As companies look to implement unified communications solutions, it’s often the contact center that’s at the forefront of the technology. Just think of the very name – “contact” center – as opposed to the traditional “call” center. It makes sense because customer service reps are handling far more than phone calls these days.
Indeed for years contact centers have been charged with communicating with customers by all sorts of means: phone, email, text messaging, chat and, increasingly, via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. And as customers continually use more mobile devices, mainly smart phones and tablets, they want to be able interact with companies from those devices. To accommodate them, the contact center is become a breeding ground of sorts for mobile communications, everything from voice, to web browsers, mobile applications and more – all tied in to the UC solution at the core of the contact center.
Customers, Companies Leveraging Mobile Apps to Enhance Customer Service
Irwin Lazar, VP and Service Director at Nemertes Research, recently wrote a paper describing a number of case studies where mobility is playing a role in the contact center. One example is an insurance company appraiser:
He is able to use his mobile device to take photos, fill out forms, get homeowner signatures, download quotes, and upload the customer claim to the contact center for further handling. During the appraisal, the appraiser can contact the insurance company’s contact center with the mobile device and ask questions via chat, email, voice, or video. This saves the appraiser time by getting immediate answers and the homeowner gets faster service.
Another example he cites is a utility that offers customers a mobile application to use during outages. As he describes it:
Rather than calling a likely overloaded contact center to obtain restoration information, customers are able to utilize the utility’s mobile application to report outages, check area outage reports, and identify anticipated restoration time. Customers can also use the mobile device to request restoration notification (either via voice or text). The end result is that customers reduce demand on the contact center, and are able to access self-‐service tools to stay abreast of restoration efforts. Without mobile outage access, customers would have continued to overwhelm the company’s call center while being kept in the dark about restoration progress.
That sounds good in practice, but utilities should keep in mind the mobile app is likely to be widely used as well, and to plan accordingly. During an electric outage that lasted some 48 hours a couple of years ago in Massachusetts, the local utility didn’t fare so well in that regard, as the web site that was supposed to provide info on the outage was apparently overwhelmed and, largely, non-responsive.
Mobility, Unified Communications and the Contact Center
Lazar also points out how mobility can come into play inside the contact center, using the example of a financial services organization:
An irate large-account customer phones the contact center to complain about a problem with their account. The contact center agent texts the supervisor, who is away from her desk, informing her of an urgent call. The supervisor, through her mobile application, takes the call and is able to address the customer issue in a timely fashion. Without mobile access to supervisors, the agent would have simply taken a message and required the supervisor to call back the customer (potentially resulting in a game of phone tag).
Another blogger from Current Analysis describes a demo he saw of another fictitious bank customer:
The demo depicted a high-net-worth bank client contacting his personal banker using a tablet as the endpoint. The call was directly dialed to the banking advisor. The customer and banker were connected via a video call and the advisor, sitting in his office, was able to answer questions, offer opinions and share information-filled screen shots with his client in a matter of seconds. Of course, if a discussion was not needed, the customer could go directly to information made available to him from the bank’s data sources.
He goes on to wonder whether, with all these UC and mobility technologies in play, the traditional call center agent will even be required in the future. Why not just send all incoming contacts to the appropriate subject matter expert (SME), at least for your best customers?
Answer: because those SMEs already have jobs to do day to day. But making them available to contact center agents on an as-needed basis makes good sense – and mobility and UC technologies can make the connection.