Tag Archives: omnichannel

Results are in! Emotion is key to achieving customer loyalty.

Forrester conducted a survey of over 110,000 US adult consumers in 2018, to help measure how well a brand’s customer experience strengthens the loyalty of its customers. In this report, the US Customer Experience Index, 2018, they reveal which brands rank the highest when it comes to CX quality.

They found that emotion plays a bigger impact on brand loyalty than effectiveness or ease! This suggests that for companies that want to break away from the pack and deliver differentiated CX, focusing on emotion is a critical place to start.  

emotion key to customer loyalty
Figure 1: Forrester’s CX Index from report, “The US Customer Experience Index 2018”

Positive emotions drive long-term loyalty 

It’s no surprise that when customers feel good about your brand, they stay with you longer, but happiness is not the only emotion that matters. There are 6 feelings that customers say can help boost their loyalty:  

  • Appreciated  
  • Confident  
  • Grateful  
  • Happy  
  • Respected  
  • Valued  

Companies that can continually deliver experiences that make customers feel this way, also have more to gain than simply satisfaction. When customers associate positive emotions with a brand they are more likely to forgive an experience hiccup, refer the brand to others, and in some cases even pay a price premium for better service (How Firms Help Employees Evoke Emotions That deepen Customer Loyalty, Forrester Research, January 2018). This is truly enduring customer loyalty.  

emotion key to customer loyalty
Figure 26: Forrester’s CX Index from report, “The US Customer Experience Index 2018”

Although other aspects of the brand can influence positive customer experiences, customer service employees have the greatest impact in making customers feel the 6 emotions listed above. How the employee feels will result in how the customer feels, hence when employees are unhappy, the customer likely will be unhappy too. That’s why it’s essential to enable employees to deliver positive experiences through the following: 

  • Empowerment: Provide the necessary tools and data to make it easy for employees to create positive emotions. Consider programs or processes to offer critical feedback that focuses on how to improve the customer experience.
  • Training: Help them see opportunities to create positive experiences and ways they can improve how they handle customer inquiries. A consistent and regular training program keeps employees fresh, engaged and current. 

Be aware, negative emotions drive customers away 

It’s no surprise that the more bad experiences a customer has, the less loyal they are to your brand. Somewhat surprisingly though, anger isn’t the only impact on loyalty. Making customers feel annoyed, disappointed or frustrated is equally related to a customer’s negative emotion towards your brand.

Bad customer experiences also hurt revenue and as an example, [easy-tweet tweet=”a multichannel bank leaves $124 million on the table for every 1-point decline in its CX Index score” template=”light”]

Having the right technologies deployed properly, such as these, can reduce customer frustration: 

Tech upgrades to turn negative into positive 

Modernize IVR: 

The good news is negative experiences are avoidable. 

If you haven’t looked at or updated your IVR in a while, this is often a good place to start. Since the IVR is the first brand touchpoint for your customers when they decide to call your company, the experience they have here will dictate how they feel throughout the journey. Some benefits to a modern IVR: 

  • Natural Language: Speech recognition and text to speech realism has vastly improved in recent years.  Customers can experience a completely new paradigm in interactive technology that is more fluid, genuine and comfortable. 
  • Personalization: Reflecting customers specific situation or recent activity such as booking a flight or tracking a package means the customer’s request can be serviced quickly and seamlessly.  
  • Integrated self-service: IVR integrated with CRM can greet a caller by name or send them directly to a dedicated agent if they are a premium customer. This not only reduces negative emotions but also helps to create positive ones by making them feel valued and happy with the experience. 

Omnichannel Desktop: 

Customers want to be able to contact your company using the channel of their choice and they expect a seamless experience from channel to channel. For example, if they start a booking online they want to be able to call in and have the agent see all the activity they did online. This is possible with an omnichannel desktop along with these other benefits: 

  • Efficient resolution: Customers get annoyed when they have to be put on hold or wait too long while an agent searches for information on multiple systems. One agent desktop/screen will help agents see all the information about the customer/order and help them more efficiently.
  • Customer focus: Systems working together properly mean the agent can focus their energy on the customer, not how to get to the right screen.  Active listening and empathy are more prevalent from a relaxed and organized agent.
  • Happier employees = happier customers:  When agents have the right tools to do their job they get frustrated less and enjoy their job more. Happy employees are more likely to provide happy experiences and care more about the customer.  

