Stefan Captijn | May 10, 2013
A symptom I see recurring when speaking to contact center managers who are deploying hardware-based contact center solutions is a desire to provide a more personalized experience to their customers.
“Yes it does route my interactions to my agents, but I would like to give my customers a great personalized experience. I can’t do that with my current solution.”
In a recent webinar titled ‘ One to one Routing ’ I discussed the needs and benefits for a well-designed, cross-channel, one-to-one routing strategy.
During the webinar I asked the audience two poll questions about their current landscape. The first question I asked was:
“Have you implemented a skills based, data driven routing strategy to provide a more personalized customer experience?”
Here are the results:
The majority of the audience has not implemented such a strategy but 31% ... read more >
Stefan Captijn | May 03, 2013
In the famous novel written by Mary Shelley, eccentric scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein creates a grotesque creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment that we know as a Frankenstein.
Victor Frankenstein’s vision was to create a beautiful human being, but he stitched it together with available parts and not much long-term thought.
Tragically, the creature who sprang to life was hideous. It lumbered through his laboratory with watery yellow eyes and a translucent, yellow skin that barely concealed the muscles and blood vessels beneath.
Not a pretty sight.
I frequently see the same tragic combination of inspiration and frightening result when reviewing the contact center architecture of many operations.
Their story is almost always the same – you need to connect your Workforce Management solution from vendor A with your PABX from vendor B. And then you need to connect the multiple channels like Email,... read more >
Stefan Captijn | April 29, 2013
For the past decade, there has been increasing desire within contact centers to improve upon customer satisfaction and experience, in order to keep customers loyal and profitable for longer.
In the early days of the call center industry, supervisors listened in with their agents and gave direct feedback or used spreadsheets to keep track of quality and performance. Very quickly this process was replaced by call recording solutions and call quality measurement forms. This category is called ‘Quality Management’.
In 2002 the first speech analytics application for business use was launched. A few years later, text analytics was added and ‘Interaction Analytics’ as a category was born. Adding to the hype, an alternative use case for Interaction Analytics emerged. It’s no longer just about increasing performance of agents. Through ‘Voice of the Customer’ initiatives we can now learn what customers value, identify trends or ... read more >
Stefan Captijn | April 26, 2013
It’s true that inbound calls will probably never go away completely from the contact center environment. But as new customer interaction channels continue to emerge with email, chat, SMS, video, social media, and mobile applications, the traditional call center faces the challenge of evolving from a call center to a contact center, and ultimately to a customer care center.
Easier said than done. Companies have struggled to optimize resources, and manage multiple interaction channels. When not managed well the Customer Experience will suffer and the cost per interaction will increase.
The combination of the following 3 use cases will enable a better, more personalized Customer Experience and keep cost under control:
Implement consistent customer identification across all channels
To provide personalized customer service it’s fundamental to fully identify the customer and get enough context to make an intelligent routing de... read more >
Stefan Captijn | April 18, 2013
With increased pressure on cost control, it is essential for businesses to utilize their resources in the most optimal way and drive better business outcomes. To help accomplish this, businesses must understand customer value and opportunity value when evaluating the handling of an interaction.
Customer segmentation strategies allow businesses to focus on servicing, retaining, and developing high value customers. Low value/low opportunity customers are directed to lower-cost service options, including self and assisted service.
Companies typically do a pretty good job of providing exceptional service to their elite customers (the top 5-10% of their customer base). The problem is most companies treat the remaining 90% of their customers the same, as if they were all Mass Market customers applying an “Equal service for all” approach.
But this approach is costing you customers and revenue.
By focusing on the potential o... read more >
Stefan Captijn | April 12, 2013
Every time I walk in to a Contact Center when visiting one I look at the walls. Why? Because that is typically where last weeks performance metrics are posted. You can learn a great deal about organizations when you look at these numbers.
The one question I always ask is: “Who uses these numbers?” and the answer is always “our agents of course”. And being the Columbo I am I always ask the agents: “Do you ever look at these stats?”. And the answer is typically: “No, I have no idea what they mean. And if I would, there is not much I can do about it.”
The last part of the employee’s answer is rather telling.
I strongly believe that you should keep your contact centers Average Handle Time a secret and after reading the next 5 reasons why, you’ll probably agree:
AHT is an Average (duh!). It says nothing about an individual. What you should really analyze is the variance ... read more >
Stefan Captijn | April 10, 2013
In the paper ‘ Putting the Service-Profit Chain to work ’ published by Harvard Business Review, the economics of creating customer lifetime value are described in a very clear way.
The paper was published back in 2000. That’s right, 13 years ago but when reading this paper I was struck by how valid it is today.
The concept in essence says that optimizing your metrics or business units in silo’s will possibly drive efficiencies and short term margins, but that focussing on the bigger picture and connecting the dots can unleash sustainable growth and profit.
By understanding the 7 ‘fundamental propositions’ and how they are linked:
Customer Loyalty drives profitability and growth
Customer Satisfaction drives Customer Loyalty
Value drives Customer Satisfaction
Employee Productivity drives Value
Employee Loya... read more >
Stefan Captijn | April 05, 2013
In this series of four blog posts about Virtual Customer Service, each time I will reveal a use cases for considering Virtual Customer Service. In the introduction you can read about the rationale behind Virtual Customer Service.
Today we’ll talk about implementing a ‘home agent’ strategy
Another flavor of virtualization is the ability for contact center agents to work from home. Home working has a number of advantages for both the employee and the employer. Even environmental considerations can be reasons to introduce the home working concept.
With the adoption of domestic broadband Internet connections it is very feasible to guarantee quality of service for the voice channel for your employees. With quality management solutions being able to record conversations utilizing the IP protocol, ensuring and managing quality is no longer a concern.
For employees, the ability to work from home provides a level of freedom and... read more >
Stefan Captijn | April 04, 2013
In the early days of call and contact centers, CIO’s often had little to look after when it came to designing the customer communication architecture. The main (and often only) channel to provide customer service was through a PABX and typically one organizational unit, the call center, was the key customer of this device. Of course transactional applications such as case management and later CRM had to be provisioned but all-in-all it was fairly straightforward.
Today, driven by ever increasing customer demand, competitive pressure and the rise of non-voice channels the CIO and his team have a lot on their plate. Voice is transported over the same network as your data-packets and there are a number of other channels to support and information systems to integrate with.
So far so good you would think.
But now that the borders of the contact center are merely virtual, the whole organization can play a role in the customer conversation.... read more >
Stefan Captijn | April 02, 2013
In this series of 4 blogs about Virtual Customer Service, I will reveal a use cases for considering Virtual Customer Service. In the introduction you can read about the rationale behind Virtual Customer Service.
Today’s use case: Include experts at branch locations
Contact centers invest a lot of time and money in training on products and services to ensure that ‘first contact resolution’ is at the right level. When the right balance is found it means customers are happy, the operation is efficient, and the required training investment is acceptable.
But first contact resolution will never reach 100% as it’s simply too expensive and in those situations where an agent cannot solve the customers’ problem, having an expert available immediately can still drive a positive customer experience and reduce customer effort.
With relatively simple functionality, experts or ‘knowledge workers’ ca... read more >
Stefan Captijn | March 28, 2013
Many things have been written about how technology can make the life of a contact center agent more efficient but often the human side of life is forgotten about.
In many cases performance is driven by softer factors, and recognition is certainly right up there.
In a lot of situations it is perfectly normal to reward someone with a tip for that wonderful service they just provided you with. You can tip waiters, the person that carries your luggage at the hotel or the customer service agent you just talked to on the phone....wait, you can't tip a customer service agent…
But what if this agent just gave you great service? Informed you about something you did not know and did not ask for, but was very useful to you?
Wouldn’t it be great if you could give this person a tip? Or if you could have the choice to ‘award’ a free meal or a premium parking spot at the companies’ facilities? Or by entering a number ... read more >
Stefan Captijn | March 22, 2013
In this series of four blog posts about Virtual Customer Service, each time I will reveal a use cases for considering Virtual Customer Service. In the introduction you can read about the rationale behind Virtual Customer Service.
Today’s use case concerns virtualizing your Outsource Business Partner(s)
Another scenario for virtualization of resources is to include your outsourced operation into the common platform approach. Typically, outsource partner utilization is determined by a number of performance metrics (typically service level and handle time) for the outsourcer and a static mechanism to deliver work at the outsourcer’s doorstep.
