While each organization may have its own set of service priorities, every business must now recognize and embrace one universal truth .Customers now expect more efficient service than ever from the companies with whom they do business. They want immediate, accurate answers on the channel of their choice and even if they switch channels in the midst of an interaction, they believe that the conversation should continue with no need to repeat information that has already been provided. When consumers are disappointed, they do not hesitate to express their displeasure to a vast audience on social media or worse, immediately shift their allegiance to a competitor.
To maintain their customer base, a company now needs to prove themselves every day. This involves not only having the data from previous interactions instantly available, but having the intelligence tools to leverage personalized information that lets each individual know they are valued and appreciated. In addition, companies in nearly every business sector must comply with more stringent regulations to maintain security and privacy
In the second in a series of analyses on the transition to cloud and multi-channel service, experts from top solution providers explain why agents must now have customer data at their fingertips, examine the state of integration between cloud and CRM applications and how it impacts providing true omni-channel service, discuss the need for companies to make technology work more effectively for consumers and take a closer look at progress in optimizing mobile service options.
- Why has it become more important than ever for agents to have complete customer information instantly accessible to provide better cross-channel service?
Lauren Maschio, Director of Marketing, VoltDelta: Customer expectations have changed in recent years. With the rise of social media and mobile phones, customers are empowered to hold organizations accountable for meeting their expectations to obtain efficient service, no matter what channel on which they initiate the conversation. Organizations can deliver on these expectations using capable cloud contact center solutions that support blended channel technology. This technology provides agents with contextual awareness of past customer interactions right to their multichannel desktop. Agents have intelligence on who the customer is and why he or she is calling. For example, many callers’ first contact with a vendor by phone is via the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) channel. Leveraging information gathered in the IVR channel can help:
- Intelligently route customers to the agent
who can best assist them.
- Inform agents by “whispering detail” from the IVR system so customers are not asked to repeat information.
- Auto-populate CRM systems with information collected in the IVR to let agents skip questions.
Dena Skrbina, Senior Director, Solutions Marketing, Nuance Enterprise Division: Study after study shows that having to “repeat information multiple times” is one of the top customer service frustrations. In today’s fast-paced world, that frustration is magnified because customers are able (and often willing) to provide a lot more information to companies through the ever-growing number of digital channels; that said, their expectation is that the information they’ve taken the time to provide will be used to benefit them. 71% of consumers that fail to self-serve online spend over 30 minutes trying to resolve their issue, including taking time to repeat information to agents.
Accessible customer data can ease customer frustration and shorten interactions. Having the correct customer data translates to a company’s ability to provide more tailored and efficient service, dramatically increasing satisfaction and lowering costs. With accessible data, companies can personalize interactions. For example, “Hi Mr. Cross, I see you were inquiring about that backorder…” An adapted experience that doesn’t feel like ‘one-size-fits-all’ nurtures a customer’s willingness to provide even more data and attempt to self-serve when possible. Personalized service also demonstrates to the customer that the company values them, creating a symbiotic relationship between companies and their customers.
Oliver Taylor, Director of Customer Success, Clicktools: In today’s customer-first culture, it’s increasingly critical for companies to prove to their customers that they’re known, heard, and appreciated. People expect personalized service. Recent studies show that customers now make buying decisions based more on customer experience than on product preference. In other words, they will discontinue their relationship with you, even if they like your products. Knowing that risk when they interact with you, agents must be equipped with information (ideally, via the CRM solution) that reveals that customer’s entire experience. Success in this environment requires the elimination of data silos.
Sasha Gorman, EVP of Sales, Platform28: Consumer expectations has changed dramatically in the last five years. We live in an era of infinite options and same-day delivery. Talk about instant gratification. But it also contributes to potentially huge customer churn. If a consumer has a bad brand experience, the details of that interaction get instantly tweeted to an enormous audience. It’s like bad eBay feedback on steroids.
The flip side is a world with exciting ways to build brand momentum, attract many new customers, and ensure that the customers you do have continue to buy from you. When companies prioritize customer engagement at all levels of the organization and leverage technology that enables them to ensure a positive customer experience, these factors have significant impact on the bottom line.
