Unified communications platforms can help contact centers meet today’s demands.

The contact center is the focal point for customer interactions in many organizations, and thus a critical factor in optimizing the customer experience. That experience has evolved from a simple phone call to a complex interplay of communications channels — the so-called “omnichannel” experience.

However, organizations are increasingly finding they lack the IT manpower, expertise and infrastructure to adequately deal with the increasing traffic across non-voice channels such as email, text, chat and social applications. Keeping up with demands requires a new approach to contact center technology — one most analysts say will require a greater emphasis on unified communications (UC) solutions.

Deloitte’s global contact center survey found that organizations are growing their contact centers to enhance the customer experience and improve service. A key component of that growth strategy is to expand the use of multiple communication channels. Although voice is expected to remain dominant, it is expected to fall to just 47 percent of contacts in 2019. Meanwhile, chat and instant messaging are expected to increase to 16 percent of contacts and social media to 9 percent.

Integration Needed

These omnichannel engagements are creating challenges for IT staff who are unprepared to meet these new demands. In many cases, this is because IT has been tasked with integrating “bolt-on” contact center applications with the enterprise phone system. Organizations need a fully integrated IT solution for their contact center operations.

IP-based UC systems that unite voice, email, messaging, mobility, conferencing and more into a single integrated platform offer a number of compelling benefits in the contact center. They minimize the total cost of communication services, reduce network management costs, provide consolidated reporting across all media types, eliminate the need for multiple databases and create the ability to build geographically dispersed contact centers that satisfy “follow-the-sun” business-hour coverage and assure business continuity.

Most important, UC can boost customer satisfaction. UC’s all-in-one architecture enables organizations to route calls, emails, web chats and social media interactions using a single queue so agents can respond faster and more consistently to customers — regardless of the communications channel the customer chooses.

When integrated with CRM software, UC systems can also collect relevant data about existing customers and push that information to the agent through screen pops, allowing more personal and effective service. Click-to-call or instant messaging functionality within consumer-facing web pages simplifies initial contacts, and gives agents contextual information about the caller before a conversation actually begins. Armed with the upfront knowledge of the product or service the customer is interested in, agents can find the right information quickly and improve the odds of a first-call resolution.

Satisfied Customers

Improving customer satisfaction is a high priority in light of numerous studies that illustrate the frustration with customer support channels. A study conducted by Consumer Reports found that 57 percent of consumers were so frustrated with their customer service experiences that they hung up the phone without a resolution. An Arizona State University survey found that customers need an average of four contacts to resolve issues, largely because of ineffective interactions with automated-response menus.

Customers aren’t the only ones who experience improved satisfaction through UC in the contact center. UC enables the virtual contact center, in which calls can be routed to agents working at home. Various industry studies show that home-based agents have a far lower turnover rate than office-based agents. Leveraging a home-based workforce also drives down the real-estate costs of brick-and-mortar operations.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. By facilitating multimedia communications, providing customers with a better experience and improving information flow, UC-driven contact centers provide organizations with a powerful edge in their quest to deliver better customer service and cement customer satisfaction.