The risk with such a scenario is a potential to introduce an operational disconnect between the customer experience, efficiency, and quality of the customer service operation. Especially when working with a multi-vendor strategy for outsourcing work, virtualization brings a number of exciting opportunities that... read more >
Stefan Captijn | March 18, 2013
In this series of four blog posts about Virtual Customer Service I will reveal a new use case for considering Virtual Customer Service. In the introduction you can read about the rationale behind Virtual Customer Service.
Use case one: Virtualize multi-site operations
The most obvious use case for virtualizing your customer service operation is to make use of economies of scale. Due to multiple requirements, contact centers have often been decentralized. Generally it’s cheaper to find resources in remote areas but there is usually a limit to the number of qualified people you can find. Having multiple locations is a good way to protect yourself from local power outages or other hazards such as floods, storms, or worse. As a result, many companies have deployed numerous locations both within and outside their country.
Typically these operations work independently of each other, somewhere at the network level a percentage of the work is allocat... read more >
Stefan Captijn | March 14, 2013
For many years customer service professionals have implemented the concept of “virtual call centers’’ to optimize efficiencies across their operations, but today companies can benefit from a new vision we call ‘virtual customer service’. This series of blogs will introduce Virtual Customer Service and its benefits to you, presenting four use cases that are making a difference for companies worldwide.
What is Virtual Customer Service?
At the heart of the concept is the idea that work needs to be done by people who have the right skills and availability, wherever they are in the organization. This not only delivers an improved customer experience by connecting your customer to the best possible resource across your company, but it also uses your resources in the most efficient way.
However, in most organizations the need to manage and monitor resources forces us to “corral” them into teams ... read more >
Stefan Captijn | March 04, 2013
If you are a contact center manager, you are a busy person and always have something going on. You probably spend time thinking:
How will I make my service levels again today?
Should I make strategic decisions about outsourcing staff or not?
How do I drive consistency and efficiency across channels?
In my previous blog called ‘ Seven Habits of Highly Effective Contact Center Managers ,’ I discussed the many talents each contact center manager should possess. Today, let’s take a look at how these talents can be turned into actions, and what the 5 key items should be on every contact center manager's to-do list.
Monday: Meet with at least one of these ‘types of persons’ in your organization: forecasters and planners, team managers, supervisors and agents. These meetings should enable you to understand what challenges they face and discuss how you can help them. Figure out any key issues and make a pla... read more >
Stefan Captijn | February 26, 2013
Most customer service and contact center software professionals are very familiar with the concept of First Contact Resolution (otherwise known as FCR) and how this process improves efficiency and creates a better customer experience. Some argue it's the 'holy grail' of customer service.
The idea is that it’s better to find the best resource the first time, even if that means you sacrifice another 'holy grail' like Average time to Answer or Average Speed of Answer (ASA). Quickly finding an employee does improve ASA scores, but potentially results in a second or even third contact occurrence for the same customer request. In the long run this metric is less cost effective and increases customer effort.
So far, First Contact Resolution has been primarily relegated to the contact center, but what many organizations do not realize is that the problem also exists on a larger scale across the enterprise. Why? FCR is ... read more >
Stefan Captijn | February 14, 2013
Does your organization have a Customer Experience strategy? And, have you implemented either Net Promoter or Customer Effort Scores?
Like most managers, you might feel these metrics provide value to your organization. After all, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. At the same time, you are not sure who or wha t is in control. A recent article published by Forrester Research challenges these type of one question metrics as it’s hard understand how to influence it.
This process is similar to measuring your blood pressure or body temperature. You can see the score , but determining the cause requires more analysis.
In the early days of call centers, we used pseudo metrics to determine if customers would be happy with the service provided. Metrics such as Service Level, Abandoned Rate and Average Time to Answer were all created to tell us the service was good enough against the corresponding budget spend. ... read more >
Stefan Captijn | January 25, 2013
Does your Customer Service organization have an official Agent Competency Framework? If the answer is either, “No,” or “What the heck is that?” keep reading! If the answer is “Yes,” keep on reading too, and you might be able to improve on your existing framework.
What is an Agent Competency Framework?
