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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How A Start-up Grows and Becomes so Big They Need CRM To Increase Sales and Reduce Costs

Trek Bicycle began was founded in 1976 by Richard Burke, president of flooring and appliance distributor Roth, and Bevill Hogg, owner of a chain of bike stores. With $25,000 in seed money from Roth’s parent company, Intrepid, Trek started to build bikes by hand in a Waterloo, Wisconsin barnTrek Bicycle began was founded in 1976 by Richard Burke, president of flooring and appliance distributor Roth, and Bevill Hogg, owner of a chain of bike stores. With $25,000 in seed money from Roth’s parent company, Intrepid, Trek started to build bikes by hand in a Waterloo, Wisconsin barn.

Today, Trek designs and develops its bikes at its worldwide headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin or at its design facility in the Netherlands. The manufacturing of its bikes takes place in the U.S. and Asia (under Trek oversight), with select town bikes assembled in Hartmansdorff, Germany. Trek Bicycle sells its bikes around the world through about 1,700 retailers in North America, subsidiaries in Asia and Europe, and distributors in 90 countries. Trek’s 2011 sales totaled more than $800 million. The company sold 1.5 million bikes worldwide that year. Richard Burke’s son, John, runs the company as president.

From its beginning, Trek targeted the prestige bike market. The firm introduced its first mountain bike line in 1983 and the first bonded-aluminum road bike — the Trek 2000 — in 1985. The lightweight Trek 2000 was greeted enthusiastically by serious riders. This was followed by a carbon fiber road bike in 1986. Hogg departed from the company in 1986. And Burke, who had held an advisory role, took over day-to-day operations and presided over the company’s return to profitability.

Amid a U.S. bike industry slump in the early 1990’s, Trek focused on overseas sales and overcame European snobbery toward American bikes. It also moved into accessories and began manufacturing helmets in 1993. That year, the company bought Gary Fisher Mountain Bike, founded by the inventor of the mountain bike. Trek bought two more mountain biking competitors, Bontrager and Klein, in 1995.

“We wanted to spend less time managing servers and infrastructure and more time developing features which provide value to our customers.”Adam Salvo, Development Operations Manager, Trek Bicycle Corp.

Intrepid, Trek’s parent company, changed its name to Trek in the latter half of the 1990s as the company divested itself of its non-biking businesses. In 1997, Burke’s son, John, became president of the bike company. In around 1989 also Trek expanded into foreign markets, opening subsidiary offices in the UK and in Germany. To increase production efficiency, Trek stopped bonding its aluminum bikes in 1998, adopting the more common practice of welding .

In June 2002, the company’s president was appointed to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Seeking to further boost its European presence, the company purchased the bike division of Villiger, a diversified Swiss company, later that year. The purchase included bicycle factories in Switzerland and Germany.

Although it’s a global leader in bicycles, Trek maintains the spirit of a small company. This includes its close-knit, collaborative staff and independent bike shops that sell Trek bikes and gear. These trusted partnerships are the backbone of Trek’s business model. When sales reps leave or retire, it can take years to rebuild the depth of knowledge and the rapport that the reps had established with the bike shops in their territory.

“In my job, there are always a couple of things I am trying to kill: bad process and hardware. Microsoft has helped us to do that. The less stuff I have to manage, the more time I have to focus on the important things in life.” David Peterson, Enterprise Collaboration Manager, Trek Bicycle Corp.

Ultimately, Trek’s success depends on close, supportive relationships between its sales reps and the owners of the stores it sells through. Trek is committed to its 5,000 independent bicycle retailers around the world. To support them, Trek offers an Ascend retail management system that manages inventory, places orders for parts, tracks work orders and processes customer’s purchases.

Trek worked with a data center provider to operate and support these services. As the company grew, supporting these services got more expensive and complicated, requiring more servers and IT staff at both Trek and the data center. This began increasing operating costs. And it could take from two to six weeks to install a new server at the data center, which was not fast enough to easily scale with demand for bikes.

But with so much information coming in, the bicycle maker realized it needed a more efficient and effective way to capture and manage the wealth of information its sales reps accumulated as well as to facilitate employee collaboration that would result in better customer experiences, loyalty, advocacy and referrals.

