Sharpen Executive Interview
Cameron Weeks, CEO, Sharpen
What do you consider to be the greatest
obstacles today’s contact center agents need to overcome to provide better
told us that some of their largest pains stem from the complexity of the tools
they’re forced to work with, and a lack of useful training from their managers.
They’ve told us they’ve previously had to struggle with multiple windows across
multiple screens, multiple systems that don’t share information, multiple
points of failure, a lack of connection with other agents on their teams, and a
lack of ability to connect with customers on an authentic level to solve their
problems. These same agents tell us they consider Sharpen’s ability to overcome
these issues to be “life-changing.” They’re finding that having all
omni-channel communication tools and relevant customer information in one
intuitive interface helps them get to the heart of customer issues, find a
solution, and solve problems. This lets them be heroes to customers, rather
than punching bags. They tell us the improvement in their confidence levels and
efficiency are a night & day difference.
supervisors report only being able to spend around 7% of their weekly time
coaching agents, while 53% is spent on administrative tasks and searching for
information. Sharpen is improving the agent experience by defining it,
measuring it, and providing that data to both supervisors and agents. While
other vendors pay lip service to the agent experience, Sharpen creates its
applications with the express purpose of helping contact centers develop their
people in a streamlined, efficient, and effective way.
There’s a lot of talk about creating
‘super-agents’ who can effectively manage interactions across multiple
channels. Is that possible with legacy technologies or do businesses need to
invest in updated solutions to make it a more viable option?
“Possible” is a
pivotal term, in this question. The answer is, of course, “yes.” But then it
raises another question… “is this the BEST way to accomplish your goal?” When
the original multi-channel systems were created, they focused on the concept of
combining various discrete hardware-based systems into a single “all-in-one”
software system. They succeeded in doing this, but the issue is that their goal
was a bit short sighted. Early vendors focused on the systems themselves,
rather than on solving the core problem, which is creating a connection that
allows agents to resolve customer issues. It’s a subtle but important
difference, in that “channels” are not the most important thing… customers are.
Yes, customers should have choices of how they reach out, but likewise agents
should have tools to transition a conversation to a more suitable channel if it
helps resolve an issue. Legacy systems solved the problem of “more channels,”
but in doing so they revealed new limitations. Sharpen is focused on, “helping
agents and customers solve problems.” The outcome we’re seeing is fast ROI,
better First Contact Resolution, higher CSAT and companies who are able to
create best-in-class experiences.
can businesses do to better empower front-line service teams while making
individual agents feel more valued within the organization?
important way to make individual agents feel valued is by investing in their
improvement. This lets agents know they’re a name, not a number. In order to
provide meaningful coaching, supervisors and managers need a variety of
information including both real-time and historical monitoring tools,
scorecards, and reporting. When coaches have this information at the ready,
they can spend their time and energy pouring into their teams, rather than
fighting systems and hunting for data. Over time, as coaches invest in their
teams, these front-line agents are empowered and confident, which helps them
connect with customers on an authentic level.
What is “conversational coaching” and how does
it go beyond the traditional use of call recording to improve contact center
coaching facilitates true collaboration between agents and supervisors.
Supervisors/agents can access recorded calls within the Sharpen platform, with
the option to add color-coded comments, questions, and feedback directly on
call recording regions. This keeps all comments, ScoreCards, and call data in
one place. When reviewing supervisor feedback, agents can easily respond and
clarify next steps in order to set the foundation for success. Coaching’s
ease-of-use enables more consistent feedback--ultimately resulting in more
Many organizations use analytics to gauge the
performance of their contact center operations.
How can companies determine the specific analytics that are most
relevant to their needs and set up reporting in a user-friendly format that
enables them to glean the insights to make the most positive impact?
can only be made if they’re well-informed. Businesses need to define and
articulate top-level objectives, and determine each team’s role in achieving
them. Using this strategy as the guide, KPIs need to be identified and
framework in place, the crucial piece remaining is a system that allows the
business to track existing data points, or create their own KPIs. The system
must also allow for real-time monitoring and historical reporting, as well as
sharing and displaying information clearly. With these tools, businesses can
move beyond the mundane reporting of the past and into true analytics. This
aids the process of identifying core problems, planning their solutions, and uncovering
In order to provide a consistent experience,
contact centers need to unite all service channels and effectively leverage
customer data. How does your solution contribute to delivering a seamless
and presentation of customer data is crucial to providing a smooth experience
for both agents and customers. In order to focus their attention on the
customer and on the reason for their reaching out, agents need relevant
information and tools for seamless communication in one easily navigated
window. Sharpen provides pre-built integrations to the most popular CRM and
ticketing platforms, creating an environment that fosters agents and customers
working together to solve problems.
can also take their own directions with this deep connection using a variety of
customization options. They can keep it simple with web-based administrative
tools, dig in to the open REST APIs, or roll up their sleeves and use the full
power of [dot]CX… Sharpen’s first-of-its-kind object oriented programming
language focused on customer experience.
access to data and flexible tools for customization, Sharpen’s commitment to
creating smooth agent and customer experiences is unmatched in the industry.
Sharpen is a solution that leverages advanced
cloud-native architecture. How does this
make it different and more effective than existing cloud solutions?
Sharpen’s developers began writing code, they studied. They looked at existing
solutions, discovered their limitations, and created a platform that isn’t held
back by decades of legacy debt. By taking this fresh approach, Sharpen has been
able to create a foundation that overcomes geographical and cloud restrictions.
Solving these issues creates a single, true global environment with minimal
latency allowing us to achieve the highest possible measurable voice quality (a
sustained 4.4 MOS score for the entire year of 2017), no MPLS required.
foundation, Sharpen built applications for omni-channel communications, again
taking a fresh approach. Rather than recreating other vendors’ feature lists,
Sharpen created systems to handle the three basic “types” of communication:
voice-based, text-based, and data-based. With this approach, the team was able
to spin-up channels to match traditional systems, as well as push ahead into
SMS/MMS, Internet of Things, and video in a fraction of the time with a
fraction of the required resources. Not only is Sharpen built to allow a smooth
transition from legacy systems to modern, it’s built to handle channels of
communication that don’t exist yet.
The platform is
also cloud-agnostic, meaning it doesn’t rely on any one cloud service provider.
Instead, Sharpen clients can use (or not use) Amazon Web Services, Google or
Microsoft Azure as their business prefers. Doing this provides more than just
options. It creates a system that survived a major AWS outage in 2017,
suffering only the temporary unavailability of user icons. (Even this failure
has since been corrected.)
This is much
more than an engineering feat, or academic exercise. It creates actual global
ACD capabilities, allowing businesses to connect their offices around the
world. A location in Australia can leverage a remote agent in Kansas as easily
as if they were down the street at a coffee shop. A customer in London can
speak with an agent in Phuket with crystal clarity. Sharpen finally delivers on
the capabilities legacy vendors have aspired to for over 20 years.
HIPAA and PCI compliant, carries a financially-backed 99.999% uptime guarantee,
and secures all traffic using bank-level encryption in transit and at rest. New
features are deployed in real-time, and are included with no increase to the
simple per-user monthly price. Users can be added or removed easily, allowing
businesses to scale up or down as needed.
With a focus on
improving agent and customer experience, Sharpen is more than a software
product. It’s a company dedicated to helping business get better.
Who is Sharpen, what do you do, and why do you
Sharpen creates better agent experience
by developing software and relationships to solve communication problems. We’ve
created a cloud-native contact center platform that provides the required
functionality of today’s contact centers, and picks up the torch from legacy
systems, allowing businesses to break new ground in customer experience.
Because the foundation of our platform is better, the applications we’ve built
on it are more stable, more flexible and more reliable. This allows Sharpen to
provide the highest possible quality communications around the world with no
geographical or cloud service restrictions. In short, Sharpen provides better
omni-channel communications for contact centers.