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Key Takeaway: Contact center leaders need to make sure the overall culture and environment makes customer service the top priority.


Culture is an underappreciated element of customer engagement. Combining the best people, the best tools and the best strategies will go a long way toward delivering a top-tier customer experience, but it's impossible to reach the full potential unless the culture innately encourages best practices and genuine enthusiasm. The previous blog focused on extending the corporate culture into the contact center, but it's just as important to encourage the right kind of culture.Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 6.png


Engagement expert Chester Elton recently discussed this issue in a conversation with 1to1 Media. As Elton made clear, a client-centric culture - both in the contact center and beyond - will have a tremendous impact on the customer experience.


Agents matter

There are a lot of factors that go into determining whether or not a company has a customer-focused culture. According to Elton, one of the most important issues to consider is stability. He explained that customers really appreciate it when their concerns are addressed in a consistent, knowledgeable way. That's difficult for a lot of firms, though, because employee turnover has become so frequent - a fact that's especially pronounced among contact centers. When short tenures become typical for a company's call center, that's a strong sign that the culture is not nearly customer-focused enough.


Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 6.26.14 PM.pngWhat can firms do about this? Critically, businesses should make holding onto agents a priority. To this end, Elton emphasized the importance of focusing on employees' futures.


"A great best practice I have seen is that early on, there are aspirational conversations with new employees," he told the source.


By paying attention to workers' career trajectories early on, contact center managers and other corporate leaders can demonstrate that they're invested in their personnel, and that should encourage those employees to stick around longer. Additionally, Elton explained that developing this type of environment will help to attract better candidates, which will further improve both the culture and overall performance.


"While you're being customer-centric, don't forget that you need to be employee-centric. You can't deliver a great customer experience if you have an awful workplace," said Elton, the source reported.


Another option here is to embrace gamification. As this blog previously emphasized, gamification is an excellent fit for the contact center, encouraging superior agent performance in an engaging way. By specifically focusing on developing contests that highlight customer service excellence - for example, tracking and rewarding agents with the best customer satisfaction KPIs - leaders can further direct their agents in a customer-focused direction.


Training value

Another strategy for both improving employee retention and empowering those workers to better respond to customer needs and wants is to invest in personalized agent training and coaching. As this blog post noted, high-quality training can help to ensure that agents are engaged with their work and experience the motivation needed to thrive.


If agents are left to perform without feedback, they won't know where they are excelling and where they are struggling, and they won't feel that drive to improve, which is crucial for a customer-focused culture.

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To deliver this type of feedback, speech analytics can prove invaluable, as this Engagement Optimization post emphasized. Critically, an effective speech analytics solution will provide an objective, detailed view of agent performance. Objectivity is crucial because it ensures that every agent receives fair treatment - and, just as importantly, these personnel recognize that they aren't subject to bias. A detailed view is just as key, allowing managers and supervisors to identify the specific areas where agents may be struggling.


Contact center leaders can then use this analysis to determine which agents need what kind of training. This approach will make sure that employees receive the insight, guidance and education they need to fully embrace a customer-centric culture.


Leadership considerations

Elton also pointed to leadership as a key factor when developing a more customer-focused culture.


"Culture starts with leadership," he told 1to1 Media. "Leaders have to set the parameters for culture and then empower employees to act on the company's values and share with them what the rules are."


When leaders fully embrace the customer experience in all of their decisions, a customer-focused culture is sure to follow.


What steps have you taken to encourage a customer-first contact center culture?

The Takeaway: Gamified payment collection would be a great fit for many health care providers.


Gamification has become a popular topic as it relates to customer engagement. We've previously covered how gamification has begun to play a key role in contact center operations, but that only scratches the surface of its potential value. In addition to improving agent productivity and attitudes, gamification can also provide a boost to an organization's revenue through superior collections results.Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 5.png


While some sectors have already started to embrace gamified collections, others have yet to fully take advantage of these capabilities. Health care providers tend to fall in the latter category. Yet while health care firms have not broadly adopted gamified payment collections strategies, there is significant evidence to suggest that this would be an excellent match for that industry.


