Sparkcentral: Sparking a New Wave in Customer Service

Joe Gagnon, CEO The digital-first consumer isn't accustomed to waiting. So, as an organization, if your contact center still includes any one of the following— uninspiring saxophone music while customers are put on hold, the infamous hold-and-transfer loop, and grueling sessions of asking a customer to repeat themselves—it's about time to shake things up. In the age of instant gratification, the expectation is straightforward: consumers want to engage with brands in a simple, quick, and private manner just how they communicate in real life. They want businesses to fit into their lives and not the other way round. The clear winner, in this case, is the ‘short and sweet’—messaging.

Research has it that given a choice between "message us" or "call us" on a company website, 70 percent of the consumers chose the former. To throw in some more eye-opening facts, currently, four billion people use SMS services, and more than 90 percent of the users read their messages in the very first minute they receive it. Yet, when it comes to customer service, brands are still stuck at the ominous 800-number or its even slower cousin the email. It's time that organizations shed their traditional customer service routine for a winning digital communication strategy, and this is exactly where Sparkcentral takes center stage.

"We have experienced practitioners onboard, from digital transformation consultants to awardwinning chatbot specialists, who have implemented customer care innovation for many brands around the world, to help them take their customer experiences up a notch or two"

Based in California, Massachusetts, and Belgium, today, Sparkcentral with their eponymous messaging platform is redefining the way customer service is delivered globally. “Messaging has become the social fiber of society, and it is essentially poised to become the social fiber of businesses too," begins Joe Gagnon, the CEO of Sparkcentral. As a specialist in growth strategies, business transformation, and technology innovation, Gagnon’s insights clearly depict deep market knowledge, and there are straight-up facts that corroborate his statement. While telephonic conversations have its restrictions, instant messages are archived, eliminating any need for reiteration. Also, they are asynchronous, meaning a consumer and an agent are not required to be available to talk at the same time. Long story short, messaging is the most preferred mode of communication today. WhatsApp alone sees 60 billion messages a day, sent by 1.5 billion people around the globe—that’s 20 percent of the population on planet Earth!

Not to forget, for brands too, the benefit of leveraging a messaging service has a higher pay-off. It's time-saving, cost-effective, and contextual. In this scenario, Sparkcentral is sparking a movement to effectively operationalize messaging in customer service while drastically improving agent satisfaction and customer experience.

Out with the Old, In with the New

So, what’s under the hood of their state-of-the-art platform that makes it all possible? At the core of the Sparkcentral platform sits an Automated Message Distributor (AMD) engine that supports high-growth message volumes. The solution seamlessly integrates into an enterprise's contact center architecture with its ACD architecture (Automated Call Distributor), which means no ‘rip-and-replace’ or impact on existing investments. In fact, clients can go live with the Sparkcentral platform within two weeks owing to the company’s cloud infrastructure and pre-connected channels such as Facebook, SMS, or WhatsApp.
Moreover, it synchronizes every digital interaction with a CRM system and thus offers a 360-degrees view of the customer.

Addressing customer queries is now a breeze, as with AMD, enterprises can serve customers on any major social or messaging channels, as well as live chat on the website or mobile applications: among the high-growth channels are SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, TwitterDM, and also Instagram. To centrally manage all messaging channels, digital agents get an easy-to-use, web-based ‘Agent Desktop’ with a universal queue. This workflow enables customer service agents to handle more conversations per hour compared to session-based workflows associated with most automated call distributor (ACD) and live chat solutions today.

Messaging has become the social fiber of the society, and it is essentially poised to become the social fiber of businesses too

While handling customer service through private messaging is only half the battle won, Sparkcentral goes the extra mile with their solutions to effectively manage public messaging. “From a brand protection perspective, we support the ‘public’ sides of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and we can transition a public complaint on Twitter or Facebook into a more private conversation without the consumer or the agent losing history or context, or even seeing any disruption to the conversation at all,” explains the CEO. To stay at the cutting-edge and to yield the highest agent productivity as well as the best customer experience, the platform even features a Virtual Agent framework with a “Bring Your Own Bot (BYOB)” strategy. Through these, any customer interaction can be fronted with AI-powered chatbots using a bot platform of the enterprise’s choice. "However, our mission is to power flawless person-to-person connections, and we escalate a bot conversation to an agent when the matter requires a higher level of intervention," says Gagnon. “In addition, we have opened up the reverse direction: allowing live agents to pass simpler dialogs to chatbots mid-dialogue, such as changing an address or looking up basic information.”

