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Consider the scenario where someone sends you an urgent SMS message, but because your phone is set to 'ring only for incoming calls,' you don't see the text until later that day.

For a number of reasons, businesses can experience a similar communications disconnect when their customers reach out.

Today's customers want easy and reliable services from the brands they trust. They also increasingly expect companies to offer support via their preferred communication channels. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many customers lack the patience to sit through traditional over-the-phone support calls. Instead, they prefer the more prompt, personal engagement they've become accustomed to through digital channels.

If your business still relies on one or two customer-support channels, you're likely missing out on significant opportunities to connect with your audience where they are.

The solution? Establish a modern contact center.

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What is a contact center?

In short, a contact center is a business department that manages customer interactions. Along with handling inbound and outbound calls, contact centers also communicate with customers via email, chat, messaging and social media. As Gartner explains, contact centers are distinct from telephony-only call centers as they support customer interactions across a variety of channels. Despite supporting multiple channels, contact centers don't necessarily leverage universal queuing. Rather, they typically use separate systems or business processes to support each distinct channel.

Today's contact centers rely on several types of advanced technology to resolve issues and capture customer interactions, engagements and performance data. They can be operated either by an internal business division or outsourced to a third-party provider.

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Contact center vs. call center: What's the difference?

Though the terms "contact center" and "call center" are often used interchangeably, there is a difference. While call centers primarily handle communication over conventional phone lines, contact centers support omnichannel communication via email, phone, messaging apps, chat, self-service portals and social media. 

In other words, call centers represent the outdated mode of communication that existed when customer service options were limited to phone calls. Today's contact center technology expands on this basic functionality to include more modern means of communication that can be personalized to transform the customer experience.

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What defines the modern contact center?

The modern contact center acts as the central hub from which agents shape official communications to customers across channels. But how exactly can contact centers elevate the customer experience and enhance agent performance?

Here are some of the key features that define modern contact centers:

Personalized self-service

Today's customers want to do things for themselves. At the same time, they also expect a personalized experience whenever they do reach out to an organization. An advanced and automated self-service contact center can help consumers interact via their preferred medium. Effectively using modern channels of communication is crucial to improving agent response times (in comparison to the lengthy hold times of traditional call centers).

Multichannel interaction, omnichannel capabilities

Omnichannel support is a must-have for today's cloud-based contact centers. Ensuring visibility throughout the customer journey requires intelligent routing within and across channels (i.e., email, live chat, messages, phone calls and support tickets). When adopted successfully, omnichannel service can improve customer experience, spur agent productivity, personalize communications and foster real-time engagement.

Next level touch-tone and IVR response

One of the most simple-yet-effective ways to improve the customer experience involves building an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system that's easy to use and navigate. Contact center IVRs let customers input responses via voice or touch-tone keypad selection. The IVR then identifies, segments and routes the caller to the most appropriate advisor within your team, helping reduce the number of redirects a customer might experience.

Workforce management

Every contact center faces the challenge of accurately forecasting demand and staffing accordingly. Modern contact centers feature workforce management tools that support multiple forecasting methods (e.g., static, dynamic, Excel data, data range, etc.). Such solutions feature intuitive interfaces that give managers more flexibility in scheduling agents while giving agents more visibility into changes to schedule, available shifts and even pending customer requests.

Real-time analytics

Organizations not only rely on contact centers to manage customer interactions, but to map out the customer journey as well. However, less than 10 percent of companies ever achieve a 360-degree view of the customer journey. This is where real-time analytics comes in -- to provide birds-eye-view insights into contact center operations that can help paint a clearer picture of the customer journey. These analytics can help organizations confidently remove any roadblocks to satisfaction.

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Contact center benefits

The contact center can be a valuable tool and market differentiator for organizations that consistently deal with high call volumes. Which is why it's no surprise the global industry is expected to grow to $149.58 billion by 2030 (and at a CAGR of 23.2 percent).

Let's review some of the key benefits of investing in modern contact center technology:

Improved customer experience

When your business is present and easily accessible across all channels, it's bound to capture a lot of customer data. Today's contact center solutions leverage that data to create enjoyable experiences for customers. You get a 360-degree view of your customers' needs, while customers get the freedom to choose their ideal communication channels. A win-win for everyone.

Faster agent onboarding and training

On top of enabling great experiences, cloud-based contact centers also include tools to improve the productivity and job satisfaction of agents and managers. AI-enabled intuitive dashboards make it easier for agents to engage with customers, giving them more control and confidence in delivering the right support. Plus, integrated solutions like IVR, proactive text messages and SMS assistants allow contact center agents to interact more efficiently, learn and get better at their job faster.

Improved agent/employee retention

Engaged and satisfied contact center employees are eight times more likely to stay in their job than leave within a year. This helps reduce turnover and the costs associated with hiring new agents.

Contact center solutions empower today's agents to deliver their best and can make it easier to advance their careers. With AI-enabled and omnichannel capabilities at their fingertips, agents can use a better understanding of the customer journey to handle the types of high-stress customer encounters that increase the likelihood of burnout. Modern contact centers can help reduce job complexity, drive agent engagement and retention, and streamline customer service.

Enhanced insight and visibility

Contact centers can use multiple communication channels to enrich customer interactions. The data collected from these interactions, including how agents operate in a given situation, can provide insights valuable to making informed business decisions. Such insights might identify hurdles, behavior triggers and quality issues in the customer journey. Insights can also be instrumental in making critical updates to product design.

Greater efficiency

Contact centers can improve business productivity by acting as a central point for customer interactions. An intuitive interface that aggregates requests across channels can help agents deal with incoming requests more efficiently and can lead to improved first-call resolution rates. Moreover, advanced features like IVR and prioritized callbacks can efficiently route requests to the most qualified agents, saving time for everyone involved.

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Improve your contact center technology experience today

As customers increasingly expect to connect with businesses whenever and however they wish, the ability to seamlessly handle such requests should be a top priority for all companies. Modern contact center solutions can deliver a true omnichannel experience to customers and agents alike.

At WWT, we help our contact center customers develop better engagement strategies, integrate new systems into IT environments, and deploy modern architecture that grow the bottom line while enhancing the customer experience.

Ready to empower agents and get the most from your contact center?