1 Portal solutions for contact centers Executive brief January 2006 Improving contact center productivity and customer satisfaction with a proven portal solution.
2 Page 2 Contents 2 Executive summary 3 Contact center trends 4 Portals help address the challenges of contact centers 6 Creating the ideal infrastructure for portals 9 The business value of portals for contact centers 12 A trusted provider of technology for collaborative applications Executive summary Contact centers are expanding in business today, becoming core business operations in nearly every industry. Whether it is a call center, help desk, customer service center or a combination, the contact center is taking on a valuable new role as the hub of strategic customer communications and a critical element of customer relationship management (CRM). With this expanded functionality come increased challenges. Most contact centers report growing call volumes, and customers demand better service and faster response times. Increasing call center productivity is a key business imperative. Customer service representatives (CSRs) routinely lack quick and easy access to sufficient information to respond effectively to customers. Increased staff productivity and reduction in training time are key challenges for contact center management. Faced with these requirements, companies are seeking productivity solutions to help them improve contact center core capabilities; provide better management tools, such as executive and management dashboards; and leverage every customer touch. This executive brief shares how IBM s portal solution, IBM WebSphere Portal software, when built on a service-oriented architecture (SOA), provides an integrated user environment that simplifies and enhances CSR interaction through a single point of access to people, processes and applications. With an integrated environment customized by user role, businesses can improve contact center employee productivity thereby enhancing customer satisfaction, increasing business responsiveness and driving new revenue opportunities.
3 Page There was ample scope for us to be more proactive in the way we serviced our clients. Plus, growing profit in a mature business such as insurance requires reducing costs. David Kennington, VP of Information Systems, Prudential Contact center trends For businesses of all sizes and in nearly every industry, contact centers now play a central role throughout the customer cycle, from identification to acquisition and service. Strategic functions such as taking orders, responding to marketing campaigns and engaging in educational interactions with customers all take place at the contact center. As the pace of business continues to accelerate, it is imperative that a company s customers experience consistent, high-quality interactions at every point of contact or the company may risk losing customers. To enhance these interactions, businesses are seeking more dynamic and productive contact center environments. Specifically, they are looking for solutions that will help them improve core contact center capabilities, utilize better tools for improved management and leverage the contact center to cross-sell products. Improving core capabilities Increasing call capacity and customer satisfaction while decreasing abandoned calls and escalations is vital for contact centers today. Call center personnel touch more customers in a single day of activity than any other employees in the company. High-quality support, given this exposure, is critical. Poor responsiveness can drive customers and prospects to competitors. Utilizing better management tools Reducing CSR training time and attrition, and better management of staffing and performance are critical issues in contact centers. When CSRs require additional training or must be replaced, significant costs are incurred, so reducing the time between onboarding and CSR self-sufficiency is critical. Overstaffing also increases costs, while understaffing hurts overall contact center performance and customer satisfaction. In addition, contact centers have become feeder programs for the rest of the company, an initial point of employee entry. CSRs have the potential to be a company s long-term, highimpact employees.
4 Page Leveraging the contact center for cross-selling Reducing the cost of new sales, enhancing customer relationships and improving customer wallet share are ongoing business concerns with new urgency in today s competitive marketplace. In 2003, new rules governing the implementation of the United States Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 curtailed outbound telesales opportunity generation, causing businesses to leverage inbound call centers for up-selling activities. When CSRs have information about other products at their fingertips, opportunities potentially increase for new sales, improved customer relationships and expanded revenue. Browser Direct channel Business partner Manager Core systems Browser Browser Supervisor Line of business (LOB) Web servers Channel application servers Headquarters location Internet Call center Portals provide a centralized repository of information that can be customized for each user and accessible from a Web browser. Portals help address the challenges of contact centers To fully capitalize on the strategic potential of call centers, many companies are turning to the flexibility and varied capabilities of portals. A portal is a single, personalized interface that integrates people, processes, applications and information. Portals can help contact center employees gain fast, security-rich access to data that is crucial to performing their particular jobs, thereby improving overall productivity, increasing customer satisfaction, enhancing business responsiveness and promoting the company s competitive edge.
