Category Archives: Articles

Going Beyond the Call


Offer Call Backs and Customer Service Options

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

In thinking about going beyond the call, you may assume this is an article about offering web chat, text messaging, and email response in addition to handling phone calls. Though I’m an advocate of these options, thereby turning your call center into a contact center, these are not my focus this time.

Instead, I’m addressing what you can do with the telephone to go beyond the call. Here are some considerations:

Call Backs

Offering to call back the caller instead of having them wait on hold—in queue—is an option call centers can offer. Some callers like this flexibility and others don’t. Some are skeptical they’ll receive a call back, while a few have tried it and never got the promised call—or it came hours later instead of the few minutes they were led to believe. Yet many delight in this option.

The benefits of a call back for the customer is not having to wait on hold, being able to attend to other activities, and a feeling of greater control.

Benefits to the call center are fewer callers on hold, lower toll-free costs, and agents who have a chance to prepare to engage with the caller before placing the call. Even something as simple as bringing up the customer’s account in advance saves agent time and reduces customer angst.

Abandoned Calls

What do you do with callers who hang up in frustration while on hold? Hope they’ll call back? It might not happen. Be glad for one less call to handle? This is a short-sighted response that misses the reason for the call center in the first place.

What if you took the initiative and called the customer back? “We see that you called us earlier today, but we couldn’t get to your call in time. Is there anything we can help you with now?”

Yes, some customers will have given up, figured it out on their own, or decide to vent their frustrations. But many will be impressed you called to check with them and have heartfelt gratitude you made the effort. In doing so you can turn around a negative experience and correct it. As you do so, you’ll forge a stronger relationship between your organization and your customers.

Surveys

Some organizations do follow up surveys, either at the conclusion of a call or afterward. If you conduct surveys, what are your goals in doing so?

Is it merely to amass a statistical database of C-Sat (customer satisfaction) scores? There’s nothing wrong with this, but too often the end-of-call surveys try to learn about the effectiveness of the call before the caller knows if the advice they received is correct.

A better reason for follow up surveys is to determine customer service failures, providing a chance to correct your call center’s shortcoming. Then you can work to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one.

Going Beyond the Call

These are ways you can go beyond the call to better serve your customers. And that’s the reason your call center exists.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com.

The Power of the Bot

Increasing Customer Satisfaction with a Human-AI Team

By the SingleComm team

Today’s customers have little patience for long waits, multiple handoffs, and unresolved issues. It only takes one unpleasant experience to send them headed for the hills–or another brand.

Adequate staffing has long been the go-to method for handling call volumes. But the days of readily available employees are gone as contact centers struggle to attract and retain talent.

The solution is a future-forward strategy that maximizes their teams’ capabilities, also known as AI (artificial intelligence).

According to Gartner’s 2021 Technology Roadmap Survey, more than 65 precent of customer service and support leaders are optimistic about the value that AI can provide, and they plan to increase their adoption of AI capabilities over the next two years.

Furthermore, new research conducted by The Harris Poll revealed that improved customer experience is now the most frequently cited driver of AI implementation decisions, above cost reduction and the ability to drive top-line revenue.

Advanced technology solutions are not new to the contact center industry: call-routing and interactive voice response (IVR) systems have been in use for decades. But today’s AI-powered options are taking the customer experience to new heights.

Myth versus Reality

When people hear the term artificial intelligence, scenes from the movie The Terminator often come to mind. But AI reality is quite different from AI myth. According to Seth Earley, author, founder, and CEO of Earley Information Science, here are five common myths about artificial intelligence followed by AI truths:

  • Myth 1: AI algorithms can magically make sense of all your messy data.
    Reality: AI is not “load and go,” and the quality of the data is more important than the algorithm.
    Translation: Regardless of any AI interaction, good data in means good data out.
  • Myth 2: You need data scientists, machine learning experts and huge budgets to use AI for the business.
    Reality: Many tools are increasingly available to business users and don’t require huge investments.
    Translation: There are AI solutions available to fit any business and any budget.
  • Myth 3: Cognitive AI technologies can understand and solve problems the way the human brain can.
    Reality: Cognitive technologies can’t solve problems they weren’t designed to solve. 
    Translation: AI technology performs according to design. 
  • Myth 4: Machine learning using neural nets means that computers can learn the way humans learn.
    Reality: Neural nets are powerful, but they are a long way from achieving the complexity of the human brain or mimicking human capabilities.
    Translation: You don’t have to worry about computers taking over your contact center.
  • Myth 5: AI will displace humans and make contact center jobs obsolete.
    Reality: AI is no different from other technological advances in that it helps humans become more effective and processes become more efficient.
    Translation: AI will not change the need for skilled and talented call center representatives. In fact, AI will enhance their superpowers while improving the performance of the contact center and increasing customer satisfaction.

