Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Knoa Analyzes CRM Integration Challenges, Looks At Solutions

October 06, 2009

Contact center/customer relationship management, or “CRM,” integration is where the “rubber meets the road,” or where business intelligence that CRM provides about customers hits the reality of real-time interactions with them, and via an increasing array of channels. Knoa Software makes performance management solutions that monitors, measures and manages how organizations are utilizing core applications such as CRM to enable productive customer interactions.

TMC contacted Knoa to get their analysis on and solutions to enable effective contact center/CRM integration. Here is an exchange with Lori Wizdo, Knoa’s vice president of marketing.
TMC: What is and what issues do you see in contact center/CRM integration and what are the causes of those issues?
Lori Wizdo: CRM integration is not an easy feat for enterprise. Implementing a complex technology, in any area of business, almost always results in performance issues in regards to end-user-technology interaction. Throughout contact center/CRM integration, all too often, employees misuse the technology or experience system errors resulting in time-sinks, inefficiency, and/or superfluous IT support.
Frequent issues that occur during CRM integration include: slow transaction times, quality problems, employee works-arounds, misuse of applications based on call type, and proficiency issues. These problems occur because of cumbersome interfaces, lack of appropriate training, or unidentified kinks in the technology.
Without a window into agent-technology interaction, IT leaders have no idea if an agent’s experience with an application is hindering effective, efficient performance.   IT leaders need insight into how well agents are using the tools they have been given to facilitate a positive customer interaction.
There is a common misconception that contact centers are one of the most highly monitored areas within a business. In reality, the high levels of monitoring and recording that do exist in many contact centers do not measure agent-technology interaction on a case-by-case basis. In addition, many of these performance management strategies are challenging to implement because of the difficulty and cost of gathering comprehensive, global metrics on agent behavior and performance. For example, call recording technologies allow for a deep qualitative analysis of agent behavior. While these technologies provide invaluable information, they are inherently a sampling technique; so many performance problems that impact customer experience remain undetected.   Performance Management solutions provide aggregate high level performance metrics, but when performance slips, such as when call handling times rise, the exact root cause is difficult, if not impossible to uncover.  
Although the monitoring and recording systems I just mentioned do exist in many contact centers, the agent-technology interaction is a consistent blind spot in an overall contact center performance management strategy. These tactics and technologies do not give the business stakeholders sufficient visibility into what is actually happening as agents interact with complex technologies that automate the customer-facing processes. Without a detailed window into agent-technology interaction IT leaders are unable to identify performance problems stemming from both the agents’ behavior and the CRM systems functionality. You just can’t fix a problem that you can’t see.
TMC: Has and if so describe how the economic conditions, the rise of multiple channels, and the renewed emphasis on quality impacted contact center/CRM integration?
LW: Regarding the impact of the economy, for many businesses, the down economy has increased the call volumes and call handling times, with customers calling in looking for alternative payment plans, wanting to switch to less expensive products and services, and challenging charges and bills. For these businesses, improving agent performance is the optimal solution to handling this increased volume, so the down economy is actually spurring investments in applications and technologies which can improve agent productivity – such as those which have been shown to decrease handling times or ensure that the agent is following the most effective process for the call type.   Technologies like quality monitoring, desktop analytics and end-user monitoring are seeing increased rates of deployment.
If a contact center needs to expand staff to handle the increasing volume, on-boarding of new agents becomes a critical path activity. Technology that decreases training times and products that monitor to spot problems with the new agents’ use of the contact center software tools can dramatically improve the agent on-boarding process
For all businesses, customer experience and satisfaction are becoming even more important.  In order to improve customer experience, retain customers and maximize revenues, CRM integration has moved to the forefront of customer service business strategy. There is a general consensus in the business world that with limited resources and consistent budget cuts, the focus should be on maintaining and attracting customers. CRM integration is a popular way in which companies can win new customers and improve customer retention.

On the subject of the multi-channel contact center today's contact centers are far more complex than the call centers of the past. Multi-channel support requires greater proficiency in e-mail, chat and web self-service, often requiring an agent to toggle back and forth between applications. In addition, agents must handle a variety of different interactions ranging from support to sales, each vitally important to sustaining a good customer experience. And increasingly, agents are being called upon to make independent decisions when interacting with customers who are expecting a higher level of service.   Without additional investments in training, staff and/or technology due to budget tightening, first contact closure rates decline, and case resolution times increase.  It’s clear that the fluidity of a contact center is now not only harder to maintain, but is becoming increasingly important to the success of a customer facing business. 
Many enterprises find their agents are having difficulties using CRM applications: which are by their very nature comprehensive and complex. Since so much of agent behavior necessary to drive results is voluntary, the adoption and effective use of systems such as CRM is often hampered by a below par agent experience with the application. The lack of proper implementation and utilization of a CRM system in the contact center causes the information to be inaccurate or unrealistic. With this existing issue, it is important that stakeholders have an accurate and efficient solution to measure agent experience.
To another point, in order to have a successful contact center/CRM integration, IT leaders must ensure that the technology is being used to its utmost potential. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that agents are making the most of not just technology upgrades and additions, but also the company’s pre-existing investments. It is the end-users of these applications who execute the transactions that drive processes, which in turn, drive revenue and customer satisfaction. In order to boost ROI and efficiency in a difficult economic time, it is crucial that agents are using customer facing technology effectively in a way that drives the overall business.
TMC: Customer interaction management (CIM) solutions have been identified as key tools to enable contact center/CRM integration. Discuss generically the benefits, and any challenges and if so what are the solutions to those challenges, of CIM?
LW: Very generally, CIM platforms automatically capture, measure and report on customer interaction with agents, and agent interaction with contact center technology. These solutions provide universal views of each and every customer-agent interaction in a variety of channels including voice, email and web. This technology is vital in enabling successful CRM integration as it gives IT leaders detailed insight into agent performance.
CIM solutions can optimize agent performance throughout the integration process by monitoring the experience an application delivers to the agent and pinpointing barriers or impediments obstructing agent performance (i.e. bad system performance or application quality). It is a valuable workforce optimization (WFO) technology because it captures metrics on employee interaction to identify challenges in knowledge gaps, incorrect use of transactions or avoidance of transactions. CIM solutions can capture metrics globally and comprehensively, monitoring all agents, during ever transaction, every customer interaction—all the time.
CIM solutions have been able to remedy many of the issues surrounding contact center/CRM integration. The solutions are driven by the need for visibility at the agent desktop level to support a diversity of management objectives. Knoa’s Experience and Performance Manager universal user monitoring platform, for example, signals the end of the need for a plethora of point monitoring solutions that many enterprises have struggled to deploy, integrate and manage to capture the requisite visibility of agent experience and performance. Knoa EPM provides enterprises with a means to tune the use of CRM and contact center software, optimize agent efficiency and productivity, increase revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

Brendan B. Read is ContactCenterSolutions’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Kelly McGuire