Dealing with customers is the best part of managing a business but it can be frustrating at times. However, it’s an essential factor that determines the success or failure of a business. Research shows that bad experiences cost businesses $4.7 trillion in global consumer spending every year.

Customer care is a prominent department in any major company. Businesses recognize the importance of positive customer experience and good reviews. 

However, handling customer complaints and providing support is a time-consuming process that requires skill and patience.

This is where answering services come in. Contact centers allow companies to prioritize their customer service and customer experience without sacrificing other vital aspects of business.

Contact center services ensure improved customer experience and increased customer satisfaction.

What is a Contact Center?

A contact center is a team of agents that work with modern software, AI, and automated processes to help a business deliver the best possible service and experience to its customers. 

Modern answering services provide customer support through various communication channels including phone calls, SMS, emails, website chat, and social media channels. 

Moreover, they can help businesses handle product returns or exchanges, advertise new products, schedule appointments for customers, and more. 

Key Characteristics

A contact center is recognized by several different characteristics and functions. All functioning contact centers have these three key characteristics.

1. Channel Choice
Customers have access to multiple communication channels through contact centers. Depending on the business and the preferred communication channels of its target market, contact centers can offer more than ten different channels including email, SMS, phone calls, website chat, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms to communicate with customers.

Your customers can choose what channel they prefer to use at any point in time.

2. Personalized Customer Service
Contact centers use various integrations including Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to collect and store information about every customer and provide more personalized customer service and experience.

3. Agent Skills
Agents are trained in communication across different channels, the use of various software, automation tools, service tools, analytics, and more. They also have vital soft skills like critical thinking and problem-solving that help them resolve customer queries effectively.

Contact center agents are multitaskers who are capable of fast learning and evolving to keep up with the constant developments in their industry.

6 Major Types of Contact Centers

There are different types of contact centers to cater to the needs of different businesses. Most answering services can be grouped under one of six major types.

1. Inbound

Inbound centers only handle incoming inquiries. They manage incoming inquiries from all communication channels including phone calls, email, and social media. 

Inbound contact centers use features like Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, call routing, and more to attend to customers. 

These centers can generate reports of customer interactions on all channels.

2. Outbound

Some companies have a dedicated team of agents that initiate calls and conversations with customers and leads to start a new transaction. 

This is called an outbound contact center. This center focuses on outgoing communication only and doesn’t receive incoming inquiries. 

Outbound answering services have a database of contacts that they call with the help of an automatic dialing technology. 

Companies use outbound centers for a wide array of functions including conducting surveys, generating leads, conducting market research, offering customer service, and more.

3. Multichannel

A team of agents handling inquiries on multiple communication channels at a time is called a multichannel contact center. 

They provide support to customers through phone calls, email, SMS, and social media channels. Multichannel centers generate analytics and reports from all channels.

They make use of IVR systems, CRM integration, live chats, and more.

4. Omnichannel

This type of contact center connects all the communication channels of a company so that agents have access to client’s past conversations on any communication channel. 

If a customer makes an inquiry via WhatsApp and two days later follows up on the same inquiry via email, all agents have access to the previous inquiry. 

This way, a different agent can follow up on the customer’s inquiry on a different channel. This allows both the customer and the agent to have a clear understanding of the issue and provides a positive customer experience.

5. On-premises

Modern technology has nearly eradicated the use of on-premises contact centers, however, some data-sensitive industries like banks and other institutions still use them. On-premises answering services attend to customers at a physical location. 

Customers would have to travel to the company’s nearest branches to make inquiries and complaints. 

These centers cost a lot of money and time because they require physical equipment and have fewer features and integrations.

6. Virtual/Cloud

This brings the on-premises centers closer to modern reality. Virtual centers work on the Internet. 

Agents log into a virtual interface via modern software to attend to customer queries. There’s no need for physical setups.

Main Features and Technology

Modern contact centers have a lot more to offer than a team of agents handling customer inquiries. With technology reaching several major milestones in the 21st century, contact services now come with various features to help businesses achieve more while doing less. 

  • CRM Integration

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software keeps records of customer information like their names, recent history, and other personal information. Integrating CRM with contact centers allows agents to understand and predict customer intent so that they can provide a more personalized experience to each customer.

  • Inbound and Advanced Call Routing

With inbound call routing, calls can be directed to any particular person or team without a long wait time. 

Call routing also provides the option to direct calls to agents with the fewest number of calls answered to promote efficiency. 

Advanced call routing (ACR) works with AI that allows the customer to explain why they are calling and then directs the call to the most qualified agent or team. 

ACR also monitors the queues for agents so it knows when they’re available for calls and advises callers on the right time to call back to speak to the right agent. In some cases, ACR eliminates the need for a human agent.

  • Website Chat

While some customers prefer to talk to human agents, chatbots are a quick and easy way to answer customer inquiries and provide support without a long wait time. 

When properly executed, a website chat with chatbots can help customers solve their problems, freeing up time for human agents to address more complicated inquiries.

  • Social Media Channel

Social media is an essential tool for businesses. 

Not only does it help with marketing, but it can also serve as a communication channel for contact centers. 

Similar to website chats, you can provide customer support through social platforms and social media monitoring and engagement. This helps customers avoid long wait times and boosts the company’s social media image.

