How will technology change customer service? A common answer to this question is, “Improvements in automation and self-service will erode the importance for call centers and the human agents in them.” That answer gets reinforced every time you read an announcement from a company touting success of a new automation project. It also gets strengthened by the marketing efforts of all the vendors selling self-serve technology. However, if we adjust for recency bias and profit motive, can we still be sure this trend is real? It’s a question too important for casual conclusions.
Full disclosure: I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation lately. And no, it’s not all about spaceship battles, alien encounters, and boldly-colored jumpsuits. It’s about the future (the year 2364 to be exact), and it gives anyone in the Customer Experience (CX) racket a lot to think about.
One of the more fascinating components of each episode is the “futuristic” technology weaved into the story lines. While many of the gadgets began as hair-brained offerings on the part of the writers, my generation has lived to see some of them realized, even mass produced: Medical scanners, FaceTime, 3D Printing, online communication networks, and iPads/digital tablets are a normalized part of our here-and-now. But while on Star Trek the technologies often aid in bringing humans and other diverse species closer together in a post-currency world, in reality it has arguably distanced humans from one another, wrenching their attention away from people and towards the flickering screens of their phones.
Even the mere mention of the acronym is enough to make one cringe. We’ve all had less-than-stellar experiences interacting with a robotic, impersonal interactive voice response. Be it the endless menus, the hunting and pecking for options on the keypad, and worst of all, the failure of the system to understand your request, is enough to drive even the calmest person crazy.
The truth is, when someone contacts your call center, they demand (and deserve) time and attention, and if these expectations are not met efficiently it can be costly. Despite this, call centers continue to use IVR technology, as it is widely considered to be a necessary evil. It can drastically improve the efficiency of call routing and thus putting callers in contact with the right agents, a critical piece of the customer experience.
Although an IVR is highly praised from a call center perspective, it doesn’t change the fact that callers strongly dislike interacting with them. Luckily, the modern call center is changing as technology improves and becomes easier to use. Just look at call-back solutions, a once desired, nice-to-have is now absolutely mandatory in the call center realm. So, rather than completely roasting IVRs, below we discuss warning signs that it might be time for an upgrade. Continue reading →
As the weather warms up in the West and many take off for their summer holidays, customers are increasingly dealing with big-brand companies in the business of travel: Airlines. Modern airline customer service (CS) is a far cry from the days when Don Draper-like marketers were designing prime service experiences for anyone who could afford to climb aboard (as marketed in the below 1954 ad for American Airlines).
This month, some of the top global airlines have been criticized on social media for their insufferably poor customer service, including established companies like American Airlines, British Airways, Norwegian Airlines, Aer Lingus, Thomas Cook, Lufthansa, and Air Canada. The hold times, lack of response, poor multi-channel infrastructure, and even poor in-cabin experiences have now conflated bad CS with the airline industry, so much so that it has become something The Onion has parodied many times, including here, here, and here.
Most people don’t realize the impressive scale of the contact center industry. Collectively, we spent 190 billion minutes calling a company for help. On the other side of those calls were 3.6 million people working as agents (and those numbers are just for the US).
Companies spend roughly $22 billion on the technology enabling all of these interactions, and with the market undergoing a massive change in the last decade, that number will continue to grow. The idea of the call center as a cloud-based service has switched from being impractical, to now almost inevitable.
We’re here today to talk to you about *cringe* peak times.
Peak times tend to be a touchy topic for call centers. Almost every center experiences them, and most don’t know how to handle the volume without adding more agents.
Every contact center is different, which means that peak times can take on various forms. Some experience the surge on certain days of the week (typically Mondays), others surge during specific times pf the day, and some only experience surges on holidays. It really comes down to the type of business your contact center is supporting; but, regardless of the variety of industries, the solution to the problem remains consistent – and it has nothing to do with workforce management (WFM).
Your customer is your brand.
Whether your client-facing business is a long-standing institution or the brand new kid on the block, you ought to keep this one fact in mind. In the midst of an increasingly digital space, where human interactions and considerations have the potential to get lost in the mix, it’s easy to forget that most of us are in the business of people; consumers are the heartbeat of our companies, and their feedback and acknowledgement of our good work can keep us chugging along.
Our greatest challenge in an increasingly competitive marketplace? Being memorable. More and more, a way of standing out from the crowd and winning over customers is by ensuring a top-notch, personal experience from start to finish. Customer experience (CX) continues to be one of the top competitive differentiators this year, and as a result, can no longer be ignored. If ramping up your CX is a new consideration for you and seems an insurmountable task, fear not: Our quick cheats (and handy infographic) are invaluable resources when reconsidering your CX in 2018, and will keep you on a steady course to a photo finish this year.
Ready Player One?
Here is the reality: A poor (or even worse, unmemorable) customer experience (CX) has led to a resounding “Game Over” for many businesses in the last few years. In 2018, becoming a winning company with a devoted fan base is no easy feat. With a crowded online marketplace and so many variables at work (be they social media, evolving digital tools, emerging AI, employee turnover, cutbacks, or the increasingly discerning consumers in the global market), developing a workable strategy to engage with – and win over – the hearts of customers can seem impossible. No need to feel defeated, though: Certain trends are emerging that businesses should set a course to follow this year to vie for the number one spot. Achieving a top CX strategy is an integral part of this journey, and remains the number one priority for companies across the globe. Many are already wise to this fact: According to Forbes, as of last year, 75% of companies suggested that their prime objective was to cultivate an outstanding customer experience game plan in the future.
Put your hands firmly on the controls and press ‘Start’ on the top CX trends you need to be watching in 2018. Among them, one thing is certain: It’s time to invite your customers onto your team, and win. Continue reading →
Every call center faces the problem of unpredictable spikes in call volume. Sometimes the causes are understood, even anticipated. However, in many cases these peak periods come as a shock to the system. The reality is that voice remains the most preferred channel for customers, but its popularity comes at a price: long hold times.
Unfortunately, the effect of this on the customer experience is significant: 60% of customers will abandon a call after just one minute of waiting on hold. If you want to improve customer loyalty and keep your CSAT scores healthy, you’ll need to make sure you have the right safety nets in place. Continue reading →
We’re about half-way through 2018, and the pace of acquisitions in the call center space has been brisk. We’ve seen transactions for every size and covering a wide range of technology. It always amazes me how dynamic and fluid this industry is. Below are the 5 most interesting deals I’ve seen so far. An honorable mention goes out to Mitel’s acquisition by a private equity firm and departure from the public market. (Kind of the reverse of Avaya’s move last year.)
It’s interesting that three of the five deals below are related to “analytics” or “intelligence” of customer behavior. That’s emerging as a key frontier in the broader world of customer interaction management. Four of them include “AI” or “machine learning”, although those terms are being used so casually now, they are almost meaningless.