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Complete Guide to AI in Contact Centers

Guide to AI in contact centers cover

We have recently created a guide for business leaders to learn how to create value with AI in their contact centers.

If you have read about AI elsewhere and you are wondering, what it will bring to contact centers and your contact center specifically, then you should read the guide to

  • understand what AI is,
  • learn how to find a way to create value with AI,
  • and follow the steps to AI adoption

to create and use break-through AI projects in your contact center.

You’ll likely need to build a team of AI enthusiasts to use AI, so share the guide with your coworkers as well 🙂

27/6/2018

RichCall is now available in ZenDesk marketplace

Richcall options: video, cobrowsing, file and image sharing, text chat

Richcall options: video, cobrowsing, file and image sharing, text chat.

An engaging video chat with co-browsing, RichCall, has been added to ZenDesk today.

We are happy to have RichCall in the ZenDesk marketplace, because we share the appreciation for great customer experience. What’s more important, is that customers expect exceptional service 24/7, while companies need to exert more effort to deliver it and stay within reasonable budgets.

This is where video chat comes in, because it provides a relatively cheap way to engage with customers and help them faster, earning their trust and loyalty.

ZenDesk says that:

  • 92% of live chats receive a positive CSAT score
  • companies see a 29% increase in sales with proactive support.

Forrester’s brief tells us about an UK footwear retailer, who used video chat and:

  • increased the conversion rate by x4
  • increased average order value by 10%
  • obtained a 79% average Net Promoter Score.

Co-browsing may be the most important aspect of customer support use cases where agents can guide customers through a website.

“Brief: Now You See Me — Video Chat Improves The Customer Experience”, Forrester, 2016.

The retailer used all the opportunities to guide customers around their products: not only via website support requests, but also via mobile calls and instore kiosks.

The brief also mentions a bank, who installed video desks in their branches, so their customers could create and manage accounts faster.

Our team has been developing RichCall, based on feedback from contact center owners, for a few years now and have made it into a convenient support application. Agents can use it to see the problem with the eyes of the customer thanks to co-browsing and help customers easier. They also can use text chat and file sharing to quickly exchange the data that helps to resolve the issue faster.

If you use ZenDesk, you definitely should use a video chat for support and you can install and use RichCall for free right now.

22/5/2018

ROI of Video Collaboration is Larger, When It Faces Customers

Collaboration for employees has long been the driver of ROI for innovative companies. Companies started using video collaboration to increase that ROI, and they can grow it even larger by using it with customers as well.

The value of video collaboration

Companies use video in collaboration, because it helps them:

  • make faster decisions
  • improve employee decisions
  • provide a more personal experience
  • improve teamwork within and across departments
  • exchange ideas seamlessly.

Essentially, face-to-face (F2F) video allows high-growth companies innovate quickly.

Also, using video in meetings help companies get the following benefits:

  • build trust and positive relationship
  • facilitate stronger customer relationship & engagement
  • make decisions faster
  • keep the team focused and minimize multi-tasking
  • help participants retain important information.

Interestingly, the reasons late adopters seek video collaboration is because they want to catch up with the market leaders in terms of decision making and innovation speed. This might explain the discrepancy in new technology adoption I wrote about earlier.

Using video collaboration with customers

The Techaisle research on video collaboration (PDF) found that SMBs can companies can achieve higher ROI, when employees use video collaboration not only with their coworkers, but also with their customers:

Keys to driving video collaboration ROI within corporate functions.

The key ROI drivers of video collaboration within departments.
Source: the Techaisle’s whitepaper, “Video-enabled collaboration and business growth: a winning combination”.

Turns out, video collaboration also helps customers in the same way it helps coworkers by:

  • building trust and relationships by providing rich in-person experience
  • providing better customer support
  • achieving high customer satisfaction and retention.

The Techaisle’s research ends with 2 conclusions:

  1. Using video collaboration is not about generic upgrades, but a matter of achieving business goals.
  2. The data shows that using collaboration is clearly better, than not, and that using video in various functions across the company helps that.

and an inspirational quote:

Pursue the outcomes associated with high-growth, highly innovative businesses. Don’t settle for the outcomes, objectives and technologies targeted by low-growth firms. If collaboration is important to business success – and the data presented here clearly shows that it is – it’s important to align collaboration strategy, activities and investments with the best case outcomes of high levels of business growth and innovation.

Using video chat to improve customer experience

In 2015 Gartner predicted that by 2018 100 of 500 largest companies would’ve used video chat.

“Video chat provides customers with a richer sense of presence, personalized experience by helped coordination of communication and the support of emotional expression, and the real-time sharing of content,” said Brian Manusama, research director at Gartner.

Since customers are becoming more and more familiar with video chat themselves, companies should probably provide this channel to their customers.

While a 2011 Forrester study said that:

  • 80% of customers prefer to reach support by phone
  • only 7% and 8% prefer to use web chat first or when phone isn’t available,

whole 36% of customers said they’d have liked to use live video to talk with a contact center agent.

If you choose to follow Techaisle’s advice to start using employee and customer collaboration now, then it might be a good idea to look for a customer-facing video chat right now.

