Customer Engagement

Process Optimization Comes to Fruition

Figure 1: Insurance is just one example of the process improvement opportunity centers face.

Figure 1 shows an example for an insurance environment. Many different functions play a role in managing the overall customer relationship and experience. Yet, too often these groups operate independently and lack the tools to optimize processes. Banking, utilities, healthcare, technical support and other verticals suffer similar fates.

Because process-intensive labor constitutes the vast majority of contact costs — 67-76% according to our models (see “Cost Structure and Distribution in Today’s Contact Centers,” — we can agree that process optimization is a good thing. But why does it deserve heightened attention now? With new tools available, process redesign can be less demanding on resources than in the past.

You can target the low-hanging fruit and get some early wins without completely dismantling your current environment. Also, the market focus on unified communications (UC) has the whole organization thinking about tying the contact center to the enterprise — back office, subject-matter experts, etc. — so the strategic focus is shifting to an end-to-end process view. If you are not looking for ways to improve processes, you are missing a golden opportunity. In fact, chances are you can get more efficient while improving service, breaking the historical tradeoff between better service and lower cost and shifting to a new paradigm where you can have it all.

Learn What’s Possible

While no one wants to put their eggs in the “hype” basket, if we sift through the marketing messages, there are some very real technology possibilities. Understanding what’s possible with technology is critical to defining process improvements. Technology acts as the great enabler and a catalyst for process change.

Part of learning what’s possible is taking a hard look at what is in place, as there is a good chance it is underutilized. Contact center routing tools using computer telephony integration long ago enabled customer-centric routing to move a contact to the best resource based on customer relationship, account status, outstanding issues or other factors (sometimes referred to as intelligent routing or data-directed routing), but few have tapped this powerful capability to enhance processes.

Multimedia routing engines can handle not just phone calls, but media such as email, text chat and fax. Customer relationship management (CRM) and knowledge management (KM) tools often have “workflow” capabilities built into them, enabling actions tied to events or outcomes that can trigger appropriate process steps. But, again, few have tapped this power, and rather have used these tools as fancy desktop interfaces. They hold the potential to impact end-to-end processes not just in the contact center, but across the enterprise. It may be that your first investment is in application design with some of your in-place tools.

The “U” in UC is all about unifying various communication and collaboration tools. Agents can use presence and instant messaging (IM) to find available experts to help them address customer needs. They might use conferencing and shared collaboration tools to complete transactions, guide customers through Web-based activity, or even demonstrate or display information via video. All of these actions promote first-call resolution and elevate customer satisfaction.

CEBP is another hot technology area that is often bundled under the UC umbrella but deserves special recognition. Yes, BP stands for business processes and CE stands for communications- enabled, so the technology is enabling business process execution. For example, a customer’s account or order status changes, triggering an outbound notification call. Or a CSR completes a contact with a commitment for follow up, and the CEBP tool moves the follow up task onto a work queue for the appropriate group or person, complete with tracking and reminders to ensure the commitment is met. CEBP tools vary widely, some leveraging proven tools such as IVRs, multimedia routing engines and outbound dialing capabilities.

Some CEBP solutions, such as Avaya’s Communication Process Manager and Event Processor, automate the communication or information flow within a process to facilitate actions, decisions or collaboration. Others are moving into endto- end enterprise process automation. Vendors such as Interactive Intelligence, through their Interaction Process Automation (IPA) product, and Genesys, through their intelligent Workload Distribution (iWD) product, use the foundation of their contact center routing engines to expand into automating enterprise processes through intelligent routing, monitoring and reporting on work objects other than just inbound/outbound contacts.

If you have a business process management initiative in your organization, you may have access to a business process management suite (BPMS). BPMS vendors, such as Pegasystems or Lombardi Software provide total enterprise process modeling, changing, monitoring, reporting, analyzing and alerting. While these vendors are not traditional contact center vendors, you can certainly take advantage of their enterprise solutions. The breadth of vendors in this market shows that this concept is not just a passing fad.

Desktop-based process analysis tools by companies such as Knoa and desktop application integration and process automation tools by companies such as Open Span Technologies, Jacada and Cicero can help companies optimize desktop processes by identifying the opportunity and enabling the optimization. Performance tool vendors, such as Verint Systems and NICE Systems, also offer desktop analysis for performance optimization opportunities, including looking at back-office applications and capturing data about time spent in different tasks through desktop activity.

Business user and IT collaboration are key elements of success for today’s process-oriented tools, but some recent changes are helping keep the process moving in spite of IT time constraints. Most of the technologies can be either premise-based or hosted (aka on-demand, “cloud-based” or SaaS). Companies can manage technology in-house if they have the appropriate resources and skills, or achieve new things with less demand on IT by using a servicebased model.

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