Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Listen to Your Heart (or your calls)

By Diana Aviles

I’ve chatted with speech analysts from all walks of life. They speak many languages and are versed in different speech analytics solutions. Despite the fact there are some differences in approaches, we can all agree on the one thing, we consistently struggle to get our organizations to understand: you still need to listen to the calls.

I can bucket, categorize and query the life breath out of everything you need, but at the end of the day it does not absolve you from some type of manual listening. I am notorious for saying that our goal in speech analytics is to help make insights easier to obtain- not outright replace human listening.

What good is a category or query to an organization, if you have no context outside of those key terms and phrases it was programmed with? How do you know if a process is successful, or if it is failing, if you aren’t engaged with the actual agent and customer interaction? What actionable intelligence are you getting from static data? Very little to none. But, you can change that.

Speech Analytics (SA) is an extremely interactive process. It is very exciting to get your hands dirty and discover all sorts of wild stuff you never would’ve found without SA. Sometimes it may feel like it takes forever, but simply adjusting your perspective to see it as being for the greater good of your organization will brighten your outlook and reveal vast benefits. Listening to 100-200 calls certainly will not injure you. There are different strategies on how to create listening studies that are effective and efficient at any size.

The aspect of SA that makes us awesome, is that we can pull insights from data and have the flexibility to further think outside the box, while exploring those insights on a deeper level than our more structured data contemporaries. Speech Analytics is about tying together trends to tell a story, that can help an organization make business decisions. You are doing yourself a big disservice, if you are just sitting around building out queries, and running reports without trying to take a peek at the bigger picture.

So please, do yourself a favor and listen to your calls. I promise you it's worth every second of time you invest in it. 

Diana Aviles is a long time speech analytics fan with a specialty in Nexidia Interaction Analytics. 

She is a vocal speech analytics advocate with the primary objective to simultaneously promote and educate the world of Speech Analytics with a human touch; one which further emphasizes the importance of First Call Resolution and overall customer experience.

Connect: LinkedIn

Monday, April 22, 2019

Work Ethic, Attendance Management, Mom and The Mrs.

By Ron Rhodes 

There is a quote I enjoy from Reginald F. Lewis, the Baltimore-born CEO/Investor whose life provided so many early inspirational lessons for me. Mr. Lewis once said,

“The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately,”
words that bring to mind a belief that seems to have faded with the 20th Century.

The belief I refer to is often described as work ethic which, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a set of values centered on the importance of doing work and reflected especially in a desire or determination to work hard.” Your adds this: “an example of someone with work ethic is a person who gets to work on time every day and always works long days to get the job done.” All of my sources describe work ethic as “a moral good.” It is in it and through it that one can achieve prosperity and enduring emotional reward.

These days, however, given the perpetual advancement of time saving technology and the pursuit of work-life balance, burning the midnight oil should not be considered a (work ethic) requirement. It should suffice that you are willing to do what is needed, when it is needed, but if you don’t need to stay in the office, by all means, go home, hug your kids and pet your dog. Do you want to have and be recognized for having a good work ethic? Of course, you do. So, show up consistently and punctually and when you do, do good work. I learned that from the late great Mamie Rhodes (miss you Mom).

But our purpose here is to share thoughts about the management of employee attendance. Beginning this way served only to illustrate that work ethic is the metaphorical parent of attendance related behaviors. You’ll likely agree that attendance is the first and most controllable employment essential because without it, nothing else really matters.

My wife manages a team of customer service professionals within a large Philippine-based BPO (Business Process Outsourcer). One of the (hopefully many) advantages of our life partnership is that she is entitled to a sort of informal professional mentoring (free of charge) where she may seek my advice and either take it or suggest what else I might consider doing with it. 😊 Thankfully, she does acknowledge that I have a great deal of practical experience in BPO and contact center operations. I may, on occasion, share valuable insight that could help her as she advances. Alas, she is Filipina and quite direct so she doesn’t really put it that way. She just says I’m old so I should know stuff by now.

A frequent topic of discussion for us is basic attendance management and why it has become so difficult over the years. I’ll get to my theories and suggestions, but first it seems important to review why staff attendance is so important in a BPO/contact center setting. Start with pricing. Forget the ideals for the moment. The fact is that BPO pricing is typically based on transaction quantity, but more customarily, some increment of time; per minute, per hour, paid or productive. This is almost always measured by modern automation. It follows that if employees don’t show up when scheduled, you (the BPO) may not bill for that time or those transactions while you are still saddled with most or all of the employment expenses. From a purely business standpoint, this is not sustainable over a long period.

Next, there are a chain reaction of negative service issues associated with poor employee attendance. You will likely be understaffed, resulting in queues or other work-related backlogs, client dissatisfaction and threats to business stability.

