Years ago, advanced call centers reduced costs and improved customer satisfaction at Global 1000 companies. As a result, they have gained a competitive edge and profited through smart implementation of new technologies, like web chat, social media integration, automated dialer and more.
Now, an advanced call center is a business requirement for midsize and fast-growing small businesses too. Already, the competitiveness gap is widening between companies with 21st century 'smart' call centers and those with yesterday's phone-only call centers.
Consider General Pool & Spa, a wholesale distributor of swimming pool & spa supplies, which was "drowning" in phone calls with its legacy system. One regional office might be overloaded with calls while other had staff sitting idle. With its new 'smart' IP telephony system, sales calls are now centrally distributed. The system catches the rollovers and automatically looks for the next available salesperson, including in-home salespeople. In effect, General Pool & Spa has one big office spread over many miles.
With its advanced call center, General Pool and Spa paid for its implementation of new technologies in less than 12 months.
Read full story here…
Vegas.com increased sales by 347%
Watch Vegas.com Contact Center Manager Rob Cate describe how Vegas.com increased sales 347% with IP contact center technology, while reducing agent headcount. Play video...
We have become an impatient culture. Before the Internet we were impressed with overnight delivery of a message. Now we expect to be able to order merchandise online with a click of a button. That same impatience means that a customer call center must become more agile when it comes to communications channels.
To beat the competition, advanced call centers must allow agents and customers to choose from a variety of communications channels: phone calls, the web, text chat, web collaboration (when one person allows another to take control of their web browser to assist them), email, and fax.
Multimedia systems also pay for themselves by increasing customer loyalty. Studies have shown that lack of strong relationships with customers erode competitive positioning by 15 percent to 20 percent annually.
Multimedia helps build loyalty through screen pops, giving agents pre-emptive customer information such as exactly who is calling, past purchases and trending. With customer data at their fingertips, agents can more easily upsell, cross-sell, or advance-sell. I'm tickled when a company "remembers" me and what I like. It is a differentiator in selecting the firms I do business with.
With multimedia you can also play to each agent's strengths: Some are best on the phone, others with email.
Certainly the telephone continues to serve us well. For the older generation of customers, it's the type of communication that comes most naturally. But along with those customers is a newer generation. Have you noticed that teenagers today don't talk on their cell phones? They text message, sometimes for hours on end. Advanced call centers had better be ready to meet them where they feel most comfortable.
As of now, 70 percent of information workers consider email to be their most prevalent and preferred means of communication. In the next several years instant messaging may take the lead.
With the multi-channel capability of IP telephony, you have the ability to queue or distribute interactions regardless of whether they take place through a phone call, text chat or email, and get a comprehensive report on all channels.
Systems based on IP telephony offer basic business advantages. Many call centers have old "chassis" and "card-based" systems. To expand or upgrade, the system may need a new chassis or other hardware. Today's systems use software-based expansion. You don't need a new machine each time the software is improved.
Even when you can "bolt on" a feature to a legacy system, it's often not possible to integrate management. Voice calls are reported and queued into one "silo", email into another, chat into yet another. This means no ability to queue or distribute interactions regardless of channel, or report comprehensively. Some new systems do provide this capability.
Legacy systems also limit where you can send a call. New multiphase systems allow for calls to be distributed to a remote agent, over the public switched telephone network, and be managed as if the agent were sitting in a call center.
New multi-channel systems pay for themselves quickly. The average call center phone call costs between $3 and $8, but an IVR or web interaction costs only pennies. If you could divert a significant percentage of repetitive phone interactions to either or both alternatives while maintaining or improving the level of customer satisfaction, the return on investment is huge.
And don't forget the value of outbound automated dialing. Today's models have eliminated the telltale pause that makes many people hang up the phone.
IP communications is mainstream technology for business. It not only works, it may already be in use by your competitors.
One of SOS's non-profit clients is completely funded through donations. They've learned that if a donor misses a pledge date, there's an 80 percent chance of retaining the pledge if the non-profit contacts the donor within 30 days. Beyond 30 days, the retention rate drops to 10 percent. With only 10 agents and a dialer, our client has been able to contact all donors within 30 days of a missed pledge date. The CEO has said this is worth $100,000 a week.
As the General Pool & Spa example at the top of this page shows, multimedia and multi-channel systems also make it easier to get the best staff, because agents can work from anywhere -- even from home. You no longer have to worry about local scarcity or high costs.
2007 will reward 21st century advanced call centers that strengthen and expand the customer relationship with each touch; and that leverage technology to slash costs that used to be unavoidable.
Decision makers choose SOS with a high degree of confidence, because our solutions are based on tried-and-true technology and methodology with years of customer success. In addition, because of our track record, SOS is a primary go-to partner of Cisco Systems and Interactive Intelligence for business IP telephony projects in northern California.
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