ICMI 2019 Contact Center Expo and Conference Summary
ICMI 2019 Contact Center Expo and Conference Summary
In an industry where dealing constant transformation is a given, contact center professionals need a forum to help them stay afloat in the rising tide of customer expectations. The 2019 ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference, held at the Diplomat Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, FL from May 13-16 provided executives, managers and supervisors from every type of customer care operation an opportunity to learn about how to:
- Keep up with evolving technologies
- Establish meaningful metrics that drive improved customer interactions not only within the contact center, but across the entire organization
- Coordinate an increasingly diverse workforce to provide a consistently superior customer experience
- Deliver higher levels of service across all the channels now preferred by customers
ICMI Contact Center Expo continued its tradition of providing a multifaceted educational program as well as a diverse marketplace to review the latest products and services. The program included a variety of training and networking opportunities, case studies, and site tours of local contact centers, including such complex operations as Carnival Cruise Lines and Hard Rock Stadium.
In addition to seeing live demos and obtaining product information from more than 60 solution providers, professionals enjoyed social events in and out of the exhibit hall. All attendees were invited to a an opening night Expo Hall Bash, multiple Solution Spotlights, and a keynote address and book signing by the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, plus the annual Global Contact Center Awards Party which recognizes the companies, contact centers and individuals that demonstrate innovation and leadership.
CRMXchange was onsite, conducting in-depth interviews with a cross-section of the sponsors to not only gain insight on their companies and their emerging solutions but get their perspectives on the direction of the market.
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Ed Mooney, Director of Sales, North America for ASC notes that the recording and analytics company, based near Frankfort, Germany is a worldwide concern with 12 international locations. They started out over 50 years ago as a reel-to-reel company but changed their focus with the advent of contact centers. “My elevator pitch is that when someone asks me what your company does, I tell them that whenever they call customer service at Hyatt, or Google or the US Air Force---all organizations we serve—and a voice comes on the line saying ‘this call might be recorded for quality or training purposes’---that’s what we do,” he said. “As the industry has changed, we not only record the voice, we record chat, Skype, and video in addition to providing screen recording.”
Over the past ten years, ASC has also become a pioneer in speech analytics, so clients can pull out words or phrases or even the entire transcript in conversations. This allows contact center managers and supervisors to see what it is right and wrong with the recording, to measure emotion or see if there are long gaps in the conversation. Supervisors can be notified in real time, allowing them to tap into the conversation and assist the agent.
The solution incorporates workforce optimization, where businesses can pull all the metadata that ASC pulls out of the PBXs and contact center to be used for high-end reports. Mooney considers the major differentiator to be the quality of the software engine behind the speech analytics solution. Companies have to ‘train’ analytics. Right of the box, ASC works with its enterprise customers and large service providers to help the end user train the software to recognize words or phrases that they wish to look into. The better the search engine, the better the analytics.
Another important capability is the ability to store existing recordings. “When companies change platforms, they have millions of recordings stored,” said Mooney. “Many of our competitors can’t transfer these recordings to our system or even to other servers and still store them. ASC can provide that, regardless of the platform a client has been working with.” ASC will soon be offering plug-ins for the speech analytics, the first one to be released later this year for Microsoft Cognitive Services, which will benefit compliance teams by enabling them to use that speech engine to leverage all the analytics in the Microsoft universe. The company plans additional plug-ins for Amazon and Google Cloud, reshaping the software to give businesses who operate in the cloud the option of using additional analytics engines, which Mooney calls a “game-changer.”
ASC has seen a groundswell of interest into moving to the cloud. “As recently as a year ago, 90% of our demos were CAPex-based for on-premise systems. Now it’s 50-50,” he said. “Instead of making a $250-500,000 investment for recording, they can pay as little as $5000 a month and get all of the same features. Companies can choose from a buffet of functionalities and can add the ones they need as they go along.”
ASC is privately owned but competes effectively against the larger publicly traded companies and can provide additional customization both quickly and cost-effectively. The company does as many as three software releases per year, enabling cloud clients to quickly obtain updates. They consider their main advantage as being nimbler and more realistically priced than their competition. “I tell my clients they are getting a Ferrari at a Subaru price,” said Mooney.
Why is it critical for companies to gain systematic insight into their current service level and agent quality to identify the starting point for continuous improvement?
ASC provides Level 1 SLA for most of our installations. We make available Level 2 and 3 training so our partners can handle upgrades, licensing and changes to the environments quickly and accurately.
Our onsite and remote training courses continually keep our partners and enterprise customers apprised of pour newest applications; we also offer free at all times to all customers current on our maintenance contracts free software upgrades to make use of our analytics and real time recording improvements.
Can you explain how your solution helps to ensure that contact center compliance is maintained in all circumstances?
ASC offers certified solutions for evidence-proof recording and long-term archiving of communications. In collaboration with our enterprise end-users, ASC‘s recording solution enables companies to fulfill the requirements of compliance regulations, such as MiFID II and Dodd-Frank, in a simple and efficient manner. ASC’s neo suite records communications from multiple channels such as landline networks, mobile phone, video call, chat and screen activities. Additional tools for quality management, speech analytics and eLearning round out its portfolio. ASC offers its products as a local on-premise solution or as a service via the cloud.
In what ways does your solution allow businesses to analyze communications streams and evaluate the content of conversations?
Omni-Channel Recording: ASC‘s neo recording suite captures, saves and archives multiple communication channels including mobile voice, video, and chat for financial institutions, contact centers and public safety organizations. Since 1964, ASC has provided innovative recording systems to meet the most stringent demands.
Jen Jackson, VP of Customer Success, Serenova We offer an omnichannel solution, providing contact centers as a service (CCaaS) which enables our customers to innovate and move forward in their operations and move forward when deciding how to improve their technology.
How does Serenova help organizations?
At Serenova, we can help organizations strategically determine how they bring in additional channels. As customers’ demands change, our customer persona has also changed. There’s an increasing need for instant gratification, a connect-me-faster and make it a smarter exchange mentality. Our software helps clients do that; they look at their contact centers and say, ‘We’ve always had voice, we’ve always had email, but it’s just not cutting it anymore.’ They know their customers want more ways to reach them but aren’t sure how they do that. When they’re looking at solutions, omnichannel is now a part of the conversation. Our software gives them the ability and flexibility for their customers to reach them faster, customers can start with one channel, then add others; they can scale up or down on the fly. We grow with them and give them multi-tenant capabilities should they have customers with different business needs. We empower our clients to make configurations on their own. As the relationship evolves, we become more of a consultant and advocate for our clients.
