New Frontiers for the Contact Centre

Jean-Denis Garo, Head of Product Marketing, Odigo.

Why not move from a customer relationship model to a model for relationships with customers? All too often, the distribution of incoming calls is based on the availability of agents when it should be based, above all, on the customer’s request.

All too often, the distribution of incoming calls is based on the availability of agents when it should be based, above all, on the customer’s request.

The contact centre should not be simplified down to ACD. The qualification stage using IVR and AI should be reconsidered, and at the same time, the contact centre should be extended to include other employees, not simply agents dedicated to customer relationships. In short, now is a good time to redefine the boundaries of the contact centre.

Customer relations are everyone’s business

Responding to customer requests is the primary mission of contact centre agents. However, it will increasingly be necessary for one-off or recurring specialised requests to involve other employees within organisations. Integrating all employees is becoming crucial, particularly “front line workers” (FLW), who were highlighted in the media at the height of the health crisis. They are the first to engage with customers, see the result of new products and services in action, and represent the brand. These FLWs are the delivery people, warehouse workers, and warehouse agents… What they have in common is that they aren’t behind a desk. Moreover, they are often forgotten regarding equipment, and many of them are poorly equipped with digital tools, such as PCs.

Yet, the benefit of having the full force of an organisation carry the company forward seems obvious, as does the benefit of allowing employees to share customer feedback. Such sharing is made possible by giving all employees access to information useful for customer communication, initially through the CRM and, for the fortunate ones, through a connection to the contact centre. Sadly this isn’t commonplace. According to a study* by Workplace from Meta, only 48% of employees think that head office understands the role they play and the value they bring to the organisation.

Front-line workers, who are both experts in the field and in their field, are not the only ones who can benefit from a connection to the contact centre. Indeed, other employees can also be involved when better equipped with digital tools, for example, executives in bank branches, sales representatives in shops, nomadic sales representatives or at the counter…

In concrete terms

Several banking organisations in Europe have already decided to integrate bank advisors into the contact centre for different use cases. A bank advisor can be mobilised several hours weekly for a particular skill or expertise. An advisor can also be called upon to handle overflow calls or cover leave in another branch. This additional activity, even if it is sometimes regular, does not transform the employee into a formal agent. What it does mean is that providing the rich functionality of the contact centre can be hugely beneficial. It also enables the company to adjust its resources (FTEs) to customer requests during call peaks, for VIP treatment or in the event of exceptional support linked to commercial operations.

Another scenario: a direct call to a department store is often doomed to failure; at best, someone at the reception desk will transfer the call blindly onto the relevant department. Unfortunately, a salesperson on the floor will naturally favour the in-store customer in front of them over a caller on hold. The worst case is that the request will end up in a voice mailbox that will rarely be consulted. One possible solution is to offer an interactive voice server that will qualify the intent of the request upstream, using DTMF or natural language, identify the caller and his status (VIP, customer, prospect, etc.) and direct him to the right available advisor, whether or not he is a formal contact centre agent.

Integrated into the contact centre or connected to the contact centre?

The qualification stage will be increasingly important in this search for service from the best available advisor. Especially as artificial intelligence (call bot, chatbot, virtual agent) will make it possible to automate the identification of customer intent more precisely while allowing, via a connection to the information system (IS), confirmation of identity, updates on order status, etc. Once the qualification has been completed, it is time to route the request to the right contact person, whether integrated within or simply connected to the contact centre.

Responding to this new need to involve more employees in customer relations can take several forms (technical architectures). The first is to define an extended agent licence (sometimes referred to as an informal agent), which will not be equivalent to, or priced the same, as a full-time agent license. This comes with limitations, for example, a certain number of interactions per month. With this approach, external advisors can benefit from all the contact centre’s functionalities regardless of the channel(s) used (context and history of customer conversations). The supervisor monitors the activity of the informal agent as well as that of the formal agent, and the statistics are consolidated.

The second approach involves connecting the contact centre (CCaaS) to unified communication tools (UCaaS) such as Microsoft Teams. In this case, depending on the richness of the connection, it’s possible to check the availability of advisors or experts who normally use, for example, Microsoft Teams, and to transfer the call and the context of the request or to organise a three-way conference.

The time when the contact centre played the only role in customer relations is over; it is now possible to involve all employees in customer relations, whether within the contact centre with a new informal-agent profile or as an external expert connected to the contact centre. It is indeed a “customer-centric” approach that companies must adopt for greater customer and employee satisfaction.

Jean-Denis Garo, Head of Product Marketing Odigo.

*Desk-less not voiceless: A new approach to connecting everyone within your business. Workplace from Meta.