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July 2008 | Volume 27 / Number 2
Customer Interaction News

Customer Interaction News

FTC Conducts Largest-Ever Telemarketing Fraud Sweep

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) nabbed 13 allegedly deceptive telemarketing operations encompassing more than 180 US and Canadian cases thanks to Operation Tele-PHONEY, the largest telemarketing fraud sweep ever coordinated by the agency. More than 500,000 consumers were defrauded by unscrupulous telemarketers, resulting in losses of more than $100 million. The FTC estimates that as a result of the law enforcement actions consumers will save approximately $30 million over the next year. Operation Tele-PHONEY has the strong support of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), a non-profit professional trade association representing the contact center industry as it promotes the same principles endorsed by the ATA for more than 25 years. ATA upholds efforts to enforce ethical business practices to protect the public, both business and consumer, from fraudulent telephone calls.

U.S. Poised As Strongest Location

While offshore locations continue to generate the most new contact center employment it is the United States that appears to have the most potential. Site selection consultancy Site Selection Group (SSG) reported in May that the vast majority of new staff employment: over 10,000 of 17,225 positions that were created worldwide took place in The Philippines, Romania, and Nicaragua. Yet SSG president King White believes that the U.S. is the strongest location, with room to grow, even though it saw 5,880 new job openings in that month as compared with nearly 10,000 in The Philippines. "The biggest trend that we've seen is the growth of the U.S. as the most stable contact center market," says White. "In contrast we wonder how much more The Philippines labor market can take with all the recent expansion. It is a matter of time before we see work repatriated to the US from there."

Convergys Wins Five-Year Contract

Convergys has signed a new five-year $50 million contract with an unnamed multinational automobile finance company to provide it with customer management solutions. The client, who serves millions of drivers, needed a customer service provider who could help it improve their customer support offering, extend their brand, and lower their costs. The contract calls specifically for Convergys, who was chosen from among 10 other competitors, to streamline customer service processes and initiate a continuous improvement program. The client's customers will be served by Convergys agents in multiple locations.

Customers In Romania? Have Them Speak To 'Carmen'

There is now help available at any time day or night for busy contact centers serving the growing Romanian market. 'Her' name is Carmen. 'She' is the first high quality synthetic Romanian-language voice and 'works' in IVONA Telecom speech recognition application, developed and marketed by IVO Software. Carmen joins her 'friends', Jacek and Ewa who can talk to Polish-speaking callers, and who were the first members of the IVONA Telecom TTS 'family', along with Jennifer, who can converse with Americans. Carmen may have more company soon. IVO plans to introduce German and British-accented English-speaking applications. Together they can also enable a central/eastern European, or US or UK offshore Polish or Romanian contact center to provide speech recognition in addition to live agent services.

Disconnect Between C-Level Executives And Contact Center Pros

A study by Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories revealed that customer care professionals and executives overwhelmingly agree that customer service impacts the company's brand identity, yet very few believe that their customer service acts mainly as a strategic function. The study pointed to several disconnects between top executives and customer care staff. Seventy-three percent of C-level executives overestimate the effort in their companies to measure customer lifetime value, compared to 60 percent of customer-level employees. While just 55 percent of C-level executives believe their operations use average speed to answer as a critical measure, which contrasts with 70 percent of customer care professionals. Also 41 percent of C-level executives understand that they measure the experience in self-service by quality rather than just cost savings. By comparison, only 35 percent of customer service professionals believe the same.

ASC to Intro Products Tailored for Genesys

ASC, which provides communications recording and monitoring solutions, has introduced new version of its communications recording solution MARATHON EVOLUTION 8.0 and its monitoring solution INSPIRATIONpro 8.0. Both products are specifically tailored for and integrate seamlessly with Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories' T-Server. They are also compatible with PBXes from major vendors including IP phone systems. The solutions provide free seating for agents and may be used for either selective or bulk recording. MARATHON EVOLUTION allows multi-site recording by connecting one unit at a central location and uses recording interface applications to enable searching of archived calls and operates in a dynamic recording mode to activate channels only when required. INSPIRATIONpro 8.0 can be enhanced with features like customer feedback, keyword spotting, transcription and speech mining to provide a detailed and automated analysis of recorded calls.

Foxgate Expands Philippines Operations

Teleservices firm Foxgate Solutions has expanded its contact center in Cebu City, Philippines. The company cited the country's ability to maintain high levels of customer service at a reduced cost. The center services clients in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Philippines with inbound, outbound and interactive services.

nuBridges Reps Now Certified Customer Support Professionals

nuBridges, which makes software and manages services has announced that 100 percent of its customer support reps are now certified Customer Support Professionals (CSP). The CSP program is sponsored by the Service Strategies Corporation, which tests to service capability and performance (SCP) standards that provide the definitive benchmark of service excellence in the technology industry. SCP career certification serves as confirmation that individuals within the organization have the skills necessary to drive and sustain significant business improvement. nuBridges sought the certifications for its reps as part of its 2008 strategic plan to make its customer support service the best in the industry to help retain customers.

