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Fast, accurate analytics vital as call centres adapt to ‘new normal’ of WFH

675 450 Stuart O'Brien

The immediate provision of accurate speech analytics is becoming increasingly vital as contact centres increasingly look to maintain WFH operational models.

That’s the view of leading call centre solution provider Avoira which is anticipating heightened interest in the technology from delegates attending the virtual Contact Centre and Customer Services Summit on the 16th November.

The company reports managers are finding that the interactive nature of a sophisticated real-time analytics solution not only enables more effective call outcomes but enhances employee engagement.

Speaking ahead of the Summit, Steve Watts, Avoira’s head of sales, said: “With team leaders and managers having lost the Captain’s Chair view of what’s happening minute-to-minute,  real-time analytics are even more important and compelling.

“As a result, contact centre directors and heads of innovation are now taking a closer look at the sophisticated tools they might deploy to ensure productivity and service standards are maintained as the novelty of homeworking wears off.”

He adds that capturing real-time traffic not just within a centralised centre but across a remote working network, remains a challenge for all but the most potent speech analytic solutions.

The cloud-based Xdroid solution arguably unique – in delivering real-time analytics of both voice and text communications. It automatically records and analyses all calls and monitors customer experience, compliance and the performance of individual agents, wherever they are working.

The powerful solution can detect and range of emotions, reporting on whether customers are displaying displeasure, uncertainty, disappointment or happiness. Based on analysis of dialogue, it provides on-screen prompts which can steer an agent to engage in specific actions – such as up-selling or making a compensatory gesture – at the time most likely to yield a positive response.

A formidable customer service tool, the technology claims to deliver an increased client retention rate of 30% and an inbound sales uplift of 14%.

It can also increase agent retention and reduce breaches which can result in legal or regulatory actions.

“It’s not just regulatory and legal compliance with which our solution can assist, but in ensuring employees, wherever they are, continue to subscribe to and share the organisation’s ethos,” says Watts. “By providing tools with which to help an agents job be performed more easily and effectively, it also helps them feel valued.”

The benefits of homeworking agents and flexible contact centres

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By Jabra

This year has caused a massive shift in where and how we all work, as a direct response to the worldwide disruption caused by the pandemic.

Contact Centres were forced to move their staff to a homeworking model and try to successfully manage agent teams remotely, whilst customer needs grew and became more complex. All of this led to a number of fundamental changes in the working practices and technology stack utilised within contact centres, that required rapid and efficient adoption and deployment.

However, as organisations now start to review their ‘new normal’ business procedures and requirements for the future, Jabra look at the benefits of having homeworking agents and how to manage them.

Click here to read the full article.

Half of UK workers say employer not prepared for a second wave of COVID-19

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In a sweeping survey of employees and business leaders across 11 nations, The Workforce Institute at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) found only a fraction of employees (20%) felt their organisation met their needs during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there is a silver lining: a third of employees globally (33%) say they trust their employer more now than before the pandemic began because of how organisations reacted.

“Hindsight 2020: COVID-19 Concerns into 2021,” commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG and conducted by Workplace Intelligence, explores how nearly 4,000 employees and business leaders1 in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. felt about their employer’s initial COVID-19 response and examines the top needs and concerns of the workforce through 2021.

In these uncertain times and as we enter a new period of increased restrictions, there are many employee expectations and concerns that business and HR leaders must address in order to alleviate anxieties around the world of work.

Research found that, according to U.K. workers, less than half of U.K. organisations were prepared to manage through the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (42%) and their organisations made mistakes during the pandemic (44%). However, more than half (53%) of U.K. workers say their organisation went above and beyond expectations during the pandemic.

Looking ahead, less than two thirds (57%) of U.K. workers believe that their organisation will be prepared to manage through another potential spike in cases of COVID-19. With this in mind, the research highlights the following key workplace concerns and expectations.

Communication is key, alongside swift decisions

Globally, the most common complaint about the initial pandemic response is that it was too slow, according to a third (36%) of workers, who wished offices closed faster and safety measures for essential workers were implemented sooner. However, in the U.K., the most common complaints were that workers wished their organisation had acted with more empathy for employees (31%) and communicated sooner and more openly (31%). This was then followed with 28% wishing the response had been quicker.

It’s not all about physical health – mental health is more important than ever

The biggest employee operational concern in the U.K. is balancing their workloads (42%) so they don’t get burned out. With over half of U.K. workers stating that they’ve been working either the same or more hours regularly since the start of the pandemic (51%), it’s imperative that organisations recognise this and respond accordingly. Overall, over half (53%) of U.K. workers say their organisation has taken at least some measures to guard against burnout; this rises to three in five (59%) globally.

Overall, organisations are focusing more on ensuring staff do not burn out, which is further reflected in the fact that the top three concerns about operating over the next 18 months in the U.K. are: future redundancies or furloughs due to economic instability (40%), ability to help employees balance workloads to prevent fatigue/burnout (39%), and the ability to offer necessary learning and development opportunities.

Future redundancies are also a concern for employees, with two fifths of U.K. workers (40%) concerned about future redundancies and furloughs due to economic instability created by COVID-19. This is equally a concern in China (44%), Mexico (41%), Canada (40%), and the U.S. (37%), but less of a concern in France (26%) and the Netherlands (27%).

Cleanliness, commuting, and common areas are cause for concern

While 45% of workers worldwide say overall cleanliness is a top concern going forward, they’re equally concerned with using shared common areas like lounges and restrooms (42%) as well as shared workspaces like conference rooms (37%). More than a third of all employees (35%) also voiced concern about passing through high-traffic areas such as lifts, staircases, and waiting rooms.

Physical workplace concerns vary by country: In India and France, the top concern is safely commuting to the workplace (72% and 50%, respectively), while overall cleanliness and sanitation is most worrisome to those in Mexico (60%), Canada (50%), Germany (47%), Australia and New Zealand (46%), the U.S. (44%), and the U.K. (42%). In China, two-thirds (63%) are worried about passing through high-traffic areas while a third of employees in the Netherlands (35%) are nervous about shared common areas.

In terms of person-to-person contact, 46% are concerned about being quickly informed about presumed or confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in the workplace and 43% are concerned about their company’s ability to react quickly to presumed or confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in the workplace.

Only 13% of global employees are worried about movements being tracked at work to fight COVID-19 – including fewer than one in 10 Gen Zers and younger Millennials2 (8%) – signalling they may recognise the immediate safety benefits in this approach to aid contact tracing.

The Silver Lining: How the pandemic has inspired innovation throughout the contact centre industry

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By Jil Maassen, Lead Strategy Consultant, Optimizely

There has been significant pressure on the contact centre industry throughout the pandemic. Unprecedented demand has been met by a dwindling office based workforce, and it is unlikely we will see a fully populated calling floor for some time yet.

However, these difficult circumstances have produced insights and examples of innovation which may not have surfaced otherwise. Businesses with a culture of experimentation have been able to approach this challenge with agility, and tried new tactics to handle the call centre deluge, even with a limited number of staff on site.

As businesses return to a new type of normal, they can take these lessons learned and apply them to operations going forward, driving growth and customer satisfaction from the front line.

From the phone line to the finish line

For some time now, contact centres have been targeted at the senior level to not just maintain high levels of customer satisfaction, but to find ways to reduce the level of direct contact time going forward. A happy customer is unlikely to call in, so businesses want to keep the number of inbound callers to a minimum. During the pandemic, this became business critical, because there weren’t the same number of handlers available.

Businesses needed to address customer concerns before they reached the phone line, by ensuring digital touchpoints are up to scratch. However, the past few months has taught us no amount of FAQ’s or canned responses are sufficient in the face of the unprecedented. So how were organisations able to stay ahead of customer needs, while coping with dwindling live support resources.

The answer to addressing customer needs before they flood the call centre lies in a smart approach to data, and a culture of experimentation. Every step in the customer journey provides an enormous volume of valuable data. If used in the right way, this data can help businesses nip potential pain points in the bud before the deluge of calls arrives. To illustrate, let’s consider retailers who have had to adjust to serve a more digital customer base than they are accustomed to.

