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Friday, September 18, 2009

Issue #3 UC and Contact Centers

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September 18, 2009

“Customer UC” – Panelists Discuss UC and the Contact Center - Issue # 3

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

More Panelist Comments on Implementing “Customer UC”

In my previous post on what was happening with UC in the Contact Center space at TMC’s Internet Telephony show in L.A., I summarized comments by my panelists on the first two issues we discussed that face business organizations looking to exploit UC for customer contact activities.

From a business results perspective, UC ROI performance must include metrics like customer satisfaction (soft) and revenue generation (hard), not just cost savings and Total Cost of Ownership (hard). Customer contact activities are therefore increasingly being evaluated as high-value applications for overall UC implementation planning.

I have labeled all customer-facing UC communication activities as “Customer UC.” These kinds of challenges were discussed by a panel of innovative contact center technology developers on the subject of ”UC and the Contact Center” at TMC’s Internet Telephony conference in L.A. at the beginning of this month (9/1-3).
My panelists were representatives from leading innovative contact center technology developers Altitude Software, CosmoCom, and Fonality, Here are their comments on another key issue discussed:

Issue #3. What are the key considerations for presence in a Customer UC environment?

· “Agent” availability, once they have been logged on to their desktops and set their status to being ready to take a call assignment (inbound or outbound), has always been a part of ACD technologies in traditional telephone call centers. Being “available” for a phone call means that they are not on another phone call, but can be doing other tasks that are interruptible or can be multi-tasked.

· Agent assignment to non-voice tasks can be made to a “busy” agent, especially, when such tasks are not “real-time” and can be done “as soon as possible,” e.g., outbound calls (“call blending”), messaging responses, etc. Even several customer real-time IM assignments can be multi-tasked by a single agent.

· Real-time access to non-“agents,” i.e., (”Subject Matter Experts” or SMEs) is becoming a key concern for customer contact operations and is dependent on (1) their accessibility and (2) their availability. For the most part, SMEs are not directly accessible to customer callers, but could be assigned to handle appropriate customer messages. However, “first line agents” who need assistance from an SME, must themselves be guided by presence and availability to whichever live assistance resource is available at the moment, like an “ACD for SMEs.”

· Wireless mobility and the use of multi-modal endpoint devices (notebooks, “smart-phones”), will increase accessibility to SMEs, and thus SME availability.

· However, SMEs are very dynamically “available” and “accessible,” and only they know whether they can provide real-time assistance to an “agent,” based on the SME’s current situation and other task priorities. A panel recommendation was NOT to make specific “agent” assignments to SMEs or to let an “agent” select the SME of their choice, but to broadcast a “priority alert” message (Dispatch) to all qualified and accessible SMEs and let the “first responder” SME be connected by IM with the requesting “agent” in queue.

· SMEs can also respond to tasks that are not real-time, e.g., responding to an email or SMS message request sent in directly by a customer, field sales/support personnel, or as a result of an automated business process application that is monitoring a customer-related situation (CEBP). Again, making automatic assignments to individual SMEs may not work as well as broadcasting the request to qualified and available “first responders.”

· In real world worst-case situations, where no real-time live assistance is available to resolve a customer problem, customers need to be able to leave information about their needs (trouble tickets, messaging, online or IVR application input, etc.) and given written (text) confirmation of the request, with a time projection for follow up. In many cases, there is no possibility or even need for an immediate fix of a problem; it’s just the customer reporting and acknowledgment that is “real-time.”

· Performance management issues still remain for tracking “agent” vs. “SME” availability. While “agents” have to “punch in” for call handling accountability for their time on the job, SMEs don’t have the same requirements. On the other hand, from a customer perspective, all contact activities involved with a given customer should be tracked, regardless of format and source.

· “Customer presence” is another facet for the contact center in terms of outbound contacts. This is becoming particularly important as consumers become more accessible and therefore more “available” for real-time notifications and connections with mobile smart-phones. This will make “First Call Resolution” and voice conversations less critical than “First Contact Resolution” and message notification and delivery, coupled with “click-to-call” capabilities.

What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.