Taking Your Contact Center to the Next Level

There are many ways that AI can strengthen your team’s performance and improve your processes.

  • Personalization: Tailoring the experience based on information that the platform has learned about the caller or user.
  • AI-Based Customer Routing: The ability to match customers with the best resource or agent.
  • Chatbots and Conversational Assistants: Interacting with customers, either by text or voice, taking care of simple and/or repetitive issues, and freeing up contact center representatives to focus on more complex assistance needs.
  • Workforce Management: Data analysis capabilities that help predict when agents and resources are needed.
  • Post Call Wrap-Up: AI assists representatives in entering call-action summaries and wrap-up codes.

By using AI systems and solutions, you are not taking anything away from your human team members. Instead, you are empowering them to raise the bar to meet and exceed customer expectations by streamlining processes and tasks, which allows them to spend more time on supplying the best service possible. Talk about a win-win.

Interested in learning what a human-AI team might look like in your organization? We have the information and solutions you need. Contact us today to schedule a demo.

Using Knowledge Management to Simplify Complex Customer Queries


By Trey Norman

More complex customer queries call for knowledge management to simplify tasks. Simplifying the steps taken for answer retrieval is beneficial not only for companies and their employees but also for customers.

In addition to reducing time and cost, more benefits arise. With knowledge management technology, call center agents have it easier with access to all company data right at their fingertips every time a customer picks up the phone. The request often requires more details than someone confirming their account number or product delivery date, and complex queries send agents on an endless hunt for information.

Knowledge management turns complex queries into a simple and productive phone call between brand and customer.

Call center agents can look up relevant data in no time to help customers get the information they want. This diminishes the need to transfer them because the first person on the phone has a 360-degree view of company knowledge, allowing them to quickly find the data and keep the lines open for the next caller.

The Value of Search and a 360-Degree View

Considering a company and its data, so much comes to mind with the breadth of technology and applications used today. From emails, sales documentation, contracts, support tickets, chats on internal collaboration platforms, and marketing analytics, there is way too large of a scope for customer service agents to find what they need and keep a customer happy in a timely manner. Eventually, they may resolve the issue, but at what cost?

High-level knowledge management with the help of artificial intelligence can slash through data silos and connect prominent information from all relevant sources. All a company needs to do is make it accessible to employees on the front lines.

While search is a significant function of these systems, proactive input and graphical displays can also be essential within call centers. From a search standpoint, representatives can search for keywords related to the specific customer or the issue needing resolution. Generated are search results, like on Google or Bing, of resources and content about the topic—precisely filtered the way the agent needs it. Query results could lead to a support ticket of a past customer who called with the same problem, or it may lead to a helpful whitepaper that discusses the topic in question.

But there is more to solutions than just searching and finding. We all know this is not always how it goes, as many of us have been on page ten of google results before. Machine learning techniques like Natural Language Processing (NLP), understand written and spoken language. That said, queries will lead to the exact sentence of a whitepaper or support document because intelligent systems understand what the employee needs just as a human would.

Not All Answers Have a Single Source

Search and search only may not be what the company and customer need. With complex queries, it may be unlikely the full answer lies in a single document. Connecting data sources allows graphical overviews to be created from all relevant sources. On one display, past customer tickets can appear to agents while specific data about the customer is highlighted on another, right next to each other in one central location.

Customer service agents don’t need one source opened on their primary monitor, another open on a second monitor, and a third source hiding behind another window. They can relay information back to the customer on the other end from one place that shows every source.

Auto-Generated Responses: Answering Questions for Agents

The last part is where technology really amazes. Another popular machine learning technique used in knowledge management is NLQA, Natural Language Question Answering. Not only does NLQA understand human language the way NLP does, but it can auto-generate answers based on sources of information within the company. Many companies have turned to chatbots to reap the benefits of Natural Language Question Answering and automated assistance.

But why should a chatbot get all the cool and innovative tools when people are still picking up the phones and relying on humans to support them? Taking advantage of this could lead to support agents receiving answers in real-time based on the spoken words of the caller or typing in the query. This practice saves many hours and dollars while making a difficult job more manageable.

