Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (https://peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine, AnswerStat, TAS Trader, and Medical Call Center News.
Peter DeHaan (https://peterdehaan.com) is a published author and blogger.
All companies should strive to deliver an outstanding customer experience (CX), as it’s a primary driver of customer satisfaction, retention, and relationship-building. The question is how to achieve this objective, which remains an elusive goal for most companies. And even if a company has a moment in time when they deliver a great service experience, ever-changing customer expectations require them to update their strategy again and again.
Companies need tools and processes to capture and measure the quality of the service experience they deliver to their customers continuously so they can see how they are doing on an ongoing basis. This is where analytics-enabled quality management (AQM) comes in. This solution gives contact centers an automated, timely, and cost-effective tool for monitoring and evaluating 100 percent of voice and digital interactions.
Since an AQM system uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to conduct evaluations, its findings are more objective and useful than quality evaluations performed manually by a QM specialist or supervisor using a traditional approach.
AQM is an application (and process) that leverages interaction analytics technology along with business rules and automation to identify, classify, and score voice- and text-based conversations between agents and customers based on defined quality criteria. An AQM solution can be a module of an interaction analytics (IA) suite or a stand-alone best-of-breed application. See Figure 1.
AQM solutions can elevate the performance of contact center agents and the brand, as they use machine learning and other AI technologies to self-improve. Analytics-enabled QM provides a comprehensive, fair, and effective method of assessing many aspects of agent and contact center performance. Although humans are still required to address certain elements of conversations, AQM can monitor 100 percent of customer interactions on a timely basis, providing valuable insights that cannot be captured when a contact center uses traditional QM and is able to evaluate only a few interactions per agent, per month.
Automated solutions are likely to reduce the number of QM and coaching specialists required, but they are not intended to eliminate the QM function or team entirely. However, because they evaluate a much larger sample of customer interactions, AQM solutions provide more insights into agent performance, engagement, and the CX. Analytics-enabled QM solutions improve many aspects of a contact center, including the agent coaching process, which is essential for agent engagement and retention and also delivering a great CX.
A feature-rich AQM solution comes with a coaching module that generates personalized coaching and eLearning content for agents. Equally important, it has the ability to monitor and assess the effectiveness of the training content and trainers. These sessions can be triggered automatically by low QM scores, negative customer feedback results, or even negative sentiment ratings, and can be delivered to agents immediately following a transaction.
Additionally, the AQM application should be set up to monitor how each agent performs after they’ve received guidance or coaching and provide agents with ongoing support while also recognizing when they perform well. Giving agents a consistent flow of positive and negative feedback is a best practice that generally improves the customer experience and agent retention, which reduces hiring, onboarding, and training expenses.
It should be clear, given the increasing volume of complaints, that most companies need to enhance their CX. Enterprises need an actionable flow of insights into their customers’ needs and wants to understand what is required for them to deliver a great CX. This is where AQM fits in, as these applications are designed to provide feedback and coaching to the people who represent the brand and interact directly with customers.
AQM applications improve the performance of contact center agents, but their benefits are broader because they find issues on a timely basis, enabling a company to take rapid corrective actions. This improves the CX, EX, and the bottom line, all while enhancing the brand.
Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC, provides a unique and unparalleled understanding of the people, processes and technology that drive the strategic direction of the dynamic and rapidly transforming contact center and back-office markets. Donna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We Should Embrace AI as a Useful Toolset and Not Fear It.
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is not a fad that will soon go away. It’s a fundamental shift in how all businesses—and even every person—will function in the future. And though you may not yet realize it, that future is here. Even if you haven’t openly invited artificial intelligence into your call center operation, it’s already arrived, albeit via circuitous points of entry.
Many people already use AI and don’t even know it. Artificial intelligence helps us draft email messages and compose text messages. It facilitates online searches. And it targets advertising—both the ads we receive and the ones we send. AI also works to keep us secure online. In doing these things—and many more—AI saves us time and helps us be more productive.
We’ll talk about artificial intelligence in general terms because the specifics will be out of date within days. That’s how fast artificial intelligence technology is advancing.
Consider these areas where artificial intelligence can help us in our call centers to do our jobs more effectively and efficiently.
AI Management Tools
Artificial intelligence can help us manage our call center operation and our call center staff with greater ease. One key area, for example, is in quality assurance (QA). AI can perform a QA analysis on our agents to measure the overall effectiveness of their work. This not only removes the tedium of doing so manually, but it also makes sure it is actually done and not put off. And it also does so for every call, which is something that is not feasible from a human standpoint.
This is just one example of an AI management tool that will fundamentally change how we oversee our call center staff.
While we typically think of how artificial intelligence can facilitate interactions with clients and callers, we shouldn’t overlook its potential to assist in internal communication and collaboration between departments. Consider a customer service event and the ripple effects its resolution causes. AI could serve to automatically notify all stakeholders and even support their work that relates to it. As appropriate, AI could trigger a billing adjustment, escalate a QA report, reprogram an account, update a service record, and so on.
