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The contact center is where a company's customer service technology should come together, creating a well-oiled, data-driven machine that solves customer issues quickly. But companies can't expect to provide that high level of service without the right contact center technology architecture and processes in place. Making a contact center technology assessment can be a major challenge. Furthermore, the inability to break down silos and gain a 360-degree view of the customer often hampers service offerings.
So, where should customer service departments start? Here, experts and users offer best practices on contact center technology trends for companies looking to upgrade their existing technology or rethink their strategies to build a modern contact center:
For contact centers that pull customer data from many different silos, slashing the number of contact center applications that agents need to access can "transform" the customer experience, said Bob Furniss, customer care practice director at consulting firm Bluewolf. Cutting it down to one system isn't a realistic goal, Furniss said, but going from six to two, for example, can make a big difference. In this way, agents can get a unified desktop that prevents them from switching between applications and slowing things down.
Before Boingo Wireless Inc., a company that manages and operates Wi-Fi networks, switched to its Salesforce CRM platform, Vice President of Consumer Marketing Scott Ewalt said his company had email, social media and other customer information mired in different silos, which slowed service down. "We wanted to ensure we had a single view of the customer," he said. With data now consolidated in a single CRM system, Boingo can now "completely understand the interactions between channels," he said.
According to Robin Gomez, director of operational excellence at eBay Enterprise, one reason why companies end up with many different systems is that they commit to too many contact center applications and fail to see the big picture. "They might be looking at a best-in-class option that might not be best-in-class long term," he said.
Invest in an ECM system
Agents need customer data at their fingertips when handling a case. When data is dispersed among many different systems, that can be difficult to achieve. Matthew Turner, founder of consultancy Boston Turner Group, recommends that companies implement an enterprise content management (ECM) layer on top of their CRM and ERP systems to quickly call up customer interactions, data and other information to expedite the process. ECM systems can present a more user-friendly interface for certain kinds of information related to a customer account.
"As great as some of these ERP and CRM platforms are, they're not great at handling unstructured data," Turner said, such as customer comments from a social media platform. "If you're just slapping something into a shared drive somewhere, which is what most people do, you're not going to be able to get the information you need."
While online self-service can reduce costs and promote efficiency, companies need to be ready to know when tweaks are necessary. Bluewolf's Furniss said that companies need better visibility into whether a customer used a self-service option but still ended up calling a company to resolve the issue. Businesses need to know which questions are not being answered in the self-service layer, Furniss said. Analytics also has to be part of the contact center technology architecture equation when aiming to augment personalized self-service content.
Furniss said companies must ask, "What can I know about [customers] so that when they come into the system, I don't just give them knowledge I give to anyone else, I attempt to present knowledge to them based on who they are and what kind of customer they are."
Use social media monitoring tools
Social media monitoring isn't for everyone, Furniss said, and companies need to determine whether they cater to an online-driven environment before they buy and deploy tools. Some customers demand a response on this channel, and companies have to be selective about which conversations to engage in on social channels. Furniss said agents must be trained on how to write a response to a complaint on a social platform because it's being disseminated to the public rather than being contained in a one-on-one email.
Gomez said interaction analytics and text analytics on chat and social media help eBay Enterprise identify opportunities and needs faster without having to do a lot of manual labor. "Many companies that have this don't get a bang for the buck because they're not quite sure what they're doing with it, why they have it, or what they're trying to solve," he said. "If you know what you're going after, it's invaluable."
Multichannel service still a hurdle for contact centers
Smashing silos to get a 360-degree view of the customer
Companies use customer data to gain an edge
Striving to personalize customer interactions