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December has arrived, which means different things for different people. While many of us are gearing up to slow down and spend quality time with family and friends, retail companies are bracing themselves for the clamor and chaos of the holiday season. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday to Boxing Day, this season signals a momentous time when consumers across the globe are ready and willing to spend, spend, spend.

Since most companies can anticipate a significant peak in sales during the final few months of the year, they can also anticipate a spike in customers, and in turn, a big increase in service requests. Here are a few things every retail company can do to maintain a high level of customer service and ensure that the momentum gained is maintained this festive season both in-store and online.

On-Board Temporary Support

Simple math will tell you that if you’re doing double, triple, or quadruple the amount of sales you were last month, it’s unlikely that your existing customer service or call center team will be able to handle the spike in volume of inquiries. This is why it’s important to hire seasonal support staff for months where a higher-than-normal call volume is anticipated.

Another thing to consider is the quick and efficient education of this seasonal staff: Be smart and plan ahead: Put in place a protocol to find and on-board customer service reps as fast as possible. Prepare a training manual and ensure there is a management team in place to supervise and support the on-boarding process. You’ll be grateful to have all of this in place when the sales start pouring in!

Incentivize Your Customer Service Employees

The holiday season can be a difficult time for customer service employees. While many take this time to relax over the holiday season, customer service staff are busier and more taxed than ever. It is important for management to acknowledge this reality and find creative ways to recognize those working in customer service and call center roles. Managers can keep both morale and productivity high by incentivizing employees. For instance: Offer a paid day off in the New Year to the call center agent who closes the most amount of tickets in December.

Automate Repetitive Processes

There are many ways to make use of technology to help lighten the load of call center and customer service employees. Call-back technology at call centers prevents customers from waiting on hold for hours to speak to an agent. Live chats can use AI to answer basic questions from customers. Even a simple auto-response e-mail to let a customer know when they can expect to hear back from a company can be helpful; acknowledgement of a customer’s outreach in advance of resolving the problem goes a long, long way.

Set Up Self-Service Portals  

Just like automation, self-service portals can also help increase efficiency and lighten the load of call center and customer service employees. If customers are calling in with the same questions and concerns, consider setting up an FAQ section on your website to direct customers to. This section allows them to quickly locate answers to their questions. It also frees up customer service and call center agents to deal with more complex issues.

While all companies love to see a spike in sales, it’s important to recognize that this means that employing additional customer service support during these times is an absolute must. Companies should have protocols in place to ensure that call center and customer service employees have the support and resources they need to continue to provide great customer experiences. With a spike in sales, and a spike in customer smiles, your company will be unstoppable this season.

The Top Contact Center Trends to Watch in 2019

Become a contact center super hero in record time!

What’s Inside:

  • Gamification in the Contact Center
  • Investing in Agents
  • Voice-Powered Technology (VPT)
  • Cracking Down on Hold-Times
  • Social Media as a Contact Center Touchpoint
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Hero or Villain?

DOWNLOAD THE FREE 16 PAGE REPORT TODAY

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2018 has been a pivotal year for customer experience (CX). Industry wide, there is now a deeper understanding of CX as a multi-faceted, complex, incredibly important piece in the success (or failure) of any brand.

With this in mind, we’ve rounded up the most important and fascinating CX predictions for 2019, and provided our own thoughts on what they mean and how they will impact businesses in future. To stay at the top of your game in the year ahead, it’s essential to understand larger CX trends and how they are shaping our world and our industry. Read on as we detail five fascinating CX predictions to inform your 2019 CX strategy.

By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

United Airlines’ decision to forcibly eject a customer from an overbooked flight had all of the makings of a PR disaster. The cost of this mishap? A fall in the value of United’s shares that wiped $1.4 billion from the company’s $21 billion market capitalization. The lesson? Customer experience matters, a lot.

