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Call centers as social media hubs

Contact centers were once 95% voice but now social media represents almost half the load

By , Network World
January 27, 2014 04:40 PM ET
Marty Beard
Marty Beard

Network World - Contact centers are changing rapidly with the arrival of cloud technology and the ability to interact with customers over new social channels, including Twitter. The transformation has implications for everything from how companies deal with customers to the role agents play and how internal groups are best organized. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix caught up with the CEO of LiveOps, Marty Beard, for his take on where we stand and where we're headed.

Let’s start by getting a sense of where LiveOps fits into the contact center market?

Most of the hardware, software and networking that has enabled the industry to date has been on-premise in these huge contact center environments. And just like almost every other part of the technology stack, now it’s going to the cloud. LiveOps is a pure cloud provider. So we come into existing environments and say, “Look, you don’t need all this gear, you don’t even need the phone sets on the desks of your agents. That’s all in the cloud. You connect to our cloud and provide better service to your end users. Your agents become more productive and they can deal with many different channels.” 

You’ll hear me use the word channels a lot. Contact centers used to be 95% voice-only. That’s now dropped to about 55% of interactions, with email and web chat and Twitter and Facebook and all kinds of different mobile and social channels making up the rest. So the overall number of interactions have increased, but the traditional market has been disrupted by cloud, mobile and social, and we believe we’re leading a lot of that change.

Did you start as cloud-only?

When we started over 10 years ago we built a platform that enabled people working out of their homes to become contact center agents on-demand. If you wanted to give it a 2013 label you would call it labor-in-the-cloud. So the original focus was on the people side. We’d say, “Hey, we have 20,000 Americans that are part of the LiveOps ecosystem and they’re ready to help augment your own agents. So, you have the holidays coming up and you wish you had another 200 people manning the phones? We can do that, except they’re going to be working virtually.”

That was the original idea, and we still offer that. But the emphasis of company -- technology development and marketing and everything -- is really focused on the cloud platform business.

How does that cloud work?

We sell a contact center cloud platform and have about 400 enterprise customers. So when a new agent starts, all they need is a browser. They launch a browser on their computer, connect into the LiveOps cloud and, depending on what they’re authorized to see or trained to do, they’ll see either one or multiple channels. They could be just authorized to answer the phone, or they could see all of the channels, which means they’re authorized to handle customer interactions via mobile, social, voice, etc. 

Web chat with an agent, for example, is incredibly popular. And Twitter has become a major way customers are asking for help or complaining about something or even celebrating something. Email is fairly consistent. SMS, somebody texting for help, is really popular, but not as much in North America. And Facebook posts are also pretty big, but nowhere near as active as Twitter. The fastest growing would be web chat and Twitter. 

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