Spoken Communications

News, opinions and information on the state of call centers, cloud contact centers and IVRs worldwide

Five innovations cloud call centers offer that on-premise doesn't

Posted by Heidi Miller on May 26, 2016 at 4:24 PM

light_bulb.jpgCall it what you want: virtualization, cloud or distributed computing. But the cloud is one of the most innovative technological advances to hit the call center in a long time. It has literally changed the way that organizations operate, and its effect on the call center industry has been nothing short of revolutionary.

According to Frost and Sullivan, the cloud contact center market is predicted to grow to $3 billion by 2017. More and more call centers are migrating their premise-based solutions to cloud-based call centers and finding that, in addition to delivering on the standard promises of cost savings and scalability, cloud vendors are also leading the way in technological innovations for the call center.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways the cloud is innovating the call center:

  • Streamlined logins With many on-premise call centers combining solutions from three or more vendors, it's not unusual for the agent login process to be convoluted and end up driving unnecessary calls to technical support, thereby decreasing the agent's productivity and increasing the cost of supporting agents. Cloud vendors have leveraged the uniformity of SaaS and can often streamline the agent login process, ending calls to tech support and skyrocketing agent productivity.
Arise case study: Spoken Avaya CCaaS cloud reduced internal support calls by 99%
  • Live call observation: Because cloud solutions don't require on-site installations, useful tools such as live call observation for remote agents can be implemented quickly and easily. Rather than relying on a supervisor walking around a brick-and-mortar call center, cloud-based live call observation allows any supervisor working at any location to listen in on any live agent call at any time and give a coaching whisper when needed.
  • Speech analytics Many call center cloud vendors are showing their innovation expertise by setting up internal think tanks to create technology that addresses common call center issues. For example, call transcription and speech analytics tools can provide data insights that can help drive call center quality best practices.
  • Agent verification With a growing portion of call center agents working from home, verifying agent logins has become even more critical. For example, Spoken has developed a voice product that compares an agent's voice print to original samples to ensure no imposters are logged into the system.
  • Smart IVR IVR is a critical yet often overlooked component to the customer service experience. Current research suggests that, for most tasks, a large percentage of callers prefer self-service rather than speaking to a live agent. Interactive Voice Response is the means by which a contact center offers a self-navigating solution to customer inquiries or problems, but it hasn't changed much in the last 20 years. Except for this bit of cloud innovation: Spoken's patented Smart IVR combines the speech recognizer with an online dashboard and a Silent Guide who performs near-real-time corrections to caller utterances, thereby increasing the call completion rates and dramatically decreasing misroutes and opt-outs.
Neat case study: Smart IVR increases routing accuracy and lowers costs
  • Call recording It's no secret that on-premise call recording is klunky, incomplete and expensive. Cloud vendors improved not only the quality but the quantity and availability of call recordings. And, as mentioned above, many cloud vendors are also implementing innovative analytics programs to suss out even more data and insights from call recordings.

What innovations would you like to see next in your cloud call center? Let us know in the comments!

Want a more in-depth look at the reality of transitioning your Avaya call center to the cloud? Register for our upcoming webinar on June 15th.

WEBINAR June 15: Transition to Cloud with Avaya: a Customer Case Study

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Webinar: a customer perspective on transitioning to the Spoken Avaya CCaaS cloud

Posted by Heidi Miller on May 23, 2016 at 1:01 PM

A leading BPO shares the real experience of transitioning to an Avaya cloud with Spoken Communications

You’re an Avaya loyalist. You love your on-premises infrastructure. And while you understand the benefits of the call center cloud, you certainly aren’t interested in investigating a cloud transition thaWebinar_presenters.jpgt doesn't involve an Avaya ACD. You might even fear that transitioning to the cloud means uprooting your current call center systems, retraining employees to use new tools and, worst of all, compromising productivity that results in an optimized bottom line.

What if we told you that you could keep all of your familiar Avaya call center technology and seamlessly transition to the cloud at the same time?

It’s true; you can now abandon your fears of a nightmarish cloud transition when you use Spoken Communications to easily and seamlessly move your Avaya call center technology to the cloud. Sound too good to be true? It isn't.

