Category: Connected Customer Experience

Category: Connected Customer Experience
West Corporation

Posted on July 8, 2013 by West Corporation 

What Your Customers Unknowingly Expect of You

Walking through the airport last week, I found myself starting to appreciate some basic features my airline offered me to help satisfy my travel needs. I have a colleague who constantly preaches about how much you need to avoid the first floor of an airport and how much of a convenience it is to just walk from the parking garage in Omaha, Neb., to security. For those of you who haven’t flown through Eppley Airfield, it’s a straight shot from the garage, down a walkway, to the security line to enter either terminal. While this doesn’t necessarily apply for vacationers who need to check bags, I am starting to see why my co-worker is so adamant about something I didn’t really give much thought to.

Once through security, the airline offers me the convenience to use my mobile phone as a boarding pass, sends me text messages when there are changes, and calls me if a flight gets cancelled. I think we all think of this as the basics that most airlines provide. However, I’m starting to notice how “intuitive” my airline has become based on my travel preferences, upcoming vacation and search parameters. I am now getting email and text messages that aren’t just spam but that are related to my own personal needs. The home page I view on the airline’s website is even a photo of Omaha. What’s even more remarkable is that I didn’t give them any additional information that would be considered out of the norm.

Sometimes we just need to sit back and look at the things we take for granted. Most would probably assume the organizations they do business would go to great lengths to understand their wants, their needs, their interests and so forth. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In fact, most of the time, we don’t even realize when customer care is customized. However, when it doesn’t happen, it makes us second-guess our choices and loyalty.

At West, our common message regarding what consumers want from the companies they do business with is, “Know me, show me you know me, and show me you care.” This statement resonates with consumers across all industries. They just don’t always know it.

West Corporation

Posted on May 29, 2013 by West Corporation 

It’s Time to Transform Your Customer Service Experience

It’s a busy, busy world out there, and your customers are very busy people. What are you doing to transform your customer service experience?

Consumers want to reach out to companies in a variety of ways: over the phone, through a mobile application, via texting, through social media and over the Web. And they want the experience to be quick and easy.

The younger demographic is driving the demand for a wider variety of communication channels. I remember as a teenager being on the phone all the time. As I watch the two teenagers in my house, they never use the phone. They are constantly on a variety of applications on their mobile devices. These applications allow them to see their friends using video or pictures. As this demographic continues to age, they will come to expect more and more to be able to get their customer service needs taken care of on their mobile devices.

As an organization, the first thing you need to do to transform your customer experience is to create a plan. Think about the short term, the next one to three years, and longer term, like five years and beyond.

Next, some things to consider as you devise your plan: How are your customers reaching you now? How many are calling on a mobile device? What is the age or demographic of your customers? What channels seem to be a good fit for your customer base? Outline how and when you will add these communication channels in your plan.

As you consider adding channels, another thing you need to take into account is the need for a platform that enables transaction knowledge to be shared among different channels. As busy as your customers are, the last thing they want to do is to give you their full information every time they interact with one of your channels. For example, if you send a customer an SMS text message that states they have a payment due, when your customer calls in to your IVR in response to the text, your IVR should be personalized welcoming them by name and “smart” enough to ask if they are calling to make a payment.

Another portion of your transformation plan should look at calls that are still being handled by agents. As comfortable as today’s consumers are with automation, ask yourself whether there are further opportunities for automation with inbound customer service calls. Perhaps there are some frequently asked questions that can be automated. Or, can you add more information to the identification/authentication process to allow for more accurate transfers? These types of transformation steps are ones that you can accomplish this year in your plan.

It’s time to get busy and transform your customer service experience. Start now and get working on your plan.

West Corporation

Posted on May 27, 2013 by West Corporation 

Clearing the Fog Surrounding ‘the Cloud’

How many times have you heard, “Everything is moving to the cloud”? Data. Infrastructure. Applications. Services. Communication channels. It’s all going to the cloud.