Servicing a changing mindset

Many contact centres are supporting retailers who are struggling to bring back the regular footfall expected at this time of year, as consumers still default to online purchases for luxury items. An often overlooked trend in online shopping is the changeability of the customer mindset throughout this process.

With an entire storefront at their fingertips, people are often susceptible to quickly changing their mind on a confirmed purchase, even after delivery has been fulfilled. In fact, about five to 10 percent of in-store purchases are returned. But that rises to 15 to 40 percent for online purchases, according to Happy Returns. In online retail — returns are inevitable.

Clothes e-tailers such as ASOS cater to this trend well, and streamlined customer support and return processes have been well tuned over time. However, for businesses new to high volume online retail and distribution, this has been a difficult adjustment.

The silver lining

Out of the doom and gloom though, we have seen examples of retailers thriving under these conditions. A huge percentage of the calls retailers with an ecommerce platform will receive each year are delivery related, so addressing these have been a priority. Customers expect to have a clear view of how long delivery will take, and how this can vary before and after check-out.

When faced with delays due to a higher volume of online orders than usual, we have seen retailer bosses speaking directly with their front-line call centre staff, to gain a better understanding of how they can ease customer concerns in this area. From limiting the amount of visible stock available, to understanding where to best place notifications of shipping delays on the site — the contact centre staff know the customer mindset best.

Another interesting outcome, is that retailers have found introducing a queueing system on web pages to manage traffic has actually driven sales. This is something that call centres have been using for years, and businesses are finding ways to replicate these tactics digitally. Scarcity is one of the oldest sales tactics in the book, and it is certainly doing the trick for retailers as they quickly try to adapt to a digital first operating landscape.

Moving towards a brighter future

The success stories in the next few years won’t just be determined by who was able to succeed during the current crisis, but who was able to take the lessons and adapt for long term success.

Organisations with award-winning customer service records, such as Sky, have been unlocking the insights from call centre staff through digital experimentation for years. As businesses march out into new territory, staying close to customer expectations through the contact centre will be essential to stay on the right course. The pandemic won’t last forever, but the lessons learned should outlive the virus for years to come.

Safeguarding your customers from fraud before – and after – COVID-19

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By Brett Beranek, VP & General Manager, Security and Biometrics at Nuance Communications

The spread of coronavirus has resulted in increased uncertainty for many. Even as we hopefully begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, feelings of ambiguity have triggered a variation of consumer behaviour. Some are plunging deeper into their work to stay productive and keep the feeling of development going. Others are ‘switching off’ from the news and current affairs by diving into box-sets. Many are calling their banks to check on payments, Direct Debits and seek reassurance.

Loitering behind the scenes of it all is an unfortunate reality often tied to uncertainty and associated behaviours – threat actors, also known as fraudsters. The sad truth is that fraudsters don’t stop their crimes because of a pandemic. In fact, they often seize the immense change that comes with an event like this to ramp up their activity. From social engineering to email phishing and the development of sophisticated – but bogus – websites, fraudsters are taking advantage of any guards down during this time.

During the initial phases of lockdown, we saw a huge increase in the volume of fraud attacks – ranging from 200% – 400%, depending on industry. Some of these relate directly to the pandemic and reports indicate there have been hundreds of coronavirus-related scams. With fraudsters now turning to track-and-trace apps in order to dupe individuals out of their data and hard-earned money, this is a number which is only likely to increase as we go on.

Last year, even before the impact of coronavirus hit, fraud reportedly cost the global economy $5 (USD) trillion. A global poll conducted by Nuance around the same time found nearly one in five (27%) UK consumers had fallen victim to fraud in the previous twelve months, losing an average of £1,000 each, due to inefficient passwords.

That fraud loss doesn’t just hit you and me, or the bank’s insurance premiums. It hits the firms unintentionally associated with the fraud. Customers are quick to move away from those associated to fraud when it happens, with three in five (60%) in the UK noting they would change service providers or brands if they fell victim to fraudsters through their services.

