Prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, I spent the week in San Francisco attending Dreamforce, Salesforce.com’s annual conference. It was a great opportunity to gain insights from the industry’s leading vendors, share best practices among CRM experts and learn about up-and-coming tools and trends in the contact center space.
Of course, the big news coming out of the conference was the announcement of Salesforce1, the company’s new social, mobile and cloud customer platform. There’s lots of excitement around its potential to redefine selling and customer relationship management. There were also some great visionary demonstrations of customer interactions of the future or as one keynote speaker said, “hypothetical” examples – Salesforce knows sure knows how to put on a show.
But down on the expo floor, there was a bit more real-world problem solving going on. Being a customer engagement analytics vendor, we met a lot of CRM users who were going from booth to booth looking for analytic solutions. It fascinated me how quickly they dismissed the horizontal BI products as “just historical reporting,” while expressing a need for “real analytic solutions” to solve very specific problems, such as motivating the sales department to use Salesforce.com more or improve the cost efficiency of their contact centers.
In other words, these CRM users were under the impression that analytics meant purpose-built solutions, and that the evolution from BI to analytics required specialization.
So the question becomes, can analytics deliver the value of purpose-built, while still solving multiple problems?
We at Transera think so. Most contact centers already receive reporting data from their various operational systems, but this data is siloed, leaving major blind spots. We believe that once you stitch together this customer interaction data, it can be used to solve multiple problems such as improve the business impact of the contact center, boost agent job satisfaction, improve the bottom line, increase the top line, and ultimately reach the holy grail of improving the customer experience and journey.
So before shopping for a horizontal BI tool or a purpose-built analytics tool, companies should first make sense of the customer interaction data they already have in their enterprise systems. Then they can use analytics to solve multiple problems, and for the CRM users interacting with their customer through multiple channels, transform their contact centers into customer engagement centers.
This week, Transera is hosting a webinar, Creating Analytics-driven Customer Engagements in your Contact Center, featuring Arnab Mishra, Tranera’s VP of products and solutions. In the webinar, Arnab will share insights on how companies can use event, transaction and interaction data that already exists in their contact center ACD and CRM systems to vastly improve their customers’ experience. With the right software, this data can pair customers with the best available agent, while also optimizing operations around metrics that have the biggest impact on business. Finally, these transaction and interaction data insights can allow contact centers to increase their conversion rates, revenues customer satisfaction scores, and first call resolutions.
Join Arnab for this 50-minute webinar that will also include a customer case study and a demonstration of Transera’s Customer Engagement Analyzer product, a cloud-based software that allows contact centers to capture, organize and cross-analyze customer interactions. Participants will also learn about the process that Transera uses to make customer engagements more analytics-driven, and ultimately mores successful.
Click here to sign up for the webinar, which will be begin at 11:00am PT on November 14.
We look forward to seeing you this Thursday!
Virtually all interactions between a customer and the contact center touch multiple systems across the enterprise, and each of these systems collect, store and manage its own data. As companies begin using big data in customer engagement activities, they need to establish a unified view of customer interactions across these disparate systems. Companies that build and maintain such a unified view understand their customer care program results better, know what they are like to do business with, and as a result, delight their customers by delivering timely and personalized sales, service and support.
This week, we're featuring six tips to optimize your customer engagement. These tips come from research that was compiled by the Aberdeen Group, who closely examined results that come out of best practice organizations. Take a look at our SlideShare below, and be sure to share this on your own social channels as well.
Download a .pdf file of these tips
Last week I attended Frost & Sullivan’s Contact Center West conference in Tucson, Arizona. The conference was a great opportunity to share insights, ideas and best practices among the industry’s top vendors and experts.
A central theme this year was the customer experience and how we should all “rethink, reinvest and revitalize” this experience. As my peers and I discussed this topic throughout the week, it became apparent that, while making the customer experience is - and should continue to be - a top priority, contact centers are still too focused on operational efficiencies and not focused nearly enough on business outcomes, including the less tangible aspects of how we engage with our customers.
The main issue with a contact center that focuses strictly on promoting operational efficiencies and cutting costs, for example, is that it starts to function much like a twentieth century assembly line. Since worth is determined by a worker’s productivity and compliance, there is little to no incentive to go beyond the ask. If a worker does not meet the set quota, he or she is considered a failure. The same is true for today’s contact center agents whose metrics are built around average handle time, service level, abandon rate, speed of answer and first call resolutions.
