Archive for June, 2018

Your Ideal Contact Center Solution!

Posted on: June 27th, 2018 by vcc_admin No Comments

Every business is unique and has different needs in order to work seamlessly. With a variety of expert contact center on-premises and cloud-based solutions available on the market, it is often difficult to choose the right one for your organization. Here is a short test we hope will help you make your decision in selecting the contact center solution that best meets your needs.

  1. Do you often need to change the total number of agents (including outsourced contact center services) working on projects and campaigns in your contact center?

❏ Yes, the number of agents in my contact center often changes (1 point)

❏ Sometimes, based on projects and campaigns. (2 points)

❏ No, my contact center operates with a constant number of agents. (3 points)

  1. Does your contact center communicate with customers using multiple channels (phone, email, chat, SMS, social media, etc)

❏ Yes, we contact customers via a number of communication channels. (1 point)

❏ Currently, we only use basic channels, but we may broaden our range in the future.

(2 points)

❏ No, we only need basic communication channels. (3 points)

  1. Does your business operate in different countries with separate contact centers in each country?

❏ Yes, my company has separate contact centers in different countries. (1 point)

❏ Yes, my company operates in different countries, but we use one central contact center. (3 points)

❏ No, we only operate in one location. (2 points)

  1. Do you allow your agents and supervisors to log in and work remotely (home office/ working from home, business continuity plans, etc)

❏ Yes, our employees work remotely on a regular basis. (1 point)

❏ We allow employees to work remotely in special cases only. (2 points)

❏ No, we do not permit remote work, as data can only be accessed from the office. (3 points)

  1. Does your contact center need to meet any special security requirements?

❏ Yes, my contact center needs to meet the strictest local and/or international PI-handling and data security requirement legislation. (3 points)

❏ My contact center needs to meet the basic security requirements relevant for the majority of contact centers. (2 points)

❏ My contact center does not process customers’ personal and business information and only provides generic support. (1 point)

Results: Add up the points next to each answer you’ve chosen, and find out which is the best solution for you below!

– Between 5 and 7 points – Cloud-based solution

You need a flexible and cost-effective solution that can help you meet your goals, remain efficient and focus on your customers’ satisfaction. A cloud-based solution will allow you to meet your customers’ expectations for professional and reliable support, without requiring large amounts of investment or extensive planning. Furthermore, it will allow you to keep a high level of flexibility in managing your team and their operations – e.g. working from alternative locations, detailed reports, live quality monitoring, etc – providing everything any high-quality large or small contact center needs. Install a cloud-based contact center solution on your employees’ devices and get your professional and cost-efficient contact center up and running within minutes.

– Between 7 and 11 points – Outsourced solution

You need a professional contact center that operates with clear business purposes and detailed guidelines. Your agents work with a fixed set of communication channels and need to provide international support from one central location. Your contact center does not need maximum flexibility for everyday operations, as your agents’ place of work is primarily in an office, with very few opportunities for home office/ working from home or other locations. You do, however, need to sometimes carry out seasonal tasks such as sales and marketing campaigns, periodical opinion and satisfaction research surveys, and so forth. An outsourced contact center is the best option for you to carry out your daily operations, work on seasonal activities and maintain international support from one central location.

– More than 11 points – Hosted solution

There is no compromise when it comes to meeting the strictest customer-information and data-handling rules. You need to be sure that no information handled or stored in your contact center ever leaves the premises, and that you meet the latest and strictest requirements as well as complying with all relevant laws and legislation. Whether it is because you work with customers’ financial and personal information, or because your processes and operations need to meet special regulations, your contact center solution operates under heavy security and strict control at all times.

From Call-Based to Multichannel – a History of Contact Centers

Posted on: June 26th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

The term ’call center’ is still how people often refer to customer care and contact centers. Sometimes one even hears the amusing and contradictory expression “to write an email to the call center”. However, it is worth remembering that our industry did all really start with call centers.

Evolution is a process that can be observed in the world of business and technology as much as anywhere else, with businesses adapting and changing over time in response to growing expectations and requirements. And, as telephones have evolved and turned into the pocket-size multichannel communication gadgets they are today, the industry built around the use of these devices has also changed beyond recognition. But, just for a moment, let’s go back to the beginning.

“Mr. Watson, come here! I want to see you!”

