In 1997 TMC
decided to launch a magazine titled Internet Telephony
to cover what we hoped would become a huge IP communications industry. A few years later, contact centers saw the technology as a great way to take advantage of remote agents and distributed call center solutions which inherently delivered lower costs and increased redundancy as compared to legacy solutions.
Looking back, we can say IP was a transformational technology for contact centers.
While in a typical enterprise, telephony may constitute a relatively small part of the spend, in the call center - telecom costs are generally much higher. This is part of the reason why any innovation in communications has a much higher proportion of importance in the call center as compared to most other areas of a company.
Not only is the contact center a part of a corporation which has large telecom costs, we all realize how important a role the contact center plays in providing customer service. Some research on the topic points out that 30% of customers who have a good customer experience will do more or much more business with a company. Another survey I have seen shows that a good contact center interaction can yield four times more business.
We all know that happy customers become good references and refer other customers while unhappy ones seem to enjoy badmouthing an organization or even posting a negative experience on the internet for millions to see. In the past few years a single angry customer separately brought two billion dollar companies to their knees (one in the cable market and the other a computer manufacturer) simply by using YouTube and the blogosphere respectively.
One trend is clear… As the internet has evolved, the role of customer satisfaction has become more important than ever to every organization.
It is for this reason that one of the most important areas of the telecom market - unified communications has come to the contact center courtesy of Aspect.
As a major player in the contact center space, Aspect has studied what makes the market tick and has subsequently determined that greater than 10% of contact center interactions require the assistance of knowledge workers outside the contact center. In addition, it is commonly accepted in the market that the less calls a person needs to make to a contact center to resolve a single issue, the better. The goal in every contact center should be first call resolution.
Aspect's unified communications solutions bridge the divide between the contact center and the rest of the organization in a way that allows every person in an organization to become an integral part of the contact center in a manner that maximizes efficiency, customer service and sales levels.
Contact center software with integrated workforce management has become an excellent way for organizations to manage their agents to achieve maximal efficiency. The irony is that generally speaking, the lower paid workers in an organization are in the call center. The more expensive "informal call center" agents have much higher compensation yet they aren't part of workforce management systems.
Worse, these higher-pad resources could be so busy answering contact center questions that they aren't able to achieve satisfactory performance in their regular duties. Aspects' solutions take this into account and integrate SIP-based presence to achieve the best possible outcome for your company's customer interactions.
One way this is achieved is with skills-based presence, the ability to determine which workers if any have the appropriate skills at the time of a customer contact. Rather than relying on agents to frantically IM a list of people qualified on a particular topic, skills based routing software handles this communication so the agent can focus on maximizing customer satisfaction and not tracking others down.
So instead of fictitious call center agent Pat receiving a call and instant messaging a list of people in the organization having expertise in wireless billing errors and once this customer problem is solved, then IMing a list of five people with expertise in EVDO signal-strength issues, Pat can just correspond with a group of people abstracted by a skill set.
In the summer, Aspect expects to integrate its unified communications solutions with Microsoft OCS and IBM Sametime allowing a company to truly integrate its contact center into its corporate UC strategy.
Do I think this is a breakthrough concept? Yes, absolutely. For the first time, companies will be able to pull together their best knowledge workers around the globe to help increase sales and customer satisfaction. This includes that technical sales expert hanging out in the Internet-enabled Starbucks in the most remote part of the planet.
Or that executive who is on a working vacation in Asia and in the cab, on her way to the hotel. If the value of the customer is high enough, there is no reason you wouldn't want the highest level company executive available to take the call in order to ensure you are maximizing sales.
If you are seriously looking at rolling out UC in your enterprise, it is a no-brainer to do the same in the contact center to ensure all sides of the house are working synergistically. Likewise, if most of your company consists of call center agents, the small incremental cost of bringing the rest of your knowledge workers into the UC contact center mix will be paid back rapidly.
I for one salute Aspect for shining light on the call center as a place where unified communications could have the fastest ROI. I look forward to seeing all contact center vendors following this announcement with solutions of their own. I commend Aspect for moving so quickly to get this new product onto the market and I am looking forward to the announced improvements Aspect will be making to their UC solution all year.
Now that IP communications is over ten years old and we have seen how it has transformed the contact center, I hope we can look back in ten years and say UC was as big a change agent as IP was a decade before it.
For more information on Aspect's Unified Communications for the Contact Center be sure to check the company's site