Five of the biggest technology decisions and trends facing contact centers today
Technology is enabling contact centers to do more than ever, but disruption rarely fails to bring about a new and unique set of problems. For the customer, incredible things can happen when service and technology work together in concert. Yet there are decisions to be made along the way, and it's up to service leaders to make the right call when it comes to how to best leverage technology. That includes what to use, how to use it and who to partner with.
Here's what some of the top service technology experts had to say about tackling five of the biggest technology decisions facing contact centers today.
1. How to structure implementations
Choosing the right contact center technology is just the start. Without an effective roadmap for implementation, contact centers are potentially setting themselves up for failure.
Bill Patterson, general manager of Microsoft's
Parature division, says that a common misstep is to introduce new technology, while failing to simultaneously modernize customer service practices. Twenty years ago, consumers didn't have access to mobile and social media; contact centers today need to think about how these technologies are impacting expectations.
"It's not uncommon [for companies] to look at the roll-out of a new CRM or application and think ‘we're not changing our business, we just need new technology.' The real disruptors are rethinking their business. They're willing to unlearn legacy [technology] to cater to the evolving needs of today's consumer, not the needs of the consumer twenty years ago," he cautions.
Corey Kotlarz, president of Outsource Consultants
, says a successful implementation can often hinge on being in alignment with your vendor. "Select a partner that is engaged in providing a complete solution.
This startsfrom identifying the right technology for your needs, through implementation based on your customers' behavior and demographics," he says.
2. How to evaluate a CRM system
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is becoming standard for managing customer data. Contact centers are often challenged to select the right system to meet their needs, or can struggle to get the most out of the CRM they already have.
David Beard, CRM principal at Sage CRM
, says that evaluation is perhaps the most important step in the process. Contact centers need to focus on four critical stages during any CRM evaluation:
1. Getting started.
Begin by building a case for CRM to provide the necessary background information to help you define the need and demonstrate the value of the investment.
2. Selecting a core team.
Establish a core group of individuals dedicated to driving the CRM project to completion.
3. Setting goals
. Your core group should identify your organization's objectives, focus on processes that require re-engineering and discuss the appropriate course of action.
4. Examining current processes
. Analyze your existing business processes from many viewpoints, to find out how they impact both your organization and your customers.
Patterson points out that today, most CRM systems have fairly similar feature sets. What's more important is how contact centers leverage those capabilities.
"For organizations that are starting with a CRM, or redoing one, it's about choosing a vendor that best aligns with the principles of where you want to go as an organization, as well as the principles of what customers expect from you as an organization," he says.
3. When and what to automate
Technology is giving contact centers more automation options than ever, but for the sake of the customer you need to know what to automate, what not to, and what the overall effects will be on the customer experience.
Patterson argues that automation is such a hot topic for contact centers today because consumers' demands are higher than ever before. Customers now have more service options, so when they do call, they expect a quick resolution to an issue that they've already invested resources in correcting themselves.
"[Customers] are calling the contact center when they can't find what they're looking for, and they're in a heightened state of alarm and frustration. They want to get the right answer the first time they call; they don't want to have to call back," he says.
Many believe automation is about the removal of the human interaction, often as a cost savings ploy, but Patterson asserts that automation can actually help reduce friction and get the customer the right answer as quickly as possible. "When you think about automation, think more about how to get people the right information, or how to get the agent the right information," he says.
That's why a well-maintained knowledge base is such a critical, yet underappreciated, aspect of contact center automation. And in the future, the Internet of Things (IoT) will be a key contributor to the knowledge base of data that agents have access to before they even pick up the phone. "As connected devices become smarter, they can report feedback to the agents themselves. Information about the issue will already be at their disposal before the customer even calls," he says.
Download: IDC InfoBrief – Preparing your support team for the IoT-connected consumer
4. How to leverage big data
Contact centers now have access to big data analytics that can reveal hidden relationships behind customer interactions, preferences and behaviors. Service teams are swimming in oceans of data, but the tough part is pinpointing what information is relevant and actionable.
Beard advises companies to consider data "from all angles," and to look beyond standard metrics like average call time and first time resolution rate. "Remember, systems produce a variety of data," Beard says. "Ask how your business can use all elements of customer information to look for trends that support your overall business strategy goals."
From Patterson's perspective, "big data" is really about improving small interactions. A slew of information and reporting is no good if it doesn't empower contact center agents on the front lines. "What you really want to use big data for is to take the strings of information, and combine them in a way that gives the agent relevant information to that specific customer interaction," he says.
5. Using real-time translation technologies
Software that translates service calls in real-time are catching on quickly. Real-time translation can be a boon for servicing customers across borders, but translating language is just the first step to providing hyper-localized service that customers are coming to expect.
Even after contact centers implement a translation technology, Patterson warns that the localized needs of each customer will still need to be further addressed. "I think that while real-time translation can give organizations a way to reach a scaled customer base, it really does not speak to all the needs customers have at the local level."
For example, a German customer might want to immediately focus on the technical issue at hand while a Brazilian customer may want to build rapport with the agent before moving on to the actual problem. Language translation software can't inform agents of these cultural norms, and how best to react in each situation. But as AI and software evolves, this kind of scaled localization might be able to integrate with translation.
"The big debate around customer service today is how do you drive consistency, and keep up with computing that is increasingly becoming more personalized?" says Patterson.
Thanks to technological advances like real-time translation and big data analytics, the customer service bar has been raised higher than ever. What's clear is that attacking these dilemmas requires a great partner, rock solid game plan, and a laser focused approach on improving each and every customer interaction.