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Contact Center Agents are Critical Lynchpin in the Customer Journey

inContact, a provider of cloud contact center software, announced the findings of their January 2015 customer experience survey that examined consumer perceptions of service while making online or phone purchases over $25 in the previous 6 months. When feeling dissatisfied with an order, the majority (81% of U.S. adults) prefer assistance from a live representative via phone or online chat rather than using email or online self-service.

The study, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of inContact, from January 29-February 2, 2015 among 2,028 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, reveals that 86% would be very likely to switch to another company in the future after a bad customer service experience.

Contact Center Agents are Alive and Well

The new research, asking about online or phone purchases over $25 in the last six months, shows that consumers are still frequently interacting with company service reps. According to the findings, 43% of U.S. adults who made at least one purchase online of over$25 during the last six months had interacted directly with a company representative at least once, with an average of two interactions. When purchasing via phone, 84% of buyers were in touch with a company representative an average of five times during that time.

Majority of Buyers Expect at Least Six Channels of Communication to be Available
The majority of U.S. adults expect companies and ecommerce sites to have available at least six of the tested methods of communication during the online purchasing or ordering stage of the customer service journey, including both agent-supported channels and self-service options.

In order of importance to consumers, the agent-supported channels include:

--Email (93%)
--1-800 to live reps (81%)
--Online chat (67%)
--Apps for mobile devices (50%)
--SMS/Text message (46%)
--Social networking sites (39%)
--Online video chat (32%)

Self-service channels are also important to consumers, including online self-service for order tracking (87%) and 1-800 to self-service (53%).

Consumers expect a personalized, omnichannel customer journey that includes agent service continuity and choice of channels for follow-up communications.

A major goal of the study was to gauge consumer desire for personalized and omnichannel experiences when interacting with service representatives. The following findings indicate ways in which companies need to design the customer journey for personalization and consistency across various channels.

--65% of U.S. adults expect companies to know their purchase history regardless of method of communication (e.g., phone, chat, email).
--Two-thirds (67%) expect to be able to call the same company representative they worked with previously if they had an order or service issue.
--64% would expect to be able to continue talking with the same company representative on the phone as they were talking with via online chat.

[Full Article]   Apr-14-2015


Worldwide IT Spending to Decline 1.3 Percent in 2015

Worldwide IT spending is set to shrink to $3.66 trillion in 2015, a 1.3 percent decrease from 2014, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc. Gartner said that the rising dollar is chiefly responsible for the slowdown.
[Full Article]   Apr-10-2015


Most Organizations Are Preventing Front Line from Delivering the Best Customer Experience Possible

The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) in partnership with LiveOps, a cloud contact center and customer service solutions provider, has released the 2015 report, "Own the Moments! Understanding the Customer Journey." The report reveals that only 53 percent of organizations have a formal customer satisfaction program, and that 74 percent actually admit to preventing their front line from providing the best possible customer experience possible despite the fact that customer engagement and loyalty were identified as important priorities for all respondents. Report findings were derived from the responses of more than 400 surveyed professionals from virtually every role and level in contact centers and customer service organizations.

To truly be best in class, organizations must effectively leverage their talent, technology, and metrics to proactively anticipate and fulfill customer needs and expectations. The research dives into the challenges, strengths and opportunities that exist for organizations working towards perfecting their customer journey. The report organizes these aspects into five key moments - the essential points at which agents can delight customers and often define a brand. These moments are opportunities for organizations to seize or 'own' in order to yield the greatest possible customer experience:

Moments to Empower: The customer service agent owns "the moment," and has the greatest impact on the customer experience as they drive the initial interaction. Yet despite the recognized importance of the agent, nearly 75 percent of those surveyed knowingly hinder their team from providing the best customer experience. 62 percent of respondents cited the agent as the most critical touch point of the customer journey, while only 14 percent empower their agents to provide top-notch customer experiences.

Moments to Inspire: Improving employee/agent training ranked as one of the top issues that contact centers wanted to overcome. A majority of contact centers do not empower their agents to their fullest potential, resulting in low employee engagement and customer satisfaction.

Moments to Excel: 98 percent of respondents agree that real-time information is vital; however more than one-fifth of organizations have zero visibility into basic information such as contact history. Failing to equip agents with the correct tools and latest technologies results in the loss of insight into the basic information needed to provide proper customer service.

Moments to Enlighten: For the first time customers are fully in control, as a result, companies are rushing to utilize performance data to successfully fulfill the needs of their customers. Many organizations claim customer satisfaction as a top priority, while only half have an actual Customer Satisfaction Program in place.

Moments to Delight: Alarmingly, nearly 80 percent of respondents felt that their customers are not extremely engaged with their company. As a result, customers view their relationship with such organizations as disposable. Putting customer satisfaction at the forefront of organizational goals is imperative to improving engagement and securing customer loyalty.
[Full Article]   Mar-27-2015


Gartner Survey of More Than 2,800 CIOs Underlines Regional Differences Between CIOs

CIOs around the world are facing high levels of uncertainty as 2015 gets underway, according to a global survey by Gartner, Inc. The 2015 survey showed that issues experienced by CIOs are far from universal and real differences exist at both a regional and country level.

Gartner has been conducting a global CIO survey for more than 10 years, with the 2015 survey reaching 2,810 respondents in 84 countries, and representing nearly $400 billion in IT budgets and a combined $12 trillion in public sector budgets and private-sector revenue.

United States:
CIOs in the U.S. report an IT budget increase of 0.9 percent for 2015. While the average growth in IT budgets is marginally smaller in the U.S. than the rest of the world (0.9 percent vs. 1.1 percent), only one of eight CIOs in the U.S. is facing a decreasing IT budget.

