Meet The Members: Kim Hileman of Advanstar
Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, [email protected]
This month we offer our
second installment of “Meet the Members,” where you have an opportunity
to learn a little bit more about the people who make up the NACC
membership. This month features Kim Hileman of Advanstar, an
event and marketing services company with worldwide presence.
NACC: When did you begin your customer service career?
I started in 1985. I was hired by Advanstar as a part-time
outbound agent making calls to renew magazine subscriptions.
Advanstar also had a market research division so I was also involved in
many of the division’s research studies. When Advanstar started
buying trade shows we established an inbound call center. That
was me – I was the inbound call center! I spent four
hours a day taking inbound calls from people wanting to attend one of
our trade shows, then spend another four hours a day on the phone with
credit card companies getting authorization for the transactions.
Everything was a manual process back then.
NACC: Why choose a career in customer service?
I think it’s more appropriate to say that customer service chose
me! I took my first customer service job out of necessity, but
once I got into the job it turned into a constant flow of new
opportunities. The publications and trade show industry was
constantly in motion and I wanted to be involved in creating something
new – something that was going to continue to grow. We went from
an inbound call center of one (me) to one with 22 seats. It’s
been a great ride. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
NACC: What is your role at Advanstar?
KH: I’m currently the inbound call center manager but my role at Advanstar is constantly evolving.
NACC: Are there any particular challenges running a contact center in the publications and trade show business?
In the business information industry, as we shift from print to digital
publications, we’re finding our customers want to go digital as
well. We are seeing a definite shift from customers preferring a
live person interaction to a preference for customer service via
e-mail. That requires a whole different set of skills and it
presents both a challenge and an opportunity for us. We are
challenged to improve our written communications skills, which
translates to an opportunity to also learn new skills that will serve
us all in the future. A constant challenge in the trade
show business is the extreme peaks and valleys that occur in customer
communications volume as a result of the seasonal and cyclical nature
of the business. I’m constantly searching for ways to smooth the peaks
and valleys while maintaining the value that the contact center brings
to the company.
NACC: Is there a career best or worst customer experience that comes to mind?
We’ve all experienced the “beast” customers but a couple of unusual
customers come to mind. At one time we had a young man who kept
calling our toll-free numbers to solicit his services. He claimed
to be a Chippendale dancer. We finally had his number traced and
it led to a home in Iowa. Turns out Mom and Dad had no idea they
had a Chippendale dancer in the house. My favorite call was from
a gentleman who came across one of our veterinary magazines. He
called our toll-free number and demanded to know why dogs’ lips are
brown. Since our number was in the veterinary magazine he was
adamant that we answer his question. He was dead serious.
If I ever write a book it will be entitled, “Why Are Dogs’ Lips Brown?”
NACC: What drew you to the NACC?
As you know, you and I first met at the Call Center shows in Dallas all
those years ago. After we reconnected it just seemed logical for
me to become a member and get involved with the NACC.
NACC: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
My husband and I have a cabin in Northern Minnesota that is very
isolated. In fact, it is boat access only. I love the peace
and quiet there and that’s my escape. Every opportunity we have
we spend time in the cabin on the lake.
NACC: Any advice for people just starting their customer service career?
Don’t take anything personally. The customer is not always right,
but they are always the customer. That’s what I tell our
agents. Always be respectful, but don’t take anything
Volunteer Membership Drive Continues
Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, [email protected]
to some recent changes in employment that has led to member turnover
we’re shoring up our volunteer member corps with a summer membership
drive. Becoming a volunteer NACC member is easy.
Volunteer memberships are provided at no cost in exchange for 30
minutes of your time during the one year membership period. All
we ask of our volunteer members is to participate in our surveys, which
typically take four minutes or less to complete. In 2012 we ran a
total of three surveys. In 2013 we have yet to run a single
one! That will likely change during the summer as we gear up our
research efforts, but we still promise to ask for no more than a total
of 30 minutes of your time during the year.
NACC membership gives you access to reports, our Job Board, business
opportunities as they come to us, and the opportunity to tap into the
membership network for inquiries, advice and review. We promise
to ask for no more than 30 minutes of your time in total to participate
in our brief surveys during the course of the year. It’s a great
deal. If you’d like to join us, send me an e-mail with the word
“Volunteer” in the subject line and I’ll set up your membership.
If you have questions don’t hesitate to contact me.
With Mobile Self-Service Apps, Live Assistance is Customer's Choice
Art Rosenberg, The Unified View / UC Strategies Expert, [email protected]
flexibility has always been more important for mobile users than for
desktop workers, because they need dynamic flexibility for both
initiating contacts and responding to contacts while “on the go.” This
is becoming particularly true for customer service interactions, where
consumers increasingly use mobile self-service applications,
but then run into a complex problem that requires expert live
assistance. “Click-for-assistance” with new browser technologies like
Web RTC, will help streamline direct access to such customer service
staff, but the question still remains as to exactly what kind of
assistance is really needed by the individual customer.
One solution is to stop guessing about what such customers want and
give them the choice of selecting the expertise they think they need,
including the flexibility of how and when they want to interact with
such support, without first talking to an agent and then getting transferred. An innovative approach has been developed by OrgSpan
that has integrated their solution with a leading interaction (contact)
center provider, Interactive Intelligence, to provide such a practical
capability. So, we interviewed the founder and CEO of OrgSpan, Jeff Swartz.
What is changing the most about customer service today?
