- The world of contact centres is changing quickly, with traditional on-premises solutions beginning to look inflexible and unwieldy.
- A combination of multi-channel functionality and analytics tools can make contact centres powerful business solutions beyond customer service.
In previous blogs, I have written of the critical importance of customer service. In particular, this has focused on the opportunities provided by viewing social media as an integral part of a company’s customer contact strategy – both for direct communication and picking up early signs of service interruptions. If it isn’t working properly, somebody will have tweeted about it.
A well set-up contact centre solution, backed by the right analytics tools, can also allow an enterprise to improve customer service. Standard features such as call managing and interactive voice response will ensure that calls are directed to the right place and to the right agent. However, further advantage can now be found in two separate features of an advanced solution. Enterprises should be demanding a multi-channel service that allows agents to combine voice calls, web chat/IM, e-mail, SMS and even video calling. Analytics are the second important aspect that is growing in potency, beyond purely reporting on the performance of the contact centre itself. Analytics now offer enterprises the ability to predict and respond to peak demand, gain an overview of agent performance and potentially generate new sales leads and support marketing campaigns. Most providers offer off-the-shelf analytics tools with the option for customisation.
These multi-channel options are available to larger enterprises as well as small enterprises, which can be seen as a threat to the agility advantage that often benefits a large percentage of SMEs against their larger rivals when it comes to customer service. However, introducing changes in a 1,000+ seat contact centre takes time. If a company has invested in a more traditional on-premises solution, then merely introducing new technology is not easy. Rip-and-replace deployments are often the stuff of IT managers’ nightmares and the cost benefits of a hosted solution are often rooted in smaller deployments. Hybrid, on-premises virtualised solutions offer a way of introducing technology updates more quickly and easily, but there remains the problem of introducing new working practices. New scripts and training are necessary to allow contact centre staff to utilise a multichannel setup. For smaller enterprises with only a handful of agents, these challenges are far easier to accommodate and deploying a multi-channel setup from the start allows individual agents to cover a larger number of customers. Furthermore, a multi-channel approach can allow companies to more effectively push their marketing messages out to customers via SMS, e-mail or social media in a proactive manner. Larger enterprises should already be talking to their providers about the advantages that migration to a hybrid virtualised or fully hosted solution can offer. Meanwhile, the effectiveness of hosted solutions means that SMEs should no longer be thinking about outsourced customer service, but about how they can establish their own ‘virtual’ contact centre.