Customer Contact

By Craig Farley, Head of Consulting at IP Integration

The contact centre is the epicentre of customer service operations and the face, or indeed voice, of your brand. Its role remains pivotal, however, like any other department in any other industry, to stay relevant it is necessary to evolve – constantly ensuring that operations are optimised to appeal to the customers and employees of today whilst also preparing for the consumer and worker of tomorrow.

This premise of “future-proofing” is the ideal corner-stone from which to build a successful organisation. However, for those organisations wishing to offer more than lip-service to the concept, certain considerations must be taken into account. That means, looking at your customer base and effectively assessing how to balance the needs of your full spectrum of customers – including the digitally savvy and the non-digital natives. It means looking at your workforce and asking how you can effectively engage them, particularly when your workforce is now hybrid. It means being prepared for the unexpected.

The post pandemic effect
The effects of the pandemic on organisations are well documented. Nonetheless, it is worth highlighting the agility demonstrated by the business world and its ability to react to the unexpected. When it was needed, businesses adapted to changing circumstances – at speed. No-one was prepared for a pandemic, and business continuity plans were hardly fit for purpose. Despite this, organisations were able to continue to operate by being agile.

Though the pandemic is now moving into our past, it certainly won’t be the last time organisations have to rapidly adapt to change. Therefore, it is essential that we ready ourselves and our businesses for the unknown. With that in mind, what are the main steps a modern contact centre can take to prepare for the future?

Staying ahead in the cloud

The cloud presents the first, and most logical, step towards future-proofing your contact centre, acting as a stepping stone towards more advanced technologies. Initially, the cloud can be used to enable workers to operate remotely and work more flexibly, a predominate reason for its surge in use throughout the pandemic. Its uses can also extend to facilitate, for example, greater automation through tools like chatbots; or resolving the burden of time-consuming, mundane tasks that can keep agents away from high-value calls. Its possibilities go on and on, making it ideal for readying your contact centre for the future.

Providing flexibility of choice

The customer and employee of tomorrow will also want freedom of choice. With the consumerisation of technology, customers have become accustomed to using multiple channels, and expect their brands to follow suit. As such, organisations would be wise to adopt an omnichannel solution which enables customers to contact their favourite brands from a choice of channels including phone, email, chat, and social. Indeed, Gartner predicts that 80% of customer service organisations will be embracing forms of messaging aside from voice channels by 2025; a clear result of increased demands for channels such as SMS and web messaging catalysed by the pandemic.

Such omnichannel tools benefit not just the customer, but also the hybrid workforce, offering greater flexibility with what tools agents can use and where; ideal for agents that might be students working late hours in halls or parents navigating the school run.

Using analytics to inform change

The most efficient way for contact centres to stay ahead of consumer expectations is to embrace analytics. Speech and text analytics tools allow organisations to uncover trends within customer data, offering valuable insight into what customers want and what might be lacking from your service. For example, if there is a consistent sentiment from customers regarding a certain product or reoccurring pain point, analytics will pick it up across all channels, thus providing contact centres with a clear map of the problem and its time frame, providing an effective starting point for organisations to rectify it.

When brands are visibly proactive on issues rather than allowing them to continue, customer loyalty is likely to improve. Listening to, and acting on, customer feedback goes beyond future-proofing the contact centre – it provides customers with the personal touch that keeps them feeling valued by their favourite brands and far more likely to return to them, even if their reason for getting in touch is due to a negative experience.

To reinforce this personalised, human aspect of the customer experience, contact centres should also utilise their greatest assets: agents. Dealing with customers via phone, email, SMS and many more channels puts the agents in the best position to understand what keeps customers returning to the brand. Analytics are a great tool for getting information on record and for highlighting trends to management, but it’s the agents themselves who can provide teams with instant insight into trends, pain points and room for growth. Contact centres that engage with their employees will find agents more motivated in return, spurred on by seeing how their work and insight is valued – building a happier workforce for the long-term.

Kickstart future-proofing

Future-proofing contact centres is key to keeping customers happy. With cloud technology and a variety of new and evolving channels, contact centres are well-supported to develop their own strategies to meet any challenge. Whether it’s the changing face of the contact centre or the events of the wider world, the solutions are within reach for any leader looking to improve adaptability. Thus, there has never been a better time to take stock of what operations are bringing the greatest value to customers and employees, and harness these insights for optimum results.

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