FEATURES

Cover Story

Customer Satisfaction Takes a Hit Now What?
Hardly a day goes by without an item about how improving the customer experience is now the intense focus of C-levels globally. In fact, the job of chief customer experience officer, or a title very similar, is arguably the fastest growing C-level position in enterprises around the world. The reasons are obvious. They are also what are driving the adoption of new contact center solutions and the use of big data analytics as enterprises large and small seek to create sustainable advantage by enhancing how they interact with all of us.

Strategic Solution Series

Certification: Great Programs Help Your Brand; Bad Ones Can Hurt
CUSTOMER Magazine recently spoke with Herb Williams-Dalgart, senior director of certification and performance improvement at J.D. Power, a leading market research company. We asked Herb to explain why organizations seek certification and to help us understand the benefits and challenges such organizations might face.

Strategic Solution Series

HigherGround Can Take Your Contact Center to New Heights
Technology can be a great help in making a contact center more efficient and effective. But, in the end, the success of a contact center - or any organization, for that matter - hinges on the contributions and skills of its people.

Deliver

Virtual Agents: Bringing Benefits Home with the New Cloud-based Contact Center
Employing work-at-home agents can help companies build more successful customer care and outreach programs by enabling them to call on a larger workforce, pair callers with certain affinities with like-minded agents, and lower their costs in the process. And new cloud-based contact center solutions are facilitating all of the above.

Deliver

Lead Scoring: Predictive Analytics Can Unearth Hot Leads and Lower Marketing Costs
Generating leads has traditionally involved cold calling, hitting up trade show booths, knocking on doors, and purchasing lists and targeting those on them via telemarketing and direct mail appeals. The advent of the website, with request for information and chat functionality, then created a new channel through which leads could come to businesses. Now big data and analytics are making lead generation and scoring a much more scientific process - and one which is expected to yield greater efficiencies and earning potential for businesses.

Deliver

Using Big Data for More Effective Call Center Hiring, Other Improvement
Your frontline agents are the face and voice of your call center. They are the most direct point of contact that you have with your customers. A positive experience can leave a lasting impression, but a negative one can have just the opposite effect. In fact, one study by Accenture found that two out of three customers switched due to poor customer service.

Engage

Customer Engagement's Impact on Brand Loyalty
Connecting with a brand is a lot like initiating a conversation with a stranger. Encountering an individual whose body language is stiff with tepid eye contact that lasts but a mere second or two is not a recipe for engagement. On the contrary, an individual who holds eye contact, smiles genuinely, and willfully initiates a conversation is much more likely to increase engagement. There is a colossal difference in the welcoming perception that is given.

Engage

What Amazon and Amex Can Teach Us About Customer Service on Mobile
Last September, when Amazon announced and unveiled the Mayday button, a video-based live support solution that lets Kindle HD customers contact remote tech support, the news was broadly received with both wonder and skepticism. While live video customer service has long been discussed in the customer service and call center support industry, it has taken time for technology innovations and consumers to get used to interacting directly with customer service representatives outside of a phone call. Plus, video is an expensive proposition that does not have any guarantee of decreasing call center costs or increasing customer satisfaction.

Engage

Earning Trust with Chat 2.0
Brand engagement has exploded in recent years thanks to the rise in social media and the demand that companies actively participate in online conversations. A brand's interactions with leads and customers impact the way it's viewed. Confirming this is a report by Lithium, a social experience SaaS platform, that noted over a third of consumers say their opinions about brands and products are shaped by social media, and a Forbes study that found 82 percent of consumers trust a company more if they are involved with social media.

Roundup

Call Recording Roundup
Whether used for coaching, productivity enhancement, regulatory compliance, or other purposes, call recording is garnering a lot of interest lately for its ability to make organizations more efficient and effective. Here's a run down of some of the leading players in the call recording market place.

Target

How to Make Your Post-Call Survey Results More Accurate
When the service goes out, I always call the customer service center to let them know I noticed. After pushing past the automated attempts to deal with the call without a human, an agent answers quickly. My usual experience with Charter agents is good. They are courteous, helpful and, well trained. After each call I am routed to a customer satisfaction survey. This is good.

Target

Personalization: Big Data Analytics Help Identify, Recognize Personal Life Events
It's your birthday. Your child is graduating high school. Today was your first day at work. All of the above are just a few examples of momentous life events many of us experience, might like others to recognize, and could potentially trigger new purchase decisions.

Ask the Experts

A Contact Center Crystal Ball: Marrying the Analyses of Service, Cost, Revenue, and Now, Customer Experience
If a contact center executive could have anything, it would be certainty… of contact demand, resource availability, operational efficiency, and, most importantly, of agent performance and customer experience delivery. Certainty in the complex environs of a contact center operation, however, is wishful thinking.

Accolades

TMC Announces Winners of Top 50 Teleservices Agency Awards
At the start of the second quarter of each year since 1986, TMC has delivered its Top 50 Teleservices Agency Ranking lists. In this issue, we are pleased to present the 29th edition of this service, listing the top teleservices firms in the world.

Roundup

Voice of the Customer: Customer Survey/Feedback Solution Roundup
This month's roundup is about customer survey and feedback solutions. Some of these offerings are provided as specific modules, while others are part of larger contact center solutions.

COVER STORY

Creating a Consistent Customer Experience in 7 Easy Steps
Customer experiences come in all shapes and sizes. Some are traditional, in a store, while others transpire via a mobile device. Don't lose sight of this as you build and improve your VoC program.

COVER STORY

Six Steps to Building a Successful Voice of the Customer Program
Following these best practice guidelines, VoC programs can become part of an effective CEM strategy to help collect and act on customer feedback across channels to improve brand loyalty and financial performance by addressing specifically what customers are saying. Effective change can also occur by incorporating VoC data into planning processes. Everyone wants to make customer-driven decisions, and that requires customer feedback. By involving the customer voice early on, the culture becomes more focused on doing it right the first time than using ad-hoc find and fix methods of improvement.

EDIT SERIES

Want a Customer Experience Makeover? Enter This Contest to Win One!
We've all seen the TV shows in which people or properties get a new lease on life via makeovers. Now Interactive Intelligence is bringing this concept to the call center.

EDIT SERIES

The Lync Between Customers and Contact Centers
The true benefits of this growing ecosystem of technologies is that the promise of UC, the promise of increased efficiency, the promise of enhanced customer care - all of which contribute to greater levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty - can be implemented much more quickly than previously, with the comfort of knowing they will just work, allowing users to immediately begin leveraging the new features and capabilities to more effectively interact with customers and colleagues.

The Selling Tree: How InfoCision's Sales Training Program Helps Maximize Revenue-generating Opportunities for Clients
One of the key aspects of The Selling Tree is a two-pronged approach aimed at connecting with the caller both on a rational level and an emotional level. The rational level relies on the Communicator having a thorough knowledge of the product, then using that knowledge to position the product as useful to the customer.

STRATEGIC SOLUTION SERIES

The Voice of Your Customers - Listening Is Only Part of the Story
CUSTOMER Magazine recently spoke with Herb Williams-Dalgart, senior director of certification and performance improvement at J.D. Power, a leading market research company. We asked Herb to describe a world-class Voice of the Customer (VOC) research program and why it's important to all businesses, particularly contact centers.

STRATEGIC SOLUTION SERIES

Aligning People and Technology to Create an Effective Voice Self-Service Channel
It takes more than a vision to create an effective interactive voice response self-service solution in a contact center. There are many factors that contribute to the goal of achieving high self-service completion rates along with improved customer satisfaction with this communication channel.

ACCOLADES

2014 CUSTOMER MVP Quality Awards
The business of business has always revolved around one central element - customer satisfaction. Though technology has delivered new ways of delivering services, and for end customers to communicate their levels of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction), the core principle remains: Successful businesses deliver quality service and focus on customer satisfaction.

TARGET

What Are You Waiting for? Survey on the Spot Instead of Through E-mail
Paper surveys have probably been around since papyrus. We've always been interested to know what others were thinking, right? We've all seen the surveyors at the grocery store, armed with their clipboards, intercepting folks lugging bags out to their cars to ask about products and services. In-home surveys came via parcel post, in overstuffed envelopes, asking us about everything from private businesses to the city's new urbanization plans.

ENGAGE

Doxo Makes It Easier for Customers and Businesses to Connect
Businesses today for the most part still interact with customers the way they have in the past. More than 80 percent of communications with customers are done via paper mail. And even when businesses interact with customers online, most organizations do so using websites based on the Web 1.0 model. Both methods are way out of line with customer online behavior, says Steve Shivers, CEO and co-founder of doxo, who adds that his company offers a better alternative.

