Wednesday Sep 30, 2015

New Microsite Featuring the Latest Oracle Service Cloud Content

Let's face it. You're busy. You don't have time to visit several different websites to research the latest customer service and support trends. You need one place to go where you can find information on topics like how to:

  • Engage customers online with seamless web and social self-service 
  • Empower contact center agents to deliver personal, omni-channel support
  • Equip field service techs to arrive on schedule and fix it right the first time

You're in luck! For the next week, all that information can be found on this microsite. Everything from how-to guides to customer case studies to side-by-side vendor comparsions. All right here for you -- in one convenient place.

 Visit the microsite today so you can deliver modern customer service to every customer, every time!

Thursday Sep 24, 2015

The Customer Conversation: What's Changed, What Hasn't

Hanging in my home office is a framed relic of the past: A letter from the Standard Oil Company to a customer, dated 1912. “Gentlemen,” it begins. “Suggest you ship the 10 empty barrels to us, furnishing us with bill of lading, and we will credit your account upon receipt.”

A similar piece of correspondence today would likely take place in the form of an automatically generated email, or even a text message. A bar code or RFID code on the barrels – or package, or piece of equipment – would be scanned and trigger a message. The recipient is alerted, sees the message and knows the location of the asset in question, and goes on with his or her day.

How we communicate with companies and customers has certainly changed, but the reason for these conversations remains more or less the same. We all want to know as much as we can about the location of goods and the progress of work, and we want to use that information to make our lives easier or do our jobs faster.

As communication evolves, so do our expectations – and expectations today are higher than ever. The ability to track a package online seemed revolutionary just a few years ago. Now, clicking a tracking number to find out where your package has been, but not where it is, seems almost quaint by comparison. Quality of information is now inextricably linked to quality of service.

Today, more companies are realizing it’s a smart bet to emphasize customer care in the interest of keeping customers loyal. Because of our high expectations, it’s no longer acceptable to place callers on hold, tell them you’ll call them back, or to say you’ll respond to an email within the next 72 hours. Increasingly, customers want to solve problems so quickly that they’re willing to look for answers themselves, and for the most part, they’d prefer not to use the phone at all.

It’s tempting to think of great customer service as simply friendly people, but without a powerful engine to make sense of large amounts of information, even the friendliest people are at a loss to provide meaningful service. Tying together the call center, the web, and face-to-face interactions in the field is really only possible with technology designed to deliver a seamless service experience.

Ideally, the automated message of 2015 and the typed letter of more than 100 years ago should provide the customer with the same things – confidence, visibility and the feeling of being valued. The way we converse has changed, but the reasons for the conversation are the same.

Wednesday Sep 23, 2015

Take a Quick Tour of Oracle Service Cloud

What do you know about Oracle Service Cloud? You may have heard it delivers complete, out-of-the-box customer service. Or that it enables lasting, profitable customer relationships by delivering unified web, social and contact center experiences.

But that ‘marketing speak’ only gets you so far… To really understand what Oracle Service Cloud can do for your business, you have to take a test drive. Get behind the steering wheel and try out its capabilities.

Oracle Service Cloud’s Quick Tour Demo puts you in the driver’s seat. Click here to see firsthand how Oracle’s Web Customer Service can help you deliver the very best customer experience (CX)—while lowering costs and increasing conversions.

Choose ‘Show Me’ if you want a chauffeured experience. Or ‘Try It’ to navigate for yourself.

Want to see more? Then Sign up for a live demo customized to your needs.

Friday Apr 24, 2015

5 Tips for Budget-Friendly Training in the Modern Contact Center

As contact center leaders you’re always being asked to do more with less. Agent training is no exception. Here are 5 tips for low or no cost ways to train agents from ICMI’s webcast featuring Justin Robbins (ICMI), Jana Meyers (American Century), Joe Landers (Oracle) and Kristine Chisholm (ICMI).

Tip 1: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Recorded Contacts

Encourage agents to share recorded contacts of positive customer interactions as well as negative ones. Using difficult customer interactions as teaching moments helps you brainstorm more effective approaches for resolving customer issues. This is critical because customers who have issues satisfactorily resolved are more loyal than customers who haven’t had problems yet with your products and services.

Another technique is having agents actually become customers of your company. This experience creates empathy and empowers agents to find ways to continually improve service.

Tip 2: The Power of One

You know having the right agents in the right place at the right time is critical. But many agents don’t understand the ripple effect that can occur when they return late from a break. In a 50-person contact center, one late agent can slow overall response time 20 seconds. Demonstrate this impact in a fun way by using ping pong balls in the break room to represent incoming calls.

