Phasing out silos
Traditionally, call centers have focused on either outbound or inbound business, or conducted outbound and inbound customer communication with largely siloed and unconnected systems. In one silo, outbound was focused on credit control and marketing, while in another silo, inbound was handling sales, customer service, and self-service.
This meant that during peak periods of inbound traffic, agents were overwhelmed and customers waited, while outbound agents couldn’t help from their separate silo. During slow times, inbound agents had nothing to do, and call centers were over-staffed since they couldn’t take on outbound calls. Obviously this was very inefficient, limiting productivity, causing scheduling challenges, and inflating staffing costs.
Even when older systems gave agents access to both inbound and outbound, they required that a user enter a code to activate availability for one function or the other, then log out and back in for the other. It was not possible to be available for both functions simultaneously.
As culture and legislation move more toward eliminating cold calls, traditional outbound-only centers are struggling to survive.
Blended calling opens opportunities
Call center leaders who have upgraded to a blended environment have increased their ROI as well as customer and agent satisfaction. A blended call center allows agents to fluidly perform inbound and outbound duties as demand and strategy dictate.
With blended technology, agents don’t have to toggle back and forth between outbound and inbound calls. Blending automatically moves outbound agents to inbound queues on a per-call basis when traffic volume peaks, and enables inbound agents to easily switch to outbound calling during slow periods.
Agent experience is also improved by more variety of tasks, more opportunity to learn, easy access to meaningful customer data and the ability to work from anywhere. Agents get support for their work through custom scripting and manager-agent chat. Managers can also support agents using integrated business intelligence that helps managers know what support agents need.
Blending inbound and outbound and integrating multiple channels, customer profiles and business intelligence tools gives contact centers the flexibility to flourish in the rapidly changing world of collections, sales, and customer service.
How it works
A blended call center solution is based on an integration of automatic call distribution on inbound and sophisticated dialing systems on outbound. Through automatic call distribution, software directs inbound calls to an agent who is available and who has the expertise the caller needs.
When inbound traffic is low, outbound call center software starts to generate outbound calls automatically, assigning them first to agents who have been idle the longest. When the number of incoming calls increases, the software dynamically slows outgoing calls so agents have enough time to answer inbound customers’ questions.
Here are some specific tools to look for in your blended platform:
- Skills-based routing ensures that the customer gets the agent who speaks their language, has the training to answer their questions, and may even be the same agent they’ve worked with before. This decreases customer frustration and increases the chances for the first-time resolution.
- Call back technology gives your customers the option to be reached by an agent at a later time, rather than wait on hold. Call back technology is a cost-effective way to increase customer satisfaction, by spreading out spikes in call volume, reducing wait time and abandonment rates, and improving overall contact center efficiency.
Sophisticated IVR systems are easily, visually customizable with a drag-and-drop interface and provide customers the following options:
- Hearing an automated announcement about what number they are in the queue.
- Hearing an automated announcement about how long their wait time is estimated to be.
- The ability to hang up and keep their place in line.
- The ability to schedule a call-back.
Outbound dialing systems in a blended environment can dial prospects and connect them with an agent at the moment both are ready to talk, instantly providing the agent with the profile and journey information needed to conduct a personalized, knowledgeable interaction. This saves agent time trying to reach customers and increases customer satisfaction, since the agents instantly know who they are and what their issue is. When customers feel known and understood, they are much more likely to comply with agents’ requests.
Sales, marketing and collections use cases
Integrating customer data helps both inbound and outbound activities become more targeted and personalized, and so more effective. Blending:
- Delivers informed outbound calls to customers who’ve abandoned a previous contact or who need additional follow up.
- Eliminates bombarding all customers with offers that really don’t apply to them.
- Allows data from inbound and outbound communications to be mined for information that can help customer service or sales gain insight.
- Prompts outbound calls or notifications telling customers to call in.
- Can help achieve higher service level ratings and increased productivity through analysis of data obtained from the blended environment
- Can target and personalize up-selling and cross-selling offers.according to transactional, behavioral and geographical data. Response and opt-in rates are likely to be significantly higher than they would be by siloed outbound contact, and sales are likely to be much higher.
- Minimizes costs with mass calling strategies for telemarketing and collection campaigns by not engaging an agent until a prospect is reached.
- Offers the opportunity to use different callback numbers with different segments to test the success of one strategy against another.
To make it easier to imagine how a blended omnichannel call environment actually works, here are some scenarios to consider:
Dusty receives a text message from his mobile carrier with the message “You’re about to go over your data allowance, want to upgrade to 10GB for $10?” The text gives him the option to opt-in immediately within the text and receive the offer. He pays through an integrated payment capture system and gets an SMS receipt. This saves the call center time and money, since no agent was necessary. Dusty is grateful for the warning and the easy way of preventing a problem.
Sarah calls her doctor’s office and gets an IVR, which gives her options, including scheduling an appointment. She uses the system and schedules, but then has a question and chooses another option to speak to a live agent. The system tells her she’s 7th in the queue and it’s about a 15 minute wait. She chooses to say “queue” to hang up and keep her place in line, receiving a call-back automatically. When her turn comes, an agent greets her by name, acknowledging she just scheduled an appointment with her doctor. Sarah asks what she needs to do to prepare for her procedure, and the agent asks and gets permission to send a text or email with that information.
Sarah receives complicated instructions, without having to understand it verbally and remember it or write it down herself. Before her appointment, she receives a reminder text that offers a callback number. She touches a button in the text and gets the same agent she talked to previously. She feels cared for and ready for her appointment. Then she gets another text with a survey to discuss her experience of the process.
Josh receives a text asking him if he does or doesn’t want to give permission to receive texts from his bank. He opts in and receives another text letting him know he’s past due on his credit card payment and finds a button to initiate a payment. The text offers to waive the late fee if he pays right now. He touches the button and pays his bill. He receives a text asking if he’d like to be notified 10 days before his bill is due in the future, and he texts back “yes.” Josh is never late paying his credit card bill again.
Diana manages a contact center, which traditionally only did outbound calling for debt collection. In recent years, revenue has been decreasing. She realizes that people generally don’t answer phone calls anymore unless they recognize the caller ID and are so tired of getting interrupted they are literally paying money to keep the interruptions out.
To save the company, she has to shift the business plan. She decides to invest in blended software and trains agents to do both inbound and outbound. Now she’s able to keep all her agents consistently busy, get revenue from inbound business and create more effective outbound strategies. Productivity and ROI have multiplied many times, and she’s retaining agents longer, because they enjoy the variety and ease of the new system.
Jennifer gets a call, but doesn’t recognize the number, so doesn’t answer. She calls back the number and the blended platform connects her phone number with her profile. The agent who receives the call personalizes his response and Jennifer feels good about working out a payment plan with the agent.
If you see the value of a blended system, the first step to achieving these results is making an investment in cloud-based, true omnichannel contact center technology that enables blended inbound/outbound strategies. Crunch the numbers and you’ll likely find you can expect a great ROI.
LiveVox is a leading provider of enterprise cloud contact center solutions, managing more than 14+ billion interactions a year across a multichannel environment. With over 15 years of pure cloud expertise, we empower contact center leaders to drive effective engagement strategies on the consumer’s channel of choice. Our leading-edge risk mitigation and security capabilities help clients quickly adapt to a changing business environment. With new features released quarterly, LiveVox remains at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. Supported by over 450 employees and rapidly growing, we are headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Atlanta, Denver, Bangalore, and Colombia. To learn more, schedule a demo today.