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Why Contact Centers Must Harness UCC for New Normal

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Photo of contact center agents
Image: Vasyl - stock.adobe.com
As businesses look to transform their contact centers around a cloud platform in the wake of lessons learned from their COVID-19 experiences, they must understand the importance of enabling contact agents with advanced unified communications and collaboration (UCC) softphones that allow them to streamline workflows across applications and databases and, as a result, increase productivity and improve the customer experience.
 
However, it is a myth that cloud infrastructure is the only way to leverage UCC softphones as part of a contact center strategy. Organizations seeking to maximize legacy infrastructure can do so as a long-term asset-sweating measure or a stopgap ahead of a later cloud migration, with UCC softphones incorporated in either plan.
 
Cost vs. value
Exactly how you adopt new UCC technologies into the contact center depends on how your business weighs cost efficiency vs. value enhancement. Organizations will likely wish to achieve both — and they can — but one side of the equation will ultimately be more important than the other.
 
Value creation naturally demands a flexible solution that can facilitate integration with existing platforms and workflows, while at the same time enabling innovative new approaches to customer engagement powered by UCC.
 
Cost reduction strategies seek to gain greater efficiency and productivity for less cost. At their heart is the ability to equip agents with all the tools necessary to perform to the highest standard regardless of location. Reducing the size of, or even eliminating, the physical contact center — something we’ve seen is possible through the COVID-19 experience — will result in significant cost savings, while agents enabled with greater flexibility are less likely to churn. In addition, the organization mitigates costs by leveraging existing infrastructure until a time when migrating to the cloud makes economic and operational sense.
 
Another part of the equation — more prominent in strategic thinking since COVID-19 — is reliability and business continuity. As organizations draw up new business continuity and disaster recovery plans, a key consideration will be bolstering the availability of B2C communications during future events. With the right planning, this is eminently achievable in cloud, legacy, and hybrid configurations.
 
Innovation in technology and working practices
As highlighted above, the pursuit of value creation (and, to a lesser extent, cost reduction) is a major driver for innovation in both technology and workstyles. Innovations to explore include:
 
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning – particularly for call routing applications where big data is harnessed to predict volumes and patterns. Autonomous AI agents remain a concept for future development, but there are plenty of instances where human agents are using AI as an aid to optimize productivity. Examples include AI proposing next steps and sources of knowledge to support undocumented workflows and queries. AI helps enterprises surface unstructured knowledge faster and more accurately than is possible manually, while the role of UCC is crucial to enabling distributed teams to collaborate seamlessly with this knowledge.
  • Hybrid working patterns – where contact center agents and other team members are widely distributed and use multiple locations as their place of work, according to dynamic need. With social distancing set to be the norm for some time, physical contact centers can accommodate far fewer agents than before. So even if supporting remote working isn’t seen as advantageous for the wellbeing and retention of employees, contact center operators will still need to address it as a medium to long-term measure or risk constraining customer service capacity.
  • Closer agent/customer collaborations – which redefine contact centers from cost centers to revenue generators. Some organizations are using UCC to create richer interactions and even to deliver premium services that would otherwise require a face-to-face session of some kind. Many health providers are offering telemedicine consultations during the COVID-19 lockdown, and many professional services companies are using virtual meeting technology to conference and screen-share with clients in a shared environment. This trend was already underway before the pandemic, but now that the possibilities are better understood we could be on the brink of far greater innovation across all sectors. The TurboTax Live service, for example, involves certified public accountants going through tax returns with customers via video calls.
  • New ways of simplifying IT administrative complexity – To cope with greater demands for flexibility without adding management overheads, organizations are enabling their remote contact center agents using one of various architectural models such as virtual desktop infrastructure, bring your own device, or issuing locked-down devices with a restricted set of apps. However, managing infrastructure means keeping devices patched and login credentials updated, and this is made more difficult when employees can’t come into the office, and when user profiles need adding, deleting, or changing. UCC softphones enable the most flexible deployment and management, with the UCC application and all its users under the control of a single administrative console 
 
Negative disruption is over, let the positive disruption begin
Given the last few months of global turmoil, it’s easy to forget that contact centers already had a long list of compelling reasons to change, with long-term evolution of user behavior, shifting agent working preferences, and renewed cost pressures all playing their part.
 

Whether compelled to jump straight to the cloud or migrate away from legacy infrastructure at a pace most appropriate to their unique situation, the big change we can all see is the shift from physical to virtual contact centers. Getting there using advanced, customizable UCC softphones is not a means to an end, but rather the catalyst for further innovation that will deliver market competitiveness and maximum customer experience.


 

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Get additional guidance on how to approach the new normal at the Enterprise Connect Digital Conference & Expo 2020, taking place online Aug. 3 to 6. Check out the conference program here, and register today!

 

 
 
 

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