What is a contact centre and why would your business have one?

It’s so exciting – there is a huge buzz around the Service Cloud. Salesforce.com has built its name improving marketing and sales processes, and now they are rapidly changing the lives of those working in contact centres around the world. There is a huge opportunity for implementation partners to take this great new technology and change the way that your clients interact with their customers.

But if you are like me, there is a lot to learn about this new world. It is not just a case of learning some new objects and creating some new reports. Contact centres are a completely different part of the business to sales and marketing, with a new language and a new set of metrics.

A traditional contact centre

This is the first in a series of posts in which I’ll be looking at the contact centre industry and picking out what I think are some useful tips to help you understand your clients better. You should therefore be more able to put a compelling Service Cloud solution together for them, and perhaps this will help you achieve your Service Cloud Consultant Certification if this is something you are looking to achieve.

We’ll look at the terminology, some of the key issues facing modern contact centres, questions that you can ask to uncover Service Cloud opportunities.

Today we’ll start with the basics – what is a contact centre and why would your client have one?

What is a Contact Centre?

The most common idea of a contact centre is a very large room, with rows of agents sat at desktops answering calls from customers (inbound), making calls to customers (outbound), or a mixture of both (blended).

In your personal life think of your bank, your mobile phone provider, your travel agent, or the shop you just bought an iPad from. You might be calling them to report a fault, or get advice on a new contract, or perhaps they are calling you to advise of some changed flights or that your service contract is coming to an end.

But a contact centre doesn’t have to be so big. Many smaller businesses will have a contact centre but will have given it a different name. Look out for terms like helpdesk, service desk or customer support for inbound, and telemarketing and telesales for outbound. If you have individuals taking or making calls as a core part of their job then you have a contact centre and a Service Cloud opportunity.

Also be aware that a contact centre doesn’t have to be a physical building. Many companies will have agents who work from home, or branch offices under the term ‘virtual contact centre’. This gives businesses access to a huge labour force who want to work flexible hours, whilst also reducing the fixed costs associated with running a physical contact centre. So keep digging even if you don’t see the rows of desks!

Is that the same as a call centre?

Traditionally this would have been called a call centre, but over the past decade the rise of the internet has driven many consumers to use other channels – online forums, email, webchat and increasingly social media. To take account of this the term contact centre is increasingly being used.

However, whilst there is lots of focus on Social Customer Service we mustn’t get carried away. Even though there is increasing use of social media and webchat, by far the most common medium used for making contact with businesses is the phone. You just can’t beat speaking with someone. Your client’s should therefore be placing the phone at the heart of any contact centre strategy.

Why would you have a Contact Centre?

If you are a very large company – an airline or telecoms company, then it is clear that you will be receiving and making a large number of communications (calls, emails, texts) from and to your clients.

This kind of volume (hundreds of thousands to millions of communications) needs to be managed very carefully. Having individuals in each department answering calls is no good for customer satisfaction and it is very innefficient. The contact centre gives a business the ability to provide focused, well trained agents whose sole job is to manage the communication channels with the clients.

At the smaller end of the market it can be less clear. If you are a three employee retail outlet then you are unlikely to have a contact centre. You’ll just have a telephone number and an email address and whoever is in picks up the call. So when do you move from one scenario to the other?

Companies should begin thinking about having a contact centre strategy if they start having these issues:

  • A large number of calls get transferred internally
  • A large number of calls come to individual’s mobiles
  • Lots of voicemails pile up on individual’s phones
  • Customers have to call or email multiple times to get the right answer
  • Customers get different answers depending on who they speak to
  • The same questions get asked again and again
  • Employees are unhappy having to answer questions they aren’t qualified to answer
  • Customers are unhappy they aren’t getting the service they expected

If your client’s are experiencing these types of issues then it might be time to start helping them build a contact centre strategy that looks at who the callers are, what help they need, and what the best strategy for delivering that help is. Just as with your core Salesforce proposition, often clients don’t know what they don’t know until you help them to develop a strategy.

In the next post in this series we will look at some of the different options for a business looking at developing a contact centres including outsourcing and offshoring, and also some of the job roles that you might come across when speaking with your clients.

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestDigg thisShare on RedditShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Charlie Cowan inspires and enables partners at NewVoiceMedia, a Salesforce Appexchange partner routing inbound calls based on CRM data. Unusually for someone in the IT industry, Charlie holds a degree in Rural Land Management from The Royal Agricultural College. He lives and works in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, with his wife and three children.