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Embrace the customer experience as a strategic competitive advantage.
November 29, 2016
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Ibrahim Malick - Customer Experience

Ibrahim Malick – Customer Experience

Your customers’ expectation of what’s possible changes every day. Can you keep up?  To remain relevant, it’s critically important that you invest in the customer-centric vision, unify siloed channels and embark on digital transformation.

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The Evolution of Social Engagement
November 25, 2016
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Social Engagement
In less than a decade, social media platforms have come a long way. Business leaders understand that leveraging social media platforms are likely to increase collaboration, efficiency, and creativity of their employees.

By 2009, social networks like Facebook and Twitter had gone mainstream. In merely seven years people in general spent triple the amount of time on social media than they did back in 2009.

Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube have joined the ranks of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Some of these platforms are used for blogging, as well as video logging. Initially, there was much enthusiasm for blogging however it seems to have cooled down. Same can be said for the Wikis.

An extremely telling McKinsey research tracked “how companies’ choice of social tools, the boundaries of their usage, and the benefits of applying them have evolved over the period.”

Climbing the learning curve

For businesses, these social media platforms create an organic platform for inter and intra-firm collaboration, reduce the cost of doing business and potentially expedite go-to-market opportunities.

Social media platforms have gone through several trial and error stages. Early on firms utilized Facebook and YouTube to build a brand.

By 2010, Yammer, Chatter and Connections emerged as inter-company collaboration tools, a la social media. For example, Yammer gained fame within the enterprise for sharing short messages similar to Twitter. One could see messages from groups and tags they followed. But unlike Twitter, Yammer is available to a company’s employees’ only (requires valid company email).

 

Before the advent of Web 2.0 there were primarily two options for sharing information digitally. A Cisco Collaboration case study: Enterprise Social Sharing and Collaboration states:

“Create an email distribution list or post content on an internal webpage or file share. But these methods were limited because you had to know who should be included in the email list and their email addresses. They were also cumbersome, because any change in the information meant sending a new message to everyone, or trying to get an update coded into the webpage. For documents with many reviewers or frequent updates, these methods led to message overload and confusion about which version was the most up-to-date. Email distribution also generated extra network traffic and storage needs because every attachment was duplicated for each recipient on the list.”

Crowd-sourcing, another key outcome of social media platforms enables companies to scour within and out of the organization for ideas, solutions, etc. Several studies have shown that a majority of professionals use social media for competitive intelligence, and to devise market plans. Meanwhile some others use it as a medium to share their organization’s visions and prospects.

According to the Harvard Business Review, social media platforms are one of the most significant developments for businesses (Kouchaki, Gino, & Casciaro, 2016). With the creation of MySpace, Facebook, Twitter – especially Facebook, visibility of business online has taken place, and only the most tech-savvy have been able to survive;

“A mountain of research shows that professional networks lead to more job and business opportunities, broader and deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, faster advancement, and greater status and authority. Building and nurturing professional relationships also improves the quality of work and increases job satisfaction.”

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Big Data and Social Analytics
June 12, 2016
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I went to yoga last night in Flatiron, New York. Had a kati roll at DesiGali on Ave B, East Village. Jogged around East River this morning. Had a coffee at Dunkin Donuts on Houston Street. All of this (and more) data is available and it could be harnessed for good use or bad.

Ninety percent of all currently available data, globally, has been generated over the last two years.

By simply moving through the daily motions of our lives, we produce digital traces about our interactions with both technology and each other – making it possible for large-scale, high-impact social research to be conducted by those equipped with the skills and expertise needed to dissect that data.

Personal privacy can be preserved in a fashion that nonetheless allows data to be harnessed for better commutes to work, better management of health, better access to financial resources, and other positivbig-data-cloude societal improvements.
Businesses worldwide have realized that harnessing, processing, and analyzing the digital information produced by individuals, organizations and institutions should be a fundamental starting point for intelligent decision-making.
Considering that only 0.5% of all currently available data is analyzed and used, there’s a massive opportunity waiting to be taken.