So Trek decided to make some changes to how they did business so they could have a more complete picture of customers and their data and as a result, they could provide better customer experiences and service.

Integration between Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and other enterprise data sources, including Trek’s JDE ERP system, has helped develop a more complete picture of Trek’s retailers and customers, while the introduction of Yammer has enabled people to collaborate within Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online—replacing email and instant messaging for certain workgroups. And Microsoft Dynamics Integrated CRM Solution helped Trek to support sales reps in bringing all of their customer information into one place, standardizing workflows, and making it quicker and easier for its employees to find vital information.

Trek was also able to improve web sales and customer service by connecting Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to its public website, where the system captures customer inquiries from a Web form and routes them to the appropriate technical representative. The automated workflow attached to these forms has reduced response times from two weeks to only a few hours, increasing customer satisfaction.

There’s lot’s more that David Peterson’s team did… so make sure to get the full report!

@drnatalie

VP and Principle Analyst, Constellation Research, Connecting Marketing, Sales and Customer Service Through Great Customer Experiences

Join us for the Connected Enterprise Conference at Half Moon Bay – Oct 29-31st!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CEO’s Mandate: Make Customer Service / Customer Experience Top Priority

CEO’s Must Make Customer Experience the Number One Top Priority

The bottom-line? You know me. I get to it real quick. When you empower your customer service agents, you have the opportunity to delight your customers. Technology is key, but it actually takes more than technology to make that happen. It takes planning, people, process, strategy, and then understanding how the technology affects both the person giving service (customer service agent) as well as the person getting service (the customer.)

And with all these new technological innovations that are evolving, it is still critical to deliver great customer service. However, the bottle neck in most organizations is often the CEO-level, who may be operating under an old paradigm that customer service is a cost center. I’ve written dozens, upon dozens of ROI models for customer service, customer experience –traditional along with social and yet that message may still not have gotten to the CEO. Marketing and PR can acquire a ton of customers, but the question is, “Will they stay loyal?”

Who Cares About Customer Service / Customer Experience? Your CEO Should!

The issue with not understanding that Customer Service affects every aspect of the business – marketing, PR, sales, manufacturing, advertising, innovation, etc… is that customers are voting with their mouse and their feet. Whether it’s a brick and mortar store or an online presence, customers are sick and tired of bad service. And when it happens, while they know the devil they don’t know may be worse, they often want to make a point and switch to another company.  The question to ask yourself is, “Can you withstand to loose 20, 30, 40, 50% of your customers of the next few years?” If not, then the challenge is making sure that CEOs and CFOs as well as CTO / CIOs really understand the integral part Customer Service interactions and customer / company dynamics make to the bottom-line.

With many applications going to the cloud, it makes sense that having the contact center in the cloud companies can deliver excellent customer experiences. Some of the latest news that has unfolded is the integration of LiveOps’s CTI with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Unified Service Desk, which was released in the Spring of 2014.

This means that organizations will have a leading, multichannel cloud contact center solution that embodies the shared vision by both companies, i.e., to connect brands with customers via innovative technology and channels to deliver amazing customer experiences.

With most customers wanting to be able to interact with brands on any channel and receive the same level of quality of the interaction, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Unified Service Desk provides a unified experience for agents so that they can deliver efficient and effective interactions across all channels. So where does LiveOps come into the picture? The Unified Service Desk serves as a solid platform for vendors like LiveOps to showcase their customer service solutions.

In this release, LiveOps will offer voice and web chat capabilities to complement the advanced, multichannel, social cloud contact center capabilities delivered by Microsoft Dynamics CRM Unified Service Desk. This CTI integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM further enhances the solution’s customer service capabilities by giving agents access to integrated contact center applications, as well as empowers managers to monitor and optimize inbound and outbound customer interactions to improve key metrics for customer satisfaction and agent productivity. The whole point of the solution is to provide a complete, integrated contact center solution that enables agents to manage every customer interaction for faster and better resolution.

Managing Every Customer Interaction and Provide A Great Resolution For the Customer And the Company

How can agents manage every customer interaction and still keep the interaction fast and provide a positive resolution for both the customer and the company? Brands have to look at the whole technology landscape and decide which products allows their business to make changes quickly while remaining flexible in an ever changing environment. That means that brands need technology that can connect with customers across traditional and mobile voice channels. Features like screen pop (customer information popping up on the agent desktop when the customer interacts with the brand), an embedded phone and chat panel, on-screen click-to-dial, integrated call recording and multichannel routing—all allow brands to more easily connect with customers across traditional and mobile voice channels.

