The Role of Workforce Experience Management and EX Applications in Contact Centres

5/5 (2)

5/5 (2)

Agents are the biggest assets in a contact centre and agent attrition is not a new challenge – 40% of contact centres globally state that high staff turnover is one of the challenges of driving consistent customer experience (CX). The ability to find the right talent has been equally challenging. The pandemic and the hybrid work model have made it harder to manage the onboarding, training, and the other processes required to get the agent up to speed on the job. Despite the challenges contact centres need a strong focus on managing the experience for the agents – they are a company’s front-line staff and the experience they deliver to the customers has an immense impact on the brand.

Workforce Experience Management (WEM) tools have gone beyond just scheduling – they are now able to leverage data and analytics to allow agents more control over their performance and their work preferences. Additionally, Agent Assist and knowledge management solutions give contact centre agents dynamic access to intelligent data. Ecosystm research shows that contact centres across the globe are ramping up their investments in employee experience (EX) technologies (Figure 1). They are focused on simplifying agent workload and offering more flexibility.

How do you elevate the Agent Experience in the Hybrid Work Model?

  • Encourage shift bidding. Build flexible scheduling and shift bidding into the company culture. Agents should be encouraged to work on a schedule that works best for them. If you are employing part-timers, retirees or you have agents working from home, you have to factor in their home commitments. Additionally allowing them to bid and openly talk to their managers and colleagues about swapping shifts demonstrates a company culture of open communication and collaboration. So, in essence, this is not a scheduling conversation, but an image-building exercise. You will be able to attract more talent, in an industry where it is hard to retain talent.
  • Evaluate your agents’ strengths in voice and self-service channels. Not all agents are good with voice calls and this can sometimes be overlooked by contact centre leaders. Your organisation’s brand image depends on the customer care your employees provide. Voice calls are still important; despite the increase in the adoption of AI and automation, the human touch remains critical. It is important for agents to be as authentic as possible on calls. Assigning the right agent to the right channel, keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses will help your organisation to maintain the human touch. For example, some agents may be able to multitask well and are better prepared to manage multiple channels simultaneously.
  • Your knowledge system is critical. Make sure it is relevant and not outdated! Your agents have limited time on their hands. They often need information urgently, especially when dealing with a difficult customer. An updated knowledge system allows your agents to be consistent in their messages and their delivery. This helps agents to meet the AHT, FCR and other metrics and reduces human errors. Nearly 60% of contact centres globally rate improving knowledge management systems as a CX priority. There is still a lot of data inconsistency and irrelevance which needs to be worked through. An accurate and updated knowledge management system is critical, and it should be ONE source of truth. For compliance reasons, data consistency is critical. Also, the search for the information must be easy and only relevant articles and information should be pushed to live agents. The need to access multiple knowledge systems and CRM tools creates additional stress on agents.  
  • Give your agents access to call recordings. When your agents have access to the call recordings, they can evaluate how they have performed; and reflect and improve on the outcomes at their own pace. This will also allow them to spot the mistakes they are making, often prompting them to reach out to their manager and/or colleagues for help on how to avoid them. Often managers have access to sentiment analysis applications to spot issues from the tones of the agents and the customers. This can be useful in situations where the agent might have provided the right answers, but the customer is not fully satisfied. Giving equal access to the agents empowers them to find ways of improving the CX they deliver.  
  • Invest in advanced technologies around forecasting and scheduling. AI and self-adjusting algorithms are important for accurate and real-time forecasts. It is challenging to sometimes predict the volume of voice and non-voice transactions in a day. API-based tools can integrate data from different sources such as web chat, social media, voice, and workforce experience management solutions for an accurate view of the workload, including wait times. The analytics should be able to alert you of potential gaps before the resource shortfall, allowing you to plan your staffing requirements better.  

Conclusion

The hybrid work model has its challenges for the contact centre industry. The ability of agents to walk up to their supervisors or raise their hands when they have an issue has been impacted. While it is important to focus on how agents will perform their jobs remotely, it is equally important to evaluate the overall experience including training, scheduling and forecasting workload. AI and automation, WEM and knowledge solutions can help reduce confusion and ease the workload for the agents. An integrated EX platform that uses a single dashboard will be most beneficial for agents to navigate for information. What is important is to have a new approach to managing EX. This will help your organisation immensely in attracting and retaining talent.

