The terms “call center” and “contact center” are often used interchangeably. While they are indeed similar, they’re not the same. Call centers are all about routing voice calls to agents, while contact centers build upon those voice capabilities to further enhance the customer’s experience. Let’s explore the similarities and differences between these two mission-critical components of your business.
The Value of a Call Center
A call center is a great tool for handling large volumes of inbound and outbound calls effectively, which is still a cornerstone for customer satisfaction. Even though social media or chats might be the shiny new way to communicate with customers, the “old-school” phone call is still the first line of connection between businesses and their customers, accounting for the largest percentage of interactions across the board.
That’s why it’s crucial that call quality is high, and frustrations (such as with an overly convoluted phone tree or high wait times) are kept at a minimum. Responsiveness is high on the list of expectations when someone calls customer service. In fact, a full 83 percent of business buyers in Salesforce’s State of the Connected Consumer report said that it’s important to be routed to the agent who is most knowledgeable about their company’s issue, and 80 percent expect companies to respond to them in real-time.
A properly implemented call center is purpose-built to help you serve your customers in a seamless way. And they’re not just for large enterprises: A company of only five employees can adopt a call center platform that will give the impression that it’s a much larger organization, thanks to smart routing, entrance messages, comfort messages, alternate off-hours routing, and more.
Step Up to a Contact Center
A contact center builds upon those core values of a call center to include additional mechanisms for customers to reach you (such as callback queues), as well as enhanced reporting and monitoring tools (such as a supervisor dashboard and a call recording system). It too can be used for both inbound and outbound communication.
Compared to call centers, a contact center incorporates more robust call routing tools right out of the box, such as auto attendants and ACD (automatic call distribution) features. For example, you could combine skill-based routing with ACD to specify that tech support calls from your customers in Mexico should be routed to available agents who are knowledgeable about the product in question and can speak Spanish – a combination which will undoubtedly result in much greater customer satisfaction.
You might be able to build this type of solution with a call center, but it would be an a la carte add-on approach and the capabilities may be limited. To put it another way: if a call center were a hotel for your agents, a contact center would be an all-inclusive resort. Both achieve the same basic purpose, but the contact center gives you everything you need in a single, all-inclusive price.
Which Should You Choose?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question – it all depends on your business and its requirements. If you need a simple yet powerful way to route inbound calls to a queue of agents, a call center will do wonders for your business. If you’ve got a larger or more complex organization, or if you need more advanced reporting capabilities, a contact center is the ideal solution to suit your needs.
Whether your business chooses a call center or a contact center, the idea of customer-centricity should be at the core of the decision. Even though most businesses strive for a perfect customer experience (CX), only 17 percent would rate their average CX as “excellent.” Your organization therefore has an opportunity to differentiate itself on that front. One way to do that is by accessing reporting tools that will help you analyze the call or contact center’s performance, then make adjustments to your strategy accordingly.
Interested in upping your call/contact center game? Call your TPx representative today to find out about our customer-centric hosted call center platform, and our new contact center release.
Customer satisfaction is so… yesterday. Today, it’s all about the customer experience, or overall journey with your company. Customers that have good overall experiences (including satisfaction at all of their touchpoints) buy more and refer more customers. And the key to it all is seamless communications throughout that journey.
That’s why forward-thinking organizations are deploying call center solutions as key components in their integrated communications strategies. After all, in today’s world of always-on, anywhere and anytime contact, your customers have many options to reach you with feedback, questions, and, with any luck, interest in making new purchases.
To gain a serious advantage on this front, businesses are enabling seamless conversations across the call center and other parts of the company, thanks to unified communications (UC).
Breaking Down Barriers Improves Customer Experience
For most companies, customer engagement remains a siloed experience. Call center agents may not have easy access to a customer’s sales history, or even a unified view of previous customer service interactions – let alone granular information about products, tech support or other contextual data.
