Introducing a new Senior Analyst

Hello, world. Welcome to my first blog as a new Senior Analyst serving Application Development & Delivery professionals.

I come to Forrester after working in the Solution Marketing and Corporate Marketing groups at a large customer service software provider. That role put me in touch with contact center technology buyers and the overburdened folks responsible for actually making great customer service happen every day. I saw close up the impact of the age of the customer on the thinking, processes, behavior, and technology choices of contact center professionals around the world. They are facing a world in which consumers are much less willing to settle for mediocre and impersonal experiences when dealing with customer service organizations. As consumers we all want effortless service delivered via whatever channel is most convenient at the moment, and we want companies to know just the right amount of information about us, but not too much, at the moment of the interaction.

That is a very tough nut to crack for contact center managers, supervisors, and agents. My research coverage will primarily focus on two areas that can help contact center pros begin to address these issues:

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Don't Outsource Your Customer Service Operations To Cut Costs

Kate Leggett

Outsourcing contact center operations helps organizations deliver better customer service. In Forrester’s recent survey of 304 North American and European network and telecommunications decision-makers, we found that nearly 20% have already outsourced some or all of their contact center seats or are very interested in doing so. Outsourcing doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition — organizations can leverage outsourcers to fill language gaps or react quickly to seasonal volume changes. Organizations can also choose to outsource only a subset of non-mission-critical customer service processes.

In all cases, outsourcing is major decision which carries a significant amount of management overhead, and should not be pursued solely as a cost-control strategy. Look to outsource if you want to:

  • Improve the quality of services delivered. Leading outsourcers adhere to strict quality measures that allow them to support customers more consistently and use tools and techniques that promote cost-effective and reliable standards.
  • Focus on core business activities. Using the expertise of an outsourcer whose primary business is managing contact centers allows you to focus on core business activities that strengthen your value proposition.
  • Deliver a consistent customer experience. Many companies use processes that are inefficient and don’t deliver the same customer experience across the voice, electronic (e.g., email, chat, SMS), and social (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) customer interaction channels. Outsourcers can help standardize this experience.
  • Scale capacity up and down. Organizations can’t always predict the volume of interactions they anticipate over time. Outsourcers allow you to quickly ramp up or contract enabling you to deliver service in line with your  target service levels.
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Verint + Vovici: Another Example Of Market Consolidation In The Contact Center Space

Kate Leggett

Contact centers for customer service are a nightmare in terms of the complexity of the technologies. At a high level, to serve your customers, you need to:

  1. Capture the inquiry, which can come in over the phone, electronically via email, chat, or SMS, and over social channels, like Twitter, Facebook, or an interaction escalated from a discussion forum.
  2. Route the inquiry to the right customer agent pool to address it.
  3. Create a case for the inquiry that contains its details and associate it with the customer record.
  4. Find the answer to the inquiry; this can involve digging through different information sources like knowledge bases, billing systems, and ordering databases.
  5. Communicate the answer to the inquiry to the customer.
  6. Append case notes to the case summarizing its resolution, and close the case.

You want to make sure that your agents deliver answers in a consistent way and to make it easy for your customers to find answers themselves. To do this, you need to invest in:

  • A knowledge base for your agents. You also need to then expose a subset of the content to your customers via a web self-service portal.
  • A discussion forum where your customers can share information and escalate issues to a customer service agent.
  • Some type of process guidance to lead agents through complicated scripts so that they deliver service in a reproducible way.

You also need to understand what expectations your customer base has regarding your service offering by:

  • Surveying your customers
  • Listening to their sentiments on social media sites
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Call Center Customer Experience Transformation At American Express — And THAT'S The Way It’s Done

Harley Manning

Last year we published not just one but two reports that featured the outstanding customer experience transformation process that took place in the American Express call centers. The first report described the winning entry submitted by American Express for a 2010 Voice Of The Customer Award — the data from that VoC program drove many of their call center improvements.  The second report was a profile of the transformation itself based on a talk by Reena Panikar, vice president and business leader of American Express' Customer Service Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

We were so impressed by this story that we invited Jim Bush, executive vice president of world service at American Express to speak at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum 2011.

Jim is responsible for leading the company’s global customer servicing operation — which includes 25 proprietary locations across the globe and a team of tens of thousands of customer care professionals who provide service to more than 63 million customers. He was the driving force behind the American Express call center transformation.

Listen in as Jim describes how it all went down.