It’s well-established that the single biggest cost facing any call center is labor. The recurring cost of agent/manager salaries and benefits typically accounts for anywhere from 70 to 85 percent of a call center’s operating budget. Therefore it is no wonder that organizations are seeking to reduce call center labor costs by adopting automation (i.e. IVR, WFM, CRM and business process automation solutions), as well as by implementing new models that make more efficient use of agent time.
One of the ways organizations are successfully cutting their call center operating costs, while at the same time improving customer service, is through adoption of the “informal call center” model. This is where the call center agent can make use of other “knowledge experts” who are in the organization, but outside the call center, who can be called upon to assist with more complex or “high value” transactions. Implementing this concept successfully has been difficult in the past, but with today’s IP-based call center technologies, in particular unified communications, it has become completely feasible – in fact, although it's not for every organization, the “informal call center” is now considered a proven method for reducing operating costs while improving customer service.
Key to making the informal call center model work properly is unified communications -- more specifically “presence,” an important UC feature which allows contact center agents to see the availability status of other users on the network. Why is presence critical to making this model work? Because it allows agents to “see” which “experts” are available, in real time, via the user interface, and make a decision as to which “expert” to transfer the call to (in some cases the expert is “conferenced-in” on the call, with conferencing being yet another one of those important UC capabilities in the call center). You have to keep in mind that these “experts” have their own jobs to do, so, in essence they are only used during times when they are “available.”
So how does the informal call center help improve customer service? Take, for example, an ecommerce company that sells educational kits for children. A father who is trying to build a model rocket with his middle-school aged son might hit a problem with a certain step in the assembly process – and the first-line call center agent might not have the knowledge base or skill needed to help resolve the problem. In this case, the agent can transfer the call to a technician with a higher level of knowledge who can help the customer resolve the issue.
Many organizations are tapping into the informal call center model for business continuity purposes as well. As mentioned, many companies have cut their call center staffing to the bone, but they still need the ability to react to ever fluctuating call volumes. With the informal call center model, calls and other contacts can be automatically routed to other workers outside of the main call center (including home-based agents) in the event call or contact volume suddenly spikes beyond a certain threshold.
With the informal call center model, a company could, for example, tap into its pool of back office workers and have them handle call overflow in the event call volume suddenly spikes, resulting in increased hold times. Some companies have had great success using back office workers to fill-in as “pseudo” call center agents during periods when they aren’t that busy. Most of today’s call center systems include intelligent switching that enables specific types of calls or contacts to be routed to individual workers during certain times of day (so as to not be disruptive during the hours when these back office workers are really busy).
Another UC feature that is ideal for the informal call center is “click to dial,” as this enables the agent to transfer calls to other knowledge workers quickly, without requiring operator intervention or putting the customer back on hold.
Zeacom’s call center software platform, Zeacom (News - Alert) Communication Center, delivers true unified communications features and functionality – including presence and click-to-dial – and thus is an ideal solution for organizations looking to tap into the informal call center for cost savings and improved customer service.
With ZCC’s intelligent ACD, all contacts – whether phone, email, Web chat or SMS – can be accurately routed to the appropriate agents based on their skill sets, knowledge base, hours of availability and other criteria. With its advanced unified communications capabilities, ZCC can significantly improve your call center’s overall performance – its intelligent routing, presence and click-to-dial capabilities alone will help increase service levels, improve average speed of answer and drive down abandonment rates.
The ZCC system also offers mobility; advanced reporting; simplified integration with leading CRM systems, conferencing and more. To learn more about how Zeacom’s call center software can improve your call center operations, click here.
Patrick Barnard is Group Managing Editor, TMCnet. In addition to leading the online editorial department, he focuses on call and contact center technologies. He also covers IP communications, networking and a variety of other topics. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard