Category: Interactive Services

Category: Interactive Services
West Corporation

Posted on March 8, 2013 by West Corporation 

Customers Are Your Rock Stars; IVR Is the Green Room

Legend has it that the members of the band Van Halen were such spoiled rock stars that they included a clause in their contract that while M&M’s were to be provided, no brown M&M’s were allowed.

Brown M&M’s: Rock n Roll’s greatest foe.

You might think that this is just another example of greed gone haywire, but there was a real reason for the madness. The contractual clause condemning brown M&M’s was wedged in between two very technical requirements, which detailed electrical specifications to keep people from being electrocuted.

Except for Tesla. He was the Chuck Norris of science.

So, if there were no brown M&M’s, then Van Halen could be reasonably sure that all of the other requirements were also met. That is, the band could trust that all the more important details were followed, since everything — right down to the littlest thing — was covered.

And it’s the littlest things that are important, too, in an IVR. Callers need to trust an organization to provide good customer service, and in many cases, they need to trust a company with sensitive information, such as a credit card number on file.

 It’s all in the details.

Even a small mistake in the IVR gets noticed. A caller might notice that the way the numbers play back went up at the end, like a question, was wrong.” How can an IVR be trusted with big details, like the security of credit card information, if small mistakes are allowed to play to the public? Does it potentially predict other deficits in the system? In the whole company at large?

Resources may be stretched beyond capacity and deadlines shorter than ever, but customers have to believe that an organization can be trusted, right down to the smallest detail. And although a flawless IVR experience doesn’t get much conscious notice, the little things do.

West Corporation

Posted on March 7, 2013 by West Corporation 

‘Functioning as Designed’ Is Not the Same as ‘Designed for Functioning’

Have you ever started using a system and thought to yourself, “This was designed by a developer”?

Whether you have or not, the phrase usually means that someone who does not understand the working process of the users designed the system. So, how does this happen, where users cannot adequately use the system that the developers produced?

In theory, if the users provide their requirements and these requirements are what the developer designs, then there shouldn’t be such a gap between what was intended versus what was understood.

I think it starts at the beginning, in the requirements phase. Users cannot provide complete requirements. They may be able to express a laundry list of desired functions, and that has some value. However, the devil is in the details. There is far more to the big picture than that.

Most users would love perfection, but they never expect it; they usually tolerate something in between. Interview your users and have a conversation with them. This discovery phase is critical. This phase allows you to explore the role of the user to the bigger picture. So, who conducts the interview? Usually the interviewer is a business requirements analyst (BSA).

The user can describe the usual processes, where they start, what conflicts or decisions they have to make throughout a process, where things fall through the cracks, and the order of tasks (often overly complicated) — half of which they perform outside of a system. The interviewer‘s ability to remain neutral and objective encourages users to express what they love and what they hate, as well as describe best- and worst-case working scenarios. This starts to create a boundary around the general tolerance of the users.

Along with an interviewer, it is best to include someone else in the interview to take notes. Have you ever participated in a lively conversation and tried to write down everything while staying engaged with the other person? Unless you are recording the audio of the conversation, it is nearly impossible. Spend the time and money, and have someone else play the role of scribe. Who plays the role of scribe well? Like the interviewer also, a BSA.

Sometimes more is just more, so don’t bother interviewing a cast of thousands. Take a fair sample and interview a few different users, those with different tenures, jobs or skill sets. The interviewer and scribe should review the recorded details of all interviews, and compile these into a summary for a complete profile of users and use cases. From the summary, the BSAs can derive or extract the requirements and formally present these as the business requirements document.

You can never ask too many questions. And, keep in mind: If it goes without saying, then it goes without coding.

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 >

West Corporation

Posted on February 22, 2013 by West Corporation 

Navigating New Intersections in Your Customer Care Center

My hometown has recently experienced a boom of “roundabout,” or traffic circle, construction in many major intersections, a practice that doesn’t sit well with several people in the community. I was in the car with my father the other day when he was complaining about them:

“Ugh, I hate these traffic circles. Nobody that I know knows how to use them.”

“Well, what about younger people?” I said. “Are they figuring it out?”

“Yeah,” he conceded. “But older people don’t get it.”

“But in a few years, there will be a lot less older people on the road, and the younger people, and their kids, will be cruising through this with no problem. Sounds like the state built these thinking about making things easier for the future.”

(Grumble) “I still don’t like it.”

My dad can be bit of a curmudgeon.

It becomes too easy to reject something just because it’s not worth your time today. When it comes to the technology to handle a new generation of customers doing business on a new playing field, change can be hard to adapt to, especially if your business is thriving now. Looking toward the future is a goal of almost every company’s communications, but embracing the future can be a more arduous task.

Connected Customer Experiences

Customer contact in 2013 is a more complicated task than it used to be. While good people and high-quality cellphones are the standard, it’s necessary to embrace the other ways the next generation of customers will want to reach you. So many people, some older but especially younger, are putting their smartphones, tablets and laptops to work for them to do so many things, from paying their bills to inquiring on their orders to inquiring where the heck their orders are and why they aren’t in their hands yet.

