Contact Centers: What They Are and Why You Need One

8 min to read · By Mindful

When you think of contact centers, you probably think of a call center—a long office space, a landscape of cubicles, and agents on headsets acting as an answering service. You think of them as cost centers.

But that’s not what contact centers are anymore.

Contact centers are omnichannel customer support centers that meet and support customers wherever and whenever they are—whether that’s via text, email, chat, or phone call. In this setting, agents are able to seamlessly transition between channels through integrated ACDs, knowledge bases, CRMs, and omnichannel service systems. Most importantly, this allows customers to seamlessly transition between channels.

And instead of acting as cost centers, they serve as revenue drivers. Modern contact centers can offer strategic value to your company that call centers of the past were unable to. Omnichannel communications can help your contact center teams resolve customer issues quicker and deliver more personalized service through automation, centralized information, and a shift in focus from cost-center to value-add.

Modern contact center technology is more efficient than legacy call center technology.

The right tools and technology help your contact center teams to improve the customer experience and do their jobs properly. You can have progressive agent training, staff to maximum capacity, and provide great incentives for positive interactions—but if your contact center tech is lacking, you will never be able to meet modern customers.

Now that the role of a contact center has shifted to focus on providing better (read: personalized omnichannel) customer support, state-of-the-art tools and technology are a must for operational efficiency.

Here are a few tools and technologies to either enhance or equip your agents with.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

While your IVR technology is no longer the first point of contact (typically that occurs on a digital channel), the IVR is often the point where most customers consider getting in line. Make sure to optimize your IVR for user experience, or facilitate a smoother entry point by offering call scheduling online.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Tools and technology with AI can help you streamline processes and meet your customers on any channel. While it’s not a new technology, how brands and contact centers are beginning to use AI is rapidly changing. Some are encouraging AI to be used as agent assistants, offering up contextual information based on the customer at hand. Others suggest to use it to flag moments of escalation.

No matter the use, make sure your AI systems are tapped into your contact center tech so your agents can leverage the information.

Related: Watch us cover AI in our webinar on contact center trends.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM tools allow you to analyze customer history and related notes and interactions. A unified and enterprise level CRM is vital to servicing customers. If your agents are waiting for information to be surfaced or have incomplete history of the customer, your customer is nearly guaranteed a negative experience.

Callback technology

Premier callback technology makes everything in the contact center better. Giving your customers the ability to request a callback in the IVR or online gives provides flexibility and control to the customer and the brand.

In a modern brand experience, no customer should ever have to wait on hold. Holding more than two minutes will lower NPS and bring frustrated and angry customers into calls. This will drive up handle times (i.e. the customer spends time to vent), and add more stress to the agent.

Operationally, a state-of-the-art callback platform will also smooth out all call peaks, allowing operational and staffing efficiency—saving money for the brand. All in all it’s truly a win-win-win for customers, agents, and brands.

Related: Read more on the benefits of callback.

Contact centers centralize customer support operations.

Centralized customer support is essential for tracking the impact of your agents and improving the customer experience. It can even have cost-saving benefits, too. Before the modern, cloud-based contact center was established, customer support was difficult to centralize. Customer service employees were spread over different teams or departments without access to shared information, leading to less productive agents and more unsatisfied customers.

With a cloud-based and centralized contact center, all customer support agents have access to everything they need in one terminal. They can access provided context for their conversations, whether that’s from a CRM or from the customer’s digital journey. They can move between different types of interactions, whether chat, SMS, voice, or email. And all they can solicit feedback directly from the same window, taking the customer seamlessly through their entire experience.

Centralized contact centers also provide cost savings if you currently have multiple customer support locations. Moving them into a single physical location—or even moving your teams to a remote environment—can help your business save on operational and real estate costs.

Contact centers provide seamless support across channels.

Modern contact centers offer support to customers on their preferred channel, whether that’s text, email, phone, or chat. Modern call centers have a full tool stack, including CRM, analytics, workflow management, and other tools to deliver the seamless level of service customers expect.

Contact centers are undergoing full digital transformations and adopting AI technology to streamline workflow processes and improve the customer experience. Forbes says,
“There is also a huge opportunity…to harness AI-driven insights using first-party data from phone calls that can connect the dots and provide full visibility in fragmented customer journeys that jump from digital to the phone and back again.”

The omnichannel support system enables any agent to see previous customer communications with other agents from any channel. When agents can “connect the dots,” they’re able to provide comprehensive support and minimize any of those “fragmented” customer journeys.

