The Contact Center Stack – Here’s what you need to build a modern contact center
The path to contact center modernization has never been straightforward when it comes to its navigating technology infrastructure. “Costly,” “crowded,” and “confusing” are how business owners typically describe the process of selecting the right platforms to power their center. Besides the alphabet soup of acronyms – WFM, CRM, LMS, to name a few – there are also myriad ways to mix and match platforms. First, there are cloud, on-premise, and hybrid software to ponder. Also, legacy, current, and backward compatible versions to think about. And don’t forget Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and machine learning – all to be considered.
Fortunately, most of these components can be found in a single cloud platform known as Contact Center as a Service, or CCaaS. CCaaS is a software deployment model that delivers all facets of the customer experience through vertical integration of its best features. This business model has come to dominate the Digital era. Because CCaaS provides all the contact center you require, without the need for complex hardware or provisioning, you will likely have to trade away the “best in class” of a particular feature for one bundled in an all-in-one CCaaS package. To avoid this trade-off, an understanding of the Contact Center Stack is necessary.
The Contact Center Stack is the principle set of technology that powers successful centers. These core components enable centers to timely respond to customer inquiries, harness the best knowledge of the service/product provided, and use metrics to make incremental improvements to both experience and efficiency.
There are many features that could satisfy these requirements, but I’ve narrowed them down to six platforms that are essential to the success and effectiveness of your contact center:
- Communication Platform
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Learning Management System (LMS)
- Workforce Management (WFM)
- Quality Management (QM)
- Business Analytics
The decision to establish a modern contact center usually is made around the time business leaders notice the limitations of their office’s Automated Call Distributor (ACD); Round-robin for call routing no longer cuts it. And so, it is here we start with the core component of the stack, the communication platform.
The communication platform is the hub that manages all incoming/outgoing interaction between the business and its customers. Gone are the days when a communication platform consisted of a landline provider with the requisite PBX, gateways, desk phones, and a few talented IT people manage it all. Today most of this is preferably handled in the cloud and with increase traffic through other channels such as chat and social.
On-premise contact center infrastructure is dead. If not killed off by its implementation costs, scaling complexities, redundancy issues, and difficulty handing redundancy and maintaining uptime, then definitely by its limitation to effectively deploy and manage remote workers in a crisis. Therefore, unless on-premise equipment is a must-have, modern contact centers should position their communication platform in the cloud.
A cloud communication platform should be an all-in-one, omni-channel solution that provides phone, email, ticketing, and chat with a dash of social media and mobile app integration thrown in. Even if one of those channels is not needed at the time of platform acquisition, the missing channel should be available from your supplier as a stand-alone feature for future use.
Internal collaboration should also be considered when selecting a platform. The ability to meet with teams remotely while using the same platform that powers external communication is a major plus.
CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT
There are a few things to keep in mind when discussing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution for a contact center. First, CRMs are usually determined long before the development of a contact center strategy. During the contact center planning stage, the CRM usually is in place, so discussions about it focus on how to integrate other applications alongside it.
Second, for contact centers that are customer service or technical support focused, a CRM is not necessarily needed as much as the data shared through it (essentially a CRM is an organized repository of interactions between the customer). CRM can instead be achieved through other service/support applications, such as a Help Desk platform or baked-in GUIs, and a repository provided in many CCaaS platforms.
Third, Salesforce has become a formidable elephant. Due to its cloud-based, quick uptime, and ease of use, Salesforce dominates the CRM market with a 20% share, only followed by SAP with just over 8%. Salesforce is so big even its competitors provide easy integrations into it. This by no means makes Salesforce the best CRM out there, but it is by far the most popular.
Having reviewed a few watch-outs about CRMs, let’s look at the functionality and features you should include in your Customer Relationship Management platform. First, omnichannel interaction capturing with voice, email, chat, and social should be the primary channels through which you capture and analyze data in your CRM. Since customers dictate the preferred channel, be sure to have them all available, even if one or more of those channels are not currently in use.
Second, a CRMs most important feature is its ability to effectively manage the sales process from prospecting to close, or from lead to client depending on your perspective. So, pipeline management functionality should already be baked in, from there, what you are then looking for is a vendor that best aligns with your perspective. Companies like Salesforce provide a “one size fits all” model, whereas others like Wise Agent provide a narrower fit for a specific industry.
Third, your CRM should provide enhanced data reporting and retrieval through automated-surfacing of insights and an optimized data storage and retrieval structure. Data is useless unless you use it and there are so many companies today collecting boatloads of unused customer information.
If you don’t need or use a CRM within other areas of your company, consider going with a less expensive alternative. The main functionality you’ll need in your CRM is a means to capture customer interactions while highlighting critical information from those interactions in an insightful way.
LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Learning Management Systems (LMS) with virtual learning capabilities have been around for years, yet many contact centers still rely heavily on the rudimentary features in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to create, track, and deliver their training curriculum. Although Microsoft Office tools highly versatile, it’s important that the tools used to develop your employees for be focused and precise.
Whether your training covers Compliance, Product Knowledge, or Soft-skills, a solid, dedicated LMS will allow you to effectively train your staff remotely or in-class. It provides a cloud repository of your curriculum, collaboration tools, learning assessments, embeddable video and widgets, version tracking, interactive learning, progress data and insights, and so much more. While an LMS may appear at first glance a superficial feature for the modern call center, having one in place helps you stay on top of your customer service.
Another important feature in the modern call center is a workforce management (WFM) tool. The WFM automates staffing-related processes such as performance monitoring, attendance tracking, training and development, and others. So, what you should be looking for in one?
A versatile forecaster. Your WFM should be able to take historical contact volume, trends, planned marketing initiatives, and patterns in your specified industry to predict volume by day, week, month, and annual intervals. Is it capable of doing this across multiple channels and adjust real time? If so, you have a winner.
An efficient scheduler. Without a solid WFM solution, contact center schedules are usually determine by overlaying three shifts across the workweek. But this approach is super inefficient. With an efficient WFM, you can determine schedules by staff needed for the workday, with drill down data available in one-hour increments. It should also be able to assign the right agent for the right task, taking into consideration their training, individual preferences, and availability.
A flexible real-time manager. When someone calls out, a posting goes out about the available hours. If call volume has dropped, voluntary time-off is immediately made available. These scenarios are just a few of the workforce management issues a well-adjusted WFM solution can respond to in real time. The ability to put the right person in the right place at the right time, and adjusting as needed, is a foundation for success.
Above all, look for features that allow your agents to interact directly with the WFM solution to bid on available shifts, trade lunch schedules, and call out as needed. A great solution looks at the need of the business and the employee alike.
A contact center’s Quality Management (QM) program ensures guidelines and processes have the desired results in efficiency and customer satisfaction. Unique and differentiated experiences have become the table stakes for companies looking to build brand loyalty, reduce churn, and extend lifetime value with their customers. Therefore, Quality Management can help ensure the success of these vital business areas. A great QM will also provide insights into:
- Standard operating procedures and guidelines adherence
- Agent competency
- Leadership impact
- Training curriculum effectiveness
- Product/services satisfaction and market fit
- Churn forecasting
- Best Practices
Quality Assurance, a feature that monitors and records the interactions between employees and customers, is the crown jewel of a good QM platform. It enables specialists to audit interactions using a grading model to measure areas of success and areas of opportunity.
Another great feature of a QM is its ability to deploy, measure, and benchmark customer feedback through surveys. The most commonly used customer service survey today is the Net Promoter Score, but also using other customer experience surveys.
Multiple vendors providing multiple technology solutions within the modern contact center result in multiple data streams. Each solution would likely come with its own reporting system. For example, reports from your communication platform would show Average Handle Time and Calls Abandoned, while your CRM reporting would provide you with contact reasons stats such as number of billing issue. What neither would be able to tell you is how many customers contacted you about the billing issue with a handle time above normal.
Contact centers are swimming in information collected from their data lakes. As their competitors find better ways to mine data using advanced analytics and Artificial Intelligence, the difference between success and failure for the modern contact center’s will be its ability effectively analyze customer data..
Business Analytics is the stack component that can help drive better decisions across all areas of the contact center. It leverages the raw calculating power of modern technology, advance analytics, and artificial intelligence aggregating data across multiple vendors, departments and channels to transform how a contact center operates. An effective business analytics tool should be capable of aggregating data, able to predict customer intent, and offer a real-time dashboard.
Whether you acquire your stack à la carte or go for an all-in-one CCaaS, a working knowledge of the technology described above and the affect each has on your center is helpful as you build your contact center technology strategy. Most are essential from the start, while others can take a back burner until business needs dictate their use. Eventually, as your contact center grows, so will the need to implement technology solutions designed for specific roles, that have the ability to scale and to future proof your modern contact center.
Whether you’re looking to build a contact center from scratch or make adjustments to your existing stack, the Taylor Reach Group can help you to source and acquire the right technology solution for you. Contact us today at 866-334-3730 or [email protected] for more details.
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