Though artificial intelligence could—and one day may—replace much of the human involvement in call center work, we’re best to view it now as supporting our agents so they can do their jobs better and faster. The above mentioned—and presently available—AI-assisted email and text messaging tools are an obvious start. Though these still require agent involvement or agent approval, imagine being able to compose these messages in less time and with greater accuracy.
When many people think of AI in the call center, they envision frustrating bots that hamper effective communication and thwart timely resolution. Though reports of AI run amok confirm just that, it doesn’t need to be—and shouldn’t be—the case.
Chat bots are an obvious example. Though they don’t presently function well as a holistic solution and can make a mess of unusual situations, they work great as a front-end resource to solve basic problems, gather key information, and appropriately route customer requests to agents.
Now consider the same concept occurring with telephone calls. Then imagine text-to-speech technology producing canned responses in each operator’s voice and indistinguishable from their own speech when they need to take over a call.
We need not fear the forward march of artificial intelligence. There is much we can do to make our call centers function faster and more accurately than ever before. We’ll benefit and so will those we interact with, both inside our organization and without.
Artificial intelligence can help us, if only we will let it.
Did you ever think about the implications if “goldenrod” hadn’t been programming binary load lifters and didn’t know a lick of Bocce? It probably would have been a deal breaker for Uncle Owen and those two droids would have never made it into the hands of the galaxy’s original favorite lightsaber-wielding protagonist.
You see, even long ago and far, far away, they understood the importance of having software interface with other software. Think about how convenient it is for the rebels when R2D2 simply interfaces with the Death Star and turns off “all the trash compactors on the detention level.” Nobody knows how he did it. Although I might venture to guess he just pasted some Java Script and boom… it just worked.
From long ago and far, far away, to right here and right now…
In today’s business environment, contact management software must be interactive to be successful. You and the software you use are expected to take your customers’ clients on a personalized journey to enhance their experience ultimately leading to more interactions and sales.
That interaction cannot be limited to one software company’s users; it must also extend to other platforms as well. So, the amount of data your contact center is required to record and process increases every day, and the need for APIs is becoming increasingly prevalent.
An API integration allows connection between two or more applications, via their APIs, and allows those systems to exchange data. The acronym stands for Application Programming Interface.
Application refers to almost any software. Programming is the common language between applications. Interface can be considered a connection agreement between two applications which defines how the two communicate using requests and responses.
It’s important to note however that an API isn’t the same as a user interface, or UI, which is the front-end interface layered on top of software that lets you give applications various commands to get it to do what you want. UIs are what humans use to interact with software; APIs are what machines use.
We know space odysseys aren’t everyone’s cup of adventure tea so let’s think of it in another way, maybe something food related will help. Let’s try imagining a waiter in a restaurant or, better yet, a barkeep in a Pirate Tavern.
The barkeep provides the menu with a description of each item that the sailors can order from. When the sailors specify what menu items they want, the barkeep relays the order to the tavern chef who prepares the items, and then the barkeep retrieves those items and delivers them to the sailors.
The sailors (of course) don’t know how to read or write, so they can’t prepare their own ticket. The barkeep doesn’t know how the chef prepares the food, and she doesn’t really need to because her job is to put the order in and bring it to the customers.
That’s how an API, like Startel CMC with RestAPI works. You basically tell it to interact with other applications, and it does the talking for you. All while keeping the scallywags and bad actors at bay.
Just like the barkeep holding a menu at our pirate tavern, an API lists a bunch of functions that developers can use, along with a description of what they do. The developer doesn’t necessarily need to know how these functions work behind-the-scenes, because the API will figure that out for them.
You May Already Be Quite Familiar with APIs and Not Even Know It
In this way, APIs enable two software components to communicate with each other using a pre-defined set of definitions and protocols. For example, how does the sports app on your phone know the score of all the big games at the same time?
Well, that sports association’s software system contains data that can be shared directly with that app. The sports app on your phone is connected to hundreds of sports affiliations’ websites and software systems via APIs. Thus, you can see the scores in real-time on your phone.
Why Is an API an Important Feature
Eating out certainly makes dinner easier than sourcing ingredients, cooking them, and cleaning up after yourself. In the same way, it’s much easier for application developers to create apps to display sports scores when real-time data about the game is made available to them through an API.
The proper commands in an API will allow you to instruct any other program you use to view, pull, and update your data. APIs in effect, enable contact center owners to grow their businesses and be more efficient by automating processes to save time and money.
Here Is a Short List of Benefits to Your Call Center
1. Integration: APIs can allow your contact center to easily embed data from many connected websites, software, and application interfaces. API integration can automate and connect contact center processes so that data is constantly updated, and relationships are well maintained while interfaces are closely monitored. Interface integration helps save time accessing valuable organizational data, which can further increase your contact center’s overall productivity.
2. Personalization: Contact centers can use software with an API to personalize and customize their content and services. API tools can use pre-stored visitor data to import consumer details in custom applications and content automatically.
Eighty percent of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand that offers personalized experiences. This is something a contact center owner can use when pitching the value of their call answering business. By using API interfaces to personalize your services and content, you can increase your contact center’s overall revenue.