Finally, there is the spiraling decline of morale within your department and the fact that behaviors, positive or negative, can be contagious. This is especially true when recognition, where positive, or accountability, where negative, are either, not present or consistently applied.

I have seen and heard of all kinds or practices and devices intended to drive compliance with attendance policies; from “perfect attendance bonuses” where employees accept jobs and then are paid extra to come to that job; to actually making daily calls to (I emphasize) adult employees during which you remind them of their schedule and seek confirmation that they will honor it. Both of these have questionable foundation. One says that we do not expect or feel we have a right to a workforce with a strong work ethic; therefore, we will pay extra and hope the incentive drives the behavior. The other is a bit more dangerous because it allows little balance on the accountability scale. The manager not only owns developing employees, but is expected to literally coddle them as if they were small children. Personally, I would be offended if my manager continually called me just to remind me to come to work…and not because the call wakes me up. The very power source of a strong work ethic is pride.

I suppose I am also not a fan of elaborate attendance point systems with challenges and buy backs. And of the approach many organizations take to scrutinizing and validating medical excuses (people in the industry know exactly what I mean). I guess you could say that I’m old school. Establish a policy based on a fair and reasonable definition of excessive absenteeism and then the chair is either empty or it isn’t. I would trust and respect all reasons for unplanned absences so a note from your doctor is not necessary. I would simply manage excessive absenteeism and patterns of abuse. Again, the chair is either empty or it isn’t.

As far as managing attendance, I advise my wife to be proactive. Have sincere and direct discussions with your team members. By this I mean that directness and sincerity have to be a two-way street. This is not a time for Facebook or emails. During these discussions three (3) things should happen: 1) The importance and rationale around attendance policy (or schedule) adherence should be clarified. 2) Compliance expectations should be clearly set and 3) If a particular employee has attendance challenges, openness and honesty should be encouraged with the hope of discovering and addressing the root cause. Then be consistent. Say what you mean and do what you say. This expectation will become culture over time.

Yes, there are occasionally reasons that employees are unable to come to work, but then they are 23 years old. I figure if I can bring my sore from old sports injuries, diabetes and high cholesterol managing self into work regardless of what time of the day or the week I’m scheduled, someone considerably younger has a much better shot. This is about choice and character, after all, is the sum total of the choices we make in life.

Passionate about mentoring and developing the industry’s future leaders, in 2000, Ron authored Fundamentals of Call Center Management, a guide intended to help entry level managers, as they begin to master their craft. Having spent 20 years with category leaders, American Express, Nestle, Moore Business Forms (now RR Donnelly) and Comcast, Ron's background includes an additional 10 years of key global BPO assignments with TeleTech, Convergys, Stream, STARTEK and now Connext. Ron's international experience includes stints in Jamaica, Canada and currently the Philippines.

Connect: LinkedIn 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Agile Customer Service

By Gail Meintjies

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

When it comes to serving customers, these projects need to start with the consumer needs and work back to the technology and software that should be in place to cater to these needs.

In conjunction with this, any organization needs to understand its DNA and adopt a passionate customer-centric approach throughout, to gain customer buy-in.

Creating Agile Customer Care

By focusing from the outside in, working with collaborative teams, and adopting an Agile project management approach, organizations can use Agile customer care to:

  • Achieve fewer break downs;
  • Boost first contact resolution;
  • Assist customers to help themselves find solutions to simple problems;
  • Streamline processes and software to suit the customer rather than stick to legacy systems.
One of the most important aspects of new age project management is to ensure Agile distribution. According to Accenture, the five main characteristics of Agile distribution are:
  • Offering customers what they need, not what the business has. This is done by personalizing products and services;
  • Replacing complex distribution processes and continually adjusting offerings as the market dictates;
  • Transforming fixed costs, such as paying rent, into variable costs and investing savings into revenue-generating opportunities, such as purchasing start-ups;
  • Combining physical and digital channels to gain more market share;
  • Making channel decisions quickly and often, based on customer needs and market demands.
It is imperative that organizations move outside their usual social media circles in the digital distribution playing field, and come up with unique initiatives to grow their consumer base.

An Agile Workforce

Organizations lose billions by investing in digital solutions that are not accepted by employees or customers. Ingenious solutions and marketing ideas that are aligned to actual customer demands, are nothing, without the buy-in of employees. The Agile teams in place need to hold skills and traits such as:
  • Collaboration
  • Effective and efficient communication
  • Fast execution
  • Flexibility
  • Discipline
  • Taking accountability and responsibility
SCRUM masters need to be leading their teams by placing their focus on becoming the best they can be, while Agile coaches must be in place to help the teams that need to apply the Agile practices, do so effectively. They need to be there to review what has gone well and what needs more work, and to get the support of employees’ managers.