ENGAGE

Why My Loyalty Program Isn't Making Me Feel Loyal
Look for loyalty programs that provide ubiquitous access for you from all forms of media such as web, mobile web, mobile apps, swipe cards, no cards. Studies show that mobile offers are seven times more likely to be redeemed than paper offers. Why? You can redeem what you don't have - your offers and rewards will be with you in your pocket wherever you go.

DELIVER

Oracle Provides Insight on WebRTC & the Customer Experience
WebRTC has garnered a lot of attention recently as a potential unified communications game changer. Not only does this technology allow for real-time voice and video interactions from a web browser, and without requiring special client software, but it opens the door for more, and more interesting, application development.

DELIVER

VoIP Dialing Emphasizes Benefits of SIP, Talks About What's Next
That's the word from VoIP Dialing CEO Ben Nabon, who spoke with CUSTOMER magazine in mid January. Nabon said that the softphone, which VoIP Dialing will trademark, "will change the way people work with it." He adds that the VoIP Dialing softphone will be "good for calls centers and intranets, and definitely a product that at some point will go to the consumer."

DELIVER

What to Do to Get the Most Out of Your Contact Center Team
Some feedback suggests that from a pure ROI perspective, spending your dollars on the performers in the middle of the curve (address the mediocre) represents the biggest opportunity for impact, because it is usually the largest group in a normal distribution. If you can move the middle 1 percent, you will see the largest impact.

Ask the Experts

The Affordable Care Act: Top 5 Contact Center Initiatives Not to Be Ignored
The Affordable Care Act has already brought millions of new customers to the healthcare market. And under the new law's guidelines, it looks to bring millions more - making the consumer environment for healthcare and insurance more competitive than it's ever been.

Deliver

Intelemedia Brings Together Call Centers to Leverage Star Players, Drive Performance
Every business wants to improve its performance, leverage its best employees to get the greatest extent possible, and avoid needless duplication of work. Intelemedia Communications helps its business customers achieve all of these business imperatives via its cloud-based call management platform.

Cover Story

Come Together, Right Now, Over Me: Companies Get Acquisitive About the Customer Experience
Unifying all the different pieces of the customer experience so businesses can better understand their customers; offer them assistance as needed and via the communication media they prefer; and reach out to customers and prospects with timely and targeted messages, is no easy task. But, increasingly, that's what many of the big players in the customer experience arena, and software in general, are trying to do.

Engage

Keeping Up with the New Normal
Companies rely on their customer contact centers to help them maintain relationships with consumers and promote high rates of satisfaction, and an increasing number of new technologies are enabling organizations to communicate with customers better, through an ever-growing variety of channels. Technologies such as live chat, click-to-call, collaborative browsing (co-browsing) software and many others are making it easy to place the consumer at the center of operations - allowing them to become more engaged in the resolution process and happier with the outcome.

Target

Cloud Contact Center Roundup
Starting this year CUSTOMER magazine will publish monthly roundups of a select product category. These roundups will essentially be like mini-buyers' guides. They will include the names and URLs of companies that offer solutions in a particular category, and then provide a brief write-up of what each company provides in terms of solutions in that space.

Strategic Solution Series

WARNING: Benchmarking Can Be Hazardous to Your Operation's Health
CUSTOMER Magazine spoke recently to Mark Miller, the senior director of contact center solutions at J.D. Power, a leading marketing research company. We asked Mark to describe the benefits and pitfalls of benchmarking performance when building a world-class contact center.

Accolades

TMC Announces CUSTOMER Product of the Year Awards
CUSTOMER and its parent company, TMC, are proud to announce the Product of the Year Awards. Congratulations to all these distinguished companies.

Ask the Experts

Think Outside the App: A Great Experience Begins With the Customer
Smartphones, tablets, mobile information consumption, and mobile transacting. It's why more businesses are trying to develop the kind of mobile apps they believe their customers want. Yet with an estimated two-thirds of mobile customers needing to interact with a contact center agent at some point in the mobile service experience, there's often an abrupt disconnect.

Success

CFI Group Helps Benz Financial Give Customers a Sweet Ride
Mercedes Benz Financial Services USA, which is the provider of financial services and products to Mercedes Benz dealers and retail customers, didn't want customers for a day or a year. It wanted customers for life. So the institution knew it needed to upgrade its customer feedback program from one that followed a marketing-based approach primarily focused on attracting customers to one more focused on retention and satisfaction.

Deliver

Five Ways to Bring PLM into the Web 3.0 World
Product lifecycle management was born in a world where customers walked into a store to buy and being social meant inviting friends over. While retailing has evolved significantly since the 1980s, PLM has pretty much been stuck in the same groove.

Target

Customer Service Rightshoring: Striking a Balance in an Omnichannel World
There's a lot of talk about contact center rightshoring - and with the discussion comes misperceptions. What is rightshoring, and where does the approach fit in today's complex omnichannel environment?

InfoCision Edit Series

Strengthen Your Message and Build Customer Loyalty by Keeping the Customer at the Heart of Your Big Data Efforts
There's a lot of big buzz about Big Data these days, and with good reason. When applied effectively, data delivers a couple of significant advantages: (1) providing better customer experiences and (2) making customer-care operations more efficient. That's an incredibly powerful one-two punch.

Ask the Experts

Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers: Knocking Down Geographies and Walls
The benefits of cloud communications are well documented. Faster deployment, future-proof applications, business continuity, predictable monthly payments. When contact centers turn to the cloud, they can also scale easier, support at-home agents, and add multichannel services.

Rethinking Communications

Amazon Mayday - What it Means for Your Contact Center
With today's technologies, customers are increasingly expecting a high level of personalized service, but most businesses simply don't have enough resources to properly support that. And just when you thought expectations were high enough already, along comes Amazon's Mayday button. The Mayday button allows customers to get a live connection to an agent for technical support in 15 seconds or less.

Engage

Is Mobile Part of Your Customer Care Strategy?
We use our mobile devices for every part of our daily lives - from checking the weather for our morning commute, shooting off a quick e-mail response on that proposal, even shopping online for our holiday gifts. There is no question that consumers are understanding and adopting the mobile way-of-life more and more; however, despite this fact, some companies have not properly implemented a customer service strategy that takes full advantage of the emerging mobile lifestyle.

AudioCodes Edit Series

WebRTC and the Contact Center: Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter, the Sum is Sweeter than the Parts
WebRTC - a web technology that would extend the native capabilities of web browsers to enable voice, video and data sharing without separate client or plug-in software - has been getting plenty of attention lately. Evolving under the IETF and W3C standards process, much of the technology leadership comes from a team of developers at Google who see it as a game-changing communication technology. Innovative web-based applications include collaboration systems (like Google Hangouts), distance learning, gaming and more.

On the Cover

The New On-Demand Society
The TV show Parks and Recreation features a character called Tom who starts a business called Rent-A-Swag that offers his boy-size luxury wardrobe to parents of teenage boys, who might not want to invest in expensive clothes that their children will probably just outgrow quickly anyway. Although the most promising of Tom's efforts, this concept might sound ridiculous. If fictional history is any guide, it probably won't succeed, as this character already has run through a long line of failed business ventures. However, the idea of renting anything and everything ¬- even the clothes off your back - may well be the wave of the future.

Ask the Experts

Microsoft Lync in the Contact Center: Providing a Faster, Barrier-free Customer Experience
Within a unified communications framework, integrating CIC with Microsoft Lync brings the contact center to life. Organizations using Lync and CIC enhance contact center and customer care processes across media channels of all types - voice, email, chat, SMS, fax, and even social media. The integration's expanded collaboration features for IM, real-time presence, intelligent interaction routing, transfers, and reporting also bring contact center agents and enterprise users together more tightly, bridging gaps in collaboration across the organization.

Target

Winning with Grocery Consumers is All About Convenience and Price. Or is it?
Time and again, surveys tell us that consumers value the same basic things in a grocer. It's all about convenience and price. In a recent survey that Market Force Information conducted among more than 6,500 consumers across North America, almost seven in 10 said that their primary reason for choosing a grocer was its convenient location. That was followed by 54 percent who said it was providing low prices. Good sales and promotions followed, along with a wide array of products and merchandise.

Cover Story

Easy, Personalized & Smart: Calabrio Helps Green Mountain Coffee Better Manage, Analyze Its Contact Centers
Green Mountain Coffee sells a wide array of coffee, tea, and other hot beverages, as well as the Keurig machines to prepare them. Its single serving canister approach to brewing is unique, and Green Mountain continues to expand on the consumable brand and flavor options it offers. The company also has a forward-looking approach when it comes to its contact center, which relies on analytics, quality management, and workforce management solutions from Calabrio.

Special Focus

Focus on Value: How to Get a True View of the Customer Experience Your Company Delivers
Capturing the customer experience is kind of like photography. You can see a fair amount of detail if you focus on one thing, but looking at the larger scene can give you a more accurate idea of what's really happening.

