Customer Experience, Learning & Training, Technology, Work

How to Train Your Agents for the Next Generation of Contact Center Work

Since the dawn of time, humans have used technology to improve the way we live. From our earliest forays into fire-making to building the first cars, it’s human ingenuity which has helped us take raw materials around us and transform them into new inventions to make our lives easier.

In the present day and the realm of the contact center, we’re on the cusp of widespread adoption of a new technology. One which holds the promise to make business faster and easier, for us and for our customers – and that’s through automation, with Chatbots leading the fore.

Any technology requires human skill and knowledge to make it work. Even those first humans making fire needed to understand how friction could be transformed into sparks, applying their abilities in combination with materials to produce those first licks of flame.

Just because a technology is advanced, doesn’t mean it can create or maintain itself, and Chatbots are no different. Behind every great Chatbot experience is a great human – someone who can design a service which effectively meets customer needs, and who grows the bot’s capabilities over time through testing and feedback.

Despite all of the hype and excitement around Chatbots, there’s often little said about the humans behind the bots. What sort of people are building bots? What skills do they require? And what do contact center leaders need to do to find, grow and nurture these people to help their centers get ready for automation?

To help answer these questions, I’ve called on Comm100’s resident Chatbot expert, Matthew Jinks. Matt has been instrumental in building our own chatbot on our website, as well as helping companies around the world get great results from their chatbot implementations, so he’s well qualified to share what’s needed to nurture a budding bot building specialist.

Hi Matt! What got you interested in building and training chatbots?

I liked the idea of working with emerging technology. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of AI, and I thought it was a great opportunity to expose myself to something which will probably play a growing role in our lives moving forward.

Personally, I don’t like waiting for service for something simple. Waiting on the phone for 20 minutes to update my billing address when I move is a waste of my time. If more businesses offered bots for functions like this, I would jump at the opportunity to use them. That being said, I know there are a lot of interactions which shouldn’t be automated, and I wanted to develop something which frees up agent time to handle those more complex and sensitive interactions.

Are specific technical skills or knowledge, like coding, for example, needed to build and train chatbots?

There are a lot of great software companies out there who make it easy for non-technical people to build chatbots, without needing to code. If you’re implementing sophisticated chatbot functions like account management or order taking, this side would normally be handled by an IT team. But for the bulk of the building and ongoing training of a bot through an established chatbot platform, this doesn’t need to be handled by people with an IT background, and someone without a lot of technical skill could definitely get to grips with the work.

What about specific personal attributes and attitudes which are likely to gear bot builders up for success?

The bulk of the work that needs to be done when building a chatbot is researching which questions your customers are asking, identifying which ones can be automated and then crafting clear and concise answers. This work is ideal for someone with strong communication skills, who enjoys understanding customer behavior, and a passion for delivering great customer experiences.

It’s a plus if a person enjoys systems-oriented thinking. Sometimes customers ask questions which require the bot to ask clarifying questions before it can return a proper answer. For complex interactions like this, it’s best to map them out beforehand, so you understand how to get the customer where they are trying to go to as quickly as possible.

What’s most interesting or rewarding about working with chatbots?

When I deploy a new chatbot or significantly upgrade one, I read all of the bot’s conversation transcripts to see how it’s doing. There’s no real need to do this since we have analytics and learning components that tell me where the bot may be falling short. But seeing someone come in with a query or service request and having it successfully handled by a response or workflow I’ve created is really satisfying. You put in all this work and thought into the chatbot, but never know whether customers will like it or not until it’s deployed. It’s great when that work pays off.

What advice would you give to a contact center manager looking to help an employee take on chatbot responsibility?

Give them time to understand the technology. The more their skillset grows, the more complex interactions they’ll be able to design. This is an emerging technology, and there’s a lot to learn. If you let the person handling your chatbot deployment invest time and effort into understanding the technology, you’re going to have a much better internal SME and an even better chatbot deployment.

Understand that they probably won’t get the whole thing right on the first go-around. Test out your chatbot thoroughly internally before launch, keep fine-tuning and making things better. Be patient, because the rewards for doing this task well are immense.

Thanks, Matt for your time and insights!

Automation promises to change the working world fundamentally, and our contact centers are no different. McKinsey state that by 2030, as many as 375 million workers – around 14% of the global workforce – may need to switch roles as digitization, automation, and advances in AI change the way work has been done in the past.

But there will always be a need for human oversight into customer interactions, even if Chatbots handle them. Rather than agents being replaced by Chatbots, the contact centers of the future will need employees to act as stewards of this technology, guiding and training bots to perform the best they can. Customer needs are never static, so that fine-tuning will take place well into the foreseeable future.

I hope this interview with Matt has shown that there aren’t better candidates for these roles than the stars that work within almost every contact center out there – those agents who are technologically savvy, emotionally intelligent, and who already understand customer needs inside-out.

These could be great roles for staff who are keen to develop beyond traditional contact center career paths. Job descriptions in this area could be filled with vital and pioneering new responsibilities to tackle, such as:

  • Creating sophisticated, personalized Chatbots which adapt to different types of customers, different types of processes, or different places in the customer journey
  • Using AI to sort and categorize messy data, uncovering hidden customer trends and insights
  • Customer Journey Mapping specifically to find areas where automation could do better than the status quo
  • Knowledge Management responsibility (the backbone of many good Chatbot implementations)
  • Chatbot building for internal uses (Onboarding bot, anyone?)
  • Chatbots that sit alongside internal knowledge bases to suggest answers for live agents – and even suggest answers to be added to the knowledge base from agent interactions.

