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Support Services Group deploys Teleopti Workforce Management

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Support Services Group has successfully deployed real-time, cloud-based Teleopti Workforce Management (WFM) technology to schedule over 300 agents across five locations and four time zones in the USA and Domincan Republic.

The company claims that since deployment of Telepti WFM Cloud solution Support Services Group productivity has increased by 5%. Agent idle time and over staffing issues have also been reduced, along with the number of hours required to support different customer programs and meet client service levels.

“We were looking for a strong WFM business partner to align with our rapid growth and future goals,” said Bryan Gross, President at Support services Group.

“Teleopti provides a robust yet flexible WFM solution – the perfect fit to help facilitate our fast expansion plans. From the initial product demonstration it was clear the people at Teleopti are passionate about the product plus the simplicity and intuitiveness of the software made it an easy decision, “ added Gross.

Support Services Group relies on Teleopti WFM Cloud to build 12 different schedules for over 300 agents and add new skills, agents and clients quickly and efficiently. Supervisors simply click on a button to access all the information they need to support their clients and manage their teams effectively. At the same time, agents access the MyTime app on their mobile devices to get real-time updates of their schedules, check breaks and lunches, ask for time off or trade shifts.

Teleopti’s Intraday Management and Real-Time Adherence modules have yielded the greatest benefits. Linked directly to Support Services Group’s automated call distributor (ACD) system, they provide an accurate, real-time view of agent and overall contact centre activity, enabling managers to track schedules against forecasts and make quick and meaningful adjustments to meet agreed client service levels and increase customer satisfaction.

Kimberley MacKinnon, VP Workforce Management at Support Services Group, said: “Scaling our large and complex contact centre operations quickly through efficient schedules that maximise agent skills is a critical success factor. The ease of use and advanced reporting capabilities of Teleopti’s cloud-based solution appealed to us and convinced us Teleopti was the right technology partner to support the diversity of our ever-expanding business.”

David Pahlman, President of Teleopti North America, said: “Our fully automated, flexible cloud WFM technology enables organisations such as Support Services Group to provide their customers with excellent service while quickly meeting the demands of business growth.

“This, paired with Teleopti’s consultative implementation approach, means we are able to deliver an optimised platform to best suit our clients’ needs and future goals. We look forward to our continued partnership with Support Services Group.”

Eight tips to minimise customer effort and maximise customer satisfaction

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Making life easier for customers is the first step towards brand loyalty and business success.  Magnus Geverts at Teleopti shares his eight top tips for reducing customer effort in contact centers…

All customers want is a quick and easy answer to their enquiries.  It might sound simple but the two biggest annoyances for customers, which are having to repeat themselves and being transferred from department to department[i], can do untold damage to an organization’s reputation and revenues. Every week I meet with contact center executives struggling to break down the silos in an effort to create consistency across all channels. Making it easy for customers requires hard work.

In today’s viral world of social media, the risks of upsetting customers are even higher as dissatisfied consumers take out their frustrations via Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor.  In fact, according to the Institute of Customer Service, 58% of people would stop buying from a company as a result of poor customer service and, even scarier, 70% of them would actively discourage others from engaging with a company when given poor customer service.[ii]

Winning contact centers are those that deliver quick fixes, instant results and exceptional customer satisfaction.  It all comes down to giving customers what they want with very little effort on their part.  Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask, “How do I make life easier for my customers?”  It’s time to review your processes and technology – here are a few tips to point you in the right direction.

