Where Does Your Business Stand In The Evolution Of Contact Centre Technology?

Posted by: Gordon Rimmer

December 23, 2014


Contact centre technology is not a new innovation in the world of business and many of the methods and working practices that were introduced in the 1980s can still be found in a great number of current workplaces in the UK, and around the world. It would be wrong to say that the contact centre has stayed the same though, there has been a great rate of change in the contact centre, and many experts have pointed to there being three different waves of contact centre technology.

It is likely that certain parts of your business communication channels will be spread across the three different waves but if you are keen to communicate with customers in the most effective manner, while providing the highest standard of service, it makes sense to aim to be operating in the third wave as much as you can. The three waves are generally seen as:

  • Wave 1: Cost and Efficiency
  • Wave 2: The Customer Relationship
  • Wave 3: The Complete Experience

The first wave was driven by the need of the business. Improvements in technology enabled firms to communicate with customers in a more effective and affordable manner, and the vast majority of early adopters found that they drastically reduced their customer service costs by utilising contact centre technology. This wave has been in place for decades but clearly the importance of lowering costs and improving efficiency are still alive today.

The second wave, developed in the 1990s, introduced the needs and wants of the customer to the focus that a contact centre had. While there was still a drive to lower costs and operate efficiently, businesses realised that they needed to provide more to their clients. The emergence of self-service contact centre options provided a more efficient way for businesses to operate but this system also provided many customers with an easier way to order or raise issues with a firm.

The third wave has changed the face of contact centre technology

The third wave, developed in the late 2000s, builds on the customer recognition developed in wave two, and actually sees the customer driving progress and improvements. There is a genuine need for businesses to offer a high standard of customer service, with the customer experience being central to the way a firm operates.  This wave has benefitted from considerable improvements in communication technology, creating the platform for customers to demand new ways to engage and connect with a firm.

While modern businesses need to be operating in the third wave, the key benefits of the first and second wave of contact centre technology are still important. At ProtoCall One, we not only offer cost effective and efficient solutions with the customer in mind, we provide firms with an extensive range of communications, ensuring they can provide the most effective customer service package at all times. Any business looking to satisfy their customers in the modern era needs to ensure that they offer a reliable and effective customer experience, which is at the heart of what we offer to firms.

Tomorrows Contact Centre – Survey Results

Posted by: Gordon Rimmer

September 17, 2014


Contact centre managers are facing the same challenges today that they always have, from budget constraints and systems limitations to staffing and customer retention. What is changing, however, is how they respond to those challenges. Controlling costs used to be the prime issue. But today, the customer takes centre-stage, and contact centre managers consistently assert the importance of customer experience over all.

Limitations of some existing systems can impair the customer experience significantly, leaving the contact centre struggling to compete. Tomorrows Contact CentreTomorrows Contact CentreInnovative contact centre managers have responded by developing smartphone apps and integrating video channels into their offering. Doing so means they can offer better service, proactively, through the media and channels that modern consumers genuinely want to use.

But the path to tomorrow’s contact centre won’t be entirely straightforward. Some contact centre managers feel deploying new technology can bring undue disruption and thereby detract from the customer experience; others have doubts about the ability of their existing solution providers to meet the needs of tomorrow’s contact centre.

A really useful piece of work and survey that was conducted by Call Centre Helper and sponsored by Cisco raised some key points:

•Video is finally emerging as an exciting new channel after it was written off 5 years ago – 40% expect to introduce it over the next 2 years
•Achieving a Single view of the Customer is more important than ever
•Web Self-service will allow agents to focus on more complex queries
•Customer Experience was a priority at 54%, but cost reduction was only 23%
•Limitations in Technology is the primary concern at 69% of respondents
•If contact centres had the budget they would invest in agent desktops and a full technology refresh!

Only a third of respondents said they would upgrade their existing platform to get access to new capabilities and functionality. The remainder would perform a full review of the market, with a likely migration to a new platform (on-premise or cloud). Contact Centre Managers are looking for agility in their contact centre technology and to make it easier for customers to engage with the contact centre.

