Customer call centers have always strived to know who their callers were and why they were calling. That kind of information not only makes for more efficient call handling, but also makes customers more comfortable because their needs are quickly understood. In the old days, the technology relied on simple capabilities like caller ID to identify customers from the phone numbers they were calling from, as well as by simple IVR applications that asked callers to enter basic identifying information from a voice menu.
Customer communications, however, are in the process of changing dramatically, primarily because of the rapid adoption of multi-modal consumer smartphones and tablets. Coupled with the use of IP connectivity, this effectively provides consumers with more efficient and convenient direct access to both information and people. So, not only are mobile consumers more accessible, but they can do many things easier and faster themselves than when fully dependent on assistance from traditional call center agents.
The key to benefiting from increased customer self-services is not only to make the mobile user interfaces simpler to use, but also to allow for flexible and efficient access to live assistance, based on customers’ contextual needs, as well as their choice of mobile contact. That’s what personalization of business communications is really all about.
Click-for-Assistance vs. Dialing An 800 Number
In a recent post, I discussed the correlation of mobile self-services for consumers/customers with the need to provide convenient and selective access to appropriate live assistance, not just a warm body. Also, because mobile customers are not tied to just voice-only telephony connections, they will be able to choose how they want to connect. It won’t always necessarily be an immediate voice connection, but could exploit all forms of messaging, chat, video, or even a social network post.
While such flexibility will help reduce the traditional real-time pressures for handling voice calls, it will also require customer-facing agents to be more skilled in all forms of contact interactions.
On the infrastructure network side, we have to look forward toward exploiting IP connections that don’t go through the PSTN, but instead, connect consumer mobile devices through their browsers to access contact center staffs. That is a prime objective of the evolving WebRTC approach to real-time communications.
The Challenges of Migrating to IP-based Interaction Centers
Transitioning old, PSTN-based call center operations to the new world of mobile consumers and online mobile apps shouldn’t be too difficult, because it will be an evolutionary journey, not an immediate replacement of all your old contact center technologies and call handling staff. It will, however, be a lot of work with new technologies.
What will be most practical is to plan on first migrating and trialing any existing customer online applications to a cloud-based service, along with new mobile user interfaces, with embedded WebRTC options for selective access to live assistance. After that, it will be appropriate to develop and trial new customer service options in the cloud environment, along with the necessary agent and expert desktop applications.
This may all be new and too complex for your existing call center operations staff, so expect to bring in third-party expertise in both planning and implementing those UC-enabled mobile apps for your particular vertical industry. Just remember, it’s not just about reducing operational costs first, but, more importantly, about remaining competitive, improving business process performance, and satisfying customer needs efficiently and effectively.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi