Category Archives: Articles

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 delivers best-in-call contact center solutions

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.

Is Your Management Style Hurting Your Call Center?

After Doing All You Can on the Hiring Side, Turn Your Attention to Retention


By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

A college friend recently shared his experience working at his part-time job. Several of his coworkers had quit, and he planned to do so as well. His departure would move his employer from drastically short-staffed to critically understaffed. She begged him to stay and offered him a significant pay bump, moving him to nearly three times minimum wage for his unskilled, entry-level position.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections Magazine

He accepted. But he quickly regretted his decision.

Three weeks later he quit for good. “She was just too hard to work for,” he said, “and no amount of money would get me to stay.”

He found another job right away. Though his new one doesn’t pay as well, he likes his boss and feels appreciated. He now enjoys going to work. As a bonus, the hours don’t interfere with his school schedule or studying.

In a different era, his first boss’s management style would have worked. Yes, she would have churned through employees, but hiring a replacement wouldn’t have been an issue.

Times have changed. It seems every business today is in a hiring mode. They’ve upped their pay, improved their compensation plan, and lowered their expectations. But they still have trouble filling open slots, as well as keeping the employees they do have. And I hear rumblings—and have personally witnessed it—that some of the employees they do have fall short of expectations and are less than the caliber they once hired.

The common solutions to filling open positions in a tight labor market are to pay more, improve benefits, and be more accommodating. These are good solutions, but a better approach may be to re-examine your management style.

Quite succinctly, is your management style hurting your call center?

In thinking back to past jobs, I’ve had managers who were patient, and others who were demanding; some were kind, and others were tyrants; some were complimentary, and others were condemning. I liked some and feared others. And when it came to compensation, some were fair, and others were cheap.

For the good jobs with great bosses, I stayed with those companies for a long time, working until my situation or their need for me changed. For the other jobs with less-than-ideal bosses, I moved on as quickly as I could.

Each one of these was a learning opportunity, teaching me what to do and not to do when it came to supervising staff and leading people.

When I moved into management, I strived to be a fair boss and treat employees well—to be the kind of employer I wanted to work for.

Though I didn’t always succeed at meeting my goal, I know that most of the time I did. Some employees noticed this and even thanked me for it. And a few told me I was the best boss they ever had.

I’m not sure how my focus on being a desirable boss and worthy employer affected our turnover, but I do know I felt good about myself and the effort I put forth to make the operation a better place to work.

If your call center is short-staffed and you can’t find enough qualified employees, despite paying more and offering more, the long-term solution may be to focus on the retention side of the equation.

Look at your management style. Seek changes that will allow you to have a more positive impact on your staff and lead them in a more effective way.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine and the author of Sticky Customer Service. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Hiring, Training, and Retaining Remote Contact Center Agents

Amtelco

By April Forer

In an employee market it is difficult to hire and retain loyal employees. When there are labor shortages, you must up your game as an employer. Hiring and training contact center agents remotely creates new challenges but having the right processes and technology in place makes all the difference in creating a smooth experience.

Consider the following steps when hiring and training remote contact center agents:

Attract Relevant Candidates

It’s frustrating to receive incomplete applications or applicants that don’t meet the job requirements. You can attract new candidates by determining where best to post your job openings, providing detailed job and company information, asking for employee reviews, and using online applications.

There are various platforms available to recruit new candidates, so how do you decide which to advertise your open positions? Decide what traits your ideal employee should have to help choose which platform (such as LinkedIn, Monster, or Indeed) is best. You’ll have a better chance of reaching your ideal employee by advertising your job posting where they’re likely to see it.

When completing your company profile page, post photos and images to give candidates a good perspective on your company culture. Being transparent will help recruit better qualified candidates and save you time and money. Give potential employees reasons on why they might want to work there. Explain or show what the work is like.

Ask your current remote contact center agents to leave employee reviews online. Employee reviews are a helpful way for candidates to verify that your company is legit. They also provide applicants a first-hand review of the pros and cons of working there. You’ll want to be prepared for any negative feedback. Many of these platforms allow the employer a chance to respond so you can address and react to any feedback you may receive.

