An increasing number of people today prefer to communicate via multiple channels like text messaging, email, video calling, etc., over voice calls.
And this is the same for customer service too. After all, nobody wants to wait in a long call queue to talk to customer service representatives.
However, with contact center services, customers can easily register their concerns and resolve their queries through their preferred communication channel.
In this article, we’ll discuss how contact centers are different from call centers, the different types of contact centers, and their use-cases. We’ll also discuss the three key benefits of contact center services.
Let’s get started.
What are contact center services?
A contact center is an organization’s business division that handles customer queries and interactions. It manages inbound and outbound services over multiple communication channels. This includes telephone, live chat, email, messaging apps, social media, etc.
Like call centers, contact centers can be an internal department with an in-house team or be contracted to a third-party service provider through contact center outsourcing.
But how are contact centers any different from call centers?
Let’s find out.
Contact center Vs. Call center: How are they different?
Here’s a breakdown of the key differences between contact centers and call centers:
|Call centers take a single-channel approach to customer service. This includes managing inbound and outbound customer phone calls.
|Contact centers take an omnichannel or unified communications approach to customer services. This includes services on communications channels other than telephone calls, such as email, social media, live chat, etc.
|Call centers have limited customer self service (CSS) capabilities. They use call center software like interactive voice response (IVR) systems. This helps with routing calls to relevant agents.
|Contact centers have advanced CSS capabilities that go beyond IVR. This includes chatbots, an FAQ web page, an online knowledge center, etc. These self service channels help customers find answers independently.
|Call center agents have limited customer data as they use speech analysis software to analyze customer calls and gain customer journey insights.
|Contact centers offer personalized data and better customer profiling as they have better Artificial Intelligence solutions and analyze multiple communication channels.
Read our article on Contact Center vs. Call Center for a detailed comparison between the two.
With these differences in mind, let’s look at the five key features of a contact center.
5 important contact center features for better services
Efficient and responsive customer support plays a crucial role in enhancing customer engagement and meeting customer expectations.
That’s why contact centers focus on features that optimize and streamline customer service.
Some of these features include:
- Contact database: Contact centers collect customer data and interaction history in one place using CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. This makes it easier for contact center agents to have the right context for conversations.
- Scripts: Scripts enable contact center agents to provide the caller with effective support by customizing the message for each customer. Scripts are especially useful for maintaining a certain brand image through your customer support.
- Call conferencing: Contact centers use sophisticated applications that enable callers to create a conference call.
- Call recording: Recording inbound and outbound calls allows you to monitor agent productivity and customer satisfaction. It also provides a reference for resolving any disputes or complaints in the future.
- Real time reports: These real time reports use advanced analytics to better understand agent performance and customer satisfaction across the various channels.
A contact center’s modular structure also helps managers enhance their team’s operational efficiency while preventing agent burnout. All these features can significantly enhance your customer experience.
Let’s now discuss the Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) and the other key types of contact centers.
Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)
CCaaS is a cloud-based software solution used by contact center teams to provide an exceptional customer experience. It enables you to host your contact center environment on the cloud rather than on servers at your physical place of business.
You can then hire a virtual agent for a particular skill located in any corner of the world.
Also known as a cloud contact center, it allows you to purchase only those technologies you need and easily reduce your labor cost for IT support.
The CCaaS providers offer professional services such as:
- Modern IVR and customizable self-service capabilities.
- Skills-based routing for increased first contact resolution.
- Multichannel customer experience analytics.
- Enhanced contact center performance.
- Reduced operational cost.
Apart from cloud contact centers, businesses also use on-premise and hosted contact centers. Here’s a look at how they work:
A. On-premise contact centers
Companies can install hardware contact centers in physical office spaces and on-premises servers.
Note that these hardware contact centers require organizations to have sufficient infrastructure to house and maintain the servers. They’ll also need an effective disaster recovery procedure and competent hardware update processes.
B. Hosted contact centers
A hosted contact center refers to an outsourced customer service infrastructure.
Through contact center outsourcing, a company contracts its customer service to a third-party managed service provider. This is similar to outsourcing services like information technology, automation, financial services, etc.
A managed service provider can minimize labor and maintenance costs, especially for a small business.
Let’s now look at the five most important professional services a contact center can offer.
5 essential contact center services
The main aim of a contact center is to meet customer expectations with efficient and interactive customer support, sales assistance, and technical support through their preferred channel.
Let’s look at five contact center services in detail:
1. Telephone service
Contact centers are like modernized call centers. They’re equipped to handle a large call volume of inbound and outbound calls as a part of many contact center services.
A. Inbound calling
Incoming calls that contact centers receive are known as inbound calls. Your contact center’s customer service representatives handle any such incoming call from a customer.
For example, a customer may have a query regarding connecting a printer they recently purchased from your company. You can get an incoming call from that customer looking to get help in setting it up.
B. Outbound calling
An outbound call refers to a call made by a contact center representative. Outbound services or phone calls may be part of surveys, lead generation campaigns, a direct sales phone call, etc.
For example, if you have a health insurance company, your sales team may contact potential leads to explain your insurance plans and convert these leads into paying customers.
In some cases, contact centers may use an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to handle incoming and outgoing calls. This computer-based phone system uses keypad entries or voice commands to provide information to customers without requiring human intervention.
2. Text Messaging Service (SMS)
Long hold times, transferred calls, language barriers, etc., are some customer complaints about call-based customer service.
In such scenarios, text messaging can go a long way in improving customer satisfaction.
Text messaging is fast, personal, and safe. Additionally, it can boost agent productivity since they can handle multiple customer conversations simultaneously.