3. Flexibility: As we mentioned, our modern business climate continues to evolve and the amount of data that contact centers are required to manage effectively is increasing exponentially. API network architecture can help consolidate systems to create an effective communication network in which data can easily be shared throughout the organization. API-focused platforms can import and export data so efficiently that it eliminates other software management systems’ need to maintain data records.
4. Automation: Application Programming Interfaces can perform certain repetitive, time-consuming agent processes that would’ve otherwise been performed manually. This reduces the chance of human error and frees up your agents’ valuable time. Eventually, this will consequently improve your contact center’s efficiency, productivity, and profit.
Contact Centers Are Covered with Startel CMC RestAPI
The Startel CMC RestAPI allows custom designed software to request information directly and in real time from your CMC database. Startel’s CMC RestAPI allows you or your customer to create custom applications to meet specialized needs.
Do your customers want to automate pulling information into their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software? Do you want to have your own reporting tools, designed by you and your staff? Do you have great ideas for a mobile app for your business? This tool is the first step toward all of that.
Use the CMC RestAPI to customize dashboards that suit your site’s specific needs, develop web-based applications for analyzing and monitoring staffing levels, and build your own tools for managing on-call calendars.
Improved Agent Efficiencies
Startel’s CMC RESTful APIs can improve your agent efficiencies by taking the data they collect and automatically synchronizing it into other applications for the client rather than training your agent on new software so they can manually re-enter that information.
Agents no longer have to make a bunch of quick decisions in real-time to ensure individual messages end up where they should be, RESTful APIs allow system administrators and client account programmers to make deliberate, focused decisions to redirect the flow of data en masse according to the client’s request.
Startel’s API is integrated with Zapier. Zapier empowers you to automate your work across 5,000 plus apps so you can move forward, faster. Zapier allows you to create from one to one hundred step automated workflows. It’s a Do-It-Yourself solution that does not require expensive development with programmers.
Startel Contact Center Solutions That Bring Happiness to Your Customers
Startel Contact Center Solutions use smarter technology, stronger partners, and expert guidance to bring your contact center’s production and customer satisfaction to the next level.
Since its founding in 1980, Startel has established a loyal customer base from a variety of industries, including contact centers, education, government, healthcare, insurance, telephone answering service and utilities.
Today, Startel has customers in forty-three states across the United States as well as Canada, Central America, New Zealand, and Switzerland.
Vince Vitale is the director of marketing for Startel. Startel customers depend on Startel’s solutions and services to increase business efficiencies, identify performance opportunities, and deliver quick, secure, and accurate communication 24/7 x 365. For more information give them a call at 800-STARTEL or schedule a demo of the Startel CMC.
Is your call center vulnerable to an SMS-pumping attack? What is an SMS-pumping attack? This attack gained media attention recently when Elon Musk said that Twitter was paying over $60 million in fraudulent text messages due to hackers exploiting this attack technique. In this article, we’ll break down if your operation should be concerned with SMS pumping fraud and how you can ensure you do not wind up with a $60 million invoice from your telco provider.
What Is an SMS Pumping Attack?
What is the attacker’s motive?Before understanding how the attack works, knowing the attacker’s motive is important. In this scenario, the attacker wants to find a way to trick your business into texting a premium-rate phone number. Your telco will be charged a premium rate and will pass this cost to you. The attacker will then receive a portion of this premium rate. The price earned per text message is minimal, so the attacker must work at scale for them to make their time worth their money.
How does the attack work? Attackers scour the internet for websites that will send them text messages for any reason. Some websites will send users a confirmation text when registering for an account. Some websites will send one-time passwords. Other websites will send two-factor authentication (2FA) messages. Some websites will send a text message after a sales lead completes a landing page.
There are many different use cases for automatically sending text messages, so keep your mind open when reading this article.
After the attacker has identified a website that sends text messages, they must write the attack tooling to automate the attack. The attacker will automate any process associated with the attack, such as creating an account and logging the user in.
The attacker will then launch their attack, and the website owner will be on the hook for the charges associated with the texts to the premium-rate numbers.
SMS Pumping Attack Example
Let’s take, for example, that an attacker identifies a website that sends users a 2FA text message when logging into the account. The attacker will also research how quickly they can request new 2FA messages from the same account. Some applications may only send one text every 30 seconds. Other applications may not implement any rate limiting and allow the user to request as many 2FA codes as humanly possible.
The attacker must send many text messages to earn enough money to make the attack profitable. This means they will need to increase the number of accounts on the website to send 2FA messages. After the accounts have been created and configured with the premium-rate phone numbers, the attacker will automate the login process and request as many text messages as the system will allow.
Where has this attack been seen? This attack has increased in prevalence over the past several years, according to Vladimir Smal with Lanck Telecom. It recently made the headlines when Elon Musk mentioned that Twitter (now X) was being scammed $60 million per year in fraudulent text messages due to this style attack. Lanck Telecom estimates that 6% of all SMS traffic is artificially generated by these sorts of attacks. Artificial traffic is much higher, 50-80%, for some mobile networks.
Is my call center vulnerable to an SMS pumping attack? To know if you’re service is vulnerable to this attack, ask yourself the following questions:
Does my sales process involve receiving a phone number to text and automatically text the phone number?
