Creating a Sustainable Work-from-Home Contact Center

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Creating a Sustainable Work-from-Home Contact Center

Creating a Sustainable Work-from-Home Contact Center

Top tech & tools for the transition to a permanent remote-work model.

The sudden shift from on-premise to work-from-home (WFH) last year was an eye-opening experience for contact centers and employees alike. Understandably, there were some early stumbles among companies that had no previous remote-work model in place and those that had not transitioned to cloud platforms. Overall, though, companies reported seeing the benefits of having a remote workforce in a fast-changing, unpredictable business climate. Most contact center leaders have viewed the WFH experience as a promising disruption and have indicated that the model will become a permanent part of their post-pandemic operations. (Read about the industry research by contact center analyst and Pipeline Advisory Board Member Paul Stockford below.)

Frontline agents have embraced the flexibility that WFH offers. Despite growing WFH fatigue, most (69%) have expressed a desire to continue working remotely full time. However, they still want access to the contact center for training, meetings and social activities, according to 5th Talent’s April 2021 Contact Center Industry Work at Home Study. The report, which surveyed 5,777 contact center employees (92% agents; 8% supervisors), listed IT issues, internet problems and difficulty getting quick support when they need help with a customer among agents’ top “dislikes” about working from home.

Contact center leaders, likewise, have reported difficulty supporting home agents as one of their top challenges of 2020, according to the 2021 Contact Center Challenges and Priorities survey conducted by Strategic Contact and Pipeline. In fact, one of the top priorities that leaders cited for 2021 is implementing better home-agent support, tools and processes.

The Challenges & Priorities report also pointed out that the pandemic’s business impact raised awareness among senior executives of the strategic importance of the contact center, so it’s likely that funding for remote-work technology and initiatives may be more forthcoming. And, as WFH Alliance President Michele Rowan notes, less expenditure on real estate and related costs is shifting resources toward technology upgrades (see her comments below).

If your contact center is moving toward a more sustainable WFH model (or will be soon), what are the essential tools and technologies to consider for your remote-work wish list? Think communication, collaboration, instant access, autonomy, engagement, development and actionable insights. Provide WFH agents and supervisors with tools that bridge the distance and allow them to confidently and competently handle complex and often emotional transactions while feeling engaged and connected to their teams and supervisors.

The following are key technologies and tools that meet these critical needs (listed alphabetically by vendor). We reached out to some of the industry’s leading contact center solutions experts to explain the WFH challenges that each tool solves, along with key features, how to get the most out of the technology, and valuable advice on making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model.

Give Supervisors Simplified Insights and Easy Access to QM Tools

Brad Snedecker


Brad Snedecker

Quality Management Product Line Manager, Calabrio

Calabrio Quality Management

What WFH challenge(s) does it solve?

The shift to WFH has led to unprecedented challenges for contact center agents—and for contact center managers charged with quality assurance goals. These challenges are creating an increased reliance on advanced QM technology due to its ability to assist in ensuring the best customer experience possible. Here are some WFH-related challenges that an advanced QM solution will address.

  • Keep agents engaged with real-time feedback. This is particularly important in creating a smooth transition for remote agents. With real-time feedback, managers and supervisors can keep a watchful eye on agent activity throughout the day and provide immediate feedback for agents to keep them engaged and motivated, which are two large challenges for remote agents.
  • Keep the contact center focused and aligned with business objectives. With agents in decentralized locations, it can be easy to lose track of a centralized company goal. Creating a QM command center that gives contact center managers, evaluators and agents direct visibility to the metrics and information that matter most for their job is one way to keep contact centers focused on business objectives.
  • Identify agent roadblocks and opportunities for training. QM software can be combined with AI-driven speech and desktop analytics to help contact center managers identify challenges that agents are facing during interactions. For example, speech analytics detects keywords and phrases that might indicate a software issue. This can help identify any technology or process issues that are creating roadblocks or bottlenecks for remote agents. Analytics reveals the “why” behind the “what” of an interaction result, and once the “why” is identified, contact center managers can incorporate those findings into agent training.

Key features

The right QM solution will offer simplified insights and ease of access to the information contact center managers need. For example, Calabrio offers the ability to create a quality command center with all evaluation tools, screen recording and audio recording in a unified view. On the agent side, QM should facilitate customizable dashboards to increase agent efficiency and give them the ability to easily track their own performance and self-coach.

Another feature of a QM solution is the ability to streamline processes and reporting. Top-of-the-line solutions will offer automated and customized reporting to drive increased business intelligence. QM solutions should also drive consistency across all channels.

How does it add value for end customers?

There are four main ways that QM technology benefits customers.

First, it can improve customer service. When agents receive frequent, constructive feedback, they are better equipped to help each interaction reach a positive resolution.

Second, QM helps contact center managers to better understand agent interactions. In fact, automated QM can evaluate 100% of interactions, giving call centers full visibility to agent performance. The evaluation process can gather useful data to inform where additional training may be needed to ensure agents handle customer interactions effectively and efficiently.

Third, QM technology can help identify repeat contacts. The ability to flag and get to the root cause of repeat contacts is an important way of maintaining customer loyalty. The addition of analytics to the quality assurance process allows organizations to identify and evaluate interactions that are relevant to FCR and take steps to reduce repeat contacts, whether it’s addressing a training issue or making improvements to processes that impact the customer.

A fourth benefit is the ability to facilitate and manage escalations. Analytics-fueled quality helps evaluators pinpoint customer interactions in which the customer asks to speak to a supervisor. By isolating these interactions, analysts can uncover coaching opportunities and even policies or product issues that are creating frustration for customers.

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

Before a call center can achieve the QM program it envisions, it is important to first assess its existing call center QM practices—taking careful note of the specific areas where it is excelling and where room for improvement still exists.

And when it comes to quality assurance evaluations, it’s important to know what you are scoring against. That means having clearly defined, objective criteria for each aspect of the customer interaction and visibility to the data you need to make quality assessments. Once you fully understand your current situation, you can identify the essential features your QM operation will need in order to effectively manage quality in the call center—from call recordings to agent scripts and beyond.

