Building intelligent call centers
As many of our customers know well, the past few years have accelerated call centers into a new era of productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. This actually holds true across the entire field of customer service delivery, but for call centers in particular, the evolution has been notably swift.
Why is this? One big reason for the rapid transformation and development of “intelligent call centers” is because the fundamental relationship between companies and customers has changed. Customers expect omni-channel options and businesses no longer control how service is delivered. The same customer may use an online option on Monday then decide to call for further help on Tuesday. The bridge between these experiences must be smooth or you have an unhappy customer.
This week, we were onsite at the Contact Center Executive Exchange conference, which further reinforced these new realities. Companies across industries are getting super creative in how they build their centers — with people, processes, and technology — and how they define and measure success.
This isn’t to say that customer service execs have abandoned the old familiar topics and challenges, like reducing call handling times, but it is true that they now have more lofty ambitions, many around using technology and analytical approaches that go way beyond what we’ve seen over the past many years.
Companies must now develop business models and processes that anticipate customer needs, provide seamless service across channels, and even offer proactive solutions to problems before customers reach out. The good news is that doing these things well has a huge impact on overall customer experience. Indeed, call centers are uniquely positioned to be noticed and rewarded for affecting positive outcomes with customers. CEOs are taking notice and are more willing than ever to allocate larger budgets for systems, staffing, and training.
Intelligent call centers see the value in spending time and money to integrate traditional channels (e.g. phone and face-to-face) with digital channels. They’re also leveraging data in new ways, including using real-time data to automatically allocate calls and reduce customer wait times. Organizations are beginning to understand that capturing and analyzing every piece of information provided by the customer can enable them to deliver more tailored experiences. As such, customer feedback mechanisms have become more sophisticated, with targeted surveys automatically deploying at key interaction points with built-in, follow-up workflows for agents.
Looking at these developments and the emergence of the intelligent call center, the theme seems to be “become proactive, not reactive.” Use technology and processes that get out in front of customer issues, rather than getting bogged down at peak periods or when volumes unexpectedly spike. Ask for feedback that empowers the organization to reduce and solve problems before they irritate customers. And, leverage data to identify and analyze common complaints that can be collectively addressed. These are just some of the characteristics of an intelligent call center and without a doubt, we’ll continue to see new innovations as companies place increasing value and attention on how call centers directly affect customer experience.