Sept. 24, 2014 - As with nearly all aspects of life, technology is revolutionizing outsourced call center services. And as with so many other things, it’s hard to comprehend how the call center did its job, back in the day, without technology accessible to everyone.
In the Dark Ages, before around 1983 or so, there was the phone. Period. Calls came into the call center and in some way or other (snail mail?, a phone call?) customer orders were communicated to the vendor. No wonder it took the proverbial four to six weeks for the shirt you wanted to arrive in the mail.
How data was compiled on agent performance, overall call center performance, how it was collected, analyzed and presented – I have no idea how all of these things were done.
Long and short of it: Technology was not only in the Dark Ages, so was call center customer service.
Where does that leave us today? It means that call center representatives can do far more for customers much faster than they’ve ever been able to in the past. It means the quality of their work, the quality of the program they work on and the quality of the call center overall is far more measurable, with results examined in near real time. It means that when a client hires an outsourced call center, it can be held accountable to specific program metrics that the client is most concerned about, such as average talk time, time to pick-up, average handle time, average time to respond to emails, number of online chats conducted, average order size, average size of upsell, and other quantifiables.
It also means that all phone interactions with customers can be recorded and listened to by the client. If a customer has a service complaint, justice can be served.
It means that technology has made the outsourced call center highly transparent. It means that everything the call center does, warts and all, is open and available for viewing and listening by the client. It’s all to the good.
But the impact of technology doesn’t end there. Another major implication is the sophisticated technological requirements that are placed on call center customer service agents.
Watch them work sometime. A representative in a shared agent environment jumps from one client program to another, fluidly navigating various CRM systems – processing credit card purchases, tracking orders, confirming appointments, explaining the details of a wide range of products and services, and so forth. And because customers use social media to exchange opinions – both good and bad – about clients, agents must monitor those social media interactions and interface with customers on Facebook and Twitter. It’s very impressive.
To no one’s surprise, call center technology will continue to grow, improve, become more powerful, do more. Particularly now that call center technology is delivered via SaaS or the cloud, such as Five/9, world-class technological capabilities will only become more widespread.
So as technology gets stronger and more widely used, the ultimate differentiator will eventually become, as it always has been, the quality of agent and the call center where the agent is employed. Technology is wonderful, but the customer still needs to hear a friendly, warm, welcoming, helpful and knowledgeable voice at the other end of the telephone. Without that, all the technology in the world will be to no avail.
Mark Fichera, CEO