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4 Uses of AI in the Contact Center

Artificial intelligence (AI) has multiple uses across the modern contact center. While some people mistakenly believe that robots are going to replace live support agents, the truth is that AI in the contact center actually helps customer service agents perform their job better. Here’s how.

  1. Data capturing during customer interaction.

There’s a lot of data to be captured during every interaction. AI can be used to capture this data and then feed it into the contact center’s analytics system. With features like sentiment analysis, AI can also be used to spot certain emotions, like anger or dissatisfaction, which can then escalate the issue to be handled by a live agent.

  1. Management of customer data.

Capturing all of that customer data is just the first step to actually understanding it. Data has to be analyzed and leveraged in order to actually improve the customer experience. AI can help with this by capturing and cross-referencing data, then sharing it across different channels and platforms. This way, the customer won’t have to repeat their details every single time they contact customer service, and they won’t receive offers or messages that don’t truly relate to them.

  1. Smart replacement of IVR processes.

A contact center’s IVR system will have a set of pre-defined rules to follow. These rules are generally simplistic – for example, the IVR system may transfer a sales call to the sales department. AI can take this several steps further by using natural language processing and machine learning to understand customer statements instead of just giving them a set menu of choices.

  1. Directing customers to different areas of the website.

Many customer requests can be handled simply by pointing the customer to a specific area of the website. For example, a customer may be able to get information about their account or recent payment by viewing their account information, eliminating the need to speak with a live agent. Customers can also engage in self-service by finding the answer to their FAQ. A virtual assistant can direct the customer to the right section of the website, freeing up live agents to handle more pressing issues.

There’s always going to be a need for live, human interaction. In order for contact center agents to deliver the best, most personalized support possible, AI tackles easier-to-handle customer queries, speeding up the process on both ends.

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.).

4 Essential Components of Your Workforce Optimization Software

Delivering a positive customer experience is no small feat ­– there are a lot of moving parts that have to work together, with workforce optimization (WFO) being a major component. When considering which WFO suite to go with, keep the following four must-haves in mind.

  1. Integration with Existing Systems

The WFO system you use should be compatible with the rest of your contact center. Cloud WFO solutions are typically the easiest to integrate ­– they can be custom-fitted to your contact center, prepped and tested before going live, and even run along with your current WFO solution as you make the switch so there’s no downtime.

  1. Creation of Reliable and Adaptive Schedules

With the right WFO solution, scheduling becomes much easier. Your WFO software should generate schedules with enough agents to cover daily shifts, accounting for agent requests like certain days or times off, flex shifts, or work-from-home shifts. At the same time, your software should review shift data to accommodate for high and low patterns, which will affect things like breaks and training sessions. Your WFO solution should also be flexible enough to adapt when something unforeseen occurs that requires a quick change in the workforce.

  1. Real-Time Schedule Adherence

In order for management to know if an agent’s daily activity is in line with contact center objectives, you’ll need to see reports about schedule adherence. Your WFO solution should monitor and record real-time adherence, tracking log in and log out times, plus lunch breaks and other types of breaks. For contact centers that have out-of-the-box needs, like after-hours coverage, your WFO solution should let you create custom guidelines.

  1. Accurate and Robust Reporting

WFO (and just about everything else at your contact center) revolves around reports ­– otherwise, it’s very difficult to know what’s going on in your business. Even the best managers can’t be everywhere all the time, which is why they rely on reporting. The data that’s gathered will help you figure out where changes need to be made and what type of training needs to occur moving forward. Comprehensive reports will help you make the right workforce decisions.

The philosophy of WFO ­– shifting the workforce for the sake of optimal productivity ­– has been around for a long time, but actually embracing this philosophy by seeking out the tools to achieve it is still new for many contact centers.

Why Your Contact Center Needs Remote Agents

When agents are twiddling their thumbs because calls aren’t coming in, it costs the contact center money. When a barrage of calls come in and wait times skyrocket, the customer experience drops. Having the correct capacity of agents without over-staffing is a tug-of-war that every contact center has had to play.

