Ultimate Guide to CTI 8 Signs You Should Invest in CRM and Contact Center Integration There are several benefits to integrating your contact center with your customer relationship management (CRM) application. The increase in efficiency will decrease wait times, labors costs and agents’ job turnover rate, while increasing customer service and saving your organization money. If you’re considering starting the search for CTI and CRM integration, check out the list below and see if your organization meets any of these criteria. Your wait times are high. Although agents may argue you need to hire more employees, reorganizing skillsets and call routing so agents are more highly trained in specific areas will decrease customer wait time. Your labor costs are too high. CTI reduces the number of agents needed due to higher efficiency levels. Your customer service is low. If customer service is low, a great way to increase it is by giving your agents more information about the caller in order to personalize calls to meet their unique needs. Your agent reporting isn’t reliable. People make mistakes, especially when they are rushing. CTI integration can automatically report on specific activities and timestamps allowing your agents more time for call notes. You have a high abandon rate. Callers are dropping off before they are transferred or during transfers most likely due to frustration of being transferred numerous times or waiting. CTI improves call routing and empowers agents with accurate information about each customer. You have a lot of transfers and conferences. Call attached data can determine where calls should be routed based on agent, location, skillset, etc., so customers are more likely matched with an agent that can solve their needs. Your average call handling time is too high. Call duration times that are high can often lead to an increase in low customer service and call abandons. Screen pop helps reduce the time an agent must spend manually searching. Your agents’ job churn is high. Agent experience improves with CTI, which helps them be more efficient, which increases job satisfaction. Consider the last time you were tasked with the dreaded phone call to a business’s customer service; most likely you were upset you had to contact the business in the first place. Whether it’s a 500 person contact center or a single person working in their basement, every business has to have some form of customer service. So, during your next engagement with a customer, there are a few ways you can increase the likelihood that the customer will hang up the phone with positive remarks about your company. Here are a few tips to become the kind of contact center you wouldn’t mind calling: Be cognizant of your customer’s time. Keep queue times short and use a call attendant or IVR to gather information before routing the call. Present the call attached data to the agent and anyone else to whom the call is transferred. Give your agents the ability to update or add to call attached data so that any other parties brought into the call through conference or transfer have access to correct customer information. Use CTI to receive a screenpop and confirm the accuracy of that screenpop. Have your agents quickly look at the customer history and call attached data to make some quick deductions on why the customer is calling. Focus on improving. It’s hard to know where to improve if reporting is inaccurate. It’s important to know what your agents are doing in the contact center but you should also be able to draw conclusions from those reports that help make operating decisions. A lot of data that is disjointed or not accurate doesn’t provide a lot of value to operations Don’t forget about the agent experience. Agents that enjoy their jobs help make your customers happy. Agents that are burdened by their tools pass on that frustration to people they are talking to – your customers! Thinking about connecting your Microsoft Dynamics CRM to your contact center? Here a few reasons Contact Canvas for Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a smart, efficient solution for your business: There is no desktop installation required – save time performing maintenance (if you’re looking at other solutions make sure you ask them what needs to be installed on every single agent’s computer?!). Contact Canvas works with MSCRM 2013 or 2015 – upgrade when it makes sense for your business. Contact Canvas provides a lot of options for identifying customers including ANI or Call attached data (CAD) screenpops. Bookmarks make call attached data for transfers and conferences so agents receive corrected and new customer information so they don’t have to look it up again. Agent Palette allows custom logic and user interface elements to be added to the adapter to meet your business needs. Hot Adapter failover ensures your agents can always do their work. AMC Technology’s Contact Canvas adapter for Microsoft Dynamics 2013 and 2015 is now generally available. When the need for a business solution arises, the age-old question has remained: Should it be custom built or should an out of the box solution be purchased? While it may seem simple, determining the right solution approach is a complex process that may need the input of several organizational leaders based upon their strategic goals. Often, different departments may have different levels of understanding about the businesses’ needs and the costs associated with building or buying software. Before deciding upon whether or not a company should invest in purchasing an out of the box integration solution or building their own, consider the three points below: Difficulty Integration is not a simple process. On the surface integration looks easy to many developers because it’s data manipulation; however, creating the adapters to move data in and out of different locations all have unique coding, which increases the chances for issues to arise. Similarly, creating a reliable, secure environment for running the business logic is also difficult. The knowledge required for an integration solution is often had by developers used to building integration solutions, but not by other firms. Opportunity Cost Spending resources to build a solution that is already available in the marketplace gives companies less of an advantage than using those resources to build solutions that are not readily available. Building a net new solution vs. implementing a mature, proven one utilizes resources inefficiently and perhaps passes up an opportunity for innovation that could