Not many parts of the business have as much contact with customers as do call centers. Call or Contact centers are the nerve centers that handle a variety of sales order transactions, customer complaints, requests for information, product support and other interactions with existing and prospective clients.
More often than not the call center serves as the most visible public face of the organization. When customers or prospects get in touch with the call center by phone, email, fax, instant messaging, social network or some other means, the impressions they get from the experience are likely to have a lasting impact in terms of their view of the company. The culmination of these impressions are also the single greatest influence toward achieving customer loyalty and ultimately determining whether the customers do additional business with the company.
Think about experiences you’ve had with companies and their contact centers. Didn’t the experience—good or bad—affect the way you think – and talk – about that company regardless of the quality of its products or services? Was a contact center agent’s lack of knowledge, preparation or professionalism enough to make you want to hang up the phone in exasperation – and then tell your friends or colleagues of the experience?
Indeed, one bad experience can make a customer take his or her business elsewhere. And multiple bad experiences can lead to an exodus of customers, which affects company revenue, market share and corporate reputation. A wide body of industry research has shown that many people say the main reason for their dissatisfaction with a company is poor customer service or a bad experience with a contact center. In the current era of social media, bad customer experiences can be instantly magnified and lead to long term damage to the brand.
To operate the most efficient and effective call centers possible, companies need to equip their agents with powerful, data-rich applications that enable them to provide optimum service to customers and prospects. Customer Relationship Management software is vital to achieving call center agent productivity and customer satisfaction.
CRM software enables agents or other people interacting with customers to quickly access needed information about accounts, products, warranties, services and historical transactions. Having accurate, up-to-date information at hand is vital if a call center interaction is to be successful from a customers perspective.
With CRM systems for call centers, incident response, case management and customer support are more streamlined and agents can achieve faster resolutions, or quickly assign incidents to others who are in a better position to help the customer. Customer service representatives can share information and insights about customers and incidents with others in the organization who need this information to solve for the customer.
Customer relationship management applications enable organizations to automatically track and measure customer requests, incidents and fulfillment so they can gauge how well the call center is performing and recognize where improvements are needed. The potential result of all this is that customers receive faster and more responsive service, and are therefore more likely to be satisfied with the interaction and keep doing business with the company.
But the benefits of CRM systems in the call center go well beyond improved service and customer retention. Call centers can feed customer interaction information into databases, giving organizations a valuable data resource to use for marketing programs, advertising campaigns, sales efforts and other customer facing business processes.
Information about customers and transactions can indicate short-term patterns and long-term trends, which companies can act on to achieve improved operational results and customer relationships. CRM applications also help call center reps with cross-selling and up-selling efforts. By having all the information they need to know about customers’ purchasing histories, preferences, expectations and needs, call center reps are able to suggest related products and services that may interest customers.
The knowledge gained from CRM programs can empower call center agents to function well beyond just answering inquiries and dealing with complaints, or forwarding calls to other people within the organization. They can handle a variety of actions, including pre-sales queries, order processing, credit memos, return merchandise authorizations (RMAs), customer support, product recommendations and post-sales services.
From the customer’s standpoint, each contact with the call center can become a more personalized and rewarding experience. The customer will be confident that the agent is knowledgeable about his needs and concerns, and that can go a long way toward ensuring satisfaction, repeat business and customer loyalty.
Having an effective call center can help businesses acquire and retain customers and expand their relationships with their most valuable customers. CRM software systems are clearly one of the most critical IT applications for contact centers.