Thursday, December 12, 2013

U.S. CIOs Reveal Hiring Plans

The just-released Robert Half TechnologyIT Hiring Forecast and Local Trend Report shows that 16 percent of U.S. chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed recently plan to expand their IT teams in the first half of 2014. This is up 5 points compared to projections from the previous six-month period (July-December 2013). Another 67 percent plan to hire only for open IT roles, 15 percent plan to put hiring plans on hold, and 2 percent expect to reduce their IT staffing levels in the first six months of the year.

The surveys were developed by Robert Half Technology and conducted by an independent research firm. In order for the study to ensure that companies from all segments were represented, the sample was stratified by number of employees. The results were then weighted to reflect the proper number of employees in the U.S. Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis and has been tracking IT hiring activity in the United States since 1995.
Key findings include:

Recruiting Challenges
In terms of recruiting, 63 percent of U.S. CIOs said it's somewhat or very challenging to find skilled IT professionals today, compared to 68 percent in the last half of 2013. It is most challenging to find skilled talent in the functional areas of networking (17 percent), security (14 percent) and help desk/technical support (13 percent).

Confidence in Business Growth and IT Investments
The survey results suggest U.S. CIOs are becoming more optimistic about their companies' growth and IT investments. Eighty-eight percent of CIOs reported being somewhat or very confident in their companies' prospects for growth in the first six months of 2014. This compares to 86 percent in the last half of 2013.

Sixty-nine percent of CIOs also said they are confident that their firms will invest in IT projects in the first half of 2014. This compares to 63 percent in the last six months of 2013.

Skills in Demand
Fifty-seven percent of U.S. technology executives surveyed said that network administration is among the skill sets in greatest demand within their IT departments. Windows administration and desktop support followed, each with 51 percent of the response.
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

More Firms Allowing Employees To Shop Online While At Work

More employees may be bagging holiday bargains on the job this holiday season, a new survey suggests. Sixteen percent of chief information officers (CIOs) interviewed by staffing firm Robert Half Technology said they give their workers unrestricted access to online shopping sites — up from 10 percent last year. More than half (54 percent) said they allow on-the-job online shopping but monitor activity for excessive use. Less than one-third (29 percent) of CIOs said their firms block access to online shopping sites — down slightly from 33 percent a year ago.

The survey is based on more than 2,300 telephone interviews with CIOs from a random sample of U.S. companies in 23 major metro areas with 100 or more employees. Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis.

CIOs were asked, "What is your company's policy regarding employees shopping online while at work?" Their responses:                

Block access to online shopping sites 
Allow access but monitor for excessive use 
Allow unrestricted access 
Other/ don't know 

Robert Half Technology offers three tips for employees who might shop online at the office this holiday season:
Understand the policy. Don't assume your company's web policy is unrestrictive just because you haven't gotten official word. Check the company handbook, and ask around. If the policy is not clear, play it safe and use non-work times like your lunch hour to shop.

Don't get 'lost in cyberspace.' With all the deals on Cyber Monday, you may be tempted to spend hours on end scooping up bargains. If your goal is to shop until you drop, take a vacation day.   

Limit online 'window shopping.' Conduct product research and price comparisons on your own time so you can make online purchases quickly — and get back to work faster.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

World-Class IT Orgs Dramatically Outperform Typical Companies at 15% Less Cost

World-class IT organizations achieve dramatically higher levels of effectiveness, meeting ROI expectations nearly twice as often, and support up to 80 percent higher levels of business process automation, all at 15 percent less cost than typical companies, according to new research from The Hackett Group, Inc.

The Hackett Group's research details how top-performing IT organizations focus on automation and complexity reduction as essential IT strategy elements. They are significantly more effective at providing IT enablement for key business operations, and operate with up to 80 percent less complexity. The research also spotlights four fundamental practices that differentiate world-class IT organizations from typical companies: alignment of IT metrics and formalized communication with the business; standardization of applications and IT processes; integration of end-to-end business processes; and the monitoring of business and IT outcomes.