Yet, when we talk with many clients around the country, the real “cloud” is actually the mental fog caused by their desire to connect multiple customer contact channels. Forget, for now, the cloud that hosts applications and enables software-as-a-service (SaaS) types of solutions. I’m talking about the cloud fogging up the lens to see a better customer experience through multichannel integration.

Time and time again, consumers initiate an interaction in one channel and ultimately complete that interaction after using a second, third or even fourth channel. These consumers seamlessly move from self-service to full service and back to self-service, yet their personal data, contextual information and historical interactions are never taken into account. The enterprise views each time they have contact with a consumer as an independent transaction.

But the consumer views the enterprise as a single, holistic company that should not only “see” what they did in one communication channel, but also connect all of that time, effort, data and context to the next channel, and the next channel and so on. And the fog rolls in.

Enterprises that are cross-channel context aware — those that figure out the most effective way to connect customer communication channels, to access existing consumer data across various silos residing within the enterprise systems and databases, to present optimized channel interactions — and those that deliver communications in consumer-preferred channels will have a decided advantage in the eyes of ever-fickle consumers who seek a seamless experience regardless of device, location, time, place or channel.

Never have Johnny Nash’s words been more relevant in business:

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day.

West Corporation

Posted on May 21, 2013 by West Corporation 

How to Win a Really Cool Customer Service Award

At West, we are always looking for ways to enhance our customer contact solutions. Recently, we were honored by Frost & Sullivan for our best practices around customer value enhancement. I wanted to take a moment to toot our own horn a bit in this blog.

The Frost & Sullivan 2013 Customer Value Enhancement Award is a prestigious recognition of our accomplishments in outsourced customer contact solutions. This award is presented each year to the provider in North America that has demonstrated excellence in implementing strategies that proactively create value for its customers, with a focus on improving the return on the investment customers make in its services or products.

The award recognizes our focus on enhancing the value that our customers receive, beyond simply good customer service, leading to improved customer retention. At West, we pride ourselves in our ability to bring a comprehensive mix of services across key customer contact areas for our clients — voice self-service, speech solutions, automated notifications, conferencing and collaboration, agent-assisted voice support, and advanced hosted contact center technology.

This award is recognition of our ability to deliver on our promise of customer contact transformation and to help our clients through their customer communication journey. At West Interactive, we are especially proud to be part of this prestigious award. Click here to learn more about the award.

So, how did we win a really cool customer service award? By focusing on the following:

  1. Developing and delivering comprehensive and innovative solutions that transform the customer experience.
  2. Offering the ability for our clients to expand customer communication channels to offer new and integrated channels of choice to their customers.
  3. Capitalizing on customer mobility.
  4. Delivering an industry-leading, high-capacity, reliable and secure hosted customer care platform.

It’s as simple as that. Thank you to the employees of West Interactive and all of West for the innovation, leadership, and hard work that went into achieving this award. OK, now I am done tooting our horn!

West Corporation

Posted on April 25, 2013 by West Corporation 

Can Mobile Apps Enhance Customer Care? Let Me Count the Ways

I am a good Mom, most of the time. My daughter is away at college and needed me to pick up a certified/registered letter at the post office for her. The post office needed a signature for the letter and, of course, no one was ever home when they came to deliver it between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. — duh! Since my daughter couldn’t make it back home during post office hours herself (and being the good Mom), I told her that I would go to the post office and retrieve the letter for her.

So, bright and early in the morning I stood in line at the post office. Only five people ahead of me, great. I’ll still have time to grab a coffee before work. The trouble is that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), as we all know, is revenue-challenged and is operating in the red, so there was only one representative working the line. Customers were doing simple things, but only one guy working slowed things down considerably.

So, 30 minutes later, I finally got to the front of the line. The process to get a certified/registered letter was pretty straightforward. I had to show my driver’s license, as they required that it be the same address that was on the letter. I had to physically sign my name on the signature machine. That was it!

