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In my benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement three-quarters (77%) of participating companies said it is necessary to improve the way they engage with customers. The main vr_NGCE_Research_01_impetus_for_improving_engagementdrivers for doing that are to improve the customer experience (74%) and improve customer service (70%). However, neither is an easy task because companies now have to support more channels of communication, and more customer interactions are handled by multiple business units within the organization. The combined impact of this complexity can be inconsistent responses that depend largely on which channel the customer uses and which person handles the interaction. This is situation is likely to get worse as customers continue to use existing channels but increasingly add new means of engagement such as mobile apps, voice-activated applications and social media posts.

The research shows that companies to expect keep on adding channels, including, despite predictions to the contrary, small numbers of companies expecting to add traditional channels such as the telephone, email and written documents. While innovative channels such as social media (40%), chat (41%), mobile business apps (37%), mobile customer service apps (29%) and video calls (29%) are currently used by a minority of companies, they are the ones more companies expect to support in the next two years. This is especially true of mobile customer service apps, which an additional 40 percent expect to deploy, mobile business apps (38%) and social media forums (35%). They are also where companies expect to see in the most increase in the volume of interactions: 30 percent of companies expect significant growth in social media, and 24 percent expect growth for each type of mobile apps. At the same time companies cannot afford to forget more established channels; for example, more than one-fifth expect significant growth in the use of Web-based self-service, their customer portal and email. In total, the research makes clear that companies must support as many channels as possible; if they haven’t already begun supporting social customer service (as opposed to using social media merely as a cheap form of marketing) and mobile apps, they should start to do so soon.

Among companies that now support social media, only one-fifth said their efforts have been successful. As a pointer to others thinking of supporting social media, these companies said that to be more successful they must provide more information (48%), link social customer service processes with other processes (41%) and personalize more responses (41%). Although support of mobile apps is in its infancy, just under one-third of companies said their customers provide positive feedback about such apps; perhaps even more pleasingly they have seen improved customer satisfaction (42%) and customer effort (40%) scores and fewer calls to the contact center (33%). It is early for truly social customer service and mobile apps, but these results show they are likely channels for the future. Our advice is not to waste time and begin supporting them but very importantly, design them with the customer in mind.

There is a lot being written about the “omni-channel customer experience” today, but until companies fully integrate management of all their communication channels, I don’t believe customers will receive consistent experiences across them. And as I indicated earlier, there is another barrier. This research confirms what I have seen in previous benchmarks: Nearly all business units, except for IT, are now involved in handling customer interactions, and these business units are as disconnected as are the communication channels. Marketing, sales, customer service and other business units all typically do their own thing, and this is another reason why customers are likely to get different information and experiences depending on who handles their interaction; it also makes it less likely that interactions will be resolved at the first attempt. vr_NGCE_Research_06_changes_to_improve_engagementThe solution is for business units to share information and collaborate more on the resolution of customer issues. The research finds that to improve engagement, most (19%) plan to deploy collaboration systems. Furthermore although the research finds that today companies mostly use traditional tools such as file sharing, workflow and alerts, these are likely to replaced with systems that support Facebook-like wall capabilities for more real-time sharing of information and dialogue between employees. Most interactions need handling in real time, and such capabilities can help improve first-contact-resolution rates and provide better customer experiences and outcomes.

My research agenda for 2014 is focused on helping provide the best possible customer engagement methods using technology. The pace of change in the way consumers interact with each other and companies continues to accelerate, and companies that don’t keep up risk losing business. This and other consumer research shows that more interactions will be based on electronic channels, yet not many companies are prepared to meet these challenges. The technology is available, especially as more vendors support cloud-based systems, so I recommend companies don’t rest on their laurels but take the next steps toward a true omni-channel experience. If you want to learn more about how to best in class for customer engagement, let me know as we have the research and expertise to ensure you can do so.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director – Customer Engagement

Envision has carved out a slice of the workforce optimization marketvr_NGWO2_06_use_of_agent_workforce_applications by offering its suite of products as cloud-based services. In addition to core products such as interaction recording, quality assurance, workforce management, training, coaching and agent analytics, it offers speech and desktop analytics and customer feedback management through surveys and our part of my research agenda. Our last Value Index shows that this is a highly competitive market, and my benchmark research on next-generation workforce optimization reveals that various segments of the market such as call recording and quality management have high levels of penetration. I was therefore keen to understand where Envision’s latest release, Click2Coach Cloud, fits in this market.

According to Envision, its developers spent the past year enhancing the product to architect it better for the cloud without losing any functionality. Customers now access the system using a low-cost, downloadable desktop application that supports a number of key capabilities. It includes phone and computer/telephony integration (CTI) capabilities, an agent work screen and workflow functionality that can be configured to optimize interaction-handling. The product also includes something I haven’t come across before: the ability to capture core customer data as agents enter it using their work screens.

The data is stored in an internal database, which provides access to it without the need for integration with business applications. It also meets an important requirement in that the captured data can include customer identification data such as name, address, phone number, email address and social media identifiers. With this data stored in the database, companies can link all of the information together to track interactions from the same customer even though each interaction may include only one of the identifiers. This is essential for tracking the customer journey across touch points, and it enables companies to identify the channel a customer prefers, the channel the customer uses for certain types of interactions and at certain points in the relationship, and the outcome of interactions. In addition, having this data readily available allowed Envision to enhance its product with agent and customer interaction analytics.

In my research into next-generation workforce optimization nearly half of companies (48%) said it is very important for their workforce optimization systems to be fully integrated, which is something the Envision suite has long offered. However, the research also finds that it is important that a workforce optimization suite is easily integrated with other systems. Increasingly an important integration is to link customer feedback with agent quality management. The latest version of Click2Coach Cloud has integrated surveys along with new analytics capabilities that companies can use to extract customer feedback and sentiment from voice and text-based interactions such as call recordings, email, chat and social media. All of these sources can be brought together to produce a complete view of the customer that is linked with agent performance.

Envision Click2Coach Cloud is available as a cloud-based service and is priced competitively. During a demonstration I found the software intuitive to use. Cloud-based products offering high functionality and competitive pricing are likely to address one of the key insights from my next-generation workforce optimization benchmark research: Although many companies have adopted these systems, most of them have large contact centers; those with smaller centers more often rely on manual processes supported by spreadsheets. Indeed, this disparity led us to observe that cloud-based services are needed to open up more of the market. Customers can check off all the boxes with Envision’s new technology and commercial package, so I expect it to appeal to both small and large contact centers.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director – Customer

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