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Stuart O'Brien

NICE CX Excellence Awards 2020 – Winners revealed

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NICE has announced the winners of its CX Excellence Awards 2020, with inning organisations honoured for leveraging innovation to drive exceptional customer and employee experiences and improve the bottom line.

The 16 award winners across five categories will be recognised at Interactions Live, NICE’s first-ever virtual conference highlighting the path to uncompromising customer service via best practices for agility, flexibility and adaptability in today’s changing reality.

The winners were also featured in a commemorative digital magazine which highlights how they used innovation to provide brand-differentiating customer service.

The CX Excellence Award winners span a variety of industries including financial services, healthcare, insurance, retail, telecommunications, utilities and more. Winners demonstrated remarkable results in one of five categories:

  • Best Cloud Implementation – Highlighting the flawless roll-out of novel cloud-based solutions while enjoying a complete, omnichannel customer experience suite in the cloud. Winners also exhibited rapid innovation cycles and elasticity via their cloud-native platform deployments. The winners are:
    • Farmers Insurance
    • HireRight
    • Trupanion
  • Best Business Impact – Driving quantifiable improvements in KPIs across multiple business areas including customer satisfaction, net promoter score (NPS), agent engagement, operational efficiency and revenue growth. The winners are:
    • Banco BMG
    • Northwestern Mutual
    • Teleflora
  • Best Customer Experience – Achieving a deep understanding of customers’ personalities and journeys to improve customer experience through advanced, real-time analytics. The winners are:
    • KeyBank
    • Michigan Department of State Information Center
    • Valvoline
  • Best Employee Engagement – Boosting workforce engagement and empowerment and demonstrating excellence in transparency, retention and motivation strategies. The winners are:
    • Sallie Mae
    • TD Bank
    • Vera Bradley
  • Rookie of the Year – Demonstrating excellence in the rapid adoption and implementation of best practices, achieving rapid ROI. The winners are:
    • LPL Financial
    • PSCU
    • US Bank
    • Wine Country Gift Baskets

Barak Eilam, CEO, NICE said: “We believe innovation is the critical path to success both in dynamic times as well as in measured ones. These organizations define what it means to be CX Agile in ensuring exceptional experiences even as market conditions evolve, and we’re proud to celebrate them. We remain committed to developing novel technologies that allow our customers to make a meaningful impact on the lives of their consumers in any business environment. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the award applicants and winners for sharing their successes with us this year.”

Click here to access the commemorative digital magazine showcasing how the winners used innovation to drive service excellence.

Call Centre Management – Getting it right from the start

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By Simon Black, CEO, Awaken Intelligence

We all know how having a great contact centre manager can make the world of difference to managing your team of agents and delivering outstanding campaigns. However, with the news that Oracle, alone, sent more than 100,000 customer service agents home to work, how can you ensure that you’re still delivering the best call centre management even with the majority of your agents working remotely?

As a recent FT article highlighted, “the image of a seamless, 24-hour global work ethic (from the contact centre industry), relies to a great extent on humans in large offices – ‘butts on seats’, as one industry locution has it.”

Covid-19 is dramatically changing the contact centre landscape as we know it. So, what critical disciplines and tools are the very foundation of great management of your business? And how can you evolve to ensure you’re getting the best performance and customer satisfaction possible, wherever you can? Below you’ll find a few gems that will support your agents in this rapidly evolving sector.

Onboarding and Culture

According to Glassdoor organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70% yet a study by Gallup found that only 12% of employees strongly agree their organisation does a great job of onboarding new employees! The challenge to introduce new joiners effectively is greater than ever and while we know that the job market is going to be flooded at a time like this it is important you get it right. Finding self-motivated individuals that fit within your contact centre and that aren’t just ‘butts on seats’ is really important. You may be looking for completely different people compared to your traditional hires. You’re going to need self-starters that are motivated and that aren’t afraid to shout as they settle into their new role. Managing the existing team is hard enough at the moment but you need to ensure your new agents aren’t just thrown in the deep-end! Make sure you have a robust onboarding process where they get the following:

  • To meet their team and key managers in the business. Give them a feel for your company culture even if it’s only via video calls.
  • Make sure you cover all the HR aspects and get the admin out of the way as quickly as possible.
  • Ease them into the role by showing them the systems and procedures by using video training. The technology exists to do this so there’s really no excuse!
  • Appoint a mentor – a key person your new hire can go to when they’re feeling anxious or have any questions as they settle into the role, and encourage them to schedule regular, virtual coffee meetings. According to HCI, 87% of organisations that assign an ambassador or buddy program during the onboarding process say that it’s an effective way to speed up new hire proficiency.

