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5 Tips to Improve Your Contact Center’s Chat Services

Live chat is an important, useful customer service tool. Having live chat isn’t enough, though – you have to make sure it’s working intuitively and efficiently in order to solve disputes and answer questions as quickly as possible. Here are a few ways you can improve your contact center’s live chat services.

1. Use a pre-chat survey.

A pre-chat survey gathers initial details that will make it easier to help the customer. For example, you can ask for their name, account number, preferred callback number in case you get disconnected and a quick synopsis of their question or problem. Then when a live agent is ready to take the chat, they’ll have those preliminary details at their fingertips.

2. Use a scripted greeting.

Though you want to avoid using too many canned messages, it’s a good idea to have one as your greeting. Customers like to see a chat window pop up immediately. If your agent had to write each greeting personally, there would be too much lag time between when the customer visits the site and when they’re greeted.

3. Introduce yourself by name.

Most customers are going to be savvy enough to know that they’re speaking with computerized messages in the beginning, but once a live agent is on the chat, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself by name. This helps build rapport between the support agent and the customer.

4. Always be honest with the customer.

Even if you can’t tell the customer what they want to hear, you should never lie to them or promise something you can’t deliver. If you’re unsure of an answer or if you don’t have the ability to do something like offer the customer a discount, put them on hold and speak with a supervisor.

5. Remember that the typing indicator is on.

One main reason why people use live chat is because they want swift service. Always remember that the typing indicator is on and that your customer can see when you’re responding to them. While they may not mind if you take a minute or two to type out a full response, they will start to get impatient if they don’t see any response coming through at all.

It’s a good idea to periodically check in with your live chat agents to brainstorm creative ideas that can improve agent-customer interactions.

 

 

10 Ways to Optimize Contact Center Scheduling


Contact center scheduling is one of a manager’s more difficult tasks. Forecasting and scheduling requires everything from data analysis to keeping track of employee preferences and availability. Agent turnover, new communication channels and fluctuations with call volume make the process even more complex. Here are 10 bite-sized tips for optimizing contact center scheduling.

  1. When hiring new agents, have an idea of your schedule blind spots and then only consider applicants who have matching availability.
  2. Your top agents should be available during normal working hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) in the time zone of your primary customer base.
  3. Let some of your agents choose their own schedule. For example, you can give them the option to work longer hours on fewer days or to change their start and end times based on contact center need.
  4. If you’re finding it difficult to get enough agents in the contact center during peak times, consider using incentives, like flex scheduling, a competition and reward system.
  5. On top of call metrics, you should also analyze non-call activities, including after-call work, training and coaching time, and break length, to get a well-rounded idea of forecasting and scheduling.
  6. Use your contact center software’s dashboard to monitor real-time reporting. You’ll be able to change schedules on-the-fly. For example, you can make adjustments to break times, meetings and training classes to adapt to current needs.
  7. Don’t schedule agents based on availability alone – also account for skill level, specialization and types of communication that need to be handled.
  8. Allow your agents to swap schedules, so long as the agent they’re switching shifts with has the same skill set. Giving employees schedule flexibility can improve focus and company loyalty.
  9. Keep a reserve of agents on-call so that you can have extra help at the ready in case contact volume quickly increases. Make it possible for these agents to work from home instead of requiring them to come in.
  10. The right schedule will only work well if it’s adhered to. Monitor for adherence and handle issues that you notice before revamping the schedule.

By not paying close attention to contact center scheduling or relying on outdated techniques and processes, you run the risk of negatively impacting your team while raising costs. Though a definite challenge, managers should approach forecasting and scheduling in an organized, vigilant way.

4 Pillars of Contact Center Workforce Management

Workforce management (WFM) in the contact center has the goal of achieving and then maintaining efficient operations. Ultimately, WFM means having the right agents working when they’re needed most. Moreover, it’s about properly managing service level and having efficient speed of answer times while using the minimum necessary labor hours and without sacrificing customer service. With quality WFM, you can reduce costs as well as agent turnover and improve the customer experience at the same time. Here are the four pillars of WFM that your contact center needs in order to thrive.

