Cloud Software

2020 Customer Support Predictions

2020 Customer Support Predictions from UJET’s Anand Janefalkar, Founder and CEO, UJET

  1. Messaging Will Surpass Voice – “While voice will always remain an important channel for support, especially for urgent issues, in 2020, we will see messaging (SMS and chat) overtake voice as the most critical support channel. Woe to customer service organizations that cannot provide an omnichannel support experience that includes messaging, as this will most surely equal the success or demise of the overall customer experience (CX).”
  2. Multichannel Will Expand to Multimedia – “In 2020, expect to see customer service organizations turn their attention to optimizing each support pathway to meet the tech-savvy needs of many of their customers. Chief among enhanced capabilities will be multimedia. The ability to share screenshots, photos and even video between the customer and support professional will become commonplace during support interactions.”
  3. Data Will Break Down Silos Between Customer Support and Other Teams – “In 2020, the ‘digital transformation’ conversation that has become commonplace across IT, will extend into the customer service center. We will begin to see the impact and value of support data being shared across the enterprise. Customer feedback, sentiment, profile data and more will be securely shared across organizations helping teams such as marketing, sales and product development to make more strategic decisions. And as a result, the importance and value of customer support will be elevated as a whole.”
  4. Agent Specialization Will Be A Key Focus  – “In 2020, as the presence of technologies such as AI and Machine Learning within the contact center continue to grow, and more customers are directed towards bots and self-service options, support agents will become hyper-specialized. Agent specialization will not only be geared towards channels, but also centered around specific issues, situations and the urgency of incoming support interactions.”
  5. AI Will Improve the Customer Support Employee Experience (EX), as well as the Customer Experience (CX) – “In 2020, AI will dramatically improve the employee experience (EX). The ability to automatically and instantly collect data from across multiple channels, analyze it and provide actionable insight will enable support agents to more quickly, easily and accurately address customer inquiries and come to highly satisfactory issue resolution.”

What New Paths Will Companies Take to Shape the Customer Journey in the Years to Come?

As the time-honored adage puts it, ‘a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.’ These days, the journey a customer takes when engaging with a company may be far more geographically limited but usually starts with a lot more steps. The ever-evolving customer journey incorporates varying interactions and experiences that take place on different touchpoints: a website visit for research, a call with a sales rep or chat with an agent, a conversation on social media or online review site, an inbound call, and even an in-store retail encounter.

It has become more important than ever for a business to take advantage of every possible resource to understand its customers: their wants, needs, and expectations, their thoughts and opinions and feedback and expectations. Building this knowledge will enable companies to deliver the highly personalized customer experiences that are becoming more crucial all the time in an increasingly competitive marketplace where consumers are offered a constantly growing array of options.

Given access to vast resources of data and technology, the customer journey today has morphed dramatically from where it was even five or ten years ago. And every company’s success depends upon combining the right technologies with the agility needed to effectively manage all the interactions that take place on every channel along the way.

Gazing into the future, which often-predicted developments will come to pass? Will the migration to the cloud finally encompass all businesses and make service more responsive? Will messaging ultimately surpass voice as the communication channel that is most compelling for businesses and consumers alike? Will digital transformation extend its reach deeper into the contact center environment to better leverage profile data, more closely examine customer feedback, and measure sentiment? Will customers expect greater availability of agent support that involves the use of screenshots, photos and video? And how will the growing use of AI-powered solutions progress, both in terms of those that provide more effective self-service options and those that support the development of more highly specialized agents?

Of course, no one can foresee every possible path the customer journey will take in the coming years, but CX and contact center executives and managers have an opportunity to get a cogent vision of many of the most important changes in an upcoming complimentary roundtable webcast on CrmXchange. On Thursday, December 5, at 1:00PM ET, NICE Nexidia and RingCentral will team up to explore “Smooth Customer Journey- Predictions for 2020 and Beyond.

