Category: Interactive Services

Category: Interactive Services
West Corporation

Posted on August 5, 2013 by West Corporation 

The Makings for a Successful Marriage and Business Partnership

Marriage and business partnerships are a lot alike when you think about it. What makes a successful marriage and a successful partnership have many of the same attributes:

  • Good communication — You need to be able to communicate with each other effectively and about the right things.
  • Similar goals and objectives — You should have the same goals and overall desire to achieve the same things.
  • Symbiotic — You both need to get something from the relationship. A mutual give-and-take and rewards and benefits.
  • Similar philosophies and guiding principles — You need a foundational mutual respect and fundamental agreement on how you navigate life over time and what it throws at you.

When searching for a business partner the task can be daunting. You know what you need but you will rely on lots of feedback from others and interactions to make the decision. So how do you start?

  • Begin with addressing the qualities and capabilities you will require. What are the must-haves and nice-to-haves?
  • Assess the speed with which you want to add this partner to the mix. Is the partner capable of moving at that speed?
  • Will you need to spend money to accommodate the partnership? Will there be ancillary software or other purchases that will need to be made to support the partnership?
  • Will someone in the organization be focused on maintaining and supporting the partnership? That way, both organizations have a go-to person who can lead the charge and be responsible for partnership coordination, etc.
  • The partnership needs to be mutually beneficial. Partnerships are not free. A business plan should be addressed, and a business benefit should be called out and measured.
  • Plan periodic reviews and evaluations to ensure that the partnership is working and achieving the results you both want.

All in all, if you view your business partnership as a marriage and focus on open honest communication while measuring results goals and objectives, then you will be successful.

West Corporation

Posted on July 29, 2013 by West Corporation 

The Customer Is Always Right. But Is That Always the Case?

Clients often ask for complicated changes to their applications, and most of them time, they are done without question. But, what would happen if we took a step back and asked, “Why?” Most of the time the answer is to save money on agent expenses, telecom costs, etc. With application development resources often being tight and expensive to the client, what if we consulted with our clients on whether or not those changes would benefit them significantly in the long run? Ask your client the following questions:

  • What is the business reason for making the change?
  • What result are you currently seeing?
  • How much are you currently spending? What are you expecting/wanting to save?
  • What results do you expect to see after the change has been implemented?

Your customers expect you to be the expert, so do your homework. Have these types of changes been implemented with other clients before? What was the result? Share these results with your client. Was this type of change successful with other clients? Did it save them money? Share these results with your client. Help them decide if the long-term cost savings is worth the application development costs.

If the client decides to implement the change, then take the steps to prove that the changed added value. When doing development, make sure you’re properly capturing data that can be used to track the results of the change. Post-implementation, use data to compare before and after results to prove that the change was effective. Always make every attempt to put a solid, measurable ROI to your success story. It makes it far more valuable.

Make sure you share your results with your organization. Chances are that other clients have or will contemplate the changes your client asked for. Good or bad, the results help your colleagues consult with their clients. In addition, it allows your team members to be proactive: “Hey, look what we did for this client, and look how much we saved them.” If this exercise was done every time a change was made, your team will have a solid library of success stories, making consulting with clients on application changes common practice.

And remember, being consultative with your clients builds and strengthens partnerships, creating solid references and generating new prospects.

West Corporation

Posted on July 23, 2013 by West Corporation 

Growing a New Automated Customer Care Solution Is Like Growing a Healthy Lawn

Warm weather is here to stay, and our focus is on household outdoor projects. Perhaps you are considering replacing your lawn with new sod to have the lush, green grass you have always wanted. While the long-term benefit of having the lawn everyone in your neighborhood envies is satisfying, it will take some patience in the short-term, as well as ongoing care and feeding.

This is no different than when organizations decide to implement new automated contact solutions for their customers. It takes planning to start off on the right foot, patience not to change direction too quickly and ongoing maintenance to evolve the customer experience.

Lay the Sod
Like new sod, you want to implement a new automated customer contact solution with a debris-free, level environment when laying the foundation. The last thing you need is to take short-cuts and introduce known holes and mounds to a new customer experience. To lay the foundation, you need to plan properly:


  • Identify business requirements and goals; including key performance indicator (KPI) targets
  • Design initial user interface with an experienced team who can recommend best practices


  • Conduct usability tests with existing customers and other customers within the industry

Be Patient and Let It Take Hold
Patience, patience, patience. You need to avoid cutting the new grass too quickly. New sod requires time to grow and establish strong roots, which means there will be initial periods of uneven, long grass.