Deliver

M&A Mania: Leading Customer Experience Companies Expand via Acquisition
It's holiday shopping time. And consumers aren't the only ones opening up their pocketbooks this season. Companies in the customer experience space have also been in on the buying action so they are well stocked with a variety of cloud-based, inbound, outbound, and multichannel solutions as businesses do some shopping of their own.

Deliver

Five Steps to Improve Webchat at Your Company
It's not uncommon for businesses to buy and implement a webchat system and then fail to take critical actions like evaluating its effectiveness, measuring ROI and improving functionalities. In some cases, businesses may have decided their webchat is unsuccessful because they don't have the knowledge or tools needed to measure ROI, or the system may have key - but correctible - lapses that aren't being addressed. Surveying customers about their experience can be very revealing in terms of surfacing pain points.

Deliver

Unify & Conquer: The Bottom Line on One Line of Support
The trend in customer service over the last 10 to 15 years has been to divide up work, creating multiple support tiers and putting more technology in front of the customer to route customer communications and manage the volume - all to better serve company needs.

SUCCESS

Spirits Company Beam Turns Up the Heat
Beam Inc. has a 218-year history of making spirits, with premium brands such as Jim Beam Black and Maker's Mark bourbon, Laphroaig scotch and Sauza tequila. Beam blends its rich heritage with the vigor of a startup. It has distilled its strategy for long-term, profitable growth into efficiency and best practices such as lean manufacturing, global procurement and global shared services. It's proving to be a successful recipe for growth and innovation. Beam had $2.5 billion in net sales in 2012, its first full year as a pure-play spirits company.

Engage

Relayware Opens Lines of Collaboration Among B2B Partners
Relayware CEO Mike Morgan tells CUSTOMER magazine that the company's main competitor is Salesforce. But Relayware is stronger in the area of marketing and program automation, he said. The Salesforce solution is also more expense, according to Morgan, who says it requires companies to get separate licenses for different partners. Relayware only requires one license from the company, which can then allow channel partners to leverage the solution.

Engage

Looking Beyond Marketing Automation: How to Use Big Data to Truly Get More Personal
When the concept of big data first infiltrated the marketing and CRM space, marketers across every industry rejoiced at the thought of having unprecedented access to minute details about their current and prospective customers. We reveled in the notion of mining this incredible treasure trove of information to uncover valuable insights that would help us hone our message, zero in on the right audience and, ultimately, grow sales and revenue.

Engage

Making Big Data Marketing a Reality Build or Buy?
Nearly every operator is exploring how to capitalize on the promise of big data. Functional groups, ranging from customer support to network operations to marketing, have identified strategic opportunities for using big data to drive better decision-making.

Target

Navigating the Customer Communications Compliance Minefield
Consumers expect a certain level of communications and real-time updates on all aspects of their lives. From doctor's appointment reminders to missed payment reminders to flight delay notifications, consumers want proactive updates from the companies they do business with. However, considering the multitude of state and federal rules that govern how and when businesses can contact consumers, meeting these expectations is no easy task.

Target

SAP: Avoid Mobile Ad Spamming, Embrace Precision Retailing
Personalization and tagging are prominent. And people are easily annoyed when they get communications, even from companies with which they've opted in, that don't speak to their interests.

Target

Survey Says Low-Cost Options Threaten Giants' Prominence
That, and the desire for continued growth, has pushed companies like Qualtrics to try to go upmarket, she said, adding that some of freemium tool providers that flooded the market have gone belly up. To ensure Qualtrics doesn't follow in their footsteps, Qualtrics has modified its pricing, which is based on seats and responses (as opposed to the number of surveys sent out), with different tiers for smaller, medium and large-scale businesses.

ENGAGE

Something to Talk About: Yappem Rewards Customer Feedback, Helps Businesses Move in the Right Direction
The little Sheboygan, Wisc.-based company is doing that by offering a social platform that rewards users who share their input about select brands with friends and family. The rewards come in the form of virtual coins that people can exchange to get actual gift cards, products, or special deals from a variety of retailers. The more valuable a post is deemed, the more virtual coins the contributor receives.

ENGAGE

How to Motivate Contact Center Agents and Improve Customer Satisfaction in the Process
Motivating contact center agents is not about a one-time effort or a specific technology. As with any kind of employee, nurturing and motivating an agent is an ongoing process that starts with identifying and hiring the best candidate, providing that individual with the right tools and training to do the job, and keeping things interesting for him or her over time by offering incentives and rewards for good behavior and positive results.

ENGAGE

Why Personalization is the Key to Customer Loyalty
Mixed data like this suggests a loyalty disconnect. Members are joining, but they're not engaging with the level of enthusiasm and dedication loyalty marketers are looking for. Whether the problem is rewards that are irrelevant or too much trouble to redeem, for marketers, customer dissatisfaction and program apathy remain very real concerns. Thus, personalization is key when it comes to combating customer disengagement and driving richer customer loyalty. As different as customers are, one uniting factor is the desire to feel like the brands and products they use and love are tailored specifically for them.

ENGAGE

Kaon Brings 3D Interactivity to Product Demonstrations
Kaon Interactive does that by providing interactive applications that deliver a 3-D experience, explains CEO Gavin Finn. This kind of solution is particularly effective for companies that offer complex products in highly competitive marketplaces, Finn says.

ENGAGE

How to Motivate Contact Center Agents, and Keep Them Engaged for the Long Haul
In today's contact center, keeping call center agents engaged and motivated is more important than ever before. As the contact center is becoming a more strategic part of the overall customer experience, it is increasingly being seen as a revenue driver rather than a cost center. Critical data is exchanged during each customer interaction within a contact center, which can unlock incredible value when it's tied to an overarching CRM effort. Contact center agents facilitate these interactions as they man the front lines of customer contact and have slowly become the face of todays' brands. Agents need to be properly invested in to help them deliver a unique experience. But what do agents really need?

DELIVER

Why Call Centers Put the Bottom Line On Hold
Despite its role as a pivotal customer touch point, experiences with corporate call centers have a bad rap, even among the most valuable customers. While callers generally get what they need, the process frequently leaves them frustrated, sometimes to the point of damaging customer relationships and subtracting from a company's bottom line.

DELIVER

The Art of End-to-End Customer Experience Management
No two customers are alike, which is why communication providers must reconsider the traditional one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to tariffs, offers and QoS. The one-size-fits-all strategy had its purpose in building the mobile mass market, but today, customers expect personalization. When they don't get that, it's easier than ever for them to churn, thanks to number portability, the availability of over-the-top services, prepaid MVNOs and the industry-wide trend away from contracts.

DELIVER

Technology Support: The Moment of Truth that Drives Customer Experience
Take a quick peek inside today's homes and you'll likely see a web of gadgets - from medical monitoring devices to security systems, home automation systems to entertainment consoles, and computers to mobile devices - all reliant on connections to the Internet and each other.

ASK THE EXPERTS

Top Tips for Managing the Contact Center Strategy
In the contact center in particular, terabytes of operational data are usually available at any given time. When this information is analyzed effectively, it can help contact center management maintain consistent and appropriate service delivery across the seasonal peaks and valleys of contact volumes. Consider for instance that centers have used scheduling algorithms for years to manage the short term, "day of" service delivery. Now, however, new algorithms enable the forecasting, evaluation, and optimization of contact center strategies across seasons and years.

ACCOLADES

TMC, CUSTOMER Name Social Business Award Winners
The TMC Social Business Award honors vendors that have demonstrated innovation, unique capabilities, and significant contributions toward enabling and improving social channel interactions.

Success

IBC Relays Its Value to Customers, Prospects via Mobile Engagement Platform
Recognizing mobility and personalization are two important trends in communications and customer care, Independence Blue Cross recently embraced them in an effort to engage its customers and attract news ones. And Brian Lobely, vice president of marketing at the health care insurance company, says its timing couldn't be better. That's because individuals can purchase health care reform-eligible products under Obamacare starting Oct. 1.

TARGET

Big Data, or Right Data?
The telecom industry faces a unique challenge when it comes to implementing big data. In a market where 40 percent of customers are willing to change providers for the sake of better service, improving the customer experience is a top priority.

TARGET

Leveraging the Richness of the Web for Lead Generation
Conventional knowledge these days is that people and organizations want to be offered products and services that speak to their individual needs, and that companies can no longer throw things over the wall and expect positive results. Instead, they need to design and target products and services with customer needs in mind. This is no small feat; however, new web-based lead generation and addendum engines are now helping organizations better understand existing and target customers so they can offer them the right solutions at the right time.

Strategy Solutions Series

How to Unlock the Potential of Your IVR
That's a major problem for businesses in this new age of the customer. Bad experiences are frequently aired on social media, potentially damaging your brand, and adversely impacting your organization's ability to acquire and retain customers.