Ken Brisco, Senior Product Marketing Manager, NICE Nexidia, who is responsible for establishing the scope and message as well as the competitive advantages of NICE’s Customer Journey Optimization Solutions within the CX space will be joined by RingCentral’s John Finch, AVP PMM, Customer Engagement, an executive with an extensive background in developing strategy for global customer engagement. Among the topics they will cover are:

  • How AI-driven analytics can boost customer loyalty and retention
  • The importance of measuring quality across all channels
  • In what ways bots are best able to collaborate with humans
  • How macro to micro-level journey analysis drives deeper insights into customer engagement

Register now for this insightful look into which near-future developments may change the way your organization helps to orchestrate the customer experience. If you are unable to attend on December 5, you can access the recorded version approximately 24 hours after the live presentation.

 

Melding AI and Virtual Assistants with Humans: The Right Formula for a Superior Customer Experience

By now, just about all of us have encountered an automated system when reaching out to a contact center. According to research cited in a 2017 IBM Watson blog, by 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be handled without a human agent. Sometimes, such systems work flawlessly: the bot or virtual assistant (VA) understands customers responses easily and the conversation progresses smoothly as they either get the information they expected or complete the process they hoped to finish. In some cases, customers may not even be sure they are interacting with an automated entity.

But while AI continues to provide increasingly beneficial results in the contact center environment and to grow in its capabilities to emulate human behavior, it is not yet the be-all, end-all technology that can resolve every issue. In some instances, the AI system simply can’t process the information that customers supply, leaving them ensnared in a loop of repetitive responses….and the resultant frustration can have immediate and serious consequences. NICE inContact’s 2018 CX Transformation Benchmark, revealed that only 33% of consumers found that chatbots and VAs consistently made it easier to get their issues resolved.

This is precisely why it’s critical to ensure that empathetic human intervention is readily available.

When the human touch is needed, it must be prompt, proactive, professional and above all, responsive to the customer’s needs. While many contact centers are increasing their reliance on AI solutions to reduce headcount and deliver rapid ROI on their technology expenditure, they are also learning that not having enough caring flesh-and-blood agents ready to complement their electronic counterparts can result in diminished loyalty and customer churn. Establishing the right balance between an effective, continuously updated AI program and humans who can seamlessly step in at just the right moment is a necessity in an environment where customer satisfaction has become the most significant business differentiator.

Having the capacity to train an AI system to determine the exact point in a conversation on any touch point where the customer needs to be handed off to a live agent is the most important factor in the process. Analytics plays a key role: data gathered within each individual interaction can provide a treasure trove of relevant information enabling managers to better understand what sets a customer on edge, what makes them feel more comfortable in a conversation that is not going well and what can ultimately drive them to take their business elsewhere. Having the right intelligence readily available also enables management to also pinpoint necessary adjustments in policy, procedure or verbiage.

Of course, as AI increases in intelligence through machine learning, it can also provide additional value-added suggestions such as which department is best equipped to assist customers based on analysis of their specific needs. Leading-edge AI solutions can pair such customers with an individual agent with the right skill set to guide them to successful resolution of their issue.

Companies investigating either implementing or upgrading an AI customer service solution need to develop a strategy that offers optimal potential to enhance customer relationships and improve the quality of interactions on all touch points. In addition, they must explore ways to strengthen collaboration between self-service entities and live agents.

On Thursday, October 3rd at 1:00 PM ET, CrmXchange will present a Best Practices Roundtable on Seamless Customer Experience: Combining AI VA with Live Agents, featuring experts from leading solution providers NICE inContact and Verint. Among the topics discussed will be:

  • Current AI adoption trends: how to get the most of early AI investments
  • How is AI impacting customer service today and what’s ahead in the future?
  • Where AI can add the greatest benefits
  • How to define and implement the right mix of automation and human touch—without damaging consumer trust and undermining relationships in the process of digitization.

This informative roundtable webcast is complimentary and those unable to attend it live can download it approximately 24 hours after it is completed. Register now

How Will Contact Center Channels Change in 2019?

Customer-centric businesses are working harder than ever to support all of the channels that their customers want to use. That’s why 84% of companies who consider themselves to be customer-centric have a heavy focus on supporting mobile channels for a greater customer experience. COPC reported that mobile care increases by 41% in 2018 alone.