With the right tools in place—each one serving the overall QM strategy—call centers are empowered to deliver unparalleled support to customers in every interaction.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

First, analyze and formalize the processes for your WFH policy. Many companies find the quality of their customer support initially declines when they launch permanent WFH policies. That’s because the technology often used by agents isn’t designed or optimized for a WFH scenario. As a result, it can take longer for even the most seasoned agent to resolve a customer’s inquiry when they work from home.

Put real thought into your permanent WFH policy and consider things like:

  • Eligibility: Are all agents eligible for WFH? Or will we use WFH as a reward for high performers? Are there thresholds agents need to meet to become or remain eligible for WFH? Since some agents prefer the social aspect of working in an office, will we give some or all agents a choice of working in an office or from home?
  • Equipment/technology: Does our current tech support remote employees? How can we secure data while allowing agents to WFH? Will our VPN support enough simultaneous users? What should a WFH agent do if his/her headset breaks? Do WFH agents use their own computers, or will we ship computers to them?

A second tip is to retain physical space for in-person training and onboarding—even if you plan to go fully or mostly remote. Many have tried, but it is very difficult to properly and adequately train new contact center agents from home. This is because most of the technology used by contact centers today doesn’t enable or support any sort of virtual training for new agents. The mechanisms for replicating in a virtual manner key parts of the agent training process—such as new agents shadowing experienced agents while they handle calls—simply don’t exist right now.

Regardless of your permanent WFH/in-office headcount mix, preserve office space for the live training of new agents. Bring new-hires into the office for their first six to eight weeks of employment. This will allow them to train side-by-side with experienced agents, get some real-world experience and become self-sustaining by fostering peer communication and sharing, before sending them home to assume their regular WFH status.

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Unify Human and Digital Communication and Collaboration Tools

Candace Sheitelman


Candace Sheitelman

Chief Marketing Officer, Edify

Edify Huddle

What WFH challenge(s) does it solve?

  • Edify Huddle frees companies from the technology limitations that have held their customer and employee experiences hostage for as long as anyone can remember—expensive hardware, inflexible licensing contracts, messy integrations, complex IT requirements, downtime and terrible user interfaces.
  • With one solution that unites CCaaS and UCaaS (with CPaaS, too), companies can now give agents the same reliable tools as the rest of the employee population, letting them interact internally with one another and externally with customers without changing apps. It’s one window to do everything instead of all the windows that will fit on a screen.
  • With 37 data centers around the globe and a multi-cloud architecture, users can work from anywhere (WFA) and always have the same voice quality, true universal queuing, real-time redundancy and 100% SLA.
  • To Edify, the instantaneous rise of WFH also means WFA (Anywhere). To provide the best experience for customers and to access the best talent for the business, we have to stop pretending people need to be under the same roof. It’s just not how work works any more, and new tools are here.

Key features

Edify unites contact center, UC, APIs and more in a single screen:

  • Contact Center (CCaaS)—Give agents one window to meet customers where they are, on every channel.
  • Unified Communications (UCaaS)—Unify your workforce across channels and geos with one-click voice, chat and video.
  • Communication Platform (CPaaS)—Make business communications exactly what you want them to be with simple programmable voice, messaging and open APIs.
  • No-Code Workflows—Replace IVR, IVA, RPA and more with a single no-code drag-and-drop tool.

How does it add value for end customers?

  • Using Edify, contact center agents can access the rest of the employee population (rather than only other contact center staff) on the same system in service of resolving customer inquiries.
  • And, agents have one window to switch naturally between calls, texts, emails and video with customers and colleagues, just like they do when they’re on their phone with friends, leading to a much more natural and pleasant experience for everyone.
  • One Edify client that has grown its business with the company more than 300% in three months has seen tremendous employee and end-customer value, including:
    • Cutting average speed of answer in half: Down from 2 minutes, every call is now answered in under 60 seconds, with many answered in less than 5.
    • Reducing Average Handle Time (AHT) by 20%: Customer service reps are now on the phone for 20% less time every time, serving customers faster while saving valuable time and money for the business.
    • Decreasing abandon rates by 78%: Abandon rates that once hovered between 9%-12% are down to less than 2%.

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

  • Ditch the technology silos and put everyone in the organization on one solution: Combining contact center, unified communications and API functionality unites the contact center with the rest of the business to serve customers better because the customer experience is everyone’s job.
  • Use and pay only for what you need with simple, transparent, usage-based pricing. Eliminate big upfront investments and unlock the ultimate scalability. Your contact center can instantly grow (or shrink) right along with your business and seasonal demands. Adding and removing seats is done at the click of a button.
  • Tap into new talent pools and leverage more part-time agents with hard-to-find skill sets via flexible cloud-native software for all internal and external interactions.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

Strategy: Put EX first. A top-notch employee experience must lie at the heart of any top-notch customer experience plan.

  • Here’s an essential truth of customer experience that not many talk about: The fastest route to happier customers is through happier agents. That’s why the employee experience must come before the customer experience. We can start improving the employee experience by giving them the proper tools, training and flexibility they need to do their jobs well.

Culture: Trust rules. Building a culture of trust is the foundation of getting the most from the people who work for you.

  • Operating a distributed contact center team is easier than ever with the right technology. But this massive shift in how we operate requires a fresh way of thinking, too. Helicopter management, which is common in the in-person contact center, is not going to help your WFH team succeed. Leaders have to go beyond just saying they believe in the people who work for them and start acting that way. This begins by ensuring everyone understands the big picture goals for the organization, setting clear expectations for each person’s role in achieving those goals, and then empowering the team to go do their part with confidence.

Execution: Tools matter. Planning and intentions are critical but only take you so far—you need the right tools to make successful remote work happen.

  • This means overcoming the “this is how we’ve always done it” resistance and letting go of technology that no longer serves the needs of the employees and customers that keep the company in business. We finally have solutions that enable agents to deliver stellar experiences from anywhere at any time without sacrificing speed or quality. They can get immediate help from managers and product experts even if they aren’t physically working alongside each other or under the same roof. This can happen from their computer, their iPad, even their phone. And, beyond the ability to connect people seamlessly, new tools support agents in truly intuitive, efficient ways. Dynamic scripting keeps conversations flowing. Thoughtfully delivered in-house training modules continually improve performance. And customizable reporting and dashboards let managers monitor agents (and let agents monitor themselves) without having to look over their actual shoulders.