AI is becoming better and more sophisticated by the day, offering more possibilities for businesses who are seeking to scale in ways that don’t just involve hiring more staff. The days of “easy calls” are already largely gone, due to self-service. The contact center landscape is changing fast and adapting to these changes can seem intimidating.

But I know that all of our contact centers contain bright, talented people who can help us to get there. There’s certainly no rulebook for adapting to technological change – we’re all on the cutting edge together.

The beauty of starting change through adopting chatbots is that software is now at a place where we don’t even need much of a rulebook. We don’t need our automation SMEs to have an IT degree and know how to code in 15 languages. We just need to develop the bright, talented people within our centers in the right ways.

The more that contact centers can create career paths which align with new technology, the more that our businesses and our people will be able to really benefit from technological change – making the next generation of contact centers pioneering, future-ready, and truly exciting places to be a part of.

Originally published via ICMI – and picked as their #1 most-read article in May 2019!

Customer Experience, Learning & Training, Work

ICMI Contact Center Expo 2019 Conference Roundup

ICMI Expo 2019 took place from the 13th-16th May at the rather glamorous Diplomat Resort, Hollywood Beach, Florida. My time at the Expo was a breath of fresh air in more ways than simply letting me escape the heat outside. Expo 2019’s theme was “Navigate the tides of transformation” and as well as covering a lot of the type of best practices CX pros are familiar with, the Expo contained a lot of fresh topics and technologies too.

Whether you missed out this year or you’re just looking for a refresher, here’s a rundown of my favorite sessions, with pictures, quotes, tweets and takeaways.

Jeff Toister Keynote – Hidden Obstacles to Outstanding Customer Service

The conference kicked off with a keynote from customer service author, consultant, and trainer, Jeff Toister. Jeff’s session identified some of the counter-intuitive reasons why agents might deliver bad service, even though we (and they) know that they shouldn’t.

Takeaways: There was a lot of valuable advice shared in the keynote but I loved Jeff’s suggestion to take down the wallboards in your center and simply ask your team to focus on the customer. While this might feel dangerous to businesses who have traditionally tracked time-based metrics, allowing your team to focus on quality instead of quantity means that they’ll typically make fewer mistakes, improving FCR and CSAT.

(You can read my longer writeup of this session over at CX Accelerator.)

Ginger Hardage Keynote – Unstoppable Cultures: Creating and Sustaining Organizations of Enduring Excellence

Next up is Ginger Hardage of Southwest Airlines who shares some amazing stories about Southwest’s culture – the people in front of customers and behind the scenes who are energized to deliver amazing service and who all play a part in a positive, flourishing culture. Southwest has seen profitable business for 46 consecutive years, so it’s clear they’re doing things right.

Takeaways: I’m a big advocate of lived organizational values and Ginger gave a lot of good advice and tips on this – I really liked her idea to explicitly search for stories from your employees that match up with your values, share and reward them.

“As leaders, how we act always trumps what we say. If our employees are going to follow us every day, we must live our values. Nothing can turn our organizations toxic faster than not living our values.”

Ginger Hardage

Jenny Dempsey – Create a Culture of Self Care in your Contact Center

By this point, I’ve done a lot of walking, talking, writing and thinking. I have notes exploding out of my bag and my feet are hurting. So when Jenny opens her session with a short breathing exercise, it’s a wonderfully welcome moment of calm in a sea of conference madness.

We spend the next hour working out what areas of our lives could benefit from some small improvements to help make us more resilient to contact center stress. I’m baring my soul and talking about everything from my cooking skills to how I’d love more space at home. At the end of the session we’ve all taken a step away from day to day concerns to focus on what truly energizes and rebuilds us – not something that many of us often take the time to do.

Takeaways: As Jenny says, “In order to take the best care for others, we must first take care of ourselves.” It’s wise advice when so often in people work, we think most about others, and our own needs can fall by the wayside.

Nate Brown, Matthew Dixon, Justin Robbins – Judge Judy NPS Edition: The Case Against NPS

There’s not much that gets CX pros riled up like a good discussion about NPS. Combine that with the professional smarts and funny anecdotes that you’ll get from hearing Nate, Matt and Justin speak, and you end up with a session that’s electric, insightful and full of laughter.

NPS is on trial, and Nate is the defending attorney. He presents a strong case, highlighting its ease of use and widespread understanding among exec teams and throughout organizations. I’m almost convinced until Matt takes the stage, highlighting how easy NPS is to game and how loyalty is more than just what a customer says – it’s also about purchases, word of mouth and more.

The honorable Justin does his best in Judge Judy’s seat to maintain order throughout, but passions are running high. When the bribe of a signed copy of Matt’s book gets thrown out I’m shamelessly surrendering to the anti-NPS side of the audience along with a flurry of other attendees amidst cries of “Order, order!”

Takeaways: Love it or loathe it, NPS isn’t going anywhere – use it in a mix of metrics to benchmark and measure customer loyalty.

Andrew Gilliam – Ho hum No More: Re-imagining Customer Surveys to Drive Results

Post-interaction surveys are something that most contact centers implement after chats or tickets are closed, but few think about how the wording of the survey itself affects uptake and subsequent opportunities for CX improvement.

Andrew’s session was an insightful look at how customer surveys can be optimized to achieve better results, walking us through ideas and best practices. Andrew is great at not just presenting ideas but giving us all truly actionable insights, and upon chatting to attendees after the session it became clear we’d all walked away with some inspiration to make changes in our own businesses.

