2010 Technology Trends in the BPO World

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In 2010, corporations will continue to streamline costs, and often that means pursuing technological advances that improve productivity. However, with the proliferation of multiple service channels, increased customer expectations, and challenging revenue objectives, companies must manage costs with surgical precision.

This year, businesses will make better use of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) technological tools to run their multichannel service organizations more effectively, and leverage automation to make the most of each customer contact. By approaching technology and outsourcing strategies as an investment, these companies can retain customers and grow revenue, while strategically managing costs.

Improving multichannel service organizations

We anticipate the number of phone and email customer service requests will trend down, while social media and online requests like (Web, chat, etc.) will grow in 2010.

In response to this trend, and for the financial and customer service benefits it brings, companies will increasingly rely on technical tools and expert analytics that provide better visibility into customer accounts and touch points. These technologies allow companies to drive customers strategically into the ‘right’ channels based on customer needs and value, thus generating channel operational savings and optimizing the per-customer investment to improve loyalty (and ultimately revenue) with the best customers.

…companies will increasingly rely on technical tools and expert analytics that provide better visibility into customer accounts and touch points.

In a pure voice environment, this means directing the right customer to the right agent through tried and true tools such as enhanced Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and call routing solutions. However, given the multiple customer touch points available, companies must also properly route non-voice interactions, and aggregate data from all contacts to provide the best support and resolution.

Business process experts often identify opportunities to enhance the customer experience and take cost out of the transaction. There are situations where today’s consumers actually prefer a self-serve or automated service experience, or would be better served by being diverted to a particular channel. Industry specialists have the expertise to identify scenarios that are right for such an opportunity. The more a business process partner is involved in the end-to-end sales and services solution, the more visibility they can provide to opportunities that streamline processes or improve the customer experience—not to mention the additional insights gleaned that help avoid process, and potential product pitfalls.

As a BPO partner, we work with businesses to use contact data to improve the customer experience. We offer technology solutions that optimize staff resources and transition contacts to revenue generation opportunities when appropriate. A great example is TeleTech’s store call solution which helps retailers, and other businesses with multiple locations, transition calls off of the retail floor and into a contact center environment. Making this switch accomplishes a number of objectives for the retailer, and the customer.

Retailers maintain, and often improve, the customer experience because callers reach a live person more quickly who can answer the same questions an in-store employee would. Representatives have access to local store details, such as hours, directions and inventory, but can take the interaction a step further by offering to place an order, confirm a size, or offer alternatives. Think back to the last time you stood in a retail store and glared at the sales clerk while they tried to get off the phone with another customer. Store call eliminates this conflict by allowing in-store personnel to do what they do best—focus on the customer standing in front of them—while the caller is effectively served by a contact center resource.

This solution also gives the retailer great visibility into their call volumes, call abandon rates and other factors at a local store level, so businesses can make better decisions about how to deploy staff and maximize sales opportunities.

By looking at an overall suite of transaction options with an eye for maximizing agent productivity and customer satisfaction, companies can truly create a win-win situation for themselves and their customers.

Same infrastructure, better solutions

Most sales and service organizations have made significant investments in infrastructure and technology to serve and sell to their target audience. Depending on the maturity of the organization, and its product set, these investments could be decades in the making. Additionally, each year companies face the challenge of keeping their infrastructure from becoming obsolete while dealing with increased pressure on capital budgets. At the same time, most firms don’t have the time, energy or money to throw out what they’ve invested in and start over.

Every system has its limitations, and let’s be honest, there’s no silver bullet, but there are many smart solutions that companies can employ to maximize existing resources and still improve their overall capabilities.

One of the biggest issues that haunts large legacy service systems is the complex agent desktop issue, where multiple systems, over many years, have been cobbled together to make a fine mess for the people who have the biggest impact on the customer experience. Such systems cause problems including low customer satisfaction, low first call resolution and higher turnover among service representatives. After all, who wants to stay in a job where it’s virtually impossible to be successful?

One of the biggest issues that haunts large legacy service systems is the complex agent desktop issue, where multiple systems, over many years, have been cobbled together to make a fine mess for the people who have the biggest impact on the customer experience.

We look to deliver solutions that work with a company’s existing disparate CRM systems and databases. These solutions provide agents with immediate toolsets to deal with the overwhelming amount of information and systems by pulling them together into a more functional and process-scripted user interface. These tools eliminate duplication, redundancy and errors. They enable firms to realize a faster time-to-benefit and to see crucial results: quicker, higher first-call resolution, which in turn drives higher customer satisfaction, higher revenues, increased agent productivity, and thus improved employee tenure, which in turn reduces a myriad of employment costs. In doing so, firms can not only redeploy resources to other places, but they can also get traction in areas such as cross-training, employee growth and development, and even succession planning. In one recent example, TeleTech shortened by 50 percent the sales cycle time needed to set up a lead by eliminating upfront headaches and process redundancy. Shorter sales cycles mean faster sales, and those are the results that businesses can take to the bank.

Social media: the newest channel

This year, we’ll also continue to see more companies engage in the social media space. Technical innovation continues to open the door to new channels for consumers to interact with businesses, which then poses a new set of challenges and opportunities. Customers expect companies to be available via chat, email and the Web, to name a few, but companies are often not prepared to manage ’emerging’ tools.

In fact, many organizations continue to take a defensive stance in these areas, but the most progressive and service-oriented organizations are trying to be more proactive and consider how they can use their community of customers to enable a better experience for all. This can take many forms, including collaborative ‘community’ technical support, generating sales leads, or even product innovation ideas that come directly from customers.

In the technical support world, for example, costs are often prohibitively high, but a solid technical service experience can be a major difference-maker for any consumer or business products provider.
By better understanding each customer’s needs, purchase profile, and service preferences, companies can make targeted investments that serve various customer segments differently—but equally well.

Social media is by nature collaborative and communicative. Two-way, or even three- or four-way, dialogue is part of the program, and the BPO industry is hearing from more companies who want to identify methods to succeed in this conversational environment. For TeleTech teams, this means embracing existing tools, such as ‘crowd sourcing’ and forums, and bringing an additional layer of value to the experience. This value often takes the form of quality control and management, as BPOs help firms identify and separate the best and most valuable customer resources from all the other noise in the online marketplace.

Business process outsourcers, and the companies they serve, will continue to sort through the marketplace chatter, but 2010 will bring better opportunities to identify and use the valuable insights that customers are sharing across every channel. The businesses who embrace a cross-channel approach, and take advantage of the industry’s best technology solutions, will uncover new opportunities and better results this year.

Carol Kline
As Chief Information Officer, Carol Kline is responsible for driving TeleTech's IT strategy and operations, including the launch of the company's next generation of technology innovation. Kline has more than 2 years of experience in managing dynamic technology environments and global operations teams. Her cross-departmental expertise, teambuilding skills, and global leadership capabilities enable her to galvanize TeleTech knowledge workers from around the world to develop new, innovative technology tools that are readily available to the company's Global 1 client base.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Carol,

    Companies don’t lack technology (or they can buy it), they lack the human resources for doing the drudge work of running effective marketing/sales campaigns – qualifying, nurturing, etc.; and perhaps even more importantly the skill sets needed to improve customer experience – process redesign, process implementation, process metrics. Trying to solve problems with technology is a hindrance, not help.

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