An Agent Competency Framework, simply put describes the steps, actions, activities, measurements and timelines in the overall effort to develop an agent’s skills, behavior and knowledge. The framework also service as a method to help your agents understand what you expect from them in their role and what is required if they want to advance in their career. Each organization should define its own framework to suit their goals and objectives, corporate culture and values.
A large portion of the value of this framework lies in the fact that it provides a consistent approach. Everything is structured... read more >
Stefan Captijn | January 17, 2013
If you work in the customer service industry, you know that we live in an experience-oriented world. The reason for this is pretty simple since almost every product and service is commoditized. It’s difficult to tell one bank, retailer, or one airline from another. As a result, differentiating yourself and better engaging your customers are based upon two key tenants:
Your brand – are you cool and engaged enough to win the heart of your customer?
Your customers’ experience – when they purchase your goods and services, do you build loyalty?
The quality and price of your product is a key driver for winning new customers; while service is a reason for your customers to stay, recommend you to others or leave you.
Gaining Insight into the Customer Experience
Many companies and customer service organizations have turned to Voice of the Customer initiatives to gain insight into customers and to better understand how that expe... read more >
Stefan Captijn | January 11, 2013
Workforce Management (WFM) solutions come in all sorts and sizes and have been used by contact center managers and staffing professionals to optimize the efficiency of customer service operations by forecasting accuracy and automating the sometimes complex process of building schedules.
Since these solutions have been around for many years, this market is a typical ‘replacement market’ where every several years organizations look for a new WFM solution.
When looking for a new WFM solution, you surely need to cover basic requirements like accurate forecasting algorithms, usability, and the flexibility to administer your contract types. However, changes in the past few years also require addressing new social channels such as Facebook and Twitter. At the same time, the economic climate drives new requirements for WFM solutions.
So what are the capabilities you should put on your checklist?
Support all of your channels . Yes, ... read more >
Stefan Captijn | January 08, 2013
Back in 1989, Steven Covey first published his famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People . For many people, this book has been a source of inspiration for self-improvement and people management.
Contact center managers are people who work in dynamic environments where many types of different talents are required to be successful. Typically, contact centers produce vast amounts of data, so analytical skills are a key requirement. That said, this role is also very much a ‘people game’ so empathetic skills are certainly as important.
Since customer service has become a strategic differentiator for many companies, the role has gained more ‘weight’ and now contact center managers need to have even more talents.
So, what would Steven Covey say if we could ask him, “What are the seven habits of highly effective contact center managers?”
They are proactive . Contact center managers are pr... read more >
Stefan Captijn | January 03, 2013
Research firm Gallup is famous for their work in understanding what drives employee engagement. Through their studies we learn that only 28% of employees are actually ‘engaged’; 54% are ‘not-engaged;’ and 17% are actively 'disengaged'. While these numbers are pretty mind blowing, we can use this information to our advantage to improve the employee experience and contact center customer service.
Many contact center managers, supervisors, and learning and development specialists are working night and day to determine how we get the 54% of ‘not-engaged’ employees to be more engaged. Obviously this is where the bulk of the benefit can be made.
You might also want to launch a parallel effort to understand the symptoms that employees exhibit prior to becoming disengaged – at the very point when they are about to hit the ‘not-engaged cliff’. Seeing the early warning signs might help to put these employees ba... read more >
Stefan Captijn | December 18, 2012
Okay, maybe you should not stop teaching your agents about your products and services or customer service soft skills, but you should certainly start learning from them.
Contact center agents are in a unique position, and this position brings a unique mix of insight to what the customer says and thinks about your company and its brand. This insight can also suggest areas for improvement.
Understand What Works
During my time as manager for our business consulting team, many of our engagements with customers included talking to agents to better understand how they work; what best practices and activities were effective and which ones weren’t.I was always amazed that senior management spent so little time with the people doing the real work and who best understand how the company can improve from the ‘inside out’ rather than from the ‘outside in’ .
In one example, the management team had invested a healthy ... read more >
Stefan Captijn | December 07, 2012
Today’s contact centers have invested in various tools to increase the efficiency of their operations and to monitor and increase the quality of the conversations their employees have with customers. During a casual conversation with Greg Hedges, Business Consulting Manager of Genesys Asia-Pacific, I asked him, “Greg, what is your perspective on the ROI of workforce solutions?”