If you’re still using paper applications, it’s time to evolve your technology. You can streamline the recruiting and hiring process by using an online application. Having an online application makes it easier for candidates to apply and speeds up the review process.

Filter Applicants

Reviewing job applications can take lots of time, but if you don’t filter them first, you’ll spend even more time interviewing unqualified candidates. Automation is key to help make this step more efficient. Use simple yes and no questions in your online job application to see if candidates meet your requirements.

For example, you could use a basic script application with simple yes/no responses. If the applicant answered “no” to being available to work weekends, then they would automatically receive a decline email and filtered out of your pool of qualified applicants.

Using a multi-step application process will help filter your candidates even more, so you can find who your best candidates are. Starting with a short initial application, then advancing to a longer follow-up application for those who qualify, followed by a skills test will save time and qualify better candidates.

Another tip for filtering your candidates is to decide on dealbreakers. What are the must-have requirements for this role (availability, typing speed, bilingual, internet speed)? Any applicant not meeting these requirements should immediately be removed from consideration.

Also, ask another associate to be involved in the process. It’s good to have a second set of eyes to review things that you may not have noticed or that could be red flags.

When it comes to interviewing, using a video platform, instead of the telephone, will give you a better perspective on the applicant. Require the applicant to have their web cam on so you can see how they present themselves, view their work environment, and build a rapport. Watch out for any lag in their connection that could present a problem in the future or any technical issues that could indicate a concern in working remotely and independently.

When you’ve filtered your applicants down, make a list of your top candidates and backups. Once you make your offers, you can move on to any backup candidates if any of your top candidates decline the offer.

Onboard New Hires

Do you have a documented onboarding process for new employees? The onboarding process is crucial to ensuring a pleasant new hire experience. Use paperless forms to speed up the process and avoid lost paperwork. An employee handbook and policies help set employee expectations from the start.

Welcome your new hires and introduce them to the team to make them feel welcome and connected. Assigning a mentor is a smart way for new hires to build a rapport with a more senior employee and someone they may feel more comfortable directing questions to.

Schedule an orientation process to discuss day-to-day activities, communication tools, and other items. Make sure technology is properly setup and functional.

Train Staff

Simplify remote training with the right technology. Contact center software that is accessible through a web-browser makes working remotely easy, such as the Web Agent application which allows your contact center agents to work anywhere with an internet connection.

Record training videos for independent viewing. Use quizzes and exams to test the knowledge and effort of your new remote contact center agents.

Technology features like audit, barge, and coach are helpful during training. Supervisors or managers can listen to live calls and join the conversation when assistance is needed. They can also speak to the agent to provide instructions or advice without the caller hearing them. Using a survey and scoring tool can help improve agent performance.

Engage and Retain Employees

Make your team a priority by scheduling regular meetings and follow-ups. Use this time to receive feedback on what is and isn’t working, re-train, and teach new skills to employees. Offer incentives and awards to challenge and engage employees. Helping your employees grow and learn new skills also helps retain them.

A Better Experience

Hiring, training, and retaining new employees is a time-consuming process. Having procedures in place with technology to streamline the process creates a better experience for both the employer and employee. You’ll not only save time and money, but you’ll have more success in finding employees that meet and exceed your requirements.

April Forer is the marketing specialist for Amtelco. Amtelco is a leading provider of innovative software solutions designed for call centers, contact centers, and enterprise businesses of all sizes. 

The Agent Attrition Problem Can be Fixed


By Donna Fluss

Most of us are tired of hearing companies complain about agent attrition. While it’s a serious issue that has been exacerbated by the Great Resignation, attrition can be corrected if a company wants to fix it. I can say this definitively because I have worked in hundreds of contact centers over my many years as a consultant and have seen “the good, the bad and the ugly” (to borrow the title of a Clint Eastwood film). When a contact center has a high agent attrition rate, the reasons are obvious.