The Hackett Group's research found that world-class IT organizations spend 15 percent less than typical companies per end-user, including 25 percent less on labor, 9 percent less on technology, and 8 percent less on outsourcing. Reduced complexity is a key element of how world-class IT organizations eliminate nonessential spending yet maximize staff productivity to drive down IT costs. Hackett Group's research found evidence of this across a wide array of IT metrics. World-class IT organizations carry 70 percent less complexity in their technology platforms. In addition, they rely on 40 percent fewer applications per 1,000 end-users. So as a result, hardware and software complexity levels are significantly reduced, with 30 percent lower software complexity and 60 percent lower hardware complexity.

At the same time, world-class IT organizations demonstrate dramatically higher levels of effectiveness. They meet ROI expectations nearly twice as often as typical, deliver against anticipated benefits nearly 80 percent more often, automate up to 80 percent more business processes, and deliver dramatically higher levels of self-service enablement.
More information on world-class IT organizations can be found at

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

IT Spending Expected to Accelerate Next Year, After Emerging Markets Slowdown in 2013

According to the new International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Black Book just released, worldwide IT spending is expected to accelerate next year after dipping to its slowest pace of growth since the financial crisis in 2013. Overall tech spending is on course to increase by 4% this year at constant currency, reaching $2.04 trillion, down from last year’s growth of 5% due mainly to the slowdown in key emerging markets including China and Russia. IDC forecasts that in 2014, a rebound in China and continued momentum in the US and Europe will see a return to overall industry growth of more than 5% (reaching $2.14 trillion).

Smartphones Still Driving Growth, but Infrastructure Set for Recovery

In fact, almost half of this year’s industry growth is due to continued strength in smartphone and tablet shipments. Excluding mobile phones, IT spending will increase by only 2.6% this year at constant currency (just 0.7% in US dollar terms, based on year-to-date exchange rates). Enterprise IT spending in many regions has been tepid since last year, with weaker spending on PCs, servers and storage than previously expected. Tentative signs of stability in commercial PC shipments during Q3, however, may foreshadow the gradual recovery in enterprise infrastructure investment which we expect to unfold in the next 12-18 months as a broad-based capital spending cycle kicks into gear. Spending on servers, storage and enterprise networks will increase by just 1% in 2013 before accelerating to growth of 4% next year.

US Market Is Resilient, Despite Politics

While the US is on course to post IT spending growth of 5% this year, this translates into just 3% excluding mobile phones. Enterprise spending in the US has been relatively resilient, given the ongoing political volatility, but spending on PCs and servers will decline this year while storage investment is flat. Both the storage and server markets in the US are expected to improve in 2014, but PC spending is likely to remain weak in spite of signs of stability in Q3 as tablet cannibalization continues at lower price points.

Europe and Japan Have Stabilized

Market conditions are gradually improving in Western Europe, where overall IT spending is on course for growth of 2% this year (1% excluding phones), and where economic momentum has taken a turn for the better in many countries. We assume that this gradual recovery will continue next year, translating into IT spending growth of 3% driven mainly by strengthening sales of commercial software. This year has also seen a moderate improvement in Japan, driven by the government’s short-term policy initiatives; while IT spending is on course to be flat in 2013 (0% growth), this marks an improvement from our previous forecast of a 1% decline.