The question of who invented the telephone is a topic which has generated much controversy, as there were many parties working on the invention of a voice-transmitting telegraph device at roughly the same time, with varying degrees of success. However, what is known for sure is that even though many inventors were working on voice- and speech-transmitting devices using different technology, the first to patent the telephone was Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. The first message transmitted over the telephone was Bell’s call to his assistant, Thomas Augustus Watson: “Mr. Watson, come here! I want to see you!”. November 1877 saw the birth of the first commercial telephone company, and 11 years later the Hungarian inventor Tivadar Puskás introduced the multiplex switchboard, which revolutionized the telephone industry and telephone exchanges, and helped spread and popularize telephones. More and more of these devices found their way into people’s homes, and as the telephone network grew rapidly during the 20th century, contacting people from the comfort of one’s own home became second nature.

The rise of call centers

The history of call centers goes all the way back to the 1950s and 1960s. The Birmingham Press and Mail (based in Birmingham, UK) was the earliest example of a functioning call center, with rows of agents handling customer queries thanks to the PABX and ACD systems used at the time to filter and assign calls to the most suitable agent. In the 1970s and 1980s, call centers became established to help carry out tasks such as receiving orders for products, confirming airline reservations, and supporting sales (which in turn helped lead to the beginning of telemarketing as a concept). Seeing the success of call centers and their impact on business, larger companies soon started to also establish their own call centers, with agents providing both support and information to customers, as well as performing telesales activities. In 1985 the Direct Line insurance company was the first organisation to start selling insurance policies entirely over the phone, and many other companies (such as retail companies, who took orders over the phone) soon followed this business model, helping them to save time and costs as they no longer needed large numbers of local representatives and offices to engage with their customers. And with the continuing development of technology through the introduction of the Internet, emails, and cable TV, new communication channels and call center possibilities continued to open up for businesses and retailers.

From ‘call’ to ‘contact’

The 1990s and 2000s brought both new communications channels and new changes in terms as well. Instead of “call centers” companies started referring to their customer care points as “contact centers”, as customers could now make contact with organizations via email or forms on a company’s website, as well as via the telephone. The growth of contact centers meant not only the use of more channels to communicate with end users but also the growth of company expectation in this field, in particular, the need to measure agents’ work efficiency. With the subsequent introduction of key performance indicators and service level agreements, the rows of agents accepting incoming calls or selling apparel and insurance over the phone became a more complicated technical challenge, and while in the 1960s and 1970s agents had merely hung up their telephones at the end of the day, the contact centers of the 1990s and 2000s were built up using expert on-premises and hosted solutions. And as the 2000s continued, and the new concept of cloud computing technology became increasingly popular, it became only a matter of time before this latest technology also made its mark on the contact center industry in the form of flexible possibilities for contact centers in the form of Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, and Software-as-a-Service solutions.

Why use one channel, when you can use them all?

As people began to find being told how they could reach their service providers and retailers increasingly unacceptable, consumer preferences for contacting such organizations soon started shifting to the new instant messaging, chat, social media, and web channels. As such, contact centers were forced to change and adapt to these new communication demands, and thus the 2010s has become the era of multichannel communications. The flexibility and security of cloud technology have made it possible to integrate several communication channels into one platform, allowing contact centers to be able to communicate with customers using the same solution, regardless of how the center is contacted. End users, on the other hand, are now able to place an order online, pay for a service during a phone call, follow up their order status in an SMS, and provide feedback on social media.

As social habits and patterns change, so does the need for businesses to evolve and adapt to the new requirements the general public has. This is especially true for the contact center industry, where answering people’s questions and needs are at the core of all activities. Contact centers deal with the extremely hard task of supporting organizations’ and companies’ businesses and helping them to achieve their goals, but at the same time, they need to respond to the communication trends and expectations of end users and customers. While in the 1960s placing a telephone call was a sufficient means of communication for people, the boom in social media’s popularity today means that, for contact centers, it is no longer enough to just pick up the phone. Contact centers today are expected to provide the flexibility in communication their customers expect, and as we all know, a happy customer means happy business.

Data Analytics: Why It’s Crucial For Your Call Center

Posted on: June 21st, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

We live in a world where over half of the population is connected to the internet, and 9 out of 10 users access their chosen platforms via mobile devices. The amount of data shared every day – up to 2.5 million terabytes – is astonishing.

Building exceptional customer experience is the backbone of every call center, and meaningful data analytics can definitely make things easier. In fact, customer service works best when it’s driven by data.

At a call center, data is everywhere: agent average talk time, average handling time, proportion of closed deals or first call resolution are all examples of important call center metrics that are readily available. However, one thing is to gather data, another thing is to actually make good use of it.