You can use text messages to
- Start two-way conversations.
- Send proactive updates about the customer’s issues.
- Conduct various surveys.
- Take feedback regarding the customer service, etc.
From telephone calls to SMS, these omnichannel services enable you to handle inbound and outbound customer communications effectively.
3. Chat service
Chat is becoming a popular communication tool due to its efficiency and ease of use.
It has a First Contact Resolution (FCR) rate of almost 74%, significant for a contact center. FCR is a metric to measure a contact center’s ability to resolve the customer’s issue in the first contact.
A customer can initiate a chat conversation from specialized chat windows on the client website. The chat window connects them to an agent or chatbot to help resolve their queries.
There are two types of chat services offered by a contact center:
Contact center technology includes chatbots that use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to engage customers, gather relevant information about an issue, and even answer simple questions without any human assistance.
And if the issue requires an agent intervention, the chatbot escalates it to an appropriate contact center agent.
B. Live chat
Another advanced technology used by modern contact centers includes live chat.
This platform is different from chatbots because it has a human contact center agent at the other end offering the answering service.
A chat with a live agent can help:
- Reduce the need for IVR,
- Reduce customer waiting time
- Increase first contact resolution
- Work on the customer’s shared screen in real time, etc.
Customers who prefer self-service find chatbots and live chat extremely effective tools to get their support.
4. Social media service
Contact centers also offer social media services for digital channels like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc.
You can use your social media channels to listen to, analyze, and engage with your customers daily. This way, you can monitor and publish relevant content to boost your customer interaction and satisfaction.
5. Email service
Email is another popular digital customer support channel.
Contact centers usually have an email management software solution to help organize emails, enabling your customer service representatives to handle a large volume of emails efficiently.
Additionally, this software solution may offer email templates that enable your contact center agents to respond to emails promptly, provide standardized customer care, and increase customer satisfaction.
Let’s discuss the key advantages of using contact center services for your business.
3 key benefits of contact center services
Today, customers expect a customized experience from the customer service agent and prefer customer support that goes beyond a single platform approach. That’s why contact centers are increasingly popular.
Let’s look at the top three benefits of contact centers:
1. Enhanced customer experience
Your contact center is often the primary communication channel for most of your customer interactions. That’s why your customer service can have a significant influence on your business.
You can use your contact center to ensure that you provide an exceptional customer experience.
For example, if you own a software company, you can use contact center services like live chat as an answering service for customers. This will help them explain their issues effectively and help your agents provide technical support efficiently.
Contact centers help customers connect to the most suitable platform to resolve their problems faster. This can increase your customer loyalty, resulting in life-long customers.
2. Increased agent efficiency
Since contact centers combine customer information from multiple channels in one place, agents are more efficient and effective while handling customer requests.
Additionally, assigning the right queries to the right agent using IVR and Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) systems reduces the chances of errors. In fact, it increases your agents’ and company’s operational efficiency.
Having the right tools and technologies empowers a contact center agent to provide superior service and keep customers happy.
Happy agents are more likely to work with you for a longer duration, reducing your operational cost that results from a high agent turnover.
3. Better business insights
Your contact center combines customer interaction from various communication channels.
The customer data gathered from these interaction channels can provide actionable insights that may help you make important business decisions.
Identify patterns and problem areas across the customer journey to make decisions regarding your product design, quality issues, etc.
For example, contact center analytics can help you determine your customers’ most preferred communication channel. You may find that your target customers prefer to interact through your social media channels rather than through text messages.
This information will allow you to strategize your outreach to reach maximum people and boost your business. A contact center must ideally provide a detailed privacy statement and establish a privacy preference center to protect its customer’s rights while analyzing their data.
Next, let’s discuss the most important technologies a contact center employs.
5 key contact center technologies
Contact centers need advanced contact center software to ensure superior customer experiences and maximum customer satisfaction.
Let’s look at the popularly used contact center software:
- Predictive dialer: A contact center technology that automatically dials outbound calls and uses an algorithm to predict agent availability. It ensures maximum connect rates and minimum agent idle time.
- Automatic call distributor (ACD) system: A system that analyzes incoming calls and distributes them among dedicated agents based on agent availability, type of support required, etc.
- Email response management system: A contact center solution that collects and analyzes the customer inquiries submitted through emails and routes them to the appropriate agent.
- Knowledge management system: A centralized system that contains all customer information. You can easily search for the relevant information and cut down on agent training time.
- Workforce management software: A tool that helps you schedule agents and handles staffing issues. You can also use it to manage agent performance and productivity.
Most contact center software today is equipped with these technologies.
Check out our article on the 8 Best Contact Center Software in 2022 for more.
While these contact center software go a long way in improving the workflow of your center, your agents are your most important assets. That’s why it’s important to ensure that they stay productive during their work hours but don’t suffer from burnout.
To ensure this, contact center managers can use Time Doctor, a comprehensive tool to monitor their performance and productivity.
Time Doctor is a robust workforce management tool used by major companies and small businesses.
You can use the software to:
- Track the time spent per task by each agent.
- Asses agent productivity using detailed productivity reports.
- Schedule shifts to manage staffing effectively.
- Make payments directly in different currencies and for different pay dates.
- Integrate with other useful tools like Gusto, Google Apps, etc., using Time Doctor’s Chrome extension.
Contact center services play an important role in making or breaking your business.
Today, brands that provide the desired level of customer service often earn maximum customer loyalty and witness increased customer engagement. That’s why offering the right services and using the right technology in your contact center has become the need of the hour.
Use the information covered above to better understand contact center services and technologies. It’ll help you make an informed decision about selecting the ones that are crucial to your business.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.