Category: Industries

Category: Industries
West Corporation

Posted on June 30, 2015 by West Corporation 

When IVR Gets Personal

Where customer experience is concerned (aka everywhere), personal preference is king. Let’s face it: We want what we want, when we want it, the way we like it, wherever we can get it.

As Fjord/Accenture put it in spellbinding terms in the Fjord Trends 2015 report: “The impact of digital on the real world is coming into focus… Magic is now expected.”

Furthermore, we expect to be able to make our own magic. Consumers, particularly the younger set, want to be able to self-serve with mobile devices and other digital interfaces. For example, during our webcast with CRMXchange on June 11thTech Tank: IVR, Self-Service and Analytics – it was noted that 1/3 of Millennials would reportedly rather clean a toilet than speak on the phone with a customer service rep. Convenient self-resolution actually makes us feel good about ourselves.

Of course, the complexity and urgency of one’s message directly impacts the channel of choice. If we are desperate for a more detailed response, right this minute, we call; but if someone doesn’t pick up, we’ll turn to another channel. Consumers want phone-based care to be immediate, and otherwise seek a different kind of support altogether. (Even when IVR isn’t a part of the equation, many companies are doing away with voicemail because it’s a less-than-gratifying resource with a relatively hefty price-tag, as NPR’s Yuki Noguchi reported earlier this month on Morning Addition.)

Meanwhile, our collective investment in mobile technology is skyrocketing. As Business 2 Community highlighted recently, Forrester Research projects $38 billion in mobile phone sales and $76 billion in tablet sales across the U.S. this year. Digital technology is transforming the way we reach out to brands and one another, across the board.

This digital transformation has a profound impact on our population’s affinity for proactive (company-initiated) communication too, and that’s where preference management really comes into play. It is imperative that companies ask customers what, when and how they want various communication; track data and behaviors to learn from them; and, whenever possible, predict user intent.

As much as individuals would like to believe that our preferences are completely unique to each of us, soft research shows that there are only so many types of people in the world; the challenge each organization faces is identifying the right preference points and population triggers to intuitively, efficiently and cost-effectively give customers exactly what they’re asking for. Getting on the front end of user needs to offer updates and support before concerns arise – from weather alerts and insurance claim updates, to payment due dates and flash-sale announcements – make self-service options feel that much more rewarding.

However, smart proactive communication strategies – even when supported by powerful preference management tools – involve much more than a series of scheduled or ad hoc blasts. Occasionally, a single channel isn’t enough to walk users through to resolution. After all, mobile phone users don’t distinguish “voice call” vs. “text message” interaction the same way corporate customer service providers do.

During the Tech Tank webcast (catch the recording here), West Interactive Services SVP Strategy & Development Dan Gordon presented a multi-modal solution for the next generation of voice technology. A visual IVR solutions enables callers to stay on the line as voice technology walks them through SMS or Web-based prompts to change settings, make payments or solve other questions. You may have heard us talk about catching the next wave in inbound IVR customer service in the past, but multi-modal transformation of the voice platform is sure to have a profound effect on proactive communication, as well. This next generation technology is making it even easier to help users help themselves.

So, here’s the question: Is your organization getting personal with your customers, prioritizing the “magic” of a great user experience, and realizing the profitable productivity gains that come with intelligent automated interaction and improved satisfaction; or are your communication strategies leaving customers in unfortunate predicaments?

Talk to us. Replenish that roll. Get personal with customer care. Experience Connected.

West Corporation

Posted on June 29, 2015 by West Corporation 

Gartner includes West as a Representative Vendor in Market Guide for IVR Systems and Enterprise Voice Portals, 2015

West has been included as a representative vendor in Gartner, Inc.’s “Market Guide for IVR Systems and Enterprise Voice Portals, 2015.”

The Gartner Market Guide addresses ways that communication technology is being used to achieve business objectives, and recognizes vendors that support key standards and functionalities. According to this recent report from Gartner: “Increasingly, enterprises’ IVR plans are being subsumed within a broader self-service and assisted-service strategy. As a result, the integration of IVR with the broader customer service suite is increasingly critical for many enterprises. …”

“The key drivers of the IVR market include: Cost and quality control; Speech technology acceptance; Speech technology advances for natural language and mobility; Human-assisted speech recognition; Omnichannel self-service; Integrated self-service and assisted service; Analytics and business intelligence (BI).”*

“We are honored to be included in Gartner’s Market Guide, amongst seven other representative vendors worldwide,” West Interactive Services President Skip Hanson said. “It is clear that phone-based services remain an important component of companies’ customer care and customer experience strategies. West is proud to deliver a scalable voice platform and deep expertise in speech, cognitive science, data analytics and multi-channel cloud-based communications to help our clients optimize the user-experience and realize meaningful business results.”