Eight tips for designing service to reduce customer effort

  1. Find the right people – your agents are your most valuable asset but gone are the days when all they had to do was answer as many calls as possible as quickly as possible.  Today’s ‘super agents’ must be capable of solving complex problems for customers so look for highly flexible, emotionally intelligent candidates with a positive ‘can-do’ attitude, train them properly and keep them motivated.  Use Workforce Management (WFM) technology to create a ‘go-to’ place for all your talent and resources. Use it to flag up skills gaps, build meaningful training programs and combine with Real-Time Management capabilities to set up training during idle time.  Then, maximize WFM to schedule your right-skilled agents to the right place at the right time.
  2. It’s the simple things that count – prominently display freephone customer support telephone numbers on every web page, enable agents to conduct Web Chat and keep FAQs up-to-date and easy to find.  Be sure to share customer stories with other parts of the organization to create a unified understanding and response to common customer issues.
  3. Make time to understand your customers – listen to your agents – they know if your customers are happy and what works and remember to devise a mechanism for agents to share hints and tips.  Then combine agent feedback with speech analytics and silent monitoring to capture the voice of the customer.  The more you understand what makes your customers tick, the more effective you’ll be at deploying efficient processes and technology to support enhanced customer interactions.
  4. Automation is the way to go – it tangibly enhances the customer experience.  Take Web Chat, where automated Chatbots can be used as the first line of enquiry.  Chatbots can be programmed to perform more mundane tasks using automated responses in Chat before the customer is connect to a human at the right time.
  5. Up your self-service game – the latest Artificial Intelligence (AI) driving contact center solutions include self-service capabilities that allow people to find out information, ask questions, broker a mortgage, book their next holiday, buy the latest must-have gadget or fashion item and return a faulty kettle at a time to suit them without having to speak to a single human being. Think about it, could you reduce customer effort by introducing a wider use of self-service?
  6. Make mobility work for you – consumers expect to use their mobile devices to find information, ask questions and access social media to connect with their favorite brands 24 hours a day.  Make sure your customer service is fully optimized for mobility with a fully responsive website, by offering Web Chat and by providing a choice of different contact options such as SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Twitter.
  7. Omnichannel is the new multichannel – modern consumers want a consistent, satisfying and effortless experience, every time, whatever the device or communication channel.  They also want organizations to recognize their buying history and previous interactions so they don’t have to keep repeating themselves.  The latest technology solutions automatically flag up how customers want to interact.  From the same screen agents can switch between telephone, emails and Chat to deal with enquiries whatever the channel. This often requires extensive integration of back-end systems or a complete rebuild of the back-end systems which feed your customers and agents with information.
  8. Chatbots – can provide anything from automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, to tailored communications such as receipts, shipping notifications and live automated messages – fast.  Customizable greetings mean Chatbots make it possible to offer a more personal, more proactive, and more streamlined customer experience.

Take a step back, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and see what their experience is really like.  You might need to overhaul your approach to customer service completely or perhaps a few simple tweaks will suffice.  Either way, design your service strategy to give your customers first-class service, with very little effort on their part, for brand loyalty and business success.

Magnus Geverts is Chief Business Development Officer at Teleopti.

[i] Harvard Business Review – https://www.icmi.com/Resources/Customer-Experience/2017/06/Reducing-Customer-Effort-in-the-Contact-Center

[ii] Institute of Customer Service – https://www.icmi.com/Resources/Customer-Experience/2017/06/Reducing-Customer-Effort-in-the-Contact-Center

GUEST BLOG: Superagents – 6 reasons to celebrate

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Rather than fear robots taking over the contact center, Nick Smith at Teleopti says it’s time to harness the power of both worlds to improve the customer experience. Here he outlines six reasons to celebrate today’s superagents…

You often hear about the struggle between man versus machine and robots taking over agents in the contact center, but it’s not quite that black and white.  According to Dr Nicola Millard at BT, the more likely scenario is “man plus machine”, a winning combination where “smart people partnered with smart machines have the power to superpower us.”[i]

Our own experience at Teleopti suggests that both human agents and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have a powerful role to play.  On the one hand, AI and chatbots are simultaneously revolutionizing customer service and elevating the status of agents. For example, WeChat in China is one of the most successful pioneers of chatbots supplying 10 million businesses and enabling people to hail a taxi, order food, pay a bill and book a doctor’s appointment without human intervention.[ii]

On the other hand, AI is only as good as the data that fuels it and the things AI finds hard are the qualities that make humans unique: conversation, empathy, creativity, intuition and negotiation.

The silver bullet solution for today’s customer journey
The combination of AI and well scheduled human agents, with the right skills, might be the silver bullet for effective customer service but are agents ready to support today’s customer journey? By the time a customer gets to speak to a live agent, the chances are they have already used your mobile app, searched for answers on your website and trawled numerous YouTube clips to no avail.  They are frustrated and want to speak to someone who knows all the steps they’ve taken, why they are frustrated and how to solve their query from one single encounter of the human kind.  In short, they are looking for a superagent!

