Your contact center agents face a challenge that is difficult for you, as their leader, to relieve. It’s boredom. While every manager wants a team that’s engaged and excited to be at work every day, there’s an inherent difficulty with contact center agents because what they do much of the time is routine and tedious.
From answering simple questions to assisting with the payment of invoices and reordering, the calls that contact center agents field all begin to sound alike. It’s no wonder that across every industry turnover is high in contact centers with about a third of agents turning over constantly.
Not surprisingly, the answer to boredom comes with new technology. While an automated telephone system can sometimes serve to only turn the boredom back on the customer, automation equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) can improve customer satisfaction and relieve contact center agents of their boredom.
Cloud-based AI agents are able to handle an increasingly complex set of tasks, relieving live agents of a variety of mundane calls. AI agents can navigate items like bill payments, order status, confirmation of appointments, account updates and credit checks. All they need to complete these tasks is the ability to access your customer data and instructions on how to respond to a variety of circumstances. They need to be taught which calls to handle and which to transfer to a contact center agent.
Cloud AI agents allow you to segment rudimentary calls to these automated bots while freeing up your contact center agents to handle the more interesting and complex cases. There are a couple of important benefits to this practice:
· You’ll optimize your contact center, reducing the cost of each call and speeding up resolution on more complex cases. Each agent can now be trained for skills in handling complex customer service issues, allowing you to run your contact center more effectively and efficiently.
· During high-volume periods, AI agents can lighten the load for contact center agents.
· When you do experience turnover, you are able to reduce the number of agents you need to replace, allowing your best, loyal talent to deliver excellent service.
· With additional professional training, your contact center agents are better-prepared to handle the most important issues and ensure your valued customers remain committed to your brand.
If you’ve been contemplating the implementation of AI technology into your contact center, contact us at City Communications. We can help you make the right decisions to maximize your return on investment and explore new technologies for your contact center.
It's easy, in this day and age, to go at it alone when implementing new communications technology in your business. But the landscape is filled with companies shouting about how they all have the greatest solution to every challenge. And you don't always have the time to become a world-class expert in order to make the best decision.
When your technology challenge is important and your priorities are pulled in several directions, it can actually make more sense to call in outside help than it does to try and function without it.
When Should I Turn to Outsourced Technology Help?
You want to save time. If your current IT department is stretched to the limit and hiring more staff is out of the question, outsourced technology help can be just what the doctor ordered. Since it's more of an operational expense than a capital expense—depending on how you record these expenses—hiring a service provider to solve a technology problem can be easier to get past budgeting issues than hiring employees or *buying* new systems.
You want a specialist. Your IT department takes care of all the usual issues, but what if you want to ramp up your IT security? Detailing the IT department to also handle security may not only spread them thin, but they may be a bit too generalist to take care of something with so many subtle internal issues. Hiring help can allow for focus on one specific part of the operation.
You want the very latest. One of the key advantages of hiring a specialist is that they have to keep up with the latest developments in a field. It's a key competitive advantage, after all, and you can take advantage of that for yourself.
You want flexibility. Outsourcing technology help is not a one-size-fits-all operation. Sometimes you need someone in the office full-time. Sometimes you only need a few questions answered. Some providers, like managed service providers (MSPs), can offer more consultative technology assistance when you just need some insight help.
Where to Go to Get the Best in Outsourced Technology Help
When you're ready for the best in outsourced technology help, reach out to us at City Communications. As an MSP ourselves, we can provide both experience and expertise on a wide range of topics. We'll help keep you in the game, no matter what your reason for calling in help may be. So just drop us a line when you're ready for that little extra help in keeping your operations up and running.
As your business grows, you are likely to encounter a point where it’s necessary to upgrade your communications technology. A contact center with 100 agents needs a different set of features and infrastructure than one with 1,000 or more agents. From access to reporting functions to offering high-performance call quality, many contact centers are finding that a cloud phone system meets the needs of a growing enterprise.
Why not simply upgrade the legacy system? If you’re considering an upgrade, you might begin with talking with your current phone branch exchange (PBX) provider about adding features and users to make your legacy system fit your growing needs. You might want to add the routing of digital channels (like email, chat, or text messages) or add a workforce management system that helps you better manage agents.
The cost of upgrading your legacy PBX system may surprise you. For a contact center with only 100 agents, the cost could be more than $300,000. What seems like a simple upgrade is not just tacking on a few hardware elements, it can actually require a complete replacement of your system; new hardware, software, handsets, features, peripheral systems, and service agreements. It’s not a simple upgrade.
In addition to the cost of the upgrade, you’ll also need to factor in time to train your staff on new features and account for the cost of some disruption to your operations.
Consider migrating to a cloud phone system. The cost of upgrading your legacy system will quickly expand your consideration to a cloud phone system. There are several reasons why a cloud phone system may prove a preferable option for your contact center:
Minimal implementation cost: The cost of migrating to a cloud phone system is minimal. Your provider may be able to integrate your current desk phones into the new system, and the provider also handles all upgrades and maintenance. You then pay for service as a monthly subscription, so you can expect consistency in your communications cost.
Easy scalability: As your enterprise grows, a cloud phone system allows you to add users in a manner of seconds. You’ll always use exactly the number of users you need, and a cloud phone system allows you to spin up more users due to seasonality or a promotion.
In addition, there’s great value in being able to count on a cloud phone system meeting your needs in the future. Even if you’re a 100-agent contact center planning to become a 500-agent contact center, you can look ahead and plan for doubling that goal without any concern related to investing in new hardware, needing to train employees on a new system, or disruption in your business processes during an implementation. A cloud phone system grows with you.
Supporting mobility: When you use a cloud phone system, your employees are able to access communications tools no matter where they are, as long as they have a valid log-in and internet connectivity. There’s no need to run wires to an employee’s home or arrange for equipment to be delivered. It’s all available through the cloud.
To learn more about what a switch to a cloud phone system could do for your contact center, contact us at City Communications. We help you leverage the best technology for your needs without busting your IT budget. We look forward to talking with you.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) sometimes suffers from a bad rap. Fear mongers will have you believe that the technology will take jobs from human workers or, at worst, further isolate human beings from each other. Yet, AI also offers some of the exciting new possibilities in the ways we communicate and offer service to our customers. The combination of AI in contact centers, along with cloud-based delivery of the technology, is producing new value for businesses trying to understand how AI can help them evolve.
What Value is AI in Contact Centers Bringing Its Users?
Artificial Intelligence (the ability for a computer system to *think* for itself, to interact with a human being more naturally (for us), and learn from its experience to become, well, more intelligent) is moving out of the conceptual phase and into the real world. In contact centers, we're seeing several new options that offer real-world benefits.
Sentiment and keyword detection. Word choice, tone of voice, and more can help determine a caller's emotional state. AI can spot these points well, listening specifically for keywords and changes in tone that indicate emotional states. Having a second pair of ears—even artificial ones—can better help spot an opportunity when it emerges. Additionally, the keyword detection can make sure the agent is presenting the right matter to the caller.
Improved IVR. Improved interactive voice response (IVR) systems, thanks to AI in contact centers, are handling interactions that satisfy customers without the need for human agents. They are also connecting callers to the best possible person in your company to serve the customer's needs. With calls getting routed to the right place the first time, callers are happier that they have fewer hoops to jump through, while contact center staff can take care of problems directly. First-call resolution becomes par for the course rather than a major achievement.
AI as staff. The growth of chatbots—AI-driven systems that can interact with customers via a chat window without the need for a human agent—augment the contact center by allowing you to provide two levels of interaction: the AI handles simple questions like hours of operation, and humans handle the complex issues. This keeps the human staff out of the easy stuff to ensure they're able to focus on what they're better at (handling complex interactions).