West specializes in cloud-based communication solutions that drive a smart, personalized and convenient customer experience, including IVR and self-service, proactive notifications and mobility, cloud contact center and comprehensive professional services. West’s high-capacity and high-availability voice platform can be deployed in a number of ways and integrate with other inbound and outbound communication channels to offer the agility, security and cost savings diverse enterprises demand.

The Gartner Market Guide notes: “The distinction between the traditional, vertically integrated IVR architecture and the disaggregated Voice XML (VXML) portal architecture has disappeared, because nearly all solutions have moved to voice portal architectures. However, the generic term for this type of service remains IVR, even though the solutions themselves have moved well beyond the basic IVR capabilities.”


About the Gartner Market Guide
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

About West
A leading provider of cloud-based customer experience and communication solutions, West Interactive Services empowers enterprises to strategically attract, engage and serve customers on their own terms. Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, we have 29 years of experience integrating technology to improve interaction, enhance productivity, increase profitability and exceed customer expectations, with clients in healthcare, education, utilities and commercial industries.

*Gartner, Inc., Market Guide for IVR Systems and Enterprise Voice Portals, 2015, Bern Elliot and Drew Kraus, 28 April 2015.

West Corporation

Posted on May 6, 2015 by West Corporation 

Customer Care: Walk the Talk

The customer experience professional’s to-do list continues to grow and evolve as the lines between “customer care” and “brand” blur. We’ve all seen it coming, but the question remains: What’s one to do about it? How do we address more self-service options, across more channels, more frequently; still find ways to make a customer’s experience more personalized; and ultimately make business more profitable?

We can’t just say that we emphasize customer care; we need to walk the customer journey and collaborate intra-organizationally to make users feel that we sincerely care about where they’ve been and where they need to go.

Applying what we learn about consumers through real-time, historical and demographic data points, we can not only describe their behavior, but predict it ­– and use it to inform a consistent, cohesive message across channels. Hence, we’ll deliver strategic proactivity, greater productivity, better personalization and enhanced profitability to our businesses.

This Thursday, May 7th, Vice President of Strategic Growth and Planning Bruce Pollock will present on a panel at Argyle’s 2015 Customer Care Leadership Forum in Chicago, IL, and help empower customer experience executives to walk the “customer care” talk all the way to true economic impact.

Moderated by Amas Tenumah, COX Communications Vice President of Customer Care, Bruce and fellow panelists will discuss “The Modern Day Customer Care and Customer Experience Executive,” including industry best practices in self-service and using customer insight to ever-improve the experience.

West Corporation

Posted on April 22, 2015 by West Corporation 

Urgent Communication? Utility Customers Tell All

Our customer service communication preferences often come down to a trade-off between urgency and complexity of what we, as users, are trying to accomplish.

  • Have a simple message that doesn’t really demand a prompt response? Facebook might do the trick.
  • Less urgent, but more complicated? Email should do.
  • Need something immediate? Call.

Utilities have a particularly urgent mission to keep the power on and, thus, unique imperatives for communication with their customers. Users don’t just want power; their lives actually depend upon it. Simplicity is the name of the game.

  • Power goes out? Call.
  • Want an update to know when it will be up and running? Proactively call.
  • Notified with a warning that it might be shut off? Call.

I’m looking forward to gathering with our nation’s utility leaders at the CS Week Conference in Charlotte, NC, April 28-May 1, to discuss the new frontier in technology, solutions and practices that improve utility customer service.

In this market, automated solutions like IVR aren’t just a “nice to have;” they are absolutely critical channels. When approached intelligently, inbound and proactive outbound solutions have the power to transform urgent utility conversations into straightforward, reassuring customer experiences.

West recently brought dynamic self-service to light for one of the top U.S. utilities. The company, serving well over a million customers, needed to upgrade its front end IVR applications to effectively handle time-sensitive customer communication around emergencies, outage updates and payments. By gathering requirements and conducting thorough assessments on the front end of the project, West significantly sped up the IVR development process. From customer journey mapping, human factors analysis and roundtables, to WOZ testing, the design was complete in a matter of weeks.

Layered with predictive intent modeling and strategic natural language, the conversational IVR offers a consistent, customized user experience, no matter the customer’s intent. The results have shown that average cost per call decreases, customer satisfaction rates increase, and context awareness improves containment rates – in this case, by 12 percent and counting.

