Over the past ten years, new channels for communication have popped up fast and furiously, dramatically changing the way customers interact with the companies with whom they do businesses. At the same time, price erosion has increased product commoditization and accelerated the need for all but the very niche companies to find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. And while good customer service has always been a top-of-mind consideration for how to secure that differentiation, consumers’ vigorous adoption of new communication options like social media has significantly raised the bar on what is considered good service.

Indicative of an organization’s struggle to keep up with consumers’ heightened expectations is the gap between the use of and demand for traditional versus new communication channels. According to a recent survey*, the phone remains the number one choice for customers with service issues, perhaps because most (61 percent) think brands provide the fastest response on this tried-and-true channel. On the other hand, few believe newer channels like online chat (24 percent) and social media (1 percent) provide the quickest resolution. However, that doesn’t mean that consumers’ expectations are lacking – four in ten say they would rather have companies use social media for good customer service than to promote their products. 

The roadblock for many organizations in addressing this gap is that their contact center likely was not originally architected to effectively handle the new demands and as a result many are still operating in disconnected silos. Just ask most consumers about their recent experiences interacting with customer service departments and they will cite the chronic symptoms of disconnected customer service operations. Often the customer is forced to make repeat calls and repeat information, get bounced between queues and systems, reconcile multiple conflicting answers and correct erroneous histories. Companies with departments and systems that are not integrated cannot respond to customers in a timely, accurate manner, creating customer frustration and alienation.

A whole greater than the sum of its parts

Most certainly understand that implementing advanced technologies designed to enable organizations to interact with customers across channels with more flexibility is critical to creating this connected contact center. But it’s the combination and integration of these technologies that enable improved customer-facing interactions with in-house systems and processes that allow those on the front lines to nimbly respond to customer demands. Companies must arm the man or woman “behind the curtain” with the right tools to provide a differentiated experience, and to do so in a way that is beneficial to the companies’ bottom line. Recent market research supports this assertion.

Nucleus Research recently conducted an analysis** of companies that have integrated the contact center with workforce optimization (WFO) solutions and they discovered that these companies experienced: 

  • Improved customer experience

Companies with a unified platform for the contact center including back-office and workforce tools for agents and supervisors reported increased call completion with automated systems, reduced call wait times and increased call quality of 15 percent. By giving managers more visibility into agent performance and greater coaching capabilities, customers have a greater, and likely differentiated, experience.

  • Reduced management costs

Contact center management was able to reduce costs in automation, integration, reporting and onboarding by integrating the contact center with workforce management. In most cases companies were able to reduce time spent on scheduling by 30 percent and overall contact center management costs were reduced by 25 percent. 

  • Increased efficiencies and improved employee retention

Another important metric for contact centers is agent productivity as they seek to do more with fewer resources. After implementing an integrated solution, companies increased productivity by 22 percent.

Tapping new revenue streams

Breaking down silos with a unified solution also opens the door for the contact center to evolve from a cost center to a strategic profit center, creating revenue-driving opportunities. For example, marketing campaigns can be initiated with outbound dialing. When an agent is not receiving an inbound call or inbound call volume is low, agents can switch to an outbound dialing campaign.

Sophisticated technology makes it possible for contact centers to initiate proactive customer communications that reduce inbound calls, increase revenue and build loyalty. For example, airlines can alert passengers of delayed flights and provide status updates with SMS or pass along new gate information. Companies, such as utilities, impacted by severe weather can communicate with customers about any changes to service.

There’s no question that excellent, differentiated customer experiences lead to customer loyalty and increased revenue. As consumers increasingly take control of the customer-company relationship and voice their customer service frustrations and successes in very public forums like the social sphere, it’s time companies reached for the next horizon of customer care. Unified contact center platforms can work across all channels, in any environment and throughout the organization to deliver remarkable customer experiences that result in great business returns.

*According to an online omnibus survey of 2,158 Americans who have contacted customer service. The survey was created by Aspect and compiled by TNS.

**According to an independent report from Nucleus Research on Aspect customers using Aspect’s unified IP and workforce management solutions.