The results from the 2018-2019 ContactBabel Report, as shown, illustrate that as mobile becomes more widely used by end users, channels like email, telephone, letter, and fax are expected to decrease in interactions. The channel with the largest expected increase in interactions for 2019 is web chat, with 56% of survey respondents believing there will be an increase. Social media customer service and SMS followed with 46% and 36% expecting an increase in interactions.inbound channnels

Both the need to retain strong CX strategies around traditional channels like email, voice, and IVR, and the need to add new channels has companies wondering how to create and run a true omnichannel contact center that empowers agents and delights customers. The ContactBabel Omnichannel Report walks though more stats from their survey, which could help you in your omnichannel journey.

inbound calls 2019

With traditional channels like voice, email, and chat, as well as channels like SMS/text, video, in-app, social messengers, and bots, Bright Pattern is the only true omnichannel provider that can be turned on in just days!

4 Contact Center Technology Trends to Pay Attention To

Knowing the tech trends that have been overtaking the market is different from actually making moves to adopt those trends. Don’t be like so many other contact centers out there that lag behind when it comes to customer expectations and contact center trends. Instead, stay on top of the newest technologies and solutions to improve the customer experience now and in the future.

Here are 4 contact center trends to know now and as you move into the new year.

  1. Migration to the cloud.

The cloud itself isn’t a new technology, but more and more contact centers are realizing the importance of migrating their system to the cloud. If you stick with your on-premise contact center system, you’ll limit your ability to manage several locations and to add more communication channels.

  1. Full adoption of omnichannel.

Just like with the cloud, omnichannel isn’t exactly a new idea, but now contact centers are actually taking the steps to make it a reality (instead of just educating themselves about its benefits). The silos that exist between billing, customer service and support have to be broken down, as do the separations between your assisted service and self-service channels. Slowly rolling out omnichannel solutions only keeps data siloed (and customers annoyed) for longer; instead, find the right technology that will let you marry all of your channels at the same time.

  1. Smarter IVR solutions.

IVR is one of those technologies that’s always seeing new innovations and improvements. These include:

  • Better personalization based on context to resolve more issues within the IVR
  • Identifying customers from caller ID to reduce the number of necessary identification steps
  • Speech recognition to determine level of stress beyond curse word cues
  1. Better testing methods for chat bots.

Chat bots are now being used by contact centers for first line interactions, which means you also need more advanced ways of measuring outcomes. A/B testing, which has traditionally been used just with digital marketing, is now used to optimize chat bots so they can continue to offer more advanced support.

By combining a willingness to be adaptable with a culture of constant improvement, your contact center can continue to keep up with technology changes, now and in the future. You’ll also set yourself up as a strong competitor in the industry while retaining both your workforce and your customer base.

What You Should Know About Migrating Your Contact Center to the Cloud

Your contact center’s customer experience platform is powerful. It’s used to design customer journeys; carry out and keep track of interactions; and follow through on your many business goals, such as improving FCR and reducing churn. Running a contact center also means always understanding what customers want now and being able to update the experience you offer to meet those changing needs. Migrating your platform to the cloud, either in full or partially, is one way to handle this type of constant change. The cloud keeps your operations agile, reliable and scalable so you can continually adapt.

3 Benefits of the Cloud

  1. You won’t have to allot nearly as many resources or as big of a budget to the cloud as you do to an on-premises platform. You can then focus the resources on things like measuring and analyzing data; creating or improving the customer journey; or adding new interaction channels your customers are using.
  2. The cloud provides unlimited flexibility whether you need to scale up or down based on fluctuations in demand. You can do this without even thinking about things like what your licensing allows or how much processing capacity the platform has.
  3. Innovation is much easier to take advantage of with a cloud-based platform. You can quickly and easily add new channels, test different integrations or try out modern technology like AI.

How to Embrace the Cloud-Based Contact Center

Knowing all of the benefits the cloud offers doesn’t make it easier to make the change, and switching over to the cloud, even partially to start, is a huge step. There are a couple of different ways to start embracing the cloud, allowing you to either go full steam ahead or start at a slower pace.