Don’t stop there 

Understanding the correlation between customer loyalty and positive emotion is good but how can you put the practices in place to make it a reality? Here are 3 steps to get you started:  

  1. Understand the role positive and negative emotions play in CX If you read this blog you’re your halfway there but you can also read this complimentary Forrester report  “The US Customer Experience Index, 2018” to learn even more about the role emotion plays in CX and other 2018 findings. 
  2. Strive for more positive experiences, less negative ones:  Understanding what needs to be done is always easier than implementing it but a good place to start would be to try and ensure you are delivering more positive customer experiences than negative ones. Companies that ranked high on Forrester’s CX Index, on average, are delivering 22 positive experiences to every negative experience (The US Customer Experience Index, 2018, Forrester Research, 2018). Your ratio might not be as good as this yet but the more you improve it, the closer you will be to increasing customer loyalty.
  3.  Learn how your CX quality stacks up to your competitors:  Do you know the CX leaders in your industry and where you rank? Download the US Customer Experience Index 2018 report to see which companies where high and low on the CX index and use the findings from this report to inform your ongoing CX improvement efforts. 

Achieving differentiated CX takes work but there are big gains for companies that make the effort. Just remember how important emotion is and that customers care about how their experience with your company makes them feel.  

 

Measuring Agent Productivity in an Omnichannel World

As customer call centers have evolved into customer care centers, managers have had to adapt with new strategies for going beyond solving customers’ problems to finding ways to delight them at every touch point. The rewards can be great — customer loyalty and brand advocates — but only if customer care is done right.

Making sure that happens involves a complex melding of best practices in technology, process, and agent performance. One element that brings all three of these factors together is an omnichannel approach.

Ensuring a smooth and consistent experience between channels — phone, email, text, and chat — is the key to success in omnichannel customer care delivery. But to ensure that success, you need to know what’s working, especially in terms of agent efficiency.

In the old voice world you measured the length of phone calls, how many calls per hour, and the percentage of issues resolved during the first call, pretty straightforward, but with agents using multiple channels in a given shift, those measurements no longer tell the whole story. Let’s look at the challenges of measuring agent activity and productivity in an omnichannel world and how you can overcome them:

Challenge #1 – Blending

Within the omnichannel world you might have each agent assigned to just one channel, which keeps measuring their performance simple. However, another approach is having any given agent assigned to multiple channels simultaneously. For example, an agent might take calls, but respond to emails or chats when call volume is slow.

While this approach serves to increase overall efficiency for the care center, a single agent may not be as productive as they would be using just one channel at a time, especially when asked to handle too many channels.

The first step to optimal performance is appropriate performance measurement. For example, let’s say you have two pools of agents handling inbound phone calls:

  • Pool #1 handling only calls[su_spacer size=”10″]
  • Pool #2 responding to emails in between calls[su_spacer size=”10″]
  • Expectations for Pool #2 handle times should be adjusted accordingly, given that these agents need time to shift between channels and tools.[su_spacer]

This scenario becomes increasingly complex as you add more channel types and combinations, and you must determine the level of granularity needed to be effective at managing your workforce according to contact load. The best approach is to be as granular as possible on initial setup, and then aggregate metrics as you choose to ignore certain levels of differentiation to simplify ongoing management.

Challenge #2 – Simultaneous Interactions

Simultaneous interaction handling is not recommended. Agents juggling more than one customer at a time are more likely to exhibit lapsed concentration, mistakes in execution, and accidental sharing of private information.

However, there are care centers out there pushing those boundaries, so some agents will be handling multiple channels simultaneously. These agents may be engaged, for example, on a phone call and a chat at the same time.

So, in a five-minute window, if a given agent is talking on the phone to one customer and chatting with another, the appropriate measurement of time spent might be five minutes for each interaction, for a total of ten minutes.

This means that an agent could potentially have more interaction time (say six hours) than their actual shift time (four hours). Managers may need to adjust the processes and tools they use to accurately measure results.

Challenge #3 – Virtual Queuing

When no agents are available, virtual queuing allows customers to schedule a call back when call volume is low or hold their place in the queue and call back when it’s their turn. This method is more convenient for customers, but — to ensure it works most efficiently — care centers must properly attribute the queue time of the interaction even when there is no call physically waiting in the telephony environment.

With falsely short queue times, measurement systems may offer lower numbers than expected as there appear to be more calls handled within acceptable queuing thresholds. It’s also important to note that virtual queuing strategies (and the metrics used to measure their effectiveness) only work if there are down times during which agents can make return calls.

Invest in the Right Technology

The key to accurate measurement in the omnichannel environment is the right technology. Granularity is important because you must be able to group by agent skill set or interaction type combinations. Those base metrics can later be combined to achieve the desired level of reporting.

Therefore, it’s prudent to seek out tools, such as Aria’s Visualizer, that capture and display data at the distinct interaction level. The key is to get reports of all events (including interactions, routing, and meta data) within an environment, so you can later analyze that data in ways that are meaningful to your care center and your company.

You also need to be able to accurately capture presence data, and precisely attribute handle times to each channel method. The right tool for these tasks is one that seamlessly connects your customer relationship management (CRM) system, such as Salesforce, with your workforce management (WFM) system. This type of application can provide accurate metrics like the average queue wait time, or average interaction handle time (including all channels), which help with forecasting and staffing.

Finally, having all channels operating within one system can assist in measuring critical metrics. Commonly, an agent will be working within two or more channels, using a separate tool for each one. Because the systems are separate, so is the data gathering, meaning there could be inconsistencies in how performance is measured. Unified agent desktop technology helps in connecting all channels to one system in order to gather consistent, complete, and useful data.

Bottom line: the challenges of working within an omnichannel environment don’t have to outweigh the benefits. The investment you make in omnichannel operations may come back to you many times over, but only if you can optimize agent performance. The best way to do that is to recognize the challenges, and make sure you have the right tools to address them.

Agent Desktop Optimization: How Many More Screens Can Your Agent Handle?

Successful contact centers have always relied on speed. It’s about getting more done, in less time. To better manage customer conversations and respond to their inquiries in a timely manner, contact center agents need access to the right information immediately. The trouble is – most contact centers face data silos and believe that expensive, custom integration for agent desktop optimization is their only alternative.

It all comes down to inefficient infrastructure. Agents are forced to work with disparate IT systems that don’t talk to each other, making access slow and labor-intensive.

Over the years, mergers and acquisitions have shoehorned incompatible technology or multiple data sources together, making the infrastructure even more complex.

Wasted time and unnecessary costs

The average agent spends 15% of their time searching for the information across disparate systems to respond to customer inquiries (the Aberdeen Group research). This results in a lost cost of productivity of $1.57 million each year for a 300-seat contact center.

It’s a daily battle, and it gets them down. They’re not as productive as they want to be. They can’t serve customers as well as they need to, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

The extra ongoing costs of managing and maintaining disparate and legacy systems mean your business is bleeding money where it doesn’t have to.

Improving agent efficiency with unified, omnichannel technology

Modern contact centers need to add channels like voice, email, chat, mobile, social media to serve their customers. And the number of channels and tools used by contact center agents is expected to increase. This, coupled with data silos, means organizations need to rethink priorities and find alternative solutions.

According to 2016 Aberdeen Research “Optimize your customer experience strategy, get data right”, delivering consistent omnichannel conversations depends on companies providing all relevant employees with a unified view of their customer journey. So, it’s important that contact centers integrate this omnichannel approach into their agent desktop technology.

By investing in an optimized agent desktop, agents no longer have to switch between several screens to find the information they need. It’s simply there when they need it. To achieve this, agent technology needs to be integrated with multiple data sources, such as CRM solutions like Salesforce, while also providing access to legacy databases, such as billing systems or custom in-house systems.

There are platforms and solutions available that make integration faster and more powerful than ever before. So, improving agent’s access to information through agent desktop optimization may not be nearly as costly as you think.

The faster an agent can access what they need, the happier they’ll be. The same goes for their customers. Optimizing agent technology to speed up customer service should be a priority. For example, Amazon patented its ‘OneClick’ purchase process to retain what it believes is an enormous business advantage in terms of customer service. Amazon achieves extremely high conversion from its existing customers. Since the customer’s payment and shipping information is already stored on Amazon’s servers, it creates a checkout process that is virtually friction-less.

It’s this “friction-less” transaction concept that is needed in your contact center. Whether answering a customer’s question, selling them a product, or providing a service, enabling your agents to perform friction-less transactions should be the goal. Creating an integrated solution is a big part of this process.

In fact, integrated solutions are already delivering. The majority of companies improving agent productivity and performance can access relevant customer data through a single screen, therefore, improving first contact resolution and customer retention rates. For any business concerned about employee retention, this is the way to ensure it.