While it is tempting for organizations to “cut” or “turn the dials” for their newly implemented automated customer contact solutions the moment feedback begins rolling in, it is important to remain patient. Both internal and external customers need time to adapt to new experiences implemented and allow it to soak prior to introducing additional changes.

The reality is that this is easier said than done. To allow flexibility during the “rooting” process, there is a method organizations can employ — a champion vs. challenger strategy:

  • Select a subset of customers (5 to 15 percent of customer contacts) to trial the new feature or application.
  • Roll it out for the selected segment of customers (the challenger) for 30 to 60 days while your other customers continue with the current treatment (the champion).
    • Analyze the customer experiences of champions vs. challengers, leveraging internal and external customer feedback channels and KPI results.
  • Refine and roll out to the challenger segment for 30 additional days.
  • Analyze and decide whether to roll out to entire customer base.

Ongoing Maintenance
Once the sod begins to grow a strong root foundation, it is time to manicure the grass, cutting it to the desired length and fertilizing to achieve a lush green lawn. As weather changes, your lawn routine is also likely to change to handle the conditions.

In order for an organization’s business objectives and quality of customer experience to continue to evolve to meet expectations, ongoing care and feeding of their automated contact center solutions are required to ensure continuous improvements in self-care and to set strategy for high-quality, user-centered design. Six fundamental steps for continuous improvement should be considered when evaluating and evolving these solutions:

  1. Understand the current solution.
  2. Create the baseline performance metrics.
  3. Assess and establish improvement opportunities.
  4. Complete the business impact analysis.
  5. Define the opportunity roadmap.
  6. Deploy enhancements.

Laying a solid foundation, having some patience, and performing ongoing care and feeding are keys to growing a great lawn — and a great customer experience.

West Corporation

Posted on July 17, 2013 by West Corporation 

Platform Vendor Selection 101

Recently, a customer asked me how they should go about choosing the best platform vendor. West builds and offers unparalleled support for platforms, so, of course, I wanted to say, “That’s easy, go with us.” But I knew I had to explain this in a way that was not only concise, but also unbiased. If my Dad was telling me about a product, he would say, “Well, Consumer Reports says .” Unfortunately, Consumer Reports has not listed the “10 recommended platforms for consumers to consider.” I needed to think outside the box. I decided to talk about the selection process in relation to a recent personal experience.

For five years I had been saying that I was going to rip out my old, antiquated deck in favor of a much larger, improved patio where I could seat more people in anticipation of my future needs. I wanted quality at a lower cost, coupled with a result that could grow with my family (customer base). This year, after about the 157th sliver in my daughter’s foot, I got serious. It was time to find someone whom I could trust, who would deliver quality at a good price, and who would also deliver on my vision with minimal disruption to my life.

I performed my baseline research, set a budget and sought to find a vendor who could deliver on my expectations. I quickly realized that cheaper is not always better. But going with an experienced industry leader can come at a premium price tag. The contractor explained to me that this is what he does for a living, not a fly-by-night operation to be rushed. Perfection takes time, a mantra he proved to me in the multistep process he took.

He spent time interviewing me to determine what my needs, wants and goals for the space were. He took that information and went back to his office to come up with his recommendations. He presented me with a drawing of what the landscaping could look like and he presented it in a way that I could understand. It was a comprehensive plan to which I could add or remove features in order to meet my budget and needs.

He then walked me through the process step-by-step, explaining that the foundation was the most critical element. He further explained that applying the stone was an art form much like the application layer on a platform. The result? Perfection. After seeing every important step, the layers to my patio, I truly know the infrastructure is strong: a formidable patio that will be there to accommodate any activity.

So, how should you go about choosing the right platform vendor for your business needs? These four easy steps will undoubtedly provide a sturdy foundation.

1. Engagement
Up-front discovery will ensure that the solution can meet your customer needs, short term and long term. Quality service, knowledge and accountability drive credibility, which in the end builds lasting relationships to stand the test of time.

2. Solutions
Show the art of the possible by setting the vision upfront in a way that is flexible for your customers to pick and choose based on specific business goals and objectives.

3. Applications
Ensure that every application built is ironclad and defect-free so that as the customer base grows and matures, you can layer in additional features and functionality with ease.

4. Infrastructure
Build a strong foundation that allows the solution to grow with your customer base for years to come.

West Corporation

Posted on July 16, 2013 by West Corporation 

Is a Customer Service Picture Worth a Thousand Words?

Have you ever had someone take your picture, and when you look at it you exclaim, “I don’t look like that! That’s a horrible picture!” Unfortunately, that recently did happen to me and it was not the first time. As much as I want to deny it, the fact is, it is ME, and I DO look like that. It is a hard pill to swallow that I really do look like that. In my mind, I am still 10 years younger and MANY pounds slimmer.

So, what is the moral of the story? When something is personal, we can lose perspective. In the world of automated care, it is important to have the diligence to conduct regular usability reviews of your IVR application. If you are part of the team that designs and reviews the application on a regular basis, then it is possible to lose your perspective. You may think the way you have your application designed makes perfect sense. However, you need to regularly engage the customer perspective to make sure you are maximizing the performance of your application.

At West Interactive, we regularly promote the use of speech science and human factors to ensure that our automated applications are continuing to meet the customer needs. In order to achieve this outside perspective, we use several options to provide an objective review of our applications:

Usability Review
Conduct a side-by-side comparison of our application with other similar applications in that industry.

Focus Groups
Bring in a group of real customers and ask for their feedback on the application.

Agent Round Table
Sit down and talk to the agents who handle customer calls. Find out what customers are saying about the IVR to the agents.

Traffic Light Analysis
This is a patented process that West uses to give us an objective perspective on what is working in the application and what is not working.

We want to make sure we are exposing our applications to objective reviews. When something is personal, it can cloud our perspective. And for me, well, let me just say that I’ll be avoiding cameras from now on.

West Corporation

Posted on July 15, 2013 by West Corporation 

Does Your Company Measure Its Cost of Being Reactive?

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
Reactive maintenance resources can average 30 percent or more than the required resources in a proactive work model. In manufacturing, production downtime losses can average four times the wasted maintenance resources. Companies in service industries also suffer from spikes in resource costs from being reactive but have difficulty measuring them, tending to highly underestimate the impact by considering only the direct human costs.

In a customer-satisfaction-driven environment, employees are typically measured by metrics such as first-call resolution, average handle time (AHT), mean time to resolution, etc. When the policies and procedures are lacking around how to manage and document resolutions and employees are empowered to “do whatever it takes” to make the clients happy, it becomes nearly impossible to measure the cost of individual issue management.

It’s human nature to fix problems fast and hope the problem doesn’t resurface. How many times has your IT department asked you to simply reboot your PC to see if that fixes the problem? How many times does an issue have to occur before your development organization admits that it is a software issue and prioritizes a fix in the next enhancement release? How long does it take you to patch the leaky pipe under your kitchen sink before calling a plumber to fix the issue permanently? The old adage of “a stitch in time saves nine” applies more often than we all care to admit.

You Can’t Always Count on Your Offense
Football fans applaud the safety for his ability to prevent a touchdown by the other team, but they often overlook the missed tackles from the defensive line that allowed it to happen in the first place. The effectiveness of a team’s defense is measure by yards given up in a game. It is then the job of the defense coach to look at the game film later, break down the plays in slow motion, to discover how the team as a whole failed to execute and make adjustments for the next game.

Similarly, most companies operate with a system that thrives on reactive responses rather than the less exciting but far more effective preventive (proactive) approach to invest to reduce, or ideally prevent issues from occurring in the first place. You’ll also likely find reward programs where employees are recognized and applauded for how they saved the day because of their willingness to work overtime and resolve the problem with a smile.

Most organizations can usually calculate the majority of the direct costs in a budgeted mode: maintenance labor, materials, tools, equipment, contractors, etc., that are allocated to maintenance roles. Indirect costs incurred because of decreased maintenance efficiency and effectiveness are not always known or as easy to calculate.

For example, do you know what it costs the company or the customer when a product is not released on schedule? What were the effects of the late delivery on idle resources waiting to engage in their stage of the development lifecycle? What was the cost of the trip where the CEO, COO and CTO had to travel to the customer’s site to smooth over a dissatisfied or at-risk customer?

