Changing the Game for Contact Center Technology

As the manager of sales engineer and operations for NEC Corporation of America, I have seen numerous changes in contact center technology, but one thing was the same – technology drove the solutions – until now. We have moved to an environment that is significantly more consumer driven, and those needs drive the solution. What makes this most interesting from the standpoint of contact center technology is that the technology is moving beyond the contact center and into the rest of the organization.

According to Carmela Fairchild, contact center technology expert at dvsAnalytics, workforce optimization is being used in financial areas such as credit collections, for higher education and in hospitality. In all these cases, the uses are beyond a traditional call-center environment. Organizations realized that the amount of data that can be accumulated in the call center could be used to assess customer experience, responsiveness and overall effectiveness of many other departments. For example, a reseller of automotive parts with more than 1,400 locations throughout the United States and Canada realized that call center technology would empower it to record all the phone calls to its small locations, providing actionable data.

#Customer engagement is a metric that is here to stay, particularly as consumers become more sophisticated… Click To Tweet

We see a similar trend with our customers, and find that there is increasing interest in deploying contact center technology for uses outside the traditional center.

“I used to spend most of my time speaking with contact center executives, but now I spend 90% or more speaking to CIOs and CFOs who realize the power of this solution and how it can positively impact their business,” said Mary Irwin, solutions architect for NEC Corporation of America. “Organizations realize that data can be retrieved via this technology, and that they can provide better customer engagement by routing calls so they are answered, rather than going to voice mail.”

Irwin went on to say, “Tracking the entire organization has become important so they can ensure the right information is given to the right people to do their jobs more effectively. It’s more about solving a business problem rather than tracking call times or other metrics.”

Organizations are focused more on customer engagement than ever before, with an eye to self-service as well as getting answers to questions quickly and efficiently.

“Customer satisfaction has become more important, so in addition to self-service to provide convenience, organizations are now realizing they must get customers to the right person, no matter the cost. Otherwise, they run the risk of losing that customer, which costs them more in the long run,” said Irwin.

Customer engagement is a metric that is here to stay, particularly as consumers become more sophisticated in their technology use and also increase their expectations. So what else is in store for contact center technology?

The Future is About…

“Even with all the best technology and self-service capabilities, I believe that voice will become the de facto standard for escalation.  When consumers cannot get what they need by other methods, speaking with a live expert is the next logical step.  However, I do see it improving via the use of speech analytics,” said Fairchild.

One trend we all agree on is that contact center technology will start to include gamification. Reasons include:

  • Agent retention and motivation
  • Competitive differentiation
  • Improve operational efficiencies

According to Gartner research, by the end of 2015, more than 40% of the top companies will be using gamification to transform their business operations.   Therefore, workforce optimization solutions will need to provide the framework to support the trend.

Multiple media, sometimes called multi-channel or omni-channel, will expand significantly in the years ahead. Virtual queuing, or what we used to identify as “callback,” will become the rule as opposed to the exception. Companies are learning that virtual queuing can vastly improve their first call resolution while keeping customers happy.

For more information on how contact center technology can support your operational initiatives as well as future needs, visit our recorded webinar series where you can learn more about NEC’s latest contact center innovations, why they are so important and which are appropriate for your organization.

Looking for Proactive Customer Engagement? The Answer is in the Contact Center

Ensuring a positive customer experience across your organization requires an understanding of how the customer interacts with every facet of the company. In the past, that has been a difficult task, primarily due to the segmented nature of most companies – accounting does not always speak to sales, and customer service may not regularly chat with engineering. The good news is there is a solution that has been in play for many years, and when deployed across your entire organization, positively impacts and improves customer experience. What is it?

Contact Centers (and Their Tools)

“Contact centers have moved from reactive to proactive. In the past, the focus was to provide service with the least amount of overhead, and the metrics were reflective of that trend,” said Peggy Murphy, manager, sales engineering and operations, NEC Corporation of America. “Today the focus is shifting toward satisfying or exceeding the needs of the customer while using analytics and metrics to optimize the workforce. The result is the contact center becoming part of the overall customer engagement strategy that supports a company’s competitiveness.”

With today’s customer firmly in the driver’s seat, companies must find unique and creative ways to leverage their existing resources to meet customer demands. Fortunately, there are savvy people who can provide good answers, if they have the right tools. This is where technology plays a significant role.

