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What is a collaborative contact center?

You might first think, “aren’t all contact centers collaborative?” Well, yes and no.

Certainly, one of the goals of a contact center is for customers to be able to collaborate with companies to obtain answers to questions or receive support for a product or service. A truly collaborative contact center, however, gives both the customer and agent access to the right tools to make working together successful.

In this blog, I’ll first outline what agent tools are doing from a customer perspective, and then how these tools define the collaborative contact center.

Build your Business around the Customer

I’m happy to say I’ve been actively analyzing the customer experience market since 1990.

It has been exhilarating to watch how the industry has moved from “first in, first out” management of calls, to skills-based routing, and now artificial intelligence-assisted predictive behavioral routing of customers to the best agent.

Over that same period, we have grown from being able to handle inbound phone interactions to blending outbound interactions and digital messages. And we’ve trained agents to be able to respond to interactions in the customers’ preferred medium.

What then is the next frontier to building a customer-centric organization?

Collaborative Contact Center

Know your customers

Like most consumers, if I can get the answer I need quickly, I’m happy to self-serve. Just recently, I started a live chat from a website, and it was clear I was interacting with a bot. I was asked a few identifying questions and it became clear the bot wasn’t going to be able to resolve me issue. That didn’t bother me.

What did annoy me, is that when a live agent picked up the conversation, they asked the same questions I had just shared with the bot! When I pointed this out, the agent communicated that the bot didn’t transfer the information from our interaction.

Customers have the right to work with companies that respect their time and integrate systems, like customer relationship management or billing systems, so that they are easy to work with.

Offer rich digital communications options

Have you ever asked an agent, “can you text that to me?” 9 times out of 10, the answer will probably be some variation of “no.”

What about trying to find out if a delivery was made to your home without having to actually call someone?

When trying to fix a mechanical issue with a home appliance, don’t you wish you could just text a photo, send a WhatsApp message or Tweet at a business to ask for help? Do you think you’d get a consistent or fast response?

While a few innovative companies offer capabilities like this, we need more.

Empower agents with UC tools

Customers expect fast and effortless resolutions to their problems, so having to place customers on hold (or worse, call them back), can be mentally and emotionally taxing to the agent.

If you want to empower agents to deliver quality customer service, you must provide them access to the information and people that can help them solve the issue at hand.

That means no blind transfer of calls from one agent to another. And also providing agents with the ability to reach out to others in the organization, by voice or text, and get the answers customers need.

I recently called a contact center for support, and the agent let me know she needed to reach out to another department to get me an answer. I asked if she needed to put me on hold, and she surprised me by telling me she had already messaged a department outside of the call center, and she was ready to provide the support I needed.

The bottom line is, how your teams communicate affects both the employee experience and the customer experience, and ultimately your brand’s reputation and revenue. When you invest in your internal communications and free knowledge workers from their silos, the maximum potential of your organization is unlocked.

The Future of Customer Engagement, for Businesses of All Sizes

In the past, the kind of customer care described here was only available to Fortune or Global 100 companies, typically with massive systems integration efforts.

But today, this type of service and support is within the budget of companies with less than 100 employees via collaborative contact center solutions.

Envisioning dramatically better customer experiences is not difficult. It is as simple as committing to deliver an experience equal to the best they have personally ever had delivered to them.

Stay tuned for another blog, with more of my insights on building a customer-centric organization.

Originally published Mar 12, 2020, updated Sep 10, 2021

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