Getting beyond the Contact Center

Getting beyond the Contact Center

Nagendra Kumar,Program Manager - Solution Engineering, Contact Center Business Unit, Cisco

Today, we are on the brink of a major transition in customer care. The way in which customers prefer to interact with companies is changing substantially, and businesses of all sizes are challenged with providing customer care in the manner in which customers wish to be served. This provision goes beyond the traditional "multichannel contact center" and into the realm of Customer Collaboration.
Customer Collaboration combines traditional contact center technology and processes with important additions in critical areas to enable business organizations build deeper relationships with their customers, strengthen loyalty and generate additional revenue. It empowers organizations to move from the largely reactive mode of traditional call centers and embrace a much more proactive engagement model with customers.
Simply put, Customer Collaboration creates customer intimacy and delivers business value. Customer Collaboration solutions can incorporate social media customer care, network-based multimedia capture and recording, new agent desktop paradigms, and focused video solutions.

The social web
The explosion of the social web-Twitter, Facebook, YouTube- has empowered people to engage in an increasing number of online conversations and interactions where consumers talk about the companies with which they do business. Sometimes they say good things, and sometimes they complain. Organizations can incorporate the ability to capture, analyze, and prioritize customer conversations originating in the social web and assign the most relevant interactions into the workflow of customer care representatives. This brings order to chaotic conversations and helps businesses respond in an organized and measureable way. With a sensible migration path, businesses that embark upon social media customer service reap significant benefits and move steadily to higher levels.
Based on how they respond to social media conversations, companies may be divided into:
Level 1 companies: Silent when it comes to social media. They only listen.
Level 2 companies: Use social media to put out the same messages they communicate on advertising channels. Customers who try to reach out to these companies on social media are ignored.
Level 3 companies: Reach out to customers with targeted social media marketing activities specifically intended to create engagement, such as editorial commentary on blogs, useful product-related information, and even contests. They however view service-related questions as an unwanted side effect of their social media marketing activities.
Customers who reach out for assistance through social media may receive blanket responses such as "call our call center for help with that problem", or receive a specific email address that goes to an inbox or mailer that is not managed with workflow. This results in a precarious customer service experience, opportunities to differentiate the brand and learn from customers are missed, and problems may escalate.
Level 4 companies: Have a plan in place to provide customer service through social media - they have assigned staff with the specific goal of providing such service on social channels. These companies experience benefits of competitive differentiation, increased customer satisfaction, and loyalty building.
Level 5 companies: Proactively try to engage with customers - help existing customers and target prospects who have expressed a need. This contributes to customer delight and fosters brand advocates. These companies take advantage of social media for business intelligence, capture the input gathered on social channels and distribute the information to relevant team members within the enterprise. This helps to build a virtuous feedback loop where customer feedback facilitates organizational performance breakthroughs.
Currently, most enterprises fall between levels 2 and 3. As the benefits of social media become increasingly understood, and pressure of competition increases, more companies will utilize social media for customer care.

Multimedia recording and analytics
Another aspect of Customer Collaboration comes from businesses keeping contact center agents and supervisors up-to-date with relevant information regarding customer interactions. Real-time multimedia recording and processing that capture functions in the network help to securely deliver customer conversations -including voice, video, and screen data -to customer care representatives for post call training and process-improvement activities.
Network-based recording allows the captured media to be quickly available to analytics applications -regardless of location- through simple application programming interfaces (APIs) and helps gather useful information from conversations, either in real time or after the call is over.
To illustrate an example, a speech analytics application could detect stress levels in a caller's voice, or spot keywords in a conversation that might not be readily apparent to the customer service agent. The agent could be alerted on these conditions and prompted with ways to steer the conversation toward speedy, successful resolution.

The third Customer Collaboration trend is called "focused" video for customer care, meaning that video elements are engaged in the call flow only when they provide demonstrable value; thus saving on bandwidth requirements and minimizing operational costs. Caller self-service sessions for example might best be supported with audio-only interactive-voice-response (IVR) systems or applications on intelligent devices that escalate to video interactions when a customer service representative becomes available.
If the supporting infrastructure remains consistent to the maximum extent practicable, regardless of the video endpoints (a mobile device, kiosk, PC, or  Telepresence), it minimizes operational costs, and provides a consistent caller experience.

Collaboration desktops
The fourth example of Customer Collaboration lies in next-generation desktops that integrate traditional contact center functions with video, enterprise social software, and business intelligence from recording and analytics. These new desktops tie all the pieces of Customer Collaboration together and integrate them into the traditional agent workflow.
Delivering such a personalized work environment that uses a web-based client with the power and capability of traditional "thick client" applications comes with huge benefits. It saves precious time for busy customer service representatives by integrating all the information they need -including the new sources of business intelligence -into a single, customizable cockpit and enables them to help callers faster, and with higher accuracy.
Given their tangible benefits, Customer Collaboration solutions help businesses and organizations take advantage of the power of the network and collaboration architecture to lead the next wave of innovation and productivity.

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