Cover Story

CX Hot Trends Symposium to Provide Insight into the Customer Experience
To be competitive, organizations today must provide the products, services and support that customers have come to expect - and quickly, as most of us have grown accustomed to immediate gratification in today's always-connected world. Speaking of connectivity, customers want to connect with businesses based on their own personal preferences. That means organizations need to be ready, willing and able to interface with customers and prospects over any and all communications media, and to do it seamlessly and effectively. And rather than simply pushing out products and messaging to the masses, customers want solutions and service that cater to their individual needs and preferences.

Accolades

TMC Labs Innovation Awards Uncovers Some Exciting New Solutions
2013 marks the 14th annual TMC Labs Innovation Awards for CUSTOMER magazine. Each year TMC Labs analyzes dozens of applicants to find the most unique and innovative products. In past years we've had several innovative workforce management solutions win, and this year is no exception.

Ask the Experts

Contact Center Metrics that Matter
Contact centers thrive on performance metrics. Yet while standard metrics like average speed of answer (ASA), average handle time (AHT), hold time, and abandon rate are still widely accepted, they aren't always relevant beyond phone-based transactions.

Deliver

Verint Details its Business Impact Solution Initiative
Verint Systems Inc. has introduced what it calls a robust set of products to address specific business needs. Under the Business Impact Solution umbrella, Verint now offers High-Efficiency Performance Management, Regulatory Compliance, Personalized Guidance, and Operational Excellence offerings.

Deliver

How to Build a Better IVR
While I am sure the majority of contributors for this month's issue of How to Build a Better IVR will be focused on inbound IVR processes like customer service, I feel compelled to answer this question from the outbound perspective.

Deliver

How Telecom Companies Can Use Technology to Improve Customer Service
Telecom companies often struggle to achieve two important metrics - customer satisfaction and retention. In the digital era, it's becoming increasingly difficult for telecom companies to deliver a high level of customer service across new technological branches and far-reaching geographic areas.

Deliver

Intradiem Expands on Intraday Management
Organizations can realize a 20 percent increase in the performance of their contact centers by introducing intraday management, which can positively impact employee productivity and the customer experience.

Deliver

Candidate Pre-Screening: How to Better Predict Contact Center Agent Success
Contact center representatives draw on an array of skills to achieve the level of customer engagement, call handling efficiency and revenue production companies expect, and most industry insiders recognize the inherent complexities of these jobs.

Success

Multichannel Strategy Drives Customer, Employee Experience to New Heights
Efficiency, reduced costs, increased customer satisfaction and boosted revenues are on the wish list of every organization. In the contact center, multichannel communication systems are turning these goals into reality by converging management of any support service medium into one comprehensive tool.

Engage

Winning Over The New Consumer
When the economy started to struggle in late 2008, so did the consumer - emotionally as well as financially. At first, consumers, like businesses, contentedly waited for the economy to bounce back. But, as the bounces took longer and were far less impressive than expected, consumer confidence began to wane.

Engage

Hyfiniti Delivers Next-Generation Social Analytics, Engagement, and Mobile Care
A company that got its start a couple years ago offering a mobile call-back customer service application called Hold-Free has since introduced two additional services, which Hyfiniti CEO Lance Fried says are more in the social vein of customer service.

Target

Rethink Your Contact Center for 2013 and Beyond
In 2012, Western Power's contact center beat 1,500 contenders to be named the best medium-sized contact center in the Asia Pacific at the Contact Center World Awards. The facility receives 100,000 calls per month and answers 90 percent of them within 30 seconds. But that's hardly remarkable in this business.

Edit Series

Exceed Rising Customer Service Expectations
Many consumers believe that customer service levels are at an all-time low. Those of us in the industry would likely disagree, but perception is reality. If public perception says your organization provides poor customer service, it can undermine everything else your organization is doing, no matter how well you do it.

Edit Series

SIP Trunking and Demarcation
SIP trunking is widely recognized as an alternative to legacy PRI circuits, delivering voice services to businesses over IP at reduced costs with greater flexibility. Partners are also seeing opportunities to resell SIP trunking to their business customers, creating a revenue stream and earning residual commissions.

Strategic Solutions Series

If You Can't Measure It, You Can't Manage It
If you were asked to draw a line exactly 17 cm long, could you do it? You could probably give it a good guess, but unless you had a ruler in your back pocket you just can't be sure.

COVER STORY

Bringing Voice of the Customer to the C-Suite
The Chief Customer Officer has become widespread at companies of all sizes. The notion of a creating such a position in the C-suite began to take hold about a decade ago. Today CCOs exist at 40 percent of $1 billion-plus enterprises, 46 percent of enterprises with less than $250 million in revenues, and about 15 percent of mid-sized companies, says Curtis N. Bingham, the Chief Customer Officer Council's founder and executive director, who just completed a study revealing these numbers.

Strategic Solution Series

Getting Smart on Analytics in the Contact Center: Measurement is the First Step in the Process
At iQor, we believe that by taking comprehensive measurements, interpreting them in a disciplined and scientific way, and then sharing the resulting analyses with relevant company stakeholders, contact center leaders can put Big Data to work, driving strategic customer initiatives at the highest levels of the organization.

DELIVER

Mobility in Contact Center Management: Freedom, Functionality and Even a Touch of Fun
When we think of mobility in telecommunications, most often our focus goes immediately to mobility in unified communications and the ongoing challenge of presence management. This includes road warriors, for example, relying on find me/follow me applications, sales executives seamlessly accessing office-based functions out in the field, and smartphones and other personal devices being integrated into the corporate phone system to work as external extensions.

DELIVER

How The Online Sales Tax Will Benefit E-Tailers
The current debate over collection of sales taxes for online purchases is a perfect example of fairness in competition. Current U.S. laws dictate that sales taxes are only collected in states where an online business has a physical presence. The proposed Marketplace Fairness Act legislation would require collection of sales tax for all Internet purchases - a scenario many e-tailers feel would be ruinous to their profitability.

DELIVER

Pronexus Launches New IVR Toolkit
Keri Fraser, Pronexus director of marketing, explains that enabling users to leverage their touchscreens to do drag-and-drop IVR development introduces a whole new level of ease of use. She adds that Pronexus is all about reducing barriers to entry for its solution.

DELIVER

Leveraging Forums for Customer Service
Before there was Twitter and Facebook, Internet bulletin boards and newsgroups were the places people exchanged news, ideas, and debate topics. They're still around and growing, with millions in existence and growing daily - they just have a different name. Today, we call them Internet forums, and they are booming discussion groups that provide a place for people who are passionate about a topic to interact, and companies who want to market products or engage with their customers to commune. Online forum users participate and monitor the forums they belong to on a daily, if not hourly basis, and they are active to the tune of hundreds of millions of unique monthly visitors and page views every month.

engage

Multi-channel Analytics: Stitching it All Together
Each year, according to IBM's GM of Watson Solutions Manoj Saxena, U.S. organizations spend roughly $112 billion on call center labor and software, yet half of the 270 billion customer service calls go unresolved. Let's face it, reaching a live person is rare. That person on the other end actually knowing what they're talking about is even more unlikely.

engage

Customer Service is the New Marketing; Marketing is the New Customer Service
It is no secret brands are built on superior customer service. To achieve maximum customer satisfaction, organizations must truly understand the concept of the customer journey and maintain consistent conversations across all communication channels and touch points.

engage

The Force of Social Media Management
CRM giant Salesforce.com, which popularized the software-as-a-service concept, in early June announced plans to acquire ExactTarget in a transaction valued at approximately $2.5 billion. Saleforce.com says that by combining ExactTarget's digital marketing capabilities with its own sales, service and social marketing solutions, it will create "a world-class marketing platform across e-mail, social, mobile and the web."

ENGAGE

Automated Technologies and the Human Touch
In one case, a brokerage's managing director took to the company-wide loudspeaker in response to the news, saying, "Careful, those things can be hacked," warning his team to think before acting. Once the tweet was discredited, many traders emphasized the value of their human advantages - noting the person-to-person warning kept their organization from making costly and brand-damaging decisions.

ACCOLADES

TMC, CUSTOMER Recognize Speech Tech Excellence Award Winners
The 2013 Speech Technology Excellence Awards recognize companies that have made significant contributions to improving speech applications for their clients. Speech technology has become more prevalent in both wireline and mobile applications.

ASK THE EXPERTS

The Evolving Role of Process Automation and the Customer Service Experience
Give contact centers credit. In their effort to improve customer service and increase the effectiveness of how service is provided, many centers have made significant investments in technology as well as people. One payoff has been contact center automation and the efficiency it produces for managing customer interactions. Yet, bottom line, the pressure remains to improve service processes overall and reduce costs at the same time.