It’s a new day for the employee and customer experience, and it’s time for brands to seize it.

Deliver Contextual Knowledge and Conversational Guidance

Anand Subramaniam


Anand Subramaniam

SVP Global Marketing, eGain Corporation

eGain Knowledge Hub™

What WFH challenge(s) does it solve?

Agents: When working work from home, agents do not have the luxury of walking over to the proverbial next cube for answers. Moreover, traditional training and onboarding programs have been disrupted across all functions, customer service included. Hence the need for a knowledge-powered conversational guidance capability that not only guides agents to answers, asking clarifying questions through a dialog where needed, but also walks them through the next best steps in a customer conversation. Moreover, when COVID broke out, many companies deployed staff from outside the customer service organization to stem the tide of customer service calls. These employees needed even more help, which conversational guidance offers. eGain’s AI-powered Knowledge Hub excels at serving up this kind of knowledge and guidance.

Supervisors: When COVID hit, contact center supervisors were caught between a rock and a hard place—a flood of incoming calls on one side and agent dislocation on the other. Moreover, many of them had to hire gig workers, as agents dropped out of the workforce due to issues related to the work environment, childcare, etc. Not surprisingly, gig agents needed conversational guidance even more so than others.

Supervisors had to find a way to maintain customer service quality during this difficult period.

eGain Knowledge Hub carried the day for them, helping agents of all kinds provide fast, accurate answers to customers with little to no onboarding and training. eGain Analytics™ helps supervisors easily measure performance at the queue and agent level and make changes in real-time to optimize contact center operations.

Key features

  • Content management: Robust capabilities for content creation, compliance and consumption in a unified way across customer engagement channels.
  • Findability: Intent understanding, powered by ML (machine learning), keyword and faceted search, federated search, guided search.
  • Process know-how: Conversational and process guidance, powered by ML and AI reasoning.
  • Personalization: Ability to adapt served knowledge to agent skill levels, roles, context, etc.
  • Analytics: Best-practice dashboards and reports to measure and assess knowledge gaps and contact center performance, including KPIs like FCR (First-Contact Resolution), ASA (Average Speed to Answer), AHT (Average Handle Time), etc.
  • Integration: Out-of-the-box connectors to leading systems of record such as CRM and content management with two-way integration. The capability can be embedded within third-party agent desktops, and conversely, data and content from third-party systems can be easily accessed from eGain’s own Advisor Desktop.

How does it add value for end customers?

eGain Knowledge Hub simultaneously transforms customer and agent experiences. Our clients have seen improvements of up to 35% in first-contact resolution and up to 30 points in NPS; and up to 60% increase in agent confidence and 50% reduction in agent training.

A customer example: Almost all contact center agents in a premier healthcare company—there were a few thousand of them—were dislocated due to COVID, having been asked to work from home. The company was able to excel in customer service amid a spate of calls during the outbreak with eGain Knowledge Hub. As government regulations and relief programs were literally changing on a daily basis, even experienced agents loved using it, not just novice and gig agents!

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

  • Use the 80-20 rule in prioritizing the content needed for customer service.
  • While it is OK to crowdsource knowledge, make sure to implement robust workflows for quality assurance and compliance.
  • Leverage an omnichannel knowledge hub across all customer touchpoints, including self-service, so that there is a single right answer for any given customer query.
  • Use analytics on an ongoing basis to identify gaps and assess the performance of the knowledge base.
  • Avoid point tools that can address only a part of the knowledge life cycle across creation, use, measurement and optimization.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

  • Provide the tools needed for WFH agents to succeed. Contextual knowledge and conversational guidance is clearly one of them. After all, customers reach out to contact centers to get their problems solved—not to chit-chat!
  • Set clear goals and communicate. Communication is more important for new agents, especially during their onboarding process.
  • Trust WFH agents to do their jobs.
  • Leverage analytics to measure agent performance.
  • Be empathetic to agents in special situations when they have disruptions.
  • Have virtual social hours periodically (with wine e-coupons or door delivery of lunch boxes, where possible!) to keep the team spirit going.
  • Gamify to get their competitive juices flowing!

Ensure a Better and More Secure Caller Experience with State-of-the-Art Headsets

Theis Mørk


Theis Mørk

Vice President, Product Management, Enterprise Solutions, EPOS

EPOS IMPACT Headsets

What WFH challenge(s) do quality headsets solve?

The shift to remote work has highlighted several challenges for today’s contact centers. First and foremost is unexpected noise and disruption in an uncontrolled work environment. From noisy pets and kids to background chatter, poor audio can have a negative impact on agent productivity as well as the quality of the customer interactions, resulting in lower satisfaction scores and agent turnover. Today’s agents also need flexibility—they need tools that work with each individual’s user preferences and environments. With the right headset, contact center leaders can ensure their agents and supervisors are able to deliver better customer experiences and ultimately better business outcomes. Lastly is the need for security. With agents working remotely, audio security is an even bigger risk. Headsets with DECT technology and encryption will support higher security, regardless of where the user is working.

Key features

For modern professionals working in contact centers, long hours on the phone and multitasking around the office and on the go is a daily reality. To ensure high-quality, natural-sounding communication, contact center agents need headsets that are robust and reliable. They also need audio solutions that improve efficiency and deliver an enhanced audio experience for both the speaker and the listener. Our IMPACT headset line does just that. The IMPACT MB Pro Series enables both user comfort and premium call clarity. This headset uses EPOS Voice™ for a natural listening experience and an ultra noise-canceling microphone for optimized speech. Meanwhile, users can also experience wireless freedom thanks to multi-point connectivity with two Bluetooth® devices connected simultaneously and up to 25 m/82 ft wireless range.

At EPOS, we also offer applications such as EPOS Connect. This free addition allows users to get all the latest firmware updates and gives them the opportunity to personalize audio settings—ensuring all work is done to the best of the user’s abilities.

How does it add value for end customers?

Recent research has found that bad audio has significant repercussions—53% of decision-makers reported a loss in concentration and efficiency, 34% experienced frustration from asking for information to be repeated, and 23% reported the loss of a key piece of work or a deal. But with the right headset, users can overcome these issues and realize a range of benefits—from noise cancellation and easy deployment to flexible connectivity and personalization options. The right headset will enable users to filter out unwanted noise, enhance speech clarity, and offer optimal comfort and easy call-handling.