If you want to see our click-to-call video chat in action, try it live between 3am and 12pm GMT or schedule a demo, where our expert can help you define, how best to use it in your business case.

7/5/2018

RichCall presents at Contact Center & CX Conference in Dubai on April 24-25th

Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dubai

Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dubai

Today’s flourishing businesses in Dubai need to meet challenges to provide better customer experience to earn and keep more customers.

On April 24th a conference for contact center and CX professionals starts to help them find solutions to fulfil their desire to improve CX and vendors to help them do it.

That’s why RichCall CEO is going to Dubai to showcase the video chat software designed specifically for the contact center industry. RichCall provides effective collaboration tools, such as co-browsing and document sharing, which can drastically improve experience for customers, who prefer agent-assisted contact center channels to solve their problems or get the detailed information about sophisticated products.

Middle East & North Africa is an important region for RichCall, because improving customer experience for businesses worldwide aligns with company’s mission and the company already has strong partnerships in the area. For example, the company has delivered its solutions to dozens of clients, including the Emirates Foundation, UAE and the King Abdul Aziz Foundation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Our integration partners in UAE can help local businesses deploy the innovative solution rapidly.

Come and meet RichCall CEO Alexander Anoshin to see RichCall live and discuss how this solution can help you at MECC & CX ‘18 on April 24 & 25 at the Jumeirah Ballroom pre-function area on the 2nd floor of the Crowne Plaza hotel, Sheikh Zayed road.

19/4/2018

Why are companies slow to adopt new technology?

Back in September we’ve combined the trends in contact centers for 2017.

We also ran a survey about which channels and approaches the companies are using, and which ones they are going to use – here are the results from the 28 responses we got.

Which channels contact centers use now

Which channels contact centers plan to use

Which approaches companies use right now Which channels contact centers plan to use

Which services companies are planning to use, including personality based routing.

Number of channels connected in contact centers

Most companies have 5, 6 and 3 channels connected

Do companies collect data to optimize customer journeys? 53.8% do

Do companies track customer journeys across channels? 85.2% do.

The charts show a pretty positive trends of planning to adopt several newer technologies.

Except:

  • somehow companies collect data to optimize customer journeys, but don’t track them
  • these trends were nearly the same in 2016, and continue to be the trends of 2018 despite technology companies making vast advances

Here’s a figure from the 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report that shows then-current and planned services in contact centers:

It also predicts 9 channels in most contact centers by 2017.

And yet the Dimension Data’s 2017 CX Benchmarking report says that:

“Omnichannel solutions that integrate enterprise systems and connect customer journeys is the top technology trend for 2017, but nearly seven in 10 organisations currently have none, or very few, channels connected.”

Could it be, because it takes companies time to

  • research new technology
  • wait and see for its use cases, case studies and results
  • estimate how best to fit it into the specific company environment?

For example, when it comes to AI, Bridget Botelho warns specialists that companies have only begun to use AI and few companies have the data to do it well. Not to mention, they need to sift through products that offer the minimal usage of AI, rather than employ its full potential of data analysis, recommendations and prediction.

“Analysts say it’s important for companies to learn about AI technologies now — and to implement them where they make sense — because this stuff is complicated, and if you snooze on this one, you really will lose.”

Also, a recent research by ICMI says that:

“There is a major competitive advantage to adopting these new technologies and more than half of the consumers surveyed, 58 percent, own at least one connected device, while only 36 percent of contact centers currently support connected technologies. This lack of adoption parallels other facets of future technologies as 65 percent of contact centers remain reluctant to utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI).”

This is supported by MIT Sloan Management Review’s survey of 3000 executives:

Almost 85% believe AI will allow their companies to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage. But only about one in five companies has incorporated AI in some offerings or processes. Only one in 20 companies has extensively incorporated AI in offerings or processes. Less than 39% of all companies have an AI strategy in place.

Then there’s the time to connect all the interested parties, as Lori Bocklund describes that a solid contact center implementation takes 6 months and requires time commitment not only before, but after the integration is complete.

Geoffrey Moore notes that it’s far easier to get started with a new technology thanks to the cloud and how quick it is to test there, while citing security and reliability as the reasons that can prevent adoption.

TomTom Telematics did a study of 400 UK businesses with 5+ employees, and the biggest barriers to technology adoption were:

  • cost
  • how hard it is to deploy
  • a lack of time to invest in research and implementation
  • resistance from employees.

Finally, the Dimension Data’s 2017 Global CX Benchmarking Report tells us that:

“CX and customer demand for digital are the top considerations for driving digital channel strategies. Yet digital uptake levels are behind forecast. They are slowed by solution functionality that’s not meeting customer needs and poor marketing of the solution existence.”

“Technology was voted as the number one enabler to positively transform CX services in the last five years. Yet, over a quarter of organisations say that their technology systems are failing to meet their current needs.”

Then there is a multitude of cloud software pricing models, which must somehow fit into the multi-year IT budgets.

So, it seems there are at least several dimensions, which slow down tech implementation:

  • finding the solutions that match the business need
  • employees, who prefer to keep the status quo
  • internal constraints: budgets, scope of work, etc.

What do you think are the major obstacles that delay new technology adoption?

What to do about it?

Luckily, there’s something you can do, if you want to start using new tech in your company sooner.

