All for One and One for All

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If you have worked in call centers for some time, you have seen Workforce Optimization morph quite drastically over the past decade or so.  What began as a couple of systems now composes more than eight distinct functions ranging from workforce management to QM to eLearning.  In the rush to build these capabilities, well over three dozen vendors have popped up, some solving a single need while others attempt to offer a suite.  So which is the best?

In the single point solutions, you often gain a deep level of functionality as a result of the narrowed focus the vendor has on their product area.  You also gain the flexibility of implementing the solution that most closely fits your needs.  At the same time, you may introduce problems when it comes to integrating with other components in your WFO suite.  You also may end up paying for features you don’t need and paying more in general as you are unable to take advantage of package discounts that most combination vendors offer.

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Loyalty Helps in Hard Times

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I read an article in the Wall Street Journal recently titled "Retailers' Holiday Hinges on Discounts".  With today's economy, maintaining sales volume often comes at the cost of steep discounts that eat into the bottom line of the retailer and even the manufacturer of the products they sell.  Unfortunately, this is unavoidable for many, but there are some that buck this trend.

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K.I.S.S.!

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You have probably heard this acronym before:  “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”  Simplicity has been a key tenant in the product design world for a long time.  Strike the right balance of features and simplicity of use and your product will soar.  As a Product Manager, I try to live this in everything I do, but the concept is not only applicable in product design, but can be widely applied to things such as life, customer service, and yes, the call center!

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The Return of “Onshoring”

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We are all familiar with the offshoring trend that has taken place across the industry over the past couple of decades; that is, moving our call center operations to other countries in order to achieve lower costs.  As this has become more common, so have the complaints by end customers about such things as language barriers and lack of cultural understanding.  A new article released by McKinsey talks about an onshoring trend occurring in other industries.  This trend involves locating operations in "second tier" cities.  In the U.S., these are typically found in the rural areas where labor and other operational costs are still competitive with common offshore locations.  While the article does not refer specifically to call centers, it is still applicable and an interesting read.  Click the link to view the article.

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Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers

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WHAT!?  No, you didn't read that wrong.  This is the premise behind an article in the July/August issue of Harvard Business Review.  The authors of this article argue that exceeding customer expectations has minimal impact on the customer's loyalty; instead, the true driver of loyalty is the effort it takes on the part of the customer to get their problem resolved.  They have statistics from their study to back this claim.  Of the customers that reported low effort, 94% expressed an intention to repurchase, 88% said they would increase their spending.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, 81% of the customers who had a hard time solving their problems reported an intention to spread negative word of mouth.

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Beware of the [VoC] Traps!

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People often think that if they are capturing and analyzing customer feedback then they are better off than not collecting it at all, but be careful; if you are misinterpreting the data, it may lead to decisions that may be more damaging than ignoring your customers all together.  In his article on CRMExchange, Lior Arussy identifies some of the common biases in analyzing Voice of the Customer data.

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Great Customer Service in Action

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When you ask people today which companies they associate with fanatical customer service, you often get only a handful of names back; the online shoe and apparel retailer Zappos is one of those companies.  In the July/August 2010 issue of Harvard Business Review, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, shared insight into how he helped revolutionize customer service at Zappos.  Here are a few highlights:

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The Effect of the At-Home Model on Customer Satisfaction

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A recent research brief published by FurstPerson made some interesting observations  regarding the effects of moving high performing agents into an at-home model and its effect on overall customer satisfaction and loyalty.  A common practice for contact centers is deploying a mixed-mode  model, using at-home opportunities as a reward for high performing agents.  Initially, this sounds like a great incentive, but what the research report shows is that performance actually falls short using this approach.  The reason, the report claims, is that those implementing the program don't evaluate the appropriateness of at-home at the individual agent level.  Some additional things to consider beyond performance before sending an agent home include:

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The Future Technology of WFO

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There are two things that are not going to change in the contact center universe:

  1. Contact centers will never have enough staff.
  2. Contact centers will always collect immense amounts of data.

When combined, the largest workforce optimization problem comes to the surface; contact centers never have enough time or people to make the data they collect actionable.  This means that they struggle to staff their center effectively, train and coach their agents, and listen to their customers. 

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Word of Mouth 2.0

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"Word of Mouth" is the term used to describe the events that take place after you passionately like or dislike a product.  The first thing most people do after they finish drooling or fuming is to tell everyone they know.  Research has shown time and time again the power that Word of Mouth has on driving customer loyalty and growth.  In a study performed during his research for "The Ultimate Question", Dr. Fred Reichheld states that more than 25% of Dell's new customers came to the company through referral from friends or collegues. (Pg. 51).  Roughly translate that to your business and we are talking about a lot of money, not including repeat business.

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