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For contact centers, cutting costs comes with risks, rewards

Contact centers are always trying to cut operational costs. But they can't let those tantalizing benefits make them blind to various perils.

Contact centers are often financial burdens to their companies: They provide a crucial function in a company's customer service efforts but yet don't directly contribute to the organization's profits. While companies try to slash contact centers' operational costs where possible, customers' sky-high service expectations remain the same in this age of the customer.

It can be tricky for organizations to reduce the costs of the contact center but still provide timely, efficient and effective customer service. The cost-saving benefits are obviously attractive but switching to new strategies and abandoning old ones takes careful planning and an understanding of the risks involved.

SearchCRM sat down with contributor Scott Sachs, president of SJS Solutions, to talk about these issues, which are only a few of many topics up for discussion at the International Customer Management Institute's (ICMI) Contact Center Expo and Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Sachs said that a virtual contact center model, in which agents work remotely or in groups at smaller centers instead of in a central hub, has many money-saving perks, but warned that companies should not get caught up by those aspects alone. With virtual contact centers, companies don't have to worry about high rental or equipment costs, inclement weather preventing agents from getting to work or illnesses spreading throughout the workplace, giving agents more flexibility in a work-from-home environment.

 

Scott Sachs

But virtual contact centers come with risks, Sachs warned. A lack of direct oversight could lead to higher attrition rates and a decrease in customer engagement if training does not evolve to serve a decentralized agent workforce. "Talent acquisition models need to be changed," Sachs said. "Employee engagement is critical. You need to make employees feel like they're a part of the organization."

Companies employing online self-service strive to balance that channel with their desires to provide quality service. Sachs rejects that trade-off, saying that "companies should provide the same level of service and the same customer experience regardless of the channel being serviced." He said that companies suffer from a lack of alignment of quality of service across channels, which leads to poor customer issue resolution, which can lead to even more costs for the contact center.

"If the website is designed poorly, the customer will call the contact center and the agent won't have the information about the customer's experience on the website," Sachs said. "You'll have a poor phone call and annoy the customer because the agent doesn't know what happened previously."

Next Steps

Thinking about switching to a virtual contact center? Read this first

What skills are needed for contact center agents today?

Oracle users see self-service options as a must-have

Use the voice of the customer to train contact center agents

This was last published in May 2015

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What measures does your contact center employ to cut costs but also remain efficient and effective?
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One of the methods we used when I worked in technical support was to identify issues that were very common and easy for users to resolve on their own, and develop 'canned' responses that we could email within moments of receiving their call. Users would call us, tell us their problem, we'd let them know we have a solution for them. We would edit the email to make sure it addressed them and their particular problem, sometimes making additions to address their particular comfort level with the program. We would send it off, and have them call back if they needed more help. They felt that they received customized personal service, and we were able to resolve an issue and end with a satisfied customer, often in under a minute.
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@CarolBrands - Do you have resources on your website where these FAQs live or do you send them to customers through email only after they've called in?
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