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CX

GUEST BLOG: IT and marketers working together will improve CX

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

For years, marketers have talked—and written—extensively about the disconnect between marketing and IT. Who should own email lists and sensitive data?

Who should have access to the website CMS? Who should decide which marketing automation platforms to install? These are just a few of the questions that have plagued the marketing/IT debate.

In 2019 however, this debate finally feels like it’s come to a close. According to new research from Episerver, 93 percent of marketers now have the ability to directly edit their company’s website, while 80 percent expect to have complete ownership over their brand’s web presence within the next two years.

Instead of seeing this as a ‘land grab’ from IT, however, 62 percent of marketers say they are simply working collaboratively with their IT departments in order to reduce silos and ensure the best customer experiences. While this is great news for customers, the problem of marketing silos has not gone away for good. Instead, a new debate has started to rage—this time between marketers and the new wave of customer experience (CX) professionals…

This article originally appeared on Digital Marketing Briefing – Click here to continue reading…

GUEST BLOG: Customer Service Management – It’s time to change the metrics

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Customer experience (CX) has become a priority for the vast majority of organisations – or has it?

With the large volumes of contact centre advisors still incentivised based on speed – typically the Average Handle Time (AHT) – CX goals are quite often unachievable.

Companies have two options: speed or quality. Get the customer off the phone or web chat as quickly as possible or deliver a business transformative level of customer service. You can’t have it both ways.

As Dino Forte, CEO, Ventrica, insists, if companies truly want to release the strategic CX objective, it is time to end the outdated focus on AHT and create a new culture that embeds quality, satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy metrics within contact centre performance…

Quality versus Quantity

AHT has dominated contact centre measurement for decades. During the era of low cost, low value service delivery, measuring advisors purely based on the speed with which a customer interaction could be wrapped up, irrespective of the quality of service or value of the experience, was the priority. But that model has little place in the customer centric market of 2019. At a time when the quality of customer experience is often the only opportunity to achieve any level of customer differentiation, the way in which organisations engage with customers – via social media or email, phone or web chat – is now critical.

So why are so many companies – many of which cite a strong commitment to CX – still buying contact centre services on the basis of AHT? How can an advisor deliver the high quality experience required to meet customer expectations, to create a brand advocate or prompt recommendations via social media, when the focus is mostly on speed? The entire concept is counterintuitive and counter-productive – and yet despite top level ‘Customer Experience’ focused strategies, when it comes to assessing contact centre performance and purchasing outsourced contact centre services, too many companies are still firmly entrenched in an outdated, speed based culture.

Clearly performance has to be evaluated and assessed to ensure value for money and quality of contact centre operations – so how can organisations match contact centre deliverables to corporate CX goals?

Cultural Conflict

The dichotomy within contact centre services today is that not only is a speed focused model at odds with the stated CX focus, it is also at complete odds with the investment in a raft of metrics to measure the voice of the customer and customer experience across the business. From social media sentiment to routine customer surveys, according to Gartner, the four most common categories for CX metrics are quality, satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy and it is embedding these measures within a contact centre culture that is key to achieving an environment that provides the right type of experience.

Of course, AHT still has a role to play. It is important to track traditional performance metrics, such as the number of dropped contacts, as well as contacts handled, to ensure basic operational processes are working correctly. Additionally, it’s useful from a resource planning perspective to help ensure staffing levels are calculated accurately and productivity levels are where they need to be. A spike in AHT can even provide an indication of an emerging problem within the business – such as a billing glitch – that requires rapid escalation. But it is no measure of quality or the company’s ability to deliver highly personalised services.

Companies need to be honest: what is the business delivering via a contact centre? If there is any focus on CX, on ensuring customers receive a personalised resolution, then using AHT to incentivise contact centre advisers is massively counter-intuitive. An individual measured solely on the speed with which every interaction is concluded is never going to have the time to listen to the customer, understand the problems or issues raised, or focus on the quality of the experience. The goal will be to wrap up calls or handle multiple web chats simultaneously to ensure the AHT metrics are hit – and that fundamentally undermines the basic concept of good customer experience.

Customer Experience Metrics

If companies are to ensure the corporate CX vision is delivered at the contact centre, the culture has to change. This means embracing innovative technologies that enable customers to easily and effectively self-serve, freeing up contact centre advisors to concentrate on the more complex customer issues. But it also means reconsidering advisor metrics; ensuring they are incentivised based on the quality of experience, first time resolution and customer voice; and providing the training required to enable individuals to make the transition towards a better quality interaction.

Essentially it means changing both processes and culture to ensure advisors become customer centric and that customers have timely access to the information or service required and, where possible, one touch resolution.

In addition to leveraging technology innovation to support self-service, achieving a CX focused culture may also demand changes to the recruitment model to ensure advisors match the profile and needs of the customers. While an AHT dominated model requires a vanilla approach to advisor recruitment, as soon as the focus shifts to CX it becomes essential to allocate individuals with the right skills to the job. From the high levels of empathy and great listening skills required by those primarily dealing with elderly and/or distressed individuals, to an inherent interest in fashion for an advisor working for a clothing company, great CX requires a far more tailored recruitment model.

Conclusion

Great service cannot be delivered by individuals focused solely on processing as many customer interactions as possible – the two requirements are completely at odds. Companies need to look hard at why they are still measuring contact centre services on such an outdated model: AHT typically ties in with low cost, low valueinteractions. So, with many more companies now realising the fundamental importance of providing great service, is it not now essential to rethink the way these services are delivered by embedding customer experience within the culture?

CX and contact centres: What will change in 2019?

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

By Peter Tetlow, Client Solutions Director at Ventrica

In 2018 it was predicted that voice would soon be dead and that the only sounds heard in contact centres would be keyboards – or chatbots controlling the customer experience (CX).

However, this prediction missed one critical factor: the customer. With this in mind, Peter Tetlow, Client Solutions Director, Ventrica, outlines 10 top trends for contact centres and the customer experience in 2019.

Brands will start going back to basics

Artificial Intelligence (AI), chatbots and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are the current vogue, with everyone wanting a piece of the new technologies. However, these same organisations frequently have no CRM or data management capability and don’t understand the customer journey or the desired customer experience. Without these basic building blocks, AI, chatbots and RPA may add little benefit or indeed may damage the CX, so in 2019 we will see many organisations returning to the basics to get the foundations right before exploring the new toys in the toolbox.

Innovating for the CX, not focusing on metrics

This prediction has made an appearance in one form or another over past years, but it’s time to get it off the shelf and dust it off again. There are increasing numbers of brands focusing on the CX rather than basic contact centre metrics, which is a positive move for the industry as a whole. This year, more companies will place weight on CSAT, NPS or customer effort rather than service levels and AHT. If, and when, they do, customers will feel the benefit.

Messaging is the new way to chat

Some companies have already taken the plunge into messaging. Most consumers use messaging apps almost on a daily basis, and so it makes sense to use them to contact companies they interact with; additionally, messenger will enable conversations to flow and companies to engage with their customers proactively.

Natural language bots will grow

Many organisations aren’t at this stage yet, but the use of natural language bots will continue to grow in 2019, allowing customers to use voice but in an automated way, that may well be linked to some form of machine learning to predict what the customer may want. This will allow multiple and more complex issues to be resolved quickly.

Bot coaching

In the same way that human advisors should be coached to refine and enhance their skills, the industry will need to start doing the same with bots. As processes or customer expectations change, bots need to be coached to refine them and enhance their skills. As a result, we will see the rise of ‘Bot Coaches’ within the contact centre.

Data management will be central

This is not just because of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the potential fines associated with it, although these tend to focus attention, but data management is becoming more critical to running a successful business. The more companies that use data to understand their customers and to predict behaviours and requirements, the more the customer experience will grow and improve. Because of this, we will see a greater focus on the importance of data within all organisations.

Omnichannel was so ‘last year’ – it is now about the CX

So many predictions over past few years have focused on omnichannel and proudly boasted that the contact centre can handle any channel a customer may want to communicate in. However, this fails to take the customer into consideration: there is no point in encouraging a customer to get in contact with a brand, using the most convenient channel, if the service is bad. The brands that thrive this year will be those that understand CX will drive the channels, not the other way around.

CX: digital or non-digital?

Another false prediction from yesteryear. Organisations have wanted to somehow separate the digital CX from non-digital CX. Once again, another example of completely misunderstanding the customer. They do not think a company is brilliant because they can converse with chatbots. They simply want their issue resolved. CX covers everything and you cannot separate digital from non-digital.

The brand promise will tie in closer with CX

Brand image has always been important to organisations, but this has rarely been transferred to the customer experience. This year, companies will start to combine brand image and promise with CX, recognising CX as a key component of the brand.

Analytics will continue to be important

Contact centres are differentiated by many things – a key one being analytics. Understanding the customer and being able to predict future behaviours is key to growing the business. Many organisations only have basic insight from contact centre MI, but this will change as voice and text analytics become more widely adopted. At the other end of the scale, companies who have already adopted complex analytics functions will move more to machine learning and predictive analytics.

Twelve months to go

We don’t have a crystal ball, but the path is clear for these predictions to come true this year. It will certainly be interesting to reflect at the end of the year to see what changes the industry makes, and what part brands and their customers have played along the way.

Britannic Technologies Jonathan Sharp

Guest Blog: Does The mighty shift towards customer ease and digital interactions inform your CX strategy?

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

It won’t come as news that your contact centre is the beating heart of your organisation. What happens here really determines the quality of your customer experience. But despite an overall upswing in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index many UK customers have reported a rise in customer effort, implying further potential for improvement.

Jonathan Sharp, Director, Britannic Technologies, outlines what it takes to deliver a consistent and convenient customer experience through the contact centre…

Technology is helpful, as you will surely know if you’re on a mission to improve your contact centre operation and customer experience. But strategy precedes solution, and that’s particularly important to bear in mind when trying to make it easier for your customers to do business with you.

Not so many years ago, the contact centre was viewed as a transactional department of an organisation but today customer experience lies at the heart of the contact centre, making it a strategic unit whose development needs to be advocated and driven by senior management. Organisations need to commit to investing in recruiting skilled agents, integrating frontline and back office processes, and in providing the technology and analytical tools that are required to improve the experience of both agents and customers.

Collaboration and Transparency

Beyond technology and people, a data-led approach to CX improvements proves helpful in choosing the right mix of communication channels and in building appropriate service processes that map onto your customers’ interaction preferences and behaviours. Data is often siloed in the contact centre – and in other departments for that matter – meaning that valuable business intelligence is not shared across the business. Senior managers need to ensure that data is collected in a single repository, silos are knocked down and processes are connected to enable departments to work together. Collaboration and transparency go a long way in empowering your agents and helping them to deliver smart and efficient customer service.

Build Ease Into Your CX

If you consider that customers are largely driven by the experience and interactions they have with your contact centre and customer service reps rather than by price, you start to see why CX front-runners like Marks & Spencer, P&O Cruises or OVO Energy, named in the UKCSI, are so successful: Their customer service operations are focused on intelligent, integrated processes and empowered agents that, together, consistently create a convenient and seamless experience. Ease is key in this experience. After all, a total of 32% of shoppers say that customer ease is a top five factor when it comes to shopping and 78% admit they buy more from companies that make it easier to shop with them.

Fortunately, there are proven strategies that can help both B2C and B2B companies to build ease into their customer experience externally and into the agent experience internally.

Digital Focus

Today’s contact centre should certainly consist of more than phone and email channels. It needs to incorporate those digital channels that your customers are attuned to. Think SMS, social media, web chat, video and self-service options. It’s all in the blend. This goes hand in hand with automating low-touch customer interactions and repetitive agent tasks to free your team up for higher touch, value-added customer interactions. These work best when the entirety of your communications and collaboration applications are integrated – integrated with the back office to allow your agents to communicate fast with in-house experts; integrated with other systems such as CRM to give agents advanced knowledge of individual customer histories upon contact; and integrated with each other to allow agents to seamlessly transfer customer conversations between non-voice and voice channels if the interaction so requires.

Super Agents

Many customers come armed with information and answers through self-service processes such FAQ and online forums, so agent/customer communications tend to be about increasingly complex problems that agents need to solve. The shift from transactional to strategic therefore needs to be reflected in your agents’ skills, too.

New challenges and channels require your agents to become multi-taskers, project managers, consultants and analytical problem solvers, empathetic and intuitive to pre-empt customer requirements, determine how best to move a conversation between different channels, and build rapport at each touchpoint.  One the one hand, they need the right technology and infrastructure in place to do so. On the other hand, they need to be trained to use your customer service tools effectively.

Where recruitment and training budget allocation was identified as low a couple of years ago, training is luckily moving up the priorities list again. The quality and amount of training your contact centre staff benefit from is crucial to make new contact centre technologies and processes work, to decrease attrition and encourage careers in customer experience.

If you can optimise the agent experience, your super agents will produce more positive experiences for your customers, too.

Technology – The Enabler

Deploying the right technology and building the right infrastructure to support it long-term are crucial to the success of your contact centre and customer experience strategy. Again, strategy is decisive. Cloud platforms and applications, for example, add real versatility and scalability to your contact centre and help you grow into an uncertain future where customer demands and preference change. You want to be able to adapt instantly. Cloud delivers a cost-effective, future-proof framework to manage unforeseen change.

Along with the cloud, CTI integration paves the way for a single customer view and a continuous, uninterrupted customer journey across all media. It removes islands of technology by connecting systems and applications into your operational landscape.

Integration isn’t always easy but that’s what we’re here to change with a mix of deep communications solutions knowledge, integration and automation expertise and change management know-how.

It’s All In The Data

The good news is, more data and more different types of data from diverse communication channels means more possibilities to generate customer insights. Of course, analytics tools will be key key in structuring and assessing your data, helping you to unearth previously unknown patterns in customer behaviour that give you the type of insight that spurs process innovation – and allows you to make improvements to your customer experience.

Whilst measuring call waiting times and call abandonment rates remain valid, evaluating digital channels will become more important, along with the assessment of customer satisfaction levels and ease of use. Ultimately, customers that find it easy to do business with you are 40% less likely to churn.

The Beating Heart

Customer experience is the lifeblood of any organisation today and your contact centre is intrinsically linked to its quality. As the beating heart of your organisation, your contact centre deserves to be a strategic priority, I believe. If you’re committed to continually improving your agent and customer experience by making it easier to work for you and do business with you, you will soon find success.

For ideas, guidance and answers around improving your contact centre with integration, automation and customer insights, don’t forget to shortlist Britannic Technologies for your supplier meeting at Call Centre and Customer Services Summit! If you like, you can share your most pressing challenges with us in advance.

Guest Blog, Simon Pennie: The power of great customer service…

800 450 Jack Wynn

Businesses spend vast amounts of time, money and resources to build a brand that customers love. But if they fail to ‘put their money with their mouth’ is – by investing in delivering top notch customer service in their contact centres – they risk squandering their hard-earned reputation.

In an era of fierce competition and highly empowered consumers, customer experience is now seen as the new brand battleground. Millions spent on marketing will be wasted if businesses provide a poor experience when dealing with customers directly. On the other hand, brands who get the customer experience right can track the benefits right through to their bottom line: driving sales, acquisition and loyalty. 

Contact centre agents are on the frontline of customer service, acting as ambassadors for a brand. Having the right people and processes in place to handle customers is arguably the most important thing a business can do to get ahead and follow best practice.

 

The right channel for the right situation

An integral part of good customer experience is providing the right mix of channels to fit with customers’ lifestyles and preferences.

Customer service is still an area where person-to-person interaction will often be most effective. Despite the rise of digital and self-serve customer management, 65 per cent of non-face to face consumer contact still happens over the phone and 15 per cent over email. Voice will remain the preferred channel for engagements which rely on empathy and the human touch, so it is essential that brands continue to invest in this area.

However, the rise in technology has opened up new opportunities for businesses to innovate and build new paths for engagement.  Digital channels such as webchat, messenger and Twitter are now essential tools in a brand’s customer experience arsenal.

The trick is to allow consumers to choose how they engage, rather than forcing them to go through a certain channel at a certain point in their journey. Customers will have specifically chosen to make contact through their preferred channel, so being overly prescriptive or expecting them to switch will only cause frustration. Avoiding channel bounce is one of the most important ways brands can optimise customer experience.
Listen and learn from your customers 

As the use of data becomes the norm, consumer expectations have shifted. Today, customers assume every engagement will be tailored to reflect what is known about them as individuals. Furnishing agents with a history of previous interactions with customers will help them better understand the nature of an issue and offer a more personalised service each and every time.

Similarly, brands can draw directly on customer insights as a barometer to gauge the efficacy of their own processes. For example, using speech and text analytics software across calls can help to plot customer frustration or satisfaction. Interpreting this data allows brands to take informed steps to improve engagement – improving resolution rates and boosting satisfaction.

 

Your agents are your biggest asset 

There’s no question that making the most of data and technology can significantly enhance customer experience. But it’s important not to forget that customer service is first and foremost about engaging with a human being – a single consumer with unique preferences and needs.

Businesses need to make sure they are empowering agents with proven processes for managing customers, giving them the flexibility to use their judgement and determine a solution accordingly. Too narrow a focus on handling times or too rigid an adherence to process can often compromise the ability of an agent to reach a resolution or deliver the best possible outcome.  

Creating a contact centre culture where those dealing daily with customers are empowered, motivated and highly skilled will give companies the greatest chance of delivering the best possible customer experience.

 

Winning in the age of the customer 

In the end, it’s the people who represent a brand that are the ultimate differentiator. If contact centres are the beating heart of a brand’s customer service efforts, then the agents that work in them are the lifeblood.  Getting the formula right on the ground allows businesses to truly set themselves apart from their competitors in the age of the customer.

 

Simon Pennie is VP Solution Architecture at Firstsource Solutions, the leading customer experience expert. He works with clients across a range of sectors to provide business-transforming customer insights and deliver strategic customer experience solutions. Simon is an experienced contact centre professional, with over 15 years’ experience in CX and management consultancy. 

 

Technology designed with your customers in mind…

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Seamless customer engagement begins and lasts with Netcall. Whether you are looking to refresh or replace your contact centre telephony or join up legacy systems and processes, we can work with you to enhance and personalise customer experience.

Netcall’s integrated customer experience (CX) platform seamlessly manages interactions from start to finish. Create a positive customer experience at every touch point to help retain customers, encourage repeat purchases and promote peer recommendations, whilst enjoying lower operating costs.

Supporting you to improve the customer journey. Get in touch find out more.

 

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e: getintouch@netcall.com

t: 0330 333 6100