China Will Rebound in 2014

IDC forecasts that IT demand will accelerate in China next year, in line with our expectation that macroeconomic growth and business confidence will improve. In China, overall IT spending is on course to increase by just 8% this year, the weakest pace of growth since 2008; next year, we forecast an acceleration of growth to 14% led by strengthening sales of PCs, servers, storage, software and IT services. Growth in India will remain broadly strong, driven mainly by smartphones and tablets, but we expect a slowdown in PC sales after state-level government initiatives helped to drive strong growth in 2013, while there are also signs of weakening growth in other sectors. A gradual deceleration in tech spending is also emerging in Brazil, while in Russia the economic slowdown has driven overall industry growth to just 1% this year (from 15% in 2012). We forecast a rebound in Russia to 10% growth next year, driven by smartphones, software and services.
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Monday, November 11, 2013

Survey: Big Changes Coming For Future Contact Centers

Dimension Data, the$5.8 billion global information and communications technology (ICT) servicesand solutions provider, announced the results of its 2013/2014 Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report, which uncovers significant challenges and emerging trends indicating that the contact center of the future requires a new caliber of technology and resources to keep clients engaged and employees happy.

To extract this information, Dimension Data surveyed 817 participants covering 11 business sectors in 79 countries across the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Australia, and the Middle East & Africa. Participants of the survey revealed the following:

-- Customers are increasingly dissatisfied with their contact center experiences, especially Generation X and Y, who demand a choice of multiple interaction points beyond phone calls, including web chat, smartphone applications and social media.

-- As contact centers continue to transition their communications platforms, front-line customer service staff are leaving their positions at a growing rate.

-- Web chat communications systems may be the remedy for increasing end-user dissatisfaction, as customers increasingly expect seamless interaction transitions from one channel to the next.

Contact center workers, end users remain dissatisfied
Contact centers are on an evolutionary path to become highly responsive, cross-channel multimedia hubs. This transformation is creating increased complexity for contact center agents because they are not always hired or trained to communicate within these new channels. As a result, contact center agent absenteeism is three times higher than contact center management; agent attrition is up an alarming 26 percent over 2012 rates. The 2013/2014 Contact Center Benchmarking Report notes that organizations must revamp their operating models, starting with properly trained agents – or risk losing them.

Customer satisfaction is also down for the fourth year running. Contact resolution rates have dropped for a fourth consecutive year, leaving customers with a three-in-four chance of having their issue resolved when contacting a service provider.

Preparing for multichannel engagement starts with hanging up the telephone
The global report shows that for Generation Y – individuals born between 1980 and 2000 – the phone is now the third choice of engagement after electronic messaging and smartphone applications. In addition, the preference gaps for Generation X (individuals born between 1961 and 1989) between phone, messaging, and social media is also narrowing.

Almost one third (31.8%) of contact center advisers are now handling transactions across a variety of emerging channels, such as smartphone applications. Social media and/or web chat deployments are also on the rise: 50.6 percent of contact centers currently offer, or have plans to implement, a web chat solution. The number of planned deployments increased 27.2 percent over the past 12 months, with a further 13.7 percent of survey participants expecting to have a solution in place over the next two years.

The report shows that organizations are aiming to shift 32.6 percent of contacts typically handled by agents to self-service channels. However, organizations under pressure to meet multichannel demands have rushed the haphazard implementation of solutions that only address one channel. As a result, self-help options in the contact center are not catching on as expected, and isolated technology systems are hindering the multichannel consumer experience. Omnichannel is the way forward, and customers want to hop seamlessly across channels and experience true connectedness. Omnichannel interactions that start on one channel and then continue on another, such as web chat, are no longer a “nice to have” feature, but a necessity.
More information on service, support and contact centers can be found at

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Study from CorvisaCloud Reveals Top Customer Service Complaints

A new study commissioned by cloud-based contact center provider, CorvisaCloud, confirms a direct correlation between customer service management and a company’s bottom line while offering insight on what components of a customer service program are most important to customer retention and acquisition.

In the survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted by Zogby Analytics, CorvisaCloud shows that one in six customers would rather see their dentist than talk with a customer service agent. Why? One in five (20%) consumers say they’re most aggravated about having to repeat the same information to multiple customer service reps on the same call. And nearly a third (31%) of respondents will wait only five minutes before they hang up the phone, meaning that businesses without efficient customer support processes are looking at a considerable number of angry or lost customers.

