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Stuart O'Brien

Forum Insight: What to expect from our Forums this year

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Starting off 2017 as we mean to go on, this year’s first forum ended last week, with people from across the globe booking in to the Radisson Blu Hotel for two days of meeting, greeting, wining and dining with some of the industry’s leading names. With seminars throughout the day tailored to individual industry needs, and meetings through the day to set up the right people, our Forums and Summits offer a bespoke experience for senior figures to get together to learn, share, network and engage.

“Forums like this give me an opportunity to see the people who I would like to work with, get to know more about these companies,” said Javed Sheikh from ICIC Bank UK, “it’s very important for me that I have vendors that are industry accredited and these are the Forums where I get a chance to know more about the companies, know more about what’s happening in the facilities world.”

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“From what I was hearing in the seminars, it’s such a wide field, and want to be able to go back to my office and say to my sales guys ‘right okay we need to be targeting these guys or those guys’” said Ed Taylor, Taylor Made Designs, “I’ve had a couple of meetings this morning and you get such a broad spectrum of people in this sector, it can range from a guy that’s just a one man band facilities manager to a big construction firm who are in charge of multimillion pound projects with hundreds if not thousands of consultants and staff”

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“I think you always have to take time off from the job that you do to just take a step back and look around, so for me, meeting people who you wouldn’t necessarily normally have anything to do with is a good thing.”said Carl Boorer from Solid Management, “It’s been a good Forum, you’re always looking for new and fresh ideas. I think if you don’t keep your eyes and ears open then you get left behind, really,”

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“We come to this one and the OSH one in February and normally get good results from it,” explained AGF Fire Protection’s Ruth Cunningham, “it’s our main marketing, we don’t do any other advertising, this is what we do.”

If you are interested in attending one of our 27 industry Forums throughout this year, you can send us an email at info@forumevents.co.uk for more information

 

Aspect announces chatbot availability

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Workforce optimisation company Aspect Software has announced the availability for its newest chatbot.

The chatbot, known as Mila, will be available on collaboration and messenger platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and Facebook Workplace, and aims to provide call centres with automated self service functionality to view schedules, book time off and trade shifts with other employees.

Mila is designed to streamline the back-end day-to-day, aiming to manage employees rather than deal directly with customers.

Mobile devices, apps and desktops will be linked through the software, in what is described as a MASA – Mesh App and Service Architecture.

Mila is already available as a virtual personal assistant for text messaging, but the new integration is hoping to make the software more widely used, as Aspect call it the “natural next step.”

“Chatbots are becoming an effective and desired means for both consumer and enterprise interaction,” said SVP and GM for workforce optimisation at Aspect, Mike Bourke, “Mila’s integration with Slack gives both in-office and remote employees their own workforce personal assistant right at their fingertips.”

Collaboration with other departments can offer even more opportunities for contact centres, as Aspect hope that Mila’s self-service functionality can turn the software into a one-stop source for other areas including, training, onboarding and even HR.

For more information, you can click here

National Archives take to the cloud

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The National Archives are digitising their communication technology to give access to the cloud.

Based in London, the National Archive is the official government archive and publisher for England and Wales, securing official records physically and digitally.

Provided by 8×8, over 600 staff members will get access to a cloud based system, using the communication company’s Virtual Office. The system allows for collaboration between devices via the internet, and is hoping to encourage cost-effective flexibility.

“We’re excited to support a prestigious organisation like The National Archives in updating its communications,” said Kevin Scott-Cowell, UK MD of 8×8, “We are looking forward to working together to improve staff productivity and public service”

“As a long standing G-Cloud supplier, we understand public sector companies want to be treated like any other commercial business with employees to look after, customers to delight and a bottom line to protect,” he continued, “we’re looking forward to working with even more innovative and forward-thinking public sector organisations in future.”

Customer care more important than ever, says Teleopti

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The constantly shifting industry landscape is nothing new but as change becomes rapid, customer care is the competitive edge for many companies, according to call centre industry specialist.

In a report by Teleopti product manager Jeremy Hamill-Keays, industry leaders are warned that analysing customer trends and data isn’t enough to guarantee revenue. As consumers become more fickle, loyalty is key to ensuring a consistent return.

