By Shaheen Haque, Territory Manager, Middle East & Turkey at Interactive Intelligence
Rising operational costs are also forcing companies to re-assess the way in which their contact centres operate, with many now looking to streamline their systems and processes in order to mitigate mounting expenses.
The challenge facing modern contact centres lies in balancing these two factors – creating a customer-centric service delivery model whilst at the same time minimising overheads. This delicate balancing act is at the root of the majority of emerging trends within the industry, and is driving a movement towards a more efficient and holistic type of contact centre.
The 360° approach to customer service
Contact centres are quickly starting to realise that the legacy systems that have been in place for many years are no longer able to facilitate the level of service delivery required by today’s customer. New systems and processes are now being implemented with a view to empowering contact centre agents, and providing them with a more holistic overview of the customer.
Multi-channel systems, which allow agents to pull information from a variety of sources such as e-mail, fax and social media, are fast becoming must-haves within the contact centre environment. These systems help to paint a more holistic picture of the customer, with all previous incidents and queries easily traceable, thereby enabling agents to have a better grasp of any issue at hand.
Over and above this, these systems can result in significantly lowered costs, as managing a variety of systems and vendors – and ensuring integration across all of these – can end up being not only a labour-intensive exercise, but also a costly one.
Multi-point hardware systems are also being slowly phased out in favour of all-in-one software applications, which offer contact centres far greater levels of flexibility. The built-in reporting and monitoring capacity offered by such applications affords contact centres the option to decentralise their operations and significantly reduce utility costs by having agents working from home.
Increased local broadband connectivity is now making the home-based agent model a realistic alternative for South African contact centres, many of whom are electing to move in this direction so as to minimise expenditure and improve levels of agent satisfaction and retention.
Mena firms require increased customer service integration
Companies aiming to achieve high levels of first call resolution are beginning to understand the necessity of a more integrated approach to customer service – one that doesn’t begin and end with the contact centre agent.
Unified communications solutions are helping organisations to gradually merge their front and back offices in order to create a more integrated, holistic customer service model.
Such solutions now enable contact centre agents to interact with relevant experts within the organisation, allowing them to pose real-time questions or even conference the expert into a call in order to provide further assistance.
By involving all employees in the customer service chain, queries can be resolved far more speedily, and the onus no longer falls entirely on the agent, who might not be appropriately qualified to deal with enquiries of a more specialist nature.
Automated environments can maintain service levels
With agents representing the contact centre’s most expensive operational cost, organisations are now looking for ways in which they can move workload into an automated environment without compromising service levels.
Voice and web self-service initiatives have already been widely implemented, allowing customers to access back-end systems either via vocal instruction or customised website interfaces.
Companies are also now starting to harness the power of online communities, establishing help forums that essentially enable users to assist each other. Systems like this have been made popular by the likes of Apple and many mobile phone companies, and often end up being the first port of call for web-savvy and social-media users looking for assistance.
Queries appearing on such customer self-service or social communities can be monitored from a central point, with contact centre agents able to step in and provide assistance when necessary. However, as these communities are largely self-sufficient, they can end up greatly reducing pressure placed on contact centre employees.
A new era of customer service?
The needs of the modern customer are slowly ushering in a new era for the contact centre, which is being forced to move away from traditional systems and processes in order to optimise service delivery.
Advancing technology has made this new, more integrated contact centre a realistic possibility, and is allowing organisations to adapt their service offerings to the needs of their customers, whilst at the same time reducing their operational costs.