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Customer Interaction Solutions
October 2006 - Volume 25 / Number 5

What Role Should Technology Play As A Customer Care Differentiator?
Increasing Customer Expectations Require A Strategic Vision

A Special Editorial Series Sponsored by Amcat

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Today’s consumers have seen a technological explosion that is changing how they view the buying experience and beyond. What once required a trip to a bricks-andmortar store to see available merchandise can now be accomplished by pressing a few buttons on a computer or even a cell phone, providing immediate gratification through the power to buy anything, anywhere. Customers are becoming familiar with instant satisfaction and are anticipating the same fulfillment in their customer service experience, even switching brands if the experience doesn’t meet expectations. This is especially true of customers in the under- 40 age groups. As globalization brings increased competition and brand loyalty takes a sharp decline, companies must improve the customer service experience if they are to survive.

Customer Care Excellence Through Technology And Corporate Vision
According to consumer research firm J. D. Power & Associates, customers’ expectations are changing at such a fast pace that companies can’t respond quickly enough.A company once seen as a leader in customer care may today be perceived as a poor service provider, not because the service or the customer experience has changed, but because customers’ expectations have changed.

Meanwhile, businesses are not evolving processes and technology to keep up with growing consumer needs. Much of the technology deployed today has been implemented based on attitudes of the 1990s, when companies valued cost savings and the efficiency and productivity of call handling. Companies today are responding to customers’ increased expectations by shifting the focus from a cost center mentality to a profit center mentality, seeking to increase brand loyalty by providing exceptional service and sales while retaining productivity and efficiency.

Amcat believes that the answer lies in the partnership of technology and a company’s unique customer service vision. Amcat is a leader in contact center solutions that help companies communicate more effectively with customers. The company believes that the right technology can improve customer care and support the customer care process while reducing handling costs.

Companies must look at the issues within their call centers and create a clear vision of superior customer service. “Every company has different needs and customer care requirements,” says Mike Rohleder, Amcat CEO. “We think it’s important to identify what customer service means to your organization, and then find the right technology to provide the optimal customer experience, enabling you to conduct profitable interactions. Companies like Amcat can help you with this process and then provide technologies that enable your vision.”

A Vision Of Service That Extends Beyond The Contact Center
For many companies, a vision of customer care excellence means being able to answer customer questions quickly and easily, even if the resource resides outside the contact center.As companies open new offices or go global, fast access to resources, people and data becomes challenging, opening the door for customer dissatisfaction.

To meet the growing knowledge and data needs, companies must leverage the resources of the entire organization. The call center is no longer the alpha and omega of customer service.No single employee can know everything, so companies must find ways to bring down the data and people silos and provide the resources needed to take care of customers.

The right technology plays an important role. New IP contact technologies provide extensibility and flexibility so customer care services can be leveraged wherever they reside in an organization or enterprise.

Customer Expectations Grow Beyond IVR
Take the case of UroMed, a U.S. provider of healthcare products that differentiates itself in the industry by providing highly personal customer service. To meet rising customer expectations,UroMed decided to rethink its customer interaction processes. Research from the University of Akron showed that 93 percent of people prefer to speak to a live operator and dislike the IVR experience. UroMed agreed and was looking for a way to provide customers with an exceptional experience where all calls are answered by a live person and then easily routed to the right resource regardless of location. UroMed turned to Amcat for answers.

Amcat recommended implementing its soft IP-PBX technology.This technology would support UroMed’s vision for personalized customer service enterprisewide. Its scalability would allow UroMed to provide extensive customer contact and call handling features. Jim Weatherford, UroMed president, tells the company’s story. “Amcat helped us realize that a traditional PBX or customer contact system wasn’t enough. They showed us how soft IP-PBX technology could provide us with powerful customer contact functions in addition to the flexibility and value we needed.”Weatherford adds,“The soft IPPBX is now the linchpin of our customer contact operations. It extends customer service to all of our employees and leverages the resources of our extensive employee knowledge base. By empowering our employees to meet the increasing demands of our customers, we will continue to outperform in our industry.”

Rohleder says companies need to respond to the phenomenon of shifting customer expectations by changing their focus, looking at the customer not necessarily as a sales target, but instead as a person who is valued and an important company asset. In today’s fastmoving consumer market, a loyal customer is an asset to be managed well. Companies need to find ways to provide the customer with the experience he or she is seeking.

Happy Customers Equal A Happier Bottom Line
There is a distinct connection between good customer service and bottom line profits, and companies are recognizing this. Many are putting efforts toward creating a better, more interactive experience with customers and prospects. This doesn’t happen randomly. It’s the sign of a company that knows its vision for customer care and pursues that vision with passion.

Rohleder says the center of the universe in call center excellence is to identify the processes and procedures that will provide the most profitable interactions with customers. The next step is to provide the technologies to support that vision. Amcat’s vision, he says, is to help companies discover their visions and provide the right technologies to turn those visions into realities.

For more information about Amcat, (news - alert) visit http://www.amcat.com.

Expanding Or Eliminating The Physical Borders Of The Call Center
By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director, Customer Interaction Solutions

Let’s say you’re an established company, and you’ve just decided to move your existing call center and therefore must do a lot of rehiring, or you’ve decided to start a call center for the first time. Perhaps you’ve even decided to outsource your call center services to an outside provider. Though there are many experts in your company and your customers value the experience and advice of your core employees, your call center agents are all relatively new, both to your company and your industry. They’re still learning, still undergoing training programs in your call center’s processes and systems and your company’s solutions.

Does it make sense for these call center agents to learn from scratch, via trial and error, when in fact there is a great deal of intellectual capital elsewhere in your company that could, with the right technologies, be easily leveraged? Of course not. Yet many companies make this mistake of operating their call centers inside a vacuum, many times because the call center is (wrongly) treated as an afterthought...a necessary evil...and other times because the call center is technologically isolated from the rest of the organization.While a call center agent fumbles for the answer to a complicated question from an important customer, an inside salesperson who once solved that very same problem for another platinum customer sits quietly in his or her office, unaware that the agent is attempting to reconstruct the issue from scratch. Companies with segmented, siloed, dead-end call center systems of this nature are their own worst enemies.

There are many ways that knowledge can be leveraged and shared. Part of the process is understanding how individual departments and employees can help one another, or combine their formerly isolated knowledge into one large, synergistic pool of intelligence. The other part of the process is making sure that the call center and enterprise technology is a conduit for this sort of knowledge sharing and not a road block.

IP contact center solutions have been a gold-plated gift for this sort of cross-departmental knowledge sharing. When calls can be transferred across departments, across companies and across the globe yet remain an integral part of the call center process, it loses its borders (and this is a good thing); as a result, any combination of people, locations, departments, partners, self-service processes and distributed and virtual call centers can be joined together so the best knowledge and most appropriate service available can be offered to customers when they need it. And in the end, allowing customers to find the resources they need, via the channel they choose, in the most efficient manner possible is what keeps them coming back to you.

The author may be contacted at [email protected].


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