Multichannel and Multimodal Contact Centres: How Do You Know It All works Together?

IQ Services- Contact Centre Testing & MonitoringThe convergence of voice, web, social media and video means that solution providers are coming up with exciting and sophisticated ways to allow users to take more control of their customer service experience. Customers want to decide how they communicate with your company, and how your company communicates with them.

Two of the challenges facing contact centres today are “multichannel” and “multimodal” technologies. This article will explore these terms and introduce some ways to ensure that the performance of these capabilities can be maintained and optimized.

In addition to speaking with an agent, today’s customers have access to a variety of self-service options; they can schedule a service call via the Web or an IVR by logging in with an account number, or they can send an email or chat with an online representative. The availability of multiple touch-points by which a customer can access your company is a multi-channel contact centre solution, with each transaction utilizing just a single channel at a time.

Even a chat session that results in a callback or click-to-call event uses only one channel at a time, even though the contact centre offers up multiple channels.

Enter Multimodal.

Now with SmartPhones and WebRTC, consumers have access to a much richer and potentially more powerful user interface. Add a Bluetooth headset to the SmartPhone and now the user can access the rest of the phone’s features while carrying on a conversation. Consumers are already tapping multimodal capabilities through features like Amazon’s Kindle Fire “Mayday” button and click-to-call interactions with insurance agents that allow the policy holder to take a video of damage to their car and submit it to the agent for an estimate – all while still talking to the agent.

But what about the contact centre side of that multimodal experience?

With SIP pipes into the centre and WebRTC extended to the agents wherever they may be, this multimodal scenario is possible today. But now, in addition to the communications pipes being converged, the content (previously segregated and siloed), must be integrated as well. These are new frontiers for contact centre architectures and just like the technologies that emerged previously (IVR and web self-service, speech reco, CTI, IPT), they will run into some bumps in the road.

And that’s where IQ Services comes in.

IQ Services offers testing and monitoring services that determine whether all your customer facing solutions work as desired under load and continue to be available 24/7 in production.

  • Do you know if an increase in voice traffic adversely affects response time of your web self-service solution?
  • Can your SIP pipes handle the same sudden increase in incoming traffic your old-fashioned TDM boxes handled sitting down?
  • Are you concerned about your process for logging-in remote agents via the web and delivering calls to them?
  • How about proving that your converged queuing process properly elevates high-profile chat customers over lower priority voice customers?

Our systems can easily be configured to interact with your multichannel or multimodal contact centre solutions to ensure it all works together, whether it’s one channel at a time or across multiple channels. The insight we provide will give you confidence that the experience your customers have is the one you intend – one that delivers on your company’s brand promise. Contact us to learn more.

Thanks to IQ Services for the article.

IQ Services Helps Industry-Leading Technology Company When Their Internal Monitoring Isn’t Enough

The Company

A worldwide technology company operating in more than 170 countries is focused on helping people apply technology in meaningful ways to their businesses, personal lives and communities. With R&D investments of almost a billion US dollars, the company is able to offer a complete technology product portfolio to the market. The ultimate goal of this market leader is to offer products, services and solutions that are high tech, low cost and deliver the best customer experience.

The company needed a robust solution to handle automated telephone transactions to a product support line. The solution had to deliver enhanced service at lower costs. So the company turned to industry leaders in enterprise communication systems for the answer. The answer turned out to be a hosted IVR environment blending best of breed technologies from throughout the industry.

The Problem

Within less than a month after cutover, the company experienced outages that went undetected by traditional rigorous internal monitoring processes. Careful investigation indicated one of the servers was locking up and callers were periodically encountering delayed answer and sometimes receiving dead air after dialing into the product support line. The symptoms were easy to correct, but only after problems were discovered and reported.

The root cause was more elusive. Needless to say, the company was extremely concerned about the impact of its customers not having immediate access to its support line. Not only was the issue causing problems for the folks in the live contact center, but it was creating less than acceptable end-user customer experiences. Because internal monitoring was not detecting the problem, no one had information to go on to resolve the fundamental issues.