This can be done with the help of the product owners creating a compelling vision of the project, and communicating it to employees and their managers, to obtain that buy-in from the beginning.

HR need to step in and consistently explore ways in which to create an Agile growth strategy for the business and its employees.

According to a Harvard Business Review study, businesses need to attract employees who go after innovative opportunities passionately instead of sticking to what they know.

One thing is clear – customer centricity should be engrained in a business’ culture from the very beginning, and the right teams should be employed to move the business forward.

Organizations lose billions by investing in digital solutions that are not accepted by employees or customers.

Building Agility for the Customer

By definition, Agile is an iterative development methodology that values human communication and feedback, adapts to changes, and produces working results.

By incorporating working software, and using customer data analysis and collaboration effectively, Agile businesses can stay ahead of their competition simply because they are catering to their customer’s needs.

However, despite the relevance of software making the user interaction simpler, it’s critical for organizations to realize the importance of the human interaction element throughout the Agile journey.

Software that is used to collect customer interaction data effectively, means that each consumer is met with a personalized approach. In some instances, software can be used to direct the customer requirement to a specific person or area within a business, providing consumers with the best advice they can get.

It's critical for organizations to remember the importance of the human interaction element throughout the Agile journey.

According to Brand Embassy (, a 2017 study shows that a staggering 70% of 18 – 24 year olds have stated that brands which fail to personalize their communication and interactions, will lose them as a customer.

Personally having 12 years’ experience in the banking industry, Accenture’s view that retail banks are in a fortunate position to be ahead in the Agile approach, makes sense to me.

Unlike digital-only or physical-only (think online stores and retail stores without online distribution means), retail banks have both a digital and physical presence. Digital platforms such as self-service banking where a client can open an account online, make payments, and get feedback on simple solutions; are already in place. At the same time, customers can visit physical branches. In using both platforms, branches may need to revamp their approach, but are fortunate to not have to build from the bottom.

The more prominent banks have a large amount of customer data at their fingertips which allows the testing of real-world scenarios. This creates the space for banks to define the markets, products and customers they wish to target; even creating personas in the marketing space.

Banks can purchase start-up capabilities or invest in integrating white-labels into their value chains, and in so doing, cater for the fast-paced market changes.
It’s important to realize that organizations should seek Agility in customer service not only by being Agile in one area, but by adopting a multi-dimensional approach.

By having a very personal, in-depth understanding of customers; embedding a customer-centric culture; and investing in and empowering team players to be innovative; organizations will continue to move forward.
Gail Meintjies is a skilled Customer Service professional, offering 12 years’ dedicated experience in the banking industry and 4 years’ earlier experience in journalism. Her background is rich in mentorship, coaching and training, and the consistent delivery of exceptional customer service.

Committed to process improvement, and possessing excellent problem solving skills, Gail has the inherent ability to identify situational needs and provide rational and intelligent solutions. Her exceptional organisational skills, attention to detail, and self-motivation, enable Gail to manage multi-levelled workloads with diligence and focused precision. 

Connect: LinkedIn


Monday, April 15, 2019

Women Leadership & Customer Experience

By Stacy Sherman (MBA, CX Certified)

This article originally appeared on Doing CX Right

There’s an increasing amount of conversations about Women and Leadership, and I love it! I believe that the next generation, including my own daughter, will have more opportunities to share their voice, without judgments, and pursue jobs that had been traditionally filled by men.



CX is not a fad. It’s here to stay and reputable companies are seeking expertise. Voxpro interviewed five women leaders who talk about the need for females in high-level customer-focused roles. I couldn’t agree more. You can read about what the ladies had to say in an informative article: “Why We Need More Women Leaders in CX.”


I’ve learned a lot over the past 20 years working in large and small companies. I know first hand the challenges in pursuing a career while balancing parenthood. I am elated that more companies are committed to creating a culture where women matter and employee diversity is valued. Below is a recap of a recent interview of me in honor of International Women’s History month. I hope it serves as inspiration for all my readers.
Source: Schindler Elevator Corp



A: I’m currently the Director of Customer Experience, leading a team focused on delivering best-in-class Customer Excellence and Employee Engagement that serves as a brand differentiator. My role includes establishing & implementing innovative Voice of Customer (VOC) initiatives that provide a deep understanding of how customers interact & feel across all touch points. I’m also leveraging data, including Voice of Employee (VOE) feedback, to enhance customer journeys, and collaborating with cross-team to “close the loop” resulting in record high customer Net Promoter (NPS)scores.


