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Wednesday, 04 June 2014 10:39

Top ten contact centre strategies

Top ten contact centre strategies

With a new breed of consumer making new demands on business, contact centres are having to radically change their approach to operations.


Interactive Intelligence recently discussed Top Ten Contact Centre Strategies with a European audience via a series of webinars, based on extensive experience in global contact centre technologies and strategies. The top strategies of successful contact centres rest on two key themes – the right staffing approach and the right tools. With these in place, operations are streamlined and customer service is dramatically improved.


The top ten strategic moves to improve contact centre performance are:

1. Audit Your System

The top factor in improving contact centre operations is to start with an audit of the existing system and processes. Contact centre management should assess whether the contact centre meets the current and future needs of the business, whether systems and processes are fast enough, whether unfixed errors are costing in terms of time, efficiency or morale. They need to determine whether the systems are optimising the benefits of innovation such as cloud, speech analytics and interactive recording. A full audit will highlight systems shortfalls that could be addressed to deliver immediate improvements in operations.


2. Full Review of Recruitment Practices

With staff key to contact centre success, it is important that the right staff are appointed at the outset, that their induction and training is carried out effectively, and that career and personal growth is supported. Contact centre management needs to ensure that it is fully involved in the recruitment process, asking the right customer service questions at interviews, and ensuring a comprehensive and appropriate induction programme. Management should also participate in staying and exit interviews and apply insights from these in improving staff relations.

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Published in Customer Service
Why you should focus on the core drivers of your success (and leave the rest up to others)

It seems that diversification is the order of the day. Medical aids are punting movie tickets and travel discounts, supermarkets are offering courier services and wi-fi is sold along with breakfast specials in coffee shops. The line extension trap is worrying, but it is also endemic of the myopic thinking that most companies have fallen prey to. One could argue that companies are so caught up in the business of producing goods and services that they’ve lost focus on the things that actually make people want to do business with them in the first place, frittering away money and time on resources entirely unrelated to the core driver of their success.


Small, start-up companies tend to outsource the elements that fall outside their scope of expertise, whether it is legal guidance, graphic design or technology, to those who do it best. But as they grow, they fall into the trap of assuming that they can replicate business success and cut costs by having expertise in every area. Ultimately, it takes more effort to develop a measure expertise in areas that are secondary to the core of the business than it is to remain focused on your strengths. It drains profitability and becomes a nightmare to manage.

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Thursday, 18 April 2013 12:02

Recordings: the contact centre security hole

Recordings: the contact centre security hole

The management and security of contact centre recordings tends to be sorely neglected, says Karl Reed, Chief Marketing & Solutions Officer at Elingo.

Most contact centres record voice calls and interactions, but few manage and utilise the resulting data effectively.


In line with legislation, and to protect themselves in the event of customer complaints and queries, most companies have recording systems installed in their contact centres. However, in our experience, recording is not among the top priorities for contact centres, and tends to be a ‘grudge purchase’. This is a mistake.


Installing ‘cheap and nasty’ off the shelf recording tools simply to record and store conversations defeats the object of recording, and leaves gaping holes in enterprise security and risk management.


Business tends to overlook the importance of the confidential information captured in the recordings, as well as its potential strategic business value.


Recorded data from customer voice calls, emails, faxes and SMSes contains a great deal of personal information about clients and their transactions with the enterprise. The potential losses and reputational damage if this data should fall into the wrong hands is huge. While most systems do include some form of tamper record, recorded data is simply not treated with the same levels of security as other enterprise data. Too many contact centres are vague on how the data should be stored and even the length of time the recordings must be stored for – even though, by law, some must be kept for up to ten years.


As enterprises increasingly offer contractual transactions via various channels – including voice and email – the voice or electronic communication has become the binding contract, making security, storage and management of these recordings increasingly important. It is becoming critically important that all recordings are monitored for action points or potential problems, and that these are attended too quickly.


Besides the data security issues, there is business risk and customer retention to be considered. Recorded contact centre data contains vast amounts of valuable information about customer sentiment, potential customer losses and even about the abilities of the contact centre team.


If the recording is not quality managed and integrated into other enterprise systems, there is every chance it will simply be stored, burying valuable insights in a virtual vault. Without effectively using this recorded data, the enterprise is left to rely on the contact centre agent alone as the face of the company, responsible for interpreting sentiment and flagging any concerns. When an agent is managing hundreds of calls a day, they may not be effective in flagging problems and retaining customers.