Does my application support 2FA via text message?
Does my application send one-time passwords via text message?
Does any other part of my application send text messages?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be vulnerable to this attack. However, you should remember that the attacker must be able to easily scale this attack to make it profitable.
If your operation requires a human to be involved with the onboarding of your customer, then the attacker is not likely going to target this application. It is, however, important for you to think through all possible scenarios that you may have implemented that involve text messaging.
How Can I Prevent SMS Pumping Fraud?
Anti-Bot Measures: One of the primary sources of SMS pumping fraud exists when a website allows a user to register and send a text message to the phone number the user provided. The first component to prevent this attack is to ensure that the user is a human. You can implement anti-bot technology such as Google’s reCAPTCHA to identify whether the user creating the account is a human or a bot. If you implement reCAPTCHA, an attacker will manually have to run this attack against your application which would not be profitable.
Extending reCAPTCHA: You should also consider adding reCAPTCHA to other parts of your applications, such as user logins, password resets, or anywhere that an attacker may try to trigger a text message.
Rate Limiting: Another mitigation strategy is to implement rate limiting. If a user requests the same information 10,000 times within one minute, you do not want to text the user 10,000 times. Consider implementing a rate limit to reduce the number of text messages sent to this number.
Geographical Restrictions: Many fraudulent text messages are sent to non-US countries. You can contact your telco provider and request they disable texting to non-US countries or countries in which you do not conduct business.
Billing Spike Notifications: Implement billing spike notifications with your telco provider. If your telco detects your application sending an abnormal number of messages, they should notify you when they detect it rather than you see the high price on your next invoice.
By adopting these proactive measures, you can protect your operation against SMS-pumping attacks.
Justin Massey, the founder of Relay Hawk, started answering phones for his family’s answering service at 16. Later, he became an IT administrator at a managed service provider. He now runs Relay Hawk, a cybersecurity company building products exclusively for the Telephone Answering Service industry.
AnswerNet, a full-service provider of inbound, outbound, automated, and BPO contact center services, marks its twenty-fifth anniversary in business. The company rolled out a new corporate logo to further mark the important milestone.
On this commemorative day, AnswerNet is thanking its clients, partners, and employees who the company believes would not be where they are today without their ongoing support. AnswerNet is humbled by their profound loyalty and dedication throughout their business journey.
AnswerNet was founded in 1998, with roots tracing back to 1929. Its AnswerAmerica division began as The Western Union Telephone Answering Service answering calls for individual businesses, many of which they still service today. AnswerNet steadily grew, and by 2000, became the largest telemessaging business in the country.
Fast forward to 2023, AnswerNet services some of the largest companies in the world across multiple communication channels, including SMS, live chat, email, social media, interactive voice response, and AI. The business is a thriving global organization with over 2,000 full-time premised-based and remote employees across six continents and thirty delivery teams.
“AnswerNet’s twenty-five years of growth and success reflect my original vision and the company’s overall dedication to helping our clients and partners grow profitably while providing fulfilling career paths for our employees, said Gary Pudles, AnswerNet’s president and CEO. “I started the business with a mission to position AnswerNet as an industry leader at the forefront of call center technology and innovation—and that is exactly what we’ve become.”
AnswerNet’s commitment to its culture and work environment is reflected in the accolades both Gary Pudles and the company have received over the years, including the prestigious “Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year,” “Philadelphia Titan 100”, “Inc. Power Partner,” as was as landing on thetwenty-first spot of Inc. Magazine’s “Inc. 500.”
As the AnswerNet journey continues, the company remains focused on bringing their clients, the people, and the technology that allows them to run their businesses, their way.
Headquartered in Willow Grove, PA, AnswerNet is a full-service provider of inbound, outbound, automated, and BPO contact center services. The company has over 2,000 full-time premised based and remote employees across six continents and thirty delivery teams. Specialty divisions include Agriculture, Nonprofit, Education, Appointment Setting, Energy, and Third-Party Verification.
Incorporate Best Practices into Your Customer Survey Process
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
Do you survey your customers or clients? Should you do customer surveys? And if you already have a survey process in place, do the results meet your needs? Or should it be overhauled or even retired?
Regardless of where you are on the survey continuum, don’t rollout a customer survey without first determining if it’s necessary, ascertaining what you hope to accomplish, and having a well thought out plan.
Here are seven tips to conduct engaging surveys:
1. Determine Your Why
Decide what you want your customer survey to accomplish. Never do one until you know why you’re doing it. The worst reasons to do a survey are because everyone else is or because you think you’re supposed to. If it doesn’t make good business sense, don’t do it.
Here are some possible reasons why you should have a customer survey: To improve the level of customer service, to reduce customer churn, or to close more sales. But don’t try to achieve all three objectives with one survey. Pick one.
2. Fine Tune Your Focus
Next, you need to narrow your focus. Don’t expect one customer survey will meet the needs of every department throughout your organization. Thinking that you can conduct one survey to give useful information to your service department and your sales department and your marketing department is folly. Again, pick one.
3. Assign Responsibility
Based on your survey’s why and focus, assign it to the department that will most benefit from the results. Then pick a person in that department to champion it. They may or may not be the person to design and implement the customer survey, but they do need to ensure it moves forward.
