Unified Communications and the Contact Center

First we went from Call Centers which were either inbound or outbound (e.g. you were calling someone or they were calling you). Then we moved to “contact” centers where the thought was that customers could communicate with your company over the phone (call center) or email — or maybe even via “live chat” over the internet.

Contact, whether by keyboard or voice!

The problem is that most contact centers didn’t spring up instantly (like the goddess Athena who was born full grown out of the head of her dad, Zeus). Most start small and grow — or we wind up with multiple call centers in various places (including India or China) that use different technologies. Some happened through mergers, some just over time. We have silos of information. Islands floating off by themselves.

All of these islands of contact points (distributed call centers, email, live chat, etc.) were put in place to reduce costs and yet still give decent customer service. To further complicate our global customer base we also have employees who telecommute or live in various cities.

How can all this complexity be unified? How can we simplify?

For one we make all these multiple points of communications (voice, email, fax, live chat) available from one point. When a customer (or employee) reaches out they make one connection and find the end point they need. No more phone tag. No more voice mails left on office phones and cell phones and punching “0” in the hopes of finding a live person who can help.

No more “let me transfer” you and getting disconnected.

Unified Communications brings the promise of true customer service at both reduced costs and high satisfaction.

Let me give a live example from my own life. A major credit card company (who shall remain nameless) has the world’s worst call center. When calling in one is first faced with IVR hades. Push “1” for this “2” for that, and oh please enter for 17 digit credit card number and expiration date. . .and what was your mother’s maiden name again???

By the time one reaches a human being (IF one reaches a live human being) the frustration level is high. The first agent invariably does NOT have your credit card number or mom’s name so you have to repeat the exercise. Invariably again this agent cannot help you but must transfer you to another department.

Many times in this “transfer” I have been disconnected and have to start the entire misery again. Oh, yes, one can try to do this over the internet but the interface is clumsy and results in much the same result.

Assuming one does get transferred one must again repeat the information. It is the lucky person indeed who does not face a third transfer! This credit card company is so poorly IT challenged that they were unable to give me a record of a charge and suggested I call the retailer for it! This after being transferred numerous times only to be told they didn’t have the very basic tools of their own business!

Now envision this contact center if it had unified communications. If you are a VIP you might have a direct connection in to a specific workgroup, but if not one can bypass the IVR rapidly and get to a live agent who has in front of them your information (on one of many CRM applications). That one person should have access to any and all information, but just in case they do need to transfer you they can see visually who is available and they can stay on the line with you as they hand off the call with the new agent.

COMMUNICATIONS. Not frustration! In this example my credit card record would have been emailed, faxed or snail mailed to be automatically. None of this is future and none of it is unrealistic. It is all available today and I dare say the credit card company in question would have saved considerable money considering the number of agents who handled (or mishandled) my call.

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About Sandra Eisenberg

Dynamic pragmatic marketing and sales executive whose biggest asset is converting technology to real corporate value -- for a variety of industries including health care providers (Adventist Health System Sunbelt), Teradata (Data Warehousing), RWD Technologies (quality improvement and professional services), Siemens and AT&T (telecom). Sandra brings twenty years of experience in sales, marketing and IT management. Her career spans entrepreneurial firms (E5 Marketing) and senior positions in sales, sales management (direct and indirect), marketing, channel development and product management at Bell Labs and NCR Teradata. A few career highlights: • Total product lifecycle management (PLM) using ISO 9001 and other quality methodologies. Sunset aging product lines and developed a migration path to a new, open standards platforms at Avaya, NCR and Bell Labs. • 1st woman to win the AT&T and NCR Teradata national sales awards -- top sales manager and sales rep at AT&T, NCR Teradata and Avaya • Delivered profitable marketing campaigns in the area of CRM, Business intelligence, contact centers and other high tech areas • Run call centers, sold call centers and been in product management of call centers (Avaya, AT&T and NCR) • Director of CRM Strategic Planning and Alliances at Avaya and NCR Teradata • Senior Manager of Product Management Bell Labs (business intelligence, data warehousing and CRM) Most recently Sandra managed the Central Florida territory for Siemens' telephony division. Siemens is selling this division soon and their loss can be your gain.

Posted on March 19, 2008, in contact center, CRM, UC, unified communications and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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