Internal analytics. With AI, it's easier to put the data coming from your contact center system to work. By combining those data sets with data from other systems across your enterprise, AI can be used to deliver answers to questions we were once only able to imagine. For example, want to be able to predict whether or not a customer is more or less likely to purchase after talking to your agents? AI can combine call data with eCommerce data to get your answer.
How to Get Help Bringing AI in Contact Centers
AI in contact centers can be a big help, especially when paired with cloud-based solutions. Get help putting this combination to work in your business by reaching out to us at City Communications.
Companies are increasingly adopting cloud solutions as a way to improve the customer experience, and the contact center is no exception. When it’s time to upgrade your technology, you might be ready to consider Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) – a cloud-based solution that provides customers with a consistent experience. It offers a variety of benefits:
Scalability: As you add seats or bring on a new dedicated team to support a big client, you need to be able to quickly add phone numbers and users. CCaaS is easy to scale up and down as needed. If your call volume has a seasonal element, you can count on CCaaS to help you meet call volume demand during holidays, promotions, or when there’s an unexpected surge in calls.
Reduced costs: From maintenance to upgrades and troubleshooting, your CCaaS solution is completely handled by the provider, freeing up IT professionals to work in strategic roles and help direct a superior customer experience. In addition, there’s little initial investment, and you can expect a consistent monthly invoice.
Enhanced customer experience: One of the biggest motivations for implementing CCaaS is the opportunity to outpace competitors with an excellent customer experience. If you work in an industry that cannot have an interruption in phone service at the risk of losing customers, CCaaS is a solution that guarantees customers can access the service they require at all times.
There are several reasons why companies decide to migrate to a cloud solution and away from traditional contact center systems. Legacy telecom carriers are notorious for poor customer service, and they may lack the ability to allow a contact center to scale as needed to meet call volume demand. Contact centers are also increasingly seeing the value of agility in a fast-paced market. They need a solution that allows them to make quick decisions to meet business objectives.
When it’s time to evaluate a CCaaS provider, it’s important to know what challenges you’re trying to solve or performance goals you have. In addition, keep these three items in mind:
Enterprises embarking on a digital transformation plan often have many competing voices when it comes to determining which technology upgrades to prioritize. Developing a modern contact center is often a step that every line of business manager can buy into, because it affects every area of business and may be the element that most critically enhances the customer experience.
There are many features and tools that can be included in a strategy to create a modern call center. There are solutions available that include all of them, and it may be possible to implement them incrementally or do a transition based on call center divisions or locations. Consider the following key elements in your future call center:
Omnichannel communications: This set of features enhances customer experiences with your company. Customers can not only call into your contact center, but also text, email, chat or video chat, and the various formats are integrated. This means that when a customer calls about an error on their invoice, you are able to see that the error also happened in the two previous months and it may be time to offer the customer some kind of discount for their trouble and to prevent losing their business.
Analytics: The modern contact center not only records conversations for training purposes, but also for analytical purposes. You’ll be able to look for recurring themes in customer complaints, find out if a desired feature is coming up in conversations and gain key insights into customer preferences.
Automation: This can take a variety of forms, from better routing of customers to the right contact to pre-screening of callers to gain information before offering self-help options.
Staff management: New communications technologies not only serve the customer better, but also help you improve your business processes and reduce costs. Forecast analytics from a digital solution can help you refine your agent scheduling based on customer demand.
Older private branch exchange (PBX) systems work fine for basic office communications. When it comes to the modern contact center, specialized features make a difference and offer a healthy return on investment. Before beginning to choose a specific solution, there are three questions that the contact center must consider:
If you’re looking to build a modern contact center, it’s time to consider a cloud solution. Contact us at City Communications to begin evaluating your priorities and to leverage the right technology for your company.
Digital transformation is an all-encompassing term that may initially intimidate managers charged with its integration. Defining the term is challenging because it may differ depending on what line of business is applying its concepts, but digital transformation in your contact center simply means using the latest technology to improve your business processes.