4. Design with Intention
In planning your customer survey, be intentional with its design.
In preparation, take as many surveys as you can from other companies to see what you like and don’t like. Common survey issues are ones that are too long or too short. Other pet peeves include forcing users to explain their answer or not providing the option to leave a comment. Posting a time estimate for the survey helps increase participation; displaying a status bar increases the completion rate. Both are nice touches.
5. Test and Retest
With the design of the customer survey complete, it’s time to test it. The survey designer should test it thoroughly before asking for more input. Next, have employees in the sponsoring department test it. Then solicit input from the rest of your company. Last, invite select customers to go through the beta version.
After each round of testing, implement the recommended changes that support your objectives. But don’t implement every suggestion. Just do the ones that make sense.
6. Rollout Your Survey
At this point, you’re ready to publish your survey. But don’t blast it to every potential recipient, through all possible channels all at once. Instead do a soft launch. This way, if there are errors or oversights, you have a chance to fix them before everyone experiences the problem.
7. Iterate and Repeat
If you have a rolling survey that continues to collect data over time, periodically look at it to see if it needs tweaking but do this only after waiting a sufficient time and gathering enough data to do a thorough analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.
And if your customer survey is a one-shot endeavor, look at what went well and what didn’t. This can inform the next time you launch the survey, because—unless you really bungled it—you’ll want to do it again.
When done properly, customer surveys can provide valuable data and critical feedback to inform decision making. To achieve the best results, apply these tips to your design and implementation process.
Startel Contact Center Solutions, that “bring happiness to your customers,” has been a leader in the ever-changing contact center and answering service landscape. Since 1980, Startel has responded and adapted to new technologies and paradigm shifts in the industry, and they continue to apply that expertise to prepare for tomorrow’s challenges.
Startel provides solutions that are both affordable (for small family-owned answering services) and scalable (to accommodate large contact centers), which makes Startel’s CMC a platform that grows with you.
Here is a look at some of Startel’s latest developments that are sure to give your contact center the edge, no matter what stage of growth you’re in.
Startel’s CMC RestAPI can improve agent efficiency by securely providing the data collected from callers directly to the applications your clients use every day. Rather than the agent needing to learn the client’s specialized software to manually re-enter that information, our RESTful API allows automation to synchronize data behind the scenes without agent intervention.
This reduces the need for manual dispatching. Rather than agents making lots of quick decisions in real-time to ensure individual messages end up where they should be, your organization can make deliberate, focused decisions to redirect the flow of data en masse according to the client’s requests.
Beyond just the data collected from callers, the RestAPI can also be used to retrieve statistical call data, manage client on call schedules, or track agent status in real-time, as well as make that information available to your customers to integrate with their own tools.
The capabilities of Startel’s CMC RestAPI are expanded even further through an integration with Zapier. Zapier is a do-it-yourself solution that allows you to harness the power of Startel’s CMC RestAPI without requiring expensive development or on-staff programmers. This web-based platform empowers you to automate your workflow across more than 5,000 popular apps without writing a single line of code.
CMC Partner Nexus
Partnerships between contact centers are never that simple unless you are using Startel, then everything is easy. The CMC Partner Nexus allows contact centers to share heavy-volume accounts and provide call overflow support. With a Partner Nexus established, you can also divert traffic to a partner CMC in case of an emergency in your local area. The Nexus will allow for messages from the partner site to seamlessly be inserted into the home system of the client. Sharing clients and agents has never been easier.
PocketVantage is Startel’s mobile app for Android and Apple devices. The app provides clients with a vantage point to view and update their on-call schedule, review and manage their messages, and access their team’s contacts from the convenience of their smart phone. Users of the app can also be given access to update their own contact information or create their own status updates and emergency notifications that display right in the CMC Flexible Agent Interface.
Flexible Agent Interface
Startel users continue to rave about how quickly they can train agents using the Startel Flexible Agent Interface (Flex). Now Flex is even more powerful as Startel developers continue to make this customizable agent interface more intuitive, which makes training new agents even faster.
Here are some features that make Startel’s Flexible Agent Interface an easy agent interface to use when training new agents.
Active search for directory lookups and menu selection
Dynamic automated dispatching: agent simply follows script and saves messages; Flex triggers the appropriate dispatch method based on time of day, who’s on call for a specific trade/specialty or the caller’s response to specific questions; and flawless automated dispatch even in unusual circumstance
Online/offline status indicators when transferring messages between agents
Streamlined board check (or message check) tool
Improved handling of client presences (statuses)
Advanced configuration options for holidays
Abandon call actions automatically generate reminders for agents to return calls to callers that hung up without reaching an agent. Allows you to reclaim lost revenue for your contact center and provide better service to your clients.
Flex can be adjusted to suit your contact center environment preferences. If you are considering changing platforms, the interface screen can be designed to have a similar look and feel to your current platform interface. Message scripts/forms, client information pages, on call assignments, and other elements can be moved to different areas of the screen. The different elements can even be split into multiple windows so that the agent can better utilize a multi monitor environment. Further customization can be done by selecting different fonts, font sizes, and colors that can be saved as part of the agent layouts.