UC can break down those walls, supporting digital transformation initiatives that can turn call centers into modern, interactive hubs for customer service. For one, a unified dashboard allows customer service representatives to reach subject matter experts within the business in real time. UC’s core functionality – presence and all-in-one communications channels – means that reps can see who’s available, and they can reach them in the way that makes the most sense. A simple detail about a product or service might be gleaned with an IM to a marketing guru – while a screen sharing session with the sales manager may make the most sense to review the documents necessary to get a new sale moving along. At any point, these interactions can be escalated to a phone call if necessary – giving reps a hugely improved capacity for first-call resolution and garnering customer loyalty.
With UC, Your Contact Center is Always On
The interactive call center is also always-on. Thanks to UC, reps can answer calls in the queue from branch locations or even from home, and management can leverage alternate off-hours routing. The UC call center can also deliver entrance messages and comfort messages to queued calls, which increases customer satisfaction when volume surges.
All in, it’s never been easier to deliver responsive sales and service support to customers than it is today, provided your call center is powered by rich UC features. At TPx we paired our hosted call center platform with our industry-leading, award-winning UC features, including fully-featured instant messaging and presence. Our solutions come in two call center packages, both of which are completely customizable to meet your organization’s unique requirements. Whether you have five seats or 5,000, we can help you turn your call center into a hub for superior customer experience. And best of all, it’s affordable and instantly scalable. Contact your TPx representative today, or reach out to us here, to request a live demo of our call center in action.
Something has happened in the ten or so years since the financial crisis: Banks and other financial institutions have gotten, well, rather hip. And personalized. And, dare we say it, customer service-oriented. One of the foundations for this change is the fact that they can leverage new communications approaches to become more nimble, flexible and dynamic – especially unified communications (UC).
Since being branded as a collection of too-big-to-fail, old-school, monolithic institutions that did not care for humanity, the financial vertical has refurbished itself, becoming one of the most fast-paced and rapidly evolving industries out there when it comes to serving customers in new ways. Think well-crafted account alerts and notices, intuitive and helpful self-service apps, better truth-in-lending processes, efforts to make investment less intimidating, and (gasp!!) a move away from phone trees and interactive voice response systems (IVRs). In short, when it comes to innovative models for customer engagement, financial organizations are in it to win it.
In order to offer a better in-bank experience, tellers and account managers often need to access the expertise of other people within the organization, whether it’s at the headquarters or regional center, or in other departments at the branch itself. Thanks to tools like availability indicators, instant messaging, and the ability to seamlessly reach mobile and remote employees, UC gives tellers and others the ability to collaborate and exchange information at a much more agile rate. In short, it helps make a visit to the branch a simple errand for customers, instead of an hours-long slog through red tape.
The same is true for other modes of service. UC allows for better call handling within the contact center. With CRM integration, contact center agents have immediate access to customer records with every inbound call. Knowing the caller’s identity and history ahead of time greatly improves the quality and professionalism of call handling. As a result, every customer feels like a valued guest rather than just a number attached to a bank account.
At the same time, banks have become more community-oriented in an effort to stay competitive. There’s been a proliferation of local credit unions and regional banks, investment houses have begun catering to the community and individuals in more personalized ways, and even large nationwide conglomerates have empowered their branches to be a friendly face for helping people reach their life goals.
UC is a critical piece of this reform, acting as a collaboration platform behind the scenes that enables financial institutions to differentiate their offerings and attract new sets of customers. For instance, relying on UC, today’s local branches can become more than just places to pay bills, open new accounts, deposit checks or apply for cookie-cutter loans. By offering telebanking, they can expand their offerings to include wealth management, retirement planning and investment strategy, even if their in-house resources are limited. Some forward-thinking organizations even have home-loan specialists or entrepreneur specialists available via web chat or video to help with budgets and savings plans, helping families achieve their dreams.
