In our changing world, what’s the future for contact centres? How will business strategy evolve to address new consumer behaviours? How do you navigate the remote versus on-site debate at a time when recruitment is challenging and employee expectations and standards are transforming? How do you achieve the right balance between digital, social and voice-based engagement? What’s the right mix of automation and agent-led support?
The customer is king
It seems obvious but it’s worth repeating – the value of the contact centre has to be based on its ability to enhance the brand, generate business and drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. In our view, many contact centres over-use IVR and end up frustrating customers in the process. According to best practice, IVR should feature no more than two menu levels and five options. Customers tell us that adding more content to the IVR is often driven by internal stakeholders – different departments wanting their messages to feature on the IVR, like it’s a marketing or promotional forum.
However, the key design principle is to think of the IVR from the perspective of the customer. Our advice is to focus on giving the customer what they need and keep your IVR as simple and streamlined as possible. While callers are holding, don’t keep telling them repeatedly that they can use the website self-service infrastructure. Customers are smart and will opt for the fastest and easiest method. If they choose to call, they have a reason for wanting to speak to an agent. While metrics such as number of calls, calls answered within a certain time duration and overall service levels continue to be important KPIs, if we lose focus on serving the customer, we lose sight of the actual purpose of contact centres.
Speaking of customer engagement, in our view, the future is omnichannel. In the past, contact centres often organised teams by engagement channel with say one team focused on chat and another on voice. Increasingly, all channels are fully integrated with customers using a variety of contact formats. If you think about it, this mimics our typical interactions in everyday life. The millennial will seamlessly switch between office phone, mobile, laptop and home device, while using a combination of email, Messenger, WhatsApp and video.
To meet millennial customer expectations, contact centres are going to have to invest in far more sophisticated integration on their back end infrastructure. It goes without saying that this will be more challenging for companies with legacy CRM systems versus newer entrants to the market like insurance and financial services companies. For may centres, fragmentation continues to be a challenge, with disconnected systems and disconnected channels ranking as the main operational pain points.
In a typical contact centre, Chat currently accounts for around 15 percent of all customer interactions. When implemented correctly, AI-powered chat boxes are brilliant in resolving routine chat enquiries, helping reduce uncertainty in the resolution process, guiding customers to the right service channel and leveraging proactive alerts and notifications.
Many companies make the mistake of investing insufficient time. The reality is there’s no magic wand or silver bullet. Software bots have to be trained to understand frequently asked question and handle spelling mistakes. It’s an ongoing process as well. The training doesn’t stop. New questions need to be added, while answers have to be refined based on customer feedback. Think of it as creating another job role and training that person. If you buy the technology, invest the time!
When correctly implemented and maintained, bots do an astounding job. Leveraging this technology, I have seen scenarios where chat functionality has grown in popularity by over 100 percent with 70 percent of questions answered first-time to the customer’s satisfaction. AI is a significant gamechanger and will continue to play a real and meaningful role in the contact centre of the future. However, I don’t believe that it will ever be the preference for all customer interactions as there will always be a need to speak to agents in real time.
A major frustration for customers is being passed around from agent to agent with the call often dropping during the transfer. In this regard, intelligent routing has enormous potential, capturing and placing incoming phone calls into a sorting queue and then routing each one to the appropriate group or individual agent based on predefined logic and criteria.
For example, this could be the most experienced agents agent with the required skill level and strongest history of handling that particular customer or call type. Of course, there are numerous additional factors that can be applied. For example, in addition to agent profiles, the auto-analysis can include the customer’s account status, call type priority level, the agent that the customer has previously spoken with plus the customer’s previous call data history.
Whatever the size and nature of your business, if your communications systems are frequently over-subscribed and you need increased call-handling capacity, intelligent routing is highly effective and will lead to an enhanced customer experience. Additionally, the information gathered will help agents gain a better understanding of customers’ broader needs. In turn, this makes for a better employee experience as it increases their ability to add value to caller interactions and build relationships that drive revenue and promote the brand.
However, once again technology is not the panacea and needs to be thoughtfully implemented. Firstly, you need excellent quality customer data in place before migrating. Otherwise, the investment is pointless. It’s also easy to become overly dependent on intelligent routing and forget about the other essentials for successful contact management. While AI call routing will improve KPIs, it can also mask problems in management, training, culture and other critical operational areas. Remember – technology is just another tool – it doesn’t replace the basics of contact centre management.
With the advent of chat, intelligent routing and omnichannel, many commentators over the years have predicted the inevitable demise of the contact center agent. I believe that nothing could be further from the truth. Using omnichannel technology, callers will be easily able to escalate their question from a voice call or chat interaction into a video call with the most appropriate agent. With automation managing intelligent routing and chat, the agent is, in fact, set to become even more skilled and will play an increasingly significant role with more time to focus on value-add activities.
In other words, AI will manage the routine, low level enquiries and agents will be empowered to manage the more complex interactions and deliver a better overall customer service.
With the right technology in place, geographical location is irrelevant and agents can work from anywhere. This opens up your recruitment pool and can serve as a big differentiator in attracting and retaining staff. Economically, it makes sense that jobs are dispersed regionally, bringing money into more remote, rural areas and relieving pressure on major urban centres. We see it as a win-win. You get to eliminate or reduce facility overheads. From an environmental perspective, working from home reduces carbon footprint, while less time commuting is positive for employee work-life balance. With rising energy costs, it also importantly saves on cost.
Importantly, from a contact centre management perspective, nothing changes. You continue to see the numbers logged in and track all the usual call measurements and monitor quality levels. If agents have a question, they can continue to access supervisors or their peers immediately through instant messaging. In many ways, agents gain a better understanding of the customer experience as they are both based remotely and leveraging the same technology for answers.
Interestingly, in our experience, hospitals and consumer-type organisations proactively welcome the fact that agents are dispersed as it means that they have feet on the ground, in their local region, people who can respond quickly in the event of a major problem.
Cloud and Modern Work Environment
Whether you’re operating a fully remote contact center or some hybrid variation, it’s vital to have your IT infrastructure set up properly. You need a modern work environment with Cloud hosted services, several layers of strong security plus a single sign on for all applications. Training is the biggest challenge you’ll face but this is easily addressed with the right online learning management platform with interactive and gamified courses. In our experience, the majority of contact centers are transitioning to the Cloud for cost and management reasons. However, medical, insurance and finance companies are understandably more cautious, given the sensitivity of their patient and customer data.
Kaptec can design new centres or transform existing operations
How do we come into the picture? As a knowledge-based company, Kaptec has the necessary skills and resources to design new contact centres of any size or transform existing operations around the globe. We can analyze your existing data and provide expert recommendations on how to develop a more efficient contact center infrastructure. We can support the migration from on-prem infrastructure to a Cloud-based omnichannel environment.
Offering full turnkey professional services and system integration skills, our team is expert in integrating, implementing and supporting software automation and intelligent routing. We also offer BPO services, where you can outsource all or part of your contact centre operations to us.
Our goal is to help you simplify, transform and grow your business.