On June 15, Spoken is excited to bring you a webinar that will detail the case study of Arise Virtual Solutions and how that major outsourcer transitioned from an on-premise system to the Spoken Avaya CCaaS. Arise CIO Martin Ingram will share the driving factors, the challenges and the end result of moving to an Avaya contact center cloud. Webinar attendees will learn:  

  1. The value of a highly reliable and secure Avaya cloud CCaaS and simplified utility-based pricing structure.
  2. Common pitfalls of transitioning and how to avoid them
  3. How to evaluate and differentiate common cloud delivery and pricing models.

Click here to register for this webinar on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.

There are a myriad of benefits to transitioning to the cloud and we can help you transition at a pace that is comfortable to you.  Additionally, you can save on Avaya licenses and gain all the benefits of the cloud while sticking with your tried-and-true Avaya system. You can continue to use all the same tools in the cloud, so throw your worries of productivity loss and retraining employees to the wind. When you use Spoken to transition to the cloud, you can take it step by step, or, perhaps more appropriately, app by app.

Have we piqued your interest? You can also learn more about this exciting opportunity to leverage Avaya in the cloud by registering to attend the International Avaya Users Group conference in Orlando, Florida June 5-9, 2016.  Spoken will be there--come visit us at booth 117! We hope to see you there. 

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Seven things to consider before selecting a private cloud vendor

Posted by Heidi Miller on May 17, 2016 at 5:30 AM

cloud_thinking.jpg.jpgIs an Avaya private cloud right for you?

The cloud is probably the most cost-saving innovation in call center infrastructure since the invention of the IVR. Many vendors will offer private cloud options, especially to owners of Avaya infrastructure who want to stay in the Avaya system. With a dizzying array of options ranging from homegrown public clouds to Avaya public clouds to Avaya private clouds to hybrid offerings, it can be difficult to know which cloud configuration will deliver the most benefits to your organization. 

Curious about an Avaya private cloud? Stop by Spoken booth 117 at IAUG.

Benefits of a private cloud

A private cloud, also known as the “internal” or “corporate” cloud, differs from a public cloud in that the physical servers reside within the company's environment or colocation. Unlike a public cloud, which may house tenants from multiple companies, access to a private cloud is restricted exclusively to the company employees or business partners. There are five key attributes the private cloud offers:


  1. Offering resources (infrastructure & applications) as a service
  2. Flexibility and scale that meet client demands
  3. Resource sharing among large number of users
  4. Measurement and payment according to use of the service
  5. Use of Internet protocols and technologies to access cloud resources

Drawbacks of a private cloud

Wherever there are benefits, there are drawbacks. Depending on the vendor selected, a private cloud solution can carry with it some of the drawbacks of a premise-based solution, including a lack of redundancy and a lack of security. While these can be implemented, the cost might increase in order to accommodate the additional servers required for full redundancy or to become PCI level one compliant. Additionally, some of the anticipated cloud cost benefits can be lost, since a large capital expenditure is still required.

How to select a private cloud vendor

When selecting a vendor to provide a private cloud solution, consider the following:

  1. Do you have a name brand system of preference, such as Avaya or Cisco?
  2. Is the vendor partnered with those brands?
  3. If the cloud is homegrown, what references can the vendor provide?
  4. If reliability is a concern, is geographic redundancy included in the private cloud offering?
  5. If security is a concern, will the data centers be certified PCI Level One compliant?
  6. How does the vendor guarantee a smooth cloud transition?
  7. What Service Level Agreements (SLA's) does the vendor provide in terms of maintenance and upgrades?Can the vendor integrate with any existing systems (CRM, IVR, etc.) seamlessly, or will those need to be replaced?

Case study: from on premise to a Spoken Avaya CCaaS private cloud

What about a hybrid cloud?

As you can see, a private cloud can offer great advantages for those who are more comfortable with servers being hosted on site as opposed to publicly. And just to throw a wrench in the debate, there is yet another option: a hybrid cloud.

As with hybrid gas/electric cars, a hybrid cloud can offer the best of both worlds. Companies can keep the systems at highest risk of hacking, such as CRM systems hosting private customer data, on site, while leveraging a cloud-based ACD, call recording and reporting capabilities.