Interacting with someone on the phone, for some, feels like a waste of time, especially if the technology is already staring them in the face while they’re already multitasking. And, having a channel of convenience for them to work through is a heck of a lot more productive than allowing them to twist in the wind and “go viral” with their friends if something about what your company did isn’t making them happy.

Your customer care agents can multitask, too. The telephone is their first priority, but it may not be forever. If they can handle a request through a text, chat or even a smartphone app just as quickly, then the new technologies are doing what you’re paying for them now for — benefitting the next generation and improving the process of customer contact. Implementing software and systems that facilitate those needs and controlling the flow of traffic are key. The next generation will adjust and navigate it every bit as easily as many of us who might still pick up a phone to reach out.

Don’t be afraid to build it, and let people know how it works. The next generation of customers will prove the value of it for you. And, don’t be afraid to hear people grumble a little bit in the meantime.


West Corporation

Posted on February 19, 2013 by West Corporation 

Do You Speak Story?

In our first video blog post, West Interactive’s Doug Sasse discusses how storytelling can enhance your business communications.

West Corporation

Posted on February 15, 2013 by West Corporation 

Do Your Customers Trust Your IVR System?

Click the icon to listen to the audio blog.

West Interactive’s Jim Milroy offers tips for IVR personalization that will help your customers trust your IVR system.

West Corporation

Posted on February 14, 2013 by West Corporation 

Consider Automation When Regulations Require More Calls

Financial and insurance companies have a multitude of regulations to follow based on the legislative acts passed in recent years. Regulations now require companies to disclose account information that in the past has not been shared with consumers. Or, in some cases, companies are required to ensure that they have done due diligence to talk to a consumer or consumer’s relative regarding an account before they can take an action such as to closing the account, charging a fee, or taking the account to a collections agency. A lot of times these disclosures cause the consumer confusion and lead them to call the company. And, more calls equals more costs. Read More >

West Corporation

Posted on January 17, 2013 by West Corporation 

4 Types of Caller Behavior at Open-Ended Prompts

Today, more and more IVR speech recognition applications begin with an open-ended prompt supported by a large statistical language model (SLM) grammar. The prompt invites callers to speak a short phrase describing what they want. For example, “Thank you for calling State Bank. How can I help you? You can say things like, ‘What’s my balance?’ or ‘Where can I find an ATM?’ Now, tell me what you’re calling about.” At West, we find that responses fall into four general categories: Read More >

West Corporation

Posted on January 15, 2013 by West Corporation 

3 Ways Customer Service Is Changing in a Mobile World

We all know that smartphones are changing many industries. From books and periodicals to music and media, the landscape is changing. But have you stopped to think about how your customer service contact center needs to change to fit into this increasingly mobile world? Here are three of the biggest changes the industry has seen in the last few years:

1. More complex call types are being routed to the contact center.

Customers demand self-service options, and most of the simple calls can be handled by an app, through the company website or through an automated IVR system. What remains to be routed to the contact centers are the complex situations that require human intervention to resolve. It’s less likely that a customer will call to ask how much their bill is. It’s more likely that a billing call will relate to disputed charges, confusion on pricing, or a request for credit or deferred payment.

These more complex call types require more research, more back-and-forth discussion with customers, and better judgment on the part of the customer service agent to find the right solution. Since typical training generally focuses on the most common call types, we’re seeing training lengths increase significantly as the complexity of the call intensifies. Additionally, average handle times go up as the more simple call types are filtered out and more demanding call types remain.

Your overall costs may not go up (it’s cheaper to send easier transactions to the Web or an app, and you can reduce your overall headcount), but recognize your investment in training length needs to increase to support these changes, and old average handle time targets may no longer apply.

2. Customer satisfaction results need to be received and managed in near-real time.

Just a few years ago, it was standard to teach agents that a customer who had a negative experience may tell 10 to 20 of their friends about it. With social media, as soon as a customer hangs up with you, they can use the device they called you on to let their Facebook friends and Twitter followers know about it. Their reach isn’t contained to a small circle of friends and family. Now, hundreds or thousands of friends or followers will know about the experience.

Because of this, companies today are abandoning the traditional quality assurance programs where agents are evaluated a handful of times each month. Instead, they are investing with partners that give near-real-time feedback from the voice of the customer. Post-call surveys that immediately gauge satisfaction levels are invaluable to help keep the image of your brand intact.

3. Adjust your recruitment and hiring processes.

With more complex call types and the need for ensuring a call experience that protects your brand image, you need to take a look at your recruiting and hiring processes and make sure you’re keeping up with the times. Companies are no longer hiring people capable of conducting a transaction; they need to be capable of an interaction. Traditional call flows are gone with many of these more complex calls, and agents today must be empowered to do what’s right for the customer and the business. Good judgment skills, ownership of an issue to conclusion and an empathetic tone are all required for success. But how do you screen applicants for that?

We’ve tested our successful employees on a number of behavioral points for benchmarking that can then be used to predict the success of our applicants. With increased training lengths, this is an investment you can’t afford to not make.

The expectations of a contact center are changing in today’s mobile world, and companies need to be ready to meet those changes. We’ve worked with our clients to adapt hiring, training and voice-of-the-customer feedback tools to make us ready for the challenges of a 21st century call center.