Adaptive Workflows

Customers want their issues addressed quickly and completely. What the customer wants may change during the course of the interaction. Many interactions are very straightforward. For example:

  • What is my account balance?
  • Did you receive my last payment?
  • What is the status of my order?

Those interactions are easily handled and don’t require complex support to address them. Other interactions, on the other hand, can be much more complex: Why isn’t my system working the way I expect it to? Frequently, customers have multiple questions that need addressing.

The focus of a customer facing support system should be on delivering a flexible, adaptive workflow that can lead to first call resolution of the customer’s request for virtually every reasonable customer interaction. One of our clients found that 83% of their customers would consider switching vendors over a single customer interaction that was not resolved upon first reporting it. This is consistent with the 89% reported by Gartner.

Handling those situations requires more than simply looking up a piece of information and providing it to the customer. Being able to drill down and troubleshoot an issue requires detailed knowledge of the product or service and supporting business processes. Customers also frequently shift directions in the middle of an interaction and the agent needs the ability to shift smoothly with them from a billing inquiry to troubleshooting a problem to ordering a new accessory.

Agents need an adaptive workflow which can support simple inquiries, as well as intelligent troubleshooting and decision making. That workflow needs access to all of the relevant information about the customer to personalize the interaction. Agents should be empowered by their systems to address all of the customer’s needs in a single interaction.

The workflow needs to ensure that agents have control over the paths they follow while ensuring that all of the required information is obtained to support successful resolution of each of the customer’s issues. The workflow needs to enable the agent to queue up additional issues to be addressed while ensuring that each issue is fully resolved within the context of that specific customer.

Contact Us to talk about how we can help you ensure that your agents can support dynamic, personalized customer interactions using adaptive workflows within our Unified Agent Desktop.

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Dynamic Personalized Experience

Customers want to be known.  They expect every interaction to be based on the complete knowledge of the existing relationship between the two of you.  They are intimately aware of the last product or service they bought from you and the last time they called or emailed to complain about something.  They fully expect whomever they talk with on your behalf to be as fully informed as they are about the relationship. That knowledge changes with every interaction.  Every member of your staff that interacts with the customer needs to have all of that information at their finger tips AND it should help guide the interaction.

Having all of the information about what products and services a customer has purchased, what their warranty statuses are, when they are due for service, what upgrades might be available, how to trouble shoot them, etc. all provide clear evidence of competence and understanding of the customer and their needs.  It makes you more likely to be able to address whatever question or issue they may have, which will directly affect their customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Picking the right moment in the dialog to ask about a supposedly resolved problem can help build a connection and increase loyalty and is one example of personalizing the interaction.

“Mr. Smith, you called us two weeks ago with a problem with your order of a ‘My Walkin Pup’.  Do you feel that we resolved that concern to your satisfaction?”

Providing unsolicited information based on your knowledge of the products and services the customer has purchased can also be a useful way to personalize the interaction.

Mr. Smith, were you aware that Lee Child is releasing a new book in the Jack Reacher Series next month?

That information is probably not relevant to most people, but this customer has bought every book in that series as soon as each book was released and it would be very welcome news to him.

Personalization could also be just confirming known preferences.

Would you like an aisle seat near the front?

Would you like a king sized bed in a room away from the elevator and back from the highway?

Both of those examples illustrate that you understand what the customer prefers and will try to meet his needs.  That is the essence of what personalization is all about. The information you need to personalize your interactions exists today in your systems.  The challenge is making it available to your team in a timely, easy-to-use manner.  Contact Us to talk about how we can help you personalize your interactions.

