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witty-sarcastic-ecards-12-400x250.pngAn article in CallCentreHelper lists sarcasm as one of its top ten “oh-no” moments. However, there is no speech analytics solution on the market that can effectively pinpoint sarcasm in your call center. Should you be concerned? Not necessarily.


Although sarcasm is a glamorous research topic, it is not a significant driver of caller sentiment or top-line revenue. “Given the volumes of text we analyse, errors created by irony or sarcasm are very small and fall well within acceptable limits,” says Mark Westaby of Spectrum Consulting, a market research firm in London. The Boston-based text analytics company Luminoso agrees: “Thus far, we have found sarcasm to be a statistically insignificant problem, as the overwhelming majority of text is sincere.”


In addition, sarcasm isn’t necessary for evaluating agent performance. After mining calls for hundreds of customers, our analysts confirm that sarcasm in the call center is actually quite rare and never in a customer’s top ten concerns about their call center. They have found that accurate categories and call scoring are much more reliable in identifying agent performance problems or in driving marketing revenue.


Sarcasm is also notoriously difficult for machines to detect. First off, it is not easy to define and is subject to competing theories from psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience. “Before you can program a computer to do something cool, you have to understand what the cool thing is,” says Noah Goodman of Stanford University. Secondly, even humans struggle to distinguish what is sarcastic and what is not. It requires a non-trivial amount of knowledge about the world and about the speaker, and a high sensitivity to non-verbal cues. When two annotators were asked to label spoken sentences as sarcastic or non-sarcastic, their agreement rate was not far above chance. The human judges of sarcastic messages on Twitter didn’t fare much better.


The fact that sarcasm is rare and hard to label is bad news for machine learning algorithms, which need lots of examples from a relevant data set. Since sarcasm is not a statistically significant problem in the first place, it doesn’t make sense to make an investment in a costly process of collecting and annotating data.


If sarcasm is difficult to deal with in written form, then it should be much easier to spot it in a call recording, right? Not exactly: a highly cited study on sarcasm in spoken dialogue deals with only one phrase (“Yeah, right”) and was performed on manually-transcribed audio. Unfortunately, with acoustic features alone the system produced unbalanced results. Judging from its low F-measure, the system either retrieved few instances of sarcasm, or could not reliably identify the ones it retrieved as sarcastic, or both. An acoustics-only system would face much steeper challenges in a contact-center environment with no manual transcription and millions of utterances to interpret.


Given that sarcasm is nearly impossible for a machine to reliably identify and that it doesn’t drive quality in the contact center, sarcasm should not be the focal point of your speech analytics implementation. Instead, CallMiner chooses to focus on other aspects of speech analytics that provide much more accurate, reliable indicators of agent performance and top-line growth --- analyze 100% of your calls (no sampling), reliably categorize and score each call with Semantic Building Blocks™, and get that feedback into the front-line agent’s hands as quickly as possible with MyEureka and EurekaLive. 


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About the Author Anya Korneyeva

Anya is a senior speech scientist at CallMiner. She has a Master's in Computational Linguistics from Brandeis University where she focused on speech recognition and machine learning. Her previous experience also includes managing global projects in the translation and localization industry.

website_listing.pngKnowing exactly what is going on in your contact center, what transpires between your customers and agents during the call, and how well your agents adhere to compliance and quality guidelines is critical to long-term success. But knowing what went down during a call AFTER the call has ended doesn’t give contact center managers the ability to intervene or take action while a call is still ongoing. However, with real-time call monitoring managers and agents can act, not just react.


Here are 3 reasons why real-time call monitoring is so important in the contact center:


Ensure a consistent level of customer service.

With real-time call monitoring software in place, managers are immediately alerted to customer service issues as they happen, as opposed to finding after the call has ended. The system will automatically monitor in-progress calls for defined language and acoustic characteristics such as escalation attempts, churn language, profanity, or high emotions and alert managers that a dangerous customer service situation has developed. Because managers can quickly and easily identify customers at risk, they can take proactive steps to resolve the issues and retain those customers. By saving calls while they are still in progress the caller leaves happy and satisfied, as opposed to frustrated and defeated.


Real-time call monitoring, as part of a broader speech analytics system, can even provide agents with next-best-action guidance or advice when certain items of interest occur on the call. For instance, assume an unhappy cable TV customer wants to cancel their subscription. Key phrases like “cancel,” “termination”, or “close account,” trigger the software to direct agents to respond by offering the customer a free package upgrade, a free DVR box, an additional cable box at no extra charge, or some other kind of bonus that will convince the customer to stay.


Reports show that 89% of consumers who experience poor service with your brand will leave for your competition so it’s imperative that customers end their call on a good note.


Pinpoint which agents need more training and who your real super-stars are.

Every agent is going to have a different set of skills and weaknesses. What makes one agent great while another struggles? How can you really judge the performance of your agents based on a few randomly collected calls? With speech analytics in place, managers can review 100% of calls as they happen and get a true understanding of which agents excel and which agents needs more help in certain types of interactions. Real-time monitoring provides objective and consistent scoring on every contact and delivers fast, efficient performance feedback to agents during the call, as well as the managers to help improve agent training programs.


With real-time monitoring call quality monitors can review calls as they happen, getting a better idea of how agents work on a day-to-day basis, as opposed to simply reviewing a small sample of randomly collected calls.


When combined with post-call analytics, call center managers can compare and contrast agents across a variety of metrics to see who the best is and who needs more one-on-one coaching.


Ensure compliance.

Agents have critical compliance requirements they must adhere to in every interaction. Compliance monitoring in the contact center is particularly important for collections companies where litigation due to non-compliance is on the rise. Real-time call monitoring systems monitor every call for Mini Miranda language, Right Party Contact language, FDCPA violations, and abusive language from either party, or other risky language. Because this happens in real-time, managers are instantly alerted to compliance violations and they can step in immediately.


Real-time call monitoring enables supervisors to track all calls across all agents and immediately alerts them to call events that may require some form of intervention. With real-time monitoring systems in place, customer service, performance, and compliance issues are no longer able to slip through the cracks.


Watch the following webinar recordings to see how different vendors are benefiting from real-time automated performance monitoring:


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cloud-computing-contact-center-400x250.jpgImagine you’re a customer whose Mother’s Day box of chocolates has not only arrived on mom’s doorstep a day late, but, to make matters worse, you’ve also been charged twice for the order. You’ve tried addressing the issue via live chat and email, and you’ve repeatedly been told you’ll hear back within 24 hours – but you haven’t.


It’s at this point that you pick up the phone and, as soon as you get a customer service agent on the line, you immediately ask to speak to a supervisor. From there, the customer annoyances mount: The agent keeps asking you the same questions without offering any real solutions. Worse yet, she keeps interrupting you, which makes you have to repeat your concerns all over again.


Sound familiar? Chances are you’ve encountered these types of issues at some point in the past. While centralized call centers can make good financial sense for companies, they can also present significant issues when it comes to language barriers.


Here’s a look at how speech analytics can help you overcome these obstacles: 


Better Communication

The first step in streamlining communications between customer service agents and callers is to identify why customers are calling the company in the first place. Another way to think about this is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes: What really matters to them? What do they want? What are their pain points and how can they best be addressed?


One way to do this is to solicit real-time customer feedback. CallMiner’s EurekaLive software, for example, monitors customer conversations in real time and provides feedback to supervisors and agents while calls are ongoing, allowing companies to address customer concerns head-on. The end result? An improved customer experience overall.  


Language Analysis

Speech analytics captures customer conversations and associated metadata and converts the information into a consistent format for analysis, making it easier for managers to mine the interactions and metadata for patterns and trends. In other words, both sounds (i.e., spoken words) and acoustic signals (i.e., customer agitation, silence, etc.) are turned into text that can be analyzed and acted upon.


Why is this important? Let’s say a customer requests to speak with a manager, but due to language barriers ends up having to repeat their concern to multiple points of contact before being put through to the appropriate person. With speech analytics, managers can identify the exact moment the escalation began, what kind of language led up to it, and how the customer service agent handled the call after the fact.  


Agent Training

Speech analytics not only helps to address customer concerns in real time and pinpoint where and when issues arise during calls, but it also helps to structure ongoing agent training programs. Real-time call monitoring, for example, gives managers a sense of which agents are performing well versus those who may need additional coaching. Contact metadata also provides managers with insight into how both customers and agents are behaving during calls, which allows them to focus on specific issues in agent training programs that will ultimately result in a better customer experiences.


But agent training doesn’t (and shouldn’t) just revolve around semantics. With call centers increasingly being sent overseas, companies should be sensitive to a diverse workforce handling callers who may speak a different language and expect a different level of service. “To solve this problem,” CultureSmart Consulting writes, “companies have been turning to training seminars that tackle ‘cross-cultural sensitivity.’ This type of training aims to help call handlers become more comfortable, and therefore more confident, in dealing with their target markets.” 


Final Thoughts

Luke Turner, who runs a Management Information and Workforce Planning Group in a contact center in Malta, offers the following insight for how to thrive in a multilingual contact center environment: “Just be prepared to change the way you work a little, think about things that are second nature to you and learn as you go along.  In the long run, the interesting environment and diversity far outweighs any minor frustrations you may run into with the language.”


Is your company experiencing issues with respect to language barriers in the call center? If so, what approach(es) have you used to overcome these obstacles? 


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infographic_title1-400x250.pngIn today’s competitive, customer-centric marketplace, leading-edge organizations are prioritizing the customer experience in an effort to prevent customer churn and improve loyalty. With the proliferation of digital channels and the corresponding increase in consumer expectations, however, contact centers are faced with the challenge of developing a unified view of the customer across channels.


This is easier said than done.


Contact Babel’s “U.S. Contact Centers in 2015: The State of the Industry & Technology Penetration Rates” report shows there were 43,675 U.S. contact centers and 211,000,000,000 minutes of inbound calling in 2014 alone. What’s more, emerging communications channels such as web chat and mobile customer service apps are set to grow at a CAGR of 21% and 49%, respectively, by 2018.


So what’s the solution for capturing and analyzing data from across channels to improve performance and gather business intelligence?


Enter interaction analytics.


CallMiner’s interaction analytics software has the capacity to recognize over 12,196,317 minutes of audio in a single day. The end result for the contact center? By reducing silence and average call time, organizations can realize significant cost savings while continually improving agent interactions with customers.


After implementing interaction analytics, a large energy provider saw a 30% increase in sales conversions, a 50% increase in client data capture, and $17 million in annual savings. Interaction analytics also helped a large vacation resort company realize a 26% increase in customer satisfaction, an 18% increase in agent quality scores, and a 48% increase in collections.


Check out our infographic below to learn how contact centers across the U.S. are seeing big results with interaction analytics.


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Call center monitoring is one of the most effective ways call centers can improve their customer service; it gives managers the opportunity to watch (or rather listen) to their agents in action.


By monitoring what agents say during interactions managers can easily identify problems within their teams, maintain quality standards and compliance, improve the customer experience, and improve overall center performance. However, listening in on a few calls here and there isn’t going to do any good for your agents, your customers, or your call center at large.


Here are three ways you can improve your call center monitoring practices:


1. Analyze 100% of calls.

Let’s say call center managers were able to manually review 5 random calls per agent each month for quality assurance and training purposes. Depending on the call volume that means only a few percent of calls are actually used for coaching and training, which is nowhere near a statistically significant sample size.


How can a manager effectively monitor their call center when they don’t have trust-worthy data to pull actionable insights from?


Call quality monitoring is all about changing agent behavior and managers need to understand how agents act day-in and day-out, not just basing their entire review and training plan on 1 or 2 calls. Instead of manually reviewing a small sample of calls, managers can improve call center monitoring with a speech analytics system where 100% of calls are automatically recorded AND calls are monitored in real-time.