1. Forecasting

Forecasting is when management looks at past data in order to predict future workload. The more data there is to analyze, the more reliable the forecasting will be. In an omnichannel contact center, analysis and patterns have to be collected from all channels, including phone, chat, email and social media. Emerging trends – which aren’t going to be part of past data – also have to be considered. Forecasting software can create a simulated schedule so managers can see how effective it will be before officially implementing it.

2. Scheduling

Once forecasting is complete, the schedule can be made. Forecasting will tell managers what type of workforce they need and when, but scheduling is what combines forecasting with agent availability, preferences and specializations. Average handle time has to be considered as well, including both the time of the communication itself as well as after-call tasks.

3. Flexibility

Though you’ll create a specific schedule, it’s always advisable to be flexible. Allow your agents to trade shifts, take flexible time off and work from home on certain days. Of course, you also have to account for breaks, lunches and local labor laws. In the end, the final schedule should be a mixture of forecasting, your preferred schedule and agent preferences.

4. Performance Management

In order to make sure your contact center is always covered, monitor agents for schedule adherence. Not only will this tell you if your agents are sticking to the schedule that you both decided on, but it will also show you opportunities for non-contact work, like coaching, training sessions and meetings. Also, if the schedule is being adhered to, you may realize that demand is high and overtime is needed.

 

Though advanced software and automation can help streamline WFM, it’s still an incredibly intricate part of running a contact center.

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.

 

5 Ways RPA Enhances the Contact Center

Robotic process automation (RPA) uses software and robots to capture and parse data. In the contact center, RPA supports the IT department and streamlines workflows. Though some feel that jobs will be lost to RPA, the more likely outcome is that RPA will elevate contact center performance and help live agents deliver better, richer service. Here are five ways that RPA enhances the modern contact center.

1. A large volume of data can be moved quickly.

There are many reasons why contact center data may need to be moved: if the data comes from various databases but has to be combined in order to carry out a process; if databases have to be filled in with bulk information; or if data has to migrated from an old application to a new one. RPAs can manipulate data incredibly quickly, whereas manual entry would take up far too much time.

2. The customer experience is improved.

Having to ask for the same information more than once is frustrating for both the agent and the customer. RPA is able to collect information at the start of a query, then immediately add the data to any of the platforms the agent will be accessing. By eliminating the need for extra data entry, the agent can solve the customer’s problem quickly and move on to the next person in the queue.

3. Desktop automation improves employee confidence.

Rules-based desktop automation can handle specific employee tasks, turning employees into decision-makers instead of sidetracking them with basic duties like filing and updating customer information. When employees feel that they’re needed for complex issues, they’re more likely to be engaged with their job and devoted to customer satisfaction.

4. Time is maximized.

RPA allows for real-time data collection and analysis because it’s able to process information in mere seconds. Moreover, data processing via RPA is accurate, eliminating the need for time-consuming corrections. The contact center’s analysts can then devote more time to completing higher-level tasks.

5. Workflows are optimized.

There are numerous optimizations that result from RPA. Live agents can handle customers who need personalized attention. First Contact Resolutions rates are improved, as is accuracy. Following up with customers is also streamlined.

RPAs are bound to become the standard in contact centers. Knowing how to work with them and designing your processes around automation will help propel your customer service forward.

How to Improve Your Contact Center’s Live Chat Service

There are several different customer service channels available to customers, but the winner always seems to be the one that responds the fastest. Since web chat is both time-sensitive and personal, it’s often a customer’s preferred mode of contact. Here’s how to optimize customer satisfaction using live chat.

Make sure the chat is visible.

There’s a lot of information for visitors to look over when they’re on your website, but the live chat option should be obvious and easy to find. A pop-up window on the bottom of the page lets customers chat while still navigating around the website. Since the window is going to be small, make sure the font is large enough to read.

Only send an invitation if an agent is available.

Offering a live chat option at the right moment is key to engaging the customer at the best time. However, you should never invite the customer to a chat session if there isn’t actually a live agent available. Customers shouldn’t have to wait for help, especially if you reach out to them first.