This is a general definition of digital transformation that works well in many settings. To remove the mystique around it, consider that this recent term is describing a process that’s been in motion for decades. For instance, imagine you want to tell a family member some information, and they live in another state. While a century ago, it may have taken several days for the information to reach them through the mail, the introduction of the telephone meant that, for a fee, you could relay the information much more efficiently. Now, you’d simply send a text message or call on your cell phone.
The newest advances promoting the influence of digital transformation in your call center often have to do with a collaborative approach to communications with the goal of a better experience for the customer or end user. Take a look at several ways that technology is improving call center processes:
Integrated communication formats: When you contact customer service, whether it’s through chat, email or a voice call, you can soon expect that subsequent communications will be informed by your prior interactions with the company. Integrated, collaborative unified communications tools make it possible for the contact center to be fully engaged with both current and past customer interactions.
Speech analytics: Contact centers often inform the customer that the call may be recorded for training purposes, but those calls can also be converted to a digital file for analysis. That means your contact center can analyze customer interactions to gain critical information about their preferences, their complaints and even which words spoken by a contact center representative were mostly likely to result in a positive resolution.
Chatbots: Companies are getting closer to digitally transforming the contact center agent. With technological advances that include context and memory in Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities, look for chat bots to gradually become fully functioning virtual assistants in the contact center.
SMS Applications: Soon, contact centers won’t need to send a letter or make a call about overdue bills. Even now, some enterprises are beginning to send a personalized text alert with key information about the invoice that needs payment. It even includes a “click to call” link that allows the customer to make a payment by phone.
Digital transformation in your contact center isn’t likely to follow a predetermined pattern. Instead, you’ll implement technology that’s prioritized for your own business processes and the needs of your customers. At City Communications, we can help you in your process to move from legacy communications technology to a cloud solution, identifying the options that bring you the best return on investment. Contact us for more information.
As more and more modern enterprises choose to migrate their contact centers to the cloud, traditional call centers are gradually becoming a thing of the past. Yet many reluctant businesses continue to cling on to their on-premise contact centers — and their customer service is suffering for it. Cloud-based contact centers can improve a company’s customer service in several significant ways, yet most business owners aren’t aware of it. So to help you understand why you shouldn’t wait to make the move to a virtualized call center, here’s a look at six ways the cloud can supercharge your company’s customer service.
There are several compelling reasons to consider migrating your contact center to the cloud. From simplified scalability and a worldwide workforce to superior visibility and round-the-clock support, the advantages of a cloud-based call center are undeniable. But not all cloud providers possess the same degree of expertise, nor are they all equipped to deliver the best solutions for businesses in all industries. That’s where City Communications comes in. When you’re ready to take your contact center to the cloud, our team of experts will ensure you enjoy smart and smooth migration. We’ll empower your team to deliver a heightened level of customer service while your business benefits from everything else the cloud has to offer.
When it’s time to upgrade your contact center, you’ll likely consider both on-premise and cloud options. The two approaches to the delivery of contact center technology have different advantages and drawbacks.
For example, a cloud contact center allows users to access all communication formats through your private data connections or the internet. As long as there is bandwidth to cover user activities in the contact center, employees can access the technology from anywhere.
By contrast, an on-premise contact center is hardware-based and requires regular updates and maintenance. That means that while a cloud contact center can be completely upgraded and maintained by a managed services provider, your on-premise contact center might require your IT team to handle installation, troubleshooting, and maintenance of the system from end to end.
Let's take a look at other areas of consideration when deciding whether to deploy an on-premise or cloud-based contact center technology:
Set-up and installation: The set-up of an on-premise contact center can take several months as you procure hardware and necessary licenses, get the infrastructure in place, and build out the programming. Some cloud contact center software is as simple to setup as opening an account and selecting a few standard options. Because the infrastructure lives in the cloud and is managed by the service provider, you could start up (or add additional resources in the future) almost instantly.
