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Untitled.jpgThe Takeaway: Customer experience objectives should take precedence over technology when aiming for customer engagement optimization.


It's a simple question with a complex answer: What's the best way to improve the customer experience at your company? An obvious step in the direction is to optimize customer engagement. A recent survey found that "improving the customer experience" was the most common business objective among corporate leaders - but determining how to go about achieving this goal is not nearly so straightforward. As they consider different approaches and solutions, it is very easy for companies to lose sight of what really matters.


To make sure that customer engagement optimization remains the focus, you first need to identify your customer experience priorities. That requires taking a thorough look at the different types of customer interactions which occur throughout the organization.


Technology Is the Means, Not the End

Arguably the biggest misstep that companies make in this area is pursuing technological solutions as if they represent the final goal, rather than a means to an end.


This issue isn't limited to the contact center or customer engagement optimization - it crops up in countless areas. Writing for Forbes, customer experience expert Adrian Swinscoe noted that this kind of approach can lead to misguided thinking in the realms of big data, artificial intelligence and more. "I find myself wondering if we should be wary of getting lost in the technologies and their possibilities and whether we should try and mitigate against this by focusing on what we want our businesses to achieve," he wrote.


Instead, Swinscoe emphasized that companies need to identify their objectives first, and only then move on to choosing and deploying technology tools after those goals.


Establishing Priorities

With that in mind, it's important for decision-makers to look at how their clients are engaging with the company and identify the aspects of the customer experience most in need of improvement.



Addressing this topic, Harvard Business Review recently offered a tiered approach to recognizing customer engagement priorities:

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  1. Customer pain points: The most important goal should be to make every customer interaction as smooth and problem-free as possible. If there are any types of engagement causing user frustration, then the priority must be to find a way - which may or may not involve upgrading to a new technology - to alleviate these issues.
  2. Advanced customer service: If there are no obvious problems, the next priority is to identify ways of going further - reducing average call wait times below an acceptable threshold, for example.
  3. Get personal: Once that's been achieved, the next step in customer engagement optimization is adding personalization into the customer experience. Customized advertising based on an in-depth customer analytics solution would be one potential application.


Obviously, reaching that third and final level of customer engagement optimization is a tall task for many organizations, requiring a long and serious commitment to improving the customer experience in just about every possible capacity. Yet that is precisely what companies need to do in order to gain and maintain a competitive customer service advantage, which is itself becoming an increasingly important differentiator.


Technologies such as customer engagement analytics will inevitably play a major role in achieving these goals, but business leaders can only make the right analytics and other IT decisions after they've identified their concrete customer experience improvement priorities.


What steps is your company taking to upgrade the customer experience?


CallMiner Eureka_edited.jpgThe Higher Ed Growth team joined top customer engagement professionals for CallMiner’s Listen 2016 earlier this month. Our company has attended for years and this event stood out in many ways.


For one, it was bigger. With 40 percent more attendees, customer engagement is clearly building momentum. It’s a reflection of the industry and a growing need for automation, robust analytics engines and a deeper understanding of end users.


More and more are seeing the benefits of automating reporting and scorecards. And Listen 2016 was an opportunity to share those benefits and the steps taken for validating and calibrating deployments with one another. Everyone had their own individual journey to contribute — a Eureka moment, of sorts — but there seemed to be a common foundation: building.


Building the Right Team

Companies rolling out speech and interaction analytics for the first time can enjoy many immediate advantages, but will also need to consider the changes to long-standing company roles, team member responsibilities and overall dynamics. From agents to leadership, these new tools impact every layer of the organization. It’s critical to build the right team and provide proper on-boarding.


Here are some of the changes to consider: Calls will no longer need to be manually reviewed, which saves time and allows for resources to be focused in other areas. Reports now reveal agent and lead sentiment, which offers contact leaders another layer of understanding and provides opportunity for additional communications training. Engagement knowledge also allows businesses to better forecast and mitigate issues before they arise, which means processes may need to shift accordingly. All of these efforts add up to increased performance and positive outcomes.


Building Scores

Eureka Version 10 was rolled out during the event and has given CallMiner’s Building Blocks tool new utility and additional functionality. Anecdotally speaking, we’ve been using the new version in our higher education marketing technologies since September and have seen a significant improvement to customer experience, school matching and enrollment rates. Prior to Eureka 10, we were at an 86 percent student-to-school match success rate. Now, we’re at 95 percent. It’s become easier to create and locate specific categories that we want to build, and ensure our scorecards are flagging correctly.


Building Collaboration

Featuring several round-table discussion formats, Listen 2016 seemed to focus on collaboration more than ever before. The sessions ranged from compliance best practices to real-time monitoring. We certainly got a lot out of the discussions, and the implementation conversations seemed especially helpful for first-time users. Most, if not all, walked away with answers to individual implementation questions — knowledge that could be put to use right away after the event.


