Contact Centers have had a simple plan since inception: To create a communication path between customers and organizations. That has not changed. How we deliver that communication path and the services that the industry provides has evolved tremendously. Customers demand efficiency and ease whether it be by traditional voice, e-mail, chat or newer avenues such as social media. Companies need to be able to react immediately. Recent technology developments and transformations based on customer desires are positively impacting many business environments.

From Voice to Speech Recognition and IVR’s

How many times have you had to provide your phone number or account number multiple times in a single call with an organization? Do you simply want to hang up and find a closet to shut yourself in instead? Customers find this to be very frustrating. Integration of CRM (Customer relationship management) platforms and speech recognition technology play an important role in the future of the contact center environment. Some of the recent developments include caller profile pops tied to caller ID. The agent can answer the phone as simply as “Thank you for calling X Corporation, Mr. Davidson, this is Mary, how may I assist you today?” These integrated systems can provide detailed customer data and transactional information directly to the agent without the need for a timely search or repetitive questions to the customer.

IVR technology has become a significant value to customers and not just for selecting basic options from a phone tree. When many people think of IVRs they think of their experiences with some of the older generation systems that didn’t understand most of what you said. It was a maddening experience that led to a higher number of hang-ups and a negative customer experience. Today, organizations are inputting true voice technology that many customers confuse with a live person. We have utilized IVRs in our Banner Health emergency notification contact center with a great deal of success. We have been able to reduce staff which is an obvious plus but more importantly raise the skill level of our agents by eliminating most of the easier calls that are now handled by the IVR. This makes the Human Resources teams in your organization very happy by creating a developmental path for staff as we upgraded the job description for the agents. The result is a higher salary for the agents and carrier pathing but also overall cost savings from the reduction of staff. The happier your agents are the happier your customers are. All possible with a small technology boost.

Workforce Management

One area where technology has had a very large impact on today’s contact center is Workforce Management (WFM). This type of technology provides cost savings, analysis, employee engagement, and a great deal more. Historically, workforce planning has been challenging but it is now made easier with user-friendly technology both for administrators and agents. Agents can use smartphones to manage their schedules, leading to improved agent satisfaction and less turnover. In Banner Health, the introduction of WFM immediately boosted our ability to forecast and capacity plan. By planning ahead for the staffing needs, we minimized the under/ over staffing scenarios that happen in a seasonal environment such as Arizona, ensuring that the right number of people are working at any time. This also created an enhanced partnership with the finance and recruitment teams by leveling out our hiring over a longer period and with insight and forethought. Being able to hire in advance of attrition also enables contact center managers to improve the service to our customers. Leaders can also monitor schedule adherence through WFM, which maximizes the agent time on the phones creating additional cost savings.

Social Media

The most aggressive technology-based contact center changes in recent memory relate to Social Media. Customers expect immediate resolution to any challenge that they post on Social Media platforms. Organizations must be able to respond immediately via Twitter, Google+ and Instagram, to name a few. Technology changes have pushed this forward to allow for integrated multi-channel options. For the agent, one transaction may be voice, the next transaction may be a social post and another may be chat. In healthcare, social customer care is newer. Airlines and retail companies, for example have already mastered this communication channel.

Technology integration is crucial to success in this environment. Many software companies today offer a variety of integrated technology options. One major telephone platform offers access to phone agents via Facebook. With this type of technology, agents can see what the customer has been posting and review their page before or during the call. There are so many options. At Banner Health, our integrated Social Customer Care team manages all Social platforms and responds and interacts with our customers. This “right on time” type of communication has been a game changer for our contact center. It is important that your social care team not be siloed. The advantage that we have at Banner Health is that these teams are part of our overall customer care center. Policies and procedures are standardized and we can be aware of customer concerns across all channels and can easily involve other areas as needed such as Public Relations for more visible concerns. It can be daunting for some companies to begin the dance into this space but your customers are communicating to you via Social Media. Are you listening?

Technology advancements have revolutionized the contact center environment. While voice is still a major player in the contact space, agents and customers have demanded change. The need for advanced workforce management and innovative speech recognition options as well as the customer desire for social media options have forced companies to use technology as their most important partner in the contact center environment.