Calling #ServiceTrailblazers For Dreamforce 2018!

Dreamforce 2018 is here! And there’s so much to do and see! To get the most out of the week I’ve put together some notes for #ServiceTrailblazers! Reserve your seat and put these sessions on your calendar! They span the world of customer service and are curated for anyone wanting to learn more about customer service and becoming a #ServiceTrailblazer! If you are Tweeting or want to follow what’s happening please join in the fun, share the info so everyone is included! The hashtags/handles are: #DF18 and #ServiceTrailblazers and @ServiceCloud @Dreamforce!

Have colleagues not attending DF? Watch sessions from your desk: http://bit.ly/ServiceKeynoteLive

Want to know how to get the ROI out of Dreamforce? This is an insider’s view on how two of our #ServiceTrailblazer customers (who attended Dreamforce ‘17) made the most of their experience and got the maximum return on their investment! Here’s the link to the on-demand webinar: https://sforce.co/2wzablw You’ll hear how these customers”

  • Plan with their team before Dreamforce
  • Collaborate at Dreamforce
  • And bring the “best of Dreamforce” back to their teams!

The Service Cloud Keynote: Thursday, September 27th! Arrive at 10:30 AM. Starts at 11:00 AM in Moscone North, Hall D – Add this to your agenda builder to make sure it’s on your calendar! sfdc.co/ServiceKeynote
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Why Artificial Intelligence is an Agent’s New Best Friend

Let’s face it. The job of a customer service agent is not an easy job. In a typical contact center, agents are on the phone or communicating through other channels; email, text, web chat, Facebook Messenger, WeChat… When customers reach out to an agent, they need help and are often upset. They may be asking about a lost bag or debit card, a flight that was canceled or a delayed package.

What’s important to remember is customer service agents dedicate their daily professional career to helping people solve these problems. As a company’s brand ambassadors, they are the guardians of a business’s customer relationships. A customer’s impression of a company is directly related to their experience with the contact center and its agents. And since customer experience directly affects revenue, it’s about time an agent’s job got a little easier and more enjoyable so they can better serve the customer.

Unfortunately, in many contacts centers, customer service agents are asked to do more with less and do without the best technology. Imagine taking a calculator away from an accountant? They couldn’t do their job to the best of their ability. When we don’t provide agents with the best technology, they can’t possibly meet customer expectations. The result? Poor CSAT and agent attrition, which is very costly and part of what gives contact centers the black eye of being a cost center. It’s time things changed for both the agent and Customer Service departments.

Enter Artificial Intelligence (AI.) There’s a lot of hype about how AI is going to shape the future. It’s often portrayed in Hollywood as robots taking over the world and at the very least, replacing jobs. The truth about AI and machine learning is that when it’s implemented responsibly it actually allows humans to focus on the type of work they actually enjoy. Take for instance the factory floor. During the Industrial Revolution, automated machines began doing the repetitive tasks human get bored with. There are still many people working in factories, but with automation, people can focus on performing critical jobs where their intelligence is required.

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where technologies like AI are driving change, the trend for contact centers is similar. Rather than taking jobs away, AI is blending the best of human intelligence with AI, to provide improved, seamless experiences and at the same time improve agent’s job satisfaction.

How does AI help customer service agents? First, AI bots take the burden off agents with intelligent, satisfying self-service by resolving routine customer requests. And when a customer wants to talk to an agent, the hand-off is easy. The interaction with the bot is transferred into the agent console so the customers don’t have to repeat what they did with the bot. This reduces agent’s average handle time because all the agent has all the customer interaction history. And first contact resolution is increased because the agent can quickly resolve the issue with the proper information and context. All of this adds up to increased agent job satisfaction and morale by off-loading routine, boring requests to the AI bot.

Now let’s say a customer wants to talk directly to an agent without interacting with an AI bot. AI prioritizes and classifies cases to help your agents quickly understand what the customer needs to provide a more effective and efficient experience. AI collects information about the customer and the context of their request resulting in a more connected, personalized experience. And AI increases agent productivity with a world-class, omnichannel service experience with full context to customer’s request.