Consumers are quick to voice their displeasure. The survey found that after a negative customer service experience one-third (34%) of consumers complain or ask for a manager, further elevating a company’s cost. A bigger concern for the business is that 16 percent of disgruntled consumers tell their friends and family and more than one in 10 (13%) go so far as to say they will never shop with that company again.

Conversely, the moment a customer contacts the company, the opportunity exists to create a solid ongoing relationship. Three in 10 (31%) customers who have a positive experience say they give positive feedback to the company and twenty-nine percent will continue to shop with them, perhaps even more frequently. And, a positive customer service might be the best form of marketing. Fourteen percent of respondents said they sing the praises of the company to friends and family after a positive experience.

More information on delivering exceptional customer service and support can be found at

Thursday, October 24, 2013

U.S. “Switching Economy” Puts Up To $1.3 Trillion of Revenue Up for Grabs for Companies Offering Superior Customer Experiences

Despite having more data and insights into consumer desires and preferences, companies in the U.S. have failed to meaningfully improve customer satisfaction or reverse rising switching rates among their customers. As a result, there is a potential $1.3 trillion of revenue at play in the U.S. market represented by the “switching economy,” according to new research released by Accenture.

The research revealed that 51 percent of U.S. consumers switched service providers in the past year due to poor customer service experiences, up five percent from 2012. Switching rates were highest among retailers, cable and satellite providers and retail banks – making companies in these sectors the most vulnerable, but also giving them potentially the most to gain.

Accenture’s analysis of consumer spending forecasts and switching rates revealed by the survey shows that $1.3 trillion of revenue is being transferred between companies in the U.S., forming a sizeable “switching economy.” The findings are published along with the ninth annual Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey, which measured the experiences of 12,867 customers in 32 countries and across 10 industries to gain insight into the changing dynamics of today’s “nonstop” customers and assess consumer attitudes toward marketing, sales and customer service practices. The survey included 1,256 U.S. customers.

The survey found that customers are increasingly frustrated with the level of services they experience: 91 percent of respondents are frustrated that they have to contact a company multiple times for the same reason; 90 percent by being put on hold for a long time; and 89 percent by having to repeat their issue to multiple representatives. There are also frustrations with marketing and sales practices: 85 percent of customers are frustrated by dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them; 84 percent by companies promising one thing, but delivering another; and 58 percent are frustrated with inconsistent experiences from channel to channel.

While up in some categories, the survey revealed that customer satisfaction levels have generally remained stagnant across industry sectors and overall satisfaction fell by one percent since 2012. Additionally, the rate of loyalty barely budged among U.S. customers, rising just one percent since 2012, and customers’ willingness to recommend a company rose by just two percent.

Against the high percentage of customers reporting they had switched providers in the last year, 81 percent said that the company could have done something differently to prevent them from switching. And, while the survey showed that price still plays an important role in the choice of provider, the customer experience is equally important.

Digital customer demands tailored experiences
The survey reveals 48 percent of U.S. customers use third-party online sources, such as official review sites, and one-quarter (25 percent) use customer reviews and comments from social media sites, to find out information about a company’s products and services. Word-of-mouth, including that shared via social media, continues to be the most important and impactful source of company information across industries and is used by 71 percent of the surveyed customers. In terms of the number of online channels used, 75 percent of respondents now use one or more online channels when researching companies’ products and services and 33 percent use mobile devices to access these online channels.

The gap between the use of digital technologies and the ability of companies to use them to improve customer experiences is highlighted by the survey’s findings that, among the 10 industries covered by the report, none made noticeable progress in providing customers with a tailored experience in 2013. In the utilities industry, only 18 percent of customers agreed their provider offered them a tailored experience. Even in industries, such as hotels and lodging and retail banking that are perceived to be leading in creating more personalized interactions, only 36 percent of customers acknowledge receiving a tailored experience, respectively.