Listen 2016 captured everything that CallMiner and its tools do so well: provide new ways to harness and understand data. Optimize processes. Solve problems. Without a doubt, analytics professionals and attendees not only gained new techniques, but a new perspective on their customers — and businesses.


About Higher Ed Growth

Higher Ed Growth (HEG) is a full-service marketing agency specializing in post-secondary education. HEG uses proprietary technology to deliver targeted enrollment leads to for-profit and nonprofit education clients. In addition to lead generation, HEG offers services such as white label software solutions, inquiry management, enrollment analytics, and search engine optimization – with the ultimate goal of boosting enrollment and retention numbers for clients. HEG was named one of the Best Places to Work in 2015 by Phoenix Business Journal. The company was also featured in Inc. Magazine’s list of 5,000 fastest growing companies in the US in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

bigstockphoto_Beautiful_Hotline_Operator_2440618.jpgI see a lot of chatter on my various social feeds around Average Handle Time. The major thrust of the communications is that AHT is now useless as a metric for anybody other than planners and to understand how effective you are at transacting with customers it’s all about measuring Customer Experience (CX), having effective customer journey maps and measuring NPS or some other Voice of the Customer Metric.

I am not usually one for blogging, however, whilst I don’t disagree with the importance of CX and having effective customer journeys, I do not believe that AHT is a resource planning metric only and offer my view that organisations should really be tracking AHT as a measure of CX. Let me explain.

In any contact centre the ability to handle calls efficiently and effectively impacts both operating costs (and bottom line) and the CX. Within our space at CallMiner, Interaction Analytics, I am constantly amazed as the opportunities that are presented to organisations to gain real insight into what is actually happening when consumers/customers are talking to the organisations who provide products and services to them. In almost all cases there are great opportunities to understand the AHT and so improve the CX. It’s not always the case that analytics points to opportunities to reduce AHT either, sometimes the opposite is true.

Some examples

1.      Why are customers calling you in the first place? Analytics will help to identify call reasons and can point to problems or issues on the customer journey downstream, which if addressed meant the call did not need to happen in the first place.

2.      A customer shared with us recently they did a pilot for a new project, product and process and were surprised when their assumption that lower AHT would result in optimal outcomes, was proven wrong. In fact, their analytics revealed that their best customer contact outcomes were almost two minutes longer than calls with less ideal outcomes! They discovered the agents who took more time explaining the virtues of the product or service, setting the right expectation for the process and closing the calls properly had higher close rates, lower cancelation and less compliance risk as well.

3.      We see examples of clumsy call flow, unnecessary transfers from one agent to another, the agents lacking the training to be able to handle objections quickly and effectively, hold or silent time whilst the agent does a look up of data that should be readily available, confusing verbiage on the agent script that requires repeating and confirming, poor audio quality, agents speaking too quickly and needing to repeat themselves regularly. These unnecessarily drive up AHT.

4.      Absence of objective training and development. Traditional QM sampling might only uncover a very small element of what is really happening on the calls. Unless you can analyse 100% of the audio and provide objective feedback to each agent based on consistent trends, you will never really be able to improve the agent interactions and the overall contact centre performance.


Organisations who address these insights get optimum AHT, frictionless CX and operational savings.


So in summary, AHT does matter. Great CX depends on reducing customer effort and one element of this is the time it takes them (and you) to get what they need done. There are opportunities to optimise AHT but these opportunities might not be visible without effective analytics. Only by understanding what is happening on your customer interactions will you really be able to positively impact both CX and AHT. I would suggest that having effective interaction analytics is the key to bridging the AHT and CX conundrum. Without analytics maybe AHT remains a domain of the resource planners only, with analytics it takes on a whole different perspective

Holiday_Stress-e1418683100217.jpgThe holiday season can be really stressful and that only increases the challenge of keeping your employees engaged at work, here are a few reasons why employees may be stressed:


1. Companies push their employees harder to meet year-end goals, yet often fail to give them adequate recognition.


2. Kids are out of school, making a mess of the nicely organized schedule. Leaving employees hastily trying to arrange child care.


3. Employees are thinking about friends and family members who may have passed away or are not in town, leaving them reminiscing or melancholy.


4. Workloads can get heavier as co-workers take time off.


With less than 30% of employees engaged at the best of times, it’s critical not to lose focus of employee appreciation and recognition during the stressful holiday season.


How can you maintain or even increase employee engagement in such tricky circumstances? One of the best ways is to ramp up the utilization of employee recognition best practices and reinforce positive relationships between employees and employers.


Here are a few tips on how to improve employee recognition during the holiday season:


Know what makes your Employees “tick” An Ernst & Young survey of global workforces reported that one-third of employees found maintaining work-life balance is getting more difficult. During the holidays, employees have extra demands on their personal time, so maintaining work-life balance gets even more challenging. One option to illustrate your care for employees well being during the holiday is consider their working preferences during the holiday period, such as offering flex schedules and the ability to work remote. Also, promote peer recognition particularly when it comes to employees covering their co-workers time off.