Dimension Data in their 2017 CX Benchmarking report recommend that you:
“Ensure that your data is founded on consistent, but open principles, and most of all, if it’s used well, it will translate to performance supremacy”

“Thinking of CX technology as a connected element in a holistic enterprise IT ecosystem and overcoming traditional work splits between business and IT adopting new concepts as swarming, will be key for success.”

A fresh Forrester research by J. P. Gownder et al. about the introduction of robots suggests that company leaders need to consider how their employees will use the technology to:

  • get the decision context to make informed decisions
  • support their work by taking a part of their work
  • manage the robots, who do the menial work their new overseers have been doing previously.

But when it comes to choosing the technology to solve the above problems, CIOs need to ask themselves:

  • How mature is this new technology, and have other companies succeeded with it?
  • How will it impact the employee and customer experiences?
  • What’s the total economic impact and business case of deployment?

When it comes to robotics, employees will need to acquire new knowledge how to work with them, which, I think, translates to any other new technology – companies need to train their employees to:

  • make them more productive by using the new technology
  • reduce the friction of accepting and adopting the new technology

For example, German manufacturing companies, who are actually ahead of the US companies in adopting a broad set of new technologies called Industry 4.0, have figured it out. They realize that employees are the greatest hurdle towards technology adoption and, thanks to strict labor regulations, prefer to train them inhouse.

Also, Jeanne Bliss writes that

“One of the most important things you can do early on is tie customer work to CFO-level work; in other words, prove how customer experience is going to make stakeholders more money. That’s what a lot of companies care the most about.”

Which, if tied to the following 8×8 infographic, might work, because approx. 51% of senior management in the government don’t see the value of new technologies and only 21% invest enough money in it, 82% of responders say that new tech delivers value.

As an example of companies drastically improving technology to make CX better, Talkdesk allows companies to switch contact centers with little downtime.

Also, we have recently made Richcall not to require a contact center, so small companies can plug it in from the cloud or larger companies can pilot it much faster and easier, than usual.

What is the first thing that you’d recommend to companies, who would prefer to be early adopters, rather than late ones?

21/3/2018

Richcall CEO is Going to CCW2018 in Berlin, Feb 26 – Mar 1

Customers looking for Richcall in VR

Our CEO, Alexander Anoshin, is going to Berlin on February 25 to CCW2018, the largest European contact center conference, because the CCW executives picked Richcall to exhibit at the FutureCamp area with the most innovative contact center startups from all over the world.

If you plan to visit CCW2018, please stop by at hall 2, stand D30/E27, to say “Hi” and to see how awesome Richcall is in person.

If you are not going to the CCW conference or want to see how it works right now, try it live now or schedule a personal demo.

20/2/2018

Get 6-12 months of Richcall for free

Free remote expert software

Aurus offers Richcall for free

We decided to offer 6 months of Richcall for free for publishing a review on it.

If you use Richcall for 6 months and publish a case study, you get another 6 months of Richcall for free.

To clarify, you get 4 concurrent connections of Richcall for free, which should be enough for a good number of contact centers.

Learn more about the offer here or write to feedback@richcall.io to get 6 months of Richcall for free.

12/12/2017

Countries that approved video identification in banks

In this post I’ll try to list the countries allowed their banks to identify clients through video. Proof links are included. The list will be continuously updated as I learn about new ones.
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Here’s what I have so far (a/b order):

1. Austria
The technology approved by the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA) on 3 January 2017.
https://www.erstegroup.com/en/news-media/press-releases/2017/01/23/erste-bank-introduces-video-based-identification-of-new-customers-alias

2. Estonia
https://www.lhv.ee/en/videoidentification

3. Germany
A new reading of Germany’s money laundering law by the German Ministry of Finance in March 2014 has paved the road for this innovation.
https://www.ing.com/Newsroom/All-news/NW/ING-Germany-simplifies-account-opening-process-with-video-legitimation.htm

4. UK
https://community.fidorbank.uk/groups/important-updates-from-fidor-u/video-identification-process-f

Do you know if it’s approved in your country? Please share in comments.

16/11/2017

Contact Center Technologies 2017: find out what 23 experts say



With the rise of technology that allows better customer service, customers are becoming more demanding – that’s why to satisfy and retain them, you need to develop your contact center in accordance with the worldwide trends. Check out what recent reports and experts suggest, and take part in a contact center benchmarking survey to get more accurate data on the current contact center trends.

Contact Center and CX Research and Reports

Contact centers -> Multichannel -> Omnichannel -> Proactive CX -> Robotics CX

ot CX transformation from contact centers to multichannel, omnichannel, robotics and proactive CX. Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, Dimension Data 2017

The The 2017 Global Benchmarking Report (pdf) suggests that the top trends are:

  • CX as the differentiator (82.%)
  • CX as the most strategic measure (77.5%), which increased profits for 74.1% of companies
  • omnichannel
  • personalization
  • self-service
  • mobile apps
  • connected customer journeys with 9 channels in most contact centers

As people switch from phones to other channels, companies need to work on integrating human approach to their CX robotics:

VA, instant, mobile, web and video chats and IoT

Companies start focusing on channels that provide robotic customer support with a human touch, according to the Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, Dimension Data 2017

Global contact center report shows us which technologies companies are using, and which they are planning to use:

global-contact-center-report-trends-plans

A list of contact center technologies companies use and plan to use. Dimension Data’s 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, © Dimension Data 2013-2016

We won’t just talk about the trends, what you are reading now is an overview of opinions of respected contact centers experts, so even, if you doubt any of them, you may want to listen to opinions from several of them about the technology that interests you.