help gain a real advantage. For example, most companies do not try to build word processing software because there are some great options in the marketplace that would take in-house or consulting resources a considerable amount of time just to duplicate yet alone surpass in features. Investment The initial cost investment most companies evaluate for home grown software frequently omits the maintenance of that code including continuous learning for developers, maintenance of a development environment and source control. It is not uncommon for the initial requirements for communication integration to grow over time to stay competitive and continue to meet the needs of the business. Many organizations abandon their home grown CTI solutions when they realize they can no longer maintain the solution at the pace dictated by the business and the solutions to which they are integrating. Remember, contact center and CRM platforms put out new releases regularly so changes to APIs when you don’t purchase a packaged solution are the responsibility of your IT organization. When looking to improve your business’ relationships with customers, it is important to evaluate your customer service practices. Knowing and understanding what a customer views as great customer service is crucial to bettering your business’ direct interactions with customers. Great customer care involves getting to know your customers so well that you can anticipate their needs, deliver results and exceed their expectations. So here are 4 tips that will help you create customer relationships that will last! 1. Be Consistent. More often than not, customers calling in to a contact center want to solve some sort of issue. Some could be angry, ask hard questions, or be overly talkative — it is important that your call center agents know to help these particular customers and provide the same level of service to make for overall customer satisfaction. 2. Personalize. Today’s customers want to feel appreciated so your agent’s ability to navigate your Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) is essential. The CRM holds valuable information about your customers such as their name, past buying history and call history. It is the agent’s job to identify important aspects of a customer’s personal information from their screen pop to personalize the call and improve the customer’s experience. 3. Communicate. Ensuring that agents are relaying the correct information is critical when trying to build a relationship with your customers. Whether being asked for information or a resolution to a problem, agents need to be equipped with the right tools that enable them to communicate effectively with the client. Always make communication as seamless as possible, by making sure your different channels are organized and in sync, such as having the first agent’s call notes transfer quickly to the customers desired department so the next agent can better assist them. This smooth transition can help reduce customer frustration and increase customer satisfaction. 4. Ask For Feedback. Don’t forget to conduct surveys and ask your customers want they think. Through customer feedback you can receive valuable insight about your business. By actively consulting with your customers you can address problems or gain ideas and feedback on what aspects of your company are in need of improvement. In addition, telling your customers that their comments have influenced changes will make them feel like your company truly cares about what they think. Although it is never pleasant to hear negative feedback about your business, it can be helpful to use this information to advantage. Understand where your reviewers are coming from and use what they have to say as way to better your business/customer service. Average Call Handling Time is critical to the success of any organization’s contact center. It is typically defined as a metric that measures the average duration of one transaction, typically measured from the customer’s initiation of the call, including hold, talk and related tasks during the transaction. Keeping the average call handling time low usually illustrates a high performing contact center with satisfied customers. Train Your Agents In order for agents to continue to better themselves in their careers and lower call handling time, it is important for the agents to thoroughly understand the company’s product or services and how to successfully operate all of their tools, such as the organization’s CRM. Agents must also understand the hierarchy of people to assist with a customer’s question. Continuing training throughout an agent’s career can also benefit your contact center. If your contact center records interactions with customers, this is a great resource to illustrate examples of both good and bad customer service to the agent. Managers can even use recordings of the agent to point out what the agent is doing well and what could be improved upon. Use Call Routing to Accurately Match Customers with Agents A contact center solution that provides routing based on skillset is a powerful tool for any contact center because it ensures inquiries are given to the most suitable agents, not simply the next available agent. If agents are divided by specialized knowledge, managers can spend less time training and agents are able to spend more time building knowledge in specific categories, hence reducing customer’s hold time looking for answers. Ensure Customer Greetings are Pleasant, yet DIRECT The opening and closing greetings matter to the customer because it is the first and last statement he or she will hear on the phone. Instead of wasting time asking questions or creating small talk, agents should start the conversation by asking directly how he or she can help the customer. This helps cut the call handling time down by getting the customer to immediately start speaking about their problem. However, your contact center can still make the experience personal by ensuring the customer’s data is up to date and using an effective CRM integration solution to make sure their information is available to the agent as soon as the call comes through. Utilize a Knowledge Base One of the easiest ways to shorten call handling time and increase efficiency is to provide agents with a wealth of material to help answer customers’ questions. Agents are able to easily check the knowledge base instead of trying to remember how other customer’s questions were answered, which reduces call time and increases the customer experience. Select the Best