How Testing Solutions Reduce Risk & Improve Customer Satisfaction

How Testing Solutions Reduce Risk & Improve Customer SatisfactionImagine you’re trying to book a flight. You call the toll-free number and use the interactive voice response (IVR) to get through to bookings, but instead you are put through to the baggage area. You hang up and try again, but this time you wind up speaking to the airline lounge. Do you try a third time or call a competitor? I know what I would do.

The IVR is now a key component to delivering a great customer experience, so what steps should a business take to ensure these systems are working optimally? Do they take proactive measures, or just wait until a customer lets them know that something is broken? And, by the time it gets to this stage, how many customers may have been lost?

There are some businesses out there taking unnecessary risks when it comes to testing the reliability of their communications systems. Instead of performing extensive tests, they’re leaving it up to their customers to find any problems. Put bluntly, they’re rolling the dice by deciding to deploy systems that haven’t been properly tested. This is the primary line of communication with their customers and, in many cases, it’s also how they generate significant revenue, why would they put both customer satisfaction and revenue in jeopardy?

Businesses have quite a few useful options when it comes to proactive testing. We recently acquired IQ Services, a company that tests these environments on a scheduled basis to make sure they’re working properly. It’s an automated process that tests how long it takes to answer, makes sure that the correct responses are given, and even performs a massive stress test with up to 80,000 concurrent calls. (It’s very useful for scenarios such as a large healthcare provider going through open enrollment.) These testing solutions are the way that businesses can ensure that their systems are working reliably under heavy load without leaving anything to chance.

In a world where we think of people as risk-averse, it’s interesting to observe anyone who chooses not to perform these tests. It’s not necessarily a conscious decision if the situation were actually framed in a way where someone knew exactly what they were putting at risk, they’d probably make a better choice. You wouldn’t buy car insurance after you already had an accident. It simply wouldn’t do you much good at that point. The same thing applies to your communications systems. It only makes sense to take a proactive approach to make sure things are working as expected.

Now that you’re aware of what’s at risk if you don’t perform these important tests, don’t make the conscious decision to wait until something has already gone wrong. We’re talking about the potential loss of millions of dollars per hour (or even per minute in certain cases). Some strategic planning can give you the peace of mind you’ll avoid catastrophic loss of revenue in the future. Whenever you do go live with a new feature, you can do so with confidence.

We’ve brought these new Testing Solutions into the Prognosis family. Above and beyond, we want to make sure people understand these capabilities are available. You don’t have to be reactionary, there are proactive solutions to stop you from rolling the dice when it comes to your business and customers. Don’t leave the livelihood of your organization to chance. Of course, if you’re in the mood to gamble your money, there’s always Vegas.

Thanks to IR Prognosis for the article.

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IQ Services: Standing Out with Collaboration and Customer Service

Business is a fluid thing; the past 30 years have seen innovation after innovation and with it, a shift in culture. The 1980s saw a focus on quality products. The 1990s illustrated enterprises centered on branding. In the 2000s what differentiates companies? Customer Service. Customer service has climbed the list of priorities, and today one can see companies putting money where their mouths are by investing in a quality customer experience.

Russ Zilles, CEO of IQ Services took some time to talk with TMC at a recent industry event to discuss IVR, customer service and carpet stores. Yes, carpet stores.

IQ Services Contact Centre TestingZilles views customer service as the key determining factor in where private citizens and enterprises choose to take their business. A company culture is a major factor in the quality of service provided; IQ takes more of a collaborative approach with customers. As Zilles says, “we all have similar tools,” but the level of service makes all the difference.

He likened the choice to going to a mechanic. Why do I go to the same mechanic; because I know that when I drop my car off, whatever the issue is, it will be fixed. I won’t be charged for unnecessary services, nor will I be ignored by inattentive employees. I trust my mechanic, as I should, so I keep going back.

