August 28, 2012
By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View
In a recent webinar, the speakers from the National Association of Call Centers described what industry members were doing to improve their operations through technology. There were two key factors mentioned.
Paul Stockford, Research Director for the Association, highlighted the fact that “Big Data” analytics for contact centers includes all customer interactions, including voice calls, email, and chat. David Butler, Executive Director of the Association, pointed to the growing need to automate simple customer service tasks with self-service applications to minimize demand for live assistance.
As it turns out, the rapid adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets, will not only facilitate consumer abilities to exploit self-service applications, but will also drive an increased need for customized options to flexibly access live assistance on demand through the various forms of contact available to consumers. Such flexibility comes under the label of “unified communications” (UC), and may well make the Contact Center the biggest source of ROI for UC-enablement.
While there is a lot of discussion about how new “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) policies will impact organizations in supporting their employees with mobile access from different devices and operating systems, what has not been properly acknowledged is that consumers/customers will also be bringing that issue to the challenge of designing and exploiting self-service applications. In addition, the flexibility of multi-modal mobile devices, coupled with any demand for live assistance, will also require greater flexibility on the part of customer-facing agents to interact with mobile customers.
The New Customer Perspective
For consumers, who were restricted in the past by legacy IVR applications, self-service applications no longer have to start with a phone call. In fact, the reverse is becoming true – online (visual) applications are becoming a primary gateway to a voice or chat connection for live customer service.
Many market studies have confirmed that most consumers would prefer direct access to information and business transactions, rather than have to deal with a live person. Of course, such access would have to be simple and easy to use from an interface perspective. That is one area where the combination of speech input (like Apple’s Siri) combined with visual information output would be the fastest and easiest way for a mobile user to interact with an online application. However, the choice of user interface has to be dynamically controlled by the mobile end user, depending on their circumstances, e.g., while driving a car, in a noisy environment, or sitting in a meeting. Such flexibility is now possible with Mobile UC technologies and multi-modal devices.
Bottom Line For Contact Center Management
As mentioned in the webinar, while more-self-service applications may reduce the total demand for live customer staffing, it will increase the need for greater flexibility in customer interactions with customer service staff. This in turn, will make management of contact center operations and performance more complex, especially in the design of user interfaces to maximize the Customer Experience and minimize the need to “click-for-assistance.”
“Cloud”-based applications (private, public, hybrid) will facilitate the development and management of contact center applications, including self-service “mobile apps.” Contact center technology vendors are all moving into this service space, making it easier for existing contact centers to start adding new self-service applications, as well as allowing remote agents and contact center management to easily be involved with both current customers and the next generation of mobile customers. Key to mobile flexibility is “unified communications” (UC) that enables communication contacts to be initiated in any form and to be dynamically shifted as needed (e.g., from a text/voice message to chat to a voice connection).