Experience Economy
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Why Do You Fail to Deliver a Consistent and Memorable Digital Customer Experience? – Part 2

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5/5 (1)

Consistent customer and brand experiences should be at the heart of every digital strategy. In the first part of this feature, we explored the barriers to creating memorable customer experience (CX). Here we look at what organisations who have mastered the art of great CX have in common.

Best Practices

Through Ecosystm research and interviews with organisations we have found that businesses that are already creating a consistent, effective, and memorable digital customer experience have these traits in common:

Success factors for your digital customer experience

Had CEO and Board-level support for their strategy. Your ability to create a memorable and consistent digital experience lives and dies by the support of your senior management team. Without the CEO telling the rest of the business that this is a priority, the employees simply won’t come along for the ride.

Gained Employee support for the strategy. There is no point in creating a digital customer strategy at the Board and senior management level if it is not consistent with the lived experience of employees. An Australian bank made the mistake of making all their digital experience decisions at the most senior levels without taking the employees on the journey too. Change needs buy-in from all levels of the business – so make sure all levels are heard and that they understand why and how you will change the way they work and deliver customer value.

Made the delivery of a brand-consistent experience into a key KPI. In these businesses, a consistent CX is a given. That doesn’t mean they are not personalising their customer experiences or optimising them for specific touchpoints – it means that collaboration with other teams and channels is a base expectation. Changes are not made without the knowledge of other teams.

Prioritised governance over management. The risk of collaboration and including many people in decisions is that it slows decisions down and impacts business agility. To enable their collaborative approach to digital experience delivery, these businesses have set rules and guardrails into their decision-making processes to ensure they continue to deliver on-brand and consistent experiences. Many also have created cross-channel teams or sewn their digital skills across the different channel teams to ensure consistency of customer experience.

Consolidated on fewer platforms and CX ecosystems. Five years ago, businesses needed to source smaller, more innovative CX software and cloud components just to keep up with customer expectations. The trendsetters had built their own CX capabilities and weren’t relying on the traditional ISVs for their CX innovation. Smaller providers were emerging to fill these gaps for businesses who were not digitally native. Sourcing best-practice solutions is much easier today. Some of those smaller vendors have emerged to create their own platforms and CX ecosystems, and other suppliers have acquired and innovated their own software to meet and exceed customer requirements. For example, you no longer need multiple content management systems or platforms – a single content source can now meet the different needs of your different channel teams and feed consistent content to all customers tailored to their journey stage or chosen touchpoint.

Used data for their customers – not against them. Many personalisation or automation attempts have failed. Not because they used the wrong data, but because they were driving the wrong outcome. They were designed to corner a customer into a decision, versus helping them make the best decision for their circumstance. We all know what that looks like – if an interaction feels “creepy” like they are following you around the web and across touchpoints, or they seem to know too much about you. This is when a business is using data against you to try to force an action. Smart businesses use data to help customers achieve their goals – in the knowledge that happy customers will not only return to the business or brand, but also tell their friends and family about the experience.

Creating a consistent and on-brand digital experience will drive many positive outcomes for your customers and your business. Your customers will know what to expect and be comfortable in their interactions with your brand in whatever channel or touchpoint they desire – with the knowledge that the experience will be consistent and integrated and their time will not be wasted. They’ll return to your business over and over again. The consistent experience will also drive down your costs – with less rework, fewer platforms to support, more automation and hopefully a simpler technology architecture. Done right, it will also create a single unifying digital initiative across the business that will help to break down barriers, improve collaboration, and unlock innovation in and between your business teams.

Customer Experience Insights
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Build a Business Intranet that Actually Works

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5/5 (2)

The term “intranet” won’t die. It should. I don’t think I have ever seen a good intranet in 24 years since I first started writing about business intranets in 1997 (yes – by writing about this market I was a part of the problem!). I’d even argue that there is no such concept as a “good intranet” – as it is an inherently flawed idea. An intranet effectively tries to bring together all the stuff that employees don’t access or don’t want to access and puts it somewhere that employees might actually use.