5 Page Our main objective was to increase customer responsiveness. But it also was important that we lower our costs. We re on a tight budget, so we didn t want to devote a large amount of time and resources to maintaining the system. Gary Brideau, IBM Contact center CSRs need rapid access to dozens of disparate applications to provide the level of service that customers expect. Customers initiate calls for almost any purpose, so nearly every application may be needed to respond to their varied requests. Most often, these applications are not integrated and require individual sign-ons, making them complex to learn and time-consuming to use. In addition, different users in the contact center need varying information and levels of access, based on their specific roles. For instance, a CSR needs access to order status, inventory or technician availability, and shipping and billing data. A customer service supervisor needs access to daily activity reports, such as number and length of calls. And management requires information on key metrics, such as cost per call and customer satisfaction levels. To help address these requirements, IBM developed IBM WebSphere Portal software, a member of the IBM Workplace family. IBM WebSphere Portal software provides a framework that companies can use to build and deploy portals personalized for each contact center employee s role, preferences and profile, as well as the security needs of the business. With IBM WebSphere Portal software, organizations can integrate business applications, workflow, content and presence awareness in a single, role-based environment enabling users to gain easy access to information and resources, collaborate with other portal users inside and outside the contact center or company, and respond more quickly and effectively to customer needs. Through a single point of entry, portals enable users to access critical information that resides inside and outside the business. Portals integrate different systems in a single roles-based view. This integration promotes business flexibility and offers the rudiments of an early service-oriented architecture (SOA). In this way, WebSphere Portal software helps companies improve employee productivity through personalized access to information, applications, processes and people.
6 Page 6 Portal services Service flow Enterprise service bus SOAP service request B2B interactions Data Existing applications New service logic Common runtime environment A service-oriented approach improves responsiveness, increases speed and supports improved business processes. Creating the ideal infrastructure for portals To employ a portal solution effectively, businesses must have the proper infrastructure. A service-oriented architecture is the ideal foundation for a contact center portal. An SOA is a technical architecture that takes everyday business applications, such as customer relationship management systems or call/ contact management, and breaks them down into individual business functions and processes, called services. Once a company defines its competencies, each one can be executed as a service and then combined and recombined to support the different activities and changing needs of the customer. For example, competencies for a service could be a function, such as suggest/cross-sell additional product X, or a system capability, such as log in user. The role of the portal is to act as the delivery mechanism for services, aggregating them and exposing them to each unique audience in a security-rich and personalized way.
7 Page An example of a CSR s portal, where customer information, help-desk tools and other relevant information are assembled in one place Portals can be personalized depending on the user s role. For a particular CSR, the portal could include customer data, contact center policies and processes, product information and other relevant information assembled in one place. To further improve productivity and streamline business processes, multiple portal applications, or portlets, can be choreographed to facilitate the execution of an end-to-end process. For example, a CSR who has explored all avenues of information available via the portal (including a simultaneous instant messaging session with the supervisor) could flag a support record for escalation, at which point a second-level support person would be automatically notified of the call.
8 Page 1. Issue 2. Issue triage 3. Escalation 5. Satisfaction survey 4. Resolution 6. Process improvement 7. Growth Customer CSR level 1 CSR level 2 Supervisor Collaborative portal Resolution CRM Resource Each audience requires unique information throughout the call/contact management process. The portal gathers the necessary information from back-end systems or other staff, and creates customized front-end views. CSRs are one of the key constituencies that can be serviced by a contact center portal. A portal view targeted at CSRs can provide access to key customer information and rapid access to core systems and transactions to improve overall productivity. Plus, the CSR s team can be highlighted within the portal to indicate other team members, team leads, supervisors or other resources also online facilitating real-time access and collaboration. For example, a CSR who does not know the answer to a customer s question can quickly contact a colleague who does. The CSR provides a fast response without putting the caller on hold.
