Call centers are obsolete. Try to find one -- I dare you.
Today's call centers have been replaced with contact centers or
customer interaction centers. To be successful in the fast moving
"e-world," businesses must have a multi-channel contact center,
not a one-dimensional call center. In order to provide superior service
and enhance customer loyalty and retention, businesses must provide
customers with a variety of media choices for their interactions with the
The Solution Of The Future
Gartner Group states that in 2002, only 20 percent of call centers will
have integrated live Web contacts or e-mail response with their voice-based agents. However, by 2005, that number will more than triple to 70
percent (Enterprise Network Strategies
Research Note, April 14th, 2000). Therefore, this trend requires
enterprises to look for solutions that will enable them to seamlessly
integrate other channels of communication into their contact center.
Enterprises must look for solutions that can support e-business
initiatives while maintaining or improving the level of service of their
traditional business and contact centers. As a result, businesses face
significant challenges in managing and optimizing traditional voice and
new Internet-based customer interactions.
It is important to understand that call centers have already set a
rather high standard when it comes to service and sales support. Customers
who pick up the phone expect a very quick response. They expect the
customer service representative to be knowledgeable -- CSRs must be able to
identify the customer and origin of the call, and anticipate its nature.
Enterprises must recognize that a change in communication channel does not
signal the acceptance of change in the service. The challenge is to ensure
that customers who choose a different
channel of communication receive the same high level of service as they do
with a traditional voice call.
The Rise Of eCRM
Over the years, companies have increased their focus on building customer
segmentation and retention strategies. Time and effort were invested to
ensure that customers were serviced with the highest quality. These
undertakings took technological innovation, a strong investment in a solid
customer service strategy, and most importantly, an investment in Customer
Relationship Management (CRM). CRM has emerged as a primary strategy for
business. CRM applications have paved the way for enterprises to build
strategies for attaining and retaining customers. Now what about the
relationships with these new e-customers? Can businesses draw
on the experiences they had in the call center to ensure they build
the right eCRM strategy? The problem cannot be solved by simply tacking
new technology onto legacy systems. Instead, it must be done through the
construction of a strategy that includes a sales and service
infrastructure to support both traditional and new e-business channels. It
requires the implementation of an integrated application that enables
contact centers to manage multiple communication channels in a unified fashion.
The Evolution From Call Center To Contact Center
Let's consider Company A. Company A has a well-established sales and service infrastructure
and a solid CRM strategy. The company is identifying and managing their
traditional voice interactions in a way that best suits their customers'
needs. They have established business rules that allow for their best
clients to be prioritized and handled first.
the Internet. The Internet has increasingly become an important sales,
service, and communications medium that is altering the way companies
manage external and internal relationships. Analysts estimate that the
number of Internet users will increase from 140 million in 1998 to
500 million in 2003. In addition, the amount of money spent to purchase
goods and services on the Internet is expected to increase dramatically.
Analysts also estimate that spending on the Internet will increase from
$50.3 billion in 1998 to $1.3 trillion in 2003. The Internet also adds a new
dimension to the company's CRM strategy: It has created a whole new set of
competitors that are just one click away.
What Company A has to do is build a sales and service
infrastructure to satisfy these new e-business customers. E-business
initiatives require the seamless integration of new Internet-based forms
of customer interaction, such as e-mail and Web, with traditional voice
contact centers. According to analysts, almost half of online consumers
indicate that they would be more likely to complete a transaction online
if Web chat or callback were available. Company A needs to integrate these
requirements into their CRM infrastructure. Should they simply add e-mail
and Web management applications? This will probably satisfy the demand of
customers, but will it help the company manage their customer
relationships? The company must be able to identify their long-standing
clients no matter what media they choose. A solid solution enables a
company to manage its customer interactions on a real-time basis, across a variety of
communications media, and through a single, business rules-driven interface.
In order to meet these challenges, the interaction management solution
should contain the following attributes:
- A single, business rules-driven interaction engine to manage all
communication channels. A solution must allow the management of all interactions through one
set of business rules. If different engines are used to manage the
different channels, companies will lose the flexibility to manage each
interaction based on its value. This is the heart of CRM -- managing the
relationship with each customer based on their value to the business.
- The delivery of information to gather insight on customers and the
market. Understanding the customer's preferences and behaviors are
requirements. The contact center is the best place to get this
information. The chosen solution must provide integrated information on
all customer activity in order to understand and grow a business.
- Technological flexibility. The chosen solution should provide flexibility to work with
any existing communications and data infrastructure, and allow for seamless
migration to the new technology. The solution should work with both
traditional voice communications platforms (such as your PBX), as well as
emerging IP-based platforms. In addition, the solution should work with
any CRM or eCRM application. Choosing this type of solution can provide
a single interaction management system across the enterprise, resulting
in an overall lower total cost of ownership.
The Key To Success
In order to provide superior service and enhance customer loyalty and
retention, businesses need to provide customers with a variety of choices
for how they interact with their business. The real-time management of
multimedia customer interactions within a contact center should include
traditional voice interactions, e-mail, and Web-based forms through a
single, business rules-driven interface. Multimedia contact centers will
succeed with an integrated
approach to managing multiple-channel customer communications.
Jody Wacker is vice president of Apropos
Technology. Apropos was founded in 1993 with the goal of developing
the first network-based, client/server call center solution. The company has built a strong reputation as an
interaction/call center solutions-oriented company by combining
leading-edge technology, continuous innovation and an unmatched commitment
to customer service. Today, Apropos has delivered more than 140 systems to
major Fortune 500 companies around the globe.