Read the full survey report to find out the fascinating details…. download it here

Need a partner to help you? Talk to us…..

 

Top ways to improve Contact Centre Performance

Posted by: Gordon Rimmer

July 18, 2014


WhitepaperRecent studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between the implementation of advanced technology in contact centres and increased caller satisfaction. For example, advanced call handling techniques reduce average queue time by anywhere from 12 to 43 percent. Calls per hour per agent improved 6 to 18 percent. And self-service options were shown to increase satisfaction among the least satisfied callers from 39 to 66 percent. In this blog and link to the white paper, you will learn more about the ways in which advanced technology is transforming contact centre productivity.

Questioning Assumptions and Finding Answers

Organisations spend millions of pounds annually on contact centre technology to help improve customer satisfaction, become more competitive, and reduce the cost of acquiring and retaining loyal customers. It is commonly assumed that technology investment delivers measurable results—but does it?

In the past, there have not been statistically valid research studies to support that assumption. However, the recent Benchmark Portal study, The Impact of Technology on Contact Centre Performance, provides positive, statistically relevant evidence that advanced contact centre technologies actually do improve customer interactions.

Based on rigorous research conducted with 143 contact centres from a wide range of industries, the study found that advanced contact centre technologies could simultaneously improve customer satisfaction and financial performance. In addition, the study found that technology investments in contact centre technology frequently pay for themselves in one to two years and deliver higher return on investment (ROI) than investments made in core products and services.

Over the past 20 years, contact centres have implemented a range of technology solutions to continuously improve responsiveness to customers and cost-effectiveness. As technologies have become more advanced, contact centres build on their capabilities to gain more insight into customer interactions and improve customer care.

Today’s contact centres must achieve cost control and customer segmentation goals before they can effectively engage in customer collaboration. And according to the Benchmark Portal study, they are using advanced contact centre technologies to improve performance against eight Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

• Improve first call resolution rates
• Reduce costs per call
• Improve top box customer satisfaction
• Improve bottom box customer satisfaction
• Improve calls per agent per hour
• Improve top box agent satisfaction
• Reduce average queue time
• Improve multi-channel performance

To find out how they are achieving these KPI’s read the detail in our whitepaper by clicking here.

 

 

The future is Customer Engagement Centres (nee Contact Centres)

Posted by: Gordon Rimmer

May 2, 2014


The pace of change continues to speed up and customers continue to drive the pace of change through the technologies they adopt and the behaviours they subsequently exhibit. It is all about what the customer wants, at the time they want it, through the best channel for them at the best price. But it is not just about price they want excellent customer service as well. It’s about the best service, through any channel, anytime, anywhere and any device.

Customer Experience is through a Journey It has been said that with such fierce competition in the market place between companies that the only real differentiator left is now the customer experience. But it is in fact the customer journey that delivers an experience, with 74% of customers using 3 different channels in one transaction. Customers are now so mobile and agile that they can use their face to face experience to gain knowledge, surf the web for product comparisons, scan bar codes in store and price compare across stores and the web, to book on-line – after a web chat with a cup of coffee in the comfort of their own home. The mobile device for the customer appears to seamlessly integrate web, voice, email, txt, mobile apps, payment, social and more raising the expectation that the companies we deal with can do the same.

A journey focus leads to better outcomes…

Customer Journey Chart

Contact Centres playing catch-up
The reality is that Voice and Face to Face are still really important channels, but with the Generation X, Y and now Z  coming on-line we are having to adopt new channels to cater for new customers. So the call centre became the contact centre, with the integration of white mail, email and web and functions like call backs. But these typically only catered for so much and Social Media revolutionised the way we thought about the contact centre and we went quickly from a single channel to mult-channel, handling the channels as silo’s of activity, but without the customer context. As the sophistication of customers expands so too does the need to then move this into an omni or cross-channel capability that maintains the customer journey across multiple channels and keeps the context of the conversation and transaction of the customer.