Now you are getting a 360 degree view of your call center and can trust your action items are based on sound data, not just casual observations.


2. Align your customer’s needs with your own business objectives.

Make sure your call center monitoring goals accurately represent your customers’ expectations and aren’t just about what numbers you wish to see from your agents. If you’re not monitoring for and measuring what customers’ value then you’re just wasting your time and tasking your agents to hit certain goals that could actually undermine the customer experience.


For instance, Average Handling Time (AHT) is a commonly reviewed metric because the faster an agent wraps up an interaction the faster they can move onto the next call, thereby shortening call wait times. But just because an agent gets through their calls quickly that doesn’t mean they are getting through them effectively. An agent primarily obsessed with speed might not fully resolve the issue, prompting the customer to call back or try another service channel. Vice versa, an agent might spend 10 hours on the line with one customer but that doesn’t automatically mean they are a terrible employee even though they failed to meet your call center’s AHT goals.


It’s important to remember that you can’t evaluate your agents in a vacuum.


3. Involve agents when developing the scorecards/evaluation forms used during the monitoring process.

When your whole team understands what you’re looking for during the monitoring process you have a much better chance of adjusting behavior as people are aware of how they are being evaluated.


For instance, define what constitutes a “quality” interaction and the subcategories that are being scored.

  • How important is script adherence?
  • How important is handling time?
  • Will agents be judged on how well they handle escalating calls with frustrated customers?


Providing examples that demonstrate the excellent, average and or poor quality of the behaviors being measured gives your agents a solid base to work from and outlines expectations of performance. And since you are now analyzing 100% of calls they know that each interaction has to be the best it can. They can’t just phone it in (pardon the pun) most days and put on their best behavior when they know they are being monitored.


Having a call center monitoring procedure in place is half the battle, but if you want to get real actionable insights and make real performance changes it’s imperative that call centers focus on improving their monitoring practices as much as they can. The more trustworthy data you can collect the more positive impact you can have.


Related Posts


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call-center-productivity-400x250.jpgIt’s no secret that today’s customers expect top-notch customer service—research, in fact, shows the vast majority (86%) will take their business elsewhere in order to get it. Statistics projecting the rapid growth of the customer experience market, combined with ever-increasing customer preferences and communications channels, make it clear that CEM is a service that simply cannot be ignored.


So what can contact centers do to improve the customer experience in today’s customer-centric landscape? One answer is to find ways to drive call center productivity through superior agent performance, quality monitoring solutions, workforce optimization, multi-channel customer support, and more.


In our previous resource guide, we offered a collection of recent CallMiner blogs that discuss the importance and benefits of speech analytics. Today’s resource guide will focus on ways to spur contact center performance that will balance the needs of customers, agents, and the organization overall.


3 Steps to Establish Customer-Centric Call Centers in 2014

With customer-centricity increasingly becoming an area of focus for companies, managing the customer experience has never been more of a priority.  But many organizations are struggling in today’s business environment due to increased competition (i.e., if you neglect the quality of your customer service you will likely lose customers to your competitors) and a reliance on outdated operational models and strategies that do little to enhance the experience of today’s savvy customer. To establish customer-centric call centers in 2014 (and beyond), here’s a look at 3 best practices. More...


How Do You Develop a Team of Top Performers in Your Call Center?

Because call center agents interact with your customers daily and develop an understanding of what your customers want, they’re in a position to make or break the customer experience.  But how do you identify agent skills and ambitions and discover untapped potential in your organization?  How do you put together a so-called “dream team” of agents who will help foster customer loyalty and retention? More...


4 Tips to Consider for Your Quality Call Monitoring

In today’s customer-driven marketing landscape, quality call monitoring is critical to maximizing agent performance and ensuring a positive customer experience. For contact centers, the message is clear: Companies need to closely monitor the interactions between agents and customers to deliver insight into critical business issues and unlock opportunities to improve the customer experience and revenue outcomes. More...


3 Keys to Workforce Optimization in the Call Center

Workforce optimization, which includes both technology solutions and an investment in talent, ensures employees perform at peak efficiency and ultimately keeps customers happy. With WFO, organizations can use VoC insights to not only increase agent effectiveness, but also help build customer loyalty and competitive advantage and deliver an improved customer experience. More...


3 Tips for Making Sure Your Contact Center Delivers the Best Possible Customer Service

Your contact center, like any other customer-facing employee group, is responsible for upholding the customer experience. Customers won’t always remember the name of the agent who picked up the phone, but they will remember if your company delivered on its customer service promises or fell short right when it was needed the most. Here are three tips to help ensure your contact center is delivering the best possible customer service to each and every caller. More... 


Final Thoughts

Due to the explosion of social media and mobile usage, today’s customers expect (and, oftentimes, even demand) a certain level of service from companies. For call centers in particular, it’s critical to make sure agents are operating at peak performance and that innovative software solutions are working to uncover insights and analysis that can ultimately improve the customer experience.


Each of the above referenced blogs outlines different strategies for improving contact center performance. What strategies have proven most effective for your company?


Stay tuned for additional CallMiner resource guides!  


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call-center-agents-400x250.jpgWith today’s customers becoming more discerning than ever before, providing exceptional customer service has become imperative.  Research, in fact, shows 86% of customers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, up from 59% four years ago.


Because call center agents interact with your customers daily and develop an understanding of what your customers want, they’re in a position to make or break the customer experience.  But how do you identify agent skills and ambitions and discover untapped potential in your organization?  How do you put together a so-called “dream team” of agents who will help foster customer loyalty and retention?


Here are 3 ways to develop a team of top performers in your call center:

  • Hire the Right Kind of Talent: Call center agents are at the heart of your business, considering they’re on the front lines of customer interaction.  So why not arm yourself with talent that will represent your company in a positive manner, motivate other agents, and drive performance that will ultimately make a difference in your business growth?


Call Centre Helper recommends instituting “competency-based approach” to interviewing, which involves running an assessment center for new recruits.  In essence, this structured interview process allows a group of candidates to work through tasks and assessments; it also gives those in charge of hiring the opportunity to select the best performers in the group and train them together to become new call center agents.


  • Training and Supporting the Team: Because even the most skilled agents need encouragement and support, it’s important to grow and manage the team by offering ongoing training opportunities.  World Travel Holdings makes formalized training and support a fixture of its onboarding process by offering agents a dedicated resource for gaining knowledge, cultivating skills, and improving performance.


“When you are developing your team there is one key question you can ask,” claims Call Centre Helper.  “The question is: ‘Would you recommend a friend or family member to work here and why?’  If the answer is yes, you can find out what the key elements are that make working there attractive and build on them. If the answer is no, it’s an opportunity to improve some aspects of the business.”


  • Incorporate Real-Time Call Monitoring: According to Forrester Research, only 31% of organizations closely monitor the quality of interactions with customers.  However, 92% of call center leaders see high value in sharing metrics (i.e., number of calls in queue, service level, customer satisfaction, schedule adherence, and first contact resolution) in real time with agents.


With real-time call monitoring software in place, managers are alerted to customer service issues as they occur, as opposed to discovering them after the call has ended.  Real-time monitoring systems deliver performance feedback to agents during the call, which can help managers improve agent training programs and get a better idea of which agents are performing well versus those who need additional coaching.


Final Thoughts


Call center agents can be a real source of value for a company, due to their level of interaction with existing and potential customers.  In order to develop a team of top performers, it’s important to invest in your talent by attracting the right kind of people, growing and managing the team, and using performance monitoring solutions to drive success.


Bottom line: If call center agents experience an enriching corporate culture, they will undoubtedly convey that culture to customers. 


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above-and-beyond-400x250.jpgWhen it comes to providing quality customer service, going the extra mile isn’t just a good idea – it’s critical in today’s customer-centric landscape. Studies show emotionally engaged customers are three times more likely to recommend a product or service and to remain brand loyal. What’s more, experts agree that a genuine, authentic connection between customers and agents is critical to establishing a positive customer experience.


So what can you do to motivate agents to provide the best possible customer service? How can you inspire them to go above and beyond in their daily interactions with customers? Here’s a look at 3 ways:


1. Empower them with analytical feedback: To encourage agents to provide the type of experience their customers expect (and increasingly demand), it’s critical to monitor and analyze 100% of calls. Less than 100% analysis means that you cannot take action on some portion of your customer conversations, and often involves spending hours analyzing only a small proportion of calls without gleaning any actionable insight.


With speech analytics solutions such as real-time call monitoring software in place, performance feedback can be delivered to agents during the call (as opposed to after it’s already ended), which can help managers get a better idea of which agents are performing well versus those who need additional coaching. During CallMiner’s upcoming user conference Listen2014, attendees will hear from customers who are delivering analytical driven performance data directly to agents through myEureka and what impact this has had on agent performance, morale, and agent retention.


2. Give them the authority to make decisions on their own: Research shows the majority of customers prefer to speak to customer service representatives who do not sound like they’re reading from a script. In other words, the overall customer experience improves dramatically when customers feel like they’re speaking to a real person instead of a robot.


While scripting does have its place in the call center environment, it’s just as important to make agents feel empowered to make appropriate decisions on their own; it can, in fact, instill more customer confidence in a company’s product or service. As noted in a CustomerThink article, Southwest Airlines leaders believe that employees should use their own good judgment in handling passenger situations, which is one reason that Southwest has been leading the airline industry in customer loyalty for nearly two decades.


3. Inspire them to connect with customers: Despite the increasing use of customer self-service, it’s still important for agents to be able to establish a connection with customers if and when they need assistance. Sometimes the best way to do this is for representatives to demonstrate that they can see the problem from the customer’s perspective and that they’re committed to helping them resolve it.


“Engaging customers and solving their problems is still largely undertaken through personal contact. Emotion is the grease that more easily facilitates this interaction,” according to a Call Center IQ article. “Staff members have many ways to introduce emotion including taking ownership of issues (rather than blaming others), displaying empathy, being proactive and always exhibiting good interpersonal habits (e.g., shaking hands, keeping eye contact, and being active listeners).”


Final Thoughts


At the end of the day, you want your customer service representatives to not only meet but to exceed customer expectations. By encouraging agents to go beyond the call of duty in the above ways, you can ensure your customers have the type of experience that will inspire loyalty and retention and encourage them to share their experiences with others.


In what ways does your company empower agents to provide the best possible customer experience? What ways would you add to our list? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 


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robot-400x250.jpgLet’s face it: Today’s customers are busy and, when they encounter problems, they want them resolved quickly. Oftentimes, by the time they reach a live agent they may have already been through several minutes of automated answering machines, and they’re frustrated and irritated before the call even begins.


So what can call center agents do to ensure they’re handling customer concerns as swiftly and efficiently as possible? One solution is to make every attempt to sound like a real person (instead of a robot). Here’s how to do it:


Personalize: Historically, companies have relied on static scripting (i.e., when agents read verbatim from a script and follow predetermined steps) for resolving customer issues, noted a Smart Customer Service article on call scripting. However, recent research from Software Advice, a company that offers help desk software reviews, shows that the majority (69%) of survey respondents say their customer service experience improves dramatically when agents don’t sound like they’re reading from a script.


The article notes, however, that the benefits of dynamic scripting (in which scripts are adjusted based on the reaction or response of the customer) can far outweigh the perceived safety net that static scripting provides. “By allowing an agent to provide a personalized, off-the-script experience, customers actually have more confidence in a company and its products and services,” says Mike Pell, director of design services at Interactions Corp., in the article. “Interjecting some of an agent's personality into an interaction can boost a caller's faith and make him feel as if he is talking to someone who knows what she's doing.”


Empathize: One of the best ways for agents to establish a connection with customers is to demonstrate that they truly care about their concerns and are committed to resolving them. Another way to think about this is for agents to put themselves in their customers’ shoes: What really matters to them? What do they want? What are their pain points and how can they best be addressed?


