We are all in a rut. I've decided
that it's that simple. (I haven't lost my mind, really'just bear with me for
a moment.) We are in the contact center business, aren't we?
'Well, not really, Rich,' you may say.
'I'm in manufacturing, distribution, real estate, finance, insurance, etc.'
I will tell you categorically that you aren't in the business you think you
are. You're in the business of pleasing customers. Everything else is
secondary. In fact, if you aren't pleasing customers, you aren't doing
anything except waiting in line to collect an unemployment check. With all
due respect, if you work for a big oil company, Microsoft, Intel or Cisco,
you have a total, or at least partial, monopoly. You don't really need to
keep reading. Put this magazine down, and go count your money.
For the rest of us, there are real-world issues to deal with: serious
competitors; daily volatile geopolitical events and a host of other problems
that keep us awake at night.
I propose that we all forget thinking outside of the box and kick the box
back into 1998, where it belongs. Start thinking into the future. One day,
we will delight customers in so many ways that it will defy belief. I
suggest we start thinking ahead and implementing tomorrow's ideas today.
Customer retention is crucial and probably one of the most overlooked tasks
of any company. A few simple steps could substantially increase retention
ratios. We are in business to make money, aren't we? If you run a contact
center, you are the most important person in your company. You are the first
line of contact. If your department is disorganized, the majority of your
customers will consider your company disorganized. A first-rate contact
center makes customers think the company is first-rate, even if it isn't!
Time Keeps On Slipping Into The Future
Scheduling is one area where we don't pay much attention. Many of us use
Outlook and don't think twice about it. We should. Outlook does a great job
at basic, linear scheduling in situations where you have lots of time and
make few, if any, changes.
But the times they are a-changin' (to continue with the lyrics theme). Time
is like money. Everyone wishes they had more of it. We all have busy lives
with multiple priorities and no time to rest, either on our laurels or our
sofas. We are in a Google economy and an MTV mindset, both of which demand
split-second responses. For this new generation of business, waiting in line
is so five years ago.
A company called Voicelink has an application that contains a scheduling
engine built into it. Simply stated, using this technology, you can more
easily allow your customers to use self-service to schedule resources and
services to suit their own time needs.
Voicelink's products can be used
to notify customers of a pending appliance repair. Customers can call in and
effortlessly speak the date by which they want to have something serviced or
delivered. The software does the heavy-lifting of determining the closest
available date and working out the details with the customer.
Interestingly, this system can serve as a workforce management solution for
a small contact center or company.
Users can link to the Web via XML and take advantage of a reporting module.
Pricing starts at $250 per port or $1,000 per seat.
Imagine your marketing department acquiring the fact that you can now allow
customers to schedule by phone using an automated system? Of course, some
people will still prefer to speak with a live person. But for the majority
who will be happy to use automation, the date of a service call or delivery
can be changed in a fraction of the time and effort as a traditional
customer service call (during which the caller waits on hold forever, then
speaks with an operator who takes forever to help answer questions).
What's Ahead For Headsets?
Most of you probably don't think about headsets any more than you think
about copier paper, but you should. I recently was given a Plantronics
DSP-400 headset, which has DSP (digital signal processing) circuitry built
into it. As I write this article, I'm using it to listen to music, and I
find the sound amazing. During a recent TMC University live online course,
other people on the call marveled at how great my voice sounded (the
conference was pure VoIP). Most contact center calls aren't pure VoIP yet,
but they likely will be very soon. The future of headsets is digital. The
DSPs-400 is not really a contact center headset, but it could easily be used
as such. It's actually designed more for the VoIP enthusiast who enjoys
great sound quality.
GN Netcom recently announced its release of the first completely digital
amplifier in the U.S. In this case, the DSP is in the amplifier, allowing
for more functionality, such as inbound noise canceling. As more inbound
callers use mobile phones, it is crucial that headset technology adapt and
improve to accommodate. The amplifier can compensate for the varying volume
of calls, ensuring all calls are at the same volume. Using such an
amplifier, companies can make sure they are in compliance with international
standards that dictate employees not be exposed to noise louder than a
weighted average of 85 decibels. This amplifier should, theoretically, sound
every bit as good as the above-mentioned DSP-based headset.
Did you think way beyond the box when you read the above? Let me tell you
how I see it. You purchase digital amplifier technology for your contact
center and then promote this asset in your ads. Tell the world all of your
agents (whether they are stock brokers, insurance representatives, etc.) use
the latest in digital amplifier technology for the clearest, most realistic
sound available. Use your call center as a differentiator. Make more money
from what your CFO sees as a cost center. Turn the tables on the whole
company, and be the profit center.
Let's go one step further. You have high-value customers who use your Web
site frequently. Stock brokers come to mind. Send each of your customers a
DSP-based headset. Brand the headset with your logo. Then put a
click-to-talk button on your site. Assuming your customer has broadband
(though technology exists to have great quality conversations over dial-up),
you will have amazingly clear conversations, a happier customer and your
logo permanently attached to your customers' heads.
What could be more ahead of the box than that?
Group Publisher, Group Editor-in-Chief
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