Here are the experts:

@Jon Arnoldan independent research analyst with a great blog
@Nate Brown, VP of Communication for the HDI Music City Chapter and is the founder/author of CustomerCentricSupport.com
@Teresa Cottam, Chief Strategist, MVNOpro
@Al Hopper, cofounder of DoLabSATX
@Shep Hyken, Customer Service and Experience expert – hyken.com
@Ian Jacobs, Principal Analyst at Forrester
@Evan Kirstel, Social media innovator and B2B marketer
@Irwin Lazar, Analyst, Nemertes Research
@Kate Leggett, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester
Rob Maynard, Contact Center Architect for Cisco
@Sheila McGee-Smith, an enterprise communications industry analyst
@Dave Michaels, founder of TalkingPointz, covering enterprise communications and IoT
@Blake Morgan, Customer Experience Futurist and the host of the Modern Customer Podcast
@Blair Pleasant, analyst and consultant about Unified Communications
@Elka Popova, Industry Analyst focusing on Unified Communications, Frost & Sullivan
@Darren Prine, Omnichannel Contact Center Solutions Specialist at BrightPattern
Lutz Remmers, Operations Director for Call Center de Mexico
@Colin Taylor, CEO and Chief Chaos Officer at the Taylor Reach Group
@Donna Peeples, Customer Experience Strategist
@Bruce Temkina customer experience transformist.
@Neal Topf, President of the Callzilla contact center
Wade Wiant, Vice President of Sales and Channels at Mediu
We analyzed articles about contact center trends in 2017 from each of them, and here are the trends most experts agreed on:

Omnichannel

The promise of Omni-channel today is similar to that of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms a quarter of a century ago; by centralizing knowledge and customer information, it enables agents in our Contact Center to deliver more satisfying customer experiences, resolve issues more quickly and efficiently and generate more revenue. Of course, it took about 20 years for CRM to become an overnight success. I suspect Omni-Channel will have a similarly long gestation period.

Colin Taylor

Unfortunately, I consistently find two things missing from most omnichannel conversations: modern channels and context.

The problem with omnichannel is the continuous change component of every or all. For example, fax was certainly an important channel at one time (and still is in some sectors). Modalities come and go, but omnichannel doesn’t expire. Instead, it’s necessary to reevaluate its scope regularly.

Omnichannel initiatives must now include messaging and video. These are the two most significant emerging modalities in enterprise communications. Both are already popular in consumer services.

Dave Michaels

Teresa Cottam forecasts that:

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s customers will be creative, will communicate across an array of existing and new channels but also in a new visual language. They will expect to co-create their experience via a continual interaction with the enterprise and will want to take responsibility for many issues currently managed by the contact centre to fulfil their desire for increased autonomy. The contact centre will support this by providing hints, tips, education and technical support.

In addition, the contact centre will also become a powerful resource for finding out what customers think of companies, and for capturing sentiments, feedback, needs and wants. As an invaluable source of data for both the enterprise and its partners, it will evolve beyond omnichannel operation to become the centre of the connected enterprise. And, as its mode of operation broadens and becomes more proactive, its success will have to be measured by new metrics, reflecting its critical role in overall business performance.

According to Teresa, contact centers will need to:

  • move beyond supporting all channels (omnichannel) seamlessly to becoming a hub of customer interactions for the enterprise
  • take responsibility for customer communications rather than these being driven by individual departments’ internal timescales and goals
  • deliver these interactions in a more customer-centric manner, at a time that is most convenient for the customer, and which is based on their knowledge of when the customer is likely to be most receptive, in the preferred language
  • use highly secure customer ID verification, the identification of buying signs and customer satisfaction, fraud prevention capabilities and so on
  • employ customer support specialists, who will become trusted and recognized, rather than be nameless agents

Teresa Cottam

Self-service

In 2011 Gartner predicted that

by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.

However, in 2016 Forrester has already reported that

consumers are using web self-service more than assisted service. In fact this number increased from 67% in 2012 to 84% in 2015.

Kate Leggett expands on the idea:

In 2017: Customer service will continue to invest in structured knowledge management and leverage communities to extend the reach of curated content. Service will become more ubiquitous, via speech interfaces, devices with embedded knowledge, and wearables for service technicians.

As customer preferences have shifted over the years, consumers are demanding more immediate service and many of them are resolving their problems on their own through self-service.

Darren Pline

With a self-service portal, customers can search for their problem online and follow instructions to fix it. In the worst case, if they were not able to solve their issue, the portal can include a click to call button where they are transferred to an agent and they don’t have to repeat all their information in order to get assistance.