Tuesday wrapped up with the ICMI Awards, and a fantastic ‘white hot’ themed party with a lot of dancing. I took the sensible option and bounced out of the party before 9pm, deciding to take an early night to be well rested before tomorrow’s busy day.

Crisis Services Canada – The Power of Virtual Human and Digital Connections During a Crisis

This amazing session early on Wednesday spoke right to the heart of why I’m passionate about the work we do here at Comm100 – taking advantage of technology to facilitate more effective communications and build deeper customer relationships.

Hearing Kate Kuehn share her experiences as a suicide prevention first responder was incredibly moving, and glancing across my table at other attendees, I can see I wasn’t alone in shedding a tear at her stories of this vital work.

“We think of [text and chat] as being removed from real connection… but I’ve personally experienced that they can actually help you connect better and circumvent the issues that can prevent a person from reaching out.”

Kate Kuehn

Henry Winkler Keynote – Discover Your Greatness – Overcoming Life’s Obstacles

Many of us had been looking forward to this keynote from the great Henry Winkler, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Henry shared how undiagnosed childhood dyslexia didn’t hold him back from achieving his dreams.

There’s a lot said about the processes and practices that we know drive success in our contact centers, but less often we look at the personal attributes that make for successful contact center leaders – tenacity and positivity, with the will to keep on going even when life gets tough. Henry’s story demonstrated this, and more, in spades.

“Don’t put a period at the end of a negative thought. If you finish that negative thought, it becomes a sentence, then a paragraph, then a thesis of negativity.”

Henry Winkler

Customer Experience Leadership: How Moo, UL, Navy Federal Credit Union & IBM are Leading with CX

I love sessions like this, featuring distilled CX wisdom from CX pros leading a huge range of different types of companies. No matter your industry or business type, you’ll end up hearing at least one thing that resonates with you.

First up was Dan Moross. Dan shared the challenges that come from scaling CX when a business is rapidly growing, and stressed the importance of building the internal relationships that will allow you to gain buy-in and achieve positive CX change.

“You will achieve nothing, even if you have the best numbers and storytelling in the world, if your people don’t trust you.”

Dan Moross

The theme of collaboration was continued by Nate Brown. Nate opened by acknowledging how no one person can do CX on their own, and that collaboration is what’s needed to achieve real CX change. Nate drew on his personal experiences to explain how he adopted a positive, persuasive stance when explaining CX value to internal stakeholders. I really liked how Nate highlighted that given that self-service and AI are taking a bigger share of customer queries, what’s left are challenging problems and issues for organizations – which by their nature require the skills and commitment of a cross-functional team to resolve.

Achieving buy-in is a complex and nuanced process – and that goes not only for our internal stakeholders but also our customers. Kristy Powers presented a great discussion around the role of emotion in buying decisions. It was refreshing to hear Kristy confirm that emotions are a very powerful factor in decision-making, and that contact center leaders should account for this if they are to build balanced, understanding relationships with colleagues and customers.

“People will buy based on emotion and defend that decision with logic. We need to deliver on both.”

Kristy Powers

Linking it all together, Bob Furniss shared some valuable pointers around developing a CX culture. I especially liked how Bob highlighted the importance of making the most of the rich data we collect in our day-to-day interactions and ensuring that data gets shared both up and down. Bob explained that your contact center agents are absolutely central in this process. They speak to your customers every day, so they’re in many ways the internal stakeholders who are closest to your customers. As an ex-agent myself, it’s always fantastic to hear senior CX leaders like Bob vouch for the importance of taking the time to speak to your agents face to face, and to give them the tools they need to create the stories that show how CX is truly lived within your business.


If you’re striving to improve the customer experience your organization provides, you might find that there are few people in your organization who really ‘get’ the full scope of what you’re trying to achieve. Gaining buy-in, developing employee engagement, drawing insights from data, and tightening up processes are struggles that many without a cross-functional outlook might not be able to relate to.

But one thing that can really help is having the ability to connect with people in the same shoes as you. Those people who have fought the same battles you’re fighting, who can share not just the successes they’ve achieved but also empathize with the struggles that you face.

As an attendee of ICMI Expo for three years now, I’m finding that my conference experience is getting better on account of this. The conversations I’m having are getting richer, and the friendships I’m building are getting stronger.

It’s this focus on relationship building, as well as the high caliber of learning and knowledge-building on offer, that makes ICMI Expo a truly valuable event to attend.

Customer Experience, Technology, Work

5 Tips for Finding a CX Platform Your Agents, Customers, and Exec Team Will Love

You can’t build a house on a weak foundation. In the same way, the standard of customer experience that consumers expect isn’t achieved without technology to bring together disparate channels and make consistent, seamless experiences an easy thing to achieve.

Thanks to the growth of omnichannel strategies in recent years, there’s no shortage of customer experience (CX) platforms out there. But in the same way that CX can be applied differently within different organizational areas, many CX platforms can be similarly varied in functionality. Some might be more appropriate for marketers, some for operational functions and others aim to meet just about everyone’s needs.

Despite this, there are some overriding considerations that will help you identify the right platform for you, regardless of the nuances of your CX strategy. Some things in CX just don’t change, like the need for personalization or easy agent training.

Read on for my full checklist of five criteria to help you find the best customer experience platform for your business.


  • What depth of personalization options are available?
  • What segmentation capabilities are available for customers in different regions or languages, or of different demographics?
  • What kind of data is provided and does it provide the right insights to create more personalized experiences?
  • Is there intent-based routing available to automatically direct inbound queries to the right department the first time, without triage or transfers?
  • Can integrations and APIs be used to connect the platform to other systems, making deep personalization automatic?

