Definition of Contact Centers
Contact centers are the people, processes and software that provide service to customers.
When customers have a question, request or problem, they contact the company for help through the contact center. They may do this in many ways: by phone, email, through social media, chat or in person.
People working in the contact center are generally called contact center agents. Agents are the people who receive the request for support. If the agent has the right skills, they may immediately help the customer. If not, the agent will send – or route – the request to a person or team that can provide assistance.
In addition, contact centers may initiate contact with the customer. Agents may perform outbound services, such as sales or customer service check-ups.
Contact center solutions are the tools and software that help the agents and customers easily communicate and manage the requests.
Types of Contact Center Solutions
Generally speaking, there are two types of contact center solutions: on-premise and cloud-based.
On-premise contact center solutions
On-premise contact center solutions are installed within the company’s IT environment. They have specific hardware and maintenance requirements that must be managed by the internal IT team. This option can give companies more control over access to the environment and the solution’s configuration. However, it requires extra costs and expertise from the IT department.
Cloud-based contact center solutions
Cloud contact center options are sometimes referred to as “virtual contact centers”. This is because they are not running on the local IT infrastructure. Instead, they run on servers that are accessed via the internet.
These virtual contact center solutions have advantages in that they are often maintained by the software vendor. Additionally, virtual call center solutions can be scaled up or down based on the needs of the business.
Today’s cloud offerings are highly secure and make for a flexible alternative to on premise software.
Features of Contact Center Solutions
Contact centers can use many tools and features to help support the customer journey. These include voice communication tools and help desk software.
Customers and agents often talk to one another by a phone system. There are several important voice communication solutions that make providing customer support more efficient and improve the customer experience.
Some solutions bundle these features: Others sell each as stand alone solutions. The best choice for your business depends on the complexity of your contact center and overall needs.
- Interactive voice response (IVR) is a system where people call the contact center and a computer-generated voice answers the phone. They can exchange personalized information like account balances, shipping details, and personal contact information. Callers never have to wait to speak with a live contact center agent.
- Automatic call distribution (ACD) is a system that automatically accepts incoming phone calls. The system holds the call until an agent is available to help. The system then sends the call to the available agent. These are typically used by large call centers that have to manage heavy call volumes.
Often, use of these features are called call queuing.
- Call routing is another tool for managing large call volumes and is often paired with call queuing. Phone calls are not simply sent to the next available agent. A phone call is held until an agent with the required skills or who works in the appropriate department is available.
- Voice over IP (VoIP) calling sends and receives calls via an internet connection instead of using the traditional telephony network. This is a great cost savings for smaller call centers.
- Call recording captures the audio of a phone call in a digital file. This is great for keeping records of conversations with end users. This resource also serves as an effective tool for training new hires. They can listen to successful calls made by other agents for guidance, or receive coaching on their own calls.
Help desk tools
Help desk tools manage communication and service workflows between the agent and customer. Just as with the voice solutions, some help desks bundle all of the features below into a single solution. Others sell only a portion of the list below, but allow for integration possibilities.
- Ticketing and request management are features that streamline the communication and activities that are needed to resolve the customer’s request. Typically, all important customer data and information about his/her needs are captured in a ticket. An agent makes notes on the ticket throughout the customer interaction. The customer may also add information in the ticketing solution as they send additional information to the contact center.
- Multichannel contact center features are important for managing requests that come in via channels other than voice. Communication channels may include email support, social media, web-based forms or live chat. The solution collects communication from different channels. The agent can reply back to the customer on the channel they selected.
- Analytics and reporting support management goals and quality monitoring. There are numerous KPIs that speak to the health of the contact center.
Some illustrate agent know-how and efficiency, such as first contact resolution or customer satisfaction rate. Others show the impact of the service center on the business, such as customer retention rate or net promoter score. All of the metrics are driven by analytics and reporting solutions.
- Self-service and knowledge management are often features of the contact center. People can use content and educational resources to engage with the company. This helps customers solve their issues or answer their questions without talking to an agent.
- Business process automation is used to ensure that repeatable workflows are efficiently and cost-effectively processed. Using automation can speed up support for customers.
Benefits of Contact Center Solutions
Investing in contact center software offers a variety of benefits to both the business and those who need service or support.
Because this software improves efficiency and streamlines workflows, customers receive service in a faster and more consistent way. This leads to an improved customer experience. When customers have a good experience with a business, they stay longer and share their story with others.
This means the business gets:
- Better customer retention
- Increased opportunities for referrals
- More up-selling and cross-selling opportunities
And, due to the enhanced data management capabilities of contact center solutions, administrative overhead is reduced and workflow optimizations are designed.
This leads to:
- Reduced operational costs
- Better scalability and flexibility
- Happier agents
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Contact Center Solution
As illustrated, there are many types of contact center solutions. Deciding what is best for your contact center means thinking about today and how things will change in the future.
Consider possible solutions in terms of:
Business size and type
- Do you need to handle large call volumes quickly? Or, do your customers require longer hand-holding calls with less frequency?
- Will you be handling mostly inbound calls or will agents also tackle outbound tasks?
- Will most requests be handled as a phone call or are other channels needed?
Budget and cost-effectiveness
- Does the value gained from the tool offset the cost to purchase it?
Scalability and flexibility
- How quickly do you intend to grow?
- Do you prefer cloud based software or on premise options?
- Is there any seasonality in your business? Would this require a quick influx of new agents? Or would call volumes drastically change at certain times in the year?
Ease of use and management
Obviously, solutions should help and not be a hassle.
- How easy is it for agents to navigate and find the information they need?
- Will the solution require ongoing maintenance or added equipment to run?
- Do you have in-house skills to be able to support it and use it to its fullest capacity?
with existing systems can help maximize the potential of software.
- Chances are you already have systems in place that store data that would be useful in the contact center.
- Perhaps you use Active Directory to manage access control or you have equipment information stored in a database. It’s important that selected solutions be able to work with this data.
Availability of customer support
Availability is a key consideration. Contact centers directly impact your ability to support your own customers. So if there is a problem, you need quality support quickly. Does the company offer timely and speedy high-quality support for the solution?
Steps to Implementing a Contact Center Solution
Rolling out a new contact center solution takes planning and preparation. Its use will impact workflows, which means change for people. It’s important to take your time and approach the implementation as a concrete project. This will ensure that you get the most acceptance from your team and from your end customers.
Tackle these steps to make the most of your solution:
- Assessing business needs and goals
- Identifying the right solution and provider
- Customizing the solution to meet specific needs
- Training and onboarding employees
- Testing and evaluating the solution
- Continuous monitoring and improvement
Trends in Contact Center Solutions
As with all technical solutions, contact centers evolve to incorporate modern features. In the near future, expect to see more the following concepts becoming deployed by the service center.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are increasingly becoming a significant part of contact center workflows. Contact centers of the future have only begun to explore how AI and ML can be used in their workflows. Responses to customer requests and identifying customer complaint patterns are just two of the possibilities. There is no doubt that AI and ML will be integral to contact centers in the future.
- Chatbots and virtual assistants have been in use for some time. However, their capabilities will increase as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies are integrated. This means that customers will have even better “conversations” and receive more support from these automated tools. And, it will create opportunities for agents to advance their knowledge and skills as they begin handling more sophisticated customer requests.
- Co-browsing solutions help agents and customers work together in real time. They share access to a single computer screen via their browser. Customers can get instant assistance with challenging tasks. Examples include filling out a form or navigating a complex process.
- Omni-channel strategies are a more modern approach to multi channel communication. Multi-channel communication allows customers to reach the contact center in multiple ways. Omnichannel contact center solutions increase the capability of agents to reply back to any channel. This means that a single communication thread can cross back and forth across any channel seamlessly.
- Mobile apps are becoming a norm because customers expect to be able to tackle the most important activities from their phones. Examining the customer journey can help the business decide which contact center services are the most popular. These services should be built into the mobile app.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a contact center solution?
A contact center solution is any platform that supports the communication between agents, customers and, perhaps, the business. Some solutions focus on voice communication. Others focus on help desk and request management needs. Often, several solutions are integrated with one another in order to provide complete omni-channel support to customers.
What are the types of contact center solutions?
There are two primary types of contact center software.
The first are voice communication tools. These enable audio and video communication with the customer. The second are help desk solutions. Typically, these track and manage all communication surrounding a customer request as well as providing reporting capabilities.
What are the benefits of a contact center?
The contact center offers several benefits.
It is a central point of contact for customers. Customers can always contact the service team for assistance and to find answers to their questions. It also facilitates tracking and management of requests. All together, it creates a better experience for the customer.
How do contact center solutions benefit businesses?
The contact center has several benefits for the business. These include improved customer experience and retention, increased productivity, enhanced data management, reduced costs and increased flexibility.
How do I choose the right contact center software for my business?
Understanding your business needs is the first step in finding the right contact center solution. It’s also important to consider how your business is expected to evolve over the next 3-5 years.
And, examine the IT environment to understand what’s needed from a technical perspective. Finally, talk to agents and other users – what are their needs and requests for features.
Together, this information will for the basis of your requirements for the software.
What are the steps to implementing a contact center solution?
Approach software implementation like any other project. First, evaluate the business objectives and make a decision about the software and its features that fits these best. Then, customize the solution and implement any integrations.
After, provide support to your agents and customers, such as communication about what’s coming and training. Finally, once it has been rolled out and people are familiar with it, seek opportunities for optimizations and improvements.
What are the latest trends in contact center solutions?
Contact centers have many features that will be heavily influenced by the advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning. They will also increasingly seek ways to provide omni channel solutions and will design app-based service channels. They will use new tools for connecting with and support customers, such as co-browsing, video chat and virtual assistants.
How can I measure the success of my contact center software?
Take a holistic view of the contact center in order to evaluate the success of the contact center solution. Measure important KPIs prior to its implementation and then again following the rollout and over time. This will help you determine if the software has positively impacted the contact center and your customers.
What are some common challenges in implementing contact center solutions?
Some common challenges in implementing contact center solutions include:
- making sure you have correctly planned and designed the solution,
- enabling integrations with the right systems and
- gaining acceptance by both agents and others who will use it.
How much does a contact center solution cost?
The cost of a contact center software varies greatly depending on the company size, needs and number of agents. Contact the company directly for an accurate quote. Do not guess the cost based on internet research.
A well-functioning contact center means that customers engage with the business and are happier. They will likely stay with the company longer. They may purchase additional items or recommend the business to others.
To ensure that this organic business growth continues, agents need the right tools. They need voice communication to hand and help desk solutions that support them in providing the best possible service to customers. Invest in these solutions to enhance the customer experience and grow your business.