Originally posted at Bluewolf.com
When I stepped up to the bulletin board in 1980 and put my name on the job bid-request to begin working in the Greyhound Bus Lines “customer service phone room,” I had no idea that I was choosing a career. And while I’ve touched on that decision many times, it hit home last week that I’ve lived a “lifetime” in customer service.
Over the past 37 years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the best people in an industry that I grew to love early on. It all came together last week when the industry organization that I respect the most, ICMI, recognized me with a Lifetime Achievement Award at their Contact Center Expo Event in Orlando. It was a humbling experience, as one of my mentors, Brad Cleveland, shared details of my career and handed me the uniquely designed glass award.
The positive response from friends and colleagues - both in person and on social media - has been overwhelming. When talking to a friend earlier this week, I was asked, how did this happen?! That conversation led me to contemplate the keys to longevity and success. Here are some thoughts:
Thanks also to Bluewolf - for giving me the platform to grow my career over the past five years. I could not be more excited about my “blue” future with IBM! And I find myself excited about what a colleague described as “rocket ship” growth in the area of helping service and support organizations transformation using the top application in the world - Service Cloud. And, with the recent partnership between IBM and Salesforce, we are now working on the future service and the contact center - AI (Artificial Intelligence). At Bluewolf, we believe that IBM’s Watson and Salesforce Einstein - teamed with Salesforce Service Cloud - will change the customer experience forever.
So, while the award was a recognition of a lifetime of work - I am looking forward to many more years - working with great people, working with the best applications in the world, helping companies improve customer experiences - and focusing on helping others pursue their goals.
“Success is not counted by how high you have climbed but how many people you brought with you.” ~ Wil Rose
If you've been in the customer service industry for as long as I have, you're probably asking yourself, "What's up with this artificial intelligence thing that I hear is going to change customer service forever?"
Whether it's Forbes talking the future of contact centers or 60 Minutes talking about the impact of human assisted cognitive learning, artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be everywhere.
Actually, AI is already affecting our everyday lives. The photo app on my phone and on my Macbook Pro uses AI to analyze and automatically tag faces to sort them into folders and albums. Tesla now has a has a self-driving car that can change lanes and decelerate based on traffic. And Siri seems to be taking over more and more of my daily life – reminding me to pick up my clothes a the cleaners about a mile before I pass the store.
At Bluewolf, we believe the real revolution begins as companies embrace the power of AI to help run Customer Service. And if you don't have AI on your radar, the time is now.
With high expectations for omnichannel experiences – providing a seamless, consistent experience across all channels – service organizations are finding it harder to keep up. Customers want to communicate with your brand via the messaging tools they use every day (Facebook Messenger, SMS/Text, WhatsApp, etc.). Companies – especially B2C – are already looking for ways to scale to customer expectations across these digital channels.
IBM Watson has taken AI technology several steps further, most recently with Watson Virtual Agent – helping reduce costs, make service agents more effective, and improve customer experiences – in real time. And Salesforce, the number one CRM Cloud company in the world, recently announced how it will continue to innovate to engage customers through AI within their Service Cloud application.
At Bluewolf, we believe AI will drive transformation discussions in contact centers for years to come. Let's explore two examples where AI is already helping companies (and self-service customers) succeed today:
With tools like Salesforce, we can already pull customer data forward to provide agents with the right information at the right time to have better conversations and share relevant solutions. But what if you could route calls based on multiple forms of disparate customer data? AI can already route calls based who the customer talked to last, the reasons for the contact, product ownership -- the list is endless. AI has the power to "think" through this mountain of data, including the skill level of the agents available, and send the call, email, text, or chat to the best agent, not just the one next available.
Automated Knowledge Management
Salesforce's Service Cloud application can suggest articles most likely to help an agent -- or a customer in a self-service situation. But what if you could do even more? Using machine learning, IBM Watson, and soon Salesforce Einstein, can take unlimited amounts of marketing and product data -- along with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and knowledge articles -- and not just analyze keywords, but learn from the materials and then actually think about how they work together. Now when a customer asks a question, the agent can "ask Watson" and get the answer in real-time and in natural language. Complex cases can be resolved in minutes -- no more manually wading through recommended articles. In some cases, the solution is best supplied person to person, but in many, the propensity for the AI system being right is so high, the answer can go directly to the customer via digital channels.
Gartner projects that by 2020 up to 85% of customer interactions will be managed without human involvement.
At Bluewolf, we have already begun working with our customers to use AI to improve their customer experience now. The question remains, "Are you ready for the reality of AI in your future?" We believe the answer must be a resounding, "Yes." Get started on your service AI journey now.
Originally posted on TechTarget
Customer experience innovation tries to evolve quickly enough to meet the continuously changing needs of the consumer. So how can back-end systems help improve the customer experience?A service center and its agents are the backbone of customer support. Consumers continue to have evolving expectations, and customer experience innovation needs to change to meet them. As their needs evolve, communication channels have proliferated, putting additional pressure on companies to provide a seamless customer experience.
