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Unified communications start from the contact centre

01 Jun 2008

There are various definitions of unified communications (UC), but all of them have a common thread — helping employees find and access the right people on any device at the right time. However, UC benefits need not be limited to employee productivity. UC is a viable way for the contact centre to lead a company to a whole new position... a position where each and every customer-facing process is drastically improved. Since the contact centre is the primary vehicle for companies to interact with customers, a UC strategy that begins in the contact centre can create opportunities to increase productivity, revenues and customer satisfaction.

Unified communications for the contact centre will enable organisations to better respond to today’s economic challenges and changing consumer expectations, constituting a key growth market the industry cannot afford to ignore.  Collaboration, streamlining business processes and real-time reporting are all collectively at the heart of how unified communications for the contact centre can change the way companies operate, and the experience they deliver to their customers.

The channel has an opportunity to play a pivotal role in educating organisations on the concept of UC and how it can help — in particular the function that the contact centre can play in the enterprise’s overall UC strategy. When organisations are developing their UC strategies, the valuable relationship between the company’s subject matter experts and the contact centre in context of improving the customer experience is often overlooked in favour of employee productivity benefits.

But it’s just as, if not more, important to consider the tangible and intangible benefits that accrue to the organisation and its customer relationships when enterprise knowledge workers fall within the sight line of the contact centre.  In fact, the contact centre is the reasonable place to begin a UC rollout as its benefits can be tightly tied to increased productivity, improved communications and higher first call resolution.

A recent survey of contact centre managers and agents  showed that more than 10% of all customer interactions require assistance from experts outside the traditional boundaries of the contact centre in order to be resolved. The study also revealed that each of those inquiries requires two interactions to fully resolve a customer’s issue and that these interactions last approximately 2.5 minutes longer than a call that is handled within the confines of the contact centre. That means that in a 200-seat centre, for example, every agent is reaching out to an expert in the enterprise once an hour.

Clearly the opportunity exists for contact centres and organisations to streamline these processes and put a framework around the kind of contact centre enterprise outreach that is already taking place 10% of the time. But a UC strategy has to include more than just knowing who is available when using presence.

A successful UC strategy will consider each information worker’s skill sets and knowledge base so they can be tapped to assist on interactions where they can add the most value. Contact centres also have to remain aware that experts also have “day jobs” and they will need to be utilised in the most effective way so as not to overwhelm them with requests. Therefore, they will need to schedule those knowledge workers across the enterprise to be available at certain times so that agents can confer with them during an interaction if necessary, or so that interactions can be routed directly to them in appropriate instances.

Contact centre tools are in the midst of a historic period of integration, which appears to be happening in parallel with the development of UC-related applications, largely based on the common need across the enterprise and the contact centre to reduce complexity and costs.

Since a unified communications strategy must encapsulate a number of products and applications (call routing, presence, email, audio and web conferencing, video conferencing, voice mail, instant messaging, and more), vendors and resellers must work together to make sure applications are standards compliant and the infrastructure works together across the enterprise and the contact centre.  

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