The Competitive Dynamics Of Workforce Optimization--A Critical Driver Of Customer Experience--Unpacked

We’ve all heard the idea so much it is now approaching hackneyed cliché: technological-driven disruption can—or will—hit every industry. Uber and Lyft have monkeyed around with the fundamental order of the taxi and livery business. 3D printing threatens manufacturing. And so on and so on. The result of all this disruption: customer experience has become the one true differentiator left to most companies. At the same time, companies have begun to wake up to the idea that customer service is a critical component of overall customer experience. Dimension Data reports that 83% of companies view the contact center as a competitive differentiator, up 30% since 2012.

So, customer service has become a crucial competitive differentiator and in response companies have started to experiment with emerging technologies like cognitive computing, bots, augmented reality, and video chat. But shrewd companies have also recognized that the tools they use to manage and optimize the performance of their customer service organizations can also drive the competitive differentiation they need to thrive. Customer service application pros see workforce optimization (WFO) tools as the fuel that drives customer service organizations. Additionally, in particularly hot areas such as speech, text, and desktop analytics, customer service pros see the ability to not just improve their own team’s performance, but also drive broader business transformation. By deriving insights from actual customer interactions, these tools can help not just customer care, but also marketing, sales, operations, field service, accounts payable, and pretty much any other corner of the enterprise.

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Let's go back to the future--it is time to start planning now for customer service in 2021

This a guest post by Meredith Cain, a Research Associate on the Application Development & Delivery (AD&D) team.

Let’s take trip back to 1989. One of the big movies of that year was “Back to the Future: Part II.” One of the great things about that movie was its view of the future—or, because so much time has passed since the film was released, its view of what our present should be like. In the film, Marty McFly and Doc Brown time traveled to October 21, 2015 and had the opportunity to observe potential technologies and experiences of the future. What they saw seems both supremely silly and surprisingly prescient: video conferencing, holograms, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Sure, we don’t all use AR and VR every day, but it is becoming clearer that we soon will.

In Forrester’s new report “Plan Now For Customer Service in 2021,” we assess and evaluate five developing customer service technologies according to their potential impact on the customer service experience in the year 2021. Rather than time traveling, we evaluated the technologies based on their newness, business complexity, and technological complexity so AD&D pros can adequately plan for the necessary amount of time to develop these five technologies and build the appropriate business cases for budgeting.

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Facebook Messenger: The Future Of Customer Service?

This a guest post by Meredith Cain, a Research Associate on the Application Development & Delivery (AD&D) team.

As Francis Bacon wrote in 1625, “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.” Although he did not write this with Facebook Messenger or customer service in mind, the meaning still applies. If customers will not come to your business, your business must go to the customers. In 2016, customer service application professionals struggle to find common ground where businesses can fulfill as many customers’ needs as possible in a seamless and timely manner. With one out of every nine people on the planet already using Facebook Messenger, businesses should start to capitalize on this consolidation of customers by adopting Messenger, rather than attempting to move the “mountain.”

In our recent report, we argue that customer service application professionals should make plans to incorporate Messenger into their service arsenal. Facebook’s recent announcement of new Messenger tools that include business-friendly innovations, as well as Facebook’s already ubiquitous user base, positions Messenger to serve as the bridge between Muhammad and the mountain. As this metaphorical bridge, Messenger provides customer service pros with:

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The New Customer Service Mandate - It’s No Longer Socially Acceptable To Not Be Social

This a guest post by Danielle Geoffroy, a Research Associate on the Application Development & Delivery (AD&D) team.

Customer service teams are facing a dilemma that may bring back high school nostalgia – if you want to be one of the cool kids, you need to be social. But simply being present in the social scene doesn’t automatically make you hip to the digital customer. You need to talk the talk and have the latest gadgets.

In our recent report, we discuss the new reality of social customer service, and outline tools you should adopt for social workforce optimization.  Companies have all felt social flip the table – it affects their core business model because newly empowered customers have a giant bullhorn to make their feelings known. As a result, companies must incorporate social into all realms of their business, especially customer service teams.

Customers turning to social channels for service support have high expectations (I know I do). Those expectations mean you’ll need to:

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Contact center outsourcers move strongly to omnichannel—brands’ attitudes need to catch up to that change

Contact center outsourcers have gotten a bum rap. Customers frustrated with offshore accents, agents with no power to actually solve problems, and overly scripted interactions have complained, sometimes loudly, about the practice. Comedians have mocked offshore agents, often mercilessly. In particular, the shared services outsourcing model in which a single agent supports multiple brands at the same time has come in for a real savaging. Check out this Funny or Die video for just one the literally dozens of such comedic rips on outsourcers. 

In many ways, brands set themselves up for such criticisms by focusing on outsourcing simply as a way to take costs out of their businesses. That focus on efficiency left little room for the types of excellent service that built customer loyalty. Today, however companies’ motivations for outsourcing customer support are changing and options for onshore or so-called near-shore outsourcing have expanded. Contact center outsourcing actually remains quite vibrant. For example, more than two-thirds of telecommunications technology decision-makers at companies with midsize or larger contact centers report they are interested in outsourcing some or all of their contact center seats or have already outsourced them. So, it is clear that outsourcing is not going away; brands, however, are starting to look at outsourcers for new types of interactions. 

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Get your customer service ready for the digital-first generation

This is a guest post by Danielle Geoffroy, Research Associate on the AD&D team who helps with our customer service and unified communications research.

Do you hear that swooshing sound of a tweet being sent in the middle of a Google Hangout? It’s faint, but strong, and it means they’re coming.  Generation Y—a generation raised entirely in a technology-driven world.  This new breed of consumers demands more from companies and government agencies, with particularly high expectations for friction-free customer experiences. They’re prepared with knowledge of your company, and your top competitors. In fact, they often have more information about you and your products than your own employees.

This new generation should matter to you, because by 2018, the millennials will surpass the spending power of baby boomers. Remember: there is a dollar value to every positive and negative Yelp review, tweet, and Facebook status they target at you. With so much information at consumer’s fingertips, there is some give with the take. People don’t want to retain all of the information they receive on a daily basis. Striking a balance between the knowledge of your customers, and the methods deployed by your customer support agents, will lead to an enjoyable service experience, and keep you far away from the dreaded viral video of a support request gone wrong.

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Measure and improve contact center agent experience in order to improve customer experience

Contact center agents have a huge impact on customer experience. Unhappy contact center agents equal unhappy customers. It's that simple. Contact center agents who feel disengaged, unhappy with their job or their lot in life, or are simply having a bad day can make a customer's contact center experience seem like root canal surgery. Given that, measuring how happy and engaged agents are and then improving the agent experience should be a priority for any company focused on driving improved customer experiences.

We’ve written before about the new breed of contact center agents and what types of tools they need to succeed at their job. Technology, however, represents just a piece of the puzzle. Firstly, not all contact center tools drive positive agent experience. For example, tools too focused on making the agent experience efficient risk allowing agents to just breeze through tasks and disengage their mind — and their judgment — from the processes of serving customers. Secondly, while tools are important, they are not the only issues that influence the agent experience.

Of course, improvement begins with measurement and benchmarking. Our research shows that, to date:

  • Agent surveys have not provided contact center pros the insight into agent experience they need. Using HR-style surveys turns up the usual array of woes: bad bosses, bad coworkers, or bad coffee. Contact center pros cannot tackle these issues, even though they may be important to the overall work environment. On the other hand, targeting surveys to technology issues provides actionable insights on how to improve the contact center experience.
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Contact Center And Customer Service Metrics Must Support Broader Company KPIs

OK, it is certainly a cliché and clearly suffers from an incomplete view of the world, but many contact center executives would still nod their heads in agreement with the statement, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Contact centers generate a huge volume of data, and everyone from agents on the floor to CEOs in their corner offices would benefit from being presented with actionable analytics based on that data. However, turning that data consistently into actionable knowledge that is useful to improving performance remains challenging. The key questions for contact center professionals around this data are: 

  • What do you measure?
  • How do you present the data from those measurements?
  • What do you do with those measurements?
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Start Planning To Provide Social Customer Support Beyond Twitter and Facebook

Industry analysts travel—a lot. It is, therefore, no surprise that I care deeply about airlines’ frequent flyer programs and track the changes to those programs as closely as baseball obsessives track star players’ slugging percentages. When I want information on what these changes mean practically in my situation (Will the new loyalty program make it harder for a 75k+ elite member looking to book a companion ticket’s upgrade on an alliance partner airline, for example), I typically do not turn directly to the airline. Instead, I log on to Flyertalk, a forum that bills itself as “the largest expert travel community.” The forum—populated by thousands of frequent fliers far more obsessive than I will ever be—consistently houses discussions of exactly the thing I want to know.

The lion’s share of people answering questions on Flyertalk and other forums like it—Cruisecritic for the cruising fans, TripAdvisor for travel and hospitality broadly, AutomotiveForums for car enthusiasts, etc.—are other consumers, albeit well-informed ones. But these non-brand controlled communities provide opportunities to brands to differentiate themselves through service.  Because affinity communities have barriers to entry, including registrations and jargon, community members are usually deeply interested in the topic at hand. In communities that regularly discuss brands, these customers are also more likely to be exactly the type of high-value customers that companies want to provide with great customer experiences. But brands need to decide when and how to engage customers in these forums they do not control.

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Understand The Promise Of Real-time Speech Analytics To Prepare To Overcome A (Large) Budget Hurdle

“With the gift of listening comes the gift of healing.”

-Catherine de Hueck Doherty

We’ve all heard the canned notifications when we call companies for customer service: “this call may be recorded for security or quality purposes.” Most customer service organizations today record their phone interactions with their customers. Often those recordings just sit untouched on the digital equivalent of a dusty shelf in a storage closet. The recordings are there to ensure regulatory compliance or, in rare cases, to be pulled off the shelf in case of a major dispute with a customer.  In essence, the part of the notification about security rings true; the quality part, not so much.

But, as part of continuous improvement programs, companies have begun to change that by actually analyzing the recordings for quality purposes. That process of quality monitoring allows firms to select recordings for review and assessment. In forward-thinking organizations, the tools enable managers to replay agent screen actions, allowing evaluations to include screen activity in addition to voice content. Managers use these reviews to pinpoint which agents perform well, which need further training, and to identify processes that need to be refined.

Companies doing this basic form of quality monitoring, however, find they cannot change the outcome of those calls — the interactions are long since over. This is where the emerging field of real-time speech analytics comes into play. Vendors of real-time speech analytics tools promise to allow companies to intervene at the moment of truth, while the customer and the contact center agent are still talking.

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