Cutting Costs in the IP Contact Center

With the current economic climate, it is no surprise that cutting costs heads the list of top priorities for contact center management. Given the heightened interest in this area, I thought I’d spend several blog entries covering technologies and business strategies which can assist contact centers in reducing their operating expenses, while still focusing on delivering good customer service. I’ll start with two today, and follow up with more later this week.

1.       Know what your customers really care about

Rule Number One in looking at where you can cut costs is to also understand what can impact customer satisfaction. Surveying your customers can help a contact center better understand what really matters to them. For instance, do your customers truly care if someone answers the phone 10 seconds faster? Or is their real desire to reach an agent who can answer their questions accurately? In some industries, First Contact Resolution has a strong effect on overall customer satisfaction–possibly stronger than slightly shorter wait times.

Understanding the real motivation behind why customers choose to stay with your organization, or why they purchase more products and services not only tells you where to spend money, it also tells you where you may consider cutting without impacting customer loyalty, or upcoming revenue.

2.       Use Knowledge Management/Web Self-Service to drive down costs

Artificial Intelligence and Knowledge Management were considered “hot” technologies in the 1990’s, but lost cachet as people realized they weren’t a silver bullet. The truth is that the single most important consideration in a successful knowledge management program is the business process, not the technology. Processes must be in place for not only identifying and authoring the initial content, but also on how content will be evaluated, updated, or retired on an ongoing basis.

The good news is that even with the work required to put together a good knowledge management/web self-service initiative, the return on investment is significant. According to the Gartner Group, self-service can reduce calls into the contact center by 12-14%. Authored content can also be used by internal employees as well as external customers (where appropriate). Where information is complex, use of a knowledge base by contact center agents can improve accuracy, reduce talk times and decrease callbacks. These are goals that not only decrease operational costs, but can also improve customer satisfaction. Just look at the ATM machine as an example of how customers can embrace self-help, and how organizations, in this case banks and credit unions, can reduce the cost of a frequent transaction.

I’ll touch on a few more cost reduction ideas in my next blog entry later this week. In the meantime, what initiatives have you begun recently in your contact center to reduce costs, or what are you planning on kicking off some time soon? A dialog could assist other contact center professionals in brainstorming on what they might try.

I look forward to your ideas!

Rachel Wentink