In 1996, the team at IQ services thought there had to be a better way to test IVR. They had this ‘crazy’ idea of automating the testing process by detecting voice. Long story short, mission accomplished, and this totally self funded firm began its journey out of a 400 sq. ft. office in the back of a carpet store.

Today, its collaborative approach has IQ personalizing customer experiences. By learning who the customer is, the best possible solution is delivered. Its collaborative approach engages all involved in the “customer journey,” through any means necessary. The focus is on testing for what the customer would like tested, to best serve the clients requests.

IQ is a pioneer in the field of IVR testing. The team knows the ins-and-outs of how carriers and contact centers operate, and all the work is verifiable. The average ‘Joe’ doesn’t realize how complex an IVR system is, and understanding how all the pieces work is integral.

Today, IQ has the ability to route calls around the United States and Canada affording the ability for testing calls to come from various points for call centers. Testing schedules are made to be productive; customers do not pay a dime until they see the results for themselves.

Some fixes are very simple, others can be quite complicated. Carrier issues, high volume and location can all play a major role in functioning—with most fixes having to do with configuration. If an issue arises, the IQ solution sends a notification and remote adjustments can be made to the system.

IQ Services has embraced the WebRTC movement with the creation of a tool to monitor and generate traffic that fits virtually any implementation. This was introduced at a recent industry event and is browser-based, meaning it requires no download. Zilles says, “it’s about sending that data back and forth”—it truly is that simple. Customers are encouraged to test with a 3rd party to ensure the quality of the customer’s solution.

A key pillar for exceptional customer service is trust—no more, no less. Zilles proclaims, “We do what we say we do,” and there is certainly something to be said for that.

Thanks to TMCnet.com for the article.

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.

Optimize Customer Service Experience with IQ Services VC 101

Many people believe they are best served by real people, not by voice robots. That’s the rationale behind GetHuman.com. But the economics and utility of self-service as an alternative to live agent interactions are so compelling that self-service solutions are here to stay.

Providing multiple touchpoints is a huge technology investment. Technology is great, but you can’t just diligently manage the implementation process and then assume all is well with the customer service experience. Because nothing’s static in this world it’s extremely important to confirm from your customers’ perspective that your contact center technology really is capable of delivering the experience you intend, one that defends your brand promise.

In 17 years of supporting clients through all phases of the contact center lifecycle, we’ve learned many lessons about how to best evaluate and optimize the Customer Service Experience (CSE) that is the foundation of delivering your brand promise. This article introduces a process that ensures the contact center technologies are in fact offering the customer service experience you intend, one that delivers on your brand promise.

How?

IQ Services Virtual CustomerINTRODUCING VC101®

VC101® is a proven process that ensures the customer service experience delivered is aligned with the intentions of the Customer Experience & Brand Management teams because its first step is identifying key customers and defining how they will interact with the contact center technology you put in place. By doing so, VC101® goes beyond using only internal metrics that confirm everything is Working As Designed (WAD) to monitor & measure actual customer service experience as it’s delivered.

Once you have actual Customer Service Experience data, you can create a feedback loop by tweaking your systems and observing impact on the actual CSE delivered, not just on internal metrics such as CPU time or QoS.

And when you know the service experience delivered by your contact center technologies defends your brand standards, you can also be confident the experience delivered increases loyalty and creates advocates.

WHAT IS VC101®?

VC101® is a multistep process that first defines and then deploys Virtual Customers (VCs) to perform real end-to-end transactions for the purpose of evaluating application and technology performance related to Customer Service Experience impact.

WHAT ARE “VIRTUAL CUSTOMERS”?

Virtual Customers are automated processes that follow test case scripts to interact with the Contact Center just like real customers performing real transactions.

DEPLOYING “VIRTUAL CUSTOMERS”

Once the VCs are defined and the rampup and rollout plans are drawn up, the VCs are deployed. Key considerations in deploying VCs include:

  • Risk analysis and consequences
  • Selection of the right VC interactions
  • Clearly defined availability and performance objectives and metrics
  • Benchmark assessment
  • Reporting and notification criteria

WHAT IS CSE OPTIMIZATION?

  • A process for deploying VCs to collect data that can be used to evaluate and improve business solution performance relative to defined objectives and metrics
  • May involve identification and integration of tools and services not provided by IQ Services
  • An iterative process that tunes the CSE as it’s delivered

CONCLUSION

Properly implemented, VC101® is a critical element of an integrated continuous improvement process that hones & perfects a customer service experience that defends brand promise, thereby positively impacting key customer service metrics such as customer effort, customer loyalty, and net promoter score. Experiences that defend brand promise ultimately have bottom line impact, resulting in reduced total cost of operation and achievement of intended ROI.

‘QA’ Also Stands for ‘Quality AUTOMATION’: Ensuring Your Self-Service Apps Don’t Act Up

IVR Testing and MonitoringIn the eyes of many customers, self-service is not a compound word but rather a four-letter one. It’s not that there’s anything inherently bad about IVR or web self-service applications – it’s that there’s something bad about most contact centers’ efforts to make such apps good.

Relatively few contact centers extend their quality assurance (QA) practices to self-service applications. Most centers tend to monitor and evaluate only those contacts that involve an interaction with a live agent – i.e., customer contacts in the form of live phone calls or email, chat or social media interactions. Meanwhile, no small percentage of customers try to complete transactions on their own via the IVR or online (or, more recently, via mobile apps) and end up tearing their hair out in the process. In fact, poorly designed and poorly looked-after self-service apps account for roughly 10% of all adult baldness, according to research I might one day conduct.

When contact center pros hear or read “QA”, they need to think not only “Quality Assurance” but also “Quality Automation.” The latter is very much part of the former.

To ensure that customers who go the self-service route have a positive experience and maintain their hair, the best contact centers frequently conduct comprehensive internal testing of IVR systems and online applications, regularly monitor customers’ actual self-service interactions, and gather customer feedback on their experiences. Let’s take a closer look at each of these critical practices.

Testing Self-Service Performance

Testing the IVR involves calling the contact center and interacting with the IVR system just as a customer would, only with much less groaning and swearing. Evaluate such things as menu logic, awkward silences, speech recognition performance and – to gauge the experience of callers that choose to opt out of the IVR – hold times and call-routing precision.

Testing of web self-service apps is similar, but takes place online rather than via calls. Carefully check site and account security, the accuracy and relevance of FAQ responses, the performance of search engines, knowledge bases and automated agent bots. Resist the urge to try to see if you can get the automated bot to say dirty words. There’s no time for such shenanigans. Testing should also include evaluating how easy it is for customers to access personal accounts online and complete transactions.

Some of the richest and laziest contact centers have invested in products that automate the testing process. Today’s powerful end-to-end IVR monitoring and diagnostic tools are able to dial in and navigate through an interactive voice transaction just as a real caller would, and can track and report on key quality and efficiency issues. Other centers achieve testing success by contracting with a third-party vendor that specializes in testing voice and web self-service systems.

Monitoring Customers’ Self-Service Interactions

Advancements in quality monitoring technologies are making things easier for contact centers looking to spy on actual customers who attempt self-service transactions. All the major quality monitoring vendors provide customer interaction re­cording applications that capture how easy it is for callers to navigate the IVR and complete transactions without agent assistance, as well as how effectively such front-end systems route each call after the caller opts out to speak to an actual human being.

As for monitoring the online customer experience, top contact centers have taken advantage of multichannel customer interaction-recording solutions. Such solutions enable contact centers to find out first-hand such things as: how well customers navigate the website; what information they are looking for and how easy it is to find; what actions or issues lead most online customers to abandon their shopping carts; and what causes customers to call, email or request a chat session with an agent rather than continue to cry while attempting to serve themselves.