One of the reasons features like screen pop, while it seems simple enough, are so important is that it enables agents are able to deliver personalized customer experiences and first contact resolution, while increasing productivity, reducing costs and maximizing customer relationship management (CRM) investments. What this means in common language is – true screen pop – is when you put your information into the IVR, all those numbers and information you provided at the beginning of the call ends up on the agent’s desktop. But you know often the agents asks you to repeat all that. And you are thinking, “Really?” That’s when you know they don’t have truly integrated CTI (computer telephony integration – i.e., the computer and the phone is integrated together…)

Here’s Some Quotes from the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Executives

Jujhar Singh, General Manager of Program Management at Microsoft Dynamics CRM said, “The majority of customers want to be able to interact with a brand on any channel and have the service quality remain consistent.” Microsoft Dynamics CRM Unified Service Desk is designed to provide an experience for the agent, which in turn directly affects the customer’s experience and their perception of the brand.

So if you want to learn more about the partnership between LiveOps for Microsoft Dynamics, check out this link: http://www.liveops.com/liveops-for-microsoft-dynamics.

And if you want to gain more customers and/or keep at least the ones you have, then its time to really reconsider how your company approaches Customer Experience and Customer Service. And that’s how I see it.

@drnatalie

How to work with Dr. Natalie  VP & Principal Analyst | Constellation Research, Inc

Dr. Natalie: voted Top 20 In Social Media HuffPo
Twitter: @drnatalie  Skype: drnatalie007 | LinkedIn | Google+
Catch my latest:

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• Upcoming book series: “7 Steps To Digital Customer Experience Mastery” (working title)

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Reduce Support Costs With A Customer Community: Increase Agent Efficiency (Part 2)

Reduce One-Off Requests

Your support agents are knowledgeable about every aspect of your

business. They have extensive knowledge about your product, your

processes, and policies. So it’s an ironic twist of fate that (especially

as your business scales) they spend most of their time answering

simple, one-off questions.

 

Don’t get us wrong—it’s important that your customers are

supported as they purchase, set up, and begin using your products.

You want them to be as successful as possible, so they have a

positive experience and brand association. But does this mean your

support agents have to hold the hand of each and every customer

as they look for the “on” button? Absolutely not…at least not

anymore.

 

As you scale your business, you need to make sure that you’re

doing everything you can to reduce the number of simple,

repetitive questions your support staff is answering. A branded

customer community is ideal for this. It acts as a living, breathing

conversation library, hosting all the questions, answers, praise, and

ideas that have come before, while constantly being updated with

the most current topics of conversation.

 

Because community is designed to facilitate engagement around

the topics your customers care about (as opposed to Facebook or

Twitter, which are optimized for engagement around recent content

only), all conversations, whether they began two years ago or this

morning, are easy for search engines and hence people, to find.

Get Satisfaction customer communities take this archive capability

a step further. They search the entire community to see if an

answer may already be tucked away somewhere in the ghosts

of conversations past, before allowing a new topic to be posted.

This means that customers are automatically exposed to existing

questions and answers before they can open new issues.

 

This is beneficial for all concerned parties—your customers are able

to self-serve their own answers quickly and easily, which is what

most consumers prefer these days. And your support agents don’t

have to answer the same questions over and over again, because

there is a huge repository of content that exists already.

Empower Your Support Champions

Increasing agent efficiency is really a fancy way of saying reduce

agent tickets, calls, emails, and instances, freeing them up to

put their support super powers to work on more complex issues.

A great way to do this is by identifying the customers who are

naturally knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and vocal about your

product, also known as brand advocates or Champions.

It may seem unlikely that there are actually people out there who

are excited to speak up on your behalf, answer questions, and act

as impromptu support agents, but anyone who works in social

media will tell you that there absolutely are! Your job is to identify

them, incentivize them (even with a simple web badge—these folks

love a little recognition!), and connect them with prospects and

other customers. A customer community, with its wealth of people,

content, and analytic capabilities, is a natural place to do just that.