SER Solutions To Integrate CPS With Nortel Suite

SER Solutions has partnered with Nortel to integrate its CPS Enterprise Edition outbound solution to the Nortel Contact Center Suite in a reseller/OEM agreement. The integrated product include a unified agent desktop, single administration of the system, realtime inbound and outbound statistics and unified historical reporting, as well as predictive calling campaigns that are designed to offer a personalized customer experience. Users will be able to respond quickly to callback requests, conduct proactive customer outreach programs, follow-up on sales to improve customer satisfaction, generate sales leads and increase revenue by up selling and cross-selling opportunities.

Hispanic Market To Grow, Pose Challenges

Se habla Espanol? Si! The National Association of Call Centers released a report on the Hispanic market that cites U.S. Census Bureau projections that by 2050 one in four Americans will be Hispanic compared with one in seven currently. This demographic will have tremendous buying power: $1.2 trillion by 2012. Making the market challenging is that it is not homogenous; Hispanics include people recently immigrated and those descended from an array of very different Spanish-speaking countries such as Cuba, Mexico, in Central and South America, and yes, Spain. To tap the diverse Hispanic market companies must be able to create culturally relevant products and services, language specific marketing material, communication, Web sites, as well as invest in bilingual agents and technology features, such as IVR.

eLoyalty Launches Customer Experience Alerting Capability

eLoyalty has launched a new Behavioral Analytics capability that automatically creates alerts to identify customers who have significant customer service issues. Using this new functionality, the firm's clients can automatically identify customers who have multiple unsatisfactory contact center interactions over a short period of time. The new software will identify customers who are transferred multiple times in one interaction, or who were upset and require a follow up call or email. These new capabilities will enable Behavioral Analytics customers to rapidly identify and remedy previously unidentified customer experience issues, as well to better understand first call resolution rates and patterns.

Convergys Announces Baton Rouge Center Layoffs

Convergys let go 176 employees at its Baton Rouge, La. contact center in June but some of them may be recalled if there is demand. According to the Associated Press, the teleservices firm stated that this move is considered to be only temporary and due to a specific client-based decision. Convergys opened the facility, which handles primarily inbound customer service, billing questions and technical support calls, in October, 1999.

Report: Utilities Increase Web-Based Self-Service

More utilities are attracting customers to self-service transactions on the Internet by broadening their online services. A new report by Chartwell shows that during the past year utilities have expandedtheir web-based menus to customers. They include more services such as bill payment, bill presentment, electronic billing signup, view payment history, view energy usage and bank drafting signup. These six services are available on Web sites at least 70 percent of organizations across North America. Doris Yon, Chartwell's Customer Care Series research analyst explained that utilities are catering to customers' demands and are satisfying their own wishes of lowering costs with additional online services.

RightNow To The White House?

CRM vendor RightNow Technologies has introduced RightNow May '08, the latest version of its enterprise-class, on demand customer relationship management product. And one of the beneficiaries could be presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama. The Illinois senator's campaign is using a RightNow e-mail response system for people with questions about the campaign, according to company senior account executive Colin Jones. RightNow May '08 has many new features that could help any campaign or enterprise. These include new online chat capabilities and the ability to gather and unify customer opinions and feedback from multiple channels. The product compiles results for trend analysis, and individual responses are included within customer profiles to enable future, more personalized service.

HiQube Releases HiQube 5.0

HiQube, a developer of business intelligence (BI) software, has released HiQube 5.0, a new version of the company's flagship BI platform that has enhanced its multilingual and security capabilities. HiQube 5.0 now supports numerous additional languages, including multiple Asian languages such as Japanese and Chinese dialects. The upgraded version also features improved access list management, which increases the platform's security and protects the underlying data model. It enables customers to roll out desktop versions of the software to power users: only those users on the access list can edit the data model.

Verizon Business Launches New Center

Verizon Business, a unit of Verizon Communications, has opened a new contact center in Tulsa, Okla. to accommodate growing demand for its outsourced end-user IT help desk services. The new facility, which has room for up to 400 highly-trained support reps, more than doubles Verizon Business' help desk operations capacity: its other contact center is in Tampa, Fla. The demand for these services is being driven by a growth in the number of professionals working remotely, and who require support to stay in touch with their offices, to better serve customers, and to boost productivity.

Alcatel-Lucent And Convergys Partner On Infinys

Alcatel-Lucent will integrate Convergys' Infinys applications into its business support system (BSS) solution that will offer service providers a single BSS solution for today's service needs. Alcatel-Lucent will further strengthen its BSS offering by providing pre-integrated solutions that are easier to integrate and deploy. Convergys' Infinys software meets the requirement of service providers in all sectors for advanced BSS, providing clients with solutions that drives profitability and supports business aspirations. By partnering with Alcatel-Lucent, Convergys is also able to extend its market reach of Infinys thanks to Alcatel-Lucent's global presence.

