Friday, September 19, 2014

Guest Post: The Importance of Data and Analytics in Customer Service

Customer service, something that is so conceptually simple, has become strangely complex in the age of social media. It is a term that can easily carry different meanings, even between business owners working in the same industry. This is because customer voices are no longer muted when they leave a store or hang up the phone after speaking with a service agent. Review sites and social media networks allow the dialogue to continue long after a transaction is completed, providing interfaces for both business owners and their customers to speak about, and respond to, questions and concerns about different products and services. For any business, there can potentially be countless relevant conversations happening across the Internet, and it is the responsibility of business owners to stay current with what customers and clients have to say by continuously collecting data about those conversations.

Analytics: Why? Why not?
Data collection and analytics are divisive topics. Some businesses rely on them and make good use of the harvested information, some mishandle that info, and others dont bother collecting it at all. Differing ideologies about whether or not these practices should apply to customer service come down to both the attitudes of business owners and the nature of their businesses. For example, a reputable Mom and Pop shop in a small town probably wont be relying on online feedback as much as a new restaurant in a big city might. Customer feedback in any form, though, is crucial for businesses to understand the improvements that they can make to products, staff, infrastructure, etc. For some, getting that information is as easy as engaging with customers in person. For others, its necessary to trek through cyberspace to find answers.

How Deep Should You Dig?
So, where is the line drawn in data collection?  Is there a line at all? Short of full-on NSA-like spying, there doesnt appear to be a clear-cut answer. The options for finding customer feedback about a business can be as simple as doing some Google searches and keeping a diligent watch on Yelp, Facebook, and Twitter pages. With that method, though, some conversations will almost certainly be missed. Leaving that task to analytics software can fill in the gaps.

The Utility of Speech Analytics
If your business operates a call center or contact center, speech analytics can be a particularly useful tool for getting a better understanding of what your customers are looking for, as well as what your employees are doing to help. As part of your quality monitoring program, this kind of software will analyze recorded calls to identify keywords, phrases, etc. that are relevant to your brand. It will also allow you to pinpoint under-performing or under-trained staff members and categorize calls as necessary. Phone calls between agents and customers can reveal a lot about the behaviors of people on either end of the conversation, and though its not possible to listen in on each individual call, these dialogues provide a unique perspective that you wont get from just reading reviews or comments online. Hearing first-hand how your employees handle customer relations is vital for understanding the feedback youre bound to receive.

Let Text Analytics Be Your Eyes
While speech analytics is great for examining phone calls, text analytics can check out just about every other channel where customers will be talking about your business. Good software will be able to gather data from social media, survey comments, email, news and review sites, and many other sources. Beyond just getting a big picture idea of what customers think about your business and its products, text analytics will help you identify areas that need improvement, as well as potential emerging issues. Proactive customer service will always win out over passive service, so the faster you act on preventing emerging issues and fixing areas that need fixing, the better off your business will be in the long term. Use text analytics data to get an idea of what your companys reputation is, and if its not what you want it to be, read up on what people dont like and make the necessary changes.

Understand How Your Employees are Operating
In any customer service role, efficiency is what separates excellent employees from the rest of the pack. One way to examine how your staff goes about completing their work on a day-to-day basis is to utilize desktop and process analytics, which will examine how employees use applications and systems to perform their work in contact centers, branches, and back-office operations. Previous difficulties with measuring and analyzing these procedures have become feasible with this solution, and with its implementation, your business can improve efficiency, reduce costs and liability, and greatly improve the customer experience.

Data collection and analytics tools are no longer just for statisticians and scientists. They are innovations that are actually making the customer service game a little easier to play. Consider taking a more proactive approach with your customer service strategy. The technology can be intimidating, but its hard to argue with the results.

 CJ Silva is VP of Operations at KOVA Corporation.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Who to Follow on Twitter Before Dreamforce

Editors note: This article was originally posted on NewVoiceMedia

Dreamforce is now just a month away, so you’re probably particularly keen to be connected with all the best influencers and insiders on Twitter, to make sure you get the most out of your experience.

With so much content available and 130,000 attendees anticipated, which tweeters are most worthy of a follow? Here are our 50 recommendations for a rounded timeline. 

