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SOA Innovation Applied

Leveraging web services to boost first-contact resolution

Are you a victim of outdated call center design syndrome? Symptoms include chaotic agent desktops, frustrated agents, miserable first-contact resolution rates, and angry customers calling back again and again.

If you recognize these symptoms, then you're most likely a victim. This article will offer a service-oriented architecture (SOA)-based cure for outdated call center syndrome. A customer perspective of unique new integration capabilities enabled by SOA will illustrate the value of embracing this approach to power new services in the contact center, the enterprise, and between the two.

The Problem
Many contact centers today have outdated design elements creating artificial boundaries between user interfaces and system administration. Customer service representatives are frequently forced to juggle a wide array of tools while attempting to serve a customer using the requisite CRM system, e-mail, collaboration tools, instant messaging (IM), outbound calling scripts, and maybe more.

The agent desktop can become a jumbled mess of disconnected systems. This causes terrible operational inefficiencies for the business plus high frustration levels for both the agent and the customer. Somewhere in the middle of navigating multiple systems while an impatient customer explains this is the third time he's calling, the agent's focus shifts away from the customer's request to, "Where did I put that mobile number for that technical guy?"

Contact center managers will almost universally agree that they are measured on customer satisfaction levels with the services the center provides.

They will also admit that existing system fragmentation often hinders the ability of agents (and subject matter experts) to get a customer's inquiry or problem resolved in one call - a metric known as first call resolution (FCR).

The result? Substandard customer service and miserable FCR rates, which can barely be measured because of the fractured nature of legacy contact center systems.

The Business Goal
The business goal, therefore, is to have a high FCR rate. High FCR indicates the center's staff is enabled to satisfy customers the first time they call. This in turn creates loyal customers who are likely to spend again. One hundred percent FCR is the elusive goal, but it's nearly impossible to achieve or measure today. Most systems deployed today were designed using proprietary standards intended for a single use only, and only within the walls of the physical center. Those systems were never intended to integrate with other software or processes that could provide a major boost in FCR.

Enter the era of unified communications (UC) architected on SOA and built on open standards. This is communications software designed for maximum integration into other applications and business processes with shorter development cycles and potentially lower deployment costs.

These new solutions provide contact center agents and managers with a single view of all available customer databases, corporate directories, and communications capabilities. If the center's manager is logged in from an airport, then she sees the same view she'd see within the walls of the center. If an agent is permanently home based, the UC-based solution provides all the capabilities and information that the agent would have without the real estate expense for the business or the commute for the agent.

More Stories By Graciela Tiscareño-Sato

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato is a senior global marketing manager for Unified Communications with Siemens Enterprise Communications, an insightful speaker, and a published business technology writer. She has a unique global perspective on how and where UC solutions, architected on SOA, are being successfully implemented by organizations around the globe. She is based in San Jose, California.

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