It was then that my wheels really started to turn. This process could be simplified and automated. And, even better, it could be more convenient and maybe even make me loyal to the post office as my shipper of choice and thus spend more money there: Just think if the post office had a mobile app that, among other things, could simplify this process.

If I received a registered letter that I needed to sign for, the app could notify me. I could use my devices camera to scan my driver’s license bar code to prove I was at the same address. I could then digitally sign the “form” within the app. The post office could deliver the registered letter to my home in their next mail delivery. I am happy, and the post office could save money by not needing someone at the physical location to process this type of transaction. Nor would they have to repeatedly try to get my signature at home, when I am never going to be there during the day. Simple, straightforward and effective to me (the customer) and the USPS.

That’s how organizations should be thinking about mobile care applications. They should bring value to the customer and the company — or organizations shouldn’t waste their time. The USPS could save money and apply a mobile app to processing transactions that absolutely need a human to complete the transaction — things like passport processing. The impact to customers is a better customer experience and one that they are more in control of and which is more convenient for them.

Another example is of an experience that I just had as a customer. I am taking my girls to Florida for spring break. My husband is a huge baseball fan (Cardinals, baby!) and we will hit the beach and some spring training games. Well, the girls are 10 and 11 and growing like weeds. So, I went online to order some swimsuits and shorts for the trip. In the Midwest we don’t have a lot of beach apparel in stores this time of year. I went online to my favorite U.K.-based retail site and ordered their stuff. Clothing sizes in the United Kingdom sizes are different than U.S. sizes, and I was not thinking straight, so I ended up ordering the wrong size on a couple items. The next day, I woke up panicked thinking I needed to call and change the sizes before the order shipped. When I called the company, by the time they heard my story, searched for my order, verified 62 pieces of information (exaggeration!) the call took about 12 minutes. And then, in the end, they weren’t able to change my order anyway. So annoying!

What could have and should have happened is that when I called, their system would have the ability to recognize that I had placed an order in the last 24 hours and the agent could greet me accordingly. “Hi Jil Fisher, are you calling about your recent order?” I would have been so much happier if they at least would have acknowledged me and the business I gave the company. And it certainly would have sped up the call if they knew something about me.

If the company could spend the time and focus on making sure all of their channels are connected and aware of recent activity everyone would win. It would save the company money in agent costs with shorter calls due to more intelligence when they are presented with the call. The customers would be more loyal due to the differentiated experience they receive in all the channels that they are using

I don’t want to suggest that customer data management easy. It seems straightforward when you are the customer, but there are lots of things that need to be contemplated from a company perspective — and you don’t want to try to boil the ocean.

  • Companies need to think about their overall processes and how customers transact with them in general. Think like a customer — be a customer. The mobile channel creates a great opportunity to streamline, personalize and engage customers. Just don’t create another communication silo.
  • Companies should think about how all of the channels can tie together. How they can streamline and connect channels.

It’s hard to know where to start, and that’s where a company like West can help. We can help create the vision for an overall customer experience and the road map to get there so you aren’t biting off more than you can chew. We are helping companies with this every day. And we are there every step of the way.

Learn more about this subject in Jil Fisher’s podcast, “Use a Mobile App to Improve Your Customer Care.”

West Corporation

Posted on April 22, 2013 by West Corporation 

The Brave New World of Customer Care

Traditionally, the mobile channel has been the domain of marketing departments that leverage the channel to promote brand, sell and add e-commerce opportunities. Or technical departments looking to mobilize existing websites or internal work processes. Until recently, the idea of leveraging mobile for something as mundane as customer care was not even in the realm of thinking. Mobile is sexy and flashy. Why spend the time to mobilize customer care? There are four main reasons we are seeing with our clients today:

Consumer-Driven Care
Consumers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to communicating with our clients. More and more, they choose how to communicate and what device they want to use. Mobile is a channel that consumers want to use, and they are using it in their daily lives. Clients that we support know they must play in mobile to ensure that they are relevant to the consumers of their products and services.

Avoiding the Application Wasteland
Take a look at your mobile device. How many apps have you downloaded and how many do you really use? If you are like most of us, there are a handful of apps that you use other than games and sports apps. We use applications that bring value to our daily lives. Increasingly, we are seeing that customer care in the mobile channel is something that consumers will actually use. Customer care functions add value as stand-alone applications or tied to other existing applications, thus creating an enriched application that will actually be used. Mobile customer care also has a tangible return on investment that can be measured against other customer care strategies. This helps companies make the investment in their mobile care channel.

Customer Experience is King
Our clients are breaking down the silos that have traditionally divided internal teams who support their customers and are looking at the experience holistically. Organizations understand that they work hard to attain their customers and that one poor customer experience can ruin the relationship.

Mobile is helping bring companies together because it transcends these silos and offers a channel where consumers have the option to talk to an agent, call an IVR, search a website, launch an application and comment on all of the experiences in social media. Companies are investing in new “C” level positions (e.g., chief customer experience officer) and changing their philosophies around the barriers between internal groups. This has allowed departments like customer care, marketing and technology to come together and start to leverage the mobile communication channel to its full potential.

Connecting Channels to Improve the Customer Experience Is Key
With strategies and organizational structures that align with consumer-driven care, we are helping our clients connect channels to create personalized and intelligent care experiences. We can have the mobile channel aware of what is going on with other channels and adjust accordingly to ensure that the customer experience is effective and valuable. Each customer care touch point is so valuable in today’s tough economy and competitive environment.

We are all moving into the brave new world of mobile. Customer care is no different, despite its reputation for being back-office and behind the times. In the mobile channel, we have another opportunity to automate and perform customer care that will enhance the overall customer experience. It is all about choices for our customers and how they want to communicate with us. We are slowly adapting to customers who want to click their app rather than dial the toll-free number. The companies that embrace this have the best chance to service and grow their customer bases.

West Corporation

Posted on April 12, 2013 by West Corporation 

But You Called Me: How Companies and Customers Can Win in the Customer Service Game

Have you ever received a voice message from a company you do business with requesting you call them in regard to your account or a purchase? This type of message likely piques your curiosity and ultimately entices you to give them a call.

Now, how many times have you called back and were barraged with a choice of options on the automated system? Even if you are the savviest of users of automated systems — who understands that if you take the time to choose the right option, then your call is delivered to a customer service representative who can actually help you — you would not be sure where to start.

After bouncing from representative to representative to finally reach one who can help you, you are asked for the third time, “How can I help you?”

You respond with, “Ugh! You guys called me!”

By keeping track and leveraging context of customer interactions through various engagement channels, companies can personalize these interactions and increase customer intimacy.

For the above scenario, the automated system could have acknowledged me upfront and intelligently sent me to a representative who could have greeted me with, “Thank you for calling us back, Mr. Robeson. We have a question for you about a recent purchase.” It would have been a much better experience.

Organizations can save themselves time and cost, as well as increase customer satisfaction, by making sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. It is a win-win situation.

Organizational Wins

  • Consistent brand experience across all customer engagement channels, including Web, mobile, automated system and representative
    • Because customer satisfaction equals customer loyalty
  • Reduce transaction times and cost by streamlining the automated system transaction and sending the customer to the correct representative the first time

Customer Wins

  • Reduce customer effort by tracking experiences and context of interactions or the idea that, “It is easy to do business with Company Y”
  • Increase the level of predictability or the idea that, “I don’t mind contacting Company Y because it is likely they already know what has happened and it won’t take long to get an answer”

Remember that the company called you first, so to acknowledge the fact they called you is the least they can do when you call them back.