For instance, if a customer is using online chat to talk with a representative but needs to step away from their phone or computer, the agent can move the conversation to text, or offer a scheduled callback. Now the context from the earlier chat session is available as the customer continues to interact over text or voice. The omnichannel contact center provides this seamlessness for customers and agents alike.

Contact centers are an opportunity for increased revenue.

The most efficient contact centers help increase revenue through upselling and cross-selling opportunities and can improve customer retention. Historically, contact centers were a cost center for businesses. Now, contact centers are important revenue drivers.

Modern contact centers promote a “sales through service” environment, where providing exceptional service is a natural segue into cross-selling and upselling opportunities. Agents are better suited to upsell and cross-sell because they have access to centralized customer information to help them understand what opportunities align with the customer’s needs and preferences. To take advantage of the “sales through service” setting, your agents must be properly trained.

If you’re already using your contact center for taking sales orders or inquiries, train your representatives to offer add-ons that correlate with the sale. If you sell smartphones, for instance, contact center representatives could upsell accessories like phone cases, glass protectors, and charging stations.

Train your agents to recognize upselling and cross-selling opportunities and how to communicate those opportunities to the customer. Provide ongoing training and equip them with the right tools (like a comprehensive CRM database) to enable them to upsell and cross-sell.

Related: Watch us cover contact centers as revenue drivers in our webinar on contact center trends.

Contact centers enable agents to provide hyper-personalized care.

Personalizing your interactions with customers is crucial—it shows you understand them and their needs. Research by McKinsey says, “As the traditional call center has evolved into a contact center, companies have begun to view the function less as a cost center and more as an opportunity to provide strategic, experience-oriented customer care.” Traditional call centers didn’t have the deep insight into customers that a modern contact center has.

Because information is centralized, agents are able to easily access the right information when a customer needs it. If a customer reaches out and wants to know the date of their last order, the agent can see that. If the customer wants to know what product they ordered last year at this time, the agent can see that.

Agents are able to get a full scope of the customer’s history by viewing the information that’s been centralized. They’re able to clearly understand the problems their customers have faced and problems they may face. Agents can use this information to show customers products they may like or offer a discount on a product the customer has looked at multiple times (even when it’s not discounted to others).

To provide the most hyper-personalized care, it again comes down to training your employees and equipping them with the right tools. Furthermore, managers should be trained to identify the best customer support candidates for their contact center positions. Strong contact center representatives are experienced problem-solvers with clear communication skills, empathy, and a friendly attitude.

Contact center managers can evaluate the growth of a contact center with metrics and KPIs.

You can easily track and measure the success of a modern contact center with key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics. Traditional call centers used to focus on metrics like shortening the time spent on calls. That wasn’t beneficial to the customer and, ultimately, wasn’t helpful in growing the company either.

There are a few key metrics for contact centers to measure in 2022 and beyond.

  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): To understand how well-perceived your customer support is.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): To understand how easy it is for customers to get support.
  • First Call Resolution (FCR): The rate at which customer issues are resolved during the first contact.
  • Revenue KPIs: Track the percentage of upsells and cross-sells your agents are able to make.

Companies are able to prove the value of a contact center by automatically tracking their performance and profitability with AI tools and technology. You’ll know the customer’s Net Promoter Score, or NPS, while you communicate with them, regardless of which channel they use. (NPS measures your company’s customer experience and indicates areas of potential growth.)

Contact center metrics can help prove to key stakeholders that a contact center is not only important but necessary. Forbes says, “How a company measures success informs every aspect of its operations. People are hard-wired to respond to numbers that are supposed to drive success.” You can get more contact center buy-in and support when you’re able to show how effective it is.

Summing up

From answering service to omnichannel customer support, contact centers have come a long way. They can improve the customer experience and provide additional revenue opportunities, helping you meet your company’s bottom line. Whether you’re starting to ramp up your contact center or ready to master it, we’re here to help!

We’ve seen significant changes in the contact center industry over the last 25 years, and we understand the need for a more centralized, omnichannel support operation. Mindful helps contact centers provide seamless support across all channels, and our callback technology gives customers flexibility when it comes to how and when they receive support.

If you’d like advice or guidance on the right tools for your contact centers, get in touch! With over 25 years in the industry, our solutions engineers have worked with the biggest brands to evolve contact center operations and customer experiences. We’d love to give that expertise to you!

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