Gemma Harding, Head of Client Services at CallCare, says in a Call Centre Helper article on call center scripting that “agents should be hired on the basis of their empathy, engagement, listening, and problem-solving skills. Forcing them to stick to a script limits the chance for them to shine at what they’re good at.”


Be Flexible: Harding also notes that forcing customer service agents to adhere to the company script can prevent them from being flexible in responding to individual customer complaints and resolving issues. In other words, focusing on the script can take away from the agent’s ability to effectively listen to the customer’s concerns.


The recent Comcast customer service nightmare is a good example of when it might have been advisable to stray from the call center script and address the individual customer issue. While the call center agent may have been trained by Comcast to avoid letting customers cancel their subscriptions, it nonetheless reinforces the fact that flexibility may have helped effectively resolve the issue – and avoid the ensuing backlash.  


Final Thoughts While scripting does have its place in the call center environment, industry experts agree that considering individual customer needs and exercising a certain degree of flexibility in addressing customer concerns can be beneficial to the customer experience and the reputation of the company overall. After all, no one likes to feel like they’re speaking to a robot!


How does your call center address scripting concerns? Do you agree with our assessment above?  


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Originally Published April 25, 2014 here:


Today’s customer-driven marketplace is increasingly demanding that call center agents provide an exceptional customer experience across all channels, as opposed to phone communications alone. In order to remain competitive in the shifting digital landscape, contact centers are adopting multi-channel solutions (social media, email, live chat, surveys) to interact with customers.


To shed light on the evolving contact center, we’ve compiled a list of 6 must-read research reports that cover everything from cloud-based contact center infrastructure to speech analytics, multichannel metrics, and more. Take a look through the following report summaries to better understand the rapidly changing contact center model, as well as some of the industry trends and challenges contributing to this evolution.



Cloud-Based Contact Center Infrastructure Market Report


dmg.pngDMG Consulting LLC’s report, reprinted for NewVoiceMedia, covers cloud-based contact infrastructure and applications, which have captured the attention of business and IT leaders around the world. Faced with the challenge of optimizing the effectiveness of their contact center systems and applications, companies are finding creative and cost-effective approaches with cloud-based partners.

DMG Consulting claims the standard cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions should come with the ability to handle multi-channel inbound, outbound (preview, progressive, and predictive), blended, email, chat/instant message (IM), SMS, and, increasingly, social media interactions.



Speech Analytics: Making Effective Use of Voice in a Multi-Channel World


aberdeen2.pngDespite the number of newer channels available to customers today (social media, mobile, live chat, etc.), the role and importance of voice (phone and interactive voice response (IVR)) conversations is still critical.  Aberdeen’s report explores the role speech analytics plays in helping companies maximize their voice-based conversations.  It also highlights specific activities that help organizations reduce customer complaints by 12.6% year-over-year and achieve 9.3% annual growth in company revenue.





2013 Multichannel Metrics Survey Results


metrics3.pngInteractive Intelligence and Contact Center Pipeline’s Multichannel Metrics Survey summarizes findings from a survey of contact center professionals across various industries, company types and sizes, and geographical locations. The questions posed to respondents centered around multichannel communications in today’s contact center environment, including: What impact are emerging channels having on contact centers?  What are the key metrics that centers are using to manage both new and traditional channels?  Participants shared critical information about which emerging channels their contact centers are managing, as well as their metrics for phone, email, text-based, social, and video channels.


Decision Matrix: Selecting a Multichannel Cloud Contact Center Vendor

ovum4.pngOvum’s report explores the marketplace for hosted contact center services in the U.S., with particular emphasis on the ability of service providers to handle multichannel customer interactions. It compares vendors based on the following criteria: the strength and currency of their technology platform, views of their customers, and the impact each company has on in the marketplace.  Vendors selected for inclusion in the report have the capacity to route at least one interaction channel beyond voice and have at least 10,000 deployed agent positions in the U.S.



Creating an Intelligent Contact Center of the Future by Starting Today

intelligent5.pngThe March 2014 installment in CRM magazine’s Best Practice series seeks to answer the question: What is an intelligent contact center?  Contributors approach the issue from several different angles, but the key takeaway is that an intelligent contact center must consolidate all customer interactions into a single view. This data stream coming from multiple channels has to be synthesized into a coherent conversation between the contact center and customers, regardless of the source: voice, chat, email, social media, mobile, etc.




Ahead in the Cloud: Why Contact Centers Are Moving to Cloud-Based Solutions


cloud6.pngMagnetic North’s report explores the drivers of cloud adoption in the contact center, as well as some of the challenges to adoption, including legacy IT equipment, lack of properly trained staff, time, resources, etc.  According to Magnetic North, the cloud is firmly on the contact center agenda and companies that have not already moved to the cloud are most likely considering doing so in the near future.  Are those companies already in the cloud reaping the rewards?  Are they using the cloud to deliver new communications channels?  These are just a few of the questions the report covers.    




The rapidly changing contact center environment is forcing companies to address industry trends such as cloud adoption, multichannel solutions, speech analytics, and more.  What’s missing from our list of research reports discussing the future of the contact center?  What would you add to yours?  We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below or on our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+ pages. 

pci-compliance-400x250.jpgIf the Target data breach has taught us anything, it’s that failing to protect customer privacy can result in serious fines and reputation issues. During the 2013 holiday season, Target confirmed publically that credit and debit card information for 40 million of its customers had been compromised (as well as email and mailing addresses for an additional 70 million) and the company has since reported spending $61 million related to the breach.


To ensure the safe handling of information and protect customers against identify theft, the five major credit card companies developed the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) in 2006. For contact centers, this means certain portions of sensitive cardholder information cannot be stored, even in the most secured fashion.