As a solutions engineer for NEC Corporation of America, I speak with customers every day who are embracing the value of contact center data and how they can utilize it to improve operations. Associates are now empowered to ensure that customers are cared for, even beyond the traditional contact center team. Today, everyone is expected to provide excellent customer service. Technology supports this effort by opening up the resource pool to encompass the whole company, along with providing analytics and tracking across the organization, rather than just within one department.

Beyond the Basics

The call routing engine for UCE Contact Center (CCDesign®), UCE ACD (CallCenterWorX), makes it extraordinarily easy to deliver customers to the best agent that is capable of handling their call.  Add in the Management Information Systems (MIS) Global Navigator for real-time and historical reporting, along with key management tools for supervisors, and you have the right infrastructure.

Now, improve your customer’s experience with queue announcements customized specifically for each department, and inform callers of how many people are ahead of them in the queue or provide an idea of when they will be answered, and you’ve set expectations that you can meet.  If the wait is too long, offer them a variety of callback options.

Don’t be afraid to ask how you’re doing!  Using After Call Survey, offer callers the opportunity to answer a few key questions at the end of their call to confirm you’re providing great service or let them help you improve through their responses!

Expand how customers communicate with your company by routing Web Chat and Email interactions directly into your contact center so you can track, escalate, report and view all interactions together.

Did you know? 86% of consumers QUIT doing business with a company because of bad customer service Click To Tweet

Analytics You Already Have

Many organizations have invested in contact center technology to support customer service efforts. The good news is this technology has continued to progress so that today’s analytics are robust and provide excellent metrics for both contact centers and other departments that utilize the system.

According to Carmela Fairchild, contact center technology expert at dvsAnalytics, the ability for organizations to improve the customer experience is enhanced even more when introducing call recording and workforce optimization technology.

“Today the ability to evaluate recordings for training and coaching purposes is significantly improved. In addition, live monitoring tools are readily available via multiple devices, including mobile, to ensure consistency in customer service quality,” said Carmela.

Call recording technology has changed dramatically in recent years. Traditionally, limited meta data was available to insert into recordings, and organizations believed they had an acceptable call recording system if they could find a recording based on the date and time the call was made. If they didn’t have the date and time, it was like searching for a “needle in a haystack.” The meta data now being inserted into call recordings for search and retrieval has expanded significantly to also include:

  • The dialed number and the customer’s number
  • Agent ID and name
  • Call direction and call type
  • Agent skill group (i.e., English/Spanish, premium customer, etc.)
  • Customer or patient identifiers
  • Call results, such as sale, no sale, first call resolution
  • Speech analytics is used to identify satisfied or dissatisfied customer interactions
  • Positive or negative customer survey
  • And much more

The benefits do not stop there. Encore integrates with the UCE Contact Center  for robust call and screen interaction recording as well as workforce management optimization to ensure that customers can be served regardless of how they choose to interact with the organization, as well as when they choose. Customers are much less tolerant of wait times and will not stay on hold. The most efficient way to ensure you have the right team in the right place at the right time is via workforce optimization.

Encore’s Workforce Optimization capability is comprised of integrated solutions, enabling organizations to improve agent productivity, identify performance gaps, deliver targeted coaching, and eLearning. It nurtures performance-driven operations and culture, leverages the power of advanced analytics to improve daily operations and effectively engage employees.

The integrated solutions include:

  • Workforce Management, which balances the goal for outstanding customer service and the need for low operational costs
  • Recording all call interactions to attain a complete understanding of agent and customer communications
  • Analytics that turn unstructured, unsearchable voice communications into structured, searchable data to gain valuable insight into customer communications
  • Quality management that allows supervisors to evaluate agent and customer interactions and which, in turn, improves performance in the contact center
  • Reports that help to continuously optimize processes and provide pertinent feedback to other business units

NEC’s Encore customers have stated that they have benefitted from improved agent performance, more effective handling of dispute resolution, better quality customer interactions, and reduced worries about compliance. In fact, a customer recently told us: “Within two months of implementation, our agent coaching and feedback sessions improved dramatically. Agents producing in the bottom third of sales production increased their evaluation scores by 25% and their sales per hour more than doubled!”

