Contact centers represent the face of companies and their brands and play a vital role in the customer experience. In fact, the call center has a dramatic effect on customer satisfaction and loyalty and, therefore, affects growth. As a result, businesses routinely turn to technology to make their contact centers more productive and efficient.
Importance of Using Contact Center Tools
Growing companies eventually reach a point where the manual processing of customer phone calls, emails, text and instant messages and social media communications requires too much time and too many human resources. Contact center technology unifies multiple communications channels into a manageable queue and automates many repetitive call center functions. As a result, companies can optimize their internal processes and handle a large number of customer interactions.
Just as builders, artists and other professionals get better results when they use the right tools, call center agents and managers can perform better when properly equipped. In fact, technology provides the foundation for increased agent productivity and high levels of customer satisfaction. When combined with properly trained workers, technology sets the stage for the enduring success of a business through the referrals and repeat business that stems from satisfied customers.
Not all contact center software products are suitable for every environment. For the most part, however, managers should only consider products that have a set of essential features as they shop. Beyond that, considerations such as the size and purpose of the contact center, the communication channels used and the complexity of operations all can help firms build an industry-leading contact center.
Contact Center Tools and Technology Solutions
Tools and technologies described here will help business owners, managers and other stakeholders to choose the features they need and want for their contact center.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
By quickly answering the phone and serving recorded greetings and menus, IVR systems efficiently connect callers with the agents that can provide the best service. For example, an IVR can offer callers language choices or allow them to choose between departments such as sales and service. Voice recognition capabilities improve the accessibility of IVR by allowing callers to speak their responses rather than input them via their telephone dial pad.
ACD (Automatic Call Distributor)
Contact center solutions can route callers to particular queues based on their IVR responses, caller ID or other determining factors. ACD systems can also serve music on hold, recorded marketing messages and estimated time-in-queue notifications while awaiting service. Additionally, many ACD systems allow callers to request a callback and then disconnect without losing their position in the queue. Some ACD systems come equipped with features such as skills-based routing that can match calls with the agents that can provide the most relevant and effective service.
Equally important is the ability of ACD to ensure that calls are evenly distributed to available agents. ACD systems also provide data to managers that can help them identify performance problems. For examples, agents who spend too much time logged out of their queue can receive remedial training.
Outbound call centers can feed a list of telephone numbers into their predictive dialer and thereby eliminate the need for agents to dial telephone numbers. Agents simply keep their headset in place in between calls as the tool connects them to the next number on the list. Besides eliminating errors and other sources of wasted time between calls, predictive dialers can ensure that every number on the list receives a call.
Also, predictive dialers keep track of the status of calls and can automatically reschedule unanswered calls, calls answered by voicemail disconnected calls by returning them to the outbound queue. Predictive dialing can also work with channels other than voice calls such as email, live chat, text messaging and social media. Additionally, the system can automatically contact customers via their preferred communication channel.
Either by dialing a feature code or clicking a button on a computer screen, supervisors can listen into calls for the purpose of evaluating call quality. Additionally, features such as Barge In, when available, can allow supervisors to intervene in a call with the goal of preventing or moderating a negative situation. Another feature, whisper coaching, allows a supervisor to speak to the agent during a call without being heard by the caller.
Call Recording Systems
Managers and supervisors usually cannot monitor every customer encounter in the call center and risk losing valuable insights into the behavior of their customers and the performance of their agents. Call recording systems save calls to computer storage for later retrieval. For example, if a customer complains about a particular call or claims to have received particular promises from an agent, managers can listen to the call after-the-fact to obtain more information.
Recorded calls can also support the coaching and training effort by giving groups a chance to evaluate and learn lessons from real-life scenarios. Of course, call recording can augment any quality monitoring program. Moreover, some companies operate in sensitive industries that mandate the storage of recorded calls.
Real-Time and Historical Reporting
Contact center software makes call center data easy to visualize, analyze and interpret so that managers can act to identify short and long-term performance trends. For example, managers can reallocate human resources during the day to respond to surges in call volume. Also, companies can assess the effect of procedural changes and investments in technology by preparing reports that compare current and historical data.
Workforce Management (WFM)
Companies use WFM to predict the number of customer encounters during a particular period and then schedule appropriate staffing levels. Over the long run, WFM helps managers appropriately hire and layoff agents in anticipation of changes in demand. WFM features often integrate with other management applications to optimize the human resources employed by the call center.
Analytics and Metrics Tools
Technology helps managers quantify call center performance in ways that conform to internal and global metrics. As a result, businesses can assess their call center by comparing it to others in their industry. Ultimately, analytics and metrics tools can influence decisions regarding training requirements and the acquisition of new systems in an effort to either maintain competitive parity or to gain an advantage over competing firms.
Integrating CRM into the call center helps agents gain a 360-degree view of the customer that can result in personalized service and speedy resolutions. For example, customer information can pop-up on agent screens based on caller ID or IVR responses. As a result, agents can focus on their callers without navigating between multiple computer applications. Particular, CRM tools can facilitate case management by providing a historical and ongoing customer issues.
Omnichannel solutions allow agents to communicate with customers on a variety of platforms, including live chat, SMS, email and voice calls. This type of integration adds new levels of flexibility to the contact center by rapidly assigning agents, modifying IVRs and rerouting streams as needed to sustain a consistent customer experience.
Technology offers companies fantastic ways to optimize their call centers to improve the quality of their service. Although no single contact center solution can meet the needs of every organization, the above tools and features can form the backbone of an effective system that supports remarkable gains in quality, efficiency and customer satisfaction.
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