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Customer Service Experience 2012 Review

Presented By: Customer Service Experience

Redefining the Relationship of Technology, New Strategic Directions and Customer Satisfaction 

InfoToday expanded the scope of their annual New York educational forum with the introduction of the Customer Service Experience- a third program running in conjunction with their joint SpeechTEK and CRM Evolution event.  While the added conference track provided more educational options, some attendees said that listing seminar descriptions and exhibitor details in separate show programs for each of the three co-located events made it more challenging to find the best available opportunities.  There was an increased focus on how technology can be strategically applied to meet changing customer expectations and better respond to rapidly evolving channel preferences. Smartphones are now customers’ go-to devices, spurring interest in all things mobile to new levels. This includes voice, personal assistant applications and optimizing multi-channel capabilities.  

Monitoring –and appropriately responding to –customer use of social media was front and center.  Speech applications including IVRs employing natural language technology, sophisticated virtual agents and artificial intelligence to increase ROI by deflecting calls from agents were another key topic. Advanced analytics were also an area of focus. Vendors told us about many innovative solutions and shared their success stories. Below we discuss developments from companies that participated in the Customer Service Experience 




Castel Detect is a voice and speech analysis solution that grows with a contact center’s business. It gives businesses the ability to employ real-time analysis by instantly monitoring and detecting words, phrases, emotions and talkovers during live calls.   Castel clients can create their own keywords and phrase lists specifically used by either the customer or the agent during a call, as well as select new words and phrases to be added to either list. This capability provides agents with immediate feedback on their performance, enables supervisors to see the entire conversation and intervene or provide coaching when necessary. Castel Detect offers protection from specific business risks and helps ensure adherence to compliance requirements in industries like banking, financial services, receivables management and insurance by providing prompts to agents and alerts to management if a necessary statement has not been made in the course of a conversation. 


It’s also a valuable tool in CRM environments for training to improve CSAT: since every call is recorded, robust post-call analysis is available. Batch reporting gives supervisors an overview of which specific agents require more prompts and additional training and helps identify top performers to be rewarded. Plans for upcoming 2013 releases include an enhanced training module. 

Castel Detect is effective in inbound, outbound and blended solutions. It combines with the Castel Connects Suite customer interaction management solution or can be an overlay for channel partnerships. The solution can accommodate real-time monitoring of concurrent conversations in 600-700 seat operations with multisite locations. An installation team goes onsite to every company as a part of the implementation process--deployment can be accomplished in a matter of  several weeks or some cases, a few days—and follows up to ensure that all needs are being met. What sets Castel Detect apart, according to Paul Maggioli, CTO at Castel, is its unique capability to provide in-call analysis as opposed to competing programs which only offer post-call analysis.  


Nexidia is adjusting its focus to make analytics more accessible for organizations that had previously considered the tool beyond their means. Until now, Nexidia’s analytics resources had been employed mainly by hundreds or thousands of agents with the capability to implement large projects.    

More case studies are now available and people who’ve experienced the benefits of analytics first-hand are spreading the word in other market segments.  Broader availability of information has led more companies to explore the advantages of implementing analytics, focus on what criteria should be considered and consider how data could be used to change the way they operate. 


Nexidia recently added a SaaS offering that reduces the uncertainty of making deployment decisions. Analytics OnDemand, a hosting model which provides a lower cost option, allows a company to implement a pilot program and use empirical data to prove their business case before making a more significant investment. The solution includes setup in a secure hosted environment and data extraction of interactions as well as online instructor–led training.  Jon Ezrine, SVP and Chief Operating Officer at Nexidia, sees an acceleration of interest among companies excited by the product’s introduction.  He said, “Analytics OnDemand gives businesses an easier path to taking the first step.”  He cited organizations such as AAA MidAtlantic and Atlantic Coast Media Group as early adopters of the program.  Both enterprise and midsize companies can now benefit from information which never existed for them. The improved knowledge made possible by analytics opens what Ezrine calls “an avalanche of initiatives” for organizations to improve the way they do business. 


Raytheon BBN Technologies unveiled their new AVOKE Analytics 4.0, a secure cloud-based whole call recording and analytics solution developed to optimize customer interactions from dialing to hang up. It enables companies to better integrate and optimize internal agent teams, outsourced contact centers and IVR systems for seamless end-to-end service delivery. 


