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Virtual Hold Executive Interview

Wes Hayden, CEO, Virtual Hold


Solutions for the beginning of an omnichannel revolution

Given the rapidly shifting technological landscape of the contact center space, there’s an ever-decreasing timeline between a development being thought of as a trend and a necessity. Suppliers live and die by knowing what separates a nice-to-have application to a must-have solution. Often, a technology provider must move beyond the original premise that they were founded on to stay on the right side of relevance in the marketplace.

Such is the case with VHT, which has been an innovative force in shaping the customer journey since 1995, before the terminology was even a part of the lexicon. They were a pioneer in eliminating customer wait times, introducing their Callback solution to address the number one frustration expressed by consumers, long hold times. VHT Callback calculates the estimated wait time and offers customers the option of asking to receive a call when their turn comes up in the queue or to schedule a more convenient time.

According to Wes Hayden, CEO of VHT, Callback reduces abandon rate and average speed of answer by 46%. A similar proportion, 47%, will opt for a callback. Within the past year, over 70 million customers have taken advantage of VHT’s service.

As consumers continue to dramatically increase the use of non-voice channels, VHT is staying a step ahead by expanding its horizons. “We’re right at the beginning of an omnichannel revolution,” said Hayden. “While the contact center world has accepted and embraced multi-channel, they’re still behind in providing the ability for customers to start on one channel and complete on another channel, while capturing and delivering contextual information on every step of that journey. Customer service departments will need to provide a more personalized experience based on the needs of the customer, driven by the ability to derive intent and influence better outcomes.”

Hayden believes that today’s consumers channel hop to interact with brands but expect seamless transitions. Making a connection appear seamless depends on the right technology. VHT can track customers as they move across channels, offer callback from any touch point, and provide representatives the context behind a customer’s journey. VHT Navigator is a customer management solution that can capture, analyze and report on key customer interactions, as well as identify opportunities to trigger engagement.

“This year for the first time, companies have recognized that there is a difference between multichannel and omnichannel,” he said. “Only a handful of businesses—airlines come to mind—have addressed web-to-voice contextual transfers with point solutions. However, these do not have the underlying framework to provide contextual transfers from other channels such as mobile, SMS messages and social media required to make information easily available.”

Why aren’t organizations doing more to get their omnichannel capabilities up to speed? Hayden sees several reasons. According to Hayden, it may seem easy to implement solutions as part of a CRM system that doesn’t include voice, which does not incorporate such key sources of information as IVR input. “The contact center leaders who want to have a true omnichannel solution that includes voice are now often buried in a backlog of projects. Having completed an IT transformation based on new technologies and rolling out what amounts to a completely new system, they haven’t had the time they need to address omnichannel projects.”

Hayden sees companies having several choices on how they tackle adding omnichannel capabilities. They can work with infrastructure vendors that require them to implement embedded components, or bring in consultants to do customized integrations. Both solutions can be expensive and a time-consuming processes. The alterative provided by VHT is what he calls an over-the-top technology that integrates with existing infrastructure and does not require businesses to rip and replace what they already have. “Businesses need to look at the economics and the timeframe to determine the right approach. Up until now, companies haven’t thought of us as an omnichannel vendor, but we are working to change that perception.”

What Hayden sees as VHT’s major differentiation factor is that they approach omnichannel from a voice frame of reference, which they see as essential to a true omnichannel experience. Their emphasis is not just on capturing information from the customer journey, but providing the ability to take action based on key events from the interaction. “We’re about driving outcomes through event triggers that point to next best action and making the right information available to the agent based on customer profiles,” noted Hayden.

Hayden believes there is a need for companies to dissect their current customer experience and then map out how to mend broken processes. “We got started by addressing a fundamental problem in the customer journey which was waiting on hold. We’ve extended that by providing much richer contextual information,” he said.

“We’re engaged in discussions about a number of proof of concepts (PoCs). That’s really the best way to start the process,” said Hayden. VHT’s approach is to find a use case that addresses a pain point and determine how Navigator can help resolve the problem. Use cases vary from how to respond to negative or positive NPS scores, customer retention, or making the right next best offer. The needs vary from one company to another: there hasn’t been one uniform solution that the industry is looking to embrace.”