To create a team of superagents, organizations need to re-think their learning environment, capture an organization-wide talent pool in a centralized Workforce Management (WFM) solution and then add Real-Time Adherence (RTA) to re-allocate idle time to training.  Through advanced forecasting, scheduling and competence management, human agents will remain more productive and valuable than robots can ever be.  Let’s take a closer look.

Six reasons to celebrate superagents

  1. Dealing with complex conversations – counter-intuitively, digitalization has elevated the role of the contact center agent and businesses are paying a premium for this new breed of superagent.  Nowadays, the calls agents handle take longer, are more complex and require moral judgment and empathy.  What is more, whereas the computer “says no” humans have the power to negotiate mutually acceptable outcomes for customers leading to enhanced customer satisfaction and profitability.
  2. Emotional Intelligence – being on the front line, agents have the benefit of direct contact to truly understand the emotional triggers behind what customers want.  The best agents will also be able to read through a conversation, for example with a chatbot, before picking up seamlessly with the customer.  Wise organizations then blend agent intuition with the scientific evidence of speech analytics technology to improve future customer conversations.
  3. Collaboration – successful agents work closely with other departments to get the answers and support they need to think outside the box and come up with their own ideas for delighting customers.  Help agents engage proactively across the organization by giving them an effective set of collaborative tools such as internal chat and enterprise social media.
  4. Flexibility – the beauty of the human brain is adaptability.  If one solution doesn’t work for a customer, agents can use all their powers of conversation, empathy, creativity, intuition and negotiation to find the right one.  Then add WFM technology into the mix to produce flexible schedules and manage your precious talent and resources effectively.
  5. Tact and diplomacy – this is where the human touch comes into its own because AI driven robots learn responses based on the data fed into them but humans can interpret and act on that data to deliver highly personalized customer interactions. The emergency services and organisations with a large proportion of emotional or complex enquiries will always rely on humans to accommodate their customers’ specific needs and conduct sensitive, tactful and diplomatic conversations.
  6. Just being Human!  – good customer service starts with people rather than machines.  It is your human agents who know if customers are happy and which channels they prefer and it’s their human managers who will act on customer feedback, improve calls scripts and agent training and then enhance business processes that proactively manage ‘predictable’ situations and resolve problems quickly.

Of course, AI is radically transforming customer interactions but there is no substitute for the human touch when it comes to closing sales calls or delivering an exceptional, personal customer experience.

Nick Smith is Business Manager for UK and Ireland at Teleopti.

[i] Botman vs. Superagent: man vs machine in the future of customer experience” – white paper by Dr Nicola Millard, Head of Customer Insight & Futures, Global Services Innovation Team at BTGloballces Innovation Team, BT

[ii] Botman vs. Superagent: man vs machine in the future of customer experience” – white paper by Dr Nicola Millard, Head of Customer Insight & Futures, Global Services Innovation Team at BT (page 10)

Omni-Agents – Fact of fiction?

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As the great multi-skilling debate continues, Tommy Palomäki of Teleopti outlines the challenges and offers three tips for scheduling multi-skilled agents…

Omnichannel has been a buzzword for a few years now as modern consumers demand a consistent, satisfying and effortless experience, every time, whatever the device or communications channel.  On the one hand, this has put increasing pressure on contact center agents to be experts in everything – verbal communication, a linguist, gifted email writer, snappy Tweeter and vibrant video agent.  On the other hand, managers have welcomed the whole concept of multi-skilling as a cure-all for today’s epidemic of ‘do more with less’ culture, allowing them to deliver greater workforce flexibility, maximize agent skills and lower staffing costs all in one go.

It might come as a surprise to discover that the latest research from Call Centre Helper reveals an actual decline in the number of contact centres multi-skilling their advisors, dropping from 90.5% in 2015, to 80.4% in 2017. Therefore, the big question is – in asking agents to do it all and contact centers to have it all, are we searching for the impossible?

Are we expecting too much of our agents?

