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Ventrica

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Forte, CEO, Ventrica, insists, if companies truly want to release the strategic CX objective, it is time to end the outdated focus on AHT and create a new culture that embeds quality, satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy metrics within contact centre performance…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performance and purchasing outsourced contact centre services, too many companies are still firmly entrenched in an outdated, speed based culture.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?

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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.

Ventrica expands contact centre to meet omnichannel service demands…

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Continuing an ‘impressive growth period’, Ventrica will be introducing a new contact centre ‘penthouse suite’ due to the increased demand for its omnichannel customer service offerings. 

The Southend-on-Sea based outsourced centre will open a roof-top wing, 19,000 sq ft site in 2017, expanding its current workforce of 280 agents to 480 full and part-time staff within the next year, and plans for an additional site at another location is part of the company’s future strategy for the next 12-18 months. 

Dino Forte, managing director and founder of Ventrica said: “We have attracted a number of new high profile B2C and B2B brands this year who are part of a wider trend of organisations that are looking to outsource non-core services. The investment in our new penthouse suite is to meet both the increased demand from existing clients but also to accommodate our future expansion.  

“The whole area of customer experience and sales is becoming more complex and companies now recognise that using a specialist third party makes perfect sense, as they often do not have the expertise, capacity or infrastructure in-house.”  

Ventrica has been shortlisted twice in the upcoming European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards 2016 (ECCCSA) in the categories of ‘Best Outsourcing Partnership’ and ‘Medium Contact Centre of the Year’, with winners to be announced at a ceremony held at the Hilton Park Lane Hotel in London on November 21.  

Outsourced contact centre launches digital division…

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With a dedication to provide a ‘new type and range’ of customised and results-driven social management services to UK companies, the Southend-based contact centre, Ventrica, has announced the launch of Ventrica Digital, its sister company that will allow businesses to generate new business leads through monitoring and engagement.

Furthermore, businesses will also be able to take full advantage of additional benefits which includes: creating up-sell opportunities; effective crisis management; boost web traffic, conversions and sales; guaranteed quality control and response times; and enhancing retention and service levels across all channels.

Founder and managing director at Ventrica, Dino Forte, said: “There are plenty of digital agencies out there, but very few come from an award-winning customer services background or have the resources to provide a 24/7 service with the option of multi-lingual capabilities. With more and more businesses operating internationally, and more consumers wanting to buy online at any time of the day, it is now essential to offer expertise around the clock with response services across all popular media, whether via webchat, social, mobile, email or review moderation.”

He continued, “The Ventrica Digital model is perfect for those companies that don’t have the specialist expertise or resources in-house, but still want to take advantage of the huge returns of harnessing social media and digital, that if used intelligently, can have a direct and measurable return on investment in the shape of sales, enhanced service levels and customer retention.”

Find out more about Ventrica Digital here

Ventrica plans to expand its workforce after industry award win…

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After winning the Contact Centre of the Year industry accolade at the London & South East Contact Centre Awards on May 20, the Southend-based call centre, Ventrica, has declared its commitment to creating 70 new positions during the course of this year.

Considered to be one of the largest employers in the area, Ventrica’s managing director, Dino Forte, commented that the service the brand provides across platforms such as email and social media is the reason behind its continued success: “At Ventrica we believe we are at the forefront of delivering exceptional multi-lingual customer experiences for some of the world’s most recognised brands whether on the phone, email or via social platforms.” Reportedly, Ventrica plans to expand its current workforce to 600 workstations from its current 330.