What 2013 Might Bring to Call Center Businesses
December 18, 2012
By Tracey E. Schelmetic
, TMCnet Contributor
In case you haven’t noticed, call center business technology has been moving rather fast as of late. Call centers today are running to keep up, ensuring they have installed cutting edge technologies such as customer and operations analytics, cloud-based call platforms and new delivery models for traditional tools such as IVR. At the same time, newer media such as mobile apps, social media and social CRM have entered the picture, putting even more pressure on the average call center.
While they tackle the technology aspect, they’re also having to shift to more abstract concepts: trying to realign their goals and processes to support the customer experience rather than the call center itself. It’s enough to make a call center want to hide lest it have to cope with what’s coming down the road in 2013.
But of course, this is impossible. A call center business that doesn’t keep up with the needs of the firm it supports and its customers might as well pack up now. Customers today aren’t reporting high levels of customer satisfaction with most of the companies they do business with, which means the customer service industry still has a long way to go. In addition, fully two thirds of consumers report that they are willing to spend more with a company they believe provides excellent customer service, according to a recent study from American Express (News - Alert), “2012 Global Customer Service Barometer.”
So where should 2013 begin? With a mix of new technology ideas as well as a new focus on customers.
“In order to create a better call center in 2013, provide better customer service and give your customer a better experience,” wrote CustomerThink’s Erica Bell. “Using call center software to its maximum potential is one way to get started that may seem obvious, however integrating social media may not.”
Some things to consider next year:
Bring social media into the call center business. If it’s elsewhere – perhaps with the marketing department – it’s too separated from the customer relationship to be of any use. Many call center and CRM platforms today include support for social media and social CRM. It’s important to begin treating social media like a channel that’s as important as telephone.
Ensure you’re serving your mobile customers. Like social media and social CRM, many call center platforms today also make it easier to support the unique needs of customers using mobile apps. Since customers are more mobile than ever, skipping this step is a huge mistake.
Get a grip on your analytics. While some of your call center technologies may already feature operational and customer analytics modules, you may not be using them to their full capabilities, and you may not have a comprehensive plan to use the intelligence your analytics are yielding to you. If not, ensure you do so this year. There is real, useful information there. It’s not simply a jumble of data.
Boost your training, if necessary. Adding new media to the contact center mix makes agents’ jobs more complicated. It may be time to be sure they are as comfortable coping with newer media as they are with traditional media.
Examine your strategy.Does your overriding call center strategy and philosophy focus on making life easier for the call center, or your customers? The phrase “customer-centric” may be overused, but the concept it represents is more critical than ever. The contact center doesn’t exist for your convenience, or that of your employees.
According to Joe Wu, VP of Worldwide Sales for Voicent, in 2013, call centers will continue to move towards VoIP-based phone services and drop hardware-based solutions once and for all. Hosted, however, may not be a model robust enough for a first-class call center.
“Call centers, by taking full advantage of advancements in software products and VoIP services, will continue to move away from hosted solutions to managed solutions in order to save money in the not so distant future,” Wu recently told TMCnet.
There’s no question that 2013 will present a fresh set of challenges for call center businesses. However, what’s also clear is that the New Year will also present a set of opportunities for companies to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein