Growth – Growth – Growth
By John Greenwood, Head of Technology & PCI Compliance
Everyone wants positive growth. Perhaps not our waistband, but certainly everything else. It’s how capitalism works. Positive growth is a simple concept. Increase the number of new customer transactions, increase the frequency of existing customer transactions or increase the average transaction value. Deliver any one of those and growth is linear. Deliver all three and growth is exponential.
In the contact centre tech’ space we see lots of solution providers targeting firms that want to increase growth, whilst at the same time reduce cost to serve. They offer us great case studies of how they have increased operational efficiency, seamlessly delivered new customer communication channels and/or augmented people assets through digital assistants or BOTs to drive automation. This conversation is not about that. This conversation is about something far more basic and far more fundamental to the transaction process. Payments.
In my experience, when business managers think of contact centre payments, two things come to mind. One is taking payment cards over the phone. The second is the complexity of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Generally, the conversation ends abruptly when it comes to the PCI DSS. Usually, the discussion is never really that interesting and is likely to cost money. Plus people believe the PCI DSS to be so complex when it comes to contact centres, that it feels easier to pay the monthly non-compliance fines and increased transaction charges.
Well folks, there is another way to think about it and here is why. Just like we think of aligning our contact centre tech to engage with the customer – less friction, less cost etc, so we should think about payments. We know our customer communication strategy should align with how our customers want to engage with us, so why not our ability to take payments?
The point is that contact centre payments are just like contact centre everything else, they need to support how customers want to interact with us. And what does that mean in the context of growth. Well, the answer to that is simple. Just think about how you can take more payments from more customers more easily, at less risk and at less cost. Have a payments strategy and align it with how customers generally want to pay and enable that within all the communication channels you use to engage with customers.
Oh, and the PCI DSS thing? Just come and ask and we’ll simplify that whole thing for you.
It’s plain to see that we live in a fully connected world. We can access most things instantly at the touch of a button, including connecting to businesses globally, no matter their location.
This increased customer connectivity brings its own challenges for businesses, one being able to communicate with your customers in their own language. However, there is unfortunately a sizeable gap between customer demand and capabilities when it comes to businesses serving their non-English speaking customers. According to ICMI research, 79% of contact centres acknowledge that they have customers who do not speak the primary language that they offer, but only 66% have formal customer support options in a language other than English.
So what can be done to support your multilingual requirements? Let's take a look at some options:
1. In-house Support – if you want to maintain an in-house support function, then one option is to recruit your own multi-lingual speakers. There are many specialised recruitment agencies that can help find you the best matched candidates for your requirements, which is made easier if you offer a work-from-home model. With that said, both the recruitment and retention of multilingual speakers can be difficult and costly. A single absence may have a noticeable impact on service.
2. Outsourced Support – a logical route is to outsource your language requirements to a third party call centre. Not only is this a cost effective solution versus recruiting in-house, but you can scale up or down as and when needed with minimal to no impact on the delivery of service. One challenge is not being able to quality check the partner yourself as you don’t speak the language – you need to be sure you have selected a partner who can not only deliver your contact metrics but can also align to your values and company culture.
3. Technology – this space has exploded over recent years, with much more advanced technology available to service your language requirements without speaking the language in question. This includes software that can be integrated into the agent desktop, which makes it simple and straightforward for your English speaking agents to address your international customers. This is not always the most popular option, mainly due to the lack of understanding of the technology available. Make sure you take your time in studying the available technology and what benefits it will bring to your business and customer.
No matter the strategy you look to adopt, it's important to implement it correctly. If done right, you can put yourself ahead of your competitors. However, if done badly, you can easily alienate a portion of your customer base.
Looking for support on your next multilingual project? Drop Contact Centre Panel a line, we are here to help.
Is homeworking working?
How would we even know?
Microsoft recently released some research that received lots of media attention including the BBC News - view here.
It’s not surprising that it did, because Microsoft’s findings – based on feedback from 20,000 people in 11 countries - highlighted a number of fascinating trends that home and hybrid working seems to have reinforced. The first of these is “productivity paranoia” 87% of employees reported that they were productive, but only 12% of their managers said that they were confident of their teams’ productivity. View Microsoft research here.
So, what are we to make of that?
Firstly, it might be that there has always been such a chasm in workers’ and bosses’ perceptions of their productivity, but that’s not what Microsoft conclude. So, at a minimum, the past couple of years has made managers less confident that they know what their teams are doing, how well they are doing it and how quickly. Microsoft thinks that a lot of that is due to managers lacking information, data and reporting that tells them about their employees’ performance.
That will still be at least partially true of some contact centre people working from home, but overall contact centre managers have far more employee performance data than their peers in just about any other type of business, pre or post Covid. But we know that there is still plenty of managerial “productivity paranoia” in home working and hybrid contact centres.
On the surface, contact centre managers’ “productivity paranoia” is surprising. We all know that one of the great strengths of contact centres is their ability to generate statistics. Unlike lots of areas of work, nearly all of which will have to a greater or lesser experienced a move towards full or partial home working over the past 2½ years, contact centre managers are knee-deep in management information about their employees’ performance.
However, most times the easiest stuff to measure is, arguably, the least important. We know about wait times, call durations and throughputs per hour, but far less easy to measure is experience, genuine resolution of queries and emotional engagement with customers. And that challenge isn’t much greater just because someone’s working at home than when they are sat in front of their boss.