“Our primary goal is to ensure our customers have the most effective, efficient, easy to access, tools in hand to ensure excellent customer engagement,” said Murphy. “That is why we are committed to continuing to innovate our solution, merging proven technology such as unified communications into our already robust solution, so our customers can feel confident they have everything they need to reach their customer engagement goals.”

To ensure you are on the right track for great customer engagement, visit our recorded webinar series where you can learn more about NEC’s latest contact center innovations, why they are so important and which are appropriate for your organization.

Empower End-Users with Real-Time Analytics And Other Reasons to Upgrade to Cognos 10

Business intelligence is only powerful if it is easily accessible. By putting the end-user in the driver’s seat, businesses can maximize analytics and data without putting a burden on the IT department to run reports. Not only does this improve productivity, it puts the data in the hands of those who can do the most with it. Frankly, this level of end-user empowerment is a solid-enough reason to upgrade IBM’s Cognos software to the latest V10.2. But don’t take our word for it. Take a look at the impact first hand.

Cincinnati Zoo Saves more than $100,000 per Year

The Cincinnati Zoo was challenged with increasing attendance and revenues while also enhancing the customer experience. It also needed to boost sales on food and in the retail outlets and optimize labor costs. These are no small tasks! By implementing IBM Cognos V10, the zoo was able to utilize business analytics that allowed the zoo staff to use iPads to track the information real-time. The results were incredible.

“By being so closely aligned with the day-to-day interactions within the zoo, the team could spend more time with visitors and see even the most basic of changes that were needed, said Marti Walsh, Channel Enablement Program Manager with IBM Analytics. “For example, perhaps traffic patterns showed that moving a hot dog stand to a different location would result in heavier traffic to the stand. That could be marked immediately on the spot, rather than waiting to return and transcribe notes into a database.”

Real-time capture of the #data resulted in savings of more than $40,000 on marketing in the first year Click To Tweet, and more than $100,000 per year by identifying less-effective promotions and discounts. Plus, the zoo increased overall attendance that prompted at least 50,000 new visits in 2011. All by putting the power of analytics in the hands of the end user.

How Does Upgrading Help Your  ‘Zoo’?

The ability to empower end users makes sense when the user interface is easy to use and allows for quick adoption. Cognos V10 has a more streamlined interface that is easier to navigate, making it more readily adoptable for end users who want to simply access and understand the data.

Another major component is collaboration between co-workers and other departments. Cognos V10 incorporates collaboration within the interface, so that threads are maintained and data is kept within the platform, rather than having to utilize a third-party system for collaboration and communication.

“End users don’t stay put, so mobility is key, particularly if the focus is to capture and analyze data real-time,” said Marti. “With Cognos V10, users can literally analyze on the go with systems that work whether they are connected or disconnected.“

Even with the mobility and dynamic analytics functions, the system has very fast response times and handles very large data volumes. Using Dynamic Cubes increases the performance of the tools and allows for end users to slice and dice data with a fast response time, keeping them happy and focused on analyzing data.

Make Better Business Decisions – in Real Time

By putting analytics in the hands of everyone, businesses will benefit from having information in the hands of those best suited to take action. Cognos Business Intelligence allows for integration with the next logical step – predictive analytics. By adopting business prototypes quickly, companies are now able to build out corporate solutions faster than before. “What If” and scenario modeling help determine next appropriate steps giving the business a more prescriptive solution.

In Your Corner for the Cognos Upgrade

Of course, the next logical question is how to tackle the upgrade. While the benefits are certainly proven, tackling an upgrade of any type requires thought and process to ensure the most seamless approach is taken. That is where NEC Analytics team can help.

NEC is largest global systems integrator, and has more than 50 years of experience in the North American market alone. We leverage our rich history coupled with partnership experience with IBM and others to ensure a positive outcome.

Our analytics team focuses on Performance Management, Integration, Total Performance Outsourcing (which includes design, deployment and management) and Smart Predict Solutions designed to meet the specific needs of our clients (you can learn more about our analytics solutions in this short video).

NEC specializes in supporting Cognos and is offering a complimentary assessment to ensure that all your business needs are captured to create a seamless upgrade. Contact us to schedule your assessment or visit our Analytics Center of Excellence for more information.