Intranets don’t help employees do their jobs

Why don’t we access these systems? Because they are generally not “core” to our jobs. Employees will find and access the systems and applications that are core to getting their jobs done – even if they are terrible to use (even in this “designed for humans, SaaS-world” there are still plenty of core systems that are terrible to use). Some companies try to integrate their intranet and core applications; making employees access the intranet to login to their essential apps. This might make life easier for IT responsible for deploying, managing and securing the applications. It also excites HR as they hope that along the way to accessing these systems, a “schmear” of company culture or information might rub off on them. But many employees quickly work out ways around these systems by bookmarking sites or using dedicated applications.

One of the reasons that company intranets are generally so poor is because they don’t actually help people do their job. There are often no guided processes or checklists to ensure follow through on tasks. Remember how many salespeople didn’t (or still don’t) use the CRM system because it didn’t help them actually sell? Well, intranets suffer from the same problem.

Some software providers looked to solve this problem by bringing the company intranet and core application together into a single interface. Salesforce has limited success with Chatter – but many users of Chatter spent much of their energy telling employees they “weren’t using Chatter the right way” – which sounds awfully like a design problem, not a user one.

Now is a good time to review your company intranet

Why now? Because the big collaboration players (Microsoft in particular) are improving their offerings in this space, creating partnerships, and painting a vision of a world where employees might actually WANT to access company intranets.

Which brings me to Microsoft Viva. We wrote about Viva when it was initially launched as a concept and businesses (and more importantly, their employees) can now experience the capabilities. Viva helps resolve some of the challenges with business intranets:

  • It makes some of the collaboration systems more usable and insightful
  • It actually provides outcomes for employees (through the learning module in particular)
  • It integrates with existing processes and exposes these application-centric processes through Teams

At the same time, it is trying to be a “cultural change agent” by having a single place to go to view company news and announcements. This is similar to many company intranets, and like many of them, is likely to be an abandoned sideshow – the only time many employees visit it will be when they are forced to – like when the CEO sends an all-company email saying that there is an announcement on the company intranet that everyone needs to see. Which is the digital equivalent of posting you a letter to inform you that you have an email!

The challenge for Viva is that employees need to be using Teams to get the most out of it – and I don’t just mean “using Teams for chat and calling” but using the collaboration elements effectively – ALL the time. And the challenge with this is that (a) many employees don’t EVER use these features of Teams (or use them sporadically), and (b) some companies (and teams within companies) have multiple platforms for collaboration and sharing (Slack, Trello, Basecamp, Jira etc).

But either way, Viva looks like a positive step forward for collaboration – and more importantly, it gives businesses some guidelines on how to improve their existing intranet.

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How to Make your Intranet work?

Integrate the work that people have KPIs on, with collaboration and intranet systems

Design processes so the intranet makes it EASIER for people to do their jobs – by removing unnecessary handing of information, copying and pasting, multiple levels of authentication and moving between many applications or screens. Leave requests or approving invoices have already been integrated into email – so managers can click a button in the email to send the approval. But what if there were a page on the intranet where all the leave requests or approvals for funding or payment were in a single spot? What if the system provided insight around these requests (such as Mary Singh only has 1 day leave left, or Company ABC takes 90 days to pay on average)? And if all leave requests could be approved with a single click, it actually makes the employees life easier.

Build processes into the systems to solve employee pain points

Many intranets are ostensibly used for helping employees find each other or find experts on specific topics. But they don’t guide this process – they just say “there’s lots of information here – use the search tool and good luck!”. Design guided processes for outcomes people actually want to achieve. Survey your employees to find out what they’d like the intranet to help them achieve – and build some employee journey maps across various roles to understand the challenges and pain points. If it makes sense, use the intranet to help resolve those pain points.

Make your existing tools more powerful and easier to use

Your employees generally want to collaborate. Don’t get me wrong – many don’t wake up each morning thinking that they’d love to share some documents with unknown team members today – but they do want to work together more easily than they do today. So take a look at what stops them from achieving this and look to solve those problems by making existing tools more powerful and easier to use. Adding analytics helps employees and their managers better manage their time and their interactions. Automating file sharing and discovery will help employees find the information they need without adding additional work for the content creator.

Businesses need to think of their intranets as “places to get things done”

Too many intranets seem to be designed for 4pm on Friday afternoon versus 9am Monday morning. And if this is yours, then don’t be surprised that employees don’t use it that often or give it little time. The more you can use an intranet to make employees lives easier, the more likely that you will be creating a resource which improves the productivity and happiness of the employees you serve.

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What Makes the Great Bounce Forward Different to the New Normal?

