Tag Archives: Call Center Management Articles

What Is Proactive Communication for Contact Centers?



By Nogol Tardugno

It’s a crazy world for today’s consumers. Not only are they pulled in different directions by all the responsibilities of their personal and professional lives, but they are also constantly distracted by all the digital alerts that arise from carrying a powerful personal computer in the shape of a phone connected to pretty much everyone and everything they want to know.  

No wonder they find it hard to get to some of the more mundane tasks in life such as paying bills and remembering appointments.

What if your contact center could put the power of that smartphone—or any of their other communication devices—to work for both them and you? Not just in basic ways, but more creatively?

That thought process is how we get to the latest focus on proactive communication for contact centers. Such notifications would benefit your business by maximizing available resources such as income and staff. But your customers also would find value in your business’s efforts to help them meet their own needs—even sending these notifications in the channels they prefer, such as voice, SMS (short message service), and MMS (multimedia messaging service). In fact, Microsoft’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report found that 70 percent of global consumers have a favorable view of brands that contact them with proactive customer service notifications. 

Let’s look at what proactive communication is and how you can customize it to provide the most benefit to everyone involved. 

Use proactive communications to level out call volumes within your center. Click To Tweet

What Does Proactive Communication Do?

It seems fair to assume that people don’t purposely set out to let things slip. Therefore, your business can only benefit by helping your customers remember, prioritize, and even complete common but important functions such as:

  • Paying bills before they become delinquent (increased revenue for less effort)
  • Setting and confirming appointments for their medical and financial needs
  • Renewing services and contracts
  • Receiving notifications of product upgrades and even deliveries

Providing this sort of communication gives your customers more control over the details of their own lives, establishes greater levels of transparency between them and your business, and helps eliminate bottlenecks and dead ends that can discourage customers from continuing their relationship with your brand.

However, proactive communication also helps meet your organizational goals by performing these functions:

  • Surveying customers immediately after their interactions with your agents as part of your voice of the customer (VoC) initiatives
  • Gathering similar information from agents as part of your contact center’s staff retention efforts
  • Increasing engagement (and revenue) by providing customers with personalized offers, scannable coupons, loyalty programs, or cross-selling and up-selling opportunities
  • Sending fraud or emergency alerts
  • Providing service outage information in affected areas

Any process that a large percentage of your customers benefit from is a candidate for proactive notification. Even better, if it’s a simple process you could automate through a phone IVR, your business benefits even further by:

  • Not having to use agents’ time and effort to handle repetitive processes; self-service IVR often costs only pennies compared to agent-assisted costs
  • Making operational options available to your customers any time they want to do business, not just when your contact center is open
  • Limiting repeat calls to your center while increasing the value of inbound calls and raising first-contact resolution rates
  • Offering efficient self-service that increases customer satisfaction rates by anticipating needs 

Customizable Solutions

These are the basics, but we’ve barely addressed what customizing your proactive communication can do. For example, once you’ve determined the message, you can set automated rules that control all aspects of the transaction, including:

  • Which customers receive which messages: from single recipients to thousands
  • Through what channel they will receive the message 
  • Any restrictions such as the times to deliver the message 
  • Any additions such as how to handle obstructions like busy signals

You can, for instance, use proactive communications to level out call volumes within your center. Sending notifications during times of low activity can include the option for recipients to speak with an agent immediately. This means that these customers will not be calling later during peak traffic times, and you will not have to adjust your staffing accordingly. 

How Does It Work? 

If you have any involvement with contact center scripts, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of all the programmable options you would have to account for to make proactive notifications work. But here’s what makes the whole idea operationally reasonable: you don’t have to do all that programming yourself, and neither does your IT support team.

The same processes that makes cloud computing work also builds the suites of applications that make proactive communication work. Web-delivered APIs ride on the top of your legacy systems, integrating with your CRM and telephony. These APIs come in packages that automate reminders, collect survey information, take payments, and more. 

You just decide which applications your contact center needs. Most apps come with pre-built templates that will get you up and running within days, but when it’s time to customize, you can program your own options using drag-and-drop functions.

The best practice is to start with the easy applications in your contact center. Do you most need actionable VoC feedback? More timely payments? A boost for your sales and marketing efforts? 

Select an application or suite of applications that will address that specific need. Then run trials around your proactive efforts, analyzing your key metrics at each step, including customer satisfaction. Apply what you’ve learned to the next need on the list and expand your automated processes. 

Even after the initial build and testing phase is over, analysis and refinement should never stop as you pursue the goals of high customer satisfaction, highly involved and motivated employees, and an expanded bottom line for your business. 

