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“Making Your Call Center Relevant” Series Part 3 “Making Your Call Center Relevant” Series Part 2 “Making Your Call Center Relevant” Series Part 1 Call Center Week’ 2015 Conference And Exhibition NICE’s Interactions At The 2015 Customer Conference Qfiniti Workforce Optimization Software Suite Version 10.3 Xentrax acquires Sensus’s NICE portfolio HP announces HP Engage Customer Conference HP Qfiniti 10 Puts The Contact Center At The Center A Technology Roadmap for Call Centre Professionals

“Making Your Call Center Relevant” Series Part 3

3 – Cracking the Code

In the previous installment of this series, we talked about how the data in itself is not the answer.  We also need to be able uncover intelligent, actionable meaning from this data.  We know that we capture volumes and volumes of data and that data is captured different ways and in an unstructured format – consequently the mining is not easy.

But as they say, anything worthwhile is never easy.

Only the power of computing can process the vast amounts of data being stored while at the same time, what is required is the ability to derive meaning from data stored in a human friendly format fo https://xentrax.com/part-1-of-our-2-part-series-an-interview-with-nick-flaminio/

This is where the power of Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities and Speech Engines found in today’s Analytics solutions are proving to be the key to cracking the code.  As defined in my prior installment, human friendly format includes telephone calls into the call center, as well as other electronic channels such as email, chat, SMS etc.https://xentrax.com/part-1-of-our-2-part-series-an-interview-with-nick-flaminio/ Together, NLP and Speech Engines are enabling machines to better understand the ways in which humans communicate.

While more and more consumers are choosing alternative channels, telephone calls are still the single most popular method of communications in the call center and if you’re recording these calls, there is veritable gold mine on information in those recordings.  The performance Speech Engines have seen a dramatic improvement in accuracy, and there is no reason to believe that this trend will slow down anytime soon.

But not all Speech Engines are the same.  They can be divided into one of two types – Phonetics and Transcription Based Engines.  Phonetics Based solutions search for a sequence of phonemes (sounds) while Transcription based solutions employ text based search methods.  Each having their use-cases and inherent pros and cons.  Regardless of the method, the best solution for your Company will depend upon the business problem it’s intended to resolve.

Because alternative channels are quickly catching up to telephone calls in popularity, it’s also important to ensure the analytics solution you select for your center will scale in support of these alternative channels seamlessly as the customer experience includes every interaction they have with your company.  Just like your customers expect to be able to seamlessly move from channel to channel, you should expect your analytics solution to seamlessly process all your interactions regardless of channels, format or integration in a seamless and transparent manner.

Consumers are choosing to interact with companies in ways that are disrupting conventional service delivery and this is presenting an exciting opportunity for call center professionals to play a more critical role in the success of their company.  Analytics Software will prove to be the most indispensable technology in understanding the voice of the customer for years to come – according to a study by market research company Market and Market published in April 2016, it is expected that the annual growth rate for Speech Analytics will be 22% in the next three years.  We are no longer in the early adaptor stage for this technology; it’s no longer about trying to differentiate yourself, it’s now about being relevant.

Just so there is no confusion, Interaction Analytics Software does not radiate magic properties as many early adaptors can attest to.  There are lessons that can and should be learned from early implementations.  In the next segment, we will discuss some of the lessons learned and how to prepare for success.

“Making Your Call Center Relevant” Series Part 2

2 – Mining for Gold

According to Gartner Research Study, companies will spend approximately ten percent of their revenues on marketing.  That’s a significant spend, but do we know how effective this has been?  John Wanamaker, an American merchant and pioneer in developing Department Store retailing from the late 19th century, famously said that “half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

In the first installment of this series, we discussed the expanse of information available to your company about your customer – aka, Big Data in the Call Center.  We know that data is the key, but data itself is not the answer.  We need to understand what all this data is telling us about our customers.  To this end, in this installment we’re going to explore the challenges in mining the data for meaning.

There was a day when merchants were able to have a direct relationship with their customers and they knew everything about them.  What their individual needs were.  What their wants were.  This educated their decisions on everything from how each individual should be serviced, to what products to stock.  As merchants began to expand and open multiple stores nationally, the relationship between the merchant owner and the customer ended and personal service suffered.