How does the Serenova – client relationship start?
In the initial stages, we have teams that go to the customer to explore how they do business and see what the first step needs to be. We look at such things as how their customers contact them and what alternate methods are available in the future, what are the agents, supervisors and management needs, how is the quality and workforce handled?
We go above and beyond trying to understand our customers. A contact center is not just a solution to be put in place, it’s a complex, multi-layered set of applications that touches so many parts of the business. We find out what’s important to our clients to help their customers, what’s important to their leadership in measuring the success of the business, and what is the agent experience. Before we advise on the best solution, we strive to know where a company currently stands and where they want to be.
Our application is API-agnostic. Our customers can presently integrate with many existing systems. We have integrations with CRMs and WFMs. We try to make it as smart an experience as we can where the agent and the supervisor both log in at the same browser, so while the agent is taking the call, the supervisor can be measuring it.
Contact centers are often looking to move into the cloud. We talk to a company about scheduling, making it data-driven, the ability to make the right decisions, and do a better job of quality monitoring. Typically, they have to go into different systems for each task. We show them how to get everything lined up in such a way that when the customer contacts them, they are ready to resolve issues. When businesses express concerns about the reliability or security of cloud solutions we’re able to pull up stats to reassure them.
What are your thoughts about AI?
Some companies have a mistaken impression of what AI can do. Everyone wants to use information, but they do not have a clear understanding of what they will do with that information.
Take for example a customer calling into IVR. We have all been stuck in an IVR where we can’t get to a human. So, if a company is trying to enable both agent and customer to have a smarter interaction, the thought now is that all of the information can be put in the IVR, which enables the customer to self-serve by passing the human interaction. However, some customers still need more than just what self-service can provide. The businesses that are doing it better know that sometimes you have to move the customer to another channel to create a smart interaction.
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is that once they make the decision to implement a cloud-based contact center, they want to do everything overnight. Companies need to realize that it is new to their environment…at every level, at every entry point at every function. We all use the same terminology and speak the same language…contact center…but companies must get comfortable with the technology and accommodate the requirements of all of different business units and phase it in gradually to build in the time needed to ensure it succeeds. If agents and supervisors feel stressed, then customers will as well.
Todd Snapp, President and Nathan Caldwell, Security Awareness Evangelist, Stridepoint. Our primary goal is to secure contact centers… both the agents and the environment. When we’re brought in, it’s either that there is a concern that agents are giving out more information than they should, revealing private information about their customers, or that they have already experienced a breach and need to take action to resolve it. Once we are involved, one of our main purposes is to assess the risk and determine where the weaknesses are in a company’s security. We do tests and provide training; it is often compliance-oriented but also could be behavioral—helping a company’s employees defend themselves against fraud or deception.
Our impetus is to create a culture of security—developing a mindset to defend against security threats. A lot of people are now acknowledging that security needs to be both part of a business plan and an integral part of their practices. We often work with technology experts who are responsible for implementation to show them how to prove the value and position it so that leadership wants to adopt it.
We use the term “social engineering”. This term refers to con artistry. It is defined as ‘I’m going to hack a company, not through the servers or the network, but through its people.’ That’s why it’s so important in the contact center because their people are their primary interface and might be susceptible to attempts to get information or click on links that would enable hackers to infiltrate the organization. It is usually based on deception, such as pretending to be a customer, an employee of the company or even law enforcement. We go in as “ethical hackers” to determine vulnerabilities.
In the tests we’ve been doing for 15 years, on average, more than 30% of calls or emails coming in compromise an account. More than 90% of breaches happen because of the actions of people as opposed to through computers. Security training needs to be a part of onboarding process and a perpetual part of their culture. Contact centers have traditionally been totally focused on training to improve customer service. This leads agents to believe they must be helpful at all times, so when they try to lead customers through a stated issue, they don’t realize they are putting themselves and their company at risk by often divulging too much information to someone with bad intentions. Of course, they must strike a balance - providing a positive customer experience is paramount, but it must be done in such a way that security is maintained.
Awareness of the need for security in the contact center is growing because of highly publicized breaches, particularly in some household name companies that have approached us. But security is something that a business needs to be prepared to address ahead of time, not after a breach has already taken place. Breaches don’t only happen in big name organizations and can be fatal to smaller companies who often have a false sense of being immune. Sometimes, it’s small companies that are vendors to larger businesses are the cause of breaches due to weak security. In some cases, the big organizations are now requiring the contact centers of their business partners to be protected. In addition to contact centers, we are also brought into determine security in other departments, including IT which is sometimes the most vulnerable area. We are also instituting a program to help companies engage customers to learn how to better protect themselves. Social engineering threats include everything from malicious personal information gatherers to child predators to industrial spies and even gamers trying to access other players online wallets. Snapp elaborated further:
Why do you consider it vital for businesses to make security, compliance and awareness as engaging as possible for their employees?
Because of compliance, HR and security risks, many employees are hit with a barrage of training every year. Historically, this is a necessary evil that employees power through to meet requirements. (Check a box) Some of these topics, though, represent the only way that some companies prepare their people to protect against serious threats.
When it comes to security, the material has to be presented in such a way that people will recognize the value and pay enough attention to really absorb the information. Not only do they need to be engaged enough to learn what is being taught, but also to remember it when it is needed.
Can you shed light on how you work one-on-one with clients to develop custom content?
With some clients, the presentation of security and compliance training needs to be customized to match the unique policies and threats of their industry. In other cases, just the personalization of the material to match the terminology and culture of the organization goes a long way to engage the audience and demonstrate the value of the material to the specific audience.
What are some of the most serious social engineering threats to sensitive data that businesses encounter?
Most companies recognize the reality of deception and “con-artistry” as a threat to their security, but few realize the damage that has been done by fraudulent phone calls and emails. Most of the “front page news” security breaches of the last 10 years came from social engineering breaches. Customer accounts have been compromised, giant databases of personal information have been lost and companies have been devastated because their front-line employees were ill-equipped to defend against a devious phone call or message.