Pairing Startel’s Flexible Agent Interface with Startel’s Agent Scripting and automated dispatching reduces the amount of reading and searching for information agents must do which will improve agent efficiency and minimize errors.
StartelNOW isStartel’s web-based Agent Interface, which is currently in the beta testing phase. This interface can be used by current customers with the CMC platform and is provided at no extra cost as part of Startel’s Software Assurance.
StartelNOW allows an agent, anywhere in the world, to log in to the contact center from a website, on any device with a solid internet connection, and start handling interactions without any specialized software training. Agents will not be required to know and retain knowledge of special keystrokes to do things like sending an email or a secure message to a client. Paired with the other features of the CMC platform, agents will be able to follow the client’s unique script, get all the pertinent information from the caller, and save the message.
Since its founding in 1980, Startel has established a loyal customer base from a variety of industries, including contact centers, education, government, healthcare, insurance, telephone answering service, and utilities.
Today, Startel has customers in 43 states across the United States as well as Canada, Central America, New Zealand, and Switzerland. Our customers depend on Startel’s solutions and services to increase business efficiencies, identify performance opportunities, and deliver quick, secure, and accurate communication 24/7 x 365.
To discover for yourself why so many contact center owners and managers say success starts with Startel, visit www.startel.com or call 800-782-7835.
One of the biggest challenges we face in the call center industry is hiring, training, evaluating, and retaining agents. When a call center is fortunate enough to find a new candidate, it’s critical to train and help them become productive as quickly as possible. Advanced analytic tools can reduce training time, streamline evaluations, and consistently increase customer satisfaction.
Agents that are not properly trained or lack the knowledge and confidence to complete calls result in poor caller satisfaction and loss of revenue, both for the call center and for the clients the call center serves. Those agents typically will not last if they continue to struggle.
Training an agent has traditionally started with sitting with the agent as they take calls, providing feedback and direction on how to improve. As the agent progresses, the process shifts to the recording of their calls and listening to those recordings. With more agents working remotely, that traditional onboarding and training process becomes much more difficult.
Systems that utilize automated scripting with dynamic prompting and automated dispatching, such as Amtelco’s Genesis Intelligent Series with Web Agent, can reduce the training time. Web Agent guides an agent through each step of a call, providing a user friendly, intuitive interface. This can be a big benefit but is not enough on its own.
As agents become more experienced, they can process calls independently. This is when the next phase of training and evaluation kicks in. This phase typically involves a manager listening to a small number of each agent’s calls per shift. Managers listening to the call recordings typically have an evaluation form they fill out as they listen to each call. This process can take several minutes per call. Due to the large volume of calls an agent handles each day, only a small percentage of the calls can be evaluated using this method.
Imagine having a tool that automates this process. This can have a tremendous impact on agent productivity. Agents receive more immediate feedback, enabling them to improve their performance incrementally rather than waiting for an evaluation to take place, or worse yet, waiting for a customer complaint.
Automated evaluations can have a tremendous impact on management productivity, saving valuable time by eliminating the need to listen to call recordings and manually fill out evaluation forms. Many call centers have established a target of evaluating three to five calls per agent shift. This small number is chosen because it is all the management team can handle. Compare that to the benefits of evaluating 100 percent of each agent’s calls.
How can we fully automate listening to calls and evaluating the outcome of the calls? We can use software such as Amtelco’s Active Insights to help us. Active Insights automatically transcribes the call recordings into text and feeds that text into a machine learning and artificial intelligence model to produce an automated evaluation of the call.
Active Insights with artificial intelligence can take common situations that occur every day in a call center and produce a summary of those situations and can raise alarms for situations that require attention and follow up.
Here is a sample transcription of a call where a caller became angry because they had called in recently and had to repeat the same information.
Agent: Thank you for calling ABC Clinic. How may I help you?
Caller: Are you that same operator I just had ten minutes ago? They couldn’t figure out how to get me to my doctor. I need to talk to my doctor. No excuses.
Agent: Well, I’m not sure sir. Uh Let me see if I can help you with that.
Caller: Ok, I sure hope so because my foot really hurts still.
Agent: Uh Can I have your name please?
Caller: Don’t you have my info? I just gave it to you ten minutes ago. Can you pull it up? I don’t wanna have to go through this all again.
Agent: Um I’m sorry sir, but I don’t.
Caller: Ok. Uh fine . . .
As we can see, this call did not go well from the start. The caller was angry that they had to give their information again after calling in a short while ago. Active Insights produced this outcome for this call:
Summary: The caller contacts the call center and expresses frustration that they had spoken to someone ten minutes ago who couldn’t help them reach their doctor. The agent tries to help but the caller is rude and uncooperative. The caller provides their name and phone number but speaks over the agent when they tried to confirm the number. The caller becomes even more frustrated and asks to speak to a supervisor, but the agent says the supervisor is currently at lunch. The caller abruptly ends the call after requesting that the agent contact their doctor and have the doctor call them back. The overall caller sentiment is angry and frustrated.