Is an Avaya hybrid cloud right for your call center?

Ultimately, the decision of public, private or hybrid cloud is up to the business requirements and objectives of the organization; one size does not fit all. To find out more about the details of a real-life private Avaya cloud implementation, join us for our upcoming webinar on June 15 at 1:00 PM Eastern.

Webinar: Transition to Cloud with Avaya: a customer case study, June 15, 2016 1:00pm EST, 10:00am PST

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Six barriers to entry to the Avaya cloud call center (and how to overcome them)

Posted by Heidi Miller on May 13, 2016 at 6:00 AM

Smashing down the most common barriers to an Avaya cloud transition

As we approach the season for the annual International Avaya User Group (IAUG) conference, one thing is becoming clear:  change is difficult. Change is scary. So why in the world should you consider transitioning your Avaya contact center to a cloud-based solution? After all, a cloud transition can often mean taking three steps backward for every one step forward. It can mean retraining your employees and incurring costs associated with downtime and lost productivity, leaving both your customers and your team dissatisfied.       

Stop by the Spoken booth 117 at IAUG to see our new video and to get a live demo!

And let's face it: many cloud vendors promise a low-cost, no-stress utopia, while the end experience ends up being more post-apocalyptic.

Cloud_dream_nightmare.pngWhat’s more, most Avaya users love their on-premise Avaya contact center solution. Even if competitors are transitioning to an Avaya cloud, there are real objections to taking that step within your organization. All cloud platforms are not made equal, and selecting the wrong Avaya cloud could lead to a world of regret.

Three steps to taming the complex cloud integration

I hear that. So let's talk about the main objections I hear about Avaya cloud transitions. My goal here is not to convince you of one solution or another but rather to bust some of the myths circulating about what a cloud transition is really like.

Barriers to entry for an Avaya-based cloud contact center

Over the years, I've heard quite a few objections from Avaya users about transitioning to a cloud platform of any kind and to the Spoken cloud platform in particular. And I always take it as a sign that we're doing something right, that the cloud is a wise decision for these companies, provided that these issues can be addressed.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  1. I don't want to swtich off Avaya in order to get a cloud It's true that only one vendor currently offers a public cloud platform with an Avaya ACD and access to Avaya EMC multichannel solution. (And yes, you guessed it: it's Spoken!)
  2. Cloud transitions are always disruptive. While no one can predict the success of every element of a cloud transition, choose a vendor that allows you to transition to the cloud when you want. A tried-and-true method is to start with a small call volume--maybe 5% of total call volume--and test the system. Find the misalignments and bugs. Fix, re-test, repeat. Gradually increase the call volume over as long as 18 months with no disruption. It's not magic; it's method.
  3. I'm worried about sunk costs. The investment in not only Avaya infrastructure but also in the third-party integrations required for call recording, CRM and other systems as well as training to use them is not insubstantial. Here's a recommended approach: keep your sunk investment by retaining all your existing systems. Start with a single application, such as cloud call recording or transitioning a single telephone number to the Spoken Avaya Cloud ACD while leaving the bulk of call volume on the legacy systems. As the systems age out, transition the rest of the volume and applications to the cloud.
  4. I have a complex legacy infrastructure that will be hard to upgrade. Don't we all? Select a vendor that can work with your legacy infrastructure rather than doing a rip-and-replace.
  5. I'm worried that a new cloud solution won't be able to scale with my call volume. The beauty of an Avaya public cloud is that it's designed to house a minimum of 10,000 agent seats. Homegrown cloud vendors can't compete with that volume and provide the scalability your business needs. When you select an Avaya cloud vendor, be sure to ask about maximum call volume: in your wildest dreams of success, how much volume could the cloud vendor take? If you scale to 5,000 peak concurrent calls, will you have to switch cloud vendors to accommodate the additional volume? Or will you have to pay more, if you're considering a private cloud model?
  6. I haven’t heard of Spoken Communications As the head of marketing, that's my fault. We made the decision to put our money into developing the only public Avaya cloud call center platform available today rather than buying advertising to shout about it. But if you've read this far, allow me to introduce us further: Spoken is a technology innovator that provides a cost-effective, secure and high availability call center cloud platform that is the platform of choice for over half of the world's major outsourcers.