West Corporation

Posted on March 27, 2013 by West Corporation 

Does the Left Hand (of Your Customer Service Operation) Know What the Right Hand Is Doing?

Technology is changing at lightning speed these days — particularly technologies related to customer relationship management. This is exciting and brings with it new challenges and opportunities.

The opportunities are boundless: like integrating mobile and social solutions to help customers get service anytime/anywhere, or integrating comprehensive analytics to ensure that when customers call your support number, you know who they are and what they’re most likely to be calling about.

Of course, with opportunities also come challenges. One of the key challenges companies face today is how to seamlessly integrate their technology and human-based customer service elements to provide for a streamlined, efficient customer experience. For example, many companies have yet to address the age-old problem where their contact center agents have to ask customers the same questions as the IVR did, because they lack adequate systems integration.

In addition to situations like this, many companies face the added challenge of how to integrate outsourced customer support vendors and processes with their own, to provide for a seamless customer experience “from A to Z.” Leveraging third-party outsourcing partners is a good idea, but not if the partner’s systems and resources aren’t integrated effectively with the rest of the company’s on-premise infrastructure, agents and operations.

I recently had some first-hand experience with companies that have utterly failed in their customer service mission, mainly because they haven’t effectively integrated their outsourced service provider into their business and customer service operations.

My wife and I subscribe to a travel magazine that we both enjoy reading and look forward to, month after month. Although we use the magazine’s website a lot, we always await with anticipation the printed copy edition of the magazine. Recently, two of the print editions of the magazine went missing in the mail, so when we noticed that the magazine has a digital edition, we decided to stop receiving the print edition in favor of the iPad version.

Little did we know what a customer service mess we were stepping into. When I called the magazine company to tell them we’d like to start receiving the digital edition, the contact center agent said, “That’s fantastic, I’ll give you the phone number to call so you can start receiving the iPad edition.” I was a bit baffled with this and said, “Isn’t there any way you can sign me up to the iPad edition, given that you already have our account information?” The agent said, “Nope, we don’t actually support the digital edition. We rely on another company to do that. I can send them your information via email, but it’s not likely you’ll hear from them soon, because they are so busy with requests. Here’s the company’s name and telephone number for you to call so you can receive digital edition.”

I thought the whole conversation was bit odd, and by this time my wife was starting to get frustrated. On more than one occasion she suggested we just cancel the subscription because the company not only seemed to struggle in getting us the mailed version of the magazine but also seemed to have some kind of odd relationship with a rather invisible digital publisher that wasn’t really connected to the main publisher.

I decided to contact the company supporting the magazine’s digital version. When I reached a customer service representative, the agent said, “We don’t seem to show a customer record for you, so if you have a few minutes, I need to create one here for you so that you can receive the digital version of the magazine.”

“Uh, pardon?” I said. “You don’t have any record of us as a magazine subscriber?” The agent said, “Well, the publisher who sends you the paper-based version of the magazine has these details, but we’re the digital version and we don’t have them.” I ended up giving the agent all of the information she needed so that we could finally receive the digital version. The agent said that within 24 hours, we’d receive an email link outlining what to do to get the digital version. Almost a week had gone by and we still hadn’t received the email link that the agent promised to send.

The issue finally got resolved after several weeks and many phone calls. Rather ironically, any day now, we expect to start receiving the standard litany of renewal notices in the mail, threatening that if we don’t renew now, the prices will be going up and we’ll have to pay more to renew later and horrendous, frightening thunder and lightning storms will hit, as well.

Will we renew our subscription? I doubt it. We’ve lost confidence in the magazine publisher’s ability to manage customer files and customer service. If they can’t manage and integrate basic customer information, then what does that say about their ability handle credit card information, for example?

I’m a strong advocate of the notion of outsourcing to partners, particularly when it comes to fast-changing technologies like digital publishing and many others. Having said that, the key mistake (among a number of them) that this magazine publisher made was to not integrate its outsourcing partner effectively into the company’s technology, business and customer support operations — the result being poorly executed customer service.

