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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.

Automate

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.

Metrics

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.

Call Centre Management – Getting it right from the start

960 640 Guest Post

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.

Automate

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.

Metrics

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.

Everything you should know about customer experience mapping

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By Simon Black, CEO, Awaken Intelligence

Having the right people, the right tools and adding in the right approach is all part of the mix in creating the right level of service for your customers. But how do you know what they really want at different stages of their journey with your brand and how do you create a frictionless customer experience (CX)?

The answer can be found in customer and user experience mapping. It can help you shape the way you handle every aspect of the customer journey. From voice calls and emails through to social media channels, SMS and App usage as well as webchats. However, if you really want to excel in the service you provide you need to firstly understand and then refine every element of your customer omnichannel experience. It might seem daunting but by peeling back the layers and working through the data you collate during your customer engagements you will find real actionable data points that educate you and your team on how to map out a smoother customer journey.

Before you start working on your customer experience mapping there’s one thing to clarify. As Jim Kalbach highlighted in his book Mapping Experiences, there is a difference between customer journey maps and customer experience maps:

  • A customer journey map typically views the individual as a customer of the organisation. And, there is often a decision involved: to purchase a product or service
  • A customer experience map looks at a broader context of human behaviour and shows how the organisation or brand fits into a person’s life. 

How to create a customer experience map fit for your clients

Your customers experience doesn’t necessarily follow a linear path with your brand.  And one size doesn’t fit all. These simple steps will help you to break down what can feel like an overwhelming task:

  • Identify every type of customer your brand or organisation has
  • Work out at what point in their lives do they have a need to engage with your business
  • Then carefully work out every possible interaction these different types of customers, or personas, will have with you during the product or service lifetime.

Let data guide the mapping process

This process will help you to outline the specific routes that each customer takes when buying from your business or brand. And remember, a customer may reach you through various parts of the omnichannel. Just because they initially reach you through the webchat doesn’t mean they’ll continue to communicate that way and it’s likely they’ll switch to voice or email as their journey starts to progress. Every aspect needs to work well and provide a consistent experience.

From that foundation of information, you then need to dig through your data and let it enlighten you on your customers’ experiences. Be prepared to make some uncomfortable discoveries and remember the data doesn’t lie so you should be able to identify some customer pain points that you can quickly resolve along the way.

What’s the goal?

Don’t just embark on the customer experience mapping work because you think it would be a good thing to do. Have a goal so that you can maintain focus throughout the project and be able to deliver on a particular outcome. For example, if your goal is to reduce support times for a certain product by a set number of minutes so that you can handle more customer enquiries (by a certain percentage) make sure that remains your focus. Or, it could be that your goal is to upsell a supporting service or accessory product to work with the original purchase. By mapping that customer experience you’ll be able to identify key touchpoints in the journey for these different engagements.

Customer experience mapping leads to enlightening discoveries

There will be some findings that you’ll be expecting to discover in the process but by carefully picking through the data it’s likely you’ll reveal some insights into what drives greater brand loyalty and, equally, what turns customers off. Your customer experience mapping should help you to identify:

  • new or refine ways to increase customer satisfaction
  • touchpoints or paths that are creating friction rather than aiding the experience
  • to understand what parts of the service or product drives loyalty
  • to discover where you can improve retention and possibly where new product, or service opportunities lie.

Key elements for customer experience mapping

Once you’ve identified your goal(s) and your different customer personas there are some key steps to follow as part of the mapping process that you can also overlay with your data:

  • List every single customer touchpoint.This may range from physical stores to advertising and email marketing through to your website and social media channels. Leave no part of this engagement unturned
  • Identify the customer need.Just as you’ve ascertained your goals your customer will have them too. Make sure you map their needs against the personas as they may have more than one
  • Different phases of interaction.Your customers will engage with you at different points long their journey. Not only do you need to identify what these points will be and the drivers behind them you should also work out the likely route of these touchpoints. Will it be a call or an email enquiry and do you have the appropriate scripts on hand to help your agents deliver the right level of service?

Where does the data come from?

If you’re reading this and worrying about where to draw all this useful data from then you may also need to take a step back and assess what systems, you have in place to manage your customer experience. It may be time to embrace digital transformation and explore how conversational analytics (CA) can help you to evolve your contact centre. It’s not only difficult to navigate across multiple legacy systems to draw on this data, it’s unproductive for your agents and, ultimately, incredibly costly for your business. Don’t be surprised if part of the customer experience mapping process may throw your need to migrate your systems and processes to something more suitable for the 21st Century too!

