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The next-gen contact centre

Today’s consumers demand more from the companies they do business with. They expect higher levels of service and enhanced communications provided through more channels, and they have more outlets for voicing opinions about their experiences than ever before. Engaging in proactive conversations with those consumers to manage and deliver on their expectations will become critical to a company’s ability to succeed. Planning for a next-generation contact centre will help to address these requirements while enhancing the overall customer experience.

Unified communications and collaboration technologies are emerging as the foundation for the next-generation contact centre, by connecting not only the contact centre and the rest of the enterprise, but also the enterprise and the customer in new ways.

Customer-centric companies that choose to adapt to this new norm will need to move from traditional customer interactions confined to the contact centre to enterprise-wide customer-company collaboration.

To discuss the changing technology landscape within contact centres, and what UC brings to the table, Network World Middle East in association with Aspect organised a roundtable discussion last month. The event was kicked off with a presentation from Steve Michaud, Vice President Aspect Professional & Education Services, APAC & ME, who said consumers are adopting new technologies and changing the rules of customer contact centre. “Earlier, contact centre was just a place to serve the customers. It wasn’t very dynamic. Today, consumers use many different tools, including social media, to communicate with each other and discuss our business. As a business, you want to be part of those conversations. We have skills based routing, workforce management tools in contact centre but how does that work with Facebook or Twitter? We have to broaden the technology in contact centres to take full advantage of these new opportunities.”

This was followed by a panel discussion, moderated by NWME’s Senior Editor Jeevan Thankappan, dwelling on the changing face of contact centres in the region. Excerpts:

NWME: Is contact centre the most logical place to start the implementation of UC in an enterprise?

Steve Michaud: I have seen companies take different approaches. One approach was to implement UC for sales force and that didn’t quite work out because the whole organisation wasn’t ready. I believe contact centre is the right place to start because it can offer you clear, measurable benefits. However, you have to plan this carefully. You can’t afford to have a downtime in your contact centres and whenever you implement new technologies such as UC, make sure that you start with pilot, and with right kind of infrastructure and measurement

NWME: Is contact centre perceived as a profit-centre in the region? Do you train your agents to get them up to speed with new technologies?

Steve Davies, Head of CRM & Sales, Al Khazna Insurance: Unfortunately, in this region, contact centres are perceived as cost-centres, a necessarily evil. How do you change that perception is a challenge. We have educate CXOs and show them the RoI behind it. As for technologies, it is not an issue we have access to the latest and greatest here. But, there is a gap between technologies and available skill sets in the region. Government is leading in the contact centres, but in other industries, people in the contact centre don’t understand the concept of service and lacks product knowledge.

Ramesh Chandrasekaran, Head of Call Centre, Emirates NBD: At EmiratesNBD, what we strive to do is provide customers with the right information. We have all kind of new technologies and brand names, but getting together all these elements and translating that into an enhanced experience for the customer is a challenge.

Raj Patel, VP of IT, MAF Properties: In the past, we never had to set up contact centres and now are proactively trying to set up one. I don’t need technology, what I need is answers. I am more worried about people and processes, and avoid the pitfalls being discussed here.

Cameron Dougherty, Head of Global Contact Centres, Jumeirah Group: In the Jumeriah Group, contact centre is perceived as a profit centre and we provide this as a service to internal group and charge them. We moved from a decentralised environment to centralised reservation system for rooms and restaurants. Earlier, teams were based on each property, and now we have moved them all to one contact centre, which gives us the opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell.

NWME: As a channel, do you think text, e-mail and chat are growing in the region?

Ramesh Chandrasekaran: This region is still voice-heavy and we see almost zero traffic on e-mail. When you put text and chat into the mix, then you need a completely different skill sets and that is hard to find here.

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