And I want to hear your additional objections: what else is keeping you from transitioning to an Avaya cloud? Let me know in the comments!

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Is an Avaya hybrid cloud right for your call center?

Posted by Heidi Miller on May 4, 2016 at 10:51 AM

Avaya_Logo-_300dpi.jpgChoosing the right Avaya cloud for your organization

If you’ve been keeping up with technology trends, you are well acquainted with the cloud and the advantages that it can offer for your contact center, including business agility, scalability and cost savings. However, one of the challenges we run across is that very few contact centers are green field implementations: almost every contact center already has some type of existing legacy infrastructure, very often an Avaya system. And with that comes the question: how can I transition to the cloud without losing the benefits of the sunk costs in my legacy infrastructure?
As part of our series of cloud trends unfolding in 2016, it's time to finally address the concept of a hybrid cloud for Avaya users and why, when and where a hybrid cloud strategy is best applied.

The promise of the hybrid cloud

"Hybrid" is used to refer to a cloud solution that is something other than 100% public, multitenant cloud. As we know, a cloud solution is one that is hosted on remote servers. Hybrid refers to a cloud environment that uses some type of mix of premise-based infrastructure, private cloud or third-party, public cloud services with some type of connection among the platforms. Organizations opt to implement hybrid clouds for a number of reasons, including data security and optimization of legacy infrastructure. 

Premise-based infrastructure is purchased outright by the organization and housed on the organization's preferred colocation. Many of Spoken's customers, for example, have existing Avaya on-premise equipment and are interested in transitioning it to the Spoken Avaya cloud platform. Premise-based infrastructure has the advantage of being private; however, it is costly to purchase, expensive to maintain over time and difficult to scale when more volume is needed.
Public cloud refers to cloud services that house multiple tenants, referred to as "multi-tenant." Gmail, DropBox and Amazon Web Services are examples of public clouds. They generally offer high levels of security, scalability and cost-efficiency, since the vendor develops a large host of servers and provides cloud services to a variety of tenants on them. It's simple to scale up or down if your call volume increases or decreases, and there is no large capital outlay to a cloud contract, since you're paying for services only.
Private cloud refers to a single-tenant cloud platform that is implemented for a single organization. A private cloud offers the key benefits of cloud with the added benefit (and drawbacks) of outright ownership. However, it also offers the key disadvantages of premise-based infrastructure, since it must be built and customized for a single company. This model is sometimes called "managed services," since the company purchases the infrastructure for its private site, while the cloud vendor maintains the equipment providing the service.

Step 1: Take inventory

The first step in determining which type of platform will work best for your situation is to take inventory of your current infrastructure. The contact center is a complex web of integrated systems: the ACD, CRM, call recording, IVR and reporting structures must be kept up and running through any transition process.

For example, if you have existing Avaya licenses and infrastructure, you probably want to retain that legacy system and select a vendor that can do a cloud or hybrid cloud implementation as a wrapper over your existing system.

  • Which critical systems must be retained? Why?
  • Which systems have contracts expiring soon?
  • Which systems would most benefit from a cloud transition?
  • Which systems would cause the least disruption with a cloud transition?
  • What will your business look like in three months, six months, a year? Do you need room to grow?

Step 2: Define your goals

If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. What are the primary goals of your cloud transition? If your goal is cost savings and ease of transition, an Avaya public cloud is probably the best option for you. If you want access to innovations such as live call observation from anywhere or 100% call recording, either pure cloud or a hybrid cloud might fit the bill. If, on the other hand, data ownership and security are more important than cost savings or ease of use, a hybrid solution might be the best option.

Step 3: Choose your Avaya cloud

While a multi-tenant or public Avaya cloud works well for most organizations, your goals or inventory may reveal the need for a hybrid cloud solution, with one foot still firmly planted on premise. For example:

  • Data privacy if your client data must stay on site, you might consider an Avaya public cloud ACD that will integrate with your CRM database, which could remain on your private colocation.
  • Business disruption If a key goal is lack of business disruption, you might consider a hybrid model wherein your existing Avaya infrastructure remains in place, and a cloud "wrapper" is implemented on top of it. Access to 100% end-to-end cloud recording would decrease liability, and you would still be able to keep your existing Avaya ACD. Once the current ACD ages out, a transition to an Avaya public cloud ACD could be implemented.