Safeguarding customers in the new normal

Over the last few months, businesses all over world have faced a myriad of challenges. Irrespective of size or sector, we’ve all needed to adapt in order to keep going. The early obstacles were around ensuring both connectivity and productivity, enabling employees to work effectively from home during this unprecedented period in history.

But securing this new home-based workforce and protecting every employee, as well as every customer, from fraud is still a major concern. Many are simply not prepared and do not have the latest safeguarding tools – such as biometric technologies – in place to shield themselves from financial loss and protect their customers from identity theft. In such an uncertain time, it’s never been more important for organisations to bolster their cybersecurity strategies and arm themselves with the technology to keep fraudsters at bay whilst maintaining usual levels of service.

The unsung heroes

The abrupt switch to home-working has put particular pressure on call centres – and their agents. Many have had little to no experience with enabling remote or home working environments and fraudsters are using this to their advantage – testing for vulnerabilities by directly attacking agents working from home or even pretending to be those agents to test for weaknesses in the wider business.

This would be a challenge enough in itself but those operatives are also having to manage a massive surge in customer call volumes at a global scale. The economic downturn has all but brought the travel and hospitality industries to their knees and customers are concerned about their finances. They have questions and – in a time when many physical banks and offices are only starting to reopen – they are turning to call centres for the answers. Banks in Ireland, for example, saw a 400% increase in contact centre calls, including an average of 7,000 calls a day from customers around mortgage-related concerns. 

In today’s circumstances, it can be difficult for customer care agents to navigate the sheer volume of calls, let alone separate the fraudsters from the real customers requesting to make these transactions. This is where biometrics can help.

The biometric barrier

With your contact centre agents tackling higher demand than ever before, biometrics could play a key role in protecting both them and your customers. Not only can it verify and authenticate a caller using just the sound of their voice and behavioural characteristics – saving your agents from having to ask knowledge-based questions – but it can also flag known fraudsters who are attempting to deceive.

This in turn gives your customers peace of mind in terms of the security of their account, and also streamlines the process and customer experience when they’re in contact with your brand.

Unfortunately, the most at risk of fraud are the elderly, especially during this pandemic. Indeed, according to Age UK, an older person in England and Wales becomes a victim of fraud every 40 seconds. This is an issue we need to address as an industry – and technology is there to support this fight. In fact, the most advanced technologies can now also enable organisations to identify those over 65 years of age when calling, and prioritise them accordingly using the sound of their voice – helping protect those at increased risk and further improve their experience.

Biometric solutions are emerging as a key resource in the armory needed to fight against fraud, especially during the coronavirus crisis. Their ability to identify customers, agents and fraudsters alike are helping to keep bad actors at bay and ensure that contact centre connections are safe and secure. By investing in such measures, businesses are taking a proactive stance to safeguard their employees and customers, putting security at the heart of their customer experience.

RPA: A key factor driving success in the COVID-19 era  

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By Catherine Gurwitz (pictured), Product Marketing Manager, NICE

Organizations around the world are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to become more agile and efficient in the face of increased demand and rapidly changing environments during the COVID-19 pandemic. While call centers become increasingly aware of the necessity of a remote workforce, organizations are realizing the benefits of automation.

Leveraging RPA for COVID-19 challenges

Industries like healthcare, financial services and the public sector have rapidly mobilized resources to help people cope with the financial, health and practical challenges of life during a pandemic. But along with the growing volumes of service queries they face during the COVID-19 crisis, these organizations have been asked to allow their employees to work from home where possible.

The sudden need to accommodate remote work has put contact centers under enormous pressure. At this trying time, it is more important than ever to provide responsive, personalized and compassionate customer service. But providing a consistent customer experience in a distributed working environment can be challenging.

The pressures of responding to customers who may be anxious or ill can be overwhelming for remote employees used to working in a structured corporate environment. There are also the challenges of rapidly scaling up for demand and ensuring continuance in case employees cannot work because they fall ill or need to self-isolate.