Taking a hard look at company data sources and what is relevant to customer service and call center agents is especially important for businesses to move forward. Quick and efficient support is key in retaining business and maintaining happy, paying customers. With these tools and innovative knowledge management, many dollars and stressful phone calls can be saved.

Trey Norman is the COO at Mindbreeze.

Knowledge Management: What you Need to Know


By Donna Fluss

The knowledge management (KM) market is experiencing the most rapid adoption cycle in its history. Driven by customer expectations for a great experience, increased demand for self-service, the need to empower employees throughout the enterprise, and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), KM solutions are being purchased to meet a wide range of requirements.

The significantly increased demand is driving a large research and development (R&D) investment cycle, which is invigorating and greatly enhancing all aspects of these solutions, enabling vendors to convert them from searchable information repositories to highly contextual sources of intelligent content.

The KM vendors are applying AI to enhance many aspects of their solutions, including the creation, curation, and oversight of content. The “garbage in/garbage out” issue has long been one of the largest impediments to acceptance and adoption of KM solutions. Authoring and maintaining pertinent and up-to-date content will always be a critical element of these applications, and the vendors have started to introduce tools and best practices to help companies manage this essential aspect of the system (and process).

Artificial intelligence is being used to locate and prioritize the most relevant knowledge utilized by organizations, as well as to help administrators keep it current by identifying outdated, redundant, and missing information. Artificial intelligence and other enhanced features also enable companies to create one answer and automatically render it in a manner appropriate for each user and channel.

This is just the beginning of many practical and game-changing innovations that the KM vendors are delivering to the market, along with improved system usability, integrations, and much more coming during the next couple of years.

Process is as Important as the KM Solution

While technology makes a difference for any solution, including KM, how it is perceived and used are equally important. Contact centers and other enterprise departments that want to realize benefits from KM need to build a culture that prioritizes agents’ use of knowledge over productivity.

For years, contact center leaders asked their agents to use KM to standardize inquiry handling and then complained that it took them too long. The new generation of context-sensitive and highly responsive KM solutions can more rapidly serve up the information agents need to resolve customer issues, eliminating one of the biggest impediments to adoption.

However, it will still take training and encouragement to get agents on board and contact center leaders need to support these efforts by making KM usage one of the department’s core tenets for success.

Selecting the Right KM for your Contact Center

Prospects need to carefully assess the KM offerings in the market, as each one is in a different stage of its development, despite vendor claims. Adding complexity to the challenge, vendors in many IT sectors, including customer relationship management (CRM), contact-center-as-a-service (CCaaS), and even workforce management (WFM), are claiming to offer their own KM solutions.

In many cases, these are knowledge repositories designed to provide information, best practices, and tips to support the use of their own core solution and are not full-fledged KM offerings. (This doesn’t make them bad, but it limits their overall scope and contributions.)

Given the tremendous amount of innovation introduced into these solutions, it’s time to find a vendor whose product and plans align with the needs of your organization. And be sure to select one that listens and has a proven record of accomplishment of applying customer feedback to its roadmap.

Final Thoughts

The current generation of KM solutions are excellent and have proven benefits. The next generation of KM solutions that are expected to be delivered during the next two years will be even better, as significant improvements to the underlying technology should enable vendors to deliver on the benefits they have been promising for decades.

For an in-depth analysis of the knowledge management (KM) market and the solutions that are vital in supporting the needs of today’s digitally transformed and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled enterprises, please see DMGs 2022 – 2023 Knowledge Management for the Enterprisereport.

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 donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com.

Chat Availability

Make Customer Service a Distinguishing Factor for Your Organization

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Companies are increasingly offering chat services as a way for their customers and prospects to reach them. Not only is this an option that more and more people want to use, but many businesses find it’s a cost-effective customer service solution. As such, you’d think that customer-focused enterprises would make chat availability a priority. Yet in my experience as a customer, too many do not.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections Magazine

Avoid Turning Chat On and Off

I’ve experienced multiple companies that turn their chat option on and off throughout the day. Though their posted schedule says they’re available during business hours, their practice runs counter to that.

One site indicated that their chat was online. Excited, I begin typing my message, but before I could press enter, the chat availability indication turned from online to offline. Hopeful it was a momentary glitch, I stared at the screen for the next several minutes, poised to press enter as soon as the chat availability changed back to online. I got tired of waiting and went on to my next project. This was most frustrating because I needed to reach them, and chat was their only option.