Bottom line: Quality CX platforms allow companies to create personalized messages to customers based on their geography, browsing history, shopping cart activity and more. These personalized touches should be able to be used at many different points of the customer journey, whether pre- or post-sale and throughout the customer’s lifecycle. It’s through personalization that companies get to demonstrate deeper customer understanding and build stronger relationships with their customers.


  • Would your agents get excited about the capabilities of their new platform?
  • Is the interface user-friendly and intuitive for agents to pick up quickly?
  • How long will it take to train new agents on?
  • Can agents see a customer’s communication history across different channels on one screen?
  • Does it integrate with knowledge bases to allow for internal knowledge acquisition and learning?
  • Does it help make agents’ work faster or more accurate?
  • What other innovative tools or capabilities (like AI) are available to help increase efficiency and pave the way for future automation?

Bottom line: Your agents are your primary end users of any new platform, so it must enhance their ability to do great work without needing lengthy training or workarounds. 98% of organizations state the agent experience (AX) is a key part of any successful CX strategy, so any good customer experience platform needs to enhance AX as much as the CX.

Customer experience versatility:

  • Does this platform make issue resolution smoother and easier than the status quo?
  • Does it provide efficiencies that reduce wait times and unnecessary friction?
  • Can this help to provide better quality service and support to my customers?
  • Is this platform easily accessible by the right internal stakeholders?
  • Does it provide the raw data to help track and adjust different parts of the customer experience as strategy changes over time?
  • Does this platform perform over different devices, operating systems or browsers?
  • How well does the platform integrate into my current technology stack?

Bottom line: The right customer experience platform should be versatile enough to contribute to every single one of an organization’s customer experience metrics and be flexible enough to adapt to any technology stack through customization options.

Conversation quality:

  • Does this platform help my customers get service that’s fast, friendly and accurate?
  • Will this platform improve conversation quality while ensuring there are no trade-offs in terms of time spent?
  • Does this platform allow you to access information to suggest when you should proactively offer help to customers – even before they ask for it?
  • Does this platform offer rich media features that can speed up time to resolution (e.g. image or document sharing)?
  • What are the customer satisfaction benchmarks for this platform? Does the platform provide the ability to make and track improvements?

Bottom line: Quality conversations build stronger relationships, but they shouldn’t occur at the expense of efficiency. Organizations need to make sure they’re taking full advantage of a CX platform’s full capabilities – file sharing, co-browsing and more – to provide quality interactions through tactical, interactive experiences that fuel greater customer satisfaction.

Customer Security:

  • Does this platform meet my industry’s security and compliance standards?
  • How is data stored and processed on the platform (if a cloud platform)?
  • Does this platform offer on-premise installation, if tighter security is needed?
  • What security measures are available on the agent side (password protection, SSO)?
  • What type of encryption tools are used at rest and during data transmission?

Bottom line: Safeguarding customer data will always be non-negotiable. Good CX platforms feature should have multiple layers of data protection and compliance with data standards like ISO 27001, GDPR, PCI, HIPAA and more.


Today’s omnichannel CX platforms have the ability to deliver better experiences on a lot of fronts. They should be able to handle incoming communications, allowing you to create service that’s fast and high quality. They should help you to gain new insights into your customer data to make more informed decisions and react quickly to change. And they should enable you to take the first steps into automation with AI capabilities that can be relied upon.

At the same time, companies need to remember that customers want to be treated like human beings, not data points. The advantages of efficient platforms mean that your agents should be able to rush less and spend more time helping customers with the queries they most need human help with. That’s truly a win-win – when entire organizations can reap the benefit of a strong CX platform which helps agents, businesses and customers in spectacular new ways.

Originally published here.

Customer Experience, Technology, Work

5 ways an omnichannel strategy can improve your contact center’s customer retention rates

Agent: “How can I help?”

You: “Well, it’s a long story…”

Have you ever uttered these words when you’ve got in touch, yet again, to ask an organisation to solve a persistent problem? If you have, you’ll know that one of two things can happen. 

Either, the agent stops you right there, looks up your history, and troubleshooting carries on from where you left off. 

Or you’ll need to repeat the whole sorry story to a new agent. Even then, sometimes it can take tens of minutes of waiting while the unwitting rep scrambles to piece together exactly what’s happened, trying to understand the timeline of events from fragmented logs in disparate systems. 

I experienced the latter situation when trying to solve a wifi issue with my internet provider. Unwitting agents would tell me to follow the same troubleshooting steps, forcing me to explain that I’d tried all of that before – turning my router off/on again, reverting to factory settings, checking my access points, getting a new router delivered, all the while my issues persisting and my patience running thin. 

 What’s worse is that agents on live chat didn’t seem to know what agents on the phone had suggested. Twitter reps told me to phone in. Different departments didn’t even seem to share the same access to my communication logs. The experience was drawn-out, painful, and with some bitterness I eventually changed providers. 

According to research, telecom companies saw a 57% rise in customer complaints in 2018, with internet problems being the most common issue. But the rising percentage of customer complaints isn’t new or exclusive to just the telecom industry.

Poor customer service is costing businesses across all industries more than 75 billion dollars a year. Technological developments and digital channels hold the promise to reduce customer service issues, but systems that aren’t integrated can cause more problems than they solve.

It doesn’t have to be this way. An effective omnichannel strategy can work to reduce the fragmentation and provide experiences that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Here are some ideas to think about to create that strategy for your business.

More consistent, personalized experiences

52% of consumers (like me!) switch service providers due to poor service. Even in those customer service situations where a resolution can’t be easily found, consistency and personalisation can really take the sting out of the issue.