In this article, we’ll highlight how data analytics can help your business provide exceptional customer experience as well as increase your sales performance.

Personalized customer service

As huge amounts of data are being generated by customers using different channels, forward-thinking companies have already started to utilize this information to deliver more personalized customer experience.

Proper analysis of customer data is the first step in understanding your customers. In fact, data analytics will allow you to better understand your customers’ behaviors and needs, and thus add personalization to your customer service.

For instance, by identifying which questions your customers are commonly asking, you can set up a knowledge base on your website, and let your customers look up the information they needed, without having to contact your customer service reps. As a result, the number of your incoming calls will reduce, and your agents will be able to focus on more complex issues.

It’s a common practice at call centers to record customer calls for training purposes. So, make sure to analyze these recorded calls (make sure to comply with GDPR!) to identify recurring issues your customers are experiencing. Once you identified the most common recurring issues, try and fix them before they become bigger problems.

Furthermore, check out online reviews and social media platforms to find out what customers are saying about the quality of your customer service and use these insights to create a more tailored experience for them.

Increase customer loyalty

According to a research conducted by Bain & Co, acquiring new customers is 5 times as costly as retaining existing ones. In the customer service industry, therefore, customer loyalty is above all.

As we all know, nothing cultivates customer loyalty as much as efficient customer experience. When your customers need support, your agents need to address their issues as quickly and as painless as possible.

In today’s competitive business environment, it’s more than difficult to earn customers’ trust. When your customers, however, need help and it is offered in an efficient way, chances are that the positive experience will increase their trust in your business.

Furthermore, as already mentioned, forward-thinking call centers have already realized that their recorded calls – containing valuable data – can be used for a lot more than training purposes.

These days, technologies, such as speech analytics, is able to analyze the caller’s tone, vocabulary, and sentiment, while identifying which agents are not treating your customers properly.

The level of success or difficulty that specific agents experience with various types of calls can also help you better understand which of your agents are best suited to handle certain calls.

Increase cross-sell and upsell

Applying meaningful data analytics can play a key role in improving customer service as well as increasing sales performance.

During telesales campaigns, when your agents are offering products, or additional services to your customers, it’s essential for them to understand which offers are relevant for them.

In short, the secret here is to offer products to your customers that match their preferences. But how do you know what are their preferences?

By using data analytics, you’ll be able to examine the patterns in the customer’s past behavior, correlate this information with similar customers, and then identify potential products and services that may be relevant for your customers.

With relatively uncomplicated data analytics, such as purchase history, you’ll be able to identify your customers’ preferences and needs. Such information will definitely help your agents cross or upsell products that are the most relevant to your customers.

By applying meaningful data analytics, call centers can create more personalized customer experience, increase customer loyalty and improve sales performance. So, don’t just sit on your data goldmine, start utilizing it by following our pro tips!

How GDPR Affects Call Recording – Everything You Need to Know

Posted on: June 20th, 2018 by dorarapcsak 4 Comments

On May 25 this year, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force. But this is only the beginning, as organizations will need to make sure that everything they implement from now on complies with the new regulation.

Even though GDPR is now in effect, many organizations are still trying to determine what their obligations are under the new rules (if you’re still unclear whether your call center is GDPR compliant or not, then hurry up and make sure you check out our GDPR checklist for call centers!).

Perhaps one of the most confusing areas of the new rules – which is causing headache for many businesses – remains the handling, processing, and maintaining of recorded calls. As we all know, call recording is a common call center practice, with many benefits to a call center. But when it comes to recording agent calls, are you sure that your call center is playing by the rules?

In this article, we’ll discuss how the new legislation affects call recording, and how you can ensure that your call center is processing call recording in accordance with these new rules.

Call recording under GDPR

As we already went through in a previous article, the main aim of GDPR is to strengthen data protection across the EU, while giving people more control over how organizations can use their personal data. In fact, although you might not think so, voice files are considered personal data as they can include personal information, such as the caller’s name, address or financial information. As a result, call recording is classified as a form of ‘data processing’, and falls under the new rules covered by GDPR.

Although call recording was already classified as a form of “data processing” under the Data Protection Act of 1998 (DPA), GDPR brought some significant changes to the table, and call centers will definitely need to take them into consideration if they plan to continue recording their calls.
Under DPA, tacit consent was assumed as long as customers were informed about the purpose of the recording, and were given the option to opt out. Under GDPR, however, the consent of the individual to be recorded can now not simply be assumed. As a result, the often-used “calls are recorded for training purposes” messages will no longer be enough to gain consent to record agent calls.