How do you help call centers focus on what you term “The Human Side of Security?”
Contact centers play a vital role in the both the customer service and security posture of a business. We have worked with countless contact centers where the organization has spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours protecting their network and systems (and rightfully so) but are stymied when it comes to building the “human firewall” with their contact center agents. With 95% of all business attacks targeting your people as their way in, it is important for organizations to build a culture of security that can defend them just as well at the front line as they do in the server room.
We partner with clients to create and execute on that plan by evaluating their security awareness, delivering custom training and ensuring their people are an active part of the overall business health, security, and success.
Chris Vitek, Leader, Global Contact Center RPA/RDA Strategy & Consulting, UiPath has been building contact centers for the past 40 years. Chris is focused on the process of building products that help automate and shift the burden of data processing from humans to robots in customer interactions. “We’re finding great success in shortening the handle times and increasing the quality of these interactions,” he noted. He cites the example of a client that receives 10 million calls per year from customers inquiring why their credit cards were declined. Previously, doing the necessary research required a telephone banker to sift through five different mainframe screens before determining the reason.
UiPath implemented an automation that does the research for the agent with a one-click start, shortening the Average Handle Time by 50 seconds, which had a profound effect on capacity in a contact center environment of 600 people. Additionally, First Contact Resolution numbers moved within hours after implementation, with an 8% reduction in non-FCR calls in the first two days alone. “This shifts the attention of the agent from focusing on the keyboard to just listening to the customer,” he said. “By shortening those phone calls, we’re also greatly diminishing customer effort. Companies are able to place higher value on agents who can better engage the customer.”
More than 30,000 people have been trained on UiPath software and the company has over 800 service partners, including Accenture, Deloitte, BRMi, Northrop Grumman and many others who interface with them in the contact center space.
Contact center application is such a natural fit, with the ability to access any company’s AI utilities while increasing security and diminishing maintenance issues.
In what ways is UiPath using Robotic Process Automation/Robotic Desktop Automation (RPA/RDA) as the key element to help achieve digital transformation in enterprise contact centers?
Desk-top software robotics are easily cost-justified by shifting human data-processing during customer interactions to robotic data-processing. Copy/paste, complex navigation, and complex research can consume 30% to 50% of average handle time. Once these robots are in please, they can easily push data and metadata about a customer interaction to any machine-learning utility. After as little as 10k interactions the machine-learning solution can begin to predict next-best-action before, at the start, in the middle or at the end of a customer interaction.
How does RPA enable businesses to deliver the type of rapid responses that can ultimately do away with the need for time-consuming status calls to the contact center?
By compressing turn-around-time for back-office work-items from days to minutes, RPA can eliminate entire classes of status interactions.
Can you tell our audience more about how RPA drives greater cost reductions, cycle speed and higher service levels in BPO environments?
BPOs are dominated by customer interactions that are data-processing intensive. BPOs process more back-office than front-office. They shift from human to robotic data processing in these environments can have a 60% to 80% reduction in labor cost.
How can contact center operations implement your platform without knowledge of a programming language, or need for the extensive involvement of IT professionals?
UiPath uses two utilities that make programming easier, Low-code development tools and computer vision. The low-code development tools are no harder to work with than a complex Excel sheet and computer vision allows the robots to see and interact with any computer interface just like a human. The low-code development tools eliminate the need to understand C++, Java, VB, .net to any other programming language with drag-and-drop, configurable activities. Computer vision is used in development with the “record” function. Trip the recorder, execute the data-processing sequence and the development tool writes the software for you.
Chris Sorensen, Director of Business Development, Hiya noted that the 3-year old company based in Seattle, WA, with offices in London and Budapest, was spun out of Whitepages.com with the purpose of ensuring that people gain more context into incoming phone calls.
More than ever, calls now come in where individuals don’t know the origin - most of which are unwanted. Mobile-based, enabling people to download an app, Hiya is built into Samsung smartphones and works with AT&T on a feature they call “Call Protect. “When a call comes into a customer’s device, if we make a note of ‘reputation’ along that number, we alert them that the call is likely to be fraudulent, scam or a telemarketer,” he said. “In addition, we enable enterprises to provide what we call a ‘branded call experience,’ where customers can see a minimum and, in some cases, their logo and a reason why they are calling.”
Hiya has numerous algorithms that sift through billions of call events on a monthly basis. The algorithms take into account copious quantities of call signaling data as well as reports they receive from users informing them of calls with malicious intent.
Chris discussed some of the most diabolical scam call schemes, including the recent phenomena of calls coming in at odd hours from international scammers where the intent is to get consumers to pick up and then bill them for the minutes. Tax season can be particularly perilous, with calls from people who falsely represent themselves as IRS agents threatening to immediately arrest recipients for fictitious tax liabilities unless they supply a credit card. Another common fraud is so-called ‘free giveaways.’ Hiya produces what they term a “State of the Call” to show which areas of the nation are hardest hit by fraudulent calls. “The problem is so big we see –worldwide—that 80% of incoming calls go unanswered.” The dynamic methods of scammers in constantly generating vast quantities of new numbers to call from makes it impossible to simply blacklist/whitelist calls. They rely on factors like high volume and short duration from a number to determine suspect calls.
There is high demand for both of their major services, both call protection for consumers and enterprise sources of legitimate calls wishing to differentiate themselves. “In the enterprise market, we target call center operations and customer experience leaders who look at the customer journey and want to offer a branded phone experience to help protect their multimillion-dollar brand marketing expenditures, he said. “The solution can work as well for a small nail salon as for one of the largest banks in the nation.” Among the areas of progress are appliance delivery, pharmaceutical delivery and recruiting, where companies want to make sure the best candidates respond in the midst of a hot job market.
Why do you believe Hiya is in an ‘arms race’ against robocallers and what makes you think that you have the technology to prevail?
‘It’s important to point out, not all ‘robocallers’ are bad actors. School alerts, pharmacy notifications, appointment/delivery reminders, etc., are all good legitimate calls that most people want to receive. For every wanted ‘robocall’ a person can get, there’s plenty of ones they’d like to never get. We believe we’re in an ‘arms race’ with illegal robocallers as we can see that they’re organized, and they work to circumvent our actions to stop them. Illegal robocallers are fast moving targets. If our processes and technology mix continue to be faster and more accurate than their methods, we’ll prevail.