During the last few years, contact center leaders changed the narrative by talking about agent engagement instead of agent attrition. It’s true that engaged employees are more likely to stay, but it did little to improve the agent experience and to fix the underlying issues that drive high rates of attrition.

Saying you care about employees and their future is very different from demonstrating your concern with appropriate actions. In the past, contact centers were able to replace agents when needed, but with the change in employee expectations, this is no longer the case.

Companies must migrate low-value work to artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled conversational self-service solutions, as this will be better for employees, the brand, the bottom line, and customers. However, this will not resolve the primary agent complaints, which are:

  • Insufficient opportunity for promotion in the department or company.
  • Minimal schedule flexibility, penalties for small infractions (such as immaterial tardiness), and lack of accommodation for unexpected life events.
  • Inadequate compensation.
  • Reduced company engagement, such as being excluded from company events due to the call center needing constant attention.

As the issues are clear, so is the path to address them. For this to happen, enterprises must change their approach to contact centers and their employees. The fundamental change that will incite a chain reaction of positive developments is to upgrade the agent role from one of the lowest in the company to a mid-level customer experience (CX) function. This will influence agents’ salaries and demonstrate the relative importance of this customer-facing role.

The reason why this has not happened is because companies have wanted to keep expenses as low as possible for a function with a large number of employees.. Agent salaries are benchmarked against other companies with a desire to keep their agent salaries low for comparable functions. However, most companies realize this approach encourages agents to seek alternative employment with higher salaries and more flexibility.

The cost of continually hiring and onboarding new agents has reached such a critical level that it’s finally worth fixing the problem. Further, if the agent role is upgraded to customer brand advocate (or something similar), it will position them to be better prepared for new opportunities.

This is another area where change must be enacted if companies want their agents to stay. Many contact centers require agents to stay in their jobs for 1 to 2 years before transferring to other positions. This policy tells agents that their only way of moving up is to leave the company, which is a waste, as these front-line workers have broad knowledge of the company and its policies from helping customers.

In short, it’s time for real change and recognition for agents.

Final Thoughts

Executives should be realistic about their contact centers. Being an agent is a challenging job. These employees should be recognized and rewarded, not knocked down and held back. Agents are much more likely to stay on a job, even one as challenging as helping consumers, if they see it as a steppingstone toward their future rather than an impediment to their ultimate success.

Reversing agent attrition won’t happen by talking about agent engagement, but it can be solved by altering the policies that created the problem.

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary, author, and speaker, Donna drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the services industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.

Increase Personalization in Call Centers by Accessing Relevant Data

By Daniel Fallmann

Today, many call centers have their general scripts and rules they follow when a customer calls. However, consumers have increased their expectations regarding their personal customer experience. With increased competition in every industry, organizations cannot afford to lose valuable business because of poor customer experience efforts.

With the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, companies can begin to access relevant data to personalize a customer’s call center experience and make the journey more relevant. Personalization to scripts and approaches from call centers allow customers to feel understood by the brand, building a solid level of trust and loyalty.

To offer unique and personalized experiences, support teams will primarily need access to relevant data surrounding their customer and their journey with the brand. Without doing so, you’ll just be another call center not optimizing the power of connected data.

Gain Entryway into Relevant Customer Data

Access to relevant and personalized data requires the connection of structured and unstructured data sources. Before calling, a customer may have interacted with your product or company hundreds of times. Artificial intelligence allows companies to connect data from all these interactions in a 360-degree holistic view.

From activity on your website (form downloads, support requests) to emails, call transcripts, and purchase information, data can be captured, analyzed, and utilized in the form of customer journey maps. Seeing the full story of a customer gives workers in the call center all the information they need to help a customer quickly and in a personalized manner.

In a recent Gartner survey, 83 percent of respondents reported that their organization struggles to use customer journey maps to identify and prioritize CX (customer experience) efforts. Being in the other 17 percent can play a pivotal role in transforming how people view and talk about your brand—ultimately, coming back to purchase more and increase business.