So how can call centers remain PCI compliant and instill customer confidence that data is being protected? Here are 5 key ways:


  • Redaction: According to the PCI Security Standards Council, recorded calls are subject to the same rules as any other method of capturing and storing customer card authentication data. Some recording systems provide call center agents with a button, allowing them to pause the recording when credit card numbers are spoken, while others integrate with the CRM system to automatically pause the recording based on actions taken by the agent. CallMiner Redactor operates on data, meaning it does not depend on a change in payment processing, agent intervention, or integration with the CRM system. Instead, it uses speech analytics technology to prevent sensitive cardholder data from being recorded; call recording is automatically muted when account numbers, security codes, and other sensitive information is spoken. Because Redactor prevents you from recording sensitive payment information, calls are not in scope for a PCI audit.
  • Network Security: It’s also critical to ensure an entire network system is compliant with PCI guidelines. This begins with an effective firewall and router, as well as internal processes that provide additional layers of protection. All traffic from unsafe networks and hosts should be restricted, and there should never be any direct access between any network component containing cardholder data and the Internet.
  • Role-Based Security: In any contact center environment, agent and supervisor desktops should have role-based log-ins to limit the number of staff exposed to sensitive data and ensure individual staff members only have access to what they need to do their job. A Contact Center World white paper on security and PCI compliance in cloud-based contact centers offers an example of how this might work: “A sales representative might be able to view customer details, but they may not be able to update or delete them. A team supervisor may be able to view the performance of the team that they are assigned to, but they (supervisor) should not be able to view the performance of other teams within the same Contact Center or project.”
  • Additional Security Considerations: In addition to role-based security, contact centers should also consider the points at which any staff comes in contact with data to ensure proper security and compliance. Carl Adkins of Infinity CSS maintains that access to sensitive customer and payment data should be restricted (e.g., limiting access to key areas of the building by adopting an RFID card system). “You should [also] make sure that all of your access passwords are strong (e.g., a mix of numbers, and lower- and upper-case characters) and are changed regularly,” says Adkins in a Call Centre Helper article on PCI compliance.
  • PCI Compliance Information: Any organization that stores, processes, and transmits cardholder data must meet PCI compliance regulations. The PCI DSS policies for call centers, which contain all necessary policies, procedures, forms, checklists, templates, and other supporting material, is now available for instant download. Make sure you know all the rules.


Final Thoughts

In today’s digital world, large-scale security breaches are all too common. If your contact center agents take payment over the phone, adhering to PCI DSS security requirements is critical to protecting against fraud and instilling customer confidence in your business.


Originally posted here:


In today’s digital world, customers rely on a variety of channels (phone, email, social media, live chat, surveys, etc.) to interact with companies.  For organizations looking to build and maintain strong relationships with customers, the benefits of a multi-channel consumer landscape are two-fold:


  1. They have the opportunity to connect with customers on the channels they prefer to use, and
  2. They can leverage interactions across channels to gain valuable insight about customers


But, in order for companies to take advantage of the wealth of customer data at their disposal, structured and unstructured data needs to be collected, synthesized, and analyzed.


Let’s take a look at a few of the ways companies can leverage interaction analytics and foster customer loyalty:


Discover the Root Cause of Customer Dissatisfaction

With customers more discerning (and demanding) than ever before, companies simply can’t afford to provide anything less than an exceptional customer experience.  There just isn’t a great deal of flexibility for meeting increasingly high customer expectations.


“If [organizations] don’t get on board with meeting customer expectations,” notes an ICMI research study on delivering customer service excellence, “they’ll soon discover that they may not have many customers left around to serve.”


With interaction analytics in place, companies can discover the root cause of repeat customer contacts by analyzing past and current customer activities.  Interaction analytics might, for example, uncover the reasons customer calls are being bounced from agent to agent (escalation attempts, insufficient agent training, etc.).


With this information in hand, organizations can take steps to preemptively prevent customer churn and provide an improved customer experience overall.


Develop a 360 Degree View of the Customer

In addition to discovering the root cause of repeat customer contacts, companies also need to proactively develop a complete picture of the customer journey.  In order to do so, however, they must first aggregate multiple, disparate points of customer information (interactions, transactions, feedback, agent data, etc.) to provide and end-to-end picture of the customer journey.


This is where interaction analytics once again comes into play.


Armed with this actionable customer data from across channels, organizations can begin to form a unified view of the customer.  The end result?  More actively engaged customers who feel both seen and heard by organizations – regardless of the communications channel used.


Improve Future Customer Interactions

Over the next four years, the customer experience market is predicted to grow from $1.6 to $4.1 billion, roughly a 20% increase.  What this means for organizations across industries is there is an imperative to prioritize the customer experience to remain competitive in the marketplace in the years to come.


“In order to get globally connected, companies must frequently monitor [customer] touchpoints and follow up with their customers by understanding their needs and wants for improving loyalty and experience,” notes a Smart Customer Service article covering the research findings.


To continually improve communication with customers, proactive companies will take advantage of customer interaction insights to develop a better understanding of customers and ensure positive experiences overall.


Final Thoughts

It should come as no surprise that today’s customers are in the driver’s seat – and it’s up to companies to provide the types of experience they’re looking to have in order to foster customer loyalty and repeat business.


The above list represents just a few of the ways organizations can use interaction analytics to do so.  How is your company creating customer loyalty?  Have you leveraged interaction analytics to get to know your customers better?



Original post here:

omnichannel-400x250.jpgIt goes without saying that a positive customer experience makes a lasting impression on the customer.


The evidence isn’t just anecdotal (i.e., you likely remember the last time you had a meaningful interaction with a sales association or customer service representative), it’s also in the numbers:

  • 55% of customers would pay more for a better customer experience (source)
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated (source)
  • 89% of customers would quit doing business with a company following a poor customer experience (source)


With customers placing such a premium on customer service excellence, companies need to do more than meet customer expectations: They need to exceed expectations.


Here’s a look at 3 actionable tips companies can use to enrich customer interactions:


Be Where Customers Are

In today’s digital world, customers are everywhere (social media, mobile, etc.) and they expect to be able to reach companies anytime, anywhere, and via multiple communications channels.  So what’s the best way for organizations to reach customers in this omni-channel customer landscape?