Lutz Remmers

Customers have begun to use, and in some cases even prefer, non-agented interactions. They use knowledgebases, FAQs, mobile customer self-service, chatbots, and peer-to-peer communities in increasing numbers. This means that:

Because self-service solves many of the simpler issues that customers have, the inquiries that do make it through to contact center agents are the more complex, difficult, or relationship-dependent ones. So, contact center agents now need to be prepared for solving harder problems than in the past.

 

Because most customers that actually do reach a contact center agent will have tried to self-serve and failed, they will more frustrated than they were in the past. In a world where the phone and even chat are actually escalation channels, agents start three steps back by the time they say the word, “Hello.”

Ian Jacobs

 

According to Teresa Cottam, by 2025, three key concepts will come together to create a new customer paradigm:

  • the demand for personalization
  • digital autonomy
  • social consumption.

“The combination of these three elements of personalisation, self-service and social consumption creates a phenomenon that Telesperience has dubbed ‘selfie-service’. This represents an evolution of self-service because it doesn’t just enable a customer to serve themselves, but also to create their own service paradigm, tailor their experience, and be more creative.“

Messaging

Call centers shaping their strategies for 2017 and beyond should begin by allowing for mobile messaging engagement. It’s about meeting the customer in the place where they are and want to do business. Messaging is the most common cell phone activity, outpacing telephony, according to the Pew Research Center.

Donna Peeples

In fact it seems that the sharing economy is one of the biggest superuser industries of mobile messaging. Examples include Uber, Airbnb, Etsy and TaskRabbit to name a few. Customers enjoy the ease of use and not having to call the call center. It feels as easy and seamless as an interaction with a friend or family member. This is the future of customer service.

Blake Morgan

But it is the harnessing of social platform messaging apps that will turn social customer care on its head in 2017. Thanks to the announcement by Facebook that they were opening up Facebook Messenger to the public and developers, businesses and solution providers alike now have a captive audience of socially-addicted consumers to engage with in private.

Nancy Jamison

Mobile continues to become an increasingly dominant interaction channel… and now can be accessed through increasingly varied types of devices (including those described as “Internet of Things”). In 2017, we expect more companies to shift to a mobile first strategy and to design customer offerings with the assumption that the primary interface may be a remote digital device.

Bruce Temkin

AI

AI is already here, has been here for a while and will continue to support ever increasingly complex customer interactions. Perhaps the bigger question for Contact Centers is, “How will we manage the interactions that cannot be handled through AI enabled automation.”’ Those contacts that remain, will be complicated, complex and require a significantly different profile, than the typical customer service or technical support agent that exists in most centers today. We need to rethink the skills and competencies required to deliver excellent service in this brave new AI enable world.

Colin Taylor

Since the business value of these technologies continues to evolve, we talked about the big challenges developers face in selling chatbots and AI into the enterprise. The challenges may be daunting, and very different from selling these technologies into the consumer world, but the opportunities can also be large… so the potential payoff is definitely there.

One issue is that chatbot and AI have a long way to go before they’re ready for widespread adoption. These tools will take time before they can provide real value and earn the trust of customers, so companies that adopt them do have to consider the risk factor. For example, speech recognition accuracy is approaching 90%, but is that good enough for the contact center? Skeptics will point to Microsoft’s early experience with its Tay chatbot, and flat out say, “No.”

Jon Arnold

Artificial Intelligence is coming to the forefront of how a company creates a better CX. Machines’ ability to interact with humans is stronger than ever. AI will help us make better business decisions, many of them positively impacting the customer. AI won’t necessarily take over the human function, although in some places it can and will, but it will assist customer support people, becoming an IA , or Intelligent Assistant.

Shep Hyken

Machine learning, AI, and cognitive computing offer the opportunity for applications to learn from past behavior as well as from external data sources. While in their early stages, these technologies offer real-world potential for organizations to increase the speed of workflows, enable employees to make better decisions, and even enable delivery of new and innovative services, especially in engineering or science-intensive industries.

Already we’re seeing tremendous interest in using intelligent bots to eliminate repetitive tasks or to provide an improved experience to customers. We’re at the cusp of tremendous advances in these areas, with increasing opportunities for IT leaders to forge the way in delivering business value from emerging technologies.

Irwin lazar

News:

Google’s voice recognition quality is now 95%, Recode

Chatbots

“Bots are Good for the Seller, but What About for the Buyer?”

This question kept popping up in my mind, as we heard many speakers talk about all the cool capabilities their chatbots have. For now, the consumer market is all about driving sales, either online or in-store. Messaging has now become bigger than social media, and with better ad-blocking tools, anyone trying to sell digitally to consumers is coming to realize the value of chatbots. AI has a long way to go still to make the chatbot experience feel personal, but it’s improving as all emerging technologies do.

Jon Arnold

Chatbots will become a big storyline in 2017, and increasingly, messaging will be a platform for automated, person-to-machine communication. This is actually part of something even bigger — digital transformation — where natural language processing is going to transform the role of voice. Telephony will continue as a real-time channel, but the new value basis for voice will be in the realm of AI and ML, where Amazon’s Alexa is a sign of things to come.

Jon Arnold

There are also some notable bots that have shown us what is possible moving forward. Take Siri or Amazon Alexa for example. Some bots can even provide intelligence and service better than a live representative. Babylon Health or Your.MD have bots that provide health related consultations based on images and symptoms

AI will increasingly be used for routine transactions while higher-value and more complex transactions will be handled by customer service agents. The key is being able to identify what interactions need to be handled by a human rather than automated.

