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Reports from the NACC
NACC has been burning the midnight oil and typing until our fingers are
sore to bring out reports to our members. Each is listed below. If you
are interested to see what we are writing about, click on the links
below and download the executive summary of each. If you like what you
see, join the NACC so that you can view these reports and others that
will be coming out soon on our website. These reports will ensure
that you know the latest trends in the industry.
Meet The Members: Michele Rowan, Customer Contact Strategies
Interactive Text Response - IVR Your Customers Will Love!
Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, Paul.Stockford@nationalcallcenters.org
month we visit with Michele Rowan of Customer Contact Strategies.
Michele is a longtime supporter of the NACC and subscribers to
this newsletter have undoubtedly seen her mailings supporting her
contact center remote working business model seminars and conferences.
Since Michele spends the vast majority of her time on-site with
her clients in contact centers of all sizes and descriptions, we
thought she would bring a different perspective to this feature.
NACC: Let me start by asking you to tell us a little about how your contact center career began.
My first contact center role was with an outsourcer as an HR
leader, as my background was in Human Resources. Following, I
spent 12 years with Hilton Worldwide
NACC: How did you come to work in the hospitality industry for Hilton Worldwide?
By my very good fortune, really. Hilton had just opened an
office/contact center in my target city for residing (Tampa Bay area)
so I pursued them in the absence of any sort of job posting, and
luckily, my timing was just right! They had an opening in HR that
they were just getting ready to post. I had admired the
Promus/Hilton Family of brands from afar, and love to travel, so I was
thrilled and delighted to be able to join that team.
NACC: And how did you end up working for Hilton in London?
Again, it got down to great timing. I had moved from HR
into the Contact Center Director position in Hilton's Tampa office, and
was very happy in my role and living in the Tampa/Clearwater area.
I had zero inclination to move, until I learned that there was
going to be an opening for a Senior Director based in London. So
the opportunity was a promotion, plus the bonus of living abroad for a
two-year assignment - was too hard to resist. I got the job and I have
to say, it what one of the best decisions I've ever made. Discovering
the world, doing work I love to do amongst an amazing team, and staying
in really, really nice hotels? It was sweet! Luckily for me
(again) my boss in London decided to move on - just as my two years in
London was coming to a close. So I was promoted to Vice President
and was able to eke out an additional three years living in London.
It was great fun and terrific experience for me on the
professional side as well.
So that was where you gained your expertise in establishing
programs for home-based workers. How did that translate to the U.S.
Yes, I got my first work at home experience while in the UK.
We were struggling to meet our staffing requirements for European
languages (we had contact centers in Glasgow, Scotland and Tallinn,
Estonia), and the hotel brands continued to expand, increasing the
demand and pressure on us. Hilton in the US had just completed a
pilot on the work at home technology, and it was successful. So
after a careful strategic review to solve for our language staffing
issues, we chose the work at home model. We basically adopted the
US model and socialized it to reflect UK culture and regulatory
environment. We were certainly an early adopter, as this was 2007.
Soon after, Hilton in the US decided to materially scale the work at
home model - to broaden talent pools without adding real estate.
So I moved from London to Dallas to lead that strategy design and
expansion in the US. In a period of 18 months, we transitioned
more than 1000 positions from in house to home base.
What was your motivation to start Customer Contact Strategies in
2009? What was missing in the industry that you wanted to address?
I fell in love with the work at home model after going through
the big expansion with Hilton. I was inspired by the fact that
while we could improve quality of life for many employees by
eliminating the commute, we could also save money on the company side.
That's not an equation you see often. I became convinced
that remote working would fundamentally change the landscape of the
contact center environment (and beyond) and saw the need for thought
leadership, benchmarking, training and general expertise in the
NACC: How does a contact center know if and when it is a good candidate for an at-home agent workforce?
If you have confidence in your contact center operational ability
within an office environment, then you are a good candidate to deploy
the work at home model. If you're not very good at running your
own contact center and don't have much interest in it, you may be
better served to work with an outsourcing partner who utilizes work at
home employees. Either way, you will have access to broader and
more experienced talent pools.
NACC: And what is your business model? How do you work with clients to help them reach their at-home workforce goals?
We offer public two-day workshops and conferences on work at
home. We bring stakeholders together to share best practices,
benchmark, and do some visioning on next generation work at home.
We also do a good deal of customized on site consulting, bringing
workshops and training programs to individual clients. We also conduct
gap analysis to help companies clarify their readiness to implement or
expand their work at home program. The gap analysis identifies
the potential pain points and risks - before our customers experience
NACC: When and where are your seminars and conferences and how does one keep track of upcoming events?
MR: The next two day Advanced At Home Strategies Workshop is Nov 11-12 in Laguna Beach, California. There are about 10 seats left as of this writing.
On February 16-18, we'll hold the 2016 Remote Working Summit in Dallas
at the Westin Galleria. There will be about 200 attendees there,
with six case studies and seven breakout sessions over the course of
two days on all things remote-working.
Use this link to sign up for our mailing list and blog: and we'll be sure to invite you to our upcoming remote work conferences!
