Improving the Contact Center Customer Experience

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1 WHITE PAPER Improving the Contact Center Customer Experience The Case for Next-Generation Customer Care Solutions With SOA The contact center has become the communications frontline for all critical consumer relations. Providing timely quality service a critical ingredient for retaining customers is becoming an increasingly complex proposition. As agents are deluged with calls, s and live chat sessions, they must navigate a maze of systems to find relevant information. Utilizing many applications with different interfaces requires training and slows the overall service experience. The multichannel and multipurpose nature of today's contact center has a negative impact on the customer experience, increasing handle times and resulting in out-of-control costs. How can the contact center streamline service delivery while reducing costs? Fortunately, next-generation customer care solutions utilizing serviceoriented architecture (SOA), are promising to improve the contact center experience, enhance agent productivity and significantly reduce costs. This white paper will examine common contact center challenges and introduce the advantages of next-generation customer care solutions with SOA. Market Drivers Impacting the Contact Center Reduced customer patience, long call handling times and the growth of multichannel customer contacts are key drivers forcing change in the contact center There are a number of important trends occurring in the contact center that impact the customer care experience, including the demand for faster service, increasing call handle times and the growth of multichannel contact methods. The patience of contact center customers is waning. Dimension Data reported abandoned calls rose for the third year in a row in 2005 to a record 13.3% and that the average caller was willing to wait only 65 seconds. 1 The situation was worst in the telecom industry, where one in five calls were 1 (July 4, 2005). CallCenter Magazine. Call Center Practices Around the World.

2 Page 2 abandoned. The report cited poor consumer experiences were a byproduct of the overwhelming push for cost reductions and efficiency improvements. For example, most contact centers had cost-cutting targets based on throughput, rather than first-call resolution rates. Figure 1: Contact center abandonment rates are unacceptable. 2 The growing dissatisfaction with contact center service has led to an increase in the use of interactive voice response (IVR). A study by Dimension Data revealed that 1 in 5 customers are opting for self-service channels over agent-handled calls AND that customers' inquiries were significantly more likely to be resolved through self-service channels (76% resolution) than through an agent (50% resolution). 3 When customers do reach a live agent, the quality of service is impacted by the speed of the call resolution. According to the Yankee Group, "most contact centers have at least 10 and sometimes 20 different information sources, which make it difficult to find the correct information quickly." 4 In response to this problem, the vast majority of contact centers (78%) are prioritizing budget allocations to improve the agent desktop via application consolidation. 5 The live phone call is still the primary communications channel for contact centers; however, the Internet will see significant growth over the next few years. Dimension Data's 2006 Merchants Global Contact Center Report found that 70% of all interactions were from inbound calls and that one in 10 contact center interactions were via . 6 By 2008, the Yankee Group predicts that more than 25 percent of customer contacts will come via and live phone calls will be reduced to about 45 percent. 7 2 Ibid. 3 Dawson, K. (June 20, 2005). CommWebb. Use of Self-Service. 4 Kingstone, S. (January 2006). Yankee Group Report: Improving Agility in Contact Centers with SOA. 5 Ibid. 6 Dawson, K. (December 14, 2005). CommWebb. Dimension Data's 2006 Merchants Global Contact Center Report (preliminary). 7 Kingstone, S. (May 2006). Yankee Group Report. Steps to SOA Success in the Contact Center.

3 Page 3 Critical Contact Center Challenges Declining customer experiences, poor agent productivity and skyrocketing costs are the three major challenges faced by most contact centers. Poor Customer Care Experience The poor contact center customer care experience is a result of agents focusing on systems rather than customers The limited ability of agents to meet the needs of customers is a key problem for the contact center. The time it takes agents to access needed customer data as they utilize multiple systems has a major impact on customer wait time. With information residing in many different application silos, such as customer relationship management (CRM), billing, trouble ticketing, order entry, provisioning and order management systems, the agent must know where to look and how to use each system. Often, agents must repeatedly ask customers for the same information as they reenter data into different systems. This focuses agent attention on the system rather than the customer. To add further insult to the customer experience, callers often must be transferred to different departments and repeat the same process. This problem also occurs when callers begin in IVR systems and must restate the same information to live agents. The result is a poor customer experience. The lack of an intelligent workflow is another issue. For example, if a cable customer was calling about a service disruption, the agent should immediately know there is a problem in the caller's area at the start of the call. Instead, the agent must go through the slow process of determining if a problem exists at or near the residence of the caller. Poor Agent Productivity Navigating many systems is a key productivity drain for contact center agents Poor agent productivity and poor customer experience are closely linked. The tools available to the agent usually limit call efficiency. When agents must work with many silos of applications, limited workflow automation and poor session management, the outcome is high average handle times. When many different systems with different interfaces exist, agents must be trained to use them. The high turnover rate in some contact centers complicates agent productivity because of the time it takes for new agents to be trained. When an agent does not know how to use a system, he or she must ask for help or transfer a customer, increasing the average call handling time. Often, an agent's desktop includes numerous screens running many different applications. Logging in and managing all the systems necessary for customer inquiries can be daunting. Handling incoming calls, s and live chat sessions further complicates this scenario. First-call completion rates are dismally low in contact centers that suffer from these productivity challenges. With the high cost of each call, contact centers must do something to ensure customers' issues are resolved on the first call.