Understanding gamified collections

First, though, it's important to explain what exactly gamified payment collections means. The basic concept is pretty simple. As with other gamification efforts, the goal is to use gaming concepts as a means of encouraging desired behavior among the "players." In many cases, the players are employees, be they contact center agents or otherwise. When it comes to collections, though, the idea is to incentivize customers to make their payments in a more timely fashion.


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For example, Forrester highlighted how one gamification firm worked with banking clients to develop a gamification solution to increase use of digital bill pay. To this end, the company took a page from the incredibly popular Angry Birds mobile game to create the equivalent of a "level one" that educated users about the basics of digital bill pay. From there, various game-related elements - including a progress meter, tutorial popups and a listing of bill payers' "goals" - encouraged end users to engage with the banks' bill pay offerings. As a result, bill pay abandonment dropped between 4 and 5 percent among end users.


Health care gamification

Obviously, those results speak for themselves. But there's another reason why gamification is such a strong fit for health care payment collections: gamification has already started to gain popularity in this industry, albeit not in a payment-specific capacity.


This can most commonly be seen in the form of apps that users download to help motivate them to stay healthy, such as by encouraging exercise, healthy eating or medication adherence, as TechTarget reported.


Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 5.52.46 PM.pngBeyond this, a number of health care providers have embraced gamification internally. For example, at the recent HIMSS 16 conference Emory Clinic delivered a presentation covering the success it had experienced with gamification. With these techniques in place, the care provider saw a 33 percent reduction in denial turnaround time, 7.9 percent increase in productivity performance and a 6.2 percent increase in net payments.


Gamified collections for health care

Given all of this, it's fair to say that gamification is an excellent fit for health care payment collection efforts. The question is simply how organizations should go about implementing these programs.


In that regard, there are two key factors to keep in mind.

  1. These efforts need to incorporate a high degree of education. As Forrester's use case pointed out, there is often a lack of awareness among users when it comes to digital payment systems. Health care providers should therefore ensure that the early stages of their efforts center around helping patients understand how to set up continuous payment plans and how to utilize these tools more broadly.
  2. The rewards for patients must be clear. Without an obvious incentive - such as the chance to enter a raffle or earn a reward after a certain number of payments - there won't be any real reason for users to embrace the gamified solution.


What recommendations do you have for gamified payment plans?

The takeaway: Voice analytics is being used to deliver better mental health services to veterans, showing how wide-ranging the technology has become.


As many contact center leaders have discovered, voice analytics have become an exceedingly important customer service tool in a very short period of time. This technology provides unparalleled insight into both customer behavior and agent performance, leading to better results and better long-term planning.1.png


To fully appreciate how useful and powerful voice analytics can be, though, it's worth taking a look at a new health care startup's efforts in this area. As CRM Daily contributor Shirley Siluk reported, Cogito Corp. is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to use voice analytics technology to improve and expand mental health services.


Voice analytics' potential

As Siluk noted, this voice analytics solution monitors speech patterns, looking for signs of annoyance, disinterest and so on. The software takes into account how quickly speakers' talk and how frequently they interrupt others as a means of demonstrating these states of mind.


As the VA recognized, this sort of insight has significant potential when it comes to identifying and improving treatment for veterans who are struggling with mental health issues. According to Siluk, the VA will gather call recording, mobile usage data and other raw information from volunteer callers, which will subsequently be examined through the voice analytics solution. With these results in hand, the VA will be able to take a more objective view of its own performance in the realm of veteran outreach, leading to more refined, effective strategies further down the road.


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Speech analytics across sectors

Voice analytics - or speech analytics, as the technology is often referred to - delivers insights on clients/customers and contact center agents in a broad range of industries. In addition to government, speech analytics is used by companies in finance, communications, health care, education, collections, insurance, telco, utilities and retail to improve customer/client care, operational efficiency, compliance and sales.


In the case of the VA, analytics identified potential signs of distress earlier than would have been possible otherwise, in order to provide real-time guidance to contact center agents so they could adjust the way they helped clients to achieve the best outcomes. By analyzing every interaction - calls, chat, email, social media, etc. - speech analytics enables businesses of all kinds to empower contact center agents to address client/customer concerns more effectively.