RPA and COVID-19

Many organizations are turning to software robots for assistance. Robotic process automation (RPA) in the back-office and virtual assistants (attended automation) on employees desktops are helping enterprises to keep pace with growing service demands, support colleagues working from home, and ensure business continuity during these challenging times.

For companies wrestling with the challenges of COVID-19, RPA offers wide-ranging benefits. Every organization has clerical, time-consuming tasks that demand accuracy and speed, but don’t require decision-making to accomplish. Companies that have needed to downscale or even shut down normal contact center and back-office operations will have experienced a backlog in service requests such as changes of address or new account applications, for instance. Unattended robots are a perfect fit for tasks like those, which involve searching, cutting and pasting, updating the same data in multiple places, moving data around, and collating simple and repetitive items. Unattended bots, running on servers in the backend, can perform just about any rule-based work by interacting with applications.

With the escalating call volumes and back-office backlogs companies face due to COVID-19, unattended robots can power through high volumes of many admin driven tasks, such as: address changes, refund claims, orders, generation of customer letters and other tasks without any manual intervention required.  Everyone wins in this scenario: the customer gets a convenient experience and a quick response, employees can focus on complex, more personal interactions rather than on tedious manual work, and the company benefits from optimized efficiency and productivity.

Attended Automation, RPA and COVID-19 efficiencies

In the context of COVID-19, RPA really comes into its own when it is combined with an attended automation solution. Attended and unattended solutions working together can help organizations scale up and improve responsiveness at a time when contact centers are under enormous pressure because physical channels are closed for business.

At this time, employees may be facing a growing pile of paperwork and manual data capture requirements as national lockdowns begin to ease. An attended bot can help them catch up with the backlog. But it also improves engagement by helping them work efficiently to help each customer and freeing them from tedious work which machines can handle better.

Attended automation solutions can also capture data from scanned claim forms or faxes by using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and then update back-office systems with the new data. The employee does not need to expend energy on this type of tedious, low-value task, allowing them to get more done and to focus on the human side rather than on data capture.

One common frustration for customer service employees is the requirement to cut and paste customer information from one system to another, or even to recapture data that exists in one corporate system in a different application. An attended automation solution can auto-populate forms in a blink of an eye, then allow the agent to add or change details as necessary, in real-time.

Attended automation is also a boon when front office employees need to work across multiple applications and systems. It can streamline laborious processes such as collecting data from numerous disparate systems and present it all in a single view for the agent. It can also perform real-time calculations for the agent and present a view of summarized customer data.

Challenges of remote work and automation

Since many employees are working remotely due to COVID-19, they are unable to turn directly to colleagues or supervisors for help and support. Virtual assistants have a valuable potential role to play in supporting remote employees – keeping them engaged, informed and connected. They can also prompt employees to follow company guidelines, policies and procedures – all in real-time.

This helps the organization to ensure regulatory compliance and maintain consistency of the customer experience. When a company changes processes or policies, the employee virtual assistant can help to quickly align staff to any changes. It can also enable front- line agents to speak in a coherent voice by providing them with contextually relevant guidance scripts in real-time.

When there are both attended and unattended process bots at work, in the event of a process exception or error, an attended bot can refer a request to a human worker for intervention when it cannot complete a task. The human worker can then ‘collaborate’ with their attended bot to resolve a process error or complication, in real-time. The automated flow can then resume without any downtime.

Succeeding with attended automation and RPA in the COVID era

Quickly getting to grips with attended automation and RPA, during this unpredictable and turbulent time can better equip call centers, agents and end customers to better adjust to this new reality and achieve success.  For more information on how to empower your remote workforce to click here.

FREE EBOOK: Managing Contact Centre Homeworkers – 20 Quick Tips

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Being a home worker will give you (as a Manager) a different and better perspective on the unique issues and pressures facing colleagues.
That said, are you finding it difficult to support your remote teams? Unsure how to motivate and boost work-at-home productivity? Or are you struggling with information security and compliance?
The new eBook from Sensee will teach you how to get on top of these and many other remote management issues.
View the ebook here (no need to register)

COVID-19: A catalyst for change in the contact centre

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By Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO and Co-Founder, Content Guru

When COVID-19 caused mass lockdown across the UK, nearly every single organisation was required to send its employees home to work remotely, or face having to close business operations entirely. There is no escaping the monumental impact that COVID-19 is having and will continue to have on both individuals and businesses on a global scale.

From grandparents using Zoom for the first time, to legacy-reliant organisations modernising in the cloud, there is a huge wave of ‘digital acceleration’ building towards a ‘new-normal’. We are now seeing efficient remote working across industries that previously thought it impossible, as well as the clear environmental benefits resulting from this. Work-life balance may be somewhat strange, but employees are now being trusted more openly by their employers to work from home in an environment that suits their needs.

In light of this monumental shift to remote working and cloud-based technologies, the long-term effects of COVID-19 as a catalyst for change in all aspects of life will be profound, and one particularly strong instance of this can be found in the contact centre industry.

COVID-19 in the Contact Centre

The traditional contact centre environment – often characterised by its low-paid employees packed side-by-side into drab offices or warehouses under strict supervision – could be described as the mill of the modern age. While typically associated with a high employee churn rate, this environment is quite obviously a hotbed for spreading germs. The crowded spaces may make for unappealing working conditions during normal circumstances, but with the battle against COVID-19 firmly on the nation’s mind many contact centre agents now see their traditional working environment as a risky and dangerous place to be.

Social distancing measures have been in place for almost two months now. It is therefore surprising – if not shocking – to learn that research over this period has revealed many non-essential contact centres are still requiring agents to work in their offices on a daily basis. Undertaken by the University of Strathclyde, the research suggests only a third of contact centres now have social distancing measures in place, and half are still working face-to-face. When you consider that the majority (two thirds) of contact centre employees have asked to work from home and yet just four per cent of those requests have been granted, it seems likely that this is an industry not only taking a lackadaisical towards the pandemic, but one that is similarly uninterested in the wellbeing of its employees.

The dangers are real. More than 2,000 contact centre workers have answered the survey so far, reporting insufficient social distancing, multi-occupation workstations, poor sanitisation, and re-used headsets. On top of these poor practices, large on premise contact centres are potentially spreading germs through heating and ventilation systems in multiple open-plan offices. For an industry that employs around four per cent of the UK’s working population, these statistics paint a stark picture.

The time to innovate is now

It should be blatantly obvious that the contact centre of yesterday is not suitable for operation amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. However, looking beyond the pandemic, it is also suppressing the necessary evolution of the contact centre from a reactive centre of cost reduction, to a more proactive, value-driven engagement hub. Lifting these restrictions will provide the catalyst for the same digital acceleration we are now seeing across industries, while also empowering employees with the latest technologies, remote working capabilities, greater responsibilities, and more rewarding careers.

The contact centre industry employs more than a million UK workers, and this typically conservative, on-premise industry has faced a mammoth task of pivoting operations to react quickly and flexibly to the largely unforeseen pandemic. With cloud-based contact centre technologies leading the charge, organisations that have acted quickly to deploy remote working capabilities are now demonstrating to the industry as a whole how they can provide an excellent engagement experience for their customers, even under extremely strained circumstances.

Those organisations that have acted fast to move to a cloud-based technology platform are now breaking away from the pack. These are the architects of a revitalised industry, modernising in a post-pandemic world and rethinking how home agents can work in a liberated yet secure and supervised way – even in sensitive situations such as PCI-DSS-compliant card payments.

Beyond the pandemic

The influx of email notifications from service providers in all industries detailing a drop in contact centre service levels shows that many organisations still have some way to go. However, almost all will be taking action now and this will prove vital in the months and years ahead.

While the ‘new normal’, in which all businesses must operate, is certainly very different to the previous business landscape, the key issues and challenges facing the contact centre are the same. For those comfortably operating in the cloud and supporting secure remote working capabilities, the traditional challenges of reducing agent churn, managing learning and development and ensuring employee wellbeing will be far easier to overcome. COVID-19 has led many contact centre operators into an enforced proof of concept that will deliver them significant operational benefits in the long term. Those that were once scared or unsure about how to make the leap are quickly realising the benefits of a modern, cloud-based contact centre, remote workforce and a more environmentally-friendly industry.

