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I recently attended the second in the series of customer engagement days organized by the Directors Club (GB & NI). The format of the event was the same as the first day that I wrote about and included three keynote presentations and three roundtable sessions where attendees discussed how organizations should engage with customers. As for the first event I chaired the roundtable on perfecting multichannel customer engagement in the contact center and gave a keynote on how social media is impacting the contact center.

In contrast to the first event, here I found less adoption of multimedia customer engagement, with more of the attendees saying that they are experimenting with different channels of engagement but haven’t settled on new strategies. A particular issue was raised by several organizations from the insurance industry, whose multichannel plans are hampered by a legal requirement to conduct many customer interactions in written form. They spoke of being “snowed under” with paper and as a consequence trying to determine how often they can use non-paper channels.

Another big issue nearly all the organizations face is the large number of systems they already have to manage, the number of new systems they would need to manage multiple channels of communication and the challenge of integrating all these to produce a consistent experience across channels and a single view of customer channel usage. As I discovered in my research into the adoption of a contact center in the cloud, many organizations are finding the answer to these problems lies in the adoption of preintegrated channel management systems from vendors such as GenesysinContactInteractive Intelligence and Noble Systems, and cross-channel analytics from vendors such as NICE Systems and Verint.

As I tweeted at the time, the discussions raised what for me was a familiar idea, that “companies need more joined-up thinking.” As my research into customer relationship maturity shows, organizations still store information in silos, which minimize sharing of processes, information or systems. This separation makes is difficult to take steps that would deliver consistent, appropriate experiences across all touch points. One of the participants in my roundtable said the organization had some success using customer journey maps to help plan customer engagement touch points within a channel but hadn’t thought to use them to map a customer’s journey across different channels. I believe that journey mapping could help organizations identify and thus remove some of the less sensible steps they make customers go through and help them see engagements from the customer’s point of view.

As at the previous event, even before I gave my presentation on social media, the topic of using social media came up in all three roundtable sessions. In this case more organizations are experimenting with social media rather than building it into their overall customer service strategy. That said, almost all agreed that they need to make social media a two-way channel of communication with customers and not just a place where customers raise issues or make complaints that are not addressed. These views are in line with my research, which shows that the use of social medial by organizations is growing but has yet to be adopted as a mainstream channel for customer service; indeed many of the attendees agreed that responsibility for social media remains with Marketing and thus is used mainly to carry out low-cost marketing campaigns.

Perhaps the most pleasing part of the day was the chairman’s roundup of key points coming out of the roundtable discussions. As the different chairpersons summed up their discussions, I often heard the sentiment that the “customer should come first,” whether in developing a multimedia customer service strategy, mobile applications to support customers or Web-based self-service, or generally becoming a “social enterprise.”

All-in-all, the day raised more questions than answers, but everyone appreciated the opportunity to join the debate. Won’t you please come and collaborate with me.

Regards

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

Managing contact centers typically includes five areas: communications management, workforce optimization, business applications such as CRM, analytics and customer experience management. Last year I wrote about how inContact has evolved from a communications provider to sell a contact center in the cloud that supports most of those requirements. Its products cover communications (ACD, CTI, Dialer and IVR), workforce optimization (Quality Management, Workforce Management and eLearning, which includes content production, hiring and screen recording), analytics (Reports 2.0, which through a partnership with QlikView provides enhanced reporting and analysis capabilities) and customer experience management (ECHO Customer Survey).

Like other software vendors, inContact continuously enhances its products to meet market demands, and recently it announced a number of new capabilities. These include the ability to develop scripts that guide users in how to handle interactions; a “click-to-call” capability that allows customers to request a call back using the Web or IVR; plug-ins for common CRM systems so that users can manage their desktops more effectively; enhancements to the existing dialer so that agents can more easily switch from one interaction to another; and the ability to design a branded chat window.

These new capabilities are part of in Contact’s focus on what it calls “bringing harmony” to the contact center. Such harmony begins by recognizing that in addition to deploying contact center systems, organizations need to integrate contact management with mainstream business applications such as CRM. InContact’s latest release simplifies integration with these systems. The company has improved the time and cost of deploying its systems by having more out-of-the-box capabilities, and its deployment in the cloud eliminates most ongoing maintenance issues.

InContact’s new release supports a trend I have seen through my research into customer relationship maturity, which is that customer interactions are now being handled through more communication channels and by business units outside the traditional contact center. Its systems therefore support the concept of customer interaction management, which includes work-item management, intelligent work-item routing and holistic process oversight. Work-item management converts all items – phone calls, instant messages, Web requests, posts to social media, trouble tickets or any others – to objects, and all objects are processed in the same way. Intelligent work-item routing routes these objects based on a single set of rules that includes the customer’s profile, the best-qualified agent to handle the contact and the availability of skilled resources to handle the contact. The newly enhanced analytics provides a holistic view of how this process is working and allows managers to optimize performance from business, customer and agent perspectives. Because the analytics provides a view across the complete interaction-handling process, insights can be passed back to all business units involved in customer-related activities so that they can optimize their internal business unit processes.

Some of these new capabilities come as a result of a closer partnership with Verint. I understand the integration process continues so during the coming year organizations can look forward to more capabilities.

All of this supports my long-held view that the concept of a contact center is evolving and that organizations need to take a more holistic view of how they interact with customers and how they can improve interaction-handling across more communication channels and business units. Is this trend impacting your company? If so, please tell us how, and come and collaborate with me and discuss further.

Regards

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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