But according to recent survey data, companies may not be taking full advantage of the technology tools available to create a seamless customer experience, particularly as customers traverse multiple communication channels -- from company websites to social media to email to phone.
In the Bluewolf Customer Service Quiz, more than half of survey respondents said they do not use Service Cloud for customer service management -- and the majority that use Service Cloud don't use it to its full capabilities. Whether your company currently uses Service Cloud or another platform, here are some suggestions on how to be a customer service innovator, and how to get the most out of Service Cloud.
1. A single interface is key to successful customer serviceOne key obstacle for customer service reps in handling customer information is having to toggle between multiple applications to get a full view of a customer's problem. A single-user interface makes agents more efficient and prevents wasted time logging into and toggling between different systems. Most of the Bluewolf survey respondents are moving toward single-system case management and more than 65% of survey respondents already use one to three systems to manage a customer service database.
A tip for Service Cloud customers is to use the Lightning Service Console, which allows agents to manage all customer interactions -- that are generated from chat, social media, email and more -- in a single-user interface.
2. Embrace an omnichannel case management philosophyCompanies that use omnichannel case management create a consistent experience for customers regardless of their communication device or channel. So any member of the company can record and see customer interactions on a unified contact record, regardless of the customer's original contact channel. Despite these benefits, only 25% of survey respondents classified their case management process as omnichannel, and 75% store customer service information in multiple, disconnected systems.
As a tip for Service Cloud customers, they should rely on tools such as Salesforce Case Feed or Omni-Channel to help the company manage multiple channels in a single location. Case Feed allows agents to view all interactions related to an individual case in a single view. Omni-Channel enables managers to automatically assign cases to agents based on an agent's listed expertise, priority of cases, or agent's presence, reducing the amount of time cases are sitting idle in a queue.
3. Have an escalation process that can be improvedWith improved clarity and an automated system, the time it takes to answer questions or research escalation could be spent elsewhere.A defined and automated system will improve case management accuracy. To get this off the ground, organizations must first define how cases should be routed to agents, how often agents interact with cases and how agents know when to escalate a case. By setting up service-level agreements and escalations, the cases can then be auto-assigned or escalated based on designated timelines. The best customer service organizations use automation to program cases to pop back into queues when open and route escalated cases based on agent experience and availability.
More than 40% of respondents don't understand the full escalation process at their organization and need to ask a team member or manager before moving forward. Similarly, over 70% of survey respondents employ some sort of manual process to determine when and how to escalate a case, rather than having an automated process. With improved clarity and an automated system, the time it takes to answer questions or research escalation could be spent elsewhere.
As a tip for Service Cloud customers, use Entitlements and Case Milestones in Service Cloud. With Entitlements, you can easily verify whether customers are eligible for support, create and maintain service contracts for customers, and enforce service levels with automated processes that instruct agents on how to resolve cases. Case Milestones allow you to define critical steps in the service process and create alerts for deadlines throughout -- ultimately giving agents insight into what your organization expects of their resolution process.
4. Define knowledge and make it accessible in one placeCustomer service team representatives are inundated with requests every day and need to be able to quickly answer any questions that arise. Relevant and easily accessible knowledge -- via a repository of articles, sometimes known as a knowledge base -- makes their job easier. More than 55% of survey respondents said that their agents currently have to sift through several sources when looking for information about products. Less than 20% have agent knowledge consolidated in one source.
With a single knowledge database, as agents use knowledge, edit it and improve it, the idea is to track success and bring the best knowledge to the top. Ensure agents can attach articles to each case, rate the articles and see which articles are being used the most.
As a tip for Service Cloud customers, Salesforce Knowledge now allows users to access knowledge through a single interface without bringing every content repository into the platform. Structure this matrix to include the location of all knowledge articles, who owns each article, whether it is internal or external, and the knowledge type, all of which becomes the basis for future enhancements.
5. Ensure data quality and controlThe best companies invest in an automated process that continuously checks data quality and alerts customer service managers to potential problems. This allows teams to customize rules for data quality management that suit their needs as well as run reports and be notified of errors themselves instead of relying on IT.
Data quality continues to be one of the biggest obstacles across the board. While 76% of companies struggle with integration and data quality, only 25% of our respondents are using an automated process to ensure data quality.
As a tip for Service Cloud Customers, you do not have to start your data quality monitoring system from scratch. Depending on the complexity of your needs, there are services, from free data quality analysis dashboards on the Salesforce AppExchange to full-featured master data management solutions from consultancies like Informatica, that integrate with Service Cloud.
At the heart of customer experience is frictionless, seamless interaction. While customer experience can be fragmented or cohesive, that experience is often based on how well integrated back-end systems are with one another and how well this integration yields a comprehensive picture of customers. Tools like Service Cloud, if used deftly, can bring this consolidated view to service agents.
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