customer relationships

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.

 

 

How to Create and Improve Your Customer Experience Model

To create a consistent, customized experience for your customers, you need a well-rounded view of the entire experience and all its parts. When you’re able to see the customer experience in full, you’ll streamline targeting and optimize communication.

By streamlining targeting, you learn which customer segments are interested in specific products and services, plus which channels you should use to target these specific customers. You’ll then uncover the best ways to communicate with that specific segment, including the sort of messaging they respond to.

What You Need to Create a Customer Experience Model

Creating a customer experience model takes into account all of the different parts of the customer experience you may have already tackled, like data, the customer journey and personas. Here’s where you’ll bring them together.

Who and Why

During this stage, you’ll understand your customers and see them as humans, not as metrics. This is where you’ll define customer personas. A persona considers the goals, motivations and needs of your VIP customers, which is based on data and research. You’ll gather and understand personal details, like who they are, what they want and why they should care about your product or service.

When and What

This is where you’ll map the customer journey, which highlights the key interactions your customers have with you. In addition to when the touchpoints take place, you’ll also determine what happens at each one – what are the customer’s perceptions and experiences along the way?

How

To pull everything together, you’ll work to figure out which processes and systems you need in place.

4 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience Model

  1. Choose a business objective. It should be a high-level objective, one that directly relates to your strategic plan, and it’s also good if it has broad impact. Focus on creating results for just that objective.
  2. Choose one channel – and it’s okay to start small. You may choose one type of email communication or one social media channel, for example.
  3. Your plan should include performance targets and metrics. You’ll want to measure and report regularly so that you and your team know how well the strategy is working.
  4. Communicate with your team. Explain the reasoning behind the customer experience model, the changes that will take place and the results you’re after.

Tell us about your experience creating customer service models!

Trends in Agent Empowerment

Although businesses highlight the importance of customer service and retention, customer service managers continue to report an overwhelming amount of issues. Alarming turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficiency and inadequacy are some of the issues plaguing contact centers today. The root of the problem? Agent success, or lack thereof.

Think about it – when employees feel they are working efficiently, effectively, and with constant support from supervisors, they work harder. In contact centers today, agents feel frustrated. Too often, contact centers will use outdated software, leading agents to become frustrated and be less efficient with their time. The lack of support from supervisors is apparent, while agents rarely have any means to track their progress, leaving the agent confused and directionless. To top it off, outdated technology used by most contact centers is mismatched with the technology used by the general public today including SMS & MMS text, live chat (not with a robot), social media, and way more.

It is time for contact centers to put their agents’ success first in their line of priorities. In order to do this, they must focus on empowering their agents. What exactly does agent empowerment look like? Empowered agents have access to the tools they need to do an excellent job, are fully supported by their supervisors, are capable of making decisions for themselves, and are well respected by their colleagues.

Millennials entering the workforce place a high value on employee empowerment whether in the contact center, or in another industry. It’s simple – they want to feel supported, respected, and feel as though they have the tools they need to be successful and effective. These tools include a way to track progress, up-to-date technology, effective training programs and constant feedback.

Sharpen has developed a holistic solution designed to eliminate common inefficiencies that ultimately impact the agent, their quality of life, and their ability to provide a perfect customer experience. Check out their webcast on August 2 as they discuss key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment, and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.

Customer Journey KPIs Every Contact Center Should Track

 

The customer journey can be a difficult thing to map and understand. With so many touchpoints along the journey, the map isn’t predictable and linear, yet it’s still necessary to monitor and analyze. These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will help you gain insight from the customer journey and move on to improve it.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Even if a customer prefers self-service to live agent support, they don’t necessarily want to put a ton of effort into solving their own issue. Self-service shouldn’t be a difficult-to-implement alternative to normal customer support. Instead, it should meet the needs of the type of customer who seeks out self-service via quick, easy-to-find answers and the ability to make changes sans agent assistance.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Some of the most important customer journey touchpoints will occur when the customer interacts with a support agent. CSAT is the measure of the customer’s satisfaction before, during and after they contact customer service. If CSAT scores are dropping, it may be time to look closely at agent productivity, ticket management and self-service options.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The NPS will tell you if your customers are going to recommend your products and services to others. You have to go deeper here, though – why will your customers recommend your products and services, or what it is that’s keeping them from doing so?

Customer Churn / Retention Rate

Customer support teams for subscription-based products and services have to pay special attention to retention rate. If you see a lot of customers leaving around renewal time, it’s necessary to figure out why you lost them. What part of the customer journey is causing customers to change their mind? There’s a snag somewhere.

Customer Success

Customer Success isn’t a single KPI, but instead a customized KPI program based on your specific business, customers and goals. A Customer Success strategy may include Up- and Cross-Sell Rates; Average Revenue per Customer; or Rate of Adoption, which starts with defining beginner, intermediate and advanced customers or users. You may also want to include Retention Rate, NPS and CES in your customer success KPIs. Think of Customer Success as an overarching customer journey strategy based on what success means for you.

Customer journey KPIs may be difficult to track, but they come with a big benefit – often, improving one will have a positive impact on another.

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Show security your digital boarding pass.

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

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

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

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

Understanding Empathy and Your Brand

Today, many businesses operate under the “If we build it, they will come” marketing strategy. Although this may have worked in the past, the most successful business are those who are actively engaged with their customers. At InMoment, a customer service software provider, they believe the key to developing strong relationships with customers is through empathy.

Not to be mistaken with sympathy, empathy is described as the act of projecting one’s self into another’s point of view to gain greater understanding. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, so to speak. By developing a stronger relationship through empathy, companies can fine-tune their brand experience to better fit the needs and desires of their customers.

Empathy doesn’t only benefit the consumer. Companies who are more aware of their customers specific needs and desires can increase customer referrals and brand advocacy, understand what drives loyalty towards their brand, and learn how to turn negative feedback into an opportunity.

What to know more? Read the full InMoment article, Understanding Empathy and Your Brand, and download the Empathy Map Exercise.