Parallel Lines: Customer service is no longer just a contact centre issue

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Azzurri Communications product development director Rufus Grig says organisations are increasingly paying lip service to the concept that everyone in the business should be focused on the customer

Without close collaboration and cooperation, the contact centre will remain a stand alone function.

In cost-constrained organisations, improving first contact resolution is critical: it improves satisfaction and reduces customer service costs. But just how easy is it to create close collaboration between the contact centre and the rest of the business?

The need to create an integrated, cross-business customer service model is set to be the tipping point for the strategic implementation of unified communications (UC). To date, most organisations have taken a piecemeal approach to the use of instant messaging (IM), presence and collaboration tools. Indeed, even the most functional UC tools have been stand-alone.

But the new model of corporate operations increasingly built around a flexible workforce is pushing organisations towards a more structured implementation.

Any business needs to consider the opportunities to exploit real-time information about customers: not just to drive first-time resolution, but to embed customer service within the framework of the business. Why not add IM or the ability to launch a call to a business application? Or provide back-office staff with an automatic pop-up of customer information?

The ability to tie in business data with communications tools can speed up decision making. A contact centre agent can determine the name of the customer’s account manager and also which engineer has been allocated to fix the fault. Using presence information to determine the engineer’s availability, the agent can then pull together a conference call to discuss the issue.

A proactive approach will enable a business to head off customer issues before they arise. It also offers an integrated way to respond to changing customer interaction, including the use of social media, from customer comments/discussion.

With growing numbers of customers opting to share information – good and bad – with other consumers, it is essential to be able to respond to customer comments posted on the web, to create communities around products, services and brand and engage in third-party forums to address concerns. Those organisations opting to enable agents to respond to Twitter posts or participate in forums need to do so in a controlled fashion.

In addition, it is becoming critical to access a growing customer demographic that simply does not use the landline or email, instead prefers IM, Facebook and SMS. By extending the existing multi-channel contact centre technology to include web 2.0 technologies, organisations can embrace IM, moderated chat forums and video chat, whilst ensuring customer service is monitored.

The ability to move customer service away from a standalone function and embed it within core operations delivers value. Contact centre technology has, for years, combined communications and customer data to improve customer service relevance and performance.

Extending that model to the entire business by customising UC technology and incorporating business data, enables company-wide customer responsibility and supports a new model of customer service.

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