9 Page The portal can also notify CSRs and update back-end systems when a customer makes specific transactions, such as purchasing additional products or services. Reporting and summary capabilities can also be delivered via portal-based dashboards. Dashboards deliver key performance indicators (KPIs), current data that helps a company s employees make informed decisions about the day-to-day operations of the business. For example, a dashboard could notify the supervisor about a CSR s online activity, advising him or her of transactions and number of calls, and summarizing key documents accessed. 1. Issue 2. Issue triage 4. Resolution 5a. Satisfaction survey 7. Growth 3. Escalation 6. Process improvement 5b. Relationship management Customer CSR level 1 CSR level 2 Supervisor Sales manager Collaborative portal Resolution Resource CRM SFA Users are provided with information based on their roles and according to their responsibilities in a process. In this case, a business need to improve customer satisfaction triggers a connection to the sales manager who owns that customer relationship. The business value of portals for contact centers Portals can deliver significant productivity benefits in the contact center and throughout the customer cycle, from identification to acquisition and service. A CSR with a wealth of personalized information provided by the portal can more efficiently address the product or service-related questions of a new customer, can suggest related products or services, and can even process an immediate order. A portal can provide employees engaged in customer communication with the sales, marketing and education information they need faster, requiring less time spent searching and allowing more time using
10 Page 10 information to assist customers and create business value. In this way, contact centers can provide both increased responsiveness and less expensive routes to market, based on opportunities. For example, a customer calls a credit card company about a defective plasma TV that he or she purchased from a retailer and now wants to return. The credit card CSR resolves the issue quickly. When the customer expresses satisfaction with the resolution and with the assistance received, the CSR responds, I have a coworker who is offering special insurance and payment plans for fragile, big-ticket items like plasma TVs I have her on chat right now, and could conference her in. If you are happy with this transaction, you might also be interested in this additional coverage. In this way, two employees with personalized portal pages can work together to bring a happy customer seamlessly from an issue-resolution environment to an up-sell. The productive and collaborative contact center environment enabled by portals can help a company become an On Demand Business. As defined by IBM, an On Demand Business is a company whose business processes integrated end to end across the company and with key partners, suppliers and customers can respond with flexibility and speed to any customer demand, market opportunity or external threat. IBM WebSphere Portal software provides dynamic access to information and applications, thereby enhancing collaboration between users and enabling businesses to respond in near real time to changing market conditions and customer requirements.
11 Page 11 An integrated portal solution can help companies realize the following business benefits: Cost savings reduce back-office staff and administration costs; build and deploy applications and services faster; consolidate the procurement of hardware and software Operational efficiency enable internal employees and external partners to communicate through one channel; link event-based, cross-functional business processes; increase data accuracy; speed decision making Revenue generation provide more cross-selling opportunities to employees; leverage the experience of knowledge experts through enhanced collaboration and learning; expand market share; move into new markets User satisfaction increase customer retention through enhanced service capabilities; improve productivity with easier access to information; gain a competitive distinction by enabling superior customer service Profitable growth Increase service cost recovery fee Maintenance Increase net premium sales Net benefits Improve process efficiency Efficient contact center operations Implementation Increase CSR utilization Services ROI Reduce Maintenance request volume Hardware Total cost of ownership TCO Software Implementation Services services Maintenance An illustration of the return on investment (ROI), or cost/benefit framework of a contact center portal
12 Contact centers generally have very specific targets that can be used as baseline productivity metrics. For example, the length of an average call is directly related to a CSR s ability to obtain required information quickly and address the customer s needs. User-friendly portals that are both functional and adaptive support the confidence and competence of the CSR. In addition, smart searching can combine alerts for the most active searches based on previous calls. Before the CSR begins to search, significantly morepopular searches will appear on the portal screen as recommendations. Inbound calls are addressed more rapidly, which can enhance customer satisfaction. CSRs can also use the saved time to up-sell additional products or services. A trusted provider of technology for collaborative applications In today s highly competitive marketplace, businesses need to improve contact center productivity to enhance customer satisfaction, increase business responsiveness and leverage their human and IT assets to differentiate themselves and maintain a competitive edge. With IBM WebSphere Portal software, companies can integrate their electronic user environment into a single, cohesive interface and provide contact center employees with easier access to the information and resources they need to be more productive. Businesses of all sizes and in every industry can feel confident that IBM can help them achieve their business initiatives with integrated and proven portal solutions. For more information To find out more about IBM WebSphere Portal software, please visit: ibm.com/websphere/portal Copyright IBM Corporation 2006 Software Group One Rogers Street Cambridge, MA U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, the On Demand Business logo, WebSphere and Workplace are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries or both. Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. References in this publication to IBM products or services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates. The information contained in this documentation is provided for informational purposes only. While efforts were made to verify the completeness and accuracy of the information contained in this documentation, it is provided as is without warranty of any kind, express or implied. In addition, this information is based on IBM s current product plans and strategy, which are subject to change by IBM without notice. IBM shall not be responsible for any damages arising out of the use of, or otherwise related to, this documentation or any other documentation. Nothing contained in this documentation is intended to, nor shall have the effect of, creating any warranties or representations from IBM (or its suppliers or licensors), or altering the terms and conditions of the applicable license agreement governing the use of IBM software.. GC