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Reaching inward to improve customer service

01 Feb 12

Few people in the contact centre industry would disagree that in this tough economic environment, good service and high customer satisfaction levels can make the difference between winning and losing business.
The ability to resolve an issue upon the customer’s first call has become one of the most powerful measures of a contact centre’s success. In fact, if a contact centre increases call resolution, not only is the quality of customer service improved, but also customer satisfaction levels climb while operational costs are driven down.
However, tying back office systems and processes into the front of the contact centre can present an enormous challenge. This is only heightened by the growing number of an organisation’s experts working out in the field, travelling or connecting from remote offices. So how can you help contact centre managers bring relevant information together successfully to build the foundation for a highly
efficient contact centre? And how can technology, process, policy and information all be better integrated for first call resolution?
There are three major points I see that will change this.
1.    Unified communications and collaboration comes of age
Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) has been a much-hyped concept in the contact centre industry during recent years. Now it is truly coming of age, as technologies such as VoIP, video, web chat, email and calendars have become much more common in the workplace and can be integrated using common business rules. The market for UCC has matured in a relatively short space of time as a new generation of tech savvy workers - and customers - have grown up using these technologies in everyday social interactions, such as instant messaging and Skype.
At its most basic level, UCC empowers employees to work in the best possible way. They can use technology and tools that enable them to have a ‘birds eye’ view of all the experts within an organisation, indicating their availability and preferred medium for contact at any given time. For example, if an expert is out in the field, a contact centre worker would be able to discover their availability and how best to contact them to get an immediate answer in one snapshot; for instance via mobile phone rather than email or instant messaging. For this to work, people in the field simply have to maintain their status and preferred method of contact via Outlook. This can be easily integrated to other call centre applications, allowing customer agents to view colleagues’ calendars and get in contact in the most appropriate way.
In this way, UCC technology gives agents the best multimedia tools for handling customer enquiries and providing quick call resolution. There are many industries where UCC is particularly relevant. For example in the healthcare sector, contact centre agents may require expertise from professionals such as specialised doctors or nurses. UCC technology provides a much easier and more effective way for contact centre staff to connect with doctors and nurses on the go, so they can provide answers quickly on the phone or via IM, and free up more time to develop qualitative patient notes.
2.    The emergence of on-the-move knowledge workers
The emergence of multimedia tools and UCC technology means that contact centres and staff need not be limited to office-based activities. The convergence of different media is enabling contact centre managers to extend operations beyond the physical boundaries of the centre while retaining centralised control.
Using rich presence tools, they can now improve efficiency by extending customer service activities to new groups of personnel, such as teleworkers, outsourced staff and widely distributed virtual teams.
The future for the contact centre industry is on-the-move knowledge workers contributing to the servicing of customer enquiries. There will also be an increase in roaming agents – technology support teams, for example, who are free to move around their location using mobile devices such as WiFi or DECT phones – in addition to remote agents connecting to the centre using mobile phones or VoIP.
3.    Considerations for contact centres looking at unified communications
Companies considering UCC need to assess their strategy before implementing the technology. As a reseller, you can guide them to ask themselves a series of basic questions:

  • What is the purpose of introducing UCC?

  • What multimedia tools are already used widely across the organisation?

  • What problem(s) do I want to solve?

It is only once they have a clear view of their organisations’ requirements that you can assess the best solution to meet their needs.
Another important point to consider, once the benefits of UCC become clear, is the scale of integration required. It is important to research suppliers who can provide solutions that easily integrate into existing business systems. UCC solutions based on open standards are the best way for companies to integrate applications from multiple vendors. A thorough investigation of integration requirements will give companies a clearer understanding of the potential time and ongoing costs involved.
It comes down to one question, what is the future for contact centres?
In the coming years, contact centre managers will expect new and innovative UCC capabilities from developers.
Firstly, the rise of social networking tools could potentially move into the call centre as a new generation of technology-savvy employees enters the workplace. LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook and Twitter are all tools that could have the potential to improve the contact centre environment – and time will tell whether they are effective.
Secondly, new collaborative multimedia tools could be used in the contact centre so problems could be solved on a shared basis amongst experts within the organisation and fed back to the call centre agent.
Thirdly, video and digital photography have yet to be fully embraced by call centres, but there could also be a future in which these technologies have a place in improving first call resolution. For example, an insurance company could use the technology so that motor policy claimants could take a ‘snap’ or video of their vehicle at the scene of an accident. This would then be used accelerate the claims process and reduce administration for the insurer.
Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that when people call a contact centre today they are looking for quick first-call resolution. In this tough economy, businesses need to make the most of every enquiry and customer service experience. Contact centres must better integrate with back office systems and business processes – and UCC could be the key to unlocking the door.