6 Ways to Differentiate and Improve Customer Satisfaction Scores

What better way to mark a new year for service providers than by implementing best practices–in a world of self-healing IT equipment that will enhance their reputation and relationship with customers?

When we look at 2016, Avaya’s made several predictions about the future of customer service. Today, I want to focus on self-healing service tools. From our report:

Greater than 50 percent of support coming via unassisted support and self-healing systems means differentiation is now about relationships: As leading-edge vendors put more remediation and proactivity into tools and systems, the value-add of contracted support becomes less visible to the customer.

Vendors will have to develop strategies and underlying system intelligence to improve customer experience with offers that help increase adoption and full value realization. Vendors will need to fight against the depersonalization that increasingly autonomous solutions can drive by working intentionally to maintain the human factors of the service event by implementing things such as relationship-based routing and service deliverables, combined with high-satisfaction channels, most notably, video.

Self-service, fueled by self-healing, machine-to-machine proactive diagnostics, online forums, and other tools, continues to gain momentum. Invaluable personal customer relationships are starting to be eclipsed by new diagnostic tools that find and fix problems, enabling quick resolution. Online self-service tools save time and can help to reaffirm the customer’s satisfaction, but do so at the risk of dehumanizing service delivery and marginalizing service providers to the point of becoming just another commodity.

While forums, Web chats, and automated tools are definitely helpful, service providers can risk generating a value-erosion event by losing the full context of the targeted customer outcome. Sometimes, a well-intended outcome results in a value-erosion event. For example, imagine if a proactive system update helps you load the latest mobile operating system, without sharing the fact that for your particular tablet or smartphone, the new OS has been shown to drive significantly reduced battery life.

Instead, let’s examine a hypothetical value-creation event, based on a contextual customer outcome goal: A car owner receives a recall notice, asking them to visit a nearby dealer to fix their car’s seatbelts. After repairing the car, the dealership provides the customer a two-page document detailing everything else they’ve checked: Brakes, fluids, windshield wipers, etc. The report adds to the customer’s feeling of safety, alleviates their need to perform the inspections themselves and gives the dealership the data for future upsell opportunities. That’s value creation.

Goodwill can be lost to value erosion if the client’s needs aren’t adequately assessed before problems arise. Service providers must continue to find critical ways to keep that personal touch (whether via human or system) in play or risk being commoditized. That means finding new creative ways to maintain contact with customers through communications channels that are most convenient and effective to their needs and consider the context of their solution use.

Generation Y, born between 1982 and 1996, sees the traditional phone as “the fourth channel choice … behind electronic messaging, social media, and smartphone applications–and Generation X is not far behind,” according to a recent global contact center report from Dimension Data. “This trend signals the future shape of customer management.”

According to the report, “Web chat has become the top channel priority for 50.6 percent of contact centers, and the number of deployments that are planned has gone up 27.2 percent over the past 12 months.”

We have seen similar results. Nearly 90 percent of all Avaya customer questions now start on the Web, where customers have numerous ways to resolve issues: Web forums, voice-over-Web, and chat.

Among the technology trends that emerged in 2015, and will figure prominently in 2016, is the emergence of omnichannel, including Web forums, online tools, phone, Web chat, and now, video. Thanks to omnichannel routing technologies, service providers can communicate in the way that most helps an individual customer. Enhancements to omnichannel have led to avatars that can identify the customer, reference their last-identified session and act as a concierge to bring in a “swarm” of experts to resolve their problem.

It’s clear customer pull and vendor push is driving less-traditional voice interaction with customers. Without the rich communication spectrum a live conversation provides, developing new ways to ensure customer context is key to avoiding value erosion-events. Saving time in problem resolution, self-service and omnichannel have improved customer satisfaction scores, but reduce vendor differentiation. What can service providers do to improve/differentiate their customer relationship? Consider these 6 ways to differentiate in a self-service world:

#6: Get personal! Ensure the customer’s choice of omnichannel communication is recognized and completely integrated into their personalized customer access strategy.

