April 15, 2013 • By Ann Ruckstuhl
Tags — Angel, brand experience, Cloud Contact Center, consumer experience, contact center, contact center agent, CRM Magazine, customer experience, Customer Service, customer service agent, customer support, Integrated Agent Desktop, LiveOps, LiveOps Engage, mobile crm, multichannel, Nuance, social crm, social customer, Social Media, Voxeo
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at a roundtable event hosted by CRM Magazine on the topic “How To Build A Multichannel Support Environment.” During this time, my fellow participants, Voxeo, Angel, Nuance, and I discussed the need for brands to address their customers across all of their preferred communications channels, as well as what was needed to build a multichannel support environment.
Generation Y is the fastest growing audience and, according to a study conducted by Harris Interactive and LiveOps, Gen Y prefers to have multiple avenues available to them to connect with a brand. Although, at present, voice and email are the dominant methods of communication, chat, social media – Facebook and Twitter – and text are quickly gaining momentum. Today, this “trend” is quickly becoming the reality, and brands must comply by integrating multiple channels into their customer service platforms.
While today’s contact centers may claim to be multichannel, they are frequently segmented. Agents must toggle between several screens – five on average, but sometimes upwards of 50 – to find customer information and history, as well as the channel in which to communicate with the customer. Agents estimated they wasted 26 percent of their time searching for relevant data across different systems for each customer. Furthermore, the majority of agents work remotely, which translates to a multiple password nightmare. This work environment quickly becomes hell for an agent – “Alt-Tab Hell,” that is.
The most enthralling part of the webinar for me was when we broached the topic of the integrated agent desktop because this is a must for every brand that wants to do customer service well. This tool rescues agents from “Alt-Tab Hell” and provides them with all of the tools they need to serve customers efficiently and effectively. Agents now have quick and easy access to customer information and history, as well as the ability to pivot seamlessly from one communication channel to the next. An agent can instantly take a conversation offline and out of a public forum, such as Twitter or Facebook, to continue serving the customer on a private channel, such as phone – customers’ #1 preferred channel.
An integrated social, multichannel agent desktop empowers agents, which can lead to an estimated 50 percent increase in productivity, as well as 50 percent improvement in first call resolution and a 10 percent decrease in agent attrition. The result is cost savings for the brand on multiple levels.
In the end, it all comes down to this: A Better Agent Experience = A Better Customer Experience = Better Customer Lifetime Value. This truly is the formula for customer success. All you have to do is say goodbye to Alt-Tab Hell and hello to a social, multichannel solution. How can this be done? Here are five key steps you can take to help build a multichannel support environment for your brand:
- Understand your customers’ journey across multichannel touch points
- Re-align processes and skill sets to optimize customer experience
- Build the business case and strategy roadmap
- Arm agents and managers with the right cloud technology and tools
- Measure. Optimize. Repeat.
- Ann Ruckstuhl, SVP and CMO, LiveOps
March 18, 2013 • By Ann Ruckstuhl
Tags — brand experience, Cloud Contact Center, consumer experience, contact center, contact center agent, customer experience, Customer Service, customer service agent, customer support, Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, Integrated Agent Desktop, LiveOps, LiveOps Engage, mobile crm, multichannel, social crm, social customer, Social Media
It’s been said that what you see and hear depends a great deal on where you’re standing. In customer service, there are three players involved – the agent, customer and brand. As the provider of the first integrated, multichannel desktop, it’s essential to examine these three perspectives to better understand the state of customer service today.
- Happy Agents Equal Happy Customers: 92% of consumers report that an agent’s perceived “happiness” impacts their brand experience.
Agent happiness affects a customer’s experience, which affects brand loyalty. Most agents we spoke with believe they could increase productivity by 50% through an integrated multichannel agent desktop.
- Integrating Social Channels on the Desktop Is a Requirement: 85% of consumers feel that how a brand handles issues on their website or social channels is a good indicator of their quality of support.
Thanks to social media and mobile devices, customers are publicly communicating with brands more frequently. Agents need to be up to speed on all relevant customer interactions, meaning integrated channels on their desktop is key.
- Most Brands Fail to Provide Consistent Service Across Multiple Channels: 89% of consumers believe it’s important to be able to communicate with companies through any channel and still receive the same quality of response. However, 61% of social media users feel that brands failed to communicate with them effectively on these channels.
Through a multichannel desktop, agents can pivot seamlessly between channels, delivering a smooth, efficient experience.
- Live Agent Service, Regardless of Channel, Is Preferred Over Self-service: 90% of customers value the ability to communicate with a live person on any channel.
No matter what curveball technology throws at us, it’s doubtful person-to-person interactions will be replaced. Consumers appreciate ‘live’ channels for the perceived immediacy of resolution.
As a company deeply rooted in customer service for more than a decade, it was imperative for LiveOps to embark on this research initiative to understand the needs of the agent, customer and brand. In turn, we received priceless information to help design best-in-class contact center technology, such as LiveOps Engage. We are using this research to continue forward momentum, knowing what is needed to accomplish better customer service in this new era.
For more information on LiveOps Research, visit: www.liveops.com/liveopsresearch.
- Ann Ruckstuhl, SVP and CMO, LiveOps
March 05, 2013 • By Ann Ruckstuhl
Tags — Cloud Contact Center, contact center, contact center agent, customer experience, Customer Service, customer support, Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, Hypatia Research, Information Management, Integrated Agent Desktop, Justin Kern, Leslie Ament, LiveOps, LiveOps Engage, social crm, social customer, Social Media
It was once said, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. This saying holds true when it comes to the new era of customer service we’ve entered into.
The other day, I ran across an article on Information Management’s website that harkened me back to an issue we were addressing last year. The title of the article – “Social Monitoring Minus Interaction Misses Out on Potential” – first caught my attention because it’s hard to believe that most brands are still stuck in the “convincing” stage of social customer service. Here at LiveOps, we are in 100% agreement with Senior Editor Justin Kern’s statement on the importance of moving past social media monitoring, but why are brands so slow to engage on social media?
In his article, Kern references a report from Hypatia Research Group that found only 246 out of the 1,100 global organizations surveyed had social media software for customer service that enabled them to go beyond social media customer monitoring. Leslie Ament of Hypatia Research states that while the anecdotal information social media monitoring provides may be interesting, “if I were a CMO and I had to report to the board on why I spent six-figures on a social media monitoring system, I probably would not have my job for very long.”
What’s missing is the ROI from social customer service. What will it take to convince companies to move beyond investing in simple monitoring tools and truly recognize the benefits of a solution that provides advanced customer engagement features? If a customer compliment or complaint via phone doesn’t fall on deaf ears, why should a Tweet – especially when that Tweet plays into ROI in that it carries three times more viral word-of-mouth (WOM) influence than a phone call (source: American Express)? CMOs must recognize that social customer service ROI will be realized when they partner with customer service and contact centers across people, process and technology.
Case in point: A recent joint study conducted by LiveOps and Dr. Natalie Petouhoff evaluated three companies, the challenges they faced when it came to customer service, and the ROI on using an integrated agent desktop with native social customer service engagement capabilities. The end result? Agent productivity increased 25% to 50%. Agent “happiness” or agent “experience” improved 25% to 50%. First contact resolution, average interaction handling time, customer churn and customer lifetime value (CLTV) all improved significantly. One company estimated $8M in incremental profit a year based on agent productivity savings and incremental revenue associated with turning negative WOM into positive customer experiences and increased CLTV from proactive social engagement. That ROI speaks volumes!
So how can your company go from ordinary to extraordinary? It’s simple. Keep up with your customers, not only by going where they go, but also by engaging with them there. Become an extraordinary company by going that extra mile. I encourage you to visit our website to find out more about how you can leverage LiveOps to deliver extraordinary social, cross-channel customer service: www.liveops.com/engage.
Don’t just listen. Engage!
Recent Visit to the UK Begs the Question: How Do We Make Citizen-to-Government Interactions More Social?
Earlier this year, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, launched the United Kingdom’s Civil Service Reform Plan in which “digital by default” is a central theme for making public services more efficient by 2014. We’re honored to be a part of enabling this change. Technology from LiveOps has played a key role in transforming the communication choices in UK public service organizations, such as the Wokingham Borough Council and Royal Mail. The demand to deliver customer service better, faster and more efficiently has increased across the board. Over a third of UK citizens have already engaged with brands via social media. Now they are demanding even more communication choices, such as phone, e-mail, chat and even SMS.
Last week, we had the opportunity to attend two prominent UK customer service events – Excellence in Customer Service: Supporting Quality Public Services and Ovum Customer Experience Management Forum. At both events, I was able to address best practices for social and mobile customer service in public service organizations, as well as the changing customer service landscape in the UK.
