Contact Centers: Not Just Phones, But All Communication Channels

Traditional contact centers, with rows of agents answering phones, is becoming obsolete. Perhaps this is because traditional communication has also changed–customers now have a variety of methods to get in touch with customer support. Now, companies have no need to rely on having only an on-site call center, as agents have the flexibility to work from home through a virtual contact center.

Traditional Call Centers, No More

Traditional call centers handle large volumes of inbound phone calls and field them to appropriate agents, who handle the requests. Call centers are now appropriately transitioning to the name “contact center,” as companies are learning the benefits of implementing contact center software solutions that include such features like email, video chat, social media, and instant messaging.

Contact Center Improvements

Contact centers establish an important relationship between customers and businesses, and over the years have gotten better than ever. Customers reach out for problem resolution, support, or to stay properly informed and updated. Here is a sample list of some contact center improvements made over the last few years:

Call Blending – Call blending handles inbound and outbound calling to improve agent contact center efficiency. However, companies should first evaluate agent training, as it can be initially confusing working as a blended agent. Contact center agents still maintain their primary responsibility with inbound calling; however, whenever volume is low, a message will be sent out indicating an “inbound to outbound” switch. When inbound calls begin to spike, the process is reversed. When first implementing your contact center, it is advised to divide agents into three groups: inbound, outbound, and blended, in order to monitor progress.

Interactive Voice Response – IVR is technology that requires the use of professional voice over recordings. IVR detects voice and keypad inputs from a telephone. As a form of self-service, customers call corporate numbers and retrieve their own information from a database without needing customer support, self-sufficiently conducting their own business.

Automatic Call Distribution – Described as the basic building block for call centers, ACD helps efficiently transfer and distribute calls among available agents. Ideally, ACD transfers calls to an idle group, then the second idle group, and so forth. Providing automatic distribution decreases customer service lagging time and optimizes queueing for customers.

Contact center shrinkage improvement – Shrinkage is a term used when agent’s fill their time with any other activities besides phone-call interactions. Research shows that up to 30 percent of agent’s time can be spent on off-phone activities. Contact center applications have made it much easier to implement a variety of “active” wait time management. Activities such as training methods, or activity queues can be done at an agent’s desk while waiting for another call transfer. In other words, it improves productivity and turns idle downtime into profitable time for the company.

Social Media – Social media in contact centers make it easy for customers to reach companies. Customers can use Twitter or Facebook, and see their complaints or praise answered almost immediately, as needed. This is a powerful communications tool that has only in the last few years really taken off.

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