I’ve seen this occur on other websites as well, with chat toggling between online and offline throughout the day. This is no way to serve customers. But it is a way to frustrate them.

Have a Schedule and Follow It

A retail operation would never open and close throughout the day; no self-respecting business would ever do that. When a customer shows up during regular business hours, they expect to come in and make a purchase. The same mentality should apply to chat service.

Make a schedule and staff accordingly to meet that schedule. Yes, when it’s difficult to hire and keep staff, meeting a desired schedule is problematic. Yet it should be a priority for any company that cares about its customers. And every business that wants to stay in business must put their customers first.

If staffing levels drop too low to support chat in a reasonable time frame, don’t shut it down. Instead note what delay customers may encounter, apologize for the inconvenience, and offer an alternate solution.

One company I deal with boasted 24/7 chat availability. That didn’t last long. They soon scaled back to business hours availability. And a few months after that, they reconfigured their chat window to be a front end to email. You type in your question is normal, and they tell you they’ll get back with you in a couple of hours. The answer comes by email, even if you leave the chat window open.

Offer Alternatives

In addition to chat, other common customer service options include the telephone and email. Presumably if a company can’t staff their chat service, they can’t operate their call center either, which carries an even more time-critical expectation than chat. But many companies have cut their telephone support altogether.

That leaves email. Of the three communication options, it’s the most frustrating, with lengthy delays lasting days—or being ignored altogether. With email, back-and-forth interaction, which happens with ease on chat and phone interaction, is difficult and time consuming. Imagine waiting two days for an email response and receiving a message that says, “What is your account number?”

Yes, there are also self-service options, with many companies offering FAQs, blog posts, and customer forums where users help each other. FAQs and blog posts seldom address the more specific questions I have. And I try to avoid forums because I have no way of knowing if the help they’re offering is reliable or not. And too often no one ever responds to the questions I post.

Chat Solutions

Offering accessible and prompt customer service is even more critical today than ever before, where a business can lose a customer at the click of a button. Offering chat service is a common and cost-effective way to do this.

But to be successful, do it wisely. This means no turning on and off chat throughout the day, posting and adhering to a realistic schedule of chat availability, and offering customer service alternatives.

And if your staffing levels don’t allow for this to occur, look for a contact center you can outsource this to, either to back you up as needed, according to a set schedule, or around the clock. This is the perfect solution to providing consistent chat availability to your customers.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com.

Contact Center AI: An Interview with Talkdesk’s Ben Rigby


Question: Ben, What Is the Current Sentiment Around AI and Automation in Contact Centers?

Answer: Today, contact centers have started to feel the concrete benefits of AI, from its ability to improve customer satisfaction to increasing agent productivity and upskilling employees.

While some companies still struggle to understand how automation can fit into their tech stack to transform how they operate as a business, many have started to experiment with AI technology to support specific processes or tasks in their contact centers.

Q: The Report Shows That Only 15 Percent of Organizations Are Taking Advantage of Emerging AI Technology, Such As Human-in-the-Loop. What Might Be Causing the Hesitation?

A: Our survey shows that contact center professionals are lacking confidence in their understanding of AI and the business results they should expect. As with implementing any new technology, AI comes with challenges, and our survey found that security and IT risks around legacy contact center equipment rank number one for concern.

Companies are also facing resistance from leaders and staff within their organization while grappling with labor shortages, all of which make it difficult to build, use, and maintain new automated systems. CX (customer experience) leaders need to be transparent with their workforce, emphasizing the core benefits and uses of AI and automation.

In addition to improving a business’s processes and bottom line, this technology also has the power to streamline employees’ day-to-day activities by filtering out the repetitive tasks. By openly communicating these direct benefits, companies can gain buy-in from their entire workforce, from entry level staff all the way up to managers and above.

Q: What Are the Security Risks That Come with AI Technology?

While security and IT risks of outdated contact center equipment are a main barrier to adoption, once deployed as part of a digital transformation initiative, AI actually makes contact centers more secure. Three in four CX professionals agree that AI tech will allow customer data to be more secure than a live agent, and four in five agree that AI will significantly help companies improve identity and authentication security in the next two years.

Q: How Can CX Leaders Address These Risks?

A: If AI has the potential to improve contact center security, the question then becomes, how can companies securely implement the technology? The answer is simple: businesses must put the strongest foundation in place to support AI. Specifically, they’ll need to invest in modern cloud architecture that will seamlessly and securely integrate AI technology.

Q: If a Company Has Not Yet Adopted This Technology, Are They Falling Behind?