While an emphasis on operational and productivity metrics works in practice, it forces agents in two different directions. On one hand, agents are instructed to deliver an optimized customer experience and represent the company positively. On the other, agents feel the pressure to meet the operational demands and productivity requirements coming down from their senior management team. The latter can cause agents to rush calls, not take time to truly understand the customer needs and offer the optimal solution, not just the fastest or easiest.
This conflict of the customer experience versus operational focus is a challenge that the contact center industry as a whole has not yet fully addressed. The challenge itself has surfaced at every conference I’ve attended in recent years. But with the exception of a few companies like Zappos, which prides itself in customer delight and whose stories of just how far they will go to make a customer happy are legendary, few are able to master the necessary balance.
To drive strategic change we need to focus on maximizing the business outcomes; sales, technical issue resolution, customer satisfaction and do it in a way that provides a good customer experience. For example, what is the sum total of activities the customer needed to take to achieve the desired business outcome?Did they “self service” unsuccessfully in the IVR and if so, how many times? Did they spend time researching their need on the website? Does their current interaction relate to their last interaction in a positive or negative way in terms of their overall experience?
This is why Transera strives to develop solutions that give companies holistic, customer-centric information to improve overall business performance as well as operations. These insights help to see what it is like to do business with
you as your customer does. By capturing this level of insights, companies will thrive through their ability to bridge the gap between customer experience, business outcomes and operational efficiencies.
“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” This was Jerry Gregoria’s fatidic statement just before resigning as Dell’s CIO in 1999. His words have become even more revealing in recent years, especially with advancements in technologies, including the proliferation of digital touch points. PCs, smartphones, tablets, not to mention social media, have profoundly impacted the way companies interact with their most important commodity. Because of this, customers across all demographics now share a common trait: they are empowered. And if companies want to stay competitive, the onus is on them to make the overall customer experience a top priority.
This week, I’m in Tucson attending the 9th annual Frost & Sullivan Customer Contact event. The theme this year is “Rethink, Reinvest, and Revitalize the Customer Experience.” I’ll be writing more about the conference as part of next week’s blog post, but being here reminded me of a story told by Kevin Peters at a similar event last year.
For several years, Kevin served as Office Depot’s North American president. When he was first promoted to that position, Kevin introduced what sounded to some like an all-too simple mandate. “If Office Depot wants to win,” he said, “it needs to differentiate on the customer experience.”
Kevin believed in leading by example. One of his first tasks as the company’s new president was to personally visit his own stores. He set off on a four-month journey with the goal of asking as many customers as possible the same question, “What brings you into Office Depot today?”
What Kevin found at each of his stops was quite telling. While the company as a whole enjoyed positive feedback, they were still missing the mark. The culprit, as Kevin discovered, was that the company was too focused on operational metrics. Instead, he believed, it needed to be far more attentive to engagements, which, he believed, were far more critical to the larger customer experience.
Kevin boiled his findings down to key focus areas of improvement and immediately began the process of rolling out new training and methodology to each of his stores.
As Kevin well knew, improving the customer experience is an ongoing process. And while not every company leader needs to take a four-month road trip, the question Kevin asked Office Depot customers is one we should have at top of mind each time we engage with our customers. In contact centers, this “what brings you to us today?” focus should be applied to not only agents who interact with customers, but also to the tools we use to serve our customers each time they reach out to us. Understanding your customer and how they interact with your business is the first step towards not only driving improved value and repeat business, but also critical in establishing a more holistic customer relationship.
I like to refer to this relationship as the customer journey.
Within contact centers, a customer journey consists of multiple engagements. Each engagement is an issue the customer is trying to solve, and consists of one or more customer interactions. A customer interaction is, from the customer’s point of view, a block of time the customer spent working on the issue. Each customer interaction typically consists of multiple transactions – that is, it touches multiple systems within the contact center. As a result, organizations have phenomenal insights into customer behavior and – as such – can dramatically improve their customer interactions and ultimately their relationships.
With these insights you can change the focus of your call center from promoting efficiencies and cutting costs to making your customers happier, becoming easier to do business with, and driving better business outcomes. To date, contact centers have focused on cost and operational efficiency. But what if this is the wrong approach to growing the business? What if focusing on efficiencies means that the organization is squandering its best asset—its existing customers—or failing to convert many of its best prospects? And how would you even know if this is the case?