AVOKE 4.0 is a comprehensive new offering with an impressive list of new analytics, interactive reporting and data exploration capabilities, including a text mining feature that finds important words and phrases to help users build better queries, searches and speech events, expanded data collection and data export features, custom reports delivered daily, weekly or monthly, faster call navigation to accelerate targeted analysis and much more. “AVOKE 4.0 introduces features that will enhance customer service by providing better insight of the caller’s experience,” said Joe Alwen, Vice President and General Manager, AVOKE Analytics, Raytheon BBN Technologies 


Verint Systems showcased how its solutions help organizations use the voice of the customer to drive operational excellence. They also demonstrated how speech analytics, text analytics and enterprise feedback management can be used across multiple channels to optimize service, heighten customer experiences, and build loyalty with their Voice of the Customer Analytics portfolio.  

One of its key components is their Vovici™ Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) software with its recently introduced “Insights” module that adds embedded text analytics and an interactive dashboard. The enhanced features in “Insights” provide powerful, integrated text analytics capabilities enabling users to:  

 · Gain deep insight into the emotions behind collected feedback—and act on it to drive positive change.  

 · Benefit from automatic theme detection, comment categorization and sentiment analysis summaries  

 · Drill-down into individual customer feedback to view exact comments and analyze root causes  

 · Find out the “why” behind what customers and employees are saying about a company, brand, or specific products and services 


”Our message,” said Daniel Ziv, VP Voice of the Customer Analytics for Verint, “is that to optimize all channels, you need to look holistically at your VoC program. Speech analytics are important but speech alone is not enough. Natural language processing tools in text analytics allow you to capture key insights in a meaningful way.” He cited one example of how text analytics are now being used at United Airlines. The carrier now sends out what Ziv called “smarter” surveys,” enabling respondents to make both structured and unstructured comments that are automatically mined with text analytics tools. In the case of low survey scores where no comments are made, United can go back to calls made by the people surveyed to determine what they said. 


Intelligent Virtual Agents/Hosted Speech IVR  


Next IT  is staking its claim as the largest US provider of intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs). Their ActiveAgent product combines the personalized service that customers expect from a top-performing live agent with the business benefits and dependability that organizations want from a technology-based self-service solution.  Next IT IVAs are driven by Human Emulation Technology, an advanced conversation-enabling solution that melds natural language processing with proprietary symbolic logic intent discovery algorithms. They deflect a high number of Tier 1 and Tier 2 inquiries from live agents which can result in substantial cost reductions for clients.  


Agent avatars have been created for clients that have driven revenue, changed the customer engagement model, and become an integral part of the organization’s brand identity: 


 - Aetna’s “Ann” interacts with about half of all people registering for their site, helping Aetna achieve a 29% reduction in calls to their customer service technical help desk 

 - Alaska Airline’s “Jenn” was so effective in reducing live web chat that the carrier was able to entirely eliminate the service after her introduction 

 - “Sergeant Star” has increased average session length for US Army recruitment by 160%, and has answered over 8 million questions with only 3% resulting in a live chat session. 

 -Gonzaga University’s “Spike,” a bulldog that callers associate with the school’s highly successful basketball program, has helped online giving increase by 50% since launch.

While agents have a broad range of knowledge, they also employ different engagement strategies and have triggers to escalate to live agents when necessary.  In new implementations, Next IT works closely with marketing departments to determine the look and phone personality of the agent, answering such questions as: should the agent be animated or realistic looking, be straightforward in conversations or have a bit of an edge, and should there be different agents with different accents for different regions. Agents are capable of cross-channel conversations: Sgt. Star answers questions on Facebook and Spike communicates via text message 


SmartAction. Smart Call Agents are a state-of the-art solution that combines artificial intelligence (brain) and natural language capabilities that enables companies to deflect repetitive—but important-- calls from live agents.  Smart Call Agents are capable of handling more complex transactions than many other advanced IVRs. Required information can be obtained and transactions completed with minimal effort. Smart Call Agents improve the customer experience by making the call more efficient. SmartAction provides hosted speech IVR services that provide cost savings for contact centers from midsize to Fortune 500 companies. Examples include:  

 - A Canadian auto club that uses Smart Call Agents for service calls originating in the home reported average call length dropping from 3 minutes to 75 seconds. Using SmartAction saved them 60-80% per call while performing more effective call resolution. 

- A wireless tech support service for hotels was able to deflect half of first level calls that often lasted as long as 8 minutes. 

- A company that services retail warranties found that using Smart Call Agents to field inquiries reduced call volume to live agents by 20-30%.   

The artificial intelligence component also helps retailers drive revenues by “learning” to deliver appropriate cross-sell/upsell messages when handling returns.  “The more calls we handle, the better able we are to learn what people are asking for,” said Norm Pensky, SmartAction’s senior vice president, Strategic Accounts. 

Smart Call Agents are used effectively in both inbound and outbound applications. In outbound campaigns, the virtual agent can accurately determine whether a live person or a machine has been reached, then deliver the appropriate message. This capability helped a large outbound trucking call better confirm deliveries, reduce no shows and eliminate hiring temporary agents to handle peak time calls.  SmartAction works collaboratively with clients during the implementation process, establishing and meeting milestones, providing ongoing product tuning updates and 24/7 customer support. Callers experiencing SmartAction’s natural language capabilities are often unaware that the voice on the other end is not a live person. One warranty company got a compliment about their Smart Call Agent, stating that “she” was very nice on the phone. 

Cloud-Based Software Solutions   


Parature  is a leading provider of cloud-based customer service and social engagement software for mid-market and enterprise businesses. Their recent release, enables CSRs to log into a brand new agent interface with faster, easier access to customer information, as well as improved usability and readabilityThe company reports experiencing rapid growth which they attribute to companies in a number of industries switching over from a competitor.  


Parature now has 1,000 subscription customers with 50 million end users, and has hosted 50 million service tickets. They support 3,000 brands in 33 languages and have 25 million customer page views per month.  Their web-based SaaS provides everything that their clients need to monitor, manage, respond to, analyze and report on their customer interactions.   Parature’s updated client list includes IBM, Ask.Com, LEGO, NASCAR, the NBA and WebMD. The Virginia-based company is also particularly strong in government services, supporting such agencies as the EPA, NASA, DFAS (Defense Finance & Accounting Services), FEMA, and HUD.  


Parature also expanded their Social and Mobile capabilities. In responding to customer needs, they became the one of the first CRM software providers to launch a solution for direct customer engagement on Facebook. Parature also created a Unified Knowledge Base across channels and devices.  


The company’s brand promise is ‘Customer Service Software That Revolves Around You.’ Co-Founder and Chairman Duke Chung cited an innovative example of how Parature put it into action. “Trojan, one of our clients in the health care field, had assigned 10 agents to constantly monitor that profanity was not visible in social media,” he said. “We were able to create a profanity filter, allowing them to reassign the agents to other tasks.”  


Vertical Solutions, Inc. (VSI) is a developer of CRM and service management solutions. Their platform technology, Vertical Systems Platform (VSP), was updated within the past few months to enable real-time decision guidance, called Service Guidance, for applications developed on VSP including their cloud-based CRM contact center management solution, VContactCenter.  


Cincinnati-based VSI listens to the specific needs of their clients and provides innovative solutions to help them deliver a fulfilling customer experience. This capability led them to a productive partnership with Pure Romance, one of the nation’s fastest-growing direct sellers of relationship enhancement programs for women. “We went from 55 consultants and sales of $6 million in 2001 to 25,000 active consultants and sales of over $100 million in 2010,” said Chris McIntire, VP of Business Development for Pure Romance.  “Over the years, we had made decisions based on gut feelings, but when we hit the $100 million mark, we realized that it was time to find a comprehensive solution on how to provide the best possible service to the people who made out business tick.”  


They had invested in a number of technology systems to manage and capture data on consultants, customers and loyalty incentives. But with data stored in various silos, the in-house staff of 20 CSRs often literally had to walk from one department to another to obtain information and call the consultant or customer back.   The goal was to integrate data from these disparate multiple systems and provide a single view that would enable them to develop a true multichannel approach to build and manage consultants and customer loyalty. They also wanted to be able to connect with customers on social media networks.   

They chose VSI’s VContactCenter, which was implemented in 2011.”The solution gave us a mix of the features we needed and best practices and they were able to accommodate our timeframe,” said McIntire. “Now all of our agents can access all information from the dashboard in the system and can quickly create a ticket to handle any issue that comes up. They have more time to build relationships and can spend more time talking to the people they serve. Our management team has immediate access to the information they need.”  


Pure Romance is also monitoring company reputation on social networks directly in the application, using a feed within the dashboard to follow any mention of the company name or products. If it contains a customer complaint, CSRs can generate an incident ticket directly from a tweet or Facebook post. “We’ve learned a lot from using VContactCenter,” said McIntire. “We thought returns were a big issue and now we know that they only run about 3.5 - 4%. We also know that a lot more customers than we thought call to compliment us.” 

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