Keep the Flow Going in the Contact Center

Google maps on my Blackberry is a pretty helpful tool.  The Blackberry’s GPS knows where I am, so I ask Google maps to search for the nearest O’Charleys restaurant.  From the results, I click on the click-to-dial phone number and am talking to O’Charleys.  Yes, I could have used a Garmin if I had one, but then I have to type the phone number on the Garmin into my phone.  I could also have called 411 or Google’s cool version of 411.  What I liked about my Blackberry method is that it was easy, intuitive, and took me from map to directory search to a phone call.

This smooth combination of technologies for seamless product and service delivery is an ongoing and productive evolution that extends into the contact center.  Examples include:

  • Just-in-time-leads where a prospect gets on a web site, enters their information (e.g. loan or health information), hits submit, and then gets a call back from the vendor within the minute.  The number of success stories I have seen around this alone is impressive. 
  • As I mentioned in a previous blog, organizations are finding that SMS (text messaging) can be used to drive contacts in collections, remind customers of deadlines, and otherwise provide an ever present opt-in path to the individual. 
  • Infocision Management, a customer of ours, has an interesting study showing the increased success rate of combining telemarketing with direct mail campaigns in fund raising. 
  • Allowing a person to opt to talk to an agent while listening to an inbound or outbound IVR.
  • "Virtual hold" where a caller can leave a voice mail as their place in queue allowing them to hang up, do something else, and get a call back at some promised time (e.g. "within 20 minutes"). 

Continued advancement in "keeping the flow going" requires combining technologies end-to-end from request through delivery.  Anyone that uses to order books just expects that they can go to the Amazon site, look up 1 or more books, add them to their cart, place the order, and get the book(s) in a timely fashion.  The online ordering and delivery paradigm has been pretty well fleshed out and has proven its success. 

But what about all of the other end-to-end processes that start in the contact center (placing an order, requesting new service, getting a new policy), have their status checked in the contact center ("I called in about a week ago and haven’t heard anything"), and may end in the contact center (RMA requests, cancellations, payment)?  I’m realizing that keeping the flow going means extending the automation that started in the contact center into the rest of the organization – making the reality of my book order be a reality for other B-to-C, B-to-B, and internal processes.

The opposite of keeping the flow going is dropping the ball.  How much business do companies lose because they drop the ball in some key part of the process?  Simple cases for me include a service company that gets me to their site and then doesn’t make it easy to contact them, being told "I’ll have him call you tomorrow" and never hearing back, and asking for a quote only to realize 3 weeks later that I never received it.

What are some simple ways you see companies dropping the ball?  And how could those companies have kept the flow going in each case? 

Matt Taylor