By Simon Wieczner
Having access to timely information empowers call center personnel to react quickly to customer needs no matter what they are. There’s nothing worse than not having access to existing information that can help resolve an issue. That information can range from an email or letter from the customer to the entire customer file or diagrams and photos. What’s key in all of these situations is reducing resolution time while also minimizing the need to escalate issues internally. In 2015 we will see companies making a concerted effort to improve document access systems in order to reap these benefits and streamline operations.
Challenges in the Global Marketplace: The many challenges in today’s global marketplace make implementing a universal interface for viewing information critical. In order to compete, numerous companies offer 24/7 support, but to do this across time zones, a call center’s staff might be dispersed geographically across the globe. In this case they need to have tools in each operator’s native language and may need to satisfy cultural factors – such as the need to output to paper even with the availability of electronic copies. Other IT challenges include slow communications to central databases and difficulty standardizing the hardware and software for agents on different continents. In some cases it makes sense to consider tools that are independent of the operating system and the hardware.
Browsers and Viewers: So what tools do call centers need to accomplish this? Today’s call centers need to be equipped with computers that have modern browsers, a phone, a back office server with full customer data, a CRM system that can access customer data, and a viewer for customer records such as letters, photos, and insurance claim forms. With these tools in place, let’s talk about connection.
In order for call center personnel to have reliable document access, call center computer stations need to be connected to company servers where customer data is stored on a CRM or other database system. Connections could be through a local network or over the Web for remote workers. It’s also helpful to have a modern browser with fast network and database access. Lastly, customer records must be available digitally (including scanned documents) and organized for quick access.
In a perfect world, with perfect data access, a customer phone call, chat, or email should not have to wait due to lack of access to existing documents. It’s a simple concept – but one that few companies have mastered.
A Multimedia Environment: In today’s multimedia environment, there’s an increasing multitude of document formats in a typical customer file: paper scans, photographs, faxes, Word documents, spreadsheets, and database reports. To address this document diversity, the best solution today for Web-based document viewing and processing is simplifying the number of applications needed to handle customer information.
Historically there have been issues with training operators on multiple applications (i.e., Adobe, Word, and Excel) as well as the cost involved. In addition to initial training and refresher training, there is the effort required in updating the client software and the risk that geographically dispersed call centers and systems would have different versions of the applications they were running.
One Universal Viewer: Clearly having one user interface for viewing all documents would simplify training and installation. Similarly, application software that does most of the processing on a central server ensures that everyone is working with the same version of the application and accessing the same database.
Today it is possible to avoid specialized document viewing applications like Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, fax viewers, and others. Now one viewer can handle all the documents in the customer record. And if that viewer is using the latest HTML5 technology, then all that capability can be provided from the central server while the client system has minimal requirements. This alone can drastically reduce training and support efforts, as well as response times.
The result is that call centers can actually have universal viewers running entirely within a browser that operates on any PC, Mac, or Linux system – or even on a tablet or smartphone. These viewers can seamlessly operate on a variety of different Web browsers and therefore can significantly increase the efficiency and reduce the response time for call center agents. This also makes incremental device updates a non-issue, which is key, because it’s rare for a global call center to upgrade all of its devices at once and virtually impossible to do so instantaneously across different regions.
Future Streamlining: There will undoubtedly be more technological advancements in the future that further streamline document access, but as we look to 2015 and beyond, browser-based call center systems can unlock many of the doors blocking call center agents from the documents they need to resolve issues. The benefits of a universal interface, simpler support leading to lower support costs, less training, and greater flexibility are all possible with current technologies. Organizations will be using that technology to build on their current processes to further streamline operations and give call center agents unfettered access to the information they need when they need it.
Simon Wieczner is the CEO of Snowbound Software. Simon’s background includes over twenty-five years of software industry experience. His management and marketing experience spans a number of companies, including First Data, Computervision, ADP, BSO/Tasking, Numonics, Ergo Computing, and AccuSoft. He holds a BS in Management and an MBA in Marketing from MIT.
[From Connection Magazine – Jan/Feb 2015]