Customers shouldn’t have to repeat themselves several times to several different customer service agents. Well-integrated channels mean that agents should be able to instantly see a timeline of contact logs, regardless of which channel they came in on, and provide situations that are tailored to the customer.

Time is something we can never get back. And just as customers hate having their time wasted through repeat contacts and time spent on hold, wasted time is terrible for contact centers too, causing inflated handle times and lower agent availability.

Channel pivoting should never be a barrier to good customer service. Blending all your channels into one platform gives the agent a complete view of the customer so they can solve problems faster and more efficiently.

Customers don’t think channel, businesses do. Understanding your customer and offering more consistent and personalized service helps to build empathetic, considerate relationships that keep customers for the long-term.

Intelligent routing

Effective omnichannel systems allow customers to be transferred to the agent they last spoke to. Many customers breathe a sigh of relief when they’re able to speak to the same agent who knows their history, and this helps to forge stronger relationships too.

An effective omnichannel customer strategy allows you to use intent-based routing to get customers to the right person, no matter how, where or when they try to access service. This not only allows returning customers to be served by agents they’re familiar with but also makes sure that the right queries go to the right departments – curbing the dreaded transfer tag.

Customers should be able to access service in the channels that are most convenient for them. Contact centers need to make sure that customers can get the answers they’re looking for on the channel that they choose, or risk losing them to a competitor that can deliver those answers better and faster.

Faster, more efficient agents

Contact center work can be tough at the best of times, but it’s made even more difficult through forcing agents to juggle disconnected systems. Bringing everything together in one platform prevents agents from needing to switch back and forth between applications. Rather than needing to keep an eye on five different windows or manually copy and paste customer information provided through an IVR maze, agents can focus on simply solving customer problems.

Eliminating the need for multiple logins, siloed information, and endless searching from your agent’s day-to-day lives will make them faster, more efficient, and more productive with their time – not to mention, a lot happier too.

Proactive Engagement

All too often, customers give up and walk away because they just can’t find the information or support they need. If your competitors make this easier, then your retention rate is on the line. A proactive customer service strategy is one way you can truly go above and beyond the rest. Map out your customer journey and identify where people most often drop off.

For example, you can program your live chat system to offer a proactive help invite that pops up after a certain number of failed searches on your website, routing customers straight to an agent who’s ready to assist. This allows your agents to capture customers at risk of falling through the cracks, reducing your churn rate.

By anticipating customer problems and solving them before they become serious pains, you can prevent your customers from ever getting to the point of attrition.

Simplified Reporting

While proactive live chat outreach is a great way to reduce customer churn, it’s also important to widen your focus and proactively search for trends which could signal issues that cause customers to leave.

Different platforms have different reports and analytics suites. Trying to compile reports to identify trends and draw meaningful conclusions or find areas of improvement for your overall customer service strategy is often a hassle when you need to pull different metrics and KPIs for every channel. Not to mention, it makes effective QA doubly difficult.

Bringing all your reports into one, unified dashboard allows you to uncover information and trends that you may not have noticed before. With a simplified reporting suite, you can better see how your customers interact with your agents, what type of questions they ask, and where areas of friction appear – allowing you to make improvements more easily.


No customer likes to be forced to walk away. More often than not, the inefficiencies and frustrations that cause severed customer relationships aren’t deliberate on an organization’s part – they’re simply the result of poorly planned processes, and disconnected systems.

Your contact center plays a major role in maintaining customer relationships which then benefit your entire business. Considering that 68% of consumers will not go back to a provider once they’ve left, and 80% of them believe the organization could have done more to retain their business in the first place, there’s real opportunity for contact centers to make a difference.

Omnichannel might sound like a buzzword, but as a CX tactic it’s solid. By creating an effective omnichannel strategy with integrated platforms sharing a single source of customer truth, you stand the chance to gain benefits that go beyond the technological – helping your customers to perceive you as efficient, understanding, and worthy of their continued custom.

Originally published here.

Customer Experience, Technology, Work

7 Benefits of Unified Communications for Contact Centers

Picture this: A screen with four applications open, arranged in windowed tiles so you can still access the other five other applications hidden behind. The click-clack sound of keyboard toggle shortcuts punctuating conversations between each back and forth. A chorus of “Hold, please” to buy time needed to manually copy and paste the customer information that was just provided via the IVR maze.

Sound familiar?

Contact centers are no stranger to system siloes with 45% citing lack of integrated systems as an obstacle to digital transformation and seamless customer experiences. While not a new phenomenon, new technologies are emerging that are working towards a remedy for this age-old problem – and unified communications just may be the answer your contact center is looking for.

What does Unified Communications mean?

Unified communications is when all your external and internal communications are brought together on a single platform. Simple right?

When one platform connects all the dots within your business, you get a single source of truth for your agents. From phone calls to tickets to social to SMS, unified communications bring together all your customer service channels into one, 360-degree view. Your agents can access customer information, history, and profiles no matter which channel they choose to interact with you through.

Unified communications is powered by a system specifically tailored to contact center needs – even warranting its own software category (Unified Communications as a Service, or UCaaS). These systems not only bring everything into one platform but also streamline the process of channel pivoting. For example, a customer may call in by phone but with a single click, an agent switches them into live chat co-browsing to troubleshoot a more technical issue.

What are the benefits of Unified Communications?

Streamlining processes and integrating systems help contact centers in a variety of contexts. Unified communications bring big business benefits to your contact center by improving agent productivity, efficiency and agility.

