Fact: anyone who’s qualified to take a call is qualified to make a call.
So why would a contact center recruit two different teams for these tasks?
Sometimes they have a good reason.
But most often they’re boxed in by processes, resources or just uncertainty; if that’s you, read on.
Here are the ingredients for your blended contact center
There are four things you’ll need as a bare minimum to create a blended service.
#1 An outbound dialer integrated with CRM
Does anyone still handle dialing manually? Maybe on rotary phones?
Ok – if you’re moving from 100% inbound to blended, maybe you won’t have an auto dialer.
Well, you’re going to need one.
Best advice? Shop around. Get to grips with your needs – buy the dialer that meets them.
BUT – make sure you can easily integrate that dialer with your CRM. That’s *vital* because:
- You need to make sure your processes work consistently across both inbound and outbound
- You need an automatically generated record of which calls were placed
- You need the ability to assign certain call types – or even specific customers – to certain agents
So long as you have dialer/CRM integration, that’s easy. If not – prepare to do a lot of boring work, by hand.
#2 Dynamic automation that changes agent roles
A lot of contact centers start with ‘ad hoc’ blending – just to see how it performs.
Well, I can tell you now; it doesn’t perform very well. It’s like jumping into a boxing ring with the local heavyweight to find out whether you’re any good at boxing. You’ll just end up with bruises.
If you’re going to offer blended service, do it right.
Find an affordable way to automate a structured process – with a simple trigger – to decide when agents should switch tasks.
For example, your trigger might be incoming call volume. At the time of day when volume is generally lowest, a proportion of high-performing agents shift to outbound calling.
Starting with that simple idea, you can build in as much nuance as you like. Your trigger is forecast volume, but one condition is actual volume. Another condition is staffing levels. You get the idea.
(btw, yes – that’s something you could easily create with the babelforce platform. Our users do it all the time.)
#3 Real-time data for your agents
Given the advanced state of CTI in 2020, it’s baffling that some call centers still don’t know who’s calling them.
But you *definitely* need to know who it is you’re calling.
So… if you have agents switching to outbound calls – and you have a predictive dialer handling the actual dialing – you’d better provide them with customer information quickly.
You can break this into two parts.
First, CRM integration. (Luckily you already covered that in part 1.) The CRM needs to integrate with the dialer so it’s not just calling a ‘number’. It’s calling a specific customer profile with contextual data.
Second, you need a handy little automation to present that data to the agent. The babelforce approach (for example) is to provide a pop-up in the corner of the screen. That way, you never get those awkward pauses while the agent figures out what they’re supposed to do.
*(Tip: it’s helpful to assign each agent a consistent ‘type’ of call. Don’t give them a sales call, followed by a feedback request, followed by a service query. Variety is good over the course of a day. Consistency is good over the course of an hour.)
#4 Automated call scheduling
This is the nuts and bolts bit. The whole point of a blended contact center is to work more efficiently and to *save money*.
A big chunk of those savings come from greater agent utilization. However, you’ll squander those savings if there’s still manual work to do.
Once you’ve crossed the first three tasks off this list then you’ll know how to integrate your tools.
The same thing applies here; CRM+Dialer = call lists.
You’ll need an automation that creates a call list for the dialer to work from. Depending on your needs, it should be able to do things like:
- Recycle unanswered outbound calls
- Follow up abandoned calls (especially high priority/VIP contacts)
- Schedule callbacks for virtual queueing
- Identify churn risk customers
- Call back from an IVR interaction
That should be enough to start with.
Why bother creating a blended contact center?
You probably (hopefully) know your own motivations are already.
But if you’re on the fence, here are some popular reasons:
Because a blended contact center is more flexible
However good you are at forecasting, there are always unexpected dips and spikes. As a result, agents typically spend around 25% of their day ‘idle’. Even if you’re *brilliant* at forecasting, it’s not economical to keep enough agents+backups around.
- Your average speed to answer (ASA) goes off a cliff, or
- You run an expensive contact center
Third option? Give them something else to do. Not training – unstructured training time doesn’t tend to be very sticky. Not admin tasks either – your aim should be to automate those.
Your best option is outbound calls. Agents can pursue sales, make scheduled callbacks or do the outreach that skyrockets customer relationships.
Because a blended contact center means consistent service
Not every query can be answered in the first call. Not every sale can be made on the first attempt.
Consistency is a big theme in customer service. Over a third of customers say that the ability to follow up with the same person is a key element of great service.
Routing to the same agent is a difficult (not impossible) task. Other elements of great service are far simpler to reach.
For example, customers value proactive service very highly. In fact, 87% of customers want your business to be proactive about solving their problems. That means reaching out in situations which could become problems.
Because a blended contact center is good for agents
Agent attrition is one of the biggest (and most expensive) issues in this industry, with turnover typically between 35-40%.
But research from McKinsey shows that the happiest agents are the ones who feel most empowered to help customers.
(Specifically, agents who say they’ll stay put for at least another year are *three times* more likely to feel empowered.)
And what does that empowerment look like? The crucial ingredient is the ability to case-manage situations through to their conclusions.
The McKinsey research also highlights another benefit: the single biggest factor in retention is professional development. Being responsible for case management and proactive outreach would tick that box.