These five contact center trends can help drive improvements in the customer experience.
The world’s oldest known customer service complaint is inscribed on a nearly 4,000-year-old clay tablet now on display in the British Museum. The writer accuses a Mesopotamian merchant of selling an inferior grade of copper and vows to take his future business elsewhere.
Then, as now, commerce hinges on the customer experience. Although satisfied customers tend to become loyal customers, the reverse is almost inevitable. In various studies, more than half of U.S. consumers have said they quit doing business with an organization after just one negative experience. Worse yet, they are likely to share their negative experience with friends and colleagues.
As more business has shifted online since the pandemic, the contact center has become the focal point of the customer experience. Contact center volumes have increased significantly over the past year, straining the capabilities of traditional on-premises operations. To meet the new demand and optimize customer service, smart organizations are investing in five key areas.
In a recent global survey of nearly 3,000 business leaders, 94 percent said AI can transform contact center operations, and 81 percent said they believe that failing to adopt AI will cost their company throughout the next decade. Specifically, companies expect to leverage AI disciplines such as natural language processing, machine learning, voice interaction, image recognition and text analytics.
AI-powered chatbots are becoming pervasive in contact centers. They can automate repetitive tasks and create remarkable improvements in the speed and efficiency of interactions. According to research from MIT, chatbots can answer customer calls around the clock within seconds, resolve the customer’s issue on the first call 90 percent of the time, and easily transfer more complex issues to live employees as needed. Fewer than half of customers realize they are interacting with a machine.
Sentiment analysis evaluates speech and text using natural language processing and computational linguistics. The objective is to gain a better understanding of what customers think about a company’s brand, products or service based on words, phrases, voice inflections, rate of speech and other cues.
Customers today expect to be able to communicate with businesses by phone, email, live chat, text, mobile apps or social media. Although most organizations now support multiple communication channels, they often struggle to effectively integrate them into a single omnichannel.
For example, an integrated omnichannel platform allows customers to begin with one mode of communications, such as a live chat, and then escalate to a phone call without having to start over and rehash the same information with a new agent. This makes it possible to engage customers on their terms with proper context.
CPaaS is a cloud-based platform that makes it easy to integrate communications capabilities such as voice, video and messaging into business applications. For example, CPaaS allows developers to use APIs or code snippets to embed voice, video and texting apps into CRM platforms for real-time customer communications.
Embedding business apps with multiple communication modes gives contact center agents easy access to the information needed to handle customer requests. This helps to reduce average call handling time and increase first-contact resolution, with fewer repeat calls and escalations. It also allows agents to capture more data with greater accuracy.
Virtual Contact Centers
Cloud-based virtual contact centers support agents located in various locations instead of from one central location. It gives organizations access to the latest contact center technology and applications without a large capital investment, and it provides the flexibility to scale operations up or down to meet seasonal demands.
By decentralizing staffing with work-from-home agents, virtual contact centers also make it easier to support international “follow the sun” operations that require 24x7 staffing. Because agents don’t need to live in close proximity to the office, organizations have access to a broader talent pool.
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.
Back to the Future
Just as it was back in ancient Mesopotamia, customer service drives business success. Poor customer experiences translate to lost business, reduced revenue and damaged reputations. As organizations look to improve the customer experience in 2021 and beyond, they are investing in new technologies to reshape their contact centers. The right tools can optimize the contact center and help to minimize customer churn.