A: Gender equality is important because all people deserve access to the same resources and opportunities. If two individuals with similar skills &  education apply for the same job or promotion, there should be no difference in the evaluation process. Unfortunately, equality has not been the case over time and I’ve witnessed this. I am very glad there is now a cultural shift so that my kids benefit in positive ways.


A: I have overcome “inclusion” situations in past workplaces. For example, there’s been a multitude of times that I was not invited to all male meetings, even when my level or related positions were in the room and topics pertained to my job. I’ve overcome challenges by communicating tactfully with people and articulating the value I bring, so they’d understand my perspective and need for inclusion. While self-advocacy is not easy, it is essential and a contributing factor for my success.


A: I encourage everyone, especially women, to communicate openly and honestly, and deal with uncomfortable situations head-on versus an avoidance approach. Be impeccable with your words and choose the right moments to contribute. You have 2 ears and 1 mouth. Use them accordingly. Also, always be learning and advancing your skills through formal and informal education. I obtained my MBA years ago but continue to get certifications from prestigious institutions to sustain my position as a credible thought leader. (Read more about my Rutgers CX Course)


A: There will ALWAYS be obstacles. Know what you can control and focus your time and effort on those things. People often say “No” without even thinking about situations, but there IS a path to “Yes!” Be creative and figure it out!


A: Executive Director Stacey Aaron-Domanico from my former job at Verizon, taught me about leadership and authenticity through her actions and words. We are still connected, and she inspires me to be amazing and genuine in everything I do.
If you like my article, please subscribe to DoingCXRight to continue getting updates. And, join the conversations about customer experience, employee engagement and much more on Twitter & Instagram.

Stacy Sherman is a results-oriented Customer Experience (CX) and Digital Marketing professional with a proven track record increasing brand awareness, sales, and loyalty at B2C & B2B companies of all sizes and budgets.

She’s worked on both the client side and agency environments leading projects for reputable brands (Martha Stewart Crafts, American Girl, Perler Beads) along with well-known Telcom companies (AT&T and Verizon). Stacy is a Founding CX Board Member and Advisor at Rutgers University.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Removing The Training Wheels - Self Service Solutions in Speech Analytics

By Diana Aviles

I feel like I often say, “One of the biggest challenges in speech analytics is...” in many of my pieces since there are so many moving parts in what we do. From getting the SA program launched, to maintaining the program so that the organization continues to see value in the investment- it’s all a challenge.

However, something to think about is how you want your SA program to sustain itself in the long run. Sometimes it seems easier to keep all the knowledge on how to utilize the tool to yourself, but I have found that organizations who operate like this find themselves with very burnt-out speech analysts since what often happens is they become inundated with countless requests. They start feeling like the nerdy kid in school who the popular kids only talk to when they want to copy their algebra homework. So how do you reduce this? With self-service solutions.

What does “self-service solutions” mean? Well, it means that you and your team will have to get comfortable with teaching people who are interested in utilizing speech insights on how they can produce those results on their own. It might mean you have to decline certain requests, but kindly offer a 30 minute consulting call to show them how they can run the report on their own. You can also see if you may host a bi-weekly, one-hour “Ask us Anything” type of call, with your most frequent requesters, to see what kind of things they are interested in looking at. “You wanna see AHT? Sure, we can show you how to run a report that shows this, and we can even set it to indicate outliers if you would like.” “You want to see how often an agent uses the proper closing greeting filtered-down by supervisor? Absolutely, we can show you how to set that up.” This allows you to get an idea on what the organization actually cares about so that you and your team can aim to be as proactive as possible with your insights.

Also, by establishing self-sufficiency it will help alleviate the workload from your folks so that you can better focus on all the cool types of studies that you’re dying to do. It also helps maintain value by having more than a select few people know how to use the tool. Remember, at the end of the day as speech analysts you should be aiming to spread the word about speech analytics as much as possible. You should be looking to always share your experiences with other people. Those experiences often turn into valuable insights that improve ROI. Heck, even in my new role, I find myself still learning new tricks from my colleagues because each of our experiences with speech analytics is unique.

Ultimately, this boils down to a culture thing. If your organization’s culture is one where no one wants to step out of their comfort zone, unfortunately there's not much you can do to fix that, but it is worth trying to put it out there and see who bites. I can guarantee you there is at least one person in your organization who would jump at the chance to see how the magic happens with speech analytics.

Diana Aviles Senior Speech Analytics Consultant, Wells Fargo

Diana has been working in speech analytics for 8 years with a specialty in Nexidia Interaction Analytics.  She is a vocal speech analytics advocate with the primary objective to simultaneously promote and educate the world of Speech Analytics with a human touch; one which further emphasizes the importance of First Call Resolution and overall customer experience.

Follow Diana on LinkedIn.