- The advent of unified communications (UC) in telecommunications, coupled with the convergence of enterprise networks to IP-based infrastructure, introduced a great deal of promise for presence management in the contact center marketplace. But, it is obvious that most enterprises have yet to maximize the potential benefits of presence management in their contact centers.
- Used properly, presence management can result in subject matter experts (SMEs) across the enterprise being effectively and efficiently converted into on-demand experts to assist customer service representatives in more quickly and accurately answering customers’ questions, improving the overall customer experience and enhancing corporate profitability.
In a unified communications system, a ‘presence’ feature indicates to a user whether or not another UC user on the network, or sometimes even outside the enterprise network, is available and able to communicate with colleagues, agents and customers. In the contact center, the initial manifestation of this UC capability is often the creation of a ‘buddy list’ which can be used by agents to reach another agent or other knowledge worker with a single click on the keyboard and little wasted time and effort because they know who is available and who is not. When customer service representatives (CSRs) working in a contact center need assistance, they often need to reach out to an SME for help. Traditionally, this help was limited to within the physical boundaries of the contact center and consisted of a simple glance around the room to see who might be available to help.
UC changed all this by enabling the CSRs to see on their screen who may be available across the enterprise, and in some cases outside the enterprise, by name, department or ability to respond to a specific type of question. Used properly, UC presence functionality could ensure that agents have access to their colleagues who have the necessary knowledge to address almost any customer query. Presence management integration in the contact center will logically deliver expense reductions and therefore have an attractively short ROI and show real improvement in customer and agent satisfaction, while enhancing the retention levels of both. An added benefit of UC presence is its ability to improve first contact resolution (FCR), the metric that measures the percentage of customer issue calls that are resolved during the initial contact. With the cost of a live agent-handled call averaging $12 or more, this can be a real driver of lower costs in a contact center.
The main problem with presence management in the contact center today is that although some presence management solutions provide enterprise employee presence information for agents, they do not support a blind, ACD-like escalation process that can selectively route agents to subject matter experts based on flexible business rules. Providing presence-only information may cause agents to over-utilize favorite subject matter experts, creating tension between the contact center and business units (sales, product support, billing, etc.) and actually decreasing the efficiencies that can be created by unified communications. A more intelligent presence management system that can handle agent requests for help by selecting SMEs based on business rules, with little direction from the CSR, can solve this issue and guarantee calls are handled efficiently and effectively. The lesson here is to ensure that the contact center software you are evaluating for UC and presence management in your call center can do intelligent routing based on what works best for your company. This means that agents will never need to know the names of experts in various fields. They will also never see the names of the experts themselves, only that there are resources available in the desired area of expertise. My observation is that most centers I interact with today have not reached this critical milestone in UC implementations.