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Reinventing failure demand to revitalise contact centres

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By Suzette Meadows, Lead Consultant, Contact Centre/Unified Communications, Exponential-e

Contact centres aren’t averse to a challenge. For years the familiar phone call has seen its role in customer service challenged by other modes of automated communication promising fast, first-time resolutions and tangible cost savings. The reality is that right now, many of these platforms lack the automation and access to real-time customer data needed to deliver seamless, autonomous customer interactions. They will form an integral part of omnichannel communication going forward, but their integration will take time.

For that reason, contact centres remain as important as ever within customer service. They’re evolving at breakneck speed too, with cutting-edge technology increasingly powering efficient, resilient processes. Throw in the fact most contact centre agents now work remotely, and points of customer contact are spread across multiple channels, and the speed of their evolution becomes clear.

All these simultaneous changes can be difficult to navigate though, and have the potential to negatively impact customer journeys, a punishing financial and reputational prospect. That’s what makes the study of failure demand so critical to contact centres, and I want to explain why.

Studying how you fail in order to succeed

There’s been some discussion in recent years about the value of assessing failure demand in contact centres, with certain voices including IBM arguing businesses need to start focusing on engaging customers across all channels. That approach belies the unique role of failure demand in enhancing the customer experiences. It allows you to create a culture of feedback where you identify potential weaknesses in current processes and customer journeys, and then take positive, proactive action to mitigate them. Its study is a critical ingredient in ensuring the longevity and continued success of your business for as long as you are operating a contact centre model.

In practice, failure demand can typically be divided into four categories:

  • Speed: When a customer had to wait longer than anticipated for a response, or didn’t receive one quickly enough.
  • Accuracy: When the information provided was inaccurate or incomplete, meaning follow-up communications were required.
  • Simplicity: When the customer journey was too complex, involving multiple processes, departments, or channels of communication.
  • Clarity: When the response delivered was unnecessarily technical or confused the customer, and required further explanation

Prioritising performance assessment

With this understanding of how to categorise failures, contact centres can begin assessing their performance, and the potential root causes of any recurring problems.

But where should you start? That’s simple – with your agents. They will have a better idea than anyone where there are issues with your tools or processes, so speak to them to identify potential issues in everyday workflows.

Each agent won’t have a full picture of performance across your operation, though. That’s why interaction data is so valuable. Capturing data which details all instances of repeat contact, and reviewing it to identify any common trends within complaints, produces valuable insights into where customer service can be streamlined to deliver better outcomes.

This process can be made even more sophisticated if you categorise the specific details of each customer contact once you’ve captured details of the interaction. Previously this would have been fairly time-intensive, but various systems are now available that automatically capture and categorise both customer complaints and agent feedback for you. When used correctly, they provide a far more holistic and qualitative view of each customer’s experience and agent’s performance, helping establish specific patterns of performance, and producing insights into potential factors contributing to failures.

All of these steps are crucial to assessing performance, but they’ll prove futile unless you have innate knowledge of the journeys customers are taking within your organisation. That’s why it’s so important to map out your projected customer journeys; doing so means you can compare the outcomes you want to drive against actual current journeys, measure whether expectation meets reality, and act accordingly if there is any discrepancy between the two.

Developing a clear strategy to minimise failure demand

So now you’ve established the contributing factors to failure in your call centre. Of course, the contributing factors in each case will differ greatly, but the ideal strategy to mitigate them will typically comprise four key steps:

  • Equipping agents with the tools they need: Giving agents the tools and information needed to deliver first-time resolutions at their fingertips, wherever they are connecting from, should be the basis of any strategy. A lack of appropriate resource is one of the most common contributors to failure demand, but equally one of the most straight forward to identify and fix
  • Automating simple tasks to free up agent capacity: Automating routine tasks that do not require their specific expertise, such as identification and verification, ensure customers are connected to the agent best placed to help them with minimal waiting time, ensuring queries are resolved more quickly.
  • Consolidating and streamlining internal processes: Bouncing between different departments and channels of communication often causes customer communications to break down. Adopting an omnichannel approach to communication should allow you to provide effortless support and consultation to customers on the channel of their choice, without compromising their experiences
  • Analyse your data to draw your insights: Once you’ve captured, consolidated and stored all your data securely, then it’s time to start driving value from it. Make it instantly accessible to those managing customer service channels so they can run analytics against it and generate insights that they can use to proactively address and improve processes in their teams.