Share Company Goals and plans for the holidays Make sure employees understand the “destination”. Inform employees on year-end goals and communicate your guidelines and policies for schedule flexibility. Healthline research found that 62 percent of people feel very stressful or somewhat stressful during the holidays. The more transparent your organization is about year end goals and the more they give employees recognition for successfully meeting them, the more your workforce will believe your organization values their effort.



Collaborative activities Sponsor holiday activities that encourage your employees to collaborate as a team, such as planning a holiday party or charity event. A fantastic way to do so is to allow employees to leverage their Employee Recognition Points to donate them to a charity and support people in need. This is a powerful intrinsic motivator.


No denying it! Do not avoid recognizing the holiday’s because you think it will disrupt business. It will be more of a disruption and is likely to create employee resentment, says Bob Nelson, president of Nelson Motivation and author of “1501 Ways to Reward Employees.” Acknowledge the holidays and celebrate with festive mood. The holiday period is a great time to recognize people who “give” of themselves or donate their time to decorate for the holiday season to enhance the holiday cheer.



Use Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivator’s Giving a nice pair of wool socks is a nice gesture, however it doesn’t do much to increase employee engagement.  An employee engagement program focused on recognition and rewards that tap the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators allows employees to recognize each other for work contributions and successes throughout the year, and especially during the holidays. It also broadcasts achievements to the entire company, boosting morale up and highlighting employee accomplishments on a daily basis.


Employee recognition should not be reserved for just the Holiday Season. Businesses need to continue employee engagement efforts throughout the year to keep employee morale high and the appreciation momentum strong. Employees want to feel recognized every day. If employees recognize each other throughout the year they will feel valued and motivated. The workplace then has the momentum to no longer contribute to the stress of the holiday season but can become a highly engaged sanctuary for all employees.

1.jpgFidoTrack’s first blog in Engagement Optimization revolves around a simple employee emotion but one that is incredibly absent in today’s workplace; happiness. One can argue about the reasons why it is important or why it is missing, however what is ultimately an undisputable net result of employee unhappiness is disengaged employees.


So why should managers or owners really care if employees are happy at work? Really, employees just need to show up, butts in the seat and do what they are told right?


The old Personnel Department’s and Human Capital Management 1.0 focused on just keeping track of their employees without a real strategic commitment or result. In addition, the Command and Control approach assured that the information train was Top Down. However today, true industry leaders have migrated to Human Capital Management 2.0, where Employee are truly at the CORE and information is flowing in all directions.


From the looks of it, there's certainly room to improve on the happiness factor. A recent Gallup survey found only 13% of all employees are engaged at work, meaning the vast majority of working adults don't enjoy their work. By one recent measure, this costs US businesses $450 billion annually. Looked at another way, poor worker engagement is an opportunity for companies to boost their productivity by investing in employees' welfare and workplace happiness.


Much like Bob Dylan’s song “The Times They Are a Changin’ “, companies who understand that happy employees are engaged employees and engaged employees ultimately are more productive and generate less costs are becoming industry leaders. Our friends over at SnackNation assembled a cool infographic illustrating why it's important to build a thriving organizational culture that drives employee engagement.




About FidoTrack

We are located in the Green Mountains of Vermont, on the shores of Lake Champlain where we also have a tremendous view of the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Vermont is not easy to get to but a real cool place once you are here… so we stayed!


Many years ago we were Call Center Operators ourselves, using several different systems and software solutions to power our call center. It was not cost effective, it lacked flexibility and we were not able to make real time decisions hence hindering our production. We knew it wasn’t ideal, but we basically just "dealt with it".


We finally got fed up and decided to develop our own solution. The result was software that removed the IT headaches, it was pliable, lightening fast and certainly cost effective.


So we said good-bye to Call Center Operations and made our Company’s mission to offer Fidotrack as an elite Call Center Productivity Software that powers call centers around the globe. Proudly today we serve Fortune 500 Corporations as well as small centers that are just starting out in the business.


In Vermont we have some things we are known for; skiing, dairy and maple syrup. At FidoTrack we are working on adding another reason to love Vermont.

1.jpgLast week, CallMiner hosted our eighth annual LISTEN user conference and customer engagement analytics event.  LISTEN 2016, which took place at the beautiful Opal Sands Hotel in Clearwater Beach, Florida, featured sessions, keynotes, and roundtable discussions on speech analytics, customer experience, call center efficiency, and more.


At its core, LISTEN is an event designed to bring together executives and data analysts from top organizations who are using and benefiting from speech analytics.


Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways and highlights of LISTEN 2016:




This post originally appeared on CallMiner.