TMC this year celebrates 30 years of covering customer interaction – which means it couldn’t be a better time to look at where we’ve been with customer service and where we’re going. We’re also rebranding the publication starting in September. In this installment of our CUSTOMER coverage, we talk with Jim Ball, co-founder at Alpine Access. The company offers a suite of distributed workforce solutions and outsourced capabilities, including virtual contact center services, SaaS-based talent management platforms and services, security solutions in the cloud, and consulting services to Fortune 1000 clients from a variety of industries across North America.
What has been the most important development in the past 30 years related to customer interactions?
Ball: The rapid adoption of the Internet and the ensuing technologies that it enables have drastically changed how customers interact with companies and brands, and more importantly, how people interact with each other. There has been a paradigm shift in the way we communicate and engage with one another – customers, employees, etc. One specific example is the development of technologies specific to the call center industry – the biggest one being the ACD.
In the past decade?
Ball: The most important development in the past decade, related to the contact center industry, is the evolution of virtualizing call center business processes and enabling employees to bring the work home. As Microsoft Corporate VP Ron Markezich said, ‘Ten years ago, telework was seen more as an employee benefit. Today, businesses around the world are seeing telework as a necessity.’ As the pioneer of the employee-based virtual @home model, Alpine Access is proud to have played a hand in helping redefine the contact center industry.
In the recent past?
Ball: Two trends are converging that continue to have an impact on the contact center industry. The first is the increased use of outsourcing as a means for organizations to gain access to new or expanded services, and/or to save money based on the greater efficiencies involved. The second trend is the emerging virtual workplace where employees are able to work effectively from their homes.
Both trends have had a profound effect on today’s contact centers. The concept of the “cloud” embodies how any organization is able to outsource its contact center, as well as how the many employee agents are integrated into the virtual workplace. Security in a cloud-based contact center must, therefore, be both solid and seamless end-to-end, from the organization’s customer relationship management or other application to the virtual work at home office. With the increased adoption of SaaS-based applications the speed at which the industry is both accessing and implementing new technologies is helping transform the industry faster than ever before.
How has the rise of IP-based networks impacted the call center – customer interactions at large?
Ball: IP-based networks allow call centers to operate much more efficiently than in the past. More intelligent call routing, better staffing alignment, and the ability to provide more effective automated solutions all result in lower overall cost of operations while providing a superior customer experience.
How is CRM changing?
Ball: CRM continues to evolve in terms of its ability to better arm the call center agent with the tools and information they need to better assist callers. If used as intended, CRM systems create a more complete and holistic view of the entire customer lifecycle, better enabling companies to increase the lifetime value of each customer relationship.
How is WFM changing?
Ball: Today’s WFM organizations are focused on developing tools and processes to support a higher degree of flexibility in regards to staff management. With a premium being placed on delivering high service levels while maintaining high agent utilization, organizations have to evolve their processes and tools to maximize their delivery in these areas. Real-time management is a big part of this, by being able to quickly adjust staffing levels, but accurate forecasting and planning, as well as data trending and reporting are also key functions that need to be enhanced.
Want to learn more about cloud communications? Then be sure to attend the Cloud Communications Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct 2-5, in Austin, TX. The Cloud Communications Expo will address the growing need of businesses to integrate and leverage cloud based communications applications, process enhancement techniques, and network based communications interfaces and architectures. For more information on registering for the Cloud Communications Expo click here.
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