Of course, today’s technology makes it possible to schedule agents for both blended and dedicated contact centre environments.  However, if you then expect agents to provide the same excellent service across all channels, you’ll likely encounter some challenges:

One size does not fit all – while text and email often involve similar content and require the same style of dialogue, dealing with social media or the most challenging of all, switching between voice calls to Web Chat or other social media requires a completely different tone and approach altogether. Adding multiple support channels simply adds complexity. While we might be able to ask agents to handle emails between calls, or work emails between chats, it’s unlikely you’ll find agents who can consistently do chats and calls at the same time with the same proficiency.

Blending for response –in a blended environment the problem with routing is that channels invariably uses different platforms and is often assigned different priorities and Service Level Agreements (SLAs).  This makes it difficult to track and predict service levels on an equitable basis across the entire contact centre.

Juggling too many plates – this is exactly the case when we expect agents to handle all channels at once – sooner or later one of the plates is going to break with a detrimental impact on customer service.  Can we expect an agent to be in the middle of a Web Chat conversation but have to put that conversation on hold when a voice call comes through?  By the time they go back to the Web Chat, their train of thought is lost possibly along with the customer, irritated by being abandoned and left waiting in the virtual ether.

Top Three Tips for Scheduling Multi-Skilled Agents

Whether you choose a blended or dedicated contact center approach to serve your super-connected customers and support your agents, make sure you rely on the latest Workforce Management (WFM) software to smooth the path to success. If you have time to do little else,  focus on the following three areas:

  1. Accurate forecasting whatever the channel – it always amazes me how many contact centers still plan for voice and then fit everything else around it.  Try and forecast for all types of channel as accurately as possible.
  2. Optimize schedules –real-time management provided by WFM means team leaders can modify schedules to accommodate unplanned changes or seasonal peaks and troughs.  They can automatically compare actual agent status with their schedules to make informed decisions and necessary improvements quickly.  Historic data then allows them to predict, create and search future schedules effortlessly to ensure the right-skilled agents are in place to deliver an exceptional multi-channel customer experience at all times.
  3. Consider what’s best for agents and the customer – every contact center is unique so establish what works best for yours.  While blended is generally better for small teams and dedicated is better as teams grow, it’s worth experimenting. Don’t ignore the hard evidence.  If call center statistics demonstrate that the majority of enquiries are voice-based or your organization handles sensitive or highly emotive issues, don’t force customers to abandon traditional engagement methods in favor of the latest Web Chat or social media.  If necessary, use your WFM to switch agents to different channels at different times of the day depending on customer demand.

Finally, don’t forget your agents! Help them multi-skill more easily by giving them the tools to do their job.  For example, the ability to access, share and input into dynamic knowledge bases boosts performance and fosters team collaboration.

The reality is that contact centers need to evolve into customer experience hubs where no one agent is expected to do it all. Instead, it’s often easier to assign agents with different tasks at different times of the day to ensure the best possible experience for agents and for customers.  Combine this with the right WFM technology and utilize it in the right way to maximize agent skills and boost customer satisfaction, whatever the channel.

Tommy Palomäki is Customer Success Manager at Teleopti.

Teleopti

Teleopti: 5 old habits for the contact centre to consign to history

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Could too much old technology be weighing your contact centre down and preventing it from reaching its full potential?

Jeremy Hamill-Keays, product manager at workforce management software specialist Teleopti, thinks so and has recommended 5 approaches to contact center management that, in his own words, can be consigned to history.

Put simply, the argument goes that contact centre directors should look around and fully consider if and how new technology can replace what is already there. The analogy used is that it’s a bit like buying new furniture or the latest fashions without getting rid of the old. Sooner or later, you just end up with clutter rather than a fresh start.

So, without further ado, here are the 5 offending habits:

1. Who needs ACDs? – ACDs, the traditional foundation of the contact center, are still a useful tool but they need to adapt to modern environments and customer needs. Voice-only ACDs may soon become a thing of the past, being replaced by fully-integrated enquiry distribution including multiple media channels. As alternative channels such as Web chat and social media become more commonplace, multi-media ACDs will provide a more integrated experience for agents and an improved omnichannel service for customers. Greater integration allows for easier reporting and comparisons – always a bonus.
Similarly, combining a multi-media ACD with other cloud-based applications, such as WFM software, allows for easily accessible data in real time 24/7, the ability to scale up and down user numbers instantly and add new features automatically all result in more time to spend on delivering an outstanding customer experience. What is more, a pay-as-you-go cloud business model means you pay only for what you use.

2. Time to ditch fixed-pattern spreadsheets and embrace responsive automation – there’s no doubt about it, people like spreadsheets because of the comfort factor. They give everyone their own version of the truth, with complete authority to update and amend their spreadsheets when they like, without interference from anyone else. The downside to spreadsheets is they bear no relevance to what is happening outside a user’s immediate department and being manual, are often out of date and inaccurate.

The very nature of spreadsheets tends to make them inflexible and personal to their creator. This can leave a contact center high and dry when that individual moves on. Any manual workings and knowledge walks out with the creator, often making changes such as adding a new skill, difficult and time consuming for those remaining.

Automated planning is definitely the way forward with the latest WFM solutions enabling clear visibility of agent activities, increased efficiencies and the ability to capture and manage big data.

Take the example of Rentalcars.com, the world’s biggest online car rental service. It produces effective, flexible work schedules for over 800 people and manages seasonal peaks and troughs from one single, automated solution. FEXCO, Ireland’s most successful multinational financial and business solutions provider with operations in 29 countries turned to automation to improve agent scheduling and adherence for 460 contact center staff and introduce smarter, consistent ways of working.

3. A whole new world of learning – say goodbye to irrelevant training sessions – the days of traditional classroom learning where the whole team sat conference-style listening to the trainer will soon be a thing of the past. Thanks to Intraday monitoring capabilities, often embedded in today’s WFM technology, contact center leaders can see how the day ahead looks and when time will be available for training. Understanding agent competences and utilization allows targeted training to address specific skills gaps either in individuals or workgroups.

WFM technology with intraday monitoring identifies periods in the day when staff can be safely withdrawn from the front line to receive either face-to-face training or undertake e-learning without risking service levels. People should be enabled learn in a way that suits them best, for example some people prefer video learning while others respond better to text instruction. Contact center leaders can continue to train by sending novel “knowledge nudges” for quick updates and tips. Whatever the method of tuition, better skills means happier staff as well as better resolution rates and sales conversations.

4. Tear down paper-based, fixed schedules from notice boards – today’s workforce (especially millennials) want schedules to be constantly available i.e. just a phone swipe or search away. Whether on a bus or at home, contact center professionals want to stay updated; especially as schedules are continually changing. Paper rotas pinned on a board quickly becomes outdated leaving people misinformed. A mobile application also helps raise adherence and time-keeping, how can an agent be on time for an 8am start if they didn’t know it had been switched from 9.30am? Looking forward, native, push notifications from self-service mobile apps will drive this awareness and ease the connection between work life balance and customer satisfaction

5. Supervision is out, coaching is in – to understand why supervision will become an old habit it is important to realize the difference between supervision and coaching. Supervision tends to be about telling and directing people for a specific outcome i.e. when to go on a break to maintain service levels. It usually produces the best results with new recruits or when demand goes crazy. However, coaching works best with experienced agents who are already performing to a pretty high level. All management is about providing people with the environment and skills to excel, now is the time to work with contact center professionals rather than oversee them by building valuable, engaging relationships.

In conclusion, Hamill-Keays said: “It’s time to clear out the old and focus on the new. Take a closer look at your own contact center technology and processes. What can you throw away? Is your faith in hardware, spreadsheets and traditional learning methods weighing you down? Is clinging to what worked in the past holding you back from realizing your organization’s full potential? Look again to discover whether it’s time to embrace the cloud, responsive automation, a new world of learning, self-service applications and updated coaching to improve agent skills, increase productivity and save money in 2018.”

Start to nurture future budding customer service professionals, says Teleopti…

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Workforce management consultant at Teleopti UK, Ben Willmott, explains the three simple workforce management strategies to attract the brightest young talent, and keep ahead of the competition. From transforming a contact centre environment to suit the next generation of digitally-led professionals, to introducing gamification by accommodating the trend of constant feedback; following the three strategies outlined will allow your contact centre to thrive with a happy and proactive workforce.