As a result, agents have a sense of accomplishment by working on more challenging customer issues because the AI bots handle the routine questions. And when agents directly help customers, they are able to build loyal relationships because they are enabled by the best technology possible. And at the end of the day, the customer, their needs and exceeding their expectations is what great customer service is about. That’s all a customer service agent wants to do and it’s time contact centers gave the best possible technology to make this real.

@DrNatalie, Service Cloud, Salesforce

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Five Steps to Strategically Choose AI For Customer Service

AI and customer service; it’s a hot topic! But when I talk to customers, they say, “I get there’s something to AI and customer service, but how do I deliver business results and value with AI?” If you are wondering how AI can move the needle on the metrics you get measured on every day, below is a short guide on how to get the best business results when considering AI as part of your Customer Service strategy.

Step 1: Focus AI on Metrics that Matter
Implementing technology without strategy makes us do the wrong things faster! Or at the very least, spend a lot of money without getting business results. Studies show while 80% of executives want to use AI in their business, only 20% have an actual strategy. (1) First step? List the strategic metrics you are measured on every day and then think about how AI can help you to:

    • Reduce call volume (call deflection via satisfying self-service)
    • Increase First Contact Resolution (FCR)
    • Reduce Average Handle Time (AHT)
    • Increase agent productivity, morale, retention (reduce attrition costs)
    • Improve CSAT, NPS, customer lifetime value (CLV)…

With that information, you can begin to strategically decide how to use AI to transform your customer service operations and KPIs, positively impact customer and agent experiences and directly affect your bottom-line.

Step Two: Closely Compare AI Solutions
Artificial Intelligence isn’t new, so what is? Exponential advances in AI capabilities, as well as, integrated and packaged AI solutions. These new capabilities are allowing AI to become a real business asset, but not all AI solutions are created equal. A classical approach to AI requires specialized teams of:

    • Data Scientists (to sample data, build the models, tune them for accuracy)
    • App Developers (to build it into the customer service application)
    • UX Designers (to make the interface to the AI user-friendly)

These dedicated resources are expensive and difficult to find. And AI development is not the core business focus of a contact center. The result? Wasted time and money and longer time-to-value. When choosing an AI solution, look to see how much work is required on your end to implement a solution. To make AI intelligent, all systems require some work. The question to consider is how business/user-friendly is the application? Do you need to hire a team of AI and UX specialists to get benefits in customer service? Or can you deploy the AI quickly and get back to focusing your efforts on delivering amazing agent/customer engagement?

Step 3: Consider an Integrated Solution
Data. Data. Data. AI is all about the data. So, consider where the data in customer service resides. The customer record data lives inside the CRM platform. And the customer interaction history lives inside the customer service application. Since AI is only as good as the data it interacts with, look for an “AI-inside” solution; one where the AI is built into the CRM platform and the customer service application.

And it’s even better if the same AI solution is also integrated into other applications that Sales, Marketing, E-commerce and other parts of your business. The more contextual, historical information about that customer across all your departments, the more intelligent the AI is and the better business results it can provide. With an integrated AI solution that’s built for business users, there is no need for specialized implementation teams because the:

      • Data is already prepped
      • Models are automatically built and
      • AI is already integrated into the CRM platform and the customer service application.

What does this mean to you? Faster time-to-value. With an integrated solution, AI can easily learn from the customer data to deliver contextual customer/agent answers. So, whether you are delivering self-service or agent-assisted service, intelligent AI service is satisfying service.

Step 4: Select an Agile Solution
How many times have you wanted to change something in your customer service application, but don’t because it’s so difficult — even though it would transform the agent/customer experience? This is where using an agile platform and application leads to faster, better business results.

