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Dec
27
2012

UC and the Contact Center – Unifying Agents

jon arnold24 UC and the Contact Center – Unifying AgentsThere’s a lot of ground to cover where UC intersects with the contact center, and I’ll continue here by being a bit more granular. My last post talked about how the “more is better theme” can be a unifying force between the contact center and customers. Even though talking on the phone is the best way to get things done, UC makes the experience richer and more dynamic by giving both parties choices.

Having options like text, IM, video, etc. is better than voice alone for each side, but for different reasons. Customers benefit by staying within their comfort zone –if chat works best for them, agents can deal with that. Remember, while agents pretty much all work the same way – chained to their desk, headset-ready, waiting for your call – customers could be contacting you from a variety of scenarios. Increasingly, they will be at their desktop, but they could just as likely be calling from their home phone, or via their smartphone while out and about, or even Web-based VoIP from a hotel room. They may or may not have all the options available as you, so agents need to be flexible.

In that regard, UC can be very beneficial simply by helping unify contact center agents. UC will be new to most of them, so they’re all learning together. They may work in isolation, but share the same challenges and use the same tools. There is a natural learning curve for managing multichannel applications, but much of it can be highly intuitive for younger agents. If your UC contact center applications have a familiar look and feel based on their personal use experiences, this can help unify agents by virtue of the common ground in dealing with customers.

Bringing this back to the job, the more skilled that agents are at using the modes preferred by the customer, the more efficient they will become. This is particularly relevant to voice, especially from an operational point of view. Voice may be the most effective and direct way to interact with customers, but it is also the most costly in terms of associated resources. Contact center supervisors would rather see agents talk as little as possible and rely more on the other modes, especially for routine inquiries that do not require a live agent.

This brings us to a hidden form of value for UC. Ideally, agents would use non-voice modes to handle as much of the inquiry as possible, and only talk to the customer at the tail end, where the need for real time voice is greatest. This keeps the supervisor happy and boosts agent productivity. If done well, it also means a happier customer since they got the problem solved and did so by communicating on their terms.

Since all agents stand to benefit from improved productivity – and hopefully improved remuneration – odds are good they will share learning among themselves. As noted earlier, with UC being new, they’re all learning to use these tools at the same time. Some will be more adept than others, but there’s a valuable opportunity here for shared learning, and this should be considered when deploying UC.

There is value in collective competence, and if agents understand this, they will see the benefit of pooling their learning. By doing so, UC helps unify agents, and further empowers them to anticipate customer needs and provide better service. It’s hard to imagine a business that would not see this as a desirable outcome, so consider adding this unification theme in your bid to invest in UC.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/uc-and-the-contact-center-unifying-agents/

1 comment

  1. Arthur Rosenberg says:

    Customer access to live assistance will increasing originate from online, self service applications and therefore will not necessarily start with a voice connection (as you pointed out). This will be particularly true for “mobile apps” on smartphones and tablets that are increasingly being used by consumers to to simply get information directly.

    The most logical scenario for having a voice conversation, which has long been available, is the customer option for text chat (IM), which can then be escalated through UC to a voice connection on demand. So, while the conversational real-time scenario for an an agent will be similar, the basic difference will be typing and reading text vs.speaking and listening.

    However, with online self-service applications, online customers won’t necessarily always need instant responses and might simply ask for answers by email. After all, they aren’t being subjected to wait in a call queue and, with mobile devices, are readily accessible for a callback, text message (SMS), or email response.

    What will be increasingly important for agents to perform their jobs efficiently is to provide them with dynamic, contextual customer information (in their screen pops), regardless of the mode of contact. Such information minimizes the need for getting information from the customer, which will always be a plus for a good “customer experience,” as well as increasing agent productivity.

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