Voice calls will remain a critical part of contact centre interactions for years to come, but the nature and handling of these calls is changing, says Karl Reed, chief marketing and solutions officer at Elingo.
While voice calls were the foundation of the contact centre industry, the percentage of actual voice traffic in contact centres is dropping as new interaction channels come into play.
Now, it is estimated that 60% to 70% of interactions in the contact centre are voice calls, with the rest of the interactions involving e-mail, SMS, fax, social media and instant messaging. However, voice calls will never disappear completely in the foreseeable future.
What is changing is the nature of voice calls to contact centres, and the way they are handled. Voice is set to become the channel for complex queries, managed by highly skilled agents. These queries are the ones most likely to generate revenue and improve customer loyalty, so companies need to manage them well.
A change in customer demands
The simple queries will become the domain of automated responses, through a variety of other channels. This is because of changing consumer demands and the variety of new communication channels available to them. A customer seeking basic information on an account balance, for example, simply wants that information returned to him via the channel he has chosen to interact on.
So a basic SMS or e-mail query should receive an automated response via the channel of choice, supplying the required information. However, it is important to note that a blanket approach to automation is not the solution. The automation system needs to be intelligent and respond in a personalised way, delivering all the required information.
Tens of thousands of these basic queries come into contact centres every day. By attaching intelligent process management to these queries, the contact centre is able to quickly respond to the customer, making better use of resources, and spare agents the tedium of answering the same question over and over.
Companies are now starting to see the importance of funnelling their communications through an automated system and sending them to the right agents or processes to handle them.
The role of the agent
The agents become available to handle the more complex queries via voice. A complex query might cover multiple areas, and may take a lengthy conversation to resolve. In order to do so effectively, contact centres need to ensure that the agents handling the calls are highly skilled, their training is up to date, and they have at their fingertips all the information needed to answer the queries satisfactorily.
If an agent is incorrectly trained, or has the wrong information, they could destroy your business. On the other hand, an agent able to give intelligent insights and advice, taking into account all the customer’s information, can deliver a significantly improved customer experience and turn the customer into a loyal brand ambassador.
We are starting to see a situation where contact centre agents need to become skilled consultants capable of delivering high level advice and information – both internally and to customers.
As the front line of the business, they could now make or break the business. Fortunately, companies are starting to see the importance of the contact centre, and management is starting to play a greater role in contact centre strategy, while HR is becoming increasingly involved in contact centre training initiatives.
This is good news, because in our experience, training is key to delivering this high level of service and the ability to answer very complex queries.
Agents need to undergo ongoing training that not only allows them to experience the contact centre as the customer does, but that also gives them in-depth insights into the company’s products and solutions, and refreshes their ability to deliver information in the correct way.
As the contact centre evolves from call centre to contact centre and multi-channel support desks, the tools to support this evolution are becoming increasingly advanced too.
Now, intelligent interaction automation and information systems are available to enhance the voice component of contact centre work, allowing for more streamlined operations that deliver a superior customer experience.
Contact centres are becoming the core of everything businesses do; and as such, they need to evolve to deliver new levels of service across multiple new channels, as well as upscaling the level of voice interactions they deliver.