SUCCESS

Chicago Theater Fills Seats by Using Rich Media Messaging
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater is a non-profit organization located in the heart of Navy Pier close to downtown Chicago. The professional theater company is known worldwide for its critically appraised Shakespeare productions that are performed 48 weeks of the year in more than six hundred annual performances.

TARGET

Newcomers Introduce Personal Video Platforms that Explain, Engage
In the 1988 movie Big, Tom Hanks' man-boy character gets a job at a toy company and comes up with the idea for a choose-your-own-adventure comic book. Now a company called Engajer is bringing a similar concept to corporate customers. Meanwhile, an outfit known as idomoo is offering businesses the ability to create large libraries of personalized videos and deliver them to customers based on their CRM profiles and history.

COVER STORY

The Father of Customer Satisfaction: ACSI Creator Claes Fornell Shares His Thoughts on the Customer Experience
Customer satisfaction has become a central focus for businesses today. But Claes Fornell became interested in customer satisfaction before it became a hot topic. Fornell is the creator of the American Customer Satisfaction Index. He is also the chairman and founder of CFI Group, an international provider of customer satisfaction measurement technology services; ForeSee Results Inc., a customer experience analytics firm; and CSat Fund, a hedge fund that applies customer satisfaction data to stock portfolios. And he authored the book The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference.

Edit Series

Phone or No Phone? The UC Debate
First, let's clarify that there are situations where phones are mandatory for public safety reasons - school class rooms, elevators, emergency call stations, hotel pools and other spaces that are required by either building or fire codes. Phones are expected items in conference rooms, shared office space locations, unstaffed lobbies and similar locations.

Strategic Solutions Series

A Custom B2B approach: InfoCision's BAM Model is Ramping up the Growth of its Business Services Division
While InfoCision's roots lie in nonprofit fundraising, the company has made major inroads over the last decade serving commercial businesses in a range of industries, including consumer services, telecommunications and media.

Accolades

TMC Reveals 2013 CUSTOMER Contact Center Technology Award Winners
A new business mantra has arisen in recent years. It says customer service is the new marketing. If that is the case, then the contact center has become an even more important, and strategic, part of organizations around the world.

Deliver

Crowdsourcing for Customer Service
As someone who's worked in the call center/customer care industry for more than 25 years, I've been increasingly interested in the opportunity that crowdsourcing now provides to extend and enhance customer service, while lowering costs. I call this crowd for care.

Deliver

SilkRoad Helps Smooth the Ride for Employees, Promises Best Results for Businesses
Milestone, which provides technology support for such companies as eBay and Facebook, is among the users of the SilkRoad services. Boyle says the company is a fast-growing company that needed a tool to do hires quickly and effectively. All of SilkRoad's customers are using the system to leverage social media in the recruitment process, adds Boyle, explaining that the SilkRoad service enables businesses to provide tools so candidates can see who at the company they know.

Deliver

Are We There Yet? Not When it Comes to Personalizing the Customer Experience within the Contact Center
However, despite this awareness, the vast majority of companies continue to fall behind in their ability to move the needle on delivering a truly differentiated customer experience. The Forrester 2013 Customer Experience Index report shows that 61 percent of companies are rated OK, poor, or very poor by their customers, which is only a slight improvement of 2 percent compared to 2012.

Success

Diamond Candles Illuminates the Benefits of Smart Social Media Strategy
Facebook has been a particularly effective means for Diamond Candles to push its $25 product, which is targeted a mid-market females in the 23- to 55-year-old age range. Diamond Candles, which boasts a quarter million Facebook fans, frequently used Facebook contests to try to boost user engagement. But the company wanted to make sure it was optimizing its promotional efforts on Facebook, so it tapped a company called SumAll to help out, said Justin Winter, co-founder and CEO of Durham, N.C.-based Diamond Candles.

Success

Citrix Renders the Benefits of Multi-channel Support Crystal Clear for Avigilon
Yet, along with an intensifying demand for support, new support needs are emerging that are placing even greater challenges on contact centers to find ways to respond effectively. Customers now want to access support in the exact channel they prefer and have instant resolution to their issues, wherever they may be. The service agent must be always available and more efficient than ever before.

Strategic Solutions Series

Understanding Your Customers' DNA: The Key to Intelligent Connections
Your contact center can handle hundreds of millions of customer interactions each year. At iQor, we believe each and every one of these calls, emails, chat sessions, and social media responses generates a series of important data points - small but useful clues, like strands of DNA. Utilizing the right digital network, infrastructure, tools, and processes to analyze, innovate and act, today's advanced contact centers can assemble these strands to help organizations develop a deeper understanding of their customers and, in turn, connect with and delight them more intelligently.

Engage

Mobile Analytics in Action: The Key to Building Customer Loyalty on Your Mobile App
Thousands of game publishers are vying for Joe's attention, trying to pull him away from Deer Crossing. But Joe is loyal to that app. That's because he's a member of an online mobile loyalty program, which rewards him for his very frequent play with a virtual currency. Using his newly earned currency, Joe can buy real-world rewards such as a free music downloads or discounts on gift cards for his favorite clothing store.

Target

Shopping for Statistics: Survey Indicates Retail Consumers are Open to New Experiences, But Social's Impact May be Waning
A new study of the retail clothing space by Market Force Information reveals that more consumers are open to trying and buying new brands, most often prompted to do so by sales and promotions. The same study indicates social media may be having a diminishing impact on customer behavior relative to retail decisions.

Target

Don't Leave Money on the Table: A 360-degree View of the Customer Can Help Financial Firms Lift the Bottom Line
Your customer-facing reps have to trudge through system after system to respond to customers or prepare for customer calls. They simply can't win in a competitive environment where firms are arming their reps with next-generation sales enablement platforms. Whether your company gains or loses market share will depend on how effective you make your brokers, agents, and reps - not how efficient (more calls), but how effective (better calls, higher value content).

DELIVER

Intraday Management: Do You Plan to React? Or React to Your Plan?
Despite the detailed planning to ensure staff levels meet customer demand on any given day, any number of events can occur and consequently add additional obstacles for workforce managers. These unexpected events include anything from severe weather that prevents agents from commuting to work, to a product recall that drastically increases the number of customer calls for an extended period of time.

ACCOLADES

TMC Congratulates CRM Excellence Award Winners
Gartner, meanwhile, reports that there are 110 CRM applications in the Apple App Store and 47 in the Android App Store. Mobile CRM will grow 500 percent by 2014. Social CRM will reach $1 billion in worldwide sales by the end of 2012, making up 8 percent of CRM spending this year. And half of all CRM applications will be web-based by 2016.

ENGAGE

Low-Profile Touchpoints can Deliver Big Customer Loyalty Gains
Customer support, contract negotiations, billing, on-boarding, post-sales support - these are the lunchpail customer touchpoints. They lack the glitz and glamour of sales, advertising and marketing, but they weigh just as heavily in your image.

ENGAGE

Belgacom Combines Social Media and Workflow to Deliver Service with Character
Eva has been successfully helping customers solve problems or queries online for years. Now with social media emerging as the new method for customers to address their concerns, Belgacom was faced with the challenge of learning how to engage these customers across several social media channels, while continuing to utilize Eva as the face of its customer service program. Maintaining the same, great customer experience was paramount.

Strategic Solutions Series

A Better Predictive Dialer/Call Center Solution: MDLsolutions Delivers on Affordability, Ease-of-Use & Support
This predictive dialer/call center solution is a Windows/software-based SIP/VoIP dialer/call center solution that runs on a SQL database, in combination with the Windows/software based 3CX IP PBX, to enable businesses to keep in contact with their clients effectively; for call centers of various sizes, or to serve as a stand-alone automated dialer. It scales easily from four to 500 agents.

TARGET

Making the Move to Mobile
It is no secret that mobile is a tremendous opportunity for customer engagement. Almost every study conducted in 2012 concluded that brands want to do more with mobile. While the hype and hope is there, uncertainty lingers about exactly how to execute a mobile customer engagement strategy and what the impact of a successful campaign looks and feels like.

DELIVER

Two Birds with One Stone: Cloud-based Contact Centers Elevate CE, Agent Productivity
As customers now expect easy access to information and faster problem resolution via a growing number of channels, contact center leaders need an efficient way to attain technology updates and ensure the best service is given. The powerful combination of a flexible IT infrastructure with a dynamic business strategy might sound overwhelming, but it is a necessary component for companies to satisfy these demanding, unique, and increasingly mobile customers.

DELIVER

WebRTC Will Deliver a Seamless Customer Experience
Organizations tend to have a website group and a contact center group. But, in the future, it is very likely that many companies will move to integrate the two in an effort to deliver a better customer experience while at the same time lowering their costs. WebRTC is expected to be a linchpin in bringing all this together.