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Key Contact Center Technology Capabilities Needed to Deliver Outstanding Customer Experiences

Delivery of truly outstanding customer experience requires 5 distinct sets of functionality: dynamic, personalized dialog; adaptive workflow; unified customer context; consistent experience; and, deeper insight.  Each of these elements focuses on a different aspect of the interaction between you and your customer and brings a different value set. Focusing on any one of these elements will improve the customer experience, but it is the combination of these elements that will differentiate you from your competition. According to a recent Aberdeen Group report on improving multi-channel service, the top 4 goals for the next year are to:

  • Increase customer satisfaction (56% of respondents)
  • Increase revenue (46% of respondents)
  • Increase efficiency and improve processes, and ( 36% of respondents)
  • Increase loyalty and advocacy. (28% of respondents)

Those all are tied to delivery of outstanding customer service. The top strategic initiative being worked on is empowering agents with better information. Getting the right information to the right person at the right moment is critical to providing outstanding service. That information needs to allow the interaction to be personalized. The agent needs to know who the customer is, what products and services they have purchased, what troubles they have reported, what their payment status is, how they like to communicate, and a myriad of other information. That information should be used to help guide a dynamic, adaptive dialog within a process-based workflow. All of this needs to happen within a unified agent desktop that provides instant access to information the agent needs to address concerns the customer raises during their interaction. This same rich dialog should be able to take place across every channel the customer chooses to use, including voice, web self service, and website-based chat.

You need to be able to optimize the processes guiding the interactions. To do this, you need to collect every piece of information available about the interaction as it happens, every page turn, button click and piece of data entered. This information becomes the foundation to allow you to analyze not just the success of that individual interaction, but thousands of interactions to see how the process can be improved using techniques like dynamic real time comparison of different processes. The key is to have a platform that lets you collect the information you need to optimize the processes.

An important side benefit of delivering outstanding service is that when you do, you can actually reduce your operational costs. Contact us to discuss how you can both improve your customer service and reduce your ongoing operational costs. We will discuss each of the five functional sets of capabilities in individual blog articles over the next several months.

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Deal Signed with United Way of California

RiverStar signed a contract with United Ways of California, South Pasadena, California. United Ways of California is an organization that provides free, confidential service that connects residents with local community-based organizations across the state, offering thousands of different programs and services for people seeking answers. In 2015, more than half a million California residents turned to 2-1-1 for health and human service information and referrals, and the numbers continue to grow.  2-1-1 has information on more than 30,000 different programs and services across the state.

The United Ways of California – RiverStar team has collaborated to implement an evolving, comprehensive solution for California that manages the interactions between California 2-1-1 and the residents seeking assistance as well as allowing residents to receive assistance via a mobile responsive web portal. The solution is built using RiverStar Studio, a platform used to rapidly create web applications using a graphical drag and drop interface that doesn’t require traditional programming.  The solution is centered on the RiverStar Unified Agent Desktop that is tightly integrated with the California 2-1-1 contact center platform provided by inContact.

For California 2-1-1, the RiverStar Unified Agent Desktop, built using RiverStar Studio, has been configured to initially provide a scheduling application for the agents to use to schedule appointments with tax counselors to help residents with their taxes. It then will be extended to integrate with the iCarol reference information platform that is used by California 2-1-1 to quickly pull information needed to assist residents with their specific issues such as broadband service eligibility screening and enrollment and Cover California screening and enrollment.

All the solutions developed or planned for 2-1-1 e.g. tax appointment scheduling, broadband service eligibility screening, Cover California screening and enrollment will also have a mobile responsive self service component which will allow residents to obtain assistance.

RiverStar supports key business activities through:

  • Embedded call control in the desktop for telephony, inbound email handling, chat and SMS
  • Process based workflows within the desktop,
  • Searchable, data-driven reference information, e.g., FAQs, Reference Documents, Reference Links
  • Rapid integration with enterprise systems, e.g., iCarol, embedded in the workflows
  • Business process management functionality to manage customer facing business processes

The solution provides a wide range of functionality for a group of 12 different 2-1-1 organizations across the state to support interactions with the residents, such as:

  • RiverStar Unified Agent Desktop
  • Activity scheduling, planning, tracking, escalation, and management
  • Inbound customer service assistance requests
  • Needs assessment
  • Eligibility screening, referral and enrollment
  • Appointment reminders
  • Contact history
  • Reporting

This solution is intended to become the focus for all interactions with the residents.