Darren Prine

The best chatbots are able to not only respond to requests and questions, but also recognize when the customer is confused and seamlessly hand off the conversation to a live customer support rep.

Shep Hyken

To truly meet a need for enterprise-grade customer service, chatbots must be able to understand what a customer speaks or types, pick out the customer’s actual intent, respond in a conversational manner and maintain the conversational state across multiple back and forths, and act on the customer’s behalf.

Finally, as customers choose to have interactions across multiple channels (phone, chat, web, mobile, messaging, social, etc.), enterprises should be able to deploy their chatbots in multiple channels. Although the idea of truly ‘write once, deploy many” chatbots remains elusive, directionally, this is where enterprise chatbots need to head.

Ian Jacobs

IoT

The main way it will improve customer experience is through proactive customer service. Smart devices will be able to communicate that there is a problem with the device directly to the manufacturer before the consumer is even aware there is a problem. This will also lead to increased self-service as customers will need to contact customer service less frequently when smart objects are able to diagnose their own issues.

ABI Research found that by 2020, more than 50 billion additional devices will be wirelessly connect increasing the IoT. Organizations that can successfully integrate IoT into their contact centers will benefit from shorter interaction time, cost savings from self-service, and more dedicated customer service.

Darren Prine

With IoT, presenting a single view of the data becomes easier whether you are a B2B or B2C company. The convergence of digital and physical worlds across multiple channels has created opportunities to measure and influence customer behavior beyond traditional purchasing cycles.

To make the business model of IoT work, companies must keep a close eye on emerging IoT ecosystem components, networking protocols, security, data models, and analytics to connect with contact center solutions and act on the received triggers.

Kate Legett

This is because a lot of IoT data is related to operations and security, as well as product development — and ultimately marketing. End users will see the data first. They will then ask the contact center to remotely access the data — as happens now with computers and phones.

IoT will completely change the game for companies – all of our products and devices will soon be connected, and this is good and bad. It’s good because companies will have much more data to personalize our experiences. Our lives will be made easier through improved user experiences. But IoT devices must be made secure.

@Blake Morgan

Blake Morgan also mentions the following IoT examples:

  • the Spinn coffee machine
  • a Barbie doll that listens and responds
  • a smart Vodka Absolut bottle
  • August Smart Lock
  • Fitbit
  • a Crockpot wifi-enabled cooker.

Wade Waint writes:

By 2020, a staggering 26 billion everyday devices—anything with an on/off switch, from cellphones and coffee makers to washing machines, headphones and lamps—will be activated by users all over the world (Gartner). As technology evolves, these devices are entering into a network of physical objects connected to the Internet and to one another to collect and share data.This is the Internet of Things (IoT).

Consumers will opt to leverage mobile and personal devices as a means to realize their customer journeys, enabling them to engage with the contact center when, where and how they want.

Sheila McGee-Smith mentions a few examples:

On stage, the presenters talked about a washing machine sending out a message that it is in need of repair. That’s a nice example of the proactive customer care possibilities of IoT, but another example Bosch shared during a breakout session showed the broader implications of combining IoT and customer experience. In one of my Enterprise Connect sessions last week, Kentis Gopalla, senior director of product management and market strategy at Genesys, shared that case study — Bosch Connected Parking.

Bosch Connected Parking offers car park operators new business opportunities and ideas for increasing the value and scope of services for participants. Parking solutions include:

  • active parking lot management
  • community-based parking
  • automated valet parking

Video

These video enabled terminals or kiosks called ITMs (Interactive Teller Machines) allow a customer to interact, live, with an agent in a Contact Center. Where these solutions have been deployed, transaction value has increased while transaction costs have decreased, and at the same time, customer satisfaction (CSAT) has risen. The increase in CSAT is likely, in part, due to an increased level of trust in the interaction and the fact that there is a person who can provide help or answer questions as required.

Colin Taylor

So, if it is so helpful, why is less than 0.2% of contact center traffic handled on video chat? Although video chat exists, it is often hard to fit it into the current technology which explains why most don’t use it. But, forward thinking companies such as Schuh and Amazon have already deployed video as part of their customer service strategy. With advancing omnichannel solutions, the demand for video chat as a service is only going to become more popular and effective.

Darren Prine

Giving agents the ability to show their true self would make it simple to communicate with authenticity and develop the type of meaningful relationships we strive for with our customers.  

Recently many barriers such as expensive hardware and limited bandwidth have been removed, finally bringing this channel into reach for contact centers large and small.

Nate Brown

2017 is going to be the year to introduce Live Visual solutions to your call center. It is a ripe technology with an existing consumer infrastructure (2.5 billion camera equipped smartphones and counting) and has a real ROI model.

Simple video chat can be utilized for better customer engagement, while evolved Augmented Reality solutions will help get customers painlessly and quickly through tech support. Either way, adding live video capabilities to call centers should be on every customer service and contact center executives’ list.