Go off script.

Even though you want to maintain a certain level of professionalism, live chat conversations can lean toward the friendly and personal. The agent should introduce themselves and refer to the customer by name. Also, it’s okay to go off script if the customer asks detailed questions or if they’re upset and need the agent to show empathy.

Keep chat etiquette in mind.

Even though live chat is on the informal side, agents should still write in complete sentences; pay attention to spelling and grammar; and avoid slang. Paragraphs should be short and digestible, and technical speak should be avoided so that the customer can keep up with the conversation.

Make it quick.

Customers want their issue handled quickly on chat. Agents should make sure to respond swiftly whenever the customer sends a message. Conversation should be limited so that it doesn’t get in the way of solving the problem. Also, if the situation will take too long to troubleshoot on live chat, the customer should be given an alternate solution, like self-service or the number to the right department.

Live chat is helpful for customers who need to multi-task or want to get fast service. In order to deliver the service customers deserve, it’s necessary to know what they expect.

 

Self-Assessment and Self-Coaching for Quality in the Contact Center

 

Traditional quality management solutions support standard processes of scoring, assessment and coaching. Metrics such as average handling time (AHT) are calculated automatically, and quality assurance specialists score calls based on a standardized evaluation form and guidelines. Then these evaluations are reported to managers, who schedule sessions to review and support employees to improve their quality scores.

It’s a good system, and it works. But it could be even better. New quality management solutions offer capabilities that automate more quality processes than ever before. Analytics-driven quality assurance can analyze and score 100 percent of interactions and provide a more holistic view of contact center performance. Automated dashboards provide managers, evaluators and agents alike with insights into key metrics, and they further drive contact center goals and success. These solutions are fluid and robust. Their complex custom and out-of-the-box workflows also include automated self-assessment and coaching processes that enable employees and managers to further boost their performance.

The value of self-assessment and self-coaching has been confirmed by psychologists, educators and business experts. On its own, or combined with group and one-on-one coaching, self-coaching can improve performance. One study found that students who learned self-assessment strategies performed significantly better than those who didn’t. Self-coaching also has shown its value in a business environment, and evidence suggests that it can surpass peer coaching in effectiveness. Similar trends have been recorded many times, both in educational settings and in the workplace.

In the contact center, self-assessment and self-coaching can enhance and supplement more traditional coaching models, in which supervisors send personalized coaching feedback — such as links to knowledge resources, instructions and due dates — as needed.  Because quality is a vital factor in maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction, the added boost provided by self-assessment can determine the long-term survival of an organization.

The success of self-powered quality improvements for your employees depends on your ability to support them in their efforts:

  1. Train your employees to self-assess and self-coach.

Reviewing your own actions and thoughts isn’t always instinctive. Just as employees have to learn how to use scripts, technology and recording tools, they need to learn how to self-assess and to understand the value it brings.  Coach your employees on best practices, such as how to identify problem areas and deconstruct call recordings themselves. Be sure to explain why you are teaching them: “When we first start reflecting, it can feel like a burden,” explains teaching expert Starr Sackstein. “If students don’t understand why they are doing it, then it will seem superfluous to them. Thus, it is crucial that we communicate to students why we reflect.”

  1. Provide thorough, reliable information.

Don’t just teach employees best practices; give them the information they need to act on them. Ensure that they have regular access to up-to-date scores. People who are struggling frequently don’t know that they’re having trouble, according to the researchers who defined the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias that causes individuals to assess their ability as much higher than it really is.

“…Incompetent people do not recognize —scratch that, cannot recognize —just how incompetent they are…. Poor performers — and we are all poor performers at some things — fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack,” explains David Dunning.

Once people identify the areas that need improvement, they can correct themselves. This applies to quality management too. When employees have regular access to reports and dashboards reflecting their scores, they know whether they are performing well and when to reach out for additional support from peers or management.

  1. Articulate expectations and set criteria.

Learners need more than statistics about their own performance. In an educational environment, students are much more likely to self-assess when they understand what their teacher’s expectations are. To achieve this in the contact center, provide employees with clear outlines and guidance. Calibrate frequently so that everyone is working toward the same goal. Calibrations also improve the perception of transparency and fairness, which makes employees feel more confident that their efforts to self-direct will be rewarded.