However, with a quality management team in place to analyse calls, in addition to word spotting functionality and alerts built into the system, the contact centre is able to thoroughly analyse the interactions and respond in a proactive way.


As enterprises look to expand their insights into customer sentiment, they may be ignoring the reserves of information they already have access to. By managing these insights correctly, enterprises can reduce customer churn, grow their customer bases and even respond more timeously to market demand.


Some contact centres are becoming aware of the need to better manage interaction recordings, but may delay upgrading to high-end integrated systems due to the investment required. It’s necessary to consider the costs of not doing so; as well as the potential return on investment in a system that allows the contact centre to deliver better service, increased customer satisfaction and improved business practices. Business management needs to understand how critical it is to maximise the recorded data, to enable a complete, 360 degree view of the customer, for ultimate business success.


Recording needs to be a lot more than a tick in the box. Considering the risk mitigation and customer insight value it can deliver, the management and security of recordings of all transactions, correspondence and conversations needs to be taken seriously.

Published in Security
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 12:40

Still acting on instinct?

Still acting on instinct?

The value of business intelligence in contact centres


Opportunity costs and inefficiencies are the certain lot of contact centres that do not have an integrated, real-time interrogative view of customers and business flows, and cannot trace the link of these variables to sales, service and, ultimately, profitability.

Published in CRM & Direct Marketing
Overcoming the big customer service problems in small call centres

Many businesses and call centres have come to wrap their heads around the concept of hosted technology, where a provider offers the customer affordable, pay-per-use access to technology, along with ongoing support and service.Essentially, hosted Contact Centres are based on the Software as a Service (SaaS) business model and eliminate the need for companies to buy, implement and maintain call centre technology.

But although we’ve seen an increase in companies using this service, I often hear the words, “We’re probably too small for this”, from businesses with smaller call centres. Ironically, smaller enterprises are often the one who stand to benefit the most.


Whether you have a call centre with fifty seats or five, it never pays to compromise on quality – quality that smaller enterprises would struggle to finance or manage if they attempt to do it on their own. IT skills would have be sourced and retained, software would require upgrading and purchasing, and any growth to the call centre would require intensive capital investment. In short, there is literally no competitive advantage to owning your own IT.


I recently heard about a small online business that ran into severe customer service problems – largely due to their call centre tech. They had moved to a new system and spend a good deal of time trying to sort out glitches. Emails and phone calls went unanswered, and customers grew frustrated. First-call resolution (FCR) is widely regarded as the single most important facet for achieving customer satisfaction in the call centre. Because customers had to resort to placing multiple calls or sending emails, their experience quickly became unpleasant and satisfaction levels started to plummet.


Within 2 months, they racked up more than 30 complaints on hellopeter.com, along with discouraging tweets and Facebook messages (that were visible to their 25,000 fans). Although they have very few seats, the impact of the technology issues clinched their decision to move to the hosted model – which meant that they could spend less time worrying about the technology failing, and more time attending to their customers and call centre staff, mitigating the damage.


Aside from the customer relationship management benefits of the hosted model, there are also significant financial benefits. With On-premises solutions, an increase in calls usually means an increase in costs, but this can lead to serious problems for companies working with a limited budget. Hosted Contact Centres allows for a single monthly price per seat, which includes support, upgrades and maintenance. As technology develops, the need for upgrading increases. Since companies only pay the monthly price of the seat, all necessary upgrades are taken care of by the hosting company. Therefore, there are no hidden costs and no problems with rolling out new releases.


There are also operational benefits to having a hosted solution. With On-premise solutions a company has to ensure they are able to operate at its peak at all times. When demand drops, that capacity can sit idle, costing the company money in maintenance and support.


There is no company “too small” to adopt a hosted model. No one should have to lose customers because their technology lets them down – quality technology is as crucial to a small company as it is to a large enterprise.

Published in CRM & Direct Marketing
Monday, 07 January 2013 12:44

Top six priorities for contact centres in 2013

Top six priorities for contact centres in 2013

If contact centres aren't preparing to embrace these six key trends, they have already fallen behind.


Too many contact centres have relied on tried-and-trusted technologies for too long. But emerging trends and technologies that have been on the cards for a while are becoming forces contact centres can't afford to ignore any longer.