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Deal Signed with WESTMED Practice Partners, LLC

RiverStar signed a contract with WESTMED Practice Partners LLC, Purchase, NY. WESTMED Practice Partners (WPP) is a healthcare management services company that has evolved from the success of WESTMED Medical Group. In the late 1990’s, WESTMED rolled out the healthcare delivery model of the integrated multi-specialty practice, a community-based facility that provides coordinated, efficient and quality care.

During the decade of implementation of this model, WESTMED has received national recognition for its coordinated clinical services and highly integrated information systems that have improved patient care, increased physicians’ professional satisfaction and enabled the practice to reduce healthcare costs. Remarkable growth and patient satisfaction with our integrated multispecialty practice have positioned us as the future of healthcare today.

WESTMED Practice Partners provides a turnkey solution to hospital systems looking to build a free-standing, comprehensive ambulatory center offering a full range of primary, specialty and ancillary services.

The WPP – RiverStar team has collaborated to implement an appointment scheduling solution for the WPP agents to use when making appointments with the physicians supported by WPP. The initial implementation supported the Internal Medicine Department and is now being expanded to support other departments.

RiverStar supports key business activities through:

  • Providing a dynamic agent workflow
  • Providing the business logic to determine the type of appointment to be scheduled
  • Displaying available appointment slots
  • Pulling data from GE Centricity to drive the scheduling dialog

The results have included:

  • Increased agent productivity
  • Reduced agent training time
  • Improved agent satisfaction
  • Reduced error rates
  • Improved agent retention
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Overcoming Agent Availability in the Work-at-Home Call Center

Maximizing agent productivity and managing agent availability can be a challenge with Work-At-Home Agents (WAHA).  Is the work-at-home agent dispostioning the call correctly? How do they absorb best practices from top-tier agents when they are isolated in their home?

The economics around the work-at-home model are extremely compelling. Web-based technologies have lowered the cost of managing customer interactions and opened the door to new possibilities for how (and where) agents interact with customers. However persuasive the economics are, a real challenge exists to overcoming agent availability in the work-at-home call center.

Addressing the Uncontrolled Workplace

In an uncontrolled workplace (i.e. a home office), agents can knowingly or unknowingly muddle the system. In a hypothetical scenario, agents are working the call, navigating a CRM, and ultimately land on a “wrap up” screen to enter in call notes and info. During this process, the workforce management system (WFM) indicates that the agent is unavailable, but the call has ended. The CRM system indicates the case is closed.  But where’s the agent? This is one of many scenarios indicating that if you want to control your costs and your call center operation, you must make sure that what you’re inspecting is in fact reality.

Telephony, CTI, and CRM apps do little to capture the customer dialog and provide reporting on the entire transaction. Call center managers are left with an opaque view of who is really productive and who’s really available.   WFM is dependent on the agent to accurately set their status.  In addition to creating a disjointed process for the agent to navigate open windows and applications on the desktop, these tools are data centric and don’t address the problem of availability in an uncontrolled home environment.

Leveraging a Unified Agent Desktop for WAHA

A unified agent desktop however, has the ability to build upon best practices. An isolated, remote agent is costing you money; best practices must be instilled regardless of where they sit. Within a unified agent desktop, companies can create business rules that deliver timed alerts to managers. For example, when the agent is sitting out on the ‘wrap up’ screen for over 5 minutes, the manager would receive an alert and contact that agent to see what the issue is.

The presence of a unified, integrated agent desktop is crucial to the agent-customer dialogue and even more crucial in the work-at-home agent call center. As most operations executives can attest, agents are empowered, but only in a highly-controlled contact center environment where every step of the dialogue is timed and every call is recorded.

