In the business world, and especially with the technology sector, terminology seems to change as fast as your Twitter feed. Even for the savviest of us, it’s often hard to keep up with the latest acronyms and industry lingo.
Take “call centers”. This category has been around for years, but now it’s morphed into “contact centers.” But as it turns out, one term is not synonymous with the other. There’s a difference. Contact centers have a much more direct impact on efficiency, profits, and customer loyalty. They also provide a more enriching experience not just for your customers, but also for your workforce.
But let’s back up for a moment and define a call center. At a high level, it’s the department within a company that takes inbound and outbound calls from customers. And although call center employees are essentially customer service representatives, they can potentially be telemarketers, debt collectors, and other roles. What all of these functions have in common is they all are based on voice calls. In the age of multi-channel and omni-channel, call center employees are restricted to one, narrow slice of the customer experience.
That’s why smart, competitive, and profitable organizations have built out contact centers. Now, customers can interact with representatives through their preference of channels, be it text messages, apps, social media, chat, email, as well as the tried and true voice channel. When contact centers are properly designed, they allow for intelligent routing, which enables any employee to see a specific customer’s journey. This is how employees are able to work faster, which is why customer issues get resolved much quicker.
Of course, many rightly point out that there’s really no substantial difference between contact centers and call centers. Contact centers simply have more channels through which the customer can interact with company employees. It’s a legitimate argument. But contact centers are indeed an entirely different animal. A contact center provides a central point to manage all customer inquires and communications. People, processes, and technology are coordinated, creating a well-oiled machine that automates and facilitates the most efficient response to every customer need.
As such, contact center employees must have a higher level of training. In the past, call center employees only needed to learn protocols for handling phone calls. The contact center employee, on the other hand, must gain know-how in every other channel through which a customer may contact them – again, be it text messages, apps, social media, chat, and email. With these additional channels come more opportunities to assess performance via metrics. Where as a call center may have solely measured things like hold time, a contact center can measure specific variables for each channel. Processes can then be tightened and refined to create even more efficiencies over time. Some of these efficiencies may include improvements in operational KPIs, increased employee productivity, and deeper customer insights to foster quicker problem resolution.
Contact centers can help companies to better meet customer expectations for a number of scenarios. For example, contact centers can help to provide more efficient answers about product questions and credit card activity. By upgrading real-time features and implementing interactive voice response systems, they can avoid wasting customer time and deliver accurate answers. To improve efficiency even more, they can implement precision queuing to reach the best possible employee for complex issues. At the same time, by installing self-service options, customers can quickly access information about balance and credit availability, and also make payments via multiple channels. No matter the scenario, contact centers reduce costs, eliminate much employee downtime, and more importantly, make for happier, more loyal customers.
Just like the landline limited how we could communicate with customers, the call center limited how we could resolve customer issues. But the contact center opens up new possibilities. Now you can engage with customers across multiple channels, and because you can see their behavior within each one, you’re more equipped to provide exactly what they need, as fast as possible. You can access the right data, at the right time, all in a single view. And no matter what terminology you use, we think that’s a pretty good way to serve your customers.