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

When it comes to making the most of headsets, business leaders need to choose those that offer disruption-free communications with best-in-class noise cancellation technologies. Headsets that offer these features and allow for ease of communication without compromise in a range of different environments will help organizations set up their contact center employees for success, regardless of where they are working.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

For contact center leaders looking to permanently adopt either a full or hybrid work-from-home model, I recommend that they invest in the latest technologies and devices to optimize operational capabilities. With enhanced audio and communication solutions such as EPOS’ IMPACT headsets, contact center employees will feel more energized and confident so that they can deliver an improved customer experience.

WFO Provides Better Work-Life Balance While Streamlining Remote and Hybrid Operations

Mike Bourke


Mike Bourke

Senior Vice President, Product, Five9

Five9 Workforce Optimization (WFO)

What WFH challenge(s) does it solve?

Supporting remote and hybrid workforces now requires organizations to go beyond WFM to embrace Workforce Optimization (WFO). WFO streamlines remote and hybrid contact center operations by integrating tools for workforce management, quality management, interaction analytics, performance management and gamification.

Remote agents are juggling their work and home lives like never before, managing new distractions and schedule adjustments as customers reach out more frequently across more channels. WFO solutions increase the collaboration between agents and management, empowering the agents to have more influence over their schedules. These tools help agents better manage the new demands of working from home during a pandemic while still also ensuring the needs of the business and customers are met.

WFO also helps managers coach and motivate agents wherever they work, thanks to key features like live monitoring for the whole team, coaching, agent assist capabilities and gamification.

Key features

In addition to adaptive, scalable scheduling, key features of WFO include:

  • Real-time supervision for managers. Some solutions allow supervisors to see their entire team’s desktop activity, monitor voice calls in real-time, and directly intervene, if needed, to help ensure call quality and optimize the customer experience. These capabilities are critical and an effective replacement to “walking the aisle” to keep a pulse on where intervention is necessary.
  • Coach, train and guide agents. WFO can help managers uncover coaching and training needs through interaction quality evaluation and interaction analytics. Supervisors can maximize agents’ contributions to success by easily sharing operational metrics, key performance indicators, and service level agreement statistics. WFO allows supervisors to provide traditional coaching during an interaction, or it can leverage AI to drive real-time guidance.
  • Self-empower agents. WFO is not just about supervisors and management. With the right solution, WFO helps empower agents to view schedules, access evaluations, submit time-off requests; and receive notifications of upcoming schedule events, request approvals and time-off offers so that they can manage their own personal well-being and prevent burnout.
  • Gamification to engage agents. Gamification is an extension of performance management and helps engage and motivate agents in a way that aligns with the overarching business objectives. It can create a sense of healthy competition and interaction among dispersed teams of agents and keep them motivated wherever they are located. Agents can compete to win both virtual and real-life prizes, and supervisors can reward continued learning, good performance and positive behavior. Gamification can also be useful during onboarding to make new-hire training more engaging for agents starting their new jobs from home.

How does it add value for end customers?

According to research from Metrigy, companies using WFO saw a 36.5% improvement in customer ratings. It all comes back to making sure customers get their questions answered and challenges addressed—and it’s all about making that easy.

Start with leveraging bots and AI to speed up and automate the interaction when possible, and when the customer needs to talk to a live person, businesses need to be able to respond or pick up the phone quickly. A representative of the company that is enabled and motivated to do what is right for the customer is going to provide a better customer experience.

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

WFO solutions that are integrated within a cloud contact center platform will drive the best customer and agent experience, as well as the best business outcomes. Fully integrating WFO capabilities into agent and supervisor desktop applications supports easy access and, therefore, increased adoption. Plus, integrated solutions can help enterprises save on licensing, training, system maintenance and ongoing support.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

The key to good customer service is agents who feel empowered and energized. The past year has proven that good customer service doesn’t have to be routed to the traditional co-located contact center. A more flexible and agile approach can do much to empower agents while resulting in greater convenience and satisfaction for themselves and for customers alike.

The cloud provides this all-important, flexible foundation on which contact center leaders can quickly and easily deploy new technologies, including WFO applications. Key to enabling the level of digital transformation we’ve seen in the past year, the cloud also empowers agents with intuitive, easy-to-learn and -use tools that put the technology in the background and let the agent focus on the customer.

Reach Remote-Work Job Candidates Where They Are with Video Interviewing

Andy Valenzuela


Andy Valenzuela

Chief Human Resource Officer, HireVue

HireVue Video Interview Software

What WFH challenge(s) does it solve?

Despite what seems like constant focus, recruiting for contact centers remains uniquely challenging. Contact center representatives require a unique set of skills, both in communication and in patience. Many contact centers experience extremely high turnover, often over 100% per year. This high turnover is compounded by the average cost-to-fill price tag ($2,500 per role), the 38 days, on average, it takes to fill each role and the WFH challenges of the past year.

As businesses make decisions on how they will reopen, virtual hiring significantly reduces a company’s time to fill by identifying top talent much faster than sifting through CVs (resumes) and scheduling hundreds or thousands of interviews in call centers. Additionally, virtual interviewing allows different stakeholders across an organization to spend more time on candidate engagement and personalized interactions, improving the candidate experience by as much as 52%, according to data from HireVue, which can be the deciding factor in a competitive hiring market.

Key features

Video interviewing coupled with standardized assessments give each job applicant the opportunity to showcase their skill sets on-demand or in real-time. Unlike in a resume or application, applicants can showcase their past successes, demonstrate their skills, emotional intelligence and problem-solving abilities. In under 30 minutes, organizations can determine who is the right fit for their contact center roles.

HireVue offers a comprehensive suite of virtual hiring and virtual interviewing solutions that are easy to implement, secure and easy to scale. Key features include:

  • On-demand and live video interviewing: By not limiting candidates to business hours, HireVue’s virtual interview solutions open opportunities for a broader range of candidates.
  • Guidance: HireVue’s technology provides real-time evaluation tools and interview guides through Builder, which gives recruiters and hiring managers access to more than 1,000 job-specific interview guides vetted by IO Psychologists, providing more consistency and fairness in the interview process.
  • Standardization: Standardized interview templates (more than 1,000 interview guides), which are vetted and maintained by IO Psychologists, provide more consistency and fairness in the interview process.
  • Easy to use: Organizations can reach candidates where they are, whether that includes engaging with them using conversational AI, SMS or WhatsApp.