Technology for Your Contact Center The type of technology your organization needs may depend upon the size, needs and budget of your contact center. The right direction is clear if you remember to focus on the functional problem you are trying to address or the business benefit you are trying to achieve. Technology is simply a tool to help your business run efficiently and effectively, thus if the best tool for your business is utilized, the average call handing time will be decreased. If you ask anyone about their best customer experiences, they typically include an instance where their preferences were retained or needs were anticipated – a florist that reminded them of an upcoming anniversary or birthday, a restaurant that remembered a favorite meal, or a coffee shop that had their order memorized. Any experience where customers’ predilections are remembered and catered to will instill an enormous amount of loyalty. This is true especially in today’s connected world where consumers have access to an unprecedented amount of information, allowing them to make better, more informed decisions. As a result, consumers now expect a more personalized and relevant experience due to the sheer amount of information available to both the consumer and to companies. Unfortunately, businesses have been unable to meet this demand. According to a Janrain Study, 74% of online consumers feel increasingly frustrated when the content presented to them does not address their needs. Furthermore, the study asked participants what they would be willing to give up to receive appropriate content based on their personal interests and found some surprising results. 28% – Social networks for a week 25% – Chocolate for a month 21% – Mobile or smart phone for a day 17% – Having to use only a landline phone for a week This research revealed an incredible opportunity for businesses who personalize their customers’ experience to earn and retain customer loyalty. In order to deliver that great customer experience, businesses need to modernize and connect all the main touch points that interact with the customer, including Marketing, Sales, and Service. Customer Service alone accounts for ¾ of all interactions with customers, making it the cornerstone for customer loyalty. Every interaction with the customer is a chance to gain more personal details and to cater to their interests. Once you have gathered that information, it’s time to take action on those details. Here are some things you can implement to make your customers know you are paying attention and value their business: Intelligent Routing – routing customer interactions to the agent that handled their last interaction or based on the products or services they have purchased helps build a relationship as well as reduces wait times. Screenpop – helps agents identify customers quickly by automatic lookup of their record based on their phone number or call attached data gathered through the IVR or by doing a data dip before routing the call. HOW TO SIMPLIFY YOUR CTI PROJECT Activity History – having quick access to know what products a customer has purchased, which ones they have shown interest in, even website browsing history, can better equip an agent to upsell or cross-sell successfully Interaction History – similar to activity history, having quick access to the interaction history of a customer lets an agent infer that a customer may be frustrated because they have called into the contact center 5 times within the past 2 days or know that this customer typically interacts with the company over email but for some reason they are calling now, some contact centers even pair up potentially frustrated customers with agents that are better equipped to handle escalations Social Media as a channel – responding to social media posts is a good way to let people know that you are listening and amplify a positive post or reduce the effect of a negative post Omni-Channel – agents benefit from Omni-channel from an agent experience perspective but customers benefit because organizations can data mine against more comprehensive customer information, this eliminates siloed information by creating a single view of customers across channels Most IT professionals have been on a project at one point in their career where the scope creep is infinite and seems unmanageable. Business partners can be demanding in their requirements to make their organization highly productive, improve accuracy and automate common agent functions. But, like with any project, keeping day one requirements simple or out of the box helps guarantee a successful roll out. Requirements, when they grow too complex, can delay projects due to budget and/or resource constraints. When users haven’t had CTI before, they will quickly grow to rely on it. Organizations that had CTI and are transitioning to a new system or interface pose larger challenges because they typically are looking for feature parity. When comparing a softphone that lives outside of the CRM with one that does, there are usually variances. Users may be resistant to give up features that they have become accustomed to in order to gain others that they didn’t have outside of the CRM. Identifying a productized solution can help alleviate some of the negotiation burden assuming that the product can check the box of the most common requirements and those that provide the greatest return on investment. Here are some simple tips to navigate CTI requirements successfully and kiss project woes away: 1. Perform your due diligence during vendor selection. Ask for recommendations from your CRM and communication platform vendors. Research the level of experience the vendor has in the contact center space and the relationships they have with their partners. Compare apples to apples. Don’t forget to ask about services and maintenance/tech support when discussing the overall cost of a solution. A fast implementation or an inexpensive solution may blur shortcomings that can impact you in the future. 2. Limit Day One requirements to must haves to avoid throw away work. Wait until after users have actually started using the system to identify custom development – this can illuminate the way agents are REALLY using the software and what modifications can/should be made to streamline that process. You may find that things that users had to have become less important after roll out or things that didn’t seem as important become more critical. Weigh out nice to haves with the ROI. Investing in custom development can take you down a long road of maintenance so make sure that agents will really take advantage of an automated process and that it is easier than a manual process. Anticipate any changes that you may need to make and defer any departure from standard functionality. Regulation changes that impact how you conduct business can throw off timelines or make some customizations moot so being closer to steady state can save some money. 3. Treat your CTI project like a project instead of an afterthought. Document your requirements. Basic telephony features may seem very simple and easy to understand and for the most part they are, however, scenarios involving multiple agents, updated call attached data and exceptions can easily be overlooked and forgotten when ad hoc testing. Identify and document project dependencies and make sure that timelines and statuses are clearly communicated. Create and maintain a test environment. Most companies have a test environment for their CRM application but there are many organizations that do not maintain a separate test environment for telephony. A test telephony environment should be set up that is as close to production as possible including queues, IVR, dialer etc. to ensure there are no surprises and all integration points and features have been well vetted Create explicit test scripts to avoid any gaps or misunderstandings. Circulate those test scripts to the business to ensure that all use cases are covered. You’d be surprised how often customers conduct a pilot and don’t run through what the business deems critical scenarios. Make sure change control is handled well by communicating and coordinating across the teams. You don’t want to find out changes have been made to queues or your CRM has just been upgraded after you’ve completed your first pass of testing! 4. Pilot to ensure user adoption and work through any issues with data flow. Offering new software to a pilot group helps build advocates and expertise and encourages user adoption. Big Bang rollouts can certainly be successful but require a lot of planning and testing especially at an enterprise level. Simplifying and organizing your CTI project will not only make your life easier, but will allow you to work smarter, not harder! This may seem like a lot of overhead especially if you are a smaller organization with just a hand full of agents. The added documentation and the communication required to build that documentation is well worth it, though. The investment up front will pay off by reducing the number of iterations and surprises during testing and the business will be happy to have been involved in such a successful, well thought out roll out. Before your organization can begin benefiting from data driven decisions based on your contact center’s KPI’s (key performance indicators), a basic understanding of why KPIs are important and which ones your organization should start paying attention to is critical. Most contact center KPIs are focused on measuring the performance of an agent, department or the entire organization. When accurate reporting is able to be gathered, the benefits can: Increase efficiency Optimize customer satisfaction Increase customer experience Increase revenue Reduce cost In addition to these benefits, measuring KPIs can help measure progress being made when working towards a specific goal. If comparing several KPIs, the information can provide management a comprehensive view of how the contact center is performing and can be used as a foundation for stronger strategic decision making in order to drive results. Contact centers that handle in-bound and out-bound calls, should handle measuring their KPIs for each differently. Inbound call centers should measure success by whether or not their customers are being properly serviced and happy. Satisfied customers are likely to continue their relationship with the company. Conducting surveys are the most practical way to find out if customers’ needs are being met for inbound phone calls. For outbound call campaigns, an organization is interested in finding out if the conversion rates of their customers is successful. The most important KPI to measure for outbound calls is the number of completed calls, some call centers are even able to put a price per completed call. The most important KPIs your contact center should be paying attention to are: First Call Resolution – The percentage of calls that the agent is able to resolve without having to transfer the customer to a supervisor or different agent Average After Call Work Time – The amount of time an agent spends completing work related to the call after it is completed Abandonment Rate – The number of callers who hang up before reaching an agent Average Call Handle Time – The amount of time an agent spends speaking with the caller, which usually also includes holding time If you’ve worked in IT for a while, chances are you’ve witnessed or even participated in a failed project or one that yielded less than stellar results. It can happen to the best of us and like all struggles we move on and learn from the experience. Involvement in a failed CTI project or hearing negative experiences from others, you may be skeptical of the value of CTI or have the opinion that it’s too complex and the ROI is limited. CTI projects are like any IT project though and chances are the failure had more to do with lack of planning and communication than telephony integration itself. You can read what some of our customers like Continental Tire and Carnival say about CTI here, to see what CTI has done for them if you’re still skeptical. 1. Gather requirements from the business – if you already have a solution in place, document what features are valuable and what they can’t live without. Write up what features they’d like to see in a new product. If you don’t have a solution in place document the current process, including the pain points, exception handling and what they view as a successful process. 2. Discuss those requirements when looking for a vendor. Vendors tend to emphasize the features they have, don’t let them distract you with features that aren’t important to your business. 3. Plan resources. Get the info up front on skillsets you need to have involved in an implementation. Resources are often matrixed so you don’t want to kick off a project only to stall because you have to wait months for a resource to be available. If you have to bring in a consultant, you need to factor that into your overall budget. Plan resources. Get the info up front on skillsets you need to have involved in an implementation. Resources are often matrixed so you don’t want to kick off a project only to stall because you have to wait months for a resource to be available. If you have to bring in a consultant, you need to factor that into your overall budget. 