Preventing fraud in the contact center

Ever wonder what’s on your customers’ minds? According to a recent Gallup poll, in the U.S., more people are worried about having their personal information stolen than being victims of crimes, such as burglary/mugging, terrorism, or even sexual assault.

As businesses introduce innovative ways for customers to open accounts and/or transact online, new behavior patterns are being created. As a result, old benchmarks used to detect irregular activity in the call center that might signal fraud are no longer reliable.

Vulnerabilities from outside – and within

The availability of personal information sets up contact centers as a target for fraud. In the financial services industry alone, it’s estimated that one in every 2,500 calls into the contact center are fraudulent. Moreover, incidents can originate from both outside and within an organization. An individual might call in and phish customers’ personal information, for example, or a rogue agent might try to capture information for his/her own use. “Research shows that by 2020, 75 percent of organizations will sustain a targeted, cross-channel fraud attack with the contact center as the primary point of compromise,” says Tricia Phillips, a former cybersecurity analyst with Gartner.

Companies are exploring how technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can help predict and prevent attacks on customer data across all channels and sources - online, in the call center, and from employees spread across all parts of their organizations. Some tools and strategies that Gartner and other experts recommend to mitigate contact center fraud include:

Phone printing: This works by gathering as much information on each caller – such as type of phone used, location, background noise, and whether a number has been “spoofed” (given a fake caller ID) – and adding the fraudulent phone prints to a data repository. This technique identifies high-risk calls and also helps speed up calls for legitimate customers.

Voice Biometrics: Often used in combination with phone printing, this technology analyzes and records in real time characteristics such as a callers’ tone, choice of words and patterns of speech. This is useful in preventing a fraudster from assuming someone else’s identity and convincing a contact center agent to mistakenly surrender account information.

Central Fraud Analytics: A customer’s journey today to accomplish a single task might involve several channels – say, logging into an account, then a webchat, followed by a call. Feeding contact center behavior into an analytics or even rule-based fraud detection platform can identify anomalies for a given customer or in comparison to a peer group to detect fraud.

As part of our initiative to stem fraud in the contact center, VXI is developing tools that systematically detect and help prevent the instance of fraud in the call center. Through a combination of tracking and analytics our goal is to provide real-time analysis and audit - to not only stem fraud risk, but to actually catch fraud while it’s occurring, so we can help our clients add to their own compliance/risk mitigation strategy.

Data breaches of all sorts will continue to push businesses and the security industry toward practices and technology that provide customers with the secure experiences that they deserve. VXI looks forward to bepart of that evolution.

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Are banks facing their own ‘Kodak Moment’?

Many organizations are partnering to leverage big tech’s digital expertise. Others are playing the waiting game, to avoid collaborating with what might become their most deadly competitor. Where do you stand?

Antony Jenkins, the former chief executive of Barclays, warned that banks are facing their own “Kodak moment” as they face similar challenges that the film company faced when refusing to move with the times.

“Banking will be shaken up by the combination of artificial intelligence, the internet and distributed ledger technology, such as blockchain, which will do away with the need for central counter-parties on transactions. And while banks hire tens of thousands in their technology arms, often they are mostly maintaining legacy systems.”

Are these fears overblown – or should banks fear they might get left behind?

Technology isn’t the big issue

First, consider that according to the latest CXMB Financial Services report, despite historic levels of investment by banks, while 30% of customers believe that resolving issues has become easier over recent years, 32% believe it has become more difficult.

The results sound pretty evenly mixed – until you take into account that 57% of customers reported that they had moved some or all of their business from a bank as a result of a poor customer care experience.

The fact of the matter is that legacy business models are under threat. And yes, emerging competitors, including venture capital-funded fintechs and tech giants like Apple and Google, are threatening banks’ market share and disrupting the expected ways of doing business that have underpinned the industry for the last 300 years. But a look at the bigger picture shows that banks need to close the gap that exists between what they offer and how well those offerings actually meet customers’ needs and expectations.

