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.

YMCA of Greater Louisville: Using UC to Transform the Guest Experience

This powerful narrative about the YMCA of Greater Louisville shows how the organization’s use of NEC unified communications (UC) transforms the guest experience. YMCA management and staff share how NEC technology is empowering employees to connect more closely with members—resulting in a better experience for the Y’s membership.

Utilizing a newly built contact center that serves 17 branch locations across three counties, the YMCA increased onsite productivity by effectively handling on average 12,000 calls a month from a single remote location. Which leaves more time for staff to personally interact with their local members. Learn more about the YMCA’s story presented in their own words.

NEC technology can help other organizations grow their businesses through unified communications solutions. Are you ready? Let us know as we are ready to help.

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.

Contact Center Metrics: The Importance of First Call Resolution

c--users-217216x706252-pictures-nec-contact-center-first-call-resolutionTech professionals love their acronyms, and FCR—First Call Resolution in customer service industries and contact centers is no different. Lately, it seems every vertical industry has its vocabulary; with an acronym for every ideology, methodology, principle, and strategy. Most of these terms have been discussed to death—to the extent that it becomes difficult to get excited about the topic at all.

FCR is one of the acronyms we don’t see nearly enough of, though; which becomes evident when running a simple search for the term. In fact, search engines seem to return every generic name for FCR other than the one discussed here.

FCR is one of the five most important operational metrics in today’s contact centers and is also one of the key drivers of customer satisfaction. You would think that in a challenging economic environment, one that is increasingly focused on the importance of customer satisfaction in a word-of-mouth-equals-free-marketing-distribution kind of world, that the topic would be written about so extensively that it would dominate search engine results.

So why aren’t we talking about it?

Contacts vs. Calls

Customer relationship managers use FCR to mean two principles/metrics that are often used interchangeably—when they shouldn’t be. Is FCR first contact resolution or first call resolution?  The answer to that question depends on your business’ individual needs.

First Contact Resolution incorporates the same principles as first call resolution—which is generally accepted to mean that a contact center agent addresses a customer’s need the first time they call, thereby eliminating the need for the customer to follow up with a second call.

First Contact Resolution takes First Call a step further by tracking the contact’s behaviors and providing additional analytics and data based on their actions.

While purists might agree that First Contact Resolution is the better of the two metrics and most reflective of true customer experience, the reality is that purchasing the customer lifecycle tracking software needed to appropriately track the First Contact Resolution metric is often expensive and impractical.

Why impractical?

Well, for the answer, we must look at the Pareto Principle.

The 80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle—also known as the 80/20 principle—is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. His theory, originally a socio-economic commentary on the distribution of wealth in early 20th century Italy, was adopted by business strategists in the 1940’s as an all-inclusive philosophy of the “vital few and the trivial many.”

In the context of the call center, this typically means that 80% of customer service calls/requests are coming from 20% of a given customer base.

So, taking the Pareto Principle into consideration means understanding that the customers who are on the phone with your contact center agents today, will likely be the same customers who are on the phone with your agents next week. Knowing this turns the immediate need for First Contact-level tracking into a lower-priority concern.

If you have the budget to spend on customer lifecycle management technology, then you should track that data.

But I’d rather focus on First Call Resolution, and how implementing sound practices with appropriate contact center technology makes it possible to improve this essential performance metric.

What the Statistics Say

Last year, WhitePages and the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) performed a study of 542 contact center professionals titled “Using Big Data in the Contact Center.”  The study found that 60 percent of contact center managers feel like they are unable to deliver actionable customer service information to agents due to data overload and a lack of focus on customer satisfaction. In addition, the survey found that:

  • More than 40 percent of customer contact information is manually recorded by agents instead of fed through automated APIs or Web-based systems, which means reps are often not as connected to relevant customer data as they need to be to guarantee FCR.
  • Half of call center agents feel hampered by productivity challenges such as having to ask customers for basic contact information.
  • More than a third of contact centers do not collect any data around customer satisfaction, and 15 percent collect it but don’t use it at all.

While there are a great number of businesses continuing to operate with legacy call center equipment and ignore the importance of technology that helps achieve immediate customer satisfaction, today’s customers are becoming increasingly demanding. Customers are becoming more aggressive when comparing prices and are apt to switch their loyalty to your competition because of a poor customer service experience.

The study shows that without the right tools and guidance, agents are neither able to handle the volume of data that is in front of them, nor able to extract the vital pieces of information that they need to drive successful outcomes.

Everyone lately has experienced a terrible call or long hold time. In fact, the entire experience has created a small culture on Twitter that identifies with the hashtag #onholdwith.

Obsolete technology doesn’t give any business the extensibility it needs to answer customer complaints. When you consider that these same businesses are also becoming overwhelmed by data, one wonders whether or not first call resolution as a principle is also becoming obsolete and forgotten.

Keeping your customers in focus

Failure to resolve customer issues in the first call results in callbacks and increased total costs. If customers have to call back two or three times to resolve their issue, they may not call back ever again.