Yet, while social media and online are regarded as important sources of information, one of the greatest frustrations customers have with companies is the perceived risk to privacy. Eighty-two percent of U.S. customers report that they feel companies they buy from cannot be trusted on how they use personal information provided to them.

More information on customer service and support can be found at

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Robert Half Releases 2014 Salary Guides

The just-released 2014 Salary Guides from Robert Half show that U.S. starting salaries for professional occupations are projected to increase an average of 3.7 percent next year. Technology positions are expected to see the largest gains among all fields researched, with an anticipated 5.6 percent increase in the average salary for newly hired workers. Accounting and finance professionals can expect starting salaries to rise an average of 3.4 percent, according to the research.  

Following is an overview of findings from the 2014 Salary Guides:
Accounting and Finance  
The average starting salary for a newly hired accounting and finance professional in the United States is forecast to rise 3.4 percent next year. Financial and business systems analysts are in demand. The market for internal auditors and entry-level accountants also has strengthened.

Overall, base compensation for information technology professionals in the United States is expected to increase 5.6 percent in the coming year. Mobile applications and software developers are in particularly strong demand. Business intelligence analysts also can expect to see higher than average salary increases.

Creative and Marketing
Professionals in creative fields in the United States can expect average starting salary gains of 3.3 percent in 2014. The shortage of creative talent with digital and mobile expertise continues, with user-experience and mobile designers in particular demand.

In the legal field, starting salaries for positions in the United States are anticipated to rise 2.7 percent, on average, in the coming year. Mid- and senior-level associates are sought by law firms looking to expand lucrative practice groups or invest in new service offerings.

Administrative and Office Support
Overall starting salaries for administrative professionals in the United States are expected to rise 3.3 percent in 2014. Executive and administrative assistants and customer service managers are in particular demand. Support staff also are needed in the healthcare field and in human resources.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2014

Gartner, Inc. highlighted the top ten technologies and trends that will be strategic for most organizations in 2014.  Gartner defines a strategic technology as one with the potential for significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to IT or the business, the need for a major dollar investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.

The top ten strategic technology trends for 2014 include:

Mobile Device Diversity and Management

Through 2018, the growing variety of devices, computing styles, user contexts and interaction paradigms will make "everything everywhere" strategies unachievable. The unexpected consequence of bring your own device (BYOD) programs is a doubling or even tripling of the size of the mobile workforce. This is placing tremendous strain on IT and Finance organizations. Enterprise policies on employee-owned hardware usage need to be thoroughly reviewed and, where necessary, updated and extended.

Mobile Apps and Applications

Gartner predicts that through 2014, improved JavaScript performance will begin to push HTML5 and the browser as a mainstream enterprise application development environment. Gartner recommends that developers focus on creating expanded user interface models including richer voice and video that can connect people in new and different ways. Apps will continue to grow while applications will begin to shrink.

The Internet of Everything

The Internet is expanding beyond PCs and mobile devices into enterprise assets such as field equipment, and consumer items such as cars and televisions. The problem is that most enterprises and technology vendors have yet to explore the possibilities of an expanded internet and are not operationally or organizationally ready. The combination of data streams and services created by digitizing everything creates four basic usage models – Manage; Monetize; Operate; Extend.

Hybrid Cloud and IT as Service Broker

Bringing together personal clouds and external private cloud services is an imperative. Enterprises should design private cloud services with a hybrid future in mind and make sure future integration/interoperability is possible.

Cloud/Client Architecture

Cloud/client computing models are shifting. In the cloud/client architecture, the client is a rich application running on an Internet-connected device, and the server is a set of application services hosted in an increasingly elastically scalable cloud computing platform. The cloud is the control point and system or record and applications can span multiple client devices. The client environment may be a native application or browser-based; the increasing power of the browser is available to many client devices, mobile and desktop alike.