Contact centres are constantly evolving in response to shifting customer expectations and changing business priorities, meaning there is no set blueprint for how a contact centre should be run, or specific level of performance that it should aim to reach. Each one operates in its own unique way.

That said, every successful contact centre should aspire to match best in class CX with efficient and effective customer interactions. Ingraining awareness of failure demand across teams, and putting the right tools and strategy in place to mitigate it, will ensure contact centres continue to play an important role in surprising and delighting customers on a daily basis.

WEBINAR: How AI is delivering a new generation of CX Analytics

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Contact centres spend significant resources evaluating agent effectiveness and customer sentiment, but don’t always know if they are capturing the right data, creating the right KPIs and sharing the available analytics to allow them to improve agent and customer metrics. Has your approach to analytics been re-evaluated to take advantage of today’s cloud and AI technology?

Join Sheila McGee-Smith, President & Principal Analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics, LLC, and Rob Peterson, Head of CX Strategy at Talkdesk, as they pull back the curtain on the analytics “black box” and introduce a vision to measure technology as a leading indicator of exceptional CX and business outcomes.

Sheila McGee-Smith, President & Principal Analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics
Rob Peterson, Global Head, CX Strategy and Value Consulting at Talkdesk

Date: Wednesday, July 14, 10 a.m. PT | 1 p.m. ET | 6 p.m. BST

Click Here To Register

Can’t join us at 10 a.m. PT? Sign up for our session on July 15, 10 a.m. BST

Why text messaging should be part of your omnichannel customer service strategy

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By mGage

Americans spend about five hours a day on their phones, according to TechCrunch. Consumers expect customized and genuine engagement in real-time, across all communication channels. This trend toward personalized conversational messaging isn’t going away, particularly in the business world. As a result, SMS has become a popular platform among businesses for customer service. As part of an omnichannel strategy, text messaging for customer service can lower costs and facilitate more convenient and engaging relationships between brands and customers.

What is Omnichannel Customer Service

Omnichannel customer service enables interactions between a consumer and a business through multiple touchpoints.

There is some confusion surrounding the difference between “omnichannel” and “multichannel” customer service. Multichannel means having multiple channels for customer support.  Omnichannel, however, describes delivering a seamless customer service experience across all of those channels by collecting additional data about the customer with each interaction. With omnichannel, you have a complete view of the customer, which facilitates delivering an excellent customer service experience.

In a siloed approach to customer service, customers often have to answer the same questions multiple times. It may be difficult to transfer discussions from one channel to another. Worse, agents may not have a complete record of prior communication, resulting in communication mishaps.

When text messaging is integrated with an existing CRM system through APIs, conversations can flow easily between online channels, phone calls, and SMS. More than 60% of customers interact through multiple channels, and regardless of time, place, device, or medium, they expect consistency[1]. By adopting an omnichannel approach to customer service, brands give customers an improved experience and more ways to reach them and, in exchange, get more information about the customer.

Consumers Want the Option to Use Text Messaging for Customer Service 

Did you know that 62% of companies report that customers like using chat options over voice? In fact, 58% of customers have attempted to respond to a missed call from a business with a text message. Customers are also four times more likely to respond to a text message than return a phone call after receiving a voicemail[2]. Yet less than half of companies surveyed offer text messaging for customer support[3].

There are many reasons to consider offering text messaging as a customer service channel, including…

  • Ubiquity
    96% of Americans own a cellphone that is capable of receiving SMS messages (Pew Research).
  • Immediacy
    Morgan Stanley reported that 91% of Americans keep their mobile devices within arm’s length at all times, and 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes of being received (2019 Mobile Usage Report).
  • Accessibility
    Text messaging does not require an internet connection and can be used by people with various disabilities, including those with hearing impairments. Offering multiple channels helps ensure that customer service is accessible to everyone.
  • Customer Preference
    Consumers show a preference towards text messaging, particularly for urgent notices. In fact, 67% of people said they would rather a business send them an appointment reminder via text instead of an email or phone call.
  • Efficiency
    Text messaging is usually a faster and less expensive way to resolve customer concerns. The average customer service phone call costs about $16, whereas an interaction via text can cost as little as $1, including the cost of the customer service agent’s time (Campaign Monitor).

Brands that add text messaging as a customer service channel will quickly realize both ROI and customer satisfaction benefits.

Adding Text Messaging to Your Customer Service Strategy

While companies sometimes view customer service channels as “competitors” of one another, the customer does not consider it in the same light. The customer sees a brand that is delivering a top-tier service experience. This is important, when you consider that 64% of people find customer experience more important than price when making a purchasing decision[4].