It’s the technology/service gap

The CXMB survey results conclusively show that today’s customers expect to engage on their terms and in the channel of their choosing. Where this need is not met, customers are significantly more likely to rate their experience as a negative one - and as the responses above indicate, they often seek out alternatives.

While banking customers overwhelmingly prefer to speak on the phone to resolve issues, the frequency at which they pick up the phone isn’t always by choice. The responses below indicate that customers would prefer to use digital channels such as online chat, email, texting and self-help (such as online knowledgebases), but are presumably forced to resort to a phone call to have their needs effectively satisfied.

(Source: CXMB Industry Insights: Financial Services)

The disconnect between channel availability and channel efficiency is also borne out in perceptions of where banks have made strides and where they still need to catch up. While customers cite “Technology” and “Service” as banks’ No. 1 and No. 2 respective biggest improvements in recent years, they also point to “Service” as the No. 2 area where banks need to focus in the future. (“Service fees” was ranked No. 1 for this question.)

Navigating increased customer expectations

So, are banks facing a Kodak moment? While it’s true that customers are often lured by the promised speed, convenience, and efficiencies brought about by technological innovation, you can make the case that first-mover advantage is ultimately finite because legacy organizations have the resources to replicate or acquire new technologies in order to level the playing field.  What matters is meeting customers on their terms, in the channel of their choosing, and avoiding the poor experiences that lead to disloyalty and switching. For more than 20 years, VXI has been providing highly specialized services for banking and financial services clients.  We can help you navigate the change ahead.

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How trust translates into dividends for your business

This quote from the Harvard Business Review resonates with me:

“When trust goes down (in a relationship, on a team, in an organization, or with a partner or customer), speed goes down and cost goes up.”

The good news, as the article notes, is that with increased trust, costs decrease while speed increases - resulting in what the author, Stephen Covey, calls a “high-trust dividend.” Indeed, high-trust companies “are more than 2½ times more likely to be high performing revenue organizations” than low-trust companies, according to at least one study.

Now, where does a fair share of the burden for delivering on these dividends reside? Let’s take a look at your contact center…

The lynchpin to customer trust: Contact center agents

Globally, customers still overwhelmingly prefer phone as a contact channel over all other options. Live chat was ranked third in the survey results below.

(Source: Microsoft 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report)

Whether an individual is calling to book a weekend vacation or inquiring via chat about a password reset, they expect to communicate with a competent, pleasant and empathetic agent. An agent to trust.

Agents can only earn customer trust if they have the tools to succeed in the role and if they feel they are empowered to make the right decisions. Which brings us to an important piece in this puzzle: Organizations also need to earn their employees’ trust.

The tools to succeed

Regardless of your industry or business, this statement by Steve Jobs will always hold true:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.”

At VXI, we’re in the business of building profitable customer relationships for our clients. But we also build technology tools and platforms designed with a laser focus on both the customer and agent experiences.

The tools are based on three “trust” points for our agents: transparency, consistency, and recognition. Our agents trust that the technology we provide will help them perform better and provide consistent tracking of their progress for coaching needs and rewards and recognition. The results are confident agents who have trust in themselves to handle most any situation so that they may begin the process of yielding that high trust dividend.


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How to deliver faster, more effective CX at a lower cost

Delivering a fast, effective, outcome-driven service experience, for the greatest possible margin, is the holy grail for organizations. But while the desire is there, the reality is vastly different.

Look no further than Forrester prediction for customer experience (CX) initiatives in 2019:

Stagnating CX quality will cause short, destructive price wars. Up to 20% of companies will throw in the towel and give up trying to differentiate on the basis of CX. Instead, they will just try to not get worse and resort to price cuts to grow.

While the financial reality of providing a service cannot be discounted, in our view there is a huge opportunity for organizations to both increase the quality of outcome you deliver AND generate more revenue in the process.

Technology, in and of itself, does not drive out cost or result in productivity gains, as the graph below demonstrates.

There is a huge disparity between what clients would describe as ‘ideal’ in terms of service delivery, and the economic reality of providing it. Technology, despite the promise it holds, does not come cheap. The combination of inflexible legacy systems with the high cost of change and development makes the case for change hard to justify. And that’s before you even consider the changing nature of customers themselves. How is an organization supposed to keep up with customer preferences when the cost of change is so high?

The reality is that in order for organizations to cross the chasm between customer need and viable operations, a new approach is required.

Organizations are in a bind because the numbers don’t stack up – which isn’t sustainable. A new approach to channel management is required that flips this on its head.

Today, it is possible to actually serve more customers, and deliver better outcomes at a much lower price point.

The key is adopting a more flexible approach to technology. One that doesn’t rely on ‘owned’ servers or investment-heavy change processes. One that leverages best of breed capabilities from multiple vendors, rather than a single tech stack that restricts your options. One that can be delivered in hours and changed in minutes, without the cost typically incurred from change.

One that allows you to stay ahead of your customer’s needs – at a superior price point to what you are used to.

We know this because we’ve been working with our clients to deliver exactly this type of solution. We very much look forward to exploring what this can offer to your business.


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How to harness the power of Millennials for better CX

This article was coauthored by Annette Timmins, Vice President Strategy and Solutions, and Sarah Rebueno, Director of Training

You might know that millennials make up almost 20% of the world’s population. Here’s a statistic that matters more for your business:

By 2025, millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce.
- Ernst and Young Global Generations: A Global Study on Work-Life Challenges Across Generations

Ignore this impending reality at your own peril – and not just because the balance of workers born between 1981 and 1996 is shifting so dramatically. This generation has unique characteristics that can help you transform the economics of your customer-care operations.

These were among the compelling facts that drew executives to global conferences where VXI was invited to share insights on delivering world-class customer experience (CX). Here’s a look at the opportunities this generational turnover potentially signals for your organization.

Addressing your agent-hire wish list

Millennials, raised on technology, have often been described in terms that … are less than complimentary. Flip that paradigm, as we have at VXI, and you’re looking at a workforce that, according to Nielsen research:

  • Has the ability to switch tasks rapidly
  • Can navigate through distractions/multitask
  • Integrates and acts on data more quickly
  • Is more receptive to more complex messaging

Sounds like a wish list for all your agent hires - right?

Your company might have multiple systems – CRM, knowledge management, payment processing - that agents must navigate to fulfill a customer request. On top of navigating communication channels, whether it’s phone, email or chat service. It’s imperative that these systems provide the tools your agents need to succeed, whether or not they are millennials.

Training that delivers on your KPIs

Let’s take a look at what customer-care employees believe they need to be better performers. In a survey of more than 5,000 agents by one of our largest clients, of the six recommendations that surfaced, one stood out:

Deploy training systems that mirror live accounts and live production tools

This is a key element to VXI’s award-winning track record with customer success. Getting agents up to speed in a client environment is hard, and turnover is rampant. VXI’s unique onboarding training platform, Training Simulator™, provides agents-in-training with what’s similar to a flight simulator for airplane pilots – but with a whole lot more that resonates with the millennial generation.

“With Training Simulator™, our clients have experienced a 20% increase in customer satisfaction and sales, and a 20% in average handling time.”
-   Sarah Rebueno, Director of Training

Online, trainees are presented with real-world scenarios, customized to mirror the client’s customer-care environment - whether it’s helping a customer find the right size for a shirt or resolving a payment issue. It’s a conducive platform for workers raised on YouTube and who, by the age of 18, are likely to have 9,000 hours of videogaming under their belts.

Collaboration and communication are key traits of the millennial generation. Training Simulator™ addresses this by allowing trainees to ask for help from VXI staff during onboarding, and rewarding milestones met with badges.

