Simplify Your Contact Centers!

Contact centers are concentrating their investments on technologies designed to enable each agent to be more customer-facing, but still need to simplify the ability of agents to have all data available within a single application, according to ContactBabel's 2007 U.S. Operational Review. CRM represents more than just technology systems, but the technology is a critical element in enabling companies to improve customer service, according to the report. Therefore, companies should be moving away from multiple CRM applications to an optimized agent desktop. Contact centers with multiple systems tend to have disappointing performances, even if staffed with experienced, hard-working, and dedicated staff, the report says. Yet ContactBabel's findings indicate that movement to unified systems remains slow. "In most cases where complex, multiple applications are used, they are necessary for the agents to do their jobs," the report notes. So, rather than looking at new systems, these centers tend to look at training agents to switch more quickly among the existing multiplicity of applications. Eighty-four percent of survey respondents claim to offer all of the important information about the customer when an agent is on the call, which the report considers a minimum requirement. Having said that, if the information is held in numerous different screens and applications, it may as well not be available at all. Sixty-two percent of respondents state that the agent is provided with a complete history of the customer, which is broadly positive. ContactBabel's Steve Morrell, the author of the report, says that the presentation of this information is key to the success of the call: Typically the agent cannot afford to pause for the time needed to read everything; the CRM solution must provide the relevant history to the agent at the right time. Only 8 percent of respondents state that agents fully understand how a caller's household fits together economically; without that understanding, agents are often unable to pursue suitable cross-selling and upselling initiatives. (A case can be made, however, that this level of functionality can be seen to impinge upon customers' privacy.) The applications themselves are widely diverse. Fifty-eight percent of respondents bought their CRM systems from a third-party supplier, compared to 42 percent who developed solutions in-house. But size matters: Only 8 percent of respondents in small contact centers bought their CRM solution from a third-party. These solutions tend to be very different in functionality and capability from the third-party systems present in large contact centers. Overall, though, the survey shows that CRM is in place in a higher proportion of small contact centers than in large -- an indication, perhaps, of the difficulty in pinning down a shared definition of CRM. For a 20-seat contact center, simply having the basic abilities to segment customers when they are calling in and to have cross-selling prompts appear on the agents' screens may be enough to qualify for "having CRM" -- whereas, in larger companies, far more extensive capabilities are required to qualify for the CRM label.

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