Equally Customer Experience is now the objective for the whole organisation and anyone who services a customer, front and back office. The walls have been blurred further with access to better systems and smarter ways of working through unified communications that today we actually need to talk about the Customer Engagement Centre. We need to move away from Contact centres being cost centres and now they should be seen as the engines in business that drive revenue growth and customer loyalty.

Who will help you in this new world?
The complexity of the systems and service has now reached a point that you can no longer do this on your own and buy off the shelf software that you need in a pre-packaged solutions. It needs careful design around your customer experience programmes, for the channels that are appropriate for your existing and future customer base. You will need to train and support the staff that both manage and deliver the services through outstanding deployment programmes. It will need a robust network and infrastructure that will cope with the needs of data, voice and video and around the core solutions you will need third party software suppliers to deliver added channels and functionality. Then you need to be able to deliver the know-how and systems integration that bonds your solution together and potentially build bespoke applications. Once you have it in place you need to manage and support the solution with the right expert skilled staff that are needed to keep your operation running, as now it is mission critical to your revenue stream and profitability.

Who is your Partner?

What you need is a partner that will enable your business to better serve its customers through any channel, anytime, anywhere and any device. You need a partner that understands the market place, the key drivers for change, the solutions on offer, what your customer experience programmes should deliver for your audience, someone who is knowledgeable, expert and who has the ability to guide you through the complexities of the modern Customer Engagement Centre.

If you think the future is Customer Engagement Centres you need to talk to us!

 

Skype for the Contact Centre

Posted by: Gordon Rimmer

April 25, 2014


In a recent webinar I listened to the debate about whether Skype would be used in a contact centre. A poll of people attending came up with the following results:

45% of people used Skype for Voice
48% Used Skype for Video Calling
9% are planning to use Skype
24% don’t use Skype
Sample size of 144 companies.

What this of course doesn’t make is the distinction between how many people are using this for their personal use or for business purposes. Though I know that as a business we use Skype internally for chat and voice calls and occasionally video, it is mainly between us all internally. Most of the stats is probably down to personal use, but by definition it is a service that the consumer customer will therefore be using!

It is also worth noting that there are 300M+ users of Skype worldwide. So is this a channel you can ignore, I would suggest not. The reality is that customer behaviour is changing.

In our lives we now use a wide range of channels and media to stay in contact and communicate with each other. Our lives are getting more connected and complex. 37% of companies were using web chat to communicate in 2013 and video only 5% – but this may well be wrapped into the chat market. In 2012 a survey showed that only 25% of people saw Skype as a means of contacting a company with phone calls still number one. It should be noted that one of the trends was that web chat companies were all moving to integrate video chat into their service offerings over the next 12 months.

Skype is now part of Microsoft and is gearing up to be the next disrupter for Voice, IM and Video and in the US Healthcare and Legal have been quick to adopt it. It has been solved to give you a click to call through Skype and how it links back to your own Skype account is now a slick process. One thing for sure is that Skype could well be the lever that drives video adoption in the contact centre, providing it is easy to integrate into contact centre platforms.

There are still risks – would you want your call centre staff on video, are they dressed to present your brand and is your environment representative of what you want to portray. Does Skype open up more threats to security and this is a question that still needs resolving. Other questions still need answering such as the implications for integrating into existing infrastructure and forecasting and scheduling. What are the impacts on the ability to drive compliance and quality monitoring? How indeed will you integrate it into your call routing?

The upshot is the emergence of this is now it is much easier to call you and communicate with you when you are on-line and available and could drive up interactions for call centres if they can see you are on-line. One thing for sure is that it must fit into the big picture and must enhance the customer experience and journey.

We are seeing specific use cases for video where there is high value, i.e. in Healthcare or kiosks for financial services companies. Either way, video is growing in adoption by individuals and either Skype or new technologies like WebRTC are likely to drive up a growing usage of video for communications as people become more tech savvy and devices encourage the use.

Why is customer service such a roller coaster ride

Posted by: ssehgal

April 9, 2014


In the fast paced world of internet, social media, smart phones and gadgets, we have become almost too dependent on these technologies.  When one of them breaks we feel the vacuum straight away. And what do we do then – we try and get a resolution, often through the web or by getting in touch with the customer services department for the broken product or service.

