What Is a Unified Desktop?


Susannah Richardson clarifies the features which define a unified desktop.

1. Multichannel communications and CRM

The most basic definition and functionality of a unified desktop is the integration of the CRM system alongside multichannel communication, e.g. phone, email, social, chat and mobile on to a single user interface on the agent desktop.

This allows agents to move away from having to access multiple different systems for each channel by managing all customer enquiries from one system.

Customer enquiries are placed in to a universal multi-media queue and can be routed to the right agent based on skill, type or urgency rather than being prioritised solely by channel type.

This can help the business provide a more consistent level of customer service and give the customer true choice of channel for customer service enquiries. Once the enquiry reaches the desktop, the agent is able to see all information on that customer by drawing customer data from the CRM and presenting it on a single user interface alongside all contact channels.

This is the definition and functionality many providers in the industry offer when talking about their unified desktop solutions. However, while CRM systems are efficient at storing the majority of customer data, agents often need access to other business systems in order to complete a customer’s enquiry.

2. Integration of multiple business systems in to a visual desktop

When customers communicate with a contact centre, they often want to address several different issues which span further than the information held in the CRM, such as billing information or delivery enquiries.

To answer this, the agent would need to log in to the accounting system or dispatch database, put the customer on hold or pass to another department to deal with. Therefore just combining multiple channels and the CRM on to the agent desktop isn’t enough.

To achieve a true unified desktop, the agent needs access to all necessary business systems, such as accounting applications, stock control systems, marketing databases and ERP through one integrated view on the desktop. This allows the agent to view not only a basic customer profile but a 360º view of all information relating to their account from across the business, including previous purchase history, outstanding payments, dispatch, delivery and other vital information related to that customer.

This approach to a unified agent desktop allows a business to change agent interaction from a systems-driven focus to a customer-driven approach by simplifying the agents’ tasks and allowing them to spend more time engaging in conversation with customers and answering their enquiries.

3. Relevant 360º view of customer data

While providing the agents with a complete view of the customer, it is important not to inundate them with too much information from all the different systems and lots of CRM menus on to the desktop.

The key to a unified agent desktop is how information from all the different business systems is presented to the agent. While many technology providers say their system provides a 360º view, this often means their agents are inundated with data and multiple menus, making their job even more complex and time consuming.

The desktop solution should be intelligent in that it can identify the customer and type of enquiry before it even reaches the agent, for example by using text analytics or an IVR menu. The desktop is then able to present only relevant data for that specific customer and enquiry, enabling the agent to easily access information and respond to the customer with all the knowledge they need.

A true unified agent desktop should be customised for each organisation, or even each agent within the organisation, to suit their specific business processes by providing them only with the information they need. The data should be presented in a visual way to further help agents capture the data they need. For example, instead of including a list of past purchases, business can display this data in a graph format. Agent targets and other key statistics can also be presented in more visual ways.

4. Embedding business process management

Every business is individual and has its own set of unique processes and business priorities. Off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all CRM systems will never meet these needs even with customisation. Instead, organisations end up having to mould their processes around what the CRM provides.

So the final factor for defining a true unified agent desktop is the ability to guide the agent through the customer interaction, specifying the business process and providing all the steps required to complete any interaction with the customer.

The desktop must adapt to the conversation and offer only appropriate options. Data from relevant front- and back-office databases is aggregated in real time and presented to the agent at logical points in the customer service process, so the interaction can be personalised. For example, if a customer calls in to place an order, the desktop will guide the agent through the process by screen popping specific information that is required to place the order, ensuring the agent is aware of cross-sell and up-sell based on customer history, presenting relevant coupons the customer has outstanding or relevant promotions.

Workflow will also be built into the application to ensure the interaction is part of a complete customer journey, with proactive outbound communications as follow-up. A support application would include case management trouble ticketing and knowledge-enabled service resolution, all specific to an individual business. Building this type of customer engagement application requires consultancy and business process mapping.

After reviewing these key factors in defining a unified desktop, it is clear that it isn’t just another customer relationship or business process management system. It is a complete agent desktop solution and, while many providers say they offer a unified desktop, they are in fact only offering an element of this.

Susannah Richardson

Susannah Richardson

A true unified agent desktop should provide multimedia contact handling to include calls, emails, online and social contact. It should guide the agent through all processes to complete a customer transaction and draw required data from underlying systems and action the required requests to these systems.

The key element, however, is that the intelligent desktop is created specifically for the requirements of the individual organisation and so will guide the agent through the multitude of call types they will receive.

With thanks to Susannah Richardson at mplsystems

Published On: 17th Jun 2015 - Last modified: 1st Jun 2017
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