The bottom line message is that outsourcing business activities and processes, including customer service, oftencan make sense in today’s fast-changing technology-centric environment. When done right, it can help companies save money, stay current with new technologies and improve customer service.

But when executed in a disjointed, haphazard manner like the magazine publisher did in this example, it can result in poor customer service, increased customer churn and eventually, erosion of revenue and profit streams. Case in point: As mentioned earlier, I seriously doubt we will renew our subscription to this particular magazine.

So, if you’re going to partner with a third-party provider for customer service and other types of transactions, be sure to take an integrated view from the outset of technology, operations and people integration, and contact center agent training. The only thing worse than the fact that the company’s technology systems weren’t integrated was that the agents from both companies seemed rather oblivious and/or indifferent to, the fact that they were actually supposed to be working together to support print and digital customers in an integrated manner. (I would tend to blame the agents’ managers, not the agents themselves.)

It seems obvious but is well worth repeating that from the customer’s perspective, the customer experience needs to be seamless and effortless, regardless of whether interaction is with one of your own customer service agents or an agent from your outsourcing partner. When you get a minute, try calling your own company’s customer service line(s), to get a feel for the experience that your customers go through every day. It’s well worth the time, and you might learn a few new things along the way that can help you to improve in the future.

West Corporation

Posted on March 21, 2013 by West Corporation 

Sound Off: Opinions Are Important in Customer Care

Everyone wants to be heard. What’s more, it’s only natural that we possess the desire to share our opinions and experiences with others around us.

So, given that, would you believe it if I told you that the companies you do business with not only want, but actually depend on your opinion (good or bad) in order to survive and grow?

Before the Internet and modern contact center environments were in place, the barometers for a product’s success were in large part, limited to published product reviews (newspaper, industry rag), word of mouth (literally), and, of course, bottom-line sales.

Today, consumers have a smorgasbord of tools to review and rate products and service, and as a direct result, they can influence future functionality and features for pretty much everything.

Likes on Facebook, social media posts, surveys, reviews on, etc., are at our fingertips as consumers. All of which literally cost us nothing more than our time and basic Internet connectivity. Couple all of this with our desire to be heard, and it’s a slam-dunk.

As a consumer, there isn’t much that I don’t want to sound off about. Before making any purchase, I typically find myself reading reviews products well ahead of making any purchase. In my case, I tend to skip to the summary section where reviews are grouped into their respective graphical ratings, e.g., 1 star, 2 stars, etc. I also tend to throw out the very high, and the very low, and look to see where the majority landed in their opinions. Preferably, of course in the four-star range.

Assuming I’ve actually made a purchase, I typically join the rank and file of the reviewers, and add my honest assessment of the product, whether good or bad.

As I mentioned, not only do these tools spell good news for customers, but the feedback itself is invaluable to companies providing such products and services. Constructive (key word) feedback, either critical or praise-based in nature, allows a company to grow its product or portfolio into a feature-rich solution based upon direct user feedback.

Modern contact centers, too, can be equipped not only with tools to capture your electronic sentiment via social media and surveys, but also quality management tools to govern and improve your overall experience when communicating directly with a customer service agent via voice or e-services.

The whole point here is that analogous to the presidential election, your vote really does count. Chances are high that both your written and verbal comments are indeed being reviewed and taken seriously, and companies are hungry to take direct action based on constructive feedback.

It’s a safe assumption that someone is listening, so, by all means, constructively sound off and share your opinions because they really do matter.

West Corporation

Posted on March 1, 2013 by West Corporation 

Climbing the Next Hill

Imagine 30,000 menacing obstacles in your path. You’re dehydrated. Hungry. Wobbling like a drunk, barely able to put one foot in front of the other. Your feet are blistered, your eyes hurt, your head throbs and your will is all but broken. You’re not even sure how you will to go on. You feel defeated. Read More >