Unified communications and the contact centre
Unified communications and collaboration (ucc) is a much- hyped concept in the contact centre industry.
Now it is truly coming of age, as technologies such as VoIp, video, web chat, email and calendars become more common in the workplace and can be integrated using common business rules.
The market for ucc has matured in a relatively short space of time as a new generation of tech savvy workers - and customers - have grown up using these technologies in everyday social interactions.
At its most basic level, ucc empowers employees to work in the best possible way.
They can use technology and tools that enable them to have a 'birds eye' view of all the experts within an organisation, indicating their availability and preferred medium for contact at any given time.
For example, if an expert is out in the field, a contact centre worker is able to discover their availability and how best to contact them to get an immediate answer in one snapshot.
For this to work, people in the field simply have to maintain their status and preferred method of contact via a standard interface, such as Outlook.
This can be easily integrated to other call centre applications, allowing customer agents to view colleagues' calendars and get in contact in the most appropriate way.
In this way, ucc technology gives agents the more multimedia tools for handling customer enquiries and providing quick call resolution.
Enhanced communication = enhanced value
There are many industries where ucc is particularly relevant. For example in the healthcare sector, contact centre agents may require expertise from professionals such as specialised doctors or nurses.
Ucc technology provides a much easier and more effective way for contact centre staff to connect with doctors and nurses on the go, so they can provide answers quickly on the phone or via IM, and free up more time to develop qualitative patient notes.
The emergence of multimedia tools and ucc technology means that contact centres and staff need not be limited to office-based activities.
The convergence of different media is enabling contact centre managers to extend operations beyond the physical boundaries of the centre while retaining centralised control.
Using presence tools, they can now improve efficiency by extending customer service activities to new groups of personnel, such as teleworkers, outsourced staff and widely distributed virtual teams.
The future for the contact centre industry is on-the-move knowledge workers contributing to the servicing of customer enquiries.
There will also be an increase in roaming agents – technology support teams, for example, who are free to move around their location using mobile devices such as WiFi or dEcT phones - in addition to remote agents connecting to the centre using mobile phones or VoIp.
The evolving contact centre
In the coming years, contact centre managers will expect new and innovative ucc capabilities from developers.
Firstly, the rise of social networking tools could potentially move into the call centre as a new generation of technology-savvy employees enters the workplace.
Linkedln, Facebook and Twitter are all tools that could have the potential to improve the contact centre environment - and time will tell whether they are effective.
Secondly, new collaborative multimedia tools could be used in the contact centre so problems could be solved on a shared basis amongst experts within the organisation and fed back to the call centre agent.
Thirdly, video and digital photography have yet to be fully embraced by call centres, but there could also be a future in which these technologies have a place in improving first call resolution.
For example, an insurance company could use the technology so that motor policy claimants could take a 'snap' or video of their vehicle at the scene of an accident.
This would then be used accelerate the claims process and reduce administration for the insurer.
Whatever the future holds, it's clear that when people call a contact centre today they are looking for quick first call resolution. In this tough economy, businesses need to make the most of every enquiry and customer service experience.
Contact centres must better integrate with back office systems and business processes - and ucc could be the key to unlocking the door.