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Driven by growing multichannel interactions with their customers, many businesses are moving away from call centres in favour of social media and virtual help centres to deal with customer complaints and queries.

The thought is that customers engaging with lower cost channels should be supported through siloed touch points and diverted away from higher cost call centres.

However, the power of the call centre shouldn’t be understated.

According to our research, 76% of companies learn about problems on their websites as a result of calls to the contact centre.

In addition, many web transactions are still completed with the help of an agent, and many customers will go elsewhere if this is not a smooth interaction.

Leading organisations dealing with these challenges are moving away from limited-function and siloed call centres to multi-function and integrated contact centres.

Due to customer expectations and desires to have the option of talking with a live agent wherever they are across company channels, the contact centre is becoming a central hub that is shaping customer experience.

Customers expect businesses to have full visibility of their online and offline activity, and resolve issues quickly. Anything less will result in frustration and churn, which can have a huge impact on the bottom line.

A recent Harris poll found that if a customer receives bad customer service after having problems on the web, 45% would stop doing business with that company altogether.

Often, frustrating customer experiences happen because of an enormous gap in visibility within the business, particularly across web and mobile.

Agents are not armed with the right information to effectively service customers, and are forced to use customers as a diagnostic tool, asking them questions like “what did you see on your screen?” and “can you tell me what error message you received and what you entered?”

Beyond customer frustration and churn such a lack of visibility causes, there is also a missed opportunity to turn your call centre into a profit machine instead of just a cost centre.

Without context into what a customer was doing online before calling, you have no frame of reference for how best to service them, based on their needs and behaviours.

Let’s say, for instance, I contact my bank’s call centre because of problems with a wire transfer. If the call centre agent has visibility to see that during my last five visits to the site, I looked at home equity lines of credit, they would have a huge opportunity to offer me promotions to get me to complete the sale.

It’s these types of interactions that help create a profit centre that will drive revenue growth.

Businesses need to look at putting in place a contact centre for customers that can bridge the gap between online and offline channels, allowing them to effectively service the omni-channel customer experience.

This will give them complete context of their customers’ web experiences, with the ability to review session history reports to gain further insight into everything they previously browsed on the website.

This is key to enabling call centre agents to better service the customer and potentially upsell them. An integrated contact centre would also enable businesses to replay customer sessions to see exactly what the customer was doing and what they saw online.

If there is an obstacle or issue, the agent would then be able to validate what the customer experienced and work towards a resolution.

The next-generation call centre is vital for resolving customer struggles and generating new revenue. Ultimately, call centres provide a real opportunity to offer extraordinary omni-channel customer service that brings customers back again and again.

Geoff Galat

Published 6 May, 2014 by Geoff Galat

Geoff Galat is Worldwide VP of Marketing at IBM Tealeaf and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

25 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

Karen Jain

Karen Jain, Web Designer, web Developer, SEO Expert at Jaintechnosoft

I am sure this information will help large number of people to focus on some of the important aspects of the topic.

about 2 years ago

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Dave Paulding, Interactive Ingelligence

The shift in the way customers communicate with companies has rapidly diversified in recent years. Social and mobile channels have become the norm for contacting businesses, and companies’ customer service strategies have to support that. Historically, customers used call centres for any complaints and enquiries, that role has now transitioned into contact centres. The key to businesses delivering an exceptional experience to every customer is to adopt a highly personalised, all-in-one approach to customer care.

In today’s fast moving industry, contact centres need to have a true unified communications solution incorporating all of the individual communication tools - the database, web, social media, email, SMS and video conferencing, as well as fixed and mobile telephony. Successful customer engagement is about giving customers the choice to select the means of communication that suits them. Regardless of whether that is a phone call or via a social media channel, the most important element is to provide a knowledgeable, timely response.

Dave Paulding, Regional Director UK & Middle East, Interactive Intelligence

about 2 years ago

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martin hill-wilson

There are a number of points made early on in your piece that I have different views on.

First is the notion that call centre are declining in favour of social media. No delegate from my monthly social customer service masterclasses has ever claimed this. Bar one which I mention below, so any trend is far to early to call.

The volumes of social care traffic remains between 2-15% at best and has not impacted traditional channels. Secondly in the UK at least the vast majority of call centres have now assumed operational responsibility for social customer care and therefore from a routing and mgt perspective will integrate into existing infrastructure. A point that Dave made in the previous point. There is of course a tussle between legacy and pure play vendors at this point but that is to be expected. So call centres are not going away. Albeit they are transforming which is think your main point.

Secondly I would like to challenge the common belief that channels can be accurately described at certain cost points. In reality if a person is involved the costs are similar. Optimised multi-channel (which few if any have), use the unique qualities of each channels for different customer tasks so direct comparisons are not really valid. The only other significant cost categories are p2p support when super users are not on the payroll and self service when used.

The mindset that one channel replaces another is a myth, often used as part of business cases. Channels multiply and seldom die. In fact telex is the only one in 30 years I'm aware of. Even fax remains in the mix for certain B2B markets!

So It should not be a surprise that customers move across channels. e.g. from online to call centre. Yes that is sometimes due to UX failures. Sometimes it's natural. This is why strongly digital travel brands have experienced call centre growth. A failure? Not at all. It's just the fact that a holiday matters and you want to discuss it. Why voice? Because it remains the fastest way to discuss a topic (once connected) with the added benefit of emotional context (I can tell if I trust the advice more readily).

So multi-channel is much better understood as a function of customer tasks that generational shift or any other factor. So in the case of Air France who told their story in my last masterclass, they have over 200 advisors focussing on social customer service. The largest team I am aware of at this time. It has tripled over the last 3 years. In their case the medium of social suits the customer tasks and so voice and email have declined in favour.

But I can also quote you a B2B brand that increased email use by 40% as soon as they improved their responsiveness from 12 to 2 hours. It suited their customers to communicate that way on that type of topic (talent mgt solutions)

But in terms of your main point that fully integrated call centres are now needed I'm in full agreement. In truth I'm of the opinion that is an even broader alignment is needed across silos. All hail the Customer Engagement Hub. But that's another conversation....

about 2 years ago

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Scott Hickey, Manager

I have to agree with Martin here that it is typically the vendors of Social and mobile solutions that would have us believe these channels have become the norm for contacting businesses. If as part of your customer contact strategy you also operate traditional channels then I'm afraid the reality is different and social isn't having a dent on call or email volumes (not even in terms of cross-channel interaction)

As for Social Customer Service - for the majority you're better off applying Complaint Management processes as your response strategy rather than trying to survive on socially adapted versions of your Customer Service procedures.

about 2 years ago

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Arema Connect

"the power of the call centre shouldn’t be understated" - totally agree.

Call centres have an excellent opportunity to improve business processes by capturing the right information (customer feedback) while answering enquiries.

Market Research should be integrated within Contact Centre scripts in order to analyse customers feedback.

See this blog: http://aremaconnect.com/2014/03/how-to-integrate-market-research-contact-centre-services/

about 2 years ago

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