The Era of Personal Cloud

The personal cloud era will mark a power shift away from devices toward services. In this new world, the specifics of devices will become less important for the organization to worry about, although the devices will still be necessary. Users will use a collection of devices, with the PC remaining one of many options, but no one device will be the primary hub. Rather, the personal cloud will take on that role.

Software Defined Anything

Software-defined anything (SDx) is a collective term that encapsulates the growing market momentum for improved standards for infrastructure programmability and data center interoperability driven by automation inherent to cloud computing, DevOps and fast infrastructure provisioning. As a collective, SDx also incorporates various initiatives like OpenStack, OpenFlow, the Open Compute Project and Open Rack, which share similar visions.

Web-Scale IT

Web-scale IT is a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting by rethinking positions across several dimensions. Large cloud services providers such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc., are re-inventing the way IT in which IT services can be delivered.  Their capabilities go beyond scale in terms of sheer size to also include scale as it pertains to speed and agility. If enterprises want to keep pace, then they need to emulate the architectures, processes and practices of these exemplary cloud providers.

Smart Machines

Through 2020, the smart machine era will blossom with a proliferation of contextually aware, intelligent personal assistants, smart advisors (such as IBM Watson), advanced global industrial systems and public availability of early examples of autonomous vehicles. The smart machine era will be the most disruptive in the history of IT. New systems that begin to fulfill some of the earliest visions for what information technologies might accomplish — doing what we thought only people could do and machines could not —are now finally emerging.

3-D Printing

Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 75 percent in 2014 followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015. While very expensive “additive manufacturing” devices have been around for 20 years, the market for devices ranging from $50,000 to $500, and with commensurate material and build capabilities, is nascent yet growing rapidly.
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Internet of Things Is Poised to Change Everything

The Internet of Things (IoT) represents a new construct in the information and communications technology (ICT) world that is occupying the minds of IT vendors, service providers, and systems integrators as it represents huge potential for new streams of revenue and new customers. International DataCorporation (IDC) has looked at the components, processes, and supporting IT and connectivity for the Internet of Things and expects IoT technology and services spending to generate global revenues of $4.8 trillion in 2012 and $8.9 trillion by 2020, growing at a compound annual rate (CAGR) of 7.9%.

Some enablers to the rise of IoT include:

-- Ongoing development of smart cities, cars, and houses

-- Enhanced connectivity infrastructure

-- An increasingly connected culture

Even though there is growing demand for the IoT, there are still several factors inhibiting growth of this market. This is not to say that they can't be overcome, but at present, they are hurdles that both vendors and enterprises will have to overcome to make IoT a reality. Some of these challenges are on the supply side, including lack of standards, global scalability, and a nascent ecosystem for application development. On the demand side, the challenges include lack of awareness and other IT/mobility priorities.

Despite these challenges, IDC expects the installed base of the Internet of Things will be approximately 212 billion "things" globally by the end of 2020. This will include 30.1 billion installed "connected (autonomous) things" in 2020. This is largely driven by intelligent systems that will be installed and collecting data – across both consumer and enterprise applications – by the end of the forecast period.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Survey Shows Majority of Tech Executives Planning for Cyber Security Attacks

Silicon Valley Bank, financial partner to the innovation sector, found the majority of technology and healthcare companies view cyber security as a serious threat to both their data and business continuity, and only one-third are completely confident in the security of their information in a survey of more than 200 technology company executives.

Nearly all (98 percent) of companies are maintaining or increasing their cyber security resources and of those, half are increasing resources devoted to online attacks this year. Resources are most likely to be invested in monitoring, preventative policies, training and staffing rather than in preventative infrastructure, indicating they are planning for when, not if, they are attacked.

While most respondents were moderately confident in the security of their information, they were less confident in their partners', vendors' and clients' security measures. Most respondents are storing their data privately, showing a lower appetite for storing their information in the public cloud. Software companies were the exception with 59% using the public cloud, versus more private behavior by hardware, healthcare and cleantech companies.