1.     @ValaAfshar Vala Afshar

2.      @JesseAltman Jesse Altman

3.      @LAAF Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen

4.      @pmarca Marc Andreessen

5.      @KevinBaldacci Kevin Baldacci

6.      @Benioff Marc Benioff

7.      @JoshBirk Josh Birk

8.      @Amber9904 Amber Boaz

9.      @ReidCarlberg Reid Carlberg

10.  @DCarroll Dave Carroll

11.  @PeterCoffee Peter Coffee

12.  @DanDarcy Dan Darcy

13.  @Dreamforce

14.  @EricDresh Eric Dreshfield

15.  @Cloud_CEO Jonathan Gale

16.  @MikeGerholdt Mike Gerholdt

17.  @GordonEvans Gordon Evans

18.  @GeraldineGray Geraldine Gray

19.  @HammNick Nick Hamm

20.  @ParkerHarris Parker Harris

21.  @SeanBHawkins Sean Hawkins

22.  @ReidHoffman Reid Hoffman

23.  @GeorgeHuSF George Hu

24.  @Hyken Shep Hyken

25.  @CharlieIsaacs Charlie Isaacs

26.  @ZacharyJeans Zachary Jeans

27.  @PeterKnolle Peter Knolle

28.  @lazerow Michael Lazerow

29.  @BrentLeary Brent Leary

30.  @LeBrun Marcel LeBrun

31.  @CohanLeon Cohan Leon Daley

32.  @MLevchin Max Levchin

33.  @FlavMartins Flavio Martins

34.  @Patterson_sarah Sarah Patterson

35.  @Tom_Peters Tom Peters

36.  @DarthGarry Garry Polmateer

37.  @LpRobins Larry Robinson

38.  @salesforce

39.  @DSchach David Schach

40.  @rockchick322004 Mary Scotton

41.  @JimSinai Jim Sinai

42.  @StealeyReed Sarah Stealey Reed

43.  @Jeremys Jeremy Stoppelman

44.  @TooSaaSy TooSaaSy

45.  @DavidBThomas David Thomas

46.  @EckhartTolle Eckhart Tolle

47.  @Aunitt Ashley Unitt

48.  @StevenVBe Steven Van Belleghem

49.  @SFDCphil Phil Walton

50.  @MarkeWoollen Mark Woollen

You’ll find this collection of Dreamforce thought leaders saved as a Twitter list, where you can also check out their bios. Subscribe to it here. You can also visit NewVoiceMedia’s Dreamforce microsite for more tips and info.

During Dreamforce, use the #DF14 hashtag to uncover plenty of other experts throughout the week.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Achieving Exceptional Social Media Support

Let’s face it-- social media is more than an emerging channel, it is here! According to a recent survey, nearly one in three social media users prefer to reach out to a brand for customer service through a social channel compared to the phone. And to further illustrate the power of social, an overwhelming number of customers will recommend a brand to their friends if they have a positive experience via social media.
Plan for Success
What does this mean for the contact center? Simply stated, we must deliver exceptional social media support. The foundation begins with solid planning. Before starting your program, determine your mission. What do you hope to accomplish via social media support? Once that question is answered, have a clear strategy!

I would caution overextending yourself. You may not need to be everywhere on social media. What I found worked best is being where the customer is. Having a presence for the sake of being on social is not ideal. If no traffic exists, the impression is that you are not engaging your customers. Research where your customers are or where you company is most frequently mentioned.

Hire the Right Agent
Despite our best efforts to skill agents across multiple channels, social media support is not for everyone. Because of the complexity of issues that may arise, as well as the need to rely on and get input from other departments, the ideal candidates should be well spoken and have a good rapport with other departments. My colleague Jeremiah Methven wrote an article in which he suggested some characteristics he looks for in social agents:
  1. Comfort level with social media
  2. Understanding of business sensitivity, company brand, and company voice
  3. A strong desire to resolve issues
Each of these together will ensure issues are resolved in the best manner possible without offending customers or bringing embarrassment to your brand. A social savvy agent can turn a customer complaint into an engagement opportunity that not only wins the customers, but also shows the public your commitment to being exceptional.