A major factor in helping the customer is by helping the employees, suggests the report, which says that agent satisfaction and motivations has “the power to make or break customer loyalty,” as they represent the company’s front-line and direct contact with the public.

Warning that the very best customer experiences are still often best handled by a human being, automation can still go a long way to help, offering the opportunity for speed and efficiency, which is all many customers will be looking for.

Often the best course of action can be to use automation behind the scenes instead of front-facing, says Mr Hamill-Keays, as automated workforce management maintains the focus on the customers.

“Imagine the amount of time and effort spent on scheduling,” reads the report, “shift swaps and vacation requests through verbal or e-mail exchanges, the answering back and forth, the approvals, the pending approvals etc, and how that impacts the loss of focus in a +1,000 agent contact center.”

 

Social machines reaching a ‘coming of age’

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Machines capable of communication and interaction with their environments could greatly influence industry evolution, according to new research.

The study, by growth partnership company Frost & Sullivan, explains that while technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 50 years, artificial intelligence and sentience is still a long way from replacing most human roles.

Instead of replacing jobs, the research suggests, technology should be focused on complementing the work of humans and continue to make advancements in simplifying heavy computing roles.

This could mean huge changes for the call centre and customer service industry, as movement could go away from AI and more into automated  assistance as a tool for pre-existing employees, which would alter job responsibilities instead of removing or replacing people with robotic counterparts.

“New technology waves have traditionally created technology jobs, but the age of sentient tools is also likely to encourage the development of skills that are not technology related,” explained Frost & Sullivan Visionary Innovation Research Analyst Yash Mukherjee, “For this integration to be seamless, organisations have to upgrade the skill sets of their existing labor force.”

“These tools will greatly automate mid-level-skill jobs and generate numerous high-level-skill jobs, thus fostering a knowledge-based economy for the future.”

 

Guest Blog: Al Cook: The year of the next-generation contact centre

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Al Cook, Director of Product and Head of Contact Centre Business at Twilio, examines how the call centre industry will change in 2017

The current call centre experience doesn’t come without its faults. It would be safe to assume that most, if not all, people can relate to the frustration of trying to contact a business only to be left on hold for minutes on end.

Whilst many companies operate IVR menus (“Please listen as our menu options have changed”), these can be just as infuriating for customers. You are often expected to patiently navigate your way through level after level of menus until finally you reach a customer service representative who has none of the information you provided in the earlier steps of the call, and simply asks you to run through them again. Consumers would love if they could get their issues resolved quickly and conveniently. Yet, all too often the agents don’t even know who they are talking to, let alone what actions the customer has already taken before reaching them.

2017 is the year in which driverless cars could leave the realms of science-fiction and become a reality, a year in which augmented and virtual reality  could truly take flight and in which artificial intelligence will continue to make great strides. But what lies in store for the call centre of today?

For one thing, we will see more and more companies follow in the footsteps of the likes of Simply Business and PaymentSense, who have both overhauled their legacy contact centre systems in the last twelve months and replaced them with new, flexible cloud-based centres that can adapt to their changing customer needs. In 2017 we will see companies continuing to embrace, or at the very least seriously consider, a cloud-based contact centre solution. From start-ups all the way up to the largest of companies, the ability to scale to meet both current and future demands is essential to their success.

Whether you are building that solution from scratch, or adding new features to the infrastructure already in place, composable communication building blocks let you focus on upgrading the entire customer experience, rather than having to concentrate on the replacement or upgrading of existing hardware or software, which can be a daunting job for any company.

Take, for example, the issue of scale which we touched upon earlier. Traditional customer service solutions, which rely largely upon the work of human customer assistants, encounter problems scaling. The human element of the experience is often lost at this point. This is significant. Any call centre solution needs to keep the customer at the core of its vision because ultimately it is to the customer that they will answer. Making sure the customer experience is as smooth and pleasant as possible is essential, and it is here that the value of a cloud-based solution becomes apparent.

Cloud-based platforms allow for a companies to create innovative solutions to this problem, in a way that previously they could not. For example, by utilising CRM platforms or emerging AI technology a company can help its assistants to deal with large influxes of calls more systematically and with far more knowledge at their fingertips than previously imaginable, and all without the need to overhaul their entire system. Because of this, 2017 will be the year in which more companies will follow in the footsteps of companies like Simply Business or New Voice Media, who have both overhauled their legacy call centre systems in favour of cloud based ones.

Industry Spotlight: What are the top customer service strategies to service the contact centre of the future?

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Recently Kura teamed up with the CCA to answer this very question. Through new, original research we asked the critical questions to understand where businesses were positioned today and their ambitions for the future.

 

Our on-demand webinar by Arceeb Moughal, Director of Commercial at Kura, and Anne-Marie Forsyth, CEO of the CCA, highlights the key findings from this research and why they’ve deemed the top five customer service strategies to be:

 

  1. Lead from the top down
  2. Personal, empathetic and complex  problem solving
  3. Setting-up people for success
  4. Measuring performance
  5. Be proactive, seize opportunities

 

Click here to view our on-demand version of the webinar.

Forum Insight: 7 effective ways to feel the fear and network anyway

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If you’re shy, don’t think that successful networking is out of the question. Molly Dyson offers top tips for the less outgoing.

While working with Forum Events we’ve heard from many industry members that their job can be extremely isolating, especially if your position is the only one of its kind at your company. That’s where strategic networking comes into play, but it’s not always easy to get past your fears and meet new people. Here are our top tips to tackle trepidation and go head on into a successful networking event.

 

1 Set a goal

What are you hoping to achieve by networking? Are you in need of a support group of other, similar employees that you can turn to with questions? Maybe you’re looking for a new job and want to get to know people who might know of available positions. Or perhaps you’re just on the hunt for new contacts. Whatever your goal, have it firmly in your mind so you can be more strategic in your approach.

 

2 Find the right event or group

Once you have a goal in mind you can be more selective with which events you attend. If you’re looking for suppliers, face-to-face events such as the Call Centre and Customer Service Summit are the place to be. Want to meet like-minded individuals? Join local and national networks to give you the chance to interact with a variety of different people from different backgrounds.

 

3 Remember you’re not alone

It’s important to keep in mind that you’re probably not the only shy person in the room. Whether it’s your first or fifth networking event, look around the room and spot your fellow wallflowers – they’ll be the first people to target.

 

4 Jump in feet first

When you’re at the event, try not to spend too much time waiting for somebody else to strike up a conversation. When you’ve spotted the other shy ones in the room, approach them and introduce yourself – you can even make a joke of the fact that you’re there alone. Sometimes it pays off to step out of your comfort zone and make the first effort.

 

5 Have an elevator pitch ready

Prepare a quick statement that tells others who you are, what you do and what you’re passionate about. This should be no longer than 30 seconds, but preferably less – it doesn’t need to be the story of your life. You just want to give people a taster of who you are so they’re intrigued enough to ask more questions and continue the conversation.

 

6 Keep up appearances

Your tone of voice and body language make up 93% of a person’s impression of you. So try to maintain an open and positive stance with a welcoming smile on your face, and don’t use negative language. You have to find the right balance of confidence and humility – nobody likes a braggart, but you do have to be able to tote your own successes if you want to maintain professional relationships with the people you meet.

 

7 Have fun

Need we say more? Get out there and enjoy yourself!

Guest Blog: Howard Williams: The conversation engine of the future

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The clock struck twelve and 2016 ended to a collective sigh of relief. But what does 2017 have in store? The last twelve months laid down the groundwork for some exciting advancements in technology, with the prospect of virtual reality and voice operated assistants already poised to advance throughout the year. But what about developments in more traditional technology systems and processes, like customer relationship management (CRM) and consumer support centres? Howard Williams, marketing director for live chat software developer, Parker Software, investigates.

 

More than 50 per cent of consumer purchases are currently being made online, and predictions suggest that by the year 2020 online retail expenditure in the UK will grow by nearly 45 per cent. There’s no doubt that the way customer service teams interact with consumers will continue to transition to an increasingly digitalised forum throughout 2017 and beyond.

With the need for heightened digitalised services, the way the call centre industry needs to evolve and adapt is key for the coming year, with service leaders predicting customer live chat usage to grow by 87 per cent throughout the next 12 to 18 months.

 

Connecting the connected

This growth in live chat demand is taking place against an Internet of Things (IoT) backdrop that’s full of smart homes, smart cars and even smart factories. As more devices and systems are developed to interact and connect with each other, we are entering a world where the list of what we cannot achieve with customer relationship software is shorter than the list of what we can.

The way current live chat software integrates with CRM systems is ready to be revolutionised in 2017. We’re talking heightened integration, automation and smarter systems to create a central hub of communication monitoring. A vital shift when you consider that, currently, 79 per cent of global contact centres say they have no comprehensive view of a customer’s various interactions with a business.

Imagine, as a customer service representative, that you receive a live chat enquiry from an irate customer, who becomes increasingly frustrated when you ask them to explain their complaint for the fifth time this week. You try and sympathise with them, but you’re already starting off on the wrong foot and winning them round becomes almost impossible.

 

Board the conversation engine

Now imagine a system that automatically documents a customer’s full communication history, previous orders and contact details. Information that’s immediately put at your fingertips next time they reach out — whether through live chat, phone or email. You are informed and able to help immediately with a personalised, more human exchange.

Systems capable of driving this kind of customer service relationships are not that far away. On the horizon we can see a conversation engine that automates the important information that we let fall through the cracks, such as conversation, contact and order history, and is capable of directing customers to the same service agents each time the consumer makes contact — no matter how they reach out.

 

Don’t forget the bots

Bots stole headlines for various reasons in 2016, and we can’t look at the future of automated technology without exploring how they will feature over the next year or so. Bots will be a vital pawn on the conversation engine chess board, but only if they are used intelligently to support a customer’s journey from initial query to speaking to the right person in the correct department. Software bots need to facilitate quality human interaction, and anyone attempting to replace the human experience with a bot will fail. Only a person can build the meaningful, long-lasting relationships with consumers that businesses rely on for repeat business.

Integrating standalone software and digitalised programs to create a single, comprehensive system is where we see the call centre developing in 2017 — will you be boarding the conversation engine with us?

Industry Spotlight: Inside Call Centre technology

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Aeriandi’s award winning voice security solutions deliver complete protection from the start to the end of every call. From call recording, archiving and PCI phone payments, to fraud detection and speech analytics, we’ve got you covered. Our software-as-a-service solution delivers industry leading functionality and security, without the need to ever install anything on site.

 

Call Recording

Hosted call recording made simple. A single secure portal for your fixed-line and mobile call recordings

PCI Phone Payments

Operating at telco level, our fully hosted solution stops all payment card data from entering your environment, protecting your business, your customers and your brand

Call Archive

Our Archive Call Recording Storage and Retrieval service eliminates all the sensitive cardholder data from your contact centre infrastructure, so that you can more readily comply with the PCI DSS

Phone Fraud Detection

Protect your business against phone fraud throughout the entire call centre, in both live agent calls and IVR activity, improving customer experience and reducing fraud losses

Speech Analytics

Analyse customer calls in real-time, as well as batch, helping to structure interactions more meaningfully, deliver higher levels of customer satisfaction, improve agent performance and ensure that FCA objectives are met.

 

Whether PCI DSS, MiFID II, Dodd Frank, FCA or other, compliance can be complicated and expensive to attain and maintain, which is where we can help. We operate at carrier level and our solutions are delivered 100% via the cloud, meaning faster deployment at lower cost with less business disruption. All of Aeriandi’s solutions are fully scalable and flexible, which means they are easily adapted to the changing needs of your business.

Pick and choose what you want             

We understand that every business has different needs when it comes to voice security, which is why all of our products and services are available individually as well as part of a comprehensive solution. Businesses of all sizes can tailor solutions to best suit their requirements without the need to buy irrelevant products they don’t want or need.

A trusted partner for organisations across the UK

There are already over 20,000 call centre operatives using our software throughout the UK, representing household brands in sectors such as retail, telecommunications, banking, travel and utilities. These organisations trust Aeriandi to maintain compliance and protect their sensitive customer data, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For more information, please visit www.aeriandi.com or call 0845 108 0308