Contact us today to learn how Aria can help your contact center maximize agent productivity and ensure customer satisfaction across multiple channels.

Softphones – Finding the Last Piece for Your Salesforce Service Cloud Puzzle

Many companies are using Salesforce Service Cloud with Omni to engage with customers and handle their service requests. With Service Cloud, you can connect with your customers through social media channels, email, and chat.  Setting up those features paints a great picture to your service team.

However, the picture is not complete because voice still remains the most important way for many businesses to communicate with their customers. Consequently, it is crucial to enable your agents to handle phone calls through the Service Cloud Console as well. Only then will the full picture of the customer journey be completed.

But Integrating the Voice Channel Can Be Tricky!

Salesforce offers voice capabilities through third party vendors that are using their Open CTI toolkit. As a customer, that means you are free to choose from a wide variety of vendors and products. Integrating the voice channel into Salesforce also means that there will be a second routing engine active, which is evidently not aware of Salesforce’s Omni routing engine, and vice versa.

This also extends to the handling of agent capacity and can make the management of your workforce more complicated. Agents will have to deal with two separate interfaces to select their presence status and handle the interactions, which introduces more complexity to their daily work and can lead to more mistakes.

Now, What Can Be Done About This?

One option could be to separate the voice channel from the other channels and have a group of agents (or multiple groups) dealing with phone calls exclusively. This will get you out of the Workforce Management and reporting nightmare, where you can use the reporting capabilities of the voice platform for your voice agents and Salesforce’s reporting capabilities for all other media types.

However, an increasing number of agents do not solely deal with phone calls anymore, but either operate in a blended environment handling multiple media types, or they work on back office tasks during times of low call volumes.

All of this requires a deep integration of the voice channel into Salesforce Omni in order to give your agents, and therefore your organization, the most powerful platform to build on the processes and customer service strategies.

While the softphone needs to fulfill your business needs first and foremost, I would recommend adding the following questions to your checklist when evaluating Open CTI vendors:

  • Does the softphone support both Open CTI frameworks, ̶  the classic and the lightning version?
    Although both integrations require the Open CTI framework, there are actually two different libraries available today. The softphone must be able to utilize the correct library for each of the user interfaces.
  • Does the softphone integrate with Omni’s or Live Agent’s user presence?
    Ideally, the agent should really only have one presence control, but if there are two of them, do they at least synchronize their states, so that one routing agent can be influenced by the other?
  • Does it support screen pop configurations beyond the simple contact or case search?
    Depending on your framework, you may have more things you want to look up based on IVR choices, or create and open multiple records. You may also want different screen pops at different times of the call (i.e. ringing, answered, or released). 
  • Does it properly record the phone call in Salesforce, with the correct records (case and contact/account) associated to it? 
  • Does the softphone provide an API for additional integration?
    An API would allow for the most flexible integration. Depending on capabilities, you might be able to create very sophisticated screen pop behaviors, provide softphone controls from Salesforce record pages, and it can be used to couple your voice channel very tightly with Salesforce Omni-Channel. 

Based on your needs, the perfect puzzle piece to complete your customer service picture may seem elusive. Nonetheless, looking at the above mentioned criteria very closely will help you to find a piece that will be a very good fit. As a result, your contact center agents will see a seamless workflow and your customers will have a better service experience – leading to the customer engagement goals that your business set out to achieve.

Do Customer Expectations Vary By Channel? [infographic]

Much has been made of “omni-channel” focus within companies and contact centers – and rightfully so.  Customers now have more ways to communicate with businesses than ever before. They can choose to engage via voice, smartphone apps, email, chat, as well as through an ever increasing list of social media options!

According to ContactBabel’s 2014 US Contact Center Decision Makers’ Guide, the same percentage of customers now prefer to communicate via interactive, social and mobile channels as those who prefer traditional channels.

However, it’s too simplistic to assume that customers expect to use these channels to the exclusion of other options. Rather, I believe businesses can build more effective processes and improve customer experiences by analyzing how customer interaction choice is influenced by three main factors and shaped by customer expectations of those interactions. This allows a business to effectively segment their interactions and make them streamlined, according to how they are most likely used and meet customer expectations.

Regardless of channel chosen, customers today have the following expectations about their business interactions:

  • Accuracy and security: Interactions need to have current and accurate consumer information that is well protected.
  • Context: Companies need to know the consumer, what they want to do, and have their history and data readily available for some level of personalized response.
  • Speed: Consumers want interactions to be efficient with their time and don’t like being asked to repeat themselves or provide information already entered elsewhere.

