On Mar, 19 2021
For better or worse, the term “call center” is still synonymous with customer interactions for some people. And yes, the traditional model of a customer calling in for assistance still exists. But a call center no longer accurately describes customer interactions like it used to.
Instead, more companies are evolving away from the call center approach and moving towards a “contact center” model that provides additional channels such as chat and email. This shift towards newer and broader support channels is focused around boosting satisfaction metrics by meeting customers on their preferred channels.
With this said, expanding out to different channels doesn’t instantly create a contact center. Let’s dive into the full evolution of the call center into the contact center and the strategies behind this shift in approaching customer interactions.
Cloud-based software broadens interaction opportunities – In the past, call center agents all drove to an office and worked specific shifts on an employer provided computer. All of the technology for scheduling shifts and managing interactions was hosted on-site. The call center was only open for a set number of hours each day, and if a customer had an issue outside of these hours they had to wait.
Now, the work from home model of modern contact centers lets agents work remotely from anywhere. With agents from Hartford to Honolulu, companies are able to efficiently expand their hours of operations without needing to pay extra wages for early or late shifts. Best of all, every agent is connected through cloud-based software solutions that enable them to do their job at a high level. These Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions are online 24/7 and there’s no need to manually install patches or updates. Moving to cloud-based solutions decreases overhead costs and improves productivity by powering the type of contact center work demanded by customers.
The single skill agent rarely exists anymore in a contact center – Under the call center model, agents with phone skills were essential. After all, it was the only channel. However, agents with one skill are now the exception within a contact center. For example, a contact center agent could be skilled at talking customers through issues on the phone, but they may also be knowledgeable on working chat support as well when call volume is low. A contact center frequently employs agents with multiple skills and can change their type of work to meet the demands of the day.
WFM software is leveraged to efficiently track multiskilled agents – With so many agents now having multiple skills, the process of keeping track of this information can be difficult, especially for larger contact centers. It’s a reason why more companies are leveraging workforce management (WFM) software to store insights about their agents in an efficient way. Within the software, a WFM analyst can easily see information about each agent including what skills they have. This lets the analyst know instantly what agents are currently available and what skills they have in case there is a need for intraday staffing changes.
Improved forecasting and scheduling to be proactive instead of reactive – While making reactive changes based on agent skills and daily channel fluctuations is a good practice, sometimes getting ahead of trends is an even better one. Modern WFM software thrives again for contact centers because of its proactive capabilities. For example, if the Marketing team has an impromptu promotion set to go live next week, a contact center can quickly leverage the forecasting and scheduling capabilities within their WFM software to plan by looking back at historical data. If these promotions almost always result in a surge of chat activity, the forecast will be automatically created around this trend so a schedule can be made to staff agents with this skill.
Call centers look at single metrics, contact centers multiple data points – In the past, call centers have been focused on singular metrics like average call volume and hold times. While monitoring these metrics is still valuable for providing a solid customer experience, a contact center takes this data and expands upon it to provide even more value. Within WFM software, companies can see this information and much more on an agent-by-agent basis with individual performance metrics. This way if an agent is highly productive during email shifts but has below average performances on call and chat shifts, you can tweak their profile within your software so they are primarily scheduled for email shifts. Also, if you notice in your workforce management reporting that the same agent is frequently late for shifts where they are scheduled to provide chat support, you can have a conversation with the agent to see if they are having issues working on this channel.
To summarize, the difference between the contact center and the call center has been powered in part by cloud technology and modern and sophisticated WFM software. Because agents are smarter, agile, and more skilled than ever before, it’s essential to staff them efficiently and do what you can to keep them happy. Improving in these areas will go a long way to also improving your overall customer experience.