Supporting new customer sales and prioritizing maintenance issues affecting customers can quickly absorb available resources. When resources have already been cut back to meet monthly and quarterly cost containment objectives, proactive work is put on hold. The near-term consequences are obviously higher, and it is a quick decision on where to focus resources. However, while seemingly isolated to the issue at hand, the longer-term impact of delayed projects and employee morale can have a nasty ripple effect throughout a business. You can be the best executive in the world, but you’ll fail in a compromised morale environment if your employees don’t execute the business plan. This greatest indirect cost, the drop in employee morale, has a multiplier effect, and it’s not a good one. It changes companies — and not for the better.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back …
Accounting systems work well for what can be easily counted and monetized. But this tends to undermine the value of the avoided cost, of understating the real value of sensible preventive investment. We are even taught in business school that with good decision analysis you should include alternative scenarios, weighing the near term returns versus the long term and estimating the likeliness of the scenario occurring. A best-case-versus-worst-case approach can provide leadership with a range of likely risk and reward. Unfortunately, we tend to get lazy when it becomes difficult to value an uncertain avoided cost. We also don’t have a lot of time to develop and think through alternatives when customers demand answers to why their software enhancements haven’t been delivered or aren’t working as promised.

There is also a fundamental societal challenge that undermines our ability to pursue sensible risk management objectives. It is our ability to see the forest through the trees and invest appropriately today to avoid higher (often significantly higher) costs tomorrow. There is little incentive for an operations executive to invest in a solution that won’t pay off for 5 or more years when his or her annual bonus is based on managing costs. You think being a good executive means a laser focus to squeeze every last ounce of productivity out of the business. But the very best executives — the ones whom I admire — have balance. They strike a critical balance between productivity and the overall health of the company, because they fully acknowledge all of these indirect effects on the business long term.

We also recognize from many published examples that companies that do not invest in R&D and innovation (both technology and process) tend to be behind the market, developing me-too technologies and trying to differentiate themselves through customer service, and these organizations are at a higher risk for becoming obsolete. We see this in healthcare. The United States has been described as the best reactive healthcare system in the world. We do relatively poorly at preventive and routine care but have some fantastic high-end long-term care capabilities.

The Answer: Proactive Risk Management
The mistake that growing companies make is having a culture based too heavily around productivity. Good executives strive to find a sensible balance between investing in upfront planning and providing top-notch customer care. Proactivity needs to be a recurring business objective. It should be a mantra to drive the underlying business culture. Planning steps must be incorporated into all project plans and go, no-go decisions should be incorporated into key project milestones.

Incite your employees to be proactive. Build incentive plans that reward employees for the long-term benefits of their actions. Drive product readiness, but be careful not to expect 100 percent accuracy. Plan technology, operational and sales and marketing readiness frameworks so that tweaks can be made as you learn over time rather than starting and stopping over and over again with entirely new formulas or approaches. It is wasteful.

None of us can be proactive in everything we do — but we can move in a proactive direction so we can reap the benefits of all of the strategies of being successful, without having to take backward steps that cause loss of time and money. And face it, people really appreciate that balance and company focus on their own personal growth rather than just the near term, top-line. It ultimately helps ensure a culture of teamwork and satisfied employees.

So, how much is your company willing to spend to move from a reactive to proactive maintenance business model?

West Corporation

Posted on July 9, 2013 by West Corporation 

Warren Buffett’s Words of Wisdom Apply to Customer Experience Management

Many readers are aware that Warren Buffett, otherwise known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” is one of the most successful investors and wealthiest people in the world. Each year in early May, thousands of Buffett-worshippers make the pilgrimage to Omaha to the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting. They come to hear Buffett and his business partner, the effervescent Charlie Munger, talk about the global economy, stock markets, government and politics — and of course, to hear about the company’s progress.

There is little argument that Buffett is an investing icon. There are lots of reasons for his and Berkshire Hathaway’s success, including his uncanny ability to choose stocks at an affordable price, Berkshire’s strong yet relatively low-profile management team, their ability to capitalize on market uncertainties and their focus on investing in what they know.

Along the road to becoming the world’s most iconic investor, Warren Buffett has offered sage pieces of advice for investors, which many continue to live by and treat almost like a religion.

Although much of Buffett’s advice and one-liners are tightly focused on investing, many of his most famous quotes are also applicable in other areas of business or life, including customer relationship management (CRM) or customer experience management.

So, with that in mind, I’ve uncovered three of Buffett’s quotes and taken the liberty of relating them to the world of CRM and customer engagement management.

“Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.”
This is a timeless quote from the Oracle of Omaha that is so relevant to CRM. It used to be that companies that provided adequate products and mediocre customer service could succeed in the market and maintain or grow their competitive position. This is how the U.S. auto manufacturers operated for many years, until the Japanese and Korean car companies (Honda, Lexus, Hyundai, etc.), landed in the U.S. market with superior products and great service/brand experience.

It’s also how some large PC manufacturers dominated their industry until Apple came along with better products, better service and a superior customer experience.