A Stepping Stone for WAHA Best Practices

Insights on data derived from the agent desktop will lead to best practices. In the Work-at-Home Call Center, it’s extremely difficult for agents to learn by “osmosis.” At home agents don’t benefit from seeing or hearing other agents’ best practices. To counter this, companies can look to data that supports WAHA best practices.

How long does it take the top performers to get through each step in the dialogue? Where in the process are there are a longer than expected call times? Are agents effectively transitioning to new calls? How long do they need before the manager is alerted? Don’t just find best practice by looking at Average Handle Time, but compare call times, results (close ratios, FCR, upsell rates), and actual work steps and timing.

Find out more about how RiverStar enables you to minimize dead time and reinforce best practice call transition approaches.

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Turning Agent ‘Best Practices’ into Standard Practice

Best practices are a rarity in the call center environment. And even more so in the work-at-home call center environment. There, I said it. Who’s to blame, the call center leader? What does the at home agent do when they don’t know the answer? There’s no person next to them to ask and training is over. Calling the supervisor is an option, but could eat away at valuable time of two resources that are now unavailable to talk to customers.

Best practices in the call center are difficult to duplicate out-of-the-box between centers because each center is different. There are different agents, different campaigns, different cultures, and different goals. Therefore, every contact center must develop and embed best practices that are unique to them. Later in this post, I will provide tangible proof that best practice agents outperform average agents, with numbers like a 25% increase in FCR and a 50% decrease in AHT.

In my last post, I talked about overcoming agent availability in the work-at-home call center. In the post, I mentioned how insights derived from an agent desktop can serve as a stepping stone to best practices. To help contact center leaders get to an environment that embodies “best practices,” it’s essential to look at the data and insights around customer interactions. The data and insights can be disseminated from the agent’s use of the desktop to agent training programs and knowledge transfer exercises. In the work-at-home center, it’s nearly impossible for agents to “learn by osmosis” and glean insights from other top performing agents while chatting in the lunch room, or at the water cooler.

Identifying Best Practices in the Work-at-Home Call Center

With at-home agents, it is much harder to use observation to identify best practices and without the right technologies, it’s even harder to gain adoption of best practices.  So, how do you identify best practices and gain adoption across a dispersed, work from home agent model?

Defining best practices begins by gaining insight on the full breath of the customer interaction. Many contact centers have data from CTI/IVR, but that only gives you connection data, resolution data, or abandonment rates.

You need to reach beyond the surface level data to capture the back and forth dialog with the customer. You need all the screens viewed, and all the clicks and searches.  This rich body of information will tell you more than the IVR/CTI data and more than a recording can reveal.

Make Best Practice the Average Practice

It’s common for agents to follow a script or manual workflow based on how the customer interaction is unfolding. Oftentimes, this means an agent is following a process from pencil and paper or using their own ‘best practice’ process to bring the call to resolutions. For obvious reasons this is a flawed practice altogether.

The differences between average and best practice agents can be dramatic.  In a recent call center we reviewed and worked with:

  • FCR was 25% higher for best practice agents
  • ACH was 50% lower for best practice agents
  • Close ratios were 25% higher for best practice agents
  • Upsell rates varied by as much as 15% for best practice agents

In the above scenario, agents who followed best practices were following a process designed in our contact center application.

Why do these differences matter? Let’s assume that you can get 15 of 25 agents  to adopt a best practice that would lead to reducing Average Handling Time by up to 50%. Let’s also assume that each agent averages for 30 hours of call handling time each week (or about 1500 hours per year).  By getting 60% of the agents to adopt a best practice, you’d add 11,250 productivity hours to your center without adding a penny to the expense line.

Roll Out Best Practices Using a Unified Agent Desktop

Insights behind the agent desktop will shed light on clicks, time spent on screens, and the outcome of calls. Call center managers can use these insights to find technology barriers that are consistently hampering an optimal customer interaction flow. Data and insights will help call centers ensure productive escalations or “on-hold” consultations.