You’ll see we also mentioned company culture. We know it’s difficult to keep this going while everyone is working remotely but it’s vital as BreatheHR’s Culture Economy Report 2020 highlighted, estimating that toxic workplaces cost the UK economy £15.7 bn every year. Encouraging existing employees as well as new agents to contribute to conversations, turn up on team calls and join in online quizzes or cocktail hours will help to keep people motivated even in this disjointed world.

Best Tools for the Job

AI and voice analytics are changing the way in which many businesses operate and contact centres are no different. Our conversational analytics will not only help you to analyse the vocabulary and sentiment in your most established performers but will also help you to pick up on where new starters are struggling too.  This is so important when you’re unable to stroll around your call centre and listen into conversations taking place. Plus, it’s actually a far more practical and informative way of keeping your finger on the pulse.

Not only will scripting and analytics help to guide even the newest recruits through their first calls but, also with this informative data they’ll soon be able to understand what makes a seamless journey for the customer and a better day at work for them! Here’s a reminder of why conversational analytics (CA) is so important for your agents:

  • The intuitive way CA works means your agents require less training or can move on to different campaigns without spending hours reading reams of training manuals.
  • Ability to handle calls and resolve them faster than before, which means your agent’s experience and job satisfaction will be higher and your cost per call is kept in control.
  • Your agents have the ability to focus on the conversation, rather than the process which means both agent and customer have a better experience. That means your staff retention improves dramatically.
  • By providing you with actionable insights formed into one report, it will allow you to motivate your agents in the right directions and stimulate continuous improvement.


Automating the intensive process of monitoring agent-customer interactions at scale can help to highlight which agents might need further training and on what in particular. Also, there are repetitive call centre tasks such as listening to agents calls and manually evaluating agent’s performance or screening the calls for quality assurance (QA), that can be automated to make the role more enjoyable. Given automation is a proven way to reduce attrition investing in automation makes even more sense when you look at the numbers. According to Response Design Corporation call centres replace approximately 26% of their agents each year and a report from CIPD claims that the average cost for replacing call centre staff is £6,125. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realise that re-hiring and training 26% of your workforce on an annual basis is pretty expensive! So, doing anything to retain the great performers is more than worthwhile.


It sounds simple but measurements should be in place to monitor individual, team and campaign performance. How can you reward and praise if you have nothing to benchmark people’s efforts by? And similarly, how can you report success on a particular campaign if there are no KPIs.

Any decent call centre technology will provide you with a reporting dashboard where you can gather critical data at every level. You need to measure from the individual call, agent, team, campaign and across the entire contact centre. Generating these reports shouldn’t mean that your contact centre manager spends hours stuck in Excel, these should be generated by a powerful web-based tool providing managers with all necessary information to make strategical decisions for your contact centre.

The Customer is Always King

You’ve heard it before, but your agents should never forget that delivering frictionless customer experience is critical to your organisation’s success. Help them to really understand what makes your customers tick, the variety of different requirements and to share experiences with their peers to help better the experience for all. It’s also important to remind your team, no matter how difficult the client interaction is, that being polite and positive will pay dividends. Smiling on a camera during your virtual meetings will make the conversation instantly warmer in 9 out of 10 cases. And sometimes we all have to accept that if people have a bad day and not to take it too personally either.

Going Full Circle Time and Again

While it’s been tricky with agents working remotely during this time finding ways to offer feedback and being accessible to your team is key to maintaining morale and motivation. We’ve discussed the importance several times of being a good listener and how to run a team efficiently to encourage two-way conversations across the team so they can support one another and share learnings.

