Today’s contact center is far more sophisticated than the call centers of 10 years ago. Customers are now more technically adept, and demand a high degree of service. They are often inclined to go elsewhere if they don’t get it. Creating a contact center that will serve the modern customer requires exemplary planning and execution. Here’s how to set yourself up for success.
Define your goals
As with any project, an implementation team must understand the outcome that it wants to achieve before creating a contact center. Defining business goals is an important first step when implementing a contact center. An organization should decide what customer experience it wishes to create to achieve those business goals, by client segment.
Conduct an organizational assessment that can help you to define how your customer contact operations function today. Assess areas such as:
· Organizational alignment. How well does your current contact operation fit with your broader business goals?
· Contact center processes. How do you currently handle call routing and workflow, and are they serving you well?
· Contact center technology. Is the technology in your current contact center operation giving you a good insight into performance? How well integrated is your CRM?
This is also a good opportunity to identify outdated processes that can be modernized, merged, or simply discarded.
Perhaps the most important outcome of all, though is the customer’s experience within the company. A successful contact center will take a customer-centric view of the organization, designing the journey through the contact center from the buyer’s perspective.
There will typically be many customers, with many journeys. A senior citizen may take a different path through the contact center than a teenager, for example. Understanding the different customer segments is a crucial early step in the contact center project.
Managing different channels
Historically, the phone was the predominant way to deal with contact centers. Today, there are many other ways to interact. Organizations must consider which channels they wish to operate through, with an eye on the customer journey.
Companies should study how their customers communicate to plan which communication channels they will support, and how these channels will interact. Is it common to hop from a chat session to a telephone call for example, and what opportunities might this create to enhance the customer experience in the future? The number of agents at the company’s disposal will also contribute to the organization of its different channels.
The choice of communication channels affects not only the customers, but also the contact center agents. They will be required to handle communication sessions across different channels, from SMS, through to email, voice, web chatand video. Training staff to understand the nuances between the different channels will help to create a seamless experience for customers.
However, do not expect a signle agent to manage multiple channels simultaneously. If an agent needs to write a carefully-worded email, it is better if they are not interrupted by inbound calls.
The role of cloud computing
Back-end systems are an important consideration for contact center teams. The hardware and software investment necessary to run a smooth operation can be daunting. More companies are taking to the cloud as a means of reducing the up-front expense. According to Frost and Sullivan, 37% of contact center organizations in Europe use a cloud-based contact center solution. The analyst firm expects that percentage to reach 86% by 2016.
Several drivers make cloud-based contact center solutions appealing. Ease-of-use is the largest, with 73% of European survey respondents pointing to this as important factor. Scalability came second, because cloud infrastructures can provide capacity on demand, easing the pain for fast-growing organizations.
Human resources isare another key factor here. Organizations with limited IT resource and expertise may find it prohibitively expensive to develop the necessary systems for a contact center in-house. Cloud-based systems, combined with outsourcing relationships, can drastically reduce the risk of failure.
Finally, consider geographic expansion. Companies that anticipate serving customers in different geographies could run into cost issues when replicating contact center infrastructures in different regions. A cloud-based infrastructure can centralize back-end operations, leaving the company free to employ local staff in different regions using remote working technologies.
Planning geographies: local vs multiregional
These geographic considerations can affect technical choices for contact center teams, including the type of call service that will be provided. PSTN termination may suffice for a contact center with low call volumes, but IP telephony may be more appropriate for larger centers.
Latency is an important consideration in the geography of a contact center network. Routing call flows between different regions carries a latency risk if customers calling are far away from contact center teams. If a company adopts this approach, it must be sure that it has a telecommunications partner with the capability to route this voice traffic while maintaining call quality.
Technical infrastructure and cost management aside, other considerations include agent collaboration. Will they have to collaborate between contact centers in different regions? How can the company use stuff on different time zones to enhance the customer experience by working on an issue outside a customer’s local office hours? How will call flow be managed between different regions in cases such as these?
Agent integration and data
The contact center agents role in all of this is integral. They are as much a part of the system as any other component, and a successful contact center project will consider how they interact with the rest of the system. They must communicate with knowledge workers in particular areas of expertise, for example, in order to better serve the customer.
Adept IT teams can forge strong technological links between the two, using IP telephony and instant messaging with presence information, for example. A well-equipped agent will be able to find the most appropriate expert available to deal with a particular issue and then conduct a conversation with them, while keeping their other tools open, all from a single screen.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools will be a hub of communication between agents and the rest of the organization. They can collate a wealth of data for the agent when dealing with the customer, but must also intelligently filter it, delivering only the information necessary for the agent to deal with the customer quickly and efficiently.
Building CRM this way isn’t just an application design challenge; it’s an information and workflow design challenge that will require expertise from different managers. It’s another example of the key principle underpinning all modern contact center projects: joined-up thinking is not only optimal, but mandatory.
However, one final point must be made: too much of anything is a bad thing. Data is useful, but it must be relevant. Part of the design process involves understanding what data can assist agents and what will be superfluous. Too much data can reduce an agent’s commercial effectiveness.
Armed with these steps, a company can implement a contact center that will have real, lasting impact on their customers’ experience. Implemented properly, it can be the communications hub for your company, and a valuable tool in achieving your business objectives.
While at Orange, Bernard has acquired a global vision of the Orange marketing approach. He has worked in several markets, including consumer, corporate and professional. Now in charge of CRM, his current role is to drive customer experience projects and develop the Orange Applications for Business value proposition worldwide.