disaster occur, a contact center that relies on traditional software could find it impossible to connect with customers. With cloud software, though, even if the brick-and-mortar contact center is unusable, agents will still be able to contact customers. Not only can information be accessed from management off-site, but cloud software makes it easy to arrange for agents to work remotely.

3. Subscription fees are a way to pay.

When a contact center purchases traditional, out-of-the-box software, it comes with a hefty upfront price. Luckily, this type of large initial investment is a thing of the past with cloud software. Thanks to cloud subscriptions, you’ll know what your low fee will be month after month.

4. Upgrades are hassle-free.

If your contact center buys traditional software and then it gets an upgrade, your IT department will have to install the upgrade themselves. With cloud software, though, the application is always owned by the software provider, even though you’re allowed to use it. This means that whenever cloud software is upgraded, you’ll have immediate access to it, no IT installation required. The provider will automatically update the software whenever a new version comes out, and you’ll access that new version the very next time you log on.

Though cloud software may not be a perfect fit for every business out there, many contact centers find that making the switch eases a number of processes. With providers continually creating new cloud software models, you’re bound to find one that suits your contact center.

 

5 Lesser-Known Benefits of Hiring Remote Contact Center Agents

Thanks to cloud software, the remote contact center agent is possible, and even preferred in some cases. There are a lot of benefits to having at-home contact center agents:

  • Cost is lowered for both you (no office space) and them (no commute).
  • Remote agents tend to be happier.
  • Your contact center will be more scalable than a 100% brick and mortar one.

Those are just the obvious benefits, though. Here are five more that you may have never considered.

  1. The cloud is uncomplicated.

With the cloud, agents have the same capabilities and accessibility they would in an office. Plus, there isn’t any installation, and your company’s data is just as secure as always.

  1. Overstaffing can be avoided.

For the contact center, one of the best ways to control cost is to balance staffing needs. Customer needs have to be met so that the customer experience can remain positive. At the same time, overstaffing – which impacts the budget – has to be avoided. Remote agents can jump in to help when needed, then log off when call volume dips again.

  1. Scheduling becomes much more flexible.

With remote agents on the team, the forecasting and scheduling process doesn’t become more difficult, but instead allows for even more flexibility. You’ll run forecast simulations the same as you always have, but agents can be located in all different time zones, working shifts and hours they prefer, which increases schedule availability.

  1. Tracking performance is the same as before.

Reporting and analytics doesn’t change when it comes to your remote agents. You’ll still be able to see real-time information, agent activities, performance, schedule adherence and shift assignments.

  1. You’ll find it easier to reach service level goals.

Even with excellent forecasting technology, call volume can change quickly. If a product is included on a “Best of” list, call volume may skyrocket. Or, you may have a day when several of your in-office agents are unexpectedly absent. Without enough agents to handle the influx of calls, emails and social media messages, wait times can increase, leading to a drop in customer satisfaction scores. To avoid this, your remote agents can be used as backup when needed.

One last thought.

When you enable some of your agents to work from home, it shows that you trust them. When agents feel appreciated, they’re motivated to perform better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Easy Ways to Reduce Customer Service Costs

Bog contributed by Bright Pattern

How can customer service leaders meet increasing expectations for delivering great customer experiences while keeping operational costs in check? Hiring more agents is only part of the equation. The other part is to use advanced digital technologies to modernize contact center operations, reduce costs, and boost customer engagement.

Here are some suggestions compiled by Forrester Research on how to remake the contact center into a customer engagement center:

    1. Make self-service more interactive with chatbots. Adding an option for live conversation can help customers that might be getting “stuck” in self-service.
    2. Examine the customer’s digital journey. Use analytics and other methods to track customer behavior on websites and mobile apps. Finding pain points that may be driving higher call volumes, and explore ways to make the customer journey better.
    3. Add robotic process automation (RPA). These bots can simplify and streamline routine processes like customer onboarding, which reduces the cost per customer and leaves agents free to handle exceptions or complex inquiries.
    4. Give your agents virtual assistants. Agent-facing bots can help agents perform better by shadowing conversations and proactively suggesting next steps to resolve calls quickly and successfully.
    5. Use AI to optimize resources. Essential behind-the-scenes operations like call routing and field service scheduling can be offloaded to AI-based processes that speed up performance while also analyzing trends to develop further service improvements.