The connection of scattered data also allows customer support teams within call centers to access information about related problems and other customers with similar buying habits. Doing so helps call centers see what has worked well in the past and can assist them in shaping their approach for future like-minded consumers.

However, not all data is for everybody’s eyes and data privacy needs to be enforced by giving the proper access rights to each department. AI-solutions, like such, give management the ability to restrict sensitive data to support teams, ensuring compliance and privacy standards are always upheld.

How Does This Look in Real Life and Real-Time?

If a customer calls with a problem, innovative AI-based solutions can first identify who the number belongs from, using data that the company has previously collected. Prior to picking up the phone, the support agents’ screen will show them all the relevant information regarding the customer in an easily digestible format. Therefore, they can already begin personalizing their introduction to the call.

When a customer starts explaining why they’re calling in, the agent will already have a full view of different touchpoints that have occurred. Examples of different touchpoints include web activity, form downloads, conversations with chatbots, previous calls, email communications, and purchase orders.

In addition, the call agent will also be able to search for any piece of intelligence they may need to help the customer in the quickest, most efficient, and personalized manner. If this specific customer calls about a broken appliance, searching for that appliance will extract all the relevant data to steer the representative in the right direction.

Call centers can even take it a step further and search for a particular issue with that appliance and then be fed with information from corporate documents or similar customer interactions in a matter of seconds, eliminating long wait times or needing to put customers on hold.

Conclusion

In the digital times we are living in, innovative companies are well underway transforming their approaches to customer service and customer experience. As an example, chatbots are constantly learning from corporate data to better understand and assist with customer needs directly on the homepage of consumer-facing websites. In addition, management teams are using data in real-time to enhance their current CX strategies and business roadmaps.

There is no reason why people tasked with handling customers on the frontlines in call center roles shouldn’t be equipped with this type of technology. After all, the capacity to personalize and organize data makes life easier for your workforce and gives your customers a unique experience to highlight their individual importance.

Daniel Fallmann founded Mindbreeze in 2005 at the age of 23, after he finished his studies in computer science. He has many years of experience in the computer and information technology sector. As Mindbreeze’s CEO he is an example of high quality and innovation standards. From the company’s very beginning, Fallmann, together with his team, laid the foundation for the highly scalable and intelligent Mindbreeze InSpire appliance.

It’s Time for a More Agile Contact Center


By Einat Weiss

Contact centers have traditionally been known for their rigid schedules, with agents often assigned nine-hour shifts that specify, down to the minute, when they can take a break or clock out for lunch. Planned by workforce managers trying to get staffing levels exactly right, these schedules don’t leave much room for the surprises or scheduling conflicts that inevitably pop up.

This is all beginning to change. In an increasingly competitive employment market amid the great resignation, employees are demanding more of their employers, including a voice in the hours they’re scheduled to work. With employee engagement and retention, a high priority for contact centers, flexible scheduling has become more important than ever.

Why Flexible Scheduling Matters

High turnover is a constant challenge for contact centers. While other industries have recently seen skyrocketing attrition rates, turnover in the contact center has remained steady at 42 percent annually, but that means that in a 1,000-seat contact center, 420 agents quit every year. It takes an average of 13 weeks to onboard a new hire, with $12,500 spent on each new employee. A contact center will spend a half million dollars to replace 400 employees.

In this environment, schedule flexibility becomes an important differentiator. In fact, across industries, employees who are given sufficient flexibility are four times less likely to become a retention risk, according to a report by Quantum Workplace. And retention, of course, is linked to higher-performing agents and higher customer satisfaction rates. But while most contact center workforce managers are aware of the need to enable scheduling flexibility when employee schedules are created, today’s employee expects more.

The Three Times You Need Scheduling Flexibility

Workforce managers often think about scheduling flexibility when schedules are created, but there are three times when flexibility should be considered to keep employees happy and in control of their work-life balance: before, during, and after the schedule is created.