And there are lots of additional examples like this where industries and companies sat on their laurels while new competitors more focused on quality and customer experience sneaked in and took market share and customers.

The key point here is that today’s consumers are more demanding than ever before. Just because a consumer likes your product and service doesn’t mean they will buy it, buy it from you or remain loyal.

Consumers today expect top-notch products and personalized, superior service and experience, in order to do business with and stay loyal to a company.

Food for thought: What’s special about your company’s product or service, that will encourage consumers to buy from you and stay loyal in the future?

“There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.”
We all can relate to this Buffet quote, because it reminds us of how some companies treat us every day. They make things harder and more cumbersome than they have to be, including difficult-to-navigate websites, confusing IVR applications when we call, and the like. Many times this isn’t intentional. Well-meaning product and customer service teams often have to accommodate new products, features and services with yet more Web pages and IVR options that nobody ever takes the time to review from a customer experience perspective.

There’s no perfect solution to this ongoing challenge, but one way to keep things simple for customers is to conduct regular usability audits of your website and IVR systems. Conduct focus groups and usability studies, and, perhaps most importantly, try using your own website or IVR system. Often, that’s the best way to edit out or clarify content, to make things simpler for customers who interact with you. As the old saying goes, sometimes less is more.

Resist the temptation to unwittingly make things more complicated and difficult for your customers. Instead, try making difficult things easy for your customers. They’ll be delighted you did so, and will be more likely to remain loyal to your company or product.

“I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars; I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.”
This quote has a high degree of relevance in the customer service/CRM context.

Case in point: Sometimes, companies think the only way to improve customer service and loyalty, and differentiate themselves from competitors, is to leverage the latest, greatest hot technology (the 7-foot bar) that they hope is a panacea to all of their problems, as opposed to making incremental improvements (the 1-foot bars) in processes, products and customer service.

I’m sure every reader of this blog can think of a company or two that has rolled out new, allegedly revolutionary technologies or applications, hoping that they could rocket their customer service and Net Promoter Scores through the roof overnight — only to find that the technology or application has little, and even sometimes negative impact.

While it’s true that if researched and implemented well, these game-changing technologies and applications (7-foot bars) can improve customer service, it’s also true that that bringing continuous, incremental improvements to a company’s current systems (1-foot bars, e.g. IVR, website, outbound notifications, contact center workforce management/optimization) and other current systems that it knows and understands well, can likely bring the same or better results, often with less risk.

Food for thought: What are some 1-foot bars that you can step over today that will make it easier and more enjoyable for your customers to do business with you?

I am sure these aren’t the only Buffett quotes that apply to CRM. If you find more that you think might apply even better, I encourage you to reply to this blog post and share them with us.

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 June 26, 2013 by West Corporation 

The Role of Network Services in Customer Contact Transformation

Recent conversations around the office have gotten me thinking about network services and the role they play in customer contact technologies and services. Over the past several years, there have been fundamental shifts in how the “network” has been used for services, moving from a data-only transport to a world where voice, video and sometimes data on the same network is commonplace. Portraying the complexities of today’s solutions is a daunting task in and of itself, and many companies struggle with the transformation.

A lot of our clients are moving from what I would term as a site-based contact center model or even overall communication plan involving PBXs and ACDs. This means that today they are housing a system that largely — or even exclusively — is self-contained within one site. If a call or interaction arrives at that particular site, then the ACD, IVR or other communication system at that site has to process the call.

This was OK back in the 1980s and ’90s, and maybe even into the 2000s (the years known as the “oughts” in my mind —as in, “Back in ought seven, we decided to look into VoIP”). But, in today’s world, the voice over IP (SIP mostly), video, chat, email and mobile interactions have dictated that customer interaction systems get a massive makeover. This has turned most site-based systems into distributed systems.

As we were talking in the office (don’t be jealous of our scintillating conversations), I’m not sure that all clients understand the complex interaction between a distributed system and the underlying network(s). Namely, the network has moved from being a simple transport mechanism that delivers emails internally to a critical backplane that ties together disparate servers and processes. And the real fine point to this technological revolution is that a client could purchase the pieces of a distributed system, but without a finely tuned network, the system and services it supplies is doomed to failure.