We believe the biggest change in customer service today is what
customers are expecting, especially when they increasingly use
personalized, multi-modal smartphones or tablets. They don’t want to be
limited to searching a FAQ, emailing support, or sitting in a
call-waiting queue after dialing into a support center. Customers are
drawn to solutions that put them in control and that are more flexible
in nature. They therefore want companies to offer dynamically flexible
solutions that allow them to choose how and when they want to get the
live support they need. There is a rapidly increasing movement towards
non-voice (telephone) based interactions such as chat, email, social
media channels, etc.
They also expect to be able to change their mode of communication
without losing any context of what they have already done. For
example if I’m on a company’s support site, searching FAQs, performing
self-service transactions, asking questions in the forums, or chatting
with an agent, when I decide to elevate my interaction to a voice or
video conversational, I want the context of what I’ve been doing to go
with my contact so I don’t have to start all over with the contact
Finally, many customer service organizations struggle to find an
available “expert” to help if the initial agent cannot handle the
issue. We’ve seen large, multi-thousand agent call centers, with
little or no ability to search for either other agents or experts
inside and outside the call center to assist when help is suddenly
needed. With the adoption of mobile consumer self-services, the
“expert” problem will only increase.
What are the challenges that customer services will still face with new contact center technologies?
The biggest challenge we see is support organizations accepting the
changing customer expectations and paradigms, and accepting the need to
meet the customer on his/her terms and in a format that supports the
device the customer may be using. Customers want access to all support
channels that work well on their smartphones and tablets. They also
want to be able to escalate the mode of that interaction. So I may
start out by browsing a support website’s self-service applications,
but then want to easily be able to turn that into a chat. And if
the chat isn’t proving efficient, I want to easily be able to switch to
an audio or video call.
Customer service organizations often struggle to meet the customer’s
expectations because it means utilizing new online self-service
technologies and accepting that they will have less control over their
customer. These new self-service technologies also present a new
problem – it becomes more complicated when the customer does require
live assistance. How do you capture the context of the
self-service activity, especially when they are “mobile apps,” to pass
along to the right kind of person in the contact center?
What Does OrgSpan technology offer that is better than existing approaches for assisted customer services?
OrgSpan offers two cloud-based
solutions that help customer service organizations deliver an improved
experience for their customers. Our first product, called OrgSpan Connect,
allows customer service agents and anyone in the organization to have
rich profiles defined with their experience, skills, certifications,
etc. that can be searched to find an appropriate expert when needed.
This helps increase first-contact resolution, reduces overall
interaction time, and improves customer satisfaction.
Our second product is called OrgSpan Select.
This product is focused squarely on those organizations that want to
offer a radically different and more personalized customer service
experience. OrgSpan Connect makes rich employee profiles available internally, so employees can find and connect with other employees. OrgSpan Select,
however, integrates into a “Click for Live Assistance” support flow and
makes rich agent/expert profiles available to your customers, so that
they get to browse, search, and ultimately choose the agent/expert they want to handle their interaction.
The customer gets to view and search a variety of information about
each agent/expert including skills, product knowledge, authority role,
and REVIEWS from other customers, as well an estimated wait time for
each agent/expert. This experience is available on smartphones and
tablets, as well as from any web browser. This customer-focused
experience allows customers to personalize their live assistance
experience and can help differentiate a company’s customer service from
What Kind Of Companies Can Benefit Most From OrgSpan Select?
OrgSpan Select has received
lots of interest from several types of customers. First, there
are technology providers and services companies that want to gain a
competitive advantage through better support channels. I can buy a
Canon lens from dozens of online companies at virtually the same price
point. Superior customer service can sway a customer’s decision
from which vendor to make the purchase, as well as help retain the
customer when they have problems.
The second type of customer company is one that wants to encourage an
ongoing relationship between their customers and their customer service
agents. For example, credit unions, would love to have their
members develop a personal relationship with their customer service
personnel. This encourages loyalty and additional business from their
Finally, we’re seeing a lot of interest from companies that have to
support a large number of very different products or services. A good
example is a health care company that is supporting multiple products
and multiple versions of the same product, where support for each
product requires very specific knowledge and expertise on the part of
the customer service representative. With OrgSpan Select,
the customer would be able to select a customer service representative
who has the specific needed knowledge/expertise to help.
How Does OrgSpan Select Work With Contact Center Communications and Online Portals?
OrgSpan Select currently
supports routing of email and callbacks. We integrate with
Interactive Intelligence’s Customer Interaction Center product on the
telephony side. Companies can easily customize the look and feel
of OrgSpan Select to match their website design and marketing efforts. Implementation of OrgSpan Select is also extremely easy and requires very little effort to integrate into their support website.
OrgSpan products are cloud-based and extremely easy to set up and configure. Both OrgSpan Connect and Select work with premise-based and CaaS modes of Interactive Intelligence's Customer Interaction Center.
We’ve had some interesting reactions from customer service
organizations ranging from “We could NEVER do that” to “We love
this”. We also get concerns about exposing agent information
including photos. We support pseudonyms and alternate-photos so
you don’t have to make public the agent’s real name or photo.
We believe our Connect and Select products can really help an
organization improve their customers’ live assistance experiences when
they really need it and help meet the rapidly changing expectations of
their customers. Org Span Select is just the first product in a suite
of service technologies we will be releasing that will enable companies
to build private social portals for their customers. We’ll be
announcing further developments later this year.
For more information or to learn more about OrgSpan products and services, please visit www.orgspan.com.
Call Center Comics!
If you like this comic and would like to see more, write Ozzie at [email protected] and visit his website at http://callcentercomics.com/cartoon_categories.htm
or just click on the comic to take you to his page. The NACC
appreciates Ozzie letting us use some of his comics in our newsletter.
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Copyright 2013 National Association of Call Centers