Cutting through contact centre confusion
Call centre, contact centre, multi-media contact centre, omni-channel contact centre, customer engagement centre……the evolution of customer support technology has brought with it terminology understood only by the big enterprise user, who’s interests are in maintaining competitive edge, and the vendor, whose interests are in differentiating and maintaining competitive barriers.
Then there’s the business-speak associated with the contact centre’s role – customer support, customer relationship management, customer retention, customer engagement, customer experience…. all meaningful business school terms with precise definitions but, for those of us business-trained in the university of life, it’s another layer of complexity.
The paradox is that the smaller business, with limited resource but a strong appetite for automation, has exactly the same interests and, above all, has the most to gain from technology that, in simple terms, helps customer communications and customer retention. Furthermore, smaller businesses are generally, more agile and best placed to respond to changing market conditions with the latest developments in contact centre solutions.
Also, the journey to a professional contact centre and true customer engagement is a lot shorter than many SME’s imagine. After all, two thirds of any contact centre comprise a “unified communications” phone system and a CRM database, both of which are standard issue for sales departments of all sizes. For most, the acquisition of a fully-featured, cloud-based contact centre, that integrates voice and CRM with a suite of intelligent features, offers a far simpler, cheaper and slicker customer engagement solution.
Implementation of an effective contact centre does not have to be complex if, from the outset, you are clear about three things:
• Your customer communication channels
• Your performance objective
• Your performance measurement.
The following offers a brief look at each of these.
“Omnichannel”: The game-changer in customer engagement
Customer behaviour has changed markedly over recent years and contact centres have responded with technology that matches the way customers want to interact with businesses. This change is driven by the wide scale adoption of smart phones, mobile devices, clever apps and social media channels, in addition to traditional communications such as email and voice phone calls. At the same time, businesses have been able to tap into the intelligence of back office technologies, among them Customer Relationship Management systems, Enterprise Resource Planning applications and Cloud Phone systems.
This combination has allowed engagement between businesses and customers across a greater range of communication channels with greater depth of information, all feeding a better customer experience. The aim is to ensure that all channels and all information is presented with a similar look, feel and functionality, offering an experience that is consistent across all devices, all channels and, ultimately the brand values of the business.
This “omnichannel” approach to contact centre development offers the ability to dynamically integrate in real time all of the various elements of customer engagement, including phone calls, emails, web interactions, social media and data. Companies, big and small, that fail to understand this changing behaviour within their customer communications are at risk of alienating them and losing loyalty. The winners will be those who understand how their customers prefer to engage and interact and embrace the omnichannel customer environment
Aiming for first call resolution
For smaller businesses omnichannel communication may or may not may not be the immediate route to customer engagement but, whichever route you take, your objectives need to be clear. Not a bad starting place, and a universal goal that resonates with all businesses, is “First Call Resolution” or FCR. So often, that’s all the customer wants. Of course, incoming calls or messages might be for one of many different reasons, good or bad, but delay is always going to produce a negative result. There can be no better customer experience than getting the answer you want first time.
Different types of contact centre may demand different definitions of what “first call” means but, ultimately, the object is the same. For example, a technical help desk might judge resolution performance against escalation level where a ‘first level’ resolution is achieved without referring the enquiry up to a more skilled operator. Similarly, an enquiry that is passed between several operators on a single call may be judged “first call resolution” but not “first contact resolution”. There again, a call may be regarded classified FCR even though it was preceded by an initial contact made through text or social media.
This last example illustrates the increased complexity of measuring FCR for multi-channel or omni-channel contact centre systems. Tracking the caller’s journey between media will determine whether the enquiry was resolved at the earliest if not the first occasion. Even simpler phone-based call centres, which track calls by inbound phone number, must be able to identify repeat calls when, for example, the person who called from their office this morning is the same as the person who called from home in the evening. Likewise, is it a repeat call when someone calls back the same week or regarding a different issue?
The benefits of FCR for the customer experience are obvious. Anecdotal experience suggests that caller satisfaction, both with the customer service representative and with the company in general, will be five to 10 percent lower when it takes more than one call to resolve the issue than it is when the issue is resolved on the first call. At the same time, FCR offers important advantages in cost management. For a typical 500 operator call centre, around 25 per cent of operator time might be spent on repeat calls. By increasing FCR and achieving a relatively small reduction of repeat calls to 20 per cent, savings of six figures can be achieved.
Whilst the measurement of FCR metrics may be more difficult for users of increasingly complex multi-channel contact centres, voice communication is still by far the most popular and preferred medium for which FCR offers the clearest and simplest measure of operator performance.
Continuous improvement through performance measurement
Whether your objectives are “omnichannel” or more simply “first call resolution”, the success of your contact centre, like any other management system, hangs on the feedback of performance, with reports that offer the insight to improve.
Contact centre managers, agents and business managers all benefit from the monitoring and analysis of performance provided by software suites available in modern contact centres. Monitoring is an efficient and professional means of ensuring the best service and guarantee of customer loyalty, helping companies to:
• Pinpoint areas of concern/success
• Elevate candidates/agents who are eligible for advancement
• Focus on issues such as call conversion and customer retention
• Record conversations and evaluate performance and identify directions for improvement.
In-depth reports on contact centre activities are available from the data in the phone system. Detailed reports on past activity can be produced along with real-time summaries of current activities, often displayed on contact centre wall boards. This can be used to monitor inbound contact centres taking calls into queues or outbound contact centres or both simultaneously.
Are you a “Happiness Hero”?
Enhancing customer experience and competing for customer engagement is, without doubt, the hottest topic amongst business leaders today. Whether you see yourself as a “Customer Champion” or “Happiness Hero”, (or preferably something more sensible!), the need to consider your contact centre capability is imperative.