There used to be a clear division between inbound and outbound contact centers – one was for customer service, the other for sales. But with the increase in initiatives like inbound marketing and a greater call for proactive customer support, these lines have blurred. Sales people are as likely to receive inbound communication as to reach out themselves, and to some degree, the opposite applies to customer support agents.
So in this contemporary contact center space, what channels are most important? We examine inbound versus outbound channels and discuss how agents can be prepared to use them.
47 percent of customers would sooner go online to complain than place a phone call.
All modern contact centers should incorporate social media into their business. And we’re not just talking about direct chat, but monitoring comments, tweets and the like, too. According to an eGain report, 47 percent of consumers would sooner go online to complain than place a phone call, and 18-35-year-old customers are twice as likely to use the web for complaints than those over 55 years.
But do you create a dedicated social media monitoring team or train your existing agents on the relevant platforms? There are mixed recommendations in the industry on this. Where the former may let you hone the expertise of your team, the latter integrates social media into the wider business – which might help you track queries and record data alongside other channels.
Chatbots are a growing trend. This is where customers talk with a system powered by artificial intelligence instead of an agent. Chatbots solve simple problems and let humans focus on more complex, important duties, allowing you to improve customer turnaround and increase their satisfaction.
That said, a business has to be ready for chatbots. They require a team of engineers (in-house or otherwise) and regular upgrading in order to operate effectively. On top of that, chatbots tend to work best when limited in scope; if a chatbot has to do too much, it can struggle, but a simple task it can repeat over and over will help it excel. For anything more complex, it must escalate to a human handler – which is where your agents will require additional training.
Content – i.e. blogs, whitepapers and the like – may not seem like channels for your sales or customer service agents, but it’s vital that your contact center staff keep up-to-date on what content is being published.
This is because the goal of content marketing is typically to attract more users to your website, answering their queries and educating them on topics relating to your product. Many of these customers will continue through the marketing pipeline to your contact center staff with questions relating to what they’ve just read or watched. If your agents aren’t aware of what is being promoted, they may be unable to help further and this could cause a negative customer experience.
Of course, no inbound versus outbound list would be complete without the traditional channels. Phone calls, emails and IVR remain important parts of the inbound contact center environment even as new technology takes greater importance – this is especially true of older generations, who eGain found still prefer phone calls. So while chatbot and social media training may be exciting, it’s important never to let your fundamentals drop.
When was the last time you optimized your forecasting and scheduling system, or your IVR software?
Social media can be an effective tool for outbound contact centres chasing warm leads.
Social media and email
Social media and email have grown into strong inbound channels, but they should be integrated into your outbound center as well. This is to fit in with a warm calling strategy, where agents are reaching out to sales prospects who they’ve already made contact with online.
Most warm calls will likely follow an email request for a quote or demo, but contact center agents can also start warm relationships with social media. This could be in the form of replying to prospects’ posts, or sending direct messages. Achieving this in your business will require basic social media training for agents, plus expanded training on how to research relevant prospects online (i.e. via LinkedIn).
Dialers have of course been around for years, but modern systems greatly surpass their legacy counterparts in terms of functionality. Modern computer algorithms allow systems like Aspect Predictive Dialer to be forward-thinking tools, detecting busy signals and no-answers, modifying campaigns dynamically, tracking and managing consent, and providing proactive outreach via voice, email or SMS.
These features are designed to maximize agent effectiveness and productivity, and they fit readily into a modern data-centric contact center.
Inbound contact centers are growing in size and importance, but outbound centers are still going strong and their success rates can be bolstered with smart digital channels. For local contact centers looking to improve their services, technology and training is a must.
If you need help installing either of these in your business, reach out to Call Design today. We’ve been a leading consultancy in the contact center space since 1999, with a raft of advanced technology solutions and best-practice training sessions available to optimize your workforce and improve your customer experience.
To learn more, contact us today.