With the advent of computers and the database, companies began to accrue information about their customers.  Companies deployed IVR and CRM applications to collect information, albeit very limited, and stored that information in searchable fields.  This type of data is referred to as structured data or “machine friendly” information.  While this information was helpful those fields only contained information companies felt they needed to collect – they were pre-determined fields by someone in your Company.  The value of this data is questionable in that it’s not necessarily what your customers want you know; or perhaps it may have been relevant when they were created, but is no longer today.

Today, there is a plethora of information stored electronically in the recorded interactions between your customers and your call center agents.  There is another radical transformation that is happening in our industry.  Customers are expecting to be able to interact with you in the channel of their choice and at the time of their choice.  Further, your customers are expecting a seamless and agile [omnichannel] experience between the channels.  Companies are responding by deploying different technologies to facilitate better customer experiences across multiple channels.

This new reality introduces a greater complexity as we need to connect the data – I’ll say again, large volumes of data – being captured across the disparate channels/technologies.  In order to truly understand the customer experience, we need to piece together the customer’s journey through all these channels.  Further, unlike the data you have in your database, this information is not stored in convenient rows and columns – this data is unstructured or in a format that’s “human friendly.”  There is no index in which traditional database engines can fulfill queries.

So where are we?  We know that there is a lot of good information about our customers in our electronic interactions with them.  We know that data is key and that we have that data – large volumes of data, captured by disparate technologies in an unstructured format.  Data itself is not the answer.  We also need to be able to discern intelligent, actionable meaning – the Gold – from this data.

In the next installment, we’ll look for answers.

“Making Your Call Center Relevant” Series Part 1

Since its inception, the call center has been considered a cost center. 

This is evidenced by the metrics that have been used in the past to measure success.  In fact, the whole purpose for creating the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) was driven by the need to reduce, or at the very least control, costs – unless you believe that waiting in a queue before being served is an advancement in customer service.   

Since the emergence of the call center, companies have looked more favorably on projects that showed a clear case for reducing costs.  Sure, there are exceptions, but company executives have widely regarded the call center as a cost center.

There is however, a radical transformation occurring in service delivery, and it’s being facilitated by the emergence of new technology.  In this five part series, we’re going to explore what may be the most dramatic development in service delivery since the ACD.

1 – By the Numbers

In our first of a five part series, we look at the call center industry, and make sense of its size and breadth. It’s important to know the numbers so that we can better understand the significance of the opportunity that exists.

While information on the volume of call center interactions is scarce, we know – courtesy of the US based ContactBabel report in 2015 (US Contact Centers in 2015: The State of the Industry & Technology Penetration) – that there were about 44,000 call centers in the US staffing over 3.4 million positions as of 2015. Depending on the report you look at, between 2% and 4% of all US employed people work in a call center of some kind.

 These are big numbers and that’s a big market.

So why are these numbers important to anyone in the contact center business? 


There are people employed in these positions and they’re handling billions of calls a year from consumers.  For those of you in the back row, the call center is likely to be your Company’s single biggest source of information about your customers – and if your company’s executives aren’t aware of this, then as a call center professional, you have an obligation to point this out to them, over and over!

Further, adding to this opportunity is the emergence of myriad other electronic channels available to your customers to choose from such as email, your web page, web chat, social, smartphone/messenger apps, SMS/MMS and now even video.  In fact, in its 2016 Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report, Dimension Data is claiming that these alternative channels will have surpassed voice by the end of 2016.   Regardless, in both direct and indirect ways, your customers are telling you about themselves, what they want and what you should be doing.  They are talking about you to their friends – they’re recommending or dissuading them from doing business with your company…and explaining why!

All this information – the voice of the customer – is accessible for you to mine. 

So the answer to making your call center relevant is in the data.  Easy, right?  Of course not.  In the next installment of this series, we’ll discuss why there is no easy button.  We’ll explore the challenges and by understanding them, we can arrive at our answer and provide the tools for building a case for making your call center relevant.

Call Center Week’ 2015 Conference And Exhibition

Call Center Week’ 2015 Conference and Exhibition set for June 15 to 19, 2015

Join Xentrax at the 16th annual Call Center Week 2015 Conference and Exposition at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Come visit Xentrax at booth 416 where we will be featuring its HP Qfiniti Workforce Optimization Suite.

