The Evolution of the Call Center

By Eyal Rudnik

The mere mention of the words “contact center” used to trigger frustration and tension in most people. Nearly everyone has a horror story of being left on hold for an hour, rude agents, or just plain lousy service.

Much of this perception can be attributed to the fact that, in the past, companies treated their call centers as simply a means to take orders or process grievances. Contact centers were thought of as separate from the rest of the business. There were few standards for training and even fewer tools with which agents could handle the astronomical number of wide ranging calls that came through the center each day. With the advent of email, chat, and text messaging, customers have only become more exasperated with the lack of improvement, because they not only receive poor service and experience long wait times, but often they get little or no response to their angry electronic feedback.

Technology Brings Higher Levels of Service to Customers: New technology and advanced software aim to improve the way companies relate to their customers and turn the information generated from thousands of calls into valuable data about their contact centers, their agents, and their customers. This ability has transformed the contact center from being treated as a “necessary evil” to being seen as the “brain” of a company – a command and control center that processes information from all contact points, including phone calls, emails, and electronic chat. Service issues can now be proactively addressed, and meaningful business insights can be extracted from significant interactions with customers. This “brain,” if utilized properly, provides immediate and critical insight about every aspect of the enterprise, ultimately allowing for improved contact center efficiency and increased quality of service.

The most advanced call center technologies now provide companies with:

  • A single view of the truth across the enterprise by consolidating multiple information sources within the organization
  • KPI-based management to align individual goals with the strategic goals of the business and create a culture of accountability for results
  • Adaptive interaction analytics to isolate meaningful interactions and proactively apply insights to improve company performance
  • Right-time information to make good decisions and take action into their own hands when they need it.

By implementing advanced technology in its call center, CUNA Mutual, the world’s largest provider of financial services to credit unions, is providing its customers with a more enjoyable interaction, including less waiting time and fewer transfers. The company itself is also seeing less after-call work and greater customer loyalty and satisfaction.

CUNA Mutual is now able to access information they never thought possible with their “old” call center. Management can sift through thousands of calls – in real time – to find information on customers’ buying habits, issues, and desires, along with data on agents’ capabilities and performance. Trends in call volume, type of calls, and the skill sets required for agents taking those calls can be tracked, and the appropriate agents can be scheduled for the times and types of calls for which they can provide the most appropriate service, thus increasing cross-selling and up-selling. Most importantly, customers are satisfied with the level of service they receive.

Agents Get Up-to-the-Minute Feedback and Professional Development: Another way technology is helping call centers to operate more effectively is by monitoring agents in real time and providing instant feedback based on each call. Instead of simply projecting the next call that the agent must handle, new technology acts as a dashboard, prompting the agents to suggest new products, monitoring the interaction, and pointing out tactics that the agents can use to calm and direct the caller. If a call is handled well, the agent gets instant praise. If it is not, a learning module is sent to the agent describing the missed opportunities and the parts of the call that were not up to the call centers’ standards. Agent performance monitoring is one the newest ways for companies to ensure that agents are in line with performance expectations, with instant communication being a key factor. Along with reducing customer churn, the issue of agent attrition can also be positively impacted.

Improving Performance in the Contact Center and the Enterprise: Performance management software, including dashboards and balanced scorecards, is also making its way into contact centers. This technology allows call center managers to objectively measure individual, team, and departmental performance. Objectives and measurements are set based on the goals of the business, such as increasing sales or improving productivity. Since agents and managers are able to view performance dashboards on a daily basis, it is plain to see how everyone is contributing to the goals of the business. This ensures that all activities in the call center are aligned with the corporate business goals. It also empowers agents to manage their own performance, which is a great employee morale booster.

Performance management software is a powerful management tool. Call center managers benefit from automated performance reporting, which provides them with a unified view of their operations. In addition, managers can conduct root cause analysis and run “what if” scenarios to quickly target concerns and make proactive operational decisions to help them achieve goals. These things were difficult to do previously. In fact, thanks to new and evolving technology that provides agents and managers with timely information, the call center may very well be the most technologically advanced department in the modern company.

Eyal Rudnik is director of product marketing for Nice Systems.

[From Connection Magazine September 2007]

%d bloggers like this: