Contact centres really are the eyes and ears of an organisation, providing an indispensable link between the customer and the business.

Add the right customer relationship management (CRM) technology into the mix and businesses can gain that all-important competitive advantage.

Using data to better service the customer

Having technology in place that recognises a caller’s number and then linking it to a database to provide the contact centre agent with the customer’s details before the call commences is a sure-fire way to deliver high-quality customer service.

Making sure, through this data recognition, VIP customers always speak to the same agent can only enhance this, building loyalty and giving ample opportunity to generate more revenue from these premium clients.

Duncan Wood, CRM Product Manager at Sage, says that allowing agents to personalise the technology they use can also improve customer service.

Allowing agents to configure their SLAs [service-level agreements] through a series of traffic light-style prompts on their dashboards can really empower them,” he says.

Young, new starters are accustomed to being able to use technology in the way they wish, so why should that stop the moment they put on the headset in a contact centre, especially if it helps them do their jobs more effectively.

Kathryn Penn, UK Portfolio Manager for Contact Center and Cloud Solutions, Siemens Enterprise Communications, says: “CRM data, customer history and profiling means agents are suffering from a data deluge. Making sense of this data efficiently and accurately can only add to the personalised customer experience delivered.”

Multi-channeling empowers agents

Empowering agents to answer queries through different channels of communication at the same time means they are not only working more efficiently, but also have variety in their jobs. Emails can be sent including a web link personalised for the customer, for example.

Email services, such as sending an automated response to a query, can enable smaller businesses to offer the same professional service level as their larger competitors, Mr Wood adds.

Using email does take longer and it is harder to gauge whether the customer is satisfied with the response, something which can’t be said for webchat. That doesn’t require a lot of effort on the part of the customer, who can get the answer they want quickly.

Often webchat is used in tandem with other forms of communication. At 02, for example, the “Lucy” avatar links through to help pages with frequently asked questions and a webchat with an 02 guru, while at BT contact via Twitter will often encourage a webchat to further investigate problems.

Servicing customers through customer self-help

Another hot topic is encouraging customer self-help. Dave Vernon, head of membership at industry body the Professional Planning Forum, says: “Many online communities are now the preferred source of help for customers. However, different customers need different levels of help and some will still want to call up.”

Configuration management and assessing operational behaviour is also creating a buzz in the world of contact centre technology, according to Jason Owen, sales director with Blackchair.

“It’s about servicing your customers more efficiently,” he says.

Blackchair’s technology allows a strategic view of agent behaviour as well as helping the planning and real-time teams make adjustments according to the level of calls the contact centre receives.

Combined with the personalisation of information, knowing what resources to dedicate ensures customers receive a cost-effective yet high-quality service.

As Tim Pickard, chief marketing officer of vendor New Voice Media, concludes: “Technology is putting contact centres at the heart of customer experience initiatives and giving them the tools to create enormous value for the business.”

Author: Helen Parton, Freelance writer and editor