How has Hiya been able to attract tens of millions of users in 196 countries in only three years?
Consumers have mandated more context when receiving an incoming phone call. We’ve worked hard to have the most accurate solution and we’re being rewarded with the trust of our users all around the globe.
Why is it so important for businesses to manage how their calls appear to users on mobile phones?
Most parents offer their young children this advice: ‘don’t talk to strangers.’ Is a random, unidentified phone number a stranger or someone you want to talk to? We know, 80% of the time, when you don’t know who is calling, you don’t pick up. Managing how you appear on a phone (name, logo, etc.) immediately identifies the business and brand. It’s no longer a stranger calling, it’s your health care company, your bank, your airline. Businesses invest heavily to build recognizable and respected brands. You see your favorite brands everywhere; the time has come to take that brand recognition to the phone call.
In what ways do your algorithms provide the context needed to make and receive good calls?
There’s tremendous value in having the level of scale we do. Our algorithms are constantly improving and the volume of information that we have to work with is a big reason why. Our ability to develop and identify patterns, both good and bad, is at a scale unparalleled in the marketplace. As we continue to grow as a company, so does the maturity of our algorithms and models.
Greg DeVore, CEO, ScreenSteps describes their cloud-based solution as “a knowledge base and training platform, focused on decreasing the amount of time it takes for an agent to become proficient.” From what they have heard from clients, it can take from 60 days to six months for an agent to be fully up to speed in a call center; ScreenSteps can decrease agent ramp up to 15 days. This is accomplished by providing agents with call flows and procedures they can bring up in the context of a call without having to put the caller on hold. With a procedure there to guide them, agents are then prepared to answer an issue –whether simple or complex. Typing in a specific question, agents receive back a suggestion of what they need to say and ask of the customer.
“As an example, someone might call in to change the owner on their account. Before change can be done, the agent needs to determine who is calling; is it the account owner or someone calling on behalf of the account owner?” he said. “The procedure will branch based on the answer and the agent will click that to see the next steps.
The solution also works with email, text and chat, and is particularly effective with the latter. On any channel, all the company needs to do is identify the most commonly asked questions and the appropriate article will be referenced. According to DeVore, the agents absolutely love the product, feeling far more confident that they can effectively assist customers when they come out of training. By lowering the stress associated with onboarding, agents can focus on better serving the customer.
Why do you consider it critical to make it easier for front-line employees to quickly find the answers to customer questions?
If your front-line employees can quickly find answers to customer inquiries, then your organization can cut your training time by as much as 75%. The diminution in training time is a result of agents not needing to memorize every process, policy, and procedure before being able to effectively respond to customer inquiries. As long as agents can quickly find (and read) an answer, they can support a customer.
Being able to quickly find answers also decreases the amount of time that agents put customers on hold and decreases the overall handle time. Not only does that improve your overall quality scores (since customers appreciate getting inquiries resolved quickly), but it also positively affects the number of agents you need to bring on in the first place. If you have 20 agents on the floor, and each agent is able to handle two more calls per day because answers are easier to find and read through, then that’s 40 more calls a day that are being resolved without the need to bring more agents on.
And finally, when agents know how to quickly find answers, they can fill in for agents in other departments without needing to go through weeks and weeks of cross-training before being competent. This gives agents a change of scenery (which is good for them) and it allows other agents to fill in when an employee is out (which is good for their company).
How do your Keyword Search capabilities enable employees to navigate through better-organized content?
Primarily, ScreenSteps answers questions. Employees just need to enter the question that their customers are asking into the search bar. Our system indexes all article content and ranks the content based on a variety of factors so that the employee can easily find, and instantly jump to, the information they need.
In the search results, ScreenSteps makes it easy to determine which result is most relevant. ScreenSteps shows employees which category the article belongs to as well as provides a short preview of what is in the article. Managers can also restrict how much content employees can see so that only the content that’s applicable to the customer segment being supported is visible. Also, additional filters can also be applied to narrow down the search results.
Because the ScreenSteps search is so effective, agents can find the applicable answers without missing a beat. There is no need to put the customer on hold while finding the right article.
In what ways does your solution allow businesses to provide training when employees are ready for it?
The ScreenSteps approach to training is different than most. ScreenSteps assumes that employees are going to forget most of what they learn during classroom training. So, we create resources to prepare for when employees forget.
That’s why the ScreenSteps knowledge base is optimized for finding information at the moment it’s needed. And it’s why ScreenSteps articles are designed the way they are. Employees learn new information when they understand the context of how it’s being used – so, when a customer calls in and the employee can walk through the answer while on the call, that information is more likely to stick.
As employees receive customer inquiries and reference ScreenSteps articles, employees gradually memorize the details at their own pace. Some agents will memorize procedures and processes slower than others, and that’s OK because all agents are all still able to be productive agents as they learn and memorize what to do.
ScreenSteps also comes with a feature called “Courses” that allows managers to create self-paced modules that employees can go through when they are ready for it. These courses can focus on teaching employees about the product/service they support, or they can teach employees how to use the internal systems.
Can you elaborate on how you been able to help contact center operations have their agents achieve proficiency more rapidly and effectively?
We help contact center employees to achieve proficiency by making it possible for them to succeed with less training time and less memorization. Our most successful customers change their training approach to scenario-based training. Instead of having agents memorize a bunch of information for weeks or months, trainers put agents in real-world scenarios and teach them how to look up the answers and procedures they need in ScreenSteps.
Agents are taught how to succeed even when they don’t have the answer to a question memorized. As soon as agents become proficient at using ScreenSteps, they can answer any inquiry from any customer while also hitting target metrics (e.g. handle time, hold time, quality).
Employees can handle both simple and complex customer questions without constantly distracting more experienced employees (putting customers on hold and asking others for help). Because the knowledge in ScreenSteps is always accessible, and very easy to read while on a call, new employees feel confident from day one. And training doesn’t feel so daunting because there is no expectation to memorize a lot of information right away. Over time, employees will memorize the procedures. But all agents can reach proficiency more quickly and with less stress because they can reference ScreenSteps to answer any customer call.