Evan Kirstel

I’ve seen several big wins in the banking industry. Nationwide Building Society, a U.K. company, has implemented a Cisco-powered service to supplement branch office staff with virtual agents who can conduct face-to-face video consultations. The pilot resulted in a 62% gain in mortgages, so Nationwide has opted to expand the service to each of its 400 locations.

Check out more examples of companies successfully using video contact centers from Dave Michaels here. Also, check out our own video chat for contact centers, Richcall.

Cloud

While this is not necessarily a brand-new trend, it is an excellent option for businesses due to the speed and ease in which it can be implemented.

Cloud-based services offer 24/7 support and provide real flexibility and adaptability, particularly in their ability to be integrated with third-party CRM platforms such as Salesforce, Zendesk, SAP, and Facebook.

Lutz Remmers

Offering customers a vehicle to engage, transact, and use to address problems at will is a powerful differentiator that allows companies to transcend the offline/online world, while remaining in the conscience of customers in the most state-of-the-art yet customer-determined way imaginable.

That is why contact centers must begin to migrate portions of their technology to the cloud or to solutions that can be integrated with the new generation of cloud based APIs.

Neal Topf

 

..the survey suggests three-quarters of companies have recognized the value of the cloud, with 25 percent of contact centers having fully deployed cloud today and another 28 percent partially transitioned. In addition, 21 percent have plans to migrate within the next year.  I would certainly say that there is no doubt that cloud is no longer something that contact centers need to be educated on.  Customers are asking solution providers about cloud, rather than the reverse. It’s not if, but when, and that is the key.

Nancy Jamison

Catering to the Millennial Worker

But perhaps the most exciting trend in 2016, which Frost & Sullivan believes will be a continuing core trend in 2017, is designing contact centers to support the millennial worker, and that cater to the millennial consumer.  This was very apparent with multiple announcements of enhanced Workforce Optimization (WFO) offerings that focused on making life easier for agents.

Nancy Jamison

At the same time, enterprises will have to deal with new demands from the next generation of workers who don’t want to work long shifts in centralised operations. In order to recruit and retain the best of these workers, enterprises will have to identify what these workers need from them in order to be seen as a good employer. Meanwhile, tomorrow’s customers will be creative, will communicate across an array of existing and new channels but also in a new visual language. They will expect to co-create their experience via a continual interaction with the enterprise and will want to take responsibility for many issues currently managed by the contact centre to fulfil their desire for increased autonomy. The contact centre will support this by providing hints, tips, education and technical support.

Teresa Cottam

 

digital workplace begins the shift from thinking of UC and collaboration as stand-alone applications to ones that are tightly integrated with workflows and business processes. In this new paradigm, collaboration applications must support business processes, especially the digitizing of these processes. This means integration with message flows, events, tasks, and projects to ensure that collaboration exists within the context of business workflows.

Irwin Lazar

One consequence of the increased skill and competence levels requirement is likely an increase in wages and salary costs in order to attract those people. The overall transaction costs will drop. But the direct salary expense per employee will rise. Their needs and expectations for career and job satisfaction will change and become more important.

Colin Taylor

As these trends communicate, staying up to date on new technologies is the secret to better customer service, so keep in mind that today’s customers are more tech-savvy and can make or break a company’s reputation based on their experience.

Lutz Remmers

Favorable mentions

There are some trends that only few experts pointed out, here are some of them.

Customer Journey Maps

Report after report highlight that companies are woefully bad at tracking customer journeys to make meaningful decisions:

36.4% of companies track interactions across channels

How good are companies are at tracking customer journeys, according to the Dimension Data’s 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, © Dimension Data 2013-2016

The newer Dimension Data’s 2017 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report informs us that even though 76% of companies have some channels connected, 8% have all of the channels connected, and so on:

67% track customer journeys in some form, 72% fail to review and optimize

Companies track the essentials, but are far from tracking everything

Colin Taylor says:

If not, you are quickly falling behind the curve. If you have documented CJM’s, well done – you have step one completed. With your CJMs you now know what the customer and the organization are expecting to take place, when and through what channels etc. .. We need to acknowledge that our marketing and other initiatives, informs and colors customers’ perspective of the organization and consumer expectations on any interaction. When we design customer experience, we must inform the definition with both the CJMs and with the expectations and perceptions that marketing has created. 

Ian Golding suggests that companies need not only to create customer journey maps, but to manage customer journeys.

Failure to understand the true role of a customer journey map, is likely to deem the exercise of creating them completely worthless. In a world where no organisation has infinite resources to keep people busy conducting tasks for no particular reason, it is critical to ensure that the management of the customer journey becomes part of the way a business works. Everyone in the organisation – from the CEO to the front line – needs to know what the customer journey is AND the role they play in delivering/improving it – continuously.

Read Ian Golding’s post to learn which questions you need to ask yourself, if you want to manage customer journeys by embedding them into how your company works

Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS)

The growth of CPaaS is due to customer-facing markets driving to deliver a better customer experience. CPaaS has emerged as an easy and compelling way to create new digital experiences with communication woven in. Some common applications include: video enabled help desks, SMS appointment reminders, and authentication services.

As enterprises need more advanced communication methods and technology to improve the customer experience they require deep integrations between application and communication

Possibly the most important and exciting thing about the open APIs is that all integrations are typically certified and maintained by both vendors. This means you are getting a completely seamless integrations that are continuously being updated without having to pay for extra professional services.

