July 21, 2011
Contact centers for customer service are a nightmare in terms of the complexity of the technologies. At a high level, to serve your customers, you need to:
- Capture the inquiry, which can come in over the phone, electronically via email, chat, or SMS, and over social channels, like Twitter, Facebook, or an interaction escalated from a discussion forum.
- Route the inquiry to the right customer agent pool to address it.
- Create a case for the inquiry that contains its details and associate it with the customer record.
- Find the answer to the inquiry; this can involve digging through different information sources like knowledge bases, billing systems, and ordering databases.
- Communicate the answer to the inquiry to the customer.
- Append case notes to the case summarizing its resolution, and close the case.
You want to make sure that your agents deliver answers in a consistent way and to make it easy for your customers to find answers themselves. To do this, you need to invest in:
- A knowledge base for your agents. You also need to then expose a subset of the content to your customers via a web self-service portal.
- A discussion forum where your customers can share information and escalate issues to a customer service agent.
- Some type of process guidance to lead agents through complicated scripts so that they deliver service in a reproducible way.
You also need to understand what expectations your customer base has regarding your service offering by:
- Surveying your customers
- Listening to their sentiments on social media sites
Finally, you need to make sure that your agents follow company procedures, that you are training them properly, and that you are scheduling them in the optimal way so that customer wait times are short and that agents don’t feel overburdened. You do this by:
- Using process guidance to lead your agents through the right resolution flows
- Using workforce optimization software, including call recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, agent training, and interaction analytics
That’s a lot of software from a lot of different vendors.
We know that IT and business pros want a simpler technology ecosystem to manage. Why? Because software upgrades and integrations are easier. There are also fewer contracts to manage. And unlike a decade ago, when this ecosystem had to be cobbled together with technology from best-of-breed vendors, today there are more suite solution options available from unified communications (UC), CRM, and workforce optimization (WFO) vendors. These vendors have either built them out or acquired them via M&A activity.
This market is still consolidating. Here are my thoughts on some future activity:
- Survey and feedback capabilities are offered by best-of-breed EFM vendors. This space is heavily fragmented, with many small vendors. However, EFM is starting to be considered core to the contact center. One case in point is Medallia and Fizzback, which offer solutions geared to the contact center. We expect these solutions to become integrated with CRM or WFO systems over the long haul. Another example is Verint’s very recent acquisition of Vovici.
- Today, the majority of social listening programs within a company reside in organizations like marketing and PR. However, social listening is starting to be important to the contact center. We expect mergers and acquisitions in the social listening vendor space (SalesForce + Radian6, Attensity + Biz 360, RightNow + Hive Live). Also expect to see UC and CRM vendors fleshing out their native social listening capabilities.
- Knowledge management solutions won’t remain standalone. Knowledge needs to be proactive, contextual, and personalized, and should be heavily integrated into CRM systems. Today, there are few standalone knowledge solutions; those that remain, like InQuira, have deep partnerships with CRM vendors.
- CRM vendors will offer robust BPM capabilities to improve productivity, compliance, and satisfaction. This is already happening. For example, PegaSystems acquired a CRM company, Chordiant. CRM vendors like Sword Ciboodle and RNOW are also adding BPM capabilities to their products.
Do you agree with these thoughts? Let me know….