Forty-six percent of companies, whose main offering is not security, include cyber security functionality in their product and 8% more plan to add a cyber security component to their core offering.
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Next Generation Workforce Optimization for Customer Service Benchmark Research Released

Ventana Research has released its latest Benchmark Research on Next GenerationWorkforce Optimization. The research evaluated the current methods companies use to manage the workforce handling customer interactions, how applications and technology are used to support agents and best practices for improvements in customer experience.

In the last two decades, contact centers have evolved into the hub for customer interactions and relationships. They now support multi-channel, multi-interaction, multi-stage customer communications. To be able to handle the volume and complexity of these new models, next generation technologies need to be implemented to support efficient and consistent handling of interactions. Our recent research shows that more than 90 percent of customer interactions still are conducted on the telephone. Therefore it is vitally important to manage the contact center workforce - the agents - to ensure it delivers superior customer experiences at reasonable costs.

The research found the vast majority (78 %) of the participants indicated it is very important to improve agent performance with the over-arching goal (86%) to improve customer satisfaction. Almost 80 percent use call recording and quality monitoring tools, more than half use workforce management and agent coaching systems, and more than 40 percent use e-learning and screen capture systems.

The research also revealed conflicting evidence that operational goals may get in the way of efforts to improve the customer experience. Ranked first in importance is to reduce the cost of handling interactions by increasing the use of self-service (by 27%) and to optimize agent utilization (15%). The results show that larger companies more often handle calls by self-service. Three in five organizations have implemented Web-based self-service systems, and nearly half use touch-tone interactive voice response (IVR). Previous research shows that such systems have had limited success with the majority of customers reverting to calling the contact center.

More information on workforce optimization can be found at

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Customer Contact Centers' Criticality during Disasters Necessitate Business Continuity Strategies

Customer contact organizations are at the heart of business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) strategies, as they are the go-to information centers in times of calamities and disasters. Due to the vital role they play in disseminating information, there are wide arrays of BC/DR-enabling methods and solutions available to handle all kinds of events.

Disasters account for more than a thousand deaths and billions of dollars of damages in the United States annually, according to sources such as the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), the National Fire Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Labor. The sources range from natural events, such as storms and fires, to workplace violence.

With the rise in mobility and advent of social media, customers expect real-time updates on delays, disruptions and changes to the products and services they purchase. However, Frost & Sullivan's survey of more than 250 IT managers in 2012 revealed that only 31 percent of the respondents claimed their organizations are prepared to handle outages and disasters.

Customer contact organizations face two challenges when devising and implementing effective BC/DR programs. The first is balancing the potential risks and losses from adversity and the investments needed for putting in place effective BC/DR solutions. The second challenge pertains to enterprises' lack of motivation to deploy these solutions due to the unpredictability of these events.

The BC/DR solutions that will find the highest uptake are those that support customers, employees, and operations and yet minimize capital investments and operational costs. Some of the methods to achieve this include selecting sites away from vulnerable areas, "multishoring," enabling employees to work from home, placing applications and data in the cloud, employing multiple backup and response tools and channels, alerting customers through proactive customer contact, and improving contact center access control.

Effective BC/DR depends on the development and maturity of cloud/hosting to supply and support applications and data. The solution's success also rides on cloud vendors' deployment of redundancy, including active-active server backup, geo-redundancy, and onsite generators.

For BC/DR to be wholly functional, wireless communication should be prevalent. While social media has proven to be a useful alerting and interaction tool, it is effective only if the recipients have Internet access. Nevertheless, even with Internet access, the bandwidth can fluctuate wildly in the aftermath of a disaster. Hence, there is a huge need for a multilayered approach, such as inbound and outbound interactive voice response (IVR) and SMS/text.