With GDPR in force, call centers need to ensure that customers give specific and unambiguous consent to be recorded. Furthermore, organizations will need to justify that their purpose for recording calls fulfills one of the conditions below:

  1. Individual(s) involved in the call have given their consent to be recorded (oral acceptance during the call, consent after receiving a message, or consent as part of a customer agreement)
  2. Recording is required to fulfill a contract to which the individual is a party
  3. Recording is required to fulfill a legal obligation to which the recorder is subject
  4. Recording is required to protect the interests of one or more participants
  5. Recording is in the public interest
  6. Recording is in the recorder’s interest unless those interests are less important than the interests of the individuals in the call

Be prepared!

As GDPR is now in force, we trust that your company already ensured that your customer calls recording are running as outlined above. But unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that your work ends there. Besides gaining specific consent from customers, call centers – and organizations as a whole – need to be able to recall any audio files on request, and provide customers with requested personal information within one month of the request.

Furthermore, under GDPR, companies are now required to delete customers’ personal data upon request – known as the ‘right to be forgotten’. As a result, all data – including recorded calls – must be easily available, and if a call center is unable to deliver or delete data within the requested time frame, it could lead to heavy penalties for the organization.

In contrast, many call recording solutions, typically encrypt all information in a call, thus making deleting calls from them costly in terms of time and effort. As such, in order to be able to make recorded calls easily accessible, the implementation of technology tools able to handle these demands is an absolute must.

In addition, once you have a top-notch technology solution in place, don’t forget to educate your staff about GDPR. Addressing GDPR on these two fronts will make all the difference.

Sum up

GDPR clearly represents a significant challenge for any call center. However, if you play by the rules, you can be sure that your call center will still be able to benefit from data collected via call recording while remaining compliant with the new legislation.

Articles and entries on vcc.live/blog do not constitute legal advice. Should you have any legal questions, please contact your lawyer or legal advisor. VCC Live® will not take any responsibility or liability for any damages, disadvantages or losses that may arise from the results of any interpretation of the contents of the blog.

Read our practical GDPR GUIDE and make sure your contact center is compliant! 

Gen Z in Call Centers: How to Motivate the New Generation

Posted on: June 19th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

As the saying goes, “time flies in the blink of an eye”: with millennials already in their 30s, a new generation of employees are now entering the workforce. And many of the most forward-thinking businesses have already started to pave the way for this new generation, known as Generation Z.

Generation Z, born in 1995 or later, are likely to completely transform workplace norms in the future, so organizations in general need to understand what makes their future employees tick in order to keep them motivated and help companies grow.

Call centers, in particular, will need to be aware of this. Attracted by relatively high salaries and flexible working hours, many fresh Gen Z graduates will start their careers in a call center. So, like it or not, as a call center leader, you too have to understand what motivates the newest members in the labor market.

To help you out, in this article we’re going to talk about five notable Gen Z characteristics, and show you how you can keep Gen Z’ers motivated in your call center. So, here we go with the A-Z on Gen Z!

A career-focused generation

Although many millennial consider call centers a temporary workplace until they find something they perceive as being more substantial, it seems that Generation Z are in general a lot more career-conscious. Having grown up in a connected world, and with access to infinite amounts of information from a very early age, they better understand what careers are available, and which might be best for them.

Their commitment to the career concept will result in them being excellent customer service representatives, as they will be aware of the value of going the extra mile to excel at their job, rather than settling for less.

On the other hand, as Z’ers are more career-focused, they will require a greater level of attention from their employers. With high career aspirations and a continuous desire for improvement, they will definitely refuse to be just another cog in a call center.

Therefore, as a call center manager, you will need to ensure that your Gen Z agents have clearly-laid out promotions paths for a potential career in a call center. Always bear in mind that this generation doesn’t necessarily plan for the long term: if you don’t support them in their career growth, they’ll simply use your company as a stepping stone and utilize the knowledge they gather at another organization.

Up-to-date technology

Generation Z is the first generation to grow up as digital natives. In fact, for the emerging new generation, technology is at the heart of life. These kids were practically born with a tablet in their hands (rather than a silver spoon in their mouths), so it’s no surprise that they cannot imagine a world without smart gadgets.

Is this a bad thing? Well, in our opinion, the answer is NO. These kids know exactly how to utilize technology to make their lives easier. And they are ready to bring this tech-savvy approach to their workplace.