A: Companies that continue to be resistant to AI adoption will undoubtedly fall behind in two areas: EX [employee experience] and CX. In today’s contact center workforce, AI technology helps reduce the repetitive tasks and transactional work for agents, alleviating stress, reducing workloads, and allowing teams to rebuild their contact center workforce.

AI provides the much-needed support during ongoing labor shortages and will be instrumental in upskilling workers to provide a more meaningful role in the contact center.

In terms of CX, conversational AI can help contact centers provide high-quality experiences by instantly responding to customer queries at any time of the day. AI can also equip agents with the contextual, personalized knowledge they need to accurately answer customer questions. This leaves customers highly satisfied and eases friction that comes with lengthy interactions.

Q: In Making the Decision to Implement More Advanced AI Technology, What Do CX Professionals Need to Consider?

A: There are three things CX professionals and leaders should consider:

First, do our agents have the right training and resources to leverage this technology effectively? Before launching new tech solutions, it’s important that the current agents have a strong skill set and understanding of how this will impact day-to-day operations, as well as best practices to work in tandem once the technology is in place.

Second, do we have the internal resources to make AI operations accessible? AI will continue to become more advanced and the only way for a company to reap the benefits of this technology is by making it accessible to everyone, even those who don’t have formal technical training or backgrounds.

Third, do we have a current system that can support a safe integration of advanced AI technology? Without the right foundation, you won’t be able to utilize AI to its full potential. Prior to deploying AI technology, take the time to consolidate redundant tech stacks.

Q: With 79 Percent of CX Leaders Planning to Increase Contact Center Investments, What Do You Think the State of AI and Automation in Contact Centers Will Look Like in 2023?

A: In 2023, the realization of AI’s capabilities and benefits will be more apparent than ever. While some companies may still be hesitant, there will be many more use cases and success stories to reference and tout the positive outcomes for contact centers.

We can all agree that AI technology will continue to evolve and adapt to new business needs within the next year. Along with that, the growth of no-code solutions will continue to shine a light on the true ease of adoption, putting a rest to concerns around the challenges of adoption.

Thank you, Ben, for taking time to share your insight.

It’s been my pleasure!

Ben Rigby is the SVP and Global Head of Product & Engineering at Talkdesk, an end-to-end contact center solutions provider.

Six Ways Attended Automation Can Transform Your Call Center


By Jeff Fettes

Contact centers are more hectic and overworked than ever. While agents deal with a huge volume of calls, they also deal with expectations of superior customer service. Although businesses have tried to reduce call volume with features like texting and more robust web interfaces, the reality is many requests still need personal attention. Those workers, however, often struggle to resolve calls quickly enough to keep a good pace while still making customers happy.

The answer to this problem isn’t more hiring. Rather, it’s harnessing the best elements of humans and artificial intelligence to create a seamless call center experience. Think of it as a hybrid that merges the best elements of people and technology. Attended automation uses AI and machine learning to guide and support human agents by answering questions, handling repetitive tasks, and preventing errors. The automation is attended by the agent; it does not replace the human.

How Attended Automation Makes an Impact

Most companies offer customers several self-service options, so when a customer calls, it’s likely a critical issue. Agents are left to deal with the complex matters a bot alone can’t handle. Chatbots can perform only limited tasks, while other options like texting often result in handing off customers to live agents to complete the case.

Attended automation, on the other hand, works alongside an agent from the beginning of the call or contact. Here are six ways attended automation can quickly transform a call center.

1. Attended Automation Crunches Data

Attended automation software sits on an agent’s desktop and can access the same programs and information. Unlike humans, it can browse, crunch, and compile this data at breathtaking speed. This added assistance enables an agent to deliver the care and concern that’s at the heart of customer service—without the hassle of switching between tabs, screens, or programs.

Essentially, attended automation allows agents to work smarter, not harder.

2. Attended Automation Handles the Grunt Work

Everyone has experienced a call where an agent struggles to find account details, financial history, or order status. It’s incredibly frustrating for both customer and agent, especially if a customer has already waited on hold before getting to the agent.

Attended automation can be the JARVIS to an agent’s Iron Man, uncovering necessary information and suggesting the right action, all while taking care of repetitive or low-value tasks in the background.

3. Attended Automation Helps Agents Act with Empathy

An agent who is trying to root out the right information will not be able to be present and helpful. And customers who wait on hold to connect to an agent often have complex issues or might be upset or frustrated. The last thing an agent needs when helping an upset customer is to navigate multiple programs and complex policies while the customer’s impatience grows.