More than 75% of VXI’s agents are millennials. With Training Simulator™, our clients have experienced a 20% increase in customer satisfaction and sales, and a 20% in average handling time.  There’s a direct correlation between these results and comprehension of training data each time an agent practices a specific Training Simulator scenario. Armed with this knowledge our agents can confidently handle their first live call. The documented improvements in speed to proficiency have led not only to our clients deploying Training Simulator™ in their captive sites; it’s also led to other suppliers being required to deploy the tool in their centers to assure improved results and training consistency across entire programs.

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How to prevent ‘speed dating’ syndrome in procurement

The more requests for proposal (RFPs) I participate in, the more I wonder: has today’s procurement process turned to “speed dating”?

In an attempt to streamline evaluations of suppliers, more and more procurement organizations are relying on the standard mechanism by which organizations typically vet potential outsourcing partners – the request for proposal (RFP). For services that are key to your brand image and vital to your organization’s success, a flat document consisting of boilerplate questions and responses can’t comprehensively capture the nuances of your organization’s needs – or a supplier’s compatibility with your organization.

Procurement professionals have an opportunity to provide real-time, game-changing value to their stakeholders. The first step involves allowing a supplier to go behind the scenes to do due diligence on your organization.

Onsite assessment – what’s in it for you

Consider this statistic: According to Gartner, 80% of customer service outsourcing projects aimed at cutting costs are destined to fail. Gartner says, “Companies are encountering problems because they don't approach this strategically. They usually lack information to make meaningful cost/benefit analysis and often focus on inappropriate or unmeasurable service levels and cost metrics."

Responses to RFP questions typically address questions such as cost, technology stack, quality, operational KPIs, security, etc.. They don’t provide insight into the real-world, day-to-day challenges and opportunities that a client organization might have. They also provide neither party much visibility into the “secret sauce” that defines a successful relationship: compatibility.

When a supplier representative is invited in to see how your current operation runs and ask key stakeholders “how?” and “why?” questions, it’s an opportunity for the individual to identify pain points or process gaps that could be addressed.

For instance, in a recent onsite assessment that I conducted for a call center outsourcing RFP, I noticed that not all agents were consistently making upsell offers. When I asked one agent why, she confessed that she “forgot.” Having an online knowledge base that generates pop-up prompts (based on, say, a customer’s credit rating or purchase history) would ensure that every call is a selling opportunity. You can apply this to most procurement opportunities. We all know that “tribal knowledge” isn’t a myth and the only way you can get to the heart of what makes an organization tick is by face to face due diligence.

Getting out of the ‘speed dating’ rut

Unlike the traditional “speed dating” approach to evaluating a supplier, scheduling onsite assessments with key prospective suppliers is more like a first date. At a minimum, you get insights into compatibility. If you’re lucky, you may even find a long-term partner who not only meets your basic needs for cost savings, quality, and technology but also provides you with innovation to help build your brand and even transform your organization.

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Three customer-care conversations you need to have in 2019

In the era of customer obsession, the experience we deliver customers is the new battlefield on which organizations are competing. Once the “uncool kid” of the party, the contact center has found new fame in heralding the customer journey – and customer service experts have become pivotal to the experience, employing new tools and technology to give your customers what they need, when they need it.

But if there is one thing we know, it’s that ever-increasing customer expectations, in tandem with an exponential increase in the rise of technology, are driving the shift to an entirely new model. It’s not a case of bolting on technologies to the existing model – but one of ongoing, fundamental change.

In the foreseeable future, the contact center will continue to hold a vital position in the intersection between the organization and the customer. But the way it operates, the very role of an agent, the jobs they do and the ways they interact with customers will change radically.

McKinsey predicts that by 2030, 800 million jobs could be lost to automation. Some questions that we ask ourselves daily at VXI include:

  • What role does the agent play in the future of the customer experience?
  • How will the customer expect to interact with organizations in the future?
  • What technologies should we be investing in today to prepare us for tomorrow?

While we could write volumes on the changing space that is customer care, here are three key changes that we see impacting the future of our industry.

From ‘care’ to ‘experience.’

The contact center has the opportunity to become the organizational hub for all customer interaction. Today’s customer experience is often siloed, and disjointed across many departments, causing a mishmash of customer journeys - resulting in customer confusion.