Well this is precisely what happened to me recently when my eBook reader which is a market leading product from a major online retailer broke. Being a tech savvy user who likes doing fair bit of research and troubleshooting for such problems, I went through the drill of finding resources on the web that could help me fix the issue. But in the end nothing seemed to work and I decide to go on to the customer service section on the retailer’s website.

What happened then was no less than a roller coaster ride in the world of customer service.

The ride went like this….

The start was fabulous, as I had the option to request a call back form their website. I did that and received a call on my mobile within seconds. Impressed!

The voice at the other end was friendly but did not have any idea or inkling of what the call back request was about – not a big problem. I explained to the Agent the problems I was having with the eBook reader. After listening to my problem the agent empathised and said they should be able to offer a replacement. However after checking further details I was informed that as the eBook reader was purchased while I was in the USA, the call will need to be transferred to customer services in the USA. At this point I felt indifferent but still hopeful of a quick resolution.

Next, my call was transferred to the customer services team for the Americas. The call was answered by another Agent but he had absolutely no clue about the reason for my call – not what you expect when you have been transferred. But the worst was yet to come. Within few seconds of being answered by the agent in the Americas, my call dropped.

Then I got to enjoy it all again!

I logged on to the website again and requested another call back. Result again impressive as I got a call within seconds. I went through the whole cycle of explaining the issue and then being transferred to the American team. However this time again just moments into the call with the American agent call dropped again. I was furious.

It didn’t stop there as this happened a third time and a fourth time. At that point I made the team in the USA write down my number and contact me directly.

Finally, I was able to talk to an advisor in the US who transferred me to his colleague in the technical support team. Here I was made to repeat all the troubleshooting and recovery steps that I had already done by following steps on various blogs, forums and the retailer’s website. Even after my continuous pleas, the agent insisted that I repeat the steps as per his direction. This was not a clever use of his time or mine.

Finally, convinced that the reader was faulty, the Agent offered me a replacement.  I was given a price for the replacement, can’t blame the retailer for that as I my device was outside the warranty period. So I agreed to pay. I was told the replacement will be a refurbished device at a discounted price of $45 + delivery. And how much was the delivery cost? Oh sir, that would be $32. Why? Well, because the devise will be shipped from the US to UK.

Then downhill again!

The retailer is a global leader in online retail and shipping something from the US while it is easily available in the UK warehouses is probably not the best way to resolve an issue.

The rationale however was the shipment will be from US as the original devise was purchased from the US website. I was also surprised that the Agent said that was the only purchase I ever made from the retailer and wasn’t a regular customer. This was not true as I use the retailer very frequently. The reason: the Agent only had a view of the orders I placed on the US website with no visibility of my orders or spend on the UK website. However after several rounds of convincing and I think after sensing my frustration combined with empathy with the situation the agent disappeared to talk to his supervisor. He came back with not one but two pieces of good news. First, the shipment will be done from the UK and there will be no charge for me. Second, the eBook reader will be replaced without any additional charge to me.

Why can’t you think global and act local?

The agents conduct was pleasant and professional all throughout, however the customer experience was inconsistent, tiresome and came close to destroying the brand perception several times. In the end I was relieved and satisfied as the problem was eventually resolved.

What I learnt from this experience is that for a consistently high customer experience, businesses today need to ensure the following:

  1. Provide self-help and online resources to better serve the customers.
  2. Provide fast efficient ways for customer to get in touch.
  3. Build the context of what the customer wants based on the actions they have performed on the web or through other channels. Don’t expect customers to repeat everything.
  4. If you are a global player, think global. Don’t let the technology fail you. The customer should be able to contact you and receive consistent service no matter who they are, where they are and how they contact you.
  5. Empower Agents – give them a single, consistent view of the customer and their value to the business.
  6. Profile your customers – for example: tech savvy and informed customers don’t like to wait or be forced into providing redundant information or troubleshooting. On the other hand there are other customers who may need just that little bit extra help and support to resolve issues.
  7. Build a knowledge base to help Agents find the right answers and address issues quicker.

