By Bobby Bennet
Contact center clients today no longer focus solely on customer service through phone calls. Prospective clients looking for a call center will evaluate your company’s business strategy and technology. Your prospects have specific needs to meet their customers’ expectations, and they want to know that you can provide them with the tools necessary to accomplish this.
In an increasingly online world, companies now expect their call center to provide customers with an omnichannel experience. They are no longer satisfied with only email, fax, short message service (SMS), paging, and voice communications. As millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s) increase their presence in the workplace, so does the demand for alternate means of communications.
Millennials and Gen Z have grown up with the internet and cell phones. They demand quick satisfaction when contacting a company with minimal effort on their part. When they contact a company for a new service, they’re not calling. Rather, they’ll pick up their phone to use web chat or text the company’s phone number. These are features that most major companies have in place today but have been missing within many call center applications for too long.
Mainline texting and web chat are no longer technologies customers may one day want. They’re features that the marketplace demands. On average, Americans text twice as much as they call. Ninety-five percent of texts are read in less than three minutes of being sent, and 33 percent of American adults prefer text to all other forms of communications.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans would rather text about appointments, reminders, or scheduling rather than receive an email or phone call, according to the Zipwhip State of Texting 2019 Report.
SMS Enabling Business Lines
New technology enables SMS and multimedia message service (MMS) on business lines and toll-free numbers for both the contact center and its customers. Imagine having the ability to manage your customer’s text messages the same way you currently do with their voice calls. Adding artificial intelligence and rules-based routing constructed from the interactions and answers of the person texting can populate automated responses that limit or even eliminate agent involvement.
Enabling SMS for a business can provide customers with a clearer line of communication. Medical offices that send out appointment reminders via SMS a few days in advance with an option to cancel have drastically reduced their number of no-shows. This small change has allowed revenues to increase as well as customer satisfaction with their contact center.
Web chat is now the norm when communicating with many corporations in the United States. Most of us are accustomed to this growing trend among businesses. A web chat system allows users to communicate in real-time using easily accessible web interfaces, eliminating the need for users to install and learn specialized chat software.
Many websites now include a live chat button in the bottom corner of the page. This makes it easy for customers to get information about a product, receive assistance, or have questions answered by a live agent. Web chat works in most every stage of the customer lifecycle.
Email chat is the same concept as webchat except in the form of an email message. An agent can receive an email and respond with the appropriate answer or a predetermined response.
Social media for customer service, while not as prevalent as other interactive message exchange mediums, will soon be a mandatory feature for call centers. As millennial and Gen Z demographics increase, we’ll find a growing desire for contact through social media outlets such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. People may respond more positively to a discount offer on social media versus a phone pitch.
Mass notification is yet another tool that can provide additional revenue to a contact center. The purpose of such a system is to reach a targeted audience quickly with real-time information. Mass notifications can quickly inform your targeted audience of critical events such as mass casualty incidents, inclement weather, campus alerts, and other emergency-related incidents that require immediate attention.
There are many nonemergency business applications as well. Uses include company announcements, scheduling requests and changes, marketing messages, billing notifications, appointment reminders, community announcements, school-related announcements, and service interruptions.
If you’ve not already done so, today is the day to plan for the next-gen interactive message exchange.
Bobby Bennett is the western regional sales manager for Startel (startel.com), a leading provider of best-in-class contact center solutions. He has been in the contact center industry for more than twenty-five years. Startel recently released its platform-agnostic GenIMX solution, which provides contact centers across all platforms the ability to add SMS-enabling LAN lines, web and email chat, and mass notification.