Omnichannel doesn’t just improve customer experience—It also delivers significant ROI and lowers costs thanks to improved customer retention and efficiency. Businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies see 91% higher year-over-year customer retention rates compared to businesses that don’t[5].

If you’re ready to learn more about how text messaging can improve your omnichannel customer service strategy, contact mGage today.

[1] Deloitte

[2] MessageDesk

[3] eMarketer

[4] Gartner

[5] Aspect Software

WEBINAR: Employee engagement in a remote-work world

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By Puzzel

In this new world of hybrid working, contact centre leaders face a difficult challenge. How can you keep teams happy, connected and engaged, regardless of where they’re logging in?

Join Puzzel’s webinar with guest speaker, Sandra Thompson for top tips on maintaining a strong company culture, keeping teams aligned, and supporting agents’ wellbeing. Puzzel will also demonstrate how tools such as Workforce Management can help you manage resources moving forward.

Save your seat here:

How real-time feedback helps drive lasting change

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By Lauren Maschio, Product Marketing Portfolio Manager, Enterprise WFO

How to give people feedback, according to Harvard Business Review, is one of the hottest topics in business today. A key problem with feedback, Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall wrote, is that people are “unreliable raters of other humans.”

“This phenomenon is called the idiosyncratic rater effect, and it’s large (more than half of your rating of someone else reflects your characteristics, not hers) and resilient (no training can lessen it),” Buckingham and Goodall asserted.

Human listening is neither consistent nor cost-effective – two people evaluating the same call often disagree whether the agent showed empathy, for example. In the end, agents don’t trust the process because they’re being measured based on a handful of calls each month, and supervisors don’t trust the process because it puts them in the difficult situation of justifying their assessment of the calls.

To overcome this challenge, contact centers are using artificial intelligence (AI) to give agents immediate and accurate feedback. A comprehensive AI framework can provide a consistent, accurate and unbiased score of the agent soft skill behaviors proven through decades of research to drive customer satisfaction – on every single interaction.

AI contact center technology can deliver behavioral insights that reside in the so-called “big data,” where pre-built models have been developed based on millions of hours of customer interactions. AI is delivering dividends, too: A recent survey by Aberdeen Research found that contact centers using AI are enjoying 3.3 times higher customer retention, 3.5 times more satisfied customers and 2.4 times higher agent productivity.

By adding real-time interaction guidance, agents get immediate feedback on how to change the conversation when a customer is expressing frustration. That’s important because while contact centers invest a lot of time and resources into coaching agents to improve behavior, agents often struggle during interactions to retain, recall and apply skills learned in coaching sessions. In fact, research shows that people forget about 50% of the new information they receive in training sessions within an hour. A day later, they’ve forgotten 70% of the material, and one week later, they’ve forgotten on average fully 90% of the coaching.

With real-time interaction guidance, agents receive desktop prompts and specific recommendations, such as how to build rapport or acknowledge loyalty, to have a more engaging conversation. Real-time interaction guidance enables agents to self-correct in the moment and reinforces skills they have already learned in a coaching session.

“Feedback is most meaningful in the moment,” Shani Harmon and Renee Cullinan wrote in Forbes.  “Feedback loops are critical for individual and organizational learning. Without them, we cannot improve.”

Learn more about how contact centers are using AI-powered real-time guidance to help agents while an interaction is in progress, giving them the feedback and coaching

7 ways Generation Z will change the working world

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A new study has revealed a number of key ways that the next generation of workers will affect the landscape in 2017.

Traditionally described as being born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, ‘Generation Z’ represents the new wave entering the workforce this year.

Communications specialist 8×8 has released a study in which full-time and part-time employed Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X workers were surveyed on their preferences, and here’s a rundown of how Gen Z are presenting a new hope in the workplace.


1. Email & Landline Decline

A huge number surveyed saw email as a dying art, and just 5% of Generation Z said they prefer landlines, as the smartphone continues to become the new communication hub. When taking the survey, twice the amount of Gen Z used a smartphone compared to other generations.

2. Embracing the Bot

Almost 70% of all participants in the survey agreed that many current jobs could be replaced with automated services, with even more agreeing that bots will continue to take over jobs in the future.

3. Blur the Lines of Personal and Work

56% of respondents admitted they’d rather use the same tools for their work as well as personal lives, such as phones and laptops.

4. Value Communication

As more and more conversation becomes digital, the value of genuine conversation is growing, with one in four Gen Z preferring talking in person. This is contrary to Millennials (aged around mid-20s to mid-30s), who believe face-to-face communication is becoming less important to business.

5. Smart Workplaces

Across generations, over half believed that connected devices and applications, such as wifi-enabled cars and smart fridges, could have untapped workplace applications, as many believe work environments need to catch up with the constantly evolving leisure landscape.

6. Less Tech Dependent

Generation Z hasmore in common with the older Gen X (aged around 35-50) when it comes to technology in their life, with only around 26-27% owning wearable tech such as smart watches, or wireless appliances. With the generation still being young and many of these applications being fairly expensive, however, it’s yet to be seen if these statistics will change in the years to come.

7. Effectiveness over Efficiency

The majority of Millennials admit to wanting to use the communication tools that save them the most amount of time, such as messaging and chat apps. Gen Z is  the least likely of all generations to embrace informal methods of communication for work, instead admitting they would prefer to use tools that are the most effective for the job, even if doing so takes more time.

If you’d like to learn more, you can read the full study, “Rogue One: How Generation Z is Going to Bring Balance to the (work)Force,”


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Bluecrest Health Screening is introducing cloud-based communications technology to improve the service for its customers. Adopting 8×8’s Virtual Contact Centre and Quality Management solutions will give the company’s customer service agents the tools to provide an excellent experience at every stage of an interaction.

A leader in private health screening sessions for signs of illness, Bluecrest Health Screening needs its staff to be fully equipped to deal with customer enquiries effectively and sensitively.

Bluecrest needed one unified platform that lets its staff communicate with customers using their preferred method. 8×8’s Virtual Contact Centre offers staff the ability to respond via phone or email and with space for 30 staff on the system, Bluecrest can easily increase or decrease the numbers of agents based on service demand. As all cases are fully updated in the cloud after every interaction, agents can pick up from one another without needing to ask customers repeated questions.



Analytics is key to measuring and improving agent performance; however, the incumbent reporting system needed manual input, which drained managerial time. Now all communications and cases can be tracked from just one place, saving time and ensuring that staff performance is always outstanding.

8×8’s analytics tools are also integral to Bluecrest to be able to track the success of marketing campaigns. Bluecrest uses more than 100 non-geographic numbers as part of direct mail campaigns and the ability to record call volumes and responses has been crucial in evaluating their effectiveness.

Angela Rodbourne, Contact Centre Director at Bluecrest, said: “We’re always looking at how we can improve our customer service using the latest technology. It’s important as a leading provider of healthcare that the level of service we provide in screenings is not only first class but also consistent, which is just as important when our customers reach out to speak to us. Next year, we’re hoping to achieve ISO 9001 to demonstrate our ability to provide excellent services to customers; we’re confident 8×8’s Virtual Contact Centre will help us with this.”

Kevin Scott-Cowell, UK MD of 8×8, said: “It’s important that companies like Bluecrest can rely on their chosen technology to work effectively and improve customer service in a sensitive space. We’re looking forward to working with them to improve service standards and support their bid to achieve  ISO 9001 accreditation.”


For more information visit Bluecrest via and 8×8 at https://www.8×

5 trends transforming Call Centres in 2017

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The Call Centre industry is “evolving at a very rapid rate”, according to leading industry analyst Peter Ryan. “Whether it is new technologies, alternative points of delivery or taking on the growing multitude of channels needed to communicate with today’s mobile consumer, enterprises need reliability and quality,” he claims, whilst offering his predictions for 2017


1 Location and languages spoken will become less important

The rise of automation will see a change in how people interact with call centres. As computers and voice recognition continues to impress, new business models focussing this way will change current opinions and concepts on off-shore and nearshoring.


2 Central and Eastern Europe will provide huge UK opportunities

In the post-Brexit world, studies are already showing countries such as Romania and Poland are increasing as top outsourcing destinations, as the countries are building reputations for customer service and financial attractiveness.


3 Data Security is more important than ever

As technology becomes the backbone of the industry and payment options become quicker and easier, security has to keep up with the evolving world in order to prevent dangers such as data and identity theft.


4 The boom of Apps, Chatbots and Mobile

It is predicted that around 85% of customer interaction will be entirely automated by 2020, and the companies that can more quickly make that switch will be leading the pack.


