Call center

Social channels spur big changes in contact center certification

Companies can expect big changes in contact center certification beginning next year as top industry providers, including J.D. Power and Associates and the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), overhaul their assessment programs by adding new criteria for such technologies as social media.

“It is great that our agents are doing what they need to do, but you have to bring in those other channels,” to the certification process, said Kim Kasin, director of the retirement and benefits contact center for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which has been a J.D. Power-certified contact center since 2005. She noted that 91 percent of the participants in the retirement and benefits plans are now interacting online with the company.

Kasin said she is participating on the J.D. Power round table that is determining what new best practices should be included in the 2013 certification program, which will be for the first  time designated as a “contact center”  assessment instead of a “call center” program. It will include standards for chat, Web and social media channels. The current program as well as the 2012 program is a call center assessment that zeros in on phone and interactive voice response, or IVR, operations. However, many contact centers are increasingly folding in social channels to their core operations.

J.D. Power has offered call center certification programs since 2003. Each year, it adjusts the number of guidelines and top considerations based on surveys it conducts of its clients’ customers, said Mark Miller, senior director of the contact center practice. But the 2013 program will represent the biggest change to date because it extends beyond traditional call center operations.

ICMI to test managers’ social skills

Other certification programs are getting overhauled as well, including those focused on individual call center managers and agents, such as the program from ICMI.

The organization will roll out a new set of training and testing modules in 2012 that will include assessments on social technology and practices, said Brad Cleveland, a senior adviser to ICMI. 

Earlier this year, ICMI signed an exclusive licensing deal with the Call Center Industry Advisory Council (CIAC) to offer its set of instruction and testing materials for call center certification. More recently, Cleveland said ICMI had assumed management of the CIAC standards and is now responsible to make them more current. The core CIAC program has not had a major facelift since its inception a decade ago, he added.

For the 2012 program, ICMI will be adding the “next era of competencies,” that will cover a wide range of social media-related skills. The certification program will continue to be based on four domains that cover leadership, operations, technologies and staff management, but “every one of these areas is going through a dramatic change,” Cleveland said.

The program will offer training and testing on such issues as maintaining a consistent voice across multiple channels, including phone, chat, social, and self-service; legal considerations for social channels; the impact of social channels on existing channels’ workload volume; and processes needed for social media such as forecasting, staffing, scheduling and quality improvement.