Along with the insights, call centers need to leverage a unified agent desktop to codify best practices easily for customer dialogs and optimal process for each campaign or use case. An agent desktop provides a mechanism to roll out new best practices. Getting new agents trained in the at home model is a difficult proposition. Set the best practice in the system, minimize training and allow the agent to succeed faster and better.

Interested in learning more about rolling out best practices and optimizing the home agent workforce? Contact us to learn how our unified agent desktop provides end-to-end management insights that lead to best practices.

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Deal Signed with Michigan 211 Call Center

RiverStar signed a contract with Michigan 2-1-1, Lansing, Michigan. Michigan 2-1-1 is an organization that provides free, confidential service that connects residents with local community-based organizations across the state, offering thousands of different programs and services for people seeking answers. In 2014, more than half a million Michigan residents turned to 2-1-1 for health and human service information and referrals, and the numbers continue to grow.  2-1-1 has information on more than 30,000 different programs and services across the state.

The Michigan 2-1-1 – RiverStar team has collaborated to implement an evolving, comprehensive solution for Michigan 2-1-1 that manages the interactions between Michigan 2-1-1 and the residents seeking assistance. The solution is built using RiverStar Studio, a platform used to rapidly create web applications using a graphical drag and drop interface that doesn’t require traditional programming.  The solution is centered on the RiverStar Unified Agent Desktop that is tightly integrated with the Michigan 2-1-1 contact center platform provided by inContact.

For Michigan 2-1-1, the RiverStar Unified Agent Desktop, built using RiverStar Studio, has been configured to initially provide a scheduling application for the agents to use to schedule appointments with tax counselors to help residents with their taxes. It will then be extended to integrate with the Refer reference information platform that is used by Michigan 2-1-1 to quickly pull information needed to assist residents with their specific issues.

RiverStar supports key business activities through:

  • Embedded call control in the desktop for telephony, inbound email handling, chat and SMS
  • Process based workflows within the desktop,
  • Searchable, data-driven reference information, e.g., FAQs, Reference Documents, Reference Links
  • Rapid integration with enterprise systems, e.g., Refer, embedded in the workflows
  • Business process management functionality to manage customer facing business processes

The solution provides a wide range of functionality for a group of 8 different 2-1-1 organizations across the state to support interactions with the residents, such as:

  • RiverStar Unified Agent Desktop
  • Activity scheduling, planning, tracking, escalation, and management
  • Inbound customer service
  • Outbound customer service
  • Inbound email handling
  • Outbound email campaigns and surveys
  • Contact management
  • Case management
  • Contact history
  • Reporting

This solution has become the focus for all interactions with the residents.

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FCR and the Bottom Line of the Contact Center

Only 43% of contact centers measure First Contact Resolution (FCR) according to research done by SQM Group.  But, how can this be? Measuring this metric is one of the most important in the contact center. It not only benefits customer service delivery but it also reduces the cost to service customers, a direct hit to any company’s bottom line. In short, improving FCR equals spending less while increasing repurchase from loyal customers.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

FCR directly correlates to customer satisfaction rates; for every 1% of FCR improvement, contact centers will see a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction rates (SQM Group). In comparison, customer satisfaction rates are nearly 50% lower if the customer needs to make a second call to resolve the same issue. We all understand the importance of customer satisfaction, and customer satisfaction rates can powerfully influence a contact center’s bottom line, both efficiency and revenue production.

Improved Agent Experience

I recently spoke with one of the top agents at an elite contact center outsourcer. As the agent explained his processes to me, he admitted that sometimes the technology he works with prevents him from delivering better customer service experiences.

When we arrived at the subject of FCR, he explained that having to work with up to seven applications open on his desktop causes him to move more slowly and increases a customer’s impatience.

