A service center – also known in our English-speaking friends as ‘customer interaction center’ or ‘customer service center’ – is a central point from which all customer interactions on different channels are managed. Their main objective is to provide customers with effective technical support, customer service and assistance of all forms, IT or not, commercial and others.
The service center typically includes one or more call centers, but may also include other types of customer contact, including email, chats, and social media interactions. Service centers are often integrated into the customer relationship management (CRM) strategy.
Service centers are becoming increasingly important as customers increasingly expect businesses to be constantly available on various channels, not just by phone, but also for different types of support requests IT or not. The multi-channel approach adopted by service centers allows them to create a better customer experience by refining customer service, increasing efficiency and improving their understanding of their customers’ behaviors and needs.
Service center versus call center
Service centers and call centers both offer customer service, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, the main difference between the two is that call centers only handle incoming or outgoing calls, while a service center offers multi-channel customer support, including email, chat, voice over IP (VoIP) ) and support for a web service portal.
The main features of a service center include:
- Advanced call distribution, which allows service providers (MSP: Managed Services Provider) – in particular their agents – to maximize the number of calls answered while maintaining a positive customer experience
- Real-time reports, which allow service centers to observe and analyze agent performance and customer satisfaction in real time on the different channels used
- Scripts, which provide agents with a framework to provide callers with effective support and generate the “Wow” effect
- Interchangeable missions, because the agents share contacts and objectives, thus allowing them to work in a team while having individual missions and particularities.
The modular infrastructure of the service center also allows managers to maximize the efficiency of the team while benefiting from better security measures, more secure data and increased flexibility (agility in the face of load variations).
While service centers perform various functions, call centers specifically manage massive amounts of telephone interactions, including monitoring of incoming calls and completion of outgoing calls. Like service centers, call centers typically support customer service, technical support, or business interactions. However, they can also be used for telemarketing, information gathering, debt or payment collection, and fraud prevention.
Service centers have several advantages over call centers. For example, service centers allow self-service i.e. to solve their own problems by offering a knowledge base, two-way instant messaging and keyword and text messaging or communication with a sculpin. Self-service reduces the time agents spend on the phone, reducing customer wait times and reducing overall costs.
Service centers also improve customer awareness. Whenever customers interact with service centers, they share information about their personal preferences and behavior, which is collected and used to improve their customer experience in future interactions. Call center agents can collect certain data through their calls, but the digital channels used by service centers make the process easier and more efficient. Service center software (ITSM) collects customer data for each channel used and compiles it into a single customer profile. Since most customers in the service center interact through multiple channels, more data is collected. This improves the ability of the service center to personalize the customer experience for specific calls and to better route their calls and other incoming communications.
Finally, service centers make better use of interactive voice response systems (IVS: Interactive Voice Server). Call centers use an IVR as an automated digital assistant that is operated over the phone via voice prompts and keyboard input. Unfortunately, the IVS used in the call centers sometimes makes it difficult to reach a living agent and the problems are resolved effectively. However, service centers configure their IVS taking into account the customer experience. In a service center, IVR is configured to predict the intention of the caller and direct callers to the most suitable agent. In other cases, IVR helps answer questions and resolve customer incidents without even involving live agents.
Service center technologies
Technologies used to maintain and improve the performance of service centers include:
- Automatic call distribution system (ACD). A computerized system that analyzes incoming calls and distributes calls based on various factors, such as the number called
- Response management system by e-mail. A system that collects and analyzes customer requests submitted by email, then routes requests to the appropriate agent.
- Interactive voice response system (IVS). A computer system that allows customers to use a keyboard or voice commands to provide information without the help of a human agent.
- Knowledge management system. A central repository of information that can be easily searched, which reduces the training time for agents.
- ATS / TDD communications. Teletypewriter (TTY) and telecommunications display devices (TDD) to assist the deaf and hard of hearing.
- Workforce management system. A computerized system that helps plan and staff agents and manage agent performance.
Service center systems often use call center software. For example, service centers can use virtual call center software to create a channel for remote agents to manage phone calls as if they were in a centralized call center. Service center software, however, often builds on these basic capabilities to further integrate service center services across different channels and enable routing of contact information, contact tracking, and data collection.
The benefits of service center software (ITSM) include the ability to integrate with CRM software; Improve the customer experience with better interaction monitoring capabilities and integrate it with social media. It also optimizes a client’s time thanks to a more direct and efficient service.
The future of service centers
As technology evolves and customers rely on more communication channels, service centers will need to continue to adapt and grow. Service center trends that have affected and continue to affect service center communications in recent years include:
- Social media – Social media platforms, such as Twitter®, have become popular customer communication platforms, making it important for businesses to support these channels.
- Mobile access – Customers request assistance with mobile-friendly communication services, such as application and text support.
- Video telephony – IP / video telephony services such as FaceTime® and Skype® allow customers to interact with businesses using video chat, enabling more personal face-to-face interactions.
- Advanced analytics – Analyzes are playing an increasingly important role in predicting customer behavior. Voice analysis is also used to monitor, assess and train employees in the service center.
A highlight of the future of service centers, looking at social media, mobile access and ‘video calling’.
In addition, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) technology are coming quickly. Both AI and AR should play a leading role in service centers. Currently, AI development has highlighted agent support tools that can listen to calls and follow agent prompts to analyze customer service recordings and suggest answers to customer problems during a conversation live. AR introduces the possibility of adding a visual element to the live interactions of agents and customers. Agents will be able to suggest and show solutions to technical problems that verbal descriptions by phone or chat cannot reproduce.
By Gérard Gomez, VP Managed Services at Quodagis IT