DELIVER

Kunnect Does Hosted Contact Center Your Way
Kunnect wants to make it easier for organizations in a variety of industries to adopt its solutions on their own terms, so it has taken steps to make its hosted contact center offer more flexible and simple to implement.

COVER STORY

General Store Increases Revenue with Loyalty and Gift Card Solutions
We noticed the huge growth in gift card sales for retailers across the country. Upon implementation of the Epicor Gift Card solution, the Klem's management team was able to efficiently implement the move from paper gift certificates to gift cards as a way to increase revenue and provide a loyalty program to customers with in-store rewards.

COVER STORY

Pay It Forward: Doing Good While Building Brand
Advances in transportation and communications over the years have made people and organizations - whether across a state or on the other side of the world - more easily accessible. And the recent social networking phenomenon has allowed communities of interest to come together like never before.

ACCOLADES

TMC Presents Top 50 Teleservices Providers
At the start of the second quarter of each year since 1986, TMC has delivered its Top 50 Teleservices Agency Ranking lists. In this issue, we are pleased to present the 28th edition, listing the top teleservices firms in the world.

TARGET

5 Ways to Increase Lead Generation Value
Increasingly complex interconnections, an ever-growing number of players and non transparent activities have resulted in a situation where fraud and lead recycling are common practice. As lead quality decreases, lead pricing declines, resulting in an overall deterioration of the value of the lead gen space. Nevertheless, many marketers have their minds set on finding strategic and persistent methods and strategies to increase lead generation values and to re-introduce practices that benefit the lead gen industry. To achieve this, many small improvements can have tremendous positive impacts on lead gen quality.

TARGET

Power Dialer: Five9 Gives Muscle to DirectBuy San Diego's Outbound Calling
DirectBuy was founded in 1971 to offer consumers a different, less expensive way to buy home products and services. Based in Merrillville, Ind., the company has 160 showrooms across the U.S. and Canada. Members pay a fee to join, which allows them to buy merchandise directly from 700 manufacturers and suppliers while avoiding the price markups typically charged by retailers. Products include home furnishings, home improvement items, outdoor furnishings, flooring, and other accessories.

TARGET

Beyond Call Tracking: Call Marketing Automation Delivers the ROI
These developments have increased the importance of call marketing for advertisers. So, for businesses that talk to their customers on the phone, call tracking is now an essential capability. It allows marketers to properly attribute calls and marketing campaigns to a lead source, providing essential business intelligence.

DELIVER

Talking with Servion
CUSTOMER magazine recently spoke with Shankaran Nair, president of corporate strategy at Servion, about trends and developments in the customer experience arena. Here's an excerpt of that conversation.

DELIVER

Thinking Outside the Office: Virtual Model Opens New Opportunities for Specialized Service
Customers serving customers -- it's one of the biggest advantages of outsourcing to a company that operates within a virtual environment. While it is true that virtual call centers provide cost savings, efficiency and flexibility not found in traditional brick-and-mortar centers, it is their unique ability to align the skills of call taking contractor with the company programs they service that has convinced so many companies to adopt the outsourced virtual model.

ENGAGE

Conquering Channel Chaos
Faced as we are with a wealth of customer communications channels, it's very easy for them to get away from us. For many of us, it's time to take a deep breath and get control of channel chaos. Here are a few tips to help you connect better with your customers across - and between -channels.

Deliver

New Demands for Service Excellence Push Companies to Rethink Support
Something radical is happening. As entrepreneur Marc Andreessen says, software is eating the world. From Netflix and Hulu to home security and heating systems, from smog tests to doctor's blood tests, the globe is being invaded by an entirely wired and programmed flow of easily accessible data and online decision-making tools. As software bites off greater chunks of work and home, there's a corresponding hunger for tech support. Proliferating programs and cloud-connected devices cry out for the helping hand of IT help desks and customer contact centers. Employees and customers expect and depend on companies to make their software, programs and apps work and keep working

Accolades

TMC Announces MVP Quality Award Winners
CUSTOMER magazine and TMC proudly present the MVP Quality Awards. Though the technology they have at their disposal continues to evolve, these outsourcers represent the best of their community, leveraging the latest trends to set new standards for service excellence, customer care and support, without leaving behind their proven dedication to excellence in human interaction.

Edit Series

Utilizing Intelligent Call Routing for High-Interest Level Consumers
Direct response callers are different from most call-in consumers. They have a high level of interest in the product based on what they've seen, read or heard - certainly enough to compel them to pick up the phone. But, unlike traditional phone product orders, a direct response sale is not a given. While some people may arrive in your call center ready to buy, most require additional information and some sales finesse before they decide to seal the deal.

Engage

Fonolo Helps Credit Union's Mobile App Offer Enhanced Call Center Experience
Mobile apps have become must-have components for companies in the financial space. Most large and mid-size banks already have very full-featured mobile apps. But, sadly, many of them drop the ball when it comes to connecting with a live agent. Their Contact Us page does nothing more than display a phone number. This forces a customer who needs to speak to an agent to start over. What if that customer was about to apply for a loan? Chances are, he'll put his phone back in his pocket and that revenue opportunity is gone. That risk can be remedied by having a smarter connection to the call center.

Engage

Mapping the Customer Journey: Are Marketers Taking the Wrong Approach?
In the last couple of years, mapping the customer journey has become a priority for many marketers. With marketing automation technologies, new communication channels and social media, customer interactions have multiplied tenfold. Unfortunately, as many marketers attempt to map the customer's journey from beginning to end, the process has become everything but linear.

Target

Use Outbound to Start Conversations With Your Customers
According to research sources, outbound customer service implementations are growing by leaps and bounds. From outbound calls for prescription refills to flight update notifications via text to Twitter and Facebook outage updates, outbound can be a valuable tool no matter what your industry. And outbound doesn't just help companies avoid costs, it can help them grow revenue. In the case of pharmacies, customers usually wait several days before refilling prescriptions. But calling customers one to two days before the expected renewal helps pharmacies recapture lost revenues.

Target

Bringing the Alfresco Brand to the World
As companies go global, they are faced with new content challenges. How should a brand interact with foreign audiences who are using their services, or want to, but don't speak English? Companies have tried to address the challenge by using technology that can help manage their global presence as they expand into foreign markets.

Target

Measuring Mobile Customer Experience Satisfaction: ABC Case Study Offers a View into How it Can Be Done
Delivering a high-quality customer experience is more important than ever. With the rise of the Internet and now with a surge in mobile users, it's easier and less costly than ever for customers to switch brands. In the past, consumers needed to travel to purchase alternatives - creating inconvenience loyalty, but now they can change brands with a few mouse clicks or finger taps.

Deliver

How to Manage the Risks to Your Business and Customers After Hackers Attack
Damages caused by hacking attacks are not only technical headaches, but they can also cause tension between the company and its customers. This tension can be especially acute in cases where the hacked company offers a hosted service to its customers, and that service's functions are at risk. Hackers understand how damaging their threats can be and the importance that firms will place on meeting customer needs above nearly all other concerns. Despite the risks, companies can employ several best practices to become a less inviting target to hackers and to minimize the damages after a threat.

Deliver

CGS Focuses on Customer Solutions, Growth
CGS President and CEO Phil Friedman came to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union by way of Italy in 1976. Along the way he experienced a wonderful thing called pizza, and he cooked up an idea to bring the food to the American public. What he didn't know was that pizza already had arrived on U.S. shores years earlier.

Deliver

Serving Up Solutions: Real-Time Information Enables Guidance for Agent Improvement and More
But regardless of who is handling a customer interaction when a customer expresses the desire to drop your service or product, you want ensure that representative has all the tools they need to make the best attempt at keeping the customer from jumping ship.

Deliver

'Help Desk' Services For Mobile UC Customer Support
Consumers really want to do things by themselves as much as possible. This was reflected in a recent market study by Frost & Sullivan analysts, showing that "65 percent of consumers are now demanding self-service options around the clock." That should not be a big surprise, because who really wants to wait to talk to someone first before looking at information or performing a business transaction. It also drove consumers to buy their own home PCs to access web portals and exploit e-mail communications with people and online self-service applications.

Deliver

InfoSys Addresses New Customer Services Challenges with AssistEdge
Outsourcing and consulting giant Infosys recently took the wraps off a new solution called AssistEdge, which aims to improve the overall customer experience by addressing contact center agent productivity and integrating service-related activities across all channels.

Deliver

AudioCodes Puts Together One Voice for Lync
The AudioCodes One Voice for Lync puts all of the company's voice-based UC hardware, as well as professional services and support, under one umbrella, explains Alan Percy, director of market development.