  • More seamless customer experiences: It’s a well-known fact that more and more customers will choose who they do business with based on customer experience over price. Customer experience is now a key competitive differentiator and 77% of companies believe unified communications will help them stand out from the crowd. Ensuring agents have access to customer information and support when they need it most means a better, more seamless and consistent experience for your customers.
  • Better agent efficiency: When agents don’t need to keep eight applications open and constantly switch between them just to do their job, they feel more efficient and productive – especially when they don’t have to juggle multiple logins or search for information scattered across different systems.
  • Less risk of data breaches: When switching between systems, it’s all too easy for distracted agents to accidentally look up records that don’t belong to the customer they’re speaking to, bringing the risk of giving out sensitive information belonging to a different customer. I’ve seen far too many data breaches that have occurred this way. Using unified communication platforms, this risk disappears.
  • Work anywhere, anytime: With the rise of work and remote contact centers, unified communication platforms have become the backbone of a modern, digital workforce. These platforms give remote workers the ability to work anywhere without harming agent performance.
  • Reduced operational costs: Contact centers cut costs by reducing the number of applications and licenses they’re paying for, not to mention the reduction of maintenance costs and other IT resources spent on systems. Hardware savings are another factor, as your agents might not even need two screens. Paying for one unified communications platform is normally far more cost-effective than paying for multiple individual systems and the integrations needed to connect them.
  • Quicker and better employee onboardingUnified communications helps scale your team, process, and even internal training. With one single source of truth, your new hires or seasonal workers can find everything they need to learn and get ramped up. When it does come time to onboard agents, you only need to add users and set permissions for one platform rather than needing to distribute a sheet with nine different logins in your welcome package.
  • Simplified IT Maintenance: Bringing all your systems into one platform cuts the IT resources needed to maintain and manage your contact center technology. Bringing one system in line with usability policies as well as security and compliance regulations also becomes much easier.

Imagine having your internal communication platform, CRM and customer-facing support channels at your fingertips, all the time on one screen. With unified communications, your agents can finally stop toggling and start working.

Originally published here.

Customer Experience, Technology, Work

Report: Customer Satisfaction With Live Chat Is On The Rise

Another Forbes mention! 😊

Dan Gingiss did a great write-up of Comm100’s Live Chat Benchmark Report and drew out a number of interesting findings – including that live chat customer satisfaction is on the rise.

This benchmark report is a big effort by all of us at Comm100 every year, and I’ve been involved since our 2016 report.

It’s an original piece of research that’s based on all of our customer’s chats, so there are a ton of insights in there for anyone looking to start or grow their live chat operation.

We’re lucky to have insights from friends and experts around the CX world included too. Thanks to them and to Dan for writing such a great article!

Read Dan’s Forbes article here.

Download the 2019 Live Chat Benchmark Report here.

Culture, Customer Experience, Emotional Intelligence, Work

[Video] The AvoCAREdo Show

We spend 1/3rd of our entire lives at work, so it’s vital to be tuned into what you need to be happy and healthy there.

What’s more, customer experience and customer service are difficult fields to work within. I’ve written before about the impact of emotional labour on call center employees, and the difficulties that come when call center work is stigmatised.

Because of this, it was fantastic to be invited on the AvoCAREdo show by CX and wellness pro, Jenny Dempsey, to chat about my own self care wins and struggles.

Thanks Jenny! 🥑❤

Originally published here.

Customer Experience, Work

What is CX in 2019?

Here’s a post I contributed to with a lot of comments from people across the web on what CX is in 2019 – both what it looks like today, and where it’s going in the future.

Here’s my section, covering where I’m seeing CX going over the course of the year. A big part of this is that I’m pretty excited about automation opportunities for contact centers, and I’m proud to be working for a company that’s helping other companies make their first tentative steps into automation.

Maybe I’ll write about why I’m so excited about automation in another post. But let me say now – I think it’s a real win-win as it can not just help companies make resource savings but also help to improve the agent experience by reducing repetitive, unskilled work.

Anyway, here’s my comment! Do read through the full article linked to at the end of this post.

“I’m definitely seeing CX leaders looking to adapt faster to changing customer preferences and getting their operations ready to adopt automation and bot technologies. From building stronger knowledge bases to aid human and bot knowledge to providing great service over new channels, the CX industry is becoming ever more strategic and aligned to customer needs.

I’m sure in 2019 we’re going to see a lot of messy implementations of new technology and processes, but I hope that amidst the rubble of CX disasters we’ll see organizations getting really innovative and providing service in ways that just weren’t possible a year ago.

I’m especially excited to see more and more organizations adopting chatbots that provide quick, quality answers in appropriate places in the customer journey and which show that bots, when properly designed and trained, can be a real asset to customer service operations.”

Originally published here.

Customer Experience, Emotional Intelligence, Learning & Training, Work

To Script or Not to Script? Positive Live Chat Support Scripting

The word ‘script’ can strike fear into the hearts of agents and managers alike. Nobody wants chat agents to sound robotic or to take away their freedom to express their personality and demonstrate their expertise.

Having said that, your agents are the voice of your organization. Because of this, it’s important that your agents can speak appropriately to your customers, providing an experience that’s cohesive and consistent no matter who in your company your customer is speaking to – and effective call center and live chat scripts can help you to do that.

In this post, I’ll cover:

  • Why Script?
  • Scripting Sins – Are You Guilty?
  • How to Implement Really Effective Scripts

Why Script?

If scripts are so easily misused, why have them in the first place?

Simple. Scripts can save time, act as a knowledge bank, and reinforce your brand.

