As the call centre becomes an increasingly vital customer contact. tool,companies are searching for innovative technologies to help them improve customer service and satisfaction. Internet access is at the forefront of this quest.
Jonathan Wineberg, senior vice president for engineering and product development at EIS International, offers a perspective on the issues facing those developing new solutions.
Considering that labour accounts for more than half the average centre's operational costs, efficiency is critical to operations. Some Web inquiries like requests for basic information can eliminate live-agent involvement so freeing agents for more complex inquiries and issues.
The Web-enabled centre also gives companies another way to connect with and service existing and potential customers, thereby enhancing the "customer convenience" factor.
But two primary challenges to implementing Web-enabled contact centres exist.
The first is technological. Web-enabling software should be compatible with and integrated into the existing contact centre technology or disjointed management data and a lack of unified supervisory controls will result.
A second substantial challenge is quality control. It is essential to establish procedures that ensure Web contacts receive the same level of service as telephone contacts. Poor quality control forces the customer to telephone, resulting in two contacts and a disgruntled customer.
Customers expect the same level of service regardless of how they make contact. Many centres, overwhelmed with e-mails, take days or even weeks to respond to urgent requests. Centres can mitigate this problem in several ways.
The first is through technology. Manufacturers now offer unified queuing that lets centres treat Web requests and e-mail with the same rules and priorities as a phone call. To facilitate e-mail responses, some software allows users to build a library of responses to frequently asked questions that can be "pushed" to customers. Parsing algorithms that try to determine the subject of the e-mail are a little more problematic.
Be particularly cautious of those that generate automatic responses.
If a response does not meet the customer's needs, his/her next e-mail is likely to ask the question again.
Organisation and training issues also affect customer service delivery to online inquiries. Before implementing Web-enabling software, organisations must decide how to handle Web-generated requests.
Will all agents accept and process requests, or will a dedicated pool handle this function? In either case, agents using the Web will require training in associated technologies and procedures.
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