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How to add UC to your call center design

The first step in call center design is knowing the communication needs of the agents. Matt Brunk explains what UC technology is needed for a call center.

For organizations in the process of building a call center, it's important to know what the needs of the organization and the agents are. Having a clear idea of the communication technology needed will help you develop an effective call center design.

My personal philosophy is that every business is a call center.  But before deploying one, you must first ask, "Why do I want a call center?" You may want a service-based contact center to collect call statistics and customer complaints, or you may want a revenue-based call center to record sales channels data, sales ratios and customer objections to services or sales. Building a call center for the agent's needs seems to conflict with what management wants, because while a manager may want statistics on product failures, the agent may want an internal social network that lists agents with knowledge on how to fix product problems.  

The first priority is to err on the side of management so your intentions are aligned with the company's needs. These needs are dynamic in nature. For example, in a new product or service rollout, management will need to collect specific data from potential customers or sales objections. With a new product or service, detecting defects early on can save an organization a lot of money and a good reputation by correcting the issues immediately. You should also determine if the firm is operating a call center for a service or for a profit. This matters not only for budgetary reasons, but because you should not expect a call center design to be based entirely upon agents' needs. While the mindset is often to keep the end users happy, their happiness may be short lived if the organization fails because of issues with cash flow, competition or service. Call centers influence all three of these areas, and to effectively gain a competitive advantage, they need to have adequate tools and features in place to meet your business needs.

The second priority is to establish what key performance metrics are important in the short term, mid-term and long term. Planning for the long term is essential in order to avoid a fork-lift upgrade. Totally abandoning your fist call center technology to move to a more sophisticated solution later can be as costly as it is time-consuming. Establishing metrics will help you plan and give you the ability to gather intel, market information and customer feedback, as well as gauge how well customers are being treated, handled and routed through your call center.

A third priority is to gather user feedback and determine through trials and demos what solution fits best today and in the mid-term. 

You should define what business processes must be a part of your call center design, including:

Be prepared to roadmap your company's future and technological needs to engage customers and to improve the process. You may be concerned about satisfying your end users, but take this approach and build a solid foundation with management first.  More time spent on the front end of your project will yield better outcomes and you may even avoid some costly pitfalls.

Don't get seduced by the technology; focus on the  elements your users need and then forge ahead in the evaluating features and services for your organization and agents in terms of today's needs and future growth.  Don't overbuy based on "potential growth." Stick with developing a solid foundation first and then push ahead to evaluate solutions that are suited for your needs and that improve business processes, customer engagement and your organization's bottom line.

There are organizational questions that must be addressed:

  • Is your call center UC-based?
  • Can customers contact engineers directly for issues with a product or service?
  • How easy is it to navigate to the right person within your organization to escalate issues or service problems?
  • What kind of training is offered to agents?
  • How user-friendly are the tools and features of the system?
  • How does your organization's internal policies and structure affect the call center?

The tools in your call center design can negatively or positively affect agent performance. This is where end-user input can be valuable to learn how agents are engaged and empowered to improve their performance. You should also explore the impact of management criteria on agents, as it is better to resolve any issues pre-deployment.

Lastly, you should remember that needs of both the business and customers change. Your call center design must be capable of supporting those changes.  

Next Steps

Ten call center technology must haves

Best practices for building a call center

Making the call center virtual

This was last published in August 2014

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