The contact center has always been technically innovative. The quest to both improve customer service while reducing expenses at the same time, while potentially oxymoronic, gets pulled off in this space because of technical innovation.
In fact, the contact center used to be called a call center, because, well, the only way to contact one, or to have one contact you, was to place a phone call. The contact center was one of the first industries to really embrace IP communications because of this very reason. Today, with the advent of push-to-talk, email, texting, and specific smartphone apps, there are multiple contact points.
Many of us travel quite frequently, so just looking at how an airline operates is a great example of a modern contact center. Right now as I write this, I am in the middle of an intercontinental trip. I was put in for an upgrade via use of a coupon. I was informed multiple times via email (my preferred communication method as per my signup) where I stood with this. Ultimately, I did not get one, but the communications to me were fairly frequent. My boarding passes appeared on my smartphone and also in my email inbox. And since I had a connecting flight, I opted in to find out how that part of the trip was going. I was kept up to date with text messages.
The proactiveness of this whole experience was very good. I’m sure it also kept expenses down for the airline since fewer agents were needed to handle phone calls (which is how we used to do things – and I’m sure some of you probably remember the banks and banks and more banks of phones at airports).
There will definitely be even more proactiveness in the future. IoT may even play a role. Analyst Dean Bubley (News - Alert) was the first person to bring up that IoT can help you and airlines track your checked luggage. Hopefully, your luggage is not in New York if you are going to Los Angeles, but at least you’d know where it is.
Contact centers strive to be efficient and keep costs down without compromising customer satisfaction. So automated, proactive communication and workflow makes sense. Text messages are a great channel for automated, proactive communication and workflow.
I’m also seeing it used quite a bit for security. For example, if you are used to logging into your bank accounts, or other financial institutions, or even your work from your own computer, try doing this at a public computer. It will look different to the institution, which is good, and so you’ll likely get some kind of verification code that you will need to enter to go forward. You’ll get a text that says “input this code within x minutes.” It’s a very good, and very proactive, security mechanism. The same kind of thing will happen if you don’t travel a lot and you use your credit card outside of your zip code – you’ll need to authorize it, likely via text.
Video has also entered the contact center. Depending on your vertical industry, video can play an important role in a conversation. In the insurance industry, for example, when making a claim during a car accident, you can allow the insurance company to see what you see simply by starting a live video chat with recording capabilities. This is just one example of how beneficial video chat can be to a contact center. There are many more examples in agriculture, banking, healthcare, manufacturing, and other industries.
With IVRs, many of us understand that when we make a call, we may not even actually talk to a person. We may be talking to a computer. And we totally accept that.
The computer voice will be the onramp to some database and find us the answer. And if we really need to talk to an actual person, we can finally do so.
Knowing that customers are frustrated with, and even sometimes hate, the IVR system, many companies are using visual IVRs to enhance the IVR experience, especially for those using smartphones. Unlike traditional IVR, visual IVR displays a full set of menu options on a device’s screen. And it allows callers to quickly choose the path that is right for them.
Integration of chat, even WhatsApp, into contact centers, is the next phase. Like I said above, clearly integration of IoT apps into the contact center a probable next phase. Probably in the distant future, contact centers will also incorporate virtual reality.
Enterprise contact centers continue to evolve, driven by the need to both reduce expenses and enhance customer service. What we once thought strange, such as not talking to a live person, has morphed into a plethora of communication options, which will continue to evolve.
Jim Machi is SVP of Product Management and Marketing at Dialogic (News - Alert) Inc. (www.dialogic.com).
Edited by Alicia Young