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NEC’s Analytics Portfolio

Data is plentiful. Yet without the right support team, that information is lost potential. Achieve your business intelligence objectives with NEC analytics Click To TweetOur field-tested analysts and best-in-class technologies can steer you in the right direction, keep you on the right track and help you outpace the competition with actionable insight that delivers the most value and best suits your company’s decision-making ambitions and processes. Learn more today by scheduling your complimentary assessment.

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Digital Retail Signage Solutions Come of Age with Additional Technology Capabilities

When was the last time you went to a retail store and had a great experience? No, I don’t mean customer service or super cool music in the dressing rooms. When was the last time that you went into a retail store and had a memorable experience that made you smile, or gave you more information about a product or service in real time than you might have gleaned online?

Retailers in particular have become more intrigued with digital signage over the last decade. The shift to digital meant that organizations could change their pricing, menus, or other details in real time, without needing to change out physical signage. Today, three types of digital signage are typically used in customer-facing environments.

Passive Signage

Passive signage is what you would encounter at a fast food restaurant at the airport. This type of digital signage is typically displayed on one or more screens, and either remains static all the time or changes at set intervals, such as a digital menu board that switches over at noon. Passive signage can be hosted on a local machine or over the Internet, and it’s generally more cost effective than running print jobs every time your business wants to make a change. It’s very utilitarian. However, it lacks the interactive element that really draws people in.

Interactive Signage

Interactive signage takes many forms, and is generally designed to provide a level of user interaction by being “triggered” by an event. Think of an iBeacon that sends a coupon to your mobile phone when you walk into your favorite clothing store or displays information about a painting when you hold your smart phone up next to it at the museum. Another example is signage triggered by sensors – when you lift that bottle of Bordeaux at the wine store, perhaps a light sensor is triggered and you see a map and information about the wine on a screen. Or you hold a piece of clothing up to a mirror in the changing room, and its RFID tag triggers signage behind a translucent mirror suggesting other pieces that may go with the skirt. This type of signage is indeed interactive and can be engaging, but the engagement is not always intuitive and there’s typically only one level of engagement between the individual and the signage.

Intelligent Signage

This brings us to a new type of digital signage. What if there was a way to create compelling in-store experiences in which customers could interact with a truly intuitive digital system, perhaps even order products on-screen, while also feeding interaction data back to the retailer or business owner? It is for this use case that intelligent signage, perhaps today’s most cutting-edge technology in retail and digital advertising, was designed.

One of the most interesting of these new systems is Microsoft’s Inception solution, which uses the Microsoft Kinect sensor to detect an individual’s proximity from the sensor, his/her age and gender (using NEC biometric facial recognition technology), and his/her interaction with products on a shelf. Different distances and interactions can trigger different layers of contextual signage, such as static or video advertisement screens, product pricing, technical specs, user reviews from the web and more. The system also records anonymous data such as the demographics and engagement time of individuals with various products, allowing advertisers and business owners to better understand their audience and the effectiveness of their signage.

Intelligent signage systems use advanced yet inexpensive hardware including the Kinect sensor and lightweight PCs such as those embedded in NEC commercial displays, and they can be combined with sensors in the ceiling (in-store heat mapping) or at a point of sale. This solution gives the business owner a broad understanding of how people traverse a particular store or the ages and genders of customers who are buying which products, at which times of day. Intelligent signage systems introduce analytics for the real world, and it’s going to change the way that we experience in-store retail.

But analytics, particularly analytics using Big Data, require more than an intelligent signage system to provide the analytics that will make them most useful to retail companies. One option is using Azure StreamAnalytics. This new offering from Microsoft provides real-time insight into what products are attracting the attention of shoppers, how product interest varies by age and gender, and which displays are attracting the most attention. Stores will be able to tune the shopping experience to maximize sales. Microsoft Azure StreamAnalytics is a new addition to the company’s Azure IoT (Internet of Things) Suite enabling the retail industry to build and deploy IoT solutions to transform the shopping experience and their business model.

What’s Next

With the digital signage market projected to grow a staggering 65% in 2015 alone, it’s more than likely that intelligent signage and audience measurement systems will be arriving soon at a business near you. Overall intelligent signage could lead not only to greater efficiencies in the retail sector, but also far more interesting in-store experiences for shoppers.

Where Can I Test Drive One of These Systems?

The Inception system will be demonstrated at the upcoming Microsoft Build (April 28 – May 1) and Microsoft Ignite (May 4-8) conferences.