Contact Center: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

Learn about contact centers, how they differ from call centers and 4 scenarios in which a business needs to move its customer support operations to a contact center immediately.

Bhavna Gupta
December 25, 2023
8 min read

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Table of Contents

What is a contact center? 

A contact center is a specialized department within a company that handles customer interactions on various platforms. It can be on-premise or in-cloud; in-house or outsourced; inbound, outbound or hybrid, depending on organizational goals, infrastructure and resources. Contact centers are set up to deliver timely and personalized customer service on all communication channels by resolving customer queries, troubleshooting issues and keeping customers engaged with the brand. They aim to improve customer satisfaction and customer retention by being accessible and available to customers, no matter what channel they choose for interaction.  Contact center activities may vary by organizational goals, but typically include: 

  • Offering information on website navigation, product usage, return policy etc. 

  • Answering customer questions 

  • Delivering personalized shopping recommendations 

  • Gathering customer information 

  • Analyzing customer service metrics 

  • Soliciting customer feedback 

To enable these activities, contact centers leverage technologies - such as call routing, customer self-service, customer surveys and analytics – that work in unison to deliver a harmonious experience that delights customers, prospects and leads alike and keeps them loyal to the brand. 

What are the benefits of contact centers?

In a competitive ecosystem, stellar customer service is a failproof way to ensure customer loyalty and repeat sales. These are just two of the ways contact centers can benefit your business. Let’s discuss them in detail. 

1. Consistent brand experiences

The modern customer expects predictability when they engage with brands on different platforms. They don’t want to be repeating their information and past interactions every time they connect with a brand. They expect brands to know everything about them and gratify them with context-rich resolutions almost instantly. That’s where contact center software plays a vital role. It has visibility into cross-platform conversations so your support teams have complete context on each case when it’s handed to them. All your agents speak in the same voice, which helps win customer trust.   

2. Improved customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention 

As explained, quick contextual responses go a long way in winning customer trust and loyalty. When customers feel heard and valued, their customer satisfaction (CSAT) shoots up, which keeps them coming back to the business. As a result, customer retention goes up — arguably the biggest win for contact centers in this hyper-competitive business landscape.  

3. Increased sales 

Contact centers leverage AI to detect sales readiness in a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) using predefined criteria like CSAT and net promoter score (NPS). Sometimes, it listens in on conversations amidst its target audience and picks up sales signals proactively. Thereafter, it alerts the pre-sales and sales team to capture moments of need with product recommendations. With sales, marketing and support teams working in unison, sales soar organically.  

4. Deep customer insights

Contact center analytics collates insights about customers, their needs, interests and challenges in real-time. Deep customer insights like this fuel everything from customer support to sales campaigns, enabling you to become your customers’ preferred brand.  

Suggested article: Contact center CRM: A detailed guide  

5. Reduced cost of support 

With all your customer data in one place, your agents spend their productive time on query resolution rather than information gathering. Your average handle time (AHT) and first contact resolution (FCR) come down. Moreover, agent productivity improves, reducing churn and the subsequent hiring and training costs. Lastly, contact centers are able to deflect costly voice calls to cost-effective channels like email, WhatsApp and live chat, impacting your ROI positively.   

Sprinklr's inbound voice module deflecting calls from phone to WhatsApp

Source

💡Pro Tip: To get the most bang for your buck, consider cloud contact centers that come out cheaper than on-prem solutions. They are able to scale rapidly as your business grows without compromising uptime and support speed.

Are there any challenges or limitations of contact centers? 

Like all good things, contact centers come with certain limitations, mainly pertaining to: 

Loss of control: Outsourcing your customer support operations means the risk of losing control over your customer data, platforms and CRM records. You also have lesser control over your agent training and support performance, which can impact your customer experience adversely in the long term.  

Solution: AI scoring in agent training can eliminate subjectivity in performance measurement and create a culture of high performance. You can gauge every element of agent-customer conversation – from greeting to closure – and set benchmarks for your agents to meet and exceed. 

Compliance issues: Contact center agents handle sensitive customer information day in and out. If the information is compromised for any reason, it can be catastrophic for the business, unleashing PR backlash on an unmanageable scale. 

Solution: With stringent contact center compliance at every level, you ensure all legal and industry regulations are met and potential crises are averted in time. 

Change management: Migrating your operations from traditional call centers to modern contact centers is sometimes perceived as a challenge, especially when hiring blended agents who can handle cases from all kinds of channels.  

Solution: Look for seamless integration in your contact center software in order to continue delivering an uninterrupted experience to your customers, no matter the platform they use. The software should integrate with the legacy voice customer support systems you were using erstwhile.  

Contact center vs. call center 

Gone are the days when a simplistic call center suffices as a customer support touchpoint for modern brands. Customers are everywhere and so should your brand. That’s why it’s vital to consider contact centers that can provide omnichannel customer service with agility and quality. 

Call centers and contact centers are vastly different in channel coverage, agent skills and performance metrics. Let’s take a closer look at their differences. 

Parameter 

Call Center 

Contact center 

Communication channels 

Single channel – phone calls 

Multichannel – phone calls, email, live chat, social media etc. 

Interaction type 

Inbound and outbound voice calls 

Manages all kinds of omnichannel customer interactions 

Agent skills 

Proficiency in voice-based communications 

Proficiency in handling channel-agnostic interactions 

Data integration 

Limited view of customer data fetched from call transcripts & CRM 

Holistic and comprehensive view of customer data from all channels of communication 

Scalability 

Limited owing to single-channel focus 

Flexible owing to wide channel coverage 

Technology 

Uses basic call center technology such as call center scheduling and call management 

Uses sophisticated technology for customer engagement and personalization 

Cost 

Costly since it operates on live calls 

Cost-effective since it operates on many offline and asynchronous channels apart from phone calls 

Dig deeper: Contact center vs. call center: Core differences 

When should businesses opt for contact centers? 

Needless to say, contact centers are the future of customer service. They are here to stay. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not only enterprises or large-format global brands that can afford contact centers. Companies of all shapes and sizes can embrace the contact center format and delight their customers, stakeholders and teams with stellar customer support that’s also light on the pocket and quick on its toes. 

Here are a few scenarios in which a company should switch to a contact center as early as possible or risk losing their hard-earned customers to more savvy competitors.  

📲Scenario I. Multichannel customer support 

If your business receives customer communications from many disparate channels like phone calls, emails, messaging platforms, social media and review platforms, you need a contact center to centralize all these disjointed conversations and weave support experiences that are consistent and speedy. 

Migration roadmap 

  • Assess your communication channels 

  • Pick a contact center solution that serves all of these channels 

  • Train or hire blended agents conversant with cross-channel support 

  • Build omnichannel workflows to ingest tickets seamlessly 

📈Scenario II. Fluctuating customer demand A business that experiences seasonal spikes and dips in customer demand can benefit from deploying a contact center for support. It can scale up and down as needed to prevent under- or overstaffing anytime of the year.   

Migration roadmap 

  • Identify the periods of high and low demand 

  • Select a solution with efficient workforce management (WFM) 

  • Build strategies for on- and offboarding seasonal agents 

💱Scenario III. Global expansionary plans If you have designs to expand your operations to international locations, a contact center would suit your needs best. Many of these solutions are remote-friendly, drawing from an international resource pool so you can cater to customers from many languages and cultures. 

Migration roadmap 

  • Identify your target regions 

  • Choose a solution that supports multiple languages 

  • Develop SOPs and training assets in all your languages 

  • Ensure your customer self-service tools like chatbots and knowledge base are language-agnostic 

In addition, if proactive customer engagement and data-driven decision-making are a priority for your business, contact center is the route to take. You can start with an on-prem solution and then scale to a cloud contact center as your needs expand.  

How to implement your contact center To implement a contact center for your business, here’s a tentative roadmap to follow stepwise: 

  1. Assessment: Analyze your customer communication challenges and challenges. Plus, look into the organizational goals that you aspire to attain with your contact center. Your analytics and contact center metrics will stem from this step. 

  2. Platform selection: Which platforms do you need to prioritize in your customer service strategy? You will arrive at this answer by tuning in on the platforms, your customers, prospects and leads frequently. Keep an eye on the platform list while vetting contact center solutions. 

  3. Integration: Using different point solutions for different aspects of support can lead to chaos for teams and customers alike. So ensure your chosen contact center software integrates with external tools for helpdesk, ticketing, call center scheduling, customer self-service and other activities.  

  4. Workflow design: Define your customer journeys, and perform customer segmentation and complaint management. After that, set workflows for how tickets flow into your contact center and how they flow through the system. 

  5. Pilot phase: Test your contact center strategy on a small sample group of customers closest to your target group. Define the objectives and watch how your workflows perform against them. Document all your observations, including relevant metrics like CSAT, NPS and customer effort score (CES).  

  6. Scaling up: From the pilot group, scale to your actual group, adding one region and channel at a time. Solicit feedback from the group using customer surveys and interviews and use it to optimize your contact center operations and performance. 

Future trends in contact centers 

There are many trends that reflect the evolving landscape of contact centers and align with the latest advancements in technology, customer expectations and workforce management. Incorporating these trends into your content marketing platforms can be highly valuable for your target audience. 

Out of these trends, remote and hybrid working is the most prevalent. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work in contact centers. Even as the situation evolves, many contact centers are embracing hybrid work models, combining in-office and remote agents. This trend provides flexibility for agents, allows for a broader talent pool and enhances business continuity. 

Read more: 3 pillars to future-proof your contact center   

CCaaS is the future of contact centers  

To summarize, contact centers facilitate quick, consistent and omnichannel support that engages customers and keeps them away from competition. But if you truly want to delight your customers, leverage contact center as a service (CCaaS).  

But why? 

With CCaaS, there’s no infrastructure and maintenance costs associated with a physical contact center because your operations live in the cloud. The cloud service provider is responsible for setting up, upgrading and maintaining all the hardware, liveware and software in the contact center, allowing you to focus on strategic decision-making to power business growth. 

When it comes to CCaaS, Sprinklr Service is your only choice. Powered by our proprietary AI engine that can process millions of interactions in seconds with unmatched accuracy, you can service multiple channels and customers concurrently. Try it for FREE and take your support from good to great. 

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