As you are considering adding AI, ask yourself, “How quickly/easy is it to make changes to the AI solution, as well as to the agent and self-service application?” Look for a drag and drop integration layer that allows for easy configuration of process flows to set up customer service AI. This way AI isn’t some futuristic “ideal” that sounds good when you say it fast but in reality, it takes forever to drive business results. Consider choosing an integrated AI customer service platform/application that is agile – so you can make changes on the fly to quickly deliver on the brand promise of great customer experiences.

Step 5: Use a Solution with a Pre-built UI/UX
And while this step is listed last, it may be one of the most important. Why? New technology often becomes “shelfware,” i.e., technology that is owned or licensed but not utilized because it’s difficult to implement, use or change.

A solution with a prebuilt UI/UX interface makes the customer-facing interaction intuitive, which builds trust, so customers use it. The last thing you want is a throwback to “bots of yesteryear” that didn’t have the advantage of AI or a poor user-interface. If customers can get their answers using a bot, call and email volume will be reduced, while delivering a great experience.

And for the agent? Key to great service is empowering agents with the best possible tools. AI integrated into the agent desktop and console classifies cases and identifies key information needed to serve the customer even before the agent gets the case. And then enables the agent with the best possible next actions. AI is not meant to replace agents, it’s meant to empower them to deliver exceptional customer service.

The most important thing to take away? When considering AI for customer service, focus on what you do best, delivering great experiences. Avoid choosing systems that require you to become or hire a bunch of rocket scientists. Choose a solution designed to allow customers to easily get the answers they need on their own, your agents to intelligently engage with customers and for you to deliver business results that matter.

References:
Is Your Business Ready for Artificial Intelligence? MIT Sloan and BCG Study, 2017
https://www.bcg.com/Images/Reshaping%20Business%20with%20Artificial%20Intelligence_tcm30-177882.pdf

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Guest Post: Get to Know Your Customers Better with This All-In-One Tool

Whether you’re a business owner or marketing expert, you understand the importance of knowing your audience inside and out is key to attracting prospects and retaining existing customers. Fortunately, there are a number of tools on the market that can help you do just that.

Through cloud call center software available from companies like Aspect, you’re able to get a more complete picture and understanding of your customers, from their search behavior and purchase patterns to their history of interactions with your company.

Here are several ways this tool can help you achieve that highly-desired, 360-degree view of your customers.

Personalization

Aspect’s cloud call center allows for businesses to get a more personalized look at each and every customer. In particular, the software can provide insights into customers’ purchase and spending history, as well as the frequency with which they do business with your company. Indeed, gaining these insights will allow you to retarget specific customers — based on their specific desires — with similar products or must-have accessories, which will keep them coming back time and time again.

Furthermore, call center software in the cloud gives you the ability to recall every customer’s recent interaction history with your company. For example, when a specific customer calls your support line more than once, your live agents will already have a number of tools at their fingertips — this may include who the customer initially spoke with and the details of their previous conversations — to more seamlessly resolve any outstanding issues.

Based on this information, your live agents will be able to determine the customer’s needs and anticipate any problems or questions they may have.

Convenience

Another great customer-focused aspect of cloud call center software is its omnichannel capabilities. Of course, not all customers prefer the same methods of communication. But by providing omnichannel options, customers can reach your live agents through a number of different mediums, including voice, email, text messaging, live chat and social media.

For example, if a customer prefers to be contacted via text and requests a status update on their most recent purchase, your live agents can text them in real time with the requested information, allowing the customer to respond when it’s most convenient for them.

But perhaps one reason why employing omnichannel options can be valuable to your company is the ability for customers to reach support agents 24/7. No matter the time of day, employing a cloud contact center gives you the ability to offer live chat support via your website, where customers can ask questions at any time from virtually anywhere.

Ultimately, this allows your company to fit the individual needs of a variety of different customers around the clock, even outside of normal business hours.

