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Innovation and Insights From Award Winning Contact Centers

What are some innovative ways your contact center can take service to new levels? On Tuesday at Call Center Demo and Conference (session 104) we’ll hear from some best-in-class contact center leaders. Finalists from ICMI’s Global Call Center of the Year Awards will take part in a panel discussion and share how they are effectively using innovation to drive business results.

We’ll hear from Sean Hawkins of iContact, Josh Chapman of, George Larribas of Wells Fargo, and Rosetta Carrington Lue from the City of Philadelphia.

Our esteemed panelists will introduce you to new uses for technology, unusual ways of handling common challenges, and creative tools and processes that increase agent and customer engagement. Whether your contact center is large or small, you’re sure to find insights and inspiration from this interactive session.

Can’t join us in Atlanta? Don’t worry! I’ll be live blogging from the session. To follow the action, just check the comments section of this post. Will you be attending this session, too? We encourage you to leave your thoughts and takeaways in the comments below.

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Erica Strother — 5:26AM on Oct 22, 2013

Looking forward to this session today!

Erica Strother — 8:58AM on Oct 22, 2013

Looks like Ryan Birchmeier will be filling in for Rosetta today! Unfortunately, her flight was delayed. Thanks for stepping in, Ryan :)

Erica Strother — 9:03AM on Oct 22, 2013

Here we go! Justin just asked Josh Chapman how he drives innovation in his contact center.

Erica Strother — 9:06AM on Oct 22, 2013

Josh says they have implemented the pyramid project. They encourage great ideas from their frontline staff and implement those ideas to improve processes.

Erica Strother — 9:07AM on Oct 22, 2013

George says it starts with the hiring process. Make sure you're open to restructuring your job descriptions in a way that attracts the candidates you want.

Erica Strother — 9:09AM on Oct 22, 2013

Goerge says Wells Fargo has a website called Innovation Zone. Anytime an employee sees a room for improvement--process, technology, etc., they can enter it into the portal. Execs look at all the suggestions.

Wells Fargo encourages ideas!

Erica Strother — 9:10AM on Oct 22, 2013

And Wells Fargo rewards employees for their ideas with gift cards, etc.

Listening to the employees engages them! And they know the customers best.

Erica Strother — 9:12AM on Oct 22, 2013

Justin's asking audience members if they have similar programs to Innovation Zone.

One gentleman says "innovation without execution is just daydreaming."

By executing on employee ideas, you build engagement.

Erica Strother — 9:14AM on Oct 22, 2013

Sean Hawkins says he applies lessons he learned in the military to managing his call center. If his employees come to him with an idea, he makes them own it. By giving the agents ownership, he finds they're more engaged with the organization.

Erica Strother — 9:18AM on Oct 22, 2013

Ryan Birchmeier on their customer engagement strategy: they've developed a TV show at Philly311. THey have city officials come on and share resources and information.

3 of the call center agents are executive producers on the show.

They came up with the idea to have live QAs on the street, tickers on the bottom the screen, etc., so Philly 311 let the agents take the lead.

The agents don't get paid to do this, but Ryan says that engaging them and giving them this responsibility has really increased their engagement level.

Erica Strother — 9:19AM on Oct 22, 2013

Sean Hawkins says much of the innovation at iContact has come from customer feedback. The customers are the ones who feel the pain, so they know how to solve the problems.

Erica Strother — 9:21AM on Oct 22, 2013

Wells Fargo has implemented a monthly Voice of the Customer Call.

They discuss the feedback they get from customers, and look for ways to enhance the customer experience.

Erica Strother — 9:30AM on Oct 22, 2013

Next question: how has innovation helped you improve operational efficiency?

First up: Josh Chapman.

Josh says optimizing their workforce management has enabled them to meet customer needs in their channel of preference without having to increase staff.

George says on average their cases took 3 days to resolve. By implementing process improvement ideas from staff they've now decreased the time to 1 day. They've also improved their data points so agents have access to more information about the customers.

The easier it is for agents to get the information they need, the better the customer experience.

Sean Hawkins says that for iContact, implementing social support was a big deal. Their social media support has grown 2-3% each month. They've hired agents to handle social media, and by driving customers to this channel,they've taken some of the pressure/burden off the phone agents on the floor.

Erica Strother — 9:33AM on Oct 22, 2013

Question from the audience: there are many issues that can't be resolved via social. How does your contact center handle this?

Sean says there are many times when customers can be directed to an online knowledge bases. In other cases, have the agent take it online. Have the agent who handled it via social media take ownership of the entire process.

Erica Strother — 9:36AM on Oct 22, 2013

Josh raises a good point. Pay attention to WHY your customers are reaching out via social support. Is it their channel of preference, or are they turning to social because they're not getting the response they need from your traditional channels?

Erica Strother — 9:38AM on Oct 22, 2013

Ryan Birchmeier says their mobile app has become their second most popular channel of service. They use Public Stuff---they're able to add their own widget.

Ex: they added a hurricane FAQ app, an election day widget to meet current customer needs.

They're able to be responsive on the fly and this decreases call volume.

Erica Strother — 9:43AM on Oct 22, 2013

Next question: how has innovation enhanced the employee experience?

Sean and Justin agree that you must find out what motivated your agents and what they're passionate about, and then tap into that. Use their talents and passions to drive engagement and innovation.

Ryan says when they needed a new logo they sent out an email to the team asking for submissions. They made it into a contest, got the agents involved, and got a free logo. They also had a contest to develop a theme song for their public access TV show. He says the agents eat this up and love participating.

Erica Strother — 9:48AM on Oct 22, 2013

Josh Chapman says their leadership sat down with the frontline staff and asked what they needed from them/how they could improve their leadership.

The leadership team then spent a day off site discussing the feedback and finding ways to implement the suggestions.

Since then, they've regularly checked back in with employees to see ask how they're doing.

Erica Strother — 9:50AM on Oct 22, 2013

George recommends asking your employees three questions:

1. What do you want us to start doing?
2. What do you want us to stop doing?
3. What do you want us to continue doing?

This is a simple way to harness a lot of imformation very quickly.

Erica Strother — 9:58AM on Oct 22, 2013

Next question: how has innovation impacted the customer experience?

Ryan says they've created grassroots customer service through their neighborhood liaison program. They empower their customers to share their problems and solutions. Ex: take photos of potholes around the city and upload them to the mobile app.

Erica Strother — 10:05AM on Oct 22, 2013

Last question: what are your words of wisdom for organizations seeking to drive innovation.

George: make it safe to share ideas. One single idea can turn into a great idea that you can build on.

Ryan: Be a yes man. Be okay with the idea of failing/tweaking.

Josh: No idea is a bad idea. Even the craziest ideas can produce positive results. Every idea is worth exploring.

Sean: Engage everyone from top to bottom. Think outside the box. This industry is changing. Don't be the smartest person in the room; you'll stop the progress. If you are the smartest person in the room, you need more people.