5/5 (3)

5/5 (3)

One of the main questions that I have faced over the past week, since I wrote the  Ecosystm Insight – Welcome to the Great Bounce Forward – is “How is this different to the “New Normal”? Many have commented that the concept of the Great Bounce Forward is more descriptive and more positive than the term “New Normal” – but I believe they are different, and require different strategies and mindsets.

What makes the great bounce forward different to the new normal

This is a brief summary of some of the major differences between the New Normal and the Great Bounce Forward. I look forward with excitement and some trepidation towards this future. One where business success will be dictated not only by our customer obsession, but also the ability of our business to pivot, shift, change and adapt.

I can’t tell you what will happen in the future – a green revolution? Another pandemic? A major war? A global recession? Market hypergrowth? All the people living life in peace? Imagine that…

What I can tell you is what your organisation needs to do to be able to meet all of these challenges head-on and set yourself up for success. And to me, that won’t look like the new normal. There is nothing normal about these business capabilities at all.

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Will Foldable Devices Go Mainstream?

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5/5 (4)

As a technology analyst – primarily focused on how businesses use tech-based solutions to improve the customer and business outcomes – it is important to look across to the consumer tech world every now and then. Consumer trends end up driving many business technology initiatives. To that end, I keep one eye firmly on the mobile device segment – as consumer devices are the same devices that end up in businesses (as BlackBerry discovered the hard way!).

Samsung Device Launch

Samsung just launched their third generation of foldable devices – the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3 (both 5G devices). The VERY clear message that Samsung gave through the pre-launch content and launch event is that foldable devices are no longer a niche segment. Samsung expects them to go mainstream over the next 12-24 months. They made some significant changes to the pricing and availability of their new devices to get them into more stores and retailers, to put them in front of potential buyers. They also reduced the prices by 15-20% (although they are still premium devices). By adding pen support to the Z Fold3 they indicated that this is their new “hero” device – (allegedly) taking the place of the Note series in Samsung’s line-up.

Samsung has made changes to make the phone more acceptable to the mass market – making it more durable, introducing IPX8 water resistance, improving speaker and sound quality, improving the brightness of the screens, and removing the “camera hole”. But some of the biggest changes have come in the software. They provide an experience that is designed for the larger screen – not just taking the existing content and stretching it. They have also taken an idea from Samsung DeX and introduced the ability for all apps to be stretched to the larger screen. While this is not a perfect solution, it works pretty well in the DeX world – and I’ll reserve my judgement on the Z Fold3 until I have some hands-on time with it.

The Z Flip3 appears to be targeting iPhone owners along with premium Android device users. The price is very similar to the iPhone 12, and it is a well spec’d device with a large screen but a small form factor when folded. It needs to rely less on software to make the form factor usable but has a few tricks that will appeal to teenagers in particular (such as the ability to do a video call with the phone partly folded).

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 appears to be targeting iPhone owners along with premium Android device users
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 appears to be targeting iPhone owners along with premium Android device users

Samsung Should Witness Strong Growth of these Devices

So will we see more foldable phones over the next twelve months? Samsung has gone a long way to (a) get more foldable phones into the hands of consumers, and (b) make that experience one that they recommend to friends and family – which was an issue with previous generation devices. Consumers who tend towards the “hero” device will be more tempted by this phone than ever before. Some previous Samsung Galaxy Note move to the Z Fold3 – others to the Galaxy S series. We will even see some Apple users make the switch towards Samsung to take advantage of the big screen on the Z Fold3 or the smaller form factor of the Z Flip3. Every iPhone user who is also carrying an iPad is a target for the Z Fold3 – they are (a) used to spending a lot of money on a device (b) already lugging around a lot of hardware.

So while it will be a slow burn to get the penetration of foldable devices higher, I believe Samsung has got close to the sweet spot. And while I don’t expect Apple will release a foldable device this year, if Samsung is successful, we can expect their development efforts to ramp up for a future device next year. And maybe it won’t be what we expect (maybe a foldable iPad mini?). But as batteries get smaller and more powerful, flexible screens get more durable and demand for larger screens continues, it feels like the opportunity for foldable devices will only continue to grow.

