Off Center
While most publications in our industry like to jump on the “hot product” bandwagon, I enjoy writing about the contact center solutions that just missed making a big splash. I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog in general – those smaller yet noble competitors that persistently fight and claw and scratch in an attempt to make it to the top, only to get squashed in the end by a stronger player with more experience and a bigger conference exhibit hall booth budget.
The following new contact center tools and applications may not have ever won any awards nor received much press, but that doesn’t mean the vendors that supply them don’t know how to send me gifts in return for a little recognition.

CustomerCoercion™. These days it’s all about the customer, and this innovative though controversial tool – from Goomba, Inc. – will help just about any contact center achieve high customer satisfaction ratings.

CustomerCoercion is a robust automated post-contact survey system that asks callers about their experience immediately following an interaction with an agent. What makes this survey tool so unique is that, rather than alert a manager whenever the system detects an unsatisfied customer, CustomerCoercion suggests that the customer seriously reconsider his or her survey responses.

For example, let’s say a customer, while responding to the post-call survey, rates the agent poorly on “product knowledge”; before CustomerCoercion logs the customer’s survey responses, the system might respond with “Do you want to know what happened to the last guy who said our agents were stupid?”, then ask the customer if they want to change their rating. Or if, for example, the customer indicates via the survey that their issue was not fully resolved, CustomerCoercion may come back with, “Is that so? Well, how bout I come over to your house and resolve all your problems, buddy?”

In early focus-group testing of the CustomerCoercion survey tool, customer satisfaction rates increased by an average of 75% among 25 participating contact centers. When asked whether such threat-based improvements were truly valid, Goomba, Inc. President Joey Mancuso said that if we ever questioned his company’s methods again, he’d punch our families in the stomach.

MindShift Headsets™. Voices Calling, LLC., the makers of this innovative product, believe that it’s no longer enough for headsets to merely be comfortable and provide clear sound quality; they need to also subtly alter agents’ natural thought patterns and emotions to help reduce depression, anxiety and turnover.

A recent study by the National Institute of Apathy (NIA) revealed that contact center staff are five times more likely than any other employee type to cry on the job, and seven times more likely to hold their supervisor hostage in an abandoned shed. No doubt that the agent position is a highly taxing one, which is why Voices Calling created MindShift Headsets – the only headset on the market that whispers encouraging and deceptive messages directly into the ears of agents throughout their shift to keep them from totally losing it.

Here’s how they work: State-of-the-art micro-sensors in the headset are able to detect any negative emotions – be it sadness, anger, boredom, humiliation, inadequacy, etc. – that the agent is feeling between calls, and then deliver subliminal messages to help trick the agent into thinking that their job doesn’t suck and that they are going to be ok. Agents thinking of quitting might hear something like, “You are an invaluable member of this team, and without you providing the outstanding service you are known for, some customers may die.” Or agents who are simply underperforming due to general sadness and hopelessness may hear, “Puppies and kittens in a fireman’s boot! Puppies and kittens in a fireman’s boot!”

MindShift Headsets come in regular and extra strength, the latter of which, in addition to delivering mind-altering subliminal whispers, injects liquid Valium directly into agents’ ears.

TeleCommunes™. Home agent initiatives are all the rage these days – enabling contact centers to expand their recruiting reach, retain highly qualified reps, enjoy more reliable and flexible staffing models, and be more eco-conscious by reducing the amount of employee commuting to and from work. However, some companies are still a bit wary about sending agents home to handle customer contacts, fearing that the isolation will wreak havoc on team-building efforts and morale. That’s why innovative call center design firm, Façade Inc., has developed TeleCommunes – strategically located compounds that house up to 15 agents who live in the same geographic area.

Agents not only handle calls from these regional compounds, they live there with their coworkers – in very cramped spaces, with only minimal food available. The idea is to emulate a bleak communist environment, thus fostering a spirit of brotherhood and cooperation among the agents and stripping them of any sense of ego or individualism – traits that have been known to interfere with corporations’ mission, vision and values.

It’s a win-win for both the company and the TeleCommunists: The company enjoys the typical benefits of home agent initiatives while still maintaining a sense of team among staff, while the TeleCommunists get a much shorter commute, get to try gruel for the first time and learn to handle calls in Russian while huddling to keep warm.