Metropolis - Providing an Alternative to the Contact Center

20 Oct 2016

During a recent UCStrategies podcast, we discussed the disruption taking place in the contact center industry and new ways of accessing contact center capabilities without having an ACD. Salesforce and Zendesk, for example, are leveraging WebRTC to provide contact center capabilities as part of their CRM offerings. As businesses look for new ways to improve the customer experience, new solutions are being introduced that eliminate or reduce the need for "traditional" call center technology. In addition, as companies focus on the "customer journey," they recognize that the customer journey involves more than the contact center - it includes any touchpoint a customer has with the company.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Metropolis Technologies, which offers QLive, providing an alternative way for companies to access call center capabilities "without a call center." These capabilities can be provided to call center agents, as well as to individuals who don't necessarily work in an organization's call center, such as sales teams, appointment schedulers, and so on. While these individuals are not necessarily call center agents, they need some of the same tools, and their managers need visibility into their performance.

Providing Contact Center Data Without the Contact Center

According to Metropolis, QLive provides a cost-effective way for various types of organizations to manage incoming calls and get visibility in real time. Rather than using an ACD, QLive provides "real-time monitoring tools that deliver views into the live call activity of the business." QLive provides many typical call center tools, such as wallboards that display the performance of queues, caller abandonment rates and agent activities, plus dashboard tools to view call data, display the performance of queues, caller abandonment rates, and agent activities. Agents and managers can see live calls route through the queues and observe changes in agent activities as they happen. With proactive KPI alerts, managers can get notified whenever there aren't enough agents available, when queues are backing up, or whenever service level drops.

All of these capabilities are typically available through ACDs and traditional call center technology, but what's really different is that QLive doesn't require a ACD or call center solution. Instead of using an ACD, QLive leverages the auto attendant and hunt group capabilities of a company's PBX to let them view changes in agent and call activity in real time. QLive integrates with Cisco and Avaya PBXs, letting organizations track KPIs based on call duration through the PBX itself, rather than requiring an expensive ACD. This type of solution may not always make sense for large, mission-critical contact centers, but is an interesting alternative for informal call centers, and especially for help desks and tech support.

New Tools for the Informal Call Center

When I first started talking to the folks at Metropolis, I was a bit skeptical - it seemed that QLive might be a solution looking for a problem. As we drilled down into some of the use cases, I realized that QLive is ideal for informal call centers and what I call the "call center without walls."

The term "informal contact center" is not easy to define - it can be a small/medium but structured organization with no ACD, like an internal help desk, or it could include an unstructured group of workers, such as sales, service, or technical support personnel that don't operate like a formal contact center, but still handle multiple incoming service requests.

The "call center without walls" can be an informal call center, or it can be an extension of a formal call center using "expert agents." Often times, the appropriate person to handle certain customer interactions is not a call center agent, but is a more experienced or specialized employee located elsewhere within the organization.

While these knowledge workers are not formal call center agents, they spend a good deal of their time answering the phone and responding to customer inquiries. They can be part of an informal call center, or not. Companies can benefit by having people throughout the organization, such as product experts in the company, provide customer service functions as well.

While the concept of informal call centers has always been well received, the actual use of non-formal call center agents to provide customer care has been limited. This is changing, and with the appropriate tools and technologies, companies can better serve their customers.

This is another area where Metropolis Technology's QLive comes in. Whether it's a car dealership's service center, a medical office, or any type of business, the customer experience is key. All types of companies need to know how long someone is on hold, how long it took for an interaction to get completed, and even how long before a customer becomes irate. In a typical sales and service center, if a caller needed assistance, a manager would page a rep and wait for a response. Now, with QLive's ability to see live calls and with visibility into who's available, the call can instead be routed to an available rep through the PBX. With reporting tools such as peak missed call reports per queue, organizations can benchmark and improve the performance of their teams.

No Contact Center Required

Businesses can leverage their existing PBX and use the hunt groups and native queuing and routing of the PBX to route calls to "informal" agents. Most PBXs provide hunt groups and/or native queueing as part of their core functionality. For example, Cisco Unified Communication Manager offers native queuing, Avaya Communication Manager and IP Office include hunt group routing, and Mitel has ACD routing. QLive uses this PBX functionality to give visibility into real-time calling activities and provide reporting and relevant data, without requiring companies to add a contact center layer.

By integrating closely with the customer's PBX through the data stream and data feed, QLive provides cradle-to-grave reporting, as well as real-time visibility into call activities and related metrics to let businesses actively manage live calls. Companies can see calls as they filter through the queues, and take action to improve their routing structure. In addition, they can proactively set alerts to monitor key statistics and KPI thresholds. If QLive identifies that there are less than two agents available, for example, or the service level has dropped, a manager gets an alert and can proactively manage the communication structure. Similarly, when they see in real time that all callers are pressing 1 for sales in the auto attendant, they can add additional queues or additional sales reps.

Metropolis notes that a challenge most companies face is that they don't have visibility into customer calling activity, and their only option is deploying a contact center layer, which involves additional management, managing new data, writing scripts, and so on.

By leveraging a company's existing PBX functionality, and providing tools such as wallboards, dashboards, and KPI threshold triggers, QLive lets organizations apply contact center metrics to their business. For example, sales teams can track call interactions and get real-time performance data. In addition, they can identify who is available for an incoming call and how many calls are in queue, and take appropriate action to improve the customer experience.

Here are some customer examples to help better understand how QLive can be used. Before using QLive, a franchise company was getting calls for information about franchise opportunities and was struggling to manage these calls. Once it deployed QLive, the company had visibility into calling metrics was able to monitor KPIs such as abandoned calls and handle time, and get alerts when there were issues. Based on this real-time information, they can now pull in additional people to handle the phone calls, reduce the abandon rate, and improve their franchise operations.

As another example, a bank wanted cradle-to-grave information with a better level of benchmarking detail for employees. Previously they had no visibility into call activity, but now they rely on QLive wallboards to show in real time who is available to take a call, who's answering the call, which calls are on hold, which calls are being transferred, etc.

An important part of the informal call center and call center without walls is the ability to bring in subject matter experts to provide assistance when on a call with a customer. Often times this information isn't captured, and the business has no insights into which experts assisted on the call, how long they were on the call, etc. QLive and its cradle-to-grave reporting makes it possible to see what happened in an interaction from beginning to end, and businesses can see if someone was conferenced into a call, and how much time they spent on the call, providing more insights to the organization.

Applying Contact Center Metrics to the Business

Chances are, when you evaluate your workers and their interactions with customers, you'll find that you have several groups of individuals who could benefit from these types of tools. You'll also find that there are many cost-effective products and services that can make these workers more effective when interacting with customers, thus increasing customer engagement and customer satisfaction.

As I mentioned, QLive isn't for companies that need a full-featured ACD. But for businesses that want to improve customer service and increase sales and are looking for alternatives, QLive offers a cost-effective approach, while providing the reporting and monitoring tools any organization needs.

This paper is sponsored by Metropolis.



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