  • Workforce Management

Workforce management (WFM) is a software that uses data to determine how many agents are needed to manage a business’s contact center at various seasons or times of the day. 

This ensures that they are accurately staffed and can be helpful if there’s a need for staff reallocation. 

  • Speech Analytics

Modern answering services integrate various forms of analytics to collect data from conversations with customers. 

Conversation or speech analytics are applied to certain portions of a call to gather information on emotional responses, trigger words, and tone changes. 

This information is analyzed to determine whether a call could have had a different outcome. Conversation analytics help to develop a more responsive and improved contact center and help in training agents.

4 Main Benefits of Incorporating a Contact Center

Every business stands to gain a lot from incorporating an answering service. Here are the four main contact center benefits for businesses.

1. Improves Customer Experience

Contact centers allow you to collate important data on customer preferences and spending patterns that can help you provide a better customer experience. 

For example, through customer support centers, you can track what issues your customers complain the most about and use that data to make needed changes that help your business. 

2. Saves Money and Time

As opposed to call centers, contact centers have a shorter wait time for customers because agents are available on multiple channels. 

Also, advanced solutions like chatbots and instant messaging allow for self-service so that customers can solve their problems without needing a live agent. 

This helps lower overall costs and wait time.

3. Enhances The Use of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems

In contact centers, IVR is created and used with the customer in mind. With call centers, customers are forced to deal with poor-responding robots that can be irritating and lead to a negative experience. 

Contact centers direct IVR systems to predict caller intent and direct customers to the right agent when necessary. This provides a positive experience while allowing for self-service.

4. Gives Better Information about Customers

The use of multiple channels in answering services makes it easier for businesses to create customer profiles. 

During interactions with contact centers, customers typically share personal information and preferences that help to analyze their spending patterns and behavior. 

Roles of Contact Centers in Businesses

You can use the services of a contact center for sales, customer support, on any other industry-specific features you business needs.

Contact centers can perform several tailored roles for any business. However, they are most often employed for these three roles:

1. Contact Support

Businesses use contact centers to handle their customer support. 

This is usually a dedicated team—however small—taking calls and messages from people to answer questions about products and services or handle returns and exchanges.  

2. Sales

Picture the old days when door-to-door salesmen went about promoting products for companies. 

Answering services do that nowadays. Some companies have a team of agents working with modern software for inbound sales that power dials phone numbers so that agents can advertise products to leads. 

This takes out the hassle of going from house to house or manually dialing numbers and allows agents to focus on landing sales.

3. Industry-Specific Functions

Whatever industry you operate in, your contact center can help you handle specialized tasks. 

For instance, if you run a store, your answering service can call or email past customers to inform them of new product arrivals and sales. 

If you’re in finance, you could use a contact center dedicated to debt collection.

How to Develop The Perfect Customer Support for Your Business

There is no one-size-fits-all contact center. Different businesses at different stages require specific tailored solutions for customer support. 

Consider these five points to help you choose the right vendor and build the perfect contact center.

1. Determine your business objectives

Choosing a contact center platform is building a partnership that is crucial to the success of your business. 

If you determine that you need 24/7 customer support, your platform should be able to support that. Make sure you go with a platform that understands your business objectives.

2. Determine communication channels

Your business has a target market. 

Your contact center is not for you, it’s for them. So the contact center needs to incorporate the communication channels your customers are already using. 

If the majority of your customers are eighty-year-olds, Instagram probably shouldn’t be one of your main helplines. 

Determine your communication channels and go with an answering service platform that supports all your channels.

3. Determine necessary analytics

Figure out what statistics you want to stay updated on. 

The contact center platform you choose should be one that can provide you with in-depth reports and analysis of customer data you want to monitor for company growth. 

4. Determine customer experience

Understand the correlation between positive customer experience and the volume of sales. 

You should only invest in a contact center that promotes positive customer experiences and in return boosts sales. 

5. Determine the budget for your contact center

Smaller start-up companies might have a smaller budget to work with while established companies can afford a larger budget. 

However, customer experience should always be at the forefront of a company’s priority. 

An investment into a modern contact center is a wise move for businesses of all sizes and the ROI of a good answering service always makes up for the cost.

FAQs

A call center works primarily over the phone. Customers have to call in to request services. 

A contact center works through various communication channels— including but not limited to phone calls —so that your customers can pick what works best for them.

The cost of contact center solutions depends on the specific needs of your company. These platforms have different pricing systems and subscription plans so you can choose what works best for you.

Modern-day contact center platforms offer advanced software features that allow companies to sync business data and customer information seamlessly. 

However, you should confirm that all your data can be integrated before signing up with any answering service.

Ensure The Best Customer Support with Personalized Services

If you have been running your business for a while, chances are you already have a contact center up and running. The more your business grows, the more you rely on your answering services to handle the onslaught of customer complaints and inquiries. 

Can your contact center handle it?

You need a team of professionally trained agents and up-to-date software and integrations to keep your business secure. 

A weak answering service means a bad customer experience which can harm your business down the road. 

Callzilla offers you state-of-the-art contact center services with affordable, easy-to-deploy live agent platforms with or without automation capabilities and AI. We have a strong portfolio of thousands of satisfied clients since we started in 2005. 

Request a consultation today.