It is an exciting time in the customer contact industry. When you think about where contact center technology started, it can be traced back to the invention of the telephone. For decades, the voice channel was the only channel available for customers to receive speedy resolutions and attention to their needs. Boy, has that changed. These days, the rate of technological change seems to be gathering speed by the week.
We are at the cusp of being able to engage people whenever and however they want to be engaged (social media, SMS text, self-serve apps, chat, Skype.) Thanks to these emerging channels and evolving technology, we have more and more options for reducing wait time, a critical measure of customer satisfaction and contact center performance. Is it reasonable to predict that the contact center of the future will have zero hold and rapid response not long wait times will be the norm? We think it is. Here’s why:
Technology That Embraces Emerging Channels Will Reduce Wait Time
While the voice channel will always have a place in the world of customer service and support – especially when the customer has a unique or complex need – we should embrace the fact that more people are initiating contact via web self-service, social media, text, and chat. Each of these alternatives has its own advantages (and challenges), but to leverage them, it is essential to stay in front of the technology. Contact centers not only need to integrate these new channels into their existing technology mix, but they also need to be able to track, measure and record the various interactions – in a way that is seamlessly compatible with their other systems.
Let’s take a look at how new channels are being integrated into existing technology. Virtually every contact center has an Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) for managing, routing, tracking and measuring interactions. ACDs can have all sorts of additional functionality, such as skill-based routing which routes calls to the appropriate agents based on individual skill sets. Emerging channels need to be integrated with this technology.
To manage customer contacts through social media, like Twitter for instance, you need a technology solution for monitoring and engagement. Tools like Radian6 will capture tweets and convert them to a format that can be incorporated into your existing operations and technology infrastructure. In this case, tweets are converted into email notifications, which can then be received, routed, replied to and resolved. Integrating SMS involves the same paradigm – “emerging” grafted onto “existing” – but in the case of SMS, the existing channel it is most like is web chat. (I realize that for many contact centers, web chat is still considered emerging rather than existing.)
As with existing channels, emerging channels need to be seamlessly tied into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Knowledge Management (KM) applications. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) pulls the relevant customer details up, without the agent having to waste time looking up and accessing this information, and can give the agent a 360-degree view of every interaction that customer has had with your brand, regardless of the channel. In the future, more seamless integrations and standards will help the contact center (and their outsourced call center partners) better harness the delivery of relevant, actionable data and information in real-time
Better Supplemental Voice Technologies Means Reduced Wait Times
As we mentioned above, for complicated or unique needs, the voice channel still provides the best opportunity to explain the situation in detail. But even with this old stand-by, technology is chipping away at Abandon Rates by reducing wait time.
Not all voice technology is created equal, however. Take Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) for example. Done well, IVR can handle simple, common interactions at extremely low costs. But done poorly, IVR can really annoy people, failing to serve the customer in a way that the customer expects to be served and causing customers to abandon the mechanical, agent-less interaction.
In addition to Virtual Queuing, ACDs can offer customers the option of receiving a call-back at a predetermined time. Speech analysis can be run overnight against call recording and can be used to measure sentiment based on voice inflections and words used – data which can be used not only to better meet customer needs in general, but to add meaningful information to individual customer records in the CRM.
Emerging channels and increasingly sophisticated technology promise better customer experiences – and increased success to companies who effectively plan for and integrate the right mix of the two for their business. Whether you are looking to augment your current capabilities, to purchase a new out-of-the-box solution or to find the right outsourced partner to help you leverage the latest and greatest customer service options available, we should talk.