How does it add value for end customers?

Coronavirus has drastically changed the way businesses hire. A large telecommunications company closed offshore call centers due to COVID-19, and they needed to quickly fill the affected positions (2,500 total) onshore. HireVue built a scalable hiring solution for the company. The company was able to complete 8,784 interviews in just three days.

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

At HireVue, we offer a comprehensive suite of virtual hiring and virtual interviewing solutions. For virtual interviews, we’ve identified three types of questions that recruiters and hiring managers might want to ask during a structured interview. These question types allow you to maintain consistency in hiring decisions by having the ability to compare candidates side-by-side and evaluate what matters.

We recommend asking behavioral, situational judgment and simulation/role-play questions:

  • Behavioral questions allow candidates to relate past experiences and challenges, and how they succeeded. This question allows hiring managers to determine how well candidates perform under pressure and glean the candidate’s problem-solving skills.
  • Situational judgment questions allow candidates to respond to hypothetical situations and outline their thought processes. These types of questions methodically give recruiters and hiring managers major insight into problem-solving abilities, communication skills and emotional intelligence.
  • Simulation/role-play questions are a creative way to pitch various situations to candidates. They allow you to gain insight into how much a candidate is willing to learn, how they tend to solve problems, and what their communication skills are like.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

As rehiring spikes and office transitions evolve, organizations have the opportunity to rebuild their teams with the talent that will best represent their brands. For the contact center, this means identifying diverse, empathetic and patient problem-solvers as agents to represent your brand. Leveraging virtual interviewing to identify those candidates where they are, no matter their location, will play a key role in hiring today and into the future.

From the Contact Center Pipeline Advisory Board

Q. What is the top challenge that contact centers face in the transition to a permanent work-from-home model?

Michele Rowan


Michele Rowan

President

Work From Home Alliance

In light of the decision taken by many to permanently expand remote working and working from home, many of my colleagues are talking about significant technology limitations. The good news is that, since many organizations are giving up some real estate and related costs, they (now) have the green light to reengineer a number of core systems. Tech stacks are being updated now at a feverish pace to meet customers where they are and journey with them across channels to resolution. Obviously, this transition to the cloud is a game-changer in customer experience and will also be a huge win for employees. I’m seeing material investments in data security and surveillance technologies, as well.

I’m also seeing my colleagues invest in tools that enable and enhance the social side of doing business in a remote environment. Long-term technology upgrades and investments are being made to best support digital hiring, onboarding activities, social activities, team building, learning. Resources are also being shifted around to best support people through the (now) digital employee life cycle.

The hard part is done—the decision to transition to work from home as a staffing strategy to a work strategy—and we know it works! Now it’s about raising the bar on the rest (workflows, guidelines, technologies). Easy-peasy, compared to what we’ve all been through!

AI-Powered Virtual Assistants Help Lighten the Workload for Agents

Chris Bauserman


Chris Bauserman

Vice President, Product and Segment Marketing for NICE CXone

NICE CXone Virtual Agent Hub

What WFH challenge(s) does it solve?

With agents dispersed and working from environments that vary in terms of network connection and speed, contact centers face a complexity challenge at a time when companies’ survival depends on speed and flexibility. AI-powered virtual assistants integrated into NICE’s CXone solution can provide that flexibility while taking the load off of agents, so they can focus on the cases that need their attention the most.

CXone provides an integrated, consistent hub for deploying prebuilt AI voice and chatbots. That consistency is key for contact centers that want to deliver consistently excellent CX that adapts to the changing realities of their workforce and the evolving expectations of customers.

CXone’s purpose-built AI engine—the first of its kind—measures customer sentiment, providing a more fulfilling virtual assistant experience and, using past agent performance, is able to route cases to the right agent for that specific customer and situation when the need arises.

Key features

The Virtual Agent Hub combines the most effective features of CXone, the most comprehensive cloud customer experience platform in the industry, to help agents and customers:

  • Build from an intelligent foundation, powered by NICE’s proprietary Enlighten AI engine, the industry’s first and only purpose-built AI that’s pre-trained to understand the intricacies of customer engagement.
  • Manage inbound interaction volume by letting customers self-serve on common requests, such as scheduling and status updates.
  • Automate first-level engagements with voice bots or text-based self-service to serve more customers, faster.
  • Boost self-service adoption by making it easy to automate the most common customer requests (account status, payments, scheduling and more), achieving that 24/7 convenience customers demand.
  • Leverage third-party AI capabilities in machine learning and natural language understanding engines that improve intent recognition and make AI-powered bots smarter with time and use.

CXone combines these capabilities in a streamlined interface, so agents and managers not only have access to a powerful set of virtual assistant tools, but also the ability to implement them quickly and in the right context, without extensive training.

How does it add value for end customers?

Today, customers expect both speed and relevancy. According to our 2020 Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark, Consumer Wave, 8 in 10 consumers are more willing to do business with companies that offer self-service options, yet only 61% agree that companies are offering easy, convenient self-service. We’ve had the opportunity to help an impressive array of customers fill that gap while navigating the challenges of a remote, dispersed workforce. Thanks to CXone’s unified interface and easy-to-deploy virtual assistants and easy-to-manage command center for contact center teams, they’ve become more effective than ever at delivering brand-defining customer experiences.

By letting AI do the heavy lifting and streamlining every aspect of operations, a marketing services company, for example, recently increased client acquisition rates and reduces onboarding time by 83% with CXone. NICE is helping contact centers satisfy end-customer preferences, providing self-service when they prefer it and matching them with the right agents for their case and sentiment.

CXone’s Virtual Agent Hub ultimately creates more natural, personalized experiences for end customers. Supported by conversational AI, virtual assistants’ IVR tools let customers speak naturally when they call a business. Once they share their case, call center managers can easily orchestrate a continuous contact flow that seamlessly transitions customers from bot to live agent as necessary, providing agents with the full context of the case. This all adds up to a frictionless experience for the customer.

