By Renaud Charvet
Fans of Friends may recall the episode in which Phoebe works as a call center agent for Empire Office Supplies, desperately trying to sell as much toner as possible. Luckily, the time of isolating cubicles and reams of contact lists are over and contact centers are the way forward, where data-driven contact centers elevate customer experiences.
The US remains a global competitor in the call center market. In fact, Statista reports that over one hundred call centers opened across the nation in 2021, more than any other region worldwide.
Call centers’ primary industries include financial services, technology, media, and telecommunications. The South is particularly significant for call and contact center operations, as Texas has the highest employment in telemarketing with approximately 22,500 employees, followed by Florida with 15,000 workers. But times are changing for many of these facilities. We’re seeing a move from what’s traditionally considered to be a call center, and towards the notion of a contact center.
Instead of relying on just one communication channel—the telephone—contact centers are multi-channel facilities that use several forms of communication to talk to their customers. They rely on advanced analytics to learn more about the people they’re contacting and dig deeper into data to inform their decisions.
So how can a call center become a contact center?
The Relationship Hub
Call centers have long been considered as a means of making sales and dealing with customer problems. The general strategy has been to react to the needs of the customers, rather than adapt. A contact center goes beyond the immediate goals of making sales and managing complaints. It is instead positioned as a hub for all forms of customer relationships.
A contact center is where all critical communication from customers comes in, and everything customers tell agents inform a business of what their customers are like, how they’re feeling, and what is and isn’t working. This doesn’t mean contact centers aren’t making sales calls and dealing with customers. The key difference is that they’re capturing data from customer interactions and using it to benefit all areas of the business.
In a contact center, data is king. A customer relationship management (CRM) infrastructure is an essential piece of contact center technology that’s used to track, compile, and analyze all areas of communication. A CRM stores information such as who has been contacted, how many times they’ve spoken to an agent, and whether they’ve made a purchase—all in a single system.
A data-driven contact center gathers relevant data from multiple channels, be it via the phone, email, webchat, or any other platform. This data lets contact center agents gain insights on their target audiences, allowing them to offer personalized services.
Typically, a contact center team will have an overview of not just who they have contacted but other data including what stage a sale may be at, who their direct contact person is, how this person prefers to be contacted, what language they speak and what information was already provided. This data, and having easy access to it, sits at the heart of any successful contact center.
Rise of the Super-Agent
If a bot can do it, why should a human? The super-agent is the idea that using technology and automation can move every agent in the contact center up a notch, elevating their level of expertise. The process of creating super-agents involves automating administrative tasks that take up valuable employee time and gives agents time to focus on more advanced responsibilities.
A good CRM system that’s linked to the contact center’s calling system also helps create super-agents. Aligning a center’s CRM with its cloud-calling system provides the ability to update customer data in an instant, without manually adding in details. Some CRMs even have automated features that listen in to phone calls and make transcripts for the contact agent to review later.
Implementing an advanced call routing software solution can further enhance better business relationships. Having call routing software connects callers with qualified agents who have the skillset required to best assist the customer, without needing to pass them between agents before reaching the right person.
Contact centers continue to play a crucial role in building better relationships. But there is no need to opt for yesterday’s lines of desks and endless printed contact lists à la Friends’ Empire Office Supplies. Embracing the contact center allows employees and customers to have simpler, more meaningful conversations.
Renaud Charvet is CEO of business phone system software provider Ringover, a leader in cloud communications. Ringover combines unlimited calling, group messaging and video conferencing into one easy-to-use app.