Helio Picks RightNow's Telecom Support

Helio, a U.S. mobile service provider has selected RightNow Telecom, RightNow Technologies' on-demand customer relationship management product for telecommunications companies to support and retain customers. Helio uses RightNow to send surveys to customers following service interactions, so that they can rate their overall experience, including hold time and the agents' professionalism and knowledge. The product also lets Helio modify survey questions, which the company says has helped it increase survey response rates by 900 percent. The RightNow knowledge base provides Helio agents with a central repository of information regarding product updates and previous customer inquiries, and helps train new employees by providing responses that they can access.

Comcast Opens Arab-Language Contact Center

Comcast has opened its first bilingual Arabic-English contact center, in Dearborn, Mich. to serve the southeastern part of the state, which has one of the United States' largest Arab populations. The new contact center's staff has been recruited principally from the surrounding area. The facility will reflect the needs of its workforce which may include, reports American Arab Chamber of Commerce chair Jim Allen space to allow Muslims to pray. Demand for the Arab-English capabilities grew from the increasing popularity of Comcast's IP phone, high-speed Internet, and digital cable products. Allen explained that many Arab residents maintain strong links with their origin countries, which are facilitated by Comcast's services.

Newspaper: Bad Service News Now Travels At Hyperspeed

Contact center managers beware. Thanks to the Internet, bad news about a product or service, including customer service provided by one of their agents, may be known to the whole world in minutes. The Times-Colonist (in Victoria, BC, Canada) recently reported that chances are increasing that customer service issues will end up reported on the Internet, leading to even quicker-to-realize consequences (lost business), according to academics and customer service experts interviewed. "It used to be if someone had a bad experience they might have told 10 people about it, "Steve Tax, economics professor at the University of Victoria told the newspaper. "Now, if they have a bad experience, it could be that they tell tens of thousands of people in a very efficient manner."

N.E.W. To Open Arkansas Contact Center

N.E.W. Customer Service Companies, which specializes in extended service plans and buyer protection programs for consumer products, will be opening a 250-agent contact center in Russellville, Ark. in late August. The new center would field inbound consumer calls for one of the company's largest clients, Wal-Mart, and its subsidiary Sam's Club. The center is N.E.W's ninth and will help it provide service for the firm's 150 million customers.

Amazon To Open New PA Center

In a bid to better serve their Northeast customers, Amazon has announced the opening of a new fulfillment center in Hazelton, PA. that will create over 1,100 jobs in the next three years. Hazelton is strategically located just off I-81and is near I-80. This will be Amazon's fifth facility in the state. The new center will include the hiring of up to 800 temporary associates to handle increased demands for its products during peak seasons.

Speechstorm Now Enables Call Personalization

SpeechStorm's speech-recognition-based self-service solutions now offer that personalization thanks to having been integrated with the Intelligent Customer Front Door (iCFD) solution from Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories. iCFD enables contact centers to personalize responses to inbound calls by using a business rules engine that determines callers' identities' and establishes the callers' intents based on previous experience, collected from back end systems. The SpeechStorm products increase the caller experience by letting agents know who they are talking to and getting the call to the right agent every time while reducing overall live agent handle time. Its "front door" can also be combined with its other applications to rapidly build complete customer self-care solutions such as for bill payment, order status, and outstanding balances.

Asian Contact Centers To Grow

Market analysis firm Datamonitor predicts that there will be four times as many new contact center seats in developing Asian Pacific markets as in developed markets. A new research paper published by it cites a combination of a growing middle class in China and India and strong Australia, Japanese, and Korean economies leading to high demand for products and services, and increases in offshoring. These trends will lead, for example to 567,000 seats in India by 2012 from 370,000 in 2006 to serve both domestic and offshore markets.

Oman Air Contact Center Goes 24/7

Customers of Oman Air now have someone at the airline answering their calls, regardless of when they call, 24/7. And by year end they will be able to reach the carrier from wherever they are in the Middle East. Oman Air's contact center switched to 24/7 from 7am to midnight Saturdays-Thursdays and 8am to 4pm on Fridays, the country's official day off, on Saturday May 17. There will also be more agents to handle calls. Oman Air will have 85 reps by July 1 from 35 currently. The airline's center receives 55,000 calls per month.

Lagan 311 To Enable Non-Emergency Northern CA Contact Services

Three Northern California municipalities — Solano County, Berkeley, and Oakland — have selected the Lagan 311 non-emergency call center solution. Lagan has partnered with outsourcing services provider Affiliated Computer Services to deliver a consolidated customer service center to Solano County. Berkeley has launched its "One Call Serves All" campaign using the Lagan tool as part of the city's customer service initiative. Meanwhile neighboring Oakland has tapped Lagan to support the City's Citizen Relationship Management system to enhance responsiveness to citizen inquiries and requests.

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