And customers recognize the value of those experiences. NICE is positioned as a market leader in the Omdia Decision Matrix: Selecting a Multichannel Cloud Contact Center Solution, receiving the highest total score among competitors across the technology, execution and market impact assessments. It’s a testament to how CXone’s virtual assistant capabilities and full CXone solution are resonating with both customers and agents in a rapidly evolving WFH environment, and enabling exceptional customer experiences amidst those challenges.

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

Getting the most out of the Virtual Agent Hub is all about enabling higher value engagements. Users should be sure to make use of the conversational voice bot feature that greets callers to collect details whenever elevating to an agent. This will set the stage for success, especially during sensitive escalations.

Also, be sure your agents are familiar with the dashboards and features available to view the information about the customer and what they did before they reach the agent. These include powerful sentiment monitoring tools that can be used to eliminate blind transfers and offer a unified, simple experience for the customer. Studio actions can combine bots with live assistance, including providing that seamless transition of customer to agent with full context.

Choose the chatbot that works best for your business and the way you operate. CXone Virtual Agent Hub enables integration of prebuilt third-party AI chatbots and voice bots, like Google Dialogflow, so be sure to explore your options to find the best fit.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

Consistency is key. Agents should leverage the same technology, follow the same processes, and deliver the same level of customer support. If you’re still using paper processes, be sure to define new electronic processes before making the transition. When developing processes, make sure your agents have the right visibility. They need to be able to see their schedules, bid for shifts and request time off virtually from any location. For supervisors and workforce managers, this also means having the ability to generate forecasts, manage schedules and intraday activities, and run relevant WFM reports from home.

Reforecast often to ensure that your forecasts are aligned with your actual staffing needs. Be sure you are aware of any potential changes in contact volume or channel strategy that can impact staffing needs. While it’s important to focus on immediate demand channels, like voice or chat, be sure also to manage deferred demand that can lead to higher volume in the contact center, such as email, social media, or even fax or back-office requests.

Finally, adopt a mindset of flexibility, and the tools and policies to support that mindset. Working from home makes it necessary to boost your ability to accommodate more extreme changes to schedules. If you haven’t already, enable schedule change policies to ensure that your workforce management software offers rules that help you manage the process. Some tactics to explore include block and split-shift scheduling, shorter shifts, and visibility into availability points.

Equip Remote Agents with Easy Access to Connect, Collaborate and Share Knowledge

Stephen Pappas

Stephen Pappas

Senior Vice President, Head of U.S. Operations & Chief Marketing Officer, Panviva

Panviva Knowledge Management

What WFH challenge(s) does it solve?

Panviva has always been an instrumental part of allowing hybrid remote and in-building contact center employees to flourish. It accomplishes this by providing all the answers they need at their fingertips in an online cloud-based solution. But more than providing just answers, it is a task-based tool that gives them context—what to do, what to say and how to guide the call—without ever losing the rhythm of the call. Ultimately, the customer has a smoother and better experience, and the employee feels empowered and confident in always having the ability to help every customer.

No longer reliant on binders or share drives, agents have the information they need within three clicks or less.

Supervisors can publish updates to agents within seconds, virtually eliminating the need for in-person huddles.

Key features

Knowledge management needs a sound plan to be most effective for an organization. There needs to be a proven methodology, so the content that drives all interactions is consistent and easy to follow. Panviva was founded first as a methodology company with years of research into how employees search for information, read it, digest it and turn it into action on behalf of the task.

Panviva incorporates a unique narrow viewport interface to serve information as a guide on-the-side, always-on-top and guiding users through the use of various applications during the call process. It supports every type of user by incorporating task-based procedures, process flows, quick links, favorites and cutting-edge search. It has a purpose-built authoring platform and CMS for optimized storage to protect your world-class processes. In fact, it can also act as a compliance and QA audit trail to verify exactly what information an agent was looking at during a call.

And of significance in today’s move to more digital support, Panviva remains on the cutting-edge of integration, allowing companies to build their content into their existing systems, portals, chatbots, websites and more.

How does it add value for end customers?

Every customer’s goal when calling a contact center is to have a quick and efficient call that provides the help they need. But the reality is that most agents spend 25%-30% of their time searching, not finding information. Many times, they can’t determine if they are finding the right document. And once they do get to it, they must open it and find the answer they need.

All that goes away with Panviva. Your content in Panviva allows each user can get to their answers within the context of a call, providing the task steps and information they need in seconds. By giving the employees the tool that allows them to serve their customers more effectively and efficiently, the interactions can take far less time, improving your customer’s experience exponentially.

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

Since Panviva is known for its methodology, we start there—training our customers in the methodology as well as the tool itself. Panviva has a very robust training program available online at university.panviva.com. Customers have access to the full set of online courses as well as best practices, but also a full library of templates. Whether you are a hospital, bank or credit union, roadside assistance, utility company, retailer or technology, there are templates to get our customers on their way to a successful knowledge management strategy.

Our approach to making our customers successful is to be there for you. Every customer gets a Panviva Pro session every month to work with our experts on anything you need at no additional cost. That’s our way of guiding you to success.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

Encourage your training department to train employees within the tool the agents will be using on the job. This evolves training from a memorization process to an access process. Teach agents exactly how to access the critical information they will need when they are helping customers. It becomes their aid as they are learning the ropes, and it greatly reduces training time and time to competency. It gets them to the information they need faster every time to provide great customer experiences. All these create better employee experiences and limits turnover—and that translates into better, happier customers.

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Engage Remote Agents with Online Learning & Development

Jennifer Waite


Jennifer Waite

Vice President, Product Marketing, Playvox

Playvox Learning

What WFH challenge(s) does it solve?

Deploying a learning platform for your operation enables your ability to deliver a variety of courses to your employees; some can be focused on the programs they are scheduled for, and others can be more holistic; for example, ways to manage work time from home, or how to create a “no interruption zone” with your family to ensure you can concentrate on your work. Playvox Learning solves for problems that commonly plague contacts, such as how to automate continuous improvement for your entire team and utilizing non-productive time within your schedule for skill development.

Key features

Playvox Learning is focused on a workplace that is changing quickly. With work-from-home and hybrid workplaces being the topic of conversations within many companies, you have to find ways to meet your employees where they want to work and where they expect you to be.