That is when the company looked to IQ Services and HeartBeat™ outside-in remote availability and performance monitoring services to identify customer affecting issues.

The Solution

Heartbeat- IVR Monitoring from IQ ServicesIQ Services’ HeartBeat™ remote outside-in monitoring services offer a remote method for monitoring and measuring the performance of contact center and communications technologies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By generating automated transactions (telephone calls, browser sessions, etc.) that access and exercise communications solutions just like customers – from the outside-in, customer perspective – IQ Services gathers insightful data about the customer experience and identifies issues that can easily be missed or under-reported by traditional, internal monitoring methods, no matter how rigorous or extensive. In addition, the HeartBeat™ traffic serves as a control sample so boiled down metrics, internal monitoring and anecdotal reports from end-users can be put into context.

When IQ Services detects an issue, the right people are immediately notified so appropriate action can be taken. Complete audio recordings of suspicious or erroneous calls speed up issue identification and resolution. Online results give everyone who needs to know access to timely, actionable information as well as performance trend data to help optimize performance of the solution over time. Remote availability and performance monitoring conducted around the clock is the simplest, most cost-effective way to make sure problems are identified quickly and everyone knows what customers are really experiencing.

Successful Outcome

Within less than 24-hours of contacting IQ Services, a proof of concept HeartBeat™ service was up and running to demonstrate that outside-in monitoring could help solve the problem. Within less than 2 days of receiving permission to activate the full service, HeartBeat™ remote availability and performance monitoring had detected and reported over 35 unexpected conditions.

Upon receiving immediate notification of these conditions, the company utilized online HeartBeat™ results – including complete audio recordings – to identify issues which had escaped internal monitoring and were negatively impacting customers. By identifying and resolving the issues quickly, end-user customers were able to successfully access and use the new interactive solution to obtain valuable information and support.

In Summary

When a world leading technology company implemented a new hosted product support line application based on best in class technologies, its primary goal was to deliver better customer service. When elements of the integrated solution locked up and internal monitoring did not provide any insight, the company turned to IQ Services for assistance. With HeartBeat™ monitoring, IQ Services was able to quickly ramp up outside-in, end-to-end transaction activity. The culprit issues were quickly caught, documented, reported and fixed. The technology company was again able to deliver the desired customer experience at a lower cost, which is why the investment in the new product line support solution was made in the first place.

Every company should be concerned about the gap between internal monitoring and actual end-to-end performance and customer experience. HeartBeat™ outside-in monitoring is the right bridge to fill that gap.

Thanks to IQ Services for the article. 

6 Things Your Call Center Must Include

In today’s connected world of smartphones, social media, text messaging, and Web browsing, customers have never been more vocal – and ears have never been more willing to listen. Contact centers thus may feel lost in the sea of new digital customer touchpoints and interaction avenues. Staying ahead of these trends is critical to successful customer service, and technology plays a large part in catering to these evolving needs.

There are several solutions out there for businesses to leverage, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, at the very least, be sure your contact center technology includes the following:

1. Multichannel Capabilities

You might have guessed this from the first paragraph alone. Communication means much more than the telephone nowadays, and customers want to be able to reach companies through whatever channel these choose, whether it be email, webchat, social media, SMS, or otherwise. Moreover, more customers than ever actually prefer to use these alternative digital channels, meaning your call center must be ready to respond when they do. Establishing a multichannel presence and integrating these technologies into your call center is thus critical to maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction.

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Tied to the multichannel call center is customer relationship management (CRM) technology. It is important not only that you efficiently respond to your customer’s inquiries and requests, but also that you track and understand their relationship with your company. In fact, absent this knowledge, effectively responding to customer service requests is nearly impossible. Beyond that, however, a powerful CRM platform incorporates customer data from all channels, creating an informative customer profile that can be presented to an agent the next time the customer reaches out. If properly integrated, each customer will be treated to a highly personalized experience that takes all of their previous interactions, stated preferences, and buying habits into consideration, making satisfaction all the more attainable.

