At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations scrambled to implement temporary adjustments to their contact center and customer service operations. As we head into Year 2 of the pandemic, it is clear that many of those changes will become permanent.
The transition to remote operations is the most tangible change. Nearly 90 percent of companies relied upon on-premises contact centers before the pandemic, but about 75 percent now have agents working from home — and most plan to continue supporting remote agents once the health crisis has passed.
What’s more, many U.S. companies are actively looking to expand their remote operations due to breakdowns with their offshore support partners. Massive contact center operations in countries such as India and the Philippines have had great difficulty adjusting to remote work models because most of their employees simply cannot work from home.
As a result, most analysts believe the remote contact center will remain a standard business feature in the U.S., most likely as part of a hybrid “hub-and-spoke” model featuring a combination of at-home and on-premises agents. In this model, companies would support a physical location for training and management purposes and work-from-home arrangements for the majority of agents.
Fortunately, the technologies that enabled last year’s swift transition to remote operations also laid the foundation for such a long-term transformation. Here are some of the solutions that will help companies continue to refine their operations going forward:
Communications-Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS). CPaaS is a cloud-based platform that makes it easy to integrate communications capabilities into business applications. For example, CPaaS allows developers to embed voice, video and texting apps into CRM platforms for real-time customer communications. This ensures remote agents have easy access to the information they need to resolve customer issues, which leads to reduced average call handling time, increased first-contact resolution, fewer repeat calls and escalations, and improved data accuracy.
Artificial Intelligence. Automated virtual agents and intelligent assistants — otherwise known as “bots” — improve remote agent efficiency and productivity by handling many routine calls without agent intervention. Agent-assist applications also support agents with predictive call routing that connects customers to agents most suited to solve their problems. These tools capture customer data from any communication channel and then apply rules to route the inquiry to the right agent. This eliminates much of the frustration customers experience when being transferred among multiple agents.
Advanced Analytics. Advanced analytics platforms are allowing organizations to explore data from CRM systems, email, voice mail and other customer feedback sources to generate insights about customer preferences and behaviors. For example, organizations can learn about customer demographics, shopping habits, buying preferences, spending limits, churn rates and more. This information can be used to create personalized experiences for customers.
Expanded Self-Service. Many customers prefer to use self-service tools to track delivers, check balances and perform other basic tasks. This enables organizations to save money by reducing the number of live agent interactions and call handling times. By integrating digital assistants, video tutorials, FAQs and other resources into self-service processes, organizations can streamline support and deliver a high-quality customer experience.
Workforce Optimization. Workforce optimization software enhances management of dispersed agents with a variety of performance management, call monitoring, scheduling and training modules integrated through a single dashboard. These tools help managers evaluate performance and streamline workflows, and enable agents to receive feedback and access training materials.
The pandemic forced organizations to rapidly retool their operations, but also provided an opportunity to utilize new technologies and processes to maintain strong customer relationships. Contact us to build on that foundation to future-proof your remote contact center operations.