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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.

But what I've noticed in the last year is more and more cross-training going on, where companies are trying to get their agents to be able to do a lot of different things. It's interesting because, rather than technology making contact center agents less relevant, there's pressure to pay them more and pressure to get more educated and more capable agents. It is recognition that that agent is becoming more important to my business, and I need agents that have more than just rudimentary education if I'm going to make this two-way and multichannel and effective. 

How do agents balance their time with all these things competing for their attention?
If you're an agent you log into your browser and see your queue. You'll see you have X number of calls in the voice queue, X number of emails, X number of tweets, and you'll start working through the queue. And what's gotten better is, when you get a voice call you'll have all the information about the person calling. You'll know Marty called twice in the last month and his issue was resolved, he emailed once about a product which doesn't seem to have been resolved, and he tweeted once when he was upset, but that was addressed. All that interaction history will be there. 

Does the increasing importance of agents have a bearing on whether companies outsource the function overseas?
Companies started insourcing several years ago and this probably strengthens that trend, because you'll have companies that really want to give the impression to the end user that they're here with them. They're handling their issue.

You mentioned organizational change earlier. Traditionally we're selling to the head of customer support, but it is the chief financial officer that is most interested in getting off the on-premise nightmare and getting to more of a predictable, monthly OpEx cloud rate. And increasingly marketing is involved because they have always felt they owned the social channels, but they're realizing they don't own it all because those channels are now being used for support. You might even see some of these organizations merge to form the customer experience department. 

In terms of getting there from here, do companies tend to bring you in to complement what they're doing?
We've been growing at 55% to 60% over the last couple of years while the on-premise contact center market has been flat. Out of our last 10 deals, four to five say 50% — involved replacing an on-premise system. And in some of those it's not the entire system. A really large company might bring us in for two call centers, but keep what they have in another one. But in many cases they've made the decision to get off on-premise and it's a complete replacement, even if it happens in stages say they'll replace 25% of the agents in the first quarter and then 50%, and then 75%. 

We've done a lot of deals in the high-tech space. Salesforce.com is an example, Symantec is another, and we recently closed a really large consumer game company. In all of these cases they'll only do cloud. 

 

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