E-Handbook: Evolving contact center services reshape engagement strategies Article 2 of 4

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The evolution of call centers to experience centers

The call center has evolved over the years, moving from phone-based systems to multichannel contact centers. The next move is toward a customer experience center.

Customer service organizations are in the midst of a significant transition, as seen by the evolution of call centers into CX centers.

Call centers focus on interacting with customers, primarily by telephone, with the goal of resolving inquiries at the lowest cost. CX centers build on the call center foundation to resolve customer inquiries at a low cost and include an expanded focus of assuring that the experience the customer has with the contact center is effective and requires minimum effort.

The ultimate goal of the CX center is to drive customer loyalty and assure a continued relationship with the customer. Studies have shown that it may be five to 20 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain one.

There are two key factors driving this transition:

  1. Increased customer expectations. Customers seek answers quicker than ever and want to communicate with organizations in multiple ways.
  2. Improved technology to support operations. Technology continues to improve, enabling customer service organizations to perform functions that were not previously available.

Here are some of the major changes as a result of the call center evolution.

Transition from call center to contact center

In the years prior to the advent of the contact center, customers primarily interacted with call centers by telephone. If customers had a question or concern, they would contact the customer service organization using a toll-free number to speak with an agent to resolve their issue. Being a phone-based system, customers weren't able to reach out to organizations using the method of their choice or at their convenience.

The ultimate goal of the CX center is to drive customer loyalty and assure a continued relationship with the customer.

This limitation spurred the transition from call center to contact center. Now, consumers can reach out to customer service organizations via multiple channels, including phone, email, chat, text, social media, mobile app and more. Trends in contact centers include the use of self-service platforms and AI, enabling customers to get answers to some of their questions outside business hours.

Transition to customer-focused metrics

New customer-focused measures, such as first-contact resolution, customer satisfaction, customer effort and more, now supplement internally focused metrics to measure the success of contact centers. Analytics have shown that positive and effective interactions with customers in the contact center drive loyalty.

Previously, call center management thought that customer satisfaction was heavily driven by how quickly an agent answered the phone. As a result, agents did not always resolve customer inquiries and required follow-up interactions. Thus, agents felt pressure to get customers off the phone quickly.

Transition to skill-based routing

Today, contact center routing systems are significantly more advanced with the feature of skill-based routing, which routes all contacts -- regardless of the channel used -- to the agent with the most appropriate skill set to resolve the issue.

In the past, call centers used automatic call distributors (ACDs) to route incoming customer calls to the next available agent. The rules for routing calls to agents were simplistic, and if specialization was required, specially trained agents were available in specialized queues.

Transition to multiple self-service channels

More self-service options are available now than ever before, including speech recognition technology, enabling customers to speak with a voice response unit -- an AI application -- rather than using touch tones. There are also many apps available on wireless devices.

In many cases, the interactive voice response systems of old were poorly designed with many menus and options, confusing and frustrating callers.

Transition from data-driven to analytics-driven processes

Historically, call centers were data-driven organizations using data from ACDs with other tools to project call volume, determine staffing requirements, perform root cause analysis and more.

But, using analytics, contact centers transformed that data into actionable information. Speech analytics is an example where contact centers can analyze customer interactions in real time to determine the tone of a conversation and recommend appropriate actions to satisfy a customer's needs.

The evolution of call centers to CX centers has been on the horizon for some time. Now that technology has caught up, this transition will continue into the foreseeable future.

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