As with internal testing of self-service apps, some centers – rather than deploying advanced monitoring systems in-house – have contracted with a third-party specialist to conduct comprehensive monitoring of the customers’ IVR and/or web self-service experiences.

Capturing the Customer Experience

In the end, the customer is the real judge of quality. As important as self-service testing and monitoring is, even more vital is asking customers directly just how bad their recent self-service experience was.

The best centers have a post-contact C-Sat survey process in place for self-service, just as they do for traditional phone, email and chat contacts. Typically, these centers conduct said surveys via the same channel as the customer used to interact with the company. That is, customers who complete (or at least attempt to complete) a transaction via the center’s IVR system are invited to complete a concise automated survey via the IVR (immediately following their interaction). Those who served themselves via the company’s website are soon sent a web-based survey form via email. Customers, you see, like it when you pay attention to their channel preferences, and thus are more likely to complete surveys that show you’ve done just that. Calling a web self-service customer and asking them to compete a survey over the phone is akin to finding out somebody is vegetarian and then offering them a steak.

It’s Your Call

Whether you decide to do self-service QA manually, invest in special technology, or contract with third-party specialists is entirely up to you and your organization. But if you don’t do any of these things and continue to ignore quality and the customer experience on the self-service side, don’t act surprised if your customers eventually start ignoring you – and start imploring others to do the same.

Thanks to Off Center for the article.

Building a Better IVR: Some Tips for Success

The IVR is an integral part of any call center. Customers can call the center and get what they need without ever talking to a human, allowing agents greater availability to handle the more pressing calls. Yet despite their obvious advantages, most IVR systems aren’t perfect and can benefit from some improvements.

How do you know when your IVR is due for some revamping? One of the best ways is to dial the number yourself. By putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, you’ll get to experience the IVR just as they do. If you find the IVR confusing or feel the desire to hang up in frustration, there’s a good chance your customers feel the same way. And that means it’s probably time to build a better IVR.

So, where do you start? Elaine Cascio, Vice President of Vanguard Communications Corporation and an expert in customer experience, shares some tips for ways to improve your IVR.

Make it Familiar and Easy to Use – Cascio’s first suggestion is to make your IVR more inviting. Again, if you wouldn’t want to stay on the call with your own IVR, there’s little chance your customers are that fond of it either. Cascio suggests to “emulate the processes used by agents wherever possible.” Just as how an agent will try to keep the call as brief and efficient as possible, in order to meet service level and move on to the next call, the same theory should be in place for the IVR. You don’t want to overload the customer with too much information, have them listen to a long, drawn-out message or give them too many steps to get the information they need.

Be Conversational – While brevity is important when developing an IVR, you should still make your IVR conversational and easy to understand. Cascio says to focus on what is being said and how it is presented. She states, “Don’t use jargon – use clear, concise and commonly understood language and terminology.” Additionally, she recommends putting the time into creating a script that is not only easy to follow and inviting, but also reflects the character and services of your brand. Furthermore, it is a good idea to read the scripts aloud before putting them into production and conduct focus groups to see how people respond to the content. Cascio also suggests hiring experienced voice talent to record the messaging.

Leverage Data and Technology – Just as customers will be put off if they have to listen to more information than is necessary, they shouldn’t have to provide the same information each time they call. The IVR can be set up to recognize the number calling or ask callers for their unique pass code and use information already on file to speed the process along. Cascio recommends that IVR systems have the capability for callers to transfer to a live agent, in case they need further assistance. If so, the caller’s data should be easily transferrable from the IVR to the agent, so they don’t have to provide their information once again.

Manage and Measure – Cascio stresses that it is important to perform quality monitoring on calls handled by the IVR in addition to calls handled by live agents. Doing so will keep you informed about how your customers are handling the IVR, and allow you to make sure that it is working properly and helping the business meet its goals. Cascio adds, “Make sure that your measures of success are strategic, customer centric and make a difference in how your business operates.” Quality monitoring can also provide key insight into how successful the IVR is. If a large percentage of callers are hanging up or spending too much time on the IVR, then you’ll know that it may need some more work.

