The next phase in the evolution of the contact centre
In the 1980s and 1990s, Call Centres fundamentally changed the nature of customer engagement. Rather than call product or service specialists when they had problems - or meet them face-to-face - customers were asked to deal with centralised service operations where ‘generalist’ call handlers were trained and equipped with information to handle their queries.
Over the years, Call Centres grew in complexity, adding new communication channel options (email, SMS, social media etc.) and improving self-service options. They also became more adept at managing complex workforce schedules, improving quality and productivity, and delivering better customer experiences. Call centres slowly evolved into what we now know as multi-channel Customer Contact Centres - and further changes are afoot.
The catalyst behind these changes has been Digital Transformation.
Today, people no longer automatically pick up the phone when they want information, or walk into a store if they want to buy something. They’re much more likely to go online, or indeed use a combination of different media channels to achieve their aims.
In many respects, in this new digital world, the traditional fixed location Contact Centre becomes an outdated concept. Which is why many global organisations are starting to look at the next phase in the evolution of their contact centres - the Customer Engagement Hub (CEH).
Unlike the call centre or contact centre, the CEH - or Customer Engagement Centre (CEC) - isn’t a physical place where people work to deliver customer service. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.
According to Gartner, the CEC is: “a logical set of technologies and business applications that are engineered to provide customer service and support, regardless of the interaction (or engagement) channel. The goal of the CEC is not only to provide service to customers as they move among communications channels — including social media and community forums — while retaining the customers’ context, but also to deliver the appropriate business rule to determine the next best action, information or process with which to engage the customers.”
Fundamental to the concept of the CEH are capabilities such as:
- Intelligent Routing - the ability to route an inbound contact to the best resource (live or automated) regardless of the contact channel used
- Personalised Service - using information known about a customer - their age, gender, buying history, preferences, behaviours etc. - to tailor a product, service or problem resolution to their precise needs
- Interactive Media Response™ - extending the concept of automated self-service from voice based IVR to include all media channels
- Conversation Management.
Conversation Management is particularly key to the smooth running of a next-generation CEH, as well as to meeting ever increasing customer expectations. It is about treating each customer issue or query as a continuous conversation, rather than a series of separate interactions and using Intelligent Routing to ensure customers reach the same customer service agent for the whole conversation (rather than a different agent for each interaction). It is also about empowering agents to provide quick relevant responses by displaying a full history of customer interactions across all channels in a unified conversation thread on their screen, and analysing and reporting on customer experiences and journeys across all media channels.
Customer conversations today can be extremely complex. They can take place over any period of time, comprise any number of interactions, occur over a single or multiple channels, and involve any number of participants. That’s why organisations need a modern innovative approach to a very modern problem.
William is the CEO and Founder of Macfarlane. He has over 35 years experience working in the IT and communications sectors, with the last 15 years spent developing and supplying call and contact centre solutions. Macfarlane works to identify and analyse the problems faced by contact centre operations in their bid to maintain and enhance customer satisfaction, while at the same time reducing costs. Macfarlane then uses this approach to develop solutions that are both innovative and effective.