Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More on Presence in the Contact Centre...

A couple of posts ago (see: "Presence, Agent Availability and the practicalities of Contact Centre "), the blog was looking at presence and how it might be useful in the contact centre.

For those not familiar with the concept, presence is a concept of agent state or availability, depending on whether you approach it from the perspective of an ACD (Automated Call Distributor) or IM (Instant Messaging). The development of IP Convergence in the contact centre has brought these ideas much closer together and it's now possible to use this for customer service.

For those interested in the idea, CRMxchange have a good webinar coming up, titled "The Power of Presence for Customer Care: Buddy Lists and (Far) Beyond". You can register here, and it's presented by Ross Daniels from Cisco, who's written a couple of CRMxchange papers on the subject.

It's a subject that's well worth a look.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Google and Twitter for Customer Service?

Google and Twitter for Customer Service?

It's an interesting idea, and one that caught my attention. Datamonitor have just produced a short (four page) report on this, and you can get from the Datamonitor website here.

I've rather liked Datamonitor's research lately (see:"More 2009 Contact Centre Predictions - Datamonitor ") and this is also good stuff.

I liked the coverage of Salesforce.com and their work with Google, but it was Twitter that really caught my attention. The idea of Twitter as a form of outbound IVR or outbound SMS appeals, and I think Datamonitor have hit on something with a lot of potential.

As I'm writing about Twitter, I'll keep this post short (I'm already way over 140 characters!) and end here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Presence, Agent Availability and the practicalities of Contact Centre

I was very glad that my last post ("BBC Moneybox on Speech Recognition for banking ") was so interesting to so many readers. Thank you for the feedback and comments. It's very good to see so much happening in the speech market and I certainly wasn't aware of all the projects readers mentioned, especially those in Asia/ Pacific.

One of the other areas that has had a lot of interest lately is presence. Traditionally, presence has been a concept for intstant messaging and the contact centre has focused on agent state from the ACD. This distinction is now blurring and the big instant messaging vendors like IBM with Sametime and Microsoft with OCS are getting very interested in presence in the contact centre. It was something we saw at VoiceCon last year (see post: "VoiceCon 2008 - IBM, Microsoft & Aspect ") and I'm sure will develop further.

Aside from the technology, there are a lot of practical issues around how presence might be manged in a contact centre environment. There is a very good article on CRMxchange by Ross Daniels from the Cisco Contact Centre Business Unit setting some of the practical considerations and how you might look to use presence as practical function, not just a neat technology:

"For many people, "presence" means the little colored icons next to colleagues’ names on the buddy list of their Instant Messaging client. Is someone available? Do they prefer to not be disturbed? This is useful, and many modern business users would be at a loss without IM and its straightforward application of presence technology.
Since presence has proved its worth in facilitating communication between business users, how can it help improve interactions between businesses and customers? One obvious answer is to provide contact center agents with an IM client that allows them to chat with fellow agents or subject matter experts outside the contact center; this gives agents an opportunity to get answers to caller questions that are outside their areas of expertise.
There are a number of potential problems with this approach, however. Who should populate the agents' IM buddy lists? If agents do it, how do they know who the best experts are for answering specialized questions? What if five hundred agents add Bill from Engineering to their buddy lists, and then twelve of them try to IM poor Bill with questions simultaneously?

Consider also the usage challenges facing an agent armed with an IM client and a buddy list. When the agent is on the phone, do they really want to have to scroll through buddy lists to find the right expert to consult with? Presuming they find one or more available experts, how will they enlist their aid? IM them sequentially, or scatter ten IM’s to ten experts and go with whoever answers first? What if the best way to address the caller's problem is to have the expert join the live call? Finally, consider that a number of contact center administrators prefer that their agents don't use IM clients at all, since internal chat can be a distraction.

While it's true that there are ways to mitigate these kinds of issues, it's also true that presence technology can do much more for customer interactions ... if we broaden our thinking

You can read the rest of the article on here on CRMxchange, and I do recommend it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

BBC Moneybox on Speech Recognition for banking

I appreciate the BBC Radio's weekly personal finance program 'Moneybox' may not be something that all of my blog readers are aware of, but this week it's been looking at speech recognition and biometrics as a way of authenticating customers.

The article on their website is here and the podcast/recording is here. The reason for the interest is that two of the big UK banks say they are following developments closely and that a major Australian insurer is running the authentication in production. The story is being pushed strongly the vendor concerned, VeCommerce.

I have to feel a little bit of cynicism here. Speech recognition (and it's close cousin, speech biometrics) have been 'the next big thing' more often than I can count. It's not that this isn't good technology (VeCommerce are impressive, as are VoiceVault and a number of others), but adoption has been slow. Part of this, I feel, is that there is a big gap between what the makers of the technology are interested in and what the users/buyers seem to want. This was highlighted in the last Cisco/Dimension Data Speech survey (see here for my blog post on it). The industry tends to talk very technically, while the buyers are much more interested in customer experience. I suspect until this gap narrows, speech biometrics will remain a nice, niche technology having a vigorous debate about how successful it is as an anti-fraud measure.

Fraud in call centres is a big problem (see past posts like "Security, Call Centres and Fraud " from January last year and "Abbey National - did an IVR survey lead to a customer getting locked out their account? "), but I think speech biometrics needs to be much closer to the customer experience before it becomes more widely used.