Much like the evolution from the call center to the contact center to accommodate the creation of new digital channels, the future will see the creation of the “Experience Center.” Combining both proactive roles such as customer success with traditional reactive roles, the experience center will focus on ensuring that customer experience is enhanced as your service is used. The key? Personalized, tailored services, driven by analytics to deliver a truly unique (and valuable) service.

The Internet of Things – and the channel-less customer experience

With 24 billion IoT devices predicted to be in the world by 2020, it’s easy to see that the once clear lines between face to face, voice and digital are gearing up to blur even more as technology advances. Where does this leave the future of the contact center?

It’s no longer just chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) on the horizon – customers will expect to interact with organizations when they want and where they want. And no matter the channel, customers expect a seamless interaction. What happens next as we move from omnichannel to channel-less customer experience?

Technology: an enabler, but also a potential dead end

Increasingly technology has a role to play in augmenting agents’ capabilities. But while the promise is great, this creates a quandary for those in customer care. How to choose where to invest? It’s important to remember that choice of technology stack will either hinder or amplify your ability to meet future customer need. Today its chatbots – tomorrow its voice search and AI. And then… who knows?

Technology stacks that put you on a single development path and limit your future options are to be avoided. Adopting a more flexible approach that ensures you can change as your customers change is the key. It’s for this very reason that we’ve partnered with a breadth of technology providers – giving us the ability to pick the right solution for the right or swap it out when it makes sense to do so.

We know things are set to change, and we’re proactively working toward the future of customer care with our finger on the pulse of the ever-evolving customer.

While no one can predict the future, we believe you need to be working with a partner that’s in the trenches of change. If you’d like to work with a partner that’s up to the task of helping your organization stay ahead, talk to us.


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Going from omnichannel to channel-less CX

We’ve come a long way since Henry Ford (reportedly) declared, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Flash forward to PayPal CEO Dan Schulman asserting that in 20 years there will be no more credit cards: “Everyone will have a smartphone, enabling consumers to have "full connectivity at a very low price."

It’s an empowering time for customers. For those of us in the customer care space, there’s an interesting challenge: How can we prepare for the future of the customer experience (CX) when we don’t even know what that looks like yet?

What we do know

With more than 40 billion IoT-enabled devices predicted to be connected to the Internet by 2022 in the U.S. alone, the once-clear lines between face-to-face, voice and digital are gearing up to blur even more as technology advances. Omnichannel customer experience isn’t an option - it’s a mandate.

With technological adoption, customers expect to interact with organizations when they want and where they want - and no matter the channel, they expect a seamless interaction.

You can consider this a challenge, or you can consider it an opportunity.

Consider a basic (often unmet) expectation for a hotel guest: to be able to interact with her room as easily as she does with her home. Now consider that 13% of U.S. households have smart thermostats. The data that an IoT-enabled thermostat collects on a guest’s temperature preferences could be used to ensure a welcoming environment when she arrives at her room.

We’re in the omnichannel age today – and it’s no longer just chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) on the horizon. How long until we get to channel-less?

At VXI, I’ve helped numerous clients navigate and leverage both the opportunities and challenges they were seeing – and weren’t seeing - to drive a superior CX for their customers.

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Are seasonal peaks still souring your festive season? More tips to consider for 2019

This article is a continuation of one I posted last week regarding preparing now to better handle spikes in volume during next year’s peak seasons. After thinking about the strategies I mentioned in my first post on combatting seasonal peaks, I may have left the best for last.

The way you respond to call volume fluctuations - and how quickly - can make or break your peak season. That’s because when consumers are unhappy, they react swiftly.

Drivers of disloyalty hinge on the amount of effort customers must use to resolve a service issue”

In a recent article on effortless experience, Rick DeLisi, principle executive advisor at Gartner, explained the result of a survey they conducted: “45% of the people who had something positive to say about a company told fewer than three other people. However, 48% of people who had a negative experience told more than ten people.”

