Most of us find ourselves interacting with a contact center (previously known as “call center”) at least once a week. Most of us REALLY doing this. It doesn’t matter if the contact center belongs to your ISP, your TV cable provider, your credit card company, you bank or any retailer you want to contact - the user experience of most of us is problematic in so many ways, that it is a wonder that we are still continuing to use it. I guess it has something to do with the fact that up until now we didn’t really have a choice…
Typical caller complaints today focus around IVR, Interactive Voice/Video Response systems (difficult to navigate, long waits), contact center agents (difficulty in explaining the problem, difficulty in understanding the solution) and contact center availability (need to call back multiple times).
Most enterprises, especially those that sell mass-market consumer goods, are operating some sort of contact center. Most of these enterprises do it as a necessary evil. There is a great challenge to manage the customers, in terms of wait time, ability to answer the various needs and other customer related issues, and the contact center personnel, in terms of educating them both in terms of professional skills and customer service skills.
Typical contact center management issues include: maintaining high quality service on a consistent basis, reducing costs (derived mainly from large experienced manpower), training manpower and keeping them up-to-date, and reducing agent frustration (which leads to a high turnover rate).
In other words, the overall experience – for both customers and enterprises – is negative. No wonder call centers have long been a notorious theme for jokes…
UC in the contact center marketplace
And yet the contact center industry, according to a recent Gartner report, keeps growing. And although this 2.4 billion dollars marketplace is quite mature, innovative trends are pushing more growth in the space. These trends definitely include Unified Communication (UC).
After all, contact centers are meant to resolve customer issues. And the sooner the better, as this can impact both customer satisfaction and contact center cost-effectiveness. UC introduces a few much-needed features, that can dramatically change contact center effectiveness, and for the very best.
Presence, for instance, can allow a contact center agent to escalate problems in real-time to relevant enterprise resources. Instant messaging is another example – it can allow agents to communicate with enterprise resources while serving a customer with minimal interference. Audio, video and web conferencing is another great feature – for a customer calling from an enabled endpoint (personal computer or mobile phone), it means the possibility to view “how-to” videos, web presentations and other audiovisual tools, all improving the experience an agent can provide. They may even choose to include survey functionality and speech analytics to increase the intelligence of the contact center.
Cisco brings innovation to the contact center marketplace
Cisco is one of the leading vendors in the contact center market place, driving the UC vision into the contact center with its Unified Customer Voice Portal (CVP). The CVP enables customers to efficiently (and even – according to Cisco – “enjoyably”) to receive the information they need from the contact center.
This means, for instance, using touchtone signals or customer’s own voice to retrieve information automatically (meaning, without the need of an agent). Or forwarding the call directly to a vacant agent without the hassle of listening (again…) to that annoying audio recording. And it offers a true visual contact center, assuming more and more customers are now able to enjoy it, either from home or office using their desktops or on their video-enabled mobile phones.
How CVP works. Source: Cisco whitepaper.
A visual contact center
A visual contact center means that instead of just hearing the IVR, trying to pave a path in the endless forest of menus and digits, you can see menus and browse easily to your desired option. The impact of adding visual to audio only IVR is truly amazing, in terms of usability. A good example for such a transition from audio-only to video-based is visual voicemail (recently praised by the iPhone).
iPhone Visual Voicemail Demo. Source: whoismatt
A visual contact center means the customer can browse folders of videos in various topics that can be streamed at the customer’s own pace. Also the agent can decide to “push” the content if it helps in solving a customer problem. Video streamed from the customer can help describe a problem to the agent. Even that annoying wait time can be a much more cheerful experience, and much more useful, if the customer can learn about new features in the product, hear announcements from the enterprise or even watch a short news cast while he’s waiting.
A visual contact center also means a true revolution for the hearing impaired community, which currently are not able to use any contact centers. Visual communication for the hearing impaired is a true life changer, and video contact centers provide deaf people almost the same level of service that hearing people can expect and enjoy.
Building a video-based contact center
Building a video-based contact center is not trivial. On one hand, one has to offer the software to develop visual communication features on top of existing contact center offerings. On the other hand, one has to build a universal media server platform that offers video services and applications such as streaming and conferencing.
RADVISION offers both – SCOPIA Interactive Video Platform (IVP), with its extensive set of video application capabilities, and iCONTACT, a video contact center software component. And today RADVISION announced that both are integrated in Cisco’s CVP, extending the existing offering with video interactions, “self-service” features, video-enabled queuing and agents on video.
We – as citizens of the 21st century – should be, and are, expecting more in terms of customer service. And we – as employees in 21st century enterprises – should be, and are, offering services based on technologies that can make everyone’s daily activities much better. It seems like a win-win situation for customers and enterprises, so hopefully video-based contact centers will become a standard and the sooner the better.