#5: Enable customers to get the answers they need quickly: Offer easy-to-choose options for exiting out of the current communication channel choice as quickly as possible when it is not the most efficient to meet their needs.

#4: Data-driven, proactive support is key: Analyze the customer interaction and contact data, including tickets, tags and macros for trends, that can be quickly remedied either with online answers published by agents or forwarded directly to appropriate customers before a problem occurs.

#3: Lights, camera, action! Make sure agents are properly prepared and trained to quickly work with customers to resolve challenges by video, a channel that enhances relationship-building and rewards customers with quicker resolutions.

#2: Personalize and specialize: Route customers to self-service tools or agents that have personalized knowledge of their IT- or business environment.

#1: Gauge CSAT scores: Continually check the customer satisfaction scores for each communication channel to ensure that customers are getting what need from the process.

What are your New Year’s resolutions when it comes to delivering better and more relationship-oriented support? How do you plan to cut problem resolution times in 2016? What improvements will you make 2016 to improve customer satisfaction scores?

Follow me on Twitter at @Pat_Patterson_V

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A Closer Look at MiFID II Recording Requirements

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II)—arguably the greatest reform to hit Europe’s financial industry—is finally in effect as of January 3, 2018. This EU legislation serves as a much-needed upgrade from the original MiFID, enacted in 2004, and addresses key issues that resulted from the 2008 global financial crisis.

The directive requires all national governments in the EU to adopt certain laws, which they are free to do in their own way should the resulting effect be the same. Financial services institutions—specifically investment firms, credit institutions and trading venues—are subject to MiFID II, including companies that are headquartered outside of the EU but do business there (for a more thorough overview, see this blog by industry analyst Sheila McGee-Smith).

Recording Regulations: Raising the Bar

Perhaps the greatest impact of MiFID II is the law’s tighter recording regulations. Under the 2004 MiFID directive, there was no mandatory requirement to record communications involving client orders. To ensure fairer, safer and more efficient financial markets, MiFID II now requires firms to record communications (both phone and electronic) for the following investment services:

  • Reception and transmission of orders
  • Execution of orders on behalf of clients
  • Dealing on own account (takes place when a firm puts its own trading books at risk)

The specific customer interactions that are required to be recorded in relation to investment services include:

  • Receipts of client orders
  • Transmissions of orders (both where the investment firm transmits and executes the order)
  • Conclusions of transactions when executing orders on behalf of clients
  • Conclusions of transactions when dealing on own account, regardless of whether a client is involved in the transaction

Important note: MiFID II covers all communications relating to activities intended to result in the conclusion of a transaction or the provision of client order services, even if they do not result in a financial transaction.

Communication of orders placed through channels other than voice—postal mail, faxes, emails, SMS, face-to-face conversations recorded using written minutes—must be stored in a durable medium.

Keep in mind a few rules that apply to this ‘durable medium’:

  • Records must be able to be replayed or copied
  • Records must be retained in a format that does not allow the original to be altered or deleted
  • Firms are required to ensure the quality, accuracy and completeness of all phone records and electronic communications
  • Records must be kept for a minimum of 5 years and, if requested by the National Competent Authority in a specific country, up to 7 years
  • Clients must be notified in advance of recording
  • Records must cover communications made with, sent from or received by equipment provided or permitted by the investment firm (privately-owned equipment used by employees or contractors is not prohibited)

Ensuring Compliancy with MiFID II Recording Regulations

If your business is involved in financial services in any way—even if it’s not your main focus (i.e. credit institutions performing investment activities, branches of third country firms)—you’ll need to investigate to understand whether this new legislation will affect you and, if so, what you need to do to comply.

We recommend a thorough review of compliance across all channels (including back office processes) to determine if they meet the new regulations. If not, you’ll need to deploy a workforce optimization (WFO) solution to demonstrate that policies, procedures and management oversight of the new recording and monitoring rules are in place. Here’s what you’ll need to consider in a WFO solution:

  • Continuous recording: This goes for all inbound and outbound voice and other electronic communications based on business rules. You need a WFO solution that will capture, search and retrieve calls, offer encryption for secure storage, and offer pause and resume capabilities.
  • Desktop screen capture: This is an undetectable back-end process that records desktop screen activity during each customer interaction. Supervisors and managers can use this both in the contact center and back office to view customer interactions from beginning to end via synchronized screen and call recordings.
  • Quality management monitoring: Identify and capture areas of non-compliance, while measuring how well employees are delivering services that align with customer experience expectations.
  • eLearning and coaching tools: Bring employees fully up to speed on regulatory changes and any new requirements, as well as correct any non-compliance behaviors.
  • Voice analytics: Proactively identify, measure and isolate areas of non-compliance by mining intelligence from large volumes of recorded calls.
  • Workforce management: Schedule employee compliance training while ensuring you have enough support personnel with the right skills to serve customers.

The greatest threat to reputability, revenue and customer experience is the thought that your technology is “good enough” to meet current needs. Your ability to innovate and grow are hinged on technology that meets the next-gen needs of today, tomorrow and beyond—something that only 24% of companies say their workforce optimization and recording systems achieve.

To complete a thorough review of your current MiFID II processes, connect with Avaya. For a deeper dive into MiFID II (including a few WFO features not mentioned above) download the white paper MiFID II: What Does it Mean for Your Organization?

MiFID II: What Do You Need to Know?

Sheila McGee Smith Sheila McGee-Smith is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant with a proven track record in new product development, competitive assessment, market research, and sales strategies for customer care solutions and services. Her insight helps enterprises and solution providers develop strategies to meet the escalating demands of today’s consumer and business customers.

If you work in the financial services sector, you’ve likely seen news articles and heard IT, operations and other company managers and executives talking about the impending MiFID II regulation. It’s likely been a topic of conversation for months, if not years. Recently, The Washington Post began an article about MiFID II saying, “The impact of new market rules sweeping across Europe has been likened to motorists suddenly being told they must drive on the other side of the road.”

While the statement may seem like hyperbole to some, for those who work in financial services the statement will have the ring of truth. They have been working for years to create and refine practices and systems to be compliant with a European Union directive that became effective January 3, 2018: the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II or MiFID II.

An original MiFID was enacted in 2004, prior to the 2008 global financial crisis. Ad hoc changes were made by individual countries to address issues that resulted from the crisis. These issues are being addressed through MiFID II, which harmonizes the rules for all firms with EU clients, across all countries. The main goals of the MiFID II are:

  • Customer protection
  • Increased financial product governance
  • Unbundling of advice from the sale of financial instruments
  • Broader scope of supervision to include equity and non-equity trading
  • Firms must take “all sufficient steps” to ensure that transactions are executed in the best interest of customers
  • A considerable increase in the requirements for transaction data reporting

From an enterprise communications perspective, the aspect of MiFID II which is relevant is that it requires the capture of all communications and orders intended to lead to an execution of a trade, even if the transaction is not actually finalized during the interaction.

Penalties for non-compliance are set by the regulatory agencies in each European Union country. The first fine for non-compliance of the 2004 MiFID directive was given out to Barclays for inaccurate transaction reporting. Barclays’ fines totaled £2.45 million for their inaccuracies between 2006 and 2008. Since then, published reports say that banks have paid over $204 billion in compliance-related fines and infractions.

Every day, millions of transactions are reported by hundreds of trading venues, for thousands of different financial instruments. As a result, the potential for individual company fines of tens of millions of dollars is very real.

If, like so many companies, you are not sure if your current recording procedures will be sufficient to meet the requirements of MiFID II, the time is now to prioritize an assessment. Businesses need a comprehensive review of their compliance across all channels – phone, email, and SMS – to meet the new regulations. In addition, they need to demonstrate that policies, procedures and management oversight of the MiFID II recording and monitoring rules are in place.