Get Satisfaction offers a Champs program, which allows you to

publically designate champions so the community knows who they

are. You can even give them special abilities so they can moderate

and curate as you see fit.

 

Champions are not the only ones who can help alleviate

the load on your support agents. The people interacting in your

community naturally bring with them varying experiences,

perspectives, and skills. From highly technical developer

communities, to those of companies that sell basic consumer

goods, bringing your customers and employees together to share

experiences and solutions is a solid base to build on for innovation,

development, and collaboration.

Stay tuned for part 3!

You are here: Home / Blog

Reduce Support Costs With A Customer Community: Increase Agent Efficiency (Part 1)

January 11, 2014 By Leave a Comment

increase agent 1

We love our customer support agents. Friendly, helpful, and patient by nature, these folks spend more time talking to your customers than
anyone else in your company. They truly understand the pain points of your business, and they’re the ones putting in long hours to resolve
them for your customers. It’s important, then, to ensure they have the tools and resources necessary to be truly effective.
This isn’t just a good idea from a warm and fuzzy perspective. Agent salaries are the most expensive part of a support center. By ensuring
that they’re using their time efficiently—helping people solve complex, technical or individual problems, not responding to the same basic
questions over and over again—you can do a lot to maximize the value of your support agents, the satisfaction of your customers, and
minimize stress and pain points for both.
This eBook is the second in a series of three explaining how customer communities can help companies realize significant savings and
revenue sources, along with the metrics and calculations to measure the results. The first eBook focused on customer community as a
valuable resource for customer self-service support. This book focuses on the way companies can leverage community to improve agent
efficiency. Stay tuned for the final, which will discuss community as a means to improve customer retention and acquisition.

Customer Community: The Basics
Since this eBook is all about how you can leverage a customer community to improve agent efficiency (and reduce costs as a
result), we figured it makes sense to give a quick refresher course on what exactly a customer community is, just to make sure we’re
all on the same page.
So what is a community platform? It all started with some of the first technology that emerged on the web—the forums and
message boards of the 80’s and 90’s. These technologies were built to create online spaces where users could have threaded
conversations about the topics, products, and services that interested them. To have an identity across conversation, users
typically created a profile with a nickname, so that they could build their reputation. This primordial community technology worked
well for engineers, developers, and early adopters, but it was not designed to be easy-to-use by a mass audience.
A lot has changed in today’s community platforms, but the core conversational functions have remained the same. At Get
Satisfaction, we have a strong point of view that, for a community to be most effective and beneficial for customers as well as companies, it should have the following:

❑User-friendly interface with a simple way for even tech-wary users to browse and search for relevant conversations
❑Technical flexibility that allows business to embed community content and functionality across customer channels … on websites,
social networks, in digital campaigns, and on mobile and tablet devices
❑Business features and tools (topic moderation, content curation, etc.) that allow for successful community management
❑Ability for the community to be branded by the company that owns or sponsors it
❑Content that is highly indexed by search engines (through SEO) and naturally appears in top search results
❑Analytics tools that allow business users to assess community health and performance, determine the most relevant content, and
identify the community members who are mostly likely to become brand advocates
❑Formal Champions program that allows you to identify, recognize, and allocate simple moderation capabilities to the customers who
act as informal leaders in your community

When equipped with these features and moderated and curated effectively, communities are great assets for customers to research
products, find answers to their questions, and act as resources for others. These conversations drive customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, while helping companies deliver great support, gather feedback to build better products, and acquire more customers.
Effectively, community allows you to deliver a better customer experience, while reducing costs and bringing benefits to multiple
departments across companies.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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Video Interview: Thought Leadership with Mitchell Levy and Michael Procopio

January 6, 2014 By Leave a Comment

Thought Leadership with Mitchell Levy http://MitchellLevy.com and Michael Procopio http://MProcopio.com covers all things around thought leadership, how to become one, how to use it as a form of communication, how to help others become one. I got to sit down with them for a Google Hangout and discuss customer service, social media, real-time marketing and more!

