A Multichannel World Raises The Stakes For Contact Centers

This article was originally posted on InsuranceNewsNet.Com by Cyril Tuohy. You can find it here. Financial services industry leaders say that in the next five years, contact center agents will be expected to service more complex inquiries and manage more efficient selling techniques. Suddenly, the stakes surrounding the importance of the contact center-- not long ago referred to as a call center -- have jumped as contact centers handle cross-selling, upselling, direct sales and routine inquiries through a phalanx of channels: the telephone, the Web, email, texting, social media, blogs and online ratings. "Trending within the organization as a whole, contact centers are going to be at the forefront of the customer touchpoints," Norah Denley, LIMRA senior research analyst, told InsuranceNewsNet. In the recent past, contact centers mainly handled simple inquiries -- a change of address on a policy or changing the frequency of premium payments, for instance -- and contact center agents did so mainly over the phone. Answering more complex inquiries was left to financial advisors and agents in the field who owned the relationship with customers. But for millions of young policyholders in the 21st century, the relationship with their carrier takes place through the contact center. One question now is how complex contact centers will become as carriers scramble to adapt their centers to handle more complex transactions through more channels. Another question is how serious companies will be in improving the customer experience with the contact center. LIMRA earlier this month found that 68 percent of executives from 46 financial services companies said they expect contact center agents to service complex inquiries over the next five years. The researchers also found that 61 percent of executives said they expect the contact center agents to cross-sell, 57 percent expect the agents to upsell and 55 percent said they expect agents to get involved in direct selling. Only 7 percent of executives said they expect an increase in the servicing of routine inquiries, the LIMRA researchers found. Conclusion: the importance of the contact center is on the rise, and companies need to turn the contact center into a "relationship platform." Robert McIsaac, principal at the insurance consultancy Novarica, said that contact centers have done a 180-degree turn. Agents and service representatives used to move queries through as fast as possible to customer service representatives who were able to pick up the next call. "Now you don't want to do that. You want to keep them on the phone for cross-sell and upsell and high value function," he said. Read the full article on InsuranceNewsNet, here.  

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