Nogol Tardugno is the director of customer success at Plum Voice. With eighteen years of experience, she is passionate about delivering the best customer journey through technology. She has a background in computer information systems and has worked in financial, digital marketing, and CPaaS industries.

Unlocking the Value of Voice Data



By Alex Fleming

Over the past few years, the contact center market has created more processes that have moved away from voice. The omnichannel direction has put a significant focus on using elements that are primarily text-based. This reflects the way end users, and we as individuals, now communicate. Instant messaging, email, and social media have grown in popularity, and contact centers have been quick to adopt these channels to engage with customers. They are perfect for engaging in a relevant way, while keeping the highest level of quality text, where the data is easy to search, index, and store. This means that contact centers have a wealth of data to use to gain valuable insights into their business and develop more tools to further address end-user requests or requirements.

Data gained through transcripts can be searched and used to generate trends of frequent issues. Click To Tweet

While omnichannel has enabled contact centers to remain relevant, the focus is shifting, with speech and voice calls providing the richest density of data. A recent report from Red Box highlighted that artificial intelligence and machine learning suddenly make voice data available in volume, when previously it would only have been accessible by listening to individual recordings. This presents organizations with an opportunity to tap a rich data set that can help drive true and measurable business outcomes.

Data gained through transcripts can be searched and used to generate trends of frequent issues. Click To Tweet

How Do You Unlock Value? 

Due to the increased interaction of end users—disclosing personal information and even payment details—the contact center market is highly regulated. The regulation is in part why contact centers record calls to ensure that they remain on the right side of compliance. This means that contact centers are sitting on a pot of gold that has built up over the years regarding customer insight and engagement, as well as training information. They also have the constant influx of additional calls every minute, hour, week, and month, so the stockpile of data keeps growing. 

Automatic speech recognition (ASR) services enable this backlog of data to be transformed, and the processing of prerecorded calls means that historical data can be transformed into a text-based format. In addition, the ability to transcribe in real time means that agents are empowered with tools that can adapt and change depending on the conversation. This solution has the added benefit of elements such as sentiment, meaning, context, and nuances within the language that add a greater value to the text output.

The Right Data at the Right Time 

Contact centers are always looking to provide the highest levels of customer service to minimize customer churn and accelerate the resolution of issues. Speech-to-text technology allows them to conform to compliance and regulation easily, while also supporting their agents by increasing their knowledge and eliminating frustration.

The value and benefit of transcription is that the information can be available right away. Even when transcribing the call content after completion, the information is accessible soon after the conversation has ended. This enables situations such as issue resolution to be accelerated for quality assurance managers to use directly. This eliminates the time and effort required to review the call’s audio. Using text also means that the content of the call history can be searched more easily, with the added value of enhancing the customer experience even in a dispute situation. 

Cases Requiring Understanding and Resolution

When discussing customers and their issues, sometimes a simple tool can be the most powerful. Data gained through transcripts can be searched and used to generate trends of frequent issues. It might be that these issues can be solved through the addition of a new section to an FAQ page, a new response in a text bot, or even the creation of a self-service portal. 

The ability to empower customers in this way not only means that their issues can be solved, but it can be done with minimum impact on contact center staff. This frees them up to handle customer issues that need human interaction. However, this solution is only possible through the ability to make the content of calls available and make intelligent decisions from that.

At a deeper level, sentiment analysis can help at a one-to-one level for the agent to better understand the caller. If agents have methods on hand to gauge a customer’s mood, it can make the difference between a successful call outcome or losing that customer. 

Say the Right Things

The ability to transcribe the content of a call enables the identification and use of keywords to autonomously trigger actions within the agent’s dashboard in real time. Using ASR services in real time can significantly impact the service that new agents, even without experience, can offer to customers. 

Know If a Customer Had a Good Experience

Core elements for agents can be enhanced by what ASR can offer. These include the ability to capture conversations in a text-based format for faster review, triggering information to be at an agent’s fingertips and extracting insight for integration into analysis products so the agent can dedicate more time to issues that require human attention. Agents are then better equipped to provide higher quality service to customers and feel that they are doing their best job. With these tools, the agent feels that they have had a positive impact on customer interactions.

Alex Fleming is products marketing manager at speech-to-text technology specialist Speechmatics.

How Call Centers Impact the Bottom Line for Local Service Businesses



By Matt Buchanan

Answering phone calls from new potential customers and effectively selling their services is the lifeblood of any growing small- to medium-sized business (SMB). To gain better insight into a call center’s role in this, we recently published our 2019 Home Service Call Performance Report to better understand how call performance impacts the bottom line. What we discovered has major implications for call centers and call answering service providers.

Call Answer Rate: The Performance Perception Gap

There is a huge perception gap between how well local service SMBs think they answer their phones versus how well they actually answer them. We polled local service SMBs on how well they think they answer the phone, and they estimated they answered 97 percent of their calls on average. Based on our call analysis findings, we learned that these businesses in reality only answer 66 percent of their calls on average.

Professionally trained call centers are consistently much better at converting phone calls into captured leads. Click To Tweet

The impact of this misperception has massive implications for these businesses. For starters, they are missing out on meaningful revenue by not answering their phones. Even worse, they don’t even realize it.

Call Centers versus In-House Staff: Call Centers Capture 70 Percent More Leads 

Many businesses assume call centers are less effective at representing their business in a positive light than they can do themselves. The reality is that when it comes to phone interactions, call centers are far superior at consistently capturing potential customer information for further sales engagement.

We found that call centers answer the phone 99 percent of the time (which makes sense), but they were also able to capture customer information 75 percent of the time. Compare with in-house staff who answered the phone 65 percent of the time and were able to capture customer information only 66 percent of the time, this works out to about a 70 percent increase in leads captured when using a call center.

The reality is that when it comes to engaging potential customers over the phone, professionally representing a local service business, and building trust, professionally trained call centers are consistently much better at converting phone calls into captured leads.

Cost Center versus Profit Center: Show Value by Delivering Revenue-Driving Insights

By utilizing a call center, local service businesses can increase their booked appointments by 80 percent without spending a single additional dollar on new marketing initiatives.

There is a really great opportunity to shift the mentality from call centers as cost centers to profit centers. Most buying decisions are made through a process of discovering pain points and then providing a solution that can solve those pain points at a price that makes sense for the buyer. But if these local service SMBs aren’t aware of the problem, then hiring a call center means buying a solution to a problem they don’t think they have.

So, how can you, as a call center marketer or leader, help these businesses discover a huge problem they don’t know they have? And then once they are aware, how can you continue to uncover revenue-generating trends to keep adding value? The answer is by making a case with data.

Invest in call analytics to understand and identify the pain points and trends of a business’s call performance, as well as the customers they are trying to service.

Some critical capabilities will be:

  • Offering call attribution reports to help clients spend their marketing budget more wisely
  • Offering time and location optimization reports to identify targeted ad strategies
  • Offering reports on trends of revenue-generating conversations with call transcription and text mining
  • Offering lead quality reports to help call center marketers better understand the audience they should be targeting

 Call centers have the unique opportunity to change this mentality, and those who take the leap in investing, building a strategy, and building products or services around customer call analytics will be the leaders in this change.

Matt Buchanan is the co-founder and VP of sales at Service Direct, a pay-per-call marketing service provider. Access their 2019 Home Service Call Performance Report.

Five Tips for Hospitals When Purchasing a Secure Messaging App



By Tom Curtin

Hospital communication systems are complex. Yet many hospitals select one communications method—secure messaging—in the hope that a texting solution or an app is going to be their panacea.

When hospital staff research communications companies in the healthcare space, they may not realize that while these businesses offer texting products, that is all they offer. Having just that one part of a communication solution, which involves systems and software from other departments, will not support what hospital care teams need to deliver a great patient experience.

The goal of every hospital is to provide the best care in the most efficient way possible to their patients. Having a secure messaging app is important, but it is only part of an effective communication protocol. It is paramount for hospitals to have a holistic communication platform so that a secure messaging app can access EHR, integrate with other communication systems, and take advantage of known data to provide reports.

Hospital medical and IT staff should consider the following five key questions before selecting a secure messaging app.

1. Deliverability

Will the app deliver messages to the right people, at the right time? Be certain the app can integrate with your hospital’s on-call schedules. Everyone needs to be able to find the staff or care team they need in an instant and contact each person how they prefer.

2. Integration

Is it easy to integrate the app with multiple systems? Do your patient room systems, as well as your EHR, communicate with your care teams? Then your app should too. Does the app support API integration to your nurse call and alarm systems so it can send critical messages to the right staff? Maintaining multiple systems takes multiple people, which leads to working in silos. Therefore, the app needs to provide simple architecture so it’s easy to implement and maintain.

3. Ease of Use

Is the app easy to use? The app should have features that are easy to use so training is fast and simple. Losing time spent on training takes away from patient care.

4. Manageability

Can staff easily manage the app? What happens when hospital staff must add or remove users? How are app updates and new releases handled? Does the company offer reliable customer support and troubleshooting help? Providing care for patients happens twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Hospital staff should be able to rely on customer support for the app 24/7 as well.

5. Workflow Impact

Does the app improve workflows? Hospital staff use multiple communication tools, and they don’t need another tool that provides the same functions as other devices already in use. The app should integrate seamlessly with existing hospital systems, save staff time, enhance the patient experience, improve clinical communications, and support reporting functions.

Conclusion

A stand-alone secure messaging app, or messaging app company, will not be able to address all the communication pain points within a hospital. However, when used in combination with communications solutions that offer scripting, directories, on-call scheduling, emergency notifications, and other web-based applications, a secure mobile messaging app used by medical staff will help patients in the most timely way. This gives the patient the best service possible.

Amtelco

Tom Curtin is the president of Amtelco and their 1Call Healthcare Division. Amtelco is a leading provider of innovative communication applications. They develop software solutions and applications designed for the specific needs of healthcare organizations.[This article first appeared in AnswerStat]

Call Center Transformation Best Practices: Key Lessons from Community Banking



By Josh Botnen

Historically, the success of the community banking industry has been in providing personalized service and a deep understanding of local markets to its customers. This is still true today. However, relying on the same legacy call center systems to manage customer inquiries and expecting the same customer satisfaction no longer works. Banks are no longer compared to their direct competitors. Instead, customers increasingly expect the same kind of immediacy, personalization, and convenience they receive from Google, Zappos, Starbucks, and Amazon.

According to the Cornerstone Performance Report for Banks issued in 2018, from 2007 to 2017 banks experienced an 11 percent decline in daily inbound calls per agent. Since more services were available at ATMs and online, such a drop was expected.
Call center personnel, however, clearly weren’t underemployed: talk time increased 46 percent, wait times rose a whopping 81 percent, and abandonment rates went up 36 percent. The Gonzo Banker website surmised that the shift to digital means that with simple tasks handled elsewhere, contact centers field calls focused on more complex issues.

In community banking, where service is paramount, such an increase in talk time has a ripple effect throughout customer contact centers, impacting a host of customer service metrics: efficiency, satisfaction, wait times, and abandonment. The issues that apply to community banking—the increased complexity of issues that users can’t handle online—resonate in various industries. Transforming a contact center to reverse trends takes a concerted, multitiered effort.
Changing an institution’s established customer service practices is never easy. But prioritizing the following areas can help any company, community bank, or other organization to transform their call center systems.

Positive customer interactions are only possible with engaged employees who understand how to resolve issues. Click To Tweet

Know Your Customer Journey

Successful contact centers go beyond reactively resolving customer issues. They understand the comprehensive customer journey. By breaking down the complete, end-to-end experience that clients have when they call, they can capture each progressive touch point. Armed with this information, organizations can begin to isolate the pain points that hurt customer satisfaction on each call. Once there is an understanding of the specific wait time, lack of personalization, or gap in expectations that hurts customer satisfaction, call centers can introduce solutions to resolve these issues.

Empower Your Frontline

Customers typically call instead of going to a physical location when they want a quick resolution to a problem. If a client contact center professional can’t promptly meet those needs, dissatisfaction is immediate, and an organization will have to work hard to win back that lost trust.

Too frequently, many customer service representatives aren’t empowered to quickly solve client issues. Often the primary call center serves as a switchboard. Staff often lack the clearance, tools, and resources to help a customer further along in solving their issue. It is unfair to ask representatives to address customer challenges without properly equipping them to do so.

Competent and confident frontline staff is any organization’s best asset in resolving customer issues. Organizations need to trust their agents to harness all the positives that come from personalized service.

The first step is to give them authority and clarity on the issues they can help clients resolve. One potential solution is to implement a simplified contact center support platform with skills-based call routing and then combine this with an effort to triage support. Next, give clear guidance on what issues contact centers or specialized support teams should handle.

Give Your Team the Skills to Succeed

Entrusting your frontline staff to handle more customer challenges requires giving them the skills to be successful. Positive customer interactions are only possible with engaged employees who understand how to resolve issues. This is especially true with call center improvements.

Successful call center transformations implement training plans well in advance of launch, giving employees time to be comfortable. Don’t develop a great new system only for it to fail because there wasn’t enough time and resources to make call center teams effective. The key is to get human resources involved early. Updating job descriptions can establish baseline expectations about new processes. This is especially critical for improving agents’ skills to handle growing digital service inquiries.

Deliver Your Customer Support Digitally

As organizations continue to grow their digital offerings, contact center teams are now tasked with resolving new customer challenges. Virtual services and online platforms are powerful tools, but they also have the potential to overwhelm unprepared contact center teams. It’s critical to leverage these same digital platforms to educate and guide customers to solutions.

Consider services such as intelligent FAQs, live chat service, and co-browsing with an agent. These tools not only quickly resolve customer issues, but they also reduce operation costs while driving increased customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Mature organizations are moving toward an integrated model where contact center professionals are responsible for both voice and digital inquiries. While this is ideal, the training and personnel demands on support teams often can’t keep up with the launch of new digital offerings. Recognizing the additional customer support these new systems need, consider bringing on a third-party provider to deliver digital expertise and efficiency in the interim.

Personalize Your Service

There will always be customers who value in-person interactions, and even younger, digital natives often want the ability to connect with someone on the phone to ask questions about complex products. This same personal connection is what drives customers to choose a smaller company over its competitors. They want to avoid the rigid processes and impersonal toll-free numbers that come from large organizations.

If customers call a smaller organization and are bureaucratically bounced across different departments, with long wait times and unmet needs, they will inevitably find a new provider. That’s why it is critical to establish clear procedures and alignment between the primary contact center and the specialized support teams that provide enhanced solutions.

Simple practices, such as introducing procedures for warm handoffs, make transitioning from one agent to another a much more positive experience. The disjointed feeling clients get from cold handoffs leads to lower rates of first call resolution. This makes achieving the warm, personalized service that customers expect much more difficult.

Deliver Your Brand Promise

Traditional contact center solutions do not meet the changing needs and demands of today’s customers. Successfully transforming an organization’s contact center takes resources and effort, but it is critical for staying competitive in any customer-oriented industry.
Follow the above best practices to ensure that your company provides customers with the quick, personalized service they expect. This way an organization can provide better quality customer support and deliver on its brand promise.

Josh Botnen is the director of digital strategy and client experience at First Interstate Bank. He has over twenty years of experience in data, analytics, product management, and client experience spanning numerous industries.

A Concise Guide for Outsourcing Success, Part One



By Kathy Sisk

 Outsourcing is a buzzword and business trend in which many companies are making huge investments. While call center outsourcing ventures can provide numerous benefits to your organization under the right conditions, they can fail miserably without proper planning, analysis, and management.

If you are planning to outsource any or all aspects of your call center operation to a third-party call center, or if you have outsourced in the past and were severely dissatisfied with the outcome, read on.

All the hype surrounding call center outsourcing entices too many organizations to leap before they look. For instance, some companies enter an outsourcing venture merely to reduce operational costs, ignoring the true impact on the quality of service its customers receive. Such an approach often leads to lost business that offsets any financial savings the company may gain from contracting with a service bureau in the first place. 

Other companies make the mistake of outsourcing call center operations to improve performance problems without carefully considering the financial costs. These organizations—anxious to offer world-class service advertised by a particular agency—often find themselves paying exorbitant rates in pursuit of their quality service dream.

The decision to outsource must be based on both solid financial and service objectives. Click To Tweet

The decision to outsource must be based on both solid financial and service objectives. But before you can make such decisions, you must determine what level of outsourcing to evaluate: 

  • Are you looking to outsource 100 percent of the call center activity? 
  • Are you seeking a center to handle only a portion of your operation’s call load? 
  • Do you plan to use an agency merely as a backup in case of a crisis at your existing operation? 

Once you know the type of outsourcing venture desired, you can compare the associated costs of keeping things in-house versus outsourcing. 

Should you decide that outsourcing is right for you from a financial and strategic standpoint, conduct a careful analysis to select a specific agency that will meet your budget and service requirements.

In the next issue, we will look at the five steps you’ll want to take to select the right outsource call center partner.

For more information about setting up, reengineering, outsourcing, and project managing your call center operations, visit Kathy Sisk Enterprises. They have over forty years’ experience with satisfied clients and centers across the globe.

The Power of Print



Printed Words Offer Many Benefits over Their Electronic Counterparts

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-call center advertising

In addition to writing a lot, I also read a lot. I read both print and e-book formats. I have a Kindle loaded with content, and I also read on my phone. At one point, I read mostly e-books, but over time I’ve reverted to print. Reading printed books is now my default, and I only read electronically when I have no other option.

Aside from the satisfaction of holding a book in my hand, turning pages, and even enjoying the smell of it, I’ve realized that I better remember what I’ve read in print. This is key.

The same goes for magazines. I prefer print publications and have never read periodicals online. I spend my workday in front of a computer, and when I’m done with work, I want a break from the screen. I want to hold the magazine in my hands. What I read in print, I retain better than what I read on a screen or device.

And I’m not alone in my preferences and practices. Many readers are moving away from electronic and back to the physical. This is especially true for younger generations who want to escape their devices and their constant conductivity when they read. They want to immerse themselves and experience content without distraction.

Credibility is how you close sales, and credibility is how you keep customers. Click To Tweet

The Benefits of Print Ads

Marketers are beginning to see this as well, with many forward-thinking sellers shifting from online promotions to print. Yes, online advertising is easy to track and calculate the return on investment (ROI), whereas print advertising tracking is more art than science. But the bottom line is results.

The reality is that people give much greater credibility to what they read in print than what they read online—especially with the escalation of fake news on social media. In addition to people putting more credence in what they read in print, they cite the benefit of having less distractions when they read a physical product. They’re also more engaged with print publications, reading more content and spending more time doing so.

This reality benefits the advertisers who produce print ads. Readers give these promotions more credibility, spend more time viewing them, and are more likely to act. And, I suspect, their decision to buy through a print ad is stickier than a decision made from an online ad. Also, each issue of a print magazine reinforces the buying decision readers have already made. This doesn’t happen online because marketers don’t target existing customers. A customer obtained through online advertising is at risk for being lost through that online advertising.

Call Center Advertising

How does this apply to call centers? Call centers rely on advertising. 

If you’re a corporate call center, your company advertises to drive sales and produce revenue. If you’re an outsource call center, you need to continually seek new clients to replace those you lose through attrition and to grow your client base.

I’m not advocating that you give up on online advertising, but I am advising you to shift some marketing dollars into print. The challenge is finding a publication that serves your target audience. But when you find the right periodical, create an ad with a strong call to action, and advertise consistently, you will generate more sales and create long-term customers.

Remember when I said that I better remember the things I read in print? The same applies for ads. An online ad is easily forgettable, with it disappearing as quickly as it pops up. A print ad is more tangible, longer-lasting, and carries greater impact. It also possesses the highest credibility. 

Whether people want to buy a product from your corporate call center or hire your outsource call center to handle their calls, credibility is key. Credibility is how you close sales, and credibility is how you keep customers.

Print ads can help make this happen, regardless of what you’re selling or to whom you’re selling.

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.

Six Key Steps to Successfully Outsource Your In-House Customer Care



By Kelli Barabasz

Are you considering outsourcing your in-house customer care? There are many factors that come into play when considering outsourcing. How do you pick the right outsource partner? What should you look for? How long will this take? There are so many questions that it’s hard to know where to begin. 

So how do you successfully outsource your in-house customer care? First you must have a clear outline and clear expectations. Here are the six key steps you must look at when preparing to outsource.

1. Define the Call Center Outsourcing Project Scope

There are many crucial factors to consider in your project. First you must create a project description so that all your partners clearly understand the full extent of the project. Next you need to identify the needs, goals, expectations, and known roadblocks. Finally, you need to get acceptance from all involved partners. This will determine the extent of your project and the factors it comprises.

2. Find Your Outsource Partner

When looking for the right outsource partner, you must consider these essential components of the outsourcer:

  • What is the outsource partner’s culture and values, including their vision and scope?
  • How is the company’s financial stability?
  • What are the company’s capabilities: technology, people, process, and size?
  • Is the company credible? Ask for client reviews.
  • Most importantly, how are communication and client management practices handled?

3. Define Your Call Center Outsourcing Deliverables

What outcomes are you looking for? First identify your stakeholders so together as a team you can identify the requirements and set reasonable due dates for the main components of your project. Document every requirement and due date along with the owner of each. Be sure to include a sign-off piece to this process where at least two stakeholders approve the completion of the deliverables.

Having a great plan in place is essential to success. Click To Tweet

4. Create a Call Center Outsourcing Implementation Plan

Include your stakeholders in all meetings to ensure everyone is involved in creating the proper implementation and execution plan. These comprise milestones, tasks, budget expectations, and timelines. You should include an evaluation process at the beginning of each meeting to gauge the progress of each of the above criteria. Keep these meetings at a high level, and schedule subset meetings to ensure the plan remains on target.

5. Identify Your Roadblocks with Call Center Outsourcing

Problems can derail your project, so identifying potential obstacles up front is critical. Even after listing the possible issues, you will have other glitches that come up throughout your entire implementation. Don’t let the roadblocks stop your progress. Include all stakeholders and come up with alternatives or workarounds.

6. Implement End-to-End Testing 

Once you are ready for your implementation and execution, it is time to start your comprehensive testing. In the end-to-end testing, the entire application is verified in a real-world scenario—such as communicating with the database, network, hardware, and other applications. Having a great plan in place is essential to success. Be sure to include back-end reporting in your testing to ensure that the data transmitted is coming across appropriately in the outsourcer’s reporting.

The Final Consideration

Once you have followed the six key steps to successfully outsource your in-house customer care, it is your outsourcer’s responsibility to manage your account. You will want to establish the right person as the outsourcer’s main contact. In this model, the manager’s role changes. They now manage a service provider, not service deliverables.