Even with insightful analytics, you can’t perfectly predict how much activity your contact center is going to have. There will be unexpected lulls and spikes in activity regardless of what the numbers prepare you for.

The goal of flexible WFM is to increase the contact center’s agility while maintaining a high level of customer service.

Traditional vs. Flexible Workforces

One way to increase workforce flexibility is to have a number of remote agents who are able to work from home. Here’s how that can help:

Hold Times

Agents in a traditional contact center can easily get overloaded with calls, leaving a lot of customers on hold. Call abandon rates increase while service quality decreases. Remote agents are often able to deliver quicker call resolution.

Ramp-Up Time

Ramp-up time in a traditional contact center can take weeks, but on-demand remote agents are able to ramp up in just a few hours.

Scalability

If there’s an unexpected rush of communication or a shift has to be covered in an emergency, the resources at a traditional contact center can’t always scale as quickly as needed. With the support of a remote workforce, though, agents can cover gaps in even a non-standard schedule at the last minute.

Encourage Customers to Use Other Channels

Unexpected spikes are going to happen. As you continue managing spikes, particularly the ones you can predict, create a contingency plan for the spikes you don’t see coming. One way to do this is to encourage customers to use other channels, like chat, email, SMS and social media.

This can limit the number of incoming calls and may also lower the number of times a customer reaches out to customer service before being helped. For example, if you have a team of agents providing social media support, they can connect with a customer after the first complaint and possibly solve the issue before is escalates.

Even contact centers that have always had rigid staffing measures can see the benefits of a flexible model, which saves resources during downtime and allows for adjustments on-the-fly.

What’s on Your Supervisor Screen? Agent KPIs to Watch

In your day-to-day contact center operations, everything under the sun can be measured, reported on, and popped to your screen. When you’re bombarded by data, only the most-used KPIs deserve a spot on your agent desktop. How do you know which KPIs are the most valuable to your team, contact center, and business?

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI), also called a metric, is a value that you can measure, one that shows just how effective your business is at achieving its goals. If your top business goal is to boost customer satisfaction, for example, you’ll probably want to keep an eye on KPIs such as call abandonment rates, survey responses, average handle time, and so forth. Contact centers use metrics to collect specific data from every interaction, service, queue, agent, survey, and more.

In any contact center, the real-time metrics that supervisors use on a daily basis generally fall into common categories, such as these:

  • Agent metrics
  • Campaign-specific metrics
  • List metrics
  • Service metrics
  • Skill metrics
  • Team metrics

Nestled in each category, there can be dozens, if not hundreds, of metrics, and the ones that matter really depend on your company’s goals.

Your Agents, At-a-Glance

Do you know what your agents are doing, right now? Supervisors need dashboards and wallboards with real-time KPIs that signal which agents and teams need to be monitored. And when there are 50+ KPIs to choose from, how do you know which ones are the most important? The more metrics you add to a dashboard, the less useful a dashboard becomes. In this blog, we will focus on some of the most-useful real-time agent metrics for contact center supervisors to watch.

Agent State

An agent’s state indicates whether or not the agent can handle an interaction. It may seem basic, but this information is very useful to the supervisor monitoring a team of agents working both in-house and remotely. Agent State provides an at-a-glance look at whether agents are ready, not ready, busy, idle, or doing after-call work. For agents in the Not Ready state, this metric also provides the reason (e.g., lunch, break, meeting, etc.).

Agent State shows what every logged in agent on your team is doing right now. If all your agents are busy, you know why the queue is filling up with calls, or why callers are still on hold. Likewise, if all your agents are ready yet the queue is backed up and customers are not being helped, you have reason to suspect your services are not running.

Time in State

Time in State is how long (in minutes and seconds) an agent has been ready, not ready, and so forth. Generally, supervisors will know what duration is acceptable for service calls, chats, breaks, and after-call work, and the Time in State metric will give them a cursory view of who’s working as expected, who’s slacking, and who needs help. For example, the supervisor may want to check in on an agent who’s been in the Not Ready state for 24 minutes, with no reason given.

