WRITER: Kelvin Brown, Regional Executive Telviva, KZN
Understanding trends in any given field helps businesses understand what conversations are happening in the industry broadly and likely strategic topics for their competitors.
In other words, if everyone else is talking about a new technology and how it impacts business operations, why aren’t we?
Of course, not all new developments are relevant to everyone but it helps keep a finger on the pulse of digital transformation.
It’s no different in the world of contact centres and trends that develop as the world of work and consumers are constantly evolving.
Then, being able to pre-empt trends before they are announced, places a business in a strong tactical position. A useful resource in the world of understanding contact centre trends is the Deloitte Global Contact Centre Survey.
This bi-annual report was last published in 2021, and number five of the top five trends two years ago was ‘Focus on Value’ by way of orchestrating valuable Customer Experience (CX).
Based on extensive engagement in the industry, and on the fact that traditionally we would speak predominantly with IT departments which is now shifting rapidly to include CX executives who have active decision-making powers, it would not be far-fetched to pre-empt that CX will feature far more prominently in 2023, if not be in number one spot.
But what does this mean? It means that businesses around the world that make use of contact centres understand that Customer Experience is paramount. They understand that they must start with the customer journey and then build the business process – not the other way around.
At this point, though, we need to talk about a new trend, one which we will be reading about more and more. Richard Branson said: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
Enter: Employee Experience (EX). In the contact centre world, EX and CX work hand in hand, because you cannot have a sublime CX if the employees are not empowered with the right tools and collaborative ability to resolve a client’s journey quickly and positively.
Prioritising EX for a contact centre agent will go a long way towards converting a contact centre from a cost centre to a value centre. Agents play a crucial role in generating business value by retaining customers and cross selling when the opportunity arises.
Just because the lockdowns are a distant memory, it does not mean things are as they were prior to 2020.
Hybrid work environments are becoming increasingly common for a number of reasons, not least cost and geographical access to agents. And so, hybrid environments need to be properly designed so that an agent’s experience of working remotely is secure, that the agent has full access to required applications, and, importantly, that they are not trying to switch between multiple applications.
A recent survey from Deloitte and Chrome OS, found that 87% of IT decision makers foresee rising adoption of virtual desktop infrastructure in the next three to five years. These services enable fast and easy access to agent applications, regardless of location. Many of Telviva’s customers, for example, are deploying Telviva Omni into Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and citrix environments. Traditional contact centre providers will struggle because omni-channel technology needs to be readily available to run in these new environments.
An important cog in both Employee experience and CX is giving the agent context. In other words, who is calling, emailing or chatting. An agent needs an integrated view of the customer from within the same interface.
They must be able to see the customer’s journey, previous engagements and outcomes. This not only makes the employee’s journey better, but allows the agent to offer a great customer experience.
Presenting agents, a view of the customer’s prior engagement with bots and AI prior to the customer reaching the human (them), enables them to pick up where the technology could not resolve the issue and then step in to resolve it.
Contact centres and the back office are often physically separated and use different communications platforms- and may well be geographically separated. By allowing the agent relevant visibility into the back office, supported by internal text-based messaging between agents themselves, contact centres break the silos which ultimately benefits customers. Telviva, for example, has prioritised leveraging a true Omni experience to consign siloed workplaces to the past.
EX, as mentioned, slides into Customer Experience. Almost 9 in 10 customers say that the experience they receive is as important as the product or service they buy.
A recent survey of 6000 global Telco/ISP subscribers across 12 countries reported that 80% would abandon a provider after just three negative experiences.
As for actually making the decision to move to a new Telco/ISP, poor customer service ranked only a percentage down (12%) than the actual reliability of the service itself (13%). This is important news when designing a CX strategy.
Key to a good CX is human connection. In other words, technology such as self-service tools and chatbots can be deployed to resolve less complex queries, but it is crucial that customers have the option to seamlessly and easily switch to a person to help them – along every step of the digital journey.
Right-channelling refers to meeting customers on their channel of choice, and then switching to the most appropriate channel based on the nature of their query, taking into account security and compliance requirements.
New channels add to the overall tapestry, and while voice is still – and likely always will remain – vital, video is expected to grow rapidly, either via upscaling a text based chat interaction or through intelligent kiosks at physical branches to enable a face-to-face video interaction with contact centre agents.
First-contact resolution is vital and is achieved through easily understandable, yet detailed, customer journey mapping. For instance, a customer should not need to repeat themselves on transfer, or repeat verification each time they are transferred.
Lastly, using AI and available data, contact centres can pre-empt a customer’s needs and offer personalisation, which is a trend that will continue to grow in importance and prominence.
In our current economic climate, it is as important as ever for businesses to focus on customer retention, especially in light of competition being a thumb-swipe away. Beyond this, delivering services from the cloud, and prioritising mobile-first tools enable businesses (who maintain continuity), – and their customers (who rely on battery operated devices) to navigate the country’s incessant power cuts.
Expect Employee experience and Customer experience to dominate contact centre discussions and strategy for a long time, and expect the leaders to invest in omni-channel solutions that give them a CX and Employee experience edge.