This is just one case of smart, innovative, carefully executed solutions making a substantial difference in the utility customer experience. West has been supporting utility customers for 20+ years, and we always look forward to attending workshops and conversing with utility professionals at CS Week – the premier utility customer service conference for managers and executives at investor-owned utilities, cooperatives, municipalities and government entities.

If you’ll be in Charlotte next week, please come find me and my colleagues at Booth #236, and reach out if you’d like to arrange a meeting.

Whether you’ll be there in person or just in spirit, join our conversation on social media #PowerConnected.

West Corporation

Posted on April 14, 2015 by West Corporation 

Are you prepared for multi-channel mayhem?

Take it from ADT: There’s no place like your contact center. There’s no place like your contact center. There’s no place like your contact center.

Customer care used to be housed in a physical facility, but a relatively recent whirlwind of the latest-and-greatest modes of communication has made the bricks-and-mortar contact center far less commonplace. It’s the perfect storm for multi-channel mayhem…

Customers don’t just dial in for customer service; they use text messaging, mobile apps, voice and Web platforms at once. From their fitness trackers to Twitter to live chat, users expect the brands to know them, understand them, preempt their challenges and still protect their privacy. Thus, brands are challenged to not only manage communication across multiple platforms, but also create context among them.

Take air travel, for example: You get an SMS alert that your flight from Tucson back home to Topeka is delayed. You reply, “What can I do?” and get no response. As you wait in the long line for a rep, you ring up the toll-free customer service line. You spend two minutes navigating the IVR to change flights, and then another 10 minutes explaining the same mess to the agent. Two hours later, still waiting for your rebooking confirmation, you get an email asking you to fill out a post-flight survey. Each channel is clearly disparate and, needless to say, you’ll think twice about your choice of airline next time.

We’re definitely not in contact center Kansas anymore. According to Gartner, “customer experience innovation remains the secret to lasting brand loyalty.”

Consumers’ need for easy, fast and personal self-service is tough to satisfy without ongoing strategic consideration for and investment in the customer experience. Brands must get to know their users, and break down internal silos to narrow the gap between the experience they’re having and the one they expect.

Cloud-based solutions make remote agent environments feasible; channel integration easier; predictive intent possible; and continuous improvements more accessible and affordable. Predictive analytics, user-experience design and WOZ (fittingly, “Wizard of Oz”) testing can make all the difference.

Some brands are doing a great job streamlining data and interaction to enhance the customer experience – and realizing substantial ROI, as a result. One such company is ADT, a leader home security and automation products for 6.4 million U.S. households.

Join SVP Dan Gordon at a webcast with ADT’s Chris Toon on Tuesday, April 21st at 12pmCDT, presented by Execs in the Know. We’ll discuss what West’s communication solutions have done for ADT’s customer experience; and share tips to get you started.

If you only had the secret to the ultimate connected customer experience, right? Here’s one thing that’s even easier than clicking your heels together three times: Click here to register for next Tuesday’s webcast or have the recording sent straight to your inbox.

West Corporation

Posted on April 10, 2015 by West Corporation 

Providers Accelerate Patient Engagement with West Corporation

While much of healthcare reform involves providers and other organizations within the sector improving upon what they’ve been doing for quite a long time, there’s one aspect of reform that could be considered new: patient engagement.

That might seem strange to say, given that doctors and patients have been “engaging” for years, but in many ways “patient engagement” as it’s currently understood means something very different from what it’s usually meant in the past.  Specifically, healthcare organizations are now being called upon to incorporate into their businesses the “customer service” thinking that has long been a staple of other sectors of the economy.

As Laura Bramschreiber, vice president of marketing strategy for West Healthcare, summed it up recently, “Healthcare organizations are realizing that in order to succeed, they need their patients to do the right thing.  Come to the doctor.  Take their meds.  Do the things that promote health and well-being. Their success, then, involves activating and engaging patients across the continuum of care and beyond the four walls of the healthcare organization.”

With more than 25 years of customer engagement experience in sectors as divergent as financial services and travel, to name just a couple, West has identified four critical areas where the company believes it can help healthcare organizations meet the complex communications challenges involved in getting the new patient-consumer engaged.

Patient Access Center
“The contact, or access, center is the front door to many healthcare organizations,” Bramschreiber observed.  “The problem, however, is that many contact centers operate on platforms and technologies that reflect an old school approach to patient engagement.”  Among other things, she continued, this can mean that there are multiple 800 numbers and access points, and “it’s not uncommon for callers to be repeatedly transferred, boomeranged from one access point to another, and then finally lost in the shuffle.”

A problem that can require both technological and organizational/cultural solutions, Bramschreiber said West is bringing its customer service and contact center modernization background to bear helping healthcare organizations figure out what needs to be put in place.

