Independent Contact Center Consultants: Bridging Strategy, Technology and Operations Since 2004

Unified Communications in the Call Center

Historically, the call center was left to its own devices to care for customers while managing service delivery. It was a cost center aspiring to evolve to a profit center where it held some chance to protect or drive revenue. Then UC came along with big promises of revolutionizing call center operations and their enterprise connections.

UC proclaimed its “killer app” for the contact center – tapping subject matter experts (SMEs) across the enterprise through “presence” (i.e., visibility into their current work state) and collaboration tools (i.e., IM, transfer/conference, CTI, web collaboration, et al.) In essence, UC attempts to pull the rest of the enterprise into helping the contact center improve first call resolution and bolster customer satisfaction ratings. It sounds good, but the business model presents significant challenges.

unified communications in the call center

SMEs are much more expensive than front-line contact center staff, so it’s not generally cost effective to use them on repetitive, interrupt-driven communication. Many SMEs do not have the training or disposition to interact with customers. In fact, many “hide” from customers. The contact center lacks the organization clout to demand attention on an ad hoc basis. It takes high-level sponsorship to effect this kind of organizational change.

One of our Fortune 100 clients addressed these issues by scheduling SMEs into a special knowledge pool on a rotating basis, four hours per week per SME. They logged in to signal availability; their activity was tracked through standard management reports. Over time, the experts augmented information in the company’s knowledge management system to reduce the demand for their time. This approach proved more appealing and effective – for the company and the callers – than an informal approach using presence and IM on an ad hoc basis.

Web 2.0 may add an interesting wrinkle to SME participation in customer contact. For example, a customer could access a “how to” wiki or forum populated by other customers, prospects, and people who just like to help. CSRs and SMEs might drop in on these on-line conversations to lend their perspectives or join users in rating the content. Selected segments might find their way into the company’s knowledge management system to benefit other users.

What do you see in the market?