Issue 1 • 2014 • presented by Direct Marketing magazine PM 4 0 0 5 0 8 0 3
The people factor Employing psychology to re-humanize a workforce
+ Employee benefits - what finance needs to know
+ Recruitment and retention 101 + Overlooked solutions to top Gary Tannyan
issues: a VP of Operations contact center survival guide
Barry Pokroy, MA Clinical Psychology (South Africa) leads the Emotional Intelligence practice at Farber Financial Group.
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Vol. 27 | No. 1 | 2014 EDITOR Amy Bostock - email@example.com PRESIDENT Steve Lloyd - firstname.lastname@example.org
On the cover
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The people factor
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Sangeeta Bhatnagar Eli Federman Alex Hillsberg Mike McShea Barry Pokroy
Employing psychology to re-humanize a workforce
Larry Schwartz Karen Treml Scott Welch
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Five ways to inspire innovation
5 next-gen strategies for driving Gen-Y agent satisfaction
The contact centre landscape
Employee benefits What finance needs to know
Is it changing for the better?
5 tips to seamless cloud operations
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Overlooked solutions to top issues A VP of Operations contact centre survival guide
Recruitment & retention 101 Issue 1 2014
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WorkForce management Halogen 1:1 Exchange named a top HR product Leading HR publication recognizes Halogen 1:1 Exchange as a game-changer in performance management Halogen 1:1 Exchange™ has been named a Top HR Product of 2014 by Human Resource Executive® Magazine. The solution received accolades for helping make ongoing performance management a reality – giving managers and employees everything they need to turn one-on-one meetings into a powerful tool for improving communication, collaboration and coaching. “With 1:1 Exchange, Halogen has addressed a key challenge for organizations, which is to facilitate strong working relationships between managers and their employees,” said David Shadovitz, Editor, Human Resource Executive. “We like that it guides managers and employees in regular discussions about performance, goals and development, and makes this type of dialogue a regular part of a company’s business rhythm.” Halogen 1:1 Exchange also provides HR and upper-level management with reporting insights into frequency of one-on-one meetings throughout the organization. They can use it to identify which managers are not meeting with their direct reports and the impact that is having on engagement, performance and turnover. “We purchased the Halogen 1:1 Exchange module because it’s a natural fit in terms of making performance reviews more powerful. Simply put, it helps drive higher levels of leadership at all levels of our organization,” said Joyce Smith, Human Resources Manager, Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. “One of the best features is that it automatically captures meeting minutes. When it comes time to conducting a performance review, our managers can look back in time and review what was shared and received and can track performance shifts over time — all of that historical meeting data is there. At the same time, we can use this data to correlate the outcomes of these one-on-one meetings with things like performance ratings, engagement scores and turnover.” In their research report, Employee Performance Management: Creating a High-Performance Culture, Aberdeen Group notes that “Having the right tools and performance information at a managers’ fingertips can enable both the formal and information conversations that are critical for driving employee performance. Without such tools in place, managers must rely on their memory or observations when having performance conversations, or even worse, they may simply not have them at all.” “It’s an honor to be named a winner by Human Resources Executive Magazine and to receive this recognition from the industry and business leaders. We believe this speaks to the results our customers are experiencing by using Halogen 1:1 Exchange,” said Dawn Mackay, VP of Product Management, Halogen Software. “This solution is the ideal way for organizations to align goals, support feedback, develop talent and drive employee performance.” Halogen will receive the Top Product award at the HR Technology Conference and Expo next week. Conference attendees can learn more about Halogen 1:1 Exchange and the Halogen TalentSpace™ suite at booth number 1325 in the conference exhibit hall, and during Halogen’s demo session on October 9th from 12:30-1:30 p.m. during the event. How Halogen 1:1 Exchange makes ongoing performance management a reality: ❯❯ Provides open-ended “conversation starter” questions to foster engaging, meaningful dialogue. ❯❯ Provides a review of goals, feedback, development activity and automatically reflects any changes in the appropriate Halogen TalentSpace™ suite modules. ❯❯ Captures meeting minutes and notes to ensure questions are answered, actions are completed and issues are resolved. ❯❯ Provides a snapshot of topics discussed in the meeting, saved to the employee’s records. ❯❯ Automatically generates a meeting agenda based on employee activity in the Halogen TalentSpace™ suite.
CCT ContactPro now available through Avaya DevConnect Select Product Program CCT Deutschland GmbH, a provider of comprehensive unified communications and contact center solutions for large and medium-sized companies, has announced that CCT ContactPro, its universal multichannel agent desktop solution, will be sold through Avaya, a global provider of business collaboration systems, software and services, through the Avaya DevConnect Select Product Program. The Select Product Program offers customers a streamlined way to order Avayacompatible, third-party applications chosen for the powerful capabilities they bring to Avaya’s portfolio. CCT and its products offered through the program have been compliance-tested for compatibility with Avaya Aura® Communication Manager 6.3, Avaya Aura® Application Enablement Services 6.3 and Avaya Interaction Center 7.3. By integrating with an Avaya platform, it makes it easy for companies to serve customers efficiently by providing a unified interface for handling inbound and outbound channels deployed by the contact center and leveraging the Avaya’s contact center platforms’ comprehensive routing and reporting functions to the desktop. As part of Avaya’s orderable solution set, CCT products can be easily purchased through both Avaya and its channel partners. Customers can add specific capabilities to their existing Avaya platform or can source a complete Avaya-based communications solution that incorporates CCT ContactPro. The modular and customizable client-server solution has a multi-language design and is currently available in English, Spanish, German, and Dutch. CCT and other companies participating in the Select Product Program are Technology Partners in the Avaya DevConnect Program – an initiative to develop, market and sell innovative third-party products that interoperate with Avaya technology and extend the value of a company’s investment in its network. Streamlined ordering through the Select Product Program is available in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the EU, select countries in EMEA and Asia Pacific, and is expected to expand to other countries in 2014. Offers may vary by country. Delivery, implementation, service and support are provided by Select Product Program companies.
Introducing powerful mobility and gamification – Teleopti WFM 8 Teleopti, provider of workforce management solutions, has added mobility and motivational gamification to its latest version of Teleopti WFM. Employees are more empowered than ever, with greater influence over their work-life balance – in real time, wherever, whenever. Agents also engage in fun, game-like competition that boosts motivation and rewards high, measurable performance – ultimately improving the customer experience and earning the company substantial ROI. “We’ve been in the business of WFM for over 20 years. Our advanced, automated forecasting and scheduling tools have helped contact centers increase productivity, improve customer service and boost agent satisfaction significantly,” says Olle Düring, CEO of Teleopti. “Now, we’ve gone a step further, pioneering the use of gamification features to improve agent motivation and performance. This ultimately enhances the customer experience and also effectively aligns contact-center operations with those of the organization.” Gamification is increasingly being adopted and successfully applied in business contexts as organizations realize the tremendous value it can bring to their business; i.e. the fun and competitive nature and its built-in positive reinforcement pushes agents to perform to the best of their ability. “Teleopti has always been at the forefront of increasing agent engagement and empowerment, so it’s quite natural that we’re the first WFM vendor to introduce gamification,” says Magnus Geverts, Chief Business Development Officer at Teleopti. “We recognize that people are naturally drawn to competition, recognition and achievement. Teleopti WFM 8 automatically keeps track of pre-set targets and notifies agents of goal achievement.” With the bar raised on motivation, contact-center work becomes more satisfying, lowering absenteeism and turnover in the long run. Agents typically represent some 60 -70 percent of a total contact center’s costs* making applications that help boost agent satisfaction mission-critical today.
issue 1 2014
5 next-gen strategies for driving Gen-Y agent satisfaction By Larry Schwartz
mployee engagement and agent satisfaction are primary concerns for all contact center leaders. Not only does agent satisfaction directly contribute to customer satisfaction, employees who are happier are more engaged with their work and more likely to stay, thereby minimizing costs for an industry already known for high levels of agent turn-over. Interestingly, Gen Y workers (also known as “Millennials”) account for a significant majority of today’s contact center agent population. Given their growing numbers and the importance of agent satisfaction, contact center employers must: ❯❯ develop an appreciation for what motivates Gen Y agents and ❯❯ be willing to adapt current processes and tools as needed in order to attract new workers and encourage existing employees to (happily) stay. In 2013, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), the University of Southern California and London Business School jointly conducted one of the most comprehensive studies ever undertaken on millennial workers. The study’s findings, based upon over 44,000 survey responses from a cross section of PwC employees, both confirm and dispel common stereotypes about the attitudes and motivations of millennial workers. Although the study is not specific to the contact center industry, it does provide a great deal of relevant insight into what does (and does not) motivate employees. For example, the study indicates that the majority of Millennials are not willing to prioritize work demands over their personal life, even if that means a loss of compensation or promotion opportunity down the road. It also confirms that increased workplace flexibility is something that all employees want – not just Millennials. In fact, the study found that people were even willing to give up pay in exchange for schedules that enable them to have a greater work/life balance. The desire for greater work/life balance and increased scheduling flexibility is a reoccurring theme throughout many contact center workplace studies. Although the lack of flexibility is often cited as a primary cause of agent attrition, especially among Gen Y workers, increased agent flexibility is exactly what contact centers need in order to adapt to constant changes in customer demand. When contact centers have a workforce entirely made Issue 1 2014
up of fixed, full-time schedules, they miss out on opportunities to maximize call-handling efficiency and minimize labor-related costs. If you want to do more with less, increase agent retention and drive greater job satisfaction for both Millennial and Non-Millennial employees alike, consider implementing these 5 Next-Gen strategies: 1. Ask employees what they want One of the main things Gen Y agents expect from their employers is to be involved in the creation and design of policies that affect them. On-line tools like Survey Monkey, Zoho Survey, and even Google Docs make it easier than ever to solicit the input of contact center employees on a variety of topics ranging from dress code to the attendance policy. The frequent use of surveys increases employee engagement and conveys to your agents that you’re listening and that their opinions matter. 2. Lose the “one-size-fits-all” scheduling approach Scheduling preferences are as diverse as your agent population. The kind of schedule that works for a mom with school-age children is not likely to work for an agent who is trying to attend college to finish an MBA. Instead of insisting all agents work full-time 8-hour shifts, consider increasing your percentage of part-time workers and using a workforce management system (WFM) to optimize the placement of their schedules on a more frequent basis. The use of part-time agents not only increases your scheduling efficiency, it can enable you to tap into a population of highly qualified employees whose lifestyles prevent them from working a more traditional full-time schedule. 3. Implement a home-based agent model Another strategy that enables you to expand your potential labor pool is to implement a home-based agent model. Contact centers that only use brick-an-mortar agents often restrict their candidate pool to a 20 to 25-mile radius. When using remote home-based agents, the commute for the agent is eliminated, and so are many facility-related expenses should you decide to go 100% remote. But if you prefer to keep employees local (at least at the beginning), the opportunity to work from home is a significant benefit you could offer to existing employees as a potential reward high performance.
4. Leverage the flexibility of remote workers One mistake many contact centers often make when first implementing a remote workforce is to overlook the flexibility at-home agents are willing (and able) to provide. Instead of scheduling these agents the same way you would agents working in the physical contact center, make use of their flexibility by implementing split shifts and shorter block schedules. Strategies like these that are not practical for brick-and-mortar agents are perfect when applied to a virtual workforce.
5. Make use of mobile self-service technology Increased empowerment and improved work/life balance are great concepts, but if your business can’t support these ideals operationally, they will never be something you’ll be able to deliver to your employees. Fortunately, technology exists that can enable your agents to access, view and manage their own schedules anytime, anywhere without negatively impacting the coverage of your contact center. What’s more, these self-service “apps” not only empower your agents to participate in the creation and management of their own schedules, they also significantly reduce the amount of time workforce administrators have to spend on manual tasks like monitoring intraday volumes, reviewing and responding to scheduling requests and inputting changes into the WFM system. The result is more efficient handling of customer contacts, reduced administrative effort and expense and increased job satisfaction for all of your agents regardless of their generation. Larry Schwartz is the CEO of WorkFlex Solutions LLC, the industry leader in Intelligent Intraday Automation solutions for contact centers. Their technology maximizes agent scheduling flexibility, optimizes intraday performance and reduces workforce administration overhead. Designed to easily integrate with existing Workforce Management (WFM) and Automated Call Distribution (ACD) systems, WorkFlex enables clients to leverage their existing enterprise software investments, and quickly generate a positive ROI. WorkFlex deployments span multiple industry sectors including financial services, communications, healthcare, automotive, cable/sat and government. For more information or to schedule a demo visit http://www.workflexsolutions.com.
– what finance needs to know By Karen Treml
Abigail O’Neill, consultant at Mosey & Mosey Benefit Consultants.
Tim Witchell, president, wealth management and employee benefits at HKMB Hub International
Mike Biskey, CEO of Express Scripts Valerie Travis, senior consultant, health and benefits at Aon Hewitt
Susan Bird, president of the McAteer Group
ncreasingly, the implementation of new or renewal of existing employee benefit plans is a collaborative effort between both human resources and finance. As the recruitment and retention of top talent becomes more and more competitive, compensation packages that include comprehensive employee benefits become more important. “Today, benefit plans are of interest to both HR and finance,” says Abigail O’Neill, a consultant at Mosey & Mosey Benefit Consultants. “They need to work together. The benefit plan is important for recruitment and retention, so it interests HR in that regard. However, there is a financial aspect that falls to finance, so they do end up working together. The benefit needs to align with both the HR and the corporate philosophies. Similarly, Robert Crowder, president of The Benefits Trust, says that CFOs are understanding that they have to deal with benefits. But, while they have to know what they are spending their money on, when looking at it from the HR perspective, they need to determine how to get value on the dollar – not just the cheapest price.” Two factors that are at the forefront are – benefit plan sustainability; and benefit plans that accommodate the increasingly multigenerational workforce. Sustainability A substantial element that affects the sustainability of a benefit plan is cost, and the major drivers of cost primarily revolve around drug and health-related expenses. In recent years, the drug costs within benefit plans have been somewhat level, which, as Valerie Travis, senior consultant, health and benefits at Aon Hewitt, says, has made for interesting discussions within organizations on whether this is the new normal. “Unfortunately it is not,” she says. “We are starting to see, and we will continue to see, healthcare costs returning to high single-digit annual increases; and may reach the double-digit increases we’ve seen in the past.” Over the past several years, costs have remained stable as a result of patent expiries and the availability of generic drugs. However, issue 1 2014
WorkForce management with the increasing shift towards the new – and much more costly – biologic and specialty medications that are coming into the marketplace, drug costs will be major contributor toward significant annual cost increases, says Travis. Similarly, Mike Biskey, CEO of Express Scripts, says that drug benefits pretty much double every ten years. He adds that although the costs flattened out for a couple of years as a result of government pricing reform and an uptick in generics, the extensive research his company has undertaken indicates that the costs will continue to rise at roughly double every ten years. Because of these rising costs, Tim Witchell, president, wealth management and employee benefits at HKMB Hub International, says that in cases where brand new programs are being put into place, companies need to determine what type of benefit arrangement they want and must decide whether their plan will include biologics. These types of decisions need to include a balance between therapeutic value and the value to the work environment the employer wants to provide. He adds that overall risk management choices can include such things as determining maximums payable or stop-loss scenarios whereby companies can pay separate premiums allowing for pooling of annual claims over a pre-determined amount. In addition to capping or stop-loss strategies, engaging and educating employees can also help in mitigating costs. O’Neill points out that it is key to engage employees when discussing costs. “Costs are going to continue to be a challenge and employees are a huge stakeholder in the challenge. Employees need to be provided information. Without the conversation and information, the engagement piece is not going to be there and it becomes harder to plant some seeds to effect some change. It doesn’t mean that they are going to walk away and be willing to make sweeping changes, but it does open up the communication and if nothing else, their understanding and appreciation for the investment go up. Employees value their benefit plans, so if they are properly engaged, they are willing to play a role in looking after them in the long term. Ross Cristiano of Towers Watson also believes that employee education is very effective – if it is done right. Employers need to communicate the Issue 1 2014
cost of the program first and foremost, he says, adding that many employees believe the insurance company pays the claims and that there is little cost to the employer. Employees need to know how expensive and valuable their benefits are. The second phase of the conversation, says Cristiano, is the cost control dialogue so employees understand what cost sharing is and how they can shop around to lower costs. Karen Taylor Smith, senior manager with The Benefits Trust, adds that meetings with employees must convey that the cost of benefits is directly related to costs of use. They need to understand that the benefit plan is not a magic box that spits out money but that there is a very real cost to the employer. Presenting it as a matter of being a smart shopper will go further than just dialoguing that the costs must be held down. And certainly the philosophy of Express Scripts is one of education and engagement. But Biskey adds that traditional ways of educating employees do not work. “Express Scripts wants to influence patients to make informed decisions through things like active choice. We provide health decision science – which combines clinical information and patient information with behavioural psychology – to engage people to make informed decisions so that they make better decisions. The choices can include a choice of pharmacy or choice of drugs, or the choice of how often to refill prescriptions. We advocate for the patient to help them make decisions in all of those areas and work with the patient, the physician, and the employer to facilitate the patient making those decisions. When you provide the patient with all the information possible, you can help them make the best decisions which, in turn, will impact on the benefit plan. When developing cost-management strategies, Travis suggests it’s important to remember that employees and their families rely on the benefit plan as protection against catastrophic costs. Eliminating coverage for high-cost drugs and services can reduce company costs, but shifts a great financial risk to the employee. An effective sustainability strategy maintains the critical insurance aspects of the program, and focuses on the most effective use of limited budget.
Differing populations, different needs Today’s workplace is very multigenerational and the differing populations present with different needs. “The multi-generational workforce is a challenge when it comes to establishing benefit plans,” says O’Neill. “Right now, despite the diverse demographics – and obviously we do have an aging workforce – benefit plans are still very much the same despite the changes in provincial health systems and the changing demographics, and you don’t see a lot of uptake for some of the things that are available such as hybridizing defined benefit with defined contribution. Employers need to have an understanding of what they want out their plan and they need to have an understanding of what their employees want to see out of their plan. Travis also cites the multigenerational workforce as being an area requiring attention. “We have older generations – longer tenured employees in many cases – who rely on coverage for their families and medications for chronic illnesses. At the same time we have younger populations who may not need the benefit coverage as much, and may not value it the same way. We hear from our clients that they realize the plan can’t meet 100 per cent of every employee’s needs, while operating within a budget for future sustainability. Employers need to find the right balance between a program that offers value to younger generations, but is still comprehensive enough and cost effective to be there for older generations.” Many companies that Aon Hewitt works with are managing the multigenerational workforce through offering more flexibility within the program, says Travis. For example, they will offer different options within the health plan that employees can choose from. “Often what we see is that the younger employees value dental benefits but they may not place as much value on the health benefits, for example; and the reverse may be true for older generations. With flexible programs, employees have the opportunity to choose from the benefits offered and tailor the plan to meet their needs. This is one area where we are seeing clients being more innovative.” Rather than building flexibility into standard plans, hybrid plans
are becoming more popular due to the variance in multi-generational needs, says Crowder. He points out that healthcare spending accounts (HSAs) are gaining popularity. “They provide for more flexibility and result in greater ownership of the account because the employees are deciding how they are spending the available dollars in their HSA. Susan Bird, president of the McAteer Group, says that some organizations are going entirely to HSAs. “These came from the flex models and are in part an answer to the needs of the multi-generational workforce. When we survey plan members on what is important, those that are 45 and older often say life insurance and disability, whereas 20-year-olds say vision care and dental. So there has to be some attention paid to this when designing the plan – especially when looking at issues of recruitment and retention. And benefits truly are a strong determiner when people are deciding between companies.” A strong argument for HSAs, says Cristiano, is that they tend to fix the cost for the employer, which can be important. The focus, he says, is really on how to deliver the same program, more or less, without increased costs – and HSAs can do that.” Collaboration is key In looking ahead, with the combination of rising costs and the increasing complexity of benefit plans, particularly in response to the multi-generational workforce, as well as the need to be well positioned for the optimal recruitment and retention of top talent, there is a strong need for collaborative focus and effort. There is a positive shift toward HR, finance, labour relations, disability, health, workers’ safety and insurance, and management all coming together at the table to share information, and to ensure their priorities are aligned in managing costs and designing effective programs, says Travis. “Getting finance into the conversation early is a key factor in successfully managing costs. That way finance has a good understanding of what is driving costs today and what will drive costs tomorrow. They can then partner with HR to align on what needs to be done differently, what needs to be anticipated, and where an investment in improving employee health can generate savings tomorrow.”
Overlooked solutions to top issues A VP of Operations contact center survival guide
By Mike McShea
s a Vice President of Operations for the Contact Center you have a lot on your shoulders. You’re responsible for one of the most highly visible customer interaction points in your business. You set the strategy for customer care fulfillment, and it’s your job to measure the results and report them to your company’s leadership team. Because your responsibilities lie at the intersection of customer experience and a huge cost center, you’re under the magnifying glass.
With so much pressure to perform, this survival guide for top contact center issues can help you improve the likelihood of success for yourself and your company: 1. Issue: Call Center Costs. Many CFOs look at call centers as overhead, not as revenue enhancers. You likely have to justify whether the personnel and technological costs are worth it, and are also likely urged to cut costs from the operation of your call center whenever possible. Survival Tip: If you are finding
yourself struggling to find ways to ensure you are using your resources, especially your financial and human ones, as effectively as possible, consider examining your call center production. When was the last time you tried to help them do their jobs better by improving your IVR? Better IVR performance helps increase self-service by customers, which can help improve customer experiences and reduce the need for huge contact centers with excessive amounts of personnel. Instead of having your customers wait in long lines to speak issue 1 2014
WorkForce management to a representative, use a well-tuned IVR system to help handle more calls more efficiently. By using IVR and other technologies to improve your ability to allow customers to selfserve, personnel can be allocated to other tasks for the company instead of answering phones and help you maximize your budget. You will also be ensuring that the resources allocated to these technologies are well spent. 2. Issue: Customer Experience (CX). There is a direct correlation between poor customer experience and customer turnover. Poor CX comes from excessively long hold times, calling back and losing a place in line, having to repeat the same information over and over, and not getting to the right agents to help with their questions. Yet there’s plenty you can do to improve these experiences without busting your budget. Survival Tip: Continuous improvement can solve these problems and become a huge differentiator. Take the time to collect customer satisfaction data, but realize that surveys don’t always give you all the information you need to take action. Also establish detailed benchmarks of the processes that impact CX, such as your IVR and agent components, and regularly evaluate and analyze the data to continually improve your results. IVR is often neglected because there is commonly a tacit belief that it can’t be further improved. Yet the goal should always be to reduce wait times, improve agent and IVR productivity, and create positive CX so customers keep coming back and positively impacting the bottom line. If you don’t have the internal resources to do this, get external help. Remember that almost every improvement is cumulative. By taking a little bit of time on a regular basis to make sure you improve upon your benchmarks, very small performance improvements can constantly raise the quality of each customer’s experience with your company. For example, in a 500 seat center if you make a one percent improvement in call deflection rates—which is certainly achievable in most cases—that generates $250k in bottom-line savings for you as the VP of Ops. 3. Issue: Mobile as a Preferred Method of Contact. Our experience across industries is that 70 percent of inbound calls are from mobile devices. Mobile Issue 1 2014
is rapidly becoming the preferred way for consumers to interact with customer service, but failures in mobile customer care are driving volume to other channels every day, which is creating issues you might not even be measuring or recognize as being attributed to mobile use. It’s the quintessential elephant in the room for call centers. Survival Tip: Today, technology exists that can help you create better automation of your mobile customer service platform. For instance, in-app customer care (similar to Boston Globe’s My:Time) can help provide service to customers when it’s convenient for them and without having to leave the app. Instead of customers leaving your app to make a phone call (what we call a “fractured experience”) you can instead provide
enjoys conversations that disappoint customers. If you can create better CX before customers even get to your agents, you can also create better agent experiences, making them more likely to enjoy their jobs and reduce turnover. IVR experiences and the experience of being transferred to an agent are good places to focus on better serving your customers and creating happier agents by reducing their frustration and stress at work. In the words of Olaf from Disney’s animated movie “Frozen,” these are, “All good things, all good things.” 5. Issue: Agent Productivity. Your agents are the most expensive resource in your company and add to a company’s overhead. Are you in touch with how they spend their time? When agents are not as productive as
of your competitors, how many key differentiators would exist between them? It’s hard to say. You likely keep your prices relatively similar for comparable services and products. While you likely are differentiated to some degree, why not explore new opportunities to create differentiation? Survival Tip: Uncovering new opportunities through CX in your call center can be an overlooked as key differentiator for your business. With the money and resources spent perfecting your products and services, you shouldn’t neglect your customers’ experiences. Take the time to analyze interactions in context of the customer journey, not just in the context of contact center metrics. Many enterprises focusing on improving customer engagement put more
your responsibilities lie at the intersection
of customer experience and a huge cost center, you’re under the magnifying glass. them with a means of customer service that is more convenient for them and for your call center staff. Make sure you align contact centers with mobile initiatives in your business with your goals. It’s easy to overlook but is a surefire way to make your customers happier. 4. Issue: Agent Attrition. It takes approximately six to nine months to get a new agent up to speed and productive in a call center. Training new agents is also extremely costly, as is recruiting them. Call centers often have higher levels of agent attrition than other departments in the company because many agents can’t handle being treated poorly by frustrated customers. Survival Tip: An overlooked way to improve agent turnover is a bit different from what you’d expect. Consider this: Happier customers will make happier agents, and happier agents will in turn provide better service to customers. Too often, companies focus on their customers and overlook the agents who work for them, but bad customer experiences in the contact center make for bad agent experiences as well. No one
possible, the bottom line is negatively impacted. You need your agents to get as much accomplished as possible, as efficiently as possible, by keeping your customers as happy as possible. Survival Tip: Consider regularly asking your agents what kinds of interactions consume time that could be better spent elsewhere on tasks more beneficial to customers or the call center. If you can find ways to offload those tasks with full or partial self-service options, you can then place the right evaluation metrics in place to monitor the use of your call center resources (in this case, your agents). Better self-service can free up agent time that could be better used to create better CX elsewhere in the center without impacting productivity. Furthermore, by taking the time to stay in tune with the needs and experiences of your agents, you will be showing them you value their input as professionals in their field and give them better ownership of their work. 6. Issue: Using Customer Experience as a Competitive Differentiator. If you were to compare your products and services with those
emphasis on the pre-sale journey than the post-sale journey. As an executive responsible for one of your business’s highest volume post-sale interaction points, this is your chance to raise the contact center from a cost center to a strategic element of customer engagement strategy. As a critical member of your company’s leadership team, it’s important to remember that even though you have a lot of varied responsibilities as VP of Operations, there are ways to manage them using today’s technology and by being aware of the challenges you are likely to face. Knowledge is power. Use yours to improve your company’s odds of success as well as your own. Mike McShea is the Senior Vice President
of Marketing and Product Management at Contact Solutions. He oversees marketing and product strategy and is responsible for bringing new innovations to market that enable enterprises to achieve customer self-service with high levels of automation and improved customer experience. Mike has 25 years of global marketing and product management experience with high tech product offerings in healthcare, financial services, transportation, and aerospace industries. DMN.ca ❰
issue 1 2014
People factor Employing psychology to re-humanize a workforce
By Barry Pokroy, MA Clinical Psychology
hen speaking to Canadian contact centre managers and industry insiders, it is clear that contact centres in Canada are experiencing the same challenges as contact centres worldwide—absenteeism, high agent turnover, morale issues, plateauing or declining performance levels, and customer churn. I trained as a clinical psychologist and started a private practice in the economic and financial hub of South Africa, Johannesburg. Many of the people “on my couch” were contact centre agents. They complained about a host of job-related issues which caused them distress and to call in sick to work on a regular basis. Often, they bounced from job to job or left the industry altogether. Their home lives suffered and so did their work. That’s why I’ve spent the last 15 years developing and implementing the tools of clinical psychology to address these destructive factors in contact centres—not just with agents, but with team leaders, managers and executives as well. Allow me then to put contact centres “on the couch” to outline the underlying causes of distress, offer a diagnosis, and outline a treatment plan.
Issue 1 2014
Underlying causes Research has shown that contact centre agents have a high frequency of physical and psychological stress, often attributed to imposed schedules, an inability to simultaneously meet quality and quantity requirements, situations of tension with clients, criticism, and lack of recognition from superiors. Underlying causes of an “unwell”
workforce include: frustration, anger, negativity, despair, helplessness, going through the motions in a disinterested manner, and feeling undervalued and unacknowledged. These underlying causes of distress in an organization are easy to detect—if people are paying attention to their workforce as human beings, not just their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Diagnosis: dehumanization The industrial revolution was indeed a revolution, overhauling production from manual labour to efficient, machine-driven production. Expectations placed on workers changed such that they were to be highly efficient, indefatigable, obedient and reliable. In theory, one would assume that this assembly-line model would make contact centres highly productive. However, employing this approach has dehumanized contact centre agents. Our modern-day solutions, however, have not addressed these underlying causes. In fact, they have exacerbated them. For example, we combat high turnover by adding advanced technology, improving our recruitment process, or adding new incentive programs to recognize and reward employees. Certainly, these tools are valuable and can have a positive effect on a workforce. However, programs such as these do not root out dehumanization, rather they mask it. The process of dehumanizing people disregards emotions, experience, and dignity. It ignores individuality, prevents discourse and
compassion and marginalizes people. It leaves people feeling degraded and demoralized, which leads to absenteeism, turnover, morale issues, poor performance levels, and customer churn. Treatment plan: creating a culture of connection through re-humanization The goal of this treatment plan is to create an efficient, productive and stable long-term workforce along with a tuned-in management team. The strategy is to re-humanize both management and the workforce by giving them new tools, language and skills to deal with each other and with clients. Michael Lee Stallard, who focuses on employee engagement issues, once wrote: “One of the most powerful and least understood aspects of business is how emotional connection between management, employees and customers provides a competitive advantage. Unless people who are part of a business feel a sense of connection—an emotional bond that promotes trust, cooperation and esprit de corps—they will never reach their potential as individuals, nor will the organization.” Any contact centre that is serious about having an effect on absenteeism, turnover, morale, performance levels, and churn must intervene to help people create connection and an emotional bond that will re-humanize people and modify behaviour. To create an emotional bond and a culture of connection, contact centre leaders need to commit to developing mentalization and affect DMN.ca ❰
goes without saying that enthusiastic, motivated, connected people will be more profitable than a contact centre where technology is the priority and the people are regarded as robots.”
regulation; these are key aspects of the psychological and emotional health of individuals, teams and organizations. Mentalization Mentalization is a psychological concept that describes a person’s ability to be aware of and understand their own and other people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. Mentalization clarifies the intentions behind behaviour and thus helps us makes sense of the behaviour. For example, when an agent on a call is grinding their teeth, clenching their fists and displaying other distressing verbal and nonverbal cues, it’s easy to infer that the agent is frustrated. This inference allows us to interpret behaviour. Going beyond simple inference and acting appropriately is a learned skill to actually “see” and react to the behaviour in the midst of a busy contact centre. Recognizing and understanding that someone is frustrated is different from understanding why they are frustrated, and why they are responding to the frustration ❱ DMN.ca
in a particular way. In essence, mentalization is trying to get into another person’s world. We learn to mentalize at an early age. And, as we age we should get better at it—not always so. Roadblocks to learning inhibit mentalization. For example, the military-like precision and adherence to tight margins, must-hit targets, and almost robotic protocols, rules, and procedures force team leaders and managers to dehumanize agents. When management and agents re-learn mentalization, they start to see beyond the numbers. They begin to see the underlying causes of disconnection and alienation. Rather than trying to “improve morale,” they learn to re-establish broken connections and re-introduce a people focus rather than exclusively a task focus, creating a shared purpose and meaning. Affect regulation Affect regulation refers to a person’s learned skills and ability to regulate or control their emotions in order to adaptively meet the demands of their environment. One’s affect
regulation impacts the way they cope with emotions like anger, frustration, hostility, fear and anxiety. This is not just learning to “control your emotions.” Affect regulation is about using judgment as well. It is learned and developed with time and experience. Bell and McBride in a 2010 article called Affect Regulation and Prevention of Risky Business, captured this well in the following quote: “Metaphorically, emotions and their expression are the “gasoline” that propels the lives… and adults, and judgment steers the vehicle on course and applies the brakes when necessary to maneuver through life.” People who effectively regulate their emotion have a broad range of strategies they can employ to adapt to a range of stressful situations. The ability to successfully regulate emotion is critical in creating an environment that stimulates trust, cooperation and most importantly a culture of connection. Contact centre managers, team leaders and agents who understand when to “apply brakes and use steering” are better equipped to
resolve conflict and minimize the intensely stressful nature of the contact centre environment. In summary, the symptoms of dehumanization are evident in measures of profitability and productivity. To truly engage employees and reduce the symptoms, we must look to the underlying causes of distress—the emotional wellbeing of our workforce; the skills and tools they employ to create and maintain healthy relationships and reduce stress; and, people’s sense of connection to each other and the contact centre environment. It goes without saying that enthusiastic, motivated, connected people will be more profitable than a contact centre where technology is the priority and the people are regarded as robots. Barry Pokroy, MA Clinical Psychology (South Africa) leads the Emotional Intelligence practice at Farber Financial Group. Barry’s proprietary Circle & Square™ training and development program uses Clinical Psychology to accelerate business performance. Connect with Barry at 416.496.3079 or firstname.lastname@example.org. issue 1 2014
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Recruitment & retention 101 By Sangeeta Bhatnagar
Quick tips when making hiring decisions ❯❯
Always look for will vs. skill: I repeat this over and over, as basic skills can be taught but a desire or will cannot be taught. Avoid the plight of the charming – Just because a candidate knows how to ‘wow’ you in a Behavioural interview does not mean, they are the right fit. Do not be judgemental - Be careful not to judge those that are reserved by nature. We need diversity of personalities in every team. They may prove to be your most steady and loyal employees.
Best practices for hiring and on-boarding Onboarding, also known as organizational socialization, refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviours to become effective organizational members and insiders. Tactics used in this process include formal meetings, lectures, videos, printed materials, or computerbased orientations to introduce newcomers to their new jobs and organizations. Research has demonstrated that these socialization techniques lead to positive outcomes for new employees such as higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater organizational commitment, and reduction in occupational stress and intent to quit. These outcomes are particularly important to an organization looking to retain a competitive advantage in an increasingly mobile and globalized workforce. There are several on-boarding best practices that can be discussed; however, here is a brief ‘One-Minute’ version of basic principles that apply to all positions at all levels. When interviewing and hiring it is critical to keep the “humble hat” on. Not only are you looking for the right skill set, the right personality but also for a person with the will to learn and grow. I regularly advise clients to refine the famous “wish list” and get down to the intangibles when interviewing. There are so many soft skills that must be probed for. Although, there are several tools in the market place, the best is some good old fashion probing and conversation. Ensure integrity – There is nothing more upsetting or disturbing to a new employee to find out that the position they were hired for is not exactly as positioned in the job posting or the interview. This is the first encounter of the employee losing trust in the company. Just as employers expect full
honesty, employees in turn also expect full honesty in terms of pay, commission, vacation etc. Feelings - It is important to remember that in today’s marketplace, candidates are interviewing Employers also. Strong Candidates DO have their choice. It important to note, that people may not remember what you know or what you tell them, but they will remember how you made them feel. Mutual respect - The company or leadership team that fosters mutual respect to the candidates time, in terms of interviews, feedback, length of time between first and second interviews tend to get better feedback from high performing candidates (at all levels).
Small steps to build a cohesive team ❯❯ Include everyone – even those that you do not like ❯❯ Build people at every opportunity ❯❯ Take time to develop those that challenge you ❯❯ Listen to you team! ❯❯ Treat your team as you expect them to treat others ❯❯ Continue to share the vision ❯❯ Ask your team for their ideas in achieving the team goals How to keep employees long term Gen X and Gen Y look for places to belong and a sense of community and if they don’t feel it – they leave. Remember, by investing in a proper recruitment and on-boarding process you will reduce attrition, reduce ongoing recruitment and save training time and dollars. Sangeeta Bhatnagar is the Principle at SB Global
Human Capital Solutions. Sangeeta has a practice built by partnering with her clients to find, retain and develop top Contact Centre talent. Sangeeta is an Instructor at Seneca College and Chairs the Greater Toronto Area Contact Centre association (GTACC). issue 1 2014
Five ways to inspire innovation
Making creativity a collaborative effort can truly inspire new ideas and lead to an improved bottom line
avvy businesses are always looking for ways to inspire innovation at work. Good leaders know that success comes from unconventional thinking and visionary ideas. And creativity is not just for computer companies, artists, or ad agencies. In accounting and finance jobs, novel approaches can streamline operations and improve the bottom line. What’s more, when employees feel that management listens to their ideas and implements their plans, morale improves and retention rates go up. How can you inspire innovation at work in your team? Here are five ways. 1. Revamp the corporate culture In a recent Robert Half survey, more than a third (35 per cent) of interviewed CFOs said a lack of new ideas is the greatest hindrance to innovation in their organizations. This response ranked first – higher than dealing with bureaucracy (24 per cent) and being bogged down by daily tasks (20 per cent). You can start to turn things around by holding regular brainstorming sessions to generate fresh ideas, but that’s only one part of the solution. You also have to act on those ideas while they’re hot and the team’s energy level is high. The shorter the lag time between proposal and action, the more your staff is encouraged to think big. The third leg of inspiring creativity at work is to not punish failure. No plan works 100 per cent of the time. When you dress down, demote, or fire someone for a fizzled plan that management approved and implemented, you’re sending the message that employees are safer keeping their heads down, mouths closed, and ideas to themselves. 2. Emphasize collaboration There’s more than just power in numbers; Issue 1 2014
there is also innovation. That’s why crowdsourcing has taken off as one of the biggest trends of the year, if not the past decade, according to two separate reports from Accenture and Deloitte. And the wisdom of the crowd is not just for writing online encyclopedia entries or finding the best pizza parlors. It’s also starting to have an impact on governments and large corporations, according to the two consulting firms. Team brainstorming is certainly one way to crowdsource, but don’t stop there. Open it up to the entire company. Good ideas can come from any employee, and those who aren’t engaged in accounting can often see problems from a different perspective. To truly encourage innovation at work, make idea generation a collaborative process. Instead of dropping suggestions in a locked box, put up a large whiteboard or bulletin board in a public place, and encourage all staff to contribute ideas and build on the ideas of others. 3. Remove yourself No matter how you view yourself and your relationship with your team, you’re still the boss, and your direct reports may be hesitant to speak up around management. By taking a more peripheral position during brainstorming sessions, you may get more interesting and diverse suggestions. In practice, this may mean taking on the role of a facilitator, encourager or note taker rather than full participant. 4. Be a role model Regular time off does wonders for boosting productivity and creativity at work, so take the lead and model what a proper work-life balance looks like. Some suggestions: ❯❯ Leave the office at a decent hour, and
don’t expect staff to stay late or work on weekends unless a big deadline looms. Don’t make a habit of sending or responding to late-night emails. Use your vacation days instead of rolling them over or losing them. Take weeklong holidays instead of just a series of three-day weekends, which may not be enough to recharge your mental batteries.
5. Avoid red-tape rash The same survey mentioned above found bureaucracy to be the second-greatest inhibitor of innovation at work. It’s dispiriting for any team to conceive and lovingly craft a brilliant idea, only to have upper management shoot it down. As their manager, you can help by identifying any potential land mines early on so you and your team can work around them. Also be your employees’ greatest advocate. If you believe in an idea, take it upon yourself to push it through and make it happen. Innovation at work is like a seed. With the right environment and proper nurturing, it can grow, thrive and give rise to more great ideas. Otherwise the seedling will soon wither and die. Be the gardener of creativity in your department. This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half Canada, parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources. Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a temporary, full-time and project basis. Follow Robert Half Management Resources at http://www.twitter.com/RobertHalf_CAN for workplace news.
CONTACT CENTRE LANDSCAPE
Is the Canadian contact centre landscape changing for the better? By Eli Federman
his is an important question, and one Canadian Contact Centre leaders are asking with increasing frequency. The landscape is definitely changing, but the real questions are to what extent, and are we ready for it? Three key themes tend to dominate this discussion: the increasing use of e-mail, chat and text to talk with consumers; transforming technology ❱ DMN.ca
through cloud based solutions; and creating a multi-channel approach, inclusive of a social media and mobile user strategy. These are exciting times indeed! Let’s explore these themes in a bit more detail. The importance of the written word It used to be that when consumers had a question or concern related to
a product or service, they would call customer service, which meant a Contact Centre. Writing a letter was an option too, but Contact Centres did one thing really well – they answered the phone and provided immediate support. In today’s digital world, consumers have different preferences and expect new and enhanced options: they want to be able to write an e-mail, have a live chat or send a text. In all cases correspondence is issue 1 2014
WorkForce management What can Contact Centres do to embrace this change and turn it into an advantage? ❯❯
Define a strategic plan – articulate what a multichannel experience should feel like
Diversify your workforce – consider the different skills required for the various channels
Know your customer – understand how their behaviours fit into this approach
Create measurements – decide what success looks like for employee in each channel
Establish strong internal partnerships – work in lock step with HR, Marketing & Communications
2. Develop a testing process to confirm the candidate’s ability to write. Too often, we take for granted that someone who interviews well (by voice) can also write well. This is not always the case and the results can be quite different! Even those with a college/university education may not be able to write well in business format.
written, and that is a very different skill from talking on the phone. Understanding the difference between strong speaking and writing is the first step towards gaining an edge in a fiercely competitive customer service landscape. Here are three considerations for how to ensure your e-mail, chat and text support is every bit as strong as what is provided over the phone: 1. Design a job profile that befits the skills required to write competently, keeping in mind the variation between corresponding on e-mail, chat or text. While e-mails more closely resembles writing a letter, chat and text requires an ability to be more concise and use shorthand. In all cases the framing of the response requires clarity, diplomacy and most importantly, resolution. Issue 1 2014
3. Develop measurements to ensure you deliver the kind of written customer experience you want. Set goals to create accountability and make sure they can be tracked and reported on. Ensure there are both quality and accuracy components. Also, try to tie those goals into the organization’s customer satisfaction program. The move to cloud based technologies There was a time when a Contact Centre infrastructure was hardwired end to end. Various pieces of equipment along with numerous servers, switches and wires made up the technology solution for a Contact Centre. While there was also complimentary software (such as the use of Windows to manage Microsoft Office tools) little else was exclusively web based. Customer data was typically stored in some form of internal database, and even CRM solutions often required hardware to enable them. How things have changed! With the advent of the cloud (simply said: web based technology solutions),
organizations can be wire-free and eliminate the need for physical hardware altogether. But while the cloud redefines technical simplicity, there are still those who prefer the classic hardware route. Purists will argue that hardware is less likely to fail, is more stable, and easier to build redundancy for. The cloud also makes you entirely dependent on the stability and range of your broadband connection. Despite this, we are of the opinion that cloud is the way to go. There are far too many advantages when compared with traditional infrastructure including: ❯❯ Cost – it is substantially cheaper to invest in cloud technology ❯❯ Ease of set up – it takes far less time to set up a cloud based infrastructure ❯❯ Scale – in the cloud, expanding is limitless as long as you have the right broadband connection ❯❯ Simplicity – web based technologies are founded on a point and click premise ❯❯ Access – with a computer and web connection an employee can work from anywhere It is a pretty easy argument (at least from this corner!) to go the route of the cloud.
this overlaps with how to service consumers on their Smart phones. While this isn’t unique to Canadian Contact Centres, the impact has been substantial and has forced companies to create a more diverse and flexible customer experience. Customers want to be serviced on their terms and that has forced organizations to build a multi or Omni channel approach. But to really stand out, Contact Centres have to properly execute this capability. This requires a substantial investment in people, process and technology; but those who do it well gain a competitive advantage, which increases customer spend and loyalty. What can Contact Centres do to embrace this change and turn it into an advantage? ❯❯ Define a strategic plan – articulate what a multichannel experience should feel like ❯❯ Diversify your workforce – consider the different skills required for the various channels ❯❯ Know your customer – understand how their behaviours fit into this approach ❯❯ Create measurements – decide what success looks like for employee in each channel ❯❯ Establish strong internal partnerships – work in lock step with HR, Marketing & Communications Contact Centres in Canada are definitely changing for the better, with increased capabilities, exciting new technologies and multi-channel operations capable of delivering world class customer experiences. The essentials of a great Contact Centre remain the same - hire terrific people, build simple and easy to use processes and leverage great technologies – but it’s how they are evolving that has become so fascinating to watch. Stay tuned because continued change is imminent, you can count on it!
Become a multi-channel contact centre Social media has probably been the hottest topic over the last five years. Almost every modern organization is at some stage of development of a social media strategy, and lately
Eli Federman is Founder and Lead consultant of Customer Service Simplified, a consulting firm that helps organizations simplify and distinguish their customer experience. Learn more at www.simplifyingservice.com and to reach Eli call 647-202-7385 or e-mail email@example.com DMN.ca ❰
IN THE CLOUD
By Scott Welch
s cloud technologies continue to proliferate and replace old-school, on-premise solutions, it is important for cloud vendors to recognize the necessity of ensuring smooth and seamless operations. After all, when companies trust their cloud vendor to shoulder the responsibility of running their applications, the expectation is that the vendor can do it better than the business can do themselves. This means cloud vendors need to have the right team, technology, process and procedures in place to provide continuous access and meet SLAs. Here are some tips, based on my experience running cloud solutions for more than ten years, for ensuring seamless cloud operations. 1. Pick the “A” Team One of the most important items as a cloud operations team is to have a service oriented culture with a set of “A” players that have the right technical skills. You’ve probably heard it many times; you are only as good as the people around you. It’s especially true in a cloud operation team. One thing that’s critical is attitude. I typically prefer a positive service attitude and work ethic over technical aptitude because of what that brings to the organization. Of course they need to be technically capable, but the real difference maker is a serviceoriented attitude.
2. Know it, own it and control it As a cloud operations service provider I live by the motto “Know it, Own it, and Control it.” This means the technical support staff needs to know the technology, own the action, and control the outcome. Part of this comes from trusting your “A Team” to truly take each project into their hands and see it through from start to finish. 3. Process matters: make sure to define it You must have solid operational processes based on best practices. One of the most critical processes is change management. There is a direct link between the maturity of your change management processes and your service availability numbers. It is equally important to learn from your mistakes, and ensure that your processes evolve to avoid pitfalls experienced in the past. 4. The customer comes first As a cloud service provider it is crucial to remember your customers. I’ve been successful in providing service in a cloud delivery model by identifying the customer’s hierarchy of needs. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs where the value of life increases as you move up the pyramid, the key levels of the customer hierarchy of needs get increasingly more critical as you move up the pyramid. First, the most basic need is service availability. The next
level is urgency, which means if you do have issues you must approach them urgently as if you can’t breathe (but don’t panic). The next level up the pyramid is accountability, which means you tell your customer what you will do, do it as promised and be accountable for the outcome. The next level is transparency, which is straightforward open communication to your customers. This is essential to success, as your customers have trusted you with a critical component of their business. At the tip of the pyramid are the features you provide as part of your service. It’s only after you deliver every level of the pyramid that customer can really gain value from the features you offer. 5. Mitigate mistakes One of the concepts I live by, as a service provider in a cloud delivery model, is to recognize that you are dealing with hardware, software and humans. All three will fail at some point in their lifecycle. The difference is the delivery of fault tolerance architecture with appropriate mitigation plans that reduce, minimize or eliminate customer impact when they fail. Scott Welch is the executive vice president of
cloud operations at Five9 and is responsible for technology operations, telecom services, and security. Scott is a seasoned executive with more than 24 years of experience in software development, technology operations, and management. issue 1 2014
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Innovative collaboration tools to give insurers the edge
issue 1 2014
In the cut-throat competitive world of insurance, using new collaboration tools in innovative ways can give insurance firms a competitive edge
ollaboration is an integral part of the insurance business. But today, the need to rapidly assemble teams and capitalize on human expertise to provide faster, better decisions makes collaborating all the more important. In the highly competitive insurance market, where many of the products and services are fairly similar, the competitive differentiator must be customer service. And effective service begins with collaboration and communication. Collaboration among customers, producers, underwriters, and others in the current insurance environment is often hampered by inefficient communications, processes that are not integrated, and legacy tools that manage and share content. The right set of integrated capabilities can improve employee training, enhance enterprise knowledge managements, and capitalise on the expertise of subject matter experts. The ultimate goal is to get the right people working together, provide them with the right content, and give them options for communicating that optimize their interactions. Technologies such as chat, realtime video conferencing, SMS text messages, skills-based routing, and speech analytics are all effective collaboration tools, but they provide maximum value for insurers when they are combined with foundational capabilities for process management, communications, and content management. Policyholders may have a range of preferences in terms of communication channels. With a full suite of integrated collaboration tools in place, the insurer can enable the policy holder to communicate across multiple channels. For example, a customer may initiate a website request to change their payment plan, but may reach a point where they
require clarification. A real-time chat with a contact centre agent can help them make the right choice. In another example, when a policyholder is on a call with a contact centre rep, real-time speech analytics may determine that a supervisor or a subject matter expert should be linked in to better address the customer’s concerns. The contact centre rep may follow up with an SMS text message later to ask if the customer has made a decision. Or, in sales of permanent life insurance, face-to-face contact can be replaced with screen sharing and video conferencing technologies, allowing at-home or remote sales to clients. It is easy for the sales agent to share a screen so the prospect can see the financial calculator or illustration on his or her own personal laptop or tablet. If experts need to be consulted, they can be added to the conversation via a real-time video link for a threeway conversation. Already collaboration technologies are being used to improve the claims experience; empowering field claims adjusters who are able to use SMS text messages, live video, and the sharing of digital images to leverage the expertise of individuals in other locations. For mid-sized or large commercial accounts, the role of the loss control engineer is vital. Collaboration technologies can enhance the value provided during on-site visits. For example, a loss control expert may be evaluating the exposures in an insured facility and may require a consultation with an expert back in the home office. Using real-time video sharing via a tablet device, the image of the machine and shop floor can be sent back to an industry expert who may have safety advice relative to that specific machine set-up. The loss control engineer in the field can provide immediate advice to the customer instead of having to go back to the office and send a report days or weeks later.
New collaborative technologies and approaches also offer opportunities for insurers to improve productivity in their workforce. To get full value from new collaboration tools, insurers should: 1. Identify the high value business activities where real-time information sharing and conversations between individuals will enhance the customer experience or improve the operational results. 2. Determine what types of foundational technologies are in place or should be implemented for the management of content, processes, and communications. 3. Explore collaboration technologies to determine where they accelerate and improve the high value business processes identified in step 1. 4. Design a collaboration platform that integrates the selected technologies in the context of the broader IT architecture. 5. Publish the platform and promote the use of collaboration technologies for new business uses across the company. Leading insurers are already on the journey to building collaboration platforms and finding new, innovative ways to leverage the technologies for business advantage. One of the key elements of the journey that insurers should consider is the potential to capitalise on the power of the technologies already implemented in contact centres and throughout the enterprise. In many cases this will make deployment of these technologies easier so that they can be used to improve the customer experience and optimize operations.
Download the entire “Enabling Collaboration in Insurance” whitepaper at www.inin.com/CM Issue 1 2014
Countries with best customer service: current trends & how CRMs improve client satisfaction
Issue 1 2014
ast March, Bloomberg reported the number of jobs reached a record pre-recession peak at 116.1 million, even surpassing the U.S. Labor Department’s projections. The economy seemed to be picking up however gradually. Around the same time, a tiny blip in the economic radar escaped the attention of much of the big business media. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a private company behind the only national cross-industry customer satisfaction benchmarking used by corporations, universities, and government agencies, reported a four-point slide in the index. In short, American consumers were less happy. Just how significant is this drop from 76.6 in the last quarter of 2013 to 76.2 in the first quarter of the following year? For starters, it’s the largest in twenty years since the index has been monitoring American consumers. ACSI Chairman Claes Fornell had a more telling scenario: “Weaker demand could further threaten economic growth in the second quarter and beyond.” In our latest infographic created by our team you can find out that the U.S. is only at 15th position among the top countries with the best customer service (data based on Zendesk’s survey of actual customer experiences worldwide). That seems to corroborate the ACSI data. Meantime, in its report, “Customers 2020,” the customer intelligence consulting firm, Walker, said that by 2020, customer satisfaction, more than price and product, will be the key brand differentiator. Here’s the good news–more companies, big and small, are investing in Customer Management Relationship (CRM) for better customer service. In out infographic, we also plot the CRM growth spurred by the low-cost and agility of SaaS solutions, and how they are helping companies put the smile back on their customers’ faces.
By Alex Hillsberg
Customized. Personalized. Variablized.
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ϰϭϲ͘Ϯϵϯ͘Ϯϱϭϭ ĐůŝĞŶƚƐĞƌǀŝĐĞƐΛǁŽŽĚͲĂŶĚͲĂƐƐŽĐŝĂƚĞƐ͘ĐŽŵ ǁǁǁ͘ǁŽŽĚͲĂŶĚͲĂƐƐŽĐŝĂƚĞƐ͘ĐŽŵ
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