| Contact Center/CRM Views and Analysis

January 2009

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Forrester's Practical Solutions To Growing Business and Cutting Costs

January 30, 2009

There has been much and understandable wailing in the current economic climate about 'yes I need to retain and grow customers but my CFO has axed my budget'.

Now Forrester Research has come up with five practical, leading-but-not-bleeding edge recommendations that will make CFOs, CMOs, and ultimately CEOs happy by shrinking costs and increasing business.

This advice, contained in a new report covered on TMCnet, The Economic Necessity Of Customer Service by Natalie L. Petouhoff, Ph.D., Sharyn Leaver, and Andrew Magarie in summary are:

* Deploy proactive chat. It reduces online shopping revenue loss as well as shrinks the need to call the contact centers, thereby slicing operational costs

* Empower sales agents with co-browse tools to help customers through web interactions, and avoid calls and shopping cart abandonments

* Explore unified communications (UC) and with it presence.

Rx For Downturn: Better Marketing, Better Customer Service

January 29, 2009

One would think that in a marketplace that is being buffeted by the nastiest economic downturn in years and by a shift in customers' attitudes from passive respondents to becoming active, empowered, participants that companies would step up their marketing and backed by strong customer service.

Yet there is unfortunately evidence to the contrary. And companies that fail to get the word out, and deliver effective service risk failing, period.

"The most amazing statement I have heard in my career - and I am hearing it frequently these days is - we are waiting for sales to pick up so we can start marketing, " wrote TMC Group Publisher Rich Tehrani in his blog. "This is the equivalent of going to the fireplace and telling it you are waiting for it to produce heat before you put a log in.

Attention Microsoft: Focus on Quality, Core Competencies Or Go The Way of GM

January 26, 2009

If there is any hopeful upside in Microsoft's recent announcement that it is laying off 5,000 people is that the harsh economic and marketplace realities correctly identified by TMC Group Publisher Rich Tehrani in his recent blog will at last force this software behemoth: the 'General Motors of Tech' to focus on delivering quality products that customers want than have to buy. For the risk that Microsoft may find itself in similar straits as GM is today is all too real.

Empires collapse because they fail to deliver the goods: prosperity, reasonable order, and security that those who buy into them expect. Microsoft has had too many adventures away from its core business and consumer applications, and it has failed to make too many of them, such as the atrocious Windows ME as well as the much-maligned Vista perform right.

Genesys' Timely Deals: Consernos and SDE

January 22, 2009

One of the signature features of Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, owned by Alcatel-Lucent, and why it is highly respected is its ability to execute thoroughly: whether in devising and enhancing new software or buying other industry firms.

A case in point is Genesys' announcements today of two acquisitions: Conseros, which provides software that enables dynamically prioritizing work task distribution, and SDE the creators of the Genesys Customer Interaction Portal (GCIP). The two moves are very timely because these firms bring to Genesys, and to its customers and prospects solutions that can help them increase their productivity and reduce costs.

The Conseros acquisition adds to the Genesys intelligent Workload Distribution (iWD) solution the ability to extend and route calls to outside of contact centers, such as bank tellers, field techs, retail clerks, and back office staff based on skills-based routing and availability.

The Blending of The Retail Channels

January 21, 2009

Avaya's new In-Store Connect and Video Assist solutions are the latest tools that are incrementally enabling the long-promised but slowly being delivered integration of the retail channels: in-person, contact center, and the web.

This movement promises to deliver high quality customer-retaining/attracting service, better knowledge of customers to provide services in accordance with their value while lowering costs i.e. true retail CRM: which is what the retail sector desperately needs in this tough economy.

Just as customers switch between communications channels, choosing the ones that meets their needs at the time, they flip between sales channels for that reason.

Must The Media Get Involved To Ensure Quality Customer Service?

January 20, 2009

Canada's Toronto Star newspaper recently ran an excellent article by its consumer affairs columnist, Ellen Roseman, on several firms that have responded well when faced with consumer complaints or incidents. These companies are Molson, Staples, GM, and Future Shop.

"'I'm not looking for thanks when I send consumer complaints to large companies,' "she wrote. " 'But I'm always impressed when they respond with gratitude.

Contact Centers and Economic Development

January 19, 2009

Contact center services are providing one of the few bright employment spots in a dismal economic climate, what with retail bankruptcies and closures and manufacturing shutdowns.

Firms are opening new facilities, such as IBM in Iowa that is reported that will employ 1,300 people, plus a delivery center in Michigan that will employ about 100. There are the home agent additions that seldom get reported but which are spreading across the U.S. and in Canada, and which will be the future of contact centers because they provide maximum performance and productivity at least costs with optimal flexibility and business continuity.

Why $40B in Broadband Availability Is Worth While

January 16, 2009

President-Elect Barack Obama is likely to direct up to $40 billion in grants and loans toward improving broadband availability and speeds as part of broader economic stimulus efforts, according to UBS analysts.

And that's great news, because the nation needs a countrywide and affordable broadband network to connect in the 21st century just as it needed roads in the 20th and railroads in the 19th.

Only broadband can provide access to work (e.g. work at home contact center agents) and services from anywhere; only broadband can make a sufficient and realizable dent in harmful commuting.

Congrats, Interactive Intelligence, For Becoming #1 in Unified Communications

January 13, 2009

It couldn't happen to a nicer, more deserving, and innovative firm.

Interactive Intelligence has been rated, according to Datamonitor, the top unified communications (UC) vendor by North American contact centers who chose it as the one "they most trust to deliver a UC solution."

Datamonitor's "Business Trends: Contact Center Investments in Developed Markets (Customer Focus)" report, which released the finding, also showed Interactive Intelligence as the favored UC vendor by larger enterprises worldwide and as the highest rated UC vendor for delivering solutions to the communications vertical. The study cited among the top characteristics enterprises look for in a UC vendor are an 'all-in-one' contact center solution, a strong combination of technology and services, and "best-in-class" IM.

Information for the Datamonitor "Business Trends" report was collected via phone surveys of 150 contact center managers from companies throughout North America and Western Europe.

The Key Obstacle to Telework Is In The Mirror

January 12, 2009

There is no longer any sound reason to open and keep formal contact centers; the same also goes for most office-type work from administration to finance, marketing/sales and yes to media/PR that no longer requires face-to-face interactions to perform. Instead these functions should be sent home.

There are no benefits to be gained from expending scarce capital and operating dollars on such overhead that does not contribute to and one can argue detracts from production, and profits. Overhead which is also responsible for causing transportation demand leading to traffic congestion, air pollution, and harm from emissions and accidents, and high individual and corporate taxes.

The 4-1-1 on Cell/IP 9-1-1

January 8, 2009

The Canadian communications regulator acted finally right if tragically late by requiring technology to be put in place enabling 9-1-1 dispatchers to trace calls from cellphones by 2010. Had Canada followed the U.S. lead of a few years ago several lives, including that of a British Columbia man who froze to death last week, could have been saved. Yet the U.S.

To Be Secure, Go Home

January 7, 2009

There is an understandable misapprehension that having programs handled by home-based agents is less secure datawise than those served by those in conventional employer-subsidized contact centers. These worries arises that because home agents are in seemingly uncontrolled environments criminals can more easily steal data from them than from their contact center counterparts.

One respondent to my blog post last month on StarTek's closing of its Regina, Saskatchewan contact center and suggesting a remote strategy instead ( "StarTek's Canada Closure: Can't See the People For The Cubes") wrote:

"That's all fine and good as long as your client allows you to set up remote systems, but many of the clients that outsourcers service are extremely security conscious and want everyone in a secure environment. As a manager in another StarTek call centre I fully agree that adding services like you describe are the best solution but our client will not permit us to use it."

The reality is that security is stronger at home offices and data is better protected than in conventional contact centers because in part, and ironically, there is more control of home agents than of contact center agents.

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