Enghouse Interactive has partnered with ContactBabel to bring you the 2013 ContactBabel Decision Makers’ Guide. The following is an excerpt from the Guide discussing Multimedia Management and the Universal Queue.
In the late 1990s, the phrase “contact center” was rarely used or understood by many working in the call center industry. With relatively minor changes, call centers continued to do what they had done for years before: receive and make telephone calls from and to businesses’ customers and prospects. The role of the Internet in customer communication was poorly understood, email volumes were still low (and response rates were often appalling) and self-service consisted of touchtone IVR and little else.
Today, multichannel contact centers have been mainstream for years, with 94% of respondent contact centers dealing with a significant proportion of email as well as telephony. The Internet – as a channel for self-service, sales and increasingly person-to-person contact – is an integral part of many businesses’ customer contact strategy, with the advent of social media and mobile communication throwing other elements into the mix.
The customer has numerous devices, both voice and text-based, with which they can contact the business. They may decide to query an automated system, or a live agent. They may want the answer in real-time, or prefer to receive a reply at their convenience. They may use a fixed-line phone, a cellphone, PC, letter or use a kiosk in the street or in a physical store. Of course, not all contact is one-way – the business can also initiate outbound communications with its customers as well.
The complexity of the situation increases exponentially once a new channel, device or medium is added to the customer service mix. The only constant is that – regardless of the method they choose to communicate with the business – customers want accurate, timely information delivered in a form with which they are happy. The challenges for the business are to provide a high quality of service which is consistent across the channels and to do so in a cost-effective manner. To do this, and break down the boundaries between contact channels that has been stifling the potential of non-telephony contact, a universal queue is required.
Although the ‘universal queue’ as a phrase is showing its age, having been around for at least ten years, as a concept it’s still vital to understand. A universal queue is a platform which automatically captures, processes, routes and reports on customer interactions and related activities based on a company’s specific business criteria, providing a view of each and every customer interaction. Customer interactions through channels such as voice, e-mail, fax, instant messaging and activities such as work items are handled according to business-defined processes and strategies, avoiding the problem of rogue interactions that are left outside normal workflows, or favoring one channel (usually voice) to the permanent detriment of others.
The universal queue can set priority levels to incoming calls, e-mails and chats, and may also have the ability to blend inbound and outbound calls into a single queue to allow agents to move between media as required. This approach also facilitates a single view of the customer across all channels, which is one of the key ways to improve
the quality of service offered, as well as improving the agent’s confidence and morale.