As we’ve already said it takes a certain type of person to work in a contact centre and an incredibly motivated one to work from home on their own, amongst a virtual team. That is not going to change any time soon. They need to be confident, efficient and a good listener as well as a team player. However, to help them be successful you need to deploy the right tools and pay attention to the data you garner to ensure that your managers, your agents and campaigns run as efficiently as possible.

Covid-19 has been a catalyst for digital transformation this year, pushing businesses from all industries to embrace smarter technology to support their people and allow their operations to thrive. Solutions that you once viewed as a ‘nice to have’ or planned to introduce over the next five years are now a necessity. Equipping your team with the best will not only enhance their working lives but dramatically improve your customer experience (CX) too.

Register today for November’s Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit

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You can now secure your free pass to our 2nd hybrid Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit, taking place on the 16th & 17th November at the Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted.

Register today for these amazing benefits:
  • Complimentary overnight accommodation, including all meals and refreshments throughout.
  • A personalised itinerary of relaxed meetings (social distanced with Perspex screen) designed specifically to match your requirements and upcoming projects.
  • Bespoke attendance options including attending the live event, or attending virtually from the comfort of your own home or office.
  • Access to LIVE webinar and pre-recorded topical webinars with advice on the industry.
  • Social distancing networking with peers that share your challenges

Click here to attend the LIVE November event or Click here to attend the Virtual November event

If you have any questions about your free pass or the event, then contact us here and we’ll be able to answer any queries you might have.

Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit – Two weeks to go!

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There’s still time to secure a guest pass for the virtual Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit, which is taking place on the 14th September.

Your place is entirely free and includes access to live webinar sessions and a personalised itinerary of relaxed 1-2-1 meetings with budget-saving suppliers who match your needs for upcoming projects.

There is no hard sell at the event, just a great opportunity to build business relationships. Plus, you can enjoy this unique event from the comfort of your own surroundings.

If you cannot make this date, we are also running a second LIVE hybrid Summit on the 16th & 17th November at the Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted.

CLICK HERE to confirm your free pass, or please contact us if you would like any more information about the event.

Fast call centre analytics ‘vital’ in the new WFH normal

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The immediate provision of accurate speech analytics is becoming increasingly vital as contact centres increasingly look to maintain work from home (WFH) operational models.

That’s the view of leading call centre solution provider Avoira, which is anticipating heightened interest in the technology from delegates attending the virtual Contact Centre & Customer Service Summit.

The company reports managers are finding that the interactive nature of a sophisticated real-time analytics solution not only enables more effective call outcomes, but enhances employee engagement.

Speaking ahead of the Summit, Steve Watts, Avoira’s head of sales, said: “With team leaders and managers having lost the Captain’s Chair view of what’s happening minute-to-minute,  real-time analytics are even more important and compelling.

“As a result contact centre directors and heads of innovation are now taking a closer look at the sophisticated tools they might deploy to ensure productivity and service standards are maintained as the novelty of homeworking wears off.”

He adds that capturing real-time traffic not just within a centralised centre but across a remote working network, remains a challenge for all but the most potent speech analytic solutions.

As such Watts is expecting heightened interest at the Summit in the AI powered voice analytics solution which Avoira is set to showcase.

The cloud-based Xdroid solution is a rarity – arguably unique – in delivering real-time analytics of both voice and text communications. It automatically records and analyses all calls and monitors customer experience, compliance and the performance of individual agents, wherever they are working.

The powerful solution can detect and range of emotions, reporting on whether customers are displaying displeasure, uncertainty, disappointment or happiness. Based on analysis of dialogue, it provides on-screen prompts which can steer an agent to engage in specific actions – such as up-selling or making a compensatory gesture – at the time most likely to yield a positive response.

A formidable customer service tool, the technology claims to deliver an increased client retention rate of 30% and an inbound sales uplift of 14%.

It can also increase agent retention and reduce breaches which can result in legal or regulatory actions.

“It’s not just regulatory and legal compliance with which our solution can assist, but in ensuring employees, wherever they are, continue to subscribe to and share the organisation’s ethos,” says Watts. “By providing tools with which to help an agents job be performed more easily and effectively, it also helps them feel valued.”