Satisfaction

Last but not least, cloud call center software allows your company to track customer satisfaction scores by deploying surveys to gather important feedback. Simply tailor your questions to your liking and specific needs in order to gain crucial customer insights and gauge which areas of your business need some fine-tuning.

Cloud call center software can help you achieve this through both stand-alone and post-call surveys that can be deployed after a voice call or via text message. For example, you can deploy a post-call survey to use for training purposes or to simply gain additional feedback from your customers.

You can also deploy an in-app survey to gauge user experience, mobile-friendliness and overall satisfaction with your company. Gaining these types of insights are valuable, as the feedback comes directly from the customer, which can then help you make the best business decisions with their interests in mind.

Capturing a More Complete Picture

By using cloud call center software to aggregate customer data, your company will be able to gather a more complete picture of each and every customer. In the end, better understanding your customers’ desires will help your company in future retargeting strategies and, in turn, help retain this clientele.

 

About the Author

Andrea Rodriguez is a freelance writer and digital marketing expert

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Amazon Will Compete With FedEx and UPS and Provide Better Customer Experiences

Shipping with Amazon (SWA) is the name of Amazon’s new delivery service. It is thought to rival UPS and FedEx, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Why is it attractive to customers? It seems Amazon wants to offer lower prices than competitors (FedEx and UPS) by adding extra package to the empty spaces in their trucks.

The service is said to start in Los Angeles and work with third-party merchants that sell on Amazon’s marketplace. Will Los Angeles be the only city? No. In fact, there may be plans to expand to other cities.

What’s changed? In the past, Amazon offered third-party sellers warehouse management software and fulfillment support to help merchants. While it doesn’t seem like SWA will be required for Amazon’s vendors, vendors that participate will help Amazon to coordinate more of the fulfillment operations. Amazon will also have more control of the delivery process from the time the package leaves a merchant’s warehouse to its arrival on a customer’s front door. For merchants that can only be a good thing.

It is possible SWA may enable Amazon to offer Prime shipping for any products from a business using SWA. This may be an advantage to Amazon because offering more Prime-eligible products could make a Prime subscription more valuable, giving subscribers more options and lead to additional purchases. And the end result? It may provide better customer experiences. Which Amazon has already done a good job of – but this could increase customer’s choice and Amazon’s revenue. Looks like it’s a win-win.

@DrNatalie

VP, Salesforce

Image Source: Wall Street Journal

 

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Guest Post and Infographic: How AI Changed Customer Service

You can make or break your business’s future by how well, or how poorly, you treat your clients. But you have a lot on your plate, too—even more as you manage the endless technology needs that seem to be developing overnight.


    That’s why artificial intelligence (AI) aspects of customer service are so crucial to how well (or how badly) we do business in the future. You may not even realize how many of these AI elements are already in place in your interaction with companies—and that number is only going to increase.


    Right now, about 2 out of 5 enterprises in the United States are already using AI in some form; that number is going to grow to about 3 out of 5 just this year alone. The human touch still matters, but the bots are already here. What does that mean for you and your business? This graphic explains it.

Infographic source: https://www.salesforce.com/hub/service/how-ai-changed-customer-service/

AUTHOR:

Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword research to recovering from Google Algorithm updates and changes. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO Company HigherVisibility that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.

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Guest Post: 4 Ways Technology Can Boost Your Customer Service Experience

In a mobile-oriented society where consumers thrive on social media and have come to expect instant communication, technology has become an increasingly important key to delivering effective customer service. Companies are using technology to meet customer demands for omnichannel support and access to online knowledge bases with a goal of differentiating their brands through customer service. Eighty-eight percent of companies feel they’ve made good or excellent progress toward delivering modern customer experience. Telephone support, online service and mobile service are some areas where companies are increasing their technology investments. Here’s a look at some technology tools you can use to improve your customer service experience and boost customer satisfaction.

