During the course of an inbound inquiry, a customer's journey through a business may involve transfers between different communication channels and conversations with multiple customer service representatives.
Multiple information capture
In the traditional contact center approach, the information relating to the journey or "session" is typically built up during stages, such as the processing of a call, participation in a self-service Web application or through interactive voice response (IVR) systems.
Each time a transfer or communication takes place, the contextual information around the customer, their intent, and any data relating to their interaction has to be rebuilt on the agent's workspace before the interaction can progress. All too often, the customer is required to restate information they have already provided.
The main issue with this approach is the considerable time involved in rebuilding the customer context each time within the representative's call-handling application.
Some contact centers will pass on some reference data during a transfer, which can then be used to rebuild contextual information, but this type of solution is costly to build, maintain, and adapt to future demands. Furthermore, such a solution runs the risk of losing much of the important contextual information gathered during a session.
During the planning and implementation of such solutions, design decisions are made around the data types and formats that will be passed between different systems during a transfer, which information should be stored during a session, and how the information should be transferred and then rebuilt during the transfer. These designs are typically implemented in isolation across different systems that are not designed for change and flexibility, leading to higher costs as the solution tries to keep in step with business demand.
Where different self-service channels are available to the customer, the impact of these issues is multiplied when different design decisions, systems, and processes are used to transfer and share information, all of which leads to an inconsistent customer experience and different results for every customer.
A new approach
A modern contact center overcomes these challenges by employing technology that enables the business to define a single interaction that represents a customer's journey through the contact center, with all information maintained across multiple channels and which can be viewed, shared, and transferred to and from multiple participants.
Using such an approach, contextual information about a customer, their intent, and data relating to the interaction is all compiled and maintained within a single interaction. The interaction may have been initiated through a self-service channel such as IVR or Web self-service, but as the customer's session progresses through the organization, moving between channels or requiring collaboration between multiple participants, the context moves along with it.
Process is key
To make this possible, the business processes underpinning the interaction must be channel-aware, enabling them to deliver consistency across multiple channels and seamlessly transfer between them. In addition, this shifts the definition of business processes to being customer-centric, rather than agent-centric.
For example, a customer has phoned into a credit-card organization and is reviewing the last transactions made on their account using the self-service IVR. This session will follow the same business process, regardless of the channel the customer chose to start the interaction.
The customer notices a discrepancy in their transactions and wishes to be transferred to a representative for further assistance. As the transfer takes place, the agent is immediately provided with all the contextual information that surrounds the session and an accurate history of the interaction steps the customer has taken so far. Importantly, this approach reduces the complexity of designing a mechanism for storing, fetching and rebuilding the interaction context, eliminating the delays suffered by a traditional contact center during such a transfer.
Moreover, enabling a single interaction to be viewed, shared, and transferred sets the modern contact center apart from traditional methods, particularly when multiple participants collaborate to resolve the customer's issue.
In the example above, the customer inquiring about their credit card transactions may see a bank charge against their card that they were not expecting. The agent may need to consult a staff member within the department that raised the charge. This consultation introduces a third participant to the interaction, who is able to collaborate with all the involved parties and is privy to all the required contextual information. The consultation may require the call to be transferred to be resolved but, importantly, it will be resolved on the first contact the customer made with the organization.
Ultimately, businesses that are truly focused on creating a customer-centric environment must look to equip their contact centers with the ability to move customers seamlessly between channels, or risk falling behind in the race for customer service excellence.
About the Author
Peter Morton is lead technical product manager at Sword ciboodle (formerly Graham Technology), a customer interaction software company. Peter works with a cross-section of teams and individuals within ciboodle to plan and deliver a product that reflects the demands of its customers. For more information, please visit www.ciboodle.com.
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