Cost: The main differentiation between on-premise and cloud contact centers is how costs are categorized. An on-premise system requires a large cash outlay at implementation, which is categorized as a capital investment. With a cloud contact center, the monthly subscription is treated as operating expenses. At first pass when reviewing pricing, an on-premise system may seem cheaper. But the lifetime cost for a cloud contact center (when a proper total cost analysis is performed) is often lower than that of an on-premise solution.
Features: Most modern contact center systems, be they cloud or on-prem, come with core features such as:
- the ability to queue incoming interactions so customers get self-help options and fair treatment of their call, email, or text.
- intelligent distribution of interactions to agents.
- analytics to help you manage your contact center.
The advantage cloud has in the application game is that cloud providers can deliver continuous upgrades and improvements to all their customers without the need to adhere to rigorous release schedules, force customers to buy upgrades, or leave some customers behind as their systems age.
Integration options: While it’s possible to integrate on-premise contact centers with certain other software solutions, this category is one of the big advantages that a cloud option has over the on-site contact center. Cloud solutions easily integrate with other technology and provide opportunities for streamlining workflows. In general, cloud-based contact center providers offer wider integration portfolios with the current wave of cloud-based business services (like customer relationship management software and help desk ticketing systems). This cuts down dramatically on cost and friction in getting your contact center and other critical business systems talking to each other.
System reliability: By placing infrastructure in the cloud, contact center providers deliver a more stable, more reliable service that the risk you take running your contact center off a server located in your private office or data center. If you invest in the right data connectivity for your business, cloud contact centers put you in a stronger position to withstand service interruptions and other outages.
Contact us at City Communications to discuss how a cloud contact center could benefit your enterprise or to run a total cost analysis between your on-premise solution and the latest cloud-delivered contact center systems.
Investing in a cloud contact center produces all the benefits that come with any cloud solution: scalability, flexibility, cost savings, and access to world-class features. You’ll improve productivity and customer service. But how do you successfully migrate to a cloud contact center?
Focus on business needs, not features. Before you look at a single cloud contact center demo, take the time to document your business processes and all the ways your cloud contact center will touch your daily activities. Have a detailed record ready before you begin considering specific solutions. Otherwise, you’ll soon find yourself dazzled by features, bells and whistles, and you may discover you’ve purchased a solution that has more tools than you need or doesn’t have the right tools at all.
Solution providers approach the vital functions of the contact center (managing and distributing interactions, tools for agents and supervisors, reporting and management options) differently. It’s likely that each provider's approach won’t translate easily to the next. Being clear about your requirements can make the process of researching and selecting potential providers cleaner. You'll also be in a stronger negotiating position when you know exactly what constitutes a deal-breaker, and where it’s easy for you to give in a little.
Your business is also unique. A contact center solution should be customizable to fit your exact needs. Prioritize your needs so you know when a solution is coming close to your ideal: key performance indicators, agent skill sets, and call flows are just a few of the factors that will be important for making your choice.
Choose your provider carefully. Evaluate what a cloud contact center provider can deliver, when they can deliver it, and at what cost. Review the provider's proof-of-concept terms, warranties, and service level agreements (SLAs) with a professional who specializes in these types of documents. Pay special attention to the provider penalties that exist in the SLA if support expectations are not met. Understand how these guarantees are impacted if you plan to self-manage any part of the solution!
Work with an expert. A third-party expert can help you with all of the above, from evaluating your needs to ensuring proper delivery of your cloud contact center solution. A partner with expertise in both cloud and contact center technology will not only help you through the process of selecting the right solution, they will help you after the technology has been installed to make sure it's working for your business.
At City Communications, we understand that evaluating contact center solutions is just one of many tasks on your plate. We can help you determine the right cloud contact center that meets your requirements and produces the return on investment you need. Contact us today to get started.
The City logo and icon are registered trademarks owned exclusively by GJ2, LLC doing business as City Communications (CCI) which reserves all rights thereto. Products and services offered over this portal are provided by the Carrier or affiliate identified in your services agreement.