Speech analytics can be deployed in two ways: real-time or post-call. Real-time capabilities, as the VA example demonstrated, provide instant insight which can direct agents to adjust the course of the call as it is occurring. Post-call analytics can prove equally valuable, identifying broader trends, such as the nature of client calls or how agents' performances vary based on a range of factors. In both cases, speech analytics deliver an unparalleled degree of insight, leading to improvements throughout the contact center.


In 2015, speech analytics seats grew more than 20 percent between May 2014 and March 2015, according to DMG Consulting. Given the increasing potential that the technology has to offer, it seems all but certain that this trend will continue upward in the months to come.


What are some interesting applications of voice analytics solutions that you've seen?

x_0_0_0_14124472_300.pngThe takeaway: Compliance doesn't just happen - call centers need to deploy the right tools and strategies.


It would be difficult to overstate the importance of compliance in the call center. Compliance is a factor for organizations in just about every sector - whenever sensitive data is being handled, these firms need to make sure their customer service agents abide by all relevant regulations during every instance of customer engagement.


Naturally, this is easier said than done. To better ensure they are achieving and maintaining compliance, here are three tips for call center leaders.


1. Deploy speech analytics for redaction

One of the most common complications that call centers run into in the realm of compliance relates to call recordings. Call recordings are obviously a valuable resource, serving as documentation for liability purposes, to provide info to improve customer service going forward and to create a record of agent performance that managers can subsequently examine.


Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 4.10.45 PM.pngBut there are serious compliance issues that need to be addressed when it comes to recordings - particularly recordings of financial information. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) sets a number of key standards for the processing, transmission and storage of credit card information. Notably, PCI DSS forbids virtually all merchants from storing CVV2 data from customers' credit cards.


The compliance issue, then, crops up when clients and agents need to discuss this information in the course of call resolution. When recordings are in play, a call center can immediately be at risk of violating this regulation, as CIO contributor and compliance expert Michael McAlpen explained.


In such situations, speech analytics combined with automated redaction software is the answer. Redaction software eliminates the storage of sensitive information, enabling call centers to ensure that when particular issues are discussed between the agent and customer, all of the pertinent information remains while CVV2 numbers are erased from the record. This applies not just to PCI DSS, but also to just about any other compliance standard regarding the storing of sensitive client information. And because these solutions are automated, there is no risk of agent or managerial oversight that could lead to a compliance violation.


2. Agent training

While speech analytics-based redaction software has the advantage of operating independently of agents, it is also important to recognize the need for agent training to ensure compliance.


Speaking to Bank Innovation, Ori Bach, director of solution management and interactions optimization with NICE Systems, emphasized that agents need to know what information they can present to customers. Otherwise, firms will run the risk of violating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's compliance regulations.


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Bach emphasized that only intensive coaching and training can protect companies from this danger. However, he also acknowledged that this can have a negative impact on agent attrition rates. Call center decision-makers need to find the right balance here between compliance risk management and agent satisfaction.


Technology tools can play a key role here, as well. When gamification is used in training, for example, agents can learn more about what is and isn't compliant in a more engaging, entertaining fashion than traditional training sessions.


3. Compliance-improving policies

It is also critical for call centers to embrace policies that further encourage compliance. With such policies, call center leaders can reduce the risk of inadvertent violations.


For example, industry expert Justin Hamilton-Martin told Call Centre Helper that call centers should consider adopting "white room" policies. In these cases, agents are not allowed to bring their phones, pens, paper or flash drives into the call center environment. Without these resources available, the chances that an agent will make a personal record that violates compliance regulations are greatly reduced.


What recommendations do you have for improving compliance in the call center?

Contact center KPIs have been factored into business models for quite some time, but how do you know which metrics will drive the most efficiency and productivity in your call center and among agents?contact-center-kpis.png


It’s becoming more essential to identify the most valuable metrics to your specific call center and your goals as KPIs can directly influence the overall customer experience. KPIs can offer call center management and staff invaluable insight into areas of needed improvements, as well as agent performance strengths.


As the landscape for customer expectations continue to evolve, it’s that much more imperative for contact centers to deliver as 76% view customer service as a test of their value to a specific brand.