2018 officially kicked-off the race to own CX: 89% per cent of companies now compete on the basis of customer experience compared to 36% in 2010. This is no surprise: Companies now understand that ‘brand’ is more than a Don Draper-esque creative vision. Rather, companies that invest in customer experience have the opportunity to disrupt a competitor or gain market share in an industry.

By 2020, 30 percent of all B2B companies will employ artificial intelligence (AI) to augment at least one of their primary sales processes.

It’s common wisdom in sales that the more you know about the person you’re selling to, the more you’re able to tailor your offer to their circumstances, and the higher a chance you have of being successful. In this instance, AI will not replace sales people but support them in their daily activities: The technology could ask questions like, “Is today a good day to call company x?”, or provide personality insights that help improve communication with prospects.

25 percent of customer service operations will use virtual customer assistants by 2020.

This number is expected to increase from less than two percent in 2017. This trend is underpinned by vast improvements in natural-language processing, machine learning, and intent-matching capabilities. As capabilities of these chatbots grow, the expectation is that they will enrich the customer experience; help the customer throughout the interaction; and process transactions on behalf of the customer.

By 2019, 20 percent of brands will abandon their mobile apps.

There are many reasons that one in five brands are considering abandoning their mobile apps. This is likely because a number of brands did not understand the cost of getting people to engage with their app, and were caught up in the initial wave of “app-iness”.

The prediction is that brands will instead build their presence in consumer messaging apps (such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat) to reach customers in mobile spaces; after all, this is where they spend a good majority of their time. Given that 60 percent of consumers believe businesses should be available and responsive via messaging apps, this trend makes sense.

68 percent of online customer communities will be utilized frequently in 2020 compared to only 13 percent today.

Online communities can be a powerful resource for companies, as they allow customers to exchange ideas and best practices, and have a say in product features. Facilitating networking among customers is a great way to increase brand loyalty and help turn customers into advocates.

For an organization to successfully implement a CX strategy, regularly assessing and evaluating prevailing trends should be commonplace. The core tenet behind CX is that you are making your customers’ lives easier and better. This in turn can transform your business.

That’s a prediction we are happy to bet on.

The Top Contact Center Trends to Watch in 2019

Become a contact center super hero in record time!

What’s Inside:

  • Gamification in the Contact Center
  • Investing in Agents
  • Voice-Powered Technology (VPT)
  • Cracking Down on Hold-Times
  • Social Media as a Contact Center Touchpoint
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Hero or Villain?

DOWNLOAD THE FREE 16 PAGE REPORT TODAY

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HOLD EVERYTHING: The results are in.

Onholdwith.com, the Fonolo-powered site that mines Twitter for real-time complaints about being put on hold (and folks, there are many, many complaints), has today made its annual list of hold-time offenders available for all the world to see. And you may be surprised by who made the list.

OnHoldWith.com, launched by Fonolo a few years back, this year collected over a whopping 165,000 posts mentioning the phrase “on hold with” from Twitter. And as those of us in customer service know to a sobering degree, Twitter has quickly become a go-to platform customers use to shout about frustrating customer service experiences. The tweets informing the report this year confirm that: a) customers are increasingly turning to social media to publicly out companies for poor customer service handling; and b) a benchmark of this poor service is placing a customer on hold.

While the companies on this year’s top 10 list are doing exquisite things in their industries (and trust us, we are big fans of all of them), the results of this year’s report signal that brands could be doing things even better, starting with sprucing up their customer service offerings.

So, here’s a good question: Did your company make the list?

Before we go any further, let’s just get this out of the way:

*Rips open envelope*

For 2018, Verizon has been named the worst company to call, based on hold-time complaints from callers.

According to the 2018 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Telecommunications Report, customer satisfaction with call centers remains a ‘low point’ for the telecommunications industry and, like in the case of subscription television services, continues to decline: “Like all telecom industries, call centers are the worst part of the customer experience.” And, specifically for wireless service providers, “contacting customer service by phone is the principal pain point for customers.”