If you know Australians, they will always give you a non-diplomatic answer.
“Over the last couple of months, in reviewing market research and talking to customers, I have been reflecting on the value of quality monitoring spend in the marketplace today. Don’t get me wrong, if you have compliance, contractual, or regulatory needs, call recording particularly is right up there in terms of importance to you. But I seriously question the ROI of quality management and scorecard solutions because of the way they are used by many customers. I mean, we are ta... read more >
Stefan Captijn | November 29, 2012
The relationship between a customer and a business typically passes through a series of stages which describes the “customer lifecycle.” At each stage in the lifecycle, the customer requires something different from the business, which in turn, must respond appropriately. Similarly, at each stage the business has opportunities to develop the relationship and increase the lifetime value of the customer. Let’s discuss each of the major milestones within this lifecycle. The following graphic illustrates this ongoing process.
Introduction: a prospect is persuaded to become a customer of the company. In the early stage of the relationship, the customer may be unprofitable because of significant acquisition costs (such as advertising, back-office processing of application forms), significant support demands, and low cost introductory offers to attract them in the first place.
Growth: as the relationship progresses, the cus... read more >
Stefan Captijn | November 19, 2012
“Sorry, Mr. Contact Center Manager, Carl, but next year’s budget for contact center customer service will go down by five percent. We expect you to provide the same level of customer service and even increase our Net Promoter Score. We all have to do more with less.”
If this sounds like your last budget discussion with your boss, you are probably already thinking about how you can meet this challenge. You know you can’t cut on resources because that hits your ability to meet service levels, and you also know that customers expect you to be open longer and respond faster to all of the channels a modern contact center customer service operation is expected to provide.
So what can you do to provide a better customer experience and become more efficient at the same time? Let’s take a look at seven options:
Reduce cost of ownership. If you are using multiple solutions to manage your communication channels, look into one solution to manage ... read more >
Stefan Captijn | November 14, 2012
Commercialization of products and services forces enterprises to rethink how to differentiate and win the battle for the customer. Let’s face it, you can get almost any product or service from multiple vendors and the differentiating factor for your company could be found in providing better service than your competitors. The customer experience you provide is watched by the social peers of your customers, which means positive word of mouth about your service could persuade others to buy your product or service.
Differentiate Your Customer Experience
Differentiating your customer experience can help you stand out from your competitors. You could make a couple of changes to your current customer service strategy, but if you really want to make a change, this road is a dead end.
So Where Do You Start with Transformation?
The best practical move is to take a ‘clean sheet’ approach and rebuild from the ground up. The following 6 layers of Cust... read more >
Stefan Captijn | October 26, 2012
Agents represent the largest component of contact center spending and are the cornerstone of any effective customer service strategy. In fact, agent overhead can run as high as 60% of a contact center’s cost. At the same time, the average turnover rate in U.S. call centers is 43% . In large contact centers with more than 1,000 agents, turnover is even worse. In those, employee turnover spikes to 70%annually. Yet agent productivity is typically measured and enforced in the most rudimentary ways, and poor agent job satisfaction levels are accepted as normal. I strongly believe there’s a very strong correlation between agent productivity and satisfaction. If executed properly, an enlightened agent management strategy coupled with enabling technology can yield a tremendous return.
Agent Management and a Customer-Centric Strategy
Increasingly, companies are recognizing the strategic value of a customer-centric approach to their business and... read more >
Stefan Captijn | October 15, 2012
Over the past decade, one of the bigger technology changes in contact center software has been moving from legacy traditional telephony system to the promise of IP-based transport of voice. This promise is primarily driven by hardware manufacturers to sell you more iron and lock you into a single vendor strategy for another decade. In the coming years though, the transportation of voice will become less and less relevant. That said, voice is still the largest and preferred communications channel. Generally at some point in the customer conversation, your customer (or you) will pick up the phone.
The Move to a Single Infrastructure
The business case is usually based on the back of a single infrastructure for voice and data. This might get the IT audience excited, but the business managers are wondering how it will help them out by improving their performance and lowering their operational expenses (OPEX).