Cloud Contact Centers

Today’s foundation for delivering effective omnichannel support is the cloud contact center. Cloud contact center solutions such as 8×8, Altitude and Aspect provide a single platform companies can use to centralize online, chat, phone and email support. This type of central platform enables your support team to deliver a seamlessly-integrated experience to customers even when a ticket moves from one channel or agent to another. Cloud centers also make it easier to deploy remote representatives, giving you more agility and cutting your expenses for on-premise support.

Self-service Tools

The most important customer service option you can provide to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction are tools for self-service like online knowledge bases answering frequently-asked questions. Seventy-five percent of consumers see self-service as an effective way to address customer service issues, and 67 percent prefer self-service to speaking to a company representative, a Nuance survey found. Only 40 percent of consumers contact customer support to resolve their issue after consulting an online knowledge database, meaning you can reduce your service volume by more than half by providing self-service options.

Live Chat

For service issues that don’t lend themselves to self-service, live chat is one of the best contact channels you can offer. Live chat delivers the highest satisfaction rate of all service channels, with 73 percent of customers coming away satisfied from live chat experience, compared to 61 percent for email and 44 percent for phone. Chatbot tools such as Pandorabots can also help you streamline your customer service workload by automatically handling many of your support tickets and improving the efficiency of ticker routing to human representatives. 1-800-FLOWERS found that deploying a chatbot to place orders on Facebook and direct other inquires to human representatives, used in conjunction with voice-command tools such as Alexa and Watson, boosted revenue in addition to increasing efficiency.

Phone Tools

While automated tools such as knowledge bases and chatbots can help you reduce your service workload, it’s also important to have live phone support for tickets that require a human response. Being unable to reach a live person is one of the most frustrating customer service experiences, and failing to provide this option will greatly reduce your customer satisfaction levels. To optimize the efficiency of your phone support, you can use an 800 number in conjunction with a menu system that automatically routes calls to the appropriate department. Structuring your menu options based on your customers’ most frequently-asked questions can greatly improve the efficiency of your phone service. To identify your customers’ most common concerns, monitor your site search bar and online knowledge database’s most frequent search terms and design menu options that correspond to these topics.

About the Author

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

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Guest Post: How Cloud-Based Predictive Analytics Gives Companies a Competitive Marketing Advantage

Monitoring and fine-tuning analytics are becoming essential to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. Case in point: Business intelligence analytics software sales will reach $18.3 billion in 2017, a 7.3 percent increase from last year, Gartner projects.

By 2020, the market will be worth $22.8 billion and analytics will be mainstream, Gartner forecasts. This means your competitors will be using analytics. Here’s how getting on board with cloud-based predictive analytics now can help you gain a lead on the competition and increase your bottom line.

Optimize Your Marketing

A great advantage of analytics software is that it gives you the ability to objectively measure the effectiveness of your marketing by tracking key performance indicators, explains Silvon Software director Pat Hennel. Some KPIs you can easily track include:

  • Sales revenue
  • Cost per lead acquisition
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Online marketing ROI

Tracking KPIs enables you to see which of your marketing campaigns are generating the best return on investment so that you can reallocate resources to those efforts rather than non-performing ones.

Similarly, you can identify which marketing channels are yielding the best results so you can focus on those media. You can also see which demographics represent your best customers to emphasize those target markets and gear your sales themes toward benefits that will appeal to them.

Refocus Your Sales Efforts

Another benefit of cloud-based analytics tools is the ability to combine them with customer relationship software to better leverage your sales efforts. By analyzing your organization’s lead database, you can better identify which prospects are qualified leads in order to deploy your sales reps accordingly. From there, you can identify which prospects are furthest along in the sales cycle and more likely to convert into a sale.

You can also analyze customer sales history to identify which customers represent your biggest revenue sources and best repeat buyers. You can then prioritize these customers and develop sales strategies specifically geared toward them.

Personalize Your Sales Presentations

Combining cloud-based predictive analytics with CRM tools can also help you personalize your sales presentations to make them more persuasive to individual customers. In fact, you can review a customer’s history of past purchases to see what types of products and services they prefer.

