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Time to evolve: welcome to the new era of agile customer service

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Jirsak)

Over the last few months, the way we communicate, work and drive business growth have all changed significantly. Technology that was once seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ is now essential to engaging customers and empowering employees, with many businesses proving that deploying new tools and platforms can take days rather than weeks or months.

What’s also changed, is the importance of agility. While the role of agility in meeting customer needs and staying competitive was always important, the recent pandemic has highlighted the critical impact agility has in the success of a business. In today’s world, agility is about much more than just quickly adapting to market changes. It is about enabling businesses to swiftly reinvent their business and set themselves up for success in a rapidly changing, ambiguous and turbulent environment.

What remains unchanged are customer expectations for exceptional experiences. Companies need to be agile in order to continue delivering this in any business dynamic. In the contact center setting, true business agility must enable organizations to fuel rapid innovation, gain visibility and insights on customer interactions and drive the workforce to continuously deliver outstanding experiences.

When supported with the right technologies, agility can serve as a springboard for rapid innovation, while enabling businesses to really understand their customers and empowering the workforce to progress forward and meet changing needs. To achieve this, organizations must adopt an Agile Customer

Experience approach, which can be defined by three key pillars.

A platform for service success

The journey to Agile Customer Service starts by creating a strong and flexible true cloud-native foundation that empowers rapid change without any disruption to customer service. By adopting this approach, contact centers will be able to combine the levels of speed, elasticity and self-service required to adapt to different situations and drive success in an ever-changing world.

This includes extending contact center capabilities to any environment, whether that’s with agents working from home, in the office, or anywhere for that matter. No matter where they are based, a true cloud-native approach also allows employees to interact with customers through an omnichannel environment combining both voice and digital channels. Omnichannel routing solutions enable interactions between customers and agents to be seamless across all channels.  What this means is that a single agent can interact with a customer across all channels and should there be a need for transfer, the context of the interaction is maintained so the next agent can pick up right where the last one left off. Both customers and agents are much more satisfied as a result since those annoying transfers of the past are eliminated.

Another important aspect of a true cloud-native foundation concerns compliance and security. In the current environment we are living in, fraud is on the rise, taking advantage of the general confusion caused by the extreme changes we are undergoing.  As a result, businesses should deploy a solution that can consolidate compliance-related assurance, analytics and automation activities in one place. Technologies such as voice biometrics can then be used to streamline contact center authentication and fraud prevention across multiple channels, no matter where employees are based.

AI-driven insights

The second pillar of Agile Customer Experience involves adding visibility and context to interactions using advanced analytics and AI to understand how employees are working and how customer expectations are changing. This is more critical than ever with employees working outside of the traditional office and customers facing more complex challenges in their own lives.  Organizations can use these technologies to gain insights into customer interactions and contact center processes, then take data-driven actions to adjust their CX approach as needed.

This starts by analyzing customer interactions with employees using advanced real time AI-powered omnichannel speech and text analytics. This can automatically provide interaction context including sentiment, identify trends and drivers, and uncover how the root causes of service attributes change over time. It can also transform subjective behaviors into consistent data in order to measure and predict employee soft skills such as empathy and resolution ownership, as well as customer satisfaction.

Linked to this is the role of AI in desktop analytics for front and back office environments. This can identify employee productivity drains and process bottlenecks, providing data that can then be used to help employees improve their performance.

Finally, organizations can combine all this information and drive success through predicting customer intent. This drives immediate business results by understanding what customers need through analyzing multiple interactions and taking action on it in some cases even before the customer initiates an interaction.  This would not be possible without the power of AI. 

Empowering the workforce

The final pillar of Agile Customer Experience is all about engaging the workforce by streamlining processes, automating guidance in real time and creating persona-based employee experiences. Providing tools that allow employees to be more efficient and engaged will make them true business partners, in turn having a positive impact on their motivation and translating into increased customer satisfaction.

Organizations can keep employees engaged through intelligent planning, forecasting and scheduling solutions that ensure the right people with the right skills are available at the right time. Such tools can also help businesses react to employee requirements for shift flexibility and provide shift change opportunities to promote a healthy work-life balance. This is more critical than ever in the environment we are currently living in.

Arguably the most important aspect of any agile workforce is ensuring the employees remain productive and efficient even when working from home. This is where robotics play a key role. These robots can guide employees through critical processes, optimize performance by automating routine desktop activities and empower employees to provide quick, accurate and consistent customer service focusing on the most complex customer requests.

Ultimately, organizations can’t ignore the fact that the meaning of agility has evolved as a result of the  -19 pandemic. It has grown from being an ability to adapt to specific market changes, to a mindset that permeates across all aspects of an company’s operations, driving constant reinvention irrespective of the business environment and serving as a foundation for future success.

By establishing Agile Customer Experience as an integral component of their customer service strategy, businesses will be better placed to continue creating extraordinary experiences for employees and customers in times of growing uncertainty, complexity and change. These three key pillars – a true cloud-native foundation, AI driven insights and empowering and engaging the workforce – will be vital to driving business results, no matter what the future may bring.

John O’Hara, President, EMEA, NICE