Do you specialise in Knowledge Management for call centres? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on Call Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in September we’re focusing on Knowledge Management solutions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Knowledge Management solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Carly Walker on c.walker@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Carly Walker on c.walker@forumevents.co.uk.

Puzzel ranks top 3 among Frost & Sullivan’s European CCaaS providers

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Puzzel has been ranked in the top 3 for European CCaaS providers for 2020 by Frost & Sullivan, highlighted for their innovative products, and the vigour with which they embrace new technology and megatrends.

Based on its analysis of 150 European CCaaS providers, the placement on the Radar confirms Puzzel as the challenger brand companies need to know when an original approach to customer experience is required to deliver business impact.

To find out more about the analysis and why Puzzel should be on your radar, download the full report.

Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit – Just one month to go!

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We have a guest pass on hold for you at next month’s virtual Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit on the 14th September.

Your place is entirely free and includes access to live webinar sessions and a personalised itinerary of relaxed 1-2-1 meetings with budget-saving suppliers who match your needs for upcoming projects.

There is no hard sell at the event, just a great opportunity to build business relationships. Plus, you can enjoy this unique event from the comfort of your own surroundings.

If you cannot make this date, we are also running a second LIVE hybrid Summit on the 16th & 17th November at the Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted.

CLICK HERE to confirm your free pass, or please contact us if you would like any more information about the event.

The Silver Lining: How the pandemic has inspired innovation throughout the contact centre industry

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By Jil Maassen, Lead Strategy Consultant, Optimizely

There has been significant pressure on the contact centre industry throughout the pandemic. Unprecedented demand has been met by a dwindling office based workforce, and it is unlikely we will see a fully populated calling floor for some time yet.

However, these difficult circumstances have produced insights and examples of innovation which may not have surfaced otherwise. Businesses with a culture of experimentation have been able to approach this challenge with agility, and tried new tactics to handle the call centre deluge, even with a limited number of staff on site.

As businesses return to a new type of normal, they can take these lessons learned and apply them to operations going forward, driving growth and customer satisfaction from the front line.

From the phone line to the finish line

For some time now, contact centres have been targeted at the senior level to not just maintain high levels of customer satisfaction, but to find ways to reduce the level of direct contact time going forward. A happy customer is unlikely to call in, so businesses want to keep the number of inbound callers to a minimum. During the pandemic, this became business critical, because there weren’t the same number of handlers available.

Businesses needed to address customer concerns before they reached the phone line, by ensuring digital touchpoints are up to scratch. However, the past few months has taught us no amount of FAQ’s or canned responses are sufficient in the face of the unprecedented. So how were organisations able to stay ahead of customer needs, while coping with dwindling live support resources.

The answer to addressing customer needs before they flood the call centre lies in a smart approach to data, and a culture of experimentation. Every step in the customer journey provides an enormous volume of valuable data. If used in the right way, this data can help businesses nip potential pain points in the bud before the deluge of calls arrives. To illustrate, let’s consider retailers who have had to adjust to serve a more digital customer base than they are accustomed to.

Servicing a changing mindset

Many contact centres are supporting retailers who are struggling to bring back the regular footfall expected at this time of year, as consumers still default to online purchases for luxury items. An often overlooked trend in online shopping is the changeability of the customer mindset throughout this process.

With an entire storefront at their fingertips, people are often susceptible to quickly changing their mind on a confirmed purchase, even after delivery has been fulfilled. In fact, about five to 10 percent of in-store purchases are returned. But that rises to 15 to 40 percent for online purchases, according to Happy Returns. In online retail — returns are inevitable.

Clothes e-tailers such as ASOS cater to this trend well, and streamlined customer support and return processes have been well tuned over time. However, for businesses new to high volume online retail and distribution, this has been a difficult adjustment.

The silver lining

Out of the doom and gloom though, we have seen examples of retailers thriving under these conditions. A huge percentage of the calls retailers with an ecommerce platform will receive each year are delivery related, so addressing these have been a priority. Customers expect to have a clear view of how long delivery will take, and how this can vary before and after check-out.