Strong self-assessment and self-coaching skills can improve quality scores that in turn contribute to meeting and exceeding contact center goals. They’re natural additions to traditional training programs and, with the self-assessment automation capabilities now offered by top quality management solutions, are accessible to all.

 

Why Contact Centers Should Consider Visual IVR

Today’s tech-savvy customers are always on-the-go. With intuitive, fast, Internet-connected smartphones came the expectation to have just as simple and swift interactions with brands and customer service. Many customers prefer to troubleshoot on their own and, whenever possible, skip the wait on the phone or chat queue to speak with a live agent. Unfortunately, too many IVR menus provide routing to an agent instead of helping customers perform self-service.
In the past, the only IVR menus available were non-visual. Today, though, visual and touchscreen IVR is being adopted by modern contact centers. With visual IVR, the interface has a visual menu for customers to access. After logging in online or via an app, the customer can easily find their way through the menu. Not only are visual IVR menus easier to understand, but they’re faster, too. For example, a phone IVR menu may take 30 seconds to listen to, while it can take less than 5 seconds to scan a visual IVR menu and make a selection.
Various types of visual content can be included in a visual IVR interface, including:
•Tap-able menus
•Documentation and PDFs
•Forms
•Photos and videos (instructional, for example)
•Web pages
Visual Content and Comprehension
According to various studies, visual content can improve comprehension. Where a verbal summary of a menu option may be difficult to understand, a visual representation can be easier to interpret. This is especially useful for hearing-impaired customers. Customers can make quicker decisions, which means they can get quicker solutions.
Communicating with Live Agents
Every IVR menu should have the ability to chat with a live agent, either via the phone or online. Every move that the customer made throughout the IVR menu while conducting self-service can be communicated to the agent so that they can pickup exactly where the customer left off. Visual content can also be accessed and shared during a live call. For example, if the customer is having a problem with the website, they can send a screenshot to the agent while they’re on a live call with them.
Advanced IVR menus help contact centers manage their call volume, reduce wait time and increase customer loyalty, resulting in higher profits. At the same time, consumers can quickly access their account information, get routed to the right department, avoid long hold times and have an overall positive experience.

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.

How to Motivate Contact Center Agents

There are several reasons to motivate contact center agents: hiring new staff can get expensive; training new hires means there’s lag time between when they’re hired and when they can start working; and company morale can decrease if there’s a high rate of turnover. Here are 5 ways to motivate contact center agents.
All of the tools your agents use, from software to hardware, should work flawlessly. Faulty technology makes it impossible for agents to be efficient. One necessary type of tool are those that reduce customer frustration. Agents can get frazzled after speaking with one angry customer after the other. Software that allows for queue callback or voicemail can make customers happy, which in turn delivers agents fewer frustrating inquiries.
2. Setup seamless automation.
Quality contact center software will automate manual tasks so that agents don’t have to perform them with every single call or chat. Data should also be synced across all customer service tools. When their workload is streamlined, agents have more time and energy to handle more pressing issues.
3. Help agents hone their specialties.
Instead of having all of your agents trained in every area, figure out the strengths of your individual agents and help them specialize. Some agents may excel at handling agitated customers while others will have in-depth knowledge of your products. When you have agents who are experts in certain areas, they’ll be able to answer queries and solve problems more quickly than if they only had limited knowledge of the niche.
4. Open the lines of communication.
Your contact center agents are the closest people to your customers. It’s important that your agents know they can speak with you openly. Not only will you hear great ideas you haven’t thought of before, but agents who feel valued and needed are more likely to perform well in their job.
5. Use analytics to acknowledge excellence.
With call center reporting, you can see how agents are performing. When you find an agent who spends a short time on calls and has a high FCR rate, for example, you can reward them for their performance. You can also see which agents have positive customer reviews and reward them accordingly.
When your agents are motivated and happy, they’re better able to deliver the sort of customer experience you expect.