  • Before: Look for workforce management tools that let you enable flexibility before the schedule is created by offering agents the ability to set their availability and specify preferences, based on company needs. Modern workforce management solutions on the market today allow you to set schedule constraints to balance agents’ desire for flexibility with the demands of the business.
  • During: Consider a workforce management (WFM) solution that offers intelligent automation. These solutions provide agents a variety of personalized self-scheduling capabilities that fit this requirement with opportunities to trade and swap shifts with other agents, track schedules, and request extra hours or time off, as well as establish how and when they would like to be contacted regarding their schedule. This approach to self-scheduling gives the agent more control over their time, resulting in happier employees, increased staffing agility, and better customer experiences.
  • After: Modern WFM solutions can also match interested agents who are qualified to schedule change opportunities (extra shifts, for example) that match their specific skill set. This targeted, automated process continues until shifts are properly filled and staffing levels are at the appropriate level for the contact center. When an overworked agent becomes stressed, there’s a higher chance that they’ll leave the contact center. When customer service demands begin to surge, intelligent automation starts monitoring staffing levels and takes action to adjust agent schedules. This resolves the staffing issue and helps reduce the agents’ stress levels.

    You can also consider a workforce solution that allows contact center agents to view their schedules anywhere and alter them instantly 24/7. Features such as schedule trades, time off requests, pre-approved extra hours, and adaptive breaks and lunches put agents in control of their work-life balance.

Extend the Benefits of Scheduling Flexibility Across the Business

The benefits of flexible scheduling go beyond retention to also include operational and financial improvements as well as right-size staffing. Flexible scheduling helps create engaged agents who stay with the contact center longer, control their work schedules, and provide positive customer experiences in an agile contact center.

When paired with intelligent automation, flexible scheduling practices also enable the contact center to predict business demand and staff appropriately—down to the 15-minute interval—to ensure the customers’ needs are met, and salary budgets are not miscalculated.

Agents aren’t forced to rely on their manager to maintain schedules, performance expectations can be met within set costs, and forecasting is more balanced. The contact center avoids understaffing, leaving customers with longer hold times, as well as overstaffing, leading to spending more than needed on salaries.

Managing the contact center workers who are vital to delivering great customer service hinges on getting schedules exactly right: you need the right number of people in the right places at the right time, even as conditions change. But if your contact center is like most, your schedules simply aren’t flexible enough for today’s contact center agents.

By offering flexibility at the three stages of the scheduling process—before, during, and after schedules are created—and leveraging intelligent automation to ensure that your business needs are met, you can keep agents happy and engaged amid evolving customer expectations for speed and service.

Einat Weiss is the CMO of Nice.

Talent, Tech, and TAS

How Telephone Answering Services Use Automation to Thrive

SingleComm: cloud-native omnichannel TAS solutions


By SingleComm

In today’s workplace, hiring exceptional talent has become an impossible task for telephone answering service (TAS) companies. With the great resignation showing no signshttps://singlecomm.com/ of easing, companies realize the challenge of building an exceptional team.

Even after hiring, companies can lose agents to burnout caused by high call volume, not to mention high stress. So how do you build an efficient, reliable TAS business without onboarding additional, difficult-to-find talent? By turning your attention to automation tools that empower your team to deliver results.

The Costly Conundrum That Challenges TAS Companies

With unprecedented labor shortages, TAS companies realize hiring is taking longer than expected. This shortfall in human resources leads to:

  • Slower growth
  • Overworked agents
  • Unsatisfied customers

Of course, hiring talent is just the beginning. Companies are also tasked with retaining top employees. According to a study by Microsoft, more than 40 percent of the global workforce is considering leaving their jobs. Employees want to feel valued without feeling overworked.

This presents a challenge when call agents feel worn down with reduced staffing, high call volumes, multiple handoffs, confusing scripts, and time-consuming tasks. It’s a costly conundrum.

But the solution doesn’t have to be hiring and the months-long wait to bring on team members, which may eventually lead to more turnover, more risk of burnout, and more lost revenue. The modern, recession-proof solution is in empowering talent through tech.

The Focus on Automation

As stated in the Harvard Business Review, better retention comes from improving employee satisfaction and reducing environmental pressures. Advanced automation accomplishes this by elevating your team’s performance, making them feel valuable and confident while also relieving environmental pressures.