Test, Test and Test Again – Of course, once you’ve made the necessary improvements to the IVR system, you’ll want to make sure they are right. That’s where testing comes in. Cascio recommends setting up focus groups to see if the average caller will understand the language and processes presented by the IVR. Additionally, usability tests will let you know if the IVR is usable and intuitive, and comprehensive user acceptance tests should be conducted prior to deployment.

A good IVR will make the contact center’s operations more efficient and be more cost effective. On the other hand, a poorly developed or executed IVR can be inefficient and wasteful and might even scare your customers away. Since this is the first and often only interaction they’ll have with your business, you’ll want them to be greeted by a coherent and easy-to-use IVR system. By using these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a better IVR and, in time, enjoying increased operational efficiency and more customer loyalty.

Thanks to ICMI for the article. 

IQ Services Delivers Successful Results to Financial Services Company

A pre-eminent financial services firm provides products for customers around the world. Dedicated to serving clients’ financial needs‚ the firm is committed to delivering the best customer experience possible. Its commitment doesn’t stop with clients‚ but extends to improving the lives of individuals in communities around the world.

A Business Challenge

The customer was interested in implementing a web services-based self-service platform to bring together web services and IP telephony in all of its contact centers worldwide. However‚ the company’s telecommunications systems and contact centers used a Linux server configuration that differed from the Linux platform certified for the proposed platform. With a minimum 10,000 busy hour call completions (BHCC) requirement, the company needed confirmation that the proposed platform could handle the volume generated in its speech recognition-enabled, web services environment.

Key Capabilities of the Solution

The customer and its solution provider turned to IQ Services to demonstrate the solution’s performance capabilities with real calls.

The team worked with IQ Services to sketch out a plan and performance testing objectives to simulate real-time calling patterns in a lab environment. The plan also provided opportunities to tune the overall implementation during testing‚ if required‚ to reach the production load conditions of 10,000 BHCC.

Seamless Transition to a New System

Working with the customer, IQ Services developed a remote testing plan to simulate production level traffic in the test environment. The test would use key components in a typical production system implementation – PSTN access‚ call control‚ interactive voice response (IVR)‚ speech recognition and web services – all controlled by the company’s proposed platform application. By gradually increasing traffic‚ the plan allowed the customer to observe the integrated solution performance under increasing traffic conditions‚ tuning component configurations as required to meet the test objectives.

Once testing began‚ IQ Services provided controlled call traffic into the solution and digitally recorded each telephone call end-to-end. The recordings allowed quick issue identification of issues‚ which were researched by a member of the technical support team and either resolved or logged for later follow-up. In addition, IQ Services provided real-time test results to the financial services firm online and via a test conference bridge‚ keeping the customer apprised of issues and allowing swift resolution of unsuccessful test events.

Ultimately, the solution required three rounds of performance testing. Insight gained during the first two rounds was used to iteratively tune the integrated solution and prepare for the third and final test. The last test verified that the uncertified Linux platform supported the proposed platform for production traffic of 10,000 BHCC, allowing the customer to move ahead with its worldwide deployment.

“By testing the end-to-end solution with IQ Services‚ we gained the confidence we needed to take our preferred solution to market‚” said the customer’s technical leader.“The testing confirmed that the integration was a success.”

Benefits for the Customer

The flexible‚ responsive test implementation and scheduling allowed the customer and its solution partner to establish and meet the unique test objectives by performing testing with little notice whenever needed. In addition‚ the company has received:

  • Assurance to implement the proposed platform solution worldwide
  • Documented solution performance test results of a minimum 10‚000 BHCC
  • Actionable data gathered from initial and secondary testing efforts‚ leading to faster issue resolution and reduced effort and cost
  • Verification that the proposed platform performed as desired on its preferred Linux platform

Thanks to IQ Services for the article.