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Self-service transforms the role of the contact centre

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The role that the contact centre plays in customer sales and support is changing rapidly due to the rise of electronic self-service across channels such as mobile phones and the Web.

That is according to John Ziniades, CEO of Consology, a company that specialises in self-service solutions.
"South African companies and customers, like their counterparts the world over, are making more extensive use of cost-effective and convenient self-service channels such as the web and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and less use of more expensive channels such as branches and contact centres," says Ziniades.
"Right now, we in the midst of a 'co-production' revolution that is seeing customers become part of the enterprise's extended workforce," says Ziniades. "Companies are moving many administrative tasks over to their customers with the goal of deflecting routine calls (such as bill enquiries, address changes, and so on) away from their contact centres to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
"Rather than resenting or resisting this trend, customers are embracing it as a way of interacting with companies in a more convenient manner," says Ziniades. "Self-service is creating a more sophisticated customer, a more informed and empowered customer who is more familiar with your organisation and has higher service expectations."
The trend towards self-service does not threaten the existence of contact centres, but it is redefining the role that they play and demands that they change the way they operate. The sophisticated self-service customer expects a different level of support when resorting to the contact centre agent for help and has a higher expectation when it comes to contact centre competency.
"The contract centre increasingly exists to cater for complex query resolution, high-value customer interactions and to make outbound calls. South African call centres should position themselves at the forefront of these trends," says Ziniades.
He identifies assisted service as one important function of the contact centre. Assisted service complements electronic self-service channels by giving customers the human support they need if and when required to manage their own accounts, perform transactions, and interact with companies online.
"Assisted service is necessary in all self-service deployments and is complementary to a self-service deployment," he adds. The South African call centre industry should be positioning itself to serve self-service customers – and that goes for those serving international companies on outsourcing contracts as well as those servicing local customers.
South African call centres should also look at providing multi-channel services across channels such as instant messaging (IM), the Web, and email in addition to telephonic support to cater for the sophisticated self-service customer.
Concludes Ziniades: "Self-service is rapidly becoming the preferred channel of customer interaction. Customers expect a choice of channels – Web, e-mail, IM, Mobile, Kiosk, and IVR/Speech – and companies must meet their demands"