Removing the friction from Customer Experience 

960 640 Guest Post

By Simon Black, CEO, Awaken

The world in which we now live and work is truly global and as such many companies need to communicate with customers across multiple languages. The inability to converse with customers in a common language presents barriers for many businesses. And while it may seem like a huge ask to address this need the technology now exists to make it possible to communicate with customers no matter where they are and no matter their local language. Now is the time to create a frictionless customer experience (CX). 

Quite often you’ll find that the customer contact centre is at the heart of any company’s customer services. It’s usually the first point of call for customer queries so it’s important to make sure that the communication is as mutually understandable as possible between the agent and the customer. Afterall customers’ experiences are the life blood of your business. It only takes one good or bad experience to make or break a relationship and in today’s world of over-sharing customers are likely to recommend or complain about your business, products or service across their social channels, within minutes.  

According to Reputation Refinery a customer who is dissatisfied will tell 9-15 people about their bad experience with negative interactions spreading to two times as many people as positive interactions. But do not fear, there’s good news. Throw Artificial Intelligence (AI) into this mix and, as a recent survey by PointSource highlighted, 49% of customers are willing to shop more often when AI is present. Furthermore 34% of customers will spend more money, and 38% will share their experiences with friends and family. Essentially, AI makes people shop more, spend more and share more. So, with today’s technology there is every reason and every opportunity to get the customer experience right.  

According to IDC, $13.9B was invested into CX-focused Artificial Intelligence (AI) and $42.7B in CX-focused Big Data and analytics during 2019, with both expected to grow to $90B in 2022. You don’t need much more of an argument that now might be the time to look at how AI can support and enhance the experiences of your customers.  

Back to the supposed language barrier. We’ve worked with many organisations and several online retailers, using AI, to automatically translate languages on the fly. This means a customer can communicate in French (or any other language), and then the text or voice is translated in real-time into the local contact centre agent’s own language so that he/she can understand and respond appropriately. The subsequent communication is then translated back into the local language of that particular customer again. The ability to respond in real-time is transformative. Being able to quickly respond to customers in their own language (not yours) and not have to rely on basic manual translation tools means that you’re creating a truly frictionless experience for your customers. 

Furthermore, being able to understand the conversations taking place across your entire omnichannel is crucial. With AI you can instantly pick up on the tone and sentiment of conversations taking place which helps to better inform your contact centre agents and enables them to predict the journey of that particular customer conversation, adapting their responses and behaviours appropriately and immediately.  

Not only does this approach help to improve the customer experience during a live engagement but it will also help you to identify areas where you need to better communicate and share information with customers online, perhaps via your website, for example. We now have the ability to dynamically change the customer journey as it happens. The call or text can be analysed straight away, within seconds, so your agent can respond and adapt without interrupting the flow of conversation all the while improving the customer experience. AI enables us to give the right information at the right time to help provide a seamless and smooth customer experience. 

Addressing language and translation barriers is an absolute must for businesses operating across multiple and diverse geographies. But once that’s dealt with you need to look at what else can be achieved with AI. For example, we recently worked with an online retailer that had introduced a variety of new services to improve their customer journey yet they couldn’t assess whether these services were being utilised by customers and improving their experience or detracting from it. They weren’t getting any feedback whatsoever. Thanks to AI we were able to quickly build in a voice analytics solution that analysed both voice or text communications and could pick up on feedback, whether positive or negative. For example, ApplePay had been introduced but they didn’t know how customers felt about it and if they liked paying that way. With voice analytics we enabled the business to assess their customers’ emotions and experiences and therefore make informed decisions on which services were working well and other areas that needed improvement. 

AI and voice analytics are proving crucial tools in delivering a better customer experience and being able to measure what is or is not working. It’s also important to remember that communications are two way and that it’s not just about how the customer is communicating with your business but also how your team are responding to those customers. Analysing both sides of the engagement will help you to fine tune customer engagement further. 

AI can help you to recognise if there’s a problem brewing and that some of your people may need your support beyond that of screen prompts. As we all know, if you have a happy and well-informed team, you’ll have happy customers.