For example, major outsourcer Arise Virtual Solutions had a customer requirement for Avaya but the need to be able to scale for thousands of new agents in a matter of weeks. Since the Spoken Avaya Contact Center as a Service public cloud offered more security than the premise-based solution, Arise opted to leverage the cost-efficient Spoken Avaya public cloud rather than a hybrid model. However, to prevent business disruption, a gradual transition plan was developed. Eighteen months later, 24 customers had been transitioned to the secure public cloud with no rollbacks.

Read the case study: Arise Virtual Solutions transitions to the Spoken Avaya Cloud

Ultimately, the cloud decision for Avaya users is up to you: public, private or hybrid, the key is to meet your business goals with minimal disruption.

Want to find out what it's really like to transition your on-premise contact center to the Spoken Avaya Cloud? Grab a seat at our webinar on Wednesday, June 15, 2016:

Save my seat

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Do’s and Don’ts of CRM

Posted by Heidi Miller on April 28, 2016 at 6:30 AM

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that the customer service industry is truly the king of the 3-letter acronyms. Today’s acronym is "CRM," or customer relationship management.

What is CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and covers all aspects of the customer journey, from the first clickthrough to customer satisfaction surveys to the customer loss analysis. A more complete definition of CRM:

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term that refers to practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth. CRM systems are designed to compile information on customers across different channels -- or points of contact between the customer and the company -- which could include the company's website, telephone, live chat, direct mail, marketing materials and social media. CRM systems can also give customer-facing staff detailed information on customers' personal information, purchase history, buying preferences and concerns.

In the call center context, CRM usually refers to software involving the prospect and customer database, including interaction and loyalty data. Popular CRM brands include Salesforce, Zoho, SAP and Insightly. CRM software consolidates all the customer information into a single database so that businesses can easily access, manage and analyze it. Common features of CRM software include: marketing automation, sales enablement automation, contact center automation and location-based services.

Making the most of your CRM

dos_and_donts_of_CRM.jpgWhen selecting a CRM system to implement, as with any enterprise software decision, many organizations fall victim to common pitfalls. Below is an infographic detailing some do’s and don’ts when it comes to making the most of your CRM system. We would add the following do's for your consideration:

  • Do engage the end users in the decision-making process. Having excitement and buy-in from the end users will make training and transition a breeze.
  • Do engage both technical and operations users in the requirements-building process. IT will have technical requirements, and Operations will be able to lay out the types of reporting required to improve business processes. You might also involve the Sales and Marketing departments as well.
  • Do consider types of access. Will the users only access from desktops? Or will they be using mobile devices? If so, which devices and how often? If mobile access is key, make sure that your CRM candidates meet your end user needs.
  • Do make a choice based on functionality rather than price. The cheapest solution isn't always the best for your organization; neither is the most expensive. Make the decision based on realistic requirements and growth possibilities rather than exclusively on price.


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How to build your corporate culture

Posted by Heidi Miller on April 26, 2016 at 8:27 AM

How do you define company culture?

"Company culture": we hear this term so often, but what exactly IS company culture? My good friend and specialist in internal communications Shel Holtz has the best definition of company culture I've heard to date: "the way we do things around here." Easy to understand and undeniably true.

Some might say that company culture is a company’s personality. Is it relaxed, buttoned up or work-hard-play-hard? Others would say company culture is how people inside the organization get things done, while still others would consider it to be how the employees and management interact with those outside of the organization. If you go with "the way we do things around here," one could argue that all of those elements contribute to the company's culture. 

Who owns the creation of culture?

Ah, therein lies the rub. In a recent study cited by the aforementioned Shel Holtz, HR professionals, business managers and front line employees each believed that they were the primary source of the company's culture:


As Holtz goes on to remark:

The consequences of this disconnect are potentially massive. For example, acting on the belief that employees value the company’s focus on customers leaves front-line staff wondering why so little attention is paid to work-life balance. HR thinks they’re doing a great job with superior employee benefits and can’t figure out why engagement surveys scores are so low, while employees roll their eyes at pay disparities. We have long known that employee commitment begins with the belief that they’re being treated fairly—in compensation and opportunities to advance, for example. It’s nearly impossible to build a culture when employees believe they’re not being treated fairly.