Apart from these external threats, contact centers also must prepare for employee violence, especially aggression against women. This is all the more relevant in the light of the fact that women account for more than two-thirds of customer service representatives. Furthermore, contact centers will do well to initiate military veterans into the workforce, as they have proven abilities to assess and respond to sudden and difficult situations.

More information on contact centers and customer service can be found at

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders

While the state of the U.S. economy has changed substantially since 2000, the state of the American workplace has not. Currently, 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2-to-1, meaning that the vast majority of U.S. workers (70%) are not reaching their full potential — a problem that has significant implications for the economy and the individual performance of American companies. Gallup’s research shows that employee engagement remains flat when left unmanaged.

This report includes an overview of the trend in U.S. employee engagement, a look at the impact of engagement on organizational and individual performance, information about how companies can accelerate employee engagement, and an examination of engagement across different segments of the U.S. population.

Key finding from the report include:

-- Engaged workers are the lifeblood of their organizations. Work units in the top 25% of Gallup’s Q12 Client Database have significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25%.

-- Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year.

-- Engagement levels among service employees — those workers who are often on the front line serving customers — are among the lowest of any occupation Gallup measured and have declined in recent years, while engagement for every other job category increased

-- More than one-third (36%) of managers and executives were engaged in 2012, up 10 percentage points from 2009. By contrast, professional workers overall saw a modest two-point increase in engagement levels from 2009 to 2012.

-- Gallup has found that managers who focus on their employees’ strengths can practically eliminate active disengagement and double the average of U.S. workers who are engaged nationwide.

-- Although certain policies such as hours worked, flextime, and vacation time do relate to employee wellbeing, engagement levels in the work environment eclipse corporate policies.

-- Despite not always having a manager nearby to monitor their productivity, remote workers actually log more hours at their primary job than do their on-site counterparts.

-- Only 22% of U.S. employees are engaged and thriving. When employees are engaged and thriving in their overall lives, they are more likely to maintain strong work performance — even during difficult times.

-- Only 41% of employees felt that they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands.
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Finding Capable Employees Is Greatest Management Hurdle for Small Businesses

When it comes to running a successful business, finding a highly skilled team of employees is crucial. But it isn't always easy. In a recent survey by RobertHalf, six in 10 (60 percent) small business owners said the biggest challenge in hiring or managing staff is finding skilled professionals for the job. About one in five (19 percent) cited maintaining employee morale and productivity as the chief concern.
The survey was developed by Robert Half, the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on interviews with more than 300 small business owners and managers from a stratified random sample of companies with less than 100 employees in the United States.
Small business owners and managers were asked, "Which one of the following is your company's greatest challenge when it comes to hiring and managing staff?" Their responses:
Finding skilled workers - 60%
Maintaining employee morale and productivity - 19%
Managing difficult employees - 8%
Retaining staff - 7%
Something else - 6%
Human Resources Kit For Dummies®, 3rd Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) by Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half, can help small business owners enhance their recruiting efforts and position themselves as employers of choice. Following are four tips from the book:
Make your company stand out. Small businesses offer advantages that larger companies cannot match. Emphasize the potential for new hires to wear multiple hats and advance quickly. Also, highlight the benefits of working with a small, close-knit group, which may be less common at bigger corporations.
Have an accurate job description. The description of your open position should be specific and identify the must-haves for the job. If a description is too broad or doesn't adequately convey the position's requirements, you run the risk of receiving an overabundance of resumes from unqualified candidates. It's better to have five applicants who definitely deserve an interview than 100 who don't.
Network. Participate in local professional association or community groups to build your personal network. Also, ask your existing employees to provide referrals. Employees tend to recommend strong candidates, since they don't want to tarnish their reputation by recommending professionals who are unequipped for the job.
Work with recruiters. Professional staffing firms can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to find a qualified applicant. Look for ones that specialize in the field for which you are hiring. For example, if you are hiring an accountant, work with a firm that specializes in filling accounting and finance roles.
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