 Contact us to find out how we have helped our customers address similar challenges.

Time to refresh your Contact Centre Technology?

Posted by: Gordon Rimmer

February 21, 2014


Should you be implementing new contact centre technology during a recession or is it a needless expense?

During these tough economic times it can be tempting for a business to concentrate on making cut backs or reductions in expenditure that have an immediate impact on the bottom line. This can range from losing staff to electing not to upgrade or implement new technologies that may help improve or streamline a variety of business processes’.

What is the real impact of this as a short term strategy though? – will immediate savings really result in a healthier Contact Centre Technologybusiness and improved overall profits or reduced losses? Often the answer to this difficult question in lean times is a simple no. What may seem to make short term economic sense can massively impact a business negatively in the medium to longer term future.

In the case of the call or contact centre however the problems faced can often be three fold – the reduction/optimisation of staff (people), the installation of technologies (Technology) and the efficiencies that should be gained by optimising processes (Process). The fact is, doing too much of the former and not enough of the latter (Technology and process) can deeply effect the bottom line of a business over time. The call or contact centre is normally the bridge between your customers and your business. This vital cog in your business’s machine is the most visible part of the customer journey and experience. Never more so than in tough times, the service the customer receives is crucial. Cutbacks can very easily result in the loss of customers – the retention of which will make the difference between a company thriving or dying.

Recruiting and retaining good quality engaged staff should be at the forefront of any business’ agenda. The customer experience will ensure they stay with you and therefore keep orders coming through the door. It’s no longer the case of simply having enough good quality people available to answer queries or sales calls. Profitable businesses understand it’s now about increasing the efficiency of business processes in order to maximise output and therefore ROI.

For ProtoCall One the answer to this is to implement the right technology your business requires now and for its future growth and survival. Contact centre technology is vital in achieving a lean business model that’s as efficient as it can be and therefore returning the best possible profits. The ability to offer exemplary customer service through enough well-trained staff ought to be the minimum requirement; being able to make the most of your staff with the right technology will give you a greater edge over your competitors and ensure profits remain healthy.

Implementing a multi or cross-channel communication technology environment allows your business to interact with your customers in new and meaningful ways. Crucially it allows your customers to reach you in whatever way suits them. Calls are just one way of interacting with new or existing customers however offering a truly layered approach of– emails, SMS, web-chat, social media, as well as calls – will create a streamlined and effective contact process.

Any investment put in to call or contact centre technology pays dividends through increased ROI, happier customers (greater retention) and also happier and more engaged staff. The fact is the temptation for cutbacks or delaying the implementation of newer technology will put you behind the competition which will mean a reduction in business – a recipe for failure no matter the initial savings you may have been able to make.

If you would like to read more about the economics of the contact centre download our e-Book “The Economical Contact Centre to understand the issues more closely.

 

 

How do you spot a VIP?

Posted by: pweald

November 22, 2013


With the advent of big data, companies are getting more sophisticated in their understanding of customers, using clever data analytics to target them with specific offers and promotions. They know who their most valuable customers are, and the lifecycle of purchasing behaviours that they have the ability to influence. But sometimes, it just comes down to good ‘old fashioned’ excellent Customer Service, as I found on my recent holiday to the States.British Airways

I had a travel group of four, which included my wife’s parents, who are very sprightly octogenarians. As I didn’t want to leave anything to chance for our 9 ½ hour flight to Miami, I had paid the premium of pre-selecting  seats in advance, and had been through the online check-in process the day before.  Printed boarding passes in hand, all we had to do at the airport was drop bags off and then proceed through security.

Our taxi took us directly from home to Heathrow Terminal 5 and we quickly found the appropriate check-in desk, pleasingly without any queue. We showed the BA agent our tickets and passports, to which his response was “do you want the good news or the bad news?” My wife opted to hear the negative first, expecting that our flight was about to be delayed. With impeccable timing, the agent picked up our boarding passes and ripped them up. The bad news he explained was that our seat allocation had been changed. And the good news was…. we had been upgraded to business class!