Unsurprisingly then, poor levels of technology at a workplace is one of the most frustrating factors for Generation Z’ers, and you can be sure that outdated technology tools will make them want to move on. So, to keep your Gen Z agents motivated, make sure to empower them with up-to-date technology.

And, in an ever-changing technological work environment, you need to keep up with technology advancements anyway, don’t you? As Gen Z feels the same way, it’s a win-win situation.

Thinkers, not executors

In contrast to Millennials, who typically look for job stability, members of Generation Z are renowned for taking risks and are a lot more entrepreneurial at heart. This generation, it is believed, is comprised of thinkers, rather than just doers. They will want to share their ideas with you, not just follow your instructions.

Furthermore, ever-evolving technology, connectivity, and social networks have provided infinite real-time information to Gen Z kids. They have used internet from a very early age, and they’re used to receiving dozens of impulses from different social media channels. As a result, their thinking is more diverse than previous generations, and they are always up for some brainstorming.

So, if you want to keep the Gen Z’ers in your team motivated, always make sure to find some time to listen to their ideas. As they may well have an entrepreneurial mindset, they have the potential to help you shape the future of your business by sharing their insights with you.

Energetic work environment

Over the last few decades, we’ve seen how office cubicles were slowly replaced by open-plan offices to accommodate millennials’ needs. However, office environments created to attract millennials may not be so appealing to the members of Generation Z.

The newest generation is more focused on individuality, and like their work environment to reflect this. Although open plan offices are still popular among employers due to their cost-effectiveness, they can have a negative impact on productiveness, and Gen Z’ers will be looking for more in their workspace.

But, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to invest a fortune in a newly-designed office. An office plan, however, with private and collaborative workspaces is definitely something you should consider. Gen Z’ers are constantly on the move and don’t like to spend all their time at their desks.

So, although an open plan office will make it easier for agents to talk to each other, there should also be individual working areas in your office as well. By providing such workspaces, both Millennials and Gen Z’ers at your call center will be able to collaborate with their peers and use private areas when they need to deal with a complex issue.

Flexible work

Gen Z’ers prefer flexibility at work and find the idea of working from home or even from a coffee shop or similar appealing. As workers who increasingly reject traditional working hierarchies, they will expect to be offered flexible working options once or twice a week, as well as a possibility of remote work. In comparison, an inflexible working environment will definitely scare them away.

Therefore, try and create a more open work environment for Gen Z members in your agent team. This generation is already used to completing tasks virtually from anywhere, so you can be sure that if they have to leave the workspace early for whatever reason, they’ll likely finish their tasks from home.

In addition, unlike Millennials, Generation Z is happier with flexible working hours, so if your call center provides 24/7 customer service, then you can even count on them to take on those ‘dreaded’ night shifts.

Sum Up

As you can see, Generation Z is more self-conscious and is looking for a strong work-life balance. It’s clear that if Gen Z’ers feel motivated and fulfilled in their role, they will be loyal to your call center in the long term. All you have to do is to find that golden mean to keep them productive as well as motivated.

5 types of call center agents – and how to motivate them

Posted on: June 14th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

Call centers seem to attract particular types of personalities. And although every call center – just like every office – is comprised of individuals, there are some types of character you’ll meet at almost every call center.

As we all know, a happy team is a productive team. So, as a call center supervisor, one of your most essential ongoing tasks will be to keep your agent team happy and motivated. However, as your team consists of individuals, you will not be able to simply deal with them in the same way.

In this article, we’ll highlight the five most common types of call center agents, and show you how to motivate them successfully.

 

1. The overachiever

“Overachievers” are the highest performing employees in your team, both in terms of success and work rate: they are the first to arrive at work and the last to leave. Chances are that you’ll even see them scrolling through their emails during their lunch break.

“Overachievers” are determined to climb the call center career ladder (for pro tips on how to do that, click here), and most likely no one will be able to stand in their way.

When it comes to their daily work, “overachievers” are committed to getting things done. Their persistent attitude makes them excellent problem solvers, which is a great asset to any customer service team.

How to motivate them: as they always strive to be the best, you can best motivate them by assigning them tasks with a higher level of responsibility. By being entrusted with such responsibility, they’ll feel that they stand out from their team of agents due to their excellent performance.

“Overachievers” want to feel valued by management as well as their teammates, so you can best empower them by giving them positive feedback. And don’t forget to promote them when they are ready to take their skills to the next level: that will be their ultimate motivation!

 

2. The entertainer

Every office has a clown: the agent who loves to socialize and keep people around them laughing, with a joke for every situation.

“Entertainer” agents have a positive mindset, a really great skill to have when your job is to help customers over the phone. They tend to provide a high level of customer service, and should definitely be considered an asset to your team.

One thing is for sure: an “entertainer” call center agent will never mistreat your customers, even if they are having a bad day.  Furthermore, due to their positive mindset, they tend to get along with both their colleagues and customers. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

How to motivate them: a positive and fun office culture will greatly motivate this type of call center agent. An “entertainer” center is usually an energetic person who can be very productive in their preferred environment. However, always bear in mind that they won’t function very well if they feel they’re too restricted.

Plus tip: when it comes to team building activities, ask them to help you organize the event. You can be sure they’ll totally go for it.

 

3. The transient agent

Like it or not, there will always be “transient” agents in your call center agent team, here today and gone tomorrow (or maybe the day after). Many employees see call center work as a temporary workplace until they find a better job. “Transient” agents in your team will most likely lack a sense of responsibility and will have no intention of settling in.

How to motivate them: first of all, don’t give up on them so easily! Although many people think that call centers and careers don’t mix, the truth is that call center employees have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of career opportunities. So, why not highlight the career possibilities in your call center to such employees? If you manage to change their attitude, they may even end up becoming valuable members of your team.  

 

4. The loyal agent

In contrast to the “transient” agent, “loyal” agents in your team have been with you for years, and the good news is that they have no intention of leaving. This type of call center agent plans for the long term and their long-term plan is to have a stable career in the call center. Yes, really.

As they are committed to help your company succeed, they tend to provide exceptional customer service, representing your business in the way you want them to.

How to motivate them: while the “loyal” agent probably won’t be striving to climb the career ladder much, there is one thing that’ll be essential to them: organized internal processes. Make sure to give them clear instructions, and always provide them with the tools they need to carry out their tasks. Furthermore, give them a free hand in complex situations so that they can make their own decisions. Finally, don’t forget to involve them in training sessions. As they have extensive knowledge and experience, they may well be able to help the rest of your team improve.

 

5. The leader material

The “leader material” agent is a highly valuable asset to your organization. This type of employee is a real thinker: they see the whole picture and come up with ideas that could help you improve productivity. Maybe once you’re ready to leave the company, you’ll be happy to turn over the reins to them. As they are high achievers, gaining specialist knowledge is what’s important to them.

How to motivate them: once you have them in your team, you better do your best to try to keep them motivated.  As they crave challenging tasks, they will soon become bored with routine tasks. Therefore, make sure to assign complex duties to them, and look for alternative roles for them when they’ve outgrown their current job. If you empower this type of call center agent, then you can consider them potential future leaders at the call center.

 

 

Google Duplex technology: will the AI affect call centers?

Posted on: June 13th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

There’s been a lot of buzz around newly emerging, ever-more sophisticated AI technologies that will transform our business and everyday lives.

There’s no doubt that technology is continuing to evolve at lightning speed, and it’s difficult to forecast how far it will advance in the coming years.

The most recent advancement came with Google’s announcement of its “Google Duplex” system at its 2018 developer conference. With Google Duplex, the tech giant took AI technology to a whole new level, creating artificial intelligence that can be used even without you knowing it.

But how will technologies such as Google Duplex affect our lives in the long-term? And more importantly, will they reshape the call center industry?

What is Google Duplex?

During Google’s annual developer conference, the company CEO Sundar Pichai introduced Google Duplex, the company’s latest AI technology. Google Duplex is the technology behind a new Google Assistant feature that allows it to place phone calls on a user’s behalf for appointments that need to be made over the phone.

The system makes conversations sound as natural as possible, with a human-sounding voice being used instead of a robotic one.

According to Google, this new technology is able to understand “complex sentences, fast speech, and long remarks”. Furthermore, Google Duplex is able to converse with employees and even respond to unexpected questions in real time.

The aim of developing Google Duplex was to create artificial intelligence that could make calls when it wasn’t convenient for the user. Google Assistant is already able to find local businesses and dial numbers, but Google Duplex takes things one step further: it can speak with someone at the relevant business, and make an appointment on the user’s behalf.

How does it work?

Google Duplex relies on a machine learning model drawn from real-world phone conversations. It’s no doubt that this new technology is a breakthrough in speech recognition and text-to-speech synthesis, especially in terms of conversation purpose.