Last year, the Onholdwith.com report revealed Delta Airlines to have the highest instances of complaint Tweets about putting customers on hold. While the airline has dropped out of the number one spot in 2018, it still takes a prominent third spot on the annual list as a hold-time offender. The complete top-10 list of reported offenders is:

  1. Verizon
  2. Virgin Media
  3. Delta Airlines
  4. United States Postal Service (USPS)
  5. Telus
  6. Ikea
  7. PayPal
  8. AT&T
  9. Bank of America
  10. Apple

The data, collected over a 12-month period, revealed that customers phoning into call centers most frequently report waiting on hold with companies from the telecommunications, airline, and financial industries. Other industries, such as travel, retail, and shipping, were also identified in this report. The study also revealed the industries with the most significant hold-time offenders:

  1. Telecommunications
  2. Airlines
  3. Finance
  4. Retail
  5. Shipping
  6. Government
  7. Services
  8. Travel/Accommodations
  9. Utilities
  10. Electronics

There’s so much more to see on OnHoldWith.com, from humorous anecdotes to customer service horror stories. If you want to check out real-time statistics from social media-savvy customers waiting on hold, hop on over onholdwith.com/stats. Or, if you’re a business interested in eliminating hold-time forever (something we make happen every day, and see its positive power), read more here about Fonolo’s call-back solutions.

In the meantime: To all of our customer service friends, may you have a prosperous new year with limited hold-times. We hope *not* to see you on next year’s list.

The Top Contact Center Trends to Watch in 2019

Become a contact center super hero in record time!

What’s Inside:

  • Gamification in the Contact Center
  • Investing in Agents
  • Voice-Powered Technology (VPT)
  • Cracking Down on Hold-Times
  • Social Media as a Contact Center Touchpoint
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Hero or Villain?

DOWNLOAD THE FREE 16 PAGE REPORT TODAY!

Read Full Article
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Some quick history: 10 years ago, I attended a conference called Emerging Communications (eComm). It was an eccentric and inspiring collection of people focussed on the next chapter of voice and telecom technology. (It came on the heels of the “Voice 2.0” movement but with a broader vision.) The shared vision there was that a wave of innovation was coming because communication functionality would soon be as easy to access as web functionality (I’ll circle back to “the vision” at the end of this post).

eComm is now defunct but, if I recall correctly, one of the sponsors at their last show was a new start-up called Twilio. The term “CPaaS” arose a few years later, with Twilio leading the charge. The rest is history. But, in tech, nothing stays still.

What comes next?

TADSummit Presentation

I gave a presentation two weeks ago at TADSummit looking at how customer service tech (and call center tech in particular) is being built more and more on the same set of platforms. It made me realize that the vision from 10 years ago has been achieved – exceeded everyone’s expectations, actually – and now we’re through to the other side and thinking about what the disadvantages might be.

The deck is embedded below and you can listen to the talk that goes with it here.

The presentation pulls together ideas from these posts:

The Twilio / Amazon ‘Stack’ Will Dominate the Next Call Center Era

Amazon, Twilio, and Vonage Lead the Way to Pure Consumption Pricing

Vonage Acquires NewVoiceMedia – What Does It Mean?

Mega News Week in CPaaS and Messaging: Twilio, SendGrid, SignalWire

If you’ve read all of those, you won’t see much new material, but I tried to tie it together differently. The point was to assemble these ideas for a new crowd of ambitious thinkers and stir the pot.

What’s Next for CPaaS?

CPaaS is a victim of its own success. The founding principle was to free communications from the grip of the carriers. But now every carrier has a CPaaS offering.

The CPaaS definition is also getting broader. Twilio acquired SendGrid last month. Is email part of CPaaS? Well, it’s communications, so why not? Does that make all email providers CPaaS?

Speaking of Twilio, they’ve also been expanding into IoT. As a category, IoT has always suffered from a bit of a fuzzy definition, but one aspect everyone agrees on is that the “thing” in question has to be able to communicate. It’s the fact that low-powered, low-cost devices can send and receive messages that launched the whole IoT frenzy. So, maybe IoT is a subset of CPaaS?