Now let’s explore a... read more >
Stefan Captijn | October 11, 2012
For many years, call center customer service operations have been handicapped by a lack of insight. Ask any customer service manager for their wish list of tools to optimize their day-to-day job, and management information will most likely be at the top. Unfortunately, today’s call center manager is guided by the ACD report. These timeless reports detail how many calls were taken per day, how long they took and related service levels – all nicely consolidated into convenient 30 minute intervals.
While these reports might be great for forecasting and scheduling purposes, they are 100% useless when it comes to improving customer service performance. Looking at ACD reports is like driving a car without being able to read your current speed; you’re provided with only the information on how fast you’ve averaged over the past 30 minutes.
If you are really serious about improving your performance, you have to analyze how quality is de... read more >
Stefan Captijn | September 28, 2012
In a recent article posted in Forbes AdVoice titled, “ The Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2013 ” (September 20, 2012) , an interesting point was raised about combining the customer touch points of the enterprise with its back office functions into something called the “customer office.” Initially I thought this point was about integrating the contact center and the part of the organization that executes any business processes that come after the interaction with the customer, but this article takes the concept to another level.
The idea is that customers are actively involved in the design of products, processes and services. This has been taking place for years using customer panels or focus groups. For example, a Dutch beer brewer invites a number of customers from their target audience to participate in a panel to learn if and how the newly-designed beer bottle will be accepted by their customers and how the bottle will imp... read more >
Stefan Captijn | September 27, 2012
Many of you might be familiar with Six Sigma projects to continuously improve some process or product. Stemming from the production industry, methodologies like Kaizen are making their way to other business, and yes, this includes the customer service industry.
The idea is that you determine what KPI’s you would like to improve, define the associated performance indicators, and keep analyzing and improving until you have reached the desired level of performance.
For customer service employees there is a ton of data out there so applying such a concept sounds like a very logical to do. And it is.
The 1st step is to decide on your KPI’s . In this example we use the number of interactions an employee handles and offset this with the Net Promoter Score (NPS) your customer gives you, possibly using an “after interaction survey.” By plotting your employees on such a graph, you will get a good idea of the variance of your emplo... read more >
Stefan Captijn | September 26, 2012
When looked up in a dictionary or on the internet, the act of mining is roughly explained as the extraction of valuable minerals or materials from the earth. The oldest known mine in the archaeological record is the Lion Cave in Swaziland, Africa. At this site, which by radiocarbon dating is discovered to be 43,000 years old, Paleolithic humans mined for the iron-containing mineral hematite, which they ground to produce the red pigment ochre.
Although not 43,000 years old, the IT industry variant of data mining has existed for some time, and it’s definition seems quite similar to the original concept of mining, “Data mining can be defined as the extraction of implicit, previously unknown, and possibly useful information from multiple sources of data."
The idea is as intriguing as it is simple. In today’s information-rich world with the topic of BIG DATA becoming more relevant every day, it’s not about getting more information, it’s a... read more >
Stefan Captijn | September 19, 2012
Without a doubt the largest paradigm-shift witnessed in the customer experience management is the rise of social media. The concept of large groups of people posting on Facebook and Twitter and discuss their experiences with a company, product or service continues to change the way we form our opinion on a brand or make a buying decision.
Companies have jumped at this change in consumer behaviour and started to integrate social activities in their marketing programs with various degrees of success. At the same time companies are reacting towards Facebook posts and tweets when customers express their opinion on a recent interaction with a company. Especially when the emotion is negatively oriented, companies proactively reach out to their customers to save the day. The driver for this is that companies realize that they have lost a percentage of control over their brand.
Sure it’s the marketing department that still owns messaging, brand awareness and commer... read more >
Stefan Captijn | February 28, 2012
Since the invention of the ACD and it’s basic reports, call centers (and later contact centers) have been working hard to improve their performance levels and extract an additional call per hour out of each agent. I started my career as an agent about 15 years ago and can tell you from experience that it is probably the most ‘measured’ job you can have. For every activity, or a deviation from it, a metric has been defined. AHT, SLA, ATT, MAX ABD and the list goes on and on. It is fascinating to visit a customer service department and see the walls being painted with reports and statistics. As an employee your life is actually pretty simple, the ACD makes sure that there is another important call waiting for you to be answered. No need to look for work!
Workforce Management systems have evolved over the years so that we know within a 5% window of accuracy how many interactions will come in, how many and what people we need to make sure we meet th... read more >