With attended automation, agents have exactly what they need when they need it and can focus on making sure a customer is happy and resolving the issue in a way that benefits everyone.

4. Attended Automation Supports More Flexible Workforce Management

Traditionally, managers must account for weeks—sometimes months—of training time before new employees are ready for the floor. But technology like attended automation helps decrease the time needed to train agents to full proficiency and supports veteran agents in providing even better service.

It guides agents through workflows that once required lengthy training, like a GPS for customer care. And beyond faster speed-to-production, attended AI technology has a related benefit: a larger selection of qualified candidates. Recruiters can put less focus on hiring for technical expertise and agility. With a built-in coach on their computer, agents can focus on connecting with the customer—the job they were hired to do—rather than remembering systems and workflows.

5. Attended Automation Does More Than Expected

Companies expect an attended automation program to handle certain low-level tasks like retrieving customer data, auto-populating forms, and logging call details. However, it can do much more, including preventing unintentional overpayments and intentional ones (fraud); highlighting personalized insights; and drafting professional, on-brand emails.

New features and capabilities are frequently added to most automation software.

6. Attended Automation Can Overhaul Call Center Metrics

Call center agents aren’t just under pressure from upset customers. They are also under pressure from their supervisors to resolve calls quickly and handle a certain number of calls per hour or day. Attended automation can significantly reduce AHT (average handling time) and rap-up time, increase productivity and accuracy, and improve CSAT (customer satisfaction) scores.

Agents contribute to the bottom line but are also able to do their jobs well with less stress and pressure.

Conclusion

With attended automation as an agent-assist tool, the agent can focus on interacting with the customer and providing outstanding service versus fumbling around for the right information or keeping a customer on hold. The agent—and by extension, the brand—gets credit for an amazing customer experience with a little support from some advanced technology.

Attended automation in the contact center has the potential to deliver happier agents, happier customers, and ultimately, a happier bottom line.

Serial entrepreneur Jeff Fettes is the founder and CEO of Laivly, a leading AI-powered attended automation platform designed specifically for the contact center environment. Laivly helps some of the world’s best-known brands transform their call center operations with next-generation automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning so they can excel, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction and experience.

How the Modern Contact Center Can Drive Better Results


By Rod Brownridge

The modern contact center has come a long way over the last few decades. The standard used to be dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of agents forced to sit in the same room and answer phone calls from customers.

Technology advances have made it so that many times a robot can give customers the information they’re looking for without the need for a conversation with a human. It’s a drastic change that has had considerable impact on the way contact centers do business in the twenty-first century. It’s not just the how that’s come a long way, it’s also the what.

Modern contact centers have many more tools at their disposal and advances in technology have allowed for a skills-based approach that ensures contact center agents are able to easily connect a customer with the best resource to fix their problems.

We now can solve more problems on the first call, and we’ve created a better pathway to customer/client retention and loyalty backed by a commitment to customer service.

But even though technology has improved the contact center over the years, 59 percent of consumers “would rather go through additional channels to contact customer service than have to use their voice to communicate,” according to Business Insider.

The report says that interactions with legacy customer service channels fell 7 percent over a two-year period “due in part to poor customer service.” We have the tools necessary to avoid the deterioration of customer service, and results like this should open the eyes of companies who aren’t putting an intense focus on customer interactions.

Here’s how modern-day technologies are driving effective resolutions while creating a more seamless customer experience and improving customer engagement.

The Advanced Use of Data

Our world has more data now than ever before. And the greatest advantage the modern contact center has now is access to information we didn’t dream possible in the past.

Today’s contact center should use analytical and qualitative tools to track calls and requests every step of the way. And each call or request should result in a detailed automated report that provides information about how the call was set up and what happened along the journey from beginning to end. The purpose of this is educational.

Your customer success teams should learn from each call and use the data and analytical tools to improve future outcomes. Using data to track key performance indicators, learning about call demographics, and using it to track quality control metrics is great, but you need to be able to dig deeper.

Access to conversation-level data enables a better level of customer service. According to McKinsey, companies are going wrong because they “do not have the right foundation in place, due to entrenched organizational structures and processes, legacy IT systems, and other challenges.”

McKinsey says the two root causes of slow advanced analytics adoption are a lack of integrated data across channels and an inability to link analytical insights to actions. With access to advanced analytics, we can reduce call volume and drive down the average handle time, creating a more efficient process.

