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IP Contact Centers
January 2005

Build Customer Loyalty While Reducing Operational Costs

By Mike Heberling, Director of Business Development, FrontRange Solutions Inc.

As contact centers play an increasingly critical role in customer transactions, many businesses are seeking tools and applications to generate new revenue during interactions with established customers, essentially making sales and service extensions of one another. Companies today have two objectives: service the needs of their customers and turn their contact centers into profit centers.

A study by Bain and Company in 2003 found that a five percent increase in customer retention improves profitability by 25 percent to 100 percent, especially where customers have ongoing purchasing relationships.

In a recent Dataquest survey, 25 percent of the respondents reported integration costs as their highest concern when thinking about adding a contact center.

Potential Operational Gains
• Call volume reduced by 20 percent or more
• Queue times reduced as much as 30 seconds
• Abandoned calls reduced by more than 35 percent
• 24-hour-a-day access across all time zones
• Customer satisfaction increased 20 percent or more

Businesses that want to get closer to their customers are pursuing goals that seem to be at odds: improving customer service while also reducing contact center volumes and costs. To accomplish both, many businesses are transforming their conventional call centers into multichannel contact centers that support telephone, e-mail and the Web. This change provides customers with more service options while it reduces the number of calls that agents handle by phone.

It’s clear for the small to medium-sized and distributed enterprises that being able to afford and generate new revenue in a contact center is critical to their survival. Their ability to deliver integrated services — whether they are revenue generating or service-oriented — can make the difference between attracting and retaining long-term customers, or just struggling to get by on their way to extinction.

Small and midsized companies historically haven’t been able to consider traditional call center solutions because these solutions traditionally were large, time-consuming implementations given the technologies that have been available. Copper-based analog networks are extremely limited as a contact center tool. Only telephones, PBXs and ACDs can connect to a copper-based network; copper wire won’t accommodate PCs, laptops, IP phones, softphones and other data-driven telephony devices. Trunk capacity limits the number and type of interactions a system can handle.

Solutions today should include the convergence of voice and data onto the IP network. This will greatly simplify infrastructure management and reduce operational costs while increasing customer loyalty, upselling and cross-selling new products and services, still attracting new customers in this Internet-driven, global economy.

With a converged network and the adoption of voice over-IP (VoIP), a technology that carries voice as data, this new generation of contact centers provides significant advantages. In addition to connecting regular telephones, VoIP enables companies to easily connect desktop computers, laptops, IP phones and softphones. Expansion is a snap because data networks are designed to scale with your company’s needs. You can easily add and reduce staff based on seasonal sales cycles; and by implementing virtual private networks (VPNs), you can add remote agents as easily as you can add them in your corporate headquarters, without the need for special hardware or proprietary solutions.

To run a successful multichannel contact center, you need a single-platform technology solution that can provide four vital elements. First, it should provide self-service applications, allowing customers to do business with you when they want. Customers can complete transactions, initiate requests, check account balances and get status information without human assistance. Second, it should provide an extension of your network to include multiple sites and/or remote agents, so your customer relations follow the sun. Third, it should allow your customers more options to interact with your enterprise by communicating over e-mail and the Web by queuing/ routing/handling all interactions, providing faster response times and enhancing the customers’ personal experience. Finally, it should seamlessly integrate your contact center solution with other customer information applications (e.g., front- and back-end applications such as CRM, service management and ERP).

Each year, millions of customers switch to competitors for one simple reason — poor customer service. Because contact centers are the natural choice for interacting with customers, contact center managers are under more pressure to do more with less. While reducing operational costs, contact centers must also increase productivity and efficiency, customer loyalty and must generate new revenue through cross-selling and upselling activities.

For more information, please visit www.thecontactfront.com.

[ Return To The January 2005 Table Of Contents ]

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