Company success, now more than ever, hinges around how a company deals with its customers. For decades, customer management professionals have argued that contact centres should be at the heart of the business strategy as they play such a central role in the customer experience.
But how many contact centres today can say that they are a hub of successful customer interactions, actively driving customer loyalty, sales and long-term business value?
We recently commissioned some research, taking a fresh look at the state of customer experience. It revealed that only 29 per cent of customer experience professionals strongly agree that their contact centre can provide a seamless customer experience across multiple channels. There is a huge opportunity here for contact centres to improve their technology and start delivering value to the business to the best of their potential.
If you want to ensure that your contact centre is seen as a strategic asset at the heart of the customer experience, then you need to invest in the right technology. The problem is that legacy systems just don’t meet the needs of an increasingly digitally-savvy and demanding customer base.
By choosing the right cloud-based system, you can empower your agents and build better, customer-centric processes, thus ensuring that your contact centre infrastructure can cater for current customer demands, but is also future-proofed.
1. Go multichannel
The first step in your contact centre’s journey to truly owning the customer experience lies in developing a good multichannel strategy and, subsequently, investing in technology that includes good multichannel capabilities. According our research, nearly 90 per cent of decision makers expect digital interactions to overtake voice by 2020 or sooner, so make sure you’re prepared.
Today’s customers are almost always online, most often on their smartphones, and are becoming increasingly impatient. They want to be able to communicate with the contact centre using the channel that works for them, whether that’s phone, SMS, web chat or email. With all of these methods they expect a fast, effective and consistent response.
Despite the huge amount of evidence supporting the importance of a strong multichannel strategy, we’ve found that organisations across the board have been slow to adopt or develop one. According to customer experience professionals, the biggest obstacles to designing an exceptional customer experience revolve around flexibility, the ability to integrate and the costs linked to creating required architecture. Yet those who invest in the technology today will have an advantage over their competitors tomorrow.
In addition, customers are increasingly welcoming self-service options for simple enquiries and transactions. But beware of self-service in the form of frustrating Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, which can result in a poor customer experience. To eliminate the frustration that a bad IVR system can generate, ensure that you frequently review and improve self-service options to identify the sticking points around repetitive issues; and always provide the customer with the choice to speak to an agent, if they wish to do so.
They key is to find out what channels your customers are using, and to make sure that you can deliver through them. It is not about removing traditional channels; it is about adding new options so that customers have choice.
2. Make sure channels are integrated
Many unnecessary voice calls are generated by ineffective responses to digital enquiries. One totally unnecessary cause of customer frustration is having to repeat the same details multiple times across multiple channels. A key part of your multichannel strategy is ensuring that all channels are effectively integrated, or you might cause confusion and create more effort – and frustration - for both your customers and your agents.
Our research highlights a growing trend to move to the Cloud, which many organisations are finding to be one of the most cost effective, scalable and easy-to-deploy ways to implement a successful and integrated multichannel strategy. A third of those we surveyed have already moved to the Cloud and are reaping the rewards, with the top three drivers being the need to stay up-to-date with the latest technology compliance requirements, the need to save money and the ability to roll-out new features quickly.
Those that have moved to the Cloud confirmed that the top three benefits are speed of deployment, cost savings from flexible licensing models and a reduction in maintenance costs, side-by-side with access to a more advanced feature set.
3. Encourage human interaction
Finally, while a joined-up approach to technology is vital, it is also equally important to encourage human interaction. Agents play a significant role in a brand’s identity, essentially serving as a spokesperson for the company each time a customer reaches out.
Technology such as call scripting can be very helpful for agents. However, inflexible call scripts can disempower agents and increase customer frustration, especially when customer queries are complicated. If you want your agents to be truly empowered to engage their customers and resolve their queries first time, make sure your contact centre uses dynamic, integrated and customisable scripting, with access to a knowledge base within a single screen.
By bringing together all the data that agents need in a single interface, contact centres can empower agents to find the appropriate response for any customer interaction. But remember, the script is meant to provide guiding principles and prompts rather than entire conversation scripts, so make sure you advise your agents that it is okay to go off-script if the conversation requires it, as long as all agents have been properly trained.
If contact centres are to be seen as a strategic asset at the heart of the customer experience, they need to work with their IT teams to address the technological challenges and review their organisational processes to ensure that they are taking every opportunity to improve the customer experience.
Enda Kenneally, VP Sales & Business Development at West
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