Contact centers are complex, demanding fast-changing environments. Managers must balance the rapidly morphing needs and situations of users: whether customers, prospects, clients, patients, debtors and employees with available staffing, training and technology resources, the budgeted allocations for which keep changing (and are rarely enough). And at the same time comply with ever more complex laws and regulations.
For just as contact centers adapt to one set of trends i.e. integrating chat, e-mail and SMS response with voice now there are others such as the advent of the mobile and social channels. Moreover the whole notion of “contact center” is changing, with more of the work taking place offshore, at home, on the road and by other employees such as engineers solving high-level support issues and available retail counter staff handling calls rather than agents. The customers themselves are becoming more demanding, and rightfully so for it is their money, requiring service that is “five nines” qualitywise, which means extra attention to agent (and supervisor) monitoring, coaching and training.
To help contact center managers TMCnet has compiled a list of the Top 10 resource sets that would provide invaluable information:
There are call/contact center associations, organizations and networking groups. Examples include: the American Teleservices Association and for smaller teleservices firms and for answering services the Association of TeleServices International, the National Association of Contact Centers and the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals.
The Canadians are little more organized than Americans in that regard. Several provinces, such as British Columbia have associations (BC Contact Centre Association); there are regional ones such as for the Ottawa, Ontario area in and around the Canadian capital (Ottawa Regional Contact Centre Association).
There is also Contact Centre Canada, which is a government-funded private organization that coordinates the industry’s human resource initiatives through the developing and implementing a national, integrated, long-term human resource strategy. Contact centers are encouraged to join and in exchange they will benefit from networking opportunities and the latest information and research on industry HR issues.
2. Analysts, consultants and experts
There are a wide variety of paid, professional contact center analysts, consultants with expertise in areas ranging from CRM and customer service to recruiting, social media, telesales and training. One of the best means of uncovering them is by reading articles in Customer Interaction Solutions and on TMCnet.com that often feature these individuals and outfits. One such example is the RCCSP Professional Education Alliance that provides a wide range of contact center management training and certification programs.
3. Conferences and events
One of the most enriching ways to find information is engaging with experts, counterpart and suppliers face-to-face at conferences, seminars and other events where direct questions can be asked in a group setting or one-on-one formally or informally at the networking opportunities they afford whether lunches or dinners or a chat over coffee. One of the most successful such events are TMC’s ITEXPO (News - Alert) shows held in Los Angeles, Calif. and Miami, Fla. They have now been bolstered with the co-located SocialCRM Expo, a new conference that focuses on educating the contact center audience about enabling successful interaction with customers who are using the rapidly expanding and evolving social channel.
Webinars provide an excellent no-travel/no-cost resource to gain insights on issues and developments by listening and posing questions to experts and suppliers; they are archived for access and retrieval. TMC (News - Alert) offers arguably the broadest and the most-depth array of webinars in the contact center industry.
The firms who devise and supply the products and services used by contact centers are a readily available source of information: after all they had investigated industry needs, saw what was available and where the gaps lay, and with that knowledge came up with their own unique value propositions to answer them. They provide blogs and user communities, white papers and brochures, issue news releases and have well-trained marketing and sales teams and approved value-added resellers. They typically supply education and training on their wares.
To illustrate, Monet Software supplies workforce management (WFM) software. It offers an online “WFM Success Kit” comprising of six downloadable documents, along with product and implementation brochures. Its blog has been running a series on contact center metrics.
6. Government agencies
Contact centers are being regulated under a widening array of laws covering areas including credit and debts, employment, privacy, securities, telemarketing and workplace safety. Organizations therefore need to stay abreast of the regulations. If managers have any questions about them they should reach out to the appropriate agencies by visiting their web sites and if the information isn’t there to call them up: to avoid any issues down the road. Government personnel do want to help; they would rather not have to spend time and resources following up on complaints.
7. Social media
One of the easiest, most direct and near real-time resource is via social media. Most organizations, professionals and firms—including counterparts in other contact centers-- have social site presence e.g. blogs, Facebook (News - Alert) pages, LinkedIn profiles; many have Twitter followers. There are also a growing number of online forums. Among them is the Contact Center Community Knowledge Exchange.
Yes, this is a little self-serving but it is true: print and online articles and blogs provide accurate, in-depth and depending on the medium timely news, information and insights on a wide range of subjects; blogs offer the opportunity to raise questions and supply feedback. TMC has serving the contact center industry since 1982 when our firm’s founder, Nadji Tehrani started Telemarketing magazine: which evolved with the industry to become today’s Customer Interaction Solutions. TMCnet.com is the largest and one of the most successful business-to-business websites there is.
One of the best resources for information is one’s co-workers: at the same, higher and yes lower rank as oneself. Individuals are, if they have time, usually in most cases happy to impart insights. Each of us have distinct backgrounds—education, training, experience--that together forms a mosaic of knowledge.
Arguably the best resource for contact centers is one’s users: customers, prospects, clients, patients, debtors and for HR and IT support employees as they communicate with one’s organization through multiple channels including face-to-face. They provide a motherlode of insights that is there to be prospected, assayed, mined and processed for organizations to then cost-effectively develop and refine their products and services, and service that will satisfy them.