Meeting Customers Where They Are

Many of today’s customers choose to not call contact centers. We still need to make the contact center work for them. Providing customers access to an integrated, help center portal that acts as a dashboard to supply information and tools—like the status of a request or an active chatbot—gives them options to get help.

Advanced technologies make these options available to the customer on their phones through an app, which they can use to sign up for text updates or automated calls to keep them abreast of what’s going on with their request.

Being nimble is key, and modern solutions supply more options. There will always be some customers who prefer to call and speak with a human. We need to be able to meet them where they are or risk them taking their business elsewhere.

Anticipatory Experiences for the Present and Future

The future of customer service—and where many modern-thinking organizations are going—is in the category of anticipatory customer service. The anticipatory approach allows you to see a customer profile with detailed information before you get on the phone with them, leading to quicker resolve times and shorter conversations.

What’s a straightforward way to impress a customer? Give them the impression that you have all their information at your fingertips and that you’re spending time working on their services when they’re not around.

Don’t forget to delight them with your communication style, frequency, and genuine care. Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions enable this type of customer experience through the cloud, improving customer engagement in many ways.

The standard customer experience has for too long revolved around a reactive approach, and companies have long failed to stand out. It’s the old leaders versus followers debate.

If you don’t stand out, you risk becoming interchangeable from your competitors. Instead, our approach should always focus on creating loyal customers through positive customer service interactions.

When you can anticipate the services your customer needs before they express those needs to you, you become more valuable to them than even they expected.

Today’s Contact Center Knows You Better

One thing hasn’t changed over time and probably never will: Customer service is all about relationships.

Advances in technology have allowed us to bridge gaps and get to resolutions faster and more efficiently than ever before. We’re now able to deliver more consistent results while focusing on managing relationships instead of managing problems.

It’s a two-way transaction. It’s never been easier for the contact center to work for both the company and the customer.

Rod Brownridge is a senior vice president of customer service at Fusion Connect, a provider of managed security and collaboration services. Rod brings two decades of operations, engineering, and customer success management to the role. He leads an award-winning customer success team at Fusion Connect, with a focus on providing frictionless experience to clients and customers alike.

What’s the Future of Virtual Reality Simulation in Call Center Training?


By Jim Iyoob

In this booming high-tech era, technology is disrupting and optimizing different business processes. From just being a discussion on the coffee table and brainstorming session, virtual reality (VR) simulation is now becoming a real-life application for call center training.

Initially this technology was expensive, and usage was underwhelming. However, with increased demand in VR devices, technology is getting cheaper and efforts are improving virtual reality simulation to make it more useful.

For call center trainers, it’s crucial to reinvent continuously and adopt new skills while simultaneously coaching their teams. This not only helps the trainers themselves but also plays a key role in the organization’s success. Virtual reality gives contact center trainers an opportunity to increase self-awareness, develop new skills, adapt to different situations, evaluate their performance, and identify growth opportunities.

How Does Virtual Reality Simulation Work?

Virtual reality creates real-life business situations where the brain and body feel they’re in an actual world. Users are part of this virtual world experience through VR wearable devices such as headsets or glasses to encounter real-life challenges. The virtual reality system incorporates training modules that prepares leaders by testing them in a virtual world, with a similar-to-real-life application.

Hence, the trainers learn and evolve to fulfill their duties and meet the organization’s expectations. As a result, trainers get a hands-on experience in the virtual world, before tackling challenges in the real world.

How Does Virtual Reality Simulation Help in Call Center Training?

For a long time, the true potential of virtual reality simulation went unnoticed, especially in contact center training. VR empowers trainers by allowing them to practice and handle difficult conversations in the virtual world, something which isn’t possible in a classroom. Once they decide on their scenario online, they can put on a wearable VR headset to get into the simulation and practice any situation.

As businesses are getting tech-savvy, it is the right time to make room for virtual reality. So, let’s take a deep dive into different areas where virtual reality simulation enhances contact center training.

Improve Soft Skills

Soft skills are the core of training and development. Without proper soft skills, workplace functioning gets affected. With virtual reality simulation, call center trainers can assess and practice their soft skills. They can experience different circumstances such as mentoring and motivating team members, giving performance reviews to the team and appreciating excellent work. Virtual reality simulation makes it easy for call center trainers to evaluate their reactions to different situations and bridge gaps in the learning curve.

Create a Secure Training Environment

Getting nervous before major events can happen to anyone. Here, virtual reality simulation can come to the rescue and provide a secure and friendly environment where trainers can learn comfortably.

VR lets trainers practice for meetings, presentations, and seminars by creating realistic business situations. Therefore, the contact center trainers can prepare themselves, identify areas of improvement, and work on them before the actual event.

Strengthen Emotional Connectivity

It’s important for call center trainers to make practical decisions. However, the need of developing decision-making skills based on empathy cannot be overlooked. If the trainers can connect with the sentiments, beliefs, and experiences of their team members, then they can become empathetic leaders.

Empathy is a driving force that keeps team members connected, motivated, builds trust, and increases collaboration. With virtual reality, trainers can take a detailed look at different scenarios, develop empathy, and make decisions that are good for all.

Leveraging technology for call center training is an area every trainer must look forward to. Leaders must be visionary and adapt to the latest technology to have a competitive edge in the market. Virtual reality is a crucial tool for businesses to effectively train their team members.

Investing in virtual reality simulation technologies may seem expensive, but it’s rewarding overall. Strong leaders developed with the help of VR can positively influence business results. With the use of virtual reality tools, call center training can become more proficient.

Virtual reality simulation for training and development is worth the investment.

Jim Iyoob is the chief customer officer at Etech Global Services. He handles strategy, marketing, business development, IT, program implementation, operational excellence, and product development across all Etech’s existing lines of business: Etech, Etech Insights, Etech Technology Solutions, and Etech Social Media Solutions.

Vendor Profile: Startel

Startel contact center software that delivers happiness to your customers

In July of 1955, Tomorrowland opened at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. At the time, Walt Disney, an enthusiastic futurist, said “Scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come. The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future.”

Startel started in 1980 just down the 5 freeway from Disneyland. It’s hard to know if the company name was influenced by the opening of Space Mountain just three years prior, but it reflects the passions of another notable futurist, Don Berry. From its start, Startel has been a company dedicated to looking to the future.

They’re founded on researching the new opportunities afforded to the communications industry by advances in technology, identifying which ones have the most long-term viability, and then putting those into customers’ hands. Part of that has always been helping customers understand—and even get excited about—what’s next.

StartelNow

Startel has a web-based agent interface, in beta, named StartelNow. This interface can be used by current customers with the CMC platform and is provided to them as part of their software assurance.

StartelNow is a platform where an agent anywhere in the world can log in from a website on any device with an internet connection and start handling interactions without any specialized training on software. Agents will not have to know special keystrokes to send an email or secure message to a client, and no one will need to teach them how to interpret complex relay instructions.

CMC RestAPI

Startel’s CMC RestAPI can improve agent efficiency by securely providing the data collected from callers directly to the applications clients use every day. Rather than the agent needing to learn the client’s specialized software to manually re-enter that information, the RestAPI 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, 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 retrieve call statistical data, manage clients’ on call schedules, or track agent status in real-time, as well as make that information available to customers to integrate with their own tools.

The capabilities of Startel’s CMC RestAPI are expanded even further through integration with Zapier. Zapier is a do-it-yourself solution that allows users to harness the power of the RestAPI without requiring expensive development or on-staff programmers. This web-based platform empowers that automation of work across more than 5,000 popular apps without writing a single line of code.

Startel PocketVantage

PocketVantage

Startel’s mobile app for Android and Apple devices is PocketVantage. This app provides clients a vantage point to view and update the on-call schedule, review and manage IntelliForms, and access their team’s contacts right from the convenience of their smartphone.

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.

Flex

Startel developers continue to make this customizable agent interface more intuitive, which supports faster on-boarding, putting agents on the system quicker than ever before.

Flex can be adjusted to suit a contact center’s environment preferences. The screen can be designed to have a similar look and feel to an existing interface. Message forms, client information pages, on call schedule, and other elements can be moved to different areas of the screen.

The various elements can even be split into multiple windows so that the agent can better use a multi-monitor environment. Even further customization can be done by selecting different fonts and colors that can be saved as part of the agent layouts.

Startel’s agent scripting and scripted dispatching reduces the need for agents to read information or instructions, improve efficiency, and minimize errors.

Conclusion

Startel seeks to balance allocating customer resources today with the development of the solutions they’ll need tomorrow.

Startel

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-five states across the United States, as well as Canada, Central America, New Zealand, and Switzerland. Customers depend on Startel’s solutions and services to increase business efficiencies, identify performance opportunities, and deliver quick, secure, and accurate communication 24/7/365.

To discover more about Startel, visit www.startel.com or call 800-782-7835.