If you want to preserve customer loyalty, forecasting and queue management are two key approaches to tap into as part of your overall strategy for peak period call management.

Forecasting:  Variability should not be confused with unpredictability

Forecasting is the most important tool that businesses can use to anticipate a spike in volume. Collecting a substantial amount of data, which can then be used to put together a predictive model, is essential to developing an accurate forecasting process. But let’s not forget that forecasting is just as much an art as a science - because we are, after all, predicting the future. The accuracy of your forecast will be due in some part to your judgment and experience.

The first thing my team does with clients during the planning process is ask them for historical forecasts by half-hour intervals for the entire year (two years is even better!). We also request a schedule from their marketing departments for upcoming promotions, as well as any other factors that may impact call volume (e.g. social media strategy, billing changes). Variability in call arrival patterns in most cases can be attributed to these events. If you can account for them, you can in fact, predict the calls that will result. You can then decide whether you want to overstaff slightly and fill in the quieter times with other tasks or whether you want to understaff slightly.

Forecasting should be an ongoing activity. The more variable the call volumes are by day/week/month and the faster they are changing, the more frequently you will want to reforecast. You will begin to see trends in both the call volume patterns and the volume increases, which will help you to be more accurate with your forecasts over time.  Accurate forecasting is the foundation of call center scheduling, and without it, over- and understaffing will occur and impact the profitability of a contact center.


Average Revenue per Sales Call x Abandoned Calls = LOST REVENUE!

Lifetime Value of Customer X Abandoned Calls =LOST REVENUE & LOST CUSTOMER!


Queue management: Cut training costs in half

Once you have your forecasting model in place, you can look at additional options for managing your call queue, such as interactive voice response (IVR), recorded messages, voicemail, skills-based call routing, or queue callback.

Queue management - accounting for skill group queue assignments and queue priorities - is just as important as forecasting accuracy. Are your queues structured for maximum efficiency?

 A great way to reduce wait time during peak period is to create specialized queues so calls get forwarded to agents based on their training/competency or driven based on a specific type of request (e.g. billing dispute). Bonus – when you create specialized queues you can cut training costs in half by only sending agents calls you know they are going be able to handle.

A recent survey found that consumers dislike waiting in a queue for the next available agent with 61% of the public disliking not knowing how long they will be on hold.

That’s why one of the most important call queue management tools available today is queue callback. This feature allows customers to leave the call queue without losing their place in line by requesting that an agent call them back as soon as possible.  Studies show that a callback service can reduce abandoned calls by at least 32%, so your customers can connect with live agents without increasing call volumes.

A customer’s time and money should be worth what they get back in terms of services/ products they purchase and the experiences they have - whether it be on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon or Monday morning during peak season. So, utilizing good forecasting techniques and tools like skills-based call routing and queue callback can help improve customer perception and, ultimately, impact customer retention and brand loyalty.

Maybe it’s time for you to take a look at how flexible and proactive your customer care organization is so you can plan now to meet the unexpected demands of next year’s busy season.

I’ll be posting more insights into what I’m seeing work in our journey - but in the meantime, if you want to share your own experiences of delivering your CX over your peak season, feel free to contact me!

About the Author:
Hi, I'm Annette Timmins, a customer interactions professional who writes about insights and strategies that drive customer value and loyalty. For over 20 years I’ve been collaborating with organizations to deliver global outsourced solutions that optimize their customer support operations and help build their brand. I am currently Vice President of Sales Strategy and Solutions at VXI Global Solutions. If you would like to contact me, please hit the link below and/or connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also follow me on Twitter @AnnetteTTweets.

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Contact Annette

Challenges with your seasonal peaks? Tips for better CX next year

Every year organizations invest millions to deliver a high-quality customer experience (CX) during their seasonal periods.

There’s a reason for that: In 2017, holiday retail sales were estimated to account for $680.4 billion – as much as 30% of retailers’ annual sales. One-third of your year, captured within a six-week time frame.