5 The departure from traditional voice

In the world of instant messenger, digital interaction is becoming the communication of choice for younger generations. Call centres will need to open up more channels in order to appeal to as many customers as they can, including emails, live chat and a broader range of social media if they want to stay relevant with an increasingly tech-savvy customer base.

Positivity Pays in 2017

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Almost three quarters of Brits anticipate a more positive 2017 than 2016, which could see an increase in public spending.

A study by the Institute of Customer Service showed customers are 69% more likely to spend if they are surrounded by positivity, which could lead to good news for businesses as 73% expect this year to deliver more good news than 2016.

The last year’s controversial headlines polarising public opinion has left many feeling negative, and the Institute of Customer Service poll revealed companies could increase profits by 30% if customers were engaged in ‘friendly conversation’.

Other factors likely to encourage more consumer interaction and spending were by employees remembering a customer’s name, personalised offers and employees taking longer to understand their needs.

“Consumers are willing to pay a premium for a genuine and authentic experience,” explained Jo Causon, chief executive of Institute of Customer Service, emphasising that while the business world is currently filled with uncertainty, helping understand employees “could pay dividends.”

Guest Blog, Simon Pennie: The power of great customer service…

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Businesses spend vast amounts of time, money and resources to build a brand that customers love. But if they fail to ‘put their money with their mouth’ is – by investing in delivering top notch customer service in their contact centres – they risk squandering their hard-earned reputation.

In an era of fierce competition and highly empowered consumers, customer experience is now seen as the new brand battleground. Millions spent on marketing will be wasted if businesses provide a poor experience when dealing with customers directly. On the other hand, brands who get the customer experience right can track the benefits right through to their bottom line: driving sales, acquisition and loyalty. 

Contact centre agents are on the frontline of customer service, acting as ambassadors for a brand. Having the right people and processes in place to handle customers is arguably the most important thing a business can do to get ahead and follow best practice.


The right channel for the right situation

An integral part of good customer experience is providing the right mix of channels to fit with customers’ lifestyles and preferences.

Customer service is still an area where person-to-person interaction will often be most effective. Despite the rise of digital and self-serve customer management, 65 per cent of non-face to face consumer contact still happens over the phone and 15 per cent over email. Voice will remain the preferred channel for engagements which rely on empathy and the human touch, so it is essential that brands continue to invest in this area.

However, the rise in technology has opened up new opportunities for businesses to innovate and build new paths for engagement.  Digital channels such as webchat, messenger and Twitter are now essential tools in a brand’s customer experience arsenal.

The trick is to allow consumers to choose how they engage, rather than forcing them to go through a certain channel at a certain point in their journey. Customers will have specifically chosen to make contact through their preferred channel, so being overly prescriptive or expecting them to switch will only cause frustration. Avoiding channel bounce is one of the most important ways brands can optimise customer experience.
Listen and learn from your customers 

As the use of data becomes the norm, consumer expectations have shifted. Today, customers assume every engagement will be tailored to reflect what is known about them as individuals. Furnishing agents with a history of previous interactions with customers will help them better understand the nature of an issue and offer a more personalised service each and every time.

Similarly, brands can draw directly on customer insights as a barometer to gauge the efficacy of their own processes. For example, using speech and text analytics software across calls can help to plot customer frustration or satisfaction. Interpreting this data allows brands to take informed steps to improve engagement – improving resolution rates and boosting satisfaction.


Your agents are your biggest asset 

There’s no question that making the most of data and technology can significantly enhance customer experience. But it’s important not to forget that customer service is first and foremost about engaging with a human being – a single consumer with unique preferences and needs.

Businesses need to make sure they are empowering agents with proven processes for managing customers, giving them the flexibility to use their judgement and determine a solution accordingly. Too narrow a focus on handling times or too rigid an adherence to process can often compromise the ability of an agent to reach a resolution or deliver the best possible outcome.  

Creating a contact centre culture where those dealing daily with customers are empowered, motivated and highly skilled will give companies the greatest chance of delivering the best possible customer experience.


Winning in the age of the customer 

In the end, it’s the people who represent a brand that are the ultimate differentiator. If contact centres are the beating heart of a brand’s customer service efforts, then the agents that work in them are the lifeblood.  Getting the formula right on the ground allows businesses to truly set themselves apart from their competitors in the age of the customer.


Simon Pennie is VP Solution Architecture at Firstsource Solutions, the leading customer experience expert. He works with clients across a range of sectors to provide business-transforming customer insights and deliver strategic customer experience solutions. Simon is an experienced contact centre professional, with over 15 years’ experience in CX and management consultancy.