ACW Time

After-call work (ACW) consists of all the tasks that agents must do before they can complete the interaction, tasks such as setting a disposition, creating contacts, writing notes, setting follow-ups, and more. These tasks are important but tedious. Agents in the ACW state cannot handle a new interaction until this work is done.

ACW Time can show you which agents and teams are not accepting new interactions because they’re still working on the old. High ACW time can indicate it’s time to relieve your agents of this type of work and automate the tasks instead.

Sentiment

Displayed as faces that are happy, neutral, or angry, sentiment provides a quick glimpse at the general mood and satisfaction level of your customers, in real time. It’s not the sentiment of your agents. Happy faces mean happy customers, and angry ones spell low customer satisfaction and poor reviews.

When agents chat with a customer, for example, the system is utilizing Natural Language Understanding and other cognitive technologies to assess the customer’s satisfaction level. Positive keywords, statements, and expressions become happy faces in the supervisor’s monitoring screen and in the agent’s active interaction. Sentiment is also saved in interaction records and chat transcripts such as this.

The sentiment of an unhelpful chat session would immediately appear on the agent’s screen within the chat as well as on the supervisor’s screen. A slew of angry faces in the supervisor’s list view of active agent interactions means the supervisor should monitor those agents and step in to help.

Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is the average result of surveys where the customer satisfaction question has been answered. The best way to know how your customers feel about your service, agents, products, or anything else, is to ask them.

Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the percentage of points for all surveys where a response was given for the contact satisfaction question. The percentage is calculated out of the number of interactions, where surveys exist, by subtracting the percentage of promoters (values 9 and 10) by the percentage of detractors (values 0 to 6).

You want to have a high NPS at all times. Customers are more likely to respond positively to a contact satisfaction question if they had a good experience with a knowledgeable, helpful agent. For contact centers, NPS is key way to measure success

Contact Center Driven by Insights

Agent metrics provide detailed information about agent performance and customer satisfaction. These KPIs provide the insights you need for improving agent engagement and elevating the customer experience.

After all, customer experience hinges on empowering agents with the right training, tools, and service model. Bright Pattern’s omnichannel contact center software helps empower agents with unique tools that facilitate better conversations, boost agent performance, and deliver higher returns in customer satisfaction and agent engagement. Having a unified and powerful agent desktop that displays important KPIs helps to keep supervisors focused on teams and agents focused on customers.

You can learn more about how monitoring agent metrics can help improve agent engagement and customer service by downloading the Bright Pattern e-book.

Digital Disruption in Fintech Customer Service – an Uber Moment for All Industries?

Two years ago, during a brainstorming session at Customer Contact Week, a customer service leader from a government agency stated that it wanted its service to be as good as Nordstrom’s. What was a surprise at the time has become a new norm. Customers expect similar levels of customer service across industries.

Now, the financial services industry always an early adopter of new technology—is going through a wave of Uber- or Amazon-like digital disruption that will not stay within just financial services but will roll over into all industries. The smarter, more agile companies—midsized companies or large enterprises—will ride the wave and grow while others will struggle to stay relevant.

So what does this wave look like and what should customer service leaders in other industries be aware of? Let’s dive into what is happening in financial services and some lessons learned to see….

Fintech, Then and Now

Digital disruption has swept up the financial services industry, as traditional big banks are challenged by digital banks like Tangerine, traditional investment firms are challenged by companies like Wealthfront, and companies like Square or PayPal become digital financial services firms using innovative technology.

Many of the old-school companies are now either buying the financial tech (i.e., fintech) companies who plan to usurp them, partner with them, or just leverage the technology into their customer services operations.

To reduce effort and increase personalization, banks have turned to biometrics to authenticate. Rather than being greeted with an impersonal “name, rank, and social security number please” message, biometrics do the work and the agent can then greet them personally. Similarly, with 90% of consumers preferring online banking regardless of age, companies have rolled out chat text communication, and other forms of self-service. And more innovative companies are looking at video to increase personalization. OmniChannel banking is here, where the best of digital self-service is seamlessly blended with agents.