Routine Care Management
Of course, patient engagement means much more than just smoothing the way for an initial contact.  It’s about understanding where patients are on the care continuum and driving outreach, in their channel of choice, to drive desired behaviors. Whether its ensuring immunizations and screenings are current or providing greater levels of support around smoking cessation, keeping healthy patients healthy, deepening patient relationships and proactively capturing revenue opportunities are key goals. Bramschreiber says that many providers simply lack the means to do effective outreach and this is an important focus and application of West’s technologies.

Transition Care Management
As Bramschreiber describes it, this solution area is “all about keeping patients from going back into the hospital during that critical 30-day post-discharge timeframe.”  To that end, West helps providers manage patient transitions of care beginning as early after discharge as possible. In view of the potential impact on penalties and reimbursements, Bramschreiber said West has seen a significant increase in “people thinking, ‘How do I more effectively manage transitions of care?’”  To that end, West designs patient-centered programs, focused specifically on the first 30 days, that leverage a combination of technology enabled communication and clinical resources to monitor key aspects of post-discharge care such as patient medications, ensuring necessary follow up care is received and detecting possible complicating issues as soon as possible.

Chronic Care Management
Another area where West’s recent expansion of its clinical resources is having an impact revolves around chronic care.  “Many transition of care patients end up in chronic care programs,” Bramschreiber said, “so in this area we focus more on longer-term and continuous engagement of patients.”  She said specific services can include applying remote tele-monitoring and leveraging outsourced clinical resources to help manage follow-up care and lab needs, while adding scale and capacity to their in-house care coordinators.

West Corporation

Posted on March 30, 2015 by West Corporation 

Keep Customers Out of the Dark

Did you know that West supports power outage communications for more than 70 percent of homes in the U.S.? As lifelong customers and 25-year industry partners, we know the utility industry like the back of our hands, and are proud to team up with the country’s leading enterprises to enhance the user experience.

For a long time, North American utility companies have naturally had monopolies in their respective markets; by no fault of their own, electricity, water and gas are seen as “necessary evils,” and most communities have single providers. Thus, while customer service and communication has grown exponentially more customer-centric in many markets, utility companies haven’t commanded the same attention to the “customer journey” as commercial players… until recently. Utilities are becoming deregulated in some states, increasing opportunity for “competition.” Meanwhile, regulators are strong-arming better customer service to mediate complaints. Plus, frankly, companies are recognizing the importance of high customer satisfaction.

The long and short of it? Although utility providers don’t necessarily have to “sell” customers on their services, they are adopting more proactive strategies to engage users.

That’s where West comes in: Our utility experts partner up with companies to seamlessly orchestrate multiple channels, analyze customer journeys and manage preferences, and develop and administer communication campaigns. Experience in this industry and others uniquely positions West to help companies stay ahead of the curve to reduce customer friction and increase organizational productivity with sophisticated, cloud-based solutions.

Self-service options and outbound notifications range from emergency alerts, to payment reminders and secure transactions, to two-way text messaging and customer satisfaction surveys. If you call in to report an outage, preference management tools enable utility companies to confirm repairs and automatically let you know with a call, text or other choice means when they’ve done so. Our proprietary mutual assistance routing system even redirects calls to qualified live agents in other geographic areas during critical outages.

Because a big part of our mission is to help keep customers out of the dark even when they’re in the dark, taking part in the annual Edison Electric Institute and American Gas Association (EEI/AGA) Customer Service Conference & Exposition has us all fired up! The event draws utility professionals, from all points along the customer journey, to tackle likeminded objectives.

This year, EEI/AGA will be held at the Omni Shoreham in Washington D.C., from April 6-9. We’ll be there at Booth #501, and joining our clients in sessions about top-of-mind concerns like cyber-safety, secure payments and collections, and pulling Web chat and social media into a contemporary contact center.

West’s utility and cloud-based communication experts look forward to meeting folks who interact with customers every day – on calls, reading meters, collecting and processing payments, operating offices, analyzing business performance, and more. Please visit us at Booth #501!

Reach out to schedule a meeting, and join @WestInteractive in conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn. #PowerConnected

West Corporation

Posted on March 19, 2015 by West Corporation 

Xchanging Customer Journey Insights

Did you catch the CRMXchange Virtual Conference this week? Nine sessions were jam-packed with insightful ways to put your customers first (in the good times and the bad) and ultimately shape a better experience.