To help contact centers better gauge where to focus on when it comes to KPIs, CallMiner has put together a compilation of suggested KPIs from industry experts.




This post originally appeared on CallMiner.

In the call center, there is no one-size-fits-all measure for success – each individual organization needs to determine which approaches work best for their organization.


That said, there are a number of call center best practices that can result in improved agent performance and, in turn, a better customer experience.   To help identify proactive ways to drive call center efficiency, we compiled a list of tips from industry experts, including DMG Consulting, inContact, Call Centre Helper, VPI, and more.


We hope the following best practices help you uncover the path toward operational efficiency in your call center!




This post originally appeared on CallMiner.

x_0_0_0_14119310_300.pngKey Takeaway: For any contact center to thrive, its decision-makers need to have the right priorities.


Contact centers are complex places, and achieving success in these areas is consequently a complicated matter. Decision-makers need to weigh a lot of different considerations in order to get the formula right.


With that in mind, here are three of the most important factors when it comes to achieving contact center success.


1. Find the right agents

A contact center is ultimately only as good as the agents who staff it - it's really as simple as that. As a result, hiring the right agents will inevitably have a huge impact on how well or poorly the contact center performs as a whole.


Obviously, this is easier said than done. Decision-makers need to know what to look for when evaluating applicants. There are a lot of important traits here, but a few stand out:


  • Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 11.pngKnowledge retention: When customers call for help, agents need to have a well of knowledge regarding the company's products and services that they can call upon to offer advice and guidance.
  • Calm under pressure: Working in a contact center means that you'll have to handle upset, potentially even irate, customer calls. An excellent agent will remain calm in the face of such duress.
  • Communication skills: Agents need to not only understand customers and the company's offerings, but also have the ability to convey that information in an effective manner.
  • Efficiency: Contact centers are fast-moving places, and agents can only thrive if they are efficient in their customer interactions.


Contact center leaders should strive to test candidates in these areas during the interview phase, as well as look for job experience that highlights these strengths. What's more, predictive analytics solutions are now appearing on the market which can help to identify agent potential, further improving contact center decision-makers' ability to find the right hires.


2. Keep the right agents

Recruiting and hiring the agents is only half the battle. The second half is all about retention. High turnover rates are a problem for contact centers across the board, but those organizations that can excel in agent retention will enjoy much more knowledgeable, experienced contact center staffs.


To this end, company leaders need to develop policies focused on encouraging agents to stay on board longer. Straightforward compensation will obviously play a major role here, but that's only part of the story. They also need to develop employee recognition programs and bonuses that can make agents more motivated. Just as importantly, leaders need to work to develop positive, enjoyable work environments in the contact center. If agents' work lives feel isolating and there's no sense of team spirit or unity, they'll be much more likely to leave.


That's why industry expert Francis Cyriac, writing for Ameyo, recently argued that an open culture is key for agent retention success. He asserted that contact center leaders should embrace business scorecards, forums and other features that encourage agents to feel comfortable sharing their views and concerns.


"The whole process will help to create a workplace where people feel valued," Cyriac wrote. "This will result in job satisfaction."


Another key factor here is training. Training doesn't just make agents better at their jobs - it also demonstrates the organization's investment in its personnel, employees who feel valued are much more likely to stick around.


However, this training needs to take the right form to be effective. Writing for Spoken, Heidi Miller emphasized that agent training needs to incorporate a wide range of learning styles. She pointed out that the best contact centers allow agents to learn in whatever way is best suited to them as individuals. If you can deliver that level of flexibility and accommodation, your agents will stay with the company longer.


It's also important to recognize the potential benefits that tools such as interaction analytics can offer in this area. As this white paper makes clear, interaction analytics solutions can help to screen out at-risk employees by monitoring their behavior in real-time, identifying those agents - particularly new hires - who are not on pace to achieve acceptable performance levels. Interaction analytics also offers fair, unbiased agent evaluations, which in turn can enable targeted coaching. By removing the risk of subjective judgment, agents will be more accepting of criticism and guidance, leading to improved performance and, consequently, greater job satisfaction.