We were naturally delighted, and explained that it was the first time my wife’s mother had been to the States and now we could do it in real style.  A true “wow” moment, for me and my family.

Out of curiosity, I then asked how come we had been selected for the upgrade. With a big grin, the agent said that it wasn’t actually up to him, but that he was more than happy to take the credit!  Apparently the plane was over booked in economy, which meant that people were moved around to free up more space.  We had booked Premium Economy tickets, so our original seats had been made available to economy travellers, meaning that we were able to upgrade to the next class of business. With a spring in our step, we proceeded through security to the BA lounge – the service and experience both before and during the flight was fantastic – what a result!

Now that I am back home, and getting into work mode, my thoughts have turned to how much ‘big data’ had a role to play in our VIP treatment that day. I suspect that the answer is actually “not very much”. The reason being that I don’t do much business travel and have very few airmiles to identify me as a valuable customer. Although I am active online – as this blog post proves – my Social Media clout score is also low. I didn’t tweet about my experience, although I did immediately post on facebook so that my family and friends knew what had just happened. The response was interesting as both our children (now in their twenties) felt very aggrieved that this five star treatment hadn’t happened when we were travelling together on previous holidays. I told them that their Grandma was clearly the lucky charm!

So unless BA know something that I don’t about my next consulting assignment in some far flung long haul location, I don’t think that customer analytics had a part to play in my recent experience. Clearly I shall be ‘dining out’ on the story and telling everyone how we felt so very special on that day, but is brand loyalty in itself a good enough justification?

So the best I can do to pay for the experience is to say “thank you very much British Airways – we love you! “

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2013 Customer Experience – the journey from good to great!

Posted by: pweald

October 21, 2013


Customer Experience AwardsI have been a call centre awards judge for a number of years and in 2012 got involved with the UK Customer Awards. This is a unique event, where in one day all finalists are judged through a presentation, and then the winners are announced at a prize giving lunch in the afternoon. I was so impressed by what I saw that I penned an article 7 Steps to a Gold Medal Customer Experience that describes the winning formula to deliver good customer experience programmes.

On Thursday 17th October 2013, over 700 customer experience professionals gathered in London for this years Customer Experience Awards – taking part in over 20 different categories – and I was in the privileged position of judging the Large Contact Centre category. This was the same category that I was involved with last year, which had the previous winner – Lebara Mobile – as a finalist. So would they repeat their success, or would another UK organisation have overtaken them on their own journey from good to great?

It was no surprise to me that the standard of submissions and presentations was very high. It is now an accepted norm that to deliver a great Customer Experience you need to support your people with the right environment and tools, as well as extending the reach of your contact centre beyond the traditional voice platform to include digital channels.

We heard of one outsourcer that had taken over a 1,000 seat facility in Derby and had built the operation around the bespoke needs of a major client – with the emphasis very much on creating the right environment to foster that customer focused culture within their newly recruited staff.

We heard how one mobile phone provider had identified the missing ingredient from an already successful operation, which was the need to create an emotional connection with their customers. Using just the creativity and innovation of their management team, they rolled out a culture change programme that focused on this one specific area, creating an almost immediate increase in Customer Satisfaction results.

Another example was one insurance company that had identified the opportunity to integrate front office call centre sales and service operations to their back office claims activities. Leveraging the benefit of a workflow case management solution, within 20 weeks they were able to release a 20% additional capacity which had a dramatic impact on the ability to not only reduce case backlogs but also improve First Call Resolution as front office staff now had visibility of customer case details so no longer had to transfer calls to the back office.

All great stories of how focusing on the enablers of great customer experience – environment, culture and technology – had had a positive knock-on effect on Customer Experience.