A further complication is that the kind of contact centre activities which are very easy to define, target and measure are ideal candidates for automation and/or process improvement (most likely in your organisation’s digital self-service real estate and tools). So the challenge here is not to manage these activities more efficiently, but get rid of them altogether. In a sense, if you are wholly confident of your team’s base efficiency then you might just know a lot about the wrong things.
It looks like what Microsoft’s research crystalises is that the shift in working styles and locations has unearthed some hidden problems. Ones that have always been there but were easier to ignore when everyone was always in the same, shared location. However, the good news is that these are problems that contact centre managers should actually be closer to being able to address than their peers in other sectors.
If you’d like to discuss how different technologies and techniques can help you address some of these challenges and do your bit to banish “productivity paranoia”, just drop us a line.
PS As an aside, if you’re that rare exception to “productivity paranoia” and your boss is convinced that you are more productive than you actually are, then that’s a very different challenge. And anecdotal evidence suggests that having an idiot boss is more double-edged than you may at first think!
Peak demand handling
As sure as night follows day, autumn follows summer, the nights get longer and thoughts for many will turn to handling peak demand, or for those who’ve just been through a peak - reviewing how it went and learning lessons for the next one.
Entering Q4 with the headwind of a cost-of-living crisis there’s uncertainty for some as to how busy they’ll be this year. However, all have the challenges of potentially needing to do more with less as increasing costs and potential recruitment issues could mean fewer contact centre agents. Whether by design or not, the same difficulties apply and that message in the IVR saying “due to covid” isn’t well received by customers any longer.
So how do you balance demand and costs to serve? Service from a cheaper location, provide self-serve options, automate… all well-trodden paths with many failing to flourish if not approached in the right manner.
But isn’t voice king when it comes to resolving emotive issues, customers want to be able to engage via multiple channels based on their requirements. We’ve recently heard that:
So, with these numbers in mind, what are the options and where does voice retain the throne? If staff are harder to find and more expensive than ever, then is the key to ensure that they’re being used as effectively as possible? A ‘well trained’ bot can make a difference in the triage of those 67% who prefer self-service to ensure they only speak to someone if they really need to, it keeps people free for the 83% that want to engage immediately too.
Asynchronous messaging offers flexibility for a customer if they don’t have time to talk but need support, there are opportunities using WhatsApp or web messaging, for example, to easily send photos of what’s causing the issue and switch channel to voice at the right moment.
Proactivity remains a jewel in the crown when trying to minimise customer effort. For example, my train tickets for a strike day are no use to me now. I need a refund but clearly for commercial reasons I’m not going to be immediately offered one, they’d rather I just decide to travel on another day, but that doesn’t work for me, whereas a proactive contact with a link to trigger a refund would. Other scenarios are easier though and brands making timely interventions can improve the experience for the customer, whilst managing demand and pressure on their own staff.
Voice is here to stay, especially for complex or emotional conversations and certainly when looking to make a sale. The key is ensuring that people have the right skills and information to hand, as well as understanding the insights from those contacts and improving processes where possible. Or when outbound dialling that productivity and conversion are optimised through tools which support the agent in maximising their potential. Good people are hard to find so ensure you give them the tools to do a great job, failing that there is always the option of outsourcing - a problem shared and all that.
The Cost-of-Living Crisis
Balancing debt recovery with customer
and colleague support
It’s difficult to ignore or be unaware of the 'Cost-of-Living Crisis'. It’s everywhere, television, LinkedIn, radio, media platforms, and is inescapable.
Whilst it's a good thing to raise awareness it can also create a level of concern and chaos which can drive differing behaviours by our clients, consumers and colleagues.
Now, more than ever, it’s key that we spend some time reviewing where we are, all of us.
Ever increasing demands on spend coupled with a real time reduction in incoming salaries has brought into sharp focus a pivotal economic landscape.
Our frontline colleagues will be having a number of very distressing conversations whilst personally experiencing financial challenges. Can we do more to help them having these conversations?
How close are we to how our consumers are feeling? Have we evolved our processes? What our consumers or even regulators may have deemed acceptable in the past has in all likelihood changed.
Collections, debt, financial risk and financial vulnerabilities have always been difficult waters to sail for consumers and providers alike. A level of sensitivity and pragmatism is needed across all areas. No longer should people be using a broad-brush stroke approach in their business strategy for non-payment. A number of new consumers, who may have never experienced being in arrears or at financial risk, will now fall into a number of your processes.
Existing customers in financial distress, who had previously found a balance in how they manage their money may well have had their stability upset further by the demands on their budgets.
There are two sides to every coin. How do you balance off the support offered to customers and the business commercials? Undoubtedly customers need financial help, more time, cost reductions, more support and payment options and in bigger numbers than seen before. Ethically you must ensure that you are doing all you can to support your consumers and colleagues through this difficult time.
Focusing on consumers means analysing regular quantitative and qualitative data. Debt and money are a very emotive subject and not all consumers will be willing or able to discuss in focus groups. However, take the opportunity to regular listen, read and see how your customers are feeling. Analyse your key metrics, your customer target quality, reviewing any compliance or regulatory change, processes, agent feedback and social threads.
Providing tools, new business policies, third party charity support and tailored process solutions for both internal customers and external users is critical. The demands on people will be huge.
If doing this isn’t top of your business roadmap, then it definitely should be as this isn’t going to be a one hit wonder and won’t be going away any time in the short term.
If you need help balancing debt recovery with customer and colleague support, we can help. Get in touch.