Integrating UC and Contact Centers Pays Big Dividends in Customer Care
Over the weekend I was scrambling to finish cooking for a dinner party we were hosting and realized I didn’t have any bread. I asked my teenage son to ride his bike to the grocery store to pick up a baguette, only to get a frantic text, followed by a frustrated phone call saying he wasn’t sure what I wanted. I switched the call to Facetime and had him show me the options as he walked through the bakery. “Stop! That one right there.” Problem solved.
That kind of seamless interaction and escalation, that we are so used to in our personal lives, is now becoming expected when we interact with businesses. If we have a problem we want it solved quickly and on our terms. Perhaps we want to try address it ourselves through self-service, and if that doesn’t work we escalate to chat. If we need more help we move to a phone call or a video chat, or co-browsing. And if the agent we are working with can’t solve the issue than they’d better be able to get the right person on the phone, fast! The focus for all involved is the speed, accuracy and omni-channel nature of the interaction.
Businesses have been working to address these challenges for several years by providing customers with multiple channels to choose from when looking for service. A new trend that is taking hold looks to improve customer care even further by breaking down the barriers between the contact center and the rest of the business. This entails integrating the corporate unified communications solution into the contact center so agents can have easy and quick access to subject matter experts in the back of the house when necessary.
The Omni-Channel Experience: Delivering Cohesive Service How and Where Customers Want It
The movement towards offering customer care across multiple service channels (mobile, web, phone) has been underway for several years. This omni-channel experience connects businesses with their customers across phone, email, social, video, webchat, SMS and more. A key to making this experience effective for the customer is providing the agent with the ability to easily escalate channels as necessary - from chat to voice, voice to video, email to outbound call, etc.. For best results, all channels - regardless of how many there are - should be treated as a single, unified way of allowing businesses and customers to communicate with each other with the same high level of service and knowledge.
In many businesses this is not always the case, as each channel may have been added and managed separately, resulting in silos of data and interactions. In order for this omni-channel approach to work with optimal efficiency, it is important that the contact center solution collect and store data and context from each interaction, regardless of channel, in one place. This allows a customer to have a cohesive experience as they escalate their interaction to different channels and agents, while providing the company with a cross-channel customer journey record in the contact center tool.
Desegregating the Contact Center by Integrating UC Delivers Big Benefits
In most businesses, contact centers have traditionally existed as a walled garden. Contact center employees and systems have been kept intentionally separate due to their unique requirements, but this segregation is starting to end as businesses focus on improving their Customer Experience Management (CEM). One way businesses are making this happen is by connecting contact center agents with the rest of the organization via corporate unified communications solutions, like Skype for Business.
This allows agents to use the UC presence management tool, for example, to see which subject matter experts are available to provide a quick answer for a customer that has a challenging problem. This interaction with an SME may start as a chat, but could quickly escalate to include conferencing via voice or video to provide a more personalized customer experience and a better outcome.
To take things to the next level and for businesses to fully benefit from this contact center / UC integration, the contact center software needs to be connected to the telephony backbone of the unified communications platform, thereby providing a truly unified experience.
What this means is that instead of keeping a separate PBX for the contact center while the rest of the corporate telephony is managed on Skype for Business, companies can have both on a single platform, optimizing investments and maximizing benefits. Microsoft has a stable of certified vendors who offer contact center solutions that are native to Skype for Business and optimized to run off the Skype UC backbone. Alternatively, for businesses that already have the UC infrastructure in place but are in need of contact center capabilities, they can now deploy solutions like these to rapidly enable contact center routing, queuing and call actions to team members throughout the enterprise.
With unified communications and UCaaS taking over traditional PBX functions more quickly than ever, it is important to bring the contact center into the UC discussion right out of the gate. By planning for contact center integration in conjunction with a unified communications deployment or upgrade, companies have the opportunity to significantly enhance the benefits of both platforms while improving customer care. That sounds like a Win, Win…...Win to me.
John Cray is the Vice President of Product Management at Enghouse Interactive.