In my keynote at the Excellence in Customer Service conference, I covered a number of topics regarding citizen-to-government exchanges and the increase in interactions within the social and mobile sphere. I also posed the question: constituents are discussing citizen programs and services on social and mobile channels, but is the government listening, monitoring and engaging with their constituents? I highlighted two of our lighthouse customers – Wokingham Borough Council and Royal Mail – that have effectively engaged with customers via new social and mobile communications channels. Both organizations have successfully transformed from the traditional to cross-channel customer service contact centres, allowing them to increase customer satisfaction, productivity and cost effectiveness. Wokingham Borough Council, despite being the worst funded unitary authority in the UK last year, achieved a 96 percent rating in the Top 50 Contact Centres for Customer Service and was named the number one council for the second year running. By implementing cross-channel customer support with LiveOps, Wokingham was able to gain productivity and deliver more services without increasing staffing.
UK public organizations are in the process of innovating their people, processes and use of technology to deliver better customer service. The public service sector has between 12 and 18 months to evolve their legacy infrastructure to an agile, multichannel platform. LiveOps is well positioned to help them with this evolution.
Every day through the LiveOps Platform and LiveOps Applications, we are helping enterprise and government organizations bridge the social divide with the tools they need to communicate directly with their customers via the social media channels they love. Implementing cross-channel customer service is leading a transformation in the way government organizations communicate with their customers.
We have enjoyed our recent collaborative efforts with prominent social strategist and evangelist, Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, and today, we strengthened our partnership with her even further. At CRM Evolution 2012 in New York City, I was fortunate to host a session with her on “Social Customer Service: The Pivotal Driver of the Social Enterprise.”
At the beginning of the session, we asked the audience a question that many companies ask themselves: Who actually owns social media? Is it the marketing, PR, sales, or communication department? We followed that question up with more questions: What if those departments worked together in identifying, engaging with, and retaining social customers? And what if the customer service department was the driver of the social customer? LiveOps, itself, challenges customer service to take the lead in creating a cross-functional team to turn social customer service into a strategic asset and differentiator for the company.
My colleague, Sanjay Mathur, stated in his last blog post that in order for organizations to take on this radically new breed of customer – the social customer – they, too, need to make a radical change. That change is collaboration. Internal teams must work together, more now than ever before, to deliver customer service the way customers want it. This means marketing, PR, sales, and communication departments need to coordinate effectively with customer support to ensure customer issues are managed properly. In turn, customer support needs to make sure they are tightly integrated with the influx of customer feedback on social channels. If the relationship between departments is efficient, and they are armed with the right technology and process to work together to manage customer interactions residing in the contact center, customers become happier and the company becomes happier.
August 13, 2012 • By LiveOps, Inc.
Tags — Barton Goldernberg, Cloud Contact Center, contact center, CRM, CRM Evolution, CRMe, Customer Relationship Management, Customer Service, ISM, social crm, Social Media
It’s a beautiful day in New York City, and we’re here attending the first day of sessions at CRM Evolution 2012. This event brings together customer relationship management (CRM) gurus and focuses on ways to improve how companies interact with customers. The reason we are more enthusiastic than ever to attend this year’s event is its focus on social. If you’re in the business of customer service, you understand the impact social has on consumers and the companies they engage with. It’s not a passing fad, but a “New Era,” which is an important topic we’ve been talking about since earlier this year when we added Facebook integration to LiveOps Social.
This morning, I had the opportunity to sit in on ISM Founder and President Barton Goldenberg’s presentation on “The New Era of CRM” and wanted to share my thoughts coming out of it. Barton explained that in order for CRM to be successful, companies must not only integrate people, process, and technology together to maximize relationships with customers. They must now also integrate social. Meaning, if they don’t up-level from the traditional CRM customer touch points and leverage the social customer touch point, others will.
Barton spent most of the session discussing how companies can gain customer insight by the tremendous listening capability now available through social channels. The challenge, however, exists in turning listening and intelligence into actionable engagement. This is where the power of many comes in. The cloud contact center has the resources, people, and might to engage with customers in a holistic way. Customers want options not only in their purchasing decisions but also in the way they interact with brands. Point solutions like traditional CRM or social CRM alone don’t always allow consumers to interact with a brand on the channel they prefer. We do.
Through the LiveOps Platform, we have blended the perfect mix of traditional CRM and social CRM into the customer service cloud contact center to increase satisfaction, drive loyalty, and create brand advocates for life. By doing so, LiveOps is powering a “New Era of CRM” where customers and brands engage in a two-way, real-time interaction on the consumer’s channel of choice. Say hello to the new the face of customer service.
