Integrated vs Unified: Putting the Pieces Together

Five reasons why contact centres must get unified

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By  Mike Sheridan Published  August 8, 2008

Imagine your contact centre as a jigsaw puzzle, but a different puzzle maker has provided each of the pieces. One created the automatic call distributor pieces, another the voice portal pieces, another the predictive dialer piece, and still others the Internet contact, workforce management, recording and quality management pieces. Completing the puzzle to make it look like the picture shown on the lid of the box has become a futile effort - the pieces just won't fit the way they should.

Providing better service to the customers should be the focus, not getting the disparate contact centre systems to work together. Custom integrations can be cost-prohibitive, labor-intensive and potentially very time-consuming and burdensome. Implementing upgrades or adding new capabilities in an environment like this only adds to that challenge. And, reporting and administration become a veritable nightmare when trying to pull information from multiple systems.

Wished there was a single, master craftsman who could build, run and maintain your contact centre, regardless of the shape or size? What if there was a way that you could have everything fit together, literally, out of the box?

Well, there is.

The solution to your perplexing contact centre puzzle and its many different pieces and parts is a unified solution. By administering, managing, monitoring, and driving the performance of the contact centre - inbound and outbound calls, emails, chat sessions, faxes, staffing, productivity and more - from a single unified platform, you can increase flexibility, reduce complexity, lower costs, inspire customer loyalty, and enhance productivity. Most importantly, a unified contact centre puts control in the hands of those closest to the customer - your business managers.

The Tyranny of Integration

Many contact centres make the expensive mistake of not differentiating between unified and integrated. In an effort to address the pressing customer service, collections, or sales and telemarketing needs of a growing business, companies turn to point solutions. As a result, most established contact centres today are integrated contact centres, where point solutions from various vendors have been cobbled together to give the appearance of a ‘single' solution.

Five Reasons Why Contact Centres Must Get Unified

By uniting multiple capabilities in a single platform, contact centres have complete control and can forever break the tyranny of integration. For new and existing contact centres alike, the benefits of implementing a unified solution are real, measurable and very tangible, unlike those of an integrated centre.

1. Increased Flexibility

Gone are the days of living at the mercy of multiple vendors to help make one small change to a campaign, self-service menu or call flow. With a unified contact centre, organizations can dynamically adjust to changing business conditions or peaks and valleys in traffic without requiring highly technical resources or intervention from multiple vendors.

2. Reduced Complexity

With all customer contact channels being managed on a single platform, administration and reporting become infinitely simpler. What's more, all rules related to routing, workflow, agent skills and prioritization are managed centrally so any change or new input is reflected across the entire system in real time. Similarly, consolidated monitoring and recording enables real-time monitoring and recording of each customer contact from call initiation to call completion. Ultimately, this means more accurate and consistent treatment of customers - or a better overall customer experience.

3. Lower Costs

No integration means zero hours or dollars spent on integration. It's that simple. Because a unified solution can work with existing infrastructures, contact centres can migrate from an integrated environment to a unified one without losing previously made investments in other systems.

There is no "rip and replace" required. As certain technologies become end of life, or the capabilities of existing applications no longer meet strategic objectives, a contact centre can begin to implement this unified solution by adding licenses for specific functionality as it is needed. And, because it's considerably easier to troubleshoot issues in a unified environment, it doesn't require hours to identify which system is causing the problem, resulting in even more cost savings.

4. Enhanced Customer Satisfaction

With a unified contact centre, the big picture is revealed not only to management but to the agents working on the frontlines with customers. With real-time access to information centralized from front-and back-office systems, agents have clearer view than ever before and can make helping customers their number one priority, over finding customer information from various places. A better informed agent will know that the customer sent an email yesterday, and had a web chat with another agent three days ago. The agent can use this data to more quickly and efficiently resolve the customer's inquiry, resulting in increased customer satisfaction.

5. Greater Agent Productivity

With a unified solution, agents log into one system, versus multiple systems, with multiple logins, multiple times per day. The ability to toggle between inbound and outbound services, to change from answering a call to answering an email, or to move from one campaign to another when traffic changes helps agents save time and resolve customer inquiries much faster. In addition, this simplified process provides agents with the tools they need to be successful and so leads to a happier, more productive workforce.

Get Unified

Remember the jigsaw puzzle we talked about?

You can now control the chaos by leveraging on a unified solution. It is the affordable, attainable, flexible, reliable way to break the tyranny of integration. At the end of the day, increasing flexibility, reducing complexity, lowering costs, enhancing customer satisfaction and improving productivity are responsibilities that fall across the entire organization, not just the contact centre, and all add up to positively impact the bottom line.

And really, the bottom line is on everyone's mind, whether they know it or not. Increasing flexibility, reducing complexity, lowering costs, enhancing customer satisfaction and improving productivity are responsibilities that fall across the entire organization, not just the contact centre, and all add up to positively impact the bottom line. This is why getting unified is in every contact centre's future. The question is when, not if.

Mike Sheridan is SVP of Strategy at Aspect Software.

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