On the Cover

The Social Media Divide: Contact Centers Need to Stake their Claim on the Social Frontier
Sure, marketing folks are communicating their messages on social media - and may be listening and learning from Facebook, Twitter and other social media to better understand what consumers like and don't like. But because marketing departments typically take ownership of social media, customer service operations like contact centers often have little if any role in the social media play.

On the Cover

So You Can Access Your Organization's Social Media Data - Now What?
Businesses rely significantly on social media to support sales, marketing and customer support goals. An organization's social channels allow it to reach customers instantly, understand customer needs, gauge brand sentiment, see how it compares competitively and much more. Many business professionals are gaining greater access to their company's social data but are not quite sure what to do with it. If you are among them, implementing social CRM processes can help you organize, analyze and act upon social data to achieve revenue-generating benefits.

On the Cover

Yours, Mine and Ours: Leveraging the Social Graph for Target Marketing
Facebook earlier this year announced that it now allows individual users the ability to do social search on Open Graph information. Open Graph is all the information Facebook collects on the people who use its social networking site; that can include personal information like a name or an e-mail, and/or the user interests, with whom a person is connected, brands he or she "likes", and even pictures posted.

Accolades

CUSTOMER Recognizes Product of the Year Award Winners
In the past, it was enough simply to have a call center to take orders and answer customer inquiries, a telemarketing effort to reach out to prospects by phone, and some folks available to read and respond to customer letters .

Strategic Solutions Series

Resolutions for 2013
Although I'm not one to make personal New Year's resolutions, I've found that beginning the year with some goals in mind for my professional life often helps focus my efforts and priorities. Here are my top customer-focused priorities for 2013. Pick one or all - each of them can truly make a difference in your customers' experiences and help build loyal relationships.

Strategic Solutions Series

What Marriage and Outsourcing Have in Common
Like a marriage, outsourcing relationships involve two parties working together to build a successful and sustainable partnership, starting with a solid foundation. In 2011, the U.S. $60-billion global outsourcing market witnessed the highest level of outsourcing transaction activity in North America and the U.K. since 2007.

Strategic Solutions Series

Hurricane Sandy's Reminder about Business Continuity
Contact centers are in the business of communicating, so we must also be in the business of communicating during a crisis like Hurricane Sandy. To help you prepare, we suggest the following steps for creating an effective disaster contingency plan for your contact center.

Strategic Solutions Series

Report Shines New Light on Key Factors Affecting Customer Management
Recently, my company, Dimension Data, a global IT service and solution provider, released its 15th annual Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report, entitled, "Transforming Customer Management." Providing insightful information from our clients, peers and industry colleagues, the 2012 report summarizes the survey results of 637 companies from 72 countries - including over 100 respondents from North America.

Engage

How the Tablet is Shifting Online Shopping Behavior
The rapid adoption of the smartphone from 2007 onward has caused a new set of challenges to retailers, which as a result had to optimize their websites for the exponentially growing number of people trying to access their sites from devices with much smaller screen sizes. Just as they got to grips with the trial and error of how to create a mobile website their customers actually found easy to use and can potentially purchase from, Steve Jobs launched the iPad, which instantly captured the hearts and minds of the public and caused a new challenge for online retailers.

Engage

The Changing Face of Customer Service
Five years ago, 51 percent of respondents named landline telephone customer support as their most preferred channel. That number has declined to 19 percent today. What has risen up as preferred channels in the last five years? You can probably guess: e-mail and websites.

Strategic Solutions Series

A Breakthrough in Call Recording: RecordingMagic Advances Affordability, Manageability and Scalability
If you're looking for an exceptionally cost-effective call recording solution for a large, multi-location enterprise, a medium-sized call center, a small home office or something in between, stop looking. VirtualLogger LLC combines the power of the cloud with plug computing to deliver scalable, full-featured call recording at an unprecedented price point.

Strategic Solutions Series

How to Make Your Business More Efficient, Profitable via Address Data Cleansing and LBS
Customer contact databases are both one of the biggest boons and one the biggest headaches for customer service and marketing managers at organizations around the world. These databases are invaluable tools for capturing, making available and storing data for call center, order entry, shipping and logistics, and other key business applications.

Target

On-Hold Messaging Delivery for the Digital Telephony Age
The colossal Cisco Unified CallManager phone system manual doesn't allot much space for on-hold messaging. It is simply one feature in a massive universe from the Cisco perspective. Yet on-hold messaging is a significant piece of the puzzle for businesses that use the application as a marketing component. The On Hold Messaging Association quotes sources stating that 70 percent of callers get put on hold.

Target

How to Realize the Benefits of Trigger-Based Marketing
Whether you're a mom-and-pop shop on the corner, or an international retail conglomerate, the old saying holds true: "People do business with the people they know, like and trust." Success is contingent on building relationships with your customers.

Target

Smarter Video: The Intersection of Customer Experience, Big Data and Personalization
A brand's knowledge of individual customer preferences is critical for nurturing long-term relationships. This ensures an optimal customer experience, which is becoming a strategic imperative for companies to differentiate themselves and maximize acquisition, retention and growth.

Benefitting from Call Recording and Screen Capture, and Avoiding Added PCI Compliance Requirements in the Process
Contact centers know the value of call and screen capture recordings. They use recordings so contact center agents and their managers can review them for training, improved efficiency, resolving customer issues and documenting legal compliance.

Strategic Solutions Series

Salesforce Service Cloud Helps Businesses Transform the Customer Experience
Customer service used to be all about phone conversations and face-to-face interactions, but today many people prefer to communicate with the companies with which they do business via social media, mobile communications, or whatever mode or device is the most convenient at a given time.

Strategic Solutions Series

Desk.com Helps Small Teams and Growing Businesses Deliver on the Promise of Social Customer Service
A social revolution is at hand. But it's probably not what you're thinking. What we're looking at here is an uprising in social media usage. And it's affecting how customers talk about and want to interact with businesses.

Editorial Series

The Value of First Impressions: How Brand Ambassadors Enhance Customer Relationships with One Phone Call
Most companies know the key to long-term growth is generating repeat business. Repeat customers mean greater brand loyalty, higher referrals and a steady stream of sales. Adding a new customer also costs considerably more than retaining an existing one.

Engage

New Opportunities in Mobile Marketing
Using SMS to deliver mobile campaigns limits marketers to a 160 character maximum allowed per message. All marketers that use text messaging with their customers know how difficult it is to create an effective campaign to engage consumers when using such a limited plain text.

Engage

Customer Services Needs Multi-Persona Mobile Apps
It's getting very obvious that it is consumer BYOD that is driving all kinds of customer service activities to UC-enabled, mobile, self-service applications accessible in public or private clouds. Whether the mobile application servers are located on premises or on a cloud service is also becoming a business option The bottom line is that mobile apps are shifting the emphasis of UC ROI away from just internal collaboration benefits to include servicing all mobile end users (customers, employees), who can now be more accessible to automated business applications and to flexible, multi-modal communications with people (person-to-person).

Deliver

New Study Addresses CRM in the Smartphone Age
The results of a benchmark study conducted by The Adcom Group for Virtual Hold Technology are in. They shed light on mobile app use and the need to improve the ease of transition from self-service in mobile apps to live human help.

Deliver

10 Things Your Customers Hate About Doing Business with You (And what you can do about them)
In the course of over 20 years working in contact centers and customer experience, I've done my share of focus groups and usability tests. And when I'm at a cocktail party as I was last night and people find out what I do, they're always ready to tell me about a recent bad experience or their customer service pet peeves. Here's what I've been hearing.

Deliver

Speaking My Language: TransPerfect Bridges the Communications Gap with Interpreter Services
A non-descript office park in Tempe, Ariz., houses the 150-seat contact center run by a company called TransPerfect. An IKEA sits across the street, but, beyond that, there's not a lot of international flare to speak of in the area. However, inside the walls of TransPerfect are interpreters who may be communicating in any of more than 170 languages.

Deliver

How to Optimize Customer Support for the Holiday Season
The holiday season is upon us. While it's a joyous time for most of us, it's also the busiest time for online stores, which are expecting the biggest shopping season in the year. If you run an online store that sells gifts, food, decoration materials or any other holiday items, make sure to prepare your customer support for the inevitable flurry of extra shoppers. Customer service can make a huge difference to stressed-out holiday shoppers, so it pays to keep a few tips in mind.

Ask the Expert

Leveraging Technology for Remote Agents
The economic pressures of the last few years have forced businesses to focus on cost reduction, often ahead of everything else. At the same time, customers have continued to demand "more and faster," meaning added channels, freedom from IVRs, and increased self-service calls to action, given the premium placed on time-to-service.

On the Cover

Tips on How to Make E-Mail Promotions More Personalized & Successful
More companies are beginning to send out targeted offers, but a lot of these efforts would probably be a lot more successful if the promotions were better timed and packaged for consumption on smartphones.

On the Cover

Personalized Service 2.0: Businesses Try to Bring the Customer Experience Full Circle
Delivering a personalized experience is a widely circulated concept these days. Everybody is talking about how businesses can and should leverage big data and otherwise cater to customers and prospects to build brand loyalty and expand average revenue per user. But while conventional wisdom indicates that organizations that provide such experiences stand to benefit handsomely, it can be difficult to figure out just exactly how to go about all this.

Ask the Expert

Transforming a Measurement Program into a Meaningful Program: 8 Great 'Next Steps'
Post call IVR surveying and customer feedback management has been making its way into the customer experience process now for a few years. At latest count, roughly 6.5 percent of all contact centers globally have adopted the technology. And while an industry-wide ROI benchmark has yet to be established, it's safe to say a majority of centers that have implemented post call survey practices thus far have benefitted by way of customer satisfaction improvement.

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Using Speech Analytics to Drive a Better Customer Experience
Speech analytics is a complex, sophisticated and frequently pricey application that purports to offer great results in terms of contact center performance and a better customer experience. And recent research shows speech analytics is gaining traction in contact centers. According to DMG Consulting, the market has grown to over 3,000 implementations in 2011 from a base of approximately 25 in 2004. So what problems are organizations tackling with speech analytics?

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Latin America: A New Land of Opportunity for Outsourcing
When most people think about outsourcing, the two prominent locations that come to mind are India and the Philippines. India's BPO sector continues to grow at an astounding rate, with more than 2.77 million employed in the country overall, only to be outdone by the new leader in outsourcing: The Philippines. However, experts have been looking toward Latin America as the new land of opportunity. Countries such as Nicaragua Panama, Colombia and Brazil are positioned as the future venue for BPO. With the combined factors of proximity and cultural affinity to the United States, there doesn't appear to be a better location for BPO practices.

Deliver

Cloud vs. CPE-based Contact Centers: How to Decide which is the Best Match for You
Having technology provided and managed by a third-party away from a customer's premises is not a new idea, with service bureau and application service providers being around for many years. That cloud-based contact center solutions are now hot is down to a mixture of factors, including the recession's negative effect on capital investment, the increasing functionality of hosted applications, and the proven success and general acceptance of cloud-based solutions, particularly those in the CRM sphere. Additionally, the stranglehold that incumbent customer premises equipment telephony providers had on the industry has been loosened by the advent of IP and more open systems, with the net result being a greater choice of solution providers.

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Transforming Customer Care via Big Data
Big data, put simply, refers to datasets that are so large and diverse that traditional data management and analytics tools are incapable of handling them. Big data can be either structured or unstructured, which is important because only about 10 percent of all enterprise data is structured and formatted to cleanly fit into databases and logical organization schema.

Engage

How to Engage Your Generation Y Call Center Agents
For anyone tasked with managing a call center, recruiting the right talent is among the primary goals. When the center experiences attrition, management faces the high costs of finding, hiring and training replacement agents. And, as it takes time for new workers to fully orient themselves to the job and the work environment, the call center may not provide the desired level of service to customers, which can impact business results.

How to Retain Customers with Real-Time Engagement
Customer churn is by no means unique to the telecommunications industry. But unlike other industries, success in the telecommunications business is nearly defined by it. In fact, the churn rate is the focal point for most quarterly reviews and reports. What is also particular to this industry is that a greater percentage of customers switch to other providers due to dissatisfaction with customer service - not price, packages or offerings.

Big Data

Communications Service Providers Target Businesses with Big Data Analytics
Telephone and cable TV companies have long been in the business of moving information. Now many of these network operators are bringing to market solutions to help marketing folks at the businesses they serve more effectively leverage information to reach and upsell customers.

Interactions

It's Time to Accept Responsibility for Your IVR
Most companies are focusing on adding channels to their customer support, such as live chat, social media and smartphone apps, while simultaneously adding features to enhance their contact centers, such as click-to-call or allowing premium status callers direct access to a live agent (as we've seen with the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card).

TMC's CUSTOMER Magazine Announces Winners of the 2012 TMC Social Business Award
The TMC Social Business Award honors vendors that have demonstrated innovation, unique capabilities, and significant contributions toward enabling and improving social channel interactions.

Strategic Solutions Series

Media Call Center Delivers Expansive Functionality at an Affordable Price
Selecting a restaurant based on past preferences, an advertisement, or a well-known brand can work out just fine. But acting on a recommendation from someone you know and trust can be your entree into a new and wonderful experience. Word of mouth is also a pretty great way to find new solutions for your business.

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Is Knowledge Management the Next Frontier in Customer Support?
Too often, people think of KM only as technology that manages data, information and electronic files, sometimes referred to as data warehousing. But it's really a managed process to harness, develop and make available a sustainable base of knowledge that's used across the organization - and with your customers. It becomes a living, breathing asset.

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Taking the Pain Out of Change: Five Tests to Ensure Contact Center Performance
Optimum contact center performance is essential for satisfying the needs of today's always-on customers, but it can be difficult to maintain in the face of constant change. Unfortunately, these changes - whether they include the introduction of a new service or an upgrade to existing technologies - must be made in highly complex, multi-vendor environments where network issues are extremely difficult to detect and diagnose.

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The Most Popular CRM Customization Equals Deeper Integration
Customer relationship management is one of the most important investments a business can make in today's unpredictable environment. According to a study conducted by Gartner Research, chief information officers ranked CRM in their top 10 technology priorities for 2012, a major jump from its ranking in 2011. With rules and regulations becoming stricter, and the economy remaining rocky, companies must differentiate themselves by the way they manage their customer and prospect experiences.

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Mobile Applications Shift to Function Over Fun
Early applications for mobile novices did not yet grasp the transformative power of mobile technologies and how quickly users would adopt and demand more advanced solutions. In the early stages, many developers participated in a gold rush of applications, where the newness of the entire app realm allowed developers to earn substantial sums quickly. The real-world usefulness of the app was not always important; the fact that it existed and was able to excite enough users was enough. Early applications included simple games, rudimentary to-do lists, and alarm clock applications that were mainly novelties designed to attract only short-term users.

Engage

How to Make Your Website Truly Useful and Valuable
We've all been there. You're on a website browsing and maybe hoping to buy a product or service, and you leave before finalizing a transaction either because you didn't find what you were looking for or because you couldn't figure out how to buy the thing.

Target

Marketing Mojo: New Tools Help Businesses Better Identify & Connect with Prospects, Customers
The shotgun approach to customer targeting is so passe. Businesses today increasingly want to use tools and technologies that enable them to identify and focus as much as possible on their particular interest groups, and to cater to their unique needs. Among the tools and services that are enabling companies to do that are lifecycle maps, mobile messaging, on-demand mobile ad buying and analytics solutions, and new CRM offerings.

ACCOLADES

CUSTOMER Introduces TMC Labs Innovation Awards - Part 2
This year marks the thirteenth installment of the prestigious TMC Labs Innovation Awards, for which TMC Labs analyzes dozens of applications to find the most unique and innovative products.

ASK THE EXPERTS

Excelling at Mobile Customer Service
Smartphones and mobile applications have given consumers a whole new way to interact with businesses. Call it newfound freedom and convenience. For businesses themselves, the mobile approach provides a way to serve customers better and - if done correctly - to form stronger, more lasting relationships. But that's the problem. Many businesses are still struggling to determine how best to use tools such as mobile apps to their advantage.

COVER STORY

Nothing Personal, But It Isn't About You
Don Brown and Interactive Intelligence's Quest to Turn Customer Service into a Competitive Weapon

Seven Strategies to Protect Customer Identities in a Work-at-Home Environment
It is no secret that landing a job in today's tough economic times is difficult. People often must commute many miles because their local community has limited opportunities.

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Real-Time Personalization Helps Optimize Customer Experience
Our public schools are designed to educate the masses. Every classroom is filled with students who each learn at their own pace - some catch on quickly, others need a little more time, but most tend to fall somewhere in the middle. Teachers generally pace their lessons to meet the needs of the middle group of students so the entire class can move forward as efficiently as possible.

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Cloud-Based IVR Gives Customers a Voice
Ever press zero or say "operator" rather than enduring the maze of menu choices when calling your bank or airline? Every time a customer escapes an interactive voice response system, that organization's bottom line takes a hit. At a mid-size bank, for example, even 1 percent of additional callers that bail out of IVR can raise customer care costs by $2-3 million.

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Dos and Don'ts for Social Customer Service
So your contact center has taken the plunge into social media - congratulations! A few months ago, I outlined guidelines for social service, including strategy, policies, operations and metrics. All these things make the difference between just throwing people at social service and having an effective and professional social service team. But what are some key dos and don'ts for day-to-day customer social service?