As you can see in its demo video, Google Duplex sounds so natural that it can conduct conversations without anyone ever knowing they were speaking to an AI. To make the technology sound even more natural, Google mimicked people’s speech imperfections, resulting in, for example, the AI waiting a few seconds before it responses, or even saying “hmm” as it processes information.

Furthermore, Duplex also manages to master human attentiveness. In the demo, Duplex was required to reserve a table while communicating with a non-native English speaker at the other end of the phone. Despite the linguistic difficulties, the technology managed to react to unexpected questions and completed the task successfully. Amazing, right?

Will such AI technologies affect the call center industry?

It’s true that the technology behind Google Duplex sounds miraculous and very futuristic, but it does raise a number of questions, one being: how will it affect the call center industry, which typically deals with customer interactions via the phone?

As we all know, these days call centers support their customers using a variety of communication channels. And while each communication channel is extremely essential for the proper functioning of any customer service department, inbound and outbound calls remain the foremost communication channel for call centers.  

So, as Google Duplex now seems capable of making phone calls and communicating as if it were a real person, it is likely to raise concerns in the call center industry. If AI is already able to make calls, how long will it take for it to learn how to receive calls? And as a result, will similar AI products take away center agents’ jobs?

At the moment it seems such a situation is far in the future. We all know that call centers handle a wide range of activities, including customer service, technical support, telesales, debt collection, surveying etc. As a result, call center agents have to be able to handle complex and varied-topic conversations with customers.

This is in complete contrast to the current capabilities of Duplex. Google’s engineers themselves stated in a post that “Duplex can only carry out natural conversations after being deeply trained in such domains. It cannot carry out general conversations”.

AI technology in call centers: friend or foe?

So, what is the future for AI in the call center industry?

Over the last few decades, we have seen artificial intelligence technology advance rapidly, with ever-more sophisticated chatbots coming onto the market (if you’re into robots as as much as we are, then make sure to check out our infographic on how chatbots learned to speak!).

As we already talked about in a previous article, the concept of chatbot usage is not uncommon in the call center industry, with customer service chatbots already starting to work alongside call center agents. However, rather than stealing each other’s jobs, together they form the perfect team: chatbots carry out routine work, while call center agents focus on more complex issues.

And this, we believe, is also the future of AI technology in the call center industry. Rather than replace human call center agents, the ultimate use of AI technology in call centers will be simply to help improve overall customer experience. As chatbots have already shown they can efficiently and effectively handle repetitive and monotonous tasks, we trust that in the future, voice-powered AI technology – like Google Duplex – will also be a force working with call center agents, rather than against them.

But, as the saying goes, only time will tell…

Top 5 customer service mistakes you need to avoid

Posted on: June 12th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

Customer service is the backbone of every successful business, and for good reason: these days, providing excellent customer experience makes all the difference between your company having customer satisfaction or poor brand reputation.

This is especially true for call centers, whose core activities center around customer service. Customer service agents receive many phone calls during an average day, and the customers on the other end of the line expect prompt, efficient and effective telephone service.

It’s definitely not easy mastering the way to provide excellent customer service, and of course, there will always be ups and downs on your journey.

So, to help you out, here are five common customer service mistakes, together with our tips on how you can prevent them. Check them out now, and make sure your call center is not committing these major mistakes!

 

1. Over-promising

Keeping promises is the basis of building trust with customers. There are few things more annoying than a company that doesn’t keep the promises it makes to its customers

Unfortunately, our experience tells us that this is not unusual. In fact, it’s a common customer service mistake that businesses make promises they cannot keep.

An example: recently, our team tested customer service quality at 10 African banks. They contacted them via various channels, including phone, email, forms, and chat. Out of the 10 banks, only one promised to send an email with the information they needed. Believe it or not, many weeks later, that email still hasn’t arrived…

Nowadays, when customers have an issue, all they need to do is to simply fill out a form or send a message via Facebook. In return, they expect a quick answer from the company’s customer services and expect these customer services to always be available 24/7.

As a result, many companies, desperately trying to meet customers’ expectations, over-promise in order make it appear that they really are available 24/7. However, the problems start when they find they simply cannot fulfill their promises.  

Our tip: don’t bite off more than you can chew! If your agents promise a call-back to your customers within two hours, then try and ensure that they stick to it. Remember, your customers may organize their daily activities around your phone call, so don’t waste their time!  

Furthermore, you don’t have to have a presence on every channel just because your competitors do. It’s better to have less customer service channels that actually function well, than delivering poor customer service because you cannot handle the number of channels you utilize. See section 5 below for more on this.  

 

2. Negative IVR experiences

All of us have ended up dealing with an IVR system with long wait times when trying to get information, resolve an issue or request a service. Although the main aim of an IVR, in theory, is to decrease customer wait time and improve customer experience, in practice this type of technology has become fairly unpopular among customers. It’s true that a well-designed IVR can boost productivity and improve customer experience, but, unfortunately, it’s easy to get it wrong.

When it comes to IVR technology, one major customer service mistake often made is that an IVR system’s menu is simply not easy to navigate, and instructions are not clear. When using an IVR, customers will expect to have to navigate through the system in order to reach a customer service representative. However, going through a badly planned menu with unclear instructions will quickly make them more than frustrated.

A bad IVR experience will definitely encourage people to spread negative comments about your company. And as we already talked about in a previous article, you should never underestimate the power of online reviews.

So, make time to assess your own IVR system. Our tip is to always review an IVR system before you allow your customers to use it. In particular, check if the menu is easy to navigate and that all instructions are clear and simple to understand.

If anything is not clear to you, then it is likely that your customers will also have the same problems, and will struggle with your IVR system – which will only lead to negative feedback.

 

3. Information not being available

According to a research by Gartner, by 2020 85% of customers will manage their brand interactions without speaking to a single human.

In fact, today’s “connected” generation already prefers to communicate via text rather than voice. They increasingly search a company’s website for information and only contact customer services if they are unable to find the information they need.

It’s no surprise then that businesses have started to utilize self-service options on their websites for customers to try before they get in contact with customer service. Self-service options have become ever more popular over the last few years, as it means companies can set up a knowledge base or an FAQ on their website, which is far simpler to manage than other methods.

However, self-service is only efficient if you make sure you include all the necessary information required by your customers. A common customer service mistake is that companies encourage their customers to visit their website to get the information they need, but the information is either unavailable or difficult to find.

Our tip: Give self-service a try and you’ll soon see how much it can help your customers. However, when creating a self-service option, always make sure to provide useful FAQs for your customers that are easy to access. Navigating through messy web pages will quickly make visitors lose patience.

Moreover, only direct your customers to your website to get information if you have high-quality resources that help them resolve their issues. Again, a badly written knowledge base that lacks necessary information will drive your customers crazy.

 

4.  Transferring customers between channels

The time when you could contact customer services on a single channel is long gone. These days, multichannel customer service allows customers to select from a number of channels – including phone, online forms, email, SMS, chat – while promising the same level of service. But do customers really get the same level of service when using multiple customer service channels? Unfortunately, often the answer is no.

A major customer service mistake is that they want to be present on several channels, but are unable to perform equally well on all of them.  Instead, to make up for their shortcomings, they keep transferring customers to other channels, hoping that the customer service reps responsible for those channels can resolve their issues. However, customers easily get frustrated when they are transferred through several customer service channels while having to repeat information over and over again.

Our tip: Instead of using every possible channel, try and focus on channels your customers actually want to use. Always make sure that agents provide the same quality of customer service on each of your channels. Furthermore, if you have to transfer your customers from one channel to another, ensure that there’s an exchange of information between your channels. You’ll see, it will make all the difference.

 

5. Untrained call center agents

Going back to our story about the African banks, 9 out of 10 banks did not manage to find a way to provide us with the information we needed, and the only bank who offered to send an email never did. Quite frightening, right?

What this example makes clear is that the success of your customer service depends hugely on the performance of your team. If your agents are not properly trained and motivated, then you can be pretty sure that the quality of your service will suffer greatly.

However, yet another common customer service mistake is that businesses often see training as an expense, rather than an investment. Untrained agents, however, will lack the knowledge that enables them to help your customers, which will, inevitably, lead to poor customer experience.

Our tip here is to allocate enough time and money to train your agents properly. Instead of forcing them into situations they are unable to handle, give them plenty of time to learn their duties and get comfortable in their role. Furthermore, give your experienced agents free hand to make their own decisions when necessary. By doing this, you’ll empower them to resolve issues more efficiently on their own, and as such be able to provide exceptional customer experience. Finally, don’t forget to offer them feedback. As we already wrote about in a previous article, valuable feedback can have a great impact on your employees’ performance.

 

Sum up

Nobody likes waiting for a call that never arrives, or being transferred around departments, or dealing with untrained call center agents. While you may think you are doing your best to deliver exceptional customer experience, it’s easy to get things wrong. So, use our examples above, and make sure your call center is not committing these customer service mistakes.