Fueled by social, contact centers become more critical

Summary:The contact center space---formerly known as your lowly call center---is heating up as major players are building themselves up for social channels and positioning as brand managers.

The call center is becoming more social and traditional players are increasingly positioning themselves to enable the person on the other end of the phone---assuming a customer can get through---becomes more of a brand manager who can save sales and drive revenue.

Let's connect the dots as the call center and tools like social media monitoring increasingly become one.

  • On Tuesday, Avaya acquired ITNavigator, a privately held company based in Tel Aviv, Israel. ITNavigator focuses on social media monitoring and management tools. Avaya's plan is to connect ITNavigator's software with its unified communications tools for call centers.
  • Last month, Synnex bought IBM's customer care services business for $505 million. The move made Synnex's Concentrix unit a top 10 player in the contact center market. The aim for Synnex is to create "a unique aggregation of world-class customer engagement capabilities." Indeed, Margaret Goldberg, IT services analyst at Ovum, said in a research note that part of the IBM-Synnex deal was about tackling growth markets such as social.
  • Xerox on Sept. 3 outlined its vision for the contact center. In Xerox's view, contact center folks will be more about driving customer satisfaction, loyalty and business outcomes. Today, the call center is more transactional and focused on costs. "The role of the agent changes from satisfaction to driving an outcome. The agent needs to have domain expertise," said David Foulkes-Jones, CEO of Xerox's WDS unit. Agents will increasingly important to retaining customers and serve as the last line of brand management defense.

For Xerox, the term to note is the "value-added contact center," which is multi-channel and focuses on business outcomes. According to Xerox, the new call center metrics revolves around customer health and lifetime value. The use of technology and automation will allow contact center agents to offer higher-value help even if they wind up working on fewer cases overall.

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Now there are a few open questions about these next-gen contact centers. The biggest ones for me boil down to the following:

  1. If contact center agents are basically the best representatives of a brand will they be compensated accordingly? Call center agents are viewed as widgets in many respects and interactions are viewed from a cost perspective where the game is to minimize phone calls and make it almost impossible to reach a human.
  2. Will corporations really have the culture and mindset to view the contact center as a competitive weapon? It's likely they're will be a few forward looking companies when it comes to contact centers, but many aren't going to get this brand manager meets call center concept.

Topics: CXO, Enterprise Software, Networking, Social Enterprise, Unified Comms

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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