NICE’s Interactions At The 2015 Customer Conference

Held in cooperation with the NICE User Group (NUG), Interactions 2015 Customer Conference will be packed with valuable content and fun activities. Learn how your organization can deliver an outstanding customer experience, improve business results and ensure compliance. Additionally, you will have a chance to network with NICE experts, customer and industry leaders to share knowledge and best practices.

Qfiniti Workforce Optimization Software Suite Version 10.3

HP Software today announced significant enhancements to its Workforce Optimization (WFO) software suite program, designed to help contact centers manage call recording, agent productivity and customer engagement including support for Windows 2012 Server and expanded connectivity to Cisco and Genesys platforms.

Xentrax acquires Sensus’s NICE portfolio

Effective November 20, 2014, Xentrax has acquired the NICE portfolio of Sensus Communication Solutions, Inc.A NICE partner since 2006, Xentrax is committed to providing the market place with a service-oriented alternative to its diverse clients across Canada and the United States.

HP announces HP Engage Customer Conference

Qfiniti Users, here’s your chance to meet and network with the HP Team responsible for bringing you the Marketing Optimization, Information Analytics, Call Center and Customer Communications Management (CCM) portfolio. The HP OpenText User Conference – HP ENGAGE – will focus on Customer Experience Solutions providing attendees a comprehensive approach to transforming customer experience. Join us at the JW Marriot Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona this coming September 21 to 23.

HP Qfiniti 10 Puts The Contact Center At The Center

In today’s complex, overcrowded and hyper-connected marketplace where the customer now controls the conversation, a superior customer experience serves more than ever to differentiate your company brand. And you know that delighting your customers must begin with attentive listening to what they have to say about your company, products and services. Not only will an effective Voice of the Customer program provide the integral listening mechanism for improving customer experience but it will position the contact center where it rightfully belongs in any VoC program – at the center – because your agents have always been the frontline for handling your critical customer interactions.

In this webcast you will gain insight into:

Business imperatives that drive VoC programs
Challenges for VoC at Big Data scale
Omnichannel analytics for the contact center
Cases studies of successful contact center VoC programs
Join Steve Graff, Chief Technical Architect for HP Qfiniti, and Henry Eakland, Director Product Marketing, for a timely and informative discussion about the challenges and benefits of managing a comprehensive VoC program within the contact center. Register now and learn how to put your contact center at the center of a powerful Voice of the Customer program.

A Technology Roadmap for Call Centre Professionals

Xentrax Inc.

Change is the only constant” – Greek Philosopher, Heraclitus

It would be quite the challenge to find an industry that has seen more disruption than the call centre industry; we know this as Xentrax has been there for much of that transformation.  While Xentrax began operations in the mid 80’s providing Telecom MIS Reporting for Nortel SL-1 customers as a managed service, it was in the early 1990’s that Xentrax dove head first into the call centre space.  That’s when we brought to market a user-friendly, historical and real-time reporting alternative to Meridian MAX that ran on Microsoft’s exciting new Windows 3 OS. 

Shortly thereafter, we partnered with Texas based Teknekron Infoswitch to introduce the first purpose built quality management software solution to the Canadian Market.  Interestingly, a good piece of that solution was influenced by a consulting program marketed by Stentor – for those non Baby Boomers out there, Stentor was the alliance of Canada’s incumbent Local Exchange Carriers which has long since perished.

Evolution of Technologies 

Since that time, we have seen both the evolution of conventional technologies as well as myriad of new technologies – each in varying degrees, changing the way call centre professionals work.  The proliferation of Customer Relationship Management, skills based routing, customer feedback, voice over IP, speech and text analytics, social media, cloud, and so on have combined to power better customer experiences and/or drive higher efficiencies, and improved communication with the use of technology as fiber optics that is perfect for this purpose and is created with the best components as optical coating from Evaporated Coatings Inc.