According to current estimates, more than 1.1 million people are employed in UK contact centres and a substantial number are from the younger generation. In just five years’ time, today’s youth will form 50 per cent of the global workforce. What’s more, their career expectations and technical know-how will shape the workplaces of the future, putting new pressures on companies wishing to attract the best young talent to drive business growth and keep one step ahead of the competition.

So what is the secret to becoming the employer of choice for the younger generation and how do you prevent them from straying to the competition? Don’t delay in taking the first step, prepare now. Start by understanding the psychology of today’s up and coming customer service professional. What really makes them tick?

In a nutshell, young people are, in the words of DMG Consulting, “a highly social generation that puts work/life balance ahead of their careers.” They work hard and they play hard. At the same time, they need to be constantly acknowledged, rewarded and engaged in the workplace. They desire – and expect – to be involved in everything from the company mission to the contact centre team and the customers they serve, and they want to make a difference right away.

The next step is to transform your contact centre environment, adapting it to bring out the very best in budding young customer service professionals. Combining a flexible framework with the latest workforce management (WFM) technology is the way to go.

Here are three strategies to get you started:

1. Support flexible working through self-service – people take great pride in what they do but young talent doesn’t function well in a rigid, authoritarian environment. They need to know the rules and what is expected of them but, beyond that, give them a little freedom. The younger generation loves to self-serve so take advantage of self-service technology to add flexibility whilst ensuring contact centre and customer service objectives are met.

Recent innovations in self-service capabilities allow agents to access their schedules through web-based portals such as MyTime portal in Teleopti. There, agents trade shifts, pick up unexpected shifts just freed up, voice their preferences for overtime and request time off. Having a say in schedule preferences gives them a sense of empowerment and offers them a better work-life balance.

2. Engage and empower – make the most of mobility – take a look around you – when do you ever see a young person without some sort of mobile device? Mobility is here to stay. Be prepared for youthful employees using multiple apps, working from more than one device and working in various locations. Rather than fight it, ensure you exploit mobility to help your young agents flourish.

3. Introduce gamification – the new generation’s need for constant feedback has driven the development of the gamification sector. The latest WFM technology incorporates gamification features that motivate employees, encourage healthy competition and reward individual and team performance in a fun environment. Use gamification to: a. create an online social community that increases collaboration, provides access to knowledge bases, gives agents a forum to share learning and top tips, ask their more mature colleagues for advice and communicate major achievements to give that all-round feel-good factor young people crave.

b. utilise dashboards to provide a real-time snapshot of employee and team performance against specific contact centre KPIs or customer SLAs.

c. Make star employees shine! Recognise exceptional performance by awarding points and badges for measurable metrics such as average handling times and first contact resolution successes.

Understand what makes the customer service professionals of tomorrow tick. Follow these three simple steps and your contact centre will be rewarded with a workforce that will want to stay with you, confident they have a well thought-out career path and the ability to make a real difference.

 

To find out more about Teleopti UK, click here

New Content Guru and Teleopti partnership to optimise customer engagement…

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The communications integration provider, Content Guru and the workforce management solutions company, Teleopti, have announced their ‘best-in-class’ partnership by combining both services to improve customer engagement strategies in contact centres.

A custom-built integration connects Teleopti’s WFM client with the dynamic agent environment within Content Guru’s award-winning storm® CONTACT™ solution, enabling contact centre and workforce managers to continually evaluate and adapt their resourcing and customer engagement strategies.

Chief commercial officer at Content Guru, John Rees, said: “Workforce management (WFM) is an increasingly important element of the customer engagement hub, and plays a vital role in driving staff efficiencies in combination with more traditional contact centre functions. We’re delighted to partner with Teleopti to deliver best-in-class capabilities across both front-end routing and back-end staff distribution, using a cloud model to open up the benefits of converged WFM and contact centre capabilities to any size of organisation.”

The partnership has already welcomed a number of key clients in the UK and is reportedly looking to expand to global markets.