But what of last year’s winner?  I knew that Lebara already had each of these enabling components in place, but what had it done to extend the Customer Experience further and deeper into the organisation? The answers included:

  • Increasing the number of countries supported from their central London call centre to 25 different languages – taking advantage of the diverse and cosmopolitan ethnicity available locally
  • Using customer service staff to redesign the help pages of the website – that in turn drove a significant up-take in the use of online self-service, resulting in a lower overall cost to serve
  • Driving up employee engagement – which resulted in a significant reduction in the attrition rate

The icing on the cake for all these organisations was that their NPS scores had continued to increase.  This year Net Promoter Score was the common litmus test that all finalists were using to measure their customer advocacy, and is certainly a good indicator that the investment and focus on enablers of great Customer Experience – environment, culture and technology – had all paid off.

And the winner? Well it was very close, but the decision deservedly went in favour of Lebara Mobile – who retained their crown as the UK’s best large contact centre. But the lasting memory for me, is the way that these leading organisations are always looking to innovate and improve. Sustaining a great Customer Experience is clearly a never ending task.

Learning from the public sector’s adoption of multi-channel working!

Posted by: pweald

October 11, 2013


Ideas from Public SectorAt Call Centre Expo last week I had the privilege of chairing a panel discussion that looked at the topic of how best to encourage customers away from the phone. The session was focused on experience of public sector practitioners, and looked at the topic from both a customer experience and an employee experience perspective. Each panellist had first-hand experience of implementing change within their operations, which gave us useful insight on the challenges and successes of implementing an effective multi-channel contact centre. What I always find impressive when considering these case studies in the public sector is the achievements that can be made whilst operating within tight financial constraints, stringent regulatory frameworks and often with risk adverse stakeholders.

 

Josephine Ball is Head of Non Emergency Contact at Sussex Police and has run their contact centre operations for the past 4 years. She shared the anecdotes of how they have introduced twitter as an effective way of raising community awareness of crime. One particular case she mentioned concerned a missing child. Whereas the traditional method of reporting involves a 121 phone conversation between the parent and the police; the use of twitter to share these details with over 30,000 followers – several of whom retweeted – got the details quickly into the public domain. Happily the child was soon safely reunited with parents, which again gave the opportunity for the police to inform the local online community via twitter that the case had been resolved. Social media has support from all the senior management within Jo’s organisation and this allows her to try out new ideas that team members have about how the contact centre can interact with members of the public. This has not gone unnoticed within our industry, with Sussex Police short-listed as a finalist in the ‘Best Use of Social Media’ category at this years European Call Centre & Customer Service Awards.

Russell Anthony is Service Manager for Customer Contact at the Royal Borough of Kingston, having led a major customer service transformation project “Customer First” that has involved implementing an award winning CRM system, a new online website and knowledge base, plus process improvements to eliminate failure demand. The takeaway from Russell’s project is the importance of not just seeing the contact centre channels operating at the margins of business change. Instead, the need to be at the centre of the change agenda and to innovate new ideas. One example is the reporting of potholes. If a customer submits online the GPS location of a hole in the road along with a photo, then this is an opportunity to streamline the internal process and avoid the need to send out an inspection team. Instead take the customer inputs directly into the repairs team, plus the opportunity to feedback the status of the repair via alerts online to show the resident that the council is listening and acting upon the information provided.

Chris deSousa is Senior Customer Service Manager for Barclays Cycle Hire, whose contact centre is operated by Serco. His input was around the importance of focusing any change on the role of the contact centre on its impact on employees. One recent change has been the introduction of a telephone self service option for the registration of keys. Instead of callers getting straight through to an agent, now there is a layer of IVR that gives the options of self-service for key processes – either by phone or online. The success of this introduction is down to communicating and trusting your front line staff to manage caller expectations.

What was also revealing was how the customer experience measures were changing to reflect the move away from offering just a phone based service. Whilst Service Level is still important for Serco in its commercial arrangements with TFL, all the panellists talked about greater use of customer surveys in getting feedback on what is important for customers. Kingston Council are looking at introducing Customer Effort based measures that reflect the ease by which a customer can get their issue resolved, across their preferred contact channel.

A quick ‘show of hands’ by the audience – which was a mix of both public and private sector organisations – demonstrated the forward thinking nature of these new methods of customer satisfaction measurement. Only one attendee could match the panellist focus on customer effort as the new way of measuring the success of multi-channel contact.

What are you doing in your contact centre?