As regular followers of The UC Buyer know, we keep our eyes and ears tuned to the latest trends in enterprise communication so you can stay informed. One of the exciting areas we’ve been watching recently is the convergence of Unified Communications and contact center customer management solutions. The blurring of the lines between UC and the customer service experience has led to exciting new ways of meeting customer needs.
To learn more about how businesses are taking advantage of the confluence of UC and contact center technology I recently spoke with John Cray, VP of Product Management for Contact Center Solutions at Enghouse Interactive. Enghouse specializes in communications software and services that increase efficiency and enhance the customer service experience, and you can listen to our entire interview here (which reminds me...have you subscribed to our Modern Collaboration podcasts yet?).
Drivers Behind the Merging of UC and Contact Center Technologies
Advances in consumer communication technology has led to a savvy customer base that is used to interacting in a variety of ways using a wide range of tools. As Cray observed, “People are used to communicating the way they want to at any time, and to moving between different channels of communication when they desire.” I think we can all appreciate that. I personally dread the idea of calling my broadband provider to help me troubleshoot an issue...I think I’d rather get a root canal sometimes. Self-service? Yes, please. Online chat? At least I can get some work done while going back and forth with an agent instead of sitting on hold for 45 minutes.
It’s partly this changing expectation on the part of their customer base that has led many companies to rethink their customer management process. In addition, there is a blurring of the lines from what has historically been the front-, middle- and back-office support roles. With UC, a contact center agent can easily involve an expert from somewhere else in the company to help with a customer issue, optimizing that customer’s experience.
Integrating UC Tools into the Contact Care Experience
The capabilities of UC technologies seem to lend themselves naturally to extending the contact center environment, but there are considerations that require taking a holistic approach to this integration. Many businesses are already deploying an omni-channel approach to their contact center - for example adding online chat, email and call-back capabilities to the traditional phone channel to improve customer service.By integrating UC tools into the contact center agent’s arsenal of capabilities, the customer experience can be further improved.
For example, while the support agent is interacting with a customer via chat or IM, they can carry on a dialogue, attach files, share screen images, and attempt to resolve the issue on the spot. If further expertise is needed to resolve the customer’s issue, UC tools like presence management allows the agent to see which of their colleagues outside the contact center is available immediately for assistance. They can send that colleague a quick IM, share details or potentially even loop them into the call to resolve the issue quickly and improve customer satisfaction.
With the integration of UC and the instant connection to internal resources, companies can begin looking at customer care as not just a function of the contact center support team, but as involving the entire organization. Along with this paradigm shift comes a new need for processes and strategies—so-called rules of engagement—for those whose primary role may not be direct customer interaction. This rethinking of customer care and support needs to involve the same holistic planning approach.
Managing Complexity in the UC-enabled Contact Center
With all of the additional channels of communication made available by the integration of UC into the contact center environment, there is a commensurate increase in the complexity of tasks for agents. According to Cray, the number of different applications running on the desktops of many customer care agents can be as many as five to seven, or more. Things like CRM systems, intranet help systems, ERP systems - not to mention the UC component - all add up to create a very complex workflow for agents.
Some of the best contact center solutions are those that act as a consolidator of the various tools and apps necessary to meet the customer service agents needs. By designing the contact center interface with a ‘single pane of glass’ approach so that support agents are able to quickly and efficiently access the tools they need, customer (and agent) satisfaction can be greatly improved.
New Ways of Connecting are Changing Contact Center Metrics
Of course with new methods of providing customer service, companies need to take a new look at their metrics and the way they measure things like service levels and customer satisfaction. With unified communications and collaboration, traditional metrics are evolving to have different meanings and many of the classics businesses have relied on are becoming less relevant. Take first contact resolution as an example. With initial contact perhaps coming from a text message and then transitioning to a web chat prior to escalating to voice, before looping a non-contact center expert into the call - how does this change the definition of first contact?
According to Cray, the ways of measuring resolution are evolving with the new ways businesses handle customer contact. If a service agent involves an expert via chat or IM and the issue is resolved quickly, what is the best way to measure the time saved or the experience of a truly satisfied customer? More effective metrics may evolve things such as a net promoter score, or how likely someone is to recommend or promote your business to others.
The continuing evolution of UC within contact centers will invariably lead to new ways of providing better and more effective customer service. In turn, new applications and ways of communicating will undoubtedly lead to enhancements in UC capabilities. This is going to be an interesting space to watch as it continues to evolve. Many thanks to John for his insights. Is your business starting to leverage UC in your customer care experience? Are you extending customer care beyond the walls of your contact center? Let us know in the comments section below.