An intriguing and ironic demonstration of the significant impact technologies have, is how technology played key roles in both triggering the mass off-shoring of call centres and then the repatriation of some of those same call centres.  Let me explain.  Much of the traffic once travelling though call centres were menial in nature “I need to change my password.”  “What’s my balance?”  “I need to update my account information.”  They were simple and repeatable tasks, representing a significant amount of interactions into many call centres.  It became a challenge to justify having agents in higher pay zones to handle these calls once networking technologies made less costly offshoring options viable.   Sure, the quality of service for more complex interactions suffered, but clearly there were companies willing to accept this trade-off.  

Once callers discovered and embraced options made available from self service technologies, much of the menial interactions into call centres went away and the nature of call centre interactions transformed dramatically.  The balance between the quick, simple calls and longer, more complex calls shifted in favour of the latter.  For many companies, the value of offshoring was offset which in turn triggered the repatriation of call centres where agents were better suited for handling those more complex calls. 

In addition to changes in how call centres operate, more compelling to me has been the significant shift in how call centres are being perceived by companies’ senior leadership teams – and this is not because this new generation of leadership is so much smarter than those they’ve succeeded.   Triggering this shift is in large part due to advancements in technology, specifically analytics.  Speech and text analytics has now advanced to the point that companies are now able to mine and uncover customer intelligence from within the massive amounts of unstructured data being generated in the call centre.  And the impact this shift is having on the call centre could not be better evidenced in the emphasis companies are now placing on customer experience metrics such as Net Promoter and Customer Effort rather than speed of answer and handle times.

Of course there are still companies who still see the call centre as a cost centre.  For these companies, their decision makers are either unaware of the value in the information contained within their customer interactions, or they just don’t know how to transfer that intelligence into something actionable.  I’ve found that in spite of their assertions to the contrary, many organisations are just not committed to leveraging the value of customer interactions across all internal departments – they’re often not sharing intelligence about and with IT, finance, operations and sometimes even sales and marketing departments.

AI Based Automation

Advances in technology are certain.  When they can help companies increase revenue or reduce costs, their deployment is inevitable.  A recent KPMG Canada survey revealed that 60% of CIO’s are focused on projects that save money as opposed to those that will make money.  Frankly, it’s been my experience that technologies that result in cost reductions have always typically been adopted quicker than those whose business case is based on generating revenues.  Nevertheless, technologies that do both are nirvana!

I know, you’ve probably heard this before – but I believe we are now at the dawn of a new technology that may be the most disruptive we’ve seen in a long time.  I’m talking about AI Based Automation.   AI Based Automation, also referred to as Robotic Process Automation, will clearly result in costs savings. AI Based Automation will automatically handle computer tasks that are highly structured, routine and repetitive – and studies have shown that 80% of back office activity is precisely this type of work.  Robots are ideal to handle this type of work.  

Many companies will justify the implementation of AI by a reduced labour force.  Gartner is predicting that by 2021, 15% of all customer service interactions will be fully handled by AI – an increase of 400% from 2017.  It should be noted however, that past deployment of self service solutions have not always reduced traffic to live agents and in some cases, it’s actually resulted in increased engagement. It will be interesting to see if AI will reduce costs through reduced headcount – it will certainly reduce the volume of certain types of interactions with live agents.

But Robotic Process Automation not only saves companies money from reduced head count, it improves customer experiences resulting from reduced errors and reduced processing times. Better customer experiences, means better customer loyalty, which means better Customer Lifetime Value.  Further should we see an increase in customer engagement; that increase could translate to additional cross selling and up selling opportunities.

The type of automation described above is often referred to as unattended automation and is typically implemented in the back-office.  There’s also attended automation.  Attended automation is typically deployed in the front office and functions as virtual assistants to agents, guiding them through those customer interactions that do make it to the contact centre.  Assisted automation reduces costs by reducing handle times, ensuring compliance and driving first contact resolution.

Closing Words

As companies race to implement sustainable digital transformation strategies, furthering the long history of disruption in the contact centres, AI Based Automation will play a key role in transforming the way call centre professionals work and how they interact with their customers.  However a word of caution, and not unlike any technology, poor planning and haphazard execution can derail any exciting new technology.  Implementing AI Based Automation solutions in a limited and controlled environment will serve companies well in providing them with an opportunity to reveal any unforeseen outcomes before moving the technology into wide production.  There are other techniques and tools available to first, find the right processes to automate, and to then implement them in a controlled fashion.