VAF talks with Steve McElderry, director of product management for contact center at ShoreTel, about emerging trends that are revolutionizing contact center operations.
Contact centers serve the touch point of connection between a company and its customers. Whereas a call center deals with phone interactions alone, a contact center offers consumers a variety of ways to interact with a company, such as web chat, email and video, in addition to the phone/voice option. Through your company’s contact center, your customers can choose their preferred method of communicating with you. And you have an equal variety of ways to make that connection satisfying and cost effective.
Today’s game-changing technological advances coupled with ever-changing customer demand are influencing the savvy business owner’s approach to contact center engagement. “It’s only recently that these changes have truly influenced the face of how businesses interact with their customers and what approaches they use to better serve them,” says Steve McElderry, director of product management for contact center at ShoreTel, VAF’s Silver Champion strategic partner and a leading provider of IP phone systems and unified communications solutions. “As contact centers evolve, one of the biggest adjustments is the sheer amount of communication channels that have been added to the contact center line-up.”
VAF talks with Mr. McElderry about how the emerging trends affecting contact center operations are expected to direct the domain of customer service for years to come.
What are some of options customers have currently that are influencing a “connection revolution” with businesses?
For people who visit a customer-focused company it’s common for them to use chat sessions to communicate directly with an agent who addresses their questions faster than they would through a phone call. Email messaging is usually routed to the most knowledgeable agent for a quicker response, while the customer receives an immediate acknowledgement from the company. Both web chats and emails are well suited to multitasking and usually more cost effective than a voice call. Unified communications offer a central platform from which to conduct business rather than duplicating various procedures per program. For instance, the reporting that you do on average speed of answer and traffic volumes, that’s common across channel types as well, so it makes sense to consolidate this and use a single infrastructure for managing all interactions.
Don’t expect voice calling to go out of style anytime soon, though. Some types of customers are just more comfortable with using the telephone, they prefer it. It’s still the most established method of communication available. In addition, the phone is essential if you’ve got an urgent situation, like I just missed my flight and I want to make sure I’m confirmed on the next flight. Complex issues can also require a phone call. Voice is very efficient for that. These other ways to connect aren’t replacing it, they’re supplementing it.
How does the proliferation of mobile devices affect contact center operations?
It affects how contact center agents engage with their customers. In some cases, they may choose to send text messages to customers rather than voice calls because it’s more efficient and less obtrusive, giving both parties more flexibility in how they interact. The use of mobile devices can provide more accurate data that agents can leverage for a more tailored experience. When the contact center receives a call or text from someone’s personal mobile device, agents can base routing and prioritization decisions on a specific individual, giving them the relevant information they need faster while boosting customer retention.
Does the Cloud influence customer service strategy?
From CRM systems to telephone systems and contact centers, people see that services delivered from the cloud are secure, they’re robust, and they’re willing to consider this model. The cloud is one of the drivers of contact center growth. Because the contact center is customer-facing, businesses require a stable environment that will minimize risks and provide strong security. The cloud can fulfill this need because providers are following best practices and investing in robust security of their infrastructure. Many businesses are choosing this option to make their communications more efficient.
How do companies benefit from these latest advancements?
Many consumers are beginning to realize they can use web chat and email to engage the
organizations they do business with. In turn, organizations have an opportunity to provide a truly unique experience to each consumer. Those that effectively leverage these solutions can improve customer service and satisfaction as well as communication and collaboration among coworkers and in turn, their bottom line. They can promote future growth, develop new strategies for business continuity and boost the bottom line while improving profits.
What’s next for contact centers?
The popularity of the use of video for niche applications like “video concierges” at hotels, lobby ambassadors in companies with multiple buildings and even Amazon Kindle’s Mayday button is increasing. In addition, many companies can utilize social networks to communicate with customers, for marketing purposes and to respond to customer posts that include brand mentions or complaints. Using social media for contact centers is still in the early stages. In practice, I think most enterprises aren’t quite ready to handle social media in the same way they handle a web chat or email. It’s more complicated. The consequences of your response are more visible to the world at large. If you respond to a tweet with another tweet, it’s not just a one-to-one conversation you’re having with someone. This is something that can be retweeted, forwarded, so you need some level of oversight.
Van Ausdall & Farrar – Leaders in Contact Center Solutions
A robust contact center helps you keep up-to-date and adapt quickly to new trends while ensuring you can leverage emerging technology for years to come. With contact center solutions from Van Ausdall & Farrar in partnership with ShoreTel, you will utilize more efficient modes of communication, while also supporting other forms of communication that callers are used to. ShoreTel services provide integrated tools like Web chat, email and social media along with the traditional voice. These solutions make it easier to provide excellent customer service and maximize the potential benefits of every interaction.