I’ve just completed a white paper about how organizations can vastly improve customer experience by first focusing on engagements. As part of my paper, I discuss the importance of knowing what to measure and why. The idea is that companies should then analyze the sum of these engagements to help them better understand the entirety of the larger customer journey. I invite you to read the paper and look forward to continuing the customer engagement conversation here next week.
This post was authored by Prem Uppaluru, CEO, Transera.
In the era of 24-hour customer service, phone and web support, and an entire industry devoted to CRM: flexibility, quality, and cost control remain top priorities for businesses fighting to stay relevant. As a result, business process outsourcing, (BPO) is becoming a growing solution for many companies.
But as more and more businesses are established to meet this demand for outsourced customer service globally, there is increasing pressure on BPOs to compete based on operational efficiency and costs.
This has created a movement in the BPO industry to look for ways to differentiate themselves based on more than just efficiency and cost. Some are specializing in sales or service, while others are focusing on vertical markets such as retail or telecom.
While this new focus will help some BPOs differentiate, it won’t be enough. If a BPO says it is better at sales than its competition, the client will be asking:
- “How do you know you are better?”
- “What makes you better?”
- “How can you prove you are better?”
If the BPO claims customer service to be its core competency, the client will ask, “How much will you improve my customer satisfaction scores?”
For the BPOs making this transition, analytics will be the key to their success. They will need analytics to determine their current service levels and how they can be improved. They will need analytics to diligently track conversions rates by teams, by agents, by product and by customer. They will need these analytics to back up their promises to uplift revenue or improve customer satisfaction.
This analytic approach to contact center management is what will make it possible for BPOs to move from providing reduced-cost call centers, to high-value customer engagement centers.
By the way, my team and I here at Transera are here to help you BPOs with our analytics-driven customer engagement experience, knowledge, products and services.
At this year’s ACCE and Call Center Week conferences, Transera asked almost 200 contact center management professionals a series of questions to better understand how they set goals and measure the performance of their contact centers. While all the respondents could specify their key metrics and which and how many systems the performance data came from, few expressed significant satisfaction with their performance measurement process. In addition, the vast majority was focused on operational efficiency and agent productivity metrics, with few defining success based on their value-add contribution to the business. This tells us that, as an industry, we’re still managed as a cost-center and have a ways to go before being viewed and valued as strategic company assets.
The results of our survey showed that even with the advanced technologies currently available, contact centers are not connecting the dots between the various methods of customer interactions to get a complete view of their customer engagements, of their contribution to the business or the customer’s perspective of dealing with the contact center.
Operational Efficiency Still Reigns
We asked event attendees what their top operational efficiency Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) were. The responses fell into the seven categories, shown in figure 1 below. As expected, the two leading KPIs among respondents were Agent Efficiency (43%) and Service Level (26%).
Only 10% noted Customer Satisfaction as a top KPI, and slightly more than 8% noted the quality of the agents as a top KPI.
Focus on Business Outcome and Revenue Contribution Lacking
When the same contact center professionals were asked for their top KPIs for measuring business contribution, the answers were surprisingly similar to their operational KPIs—no new KPI categories were introduced. Agent Efficiency again topped the list, mentioned by more than 30% of the respondents. Service Level and Agent Performance Quality were tied for third place, with each chosen by 11% of the respondents as a top KPI.
It is interesting to note that the frequency of respondents mentioning Service Level as a business contribution KPI was two-thirds less than as an operational efficiency KPI. On the flipside, while Agent Performance Quality was mentioned more frequently as a business contribution KPI than as an operational efficiency KPI it was only mentioned 25% more often.
While Customer Satisfaction was mentioned more often as a business contribution KPI than as an operational efficiency KPI, it’s disappointing that it was only mentioned 50% more often. In fact, it being mentioned 26.5% of the time as a business contribution KPI is far less than the 43% of the time Agent Efficiency was mentioned as an operational efficiency KPI.
The other business-oriented KPI category, Financial, which includes sales, renewals, etc., only increased from 4% to 7% from its operational efficiency KPI numbers.
These responses suggest that, despite our desire to establish our contact centers and agents as strategic assets to the business, we are still primarily managing to agent efficiency and cost-reduction metrics instead of revenue-generating metrics. However, the increase of Customer Satisfaction between the operational efficiency KPIs and the business contribution KPIs is encouraging and headed in the right direction.