If this post has made you wonder whether MiFID II regulations apply to your firm or what types of transactions need to be recorded and which do not, download the white paper MiFID II: What it Means For Your Organization? It gives a more extensive review of the MiFID II regulations and answers questions about what geographies are impacted, what types of firms are affected and how the new transaction recording rules are different from the rules in effect today.

Be Ready! Six Steps to Take Before a Natural Disaster Hits Your Communications

In what’s shaping up to be an unprecedented hurricane season for the U.S., Avaya wants to ensure that we all review our plans to keep communication systems running at peak performance and stabilized when disaster strikes. Keeping communication systems running often includes a great partner with a deep bench of experts who have experience in many complex situations. Particularly invaluable are battle-tested IT experts who can help rebuild and stabilize communications when disaster strikes. Avaya can engage in a proactive support dialogue to help you avoid complexity from the outset.

Before the Storm

Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma can be catastrophic to businesses. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused $65 billion in damage in the U.S., making it the second-costliest weather disaster in American history behind only Hurricane Katrina, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During the storm, 8,204,220 Americans and thousands of businesses lost power.

No matter the weather (and because the average cost of downtime is $2,700 per minute), it is best to avoid outages by knowing what is most likely to cause communication system outages. According to the research report The Essential Guide to Avoiding Networking Outages, power outages are the leading cause of communications outages. This white paper features an analysis of the top five causes of outages with the percentage of those outages that could potentially have been prevented had leading practices been followed. The top five causes of outages are:

  • Power outages – 74%
  • Lack of routine maintenance – 73%
  • Software bug – 69%
  • Hardware failure – 39%
  • Network issue – 35%

The analysis shows that outages can be avoided by using industry-leading outage prevention practices. Leveraging resources now and on an ongoing basis to determine if facilities can meet power demands and ward off problems is essential. Also, make sure to:

  • Schedule maintenance of systems to avoid what is the high percentage of remediable outages (73%) attributed to poor maintenance and underutilized upkeep.
  • Watch for telltale signs from equipment that a problem is approaching. Proactive health checks, disciplined system monitoring, and observed maintenance schedules can aid in hearing the signal, helping improve the reliability of communications assets.
  • Upgrade equipment approaching end of manufacturing support (EoMS), avoiding the fallout from the over-sweating of assets.
  • Verify system redundancy, system health checks, and failover strategies for critical systems.
  • Patch whenever possible to eliminate software bugs or software-related outages. Some choose to let others occupy the upgrade frontlines and endure potential rollout hiccups, then follow along at a safe interval. This strategy breaks down disastrously when an organization suffers an outage that would have been avoided with a fix that it voluntarily chose to postpone.
  • Draw a network diagram to isolate an outage, speed resolution by illustrating the relationships among pieces of equipment, and isolate that outage!

As a hurricane or other natural disaster approaches, try not to depend on local team members who could be facing challenges of their own at home. Instead, move team members to locations where they can work with clients. When assembling a team, pull from across the organization and leverage readouts at defined intervals.

Pre-Event Checklist

Follow these six steps to prepare before a hurricane—or other disasters—strike:

  1. Save translations before an emergency event impacts the site. This will help ensure that recent changes are not lost and speed restoration in the advent of damage to the system.
  2. Review safety procedures with all employees prior to the emergency event, if possible, and make certain to have an updated contact list to keep in touch.
  3. Secure back-up media so that translations won’t be lost or damaged, thereby delaying restoration of your service. Take a copy of back-ups and any other information off site.
  4. Print and store a current list configuration of key solutions. If a new system is necessary, this simple precaution will save time in starting the process.
  5. Consider powering your system down before the emergency event impacts the site. Electrical power surges both before and after an emergency event can pose the greatest threat to your system.
  6. Contemplate moving switch/applications if the site is located in an area that may be exposed to damage from the emergency.

Taking the above actions can limit risk and help ensure your communications systems make it through a challenging, tough time. Learn more at our Help Center. And if you do have an outage on your Avaya equipment, report it at Support.Avaya.com. Or call 800-242-2121.