4 Page 4 Out-of-Control Costs A contact center plagued by low first-call resolutions and high agent turnover becomes an out-of-control cost center The highest contact center cost is the risk of losing a customer because of a poor service experience. Beyond that, the contact center has become an enormous cost center for most companies. With a cost of up to $30.00 per call, not resolving issues on the first call is expensive. With the training necessary to operate a dozen or more applications, agents have a costly ramp-up time. It is not uncommon for each agent to be trained for multiple weeks. With the enormous turnover rate among contact center agents some as high as 50 percent each year contact centers need a solution that minimizes training and improves first-call resolution rates while reducing the average handling time. A Brief History of Contact Centers The contact center has gone through rapid change over the last 40 years, as new technology enabled significant breakthroughs In the mid-1970s, the airline industry created the first contact center and it leveraged automated call distribution technology that simply routed calls to available agents. 8 The back-end systems and applications running at the agent's desktop were proprietary mainframe systems. By the mid-1980s, computer telephony integration (CTI) and touch-tone interactive systems were available that could deliver a customer's account information to a DOS or Windows-based application on an agent's desktop as a call came in. However, it was not uncommon for agents to have many monitors on their desktops for the different systems they needed to access, commonly referred to as the "swivel chair effect." By the early 1990s, CRM systems integrated some front- and back-end systems, enabling fewer applications that could operate with a single monitor on a common operating system, such as Windows. However, agents still needed to hop between many applications. By the late 1990s, portals appeared that enabled front-end presentation integration with back-end systems. However, the contact center was undergoing major growing pains as it began handling and web-based inquiries as well. Because each channel had a unique customer interface and technology, there was no easy way to cross-reference contacts. SOA also came on the scene. Its primary benefit was promoting the reuse and interconnection of existing systems, enabling the contact center to rapidly spin up new services without the need to spend an enormous amount of time or money inventing new solutions. New contact center productivity and service solutions are leveraging SOA to bring significant change to the contact center. 8 Dawson, K. and Fluss, D. (August 17, 2005). CallCenter Magazine. The Development of the Real-Time Contact Center.

5 Page 5 The Solution: Next-Generation Customer Care With SOA Next-generation customer care with SOA provides agents a single interface to access all channels and all systems, ensuring better customer care Designed to increase agent productivity, lower contact center costs and dramatically improve customer service, next-generation customer care solutions utilizing SOA represent the future for all contact centers. Nextgeneration solutions are comprised of web services that link existing contact center systems into a single, unified solution. Now, multiple contact channels, agent applications and back-end systems can be easily unified leveraging an SOA-based infrastructure to bring rapid advantages to the contact center. With next-generation SOA solutions, legacy systems, modern enterprise applications and custom systems regardless of platform can be brought together in a flexible and easy-to-use central system. Whether the customer initiates contact via phone, live chat, the web portal, or IVR, an agent can seamlessly provide service from a common application (see Figure 2). Figure 2: Contact centers can now provide customer service seamlessly across multiple channels. When a customer initiates contact, data from many systems is immediately aggregated and brought to the agent's desktop. Gone is the need to access multiple systems or spend weeks training agents to operate many applications. Now an agent can quickly and easily access all needed data in one familiar interface, speeding call handle times, increasing first-call resolution rates, improving customer satisfaction and reducing costs. Consider the following examples. At a very basic level, if a customer logs into his bank's website, he will not need to reenter information when he initiates a chat session. A more complex example might be a cable customer who calls to complain about Internet access. Before the call is routed to an

6 Page 6 agent, the customer's identity and call type are used to initiate an immediate cable modem test at the customer's residence. The agent is presented with the test results as the call is answered, dramatically improving the customer service experience. From the moment a customer makes contact, the agent has a complete picture of the customer's previous interactions. Customers do not need to provide details and agents do not need to dig for information while the customer is waiting. Rather, agents can greet customers by name, better understand the customer's issues and immediately attempt to meet that customer's needs. Next-generation customer care solutions provide significant enhancements over previous standards: Old Contact Centers Function as a cost center Goal is to minimize customer complaints High employee turnover Many custom applications Fragmented view of customer Customer service is a burden that must be managed efficiently Next-Generation Contact Centers Function as a profit center Goal is to improve customer experience Lower turnover with optimized workforce Consolidation of information into a single, easy-to-use system Customer information is aggregated into a single view Customer service can lead to up-sell opportunities that drive higher revenues The Benefits of Next-Generation Customer Care Next-generation customer care solutions dramatically improve customer service, increase agent productivity and lead to significant cost savings Next-generation customer care solutions provide numerous customer service, agent productivity and cost-savings benefits, as follows: Eliminates the agent "swivel chair effect" by providing all relevant information in a unified user interface, regardless of the data source. Moves agent focus away from managing systems and toward helping customers. Provides simultaneous access to all relevant customer data preloaded as the call begins to improve service.

7 Page 7 Enables customers to communicate via their preferred channels such as , web, chat or voice and receive consistent service quality. Reduces average call handle times by pre-fetching customer-related data and providing intelligent workflows. Empowers the contact center to effortlessly add service capabilities to improve service. Increases first-call resolution rates by providing the right information and knowledge to every agent, when it is needed. Reduces the time necessary to find information by aggregating and preloading data from many sources into a single, standardized application. Provides intelligent automated workflow, guiding agents to ensure proper resolution. Reduces human error, typos and the need to copy information with automation and intelligent workflows. Lowers the need to train agents on multiple applications by providing a single unified desktop and automated workflow. Reduces the cost per call by decreasing the average handle time and increasing the likelihood of first call resolution, lowering the total cost of the contact center. Optimizes the workforce, allowing the same staff to meet increasing demands by speeding calls. Lowers agent turnover by simplifying each agent's job. What to Look for in SOA-Based Customer Care Solutions The ideal next-generation customer care solution should provide a return on investment within 1 year When seeking a company to help implement next-generation customer care solutions with SOA, be sure to consider the following: Rapid deployment: Seek a company that is able to achieve proof of concept in weeks and complete the rollout in fewer than 6 months. Affordable cost: The ideal solution should deliver a return on investment within 6 to 12 months. Works with existing back-end systems: The ideal solution should not require ripping and replacing systems, but rather interface existing legacy systems into a unified desktop.

8 Page 8 Supports gradual moves to SOA: Look for a solution that enables the immediate benefits of front-end integration while providing hooks into backend applications as they migrate to SOA. Architecture designed to accommodate change: Look for a solution that can accelerate the rollout of a new service or campaign, ideally within 2 months. Flexible architecture: The ideal solution should provide an agile framework that can support new requirements, even after SOA is implemented. Cross-channel support: Seek a solution that can accommodate all customer contact channels, including , IVR, chat, voice and self-service portals. Integrated workflow processes: The ideal solution should enable automated workflow processes, guiding agents through recommended courses of action. Non-proprietary solution: Avoid a proprietary solution. Rather, seek a solution that is flexible and will provide a rapid return on investment. Industry expertise: Seek a solution provider that has worked with other Fortune 1000 customers in your industry and provides a robust method of organizing information. The Microsoft Advantage Microsoft CCF is a nextgeneration customer care solution with SOA that can transform any contact center into an efficient, quality service organization, while reducing costs Microsoft Customer Care Framework (CCF) is a modular, next-generation customer care solution that utilizes SOA to transform and expand contact center operations. With CCF, contact centers can better address customer needs, dramatically improve agent productivity and cut the costs associated with traditional contact centers. Now, every contact channel can be linked with critical back-end systems to deliver an integrated and familiar experience for every agent. Able to bridge silos of information, CCF provides a rapid return on investment by streamlining customer contact and workflow management. Existing backend systems do not need to be altered due to Microsoft's advanced hybrid integration capabilities. Regardless of the contact channel, agents will be able to efficiently support each customer's needs.

9 Page 9 Uniquely pre-fetching customer information, CCF speeds handling times, allowing fewer agents to do more work each day, or enabling up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. Leveraging Microsoft's.NET framework, Microsoft Windows Server and SQL Server, CCF is able to deliver XML web services across departments, technical boundaries and the enterprise. With the wide pool of.net developers and commercial applications, Microsoft CCF is easy to integrate and support. Microsoft CCF customers have been able to reduce their average call handling times by up to 25 percent and reduce training by up to 40 percent. Many Microsoft CCF customers begin to see financial gain in only 6-8 weeks after proof of concept. Take your contact center to the next level with Microsoft CCF. For more information visit

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