Looking beyond the Nexus of Forces (cloud, mobility, social and big data) and into the next generation of disruptive "SMART" technologies sensors, maker machines (3D print), augmented humans, robotics and thinking machines the survey revealed that for every category, the percentage of U.S. CIOs that says "not relevant right now" is larger than their global counter parts.

However, when looking at the number of companies that either have already invested or are actively experimenting, U.S.-based CIOs are with the exception of the Internet of Things (IoT) ahead of their global peers as those who have picked up on these technologies and have moved to either experiment with them or deployed them to a larger degree than their global peers.

The survey results also indicate that CIOs in the U.S. believe that they are taking a larger role as digital leaders (54 percent vs. 43 percent of global CIOs), they see themselves spending more time as visionary leaders than their global peers (23 percent vs. 21 percent) yet only 34 percent of CIOs in the U.S. has a chief operating officer (COO), whereas 53 percent globally have a COO.

CIOs in China revealed an IT budget increase of 8.5 percent, way above the global average of 1.1 percent. Historical data shows that the IT budget at enterprises in China is much lower than the global average. This means that the high increase of IT budget is coming from a very low base.

While globally 47 percent of CIOs believe they have the digital leadership responsibility for their business, only 33 percent of CIOs in China do. This indicates that most CIOs in China are still seeing themselves as traditional CIOs taking care of traditional IT responsibilities (such as to support the business process running), and letting other senior executives take the digital leadership roles. CIOs in China should be more proactive and devote themselves to the digital world so that they can demonstrate their value to the business.

U.K. and Ireland:
A generally positive outlook is translating to growth in average IT spend in the U.K. and Ireland, with CIOs expecting to increase IT budgets by 1.4 percent in 2015. In addition to this increase in the IT budget, there is an increasing amount of investment in IT occurring across the enterprise, with more than 21 percent of IT investment taking place outside of the official IT budget. As CIOs emerge from a long period of cost-cutting and restricted IT budgets, there is a renewed focus on strategic investments in information and technology that will enable business growth.

One measure of CIO leadership and influence in the enterprise is the amount of time spent with senior business stakeholders compared with the amount of time managing the IT organization. CIOs should aim to spend a majority of their time working with the rest of the business to ensure that the value of information and technology is understood and the right investments are made. In 2015, leading CIOs will spend less than 40 percent of their time running the IT organization, choosing instead to spend time with other CxOs (27 percent of their time), business unit leaders (18 percent of their time) and external customers (16 percent of their time).

CIOs in the U.K. and Ireland also show a progressive attitude toward emerging SMART technologies. A significant minority of CIOs have moved beyond monitoring the trends to actively investing and deploying solutions. This is especially true for robotics (9 percent) and IoT (10 percent).

Latin America:
In the 2015 survey, Latin America had the lowest increase in regional forecast budgets in comparison with other regions (0.4 percent), indicating a cautious approach to new expenditures when compared with the previous year. Such a small increase in IT budgets also suggests that companies will seek cost-optimization efforts in order to free some money for new IT expenditures that might be necessary.

Investments in the public cloud are important for companies that wish to thrive in the digital business era. Although less relevant than for global respondents, more than 50 percent of companies in Latin America already consider infrastructure as a service (IaaS) either as a first option or include the cloud as one of their options before making final decisions. Likewise, investments in mobile applications are increasingly becoming the first priority when enhancing or designing new applications. "Mobile first" has become the main strategy for 25 percent of Latin American CIOs when dealing with customer-facing applications. In a mobile-driven digital world, this is an immediate call to action that CIOs and organizations should review their development strategies and priorities to start considering mobile as at least a secondary option.
[Full Article]   Feb-12-2015


IT Leaders Will Need to Develop a Stronger Relationship With Marketing

In 2015, IT leaders supporting marketing will need to build a stronger partnership with marketing and help to evaluate solutions (architecture, functionality, scalability, performance and security), source data, manage and consolidate the application portfolio, and integrate solutions.

Gartner has made a number of predictions about marketing technology investments, including:

By 2018, CIOs who build strong relationships with CMOs will drive a 25 percent improvement in return on marketing technology investment.
Marketing is a high area of technology investment, and that investment continues to grow rapidly with digital marketing expansion. Gartner has found that many large companies, particularly business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, have more than 50 applications and technologies supporting marketing. Managing this portfolio and generating customer value from these technologies requires a more integrated and consolidated approach, but not at the expense of marketing's ability to innovate in digital marketing.

By 2018, B2B sellers that incorporate personalization into digital commerce will realize revenue increases up to 15 percent.
Personalization enhances the relationship between a buyer and seller, making the buyer feel recognized, appreciated, respected and efficient. Today's consumers expect recognition, to be valued and to have a personalized experience; they have little tolerance for inefficiency. These expectations will be even higher for business buyers who typically have longer-standing relationships with their suppliers and spend higher amounts with them.

Personalization also enables sellers to remain competitive and drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy as well as increase profitability. Consumers who have personalized experiences spend more. Companies that incorporate personalization into B2B digital commerce strategies will make their business customers more efficient, provide a better customer experience and increase the likelihood of greater purchase value as well as upselling and cross-selling all leading to greater revenue.

Through 2018, voice of the customer (VoC) initiatives that don't share data across the enterprise will compromise customer satisfaction and loyalty measures by 30 percent.
VoC solutions collect, analyze and act upon the vast array of customer feedback sources that are potentially available, ranging from surveying to social media to speech analytics. It is an increasingly popular area of focus due to the business value that is obtained from acting upon the derived insights. However, VoC's ownership is currently inconsistent with different constituents who are taking responsibility within different organizations.
[Full Article]   Jan-20-2015


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