No matter how fast your company grows your customer service has to remain razor sharp. After all, the cost of acquiring a new customer is considerably greater than retaining an existing one.  So how can you work aggressively to make sure that each interaction with your agents ends with resolution? By considering the following:

  1. Educate agents and get them involved: Educate your agents and then empower them to improve first call resolution-related processes. Your agents know customers and customer care probably better than anyone. Smart managers actively solicit suggestions and insight from their agents regarding how they may be able to enhance first call resolution performance. Given the opportunity, your call center agents will tell you what tools, training, and workflows are lacking and what processes and metrics are interfering with their ability to resolve customer issues effectively.
  2. Consult past records: Don’t attempt to solve the problem without doing due diligence. Encourage your agents to review past interactions with their customers for clues and indications about why certain interactions resolve and others do not. Doing so will put your agents in a better place to remedy problems instantly.
  3. Install recording software: To get a sense of whether your agents resolve customer queries or escalate them, invest in call recording software which can record and archive every single interaction. Doing so gives your call center managers something to rely on to identify best-in-class behavior and zero in on patterns needing improvement.
  4. Optimize workforce management processes: Even the best trained and equipped agents on the planet can’t be successful if they’re over-worked. The same applies if the customer, who has been caged in a queue for 15 minutes, is screaming at them for taking too long when answering the phone. Accurate forecasting and sound scheduling is critical, as is mastering skills-based routing, so callers get sent to the right agent with the right skill set to handle a customer’s specific issue right there on the spot.

Solutions available to your business

Ultimately there is a high cost, in terms of inefficiencies and operational cost, when you continue to operate outdated technologies. Taking inventory of your existing call center technologies can help you determine if it’s time for an overhaul or a simple upgrade.

You don’t have to choose between favorite software and hardware. You can choose to invest in contact centers with automatic call distribution and attendant technologies so that calls coming into your contact center are routed correctly. Many of these technologies now include Unified Communications with presence technology, which can help you identify available subject matter experts instantly.

Check out our whitepaper for more information on Best (and Worst) Practices in Customer Communications.

file-1973439549

Unified Communications at the 2014 NADA Convention

nec-uc-automotive-industry-solutionsAs many of you know, the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) is holding their annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana this year. The conference is always the automotive industry event of the year, and if you are attending or have looked at the line-up of guest speakers and session topics, you’ll know 2014 is not disappointing.

With attendance topping 21,000 dealers from around the world, this year’s convention is featuring hundreds of exhibitors showcasing their latest equipment, services, and technology. The conference has also offered an additional treat this year, as dealers have been given the rare chance to meet face-to-face with executives from several major auto manufacturers.

The prevailing need to cut costs and increase sales and service productivity is affecting all dealerships right now. Unified Communications (UC) technology offers a unique way to accomplish both tasks while additionally increasing overall customer satisfaction and Customer Service Index (CSI) scores.

One of the top trends at this year’s convention has been improving business processes with technology and software. This theme looks to have trickled down into many of the session discussions. Session topics have covered advanced digital marketing, dealer data protection, customer relationship management, and mobile device integration. All of these sessions have been designed to educate dealers who are not utilizing, or are interested in learning more about these technologies.

What attendees might yet find surprising, is that a good Unified Communications and Collaboration solution can actually help solve many of the challenges facing today’s dealers and salesmen.

The UC technology in question includes contact centers, IP Telephony, collaboration software, and more. UC can easily shorten your response times to customers, increase your revenues, and lower your operating costs, enabling your dealership to become more efficient and productive with one software application.

Customer Engagement

Sales depend on quick and effective communication. When a prospect or existing customer calls your dealership or walks into your showroom, you want to make the best impression that you can and answer any and all questions the customer may have with ease.

Unified Communications Solutions ensure that messages from customers are handled as expediently as possible. UC offers features such as:

  • advanced presence capabilities that allow receptionists to see which sales people are available to meet with a walk-in customer,
  • enhanced mobility that enable personnel to be available from any location and device,
  • and instant messaging that offers a quick way to communicate with colleagues.

Customer Service

Your service department is your main revenue driver (no pun intended). The success of your service department depends on having the right information and the right tools at hand to complete a job. If your service department cannot quickly communicate with salesmen on the floor, with other dealerships, or with customers, then one of your businesses biggest assets becomes inefficient and unprofitable.

Unified Communications technology provides auto dealers with collaborative tools that can keep customers, service, and other dealership personnel in communication with each other easily. Customer service features include:

  • appointment reminders that reduce any missed sales appointments or last-minute cancellations resulting in increased revenue,
  • integrated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) capabilities that provide self-service options to callers, giving them alternatives to waiting or hanging up,
  • one number reachability that enables you to contact your co-workers using their main extensions,
  • and real-time snapshots of the contact center delivered via dashboards to service managers.

Staff Productivity

Whether you work on the show floor or in the front office, achieving customer service success means you have to be an efficient communicator. NEC’s Staff Productivity solutions provide you and your staff with efficient communication and automation of routine management tasks, thereby improving your dealerships’ responsiveness to customers’ needs. Some of the staff productivity features include:

  • management and operation of a desktop telephone from your PC for easy speed dialing, call management, contact lookup, and seamless CRM integration,
  • unified messaging allowing all faxes, e-mails and voice messages to be accessible from one inbox, anywhere,
  • a fully-integrated directory system that provides real-time customer information to receptionists and other personnel, enabling them to deliver enhanced and personalized services,
  • and intuitive, modular-designed telephones that can be tailored to each individual role.

To learn more about how Unified Communications, contact center, and mobility can help your dealership increase efficiency, productivity and revenue, visit us at booth number 5246 at the New Orleans Convention Center this weekend.  If you can’t make it to the NADA conference, you can read more about NEC’s solutions for the automotive industry here.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 12.31.09 AM