One question dominated recent discussions in a Linkedin group I follow: “What department owns social media?” Most chime in with “marketing” or “public relations,” but it turns out this is the wrong question altogether.
“That’s like customer service asking marketing if they can use the phone to make a call,” industry expert Michael Pace told me. “Social media is a tool, not a function.”
Instead, companies should ask how you can deliver social media to those who need it, when they need it. Many automated social listening tools provide big-picture analysis, such as customer sentiment and keyword trends. But what about messages that require an immediate response, like customer service?
More than half of Twitter users expect a response within two hours of tweeting a complaint.
51% of Facebook users expect same-day response.
- Oracle report, Consumer Views of Live Help Online 2012
Customer support software developers, including LiveOps, have developed tools to solve this problem. Here’s how this technology turns social media listening into customer service action.
Prioritization is Key
As mentioned, one of the most difficult parts of socialized customer support is fishing out the most critical comments among the masses of information out there.
To overcome this challenge, LiveOps listens for any combination of the #CompanyName, @CompanyName or brand mention with customer service triggers like “help” or “need assistance.”
Then the technology applies a priority ranking based on a variety of factors, such as content, customer’s purchase history, and social activity level. A computer manufacturer company might, for example, place higher value on a key social media influencer or brand advocate who recently purchased ten laptops, and bump his help request to the top of the queue.
This priority scale completely depends on the company’s customer service strategy. At the same time, the provider should provide a dictionary of various prioritization options.
Service Needs to be Agile
“It’s important that all channels are treated with the same level of depth. This allows agents to easily pivot between each channel without any change in service.” – Sanjay Mathur, LiveOps Senior Vice President, Product Management.
Another common obstacle to efficient social customer service is process. If a complaint is submitted on Twitter, what’s the next step? Create a ticket? Respond in Twitter with a link? Send an email?
Not only does this make it difficult to respond quickly, it also provides a poor customer experience. LiveOps processes social media issues in the same way as tickets from any other channel. Once the social media complaint is identified, the software creates a ticket that shows up in the service queue along with requests from other channels. When they respond, it’s automatically pushed to Twitter, email or whatever channel makes sense in that situation.
Context is Crucial
If a community or social media manager is manually monitoring Twitter and Facebook, they won’t have the complete customer context on hand. As a result, they likely won’t flag a complaint as critical if the customer called the hotline, emailed three hours ago, and then tweeted, of example. They simply wouldn’t know their past points of contact. Similarly, they wouldn’t be able to identify loyal and high-value customers that might warrant a faster response than others.
Automated Routing Speeds Response Time
LiveOps also uses a rules-based interface to automate social message routing. The system can be configured to consider agent expertise, work group, current caseload, average time to respond, and service satisfaction rate. The platform might, for example, choose a top service-rated agent to handle a strongly negative issue.
Reporting tools also enable managers to constantly monitor response time, net promoter scores, satisfaction rates and more so they can fine-tune process and prioritization rules.
Research for this article was provided by Software Advice.
August 02, 2012 • By LiveOps, Inc.
Tags — cloud, Cloud Contact Center, contact center, contact center agent, Customer Service, customer support, customer support agents, LiveOps, multichannel, social crm, social customer service, Social Media, social media call center, social media contact center, social media support
Social media is disrupting customer care in ways that are both profound and difficult to predict. Not only do contact centers need to effectively manage voice, email, SMS, and chat traffic, they’ve also got to deal with tweets, wall posts, likes, dislikes, pins, blog comments, etc. This is an ever-expanding list of social media message types that grow in volume by the day. In short, the contact center is moving from merely chaotic to completely insane.
Until recently, contact center owners have had no choice but to deploy new social media monitoring systems that have no relationship with existing (and already disparate) contact services. Due to this, contact centers are becoming unmanageably complex, and customer support agents are being pigeonholed into unnatural specialties based on media channel type.
Fortunately, new technology solutions are emerging to address these problems. If you are in the market for new contact center technology, you should consider a vendor that supports all of the contact channels you need now and plans to expand coverage of new channels as they emerge. There are many reasons for this, and I’ll cover five of them here.
1) Support for Cross-channel Pivot Scenarios
Detecting social media activity related to your brand is important, but it’s only the first step; that initial @reply or direct message may not be enough to address the customer’s issue. You will need the ability to “pivot” from public forums like Twitter and Facebook to more private, interactive channels like voice or email. For example, you might want to provide a link in your direct message that generates a voice callback from a contact center agent, who then can directly address the problem surfaced in the original tweet.
