Many businesses have recognised the need for improved customer relations recently. Many customers have moved to an online basis, often as e-commerce rather than a physical business. As a result, their customer management arrangements (“CRM”) need to be upgraded.
Often CRM is a part of a wider unified communications system, where all internal and external communications, voice, video and data are linked on a common set of standards, platforms, and information sources. A VoIP implementation is a key part of that.
Simply put, a contact centre is a portmanteau term for a central point from which all customer interactions are managed. It is usually a combination of call centres, offline support centres, and other channels of customer interaction. They may operate using a common Customer Response Management system (“CRM”).
Why You Need One
As noted above, consumer behaviour has changed significantly in the last two years or so. Lockdowns forced people to move to online shopping, in turn forcing businesses to move to an e-commerce basis, often as a survival measure. Strategic IT development plans morphed into survival plans.
A key element of all these changes was a change in the way customers wanted to interact with customers.
Many businesses had already moved to VoIP and call centres for cost and operational reasons. Circumstances now forced them to enhance their customer-facing systems to improve their dealing with existing and potential customers. That means embracing the Contact Centre concept.
Contact Centre Benefits
Online customers are more discriminating and less tolerant of poor service. For e-commerce suppliers, they are usually one click away from another supplier. This has many ramifications for a supplier.
Customers expect a single point of contact with a supplier, and not to be shunted around different entities depending on the reason for their contacting a supplier. They don’t expect to wait in call-centre queues.
That is where a contact centre is of benefit. Some internal and external benefits include: :
The modern culture of immediacy can cause difficulties. In particular, being asked to wait for a call centre agent often causes an immediate switch-off. A recent innovation is a chatbot as the first point of contact in a Contact Centre.
Basically, a chatbot is an AI-driven set of programmed responses to common questions. A chatbot can simulate a question-and-answer session with a human agent, and with a self-learning component, can gradually increase the range and complexity of situations it can deal with. Sometimes the customer is not even aware they are dealing with an automated system.
A chatbot can be text-based, or increasingly voice-activated in a VoIP environment. Siri and Alexa are good examples.
The advantages of chatbots include:
- Availability. Chatbots are available 24/7/365. Because they are software-driven, the number of active chatbots is limited only by the available resources. Customer waiting times are therefore severely reduced or removed entirely, improving customer satisfaction.
- Costs. Once you have created the first one, duplicating them means that they are essentially free. There are no payroll costs, no salary, no health plans, no hidden costs.
Because the customer is contacting an integrated contact centre, there is a uniform presentation of the company identity to the customer.
A VoIP system can improve a company’s image:
- A Local Flavour. Having a local access number for the company will improve customer satisfaction, and make it look as if the company has a local presence.
- Centralised call centres. Using a VoIP forwarding unit, a call to the company can always be a local call, with the call automatically forwarded to a central contact centre. A company with a physical presence in only one location can appear to have nationwide or even international coverage.
It can also reduce call centre operating costs by having the call centre located in a low-cost area, with all calls forwarded to it. British Airways used this concept when having one world-wide call centre in Bangalore.
The history of having operational silos is removed. The company has an integrated approach to customer contact management. This makes creating a teamwork ethos in customer support much easier.
Because all aspects of customer integration are in one place, data is held in a centralised CRM, meaning that the pre-existing departmental databases of customer information are replaced by a single authoritative source.
Extracting measurements about customer satisfaction, agent performance and other critical measures are easier to collate.
Having all elements of a CRM environment in one place makes it much easier to manage people. Uniform standards of approach and behaviour are easier to develop end implement.
Part of the benefit of a Contact Centre is its integration into a Uniform Communications Environment. This brings benefits by using compatible technologies and easing the roll-out of new initiatives on the existing infrastructure.
Contact Centres are sometimes viewed as C all Centres on steroids. The reality is that they are more than that, allowing a business to manage and control customer interactions more uniformly and more cost-effectively.