One Up On Digitalization

In addition to their extensive and cutting-edge feature sets, the list of benefits that both agents and callers receive with the Sparkcentral platform is also long and drawn-out. To start with, consumers have the power of the three Cs—choice, convenience, and consistency. Consumers can choose their preferred mode of messaging to communicate with brands through WhatsApp, social media, or brand-based applications (Web/mobile). They can also send and receive rich media such as bills, statements, pictures, videos, etc. For example, in case of an accident or other emergencies, the entire workflow can be fast-tracked as now an individual can send the car insurance rep or claims adjuster a picture of the damage for immediate assessment. On top of that, consumers can engage with an agent at their own time and convenience, with no disruption, long hours of waiting, or having to restart with a new agent. Lastly, the service is always consistent in terms of quality. “An 'eternal thread' between the consumer and the brand is established on messaging channels. Think about the power of that for establishing a life-long relationship with your customers,” he adds.

Enterprises also have multiple reasons to be glad as the platform increases agent productivity by anywhere between 25–65 percent, depending on which channels are introduced and to what extent active deflection from the less efficient channels is being implemented. The net promoter scores are also typically 20 points higher than traditional customer service channels, and overall there are cost and operational efficiencies from having a single platform to manage all digital service channels.
"Turns out agents actually love messaging much more than talking on the phone! Just like all of us," quips Gagnon.

Perhaps, what speaks for itself about Sparkcentral’s credibility is the trust that their esteemed clientele such as Western Union, Emirates, and Netflix among others have invested in the company. To better highlight Sparkcentral’s unique value proposition, the story of Engie is a perfect example. Engie, a Belgian electricity and gas market leader, reached out to Sparkcentral to improve engagement with their millions of customers across digital channels like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, mobile applications, website, and more. The client was facing significant cost challenges with the traditional contact center methods such as calling and live chat, and at the same time wanted to offer customers a more flexible way of communicating with the company. On implementing Sparkcentral, Engie not only witnessed increased traction toward messaging, but contact center agents took 20–40 percent less time to complete the customer service cycle. Apart from this, there was also a surge in NPS results, and customer experience improved dramatically.

“We are not just a technology partner, but a thinking partner for our clients,” remarks Gagnon. In every step of the way, the company keeps up with the latest trends, best practices, and insights to ensure their clients are immediately benefitting from experiences the company gains from being at the forefront of these emerging customer care channels. So to speak, Sparkcentral was one of the few global launch partners for the 2018 early access launch of the WhatsApp Business API. Shortly after that, the company went live with two customer-centric brands— KBC Bank & Insurance, and citizenM in Europe—followed by many more since. Gagnon adds that behind Sparkcentral's steady growth and popularity is a team that brings the necessary spirit and innovation to keep the company ahead of the curve.

Rewriting the Customer Service Rulebook

The future holds endless possibilities for Sparkcentral as they gear up to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning in new and exciting ways to redefine customer service and route the best possible agent available. This includes equipping agents with a “Smart Answer” without them having to dig through the knowledge base manually. Another big thrust is to enable enterprises to map a customer’s identities across multiple channels to a single CRM identity and then show a conversation history that is unified across all digital channels. This feature is expected to be a game changer as most organizations still struggle to achieve ‘one-view’ of the customer.

“What our customers are getting when partnering with us is first and foremost decades of industry insight into customer service. We have experienced practitioners onboard, from digital transformation consultants to award-winning chatbot specialists, who have implemented customer care innovation for many brands around the world, to help them take their customer experiences up a notch or two,” says Gagnon.

As an accomplished endurance athlete, Gagnon sure does know a thing or two about grinding to a win and fostering a long-term formula for success. The steadfast popularity that their platform is gaining in the industry is a strong depiction of his business acumen and passion for innovation. Going forward, the company is only expected to climb to greater heights and the CEO signs off with one final thought, “Messaging operates at the speed of the consumer rather than the speed of the contact center. It is just what organizations need globally to stay ahead of customer service, and Sparkcentral is your go-to specialist that can make it all happen.”


San Francisco, CA

Joe Gagnon, CEO

Sparkcentral is a messaging customer service platform company with a mission to change the way customer service is delivered around the world. Today, messaging is the most preferred mode of communication globally. On that note, Sparkcentral’s platform is based on an Automated Message Distributor (AMD) engine that supports high-growth message volumes. It empowers consumers to communicate with brands at their convenience, through their preferred mode of communication (messaging platforms, website, or brand-based apps). At the same time, using this platform contact center agents can significantly improve their productivity, and there is an overall cost reduction for brands