Not Fully Leveraging our Multiple Systems for KPIs
What we found interesting was that despite today’s multi-media call centers with multiple systems that support multiple modes of interaction—such as chat, messaging, interactive voice response, email, as well as voice—very few of these additional systems seem to be used to derive KPIs. The majority of contact centers clearly are using only one or two systems from which to pull their KPIs, as indicated in Figure 3. The number of respondents using three or more systems drops almost 75% from 42% to 11%.
To no one’s surprise, 65% of respondents named the ACD as a key source of KPI data, per Figure 4. IVR, CRM and WFM were all pretty close to each other, in the 40% range, for the next 3 spots. CRM placing above WFM and QM is encouraging, since that is most likely where the true business outcome of customer interactions is recorded—although the data in figure 2 above suggests the CRM data is not being used to tie agent activity measures to financial business outcome measures yet. For contact center agents to be seen and managed as a key business asset, the use of CRM data for KPIs needs to increase to the level of the ACD.
Single System Reports Prevail with 70% Not Linking Data between Systems
Single system reports still prevail for KPI reporting, with more than 63% of the respondents relying on them as their primary source. More than 40% of respondents still rely on using Excel to manually create their reports. Only about 25% of the respondents had Business Intelligence or Data Warehousing projects. Despite CRM being a key source of KPI data, it was most likely not being used to link business outcomes with IVR and agent activity, since almost 70% of the respondents said they were not able to link records from different systems to get a full view of their customer interactions and the resulting business outcomes.
The More Systems Accessed, the More Satisfied, But Only to a Mediocre Level
Finally, when asked for their satisfaction levels with their tools on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 representing the most satisfied, we found that people using data from one system for their KPIs are the least satisfied with their performance management and measurement capabilities while those using two or three systems for their KPI data are the most satisfied. But satisfaction drops off with four systems, possibly because of the increased complexity. No group came close to reporting a high satisfaction score near 4 or 5.
Becoming a Strategic Business Asset
Our results showed that, even in this day and age—the age of the customer—contact centers are still too operational efficiency focused, thus missing out on an important opportunity to make the contact center and its agents strategic assets and contributors to the business. And the traditional methods of gathering KPI data via stand-alone reports, manual Excel, or even fancy Business Intelligence and Data Warehouse implementations, are not meeting the need to get us into the “highly satisfied” corner.
In order for contact centers to drive strategic change, we must do a better job of leveraging all the enterprise data at our fingertips and that we have been collecting for years. And we need to connect the dots between the path a customer takes in the IVR to the agent to the end-result of the interaction entered into the CRM system, to really understand our value. This is what will give us the chance to understand and improve the overall customer journey.
We must continue to evolve and change the focus of our customer interaction centers from promoting efficiencies and cutting costs to making customers happier, becoming easier to do business with and driving better business outcomes. We must move from managing and seeing ourselves as contact centers and instead focus on becoming customer engagement centers.
This post was authored by Prem Uppaluru, CEO, Transera.
Last week, once again, I attended the Electronic Retail Association D2C Convention in Las Vegas. More than 34,000 direct-retail decision makers, including leaders of direct-to-consumer marketing organizations, gathered to discover new solutions and ways to drive business within the retail space.
The presence of all these solutions made it clear that it is becoming increasingly difficult for solutions providers, specifically CRM-related vendors, to differentiate themselves from their competitors. This is, after all, a $300-billon market.
LiveOps CEO Marty Beard was one of the many speakers during the event. His presentation "Retail's Pivot Point: Monetizing Every Customer Interaction,” highlighted an emerging trend of “super agents,” a new breed of contact center agents with the ability to transform customer service interactions into revenue optimization opportunities. According to Marty, these super agents exceed service expectations and ultimately provide better CRM.
We agree that companies need to capitalize on new methods of interaction, including solutions that make it easy for customers to contact you through a multitude of channels. Embracing differentiators like these will not give you a competitive advantage but also keep up with customer preferences and expectations.
Yes, attracting customers, growing revenue, and increasing efficiency should be a target goal for every contact center. Still, when most contact centers interact with their customers, they have very little understanding of the individual’s identity, business value, or history with the company. Most contact centers also make little effort to see patterns in customer interactions. As a result, contact centers do not have an intelligent foundation for deciding how to manage customer interactions to drive better business outcomes.
Something we’ve been talking a lot about on this blog and through recent articles and media interviews is the importance of not only looking at interactions, but also the larger customer journey. Customers in the contact center go through several stages—events, transactions, interactions, and engagements—which together comprise that journey. To really gain business results, you need to see what it is like to do business with
you as your customer does – and at each stage of their journey.
