To ensure success in a virtual contact center environment, companies must put basic guidelines in place to ensure for instance, minimum internet bandwidth requirements and computer system requirements are met (e.g., a computer running Windows XP would not be acceptable) along with secure and stable operation (e.g., data encryption, active endpoint protection, and automatic endpoint updates are must-haves). Without putting these guidelines in place, companies could quickly set themselves up for BYOD disasters.
Beyond the basics, however, there is a technology solution that’s critical to success, especially in a virtual contact center environment: unified communications and collaboration (UCC) integrated well with a good contact center management system.
A popular example of a UCC solution is Skype for Business, which is included with Microsoft Office 365 Business Essentials and Business Premium subscriptions. Within the Skype for Business platform are several business communication channels, including instant messaging (IM), VoIP, file transfer, web conferencing, voice mail and email. Besides being bundled and integrated with the Microsoft Office suite, which boasts more than 1.2 billion users worldwide, Skype for Business works on all major desktop (e.g., Windows 7/8/10 and Mac OS X) and mobile (e.g., Android, iOS and Windows) computers. Plus, it leverages the cloud, which means that home-based users won’t need to operate across IT-managed servers.
But, even with good UCC, you can’t ignore good contact center management. If a virtual contact center initiative fails, I’d guess that it’s more likely a result of failing to integrate contact center and UC channels than it is that the company neglected internet and computing basics. In a recent study conducted by Nemertes Research, for example, only 16% of those surveyed indicated they were currently integrating their communication channels into a universal queuing and reporting system, a key requirement to really understand what distributed agents are doing, and to effectively manage them. If you can’t see them physically, it’s even more critical to see them virtually. And, while 24% said they had plans to unify communications in the future, 60% had no plans. Not surprisingly, the minority of companies that already had a CC-UCC-integrated strategy in place enjoyed several benefits, including:
- Lower Customer Hold Times. Many contact centers use a tiered approach to handling calls, where a less experienced agent handles all initial calls, and more experienced agents are brought in as needed. When this happens, customers are typically placed on hold while the agent seeks out someone with more experience and/or authority. In a CC-UCC-integrated environment, on the other hand, agents can collaborate with experts via instant messages (IMs) or text messages and minimize or even eliminate the need to put customers on hold. This is particularly crucial in a virtual contact center environment, where an agent doesn’t have the option of seeking out a nearby colleague or manager for assistance.
- Reduced Call Transfers. Another frustration that plagues many call centers is call escalations, especially when callers are transferred and have to repeat their stories to other agents. In a unified contact center environment, agents can employ live screen sharing and/or IMs with other agents to collaborate and resolve customer problems.
- Visual Guidance. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain the solution to a problem through words alone. In a CC-UCC-integrated environment, callers and agents can seamlessly convert an audio call to a videoconference, allowing the agent to show the customer the solution.
- Higher Quality of Service. One of the biggest challenges with non-integrated contact centers is getting the big picture on customer communication. For example, how do you know that it was the same customer who tried contacting you via live chat on your website, then tried emailing you, and then followed up with a call two hours later? And how can supervisors effectively watch over their agents – monitor their interactions, see how they spend their time, continuously watch over customer service levels? In a well-integrated environment, the agents are highly visible and the customer “story” is preserved, which makes it easier to gauge performance and customer satisfaction on a continuous basis.
– John Cray, VP of Product Management, Enghouse Interactive
There is a sense that young employees have an expectation that they can use their own devices in their work environment. As such, do you think it’s important for your customers to provide employees with that capability? Why?
Schools certainly support BYOD, so it makes sense that students entering the workplace would have the same expectations. With everyone having many personal devices these days, I think that the workplace needs to be inviting and accommodating to the desire to display content from your own device.
– Steve Greenblatt, President, Control Concepts
If they want to keep employees, yes. A study conducted by PwC (PwC’s NextGen: A Global Generational Study), shows that Millennials place a very high value on job flexibility. Of those surveyed, 64% of Millennials said they would like to occasionally work from home and 66% of Millennials would like to shift their work hours. Policies such as BYOD are key to accommodating such workplace cultures, and to attracting – and retaining – top Millennial talent.
– Vishal Brown, SVP of Professional Services, Yorktel
Yes, having an active BYOD strategy is an integral part of attracting and retaining the new generation of workers, many of whom have been using smartphones, tablets and laptops since before they started preschool. This is especially critical in contact centers, where employee turnover is so high, and the cost of training new people is an ongoing issue. Study after study shows that when a company tries to force new technologies or business practices on employees without consideration for employees’ workflows and preferences, the results can be disastrous. However, allowing employees to use the devices they’re already familiar with — and highly efficient at using — and extending their capabilities with a UCC solution like Skype for Business, is a much smarter way to engage with and motivate your workforce while improving your customers’ experience.
– John Cray, VP of Product Management, Enghouse Interactive