At the root of culture is the health of internal communications. Are managers willing to give feedback to both the C-suite and to their direct reports? Is the CEO willing to show vulnerability? Are front-line employees rewarded for direct and honest communications with both managers and with the C-suite? Communications must flow freely, including top-down, bottom-up and peer-to-peer. And we must understand that everyone in the company defines the culture.

How to develop your corporate culture

John Tabis recently wrote in Fast Company about his three basic steps for developing an authentic company culture:

  1. Make it personal Too often a brand voice is flat or developed by management and doesn't reflect the voice of the people who work for the company, day in and day out. What is your vision for changing the world? At Spoken, we recently engaged in a similar activity in our all-company meeting, where everyone from the receptionist to the CEO wrote down their grand vision for Spoken in a dream world. Everyone was engaged and everyone was excited about what Spoken's great vision could be!
  2. Communicate that vision Now comes the hard part--how is that vision communicated? If you have a visionary like Steve Jobs at the helm, it's easy. But what if your organization takes a more collaborative approach, like Zappos? Zappos has ten core values that its entire team is encouraged to live and breathe every day, and it hosts a "powered by service" library that every employee reads. Maybe you meet monthly or yearly to collaborate and engage everyone to brainstorm in how better to live your corporate vision.
  3. Put people first The best organization do this: they value their people over their vision. They believe that the vision won't happen without their people, so their people come first. "We need to start treating people like human beings, not like cogs in a productivity machine, writes Tabis. "Look at the individual first and their role second and relate to employees on a more human level. When employees feel cared about as people, I’ve found they do their best work."
If you don't take the time to develop your culture and vision, it will happen on its own. And that culture might end up being "this company uses people and throws them away" or "this company values competition over quality." Your culture is being developed as we speak: what do your employees have a voice in the creation of your culture? Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Five reasons not to put off your customer satisfaction surveys

Posted by Heidi Miller on April 15, 2016 at 9:02 AM

clipboard_evaluate.jpgHow do you measure customer satisfaction?

Customer Satisfaction is commonly defined as "the extent to which a brand's goods or services meet or exceed customer expectations." The most common method of measuring customer satisfaction is the CSat survey, which usually takes the form of a series of questions about the aspects of the customer experience, including the ordering process, the demeanor of the sales or service representative, the helpfulness of follow-up communications and the customer's overall satisfaction. These questions might be delivered over the phone with a live agent, using an IVR, through email or online.

While organizations are aware of the importance of measuring customer satisfaction, it can often be a low priority because it's not perceived as delivering immediate cost value. However, I would beg to differ, since we recently did an analysis of the research comparing the cost of acquiring a new customer in comparison to the cost of retaining an existing one.

Customer retention vs customer acquisition: the real cost difference

Additionally, while we may agree on what a positive customer experience looks like, it's worth taking the time to define what comprises a bad customer experience.

Five reasons not to put off your CSat surveys

If the thought of having to spend three to 10 times more to acquire a new customer doesn't send you rushing to dust off your customer satisfaction surveys, here are a few more motivators for you:

  1. Increase customer loyalty A recent survey shows that 71% of customers who ended a business relationship did so because of a poor customer service experience. By taking the time to listen to your customers, you communicate to them that their business is important to you. Customers are likely to remain loyal when they see a business taking the time and effort to keep them happy and satisfied.
  2. Increase referrals Referral customers are the cheapest and easiest sales around. A customer who is well taken care of by a business is very likely to refer friends and family to your business or service when there is a need.
  3. Leverage your competitive advantage One of the reason Amazon became the most popular online retailer is its legendary approach to providing hassle-free, wowing customer service. With speedy response time and a liberal refund policy, Amazon has become synonymous with a smooth customer experience--and their market position reflects that.
  4. Broaden your sales reach While the saying is that an unhappy customer will tell 10 people while a happy one will only tell one, that one brand promoter can extend your sales reach into hitherto untouched markets.
  5. Continued improvement Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of conducting customer satisfaction surveys is the opportunity they provide the customer service team to make changes that will improve how they do their jobs. Knowing what you do well is great; however, gaining insight into what you can do better will only serve to solidify the above-mentioned benefits. Plus, a team focused on improvement is a highly engaged team that is less likely to turn over.

