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Call centers as social media hubs

John Dix | Jan. 28, 2014
Contact centers are changing rapidly with the arrival of cloud technology and the ability to interact with customers over new social channels, including Twitter. The transformation has implications for everything from how companies deal with customers to the role agents play and how internal groups are best organized. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix caught up with the CEO of LiveOps, Marty Beard, for his take on where we stand and where we're headed.

Does WebRTC enable you to get rid of all the other agent desktop equipment?
A traditional agent is typically sitting in front of several screens, because the company can't handle integrated multichannel. So they have their phone and then if they have to respond to an email or have to initiate a web chat session, they have to launch a different application on a different screen.

So even though labor is still the biggest contact center expense, we've seen studies that show that when you go cloud you get a 65% savings on the cost of the technology. You need to be on cloud for two to three years for the absolute payback, but most companies keep these contact center systems 12 to 15 years. And most of this network gear is totally depreciated so they've already sweat that asset and they're just paying maintenance on it. 

The other issue is on-premise gear can't do cloud. I mean, by its very nature it's not Internet-enabled. If they want to make a change, somebody has to come in, make the change, do the update, load the software, etc. If you suddenly said to one of those environments, "Hey, you need to enable your agents to do live web chat or to respond to tweets," it literally can't do it. So you have to go to a different application. That's what has created the complexity. 

But there is pretty wide recognition now that the customer is demanding multichannel support and the environment has to catch up. Contact centers are very conservative because they're really focused on quality and are reluctant to make changes. But the pressure is on now because customers are just not happy if they can't interact using a variety of channels. 

Let's dig deeper on multichannel. Given Twitter is a posting platform, how does that come into play in customer support?
Let me give you an example. You get onto your account and tweet, "I am so frustrated with United Airlines because of blah, blah, blah." United Airlines used to ignore that. You would just tweet it out to your followers and then maybe somebody else would follow it and maybe it would get bandied about. 

What's happening now is United Airlines customer service reps are looking for that and will actually respond to you. Actually that is one of the fastest responses you'll get now, usually within 15 minutes. And what United is going to try to do is pivot you off a social conversation. So they'll say, "Hey, John, thanks for your tweet. Please click on this link or please call this number." So if you click on the link, what's going to happen is you're going to start web chatting with the customer service agent.


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