Bringing Intelligence to the Call Center

Call centers' customer service agents need to work smarter, not harder, which begins with delivering relevant information from emails, calls, Web pages--even colleagues--as an inquiry call takes place. Having the right production information or customer information at your representatives' fingertips is a fundamental yet crucial step. It can mean the difference between losing a customer who is put on hold, solving a customers' inquiry, or even upselling on an opportunity. Setting up a system that contains information, is updated readily, and is easily accessible and relevant to each customer call is the challenge. Imagine a difficult customer call comes in. It begins as a simple inquiry, but the service representative quickly experiences difficulty providing the information to satisfy the customer. While speaking with the customer, the service rep is desperately trying to access relevant documents that might help. He recalls a colleague talking about a similar inquiry last year, but he can't recall which colleague. Finally the customer asks to speak with a supervisor. The supervisor gets on the phone, but she also cannot solve the inquiry without further information. She takes down the customer's name and number, and promises to call back within half an hour. She then contacts one of her customer service representatives to assist in tracking down answers. An agent is available, but while assisting, this agent cannot answer the additional incoming calls that are swamping the call center at that moment. Call centers face this scenario daily. For the most part representatives do not have the information they need readily accessible to respond to initial customer calls. The information may reside somewhere on the computer network, but with so much of it, in so many different repositories, accessing the relevant data is another story. Regardless of whether colleagues have dealt with similar issues in the past, most call center representatives start from scratch when responding to customer inquiries. And in difficult situations, a supervisor's presence only provides a reactive approach rather than a proactive solution. Finally, training new and existing agents can be time intensive when they have to manually search for information they need to respond to calls. In an industry with such a high turnover rate, the delay can damage the effectiveness of the entire organization. One company, Mercur Assistance, a 24-hour help and advice line on health, mobility, and property, faced such a challenge by setting up a system to simultaneously access more than 100 different information sources. Based on an understanding of the content of each call, the system delivers relevant information from these sources directly to the call agent as a call is taking place, and connects reps to colleagues of applicable expertise. New customer service agents benefit from a faster learning curve; experienced agents are able to better serve customers. Additionally, as soon as the need for a supervisor is even insinuated, that supervisor is automatically alerted and ready to assist. Mercur has reduced the time its representatives spend searching for information by 75 percent and the average call handling time by 35 percent. It is important that information be accessible even if it is unstructured--emails, Word documents, colleague-prepared materials, recorded phone conversations--many don't fit easily into a searchable database. Customer information generated through call center and online interactions is vital to enabling reps to meet and exceed customer expectations. A successful CRM solution enables call centers to capture, store, and easily retrieve both unstructured and structured information that can then be readily available and integrated with the call center and CRM applications. Content-enabled CRM fosters successful moments of truth for customer service representatives and customers. By making customer service agents smarter and better equipped to efficiently serve customers, companies not only build customer loyalty, but also deliver revenue. About the Author Tom Blackie is managing director of Audentify, and brings with him a wealth of technical expertise and commercial experience, having held senior positions at a number of technology companies, including Olivetti and Oracle Research Laboratory and Adaptive Broadband. Tom has more than 20 years experience in R&D and a range of management roles, and has successfully overseen numerous product development programs from small-scale projects to multimillion-pound programs. Prior to joining Autonomy Tom completed an MBA at The Ashridge Business School, U.K., where he won the Excellence Award for outstanding achievement. At Audentify Tom oversees a highly specialized team of business development executives, marketing executives, technical specialists, and software developers. Email Tom at tomb@audentify.com
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