In house or outsourced?

So we're all convinced of the value of conducting CSat surveys now, yes? So the next question is: do we conduct them in house, or do we farm the work out so we can ensure the results are unbiased? Granted, I have a bit of bias, since Spoken and HyperQuality conduct CSat surveys on behalf of clients, but there is a method to my madness.

  • Objectivity A third party will take an unbiased view of your customer service needs and develop a clear, concise survey that will not only be cost-effective, but customer-effective as well.
  • Expertise By contracting out to a third party, you will benefit from their expertise. There are numerous companies that are solely focused on improving customer satisfaction and administering CSAT surveys. This expertise will likely save you time and money by following their proven processes.
  • Cost-effective A third party will know exactly how to design and streamline a survey based on your needs. You will be able to focus on just what you need and eliminate what you don’t. Not only does this save money initially, but by having a very streamlined and focus survey, you will be in a better position to implement the necessary changes to improve your customer service.

Benefits of outsourcing CSAT surveys

Still hungry for more? We've got you covered. The case study below details how emailed CSat surveys improved one brand's customer service in the following ways:

  • 19% increase in CSat scores
  • 29% increase in First Call Resolution
  • 18% increase in Total Problem Resolution
  • 52% increase in Net Promoter Score/Likely to Recommend

Email surveys improve customer service across metrics

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How to script an awesome IVR customer satisfaction survey

Posted by Heidi Miller on April 12, 2016 at 6:00 AM

One of the most useful tools we have for measuring customer satisfaction is the post-call customer satisfaction or "CSAT" survey. And with the widespread adoption of IVR technology in the 90s and early 2000's, IVR call flow design shifted away from engineers and into the hands of lay people. However, those people didn't always know exactly how to design a customer-friendly call flow.

There is a bit of an art form to creating a CSAT survey that callers will enjoy participating in. One of the cost-cutting and customer-delighting tips we discussed on last month's IVR webinar was how to design a call flow that would get the organization the results it requires while pleasing (or at least not annoying) the caller.

If you missed it, view the full webinar recording here.

We often write or suggest improvements to call flow scripts. Take, for example, this perfectly simple call flow script for an information-gathering customer service survey:

Please let us know why you canceled your service. Press 1 if you canceled because the service was too expensive. Press 2 if you canceled because you never used the service. Press 3 if you canceled because you do need the service, but it didn't have the features you wanted. Press 4 if you canceled because you had a bad customer service experience. Press 5 if you canceled because you switched to a competing service.

Tip #1: Brief the caller on the menu length

If you must give a long menu of choices, begin by telling the caller how many options they will be choosing from. For example, with the above script, you would begin with Please select your reason for canceling from the following five options.

Confusing IVR menus can frustrate callers, so setting expectations for menu length is the first step in creating a positive customer experience.

Tip #2: Reason --> action

Listing the action before the reason is a classic IVR misstep that can be costly and drive both opt-outs and negative customer experiences. Especially when it's necessary to enumerate a long list of items ("long" meaning more than four), it's easier for callers to listen first for the reason and then for the action they must take.


The reasoning behind this is simple: callers will pay closest attention when they hear their trigger. In this case, "too expensive." They will then be primed to hear "press 1" correctly. When "press 1" is listed first, their minds may wander by the time they hear "too expensive," and they'll either give up and opt out or be forced to listen to the enire list again.

Tip #3: Avoid repetition

You probably noticed another annoyance in the original call flow: the phrase "if you canceled" was repeated for each option, which would undoubtedly wear on the caller's patience. Keep options as clear and concise as possible, and vet each one carefully for possible misunderstandings.

Check out how the Spoken IVR helped the Neat Company quickly and accurately vet their callers and route them to the right queue the first time.