One other note: The finance vertical also has specific requirements when it comes to handling critical and sensitive information. For instance, ATMs and local branch additions must be connected securely, and customers demand secure mobile and online banking. There’s also the matter of interbank communications, which need to be enabled but secured locally, nationally and globally. A reputable UC provider like TPx will offer the highest possible level of security by utilizing private networks and geodiverse carrier-grade datacenters to handle UC traffic. UC also enables call recording and analytics tools that can help banks with their privacy and data protection regulatory compliance obligations as their customers’ sensitive information traverses these various networks.
If you’re a financial institution looking to up your game to be more competitive in your local markets, contact your TPx representative today for details on how we can help you leverage UC to meet today’s customer expectations.
In our data-intensive, smartphone-laden world, personal communications revolve around texting, emojis, memes and social networking. Using a phone is, well, decidedly passé for some. There are even memes about it. But any business owner knows that voice – actual, real conversation! – remains the lifeline of any going concern.
To keep collaboration on track between employees, partners and customers alike, businesses still need to make voice calls, still need those PBX bells and whistles, still depend on voice conferencing, and still make call-center functionality an essential element of every business day. But these core experiences need not be static and staid. Today, traditional voice services are being delivered in new ways to help businesses better respond to the needs and behaviors of increasingly mobile and socially-connected workforces and customer bases, which are themselves becoming more and more distributed over time.
Here are three ways a future-thinking phone system puts voice front-and-center while supporting converged, digital ways of working:
1. Looping in the Distributed Workforce
It’s anticipated that over the next few years, 50% of all employees will be working remotely, be it from the road or in a static telecommuting configuration, according to Global Workplace Analytics. As for the latter, last year alone, about 3.9 million U.S. employees worked from home at least half of the time, up from 1.8 million in 2005. For those of you feeling calculator-challenged, that’s a 115% increase.
Or consider this: The same study shows that, in more than half of the top U.S. metro areas, telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice; and, it’s grown far faster than any other commuting method.
Rather than having employees use their own home or mobile phones to do their jobs, a virtual PBX phone system gives remote workers access to the same office calling features – call forwarding, four-digit dialing, conference bridges, etc. – no matter where they are. This cloud PBX approach delivers the ability to place and receive calls on a VoIP phone, mobile phone or computer (and seamlessly move calls between devices), all using a single business line identity. For managers, this allows for call tracking and other employee management activities, in the same way they manage workers at a corporate location.
In other words, the office can be anywhere – and today, it’s everywhere.
2. Enriched Voice Collaboration
Voice remains a central communication avenue for business, but it also becomes more powerful when it can be used side-by-side with additional modes of collaboration. A virtual PBX can be part of a flexible, feature-rich unified communications (UC) solution which marries voice with a host of powerful features. For instance, presence and instant messaging can be used to know someone’s status, thus improving the chances of reaching someone by phone. Video calls and desktop sharing can be added for enriched conversations. And users can make use of innovative personal collaboration rooms, where you can invite anyone (external or internal) to the conversation.
3. A Better Call Center
When you combine the twin benefits of a better-supported remote workforce and enhanced, converged UC, a virtual phone system can really shine when it comes to call centers.
A cloud-based approach to voice means that customer service agents don’t have to be tied to the main office — they can answer calls in the queue from branch locations or even at home. And agents can leverage the same UC features, like instant messaging and presence, to augment their voice-based customer service activities for increased customer satisfaction. Imagine taking care of an escalation in the background, messaging with a manager, while still keeping the customer engaged on the phone. These kinds of converged activities reduce call times and improve time to resolution, while allowing agents to deliver a more personalized, differentiating touch.
Clearly, upgrading a business phone system from an aging, premises-based PBX is not just an exercise in replacing one phone system with another – it’s an opportunity to do much more, unleashing productivity within an organization.
If you’re ready to supercharge your voice communications, your TPx representative can help you do just that. Our industry-leading, award-winning UC suite provides a business phone system that supports voice in a way that is decidedly future-thinking, cloud-ready and mobile-native. Reach out today to find out how we can help.