Optimizing a contact center has clear benefits for agents, customers, and organizations as a whole—and choosing the right technology is one of the most important considerations. Today, a wide range of applications exist for contact center operations, but how do you choose what’s best for you today, while ensuring that your contact center is agile and ready to scale when needed?
This article will answer these questions and more, as we take a deep dive into contact center technology: what it is, why it’s important, and how to choose what’s right for your business. More specifically, this article will explore topics like:
- The difference between a contact center vs call center, and why the distinction matters.
- The definition of “contact center experience” and its importance.
- How technology impacts both the agent and customer experience.
- The advantages of cloud contact center services and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) offerings.
- An example of how one popular CCaaS platform (Amazon Connect) elevates the contact center experience.
- The contact center technologies and trends you’ll need to be aware of to succeed in 2024 and beyond.
What Is the Difference Between a Call Center and a Contact Center?
While these terms are often used interchangeably, there is a key difference between a call center and a contact center. To put it simply, a call center typically offers one mode of communication for customer interactions: the phone. A contact center, by contrast, offers additional methods—such as chat and email.
Why does this distinction matter so much? Because today’s customers increasingly expect an omnichannel experience. While the term “omnichannel” is nothing new, it’s typically been too expensive for most organizations to pull off. As Forbes notes, “the ability to provide a seamless multiplatform customer experience seemed like an expensive endeavor that only luxury brands with deep pockets could afford” at the time.
As more and more organizations recognize the importance of being accessible and available to their customers across a range of channels, however, the omnichannel experience is a mainstream expectation at this point. The right contact center software makes it easy to provide this vital offering. What these platforms provide is what’s known as Contact Center as a Service—or CCaaS.
What Does a Contact Center Do (vs. a Call Center)?
Generally, while a call center only offers phone-based service for customers, a contact center facilitates customer communications across multiple channels or methods. That way, whether a customer prefers to ask a quick question via website chat or email, or they prefer to call or text, an organization can accommodate them.
Understanding the difference between the features and services associated with a contact center vs call center can help you understand which is a better fit for your business. There’s nothing wrong with a call center, of course, but they often are not enough on their own. While “were once the gold standard for customer service,” TechTarget explains, “new technologies emerged over time, which changed how many organizations provided customer service.” And with digital channels becoming the norm for businesses, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where mere call centers regain any edge over more future-ready contact centers.
For many organizations, a contact center offers a more dynamic and comprehensive solution for both customers and agents. By opting for an omni- or multi-channel contact center, companies can reap the benefits of offering diverse contact center services, with examples including:
- Multiple channels for communication: For some customers, if a company only offers phone-based customer service or support, they might look to instead work with a competitor who is more in-tune with their preferences. Convenience is important, to say the least, so you don’t want to make people jump through hoops to reach you!
- Actionable insights: Another strength of modern contact center platforms is how they handle data. Tracking the right metrics, especially across multiple channels, can be difficult—but contact center software makes data collection and evaluation much easier. Contact center leaders can use these insights to make their operations more efficient and effective, while elevating the customer experience along the way.
- Self-service options: When a customer just has a quick question, they don’t want to wait on hold or get transferred around before reaching someone who can answer it. By offering self-service options as part of an omnichannel contact center, customers can be helped more quickly, without pulling agents away from more meaningful tasks.
- Modern routing options: Contact center administrators can use omnichannel contact center software to optimize how they process and route incoming calls, in order to ensure that they are answered quickly—and by the right person. Modern contact center software enables features like Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menus, Automated Call Distributor (ACD) functionality, skills-based routing, and more.
What Is “Contact Center Experience” and Why Is It So Important?
On the surface, the “contact center experience” is exactly what it sounds like: the quality of the experience your customers have when engaging with your brand. But it also includes the agents’ experience during those interactions.
In the past, there has been an obsession with customer experience, especially as it relates to accessibility. Is a company easy to reach, through one or multiple channels (e.g., phone, chat, email)? Are calls efficiently routed to the agent or department best-suited to handle them? Are annoyances like being put on hold, transferred, etc., minimized—if not outright eliminated?
These things all matter—to your customers and your agents. Despite the fact that many people avoid calling customer service, when they do call, they want that service to be seamless, efficient, and thorough. This only underscores the importance of the right contact center software, as well as its vital role in empowering agents to provide a great experience.
What Are the 5 Elements of Contact Center Experience?
A lot goes into creating a productive and positive contact center experience, and supervisors often find themselves wearing many hats (which can be maddening). Fortunately, however, the right technology can be instrumental in modernizing and optimizing any contact center operation.