Monitor Social Media
Listen to social media! What is being said about your brand? Are you being mentioned? This should include mentions with and without your handle. Listening should also be extended to competitors as well. Active monitoring could lead to a switch in brands. However, it is imperative to be quick and concise during these moments. A timely response and follow-up is essential.
I am often asked, “What should I respond to?” by those just getting acquainted with social media support. My answer is short and simple, “answer everything.” This can be quite a challenge if you are inundated with requests. However, social media should function like your traditional channels. Properly forecast, schedule and staff your team to handle the volume.
Also, prioritize what messages receive a response. During a webinar earlier this year hosted by ICMI, the following prioritization was offered:
  • Urgent Requests
  • Gratitude
  • Negative sentiment
  • FAQ (“This is the “low-hanging fruit.” It’s easiest thing to respond to, and it can drive traffic to your web site if you have this content there.”)
Based on this priority, you can ensure that you are responding to the most important messages. This list can vary, but it serves the purpose of identifying what to answer, and ensures uniformity across the team. Everyone knows what to respond to and they are aware of the priority of importance for messages. This will help minimize customer concerns from falling through the cracks, while ensuring the best possible response is given.
Social media support can be challenging, but when carefully planned and properly executed, it is a great way to serve your customer.

Sean is a Customer Experience, Contact Center and Help desk manager with over 12 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.

His contact center is a past winner of the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" for Small to Medium-Sized Centers. In addition, he was named one of of ICMI's Top 50 Contact Center Thought Leaders on Twitter. Follow on Twitter @SeanBHawkins or connect on LinkedIn. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Amazing Service Begins With Engaged Leaders

Providing service to customers is not as hard as some make it seem. It does take diligence and lots of effort to do it exceptionally well. In its simplest form, it is about treating customers with courtesy and respect. Unfortunately, in the business world we often lose sight of that.

When doing business leads to unsatisfied customers, it is time to reevaluate how business is done. Companies are competing for the same customer, and if all things are equal, customer service is usually a deciding factor for the consumer.

 How can you as a contact center leader help your agents to be successful in providing “amazing” service above and beyond?

Review Processes
Exceptional service allows agents to offer immediate solutions without getting bogged down in processes or policy. This leads to happy, loyal customers. In turn, your contact center will see an improvement with CSAT. Removing barriers that prevent exceptional customer service will lead to a more engaged service center. I make it practice of regularly reviewing processes, policies and procedures impacting our customers and agents. As business needs change, policies should be reviewed and updated if necessary.

Agent feedback
I’ve never met an agent who enjoys denying customer requests. On the contrary, they have a desire to satisfy them. Team members have often requested that they be allowed to offer a good will credit to customers. This request was due to their willingness go beyond good service to amazing service. They knew that random acts of kindness made customers happy.

What I learned is it empowered them and made them feel a part of the decision-making process. Upon implementation, we were able to see how this directly impacted customer and agent satisfaction.

Manager Buy-in
I’ve always treated my team as customers. In my opinion, showing them what great service looks like is more impactful than telling them. When they see it alive in you, they will emulate it amongst one another and customers. Leadership must be committed to improving and should regularly attend training, seminars and conferences.

Front line supervisors, leads and managers are a great source for ideas. Allowing them freedom to develop CX initiatives will ensure they are customer focused and invested in organizational goals. I recommend that all leadership review customer feedback and CSAT performance as a team. Some of the benefits in doing so is everyone is aware of department/team performance, problems can be identified, and new ideas can be presented to the group.

Below are 4 simple and immediate steps you as a leader can implement on your journey to customer service excellence.

  1. Empower agents- accept feedback, include in decision-making process
  2. Be transparent- honest and effective communication (internally & externally)
  3. Be accessible- provide support in multiple channels, expand support hours
  4. Be attentive- your own active listening allows agents to better assist customer and anticipate future needs
As you can see, these suggestions can be easily implemented, are quick wins, and address some core areas of customer experience. With consistency, effort, and diligence, I’m convinced these steps will set you on the right path and improve your service department.

Sean is a Customer Experience, Contact Center and Help desk manager with over 12 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.

His contact center is a past winner of the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" for Small to Medium-Sized Centers. In addition, he was named one of of ICMI's Top 50 Contact Center Thought Leaders on Twitter. Follow on Twitter @SeanBHawkins or connect on LinkedIn.