The Next Step in Customer Service: Moving From Call Center to Contact Center

By Jeff Mason

As the healthcare industry looks for new and innovative ways to engage with patients and customers, many often forget that frontline customer service representatives are the true face of a brand. Prior to the rise of e-commerce, online customer service was primarily done through call centers. While this approach certainly works for most customer service strategies, it is time to move from running call centers to operating fully-integrated contact centers.

How Is a Contact Center Different Than a Call Center? A contact center is the modern-day version of a call center. While call centers traditionally deal with one mode of communication, contact centers take a hybrid approach, integrating phone, email, chat, fax, and text. It may seem intuitive to communicate via these channels, but many organizations are still running their call centers the old-fashioned way, exclusively through the telephone.

It was only a couple of years ago that online social support came to fruition – at first as an experiment to engage youthful consumers and soon after as a total revolution spanning generations. Today’s Internet has brought consumers within a keystroke of making contact with organizations. Not only do consumers tend to become more engaged as a result of this integrated technology, contact centers can provide more efficiencies and enhance bottom-line growth. Simply stated, email and chat window services require no storefronts to maintain.

Therefore, to avoid alienating an entire – and growing – segment of customers, it is critical to consider the benefits that contact centers offer.

It Takes More Than a Website to Close the Deal: Most organizations with a contact center use live chat. While many businesses have figured out how to get customers to their Website, closing the deal can prove more difficult. This is where live chat can help. Live chat (also known as click-to-chat) offers a simple, cost-effective way to humanize the user experience of a Website and, more importantly, convert the interested but undecided online visitor into a paying customer.

In addition, live chat is designed to maximize call agent efficiency. Pre-written answers to common inquiries can allow for up to four simultaneous chat sessions.

Proactive Chat: An Important Closer: An effective feature of live chat is the proactive chat invitation. By initiating automated chat invitations with potential customers based on specific pre-defined rules or by reaching out and offering proactive assistance, agents are able to keep a visitor on the Website and help meet their need for stopping.

For healthcare organizations that sell products online, high shopping cart abandonment rates greatly affect online sales. According to Forrester Research, the number of Website visitors abandoning the shopping cart at the payment stage is 88 percent. Each abandoned shopping cart amounts to revenue leakage. Proactive chat can address the queries of the customers in real time on a variety of issues regarding purchase, shipping, and pricing – all prominent factors in shopping cart abandonment.

Proactive chat also leads to cost reduction for businesses by lowering the number of phone calls made from the Website. Better customer engagement leads to satisfied customers, thus decreasing the number of phone calls.

According to Forrester, consumers are using online Help sections and FAQs more than ever before. These sections are the most commonly accessed online customer service channels, with 60% engagement rates. In addition, this trend is increasing with customers using Help and FAQs options more in 2011 than they did two years prior. Conversely, greater numbers were left unsatisfied. Only 51% of consumers who used Help or FAQs resolved their issue, down from 56% in 2009.

Proactive live chat can push these successes higher, demonstrating its ability to enhance customer satisfaction, drive sales, deflect contact center calls, and improve operational efficiency. Given chat’s dramatic growth in consumer adoption and its compelling satisfaction rates, organizations that do not offer chat may be missing a tremendous opportunity.

It’s Evolution: It’s important to understand that today’s online consumer is impatient, has high expectations, and is willing to seek support across a variety of communication channels. Healthcare organizations still making do with just a call center may soon find themselves left behind.

A contact center is better able to handle customers with speed, efficiency, and in a way that meets customers’ needs. Couple that with cost savings and increased revenues, and you have a formula for long-term business growth.

Jeff Mason is vice president of marketing at Velaro.

[From the June/July 2013 issue of AnswerStat magazine]