Here are five must-have considerations for a highly-functioning and positive contact center experience:
- Customers: Most businesses say they put their customers first, yet they don’t necessarily follow through. Anyone can tell customers they matter, but if you’re difficult to reach, you’re not really putting your customers first. Make no mistake: a modern, omnichannel experience is the expectation for 2024 and beyond.
- Agents: It’s hard to overstate how agent experience impacts customer experience, and contact center experience overall. Who is typically on the front lines of driving a positive customer experience? Agents. By empowering agents with the right training and technology, organizations can put them in a position to serve your customers efficiently and effectively.
- Supervisors: While contact center supervisors may understand the importance of customer and agent experience on some level, they aren’t always sure how to effectively improve them. In a well-functioning contact center, supervisors are able to configure call flows, staff their queues, monitor their agents, and so on.
- Automation: While automation used to inspire oohs and ahhs of admiration, contact center automation is now mainstream—and much more versatile in the ways it can benefit a contact center. When your contact center technology provides you with real-time insights and monitoring, it’s easier to design automations that will elevate service. For example, many customers appreciate self-service options—like engaging with an AI chatbot that connects them with the proper person or department.
- Reporting: If knowledge is power, then contact center reporting is an exceptionally powerful tool for contact center supervisors. From real-time insights into call volumes and agent metrics to tracking trends in customer behavior or preferences, quality reporting is the foundation for impactful change. In other words, the better you understand how your contact center is operating, the easier it becomes to turn insights into improvements.
What Is Cloud Contact Center Technology, and Why Is Technology So Important in a Call Center?
Simply put, without the right technology, running an efficient contact center is virtually impossible. Many organizations find that the right contact center technology can be a real differentiator in their ability to serve their customers and empower their agents.
Most of today’s best contact center technology is delivered and managed via the cloud. In many cases, upgrading from a dated, on-premises solution in favor of cloud contact center software, like Amazon Connect, empowers businesses to elevate their customer and agent experience. Not only that, cloud systems are more flexible and scalable than their traditional counterparts, delivering even greater efficiency as well as cost savings.
By leveraging a streamlined and comprehensive software solution, contact center leaders gain greater insights into—and control over—their operations. And, by extension, this means it also enables them to better meet (or even exceed) their customers’ expectations and preferences. Simply put, the right technology is often the difference-maker between a run-of-the-mill contact center and one that truly prioritizes a positive and productive experience for both customers and agents.
What Is a Contact Center as a Service Platform?
Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) refers to a platform that unifies all technologies essential to an effective contact center. It provides a much better alternative to building out a contact center using a disjointed, piecemeal approach—that is, having one tool for handling phone calls, a separate tool for reporting and analytics, and so on. Leveraging a single CCaaS platform improves contact center operations, delivers cost savings, and elevates the contact center experience.
CCaaS delivers its services and support via the cloud. A total CCaaS solution will include everything you’re looking for:
- Tools that empower agents to excel in their day-to-day role.
- Real-time and historical reporting and analytics to help supervisors optimize operations.
- Innovative features such as AI and automated services.
- Increased flexibility and scalability through customization and integrations.
- Resources for training agents, as well as maintaining contact center technologies.
What Is an Example of a Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) Platform?
One of the most versatile and widely-adopted contact center technology examples is Amazon Connect.
What Is Amazon Connect?
Amazon Connect is a highly-popular CCaaS solution that brings together the essential components of a positive customer experience. It’s a dynamic collection of tools and technologies that include automation, AI, and more, all delivered via the cloud. From small businesses to national brands, organizations across a wide range of industries use it to understand—and improve—their overall contact center experience.
Amazon Connect has a plethora of powerful features a business can use to…
- Provide an omnichannel customer experience.
- Understand and increase agent productivity.
- Derive actionable insights into contact center performance.
How Does It Work?
With Amazon Connect’s cloud-based offerings, creating a virtual contact center is probably much simpler than you would think—and the same goes for optimizing an already-established contact center. From creating call flows and agent assignments to monitoring real-time metrics for actionable insights, Amazon Connect provides a flexible, end-to-end solution for virtually any contact center environment.
How Can It Improve Your Contact Center?
Every day, businesses choose Amazon Connect for their contact centers. Whether their prime objective is to improve their customer experience, scale operations, or reduce costs, Amazon Connect makes it easy to spot (and act on) opportunities for improvement and optimization. More specifically, it enables contact centers to…
- Use generative AI capabilities to increase agent productivity.
- Track real-time and historical data and analytics to optimize performance.
- Enable a seamless, omnichannel experience to delight customers.
To learn more about how contact center leaders for major brands like CapitalOne and Intuit have achieved positive results by moving their contact center to the AWS cloud and Amazon Connect, you can read some customer stories here.
What Is a Contact Center AI Platform Used For?
Amazon Connect and other contact center technologies use AI for an increasingly wide range of applications, in both expected and unexpected ways. For example, many brands offer an AI-powered chatbot on their website, so customers can either be provided with answers or directed to the right agent or department. Within a contact center, an AI platform helps to create a seamless experience for customers.
What does contact center AI mean for agents, though? Does it threaten their job security or reduce their impact within the contact center? As it turns out, quite the opposite! As Harvard Business Review and others have noted, conversational AI can actually enhance—rather than eliminate—customer service agents’ jobs, since it means they can spend less time handling monotonous or routine tasks and more time problem-solving. In fact, many agents welcome AI chatbots and similar innovations.
It’s worth noting that chatbots are just one specific example of AI elevating the contact center. The current wave of CCaaS platforms increasingly use AI to offer even greater functionality and versatility—helping to both optimize and future-proof the contact center.
If you’re interested in bringing AI to your contact center but feel overwhelmed by the options, you’re not alone. That’s why many contact center leaders opt to work with a managed services provider (MSP) like InterVision to help them assess their needs, evaluate options, and even assist with implementation and support. We’ve been helping diverse organizations find the right solutions for three decades now, helping innovative leaders to make the best decisions possible for their business. To learn more about how we help companies just like yours, we encourage you to read some of our case studies online.
Why Work with a Managed Services Provider?
Rather than building out their own systems based on instinct or guesswork, working with a managed services provider is a great way to ensure that you’re making the right decisions for your contact center. Whether you’re looking to start a virtual contact center from scratch or to find opportunities for innovation and improvement, an MSP like InterVision will always put your needs first.
We love solving unique challenges for contact centers, and will help you cut through the noise and find effective solutions for whatever challenges you’re experiencing. From strategic roadmapping to risk mitigation and cloud security, we’ll focus on what’s most important to your organization.
What Are the Latest Contact Center Technology Trends?
Working with an MSP isn’t just useful in designing and implementing contact center technology—it’s also helpful for future-proofing the contact center. As we’ve mentioned, contact center leaders already have their hands full with day-to-day operations and details, so keeping up with the latest trends (and what they mean for your business) is especially difficult.
Throughout this article, we’ve mentioned several contact center trends. But to recap, here are the top trends for the coming year, as highlighted in a recent CMSWire feature:
- AI and Automation Proliferation: AI’s role in the contact center is expected to continue to grow, as AI becomes more sophisticated and contact center leaders find innovative new ways to incorporate it into how they work. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2025, “80% of customer service and support organizations will be using some form of generative AI to improve agent productivity and the customer experience.”
- Emphasis on Customer Experience: Despite an increased reliance on AI and chatbots, person-to-person customer experience is still a top priority and competitive differentiator for contact centers that get it right. As we’ve noted, AI isn’t threatening agents’ jobs; it’s just enhancing the scope and nature of their work.
- Omnichannel Communication: Contact centers that provide a seamless and consistent experience across multiple channels are doing exactly what they should be doing: accommodating their customers’ preferences. By leveraging a single, inclusive platform that incorporates multiple channels, contact center leaders can provide a better customer and agent experience, a rare win-win. For 2024 and beyond, offering multiple communications should be thought of less as a “nice to have” and more as a “must-have.”
- Advanced Security and Privacy Measures: While technologies like generative AI modernize the contact center experience, there is one potential downside: security and privacy. The last thing any organization wants is to unknowingly introduce new vulnerabilities into their contact center when they’re trying to improve it. Especially for smaller, less established companies, working with an MSP is a great way to ensure that security and privacy aren’t compromised as they configure their contact center.
- Enhanced Employee Experience: As discussed throughout this article, while it’s often said that “the customer comes first,” in a contact center the agents’ experience matters just as much. Without the right tools, technologies, and support, agents are put in an unenviable position—they’re expected to provide an exceptional customer experience, yet they don’t have the resources to actually provide it.
- Voice Technology and Natural Language Understanding (NLU): In 2024 and beyond, emerging technologies like advanced voice recognition and NLU are expected to become more mainstream. In the words of a Gartner analyst, “Customers increasingly expect to be able to interact with the applications they use in a natural way,” a shift that has been “accelerated by the emergence of large language model-enabled enterprise applications, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT.” Within a contact center, these features can increase efficiency as well as the quality of customer interactions. They are largely powered by AI, yet when used well they can actually provide a more human-seeming customer experience.
Level-Up Your Contact Center Today
There’s no time like the present to think about upgrading your contact center. As a managed services provider, we understand that every contact center is unique. At the same time, though, we also know that they have one thing in common: the goal of improving their contact center experience.
Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. If you’re looking for expertise and experience, look no further than InterVision. Schedule a call today.
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