Using one or more of these digital transformation strategies can help contact centers maximize their

5 Must-Ask Questions When Choosing a Cloud Solution for the Contact Center

When was the last time you took a good look at your contact center and vowed to give it the update it needs? Regularly taking the pulse of your contact center, particularly when it comes to the software you use and how efficient it is, will help you remain competitive in the industry and relevant to your customers. Once you know the improvements that need to be made, you can find a cloud solution that meets your needs. Ask yourself the following questions when choosing cloud software.

  1. Will it support our omni-channel strategy?

Any software your contact center uses will need to support all of the channels your customers use to interact. This includes text, voice, web and social media. Additionally, these channels need to work flawlessly together so that you can provide omni-channel, not just multi-channel, service.

  1. Will the cloud solution remain up-to-date as time goes on?

The last thing you want is to be under contract with a cloud software provider who lets their service become antiquated. A quality cloud solution vendor will regularly add new features so that your contact center can remain on the cutting edge and continue to serve customers’ changing demands.

  1. How is uptime ensured?

A cloud solution that has too much downtime is going to be a major problem for your contact center. Ask your vendor about their service level agreement (SLA) for uptime. A certain amount of uptime should always be ensured.

  1. Is the vendor reliable?

Problems are bound to occur. When they do, you want to know that your vendor will be available to help you sort them out as quickly as possible. First, make sure the vendor has plenty of availability. Then, ask about the process they use to problem-solve.

  1. What will happen as the contact center expands?

Your contact center is going to change and, hopefully, grow with time. The cloud solution you choose will need to evolve and adapt along with your contact center. It should also be able to scale so that you won’t have to find a new cloud solution as you grow.

Have you hit a wall with your current software solution? It may be time to move to a cloud-based solution. Your contact center will get the modern functionality needed to quickly and properly serve today’s customers.

 

How to Choose Contact Center Technology

Customers have access to competing companies and tons of information at their fingertips. They can instantly interact with brands on a variety of channels at the same time, publicly announcing how impressed or disappointed they are with a company. Responding to customers immediately isn’t an option, it’s a necessity.
Open-Source vs. Proprietary Software
Many professionals appreciate open-source technology. However, while it’s still used by many companies and can be cost-effective for startups, it can end up costing the contact center more than necessary in the long run. Open-source technology is notoriously undependable and difficult to scale, and many contact centers find themselves having to eventually invest in a different, more efficient solution. Additionally, open-source software doesn’t have one entity in charge, so if you run up against technical difficulties it can be nearly impossible to get help (aside from scouring forums for advice or hiring a specialist). Proprietary software, on the other hand, is much more reliable and scalable, and it can be customized to fit your specific contact center needs.
Here are four parameters for choosing proprietary software:
1. Features
Know beforehand which features you’re going to need. Basic features include dashboards that show stats in real-time, call routing, IVR and an easy-to-use interface. You want everything in place so your team can answer support issues as efficiently as possible.
2. Flexibility
While you may need only basic features at first, there may come a time when you’ll need to scale or add extensions. Choose software that can grow and change with your contact center, and find out cost estimates for things like upgrades and customizations.
3. Programming
The software you choose will have to be implemented with your current system, which means it has to work with your programming language. While this isn’t usually a problem with modern, cloud-based software, you’ll want to consult your IT department to make sure everything can be smoothly integrated.
4. Support
The quality of the product won’t matter if the support team isn’t helpful. Read user reviews to find out about the reliability of their customer service.
Creating a positive customer experience is on the top of the priority list for contact centers. You won’t get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s necessary for support agents to have the best technology so that they can engage customers and create a stellar customer experience.

Learn from this Sample Customer Journey: Booking a Flight to Boarding the Plane

Today’s customer journey considers the beginning-to-end experience that the user follows to complete a task. Often, the journey involves numerous channels and devices that all must interact with the customer wherever, whenever and however they want.