CPaaS and Customer Service

Now that everyone has low-cost and programmatic access to communications, the focus moves to optimizing business outcomes. In the customer service realm, that means delivering a good customer experience at low cost. How do we balance phone calls with chat, with SMS, with proprietary messaging channels? What are the pros and cons of each?

I’ll be joining a great panel for an online discussion on November 29 (TOMORROW!) at 2pm ET / AM PT. The panel will include Thomas Howe from TenDigit, Roland Selmer from Vonage, and Tobias Goebel from SparkCentral. Register here, and check out the banner above.

Three Cheers for Meatspace

Circling back to the eComm conference: It had an outsized impact for such a small, short-lived event. There was a focus on ideas, even if they were far from being commercially viable. It pulled together a broad range of speakers, from students to senior execs. It encouraged me to focus on this space, and was the venue where we launched Fonolo.

I’m still in touch with many people that I met there. That group includes Alan Quayle, organizer of TADSummit /TADHack, which I see as a spiritual descendant of eComm. It also includes Dan Miller, organizer of the Conversational Commerce Conference, another high quality event. (I covered it here: What Does it Mean for Commerce to be Conversational?). It also includes two of the panelists for the hang-out I mentioned above. In fact, one can find members of the eComm “diaspora” in many influential positions around the industry.

It’s corny to say, but this speaks to the importance of human interactions, even in a technology-focussed industry. There’s no substitute for IRL conversations.

PS: We Love You, Fax

A few weeks ago, I ended a post with a jocular taunt: “Die faxes, die.” I was thinking to myself, who am I going to offend? Nobody likes faxes, right? Ahem. The same day as my talk at TADSummit was a talk by Howard Avner on his fax-by-API company. Hashtag karma.

Turns out fax is still vital in certain industries and geographies and – shockingly – a $2.8B market. As restitution for my bad attitude, I recommend everyone watch Howard’s presentation. (Slides here.) Fax is probably not relevant to you, but it’s good to get a perspective of how varied the world of communication technology remains.

[LIVE DISCUSSION]  Messaging vs Chat vs Texting: Battle for the Future of Customer Service

We’ll talk about:

  • Impact of Messages on Customer Service
  • Importance of Chat
  • Implications of Engaging through Text
  • Plus so Much More!

Who should attend:

  • VPs & Directors of Contact Centers
  • VPs & Directors of Customer Service
  • VPs & Directors of Web/Social Media
  • VPs & Directors of Customer Experience

The Panelists

Thomas Howe

CTO

Thomas is an expert in the design of innovative new communications services, particularly in the application of modern Web technologies to extend traditional telecom infrastructures.

Twitter: @howethomas

Tobias Goebel

Vice President Product Marketing

Tobias has over 15 years of experience in customer care technology and the contact center industry with roles spanning engineering, consulting, pre-sales engineering, and product management/marketing.

Twitter: @tpgoebel

Roland Selmer

Vice President Product

Roland Selmer is VP of CPaaS Product Management at Vonage. He leads product management for Nexmo, the Vonage API Platform. He has vast experience around building products for various startups and Telcos, mainly in the communications space.

Twitter: @rolandflyboy

Shai Berger

CEO

As a thought leader, innovator, and the CEO of Fonolo, Shai Berger is on a clear mission to educate the call center industry on how to improve the customer experience.

Twitter: @shaiberger

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Good customer service is crucial to the success of any business. It also happens to be one of the hardest things to ‘get right’, even for the most seasoned of brands. Imagine spending eight hours a day fixing problems you didn’t cause in the first place. Now imagine that your hands are tied in a million different ways and you’re unable to resolve the bulk of the customer complaints that are on the rise. This scenario is real, widespread, and is likely the reason for high attrition rates in the customer service industry.

