Since the 60s, call centres have become a regular part of our business interactions. They help us when we run into issues, and they bring valuable profits into our company coffers. But how is contact centre technology transforming the customer experience? What systems are enabling new and better ways of connecting with clients and customers? And how is this discipline expected to change in the next decade? We’ll explore all these questions and more in this five-minute read.
Early customer experience
If you think back to your earliest interactions with a business, there are probably some key things you remember. Perhaps there was a salesperson you worked with directly who knew everything about what you needed and kept detailed records on you in a Rolodex. They rang to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries – keeping themselves and the business they represented at the top of your mind. And if you were particularly valuable to the business, you might get taken out for a corporate hospitality event or gifted comped goods, particularly at Christmas. If you wanted to change to a competitor, a phone call with some advance notice before you committed to the decision would be largely expected. But that’s been changing ever since the invention of ACD, IVR and the internet.
Customer experience of today
Once competitor shopping took just a few clicks, everything changed. Now, customers come and go at lightning speed. The difference between a lost and retained customer is often down to a single interaction. And every time a customer talks to a contact centre agent, they expect to pick up where they left off and get immediate answers to their questions. This has necessitated a move into multi-channel and solution-first approaches. And it spawned a range of technologies from CRM to VOIP that improved these micro-interactions. Call centres became contact centres and the Rolodex of the 70s went digital. But cutting-edge computing like cognitive AI and 360-degree analytics is set to change things yet again.
The shape of CX to come
In 2020 an article by McKinsey & Company argued that the pandemic has forced a rethinking of what customer care means; in a post-pandemic world, the best ways to improve customer experience and efficiency will be ‘to increase digital self-service and to make smarter operational trade-offs, grounded in what matters to customers.’ Forrester predicts customers will still in the future choose to make a phone call to a real person, despite the resurgence in the Internet of Things (IoT). By adopting new contact centre technology, businesses are transforming the customer experience by breaking down the differentiation between machine-enabled support and human interaction. True omnichannel experiences begin to take shape around the customer, not the business and tests of customer loyalty are intercepted before they become a change trigger.
Why it matters
The financial impact of a good customer experience function is undeniable. According to Forbes customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers. Brands with superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors that lag in customer experience. Across revenue per customer, repeat purchase, satisfaction, and retention; organisations who invest in the best customer experience software available and spotlight effective agent support simply perform better. And that’s important to note as the loyalty landscape has changed too. According to Social Media Today consumers put less trust in brands and tend to switch brands a lot faster. The famous 80/20 rule is slowly evolving towards a 50/50 rule. In the latter case, loyal and disloyal customers generate the same amount of income. So, you’ll need better tools to retain these savvy but high-worth customers.
How technology is shaping contact centre CX
This demand for smarter technology; driven by customer retention goals, is shaping contact centre CX. Most advancements are around reaching the customer with the right answer or offer at the right time and in their native channel. And some of these innovations include:
1 Rich omnichannel
Not only do contact centres need to maintain active support and outreach across all channels, but the customer data needs to follow as well. That assumes you’ve already gathered rich customer profiles and saved these to a central and secure database. These data points must cover a wide variety of touchpoints, creating a sum of the customer’s interactions with your business such as website clickstream data in analytics tools, transactional data from an ERP system, data from contact centre channels, and customer sentiment data from a survey. This arms both your digital and human agents with the info they need to provide high-quality customer interactions. If companies don’t adopt this customer data centric approach to contact centres, then inevitably customers will move their business elsewhere. Contact centre agents not having access to a customer’s past interactions and transaction history is quite simply no longer acceptable.
Today’s consumers love messaging as a preferred way of communicating with each other. They now expect that same ease when communicating with businesses. Since digital interactions have increased by an estimated 40% for the average business, support for SMS, Messenger, chat, and social media is essential. Consequently, contact centre CX needs to cleverly enable that drop in and out communication style as natively as you’d follow a WhatsApp thread on your phone.
3 API-enabled CCaaS
Low code and no code is the name of the game. Businesses now expect that most configurations can be done in house without the need for advanced IT knowledge. The contact centre technology of the future enables drag and drop editing with simple one-touch API integrations that even the least tech-savvy end-user can set up and change. And those native integrations mean your agents can save time and maintain productivity as they don’t need to move from one application to another while servicing your customers.
Bots are AI-infused technology that mimics human speech to interact with people in a natural, conversational manner. They can be deployed across several channels, including online chat, private social messaging such as Facebook Messenger, and IVRs. Natural language processing allows bots to communicate either in writing or verbally, and machine learning helps them get smarter over time. And bots are getting better. The end goal is a seamless transition between agent and AI for faster servicing that’s improved by machine learning.
5 Sentiment with machine learning
How much better could your customer interactions be if you were certain of the outcome? Previously, contact centres relied on ACD dispositions or anecdotal feedback to create a record of support. But this isn’t very detailed or immediate. Now, with machine learning, complex algorithms can determine the true sentiment, flag potential new reasons for inquiry and create in-tandem workstreams to address emerging issues. It can also help identify teams and agents in need of knowledge or skill training based on the outcome of their communications.
6 Smart call management tools
As a result of the trivergance, the smart call management tools of the future will move beyond IVR, whisper coaching, drop-in and the like. Tools like predictive behavioural routing will match a customer’s personality, regional dialect, communication style, age, and past experiences with the most beneficial agent for their inquiry. This means that a first call resolution is more likely through not only the right mix of skills to solve the customer issue but also a more natural chance at rapport building. This doubles down on the value of highly personalised interactions.
The golden combination of fast deployment, plug and play configuration and rapid scalability is the name of the game in Customer Experience as a Service (CXaaS) technology. And that’s largely enabled by the cloud. Not only can the application your agent’s need to serve clients remain 100% up to date and secure, but you can grow as needed to meet demand. And that’s important as the cyber security landscape continues to change and as the world of work remains largely remote or moves to a hybrid model; your software needs to adapt. So, CXaaS is emerging as the dominant technology.
Harnessing this technology
Companies that fail to innovate in these areas face a significant financial impact as customers migrate to greener pastures. In a 50/50 model, keeping every single customer you can is critical. If you’re thinking that CXaaS is right for you, why not have a scoping call about the Cisco WebEx contact centre suite? This digitally native platform has all the Web 3.0 tools you need to support rich customer interactions that retain clients and grow market share. Talk to the FourNet team about your needs today.