3. Self Service Options

Let’s face it. In many cases, having to talk to a customer service representative alone is enough to turn a customer off. They may dislike confrontation, be uncomfortable with telephone interaction, or may simply have an issue that is far too small to necessitate such an inquest. For these reasons, it is important that your call center offer self-service alternatives that allow them to address issues on their own, should they be simple enough to tackle. Things like intelligent IVR (interactive voice response), online self-service portals (like FAQs or troubleshooting guides), or automated account management can both make these phone-wary customers happy and deflect less complex, non-urgent calls away from busy agents, freeing your contact center to more thoroughly handle more pressing matters.


4. Social Media Monitoring

Of course, it isn’t enough to simply be available online and on social media. You must establish a presence. Vocal brand detractors have been proven to have a substantial impact on their followers on social media, a far more considerable one than promoters. The world of Twitter and Facebook is a jungle, however, and it can be difficult to know when and where to interact with customers. This certainly doesn’t help when you’re trying to identify and respond to customer issues as fast as possible. Fortunately, social media monitoring solutions exist that are designed to help you locate and engage customers that mention your brand (in both positive and negative contexts), ensuring that your customers stay happy and that your reputation goes unmarred (perhaps even improved).

5. Call Monitoring and Reporting

Customer service can be a big drain on company resources. The infrastructure and manpower required can be rather expensive in the long run. Of course, the purpose of it all is to retain existing customers and attract new ones, ultimately justifying such expenditures. It follows, then, that you’d want your call center to be as efficient as possible. Collecting and analyzing performance metrics are thus critical to assuring an efficient use of company resources. Call monitoring and reporting solutions are specifically designed to help provide actionable feedback for managers and agents, indentifying strengths, weaknesses and best practices in the call center. With such technology, companies can expect lower call volumes, lower call times, better first call resolution, high sales and retention rates, and higher customer satisfaction all around.

6. Data Analytics

Perhaps something of a bonus, but there is valuable data to be had from these interactions. The contact center is a great place to learn about your customers, but the only way you can do that is through robust data collection and analytics solutions. Indeed, voice recording and text analytics can go a long way toward identifying customer trends that can help shape overall company strategy, let alone customer service practices. With such technology in place, a contact center becomes not simply a tool for correcting mistakes, but rather a source of valuable market insight.

There is clearly more to contact centers than just putting out fires, underscoring the need for robust technological solutions. The contact center offers a variety of valuable opportunities to engage with your customer base, which should not be lightly dismissed. To get the most out of your customer service efforts, be sure your contact center is capable of all of the above.

Thanks to TMCnet for the article.

A Better Way to Test the Functionality of Your IVR Application

If you have deployed or are about to deploy a hosted or premise-based IVR application, you understand how much time and money go into the design of a really effective application.  It must offer easy to use self-service functionality to customers or users with a wide range of expectations, requirements and experiences with your company and its communications processes.  The design must balance the need to make opting out to an agent simple while still making it easy and desirable for customers to use self-service functionality.  It has to deliver callers to the right routines and agents based on complex business rules.  It must be user-friendly for new customers and power users alike and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So how can you be sure your complex application is actually developed and functioning according to the design?

Current Methods For Testing Your IVR Application

Businesses understand the need to test IVR application functionality before putting a new application into production.  If selecting option 3 for Make a Payment really takes customers to an agent queue or the Place an Order routine, customers will be frustrated and your contact center will be forced to handle more calls than necessary or desired.