Published in PR & Communications
Monday, 10 December 2012 09:52

Going against the flow – advice for entrepreneurs

Going against the flow – advice for entrepreneurs

Six years ago, Bruce von Maltitz and Jed Hewson were both working in the corporate sector – which had become a somewhat frustrating experience. “We could see where the technology was going, and realised that larger organisations were too large to deliver the niche services that were needed in the maturing hosted call centre market,” Von Maltitz explains. “We decided to take the plunge and become the best hosted call centre service provider in Africa – maybe not the biggest, but the best.”


The company is currently one of the leading providers of hosted telephony for contact centres in South Africa, providing affordable, pay-per-use access to world-class technology, ongoing support and consulting services to a number of large multinationals.


The company recently won the Frost & Sullivan award for Exceptional Entrepreneurship. Their advice for other budding entrepreneurs includes:


  • Remain agile


Part of the reason we moved away from the corporate environment is because we wanted to get rid of the red tape, rules and regulations that slow down large enterprises. We wanted to make it easy for companies to do business with us, and not the other way around.


  • Get your product offering right first


Initially, we spent most of our time and money developing a solid technology and making sure that the offering we were taking to market was complete. This helped us in the long run, because once we had the solutions in place, we could focus on growing our client base rather than adjusting the technology or fixing bugs. We were able to offer a working, complete solution to customers.


  • Be an expert


Our success comes from knowing our business inside and out. Strive to be the best at something, rather than a jack-of-all-trades. Keep your focus and grow your expertise. We found that being a niche, specialist provider trumps being the biggest in the business every time.


  • Know your clients


Our key differentiator is service. We sit down with our clients, discuss their situations, and offer insight into both technology and business – because we understand both sides of the coin. We aren’t in the business of dropping off a product-in-a-box and disappearing - we support our customers every step of the way.


  • Outsource what you don’t need


Part of our offering is the fact that we completely take care of the technology, affording the call centres the opportunity to focus on what they do best – running a call centre. We follow the same philosophy by outsourcing certain functions that we don’t see as core drivers for our success. That way, we can focus on keeping the clients happy, rather than motivating staff in various departments. A streamlined business is an effective business.


  • Accept that it’s going to be expensive


Successful businesses are going to cost you money and the more successful you are – the more money it’ll take. When entrepreneurs start out, they tend to forget that. Yes, successful businesses make money, but you have to be prepared to keep plowing that money into the company to make sure it keeps growing and remains the best at what it does. Don’t expect to get rich quickly and don’t measure success by the amount of dividends you get paid. Be passionate about what you do and be willing to sacrifice if needs be – the rewards will come later.


1Stream has the capacity to effectively service start-up call centres with as few as 10 seats, as well as large multinationals such as Amazon.com and wonga.com. They have offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town and can be reached on www.1stream.co.za

Published in Economy
Monday, 05 November 2012 17:08

The year it all starts coming together

The year it all starts coming together

The coming year will be characterised by convergence and simplicity: in devices, software, and how companies interact with their customers.  Everything points to a massive change coming.


We’ve seen significant shifts in technology and how it’s used over the past few years. But soon the impact of these developments will hit us, and we will realise the way we live and work has changed completely.


Ahead of 2012, Elingo expected certain trends to develop, and these forecasts were borne out in a big way.


The evolution of devices

A key prediction was that tablet computing would come to the fore. This turned out to be one of the biggest growth areas of the year; and it is showing no signs of slowing down.


In fact, tablets and larger smartphones are going to become increasingly prevalent as the desktop PC slowly disappears from the workspace.  As people cut back on the number of devices they use, we will see more convergence and evolution occurring in these devices – laptops will merge with tablets and tablets will overlap with phones, resulting in new all-in-one devices that streamline computing.


And consumer demand will result in the same convergence in the app and software space as people seek simpler, more streamlined ways to work.


Global vendors are preparing for this wave. Microsoft, for example, ahead of the Windows 8 release, is enabling an environment where one operating system will function in the same way across multiple devices.


The rise of the road warrior

This change in computing is coming on the back of a steadily increasing road warrior workforce.  Not long ago, mainly salespeople were on the road. Today, enterprises want their entire workforce enabled for mobile productivity. You’re seeing everyone from sales and marketing to support and financial clerks going mobile and using devices like tablets to connect to the enterprise from their customers’ premises.  


Empowering the mobile workforce means equipping them with efficient mobile devices with serious processing power and the ability to access their enterprise systems and desktop tools from anywhere, at any time.


In the quest for a more streamlined and flexible working environment that allows for this, we will see greater interoperability in both the hardware and software arenas.  Inevitably then, proprietary systems will become a handicap, and cloud applications will proliferate, making integration and seamless workflow become the norm.


