Posts Tagged ‘multichannel’

How to Provide Omnichannel Experience in the Banking Industry – With an Example

Posted on: June 14th, 2019 by Elemér Erdősi 2 Comments

With the evolution of technology and new strategies in today’s customer service landscape, it is of utmost importance for companies to explore and keep up with the latest trends in order to stay ahead of the game.

Currently, customer service is dominated by the concept of leveraging several channels with the aim of aligning customer communication. First, it was multichannel, later omnichannel, and now companies started to explore optichannel communication.

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel vs. Optichannel

The terms multichannel and omnichannel are often used interchangeably. And while both terms are related, there is a significant difference between them.  

Multichannel communication means leveraging several channels when interacting with customers. However, omnichannel communication takes things to the next level by aligning the channels utilized.

But what about optichannel? Well, when it comes to interacting with customers, companies need to rely on the most efficient communication methods. And this is where optichannel comes in handy.

Indeed, having only just started to embrace the omnichannel concept, optichannel is the new buzzword taking over the customer service landscape. While omnichannel allows customers to engage with companies on their preferred channel, with optichannel communication it is your business that specifically determines the optimal channel for your customers based on your goals for each channel and available customer information.  

Although optichannel will definitely become more popular in the future, at the moment it is omnichannel that rules in the banking industry. In this article, I will focus on the omnichannel approach, and more precisely, how you can provide an omnichannel experience in the banking industry. Let’s dive in!

Omnichannel experience in the banking industry

Providing an omnichannel experience in the banking industry is pretty much a prerequisite for any financial organization that wish to keep their customers in the long run.

Omnichannel experience in banking is about providing a seamless and consistent interaction with customers across multiple channels. In particular, during customer interactions, agents need to easily switch between several channels (for example, phone, sms, chat, video) in order to provide customers with an as convenient customer experience as possible.

And in order to be able to provide this seamless and consistent interaction, agents need to be able to rely on an all-in-one solution that is able to integrate all the channels you use, as well as displaying comprehensive customer information, on the same platform.

The solution offered by ourselves here at VCC Live®, for example, not only allows you to integrate your channels but also displays all your customer information on the same platform, helping your agents read your customers’ minds.

Furthermore, in the banking industry, providing customer support on any device is just as important as leveraging and aligning several channels. As customers these days are constantly on the go, the majority of them are likely to handle their queries via their mobile phones. Therefore, simply having a mobile application is not enough today, financial institutions also need to ensure that customer journeys carried out via their mobile platform are as convenient and simple as via phone/web.

In other words, providing multichannel experience in the banking industry means delivering the same quality of service across all channels and all devices, both online and offline.

Example of omnichannel support in the banking industry

So, now that you know how important omnichannel experience in the banking industry is, let’s have a look at a real-life omnichannel experience example that highlights what VCC Live®’s solution can offer.

Let’s say your customer wants to raise the limit of the amount of money they can withdraw from an ATM at any one time. They begin to search the bank’s website using their mobile to check out the possibilities.

The company’s chat window pops up and the customer types in the chat window that they want to raise the limit of the amount of money they can withdraw from an ATM at anyone time.

A live agent now enters the conversation and notifies the customer that in order to raise this limit, identification is needed. Thanks to the integration of the several channels the bank leverages for customer interactions, the agent is able to see the customer’s complete history on one single platform.

In the past, identification required customers to physically go to the financial institutions to identify themselves. However, thanks to the latest technology, which is incorporated into VCC Live®’s solution, customers can now identify themselves via video call.

The agent can thus offer the customer the opportunity to be identified via video call. The customer confirms video call identification. The agent send an SMS with instructions and a link to the video call.

The customer clicks on the link and the video call begins. Following the instructions given, the customer looks into the camera and holds up an appropriate identification card. The agent takes a photo, checks the quality, and informs the customer if the identification was successful.

After successful identification, the agent can now increase the limit on the customer’s card. The conversation ends, and the agent sends the customer an SMS with a link to a survey to assess the quality of the call.

During this simple and short conversation, the customer was smoothly switched between four communications channels, including chat, SMS, video call and email. The result is a convenient and efficient customer interaction that solved the customer’s query at the first go. And this is exactly what an omnichannel experience in the banking industry should be like.

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.

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.