While interactions are certainly a critical component of accomplishing this, there are other opportunities to help you get a full picture of the customer experience, information that can help you not only improve your business and increase sales, but enhance the overall experience every step along the way.
Stay tuned here every Wednesday for more on our unique perspective.
This post was authored by Rich Guth. Rich is the Vice President of Marketing at Transera.
A recent Aberdeen study shows that disparate technology systems and disconnected processes are having an adverse impact on contact center agents’ ability to deliver a truly personalized and differentiated customer experience. To bring light to this this issue, we sponsored “Customer Engagement Analytics - More Than a Sum of Interactions,” a webinar featuring Omer Minkara, a research analyst in the customer experience and service management practice at the Aberdeen Group.
In this webinar, now available on-demand, Omer shares results from Aberdeen’s latest customer analytics research, with insights including:
- The business value of using analytic tools to optimize customer interactions
- Best practices in applying analytics to convert data into insight
- The evolving role of analytics in the contact center
- Secrets in converting the contact center from a cost center into a profit center
At the end, I joined Omer to share how Transera is helping its customers stitch together customer interactions with the same intent from multiple systems and channels to create a “customer engagement” view of their customer interactions. As a result, our customers get a better understanding of what
- their customers are trying to accomplish across touch points
- their customers’ overall experience is when trying to accomplish a single task such as to purchase or get support
- they are like to do business with as a company.
I encourage you to watch the on-demand webinar and learn more about the best practices of leading organizations that are finding value within their customer interaction data to create a more rewarding customer journey.
This post was authored by Rich Guth. Rich is the Vice President of Marketing at Transera.
As you may have noticed, our blog has been revamped considerably during the last several months. In addition to our new look, we’re featuring guest bloggers including from places like the Aberdeen Group. We’re also continuing to feature posts from Transera’s Arnab Mishra, our VP of products and solutions, as well as from our CEO, Prem Uppaluru. We’ll have more in the coming months, including Q&A’s from some of our great customers. Our goal with this blog is to keep you abreast on what’s new, what’s changing and other noteworthy buzz within the contact center space.
This week, we wanted to share some of our recent favorites.
Customer Analytics: Converting Data into Insight for Superior Customer Experience Results
May 21, 2013
In this installment of a five-blog series, we observed the high-level opportunities and benefits companies can gain through effectively utilizing customer analytics to delight buyers while driving quantifiable business results.
Customer Engagement Analytics – More than the Sum of Their Interactions
May 23, 2013
In the second installment of a five-blog series, we highlight a Contact Center Analytics study conducted by Aberdeen, which showed disparate technology systems and disconnected processes impacting agents’ abilities to access timely information are the top challenges that contact centers face when utilizing customer data.
Ventana Research Launches “Next Generation Customer Analytics” Survey with Transera’s Help
July 24, 2013
Transera is sponsoring a Ventana Research benchmark survey to examine the new ways in which companies use analytics to support customer-facing activities and improve customer experience. The research takes a close look at the use of next generation customer analytics, and the technologies and applications used to support them. There is still time to participate in the survey.
New Transera Features Further Streamline Customer Interactions
August 14, 2013
A recap of recent enhancements to Transera’s contact center solutions. Each of these enhancements supports our philosophy to always consider the customer perspective as well as agent performance in making the optimum routing decisions.
- Web Call Back: Enables the customers on your website to request a call back from the call center at their desired time.
- Queue Reshuffle: Ensures that customers with special service level agreements, higher lifetime values, or critical issues needing immediate attention get the timely response and customer experience they need and deserve.
- Agent-Level Threshold Alerting: Allows users to set Threshold Alerts for individual agents, which notifies supervisors if the performance of a particular agent drops below a certain point, allowing supervisors to take action to improve agent performance in real-time.
- Agent-Supervisor Collaboration: Allows agents to send a communication message to supervisors for real-time assistance and an optimal experience for the customer.
Transera Integrates with Salesforce to Provide Further Insight Into the Customer Journey
August 21, 2013
Transera recently expanded its integration with Salesforce through Open CTI, which allows users to take CRM to the next level and transform customer interactions, increase agent productivity and provide a better customer experience by integrating cloud contact centers through Transera and Salesforce.
We will continue to post new blog posts every Wednesday. See you here next week!