Tip 3: What’s the Score?

Agents often don’t get to see how their performance will be measured until after training. They also don’t get to learn why metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT) are so important—and what they can do to positively influence CSAT. Bringing in stakeholders like the Head of Customer Service can help agents understand the connection between their performance and CSAT. Also recognizing top-performing agents at the training can serve to inspire new recruits and provide them with go-to mentors.

Tip 4: Play the Best Hand Given the Cards You’re Dealt

Nearly 92% of agent-facing applications aren’t as efficient as they could be. That means system workarounds are inevitable. If you don’t provide agents with standard best practices for workarounds, they’ll invent their own. And those workarounds will result in more variability and inefficiency. So sit down with your agents to proactively identify the best workarounds. It will make them feel heard and lower their frustration and burnout.

Tip 5: Turn the Tables and Let Agents Measure You!

Get agent feedback right after training sessions—just like you measure CSAT immediately after a customer interaction. And build practice time into your training. For example, have two weeks in the classroom followed by a week of taking calls. This approach helps agents better retain what they’re learning and also builds confidence as they take on progressively more complex inquiries. Additionally, having top-performing agents serve as mentors or buddies can ease trainees’ transition to the production floor.

Finally, even the best 6-week training program can’t teach agents everything they need to know. This is especially true now that most easy issues are resolved via customer self-service. What ends up in the contact center are complex issues requiring more insight and information. That is why having a consolidated knowledge base with guided resolution is so crucial. It enables newer hires to perform like your best agents. And helps you determine what additional knowledge is needed to better serve customers.

With these tips, you can prepare your agents for the demands of the modern contact center without breaking the bank!

Click here to watch the webcast replay.

For more information on modern customer service, please visit our website.

Tuesday Apr 21, 2015

ICMI Webcast: 5 Low or No Cost Ways to Train Agents in the Modern Contact Center by Justin Robbins and Tuula Fai

As contact centers evolve and expand into new channels to meet continuously changing customer demands, the need and requirement for in-depth, comprehensive training has become greater. While old principles and established methodologies will get you some of the way, it has become necessary to step into “unfamiliar territory” to fully meet the training needs of today's modern agent.

As contact center leaders, it’s our obligation and responsibility to ensure that we’re providing our team with the tools, resources, and knowledge to be successful in their roles. While we can and should continue to rely on many of the established practices of training in the past, new channels and new customer segments require us to continuously evaluate our topic matter and methodology for training. That can be costly and time-consuming.

ICMI has identified the top training needs of the modern contact center. In this Thursday's webcast at 1 pm EST (April 23), ICMI will share ideas on low or no-cost ways for you to develop your contact center team members.

During this webinar, you will learn:
  • 5 critical concepts for training in the modern contact center
  • 3 barriers to learning and how to overcome them
  • Top tips for delivering budget-friendly training and development programs

Register Now

Featured Speakers

Justin Robbins, Community Manager, ICMI

Justin Robbins is a contact center and talent development expert with over a decade of experience leading customer service organizations. He got his start in contact centers as a teenager doing cold-call outbound sales for newspaper subscriptions. Since then, he's moved from agent to senior leader, worked in and with inbound and outbound centers ranging in size from 5 to 2500+, and gained experience in a number of industries including hospitality, technology, manufacturing, and education. Most recently, Justin developed the training and professional certification programs for the International Customer Management Institute and has personally trained thousands of individuals around the globe on contact center best practices. You can reach Justin on-line at: | | 

Jana Meyers, Director - Training, Development and Support, American Century Investments

As Director, Jana is responsible for oversight for training, blended learning, internal communications, performance support and project support for American Century’s Direct investor channel. Jana Meyers joined American Century in the late 1990s and has had a widely-ranging financial services career, including residential and commercial real estate servicing, life and health insurance support and working as a registered representative in the mutual fund industry. Ms. Meyers has many years of management and quality assurance experience and has spoken at several quality conferences. She is a board member for the Quality Assurance and Training Connection (QATC) and a member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

Joe Landers, Client Success Manager, Oracle

Joe Landers, Client Success Manager at Oracle, helps organizations design a Customer Experience strategy that simultaneously delights customers and drives the bottom line. Joe has over 20 years of experience working as a manager of call center operations in the U.S. and overseas, including in outsourcing environments.

Kristine Chisholm, Customer Service/Training Administrator, ICMI

Kristine is Customer Service/Training Administrator for ICMI.  She assists with all aspects of the ICMI training business.

Friday Apr 10, 2015

3 Steps to a Modern Profitable Service Organization by Jeff Griebeler, CX Strategist

Transitioning your support organization or contact center from a cost center to a profit center is an onerous process that can be difficult to navigate. Yet, it is a journey that must be purposely undertaken, performed crisply and executed successfully to thrive in the competitive world. Being viewed as a cost center creates an endless journey of continuous cost cutting, funding reduction, and the need to always be more efficient this year than last. It is a self-destructive cycle that ends with an underfunded support organization attempting to provide ever increasing services to an ever demanding customer community in an ever more competitive market. The historical mantra has been simple: “do more with less;” when the discussion should be focused on creating organizational value, defining competitive differentiation, creating loyal customers, and promoting profitable growth.

Becoming Trapped

Many companies have viewed their support organization as a necessity to remain in business. The view was simple: “customers will not buy without support, but customers do not buy because of support.” Support was a necessity and delivered at a minimal level and at the lowest possible cost. These organizations are funded on a cost-budget basis, and share these characteristics:

  • Provide more support with less budget
  • Offer more channels with minimal funding
  • Stretch technology far beyond its useful life
  • Use siloed applications as band-aids

Efficiency has its limits and frequently has adverse effects. The maximum efficiency that can be gained is limited by the total budget. Additionally, efficiency improvements can be captured only once and become part of next year’s baseline budget.

As budgets are cut year-after-year to provide additional margin to the organization, the quality of support diminishes, technologies age and workaround processes become more prevalent, which result in more inefficiencies. Personnel become frustrated, customers become frustrated and you fall behind your competitors. Cheap, quick, easy siloed technologies are implemented on a temporary basis; but temporary, all too frequently, becomes permanent. It creates a vicious circle spiraling downward and the organization is trapped.

Under Attack

The “trapped customer support organization” comes under attack on multiple fronts:

  1. Enlightened competition providing better customer service start taking market share
  2. Customers, empowered by easy-to-obtain, readily available information and the ability to socially broadcast their experience, increase their demands
  3. Increased competition for scarce internal funding. Cost-based organizations fall to the bottom of the budget list and are “designated for investment next year,” but next year turns into the following year, and so on.

Over time, these forces take their toll on the organization as it slips further and further behind the competition and industry service standards.

The CX Value Equation

To escape the trap, an economic framework must be established to measure and illustrate value. The measured value made by customer service must be considered across three major areas: Efficiency (E), Retention (R), and Acquisition (A). When combined, we refer to this as the CX Value Equation:

CX = E + R + A

Efficiency allows an organization to do more with less;
Retention is the ability of an organization to keep and grow the customers it already has; and
Acquisition refers to the ability of an organization to increase its customer base.

The CX Value Equation effectively defines a financial bridge between a CX customer service strategy and the organization’s profit line. With a defined CX Value Equation, you have a tool to illustrate the service organization’s contribution and progress. You are now ready to transform your organization from a cost center to a profit center.

Three Steps to a Modern, Profitable Service Organization

The key to transforming your organization is to modernize its capabilities so you can capture and illustrate the benefits. Here are the steps to modernize your organization and turn it into a profit center:

Step 1: Set CX Value Equation Metrics and Baseline Your Service Organization
Start with efficiency metrics. These are the easiest to identify. Get a handle on the important ones, such as self-service and first contact resolution rates. Add retention metrics to the model. Great candidate metrics include Customer Effort Score (CES) and Net Promoter Score (NPS). Finally, add acquisition measurements with metrics like the number of opportunities and referral rates.

For further information, please consult Customer Experience (CX) Metrics and Key Performance Indicators, an Oracle White Paper.  

Once your model is designed, baseline your current operational performance. This is your starting point from which you will demonstrate your progress and contribution to the organization.

Step 2: Modernize Your Service Organization
Use the Roadmap to Modern Customer Service Strategy to move from a cost center to a profit center. When this strategy is followed, the activity can be a self-funding.

Start by establishing a proper capabilities foundation. Then add new capabilities and provide consistency across all interactions. Finally, drive continuous innovation to remain ahead of the competition. The foundational activities are how you get going. You must resist the urge to skip steps and attempt to implement innovation on top of your outdated infrastructure. This will only lead to failure. Skipping steps is how an organization ends up with disparate systems (e.g. stand-alone chat) and business processes that function poorly, deliver substandard service, and require manual support and workaround processes to operate – hardly an effective strategy.