 

Beyond the universal expectations, there are three general factors that influence a customer’s choice of interaction channel:

  • Circumstances: Often, customers decide on the contact option based on the current location, tools/applications available, and the urgency of their need. For example, if the matter is urgent – customers might attempt to contact the company via phone or web chat.
  • Nature of the task: Is it simple or complex?  Is it a one way interaction (i.e. notification) or will it need to be interactive as in problem solving? If the request is as simple as updating the home address, a customer might decide to proceed via self-service, or send an email.
  • Personal preference of technology: What is the customer most comfortable with?  Businesses can’t ignore the generational impact, here as demographics strongly influence technology choices which directly relate to the interaction choice. According to Dimension Data’s 2015 Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report, social media is now the most popular contact option for Generation Y.

Preparing a channel strategy and designing interaction paths can help streamline efforts, control costs and positively impact customer service.

When evaluating their customer interaction channels and strategy, businesses should consider their customers’ circumstances, tasks as well as their preferences and demographics when designing the interaction flow to improve customer experience and meet customer expectations.

See the infographic to better understand customer preferences, expectations and business guidance by interaction channel:

customer-expectation-interaction-channel-infographic-01-01

 

4 Key Takeaways from G-Force 2015

G-Force 2015 was held at the beautiful Fontainebleau Hotel located on the white sandy beaches of South Miami. For many, that may be the most memorable part of the conference this year. This could hold especially true for those who danced Tuesday night away at the party presented by Empirix. For others, the shear whirlwind of activity can be overwhelming.

For either group, the following list might help to refocus on (what many will agree are) the main take away points from this year’s conference:

1.  Omni-channel

For several years, the focus for Genesys has been multi-channel. Multi-channel is about providing customers with different ways to engage with a company, such as SMS, email or chat. Omni-channel is about the use of multiple channels over multiple interactions within the context of a single request or transaction.

For example, a customer may initiate a transaction on the web, start a chat while there, or share a browser session with an agent to submit a form. Then, the customer will anticipate a call back to complete the process. In some instances, the customer may call the company to follow-up on the request. All these separate interactions share a single context, which is to fulfill the customer request or transaction. This omni-channel experience is also referred to as the “customer journey”.

2. Customer Experience (CX) Will be the Differentiator

For years, companies were able to eke out an advantage if they had the technology or applications in place to provide a service. The look or feel of technology didn’t matter, as long as it served a useful function. The ATM comes to mind. Most recently the design and interface of applications took a front seat and customers started to expect a better user experience to go along with the expected functionality.

Think about the mobile banking apps that allow cheques to be deposited by simply taking a picture! Now, especially with millennials taking over, it is expected that all applications will be highly functional and have a rich user experience. So, that leaves companies with finding ways to differentiate themselves; many are anticipating that the CX will be the way.

This could be achieved by enabling a customer to use the mobile app to request a callback or place an inbound call where the context of their experience and login is passed along first to the routing platform and then to the agent.

3. The Internet of Things

IoT is going to play a significant role in customer experience. Customers are going to be able to engage through devices that go far beyond mobile phones. Likewise, customers are going to expect companies to proactively contact them and provide an active not a passive service.

An example that comes to mind is the water filter in my fridge. It would be great if instead of just notifying me that the filter needs to be changed, it offers to have the company contact me to place an order for the correct filter for my fridge. I get a call and provide my credit card number and in a few days the filter shows up. In this engagement, they may even get me on a subscription for auto-renewal instead of having to call me.

4. Artificial Intelligence is Coming (Is here!)

IBM is positioning Watson as the forerunner of the Cognitive Era. The Cognitive Era replaces the Programming Era in which rules were followed through setup and configuration with the result of the same experience being applied to many. In the Cognitive Era, systems adapt and learn to customize the experience. The big difference is that systems in the new era can detect patterns and learn and adapt, which create a unique user experience.

I won’t go in depth here but I encourage people to learn more about what Watson is. Watson represents a significant move towards artificial intelligence and auto-attendant capabilities. It doesn’t replace the agent. In fact, Watson can be used to help the agent. But the speed at which AI is improving is staggering and slightly frightening.

For most companies, there remains a gap between where they are today with their current solutions, and the key capabilities listed with these highlights from G-Force mentioned above. The companies leading the way in better engagement with their customers are able to close that gap quickly.

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