January, June, and July are the times of year when the travel industry experiences an influx of business. If we look at the revenue of the world’s largest travel company, Priceline Group (parent to, KAYAK, and amongst others), we can see there are big spikes in Q1 and Q3 of both 2016 and 2017.

These are just two examples - but with a strong economy putting more money in your customers’ pockets, their propensity to buy, travel, or make other purchases during these peak periods is expected to grow.

Increasingly I’m hearing the question “Do we need to be thinking differently in order to do this better next year?”

Heightened pressure, heightened investment… mediocre results?

During these influxes in business, it’s not uncommon for organizations to more than double their staff to handle volumes, sometimes requiring 5,000+ extra agents to help cover the seasonal bump… at a cost of over $15 million... just in training!

But despite these extra agents and the enormous investment – the crushing truth is that usually there is still a massive amount of friction... and not just for the customer.

Time and time again, organizations are losing customers to the black hole of wait times and inefficient processes during their seasonal bumps.

We all know that today’s consumers often have an overwhelming choice, so even with the best forecasting and planning for your CX, change will inevitably happen. And when today’s customers are unhappy they are much quicker to act, with 50% of customers severing ties with a company immediately after a bad sales/marketing experience (Accenture).

Yet… is this how it has to be? It’s time to do this differently

Whether your peak volume period lasts a few weeks or several months, there is a multitude of ways you can smooth out the workload. And if you consider these changes in your planning for next year, you’ll undoubtedly be in much better shape to handle peak season.

The following are a few approaches that have worked successfully for many of my clients:

Review/revise your IVR

Human nature drives us to select the path of least resistance. If an interactive voice response (IVR) system is difficult to use, customers either hang up or zero out to an agent, raising inbound call volume and prolonging average handle time.

When IVR systems are programmed to communicate business hours, billing information, and even certain types of account information, CX can be significantly improved without sacrificing functionality.  If a customer is calling for something as simple as paying their bill, they can avoid long hold times by selecting the “pay my bill” self-service option.

If you know the reason for the spike in call volumes - e.g., during the tax season - another proactive approach you can take is to add a message during the hold time that will most likely answer their question – such as that tax forms will be mailed on “xx” date.

Bottom line, take a look at your IVR flow, and how it is driving calls into different queues to optimize the user experience.

Proactive notifications

Are you using proactive notifications to head off problems like delivery delays, stock shortages, billing or flight delays? In a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research, 63% of U.S. consumers felt critical customer service issues could have been avoided if companies had contacted them earlier. Proactive outreach can improve customer satisfaction by anticipating needs specific to the customer, especially if companies can deliver outbound messages via their preferred channels. This is a key aspect of personalizing the experience that makes the customer feel valued, even though the notifications are automated.

Cloud-based APIs

Having inflexible channels driven by legacy systems and tools with scripting and code that must be locked down months in advance is a recipe for the same mediocre results - and a loss of customer loyalty. Cloud based application programming interfaces (APIs– basically software building blocks) are a great way to quickly add new features and channels as you need them. Combining cloud-based APIs with real-time data analysis will help your company make and implement strategic decisions at the moment of awareness. So if you are in the market for a major switch or IVR upgrade, consider a cloud-based solution without CAPEX (with pay as you go, based on demand).

Maybe it’s time for you to take a look at how flexible and proactive your customer care organization is so you can meet the unexpected demands of this year’s busy season.

I’ll be posting more insights into what I’m seeing work in our journey - but in the meantime, if you want to share your own experiences of delivering your CX over your peak season, feel free to comment!

About the Author:
Hi, I'm Annette Timmins, a customer interactions professional who writes about insights and strategies that drive customer value and loyalty. For over 20 years I’ve been collaborating with organizations to deliver global outsourced solutions that optimize their customer support operations and help build their brand. I am currently Vice President of Sales Strategy and Solutions at VXI Global Solutions. If you would like to contact me, please hit the link below and/or connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also follow me on Twitter @AnnetteTTweets.


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Contact Annette