Before a business can select an appropriate IVR application test method, it must consider a variety of general and test method factors:

  • What is your risk tolerance?
    • What will the impact be if something doesn’t work as expected?
    • Do you need to test every application state and every possible input or situation at each state?
    • Are there key test cases or call flows through the application that will clearly indicate whether or not the application is production ready?
  • Is the IVR application revenue generating?
    • Is there revenue on the line if the application doesn’t work as expected?
    • Are there significant productivity gains on the line?
    • Could you frustrate and/or lose customers if the application isn’t developed as designed?
  • How often do you need to test?
    • Is periodic regression testing of the application required or appropriate?

Once a business has considered these basic questions, it should be clear how much of the new, upgraded or fixed application must be tested before it is put into production.  The way a business eventually chooses to test IVR application functionality is as varied as the applications and business requirements being tested.  The options range from not testing at all to hiring loads of temporary testers/callers to purchasing in-house testing products.   Of course there are pros and cons to each test method, which are explored in detail in the benefits matrix below.  But in general, businesses without sufficient time, budget and resources are left with inadequate options for testing their IVR application functionality.

A New Way to Test IVR Applications with Application Feature Testing

There is another way to test IVR functionality that is better and more appropriate for many businesses.  Our clients tell us their developers have never had so much helpful and robust data to help with issue identification and resolution as they have with the following methodology.

Application Feature Testing is a highly flexible managed service approach for testing IVR application functionality.  It is unique in that it can be configured to complement each business’ risk tolerance, resources and other requirements.  The process can:

  • Complement in-house resources or perform all testing
  • Test hosted or premise based applications
  • Perform comprehensive state-based testing as well as testing based on a pre-defined set of test cases/call flows
  • Build test cases from scratch or leverage existing test cases provided by a client
  • Precisely replicate a previous test call
  • Deliver online, real-time results
  • Provide robust test call information including recordings, discrepancy descriptions and evaluations/scores
  • Be available whenever you or your over-worked team need it
  • Change the way your developers think about QA and functionality testing!

Testing can no longer take a back seat.  Customers demand quality interactions from your business including interactions with your IVR application.  If they don’t get what they want, they will go to your competitor.  To learn more about this testing approach and other services for improving the quality of customer communications and interactions, visit here and check out the IVR Functionality Testing matrix below:

IQ-Services Application Feature Testing

How to Build Strong Teams with Four Generations in the Cubicle Workplace

Ottawa Regional Contact Centre Association

  • Thursday March 29, 2012 – Nepean Sailing Club
  • Susan Haywood, Human Resource Blueprints

Believe it.  Different generations think and work in different ways.  And today, there are four generations in the workplace.  Now add that to the cubicle setting in a contact centre and you could have the perfect recipe for complete disaster!

Join us March 29th and learn how your organization can forge a strong and cohesive team across all of these generations. What policies and practices will attract the younger generations and also benefit and recognize your more seasoned employees?  How can the generational diversity in your organization be leveraged? And, learn effective management techniques to use with each generation to engage motivate and ensure performance and growth.

Susan Haywood is a human resources professional with over 15 years experience managing in government, not-for-profit and corporate environments.  She has worked with clients to solve problems in all areas of HR, including performance managements, leadership development and selection and recruitment. Her clients are spread across Canada, the US, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Date: Thursday March 29, 2012
Time: 2:30 pm – 3:00 pm – Registration and Networking
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm – Presentation
Location: Nepean Sailing Club, 3259 Carling Ave. Ottawa
Cost: ORCCA Members – Free
Non-members – $30 if you are working within a Contact Center
Vendors Must be a sponsor to attend

RSVP to Register early, space is limited.


So, What is The Customer Perspective of your Contact Centre

Enterprise contact centers are becoming extremely complex, using technology from multiple vendors to meet specific customer requirements.  Today, clients are using new media types such as smart phones and tablets to reach out so you need to explore new technologies such as cloud services to consolidate and improve your delivery.

Why Test the Customer Quality of Experience?