For example, Amazon displays offers based on what the customer has previously browsed or purchased and what types of products have been purchased by other people who browsed or purchased the same items.

You can also study individual purchase patterns to identify their shopping style and what types of factors influenced their previous buying decisions. For instance, one customer might be more likely to respond to a certain type of added-value benefit, while another might be more likely to respond to a lower price. You can then supply this information to your sales representatives so they have a better idea how to appeal to that particular customer.

Increase Customer Satisfaction with Superior Service

Cloud-based analytics can also enhance your sales and marketing efforts by allowing you to track the performance of your customer service teams, which is key in achieving repeat business and referrals. Cloud-based contact center platforms, including Aspect Zipwire, let you track your customer service performance across multiple channels (e.g., phone, email, online chat and more), giving you a comprehensive perspective so you can make any necessary adjustments and improvements.

To track your customer service performance, you can then set up KPIs. Customer performance KPIs you can track include overall satisfaction, the number of resolved issues, average resolution time and complaint escalation rate.

 

About the Author

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

 

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Guest Post: 5 Loyalty Languages to Boost Brand Loyalty

In the age of instant gratification, brand loyalty is not what it used to be: Today, you can get your groceries delivered straight to your home, request a ride across town via Uber or Lyft, and turn to a service like Amazon Prime to bring nearly anything else you want to your doorstep.

Indeed, our culture has grow so accustomed to relying on technology for just about anything that many people are quick to jump ship and move on to the next trendy app or service if it promises better convenience and service. While customers stand to benefit due to strategies developed by such forward-thinking companies, this proverbial arms race is causing brands to completely reconsider how to craft messaging and marketing initiatives.

Business strategy experts at Accenture recently conducted a study on this very subject in order to identify the latest strategies to reach customers in our digital age. Here are the five loyalty languages that Accenture experts found to be the most effective at establishing brand loyalty.

Tailor Your Approach

Customers value companies that can custom-tailor the shopping experience for them. Whether it’s deciding between a pair of custom-designed Vans or Nike sneakers or a monogrammed handbag from Madewell or Longchamp, customers appreciate the option to make a product their own — and this appreciation tends to yield brand loyalty.

Customers also value brands that communicate with them through their preferred social media channels. This is why it’s so crucial to use a broad range of social media and marketing initiatives to get your message to your customers in a manner that establishes convenience and loyalty.

If your company struggles to manage effective customer service, consider using a cloud contact center that offers workforce management software. This can help your company to stay in contact with customers 24/7 — from virtually any location — to better track their wants and needs.

Offer Rewards

Accenture’s research noted that nearly 60 percent of consumers feel loyal to brands as a result of being offered rewards for their patronage. Receiving free gift cards and promotional discounts with a purchase are strategies that have proven effective for creating brand loyalty.

While you may view these rewards as an expensive undertaking, it’s actually a short-sighted way of looking at the issue. Instead of focusing on the cost of offering rewards, think of how much more business you’ll enjoy over time by sending small tokens of appreciation to customers when they least expect it.

Provide an Experience

Millennials in particular value new experiences over “things.” To effectively reach this market, you can invite customers to co-create with your brand as well as assist and inspire the design of your products and services. By eliciting customer feedback and putting it into action, you can build loyalty by showing customers that their opinions matter to you.

Partner with Influencers

Today’s consumers also appreciate companies that aim to model the same behavior and charisma made popular in pop culture. One highly effective way to build brand loyalty is to partner with social media influencers and celebrities who your audience idolizes. An estimated 23 percent of survey respondents in Accenture’s research noted that they tend to remain loyal to brands that partner with celebrities and social media influencers.

Share Your Connections

Finally, trying to operate in a silo — and not always thinking outside the box — could be a detriment to your business. Partnering with other non-competing brands that attract a similar customer base is a great way to reach new consumers. It’s also a show of good faith to your current customers to connect them with other useful products and services that can make their lives a little easier.

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