Even if you missed Dan Gordon’s presentation on Building the Customer Experience Blueprint or the rapid-fire panel discussion that concluded the conference, we won’t leave you hanging. You can check out the recording, and here are 5 quick takeaways for a better multi-channel customer experience:

  • Create connectivity and context: Cut down on the work (and rework) you make customers do. How? Limit transfers between channels and repetition of information. The resources it takes on the front-end are well worth it in customer loyalty.
  • Find balance in BI: Data is essential understanding what communication channels customers prefer and why. The more you know, the better you can anticipate needs and improve the customer journey. Look at the data that resides within your business already. You may not need more metrics, so much as alternative ways of using it. Determine correlations between data-points to make the most of what your customers are telling you.
  • Implement incrementally: A multi-channel customer experience is only successful if you tackle every channel well. Don’t try to take them all on at once, nor in the same ways. Map the ideal customer journey and identify priorities. Start small. Do things right the first time, and build upon them.
  • Turn tension into retention: It costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep the ones you have happy. By thinking from the outside-in, you can explore points of tension to fix them before they put a customer relationship at risk. Be proactive. Be consistent. Continuously improve. Exceed expectations. Focus on the business process.
  • Let the Web lead the way: People want to self-serve, but they are easily overwhelmed by too many options. Conveniently, most look online before taking action, so clear verbiage on your home page may be all it takes to guide users to the right place(s) for them. Make sure that your online experience is seamlessly integrated with your other channels.
West Corporation

Posted on March 11, 2015 by West Corporation 

Even Enterprises Have Accidental Contact Centers

Say it with me: “My name is ___ and I have an accidental contact center.” Acknowledging these things is the first step toward recovery.

The experience your customers have interacting with your brand may not be the one you set out to create. Communication technologies, people’s preferences and customer service expectations have changed so much in the last decade and it has been understandably tough to keep up.

People are engaging with voice, Web, email, SMS, live chat and social media – interchangeably, with smartphones, PCs, tablets, cars, and even fashion-forward Apple Watches that apparently have potential to wrangle more than $10K each. (Ouch!)

Contemporary contact centers are pushed to not only touch several channels, but maintain, optimize and personalize them. Fortunately, we have ways of exploring what your customers see to help confront challenges and, ultimately, deliver a better experience, in the right ways, with the level of attention they expect.

I’ll be speaking about this very subject on March 18th at the 25th annual Enterprise Connect conference in Florida.

March 16-19th, West is all fired up to join fellow market leaders, industry execs, technology innovators and customer experience experts at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando in discussing emerging communication technologies.

This year there are more than 60 sessions and workshops offered and 150+ exhibitors sharing the latest ideas, equipment, software and services. While I definitely hope to see you in the Exhibition Hall at 12:30pm on March 18th, your accidental contact center is just one part of the puzzle we’ll be piecing together next week. Visit to learn more about the event and register.

Are you going to be there too? Find West at booth 1005, throughout the conference and exhibition.

I’d also encourage you to connect with me and some of our experts in cloud-based communication solutions, including Dan Arntz, Andy Bird, Jody Kistaitis, Mike Snyder and Julie Wajda. Reach out to schedule a meeting and, as we get closer to Enterprise Connect 2015, join West Interactive in conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

West Corporation

Posted on March 10, 2015 by West Corporation 

Paving the Way for Your Connected Customer

You may want to sit down for this alert: You don’t own your brand.

It sounds dramatic, but in a world of immediate communication and constant social activity, it’s no wonder that customers have a lot more control over a company’s reputation than the brand itself. And much of the time, the things you do (or don’t do) speak louder than the messages you craft. In other words, most of a customer’s perception of your brand rests in the experience with it – from start to finish, day-to-day or one-and-done, across a multitude of channels.

That seat you grabbed earlier? Pretend it belongs to your quintessential customer. Take a look at communication with your brand from his/her chair…

Do you stop to consider a company’s customer service structure before calling about the shipping status of your order instead of checking online? Do you wonder how the pharmacy recognizes you when you reply to an SMS notification about a prescription refill? Do you think about all of an airline’s moving parts when you determine how long you’re willing to wait for a response about the gate-change of your connecting flight?

Your customers think about interaction with your brand as if it’s all about them – and in many respects, they’re right. At the end of the day, if they’re choosing to connect with your company (which is an amazing thing, by the way), why not make it easier, faster and more personal for them?

SVP Dan Gordon talks about how to tackle that in this brief video:

Taking time to thoughtfully map the customer journey ­­– from awareness to advocacy – is a worthwhile investment in your brand: Visualize the ideal experience. Take a good look at the current one. Identify the gaps. Prioritize them. Take it one day (or objective, channel, objective, etc.) at a time.

With decades of experience developing and managing communication solutions that add value to companies and their end-consumers, West Interactive Services can help. Reach out to West to learn more.