Let’s explore this a bit more.

Saving time is important to everyone involved in customer service, and certainly important in live chat too. Customers don’t want to be tied up on chats for any longer than they need to, and you’ll certainly be concerned with ensuring handle times are kept low, freeing up agents to take more chats.

Even if you’re a hardcore anti-scripter, consider the impact of agents manually typing out the same greeting and closing message on every chat they take. Even if this takes only 30 seconds per chat, and even if you only take twenty chats a day, this adds up to ten minutes of wasted agent time per day. Multiply over the course of a year, and you’re looking at around 60 hours of paid agent time lost to ineffective processes, when a canned message could have done the job for a fraction of the time.

Scripts can also act as a knowledge bank. A well-organized live chat script library can contain ready-made solutions to common customer problems, reducing the need for agents to be reliant on their own memories or external documents to find the answers they need.

Reinforcing your brand is vital to appeal to your target market. Scripts can help to set the appropriate tone of voice for your company, ensuring that all of your agents are speaking to customers in a positive, helpful and appropriate way.

Scripting Sins – Are You Guilty?

Given the benefits of scripts, many businesses jump to use these without considering how to implement them in a way that doesn’t compromise the customer experience. There are lots of ways scripts can be misused – make sure you’re not guilty of these sins.

Deadly Sin #1 – Using Canned Responses Which Don’t Answer the Question

There’s nothing more frustrating than not being listened to. Agents skimming chats and firing off canned responses which don’t fully answer customer questions can derail chats and damage relationships. Take this as an example:

Kyle: Can you tell me how much the ultimate plan will cost and whether I can keep my old phone?

Tom: Our Ultimate Plan is $39.99 per month and includes unlimited calling to numbers in the US and Canada. It also contains free texts and 4GB of data. Data above this limit is charged at $5.00 per 100MB.

Kyle: What about my old phone?? I don’t need to know about data over my limit. Are you a robot?

How to Fix This: Train your agents to fully respond to all customer questions in a seamless way, blending canned messages with free-form input to craft responses which hit the mark first time.

Deadly Sin #2 – Agent Style Doesn’t Match Style of Canned Messages

Your customers expect a service which is personalized and makes them feel they’re being given time and consideration by a real person. If your agent’s writing style doesn’t match the style of your canned messages, it’ll be obvious that canned messages are being used.

This inconsistency of communication can look really unprofessional, as well as making customers uncomfortable about the ever-changing tone of the chat.

Cara: Hi, the taxi I called hasn’t showed up, why is this?

Liam: Please accept our apologies that the taxi you called has not arrived. I will look into the details right now for you.

Liam: what time did you call the taxi?

How to Fix This: Make sure your agents have access to a style guide which sets the tone for written communication on chats and target this communication style through ongoing quality assurance.

Deadly Sin #3 – Canned Messages Are Just Plain Terrible

Remember the “Three C’s” when creating scripts – they should be ClearCorrect and Concise. They should sound just as if they’re transcribed from a person who knows your product, audience, and culture really well.

Although this point sounds obvious, it can take some skill. Let’s explore what canned messages can look like without this consideration.

Jim: I want to close my account.

Rachel: I am sorry to hear you would like to close your account.

Rachel: I will certainly help you today in this regard.

Rachel: I would like to inform you that we are limited in the information to give over chat, cancellation involves your verbal agreement so please contact on the telephone 936 835 7112 (8am – 11pm PST Monday – Friday or 9am – 9pm PST Saturday/Sunday) and one of my associates will put in effort to do the needful today.

There’s a few things wrong with these scripts. Probably one of the most glaring is that they are not written in proper English phrasing and style, with phrases like “Do the needful” creating barriers between the agent and the customer. Another issue is that it takes a long time to get to the point, with canned messages almost contradicting themselves by offering to help then stating that help can’t be given.

How to Fix This: Review your customer service scripts to ensure they’re correct in language, tone and phrasing. Identify areas where scripted canned messages can create confusion and ensure clear guidance is given to agents on how to handle this. Train agents to get to the point quickly, using canned messages to help save time, not add to it.

How to Implement Really Effective Scripts

Start by asking your agents what type of scripts could help them in their work. Your staff on the front line will know all too well the situations where they wish they had a canned message to save time and provide guidance, and a quick focus group will allow you to pinpoint these scenarios and start drafting some scripts.

Next, plan how to organize your scripts. Scripts which aren’t simple for your agents to access and use are just as bad as no scripts at all. Our guide has some suggestions for categories you may wish to use.

Finally, look at some free call center and live chat scripts and think how they could be adapted to your business. The best scripts aren’t cookie-cutter responses which will be perfect for every business – they may need some tweaking to suit the tone and style your organization speaks in. However, many customer service best practices are applicable across organizations, so some scripts might just be perfect to help make your chat service even more friendly and efficient.

Customer Experience, Learning & Training, Technology, Work

How to nail complex query resolution with internal knowledge bases

It’s 2019, and our contact centers are changing fast. The proliferation of new channels over recent years means that now, some 67% of customers prefer using self-service options instead of speaking with an agent.

If you started your career as an agent and remember trying hard to treat every call like it was your first despite having already heard that query ten times that day, this stat will likely have you breathing a sigh of relief. Apart from the decrease in repetition being a good thing, being there for customers on the channels that they choose is a great CX strategy. But a downside of this is that the queries which end up in our contact centers will normally be more complex.

How can we help agents better answer these complex queries? Enter the humble internal knowledge base (KB). A well-designed KB can act as a tool to help employees work better and smarter, drive continuous improvement, improve quality, and increase collaboration. Here’s how.