Instead of looking for outside help, agents will feel they have the technology to exceed customer expectations. Your team will be able to do more for less without the need to invest in IT resources, licenses, and other technology.

With cloud-based automation tools, agents no longer have a need for softphones, VPNs, and remote desktop servers. Some of this cloud architecture also includes built-in resilience and PCI, SOC2, and HIPAA compliance.

Improved retention comes from finding ways to support and empower your agents with seamless tools. It’s an opportunity to do more with optimized efficiency.

Start Doing More with Less

Implementing advanced cloud-based tools for your business elevates your team’s performance and efficiency while other companies wait to hire. There are several key time-saving automation tools that reinvigorate call agents and improve workplace efficiency. These include:

  • Personalized Scripts:Empower agents with customized messages that help them easily and confidently navigate scripts while decreasing agent training and ramp-up time
  • Automatic Dispatching: Eliminate agent error with automatic dispatching that frees them up to do more of what they do best: support and represent your clients
  • Omnichannel Strategy:Use a TAS solution that offers a fully integrated suite of digital channels, including web chat, two-way SMS, two-way email, social, and messaging channels
  • Business Intelligence: Employ a business intelligence tool that offers custom reporting without the need for programmers

Leveraging these cloud-based automation tools is possible, which provides your team with the automation tools and confidence to deliver exceptional results. This offers your organization the opportunity to pursue actionable customer insight that allows your team to work smarter, more coherently, without waiting for another hire to arrive.

SingleComm: TAS Automation

With a combined sixty years of industry experience, SingleComm delivers a TAS platform with fully integrated voice, omnichannel, scripting, and dispatch. Enjoy peace of mind with built-in resilience and redundancy with their cloud-native platform. Access a fully integrated suite of channels, including messaging, web chat, two-way SMS, two-way email, and social.

Get customized messaging, automated tools, and PCI, SOC2, and HIPAA compliance, all without the need for IT resources or licenses. Run your business more efficiently and easily than ever before with this innovative TAS solution from SingleComm.

Embrace SaaS Flexibility

Tap Internet Provided Services to Maximize Outcomes

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

SaaS (Software as a Service) is a subscription service that provides software solutions from a centrally located host. It also goes by other names, with some vendors making distinctions between various offerings. For our purposes, however, we’ll look at the concept generically.

SaaS offers several benefits not found in traditional premise-based call center solutions.

Affordable

SaaS is a subscription service, usually paid monthly, often in proportion to usage or configuration. As a monthly expense it shows up on your operation’s income statement. The SaaS provider handles all support and maintenance.

This contrasts to a premise-based system that’s installed at your call center. This system requires that you purchase it, install it, and maintain it. The purchase price appears on your balance sheet. The distinction between income statement and balance sheet is significant from a financial and tax perspective.

Scalable

When you buy a system, you make a guess at the size of the system you need. This includes the number of stations, ports, and options. The result is that you may pay per capacity you never use or find yourself under resourced and needing to buy more.

With SaaS you can make quick adjustments as needed to scale up to handle additional traffic or cut back to save money.

Portable

Moving an installed system from one location to another is a time-consuming, expensive task. It involves downtime, which inconveniences callers. With SaaS moving is easy. All you need is a quality internet connection and a device (usually a computer) to connect to it. This is ideal if you need to react quickly to changing situations such as a pandemic, manmade catastrophe, or natural disaster.

Current

When you buy and install a premise-based system, you quickly find using a platform that’s not running the latest version of software or you find yourself buying periodic updates. With SaaS this is never an issue. The provider keeps their hosted solution on the latest version, and all you need to do is login to access it.

Summary

Using a SaaS solution for your call center provides many advantages. It is affordable, scalable, and portable. It’s always up to date. Though you may have a business case or strategic purpose for purchasing, installing, and maintaining a premise-based system in your call center, don’t accept this as the default solution.

Give SaaS thoughtful consideration.

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.