Lou Mandic, President and CEO is one of the founders of the 21-year old cloud-based quality recording/PCI compliance specialist, which started out as a contact center consulting company. “We used to tell people we’ll build it if you need it or fix it if it’s broken,” recalls Mandic. “That applied to anything from people-related problems to policies and procedures, technology---which was my background—site location and much more.”
After a 17-year career at Citicorp, Mandic moved into the contact center space with a company called Precision Response, a pioneer in the service bureau field. He later put his expertise to work in building tools in areas such scripting and data storage. Taking on a life of their own, the company began to set aside a portion of its consulting revenues for R&D for tools. The tools initially made their consulting services more attractive and as they got better and better, the company simply gave the software they developed to their clients as part of the service.
While listening to a telephony vendor deliver a class to a mutual consulting client, Lou Mandic stated that he realized, while they did a great job delivering the next call to the best agent, there was still a gap. “Our software was oriented toward making agents more productive at the desktop and I immediately saw the correlation. We began to integrate our software to that telephony platform and incorporated features such as permanent storage of audio files and creating QA forms, for example. We then decided to move our focus away from consulting and more into the SaaS area and have never looked back.”
The consultancy roots did have a carryover effect. “Some of the best features of our software did come from listening to what customers had to say,” noted Mandic. “We have a patent on PCI redaction, but it morphed into the capability to redact any field necessary. For example, in HIPAA environment, we can remove names, addresses and other personal information. It’s not an audio listen for numbers and strip them out scenario, it simply notes what is in a redact field. Whether a client is using audio only or using our Quality Management module which also includes video, we will slice out that segment of the conversation, whether it’s credit card or social security numbers. When it’s presented to a supervisor or QA person, it is clean and in a pristine state.”
Mandic believes that one key differentiative feature is that Authority owns its own code and has developed all their own software using its own tools. It also deploys rapidly. “We call it Same Day QA,” he said. “We’re in the software business but what we created in Designer is a tool that allows a business to easily build database tables, build the fields and change their characteristics and use drag-and-drop to piece together different elements of forms. We also have templated QA forms available right out of the box. What we have created in Designer allows us to develop approximately 8x faster than from scratch.”
The company is developing their own WFM system and have close to all the data and details they need to do forecasting stored for their long-term clients. It will be ready to deploy in three weeks or less, with start-up costs to the user a fraction of what traditional WFM solutions charge. “It launches quickly and with very little training needed,” he said. “Unlike many solutions, there will be no need to leave the platform, manipulate the data in Excel and then go back in. We want our users to be able to do everything they need to do with a couple of clicks.” He provided additional details in answers to our questions.
How does your Quality Manager solution enable businesses to improve their decision making and simplify monitoring agent performance?
Authority QRM is a full-featured platform that includes configurable QA Forms tailored to any client’s specific needs. It also features patented PCI redaction technology, integrated video screen capture and dashboard reporting on call traffic at the macro level and QA results as scored against agent behavior. The dashboards allow for immediate interrogation of massive amounts of data to isolate patterns that determine if there is a common issue (many agents with a common element that has a low score) or an agent specific problem that needs to be addressed (one item that an individual agent consistently gets a low score on). Decision making is enhanced further by the ability to flag QA questions as requiring training to eliminate knowledge gaps or coaching on a specific area that needs to be addressed. When these flags are set a queue is created where they can be reviewed for further action.
We have simplified the monitoring process by making the system highly intuitive and easy to use. Finding records via our configurable search criteria is a simple to learn process and its incredibly efficient on inquiries against the SQL Server database. Audio files are stitched together so a single click will play a full audio file rather than each segment requiring access one at a time. Metadata and audio files are delivered real time to Authority, making them immediately accessible to the QA staff. Authority’s interface to the IBM Watson engine allows users to leverage speech to text technology in the selection of recordings that a human being will monitor. Calls can be scored for basic elements in advance using our automated process, and those with lower scores can be pulled for review by an individual.
Why is it important for businesses to have the capability to redact protected audio that includes sensitive information before storing it in recordings?
Many of our customers are subject to regulations such as HIPAA and PCI. For those customers, redacting protected audio isn’t just important, it is critical for purposes of regulatory compliance. A data breach is costly not just because of the fines to which you may be subjected, but also because of the loss of trust in the relationship. We are often approached by people that are hypersensitive to what a security breach would do to their organization and are looking to take the extra steps needed to safeguard their customer’s data. We consider it mission-critical to protect sensitive audio and are now including it with all of our QRM deployments at no additional cost.
What is the value of having a single Relationship Record that creates a consistent experience for agents?
It is incredibly valuable to have a mass amount of data on a customer, but it is exponentially more impactful to have all of that data inside a comprehensive, easy to use, interface. The presence of a single Relationship Record is valuable across the board in an enterprise, beyond the native benefit on the call center agent desktop. From that same agent desktop perspective, less can often be more at the agent station.
Delivering a streamlined view of all the interactions with a customer in an effective manner provides the agent with numerous insights available on that particular customer. Do they call often? Are their calls always dispositioned in a similar way? Is there a ranking or lifetime value of this client that would impact the offers available to them?
What verticals do you serve and can you cite specific examples of how your solutions benefit them?
Authority’s products and services cater to contact centers across all verticals, and I would venture to say that we have crossed virtually every industry by now. That said, while we are agnostic to verticals, the flexibility of our rapid development tools and methodology has allowed us to create unique vertical applications for our clients. A great example is our fundraising CRM application, which was created under the guidance of a subject matter expert in the field of fundraising and is now used across all of our fundraising customers. The application streamlines donor data, passes records to the dialer for specific fundraising campaigns, handles the pledge inside our database via a branched logic script, stores the audio file for future reference and to provide proof that the pledges were made of free will. Tying this back to the Relationship Record concept – the branched logic script has the history of all other pledges made by any specific donor at the agents’ fingertips.