Samsung Product Journey

Enterprises Need to Prepare for Foldable Devices

This is important to enterprises:

  • Users with foldable screens will be your customers – they will expect an experience that takes advantage of the extra real estate. This might be a shopping app that has the items on the left and the cart on the right, or a transport app that has a map on the right and information about the transport services on the left; and
  • Your employees will bring these foldable screens into your business – and you will want them to use their devices to help them do their job better than they do today.

As discussed in my previous analysis when the original Fold was released – any employee that uses a tablet now could be a potential foldable device user. These might be truck drivers, warehouse employees or information workers. There may be an opportunity to save money and buy just one device for your employees – not two. Or there may be a business case to improve the user experience with a foldable device.

Samsung Should Seed the Foldable Developer Space

My advice to Samsung is to seed the development of Android apps that take advantage of foldable devices. Put a fund together that developers can access to improve the performance and experience of apps on foldable devices. Also, share knowledge between developers on best practices and shortcuts to make it easier to take advantage of this extra real estate. And understand that creating an app that works well on foldable devices is not a one-off activity. Microsoft originally gave money to app developers to create apps for Windows Mobile devices – but these apps were never updated and soon looked dated compared to their iOS and Android counterparts. So provide continued funding until the percentage of foldable devices reaches a tipping point and developers are incentivised to create apps for foldable devices because a significant proportion of their customers own foldable devices.

Experience Economy
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Ecosystm Snapshot: Uniphore Consolidates Agent Assist with Jacada Acquisition

5/5 (2)

5/5 (2)

Uniphore, a provider of Conversational Automation solutions, has announced their intention to acquire Jacada, an Israel-based autonomous customer experience solution provider. Jacada’s low-code/no-code platform will help Uniphore solve complex contact centre challenges using AI and automation. Jacada’s strengths include a low-code optimised interface and AI-enabled contact centre capabilities leading to automation across agent and customer engagements, enhanced knowledge-based guidance for agents and end-to-end analytics and insights.

Jacada has been in the market for around three decades and over time they have built various unified desktop and process optimisation products including RPA for customer service and support.

The acquisition follows Uniphore’s USD 140 million Series D funding round led by Sorenson Capital Partners in March 2021. Earlier this year, Uniphore acquired Emotion Research Lab to add AI and machine learning video capabilities that identify the emotion and engagement levels over video-based communications.

Growing Importance of Agent Assist Solutions

With agents facing pressure in offering customers satisfactory outcomes and at the same time having to manage the high volume of inbound transactions, Agent Assist solutions are high on the agenda for organisations. Remote working has made things even more complex where agents are cut off from their supervisors and not able to walk up to them to seek guidance. These “immediate challenges” have not yet been addressed in every contact centre even a year after the crisis. This presents a good opportunity for Uniphore to own the front and back-office integration piece. The back-office integration segment has become increasingly important as there is a need to fulfill customer requests by ensuring the conversation thread with back-office systems is followed through and communicated back to the agent. This need was heightened during the pandemic due to delays in product arrivals, in shipments, and other delays and miscommunication.

The big challenge also lies in making Agent Assist help the agent perform better and not make their lives more stressful! The design element of Agent Assist is critical. The solution must fit well into the other systems and applications such as CRM, Knowledge Management, and Speech Analytics. You don’t want another solution being pushed on to the agents when they are under pressure to meet customer demands during a 15-minute call.

Conversational Automation and Agent Assist must be evaluated carefully as you are integrating the solution into multiple environments with the clear objective of ensuring that agents only get the right information, in a manner that makes sense for them and at appropriate intervals.

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The Growing Importance of Low-code No-code (LCNC)

As contact centres focus on business agility and pivoting fast to cope with sudden market shifts, organisations will benefit from moving programming closer to the contact centre – requiring very little assistance from IT teams.

Having a LCNC platform will now allow Uniphore to build front and back-office experiences in a multi-vendor environment. The need to use intelligent APIs to build workflows is high on the agenda and it helps eradicate the costly efforts and time spent on developers to further extract and build new capabilities at speed.

Jacada has been pushing their value proposition on RPA and Conversational Automation for some time now and this blends well with where Uniphore is going with AI and Automation in the contact centre space. The acquisition will also give Uniphore access to other contact centre technologies that will help them to compete better with a wider range of solutions. With the challenges in managing the agent experience, we can also expect the Workforce Experience Management (WEM) segment to play an important role and intersect with Agent Assist to manage and elevate the agent experience.

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