For a long time, the telephone and e-mail were the common means of communication to get in touch with companies. Today things are different: It is normal for customers to contact companies via a wide variety of channels, including messenger services such as WhatsApp. In this article you will learn what the tasks of a contact center are, how it differs from a call center and how it helps companies to increase customer satisfaction and strengthen customer loyalty.
What is a contact center?
Contact centers — also known as customer interaction centers or customer service centers — provide the primary point of contact between customers and companies The contact center bundles all incoming (inbound) and outgoing (outbound) communication channels such as telephone, e-mail, fax, SMS and currently an increasing number of text and (video) chats via social media and direct messenger services such as WhatsApp and iMessage.
Typical reasons for contacting us are, for example, a damaged or defective product and its return, questions about online bookings, cancellations or rebookings or others Questions about servicesonline forms and processes in public administration, for example.
In recent years, the trend has continued to be towards online ordering and Service Requests via the Web. Inquiries are increasingly being made through online forms or direct messages, but there are still many people who prefer to call and place their order over the phone or ask someone for advice. This also increases the complexity in answering inquiries, because more and more channels have to be taken into account and the customer has to be picked up and looked after where he wants it.
The basic tasks of a contact center can be summarized as follows:
- customer acquisition
- Take orders/bookings/enquiries
- Cross-Selling und Up-Selling
- Customer Support
- Get feedback (market research)
What is the difference between a contact center and a call center?
In the call center, telephony is the primary communication channel, which is also the biggest difference to the contact center. With this, many other channels are added, which are also linked to each other. For example, the customer makes his request via a messenger like WhatsApp, but then decides to call. Since all communication channels are connected, the employee knows what the issue is. So customers can switch freely between the different channels and service desk employeesthe service will not be interrupted.
Cloud and software solutions for today’s contact center
If a customer makes an inquiry, this is recorded by contact center software and further processing is controlled. In order for the software to be able to distribute the request correctly, some necessary information is collected in advance, for example the reason for contacting or details such as the order number.
If human intelligence or empathy is required to process the customer request, the contact center software then determines a suitable employee (agent) who has the right qualifications for the request. The software also collects all the important information about the customer that is stored in the system and that is necessary to answer the question for the agent. In the best case, the actual solution to the issue is supplemented by extended services. A typical example here is the offer of additional hotel services or a rental car when reserving a room. A good contact center increases customer service through fast and reliable problem solving customer satisfaction and strengthens customer loyalty.
Many companies afford their own customer service. However, as the size of the company increases, so does the volume of calls. This means increased waiting times and can result in customer inquiries being answered late. In such a case, it can make sense to outsource the contact center by commissioning a service provider. This makes well-trained staff available to answer enquiries answered quickly and reliably, so that the customer experience is improved. But there are now also tailor-made cloud offers for internal service organizations that provide services and solutions in the areas of communication and service comparable to a classic contact center via a so-called Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) as a rental or subscription model provide.
The difference between multichannel and omnichannel
At a Multichannel-Contact-Center Customer communication also takes place via various channels. But the canals are not linked together, which has a major disadvantage. Example: A customer writes an e-mail and seeks telephone contact in the course of problem solving. In this case, the employee on the phone does not know that contact has already been made by e-mail. He must first find out what the facts are and select the relevant records. The customer, in turn, has a negative contact experience because their case was not immediately known and they had to wait for their call history and corresponding previous contacts to be determined.
A Omnichannel-Contact-Center on the other hand, follows the approach of using the various channels such as telephony, e-mail and chat to connect holistically. The channels are integrated into uniform processes so that they interact smoothly. In this way, customer service always has an overview of all processes relating to a customer and can help them answer their queries more quickly. This makes the customer experience much more positive.
Inbound und Outbound im Contact Center
At inbound calls As mentioned at the beginning, these are incoming calls to a call center. For example, a customer contacts the company’s service department because they have technical problems with their newly purchased product. Classic concerns for inbound telephony are:
- Order, booking and purchase processing
- Technical support, rebookings, cancellations
- service issues
At outbound calls the difference is that the contact center staff contact the customers. For example, you may want to offer a new product for sale or get feedback on products and services.
- market research
- Cross-Selling & Up-Selling
- customer recovery
However, outbound telephony is only permitted for private individuals with the customer’s consent.
What role does artificial intelligence play in contact centers?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used extensively in good contact centers. The integration of AI offers significant advantages from which the operator, employees and customers benefit. A large proportion of the inquiries that arise are repetitive, for example changing address data or canceling an order. AI can relieve agents by answering recurring questions independently. through the Automation of repetitive requests employees can focus on more complex cases and have more capacity to solve them satisfactorily. Modern dialog-based chat systems are also able to process more complex information needs for customer inquiries largely independently – sometimes in a text and content quality that can hardly be distinguished from written communication with a human agent.
With the help of AI are also Customer interactions can be measured and evaluated. Why is the customer not satisfied with the company’s product? What makes certain employees so successful? The AI collects data that can be used to answer these questions. Agents also receive support for customer contacts by showing them suitable response options and alternatives in the course of the conversation.
The term artificial intelligence is often associated with the fear of losing one’s job. However, the concern that AI will make humans redundant is unfounded in the contact center. On the one hand most customers prefer human interaction. In the case of more complex problems in particular, the AI could overtax the caller’s patience because it does not understand the facts correctly, so that a human agent has to step in. Or it is about very personal inquiries, for example in health management, or there is an emotional moment – another weakness of virtual agents, as they are poor at interpreting and expressing feelings. Artificial intelligence is also not able to cover modern language usage, which is changing significantly, especially among younger people.
Why contact centers will become increasingly important for the future
Different companies often offer similar products and services. Apart from the quality of the respective service, the Customer experience plays an increasingly important role. Customers can use every digital communication channel via smartphone and are only a few touch gestures away from contacting a company. In order to meet the constantly growing demands for modern and innovative customer service, companies in the contact center environment are increasingly relying on the cloud.
When switching to a cloud solution, the central components are no longer located locally (on-premise) with the user. Instead, a service provider provides the necessary components centrally available via the Internet. This often does not even require special software to be installed locally. Instead, users access via a web client.
There are clear advantages for the company: While conventional on-premise solutions are calculated with fixed costs, the costs of a cloud contact center are based on the pay-per-use model. Organizations only pay for the functions that they really need and can book new functions quickly and easily, so that they act more flexibly can. This also refers to simple scaling, for example when there is an increased volume of inquiries or when connecting new locations or employees who work from home. In addition, companies do not have to invest in new hardware when switching to the cloud and can always use the latest software without having to invest in their own IT know-how or separate support.
A modern contact center is essential for strengthening customer loyalty. The linked channels create a seamless customer experience with consistent service quality. We support you in meeting the technical requirements for perfectly experienced communication on all levels to accomplish. Use the decades of experience of the CONET specialists in the contact center area. Pick up your customers where they interact and give them unique, inspiring communication experiences. We’ll gladly assist you!
Niklas Ludwig has been Communication Manager at CONET since March 2020 and is responsible for the internal and external communication of the CONET group of companies.