Let’s lay out the steps:

  • GET GOING to save budget and generate cost savings that support investments to
  • GET BETTER and improve retention with consistent quality of service, optimized capabilities and strengthened relationships, so you can
  • GET AHEAD to create revenues by monetizing more opportunities, personalizing interactions and being proactive in an omni-channel environment

Step 3: Continue to Measure, Demonstrate and Evolve
Modern customer service is not a destination, but rather an evolving journey. This year’s customer service capabilities become table stakes for providing service next year. Customer needs and demands will continuously change. Market forces will change. Technology will change. The Internet of Things (IoT) is upon us, and will accelerate change.


Liberating your cost-centric customer support organization can feel like an impossible task. However, by leveraging the CX Value Equation and tailoring it to your needs, you can demonstrate the true value of the services you provide to your organization. By using the Roadmap to Modern Customer Service’s strategy: Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead approach, you can self-fund and transform your center from an entity that is viewed as “overhead” or a “necessity” into a strategic, competitive asset that generates revenues and profits.

Click here to read the full whitepaper.

Wednesday Apr 08, 2015

CX Tech Adoption: Enabling the Oracle Roadmap To Modern by Rob Wales, Customer Experience Strategist

As a customer experience (CX) consultant, I'm in a lot of contact centers, talking to executives about their CX initiatives. I often hear things like, "We installed a knowledge base, but we’re just not seeing the results we expected," "Proactive chat isn't giving us a lift in conversion," or "We installed a new agent desktop, but we’re not seeing the efficiency gains." So I ask some business process questions and typically find that their processes just don't support their strategic vision or technology expectations. New technology was implemented, but the business processes never evolved to effectively utilize it.

Let's look at Virtual Assistant as an example.Virtual Assistant is a combination of natural language, contextual knowledge, chat and scripting. Implementing Virtual Assistant and immediately expecting it to be successful is like installing a kitchen sink without putting in the plumbing underneath.You have to implement technology capabilities in layers and mature your processes along the way—implement a knowledge base and develop your knowledge management processes and content; employ natural language and fine-tune it to your industry and business. 

Many companies have implemented multi-channel solutions: desktop, chat, email, web self-service, knowledge base, etc. and assume they're providing an omni-channel experience. But typically these are point solutions, the systems are disconnected, the channels are siloed, and there is very little integration between the support applications. This is a good example of tech adoption without strategy, and causes inefficiency at an operational level. But more importantly, it causes frustration for the customer. There is no visibility to all customer interactions and profile information, causing the customer to have to re-explain their issue and giving them a sense that the company doesn't know them at all.

To solve this problem, industry leaders are moving to fully integrated solutions that provide true omni-channel support, ultimate configurable flexibility, and agent desktop tools to personalize the customer experience. But technology adoption is a process, not an end-state; you can't start at the finish line. Too often, companies with CX initiatives will implement top-tier solutions, and expect all their goals to be attained through the technology alone, as if the systems themselves are a panacea. Technology solutions are only as good as the strategy and business processes they support, and it's critical to understand what those are and the capabilities needed to attain that maturity. 

Determining technology needs should be a later stage of ‘solutioning.’ To properly determine those needs, you must start at the top. Creating a strategic plan to identify and define what your business is trying to achieve is a foundational and necessary step to identifying business process gaps and/or technology needs required to meet the strategic plan. Examine the business processes that support your strategy and determine what improvements need to be made. Ascertain the metrics that will measure success, baseline your KPIs, establish improvement expectations, and determine reporting needs.  Only after you've identified the strategy, supporting processes and success criteria can you effectively identify the appropriate technology solutions that will get you there. Don't just follow the pack and implement solutions for the sake of having those capabilities. Make sure they provide you with the means to accomplish your strategic objectives.

When selecting a solution that will help you progress through your process maturity, technology roadmaps are incredibly useful. They provide a clear path to gradually attain maturity in technology, as you also attain maturity in business processes. So when I talk to companies about evolving technology and process maturity, I talk in terms of a Roadmap To Modern: “Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead,” rather than talking only about the desired future state. This staged approach effectively enables the gradual adoption of technology, allowing companies to realize immediate improvements and progressively become CX industry leaders.

First, focus on technologies and processes that will make you more operationally efficient. This one’s easy to understand and is foremost in the mind of contact center directors everywhere: implement a base layer of technology capabilities that enables self-service, increases agent productivity, and decreases operations. Provide improved interaction capabilities to simplify customer engagement: present multiple channel options to engage your customers and a knowledge base to promote self-help: this has the benefit of not only improving efficiency, but also providing customers with options to engage the way they choose. This foundational layer of technology capabilities provides a solid basis from which to build.

Next, leverage the efficiency savings and invest in solutions that will improve customer retention. There is already cross-over between efficiency and retention by way of reduced customer effort (Most of the initiatives to make your operations more efficient also make it easier for customers to do business with you. This decreases customer effort, which in turn, increases retention.), but now you start to enable the technology to improve the processes that strengthen relationships and improve quality. A cross-channel strategy will ensure consistent, quality customer treatment across touch points. Embed consistent knowledge content in your web self-service and desktop. Consider how to use technology to engage your customers in creative ways in an effort to keep in closer contact and differentiate yourself from competitors. Use data on-hand to understand what your customer has gone through when (or before) they reach out to you so you can quickly help with the issue.

Then, as your business processes mature to match your technology capabilities, you can start to use functionality for proactive engagement, segmentation and personalization to acquire new customers, increase conversions and, ultimately, increase revenue. Use proactive outbound communications to alert customers to things like account activity, service outages, product offerings, etc. to not only answer questions customers haven’t asked yet, but also to generate sales by understanding your customers’ history, preferences and anticipating what they might need next. Segment your customers based on their profile and history to get them to the right resource the first time. 

Most importantly, use everything you know about your customers to create a personalized, differentiated experience:
  • Know how they've engaged with your company in the past, regardless of how they contacted you (phone, chat, email, Facebook, etc.), and get quick visibility into their issues.
  • Know who they are, they're preferences, what they've bought (and how much) and how they liked it.
  • Understand how they feel about your company, about their interactions with you, about the effort they expend doing business with you, and about recommending your company to others.

This level of maturity in both technology and business process will differentiate you from competitors and help make you a leader in your industry. It will also create fierce loyalty in your customers, making them brand advocates.

Technology can help you attain your strategic goalsbut you can’t get there all at once and you can’t get there with technology alone. Determine your strategy, examine your business processes, and establish your success metrics. Then, as you make choices about your CX technology, ensure that you invest in robust solutions that will get you where you want to go, and provide you with a roadmap to get their gradually. Finally, consider the progression of adoption: "Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead," not just with your technology but with the underlying processes that the technology supports and enables.  

Learn more today about the Oracle Roadmap To ModernTM

Monday Feb 03, 2014

4 Takeaways on Modern Customer Service from CloudWorld

Oracle held CloudWorld last week in San Francisco. While there were many ideas and themes being discussed in the Customer Service track, several stood out as key differentiators for any company interested in delighting customers.[Read More]

Thursday Aug 29, 2013

Why Social Customer Service? Why Now?

Guest Blogger: Aphrodite Brinsmead, Senior Analyst at Ovum

Social media has become a daily part of life for many. But what is its purpose and why have we become so reliant on these tools? It hasn’t replaced phone conversations, texts, emails or even real life meetings; rather it has become a useful addition. On a simple level, it’s an ever evolving, admittedly often infuriating, view into friends’ lives, a way to send messages, show off, or digitally curate the way we want to be perceived.

[Read More]

Tuesday May 01, 2012

The Call Center Expo, Seattle, May 8-9

Oracle is proud to be a Platinum sponsor of the ICMI's Annual Call Center Exposition taking place May 8-9, 2012 in Seattle, WA – "The Global Gathering for the Contact Center Community." Visit Oracle in booth #505 to learn more about Oracle RightNow Web Experience, Oracle RightNow Contact Center Experience, Oracle RightNow Social Experience and Oracle Social Network, Oracle Knowledge Management, Siebel Field Service, Siebel Warranty Management, and Desktop Virtualization.

Also, don't miss this important Oracle-led education session: YOU and the CUSTOMER – The Winners are Defined by Great Customer Experience, featuring Brian Curran, Vice President, Oracle Customer Experience Strategy, Wednesday, May 9th from 10:15 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Brian will explain why leading companies are investing in customer experience (CX) solutions that enrich all interactions between a customer and your company. He will discuss how CRM, Service, and Commerce solutions can be combined to create a great customer experience which accelerates new customer acquisitionmaximizing customer retention, improving operational efficiency and increasing total sales.

For more information or to register for the conference please click here.


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