Active Insights also flagged this call as having an Angry caller. This Angry caller alert can immediately be sent to a manager, alerting them to the problem. This is a valuable tool that can alleviate and address issues before they become a problem.
Caller Angry: The caller became angry because they had spoken to another operator previously who was unable to help them, and they were frustrated that they had to go through the process again.
In another example, a caller may become frustrated because the agent lacked the proper knowledge or training to complete the call to the caller’s satisfaction. This can be a valuable teaching tool for agent performance and improvement:
Agent: Thank you for calling ABC Clinic. How may I help you?
Caller: Hi, I’m looking to get in touch with my doctor.
Agent: Oh, well, please, uh, bear with me. I’m new. I’m not sure how to find the doctor for you.
Caller: That’s ok. I have time. So take your time.
Agent: Uh, well, I’m not sure if I’m doing the right things here. But, uh, can I have your name?
Agent: And your phone number?
Caller: xxx-xxx-xxxx. (Redaction of PHI is an option.)
Agent: Well, I’m not sure if this is the right thing to do here, but, uh, is there a certain doctor you’d like to speak with?
Caller: Yeah. So that’s ok. So usually when I call and they ask me, uh, who my primary doctor is, and I usually tell them Doctor Smith. So probably Doctor Smith.
Agent: Yeah, I’m not sure how to find Doctor Smith. Um, it might be best if you call the office in the morning . . .
Summary: The caller wanted to get in touch with their doctor and provided their name and phone number to the agent. The agent was new and unsure how to help the caller but offered to take a message for the doctor. The caller asked the agent to tell the doctor that they hurt their foot, but also mentioned they would try calling the office directly. Overall, the caller seems unsatisfied with the conversation, and unsure if the agent was able to help them. Caller sentiment: Negative
The above calls are common situations that occur every day in a call center. Most of these calls would go unnoticed using the traditional method of listening to a small percentage of calls each day. The unsatisfied or angry caller would reach the call center client and would express their frustration directly with the client.
This would degrade the client’s confidence in the call center and could cause the client to leave the service. In addition, without feedback on these calls, the agent would not improve and would continue to struggle, resulting in the probable loss of that agent.
In addition to the above caller sentiment analysis, Active Insights can evaluate agents’ use of grammar, positive attitude, proper manners, and accurate answer phrase.
Automated call analysis can have a positive impact on the day-to-day call center operations and on the bottom line. Agents will quickly come on board, gain confidence, and enjoy their job more because they receive immediate feedback on their performance.
Callers will be satisfied because they are speaking with confident and positive agents. Call center clients will be happy and will remain with the service because their callers are happy.
Kevin Beale is vice president for software, research, and development for Amtelco. Reach out to Amtelco to explore these options with them. They can help you take advantage of advances in technology and improve your call center.
Modern customer service that drives exceptional outcomes is critical to any business’s longevity and long-term success. In fact, 49 percent of consumers said they would stop using a brand after just one bad experience.
If businesses want to keep consumers happy and returning, they must make sure that not only the first impression goes right, but every subsequent interaction. But in a challenging economic environment, many brands are struggling to meet these rising customer demands with diminished budgets and smaller teams.
Businesses that find new and creative ways to deliver what customers want efficiently and cost-effectively will gain a significant competitive advantage. While every industry has its nuances, some of the most innovative and forward-looking customer service teams invest in three areas: Conversational AI, omnichannel capabilities, and employee experience.
Leveraging the Sophistication of Conversational AI
Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) is a powerful form of AI that augments the work of customer service agents and creates a better, more personalized customer experience. In the contact center, we typically see this capability deployed as virtual agents. It uses machine learning (ML) algorithms, data science techniques, and large language models to understand human communication and simulate human-like customer interactions.
In many situations, a virtual agent can field a customer’s request and generate an appropriate response without human assistance, freeing live agents to handle more complicated exception scenarios requiring a human touch.
This technology has been around for years. Voice assistants, such as Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, are commonplace in our lives and help us find directions, reorder a favorite product, or find an answer during a debate with friends or family. But rapid digital transformation, further accelerated by the pandemic, forced businesses to fully embrace e-commerce and modern methods of offering the same level of service expected from in-person conversations.
It’s no wonder; customers want to solve their issues faster and on their own. And if they do need to engage with an actual agent, the customer service representative can leverage real-time AI to guide a seamless conversation.
With no hold times and virtual assistants on hand for live agent support, customers receive fast, efficient resolutions. Customers with a wonderful experience will become more loyal and refer friends, family, and colleagues, decreasing churn costs and increasing revenue.
And 2023 has seen the boom of generative AI. ChatGPT, Bard, and other generative AI systems have brought conversational AI to a new level. Virtual agents will no longer be limited to predefined situations, but instead evolve into continuously learning through conversations to handle new situations.
Some brands are already taking advantage of their numerous capabilities to assist and automate agent activity, although it’s still quite early in its commercial rollout for customer-facing applications that will represent a brand. Also, there are ethical concerns, and regulations are sure to come, but there is little doubt generative AI will revolutionize customer service.