This is why empowering a customer service team can be key to the overall success of any company. While we could go on for days about the benefits that come from giving your call center employees autonomy, here are the top three reasons you should actively work to support your customer service employees.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

The Ritz-Carlton is a prime example of a company that puts their money where their mouth is when it comes empowering their customer service employees. This hospitality company gives each employee up to $2000 (per guest!) to resolve any customer service complaint or even just provide them with a nice surprise for their loyalty to the brand. Now, you might be thinking: What kind of impact does this have on the company’s bottom line? Well, as it turns turns out, it has a great one, as the average lifetime value of a-Ritz Carlton customer is $250,000. The Ritz-Carlton is a large luxury brand, so while the numbers may not seem significant to a smaller brand, the concept can certainly be applied and scaled appropriately.

With policies like this in place, call center employees are given free reign to assist customers and even provide added bonuses when a customer has been particularly understanding or loyal. Imagine what just a small bonus (like a $50 credit) could do to diffuse a tense situation, making it less stressful for both employees and customers.

Better Customer Insights  

Call center agents are among the most important employees in any organization because they have a direct line to customers on a daily basis; they also have insight into the key pain points customers are experiencing and their feedback on the products and/or services being provided. This is why these employees should be part of monthly reporting meetings, product development, and general company strategy. If management is not tapping into this resource not only will customer service representatives feel undervalued, but the company will be missing out on valuable information collected from conversations with customers.

Improved Company Culture

Anyone who has worked in the service industry knows it can be a draining role. Dealing with angry and sometimes unreasonable customers requires patience and more than a few deep breaths. Call center agents certainly know this: In the customer service industry, they occupy a very special place as some of the most patient people in the workplace. Companies have an obligation to ensure that call center agents are recognized for the work they do in high-pressure scenarios to keep customers happy and loyal to the brand. Ensuring that, at the very least, call center agents feel empowered enough to do their job properly can go a long way to increasing employee satisfaction. This increased satisfaction leads to improved company culture and less employee turnover. It’s also true that employees who are passionate about the brand or company they work for are more effective at creating passionate customers. Basically: Everyone wins.

Customer service reps and call center agents deserve to be recognized for their patience and hard work. Moreover, they have a wealth of information to provide to management teams as the frontline employees who are interacting with customers every day. That’s why it is crucial that companies work to develop policies and practices that empower these employees. With these policies in place, companies can expect to see an increase in customer satisfaction, better reporting on customer feedback, and improved company culture.

[LIVE DISCUSSION]  Messaging vs Chat vs Texting: Battle for the Future of Customer Service

We’ll talk about:

  • Impact of Messages on Customer Service
  • Importance of Chat
  • Implications of Engaging through Text
  • Plus so Much More!

Who should attend:

  • VPs & Directors of Contact Centers
  • VPs & Directors of Customer Service
  • VPs & Directors of Web/Social Media
  • VPs & Directors of Customer Experience

The Panelists

Thomas Howe

CTO

Thomas is an expert in the design of innovative new communications services, particularly in the application of modern Web technologies to extend traditional telecom infrastructures.

Twitter: @howethomas

Tobias Goebel

Vice President Product Marketing

Tobias has over 15 years of experience in customer care technology and the contact center industry with roles spanning engineering, consulting, pre-sales engineering, and product management/marketing.

Twitter: @tpgoebel

Roland Selmer

Vice President Product

Roland Selmer is VP of CPaaS Product Management at Vonage. He leads product management for Nexmo, the Vonage API Platform. He has vast experience around building products for various startups and Telcos, mainly in the communications space.

Twitter: @rolandflyboy

Shai Berger

CEO

As a thought leader, innovator, and the CEO of Fonolo, Shai Berger is on a clear mission to educate the call center industry on how to improve the customer experience.

Twitter: @shaiberger

Read Full Article
  • Show original
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Good customer service is crucial to the success of any business. It also happens to be one of the hardest things to ‘get right’, even for the most seasoned of brands. Imagine spending eight hours a day fixing problems you didn’t cause in the first place. Now imagine that your hands are tied in a million different ways and you’re unable to resolve the bulk of the customer complaints that are on the rise. This scenario is real, widespread, and is likely the reason for high attrition rates in the customer service industry.