Traditional learning in the contact center was conducted in a classroom environment, which doesn’t allow for customized employee plans. Learning courses shouldn’t be focused on slideware or documents for your agents to read. Playvox Learning allows you to create video-based learning that balances the needs of your organization with the way your agents learn.

How does it add value for end customers?

Selecting a platform that offers a full complement of workforce engagement management solutions provides the ability to start with a quality evaluation and have that lead into the workforce management system scheduling coaching and learning as needed from the findings of the evaluations that have been completed.

August Home, a home-entry automation company, deployed the Playvox Quality Management suite to expand their processes beyond just having a quality evaluation program. Implementing our integrated Quality, Coaching and Learning products created an environment to coach agents, provide recognition to motivate agents, and the ability to train and continually develop the skills of their team. One outcome they realized was the ability to deliver 800 hours of training based on 20 customized learning courses, with an average achievement of 88.69%.

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

Start by creating a group of standard learning sessions that can be scheduled for every new-hire to go through as a reinforcement to the skills they were taught during their onboarding training. The content you create should be useful for an extended period of time, so make a list of all of the topics you want to cover, arrange them in order of what will impact the most people, and use this as your roadmap for what to create.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

I think that the best piece of advice that we can all strive to achieve would be to deliver a workplace that provides fairness in the tools and systems that you extend to your team, regardless of where they are located (at home, in a company-sponsored office or even a digital nomad). It shouldn’t matter where someone sits while they are working for you; the way that they access your systems and receive feedback and coaching should be the same for all team members.

Reduce Training and Onboarding Time (and Costs) with Visual Contact Scenarios

Amanda Verner


Amanda Verner

Senior Marketing Manager, ProcedureFlow

ProcedureFlow

What WFH challenge(s) does it solve?

Training new-hires without the luxury of a classroom or nesting area makes it extremely challenging for new employees to learn and drives lengthy training and onboarding times. This not only increases operating costs, but also prevents agents from performing to the best of their ability. ProcedureFlow creates visual contact scenarios that employees can navigate through in training that mirror what they’ll encounter on the job. This enables contact centers to reduce training time by 75% and helps agents to start assisting customers sooner with confidence.

Key features

1. Step-by-step visual guidance: ProcedureFlow’s step-by-step guidance gives agents the information they need at the exact moment that they need it. Our text-light visual guides make even the most complex contact scenarios simple for agents to navigate while assisting customers.

2. Collaboration: ProcedureFlow empowers every agent to make processes more accurate and easier to use. Agents that spot errors can quickly submit changes to managers for review, and after approval become the new best practice for everyone.

3. Reporting: ProcedureFlow provides insights on how your team is interacting with your processes. Now managers can see who’s following processes, where steps are getting missed, and which processes could use some improvement.

How does it add value for end customers?

ProcedureFlow transforms contact center operations and helps thousands of end-users better serve their customers. Contact centers that use ProcedureFlow have seen 12% lower AHT, 40% fewer escalations, and 11% lower operating costs. Additionally, ProcedureFlow’s scenario-based learning enables 75% faster training times. Combining these improvements empowers contact centers to create a better employee and customer experience.

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

Contact centers can get the most out of ProcedureFlow by encouraging their agents to use it daily. This prepares agents and gives them confidence for whatever contact scenario comes their way. This helps maintain consistency across teams and ensures that agents are working with the most accurate and up-to-date information. Leveraging this strategy results in agents creating the best possible customer experience.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

The traditional lecture-style training model is an ineffective way for new employees to learn. Agents are unable to focus on video calls for eight hours a day in training and have difficulty retaining new information. Hands-on learning and scenario-based training is a more effective way to keep agents engaged and better prepares them for work post-training. Contact center leaders who want to transition to a permanent WFH model need to innovate their training and accommodate the new needs of a remote workforce.

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Provide Real-Time Assistance to agents During the Interaction

D. Daniel Ziv

D. Daniel Ziv

Vice President of Speech and Text Analytics, Global Product Strategy, Verint

Verint® Real-Time Agent Assist™

What WFH challenge(s) does it solve?

Brands today are challenged by new workforce dynamics, ever-expanding customer engagement channels and exponentially more consumer interactions—all with limited budget and resources. As the world has changed, so has consumer behavior. Today, consumers expect even faster response time—as new urgent and life-altering situations have emerged and continued during the post-pandemic era. As a result, brands are finding it more difficult than ever to deliver the desired customer experience. Now that contact centers have agents working remotely, many of the simpler interactions have been automated by self-service technology. Interactions with agents are more complex, and they may not have a supervisor or peer to consult with.

This new dynamic is increasing the need for solutions such as the Verint® Real-Time Agent Assist™ (RTAA) offering. In a work-from-home scenario where customer service agents are logging in more work hours than ever before, real-time guidance and support are critical. When customer service interactions involve negative sentiments, customer complaints, escalations, long silences, or multiple interruptions, real-time assistance can be the difference between a satisfied customer or one who is lost to the competition.

Key features

Verint RTAA helps organizations address customer dissatisfaction proactively by identifying calls with unique moments of truth, including escalations, complaints, negative and positive sentiment, long silences, interruptions and providing guidance in real-time. This innovative offering leverages the existing Verint recording solution to automatically detect terms and phrases as soon as they are spoken, as well as acoustic elements and input from the agent desktop. Employees and managers can then receive automated assistance and guidance via the work assist application and/or email notification or even real-time trigger into contextual knowledge management that can help them impact the outcome of the call. It’s an immediate—and more effective—approach to addressing customer issues than traditional, after-the-fact service recovery.

If a relevant moment of truth is identified during a call, a number of different actions can be chosen to help improve the outcome. Available actions include sending a screen pop to the agent in real-time via work assist application, emailing a supervisor about the issue, and/or tagging the call for immediate follow-up. Once notified, the supervisor can then join and monitor the call, interject if needed or whisper to the agent (where supported by the switch). With these actions, the agent and the supervisor can work directly to repair the relationship with the customer while still on the call or follow-up directly after the call.

Verint RTAA uniquely leverages and infuses triggers from three unique sources to guide employees in real-time: linguistic (recognizing specific words or a positive or negative sentiment), acoustic (recognizing sound triggers, such as long silences and interruptions), and application (adding critical context and recognizing actions from the employee’s desktop, such as adherence to processes).