NACC: Readers interested in learning more about establishing an at-home agent workforce are encouraged to visit www.customercontactstrategies.com and to contact Michele at email@example.com.
Tobias Goebel, Director of Emerging Technologies, Aspect, Tobias.Goebel@aspect.com
month we recorded a podcast with Tobias entitled “Tapping into Twitter
for Customer Self-Service.” The podcast is available for download
and we encourage you to give it a listen for more discussion on this
cutting-edge idea. Additional thoughts on social media self-service are
available in Tobias’ video blogs at http://blogs.aspect.com/2015/06/02/dominos-tweet-a-pizza-tobias-goebel-analyzes-the-opportunities/ and http://blogs.aspect.com/2015/05/22/tobias-on-dominos-self-service-offering/)
It's no secret that IVR systems aren't the consumer's best friend.
Increasingly, customers are picking the phone channel as a last resort,
after having attempted self-service or peer advice on all other
channels first. Hearing "press or say 1", or worse: "did you know you
can check your claim online at doubleyoudoubleyoudoubleyou..." is
clearly not helping the experience.
It's not that customers don't want to self-serve; research actually
shows us they prefer it, especially the Millennials, or those with the
"millennial mindset". We also now know that customers would actually
prefer text/messaging channels, if they had the choice. So what can we
Enter Interactive Text Response (ITR). ITR means having a dialog with
an automated system, yet over text messages, not voice prompts. Such
dialogs can take place on carrier channels (SMS, USSD) and non-carrier
channels (WeChat, Twitter, Line, Viber, ...) alike. ITR combines the
24/7 accessibility and cost reduction value proposition of IVR, but
without the headache. Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology
helps discern meaning and intent. The same business logic ("script") of
the IVR drives the dialog flow. No speech recognition challenges, no
dropped calls, no hold time, no wading through long menus.
A simple SMS "I need a hotel room in downtown Orlando tomorrow for 2
nights" to your hotel chain, or "what's the status of my order?" to
your retailer, or "what's my savings balance" to your bank, and the
answer comes instantly. Need to speak to someone? Hand the text chat
transcript over to an agent and let them take over the dialog, either
staying on the same channel, or escalating over to voice.
It's a win-win for the customer and the contact center. This is
definitely an IVR-type experience that your customers will love.
Customer care doesn’t get any more innovative that this!
Mr. Spock Meets The Contact Center
Zack Taylor, Global Business Development Manager, Cisco Business Transformation Architecture Group, Cisco, firstname.lastname@example.org
following article was originally published as a blog post at
blogs.cisco.com and is reprinted here with permission. For
further discussion on this intriguing topic be sure to download the
podcast we did with Zack from the NACC website: http://www.nationalcallcenters.org/Podcasts/mr-spock-and-the-new-customer-engagement-outcomes-from-carbon-to-silicon.html)
One of the most enduring characters introduced in 1960’ television vas the venerable “Mr. Spock” of Star Trek fame. Leonard Nimoy played Spock after having only modest acting success before being cast as the half-human, half-Vulcan in 1964.
Among many attributes, Spock had, two relate to the modern contact center and customer experience paradigm.
First, Spock’s primary attribute was an extreme affinity for logic. No
matter how far off the handle Captain Kirk had gone, he could always be
counted on a logical response to any situation His almost robotic
responses were cold, even if they were effective.
The tides are shifting in the contact center world in this regard.
Companies are revisiting the notion of scripted and tightly
controlled customer conversations with contact center agents.
Since most of the calls, chats, and texts come into contact
centers as exceptions after customers have attempted other business
processes, it is imperative agents use positive language and more
conversational approaches. This is critical with customers who
may be as “off the handle” as Captain Kirk could become!
The Human Focus
Second, Spock had an affinity for calling humans “carbon based units”
based due to our chemical makeup. Fact: “Carbon based units” make
up a majority of the cost of running a contact center – and are
“inflationary” by definition. Hence, entire industries have evolved
around optimizing the human element. These include staffing and
workforce optimization technologies that ensure you have the right
amount of “carbon” are in the seats.
Cost optimization is only part of the story. Many companies are looking
to self-service and automation as the fastest path to lowering costs of
customer engagement costs. What’s left after automation are those
exceptions that humans still handle best. (See http://blogs.cisco.com/collaboration/the-best-service-humanly-possible)
The Starship Enterprise developed a nice balance between the engaging
and emotional Kirk and the logical and bucolic Spock – and so should
your contact center.
The Call to Action
Leading companies’ winning combination is to first bring more natural
methods to engage with non-human elements of their service
capabilities. First, inspect your self-service processes to see if they
suffer from “Spock-like” coldness and rigidity. Then, in turning to
live support, empower your resources by training them in positive
language and empathy. Your contact center will hit warp speed!
If you like this comic and would like to see more, write Ozzie at email@example.com and visit his website at http://callcentercomics.com/cartoon_categories.htm
or just click on the comic to take you to his page. The NACC
appreciates Ozzie letting us use some of his comics in our newsletter.
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Copyright 2015 National Association of Call Centers