The answer is simple: Develop a presence on the channels customers prefer to use.


To do this, companies must dedicate resources to each channel (phone, social media, email, live chat, etc.), allowing for better trained customer service agents to handle requests specific to individual channels.  But it goes beyond just that.  Since it’s not uncommon for customers to use multiple channels to resolve a single issue, organizations also need to provide seamless customer service – across channels.


With multi-channel analytics in place, companies can drive customer engagement optimization by analyzing every interaction agents have with customers, regardless of the channel used.


Mine Customer Data

Once companies begin to aggregate and analyze customer data, the question then becomes: What do they do with all of that data?  In other words, how can they leverage customer data to provide more meaningful customer interactions?


The key is to use the information to shape customer interactions in real time, as opposed to after the fact.  In doing so, companies can both engage customers and provide an improved experience overall.


“Collecting, correlating, and analyzing data from customer interactions across channels is the key to transforming the customer experience from nightmare to nirvana,” as noted in a Forbes article.  “The nexus of big data and machine learning in all its forms…are the underpinnings of well informed, highly efficient and deeply satisfying interactions that benefit both customers and business.”


Understand the Customer Journey

With multi-channel customer data collected and analyzed, companies can start to put together the pieces and form a complete view of the customer journey.  According to an Experian blog post, 99% of companies believe achieving a single customer view is important to their business but less than a quarter (24%) say they have a single view today!
To develop an understanding of the complete customer journey, companies should think of each customer touchpoint as part of the larger customer experience.  “Getting to know the customer journey is about nurturing the customer experience,” notes SurveyMonkey.  “Customers notice this experience – the ease or hassle of it – even if [companies aren’t] not consciously mapping out and planning the experience they will have.”


Final Thoughts

The ability to provide positive customer experiences is becoming increasingly critical in today’s customer-centric landscape.  Companies committed to delighting customers with exceptional customer service stand to reap the rewards, which include anything from customer loyalty to positive word-of-mouth marketing and repeat business.


What is your company doing to enrich customer interactions?  Do you agree with our list of tips above?



Originally posted here:

speech-analytics-for-the-win-400x250.jpgIt should come as no surprise that results from a recent Gartner study reveal that CMOs are increasingly being expected to prioritize the customer experience. In fact, the study shows that executing customer experience functionality across all customer touchpoints in the highest priority top management has for CMOs.

Due to rising customer expectations, call centers are feeling increasing pressure to look at ways to improve the customer experience. One of the most trusted ways of doing so is through speech analytics technologies. Here’s a closer look at a few of the key advantages speech analytics can provide in customer experience management:


Agent Performance Evaluation

Eighty percent respondents who participated in a recent study by Five9 say delivering a seamless and superior customer experience is their top priority. To provide customers with a positive experience, nearly the same number of participants (77%) hire and train high-quality agents.

But how can call centers monitor agent progress to identify top performers as well as those who may need additional coaching? Using speech analytics, managers can discover the root cause of customer calls – and work with agents to help resolve issues before they escalate. CallMiner’s EurekaLive allows supervisors and quality analysts to monitor in-progress calls for language and acoustic characteristics (i.e., escalation attempts, churn language, profanity, compliance scripts, or high emotion) and intervene where necessary. The end result is an improved experience for the customer and real-time feedback for the agent, which can benefit the agent’s performance over the long term.


Consistent Customer Experience Across Channels

With customers increasingly using multiple channels (calls, chat, email, social, etc.) to communicate with companies, it’s critical for agents to be able to provide a seamless customer experience across channels. However, efficiently collecting and analyzing data via multiple channels can prove challenging, especially with customers expecting quick, efficient responses to their concerns (studies show leading brands respond to customer queries via Twitter in under an hour!).

With a multi-channel speech analytics system in place, call center managers and supervisors can analyze every agent-to-customer interaction – regardless of the channel. Because it’s not uncommon for customers to use multiple channels to resolve a single issue, multi-channel analytics also analyzes linked interactions across channels, which creates a complete picture of the customer experience journey.


Recovery from Poor Customer Experience

Sometimes, even the most proficient and well-intentioned agents encounter wayward callers who may have already been escalated prior to the call beginning. In these instances, it’s up to call centers to determine how they can best salvage the customer experience, both satisfying the customer in the near term and retaining them over the long term.


As noted by CallMiner’s Craig Reines, speech analytics can “highlight customer dissatisfaction and system issues trends by mining variations of customer questions.” Such trend analysis can help managers and quality analysts determine what it is customers want – and identify the appropriate solutions.


Final Thoughts

In today’s customer-centric landscape, it’s critical for call centers to prioritize the customer experience at all times. Using call center technologies such as speech analytics is one way to ensure the customer experience is top of mind – at every stage of the customer journey.


Image Credit: ©

Originally posted here:

faces-of-customer-satisfaction-400x250.jpgAccording to new report from CFI Group, customer satisfaction levels have experienced a slight uptick over the past year. Data compiled from consumers across various sectors in 2014 reflects a customer satisfaction score of 72 (out of 100), a three-point improvement from the previous year.


That said, this year’s reading matches the third-lowest score since the report was first issued. What does this mean? On the one hand, the year-over-year improvement in customer satisfaction indicates that things are turning around for the customer service industry, thanks to a rebounding economy. On the other, it represents the uphill climb many companies face in satisfying increasingly demanding consumers.


So what are some ways companies can drive customer satisfaction in today’s consumer-centric landscape? The following is a curated list of 15 different tactics to improve customer satisfaction, from a variety of sources:


1) Develop Customer Service Communities “The most advanced companies are using [customer service] communities to generate product ideas and test new products. Seventy-two percent of respondents [who participated in a Get Satisfaction survey] are using communities to get feedback on how existing products are used; 67 percent use them to collect ideas for new products or features from customers; and 46 percent rely on them for feedback on prototypes or beta products.”