Implementing the channel pivot capability using several disparate customer contact systems (one for voice, one for social media, etc.) can be incredibly challenging, but these scenarios are supported very naturally in an integrated customer engagement environment.
2) Keeping Up With Changes in the Social Media Landscape
Twitter and Facebook support are obvious requirements of any contact center solution now, but several years ago this wasn’t the case. Pinterest went from an unknown service to the 4th largest social network within months. Conversely, MySpace, the preeminent social network prior to the Facebook explosion, has gradually settled into near-irrelevance.
Social networks emerge, grow, contract, and explode in unpredictable ways; because of this, contact centers need to align themselves with innovative vendors that are focused on the ever-shifting tides of the social media waters. At LiveOps, we have developed a social media connector architecture that allows us to quickly connect to new social networks and use new capabilities of existing social media networks. For example, we recently added the ability to route new tweets to agents based on location data.
3) Providing a Unified Agent Experience
There’s no good reason that a contact center agent should need to use more than one desktop tool to service customers across different contact channels. In fact, switching between applications and browser windows can seriously impact an agent’s effectiveness. Because of this, convergence of desktop applications is often a high-priority IT goal.
Contact center technologies that support multiple contact channels have the opportunity to provide a consistent, rational user experience across those channels. In the case of LiveOps, contacts from multiple channels are displayed and manipulated using the same basic visual tools, with some special channel-specific tools displayed as appropriate (for example, ability to choose @reply vs. direct message when responding to a tweet). Also, agents can decide to service the customer using the original contact channel, or pivot to a more appropriate channel for the context.
4) Reporting Across All Engagement Channels
Historical reporting and real-time monitoring are among the most important functions of any contact center solution. Unfortunately, these reporting and monitoring needs are very difficult to satisfy in a multi-vendor environment. At the most basic level, matching customer and interaction records makes any data rationalization project problematic and often expensive, involving weeks or months of consultant time.
This is one area in which multichannel solutions shine brightest. Since all customer contacts are managed by the same platform, data is consistent by default. There is no need to spend time and money merging cross-channel interactions or customer records. With LiveOps, an agent or supervisor can see a customer’s cross-channel contact history instantly in a contact center dashboard, enabling a more engaged, effective customer experience.
5) Cross-channel Application Development
For every new technology a contact center implements, IT developers and consultants must take a new programming interface into account. Implementing voice call, email, and Twitter processing separately forces the IT application developer to write applications using three different APIs. This leads to higher development costs and longer time to deployment.
Compare this to a multichannel vendor with a single, consistent API. While developing a new CTI-driven application, for example, the application developer is also learning elements of the API that will be applied when integrating with the Twitter or chat channels. The contact center IT staff can build up knowledge of a single platform and apply it many times over.
As you evaluate vendors for your next social media contact center project, be sure to ask the question: “How can your product make my life easier?” If the answer doesn’t include simplification through multichannel support, you should really keep looking.
It is clear from Cloudforce London and the many LiveOps customers and partners that we met with that ‘Social CRM’, or social customer service is on the move in the UK. This was showcased in several case studies at the Cloudforce event.
Many of our customers in the UK are trailblazers in this area and have smartly leveraged our social-enabled cloud contact center software to deliver high quality customer service, and in the process, distinguished themselves from their peers. They are mixing ‘traditional channels’, like voice and email, with social channels like Twitter and Facebook, to provide a better 2-way and real-time interaction with their customers.
With LiveOps, Wokingham Council’s contact center now can service the borough’s 160,000 citizens through their preferred communication channels be it email, chat, voice, SMS or Twitter. By acknowledging social government through LiveOps, the council is ahead of the curve and has been able to deploy new services such as the traffic issue reporting service and the “Dog and Bone Text Alert Scheme”. Through the scheme, the council’s contact center can alert dog walkers via SMS when a dog has been reported as missing within the borough.
Through LiveOps Social, Royal Mail has improved public perception of the organization by delivering a deeper level of customer engagement. By responding to customer concerns on public forums such as Twitter in real-time, the postal service has accelerated “first tweet problem resolution”. Ultimately Royal Mail has demonstrated a true commitment to their customers by harnessing cloud-based customer services.
As the show concluded and the sun set over London’s Excel, it became clear that the social enterprise will continue to gain momentum in the UK and beyond. Hats of the trailblazers as they set the scene for the future in customer services!
- Marty Beard, President & CEO