Darrin Bird, Exec VP and COO. TCN Founded in 1999 with a contact center platform that has always been built in the cloud employing VoIP technology, TCN focuses on a myriad of different business types and contact center services. The company has offices throughout the US, India, Canada and Australia. The solution incorporates voice, email, SMS and an about-to-be relaunched chat component, as well as a business intelligence (BI) application with strong reporting capabilities that provide additional data and insight to their large and small contact center clients. Bird noted that while ominichannel revenue is rising, most of the company’s customers still primarily use voice, with only 20% employing other channels There are several reasons behind the lag - agent training which enables them to work with multiple channels, regulatory in terms of compliance, and client confusion when deciding which channels to send customers to, resulting in a default to voice.
Integration with Envision
TCN recently announced an Integration Partnership with Envision, leading WFM/WFO technology provider. Through this alliance, TCN will integrate its intuitive agent dashboard, Agent Gateway, with Envision’ s latest-generation quality monitoring solution, Click2Coach. Offered as TCN Workforce Optimization, the business analytics tool will capture customer experience data from phone interactions, e-mail conversations, social media posts, chat sessions and workflows to assure consistent quality customer service. According to Bird, building the TCN BI component had taken them part of the way to an effective WFM/WFO tool. At one point, the company then realized that they didn’t want to build it themselves. Of importance to TCN was a partnerships that fit their culture: those who make taking care of their customers their absolute top priority, have management that is actively involved in the business, and are interested in the mid-market target (250-300 seats) audience that they serve.
After initial meetings, TCN decided that Envision would be the ‘two-sided partner’ they were seeking, bringing additional applications to the table such as enhanced stream recording and auditing tools to round out the joint platform. TCN’s revenues had traditionally been more outbound than inbound (about 65% vs 35%), but as their client mix has shifted, they received inquiries about their WFO/WFM capabilities. “It was a mix of addressing client demand and filling a technology gap in our product line,” noted Bird. “While it will benefit our clients, those who already have existing solutions in this area can continue to use them.”
TCN, which does not require clients to sign contracts, places a great deal of value on each customer relationship. Sales teams and customer support teams are aligned to ensure the highest level of service. “Our teams own a client from cradle to grave. They will service them for life,” said Bird. “Many of the companies who wind up working with us are several years into a cloud migration and have been oversold, underserviced and are often overpaying for the technology.”
Bird believes companies should do more to effectively understand how customers want to communicate. “There’s a road to efficiency to save money and there’s a road to delivering the kind of experience customers really want. Businesses need to not only segment their customers but put technology to work and use data to better serve them.”
Pravin Basnyet, Director of Operations, Chetu, describes the nearly 20-year old company as a software development specialist which does a great deal of custom development. Beyond doing extensive work with telephony, Chetu also focuses on numerous other contact center functionalities. “We build contact centers based on how our customers want them to be built,” he said. “We also specialize in integrating with existing contact center software and build workflows according to client specifications. “While Basnyet acknowledges that there are existing products on the market that companies can use to accomplish such tasks, he states that “Our experience is that many clients come to us and say’ ‘This is the kind of workflow and features we now have, but we can’t find everything in one specific product.’ So, these businesses are looking to us to enhance their existing platform or even modify it to a simplified version that gives them only what they need. For example, some businesses still only want to use the voice channel and don’t feel they need chat or social media applications and certainly don’t want to pay for them, so they seek us out to customize the solution for them.” Chetu also works within solutions to streamline them for their clients. “While a solution might have many functionalities available, not every company can configure or deploy them properly. We’re able to handle this experience, working with different third-party programs. When we come into the picture, we work with clients to understand what they are looking for, determine their requirements and help them accomplish their goals. For example, while IVR scripting may seem relatively simple, some companies need help in configuring it.
Many of Chetu’s clients are interested in improving their CTI capabilities. “They want to be able to use all of the data related to accounts in their CRM. When a call comes in, they want their agents to know who is calling and understand the history behind their inquiries, he said. “We build API integrations to the CRM so this information pops up.” Some companies also want to ensure that their personnel can be on the same contact center network when mobile phones are used. Chetu often starts the process of engaging with their clients in a discovery call where they can show them who they are, describe their experience and areas of expertise and present examples of projects they have completed. They follow this up with a technical call where they assess the technologies a client already has in place and determine requirements. They then create a team with a highly qualified technical project manager with contact center experience to work directly with the client. Chetu serves a broad variety of verticals, including gaming, healthcare, ecommerce, retail and more. Their business model is not just to commit to a timeline but ensuring it will be met with both a high level of quality and service.
In what ways can companies benefit from your services as a custom software solutions provider for the contact center industry?
Chetu is a premier custom software solutions provider offering end-to-end Call Center custom software development services for customer service. Chetu’s elite team of experts engineer telephony solutions using cloud call center software as well as virtual call centers, Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) software, auto/predictive dialers, manual/progressive dialers, call/IVR scripting, call monitoring and barge capabilities as customer service solutions. Our call center software implements live chat channels, and screen pop features to help improve the customer service experience via messaging web apps. Chetu also integrates third-party call center software from Zendesk, LiveAgent, and XCally for custom Computer-Telephony Integration (CTI) software development.
Can you tell our audience about some of the program applications you’ve developed for multi-channel management?
Chetu has constructed the platform infrastructure for comprehensive omnichannel strategies, ensuring consistent customer experiences across channels (websites, mobile apps, in-store) and touchpoints. Our software specialists have designed custom APIs, In-Memory Data Grids (IMDG), and information models and data schemas to provide organizations with a single source of truth for their data.
Chetu has developed robust, cloud-based Communication Platforms as a Service (CPaaS) that act as omnichannel contact centers (or call centers). Organizations can use this platform to communicate with customers via social media, SMS, VOIP, email, live chat, helpdesks, and other channels. We have also developed and deployed omnichannel software systems that unify e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail services in order to deliver continuous brand engagements and customer experiences.
How do you help businesses get the most out of their CRM systems?
Chetu is a Custom CRM Software Development Company equipped with backend industry acumen to analyze your business and help you choose and implement the CRM that best fits your business plans and objectives. We have extensive experience installing and migrating industry leading CRM platforms including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Zoho, SugarCRM, OrangeCRM, Siebel and more.
Chetu integrates Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions for time efficient automations. Customization is available for virtual call center, Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), auto/predictive dialers, manual/progressive dialers, speed-dialers, call/IVR scripting, call monitoring capabilities, voice mail, social media integrations, and more.