This leads to the next point: the importance of contact center technology.


3. Invest in technology

Even the best contact center agents need to have the right tools and resources to effectively execute their job responsibilities. That makes technology investment a key factor in achieving contact center success.


For starters, there are the basics - headsets and computers that empower agents to comfortably and effectively handle not just calls, but also customer concerns via email, SMS, live chat, video conferencing and more.


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Just as importantly, contact center leaders need to embrace analytics solutions that can lead the way toward more strategic approaches and policies. Advanced analytics can help businesses to better understand who their customers are, what they want and how best to deliver. These findings can guide decisions regarding areas to focus on, optimized agent schedules and other keys to maximizing effectiveness and efficiency.


Additionally, contact centers need to increasingly embrace real-time capabilities. Talkdesk contributor Shauna Geraghty emphasized the value of real-time tools for both agents and managers. In the former case, agents should be able to view their key performance indicators at any time, so that they can make immediate adjustments in their approaches as needed. Even more significantly, real-time metrics dashboards for managers enable these leaders to step in and make reassignments or other changes based on the most current data.


Automation technology is another key area to focus on for contact center success going forward. As industry expert Gerald Stevenson Chettiar explained in a post on LinkedIn, "automating processes wisely can eliminate extended wait times, optimize and enhance agent utilization, reduce the training time for new agents and provide opportunities for up-selling."


What do you see as the key factors for achieving contact center success?

Key Takeaway: Teamwork is critical for boosting agent performance and improving retention rates, but it doesn't develop automatically - you need to take concrete steps to encourage it.


There are many factors that contribute to contact center success. Ultimately, though, nothing is more important than hiring the right agents and providing them with the resources they need to do the best job possible. Some of those resources are pretty straightforward: easy-to-use software, analytics-driven insight and so on.Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 104340 AM_phixr.png


But there are other factors that are equally important but harder to achieve - such as a work environment that encourages and fosters teamwork. When contact center personnel feel fully integrated into and supported by a team, their performance improves - along with agent retention rates.


Here are just a few tips to encourage teamwork in the contact center.


1. Embrace gamification

Gamification, as this blog post explained, is an increasingly important resource for a wide array of business purposes - including the contact center. Gamification is all about using game mechanics and strategies, along with rewards, to better motivate workers to excel. These efforts can be as straightforward as an Employee-of-the-Month program or more sophisticated, as in the form of gamified training programs for new hires.


Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.42.56 AM.pngContact center leaders can use gamification to encourage teamwork, as well. Team-building games have been a staple of offices for years, and for good reason: These types of programs encourage bonding between employees in a fun way. With more advanced gamification, you can take this concept even further by incorporating it into customer engagement analytics. For example, you could establish teams and design a competition to encourage improvement in specific behaviors such as use of compliance language or a proper greeting. Analytics can track performance and provide feedback to each agent on how their team compares to others, providing a ranking – Your team is #3 of ten teams, for example.


The key here is that even though gamification is based on competition, it can actually be a force for unity in the contact center, and make working there a much more satisfying, enjoyable experience for agents.


2. Find the right managers

The manager can have a huge impact on the environment and work conditions in the contact center. That's why Customer Think contributor David Miller asserted that choosing the right manager can go a long way toward building teamwork in an inbound call center.


"Good managers create good organizational relationships among team members, build strong bonds between agents and update agents on changes," Miller wrote.


Managers should also have an excellent sense of how to best form teams in the first place, as well as how to address any conflicts that may emerge over time.


3. Emphasize openness

One trait that just about every well-functioning team shares, be it in the contact center or beyond, is a degree of openness. In fact, this may be particularly important when it comes to contact centers, as Miller pointed out.


"Creating an atmosphere of openness and candor helps build trust between team members and supervisors," he wrote. "By creating an atmosphere where agents feel they can be open and candid with each other, you'll also help strengthen the lines of communication between teammates."


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Agents will feel much more like they genuinely belong to a team if they are comfortable sharing their concerns, frustration and general thoughts with each other and with their managers. This will empower team members to propose suggestions that ultimately make the contact center stronger as a whole.