4. Integration products require info from both systems they are integrating to. Get this checklist and fill it out before you begin installation. You need to know what licenses and versions you need on both ends to accomplish your desired results. 5. Don’t overlook training. User adoption is more successful when agents are familiar with the software so don’t just throw them into it – even if they already are familiar with screenpop and the CRM. 6. Invest in a test environment. The closer it is to production the better. Dropping new code into production and hoping for the best or trying to test after hours doesn’t set yourself up for success. 7. Create test scripts for all scenarios, not just sunny day scenarios. Exception handling will kill you on user adoption so make sure your testers account for all of the exceptions. If there are differences in the test and prod environments, make sure you are aware of them so you have a risk mitigation plan if it comes up in production. 8. Pilot. We are big proponents for learning from your mistakes. Piloting is a great way to vet out issues so you can address any hiccups when you hit prime time. It’s also a great way to gain advocates for the software you are rolling out. Have your pilot group train others as you roll out. Many companies today recognize that there is a significant return on investment (ROI) available from simply integrating their contact center with their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications. Some benefits are easily measured, such as faster handling through screen pops and an integrated user interface and some perhaps more intangible such as improved customer satisfaction and more consistent first call resolution. In the early days of computer telephony integration, there were many complex challenges. Previously APIs were closed and proprietary. Today several standards have emerged to help standardize the industry. Despite these advances, there remain several myths around CTI that can make organizations leery at the thought of integrate their CRM and contact center applications. Let’s take a look at these myths that perhaps at one point may or may not have been true but are no longer. Myth #1: Screenpop is only based off a phone number – Screenpop can be based on any piece of data. Contact Canvas allows you to define a hierarchy of searches. For instance, if someone enters an account number via the IVR, a search can be performed on account number, but if no match is found the ANI could be used. Some organizations even look for screenpops on outbound calls or perform data dips into the CRM before routing a call to the agent! Myth #2: CTI is a really expensive and labor intensive endeavor – If you know your environment and have the right resources on the project, CTI can be done very quickly. Like any project, when you don’t have the right skillsets in place, the effort can drag on. Often times organizations that are transitioning to a new platform look for feature parity with their old system. Deferring CTI to a phase 2 of a project may simplify troubleshooting newly set up environments. However, CTI considerations and requirements gathering should be included in phase 1 to avoid rework and reconfiguration. Myth #3: The softphone from my telephony provider is just as good as one embedded in the CRM – there are a lot of feature rich softphones that have been developed by telephony providers and contact solution providers, however productivity is lost bouncing back and forth from application to application. You can avoid the swivel chair effect by providing a unified agent experience within CRM. Myth #4: Out of the box solutions lack flexibility – some out of the box solutions provide ways to extend the solutions to address unique requirements. Contact Canvas Agent for instance provides a robust and flexible development tool called Agent Palette. Through Agent Palette developers have access to CTI events and user control events. Myth #5: Custom Dev or in house dev gives an organization more control – while it is true that maintaining your own software provides a lot of control over features and timelines, the tremendous amount of overhead associated with acquiring and/or maintaining telephony integration skillsets in house or through consulting services is great. While most organizations would consider themselves customer centric, it is easy to confuse customer centricity with customer focus. Ensuring that the customer has a consistently pleasant and relevant experience with the organization means it has a strong customer focus; however, the organizations that decide to drive revenue off of the most valuable customers, are the ones running a customer centric business. Dr. Peter Fadar, professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and co-director of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative explains why this is important, “For most companies, there is already a tremendous amount of low-hanging fruit that will provide a true sustainable competitive advantage. When you leverage data to figure out what makes the really valuable customers different from the less valuable ones and then adjust your business strategy accordingly, no competitor can knock that off.” If your contact center is looking to become a more customer centric business, our VP of Strategic Alliances and Marketing, Aimee Stinson has some tips to get you started: Be cognizant of your customer’s time. Keep queue times short and use a call attendant or IVR to gather information before routing the call to reduce the likelihood of transferring a frustrated customer, agents should always confirm the accuracy of the screen pop and quickly look at the customer history and call attached data to make some quick deductions on why the customer is calling. Reporting must be actionable. It’s important to have reports on what your agents are doing in the contact center but you should also be able to draw conclusions from those reports that help make operating decisions. A lot of data that is disjointed or not accurate doesn’t provide a lot of value to operations. Don’t forget about the agent experience. Agents that enjoy their jobs help make your customers happy. Agents that are burdened by their tools pass on that frustration to people they are talking to – your customers!