What’s in this guide:
- What is a contact center?
- History of the contact center
- Parts of a contact center
- Common contact center service offerings
- Who uses contact center solutions?
- What is contact center consulting
- Benefits of contact centers
- The future of the contact center
What is a contact center?
Let’s start with the basics. A contact center (also known as a call center) is an organization consisting of agents who answer and send communications from and to customers on behalf of businesses. The term “contact” is used more widely now because these centers typically operate text messaging, email, and other channels, not just telephones.
Some organizations opt for an internal contact center solution that uses their employees as agents. Others choose an outsourced option so they don’t have to worry about hiring or managing large numbers of agents (sometimes called customer service representatives).
History of the contact center
The telecommunications industry has come a long way since the invention of the telegraph in 1832. Many people might think that contact centers originated with the invention of the telephone in 1876. However, since contact centers consist of a variety of communication channels we can trace it back to telegrams. Physical mail may be a bit of a stretch, though.
In the 21st century, most people interact with contact centers in some form at least once a week. Whether it’s solving an IT issue or purchasing something, contact centers are important channels for many businesses.
The modern contact center’s roots can be found in the 1960s when “answering services” used physical switchboards to field calls on behalf of businesses. The term “call center” was first officially documented in the dictionary in 1983.
Parts of a contact center
It takes a lot of people to run a successful contact center. Here are the essential departments you’ll typically find in one:
- Operations: This includes the agents, the backbone of any contact center. Additionally, there’s usually a supervisory/management team
- Account Management/Client Success: Account managers serve as the link between the contact center solutions provider and the clients. They help customers get what they need, when they need it.
- Technology: The tech team helps customize platforms to meet client needs. They also are in charge of testing and quality assurance. Finally, they’re always there to help if there’s a technological glitch or outage.
- Sales/Marketing: These teams are the public face of the contact center. They provide information to customers and help them determine which solution is the right fit for their business needs.
- Agent teams: The agents are the backbone of a contact center. They’re the ones taking calls, chats, emails, etc. They’re highly trained in customer service, sales, and emotional intelligence to ensure the most efficient, effective, and enjoyable interactions for the customers.
Common service offerings
- Inbound voice support: This is what people traditionally think of when they think of contact centers. Inbound voice support consists of agents answering calls from customers and talking with them to determine a solution.
- Outbound campaigns: These campaigns can be through many different channels and are typically used as sales campaigns to reach new potential customers.
- Live chat: Live chat ranks as one of the communication channels with the highest customer satisfaction rate.
- Email support: Another popular service offering is email support. Email is a flexible channel that allows customers to respond on their own time. However, it can get overwhelming for a business to answer all email inquiries on their own.
- Social media messaging: Businesses these days have to cater to a large age range and extremely varied demographics. Adding social media messaging allows organizations to reach a broader audience, especially young people.
- Text messaging: Text messaging is exploding in popularity as a marketing tool, as well as a customer support channel. It’s fast and convenient for customers who are on-the-go or don’t have access to a computer or internet.
Who uses contact center solutions?
Almost any organization can benefit from some type of contact center solution. However, not every solution will be a perfect fit for every company. For instance, a company that works with primarily elderly customers may not need social media messaging support.
- Ecommerce stores: An ecommerce store selling clothing may use live chat to answer customer questions about sizing and provide coupon codes to upsell.
- Corporations: A large corporation may receive so many phone calls that their internal employees can’t handle, so they might hire inbound voice support to filter out the simple calls and save time for their internal employees to focus on higher level work.
- Colleges & universities: Since the majority of higher ed students are young, a college might use a contact center for text messaging support to make sure students are hitting key enrollment deadlines.
What is contact center consulting?
Contact center consulting is a service that helps companies who already have an extensive internal centers improve their operations. If your customers are complaining about long hold times or having to call multiple times to resolve one issue, there are probably issues in your operations.
Luckily, these issues are fixable. Bringing in an expert as a consultant can help you identify problems. Most importantly, they can provide you with a playbook for how to optimize your operations to provide the best service possible for your customers.
Typically, a consultant will test out your operations, talk with employees, review your supervisory practices, and look over your scripts. This will give them an idea of what areas need extra attention. Often, consultants will work with you to improve each area on-site.
Benefits of using a contact center
- Save money: Outsourcing customer support is cheaper than staffing internally.
- Save time: Stop wasting time answering the same questions over and over.
- Improve customer experience: Your customers won’t have to wait for hours on hold and they’ll be able to communicate through their preferred channel.
- Boost sales: Having a direct line of communication to your customers helps form a stronger bond and increase sales.
- Improve your digital presence: Modern customers expect to be able to contact you immediately. Don’t let them down!
The future of contact centers
A lot of discussions about the future of contact centers surround the use of artificial intelligence. AI can help improve the efficiency of contact centers and lower costs for customers. Some people are worried that AI might take their jobs. However, we find that AI tends to make jobs easier.
Additionally, in our decades of experience working with clients, we’ve learned that many organizations actually prefer a combination of AI and human agents. This unique combination creates a customer experience that maximizes the efficiency of technology with the empathy and personal touches of humans.