This is why empowering a customer service team can be key to the overall success of any company. While we could go on for days about the benefits that come from giving your call center employees autonomy, here are the top three reasons you should actively work to support your customer service employees.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

The Ritz-Carlton is a prime example of a company that puts their money where their mouth is when it comes empowering their customer service employees. This hospitality company gives each employee up to $2000 (per guest!) to resolve any customer service complaint or even just provide them with a nice surprise for their loyalty to the brand. Now, you might be thinking: What kind of impact does this have on the company’s bottom line? Well, as it turns turns out, it has a great one, as the average lifetime value of a-Ritz Carlton customer is $250,000. The Ritz-Carlton is a large luxury brand, so while the numbers may not seem significant to a smaller brand, the concept can certainly be applied and scaled appropriately.

With policies like this in place, call center employees are given free reign to assist customers and even provide added bonuses when a customer has been particularly understanding or loyal. Imagine what just a small bonus (like a $50 credit) could do to diffuse a tense situation, making it less stressful for both employees and customers.

Better Customer Insights  

Call center agents are among the most important employees in any organization because they have a direct line to customers on a daily basis; they also have insight into the key pain points customers are experiencing and their feedback on the products and/or services being provided. This is why these employees should be part of monthly reporting meetings, product development, and general company strategy. If management is not tapping into this resource not only will customer service representatives feel undervalued, but the company will be missing out on valuable information collected from conversations with customers.

Improved Company Culture

Anyone who has worked in the service industry knows it can be a draining role. Dealing with angry and sometimes unreasonable customers requires patience and more than a few deep breaths. Call center agents certainly know this: In the customer service industry, they occupy a very special place as some of the most patient people in the workplace. Companies have an obligation to ensure that call center agents are recognized for the work they do in high-pressure scenarios to keep customers happy and loyal to the brand. Ensuring that, at the very least, call center agents feel empowered enough to do their job properly can go a long way to increasing employee satisfaction. This increased satisfaction leads to improved company culture and less employee turnover. It’s also true that employees who are passionate about the brand or company they work for are more effective at creating passionate customers. Basically: Everyone wins.

Customer service reps and call center agents deserve to be recognized for their patience and hard work. Moreover, they have a wealth of information to provide to management teams as the frontline employees who are interacting with customers every day. That’s why it is crucial that companies work to develop policies and practices that empower these employees. With these policies in place, companies can expect to see an increase in customer satisfaction, better reporting on customer feedback, and improved company culture.

[LIVE DISCUSSION]  Messaging vs Chat vs Texting: Battle for the Future of Customer Service

We’ll talk about:

  • Impact of Messages on Customer Service
  • Importance of Chat
  • Implications of Engaging through Text
  • Plus so Much More!

Who should attend:

  • VPs & Directors of Contact Centers
  • VPs & Directors of Customer Service
  • VPs & Directors of Web/Social Media
  • VPs & Directors of Customer Experience

The Panelists

Thomas Howe

CTO

Thomas is an expert in the design of innovative new communications services, particularly in the application of modern Web technologies to extend traditional telecom infrastructures.

Twitter: @howethomas

Tobias Goebel

Vice President Product Marketing

Tobias has over 15 years of experience in customer care technology and the contact center industry with roles spanning engineering, consulting, pre-sales engineering, and product management/marketing.

Twitter: @tpgoebel

Roland Selmer

Vice President Product

Roland Selmer is VP of CPaaS Product Management at Vonage. He leads product management for Nexmo, the Vonage API Platform. He has vast experience around building products for various startups and Telcos, mainly in the communications space.

Twitter: @rolandflyboy

Shai Berger

CEO

As a thought leader, innovator, and the CEO of Fonolo, Shai Berger is on a clear mission to educate the call center industry on how to improve the customer experience.

Twitter: @shaibe

Read Full Article
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