Hosted Call Center

How to Choose Contact Center Technology

Customers have access to competing companies and tons of information at their fingertips. They can instantly interact with brands on a variety of channels at the same time, publicly announcing how impressed or disappointed they are with a company. Responding to customers immediately isn’t an option, it’s a necessity.
Open-Source vs. Proprietary Software
Many professionals appreciate open-source technology. However, while it’s still used by many companies and can be cost-effective for startups, it can end up costing the contact center more than necessary in the long run. Open-source technology is notoriously undependable and difficult to scale, and many contact centers find themselves having to eventually invest in a different, more efficient solution. Additionally, open-source software doesn’t have one entity in charge, so if you run up against technical difficulties it can be nearly impossible to get help (aside from scouring forums for advice or hiring a specialist). Proprietary software, on the other hand, is much more reliable and scalable, and it can be customized to fit your specific contact center needs.
Here are four parameters for choosing proprietary software:
1. Features
Know beforehand which features you’re going to need. Basic features include dashboards that show stats in real-time, call routing, IVR and an easy-to-use interface. You want everything in place so your team can answer support issues as efficiently as possible.
2. Flexibility
While you may need only basic features at first, there may come a time when you’ll need to scale or add extensions. Choose software that can grow and change with your contact center, and find out cost estimates for things like upgrades and customizations.
3. Programming
The software you choose will have to be implemented with your current system, which means it has to work with your programming language. While this isn’t usually a problem with modern, cloud-based software, you’ll want to consult your IT department to make sure everything can be smoothly integrated.
4. Support
The quality of the product won’t matter if the support team isn’t helpful. Read user reviews to find out about the reliability of their customer service.
Creating a positive customer experience is on the top of the priority list for contact centers. You won’t get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s necessary for support agents to have the best technology so that they can engage customers and create a stellar customer experience.

Multi-Channel and Omni-Channel Contact Centers

Contact centers are evolving constantly, challenging management to come up with more efficient strategies. A majority of CRM technologies strive for the same goal: to provide as much intelligence as possible so that the customer can be given a solution without requiring a live agent.

According to Gartner Inc., over the next few years customers will begin managing up to 85% of their brand relationships without interacting with people. To help with this change, contact centers are adopting multi-channel and omni-channel solutions.

3 Benefits of Multi-Channel Systems

  1. Contact center agents are able to connect with customers through their preferred method. According to TCN, this results in higher rates of customer satisfaction.
  2. As customers are serviced through alternate and automated systems (chat, social media, e-mail, etc.), call waiting time is reduced.
  3. Call agents will field phone calls that require in-depth troubleshooting and complicated inquiries. While there will be exceptions to the rule, expensive channels, like phone communication, will be more available to “high-value” customers, while “low-value” customers will be serviced via low-value channels.

From Multi-Channel to Omni-Channel Strategies

In the past, multi-channel meant that a customer could contact a brand via various channels (e-mail, phone, online chat, etc.). These channels were poorly integrated, though – they worked alongside each other but not with each other. Omni-channel is what multi-channel was reaching for but didn’t always achieve: multiple channels that are seamlessly interconnected. Now, customers can switch between contact channels without the brand losing any knowledge of the conversation.

The Omni-Channel Approach

Many customers prefer contacting a brand via social media. While there’s a distinct demand for these channels, many companies are still not using them as efficiently as possible. Jeremy Curley, Director of Business Solutions for Bomgar, told Customer Experience Report that the flow of going from one channel to the next should be seamless. If a customer decides to switch communication channels midway through a conversation, they should be able to do so, and only one record of interaction should result. Contact agents and customers should be able to pick up right where they left off.

According to a survey by The Corporate Executive Board Company, simplification is important to customers. As much as 84% of customers are more interested in having the right outcome than they are with worrying about the mode of contact. Ultimately, customers want smooth service as quickly as possible.

A ContactBabel study of multi-channel contact centers that supported e-mail, text messaging, online chat, and social media, as well as phone support, found that telephone channels were dominant at over 70% of the centers’ inbound communication. While phone channels are currently the most popular, though, even in contact centers that have adopted omni-channel or multi-channel practices, other communication channels are growing at a faster rate, specifically social media and online chat.

In an interview with Customer Experience Report, Paul Sweeney, Chief Product Officer of VoiceSage, pointed out that some modes of communication fall by the wayside and then become popular again, like text messaging. In the same article, Kumaran Ponnambalam, Director of Data Science and Analytics for Transera, said that he expects there to be an increase in mobile customer service applications. Brands recognize that smartphones give customers a readily available, easy-to-use-tool to send product questions, especially with images or videos of the issue they’re having. According to comScore, consumers access digital media on smartphones much more than they do on PCs.

Supporting an Omni-Channel System

In order to have an omni-channel system, CRM technology has to provide information about the context of each interaction, the customer’s profile, relevant history, and customer preferences.  Many companies are starting to train their agents in more than one channel.  Additionally, contact center systems should be able to support a universal queue and have intelligent routing.

Sweeney also talked about the difference between interactions and conversations. Interactions are based on process, automation, and reducing problems. Conversations are predictive – the customer feels like the brand knows them. In the Customer Experience Report piece, Matthew Choy, Managing Director of Rsupport, agreed, suggesting that contact centers begin reaching out to customers before there’s a problem. This will be possible if the brand monitors social media for trends, specifically those regarding product defects or common user issues. According to Destination CRM, an important trend in CRM is personalization by way of agents or self-service channels giving tailored responses or product offers based on information gathered from past interactions.

4 ContactBabel Predictions for the Future of CRM

  1. The percentage of live inbound communication will slightly decrease throughout the next few years.
  2. An increasing percentage of simple transaction-based contact will be managed through self-service channels.
  3. Voice channels will manage complex conversations and will require an extended amount of time to handle.
  4. There will be a large increase in the number of online chat and social media interactions, especially for support of online browsing.

According to the Aberdeen Group, 2014 saw several improvements in CRM, most notably when it came to the customer experience, including customer satisfaction, retention, up-selling and cross-selling. In 2015, this trend is expected to continue. Contact centers will become more responsible for a large part of a brand’s profitability, much more so than before.