“This past year was an important one for Big Data. We saw more businesses accepting that data, in all forms and sizes, is critical for the best possible decision-making. In support of this, we’ll continue to see the systems that support non-relational or unstructured forms of data, as well as massive data volumes, evolve and mature to operate well inside of Enterprise IT systems. This will enable business users, along with data scientists, to fully realize and unlock the value in big data.”

http://get.tableau.com/asset/top-8-trends-big-data-2016.html

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Mobile Growth is Key Focus at 2015 ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference
May 31, 2015
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Cisco's Technical Marketing Engineer Brian Cole demonstrating Remote Expert Mobile

Cisco’s Technical Marketing Engineer Brian Cole demonstrating Remote Expert Mobile

The explosive growth of mobile offers the greatest opportunity for contact centers. If the consensus among those at ICMI’s Contact Center Expo and Conference is any sign, mobile is the place to focus.

But while there’s consensus about mobile, there isn’t consensus on a standard definition of mobile customer care. Many consider mobile to be just another device to support or another channel into the contact center. However, participants and speakers at ICMI did not have a standard definition of mobile customer care. Many consider mobile to be just another device to support or another channel into the contact center.

I talked to Nemertes Research Analyst Lisa Durant to get her perspective. She agrees there is a dramatic evolution in the industry as mobile interaction continues its explosive growth as a contact method. Durant takes a broader view of mobile customer care to include “any interaction using a mobile device.” Whether a customer makes a voice call to a contact center, completes a transaction online, or engages via social media, she points out that the user is most likely on a mobile device.

As a silver sponsor at ICMI, the Cisco team experienced that strong interest in mobile. Attendees kept the booth staff busy demonstrating Remote Expert Mobile. Armed with iPads and Cisco DX80 endpoints, Cisco engineers Brian Cole and Doug King demonstrated products in the Cisco Customer Collaboration portfolio, including Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise, Cisco Unified Contact Center Express, Remote Expert Mobile, and Context Service.

The Evolving Mobile Customer Experience

Despite continued growth in mobile, attendees pointed out that most mobile apps offer only rudimentary contact-center services, such as connecting via a phone call. But they agreed that rapid consumer adoption will soon disrupt the contact center as we know it. This new contact center will shift control of the service experience. Those businesses that can act more quickly will have an advantage over those that lag behind.

While mobile is undoubtedly the contact preference, users want outcomes. They want results. Simple transitions between channels is a crucial competitive differentiator in the age of the consumer. “Channel surfing” defines the omnichannel experience.

Cisco Context Service  addresses that problem. Cole’s demo provided a great example of how technology can deliver meaningful customer outcomes. A customer can initiate engagement on the web, then transition to mobile and other channels without having to repeat information to agents.

Improving the Agent’s Perspective

The conference brought together more than 1500 people who work on the front lines of customer engagement. These are the brand ambassadors of their companies. These are people who use contact center technology every day. It was great to get their perspective, which differs significantly from what we hear from IT and telecom groups.

“It is unacceptable that most contact center agents do not have adequate technology,” says Justin Robbins, senior analyst for ICMI. “They perform in a complex work environment, navigate through multiple systems and applications, and they’re over-stressed.”

Service Failure

I also spoke with Jeff Toister, author of Service Failure: The Real Reasons Employees Struggle with Customer Service and What You Can Do About It. Toister believes that multitasking leads to poor customer service and adds to employee attrition. “When you are on a call, looking up multiple applications, chatting with an expert or supervisor, it’s difficult to pay attention to the customer,” he explains.

Cisco designed Cisco Finesse Finesse Desktop to address the problem both described. Finesse features a user-centric desktop designed to improve agent and supervisor satisfaction. The single, customizable “cockpit,” or interface, simplifies access to multiple assets and information sources without forcing agents to toggle through applications. Visitors to the booth were impressed.

It was my first ICMI experience. I was there to get a better understanding of the people who own the business of contact centers.

I look forward to keeping in touch with many of the professionals I had the opportunity to meet. Kudos to ICMI for organizing a great event. I’ll be back.

http://blogs.cisco.com/collaboration/mobile-growth-is-key-focus-at-2015-icmi-contact-center-expo-and-conference

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Experts Say Mobile is the Next Big Thing for Contact Centers
May 8, 2015
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There seems to be a consensus at the International Customer Management Institute, ICMI expo and conference in Orlando this week that out of all the changes in the market, explosive growth of mobile offers the greatest opportunity.

