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The Vital Role Monitoring and Testing Plays in Successful Omni-Channel Contact Centers

Posted by Kevin Gulley

Jun 27, 2016

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If you’ve been following The UC Buyer, or you’ve just heard the incessant buzzing sound coming from the marketplace, you’ll know the business world is moving towards a Customer Experience Management (CEM) mindset. For many companies this represents a shift to an omni-channel contact center and a fundamental change in their approach to customer care.  As a colleague recently explained, it can be neatly summed up as a company’s migration from an ‘inside out’ to an ‘outside in’ approach. Businesses that have successfully made this transition have customer care as a core aspect of their brand and see this company-wide approach as a competitive differentiator.

According to Mike Burke, the Director of Product Marketing for contact center solutions at IR, a “company’s brand is a promise that sets expectations for all interactions your customers have with your company.” (Great line Mike...mind if I ‘borrow’ that one going forward?) As Burke continued, “The omni-channel customer experience is driving companies to deliver seamless, effective customer experiences, regardless of the channel chosen.”

That means that to deliver this premium experience your employees have to be on-board and engaged and every piece of technology has to help keep this promise. In a nutshell, the tech needs to work.

Monitor Your Communication Network to Minimize Downtime and Keep Customers Connected

Between VoIP, Unified Communications, and video the pressure on the communications layer of a corporate network has never been greater. Add in multiple additional channels like web chat, WebRTC, SMS, self-service and IVR, web conferencing and screen sharing - not to mention all of the endpoint devices, routers, switches, cables and applications - and there are too many potential failure points to shake a stick at.

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“With the mission critical aspect of real-time communications, businesses need to ensure their infrastructure and network is working from end to end,” says Burke. As we’ve covered here in the past, performance management solutions, like IR’s Prognosis platform, manage the entire communications backbone (minus the portion of it going over the provider’s network) and helps find the needle causing problems amongst the many haystacks described above. This helps companies be proactive in avoiding problems, optimizing their ecosystem and getting aligned with[KF2]  the business about delivering better services.

When it comes to delivering on the promise of customer experience management, this ongoing performance management can help identify and address problems hours or even days early, and this can mean avoiding thousands of potentially unhappy customers. “A breakdown can be at any level, from cornerstone applications like an SBC all the way down to cabling and individual phones or headsets,” says Burke. “The key is to quickly and proactively identify and isolate the issue, so it can be solved, employees aren’t impacted, customers are happy and it doesn’t negatively impact the bottom line.“

Leverage Active Testing to Keep Contact Center Channels Running

Back in the days of yore, when phone-only contact centers reigned supreme, keeping up with new technology meant an occasional dot-level software update and an even more occasional version upgrade. Nowadays, things aren’t that simple. Now you have phones, web apps, mobile apps, chat, SMS, email, WebRTC, Unified Communications and even video to pay attention to.  Staying in front of that takes a more active approach. And it also means acting like a human.

“When it comes to active testing, it is important to define what customers need or want to do when they interact with you across the various different channels,” says Burke.  Active testing means setting up programs that will kick off real phone calls and real web interactions and then measure response times, measure responses and act like real people doing real things.  “With active testing solutions we are looking to ensure that if a customer is trying to do something, the application and connection is available, functioning properly and performing the way it is supposed to be.” I discussed two active testing approaches with Burke:

Stress and Load Testing to Guarantee a Smooth Rollout

Often associated with an event, like the launch of a new application, in anticipation of a high-traffic calendar date (like Storm Season, Black Friday, or Tax Day, depending on industry), or the updating of an existing system, stress and load testing puts your system and application through its paces. As Burke explained, “With so many additional mission-critical applications to care for, making sure your system can handle a flood of traffic before going live can make the difference between a smooth roll-out and a disaster.”

HeartBeat Testing for Channel Availability Assurance

This is active testing on an ongoing basis. Instead of slamming a system to understand exactly how it performs under maximum load, heartbeat testing interacts with various channels, web apps and phone systems on an ongoing basis - say every five minutes. Again, interacting with the system in the same way a human would, this type of ongoing testing makes sure each channel is always available, doing what it is supposed to do and is consistently doing it well.

With so much riding on such sophisticated communications systems, it is no wonder so many organizations are turning to performance management solutions like these. As Burke summed things up, “It is not enough to be reactive, especially when it can take hours or days to identify and isolate a problem. Businesses need ongoing performance management and active testing solutions to ferret out issues with their technology that would otherwise be hidden. Then they can proactively do something about it before the spark turns into a conflagration.”

Topics: Technology, Voice, networking, Contact Center, Business Case, Monitoring