Air travel can be exhausting, both physically and mentally, especially if the many plans that have to be in place don’t come together. Delayed or canceled flights, difficulty scheduling backup flights, lost luggage and missed connections are just the beginning of the travel headache. Done correctly, the customer journey of a person who’s traveling can be greatly eased with intuitive messaging and thoughtful touch points. Consider this modern customer journey for the traveler:

• Book your flight online well in advance to secure the best ticket price.

• Receive a push notification from the airline’s mobile app that allows you to check-in the night before your flight.

• Choose the way you’d like to receive your boarding pass (saving it to your phone, via email, etc.).

• At the airport, visit a kiosk to scan the boarding pass on your phone and then print your baggage ticket.

• Show security your digital boarding pass.

• Receive immediate flight status updates through your preferred contact method (text message, email, app push notification, etc.).

• While on the flight, go to the airline’s website on your phone, tablet or laptop to watch movies.

Traveling of the past was often rife with long lines to get to an agent at the airport, paper boarding passes that can get easily lost and difficulty keeping up with the latest flight changes. The reason the new, digitally-enhanced customer journey flows so well is because the airline (or booking service) the traveler uses offers online and mobile access; remembers personal information, allowing the company to send customized alerts to individual travelers; has multiple digital options for doing necessary travel tasks, then syncs those options (saving the boarding pass to your phone then scanning it at the luggage tag kiosk); and generally keeps travelers in-the-know regarding their trip. Once on the flight, the company is further able to keep the traveler happy and entertained by offering in-flight Internet service and other types of free entertainment.

This type of customer journey takes into account the cornerstones that customers need: consistent and proactive service, optimized features, collaborative options and seamless transitions.

How Real-Time Analytics Monitoring Improves the Contact Center

Real-time data helps businesses run smoothly. Being able to see the truth about how your company is performing moment-to-moment lets you understand the reality of your business. When you know where you’re losing as well as where you’re winning, it’s easier to appropriately adjust and monitor the contact center’s daily functions. When day-to-day functions are made more efficient, productivity can increase. Here are six benefits of real-time analytics monitoring

1. The quantity and quality of calls can be tracked.

Real-time monitoring allows the contact center to know exactly how many calls are being handled by agents, plus how many calls are currently in queue. The supervisor can see how many calls are being worked on and resolved by specific agents, and conversations can be listened in on to find out how they’re being handled. At any point, the contact center can track a call in real-time and then step in if the agent seems to be struggling. By closely monitoring calls, you can determine where a specific agent or a group of agents need more work.

2. Assess the changing value of a customer.

Customers will change their value to a company as they continue to purchase items or as they become dissatisfied with the products or level of service they receive. When a customer changes how frequently they purchase, real-time analytics can immediately update the customer’s status. The next time the customer contacts an agent, the agent will know how valuable the customer is. If the customer has been purchasing more frequently, they can be moved to VIP status. If they haven’t been purchasing as frequently as in the past, they may need an incentive in order to trust the company more.

3. Analyze waiting and idle time.

The amount of time a customer has to wait to have their problem resolved is a huge part of the customer experience. The longer the wait time, the more upset the customer may get, getting the customer-agent conversation off to a bad start. While an agent may need extra time to resolve a problem, the customer only cares about how long the process is taking. With real-time analytics, the wait and idle time for each agent can be assessed.

4. Quickly manage long queues.

At times, the contact center will be understaffed or inundated with calls, live chat requests, and emails. During these times, real-time monitoring can show you which agents are idle, allowing you to redirect calls that are currently in queue to those agents. Team members can quickly be reallocated in order to meet a surge in demand.

5. Find out how long it takes for agents to handle queries.

Contact center agents are tasked with resolving issues in the quickest way possible without lowering service quality. With real-time analytics, you can see how long agents are spending on each customer. You can then work with the agents who regularly take a long time with customers in order to lower their average resolution time.

6. Take advantage of cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

When a customer has recently bought a product or service, the contact center agent has an opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell. Real-time data can track what the customer has recently purchased and then automatically populate other products or services that they may be interested in. The system may also prompt the agent to offer the customer a better version of the product they’re ready to purchase at a higher price point.