Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

UC and Efficient Contact Center Assistance

October 17, 2011

Although my wife doesn’t want to use a computer herself, she is very aware of using it to go online for information, book airline tickets, and exchange email, etc. So, I am now her personal secretary to do all those things for her. She is also a big “shopper,” always checking the local newspaper ads, but most also watching for deals on the TV shopping programs.

The other day she complained about the fact that one of the home shopping shows she was watching kept announcing that a product on sale was all sold out even before they showed it on the program. Buyers (customers) were seeing the announcements on line and placing their orders on line without getting into any phone line connection queues for IVR applications or live call center agents.

So, what does this have to do with UC?

Contact Center Evolution – UC Self-services and Live Assistance

As more and more consumers start using smartphones and tablets to access web information and initiate business contacts, they will become less dependent on traditional customer call center agents. Basically, customers will really need live assistance by talking to someone only when they have a problem. In the case my wife experienced, there was no problem for those customers who could go online or be notified on their smartphones, either from getting information about a product sale or in placing their order. So, why would they need to get into a voice telephony call at all?

Historically, the call center has always included self-service applications based upon Interactive Voice Response (IVR) applications that used the Telephone User Interface (TUI). With improvements in speech recognition technology, speech input rather than Touch-Tone inputs were accommodated. However, the basic limitation of IVR applications had to do with output, i.e., the complexity of menu choices for specific applications, as well as the amount and type of output from the application. Voice was absolutely useless if the output wasn’t short and simple. In such cases, the caller was put into a queue for live assistance in the call center.

Now that the “phone” has evolved into a multi-media (smartphone) device, it can be increasingly exploited for multi-modal, self-service applications, thus minimizing the need for live assistance. In particular, self-services don’t have to be initiated with the limitations of a traditional phone call or IVR application, but can flexibly use voice commands and screen based input responses. With UC capabilities, the mobile smartphone customer can “click-to-connect” for live assistance when needed in the mode that is appropriate or desired (message, voice conversation, callback, etc).

Bottom Line

What my wife experienced was the frustration going through the limitations of a telephone connection and an IVR application interface, only to find out that the sale item was sold out. People who went online did not have the same problem, and the consumer adoption of smartphones (or tablets) will expand the consumer audience beyond those with desktop or laptop computers, i.e., everybody!

Customers can now do things faster and more easily with self-service applications, and with the power of UC for “click-to-call,” can still get access to live assistance on-demand as needed. Furthermore, such contacts will be contextually more intelligent than a simple “blind” phone call, and can enable better and more efficient interactions with an appropriate “agent.”

So, UC flexibility will pay off significantly to any organization that provides contact center services for live assistance, by minimizing the need for such help in the first place, and secondly, by providing more contextual insight in providing such help more efficiently.    


Art Rosenberg, a veteran of the computer and communications industry, contributes his column, The Unified-View to ContactCenterSolutions. To read more of Art’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves