Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers

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1 Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers Knocking Down Geographies and Walls Blair Pleasant President & Principal Analyst COMMfusion LLC Brad Herrington Senior Manager, Solutions Marketing Interactive Intelligence, Inc.

2 Contents Introduction... 3 A Case for Collapsing Geographies... 4 Current Challenges... 5 Benefits of Removing the Geographic Boundaries... 5 Knocking Down Walls... 6 The Cloud Makes it Possible... 7 How to Get Started... 8 Conclusion... 9 The Authors Copyright 2013 Interactive Intelligence, Inc. All rights reserved. Brand, product, and service names referred to in this document are the trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies. Interactive Intelligence, Inc Interactive Way Indianapolis, Indiana Telephone (800) Publish date 8/13, version Interactive Intelligence, Inc. 2 Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers

3 Introduction Cloud communications provide myriad benefits for organizations, including speed of deployment, the ability to future-proof infrastructure and applications, business continuity, predictable monthly payments, and many more. Most organizations turn to the cloud in order to cost-effectively access enhanced capabilities while eliminating the complexity of deploying and managing premises-based solutions. Cloud-based contact center solutions offer additional benefits, notably the ease of adding or removing agents as needed based on fluctuating or seasonal traffic, ease of deploying remote or at-home agents, and ease of adding multichannel services. Organizations that have deployed hosted contact center solutions are finding additional benefits they may not have anticipated notably, the breaking down of boundaries. As the title of this paper suggests, there are two types of boundaries that can impact the effectiveness of any contact center. The first is geography. Once a contact center expands from a single location, complexity and cost can begin to have a major impact on efficiency. Most agree that a single contact center, regardless of size, runs much more efficiently from a staffing perspective than multiple contact centers. The second boundary is walls. Not necessarily physical, but the walls between the agents in the contact center and the subject matter experts they need to assist in resolving customer issues. These walls exist whether the organization has a single large contact center or multiple sites Interactive Intelligence, Inc. 3 Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers

4 A Case for Collapsing Geographies For most contact centers, providing a single face to the customer is important to provide the best possible service experience. As customers have more options to choose from as to how they want to interact (call, , chat, SMS, and so on), it becomes even more imperative to address a single pool of agents to handle all the inbound request for service. In trying to achieve better efficiency, smaller groups of agents dispersed around a campus or the globe become exponentially harder to manage with each new media type that customers are forcing on the contact center. Let s take an extreme example of a global organization and the challenges they faced with a dispersed group of agents, and explore some of the benefits they realized after removing their geographic boundaries. Figure 1: Our example organization currently has 9 contact centers in 6 different time zones spanning the globe. At first glance, it may seem great that the organization can provide a follow-the-sun support model. But each site manufactures and supports a different set of products, and in many cases customers are buying products that come from more than one of those locations. That means when a customer has an issue, they first must decide which center they need to call. Of course the centers can transfers calls that are not meant for their products, but that doesn t provide the best service experience Interactive Intelligence, Inc. 4 Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers

5 Current Challenges Staffing With each contact center operating independently, they must staff to their own local volume of calls, with no regard to the ebb and flow of inbound traffic at any other site. Even centers in the same time zone offered no value to each other, since the staff was treated as separate entities. Communications equipment Through no fault of their own, many of the sites use different legacy systems to manage their contact center operations. Some sites may have been added through corporate acquisition, and other legacy systems may have been chosen based on what the local IT group or local budget dictated. Consistent service level The service offered to the customer and measured by the reporting tools was done on a center-by-center basis. With no way to measure across centers, customers received a different service experience depending on which center they were dealing with for a given product. ROI challenges With each center operating independently, and with many having different communications infrastructures, the organization was limited in the value they could realize by investing in the latest technology. Since each site was a silo, each site might see incremental value, but the service group as a whole was not realizing the full potential of better technology. In this case study, our organization decided to go with a single cloud solution that all contact centers would feed from for their communications needs. All functions were available to all centers equally. Benefits of Removing the Geographic Boundaries Staffing Basically our organization now has one large contact center. Cross training on products was their first step to broaden their agent knowledgebase, allowing them to now quickly assign agents based on demand or schedule from a larger centralized pool. Communications equipment By choosing the cloud model, the organization eliminated the need for each contact center site to manage their own infrastructure. All sites pull from a common set of features that are added simply by licensing, eliminating the need to install unique hardware or solutions at separate sites. Consistent service level Consolidating the queues behind the numbers they served, customers no longer have to figure out where they need to call. Reports now span all sites and give a clearer view of the service provided to all product areas. ROI realized The immediate monetary benefit was allowing the organization to switch from capital expenditures on local equipment at multiple sites, to a monthly service fee for the whole of customer service. Looking forward, as any part of customer service needs to add features and functionality, the organization can simply license new features based on need, without having the cost of sourcing or installing new product or systems Interactive Intelligence, Inc. 5 Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers

6 Knocking Down Walls When you think of a typical contact center, you probably think of a large, non-descript room filled with agents sitting in cubicles wearing headsets and looking frustrated. While this scenario is still the norm, things are starting to change. Contacts centers have evolved from specialized isolated cost centers to revenue centers, providing not only the opportunity for cross-selling and upselling, but for providing exceptional customer service, leading to long-term customer loyalty. For years, there s been talk about the contact center moving from a centralized silo to being integrated with the rest the enterprise. While this has been slow to take off, we re seeing signs of increased momentum. A growing number of companies are finding that in order to serve customers in the best manner possible, all workers, or specialized individuals such as product experts, should be enabled to interact with customers and provide customer care. In order to respond to ever-growing customer demands, companies must look outside of the traditional walls of the contact center to respond to customers requests in real-time. Knowledge is spread throughout the enterprise and should be tapped into on an as needed basis. Effective management of customer relationships becomes the responsibility of a much broader set of people than just dedicated contact center agents, who can collaborate quickly and effectively to optimize management of customer relationships. A phrase we re hearing more and more frequently is The enterprise is the contact center. This means that customer care is no longer just a function of contact center agents, and goes beyond the walls of the traditional contact center to include everyone in the company. When the enterprise is the contact center, each employee is a potential customer touch point. Therefore, enterprises need to consolidate all internal resources as one central asset to manage customers interactions. Companies can tap into the larger workforce, independent of where they re located, in order to best service customers. Today s contact centers have to meet a variety of goals while remaining within various confines. Most contact centers need to: Improve customer satisfaction and first contact resolution. Maintain consistent service levels during peak call volumes. Hire part-time or informal agents to work from anywhere to log in during busy hours to maintain service levels. Provide the tools agents need without having to train them to be experts in everything Interactive Intelligence, Inc. 6 Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers

7 There are times where the appropriate person to handle certain customer interactions is not a call center agent, but is a more experienced or specialized employee located somewhere else within the organization such as account managers, bankers, claims adjusters, sales reps, and so on. Each employee becomes a potential customer touch point, or Expert Agent. By consolidating all of these internal resources as one central asset to manage customer care, the responsibility of customer relationships and customer service is spread across the enterprise to the appropriate people and/or workgroups. In order to respond to growing customer demands, the contact center management team must look outside of the traditional walls of the contact center to respond to customers requests in real-time. While companies cannot afford to have these more specialized, higher-cost knowledge workers sitting idly waiting for a specialized call, contact center agents should be able to tap into their expertise and use the expert as a resource behind the scenes of customer interactions. Companies that can best benefit from this include: Large multi-site enterprises with highly distributed resources. For example, a consumer bank with several thousand branch offices nationwide. Enterprises that deal with high volumes of interactions that require either overflow and/or escalated calls from the contact center to other available resources within the virtual enterprise. Enterprises that provide offerings with a sophisticated and/or complex portfolio of products or services that requires them to customize the service. The Cloud Makes it Possible This concept isn t new. The concept of expert agents has been around for many years going back as far as 1998 when I first started writing about this. Back then the enabling technology was computer telephony integration (CTI), which never really expanded beyond the contact center. This concept got renewed attention when contact centers moved from TDM technologies to IP technology, which can more easily and cost effectively link multiple remote offices, with each user having full access to all shared voice applications, services and, increasingly, presence management thanks to the support of SIP. Still, only a handful of enterprises actually embraced and adopted the ability to use knowledge workers or subject matter experts outside of the contact center for customer care. What s different today is the cloud, as well as unified communications tools such as presence and IM. Based on the power of the cloud, customers can reach individuals both inside and outside of the contact center, regardless of their location. Agents or workers who can be working out of their homes, working in branch offices, or practically anywhere. Cloud services can easily and cost effectively link multiple remote offices and individual workers, regardless of geographic location, while managing all of this as one seamlessly integrated network Interactive Intelligence, Inc. 7 Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers

8 Cloud-based solutions view everyone as a remote user, making it much easier to accommodate the enterprise as the contact center and expert agents. Cloud solutions don t require additional equipment and bandwidth to accommodate remote users, which can be cost-prohibitive for small groups of mobile users. Consolidation becomes much simpler, as cloud solutions inherently create virtual organization for companies with multiple office locations, all with centralized administration. Using cloud-based presence capabilities, agents can quickly and easily see which experts are available to help with a customer inquiry in real-time. The agent can collaborate with the expert and bring the expert into the call or interaction with the customer, regardless of where the expert resides. Giving agents access to experts in real-time means responding to customer queries in real-time, which increases First Contact Resolution (FCR), which leads to higher customer satisfaction. By streamlining the interaction between contact center agents and an extended team of experts, organizations can tap into expertise across their organization simply and quickly. For example: When a platinum customer calls her bank, the system identifies her as a premier account. Instead of having the call go to the next available call center agent to provide the latest rates, the call goes to the caller s personal banker or a vice president. Alternatively, if the system shows that you haven t paid your bill in 6 months, your call goes to the accounting or accounts receivable department. Overflow calls that can be offloaded to expert agents. For example, a systems engineer working on presales opportunities can have technical assistance calls routed to them when they re in the car or at the airport. In special situations, such as emergencies or snow days, expert agents can handle customer interactions from wherever they are and get calls routed to them. How to Get Started What are your customer service goals? Are you focused on answering as many calls as quickly as possible, or are customer satisfaction and customer intimacy your goals? If the latter, then your organization needs to make it clear that customer service is the responsibility of the entire organization. This is going to be difficult for established companies, as it means changing the corporate culture as well as the roles and responsibilities of every employee. But it can be done. The hurdle is less about technology, and more about people management. As more companies embrace the use of the cloud, as well as basic UC tools, expect to see new job functions, like Manager of Customer Satisfaction, with responsibility beyond the contact center to the entire organization. The result should be more loyal and satisfied customers Interactive Intelligence, Inc. 8 Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers

9 Conclusion By providing a simple and efficient way to access subject matter experts or professionals who have the expertise to resolve a customer s issue in a timely fashion, companies can not only increase first contact resolution, but can increase customer satisfaction while minimizing agent frustration. In many cases the real value to a corporate customer service strategy comes from dissolving barriers that are preventing customers from receiving the best experience possible. Being able to better utilize resources through consolidation of agents across multiple call centers into one central agent pool, or reaching outside the walls of the contact center to subject matter experts will return better value to corporate goals than simply adopting the latest technology. Using the power of the cloud, the contact center expands to the entire organization, including remote and at-home workers. Calls and interactions can be delivered to individuals wherever they are located, and callers can reach the most qualified person to handle their inquiry, no matter where that employee may be physically located Interactive Intelligence, Inc. 9 Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers

10 The Authors Blair Pleasant is President & Principal Analyst of COMMfusion LLC and a co-founder of ucstrategies.com, an industry resource on the growing UC arena. She provides consulting and market research analysis on voice/data convergence markets, applications, and technologies, aimed at helping end-user and vendor clients both strategically and tactically. Prior to COMMfusion, Ms. Pleasant was Director of Communications Analysis for The PELORUS Group, a market research and consulting firm, and President of Lower Falls Consulting. With more than 20 years experience, her primary areas of focus are convergence applications, including Unified Communications, the contact center, computer telephony integration (CTI), Unified Messaging and voice processing. Blair has authored many highly acclaimed multi-client market studies and white papers, as well as custom research reports, and provides market research analysis and consulting services to end user and vendor clients. Find her blogs and articles on and Blair also tweets on Twitter as blairplez, and you can find her on Facebook and LinkedIn. She can be contacted at Brad Herrington is a Senior Manager in the Solutions Marketing Group at Interactive Intelligence, Inc., where he is responsible for the product direction and marketing strategy of the company s suite of products for the contact center, unified communications, and business process automation. Solutions Marketing is also the outward facing delivery team for webinar, seminar, analyst and media presentations, and for product and best practices demonstrations to prospects and end customers. Brad s experience includes more than 22 years in the contact center and telephony industry, including the past 14 years with Interactive Intelligence, where he has focused on the traditional and IP telephony markets Interactive Intelligence, Inc. 10 Crossing Boundaries for Contact Centers

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