• November 10, 2006
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Optimizing the Contact Center

We're all aware of the contact center's ongoing struggle to shift its stigma as a necessary evil and gain recognition as a strategic asset. Its ability to measure performance and calculate ROI is essential for optimization, but many contact centers are grappling with these key elements, according to a benchmark report released this week by Harte-Hanks company Aberdeen Group. "The Contact Center as a Profit Center: Optimizing a Self-Service Contact Center With Speech, VoIP, Data Integration and Performance Analytics," details technology options, provides guidance on how to measure a contact center's success, and offers recommendations for developing, managing, and optimizing the contact center. The report, underwritten in part by Astute Solutions, CallMiner, and Syntellect, leverages the responses of the more than 150 enterprises surveyed. In fact, 60 percent of those polled feel that it's difficult to determine whether the contact center is achieving its goals because it's difficult to measure performance, while 40 percent noted that it was difficult to develop an ROI model. "Clearly, without an ROI model or a way to measure performance, justifying a continued investment in the area becomes a major challenge," the report states. According to Aberdeen, however, a renewed focus on the contact center is driving investment in four technologies: VoIP, speech recognition, data integration, and performance analytics (including speech-enabled call mining). VoIP reduces total cost of ownership and increases versatility, while speech recognition can enhance the customer experience, according to the report. "Speech recognition offers the caller more options and an easier path to the information they're looking for," says Russ Klein, senior research director of emerging technology research at Aberdeen and author of the report. "The organization is interested in creating a similar customer experience no matter which channel the customer is using to contact the organization, and speech gives the call center the same...range of choices that you would expect by using the Web or walking into a retail location." Contact centers must, however, give callers the option to connect with a live agent if they prefer. Data integration enables contact centers to have a better picture of their customers. "Enhanced data integration capabilities extend the power of the master database into the contact center and return valuable transaction data to the enterprise," the report states. Klein adds, however that performance analytics is the functionality that drives the other technologies. "That's typically where a call center will determine which of the other technologies would make sense to implement." When segmented by functionality, cross-channel sales analysis tops contact center technology investments in the next 12 months to 24 months with 51 percent, albeit just slightly: Fifty percent of respondents revealed that they'll invest in data integration with CRM system in the next 12 months to 24 months. Other expected contact center technology investments include product or inventory integration (38 percent), performance analytics (30 percent), speech analytics (22 percent), IVR path analytics (31 percent), and standards compliance (29 percent). According to Klein, contact centers that concentrate on optimization can realize cost, revenue, profitability, and satisfaction benefits, but they must begin with focusing on analytics. "The better your data the better your business decision is going to be," he says. He also recommends appointing a customer experience advocate. "All too often these systems are designed by IT people who think they know what the customers want and the fact is just like a good Web site starts with a user interaction designer, a good call center has to start with a customer experience advocate." Then, he adds, "it's all about training." Related articles: The Why Factor in Speech Analytics
Virtual Contact Centers Are Connecting Like a Circle in a Spiral
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