Call centres: time to take those innovation opportunities

By Rafael Cortes, head of marketing, Foehn In the past, communications technology was IT’s domain. Something used by the call centre team but understood, managed and acquired by the technology manager alone. When it came to office-based hardware, specialist voice networks, maintenance and management, control still rested with the IT department.

And yes, IT investment in new comms systems delivered business benefits – lower call costs, rationalisation of office buildings, hot-desking and so on. But there was always a divide between the IT team and customer service over what was really needed to deliver top-notch customer service operations. Yes, we got some efficiencies. Too often though, it was a case of what might have been. Exciting opportunities to innovate, engage staff and optimise their performance were missed.

The rise of cloud-based communications and consumerisation of technology was the catalyst for effective and customisable communications, changing the call centre landscape and service teams’ ambitions for the customer experience.

Cloud phone design teams saw this sea-change and took action. Observing contact centre management roles and requirements, they identified “control hotspots” where different management and departmental teams wanted control of key phone system features.

As a result, cloud phone systems are now bursting with different innovations and simpler integration capabilities, giving power and simplicity to ambitious customer service heads and tech-savvy line-of-business managers, not just the IT team.

One of the biggest – but still unsung – breakthroughs is that the latest cloud phone systems hand administrative control to call centre teams. This allows continual adjustments to dial plans, easier voicemail management, and better matching teams’ resources to changing customer demands, all done through an intuitive interface.

This “hands on” control enables hard-pressed customer service heads, team managers (and even individual users where allowed), to make daily, on-the-spot decisions and changes in response to volatile customer demands.

This decisive power shift is boosting call centres’ responsiveness, productivity and the overall customer experience. Aside of helping hard-pressed call centre managers, this change is also helping the new type of buyer – head of customer insight, or a digitisation strategy specialist, who’s been tasked with improving overall performance outcomes, to find simpler, easy-to-use tools to achieve their goals.

At the same time though, the IT team’s control has not been diminished. For example, access to call analytics data, fraud controls and DDI provisioning remain essential IT management tasks. In addition, where business managers and IT both need to control certain features, our experience is that IT managers don’t get ‘territorial’ on these occasions; they’re relieved to offload certain low-level phone system administration jobs to departmental colleagues. The key is to empower the other teams within the organisation. Administrative changes can be made by non-technical staff, and configuration changes can be made by IT managers.

Some of the biggest business benefits are less obvious. Business agility and productivity aren’t readily associated with humble cloud phone systems. Call centre teams that gain administrative control of their new customer engagement platforms are immediately less reliant on their communications provider’s IT support or system provisioning services. At a stroke, they are lowering ongoing system support costs and transforming the business’s responsiveness.

For example, a division of a UK enterprise can add 200 users to a cloud system within minutes to underpin next-stage expansion or hit revenue targets, rather than waiting days or even weeks for the provider’s technical support team to make those changes. Also, departmental teams, struggling with flexible working, will more easily twin phones and devices, or change voicemail settings, as they travel or work from the office.

Today’s cloud communications systems are quietly transforming call centre capabilities by making them much simpler and clearer, creating significant budget savings and productivity gains that are transforming business performance with very little effort.

These different benefits, crucial as “UK plc” seeks to boost its stubbornly low productivity in an uncertain economy, really are the call centre innovation opportunities that can now be taken.

About Rafael Cortes, head of marketing, Foehn

Rafael Cortes is a highly-experienced marketer and communications expert who for the past 10 years has specialised in the software, communications and entertainment industries. Since joining cloud communications specialist Foehn from computer giant IBM in 2012 he has overseen several new communications innovations helping companies work smarter and more efficiently.