Monday, 01 March 2021 10:43

Why integrated contact centres are an increasingly vital resource for Aussie businesses

By Sam Deckert, Peak Insight
Sam Deckert, Founder and Principal Consultant, Peak Insight Sam Deckert, Founder and Principal Consultant, Peak Insight

GUEST OPINION by Sam Deckert, Founder and Principal Consultant, Peak Insight: During this current period of disruption and uncertainty, the ways in which customers interact with businesses is changing. Face-to-face dealings are being replaced with phone and online encounters while deliveries are now favoured over in-store transactions.

As a result, growing numbers of businesses are reassessing the capabilities of their contact centres. Often regarded as a cost centre that adds little value to operations, these facilities are quickly becoming vital communication hubs.

Choice of channels
In the past, many business contact centres have offered little more than phone calls as a means of interacting with customers. Incoming calls were queued and answered in turn by agents.

This is now changing. Customers are expecting the ability to interact with businesses using a channel of their choice. These include email and SMS messages through which questions can be posed and product or service information received.

There are also social media options such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WhatsApp. These services are becoming increasingly popular as they are easy to access from mobile devices and people are comfortable with their interfaces as a means of communicating.

Another option is web chat sessions where customers interact with agents via the business’s website. These can help to increase contact centre productivity as agents are able to handle multiple chat sessions simultaneously.

Indeed, among the younger demographic, voice calls have actually become the channel of last resort. Dialling in to a contact centre to then spend extended periods on hold is simply no longer tolerated.

A single view of the customer
Once multiple communication channels are in use within a contact centre, the challenge becomes finding a way to obtaining a single view of all customer interactions. Agents need to know that an exchange which began as a text message then shifted to email before being completed as a voice call.

If each channel is a separate system, achieving such a view can be problematic. This, in turn, will lead to rising customer frustration as they will need to constantly explain their query or requirements each time the communicate with an agent.

Savvy businesses are implementing an integrated platform that can manage all communication channels and create an accurate, consolidated view of each customer. Increasingly delivered as a web-based service, such a platform can revolutionise the way in which a contact centre operates and the quality of service it can deliver.

Voice is not dead
Despite declining in popularity as a communication channel, voice calls still have an important role to play in contact centres. And, thanks to advances in technology, the experience for customers choosing voice can be significantly improved.

One method of achieving this is through the introduction of voice authentication tools. These remove the need for customers to remember PIN numbers or passwords and instead use voice recognition algorithms to identify incoming callers based on a previously captured voice print.

Analytics can also be put to work to analyse customer calls. These tools can identify key talking points that recur during conversations that may help to guide future interactions. Other tools can identify the sentiment of a caller and determine whether they are happy or angry during a call.

Taking a staged deployment strategy
Businesses keen to take advantage of the benefits delivered by an integrated contact centre platform should realise such capabilities can be introduced over time rather than requiring a ‘big bang’ deployment.

A logical first step is to adopt a cloud-based voice platform. This removes the requirement to manage on-premise hardware and software and gives contact centre agents the ability to work from any location and with any device.

A second step might be to introduce web chat capabilities into the company website. Many businesses find this works well as a channel for service and sales enquiries. Following this, an integrated email system with an in-box shared by agents can be added to the mix.

Finally, sophisticated tools such as AI-powered bots can be introduced. These can automatically handle straight-forward questions or requests, automating some of the communication flow and freeing up agents up to concentrate on higher value interactions.

By taking a staged, cloud-based approach to deployment, a business can increase its contact centre capabilities over time without requiring a large up-front investment. Agent productivity will grow, and customer satisfaction rise. Consider what benefits your business could enjoy by adopting this strategy.

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