In particular, VoIP services have forced network transformation arguably more than any other service in recent memory. The idiosyncrasies around how to architect, engineer, and operate a network carrying VoIP traffic are numerous. At its core, VoIP is the definitive real-time protocol or transaction. To make a point about the differences, compare VoIP and a database transaction. Transferring and consuming information in a database is an example of a transaction that can have a bit of delay or be retransmitted if needed. In VoIP flows, this simply isn’t true: If you miss part of a person’s conversation, then it’s gone and can’t be retransmitted.

If you dig down into the hardcore technologies in which converged networks operate, you would notice that voice is treated differently than the data on the same network. If the voice or video doesn’t arrive on time and in the order expected, then the entire interaction could be rendered useless; so, network engineers put these real-time transactions within a special queue on the network. This is particularly true on the Wide Area Network (WAN) that connects sites together, and even the voice queue has special engineering constraints that must be taken into account.

There have been many instances over the past 10 years in which we have run across poorly designed or operated networks that are impacting VoIP services. This can be frustrating to our business partners and is sometimes blamed on the VoIP system itself, which is incorrect. That’s not to say that VoIP systems don’t have their own internal issues from time to time, but it’s been my experience that generally a new instantiation of a VoIP ACD or PBX will have at least two or three major network incidents that affect it.

In the end, the network plays as much of a role in the success of a new technology customer interaction system as the system itself does. In fact, I would argue that in the end, you need to view the network as part of the system itself.

West Corporation

Posted on June 4, 2013 by West Corporation 

When NOT Finishing What You Start Pays Off Big Time

We’ve all grown up with our parents, teachers and mentors telling us to, “Finish what you start.” It makes total sense because no one wants a job that’s partially completed. Conversely, have you ever been given the opposite advice where someone tells you not to finish what you start and you’ll be even more successful? Of course you haven’t.

Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering the brie-and-prosciutto-stuffed chicken breast and having the server bring it to your table half-cooked, a huge smile on his face, with all the raw juices running all over your plate, telling you to “enjoy!”

Or, how about the lawn company you pay a cagillion dollars to every week to mow your lawn showing up, mowing two-thirds of your lawn then knocking on your door looking for payment and telling you to marvel at how beautiful the lawn looks.

Better yet, what about the trusted car repair shop that changes your oil and puts new tires on your car, but purposely doesn’t put your oil filter back in (that has actually happened to me – NOT GOOD) or your lug nuts back on your wheels, then pridefully walks up to collect your payment saying, “It’s all done and ready to go. Have a great day!”

You get the point. In most instances, partially completing the job is not acceptable and sometimes can be downright dangerous.

In our industry, though, the advice of not finishing what you start and embracing partial completion can pay off — big time. As you work to maximize the value of your customer contact strategy, aiming not only to drive cost out of your business but also to increase customer satisfaction, you should strive to find that perfect balance between automation (self-service, regardless of channel) and live agent. This is where one of the least used key performance metric in our business pays off and should be at the forefront of any solid business case/ROI model.

By design, you want to focus on partially completed transactions to maximize your business value. Look at the transactions that are taking place in your contact centers and dissect those transactions to determine what specific tasks the agents are doing within that transaction. You then can determine which of those tasks can effectively be automated (regardless of channel – voice, mobile, Web, etc.). Once you’ve identified certain tasks to be automated, you have introduced the idea of partial automation into your business case, which is measured using the industry standard term — task completion — for obvious reasons.

When looking to justify the deployment of a self-service solution, many companies focus their business cases on the most common metric, call containment. This is because it’s easier to measure the value of a complete transaction (i.e., phone call) within the contact center and what that transaction is worth to the business based on the cost of that transaction if it is fully automated versus fully handled by a live agent. Where this approach falls short is when most transactions that your business handles are complex, or, for some other reason, cannot be fully automated — which is a large percentage of customer care out there.

Case in Point
Assume a typical agent transaction for a particular call type takes 20 steps For example:

  1. Identify caller
  2. Verify and authenticate caller
  3. Determine caller intent, etc.

With an agent, this might take an average handle time of four minutes. Then, let’s say you determine that 10 of those 20 steps could be automated leveraging a well-designed, intelligent and intuitive self-service solution (again, regardless of channel), effectively reducing your agent tasks down to 10, cutting your average handle time in half. If 75 percent of your transactions need to be worked by a customer service representative at some point, then you easily can see how the math works and how the value or dollars saved can exponentially increase.

So, when looking at the value of a well-thought-out, well-designed, implemented and managed automated self-service solution, just remember that I may be the first person to give you this crazy advice: Don’t finish what you start within the automated environment. Hand it off to the right agent at the right point in the interaction can and will pay off — BIG TIME!