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Choosing contact center infrastructure software

Contact center infrastructure purchases can be costly, but they also bring serious ROI through a boost in efficiency and customer experience.

Whether companies are expanding their contact-center presence or trying to become more efficient with the agents...

they have, they often turn to contact center infrastructure upgrades to achieve those results. Stepping into the modern contact center era can be costly and time-consuming, but companies need to do so to enhance customer experience. Routing customers to an agent who is not properly skilled and then requiring a customer to repeat all the information related to their issue is a waste of time and frustrating for customers.

At the heart of contact center infrastructure upgrades is customer call routing and quality. For many companies, upgrading contact-center infrastructure means heading to the cloud, particularly in areas such as telephony. According to Gartner, in 2017, cloud-based telephony will surpass on-premises telephony. And according to recent research by Aberdeen Group, infrastructure changes are on the agenda primarily to improve customer experience (95%). Other important drivers were to improve agent productivity (79%), increase cross-selling opportunities (71%) and reduce operating costs (70%).

Contact center software has evolved from a simple automatic call distribution platform with various add-on modules to more fully integrated technologies. From call-routing software to help desk ticketing and knowledge bases to help agents as they try to help customers, there are a series of important technologies companies need to consider as they make upgrades. Many of these technologies come in on-premises or cloud-based versions. One important buying criterion should be how well these systems can work together. And, in some cases, cloud-based software will more easily integrate with other elements. Much on-premises software is legacy and will suffer from integration problems.

As organizations consider upgrading contact center software platforms, they should ask some key questions:

  • Which add-on technologies does my company need?
  • Is it best to have a contact center software platform with the technologies already integrated, or is it best to acquire the technologies as separate modules?

There are at least nine pieces of technology that must be considered when looking to purchase a new contact center technology platform:

  • Multichannel support;
  • Contact recording;
  • Call monitoring;
  • Workforce management;
  • Integrated voice response (IVR);
  • Post-contact surveys;
  • Speech analytics;
  • Knowledge database; and
  • Workflow management.

The following focuses on the functionality of each specific add-on module. Whether to acquire a platform with the technologies already integrated or as separate modules can be decided at a later date.

Stepping into the modern contact center era can be costly, but companies need to do it to enhance customer experience.

Multichannel support. Customers often communicate through multiple communication channels in their efforts to make a purchase or get a problem resolved. So, contact centers need ways to monitor those multiple channels and aggregate the data to create an omnichannel view, or 360-degree view of the customer.

Multichannel support provides the ability to funnel all types of customer interactions -- e.g., voice, email, chat, SMS, social media and video -- through one platform using an integrated queuing strategy. There are two key benefits that come with this approach:

  • Work is moved to agents via predefined rules and, therefore, processing efficiency increases. An agent would not have to log off the telephone system and work emails via a system such as Outlook.
  • There is an ability to monitor key metrics -- e.g., volumes, average handle time and so on -- to evaluate and track the resources required to perform resolving inquiries on various channels.

Contact recording. Contact recording provides the ability to review contacts after the fact for various reasons, including quality assurance, compliance, escalations and more. The recording of contacts primarily focuses on inbound and outbound calls where a written transcript of the interaction is not available. There are many recording options, including 100%, random and per predetermined schedule, among others.

Contact monitoring. Contact monitoring provides the ability for individuals to review contacts, either live or recorded. Live monitoring allows an individual to listen to a contact while it is happening -- valuable for supervisor monitoring. On the other hand, listening to a recorded contact improves efficiency in the quality-assurance program -- users don't have to wait for phone calls to arrive for a specific individual. In addition to monitoring contacts, it is critical to be able to utilize preloaded forms in the system, so calls can be scored and reports automated to support the quality-assurance program.

Workforce management. Workforce management software helps plan the allocation of resources to meet customer demand. Workforce management is the engine that evaluates inbound work volumes and recommends staffing schedules to attain predetermined service levels.  Workforce management has many modules, including budgeting, forecasting, staffing and scheduling, and intraday management. Automated workforce management becomes a critical tool as contact centers grow larger in size.

Integrated voice response. IVR allows customers to self-service during a phone interaction. As a result of a caller pressing specific keys on their phone or speaking specific items into the telephone, the system can access a database and provide specific information in response to a customer inquiry.

Post-contact surveys. Post-contact surveys allow for customers to provide feedback to an organization immediately following an interaction with the contact center. The technology exists where the contact-center system can ask the customer to stay on the phone following an interaction or can call a customer back following an interaction with the contact center.

Speech analytics. Speech analytics is a newer technology that analyzes the actual voice of the customer. Real-time speech analytics analyzes conversations in real time, and if it identifies specific attributes during the interaction -- e.g., the caller is becoming frustrated -- it can send an alarm to a supervisor, so the supervisor can intervene. Another feature of speech analytics is to analyze calls after the fact and look for common attributes, such as identifying all callers stating they want to cancel their service and separating those calls for further evaluation.

Knowledge bases. A knowledge base provides a repository of information that agents can access when they have a question or need assistance in resolving a customer inquiry. A knowledge base provides a single version of truth, which eliminates the need for agents to have manuals at their workstation that need continuous updating. Two critical requirements for a successful knowledge database are to have a search engine that is easy to use for the agent and the assurance that the knowledge database is up to date.

Workflow management. Workflow management provides the capability to manage and monitor the process of moving work from one area to another. Workflow management automatically moves work from one queue to another, with the ability of presenting the work item in an automated manner. Workflow management also provides reporting on volumes, aging and more.

Contact center technology has advanced tremendously, and there are many capabilities beyond call routing that are available. These technologies include intelligence for agents to better serve customers and software to bring new efficiencies to service processes.

As companies consider upgrading their contact center technology platform, they should evaluate whether these additional technologies could provide ROI by reducing the number of agents required or by boosting call quality and enhancing customer experience.

Next Steps

Modernizing contact center infrastructure

A guide to call center metrics

Salesforce brings chatbots to customer service

Legacy applications pose problems for contact center infrastructure

This was last published in November 2016

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