Please describe some of the CTI and Call Management software improvements you can offer organizations
Chetu designs and develops unified telecommunications platforms that allows seamless integration between data and voice messaging services using Inbound & outbound speed dial, blended, and multichannel contact call center software development. Customization is available for virtual call center, Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), auto/predictive dialers, manual/progressive dialers, speed-dialers, call/IVR scripting, call monitoring capabilities, voice mail, and social media integrations.
Dennis Walsh, President, Derek Roberti, VP of Technology, NA Cognigy. Cognigy was founded by two men who had deep experience in enterprise systems. Initially their thought was to create a solution around voice, but they soon realized that the niche that needed to be served was creating a true conversational AI platform that could serve not only contact centers, but all parts of the broader enterprise. The goal was to create a single platform that met the needs of all areas, one that used the same development facilities and could be extended and expanded to cover an almost infinite spectrum of conversations.
“The objective of using the platform is to be able to provide conversational interfaces,” said Roberti. “These can be interfaces to enterprise systems or be interfaces to information. A customer might interface with an organization by going to their website, navigating through a menu, searching a knowledge base, or logging into a portal. But they must be persistent and to figure out how to find the information or take the action that they need. What a conversational platform like ours does is take all the knowledge and put it into a natural language interface so the user can say ‘what’s my balance?’ or “I forgot my password” or “what are the new product features?’ and use the same tool to accomplish everything they want to in an interaction with an enterprise. Our technology is a series of user interfaces that allow trained users to be able to create conversational flows in order to shape what the conversation should look like. They can make the conversational engine smarter by teaching it the type of inquiries that a consumer might make or important terms they might ask about. All that tooling sits on top of an advanced AI run time engine, which provides the ability to translate a variety of user inputs into trained intents that either we configure, or the customers configure themselves.”
Of course, the platform’s effectiveness is dependent on the quality of information of the organization. If it has no content or limited content, there is no value to pass on to the consumer. If the content is not searchable, they can’t ask meaningful questions. If enterprise systems aren’t open, the company can’t integrate with them. It is important to work within an ecosystem of relevant content to be made available to the user and systems that can integrate. “We’re not a service organization, our philosophy is to enable businesses to help themselves.” They believe the most effective approach is for a company to start small and gain confidence in the ability of the solution to provide answers to commonly asked questions. The company has developed a partner network including organizations like Deloitte, KPMG, PWC and smaller agencies to help them build out integrations with customers.
Unlike other solutions, conversational AI is about incremental learning and development, both for the bots that companies deploy, and for the users themselves. “These are skills that can be developed, almost as a background process while working in an organization, to build experience in customer engagement.
Why is it important to fulfill customer expectations across a broad variety of conversational channels?
We are in the age of self-service, and users expect to be able to accomplish tasks with immediacy and simplicity across all interaction types: Customer support, sales / marketing, HR, etc. To achieve the desired FCR (First Contact Resolution), not only do we need to meet our customers in the channel, device and modality of choice, but we need to enable process completion at each point of interaction.
The old ways (Call Center, Customer Service Centers) of addressing inquiries are simply not flexible, fast or accurate enough to provide a good experience, and often do not meet the consumer on their terms. Today, any number of channels are available to them to inquire, seek and secure information quickly and accurately. Being able to bridge multiple channels (Web, Text, SMS, Voice, etc.) is a must for customer satisfaction as well as addressing competitive pressures.
How does your solution enable businesses to build advanced conversational AIs without the need for extensive IT involvement?
Cognigy’s philosophy is to enable basic users to make full use of the work performed by developers and power users to create conversations that are simple to build but are deep in their capabilities. We provide pre-built intents, conversation flows and integrations giving the SME’s a running start to build a conversation.
How do your Cognitive Bots not only answer calls and deliver immediate support, but provide smart handoffs to human agents?
Key to our architecture is a provision to hand off to a human at any point within a conversation and hand back to the bot when an agent is no longer needed.
In what ways does your solution give developers the flexibility they need to expand on its value?
Cognigy is the only platform designed for business user productivity that also provides a first-class role for developers. Any action a user can take with their mouse, a developer can do in code. This lets developers build integrations, traverse enterprise systems and trigger automations in code and then surface these capabilities in the business user interface.
The role of the developer is to own the most complex parts of process development and make that complexity accessible and easy to use in our flow editing tools.
Carrie Tuck, Director of Business Development & Strategy, Agent511, characterizes the organization as a multi-communications technology company with more than a decade of servicing contact centers of all sizes. Prominent among their clientele are some of the largest utility companies and municipalities, who use the platform for email, voice, text and social media, offering a preference management system that enables the customer to choose how they want to be reached.
Agent511 currently has many APIs in place that they leverage to integrate with existing CRM systems; in some industries they serve, these are referred to as CIS (customer information systems). In accordance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) the platform offers opt-in capabilities and is designed to block unwanted communication messages from reaching customers. The company has published case studies of successful outcomes in improving CSAT, offering proactive communications, reducing call volume and call time, and improving access to 911 emergency services. According to Tuck, the company is very ‘text-centric’, enabling their clients to use the channel to better communicate with customers. Agent511 also allows organizations to send out video clarifications detailing the elements of bills that are often too complex to be easily interpreted by customers. Citizens of the city of Chicago can use ChiText, a 2-way SMS application built from Agent511’s CITYTEXT solution, to submit requests for city services –‘please fix that big pothole near me’- as well as building and restaurant violations via text. Agent511 also enables real-time weather alerts. “The fun part of our job is trying to solve the problems that our customers bring us,” said Tuck. “We are all about improving the customer experience and customer engagement. How does an organization want to reach its customers? How do the customers want to reach the company or civic entity?”
The company’s established platform makes integration easier for its customers, who also automatically receive changes and upgrades. Tuck was intrigued by the many different conversations she had at the ICMI event with businesses that went beyond Agent511’s established customer base, exploring use cases for the solution in marketing or determining NPS by measuring the effectiveness of contact center agents. She offered additional insights in answer to our inquiries.
What do businesses need to do to meet the needs of a multi-generational audience that has multiple preferences of which communication channels they want to use to interact with them?
This is my favorite topic to discuss!
