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.
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."
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