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Customer churn: the causes and the remedy

Posted by Heidi Miller on April 6, 2016 at 6:00 AM

 What causes customer churn, and how do you avoid it?

fish_jumping_out_of_bowl-other1-1024x597.pngCustomer churn refers to your customer base decreasing due to attrition; it is the opposite of acquisition and retention. For healthy growth, existing customers stay with the company, and new customers are acquired. In other words, growth good; churn bad.

If your company is experiencing churn, the first question to ask is "why?" And if the attrition rate is increasing, are there any trends driving the loss of existing customers? We've written about the cost of acquiring a new customer being far more expensive than the cost of retaining an existing customer. While statistics on the relative costs vary from three times to thirty times the cost, everyone agrees that retaining a customer costs less than acquiring a new one.  

Customer retention vs customer acquisition: the real cost difference

According to an article by Lincoln Murphy, there are two basic reasons that a customer will leave your organization. One is unavoidable, while the other is not.

Causes of customer churn

  1. Something happened to/with the customer. This is the unavoidable reason for churn one because it's something your organization has no control over. This could come in the form of the company going out of business or the company getting acquired by someone else. If the company goes out of business, your job is to provide the support that he or she needs while this process goes forward. If you’ve served this client well over the years, it is likely they will lean on you to help in the transitions of selling off the business and it puts you at the top of the priority list when it comes to collecting money owed. If, however, the client is being acquired by a larger company, this can be an opportunity for you to get your foot in the door and support an even bigger client. Again, if you’ve done your job well; this can be a time of great reward.
  2. The customer did not achieve their desired outcome. As you can probably imagine, this is a completely avoidable reason for customer churn. If a customer is unhappy, that means your organization dropped the ball. If customers achieve the desire business results, they have no reason to leave.

If you have an unhappy customer leaving your organization, it's your job to dig down and figure out why.

Reasons for customer attrittion

  • Lack of critical functions Your product is missing critical functionality required to do the thing they need to do
  • Bad onboarding You have a poor (from absent to overwhelming) onboarding experience
  • Bad experience The customer had a bad implementation, configuration or setup
  • Lack of use The customer hasn’t adopted your product and isn’t using it (for whatever reason)
  • Bugs There are bugs and other stability/usability/access issues keeping the customer from doing what they need to do.

If you are discovering that your organization is losing customers because they are unhappy with their outcomes, I'd suggest taking the above bulleted list and transforming it into a checklist for your development, marketing, implementation and client services teams. For example:

  • Marketing Is what the product or services provides a demand of the market?
  • Development Are the critical functions that will provide the promised service/product working flawlessly?
  • Implementation Does the implementation plan deliver on the sales and marketing promise?
  • Client services After the sale, is the customer trained to use the product or service properly, and does everyone have an easy way to get support, report bugs and request features?

I worked for a startup many years ago that would take any contract just to have referenceable customers. While that was a great policy for growth, some customers ended up unhappy because the experience didn't match the promise. Eventually, that startup changed its policy to vet new sales opportunities more carefully and to pass on ones that had a possibility of attrition, even if it meant the growth numbers wouldn't be as impressive.

Knowing when to pass on a customer shows that you’re acting in their best interest instead of your own. This goes a long way in protecting your reputation in the industry. Besides, it’s always easier to protect a reputation then it is to rebuild one.

How to improve service and avoid churn

Six_Sigma_customer_service_improvement_case_study_thumbnail.jpgHowever, some organization have an issue: we can't always see what's causing customer churn. Sometimes, it takes an outside eye to pull in the data and move beyond the guesswork into the actionable causes. In particular, the Six Sigma process can be incredibly helpful, especially in the hands of a third-party vendor.

For example, HyperQuality's Business Insights team worked with a direct-to-consumer retailer who was not only having difficulty tracking resolution rates but was also facing dissatisfaction rates as high as 11%. They sought to identify specific, actionable improvement opportunities.

In just six weeks, the Business Insights team had discovered the causes of the dissatisfaction rates and made specific recommendations to address them. The results?

  • Potential revenue gain of over $2 million
  • Improvement of 4% in overall contact resolution
  • 3.4% improvement in customer experience

Want more detail? The full case study is below.

The HyperQuality Six Sigma Case Study offers a great process on how to improve customer service and avoid churn.

What do you think? Are there more than two reasons for customer churn? Share them with us!

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