Currently, there are 5 generations paying bills, each with their own preference on how they wish to communicate. It is important for businesses to keep up with evolution by reaching customers in the way they want to be reached. Preferences such as email, voice, plain-picture-video text and social media are all simple expectations at this point. Each generation tends to lean towards a certain mode of communication - iGen wants to interact via automated assistants by paying its bills through Facebook Messenger; Millennials don’t even check electronic mail, mainly relying on text as their primary form of communication; Gen X’ers still use AOL and yahoo email addresses as their classic correspondence method; and Baby Boomers become annoyed if they have to speak to an electronic voice on the telephone because they expect to talk with a live person. No matter the industry, customer engagement is the key to customer satisfaction and positive outcomes.
The simple answer to your question… they must offer every mode of communication possible: email, voice, SMS/MMS text messaging, and social media.
In what ways does your platform enable you to offer products from conception to delivery, including integration services, hosting, support, and more?
AGENT511’s experienced team has built, deployed, maintained, and upgraded a solid omni-channel communications platform, one of the very first messaging systems, that has been integrated with a wide variety of external information systems, CRM, and call handling platforms. Our clients include the largest utility companies and cities in the US, ensuring continual improvements to our solutions as well as a feature rich roadmap.
Clients work closely with a dedicated project manager for a smooth onboarding process, priority check-ins, and quarterly business reviews. Applications are typically delivered as a managed, hosted service from the AGENT511 cloud service. However, we can accommodate requests for on-premise hosting when necessary.
We offer a multitude of established API’s such as two-way messaging, multilingual preferences, outbound messaging templates, and rules processing to trigger messages based on changes in data and history.
Unlike many service providers, we know that we work for our clients, not the other way around. Providing timely, reliable service is our priority.
How does your Enforce solution allow companies to consistently remain in compliance with TCPA standards?
AGENT511’s ENFORCE compliance engine blocks unintended communication messages from reaching customers by aggregating do not call, opt-out, blocked number, and reassigned numbers for text and voice. The hosted, open software platform self-updates with major telephony databases, 3rd party applications, and preference tools. Authorized clients interact with ENFORCE through open API’s to receive a near-instant response on whether a communication may be attempted.
ENFORCE is designed to help protect companies by collecting, managing, and storing all customer contact information to easily comply with customer communication preferences.
Can you elaborate on how your messaging applications and chatbots enhance the self-service customer experience?
AGENT511 solves complex customer engagement challenges with proactive, interactive text, email, voice, and social media communications. Ultimately, call centers are able to prove the ROI with a reduction of inbound calls and higher NPS scores.
As the need grows for an alternative to live calls and complex web searches, we provide customers with an interactive, automated assistant or chat bot with natural language processing for self-service. The platform is accessible via mobile text messaging (SMS) and Facebook Messenger, and facilitates a rich automated conversation that includes pictures, web forms, and location information. A superb 24×7 customer experience delivers real-time access to ticket updates, informational queries, and billing. We continuously expanding our knowledgebase and programming to include maps, unique web pages, and multimedia galleries. Our goal is to provide more timely, accurate, and relevant responses.
Jenny Roy, VP of Marketing at Gladly, offered insights into their customer-centric omnichannel solution.
Why do you believe that the first five seconds of a conversation is the most critical time to build a relationship with customers?
We believe that the first five seconds sets the foundation for your conversation with your customers. You never have a second chance at making a great first impression. So if that first impression is spent asking, “What’s your case number? or “Please hold while I try to look up your account,” it does not help customers feel known and cared for.
That’s why we set out to build a platform that enables customer service teams to connect with their customers from the first five seconds of the conversation. Instead of fumbling with technology and asking about case numbers, they can instantly see who the customer is, their history with them, and every conversation they've ever had with them. Are they a gold card member? Are they in the loyalty program? Have they been a customer for 20 years? Did they just send in an email yesterday? Did they likely just receive their most recent shipment? With all this information at their fingertips, agents can help customers faster and skip the “who are you” and focus on the “how can I help you.”
Can you elaborate on why you promote your platform as “having people at the heart of it?”
Gladly puts people at the heart of it because we help companies center their service on people. And, we’ve built a platform that’s very framework is around people and the conversations companies have with them. Not case numbers or ticket numbers.
Traditionally, companies have used ticket or case based platforms to manage customer service. That’s why when you call in, you’ll often get asked for a case number. That’s also why if you call, then call again, then email, chat, text, you have to repeat your message quite often, Each of those interactions creates a new case number. All of which has to be tied back to you as the customer but it takes an agent to do so - and a different one per interaction at that!
Customers like JetBlue, TUMI and other top brands chose Gladly because they wanted to put the focus on people, not on what the case or ticket number was. By being able to address a customer by name and communicate with them across any channel, companies using Gladly can put their customer at the center of Customer service.
How does your platform enable agents to converse seamlessly with customers across all channels, while maintaining context and provide answers quickly?
With Gladly, customer service agents can use any channel to communicate with a customer. And, their customers can use any channel to communicate with their customer service team.
Gladly is a customer service platform that has channels like voice, email, chat, SMS and social messaging all natively built into it. So a conversation can start over chat, and easily move to phone or email, even text. Agents and customers can even be on multiple channels at once. For example, if you are on a phone call with an agent about a damaged package, the customer can actually text over a photo of that package instantly to the agent and it will show up in the feed alongside all the other historical conversations.
In addition, agents can access what we call Answers to quickly pull up templates of frequently used responses. We have even built in Machine Learning to Suggest Answers based on the content of the message and what Answers are the most popular ones used by agents. This saves agents time so that they don’t have to go hunting for the best answer to a customer’s question. On the management side, answers only need to be authored once and they can be used anywhere and on any channel. That way your team continues to drive consistency through how they answer customer questions and it also ensures that no matter what channel a customer inquiry comes in on, they’ll get the same answer.
In what ways do your Liveboards give supervisors real-time visibility into the most important aspects of employee performance?
Gladly arms supervisors with the ability to see how their teams are doing in real-time on both performance and productivity. With Liveboards, supervisors can:
- Get a single snapshot of the contact center in real time
- See a live view of how long customers are waiting and how the team is meeting SLAs
- View data like inbound volume across all channels and teams to compare performance
- Get insight into things like trending topics from customer inquiries
- Look into agent details to see the number of conversations and average response time
- Double click into agent and customer conversations to identify improvement areas