Social media reinvents the enterprise

The coming together of previously separate entities is a trend that is impacting the relationship between enterprises and their customers too.


As we predicted last year, social media use has increased dramatically, and we see no signs of this slowing down. Social media has united and empowered billions of people around the globe, and these individuals expect to be able to interact with enterprises in the same direct and immediate way they can connect with the world.


Social media will revolutionise the way enterprises – specifically contact centres – are run, as consumers demand direct and immediate access to companies, using a channel they prefer.  This is changing the way executives respond to consumers too: the lines to top management, which were once non-existent, are now opening up.


We are seeing local contact centres embarking on major shifts from call centre to multi-channel contact centre to cater for this new demand.  This move benefits consumers, who now have direct access using the channel of their choice, but it also benefits the contact centre, which is able to use the vast amount of information residing in social media platforms to identify each customer and gather important data about them.  Payment via social media is a relatively new development that will likely show steady growth over the next few years.


A brave new world

In recent years, we’ve seen some significant shifts we may not have been aware of. But technology has matured, the way people interact has changed and everything’s coming together to cause a sea of change in the way people exist.  We’re entering a new era, in which individuals and enterprises are more empowered and more connected, and innovation thrives.

Published in Technology
Friday, 26 October 2012 12:45

The Power of the cloud collective

The Power of the cloud collective

The cost-cutting advantages of cloud computing are well-publicised and accepted. Which company wouldn’t relish the prospect of paying only for the services they use or adjusting consumption up and down according to business needs? Of course – it is not without its pitfalls.


Simply put, no single cloud provider can deliver all the cloud services a business might want to procure, which means that there is often a need to use multiple vendors. And these vendors, if they are attuned to the marketplace, have to make sure that all they are able to integrate and accommodate a variety of in- and outsourced systems and keep all the moving parts working together effectively.


Gartner has said that the various systems that support technology are becoming as important as the technology itself, predicting that mash-ups, joint projects and integration will dominate the market. After all, businesses are finding that they need the ability to speak to their customers and access information across a variety of technologies. We’ve already seen that time-constrained technologists are composing applications and programs through collaboration and mashups, as opposed to creating them from scratch. Collaboration in the cloud is particularly powerful.


We’ve seen the success of integrating our own platform from Interactive Intelligence with Salesforce.com. Part of the reason we chose to do this was because Salesforce is, in all likelihood, the most popular CRM product in the world – with trends companies predicting that they will have captured 25% of the market within the next five years. But mostly we decided to integrate because we believe in the power of using cloud-based CRM programmes.


For one thing, we want customers to buy into the concept of running at least part of their business in the cloud. If Salesforce doesn’t turn out to be what you need, you can switch it off at the end of the month and change it to something else. You can’t do that if you’ve made a huge upfront capital investment in a system. And for us, integration was virtually effortless. It was simply a matter of downloading a pre-packaged integration application from their app centre.


We want to create a world where companies run in the cloud – without expensive data centres, complex upgrades or on-premise software. All of this, of course, integrated with social channels like Twitter or Facebook that allow businesses to tap into the wisdom of the crowd and gain new insights into what their customers are thinking.


As cloud computing continues to gain momentum, buyers and providers of outsourced services have to take note of the actions they will have to continue to take in a world where the cloud business model continues to permeate all aspects of enterprise. It is important to choose the right solution and service delivery model, since it influences everything – basic set-up of the technology, operation, trouble-shooting, quality assurance and technology refreshes.


In the end, cloud services need to be understood, supported, deployed and managed by competent partners. By choosing a partner with a service-centric, consultative approach, customers can be sure that core issues such as their call routing and queues are set up with the help of the experts, reports deliver the best possible analysis for their business type and goals, and their system functions with optimal quality and productivity.


This again proves the argument for making use of a hosted cloud service platform that provides a single point of contact and an end-to-end solution that includes integration into company systems.


There are many ways in which to fail at the risky business of setting up and running a call centre. Partnering with the right platform provider is one way of ensuring you don’t fail before you’re even out of the gates.


Published in Software
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 00:00

Cloud-based contact centres of the future

Cloud-based contact centres of the future

How hosting enables customer responsiveness in small business

With instant gratification a fact of everyday life, a strategy of customer-centricity is a hallmark of competitiveness. Market leaders employ cutting-edge technologies that connect them more closely with their customers, enable a better understanding of their needs and allow shorter response times.

Published in Mobile
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