Dr. Natalie: voted Top 20 In Social Media HuffPo
Dr. Natalie’s ebook: voted as one of the Top Ten Most downloaded Social Media ebooks- On smROI

Click here to watch my videos on Social Media ROI:
Video 1: Building the Business Case for Social Media
Video 2: How to Measure the ROI of Social Media
Video 3: How Social Media Benefits the Whole Company


Dr. Natalie’s Executive Success Acceleration Firm™
Executive Business Strategy Advisor & Social Customer Experience Industry Authority & Consultant

The Doctor Knows Social Media ROI & Our Business Strategies Rx Get Results!
Our Motto? Be Awesome by: Learning, Sharing & Growing!

What we do: We work with companies to deliver increased revenue and decreased costs:

  • Executive Leadership Guidance on Strategy and Business Use of Social Media
  • Social Media / Business Benchmark Assessments – Tell you what you got/ what you might consider
  • Social Media ROI – set-up measurement capabilities and dashboards
  • Workshops on Business Strategy: Customer Experience, PR, Marketing, Customer Service & Internal Employee Advocacy
  • Instructor MEMES Summer Institutes at UCLA Anderson & UCLA Extension
  • Customer Experience / Social Customer Service Excellence Benchmarking Assessments & Advisory
  • Software Company Visualized-ROI, Persona-based Solution Selling w/ Targeted USP & Messaging / ebooks, White Papers, Webinars…
  • Social Media Training, Organizational Change, Motivation and Goal Setting

My book: Like My Stuff: How To Monetize Your Facebook Fans

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Reduce Support Costs With A Customer Community: Increase Agent Efficiency (Part 1)

increase agent 1

We love our customer support agents. Friendly, helpful, and patient by nature, these folks spend more time talking to your customers than
anyone else in your company. They truly understand the pain points of your business, and they’re the ones putting in long hours to resolve
them for your customers. It’s important, then, to ensure they have the tools and resources necessary to be truly effective.
This isn’t just a good idea from a warm and fuzzy perspective. Agent salaries are the most expensive part of a support center. By ensuring
that they’re using their time efficiently—helping people solve complex, technical or individual problems, not responding to the same basic
questions over and over again—you can do a lot to maximize the value of your support agents, the satisfaction of your customers, and
minimize stress and pain points for both.
This eBook is the second in a series of three explaining how customer communities can help companies realize significant savings and
revenue sources, along with the metrics and calculations to measure the results. The first eBook focused on customer community as a
valuable resource for customer self-service support. This book focuses on the way companies can leverage community to improve agent
efficiency. Stay tuned for the final, which will discuss community as a means to improve customer retention and acquisition.

Customer Community: The Basics
Since this eBook is all about how you can leverage a customer community to improve agent efficiency (and reduce costs as a
result), we figured it makes sense to give a quick refresher course on what exactly a customer community is, just to make sure we’re
all on the same page.
So what is a community platform? It all started with some of the first technology that emerged on the web—the forums and
message boards of the 80’s and 90’s. These technologies were built to create online spaces where users could have threaded
conversations about the topics, products, and services that interested them. To have an identity across conversation, users
typically created a profile with a nickname, so that they could build their reputation. This primordial community technology worked
well for engineers, developers, and early adopters, but it was not designed to be easy-to-use by a mass audience.
A lot has changed in today’s community platforms, but the core conversational functions have remained the same. At Get
Satisfaction, we have a strong point of view that, for a community to be most effective and beneficial for customers as well as companies, it should have the following:

❑User-friendly interface with a simple way for even tech-wary users to browse and search for relevant conversations
❑Technical flexibility that allows business to embed community content and functionality across customer channels … on websites,
social networks, in digital campaigns, and on mobile and tablet devices
❑Business features and tools (topic moderation, content curation, etc.) that allow for successful community management
❑Ability for the community to be branded by the company that owns or sponsors it
❑Content that is highly indexed by search engines (through SEO) and naturally appears in top search results
❑Analytics tools that allow business users to assess community health and performance, determine the most relevant content, and
identify the community members who are mostly likely to become brand advocates
❑Formal Champions program that allows you to identify, recognize, and allocate simple moderation capabilities to the customers who
act as informal leaders in your community

When equipped with these features and moderated and curated effectively, communities are great assets for customers to research
products, find answers to their questions, and act as resources for others. These conversations drive customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, while helping companies deliver great support, gather feedback to build better products, and acquire more customers.
Effectively, community allows you to deliver a better customer experience, while reducing costs and bringing benefits to multiple
departments across companies.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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