Three Quick Ideas to Get Started

  1. Measure – You get what you inspect, not what you expect.  Do whatever you can to measure FCR and set targets.  It is the fastest way to uncover the barriers and get going on fixing the challenges.
  2. Unify the Desktop – An agent that doesn’t have to constantly worry about using multiple fractured back-end systems moves more quickly and is free to focus on the customer.  Our experience is that a unified agent desktop improves FCR by at least 10%.  Make sure the various windows are not crowded and facilitate easy location of information.
  3. Optimize the Dialog and Process – Even if your agents are using one or two systems, the actual dialog or processes they’re following might lead to low FCR.  Take a look at the best performers that you’re now measuring.  Use your systems to make sure that all of your agents, not just the best ones, are following the optimal dialog path and using the best processes to get to FCR.  Now, you’ll free up the agents time and attention to improve service and key metrics like FCR.

RiverStar has some proven ideas here. Now that you know how FCR affects your bottom line, take solid steps to ensure that your customers’ issues are resolved, the first time they call.

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4 Agent Scripting Myths Debunked

Have you ever called a contact center and felt like you’re talking to a robot instead of a human being? Often this feeling of “communicating with a computer” can be attributed to how the agent is reading a script, when in fact it’s just extremely poor use of an agent workflow.

Agent scripting shouldn’t be applied to a customer experience as a robotic, word-by-word script that an agent follows during a customer interaction. Customers have unique needs, and agents must adapt to them, not based on what to say, but on what process to follow.  In reality, agent scripting should be the customer dialog function of a strategic workflow process designed to optimize the customer experience.

Unfortunately, there are several lingering myths around the value of agent scripting in relation to the overall customer experience. We’d like to clear the confusion by talking about four specific myths we hear on a regular basis.

Myth 1: Agent Scripting is Robotic

We’re not saying that robotic scripts don’t exist. We’re saying that real agent scripting doesn’t need to be robotic. Effective agent scripting should be viewed as a map, guiding an agent in a consistent process to efficiently resolve a specific customer request. Agents are encouraged to incorporate personality and follow the appropriate call flow that fits the conversation most accurately. Great agents who have the best technology at their desktop will be focused on the customer, not on what words to say.

DEBUNKED: Agent scripting is NOT robotic!

Myth 2: Agent Scripting is “Customer Unfriendly”

A recent article outlined a complaint on a well-known social network that said, “The person I spoke with (on a customer service line) would not even listen to anything I had to say, she just kept repeating the same phrase,” and “She was clearly not even listening, just reading from a script.” Is this the fault of agent scripting? No. That’s the sign of an agent sitting at their desk with a script and without a customer interaction workflow. Unfortunately, the customer and the company will pay the price for the unfriendly experience. Agent scripting should always be a part of a well-crafted process that elicits the exact answers to customer inquiries, resolving issues on the first call attempt. If the process is well designed, the “unfriendly” part of the dialog should disappear.

DEBUNKED: Agent scripting can uptick the friendly factor in customer service calls.

Myth #3: Agent Scripting Reduces an Agent’s Capabilities

Agent scripting, in fact, can greatly improve an agent’s capabilities (if done the right way). A crafted customer interaction dialog is an essential part of an overall interaction process. Agent scripts enable an agent to navigate a wide range of questions and inquiries from a customer as part of the process. For this to work efficiently, the agent-facing desktop should be integrated with all of the required systems, delivering relevant information to the agent’s screen. The agent script in this scenario is just the navigation point that grabs relevant and timely information based on direction of the call, essentially increasing the agent capabilities in line with the customer requests.  Instead of searching for possible answers to a variety of questions, an agent can follow a consistent business process to provide what the customer needs.

DEBUNKED: Agent scripting increases the capabilities of the agent.

Myth 4: Agent Scripting is Costly

Every contact center executive is aware that great customer service directly and indirectly impacts an organization’s bottom line. If effective agent scripting can lower average call handle time, increase first call resolution, and lessen a customer’s frustration, the impact can be measured in hard dollars. Agent scripting via a unified agent desktop should always provide clear, rapid ROI.

DEBUNKED: Agent scripting saves companies money if implemented effectively within a process.

Do you still believe any of these myths about agent scripting? We’d be happy to hear your opinion.

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