Category: Connected Customer Experience

Category: Connected Customer Experience
West Corporation

Posted on September 14, 2015 by West Corporation 

One-on-One Text Conversations Make Customer Care Easier

Picture this: You’re a frequent flyer, going from city to city every week, and spending hours in airports. You have your routine down to the letter and any substantial hitch has a domino effect on your schedule – not to mention work/life balance.

You roll with inevitable delays and gate changes better than most, but you have to be in-the-know. You don’t demand flawlessness, but you do expect communication at a rate that keeps up with the countless voice messages from your colleagues, emails from your boss, texts from your spouse, in-app bill-pay alerts, etc., that are hopefully punctuated by a few moments to catch your breath.

So, you opt-in to SMS/text alerts from your airline. When you land, your phone dings with a notification that your connecting flight is delayed due to plane maintenance. “Ok. Is there a gate change?” you naturally reply, knowing that it takes 20 minutes to trek from point A to point B.

The response: Radio silence or, perhaps worse, a plain old “Thank you for flying with us.” (Why? Because that alert was sent by a machine and there’s nobody manning it on the other end.)

There’s an estimated 30-minute hold-time when you click-to-call, so you ask a rep at a nearby kiosk who, unfortunately, hasn’t yet gotten the memo that there’s a delay in the first place, much less its implications. Meanwhile, dozens of other confused passengers are duplicating efforts – spending far more of the airline’s time and money – when a simple “There is no gate change at this time,” SMS response could have taken care of it.

Pew Research tells us that 9 in 10 Americans own a mobile device and roughly 65% of them own a smartphone, proving that this scenario is a very real one – and this customer service challenge, a pleasantly solvable one. Read More >

West Corporation

Posted on August 20, 2015 by West Corporation 

How to Prep for Each Decade of Tech

Think back to 2005. If you were up with the tech-times, you may have had one of the very first camera phones in the U.S. and a 4th or 5th generation iPod. It’s possible that you were among the early undergrad Facebook adopters – or, then again, maybe MySpace was more your speed. Meanwhile, YouTube was born.

Any one of us knows first-hand that technology changes fast and we no sooner forget how much our user-expectations have risen.

Fast-forward 10 years: Facebook, now a publicly traded company, has 1.44 billion users (now ages 13+) and over 10,000 employees worldwide. Ninety percent of Americans own a mobile phone, 64 percent of which are smartphones. American Idol, one of the most successful TV shows in history, is gearing up for its farewell season, having captured more than 6 billion viewer votes cast by phone, via SMS/text or online since its debut. And likely many of those same viewers have watched Psy’s “Gangnam Style” on YouTube 2.4 billion times and counting. Read More >

West Corporation

Posted on August 10, 2015 by West Corporation 

How do you connect with 67.2M people?

Just ask companies that partner with West. In the last month alone, they made 293.5 million automated connections with 67.2 million unique customers.

From these quickly resolved inbound calls to the IVR, to proactive voice and SMS/text notifications, customers got information they needed. They got it faster, on the devices they chose, and at the times most convenient for them.

It was easy for these 67.2 million customers to check order status, bill balance and hours of the nearest facility; prescription refill reminders, back-to-school updates, insurance claim progress notifications and severe weather alerts reached them at the perfect moments. These brands know what their audiences want, and used that knowledge to deliver a better customer experience.

But you know your customers, too, so, what’s the difference between their brands and yours? They show it.

Gathering preferences, predicting activity based on historical behaviors, recognizing natural language, relying on customers to provide their information as few times as possible, sharing visibility of customer interactions across multiple channels and business functions, issuing replies at appropriate times, and using data to make continuous improvements…

Intelligently integrated communication solutions can help you show customers that your brand is on their side. You share their sense of urgency, anticipate their needs, and want to engage on their turf. You are there for them and only them. And, along the way, you gain a business ally that helps save your business a boatload of time and money.

Imagine what your brand could do, listening to what your customers are thinking… Watch this video.

As if they’re reading our minds, “Delivering Great Customer Experiences at the Speed of Digital Business” is the theme of this year’s Gartner Customer 360 Summit. West will be there in San Diego, September 9-11th, delivering a presentation with American Express. Be sure to connect with us. #ExperienceConnected

West Corporation

Posted on July 13, 2015 by West Corporation 

Insurance Claim Spin Cycle

My washing machine croaked. It wasn’t one of those slow and reasonable deaths we saw coming; it was a sudden, painful and sopping wet mess. 

The machine filled for two full hours, flooding the laundry room and kitchen. A slow trickle into the basement didn’t seem like a tremendous deal until, hours later, hanging pictures crashed, revealing just how saturated our drywall had become. Dirty clothes, ripped up flooring and industrial-strength fans haunted us for weeks; getting a new machine was the least of our problems.

This all went down months ago, but I can’t rinse away the memory because my insurance company seems to be taking us for a spin: We filed a claim. We followed up on the claim. And we waited for a response. And we had our house put back together. And we followed up. And we paid bills. And we worried. And we followed up. And weeks passed; our lives went on. And we got frustrated enough to follow up again… The saga repeats.

I won’t throw this company under the bus because it’s an all too common story. Ten years ago – even two years ago – we wouldn’t have expected anything different from an insurance provider. However, brands selling everything from pizzas and pharmaceuticals, to air travel and package delivery, have upped their game in our modern, consumer-driven world. Customer service isn’t only immediate, it’s proactive. Before I even think to check in for my flight, a notification that things are on schedule is sent straight to my cell phone. I’ve been programmed to get what I want when I need it, and now I count on it.

So what do I want from my insurance company? Immediate, frequent and accurate interaction, via the channels I’ve selected. I want peace of mind and reassurance for my family.

Speed and transparency of the claims process are top-level concerns among policyholders; and research shows that our propensity to switch providers jumps nearly 20% just by submitting a claim. Meanwhile, steep competition in the marketplace makes that likelihood tough for most insurance companies to stomach.

Although it sounds like insurance companies face an uphill battle when it comes to claims, there are strategic solutions to automate more of the customer care experience.

Smart, automated self-service has been shown to vastly improve companies’ productivity, profitability and customer satisfaction – increasing the frequency of interaction, while exponentially decreasing the money and human resources allocated for it.

Check out this infographic about boosting the success of your IVR with a few best practices from West:

  • Incorporate data to heighten caller authentication and verification, trimming time and frustration.
  • Integrate proactive SMS/text notifications to preempt inbound customer calls and decreases repeat calls.
  • Empower customers to help themselves 24/7×365 with user-friendly interfaces on multiple channels
  • Enable callers to speak naturally and self-serve more quickly with speech recognition applications.

Give your customer experience a boost. Get claimants like me out of the self-service spin cycle. Experience Connected.

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 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