When you change or deploy new technology you need to understand the caller’s perspective, from the greeting through to the agents desktop.  Testing will do three things for you:

  1. Maximize ROI by reducing your system down time and accelerate payback when deploying new technology
  2. Reduce your Risk, with multiple vendors within our systems. Interoperability issues can occur and can be addressed before deployment
  3. Improve Customer Satisfaction by validating the actual customer experience.

What do You Test For?

  1. Infrastructure – This encompasses everything from the carrier network through to the desktop.  By placing real calls from the outside in, you effectively test your voice gateway, the PBX, SIP trunks, load balancing rules, and the effect Data traffic could have on Voice Quality.   You should be able to understand how many calls per minute the system can connect, how the carrier handles overflow, the number of failed calls, busy signals, and ring no answer, etc.
  2. Self Service Applications – technologies such as speech recognition and IVR are crucial to ensure that calls are handled efficiently.   By testing you can understand if the correct prompts are being heard, if your time to connect is acceptable, if the database lookup performing correctly under load conditions, or simply if the responses correlate correctly to the user input.
  3. CTI Routing –  is the integration between the IVR and external systems working correctly, and is the CTI application receiving the correct data
  4. CRM Integration:  Are the screen POP’s coming on time and are the agents getting the right information, with the right call, at the right time.

With a comprehensive plan you can test connectivity by changing the volume of calls or the mix of calls to simulate your defined and expected real world customer conditions and record accurate results.  Detailed behaviour reports are important to allow you to create actionable tasks that address details of what level of load any failures occur.

StressTest allows you to understand how your systems will react to callers rather than letting your customers react to your system.

Breakthrough Work Force Management Results

Ottawa Regional Contact Center Association - Breakthrough Workforce Management


Ottawa Regional Contact Centre Association

Bring your workforce management team and join us on January 26, 2012 for an informative series of sessions on leading edge strategies for modern call centres.  Whether you manage a small call centre looking for a cost effective way to get into WFM or a very large call center network seeking to achieve breakthrough WFM ROI, these sessions will be of great interest.

Speakers will address the top concerns over classic obstacles to successful WFM.

Introduction by Steve Wilton, ORCCA Executive Member

How does one move from manual scheduling to Automated WFM in a market where automating the process is not generally considered to be cost effective for smaller centres?  Kevin will discuss the benefits of automated WFM for their customers, agents, and managers as well as for the business in terms of improved revenue, profitability and productivity.

Case Study 1: Smaller Call Centres Can Realize the Benefits of WFM in Less than 2 weeks
Kevin Hartley, Call Centre Manager, Alterna Saving

How does one move from manual scheduling to Automated WFM in a market where automating the process is not generally considered to be cost effective for smaller centres?  Kevin will discuss the benefits of automated WFM for their customers, agents, and managers as well as for the business in terms of improved revenue, profitability and productivity.

Case Study 2: The Advantages of Network Level WFM for Large Call Centre Networks
Ray Howatt, Senior National Telecommunications Advisor, Veterans Affairs

Ray will present the experiences of transforming a large 400 Agent Multi-site national call centre network from localized forecasting and scheduling to centralized enterprise WFM. , Veterans Affairs is the first to implement a system that coordinates start times, breaks and lunches nationally.  The results include meeting service levels and accessibility standards for the first time in 5 years.

The history of forecasting, Marietta Davis, VP L3 Prime Inc.

The audience will learn about the history of call centres and call center forecasting in an entertaining game-show format with points for correct answers and prizes for the winning table.

Leading edge WFM concepts, Paul Kasanda CEO of L3 Prime Inc.

The audience will discover the key differences between classic WFM and the leading edge art of High Definition WFM.

Date: January 26, 2012
2:30-3:00 pm – Registration & Networking
3:00-4:30 pm – Presentation
Location: Nepean Sailing Club 3259 Carling Ave. Ottawa, ON
ORCCA Members – Free
Non-members – $30 (Payable in advance by Visa or MasterCard)
RSVP to Register early, space is limited.