A story about Contact Center Software

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Self-service in the contact center

Self service is the dream of every call center manager. It costs less and it is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. But does it work?
First, let us define what self service is. Everyone is talking about self-service. But what is it? Self-service is when customers interact directly with systems of the company, without any interaction of its employees. Some examples:
  • via telephone, getting the balance information of the bank account
  • through the web site, booking a ticket on line or solving a technical problem
  • through SMS-es, proactively informing customers of an event
  • through a kiosk that can print vouchers, give offers
The cost for the different channels can vary dramatically. Telephone and e-mail (when unassisted) are among the highest ones, costing around 7 € per interaction; IVR hovers around 1 € while automated e-mail can be as low as 0,20 €. As you see, quite a difference in pricing.
Now, organising self-service is a different task. First of all, you must make sure that every channel that you wish to deploy can use the same set of business rules and has the same knowledge base. You don't want your client to receive different answers, based upon the channel they decide to use to contact you. Also, the customer records must be kept up to date on these systems. You'll make a nice impression when a customer can be identified on one channel, but not on the other one...
Besides that, self-service means that you will have to open up your systems and databases to your customers. This might present substantial work, both in programming and in security, but cost savings will be considerable by not having to employ people to fulfill the same task. After all, these are repetitive tasks.
In addition to that, you will need to make your self-services extremely user-friendly. Your website is probably already user-friendly - but how is your IVR? Ever heared about IVR-hell? Perhaps you might want to invest in speech-enabled technologies that are available now. They are working not too back nowadays.
Still, voice interactions remain a key part of how people like to do business, and this is not going to change. Customer-centricity is a key part to success: customers must want to use self-service applications, and understanding what customers want self-service for, and designing it to suit them, is critically important.
When choosing for self-service you are probably going to work with multiple vendors. Therefor, pick standards-based solutions that are open, and use off the shell hardware in order to decrease your total cost of ownership. This will also improve your flexibility, functionality and deployment time, while opening up possibilities for more advanced applications (of which you don't even dream today) and be able to scale up in the future.

Want to be self-serviced? We have the software to do it.


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