The shift to digital self-service can be significant to business. Take a look at Wells Fargo, for example, which announced earlier this month that it’s eliminating up to 10% of its workforce as a result of customers moving to digital channels and self-service. This is similar to AIG’s announcement a couple years ago to slash over a billion dollars of expenses as the company made similar moves to self-service and digital channels. Many of these shifts to digital channels and self-service are lessons other industries should heed and learn from.

So how do you compete if you are a midsize financial services company or large enterprise bank—or even in another industry? Customer service and customer experience remain the top strategy to win, especially when coupling this with disruptive digital approaches.

Let’s look at some key ways to win in financial services, ways that also are relevant to other industries too.

Key #1: Digital Channels of Choice

To stay relevant, it is key that your company handle not just classic channels such as voice, chat, email and text, but also emerging digital channels like bots, messengers and video.

Chat was the fastest growing channel most recently, but experts predict new messaging channels will overtake chat in the next wave. Forrester is actually predicting the average number of channels people will use often will increase from 9 to 11. Agents need to be able to communicate over these new channels and be able to hop across them if they have the right skills for the new channels.

Similarly, channels that customers prefer need to be offered to customers as a way to communicate with their digital banks. So the first takeaway is to provide customers with their digital channel of choice, both classic and emerging.

Key #2: Maintain One Conversation in Context

As communications happen over an increasing number of channels, you need a way to unify all these siloed interactions. If you want to keep customers and deliver frictionless communications, look for the entire customer journey rather than individual communications for each channel.

If you are communicating with a bot and then an agent, the agent should have at his or her fingertips all the context from communication on previous channels so they can provide an effortless customer experience. A single unified desktop that allows agents to see the full conversation in context empowers agents and makes for a much better experience for customers—whether you’re a digital bank or are in any other industry.

Key #3: Digital Conversations for a Mobile World

In addition to unifying all your channels in context, it is important to communicate with people where they are. In our super-busy, high-tech world, people are often looking at their mobile phone on trains, planes—and all too often—their automobiles. People are on the go. COPC recently reported that mobile care will increase 41% in 2018.

So make sure that your top channels can be accessed on mobile devices wherever the customer may be. Bright Pattern, for instance, allows in ap chat, file sharing, video chat, and more.

Banks had some of the most useful apps when they first created the deposit-by-picture feature. Yet, when you hit the “contact us” button in most apps in other industries, you are routed to a general phone number where an IVR asks you what language you speak rather than offer personal service.

Companies should take a mobile, personalized approach to their communications. Put the conversation where people are—and that is on the go.

Key #4: Cloud Customer Service is a Key Enabler

So how do you do all this—add digital channels, communicate seamlessly across them, respond to new channels, and more? Look to the cloud. A true “born from the cloud” customer service architecture where all channels are native versus bolt-on can give you a nimble platform in which you are the disruptor versus disrupted.

Cloud-first architecture is a truly agile, nimble platform because it doesn’t rely on legacy technology ported from old on-premises solutions. A cloud platform approach will break down the silos and deliver a simple solution that business users can make changes to without requiring costly IT and professional services. Our e-book explains how to safely transition your contact center to the cloud.

Final Thoughts?

The wave of disruption is everywhere, rolling through financial services and hitting other industries too. Ready to join the world of digital disruption sweeping through financial services? There is a brighter way to deliver disruptive customer service that smart companies are using, and it starts in the cloud.

I hope some of these keys were helpful. To learn more about staying relevant in this world of digital disruption, see Bright Pattern’s free e-book, 5 Keys: Effortless and Personal Omnichannel Customer Service.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cyara’s Top Tips to Enhance Customer Experience

Customer experience (CX) expert Cyara has compiled six best practices that businesses should internalize to raise customer satisfaction. These insights, gleaned from Cyara’s front-line teams, celebrate #CXDay2018, a day to recognize the professionals and companies that make great customer experiences happen.

Cyara CEO Alok Kulkarni offers six ways a business can elevate the experience of its customers:

  1. CX should be at the center of any digital transformation.
    Customer interactions are an integral part of the CX landscape and need to be a key component of digital transformation initiatives. For many companies, digital transformation investments are insufficiently allocated to the contact center, with the result that customers continue to wrestle with legacy systems. Recent studies show that while digital channels for customer interaction are growing rapidly, voice is still the preferred communications channel for pre- and post-sales support.
  2. Without CX measurement, businesses are flying blind.
    From the anecdotal to the hard stats, CRM professionals need to know how their CX is performing. CX leaders rely on a variety of metrics—from the big-picture metrics of Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) to real-time metrics such as dropped calls and correct connections. These real-time metrics deliver the true insights into the “now” needed to quickly identify and address problems customers are experiencing as they look for help.
  3. Great CX innovation requires cross-team collaboration.
    With the push for continuous integration and real-time innovation of front-line customer experience systems, it’s critical for organizations to successfully collaborate across development, testing, and operations teams, as well as between IT teams and business teams. Having a shared vision and collaboration tools are key to advancing in an agile, fast-paced mode of development.
  4. Spikes happen. Systems fail. Be prepared.
    Whether it’s Black Friday, annual insurance enrollment, or holiday travel, each business sector has its seasonal volatility, major product launches, and other high-volume periods. Spikes can also be unpredictable, such as a dramatic increase in insurance inquiries after a natural disaster. “Make sure you load test and ensure your system can handle massive volumes of in-bound enquiries, rather than finding out you under-provisioned just when your contact center is deluged,” says Kulkarni.
  5. Stay informed and learn from the experience of others.
    Cyara works with companies of all sizes across many industries and geographies — including their unique attributes, industry-specific regulations, and compliance requirements. Certainly, every company has its own brand values and personality—so implementations certainly vary—but the principles of world-class CX leaders remain consistent. “The attributes I consistently see with those who are most successful include prioritization of the customer experience, a cross-team dedication to excellent customer service, a culture of CX innovation, and a strong commitment to continuous improvement,” says Kulkarni.
  6. Make it personal.
    “As a CX technology provider, I’m a big proponent of applying technology to automate, test, manage, and deliver on your CX. Today, there’s also a great deal of excitement about what’s on the horizon with AI and chatbots. All that’s great, but all this technology has to be applied in service to each individual customer’s experience,” adds Kulkarni. Technology must help support the company’s commitment and mission, it must empower both its customers and its front-line agents, and it must personalize each and every touchpoint with the customer.

 

 

What You Need to Know to Sell with Online Chat

Countless articles tout the benefits online chat brings to the sales process. The question for many organizations now centers on how to combine the customer service aspect of live chat with conversational selling.

Companies can get lost in the vast array of strategies and approaches for integrating online chat into the sales process. When implementing a chat initiative, keeping true to the basics is central to your success.

Here are the four steps you need to follow to sell with online chat.

  1. Pick the Right Metrics

Online chat that focuses on customer service often also opens the opportunity for software sales. However, without appropriate metrics in place, it’s difficult to know when success is being achieved.

KPIs for live chat sales conversations must include the following:

  • Engagement to lead
  • Lead to qualified lead
  • Pipeline amount (quantity and dollar amount)
  •  Sales (quantity and dollar amount)

Similarly, chat agents must strive to provide a great experience for everyone, be they customer or prospect. Therefore, customer service teams need to measure customer response during and after the conversion process.

Important online chat metrics regarding customer experience include:

  • Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Response time
  • Agent Availability measurements

Be aware that customer success metrics like Average Handle Time (AHT) might fall lower in the ranks of importance. Companies should not put much stock in the total length of chat discussions.

Customer service agents need to strive to make visitors happier when they leave than they were when they arrived. If customer success agents can do that in 30 seconds, great. However, if it takes eight hours, that’s fine too, as long as issues are solved, and the level of customer satisfaction opens the way to further transactions.

Train live chat agents not to dwell on non-business-related conversations but to spend all the time they need to solve the problem. That way, they will complete the chat session in a timely manner and to the visitors’ satisfaction.

  1. Extend Your Online Chat Agents’ Duties

Limiting live chat agents’ roles in directing visitors to the content they need can result in your business leaving money on the table. Customer success agents must seek out potential lead opportunities in addition to providing assistance.

Chat agents could offer to pass prospects to an inside sales person for more in-depth discussion. Alternatively, they could find a means to collect prospects’ contact information, for example by directing the customer to a video that requires registration.

 

Chat agents should be given the opportunity to train and partner the sales team to better understand the product and solutions they are supporting. Often, the first interaction a prospect will have with a company is with the customer support team, so it’s essential that they can effectively triage product related questions and recognize lead opportunities.

Empowering customer service agents with the metrics that focus more around empathy and customer satisfaction rather than chat length is the key to live chat lead generation. Again, it comes back to fostering directed dialogue rather than focusing on how quickly customer care agents complete an online chat session. From training to performance review to the behavior of leaders, organizations can nurture an environment that uses empathy and understanding to drive toward success.

  1. Demonstrate Commitment to Live Chat

Chat implementation can be relatively simple. Just a few lines of JavaScript and away you go. The key to success, though, is a commitment to the program and ongoing training, optimization, and monitoring.

The pitfalls to employing chat usually center on taking an uninspired approach to the medium where the code is thrown up but then not adequately staffed and aligned with appropriate goals.

For true success, implement personalized, interactive, data-driven training programs and provide updated education at regular intervals. Additionally, integrate the management structure into this initiative by having agents give themselves a quality score that they can share with coaches on a weekly basis. Self-evaluation can be a great way to create the opportunity for constructive critique and conversations about improvement.

  1. Don’t Rely on Chatbots To Be Your Brand Ambassador

Chatbots certainly have their place, especially when it comes to directing customers to content that can answer high-level, basic questions. At the same time, chatbots in no way replace the human touch once questions get a little deeper.

Converting visitors into loyal, high margin customers requires a host of conversational skills. A strong live chat agent needs to read between the lines, assess the bigger picture of the sales opportunity at hand, hold multiple parallel discussions at once, and respond to their conversation partner with timing, wit, and emotional intuition.

Moreover, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. The best way to get someone to connect with your customer support agents is for them to develop a relationship with one another.

When salespeople have rapport with clients, they create a mutual base from which to partner and support each other’s goals. Although IBM Watson has drafted ads for Toyota that helped them close some business, chatbots are often inadequate for complex sales applications. Unlike writing copy, customer care requires the dynamic art of two-way conversation.

Chat strategies that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) can serve customer service agents well, but only by augmenting human agents. Through deep learning, natural language processing, and multivariate analysis, organizations can analyze more variables and more extensive data sets than is humanly possible to help customer care agents perform better. Thus, the goal of these systems should focus on arming humans with information they can use to engage the customer more effectively.

Creating the Most Successful Online Chat Scenarios

The very best live chat agents aren’t the ones who are naturally gifted at charming the customer. They’re the ones who record metrics for constant improvement, possess superior situational awareness, and use AI to supplement their instincts and experience as needed. The combination of these traits will pave your way to successful customer care.

About the Authors:

Dean Shaw is the Global Chat Program Manager for SAS, Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. Dean leads SAS’ Chat Program that focuses on enhancing the customer experience, drive leads, and generates robust Voice of Customer analytics.

Tony Medrano is CEO and Co-Founder of RapportBoost, the leader in applying artificial intelligence to optimize live chat conversations in order to drive dramatic and sustained improvements in conversion rate, order size, customer satisfaction, renewal rate, average handle time, first contact resolution rate, agent retention and happiness and other critical contact center metrics. He can be reached at tony (at) rapportboost.ai.

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.