When these triggers are found, employees are notified of recommended actions to take in a unified Work Assist application, so they can immediately guide the call to a better outcome. Employees can also provide feedback to notifications that appear in Work Assist, which are then used to further improve accuracy of future notifications via AI algorithms.

How does it add value for end-customers?

The Verint RTAA solution adds tremendous value for end-user customers in many ways. Importantly, Verint RTAA can be deployed quickly and easily, with flexible deployment options. Licensing is also very flexible, as organizations can decide which trigger types to use. If desired, organizations can route triggers via APIs to CRM and other third-party applications.

To further illustrate customer value, Florius has been using the solution and has found it to be highly effective by producing significant and rapid ROI. The company is an innovative mortgage lender with more than 70 years of experience. Headquartered in the Netherlands, this leading financial services provider has 400,000 customers and is a wholly owned subsidiary of ABN AMRO Hypotheken Group.

By listening to voice interactions as they happen, Florius is uniquely poised to identify opportunities to guide interactions toward better outcomes for customers and the organization.

According to Deliane Schimmel, manager, advice and service at Florius, “While an employee is talking to a customer, Verint RTAA directly provides them with up-to-date information based on what is being discussed. With everything that’s going on in the market and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Verint RTAA enables us to be more agile—adjusting our knowledge database and ensuring employees have the right information at the right time. This supports the training of existing employees and shortens the learning curve of new employees. For customers, it means we can provide them with the latest information that responds to new rules or developments in the mortgage market.”

Within the first four months of the deployment of Verint RTAA, Florius noted the following improvements: NPS improved from +23 to +28 points, FCR increased from 83% to 88%, CSAT improved from 8.4 to 8.6, and hold time reduced by 2 seconds.

Thanks to Verint Speech Analytic and Verint RTAA, Florius has been able to analyze the content, context and emotion of every conversation, even during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic. With the structured feedback that resulted from these analyses, Florius can further improve its website, knowledge bank, and internal processes. This will have a positive effect on the overall performance, employee engagement, and customer experience.

Tips for getting the most out of this tool:

Tips for getting the most out of the Verint RTAA solution includes:

  • Start with an initial set of agents, typically 50 to test out and quantify the immediate impact.
  • Start with proven use cases and predefined triggers such as complaints, escalations, long holds, interruptions, etc.
  • Be transparent and work to get agents buy-in, even volunteer to participate in the initial deployment.
  • Expand to larger groups of agents and custom use cases over time.

Additionally, many organizations are facing reduced budgets and thereby seeking shorter projects with a rapid ROI. A turnkey solution with flexible, fast deployment is the answer to helping organizations build enduring customer relationships and realize ROI more quickly.

Verint RTAA can be deployed quickly and easily, either in the cloud or on-premises. The average deployment time is only three to four weeks, and typically no additional hardware is required for the initial implementation. Deployment is simple because the application is packaged with predefined linguistic and acoustic triggers that can accurately identify these call types. The impact can be immediately measured by leveraging Verint Speech Analytics.

Getting the most out of the Verint RTAA offering via fast and easy deployment matched by out-of-the-box tools rapidly unlocks a treasure trove of features and functionality for enhancing customer engagement.

Advice for making a successful transition to a permanent WFH model:

The pandemic upturned the world of work as we know it overnight, which inspired Verint to conduct a survey to better understand how business leaders were handling this shift. Key findings from our survey of more than 2,000 global business leaders point to a widening Engagement Capacity Gap driven by workforce dynamics, ever-expanding customer engagement channels and exponentially more consumer interactions—all of which must be managed with limited budget and resources.

Just over half (54%) of business leaders said they consider their organizations well prepared to enable a remote workforce to effectively serve customers, while 76% said that engaging with customers using a work-from-home workforce and improving engagement for work-from-home employees were among their top concerns. With managers and decision-makers exhausted and stretched thin, it’s no wonder then that more organizations are leaning into technologies, such as Verint RTAA, to help automate low-level customer engagement activities and optimize customer interactions that require human intervention.

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics, with Verint RTAA agents can provide AI-driven, real-time guidance based on acoustic (nonverbal), linguistic (verbal), and desktop activity to employees working from anywhere; identify negative sentiment in real-time and provide next best action to drive a positive interaction outcome; respond effectively to indicators during live customer interactions while reducing handle times and improving customer satisfaction to achieve immediate ROI, and so much more.

Leaning into innovations such as AI, cloud and analytics for customer engagement solutions can be the greatest enabler of closing the engagement capacity gap. Becoming more skilled in deploying these technologies will lead organizations to the promise land, delivering tremendous benefits, including differentiated and more personalized experiences for customers, lower costs and optimized human touch at scale.

From the Contact Center Pipeline Advisory Board

Q. What is the outlook for WFH transitioning from a temporary COVID remote-work policy into a permanent model for the contact center workforce?

Paul Stockford


Paul Stockford

Founder, President & Chief Analyst,

Saddletree Research

All indicators at this time point to the COVID remote or work-from-home (WFH) model becoming a permanent arrangement in the majority of contact centers. Our 2021 survey of contact center professionals, conducted in partnership with the not-for-profit National Association of Call Centers (NACC), indicates that as of May 2021, 97% of North American contact centers have some or all of their workforce working remotely, as illustrated in the graph below.

We also asked our research participants about their WFH workforce plans in the post-pandemic era. The responses are illustrated below.

More than half the industry expects a decrease in their WFH workforce, but only about 5% have stated their intention to bring their entire workforce back in-house when it’s safe to do so. Prior to the pandemic, 48% of the industry had all of their employees working in-house. In the future, we expect to see only about 5% of the industry having all of their employees working in-house.

The wild card in all this is what I’m calling “The Biggest Loser” effect, which I explained in my April 2021 column. If The Biggest Loser effect becomes a dominant factor, all this changes, but if it doesn’t, it looks like WFH becomes a permanent model for the contact center workforce.


Work-From-Home/Anywhere Solutions Featured in This Issue

Susan Hash

Susan Hash

Susan Hash is the Editorial Director of Contact Center Pipeline magazine and the Pipeline blog. She is a veteran business journalist with 28 years of specialized experience writing about customer care and contact centers.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @susanhash

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