Call centers have evolved. Once upon a time all they did was handle your company’s landline calls, these days a contact center needs to be able to accommodate almost every type of customer contact you can imagine.
That’s because today’s digital customers want to reach you by text, social media, IM, email and phone – and call centers are adopting unified communications (UC) tools to help them handle all such communication in a consistent and coherent manner
“Seamless communication amongst employees, suppliers, customers and other stakeholders is a key focus point for all enterprises amidst this very complex world; and this makes unified communications very crucial,” said Harsh Upadhyay, industry analyst for ICT, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific.
The analyst’s report predicts that UC will see massive growth in 2015, driven by a range of factors including increasing use of social media for customer contact.
Instead of having to rely on complex computer-telephony integration (CTI), unified communications automatically eliminates the silos between different communications channels. Other benefits include:
· integrate conferencing functionality to have multiple people on calls
· presence and skills-based routing functionality to send the contact to the right agent
· add new communications channels as required
· simple to build virtual contact centers incorporating multiple sites and home-based agents
One key advantage is being able to recognize customers across different channels. That’s great for customer satisfaction: no customers want to explain their situation all over again each time they contact your company via a different medium.
Consider some of these scenarios that show the versatility of unified communications in the contact center:
This customer sends a Tweet to your company complaining of a problem with a product you sell. When received, the UC center can respond, offering the customer help via an online conference. During the conference a complex problem is identified and an internal expert is invited to join the call to help resolve the challenge.
This customer contacts your center in an online Web call with a complex deployment problem. In this case the problem is beyond the capacity of the agent taking the call. Using information given by the customer the agent searches the UC internal skills database to identify an available agent with relevant experience to help in this situation.
This is a long-standing issue that is being resolved. Contact was first initiated by email, but subsequent communication included phone calls and social media contact. When this customer calls (regardless of format) the system now recognizes them and call center staff gain access to complete case notes within their app, this enables them to deal appropriately with your customer without the client explaining themselves twice.
As you see, customers gain big benefits in terms of customer service – not only can they make contact through their choice of channel, but they get the swiftest possible resolution of their request. Rapid resolution isn’t just good customer service, it can also deliver operational savings that reduce overall per-call costs. Incoming calls are automatically directed to the next available agent with the skills that call requires.
The adoption of a software-based call center means your system is easy to maintain and upgrade, and opens up opportunities for deeper integration between call center communications and business processes, such as:
· fast deployment of new call center staff
· integration with customer relationship management (CRM) and campaign management systems
· workforce management solutions to track agent productivity
· outcome tracking to identify repeat calls and post-incident customer satisfaction
· per-call cost analysis
· remote agent support
· access to real-time and historical data
On the horizon there are other benefits, for example speech recognition already allows systems to detect priority phrases such as “cancel my order” or “hours on hold”. When they hear such phrases they quickly alert managers to monitor or join the call, enabling them to address the customer problem swiftly and assertively, reducing customer churn and improving loyalty.
Jon Evans is highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men’s interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.