Nemertes Research Analyst, Lisa Durant agrees there is a dramatic evolution in the industry, as mobile interaction continues its explosive growth as contact method. Durant points out that whether one makes a voice call to contact center, transacts online or engages via social media, user is most likely on the mobile device.

In an interview in Orlando this week Durant pointed out: “Even if the website is not optimized for mobile device, it impacts the user experience. When it comes to mobile app, whether or not you have your contact center involved impacts your user experience. Mobile apps are developed and managed by groups outside centers but it impacts customer experience and center center metrics”

Participants and speakers at ICMI do not seem to have a standard definition of mobile customer care. Many consider mobile to be just another device to support or another channel into the contact center. Durant takes a broader view of mobile customer care, which includes any interaction provided to customer with using a mobile device.

“A voice call, SMS, visual IVR, mobile web, mobile app, video and any other functionality are all initiated from the mobile device,” Durant points out.

Dennis Crumb, President of omptimalCX calls it a “mobile moment.” Claiming more than fifty percent of a company’s interaction with their customer involves mobile devices.

Crumb believes “channel surfing” is the key trend to watch. A user “may start an interaction on a website, make a phone call to discuss and may complete the transaction in-app,” and expect company to provide seem less transition through different channels.

Despite the explosive growth in mobile, businesses that include contact center functionality in their mobile apps offer only rudimentary services, like connecting from the mobile device to the front-end of the call center via a toll-free call.

Participants at ICMI believe that rapid adoption by consumers will soon disrupt the contact center, as we know it. This new contact center will shift control of the service experience, and those businesses that can act more quickly will have an advantage over those that lag behind.

Cisco's Technical Marketing Engineer Brian Cole demonstrating Remote Expert Mobile

Cisco’s Technical Marketing Engineer Brian Cole demonstrating Remote Expert Mobile

While mobile is undoubtedly the preference, users want outcomes. A continuous and effortless transition between channels is a crucial competitive differentiator in the age of the consumer. “Channel surfing” defines the omnichannel experience.

“Companies should determine,” Crumb says, “the impact that each new interaction path may have on the business.” He believes contact centers should focus on developing personalized and integrated customer journeys.

Crumb points out that goes through different steps, or “journey,” as they interact with a business. “These steps will vary by company, what customers are trying to accomplish, and when in the customer lifecycle the engagement occurs.”

 

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Contact Center Agents are Brand Ambassadors: ICMI participants
May 6, 2015
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The average entry-level contact center agents earn $28,000 annually while the seasoned ones can bring home more than $41,000, according to the International Customer Management Institute, ICMI, not shabby for a career most enter accidentally.

In a vendor-sponsored study, “The Modern Agent: Understanding Performance, Productivity, and Positive Results,” ICMI finds that call centers have yet to empower their brand ambassadors to deliver optimal customer service.

The study resonates well with the participants of ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference being held in Orlando this week.

Most argue that technology, processes and culture make it difficult to pursue customer service as a career.

Justin Robbins, senior analyst for ICMI in an interview today said: “It is unacceptable that most contact center agents do not have the adequate technology. They perform in a complex work environment, navigate through multiple systems and applications and are over-stressed.”

Jeff Toister, the author of “Service Failure: The Real Reasons Employees Struggle with Customer Service and What You Can Do About It,” believes that multitasking leads to poor customer service and adds to the employee attrition.

“When you are on a call, looking up multiple applications, chatting with an expert or supervisor, it’s difficult to pay attention to the customer,” Toister said in an interview.

However, technology alone can’t do the trick.

“What makes you a good agent at JetBlue won’t guarantee your success at Disney,” says Toister. “Culture,” he says, “plays a key role.”

Toister argues that “culture” defined in the executive off-sites usually don’t reflect the reality of contact centers.

“How often do companies survey their agents?” he asks adding “imagine if you were surveying your customer for feedback once a year.”

Many start their career in contact centers not by choice, like Rose Polchin, a Senior Consultant for ICMI. She told the participants of her session “Contact Center Operations 101” that she started working as an agent as a college student but continued on after graduation.

That sums up the journey of the most contact center professionals.

But socializing with the participants of ICMI Contact Center Expo & Conference you can’t really tell that these are “accidental” professionals. Most are passionate about what they do and are here for educational growth, networking, and sharing of proven best practices.

http://www.examiner.com/article/contact-center-agents-are-brand-ambassadors-icmi-participants