4. Corporate unity

Customer service agent teamwork shouldn't be limited to the contact center - it should extend to the company as a whole. When agents feel connected to the broader corporate culture, they both perform better and feel more loyal. Conversely, agents who don't feel this connection will have a weaker sense of the organization's offerings and will be more likely to depart.


To improve corporate unity, contact center personnel should be encouraged to mingle with other workers both in a purely professional context and socially - for example, through fun company outings to sports or dining events.


What steps do you recommend to encourage contact center teamwork?

Key Takeaway: Your contact center is part of your company, and so it should reflect the corporate culture. If this isn't the case - and it often isn't - you need to change the status quo.


Few business leaders would argue against the importance of corporate culture for achieving broader organizational success. Businesses often see their corporate culture as key to understanding what the company is, what it stands for and what it hopes to achieve, and it's a critical selling point when attracting new talent.Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.png


But here's a question: Is it really fair to refer to a "corporate culture" if that culture doesn't extend across the entire company?


If you think the answer is no, then it stands to reason that an organization's contact center should reflect the corporate culture. In reality, though, this is often not the case. This presents a missed opportunity - extending the corporate culture into the contact center will strengthen not just the contact center itself, but also the organization as a whole.


With that in mind, here are a few tips to keep in mind for reflecting the corporate culture in the contact center. Of course, every corporate culture is distinct, so no advice can be universal. But these should stand as good starting points for more customized efforts.


1. Appreciating agents

You'd be hard-pressed to find a corporate culture that doesn't see valuing employees as a hallmark. After all, it's difficult to have an excellent corporate culture if people don't feel appreciated.


Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.19.06 PM.pngBut it's also true that contact centers tend to struggle with agent retention. Contact Babel's 2014 US Contact Center Decision-Maker's Guide found that about one-third of contact center agents quit each year. This is about twice the attrition rate for workers in other areas. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this state of affairs, but a big part of it is that contact center agents often feel undervalued and underappreciated.


To limit these issues, company leaders should strive to put into place more of the employee-appreciation aspects of the corporate culture in the contact center. This can include reward programs, free lunches, group outings to fun events and so on.


2. The limits of numbers

Numbers in the form of metrics and key performance indicators are invaluable for contact center management. But as Call Centre Helper contributor Keith Gait pointed out, too much focus on numbers can make agents feel boxed in, like they don't have the flexibility they need to do their jobs. This goes against one of the defining aspects of many effective corporate cultures: employee empowerment. Workers need to be only not valued, but also feel that they have the freedom and support needed to thrive. Contact centers that use number-based metrics but don't depend on them completely will go a long way toward extending the corporate culture into these arenas.


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3. Customer service triumphs

One more common refrain in corporate cultures in every industry is a steadfast commitment to employee satisfaction. Many firms put this at or near the very top of their list of priorities and values. And, naturally, the contact center itself is wholly dedicated to resolving customer issues, and so it would seem automatic that this aspect of the corporate culture would reach into the contact center.


However, it's very common for contact centers and their agents to pursue customer satisfaction without fully embodying this ideal. It goes back to the fact that contact centers can become too focused on numbers and end results and not concerned enough about how those outcomes are achieved. Leaders can turn this around by embracing policies that ensure agents have more of a stake in client satisfaction. Calling out particularly successful resolutions or positive customer feedback, for example, can help make agents feel like they're actually accomplishing something, rather than simply meeting KPIs, and that's key for implementing the corporate culture at large.


How have you extended your corporate culture into the contact center?

Today, large-scale data breaches are becoming increasingly commonplace.  It seems that, on an almost daily basis, we hear about the safety and security of sensitive consumer information (credit card and banking information, mailing and email addresses, user names and passwords, etc.) being compromised.regulations-compliance.png


So what does this mean for companies that regularly handle financial transactions?  Maintaining PCI compliance is a must.


The following resource guide outlines CallMiner blogs, industry news articles, videos, webinars, case studies, and whitepapers related to compliance in the contact center.  We hope it helps shed light on the importance of compliance for driving customer loyalty and brand reputation, in addition to avoiding costly fines and litigation.




This post originally appeared on CallMiner.