Pulling this off requires agents to personalize their conversations with consumers. At Platform28, we believe there are three key components to effectively delivering a personalized customer experience, all of which require instant access to complete customer information. First, when a customer engages with the contact center, even before a call is delivered to an agent, we tap into data stored in a variety of sources to ensure the most effective agent handles the customer’s call. Second, we leverage real-time speech and omni-channel analytics, feeding scripting suggestions to agents based on what’s happening in their conversation. Third, we allow organizations to uncover Customer Intelligence using business intelligence tools for users with any role, allowing them to take data from the call center platform and virtually any other data source and make it available in real-time for reporting and analysis. When organizations combine instant access to complete customer information with the tools that enable them to personalize conversations the outcomes are immediate and positive.
- With recent security issues in the news, do you think that organizations will be less likely to migrate their applications to the cloud?
Lauren Maschio, Director of Marketing, VoltDelta: Cloud security has always been a major concern for organizations that are considering migrating to the cloud. However, studies indicate that cloud adoption by enterprises of all sizes continues to expand. Organizations that are now looking to move to the cloud should first perform extensive due diligence on prospective vendors to ensure they provide a secure infrastructure. Companies should look for a “Layers of Defense” approach to security to ensure that customer data and personally identifiable information in the contact center is protected. In many situations, a cloud solution may in fact be more secure due to the presence of an industry-certified security team along with systems that are persistently optimized to ensure security.
Dena Skrbina, Senior Director, Solutions Marketing, Nuance Enterprise Division: With millions of people accessing sensitive personal data from various locations and devices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, security is a big concern. While consumers want to keep their sensitive data safe, they’re tired of trying to remember an ever-increasing number of PINs and passwords. According to a Harris Interactive survey, 58 percent of adults are using five or more unique online passwords, and 30 percent have more than 10 they need to remember. The survey also found that 38 percent of online Americans would rather clean a toilet or do other household chores than have to create another username and password. Just as many said it would be easier to solve world peace than to remember all their passwords.  Because of this, consumers are more willing to adopt innovative approaches to authentication. Nuance research shows that 90% of people are eager to use voice biometrics in place of traditional methods of authentication if it means the same high levels of security. The cloud is key to enabling organizations to keep pace with technology acceleration, evolving consumer expectations and the changing competitive landscape. For all of those reasons, companies will continue to migrate their customer service apps and infrastructure to the cloud. Still, with heightened sensitivity around security and privacy, more diligence will be applied to preventing security issues as companies consider – and reconsider – their cloud models, strategies and providers. Companies will more clearly identify their specific security needs based on risk and compliance considerations.
Oliver Taylor, Director of Customer Success, Clicktools No. Cloud solutions are widely accepted as completely safe and secure. That said, companies should do their due diligence and verify that cloud vendors maintain proper security certifications. For example, the Clicktools application is ISO27001 certified, which means that we meet stringent requirements under the protections of the international standard for information security. That’s one reason why organizations such as Barclays, Standard and Poors, Pitney Bowes, Taser, and many others trust us with their customer feedback data.
Sasha Gorman, EVP of Sales, Platform28: No. The cloud offers organizations a way to rapidly become more secure. Security is a hot topic right now, particularly in government, health care and financial services. Widely publicized breaches at Target in December 2013, and broader issues with privacy have had consumers and enterprises on edge. But when we’re talking with prospects, we’re hearing less and less that they want to deal with their security concerns with boxes that they can see and touch. They understand that they need to take a two-pronged approach, making operational changes (who has access and how much access do they have) combined with technology that enables much tighter physical and virtual security. The cost and complexity in deploying security solutions on-site is one of the important concerns fueling double digit annual growth among cloud provides.
It’s important for organizations concerned about security to ensure that their cloud provider delivers data encryption, data separation (including anonymization), and multi-tenant access control limits. These features will allow companies to maintain compliance and adapt to rapidly changing security threats.
- How can CRM applications be seamlessly integrated with cloud applications?
Lauren Maschio, Director of Marketing, VoltDelta: The telephony channel is challenging for many organizations to integrate with CRM systems. This is because CRM systems were not designed with multichannel contact as a first priority. As a result, organizations struggle with how agents can best deal with voice and data as mobility drives communication diversity. A seamless integration between CRM applications and the telephony channel is possible in the cloud. Hosted solutions with a multichannel routing engine that consolidates CRM supported channels including email, chat and social media with telephony is available from select vendors. The technology provides agents with a multichannel media bar within familiar CRM screens. Supervisors will need reporting that delivers a single, cohesive view of a customer’s multichannel experience.
Dena Skrbina, Senior Director, Solutions Marketing, Nuance Enterprise Division: CRM applications are part of a broad category of software that exists to manage customer data and interactions. Uses can range from online incident tracking to contact center agent desktop tools. I see companies extending the effectiveness of their CRM applications in multiple ways. Two of the integration areas where Nuance customers have had success:
------Personalize. Leverage the vast amount of public data that is available via the cloud to streamline the customer experience. For example, using standards-based APIs, companies can leverage a caller’s city, age, phone number, or even social networking data to personalize or streamline the IVR interaction and route the caller to the exact right agent or resource.
----- Predict. Use the collective behavior from past customer interactions or from your cloud providers’ amalgamation of cloud data to ‘predict’ what information your customer most likely needs or the channel they’re most likely to prefer. For example, if 70% of customers that call a company back within 24 hours are requesting to repeat the information they inquired about the day before (for example, a flight or shipping status), ask right upfront if they’re calling about that same thing, rather than presenting them with a one-size-fits-all menu.
Oliver Taylor, Director of Customer Success, Clicktools: The sky’s the limit. In our case, the Clicktools application seamlessly integrates with the leading CRM solutions, so that customer feedback can be automatically centralized with the bulk of other customer data. Notably, this integration can be performed by a non-technical user via a point-and-click interface. It’s our mantra that all customer data belongs in CRM, so regardless of what cloud solutions a company uses, if they collect customer information they should integrate it with CRM for optimal usage and analysis of that data.
Sasha Gorman, EVP of Sales, Platform28: Integration, particularly the deep integration that’s required to deliver personalized customer engagement, is one of our customers’ chief areas of concern today. Some tell us the main reason they replaced their premise systems with a cloud application was because they needed to be able to easily integrate their existing CRM applications and the myriad of other data sources that are required to maintain and grow their customer base. That said, the cloud is not synonymous with easy integration. We see systems that require total rip and replace in order to guarantee integration with a CRM. Or, they need to leverage proprietary technology that requires expensive professional services in order to get applications working together.
The most effective way for contact center platforms to integrate with a CRM or other enterprise application is via an API that leverages a SOAP or REST web service. The API provides a simple, common language that enables organizations to easily integrate applications tightly and securely.
- What steps do organizations need to take to meet rising customer expectations for a seamless omni-channel service?
Lauren Maschio, Director of Marketing, VoltDelta: Organizations must carefully evaluate prospective cloud vendors that can help them deliver the omni-channel service that customers have come to expect. Some of the features that a solution provider must support are call routing, channel blending (with data sharing between channels), integration with their CRM, and call plus screen recording so managers can evaluate the customer journey regardless of the number of transfers between automation to agent. All of these features and more need to be hosted on a secure and reliable infrastructure with the ability to scale. For a more comprehensive list of what to look for in an omni-channel cloud contact center, download a How to Guide - Selecting the Right Cloud Contact Center Solution.
Dena Skrbina, Senior Director, Solutions Marketing, Nuance Enterprise Division: Consumer expectations and behaviors have changed when it comes to service. They’re busier, more technically adept, demanding and connected. Technological advances have created customers who adapt their behavior to the technology instead of the other way around. A recent survey found that 75% of customers said that when they think about what it is they are trying to accomplish on a day-to-day basis, technology places too many constraints on them. 
Against this backdrop, Nuance is convinced that in order to create self-service options that actually work for consumers, as well as for the enterprises that deploy them, companies need to deliver intelligent solutions that simplify the relationship between a customer and the systems we offer for self-service.
Nuance focuses on five key pillars that represent a new generation of intelligent self-service – one that is defined by adapting technology to the customer, instead of the other way around. This is a foundation for self-service that is easy, effective and satisfying for the user. Taking these steps can help companies meet customer expectations and ultimately reap the benefits of increased customer loyalty and increased participation in self-service options.
1) Make the first point of contact intuitive for your customers
2) Turn self-service into a conversation—almost like an interaction with your very best agent
3) Make every experience personal and contextually aware
4) Anticipate customers’ needs
5) Be consistent across service channels and ensure every channel is an ambassador of your brand
Oliver Taylor, Director of Customer Success, Clicktools First and foremost, centralize all customer information and insights in CRM. This includes feedback from surveys, support cases, sales interactions, and data collected by marketing programs and social media. Anyone who interacts with customers should have full visibility along the customer’s journey, so that they can communicate in-context – knowledgeably and confidently serving to meet each customer’s unique needs.
Sasha Gorman, EVP of Sales, Platform28: This is often a series of tough conversations within organizations that are just beginning to strategize about their omni-channel service. We work with our customers to break this down into three broad categories: First, what is the business impact of not communicating with customers in all of the ways they prefer? This is often an excellent way to catalyze all the constituencies within the organization (operations, sales, support, technology, executive leadership). Second, what are the technical and operational changes the organization needs to make to pull it off effectively? This isn’t only a conversation about ensuring that the organization’s contact center platform and associated technology deliver the tools to engage with customers across all channels. It also requires an analysis of how the organization’s customers want to be communicated with in different ways within each individual channel. That piece can often represent a big cultural change in a traditional call center. Third, how can the organization use their omni-channel strategy as a differentiator in their respective market and allow them to grow the business? Omni-channel service provides an opportunity for new kinds of two-way dialogues with customers and prospects. Used effectively, it represents a significant area for customer loyalty, buzz, and market growth.
- With the growing domination of smartphones and tablets, how important is it to optimize service options on all channels to be more responsive to mobile customers?
Lauren Maschio, Director of Marketing, VoltDelta: Optimizing service to work with smartphones and tablets is an important initiative for organizations seeking to improve customer satisfaction. Parkmobile, a VoltDelta customer, offers an innovative “pay by phone” eParking solution which provides a good example of contextual awareness between the mobile app and IVR. VoltDelta’s cloud speech recognition system is integrated with Parkmobile’s data resources. This enables motorists to feel as though Parkmobile “remembered” them even if they contacted the system later in the day over a completely different channel. A motorist could have initiated parking via speech recognition and then checked in later on the Parkmobile smartphone app. The app recognizes a “live session” and guides the motorist appropriately with dynamic screen menus. A case study on Parkmobile can be found on our website.
Dena Skrbina, Senior Director, Solutions Marketing, Nuance Enterprise Division: When it comes to service, what today’s on-the-go consumers really want is a simple, quick solution to their problems. In a recent survey, 75% of people reported that their daily interactions forced them to adapt to the technology instead of the technology adapting to them.  As consumer expectations evolve, the same old approaches to self-service just aren’t getting the job done. 57% of people say they can rarely get the answer or information that they need from a company or service provider when they connect via an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, website or mobile app because the process is far too complex with multiple menus, options and buttons. The good news is that companies can now take advantage of innovative technology that can significantly improve the service experience—regardless of time, place or channel—by streamlining interactions and removing frustrating obstacles. Surveys show that human-like, virtual assistants and other voice technologies are delivering the preferred experiences that consumers have come to expect on their smartphones and via the web: conversational, engaging, and quick to deliver results.
Oliver Taylor, Director of Customer Success, Clicktools: Mobile is a key piece of the seamless omni-channel experience that customers expect. People are inseparable from their devices and this isn’t going to change. Plus, the lines between personal and business technologies have not just blurred, they’ve blended into one. Most business people use a single handheld device to conduct all mobile transactions – whether for work or personal. Particularly B2B companies that formerly relegated these devices to the realm of the personal are now scrambling to make their products and services easily accessible in a mobile-friendly environment.
Sasha Gorman, EVP of Sales, Platform28:According to comScore, we’ve moved into a ‘Brave New Digital World’, one in which high-speed Internet combined with the massive adoption of smart mobile devices has created a consumer environment in which we’re always connected to multiple forms of digital communication. We’re seeing a lot of small and mid-market competitors quickly take market share from traditional companies lagging in their delivery of service options. While the phone still remains the dominant form of communication, companies that effectively manage great levels of service and brand engagement across all mobile channels are seeing much more rapid customer adoption and much higher rates of customer retention. The flip side of that equation, where companies don’t respond to the new mobile digital world and their customers’ myriad of communications preferences, is clear. Cloud contact center technology enables companies to be significantly more responsive to customer expectations. We deliver the tools that can enable a great customer experience.