It won’t come as news that your contact centre is the beating heart of your organisation. What happens here really determines the quality of your customer experience. But despite an overall upswing in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index many UK customers have reported a rise in customer effort, implying further potential for improvement.
Jonathan Sharp, Director, Britannic Technologies, outlines what it takes to deliver a consistent and convenient customer experience through the contact centre…
Technology is helpful, as you will surely know if you’re on a mission to improve your contact centre operation and customer experience. But strategy precedes solution, and that’s particularly important to bear in mind when trying to make it easier for your customers to do business with you.
Not so many years ago, the contact centre was viewed as a transactional department of an organisation but today customer experience lies at the heart of the contact centre, making it a strategic unit whose development needs to be advocated and driven by senior management. Organisations need to commit to investing in recruiting skilled agents, integrating frontline and back office processes, and in providing the technology and analytical tools that are required to improve the experience of both agents and customers.
Collaboration and Transparency
Beyond technology and people, a data-led approach to CX improvements proves helpful in choosing the right mix of communication channels and in building appropriate service processes that map onto your customers’ interaction preferences and behaviours. Data is often siloed in the contact centre – and in other departments for that matter – meaning that valuable business intelligence is not shared across the business. Senior managers need to ensure that data is collected in a single repository, silos are knocked down and processes are connected to enable departments to work together. Collaboration and transparency go a long way in empowering your agents and helping them to deliver smart and efficient customer service.
Build Ease Into Your CX
If you consider that customers are largely driven by the experience and interactions they have with your contact centre and customer service reps rather than by price, you start to see why CX front-runners like Marks & Spencer, P&O Cruises or OVO Energy, named in the UKCSI, are so successful: Their customer service operations are focused on intelligent, integrated processes and empowered agents that, together, consistently create a convenient and seamless experience. Ease is key in this experience. After all, a total of 32% of shoppers say that customer ease is a top five factor when it comes to shopping and 78% admit they buy more from companies that make it easier to shop with them.
Fortunately, there are proven strategies that can help both B2C and B2B companies to build ease into their customer experience externally and into the agent experience internally.
Today’s contact centre should certainly consist of more than phone and email channels. It needs to incorporate those digital channels that your customers are attuned to. Think SMS, social media, web chat, video and self-service options. It’s all in the blend. This goes hand in hand with automating low-touch customer interactions and repetitive agent tasks to free your team up for higher touch, value-added customer interactions. These work best when the entirety of your communications and collaboration applications are integrated – integrated with the back office to allow your agents to communicate fast with in-house experts; integrated with other systems such as CRM to give agents advanced knowledge of individual customer histories upon contact; and integrated with each other to allow agents to seamlessly transfer customer conversations between non-voice and voice channels if the interaction so requires.
Many customers come armed with information and answers through self-service processes such FAQ and online forums, so agent/customer communications tend to be about increasingly complex problems that agents need to solve. The shift from transactional to strategic therefore needs to be reflected in your agents’ skills, too.
New challenges and channels require your agents to become multi-taskers, project managers, consultants and analytical problem solvers, empathetic and intuitive to pre-empt customer requirements, determine how best to move a conversation between different channels, and build rapport at each touchpoint. One the one hand, they need the right technology and infrastructure in place to do so. On the other hand, they need to be trained to use your customer service tools effectively.
Where recruitment and training budget allocation was identified as low a couple of years ago, training is luckily moving up the priorities list again. The quality and amount of training your contact centre staff benefit from is crucial to make new contact centre technologies and processes work, to decrease attrition and encourage careers in customer experience.
If you can optimise the agent experience, your super agents will produce more positive experiences for your customers, too.
Technology – The Enabler
Deploying the right technology and building the right infrastructure to support it long-term are crucial to the success of your contact centre and customer experience strategy. Again, strategy is decisive. Cloud platforms and applications, for example, add real versatility and scalability to your contact centre and help you grow into an uncertain future where customer demands and preference change. You want to be able to adapt instantly. Cloud delivers a cost-effective, future-proof framework to manage unforeseen change.
Along with the cloud, CTI integration paves the way for a single customer view and a continuous, uninterrupted customer journey across all media. It removes islands of technology by connecting systems and applications into your operational landscape.
Integration isn’t always easy but that’s what we’re here to change with a mix of deep communications solutions knowledge, integration and automation expertise and change management know-how.
It’s All In The Data
The good news is, more data and more different types of data from diverse communication channels means more possibilities to generate customer insights. Of course, analytics tools will be key key in structuring and assessing your data, helping you to unearth previously unknown patterns in customer behaviour that give you the type of insight that spurs process innovation – and allows you to make improvements to your customer experience.
Whilst measuring call waiting times and call abandonment rates remain valid, evaluating digital channels will become more important, along with the assessment of customer satisfaction levels and ease of use. Ultimately, customers that find it easy to do business with you are 40% less likely to churn.
The Beating Heart
Customer experience is the lifeblood of any organisation today and your contact centre is intrinsically linked to its quality. As the beating heart of your organisation, your contact centre deserves to be a strategic priority, I believe. If you’re committed to continually improving your agent and customer experience by making it easier to work for you and do business with you, you will soon find success.
For ideas, guidance and answers around improving your contact centre with integration, automation and customer insights, don’t forget to shortlist Britannic Technologies for your supplier meeting at Call Centre and Customer Services Summit! If you like, you can share your most pressing challenges with us in advance.