Kelli Barabasz is a call center industry leader with over twenty-five years of experience and success with call center startups, client management, and implementations. Currently serving as a senior operations manager for QCS, Kelli’s detail-oriented approach is used to analyze existing operations and to implement best practices, new strategies, processes, and efficiencies, enabling her clients to achieve better outcomes.

Using Speech Analytics to Improve Customer Relationships in the Call Center



By Jeff Gallino

Here are answers to some questions I often hear about call center speech analytics.

Question: What’s the biggest trend you’ve seen when it comes to managing customer relationships, and how has that evolved over the past five to ten years? 

Answer: With the rise of digital transformation, we’ve seen a major shift in consumer preferences, and customer experience (CX) has arguably replaced traditional marketing in terms of becoming the number-one brand differentiator. More companies are realigning their business strategy to focus on delivering exceptional CX. This is because customer demands for personalization, innovation, and consistency are on the rise. 

As a result, it’s never been more critical for companies to understand the voice of their customer—not only within the C-suite but across all levels of their organization. Sure, companies have more opportunities to connect using email, live chat, social media, and other channels. But we’re seeing many organizations spread themselves too thin, thereby actually doing more harm than good. While it’s critical in today’s digital and omnichannel world to stay agile, companies must remain focused on what is truly important: building and nurturing customer relationships. 

Q: What are the main factors that lead to customer churn? 

A: Resulting in an estimated deficit of 136 billion dollars per year, customer churn is a sore spot for most US businesses. The good news is that it’s entirely avoidable. 

Speech analytics technology provides a holistic view into 100 percent of customer interactions. Click To Tweet

From an agent standpoint, the answer is much more fundamental than one may think—40 percent of consumers just want someone to listen to them. However, many agents fail to deliver on that simple request, as only 23 percent of callers feel listened to. Another major factor when it comes to delivering an unsatisfactory experience is the agent’s inability to show empathy. 

The emotional state of the caller at the beginning of the call is a tough situation for agents—regardless of their level of emotional intelligence—as 42 percent of callers arrive annoyed, 28 percent arrive upset, 22 percent arrived confused, and 17 percent arrive angry. Yet despite these strong emotional tendencies, 43 percent still express the need for a more polite and caring representative.

As for as the role played by the call center itself, sticking to the status quo just isn’t working anymore. Whether outdated scripts, ill-advised metrics, or a lack of knowledge in general, legacy call center management methods aren’t up to speed with the demands of today’s consumer base. 

Customers not only expect solutions to their problems, they want solutions in a timely manner with minimal disruption. When management fails to arm agents with the tools, training, and resources necessary to do their job, they’re only contributing to the problem. 

Q: What kind of insights does speech analytics offer? 

A: There’s no one-size-fits all definition for speech or engagement analytics, but at its core, speech analytics is a way to generate insights from conversations. But it’s much more than a transcription tool. It automates the process of listening to customer interactions, regardless of the communication channel used. This allows agents to make accurate and informed decisions based on customers’ needs. 

Speech analytics takes the unstructured data directly from both ends of the conversation and turns it into structured data. Once in this format, sophisticated categorization and tagging methods allow for searching and analyzing of information. These are all built in accordance with an enterprise’s unique business objectives. While this sounds like a lot, it streamlines the process and offers speed to actionable insights, which random call sampling would have missed. 

Take sales effectiveness, for example, and think of the behaviors of your most successful sales agents. This technology can create scores leveraging those behaviors, transfer that into historically proven, interactive suggestions, and automatically provide feedback and guidance to agents, which eventually raises top-line revenue.

Q: How do agents benefit from this technology in real-time versus post-interaction? 

A: Whether it’s on the back end for management purposes and corrective action, or on the front lines of the conversation to improve accuracy and compliance the first time around, agents benefit from speech analytics by receiving timely guidance and accurate feedback to help them improve performance. This results in increased first-call resolution rates, shorter average handle time, and increased customer satisfaction. 

For example, say a customer is becoming increasingly frustrated with the agent’s responses, or lack thereof. Based on preconfigured verbal or acoustic measures, agents can receive alerts to take a suggested action, such as an offer to save a customer from churning, or be immediately redirected to a supervisor to correct the problem. Companies can also track the customer journey across channels, so consumers don’t have to repeat the problem. This allows for a more personalized interaction.

When used for post-interaction analysis, speech analytics technology can track trends and make root cause discoveries to improve contact center performance and business intelligence across the enterprise. This is a direct result of agent’s receiving feedback on 100 percent of their calls. This gives them praise or coaching on performance to make them more equipped to address similar situations in the future.

Q: What is the difference between speech analytics versus traditional customer feedback methods? 