If your current on-premises platform has a cloud alternative, you’ll have a streamlined way to migrate your platform to the equivalent cloud version. Another option is to commit to a hybrid model for now, meaning you’ll migrate certain functions to the cloud while keeping other functions on-premises for the time being.

Moving your processes to the cloud is an excellent way to meet the challenge of a constantly changing industry. With different migration options, you can find the one that best suits your business and goals, and you can start adopting the cloud without disrupting business operations.

New Research Finds Only 12.5% of US Consumers Actually Hate Chatbots

A nationwide survey conducted in August finds that 94% of U.S. respondents considered their last customer experience positive – although they note there is still room for improvement on the margins. While high-profile customer service blunders by major companies gobble media attention, new research from Genesys challenges the notion that companies aren’t in touch with consumers and provides insight into how businesses can adapt their support options to meet evolving preferences.

Human Touch and Digital Channels Rank High

The survey bolsters conventional wisdom that consumers perceive the best and most effective customer service happens when a human is involved (75%). But almost equally, 76% of respondents want the option to access digital support channels when they choose.

When asked about the most irritating issue in customer service, only 12.5% of consumers cited speaking with a bot. A bigger frustration noted (for nearly 27%) is not being able to talk to a live agent when they want.

However, these were not the biggest customer service annoyances reported by consumers – out of the twelve options provided, the top three pain points selected by respondents are being put on hold (42%), being given incorrect information (37%), and being given too many automated options before reaching an agent OR resolving their issue (36%).

Automation, AI and Live Support Key to the Customers Desire for Fast, Frictionless Service

Genesys Chief Marketing Officer, Merijn te Booij said, “It’s straightforward – the results of the survey indicate consumers want a blended approach – they want the rapid access to a business that digital channels can provide combined with the human touch when they want it.”

Consumers put a timely response (64%) and knowledgeable agents (55%) at the top of their list for the type of customer experiences they value the most. Concurrently, 67% of respondents say it’s very important companies quickly route queries to a customer service agent who has background information and understands the customer’s needs.

“It’s clear from the research findings that businesses need to strike the right balance when deploying digital channels, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in customer experience,” said te Booij. “We think it also means it’s safe to say that the role of humans in customer service isn’t going away anytime soon – unless a business is willing to sacrifice customer satisfaction. However, we do believe AI will continue to change the way humans work and how consumers get service for the better.”

He went on to explain, “Interestingly, businesses can use AI to alleviate consumers’ biggest pain points in service when applied strategically and in concert with human effort. AI really is the key for enabling consumers to have their cake and eat it too — in this case that means fast, efficient, knowledgeable service at the hand of a human or even a bot when they choose.”

Brand Reputation Matters

Today, brands cannot afford to ignore the importance of delivering the type of service consumers want. 72% of U.S. respondents say they have sometimes or always bought something from a business based solely on its reputation for customer service. Further, 89% of respondents have taken action as a direct result of poor customer service. A full 58% say they have switched providers as a result of poor customer service, and 49% say they have never done business with a brand again after a bad experience. Nearly 50% discussed their disappointment face-to-face with family and friends and 24% even spread the word via social media.

Additional Key Findings from the Survey:

  • Keep those phone lines open! While voice is no longer the only game in town, consumers still want the option to call when they need customer service. In fact, 91% of U.S. respondents say it’s important to engage with a business over the phone, with 54% considering it “very” important.
  • Despite an increasing use of social media by businesses as a customer support channel, only 4% of U.S. consumers are fond of interacting with companies that way. Respondents cite discomfort, impersonality, unlikelihood of success and lack of speedy response as barriers.
  • People value good service, with 44% of respondents saying they’re willing to pay more to ensure better service. And yet the main reason to tolerate bad service? 42% polled say it’s related to a low price

Survey Methodology

The nationwide poll includes responses from 1,000 U.S. adults over the age of 18 and was conducted online and by email or text to mobile phones. Two-thirds of respondents were women. Genesys also conducted the same survey of equal pool size in both Germany and the United Kingdom (U.K.).

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.