Be Everywhere for Everyone
With an omnichannel strategy, businesses can offer a myriad of communication channels, from voice to SMS to chatbot and everything in between, allowing consumers to pick which one they want to use and not be forced to use something less convenient.
Research reveals that 78 percent of consumers want to communicate on their preferred channel, and 72 percent say their preferences change based on context. It’s important to provide not only multiple channels but to ensure it’s easy to switch and use them together to create a richer multi-model customer experience.
For example, a customer might be engaging with a virtual agent to ask a question about a recent purchase. If the virtual agent can’t resolve the problem, the customer might decide it would be better to speak with a live agent.
An omnichannel contact center provides the customer a seamless transition to escalate the virtual agent chat experience to a live chat or voice experience, while providing all the key information about the interaction to the next customer service agent in queue. The agent can immediately continue assisting the customer without asking them to start from the beginning, creating a bottleneck that frustrates both sides.
Everything ties back to an excellent CX. Customers can use the channels they want and are more comfortable on, leading to more effective, efficient support experiences.
Happy Employees = Happy Customers
Turnover in the contact center has always been a significant problem. It’s demanding work, often with little reward. Agents deal with a lot of frustrated customers and have few support mechanisms to lean on, which can quickly turn into burn out. It’s difficult to be empathetic and build rapport with a customer when you are just going through the motions.
Engaging in meaningful work is incredibly important for job satisfaction. When an agent must routinely provide answers to the same questions or engage in tedious after-call work, it can have a negative impact on their work experience. AI in the contact center can automate much of the mundane activities and processes, and free up the agent to solve more important and complex customer problems.
Contact centers are already using generative AI to summarize interactions and automatically set customer dispositions. Previously, this could take up to an hour of an agent’s day to manually regurgitate what they just heard. This eliminates the point of pain from their experience.
Another problem for customer service agents is the number of CX systems they must access to help a single customer. It’s not unusual for an agent to access six or more different systems in one interaction. It slows down communication, makes the customer more impatient, and distracts the agent. It’s not a positive experience for the customer or the agent.
Unifying all these CX systems into a single workspace for the agent can make a dramatic difference to the agent’s experience. By providing direct access to all vital CX applications and data on a single screen, the agent no longer must jump between browser tabs and can seamlessly transition between handling live interactions, managing voicemails, and completing after-call work. This saves them a lot of time and frustration.
Anything that improves the employee experience—no matter how minute—will have a positive impact on the customer experience.
Implementing innovative technology, engaging with customers on their terms, and investing in employees are three strong and proven customer service strategies to gain a leg up on your competition. In times of economic uncertainty, it’s important to continue to invest in the future, but to invest wisely. Ensuring customer loyalty will accelerate revenue and opportunity as market conditions improve.
Rei Kasai is the SVP/global head of product and engineering at Talkdesk, which helps enterprises modernize their customer service.
The new secure, cloud-based Active Insights platform provides access to call, message, and speech analytics. Call centers can use Active Insights to quickly find detailed information about calls and agent performance, complete with automated call scoring. Active Insights is user-friendly, fast, and easy to deploy, and provides accurate insights about overall call handling.
Automated Call Scoring: Active Insights features customized call-scoring scripts to automatically rate calls, saving hours of valuable time for supervisors and creating impartial scores for agents. Unique scoring scripts can be created for diverse types of calls, such as HVAC, utilities, and building maintenance.
The scripts focus on the crucial details for each type of call, such as requesting a location on service calls. As part of the script, the importance of each item can be indicated by including several points for each item, such as five points for asking for a last name, and ten points for verifying the caller’s phone number. Active Insights displays the scores for each script item, instantly showing how well agents handle calls.
Provide Agent Feedback: Supervisors can use the unbiased feedback from Active Insights to give agents positive feedback in areas where they excel, along with suggestions for improvement. Since the scripts provide details on specific areas, such as whether an agent paged a technician, supervisors can praise agents and suggest strategies for better ways to handle future calls.
Flexible Search Options: With the hundreds to thousands of calls handled each day, finding a specific call could be daunting, but Active Insights makes it easy. A wide range of search criteria helps instantly find a call, even with limited information. Supervisors can search for any calls taken: by a particular agent, on a specified date and time, for an individual client, or that include a specific phrase, such as power outage.
Complete Call Review Capabilities: Supervisors can see and hear exactly what happened on calls with Active Insights. A color-coded waveform graph indicates when the agent was speaking, and when the caller was speaking. Supervisors can view the recording of the agent’s screen as they listen to the call, read the call transcription, and see the individual scores for each item in the script. This helps them confirm that the call quality is up to the expected standards and makes it easy to identify and address any issues.
Conserve Disk Space: Since Active Insights is cloud-based, it doesn’t use on-site server space. Managers can easily track cloud storage utilization and adjust as needed. Managers can also select which clients to provide these services for, making it an easy revenue-generating opportunity.
Active Insights works with the Amtelco Genesis system.
Amtelco was founded in 1976 to provide communication solutions to the answering service and healthcare communications industry and is a leading supplier and trusted name in contact center systems, software applications, and secure texting technologies. Amtelco focuses on innovative contact center solutions that meet or exceed customer expectations, backed by top-notch service and support.