(Source: Smart Customer Service)


2) Treat Customers Like You Would Want to Be Treated “Remember that your customer wants to see the sunny side of you and your business, so have your filter on and put yourself in their shoes. A good way to instill this attitude among your staff is to do some simple role play in which they act out a few scenarios that involve both easy-going and difficult customers. Observe how they handle the situation and coach them on areas to improve.”

(Source: U.S. Small Business Administration)


3) Provide Multichannel Support “With newer communications channels such as social, mobile, web chat, and email becoming increasingly important to customers, companies must develop an omnichannel approach to their customer service in order to connect with customers on the channels they prefer to use. Multichannel support not only offers customers a seamless transition between channels; it also prevents them from having to repeat information they may have already provided to different call center agents, which can be both irritating to customers and potentially damaging to a company’s reputation.”

(Source: CallMiner)


4) Make Employee Satisfaction a Priority “Simply put, when your employees are happy, they can provide better customer service. Studies have proven that employees often perform better at the jobs when they feel appreciated. Give each employee a personalized ‘thank you’ every now and then, and introduce an employee of the month program, if you don’t have one already. If you can help your employees take pride in their jobs, their work performance will also improve.”

(Source: CustomerThink)


5) Encourage Agents to Take Ownership of Problems “Encourage operators to take ownership of problems and spend time dealing with the customer, rather than escalating or passing over the problem. This gives advisors a real sense of pride in their job and means they are taking their own action and really shows excellent customer service.”

(Source: Call Centre Helper)


6) Turn Customer Survey Data into Action “Good data reflects the experiences your customers actually have with your company. Furthermore, good data equips your company to take action. [The key is to] develop a satisfaction survey that probes truthfully into the heart of your gaps and opportunities.”

(Source: Smart Customer Service)


7) Figure Out What the Customer Really Wants “Figure out what the customer really wants, if you can solve the problem they will pay; the value is often not in the discount you can offer but rather in the solution you can provide.”

(Source: Forbes)


8) Focus on Company Culture “The best companies put a focus on culture. They implement training programs around their cultural values to ensure everyone shares the same values and that they are consistently demonstrated when dealing with customers.”

(Source: Client Heartbeat)


9) Stay Current on Customer Reviews “In a world that is heavily dependent on the internet, consumers are quick to hop online and share how they feel about a product or service. Take the time to log onto the internet and observe what people are saying about your business. Find out what people enjoy, as well as what they’d like to see improved. The reviews you stumble across might surprise you and introduce you to areas of improvement that you had not previously considered. An expert from Meyers Transport Ltd says problems with shipping and receipt of goods, especially, can often be identified through customer reviews. Being aware of these issues is the first step towards resolving them.”

(Source: CustomerThink)


10) Offer Proactive Customer Service “The key here is to contact your customers before they need to pick up the phone and contact you! To be effective, these contacts should be timely, personalized and relevant to the consumer. The best proactive strategies make regular contact throughout the consumer lifecycle. Examples include: payment reminders, fraud monitoring, and personalized loyalty and reward schemes. This strategy can reduce inbound calls and improve agent efficiency. This proves that offering great customer service isn’t just good for the consumer, it’s good for the business as well.”

(Source: Call Centre Helper)


11) Personalize “In everything you do, make sure the customer feels like he or she is the only one that matters. Use the customer's name, refer to personal information and congratulate a customer on his or her birthday. Make them feel at home.”

(Source: Tech Target)


12) Slash Wait Times “Everyone is busy, and if your company can't provide the highest levels of service your customers won't hesitate to find someone who can. Customer wait time needs to be eliminated or managed. Bureaucracy needs to be replaced with customer-friendly processes. Be easy to do business with, and your customers will reward you over and over again.”

(Source: Inc.)


13) Put a Social Media Plan in Place “Customers are increasingly demanding speedy responses—sometimes as quickly as in real time—to their complaints on social media. A company that isn't paying attention can wreak havoc with its reputation.”

(Source: Smart Customer Service)


14) Rethink the Approach to Doing Business & Building Relationships “Because consumers are operating differently today, and more differently tomorrow, companies must embrace the environment in which we're operating. It's only fair to customers that companies rethink their approach to doing business and building relationships with them.”

(Source: DestinationCRM)


15) Demonstrate Product Knowledge “One of the most important aspects of successful customer service revolves around product knowledge. In other words, any and all agents who have direct customer contact should know the company’s product and/or service inside and out. In many cases, developing robust product knowledge involves managers helping agents build their confidence so they’re motivated to succeed. To do this, managers might try mapping out their assessment of an agent’s product knowledge and compare it against the agent’s, identifying any gaps that exist and making it easier to put together a professional development plan for the future.”

(Source: CallMiner)


Final Thoughts While there’s no one solution for improving customer satisfaction levels, the key is to develop a customer-centric mindset that will help inform decisions and company direction. The above list of recommended tactics from a wide variety of sources represents only the beginning – the possibilities are endless. What are some of the ways your company drives customer satisfaction? 


Image Credit: ©

Original post:


According to a recent Call Centre Helper and NewVoiceMedia survey, leading contact centers are answering 90% of phone calls within 20 seconds, despite an industry average of 80% of phone calls in 20 seconds. The survey, which polled 600 call center professionals, confirms the industry-wide standard of 80/20.  Other findings indicate that there is a trend for 70% of calls answered in 30 seconds and 85% of calls in 20 seconds, as stated in the Call Centre Helper article covering the survey results.


While the 80/20 rule may be widely accepted as the industry standard, a Talk Desk blog argues that there is no industry standard for service level.  “Call volume and service level fluctuate based on the company’s product stability, marketing efforts, team, budget and customers, and so no two companies are alike, even if they are within the same industry,” says the article.  “Thus, companies should set their service level objectives based on careful consideration of a variety of factors (customer needs/priorities/expectations, employee satisfaction, business goals and objectives, etc.), rather than rely on an “industry standard’.” In order to drive optimal call center performance at all times, organizations can leverage speech analytics, which automatically tracks and scores 100% of calls and leads to an improved experience overall for customers. © Badzioch