When faced with delays due to a higher volume of online orders than usual, we have seen retailer bosses speaking directly with their front-line call centre staff, to gain a better understanding of how they can ease customer concerns in this area. From limiting the amount of visible stock available, to understanding where to best place notifications of shipping delays on the site — the contact centre staff know the customer mindset best.

Another interesting outcome, is that retailers have found introducing a queueing system on web pages to manage traffic has actually driven sales. This is something that call centres have been using for years, and businesses are finding ways to replicate these tactics digitally. Scarcity is one of the oldest sales tactics in the book, and it is certainly doing the trick for retailers as they quickly try to adapt to a digital first operating landscape.

Moving towards a brighter future

The success stories in the next few years won’t just be determined by who was able to succeed during the current crisis, but who was able to take the lessons and adapt for long term success.

Organisations with award-winning customer service records, such as Sky, have been unlocking the insights from call centre staff through digital experimentation for years. As businesses march out into new territory, staying close to customer expectations through the contact centre will be essential to stay on the right course. The pandemic won’t last forever, but the lessons learned should outlive the virus for years to come.

SMS Surveys – Vital to gathering valuable customer feedback

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By mGage

For businesses looking to continually improve their customer service and experience, the need for thorough feedback cannot be underestimated. Without a true indicator or picture of the consumer experience, there is no way organisations can ensure that they are supplying the best service possible. Hence, SMS surveys are a vital tool in the ongoing relationships between brands and consumers to further develop and enhance services or products.

With Gartner predicting that 89 percent of businesses are facing competitive points based primarily on customer experience, it is imperative that brands make customer satisfaction their priority to remain engaging and relevant.

By initiating surveys brands can have access to a continual feedback loop to make the necessary changes to their business. Therefore, it is important that they listen to customer comments and learn from their suggestions to ensure the continual upgrade of products or services are in line with customer expectations. Research by Kolsky found that 70 percent of companies that deliver best-in-class customer experience use customer feedback.

Further research suggests that one happy customer can lead to nine referrals, whereas one unhappy customer can result in 26 other unhappy people; this highlights the implications that negative customer experiences can have on current and potential consumers.

Why use SMS for surveys?

SMS surveys are a quick and efficient tool for any business wishing to gather valuable insights and essential feedback to improve their customers’ experience. As mobile has become an integral part of our connected lifestyle and with people checking their phones 58 times a day on average, it is an easy way to reach your audience. In return it allows your customers to respond any time and from any place. While email may cost less, SMS has proven more beneficial as it has a 7.5 times higher response rate than email, an average 90 second reply time, and a 98 percent open rate.

By launching SMS surveys, the sender can look forward to receiving higher response rates and increased customer engagement. Here are some great examples of how you can collect feedback from your audience:

  • Customer service feedback – when a phone call has ended you can send an SMS survey to your customer asking them to rate their experience and the advisor
  • Delivery feedback – ask your customers to rate a recent delivery to see if the service met their expectations
  • New purchases feedback – find out how a customer got on with a recent purchase and how they found the overall experience.
  • Update contact details – allows a customer to update these to ensure your records are up to date

How to integrate SMS surveys

Using a mobile campaign management tool like Communicate Pro, brands have the ability to quickly and easily launch a SMS survey campaign. Brands can create interactive surveys using decision tree functionality and receive open ended responses to collect the most useful data for them. All messages can be personalised and automated and can include features like emojis.

It is important for brands to use tailored questions to ensure that they ask the right questions to the right people to increase engagement and ensure that the questions are relevant. With the data collected through SMS surveys, brands can quickly understand what their customers want and allow them to take on board any constructive feedback in order to grow as an organisation and curate better satisfaction in the future.

Final thoughts

To continue to enhance customer loyalty and satisfaction it is critical to collect consumer feedback via SMS surveys. By incorporating it into your multi-channel communication strategy it offers your audience a choice of response.  With more people now on their mobile phones for longer you can expect high response rates via SMS – highlighting its capability as a highly engaged channel and a great way to connect with customers to gather valuable insights for your business.