A: Surveys and net promoter scores (NPS) face limits by the number of responses they receive, accumulating a response rate of anywhere between 5 to 15 percent. Therefore, they’re limited regarding the story they tell. This is mostly because they will never be able to show you exactly what’s going wrong and how to fix it. Sure, they offer a glimpse into customer satisfaction, but they only skim the surface. 

Simply put, you can’t improve NPS and overall CX without first understanding the root cause of the problem. In addition, these feedback methods only offer a glimpse of the customer’s perception of your brand. You can’t rely on these methods alone to revamp your CX strategy. However, speech analytics technology provides a holistic view into 100 percent of customer interactions. This allows for a consistent, accurate analysis of a variety of performance indicators such as effort and empathy.

Jeff Gallino is the CTO and founder of CallMiner, a software company that develops speech analytics software. Founded in 2002, it’s headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Unified Communications: How Endpoint Management Delivers the Goods



By Jeff Kalberg 

Enterprises, now working diligently to execute on digital transformation, are adopting unified communications (UC) as a means of enhancing competitiveness and collaboration. Yet it must come with a deployment that brings more productivity, not additional time and headaches for the end-user and for IT. For unified communications to reach its highest potential, enterprises need to address how endpoint management factors into the equation and how it can help support the business objectives of UC.

In today’s culture of a mobile, often remote workforce, endpoints delivering an optimal user experience is the engine behind unified communications, working at a level of effectiveness the enterprise needs to compete digitally. The world has changed from a static desktop environment to one of OS (operating system)-powered endpoints serving a workforce accustomed to using a multitude of devices.

Endpoint management is essential to unified communications succeeding because it:

  • provides easy, secure access to UC devices, virtual apps and desktops, local and mobile apps, and content across devices and networks.
  • delivers a consistent user experience so an employee can access the UC tools and applications they need to do their job well, regardless of device or location.
  • simplifies IT operations with profile management, app layering, and hybrid and multi-cloud management.

As enterprises add more elements to the unified communications mix, such as interactive whiteboards, even chatbots, advanced endpoint management is a critical factor in helping ensure that the breadth of UC technologies can deliver on their promise of collaboration and productivity.

Citrix Call Center Case Study

Enterprises also need to prepare now for technology enhancements in unified communications. Click To Tweet

Citrix itself has made inroads in deploying unified communications for its operations. Its Citrix call center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, had several challenges: aging laptops, the need for a reliable, always-on end-user experience, and improved security. It also needed an intelligent OS that could support Citrix Workspace and integrate with UC elements like Skype for Business, teams, and headset hardware. Not a small task. 

To provide its 120 inside sales representatives with UC and other tools they needed, Citrix found its answer in a Linux-OS-driven endpoint solution. By relying on purpose-built, Linux-based endpoints, Citrix can benefit from improved security, and management simplicity it may not otherwise realize. Now, regardless to what physical workspace an inside sales rep is assigned, in conjunction with Citrix Workspace, the user can access all the applications they need. Additionally, for the road warriors, employees can use a mobile USB drive that provides smart boot technology to ensure validity of the OS to prevent manipulation and malware attacks. 

Unifying all Citrix call center hardware endpoints to a common read-only operating system that is identical across platforms has proven to be of great value. “The reliability of the solution ensures that our inside sales representatives have uncompromised and secure access to mission-critical apps they need to perform at their best,” said Kurt Heusner, vice president, SMB digital transformation sales, Citrix. 

Future Proof 

Three factors in unified communications will continue to advance: 

  1. The desire of enterprises to rely more on the endpoint for UC-related applications 
  2. The increased need for security on all devices 
  3. A plethora of emerging technologies that will find their way into the overall UC category

Citrix noted that as part of its OS-endpoint deployment, they plan to eventually run web conferencing directly on Linux-powered endpoints. “The vision is that any Citrite can walk into any conference room, log into their web conferencing system, and conduct a meeting,” Citrix said.

The lines will continue to blur between peripheral devices and what an advanced, Linux-OS endpoint can do. As legacy hardware is repurposed, software-defined endpoints will be the answer to keeping pace with UC progress.

As devices proliferate, along with applications, preventing malware and other attacks is top of mind for enterprise IT and security teams. It’s crucial that endpoint software and management solutions offer features such as single sign-on, two-factor authentication, and fingerprint readers for effective risk mitigation.

Enterprises also need to prepare now for technology enhancements in unified communications. AI-driven chatbots are already in use at call centers, but internal AI conversations between call center reps will be the future. Imagine conversations run on Linux-OS powered endpoints and integrating AI into communication and collaboration. That is the future.

Jeff Kalberg is the chief technology evangelist at IGEL, which provides endpoint management and smart boot technology solutions.