The right tool for the job

Back when customer queries were solved with single-sentence answers, many of us resorted to memorization, cheat sheets and post-it notes on our computer monitors to remember key pieces of information to help us in our jobs.

But this type of learning doesn’t often work well when we’re aiming to understand and resolve complex query types. The interplay of emotionally-charged interactions and multitudes of gray-area options to choose from can make decision-making a complex exercise, and it’s not always clear what the “right” thing to do is.

In these instances, providing employees with resources they can use in-the-moment to better weigh up each case and strengthen their decision-making is a smart bet. A KB can act as this type of resource, working to lessen the mental information load that employees need to bear and providing this in-the-moment support even for obscure query types.

Having ready resources isn’t just good for quick customer resolutions, but having access to the right tools for the job is central to employee engagement, which impacts productivity, satisfaction, and ultimately, churn.

You might think that a KB is good for only those black-and-white Q&As where there is a set Q and an unambiguous A, but it is possible to set up a KB to support employees in resolving subjective cases through harnessing technological options within KB platforms themselves.

Let tech do the heavy lifting

I didn’t have a KB platform at all when I built my very first internal KB. I took the HTML skills I had learned from building cringe-worthy teenage poetry websites (which, thankfully, died with Geocities), spun up a rudimentary website, got it hosted on our Intranet, embedded a Google search, and launched it with myself as the editor.

About ten years ago that seemed like a reasonable plan, given that our center had repetitive query types and processes which didn’t change much over time. Thankfully, KB platforms have developed to help us run much more robust KBs in more complex environments.

Many KBs are now much easier to maintain, without needing to duplicate information from other sources- for example, by hosting separate customer and agent-facing KBs on the same platform and optionally, updating from each other. They often come with full reporting suites for better visibility into the effectiveness of your KB. It’s even possible to embed AI into your KB so even if a user were to type in a search term that was ambiguous or unclear, the AI could pick up on the intent behind it and deliver the right article regardless.

Importantly, your KB can have multiple editors and methods for adding to it. Your agents can not only draw upon the information in a KB but also add to and comment upon it, whether through inbuilt functionality or integrations with platforms such as Slack . That’s important for complex query resolution for one main reason:

The best customer outcomes are often a collaborative effort

There’s a reason the apprenticeship model of learning has worked beautifully since the dawn of time – we learn well from others in an on-the-job setting, where we can experience and discuss work in context.

But given the nature of much contact center work, it can be difficult to implement collaborative learning processes, which by nature are social. Strictly scheduled environments often don’t allow much employee interaction to occur beyond formalized meetings, scheduled breaks or snatched chats at the water cooler.

That’s a shame, because we can often make the most sense of complex situations at work when we share them with others who have been through similar experiences and can offer different perspectives and ideas. Encouraging employees to discuss complex cases is an exercise ripe for learning, as failures and successes can be shared and learned from without each employee needing to follow the same bumpy path.

The beauty of encouraging collaboration on complex queries through a KB is that employees can interact with it in the course of their everyday work. This allows them to collaborate asynchronously, without a heavy load on agent schedules. Collaboration shouldn’t be limited only to your agent team – other teams can also be set up to view and collaborate upon cross-functional knowledge items.

This kind of process doesn’t need to start off on a formal KB platform, either. On the CX Accelerator community recently, Lauren Volpe shared a great example of collaborative learning via a CX Tracker, where team members share details of tricky cases so others can benefit.

Getting to this point may require some cultural changes to occur too. It’s important to encourage your team to view continuous improvement as a team exercise, which treasures its experts and grows its newbies, and which recognizes that it’s through sharing information (not hoarding it) that we can get our best work done.

Future-proof your contact centre’s knowledge

Let’s go back to those expert staff members for a moment. If your contact center contains a few wise sages who intuitively know the right answer to most queries, you’ll know how valuable they are, and how often they can get called upon to share their knowledge.

But you’ll also know how dangerous this can be. Reliance on a few staff as oracles of knowledge is a dangerous tactic, plunging your team into difficulties if they leave. Not to mention that in a carefully scheduled environment, allowing these seasoned staff members time to walk the floor and be available for answering questions isn’t always ideal, let alone scalable.

Great KBs can become living resources that wean reliance off those wise sages by letting knowledge loose outside of people’s heads. Plus, if you can set up your KB to be added to by everyone as they learn and discuss new queries, the information within them can become greater than anything an individual alone could convey.

KBs are the new training

In the past, most educational models were designed around the fact that information wasn’t easily accessible. To learn something new you needed to go on a training course, consult an expert, or check out a book from the library.

Times have now changed. Mobile devices and internet access mean that we and our employees don’t need to go through an extensive process of information synthesis or training to learn a new thing. Most people are pretty capable of figuring things out for themselves. We just look up information, and get things done.

Despite this, many organizations still rely on formalized training interventions to attempt to help employees to learn. Usually this consists of trainers resorting to information-stuffing strategies – for example taking employees away from their desks, attempting to fill them with as much pure information as possible, and adding in some sort of game or test to help make sure that information isn’t so easily forgotten. We’re now starting to understand how ineffective these types of methods are.

Times are changing and the way we think about contact center learning needs to change too. We need to get better at providing employees with the technology and resources they need to learn from each other and just do their jobs, no information-stuffing required.

Especially given the resource-stretched, turnover-ridden nature of the environments we operate in, many centers could achieve this by better harnessing tools like KBs – providing the conditions to learn better, smarter and quicker, even in increasingly complex environments.

Originally published here.