Choice of communication driving call centre change

Posted by Karl Reed

Over the next two to three years, South Africa will see a greater shift towards contact centres that use multiple forms of communication, driven by demand from clients, says communication software supplier Elingo sales and marketing director Karl Reed.

He notes the communication methods that individuals want to use to communicate with a business’s contact centre are changing the way in which these centres work.

The key question that is driving this change is not how businesses are communicating with their customers, but how customers want to communicate with contact centres. For example, a customer wants to phone into a contact centre and wants to receive a response through a short message service (sms) or email, he explains.

“It is not about the technology but about the interaction and a key driver is the choice of communication method,” he says.

To meet this demand, most companies are now looking at implementing integrated communication centres, rather than more narrowly focused call centres.

Further, Reed highlights that the tracking and reporting of the different communication methods that a business needs to allow it to analyse its interactions with customers are critical issues for contact centres.

Many contact centres are using a mixture of different communication management systems to track their liaison with customers but, often, each of these systems has its own reporting and management tools that then have to be compiled into a general report. This is often problematic and does not detail individuals’ communications with the company, he says.

However, software-based all-in-one multi- media interaction management systems can track and report on the different interactions with customers and can also trace an individual’s different interactions with a company.

“These systems can also be customised to suit the work environment at a company and, once the company establishes and programmes in rules, the systems can be used to automatically control different interactions with customers. This then extends to profiling individual clients and accurately assessing their worth to an organisation, which also enables a company to assess the worth of its contact centres to its business,” explains Reed.

Further, these systems can be implemented to track and report on communications with a business’s subsidiary offices and even across its global footprint, he adds.

Meanwhile, some of the trends and communication demands originate in townships and rural areas, where, for many people, the cellphone is their only means of communication.

However, a lengthy call using a pay-as-you-go contract is unaffordable for many callers, hence, the demand for alternative means of communication, such as social networks, sms, Skype, Twitter, email and even the Blackberry messenger service, he says.

“It is not only about the choice of communication but also about the most cost-effective means of communication for individuals,” he emphasises.

Further, he states that companies are reassessing the importance of their contact centres, as well as the importance of their contact centre agents.

In small markets dominated by a few businesses, the tipping point for customers could be their interactions with the contact centre because the different services and products offered by the businesses tend to be similar.

“A contact centre agent can promote or tarnish a business brand and can have a significant impact on whether the client establishes a relationship with the company, or seeks out an alternative owing to a lack of helpful interaction with the company,” Reed explains.

Businesses are also broadening the scope of their multimedia contact centres to include personnel from other departments who may be better able to help a customer. This is premised on the importance of interactions with clients and the realisation that contact centres are often critical to a successful operation, he says.