Darren Prine

The API economy — flexible APIs, integration PaaS (iPaaS), and CPaaS solutions — marks the current phase in this evolution. Over the past few years, the innovation frontier both in the premises-based and cloud communications spaces has shifted from explosive feature development toward a rush to integrate communications with third-party software. The purpose — more tangible business outcomes through greater impact on specific workflows.

Elka Popova

As Al Cook, Twilio director of product, mentioned during a general session on APIs, “The number and types of APIs are increasing, and use cases are increasing.” It will be exciting to see what types of use cases show up in the next few years, and how developers and organizations will use APIs and CPaaS to create applications and integrations to workflows that change the way business gets done.

Blair Pleasant

Social media

In my opinion, social media is the Achilles heel of most companies in today’s digital world.

Social media can generate positive or negative discussions that will impact your brand if not handled properly, so if you have an open forum then take advantage of it. When responding to a customer, always go beyond what they expect, then post the follow up and final results so others can see the outcome, building further confidence in your brand.

Lutz Remmers

Many customers post about positive experiences, but some people may express their frustration over a bad experience more frequently. More, younger customers are used to using social media to connect with their service providers. Our CTO described a friend’s daughter who called her father in a panic because she had had a car accident, had tweeted this to her insurance company, and no one was responding.  Our next generation of customers may demand better responsiveness over social media.

Rob Maynard

Proactive Customer Care

Companies are getting better and spotting problems and fixing them before the customer notices and complains. There are software programs that can alert companies to issues so they can be proactive in mitigating or eliminating problems. A good proactive service program creates trust and confidence.

Shep Hyken

Speech Analytics

With Speech Analytics software, the initial investment can ensure that 100% of your interactions are analyzed and scraped for potential business insight. The implications can be huge, as even a single customer interaction has the potential to uncover an internal inefficiency or service issue. This technology is no longer in its infancy, yet many companies have failed to realize its potential, meaning it can give you a major leg up on your competition.

Al Hopper

At the same time, we see a rise of voice interfaces, from Comcast’s XFINITY remote control to Amazon’s Echo. In 2017, we expect more companies to increase their use of speech recognition for insights and interfaces.

Bruce Temkin

Remote contact center workers

With today’s technology and software, real-time monitoring of agent performance is very simple and it’s possible to track every move of home-based agents, so more contact centers have been actively exploring the benefits of this employment option.

In a few years, it’s very likely that one out of every three agents will be working from home due to lower attrition rates, productivity improvements, a reduction in costs, and more flexibility for extended hours if the business operates on a 24-hour schedule.

Lutz Remmers

It was nice to see the high percentage of businesses that claim to have work-at-home (WAHA) workers (59%).  The ability for contact centers to support remote workers has been around for a long time, but now we have better technology to support them.

Nancy Jamison

 

(remote working) will require the same applications and knowledge bases to be available to remote workers as for those in bricks and mortar premises or contact centres. This will be enabled by cloud-based applications and information storage. However, companies will need to consider that the experience delivered both to and from remote workers will be highly reliant on the performance of the local network, and they will need to ensure that telecoms providers are delivering the level of availability, reliability, performance and security required

Teresa Cottam

It seems that while some most experts agree on the incoming trends in contact centers, companies don’t completely embrace them.

Sheila McGee-Smith mentioned Dimension Data’s 2017 Contact Center Benchmarking Report, which listed quite a number of reasons digital transformation stalls:

Top factors slowing down digital transformation

Top factors slowing down digital transformation, Dimension’s Data 2017 Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report

As it turns out, there are many reasons the implementation of new strategies is slow.

Take part in a brief survey

If you are curious which technologies current contact use now as I am, and own a contact center, take part in a survey to get more accurate data and learn what other contact centers are doing. It’ll only take a minute. Thank you.

Share the survey on Twitter or link from your blog to get more accurate data:
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13/9/2017

Why “click-to-call” when you can “click-to-collaborate”?

Surprisingly we’re still getting requests for the “click-to-call” feature for a website. Note: I’m not talking about the click-to-call used by contact center agents to connect with clients. I mean the “online call” button on a website allowing visitor to call customer care rep from his browser in one click.

Let me clarify some tech details first…

The most common approach for the “online call” feature is using the WebRTC technology supported by the most of browsers. The technology allows a website page to get access to the PC mic (user approval is required) and transmit the audio stream to the website server. The server, in its turn, sends the audio to the company rep thus establishing an audio-call.

This means that to call online a client needs an opened webpage that keeps the audio-connection sending and receiving the audio. It normally looks like this:

softphone

Click to Call interface in Richcall

Click to Collaborate interface

But if the client MUST keep this page opened to talk to the agent, why make it so useless? Obviously, it is worth adding extra features to enrich the voice call with text chat, app sharing, co-browsing.

The “online call” extended with web-collaboration options actually turns into “an online collaboration” – you can see how it works in Richcall on the image to the right.

So, the point is – why add the “click-to-call” feature to your website, when you can empower your visitors to “click-to-collaborate” at no extra cost (in terms of technical requirements)?