Businesses that want to get closer to their customers are transforming their conventional call centers into multichannel contact centers that support telephone, e-mail, and the Web. Multiple technologies must be integrated with a single goal: to improve the way a company does business by enhancing the customer relationship through enriching the quality of the contact. Among the key technologies:
1) Open-systems foundation. Solutions today must be based on an open-systems (standards-based) communications platform. This increases the ability to easily integrate voice and data management. Stepping away from complex, expensive, proprietary telephony systems and eliminating the need for proprietary network components and gateways will greatly simplify application integration and infrastructure management and reduce operational costs while laying the foundation for a better customer experience.
2) Self-service applications. Modern Internet protocol (IP) contact center software gives you sophisticated automation and integration options that help cut the costs of staffing and running your contact center. They also allow customers to do business with you when and how they want. Typical self-service applications enable customers to complete transactions, initiate requests, and check account balances without having to speak with an agent.
3) Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). Businesses can unify communications between departments and multiple sites to gain tremendous efficiencies by connecting their phone systems to their data network via VoIP. With VoIP, you can easily add and reduce staff based on seasonal sales cycles. You can also add remote agents as easily as you can add them in your headquarters, without the need for special hardware, proprietary solutions, or office space. With VoIP you can seamlessly transfer calls across locations and implement a companywide extension plan that works regardless of employee location. This means employees from different branches could be part of a single service group.
Connecting multiple sites or remote agents into a single system enables contact center employees to communicate with each other and with customers as if they were all in the same location. This transparency to both employees and customers promotes easy navigation and an enhanced calling experience. Callers can be automatically routed or quickly transferred to any location, allowing employees to assist other locations as needed during peak activity, while employees with special skills can be shared across locations or departments.
4) Customer information applications. The marriage of CRM and VoIP call-center technology should be making people think of marketing, sales, service desks, call centers and CRM as complementary facets of a single, customer relationship “bead” threaded across all other operational strings. For example, screen pops with customer information pulled from contact management systems provide call-center reps with insight for resolving callers’ needs – before the phone is answered. Now, extend all of that increased efficiency still further by merging sales and marketing with service – through the call center. It’s a crossroads of simultaneous emotional and business transactions that directly impact customer loyalty
5) Quality management and call recording. Only with proactive quality management can you analyze customer interaction and identify trends in customer needs or in the way employees are meeting customer demands. This enables managers to refine corporate plans and behavior intelligently.
Greg Anderson is senior director of product marketing for Dublin, CA-based FrontRange Solutions, a provider of CRM software and services.
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