Broken barriers

The pandemic has broken down barriers to innovation that blocked progress in the contact centre industry for decades. Agents across the country are comfortably performing their jobs in the same secure, compliant way as they would have in a physical office. Where there may have been a lack of trust around home working, the capabilities of cloud contact centre technology, such as real-time screen reporting and Quality Management for supervisors, have enabled contact centre managers to maintain complete visibility over their remote agents’ wellbeing and workload. Never has the call to innovate in the contact centre been more clearly heard than now.

This pandemic will change many things. For the contact centre, it will fundamentally alter the landscape forever – and for the better – marking the start of a more caring, efficient, agile and environmentally-responsible industry.

Discover a CCaaS solution built for The New Normal.

Five reasons contact centres are moving to the cloud right now (or should if they aren’t already)

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By Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru

We are on the precipice of another great cloud migration. It’s something we’ve seen with data storage, software and consumer services and over the next few years, we will witness the same journey in the contact centre industry – from the on-premises contact centre of old, to completely cloud-based, omnichannel contact-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) infrastructure. It’s a move that is long overdue, which has become all too clear in the chaos created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses worldwide scrabble to implement safe and efficient remote-working solutions for their agents.

The contact centre in particular has historically been seen as a place where organisations can save money. This has led to narrow performance metrics and a general desire to reduce headcount. However, with the colossal shift across industries to a focus on customer experience as the key business differentiator, it is time for businesses to realise that a cloud contact centre model is now the only one that makes sense.

Here are my five reasons why, if they haven’t done so already, it is high time for organisations in the contact centre industry – as one of the largest employers in the UK – to make the move to the cloud.

1. Employee health and wellbeing is more important than ever

Among the UK government’s latest guidance on lockdown regulations was the update that those who cannot work from home are now encouraged to return to work if possible. What does this mean for the contact centre industry?

Even throughout the strictest lockdown period, many non-essential contact centres still had employees working in their offices on a daily basis. Research since the outbreak began, undertaken by the University of Strathclyde and conducted among 2,750 UK contact centre workers, suggests only a third of contact centres now have social distancing measures in place. More worrying still, a further three-quarters said that social distancing when moving around the building was either ‘hazardous’ or ‘very hazardous’, and half are still working face-to-face.

The dangers of continuing to allow call agents to work onsite in potentially unsafe premises are evident. Now is the time for contact centres to implement a homeworking strategy that will help to protect the health and wellbeing of their employees. Cloud-based CCaaS technology can enable organisations to quickly deploy remote working capabilities. Organisations who have already made that move are demonstrating to the industry as a whole how they can continue to provide an excellent engagement experience for their customers under extremely strained circumstances, all while keeping employees safe.

2. The workplace is evolving for a modern-day workforce

Even before COVID-19, there was a widespread shifting focus to home working across all industries, which has only been accelerated by the current situation. According to research from the Office of National Statistics published prior to the pandemic, 50 per cent of UK employees were already set to work remotely in 2020. Remote working is a subject bound to divide opinion across small to large organisations in every sector, but nowhere more potently than in the contact centre industry. These concerns are perfectly understandable – the contact centre has always been a very physical workplace, with call agents hooked up to a legacy phone system, answering calls on multiple lines, in-sight of employers. Right now, permitting home working may simply be a case of survival as a business. However, in future, businesses will have a strong case to answer if they do not offer home working in some form.

Cloud-based CCaaS is browser-based so agents can access the system wherever they are, whenever they want. The ability to home work gives employees more flexibility and control over their working hours, making it easier to fit their career around busy schedules in a way that benefits both themselves and the organisation. Their working schedule can coincide more easily around family and home life, as they have the opportunity to log in while the children are at school, for example. This not only delivers something for the reward strategy of a contact centre, but increased satisfaction and happiness for the employee in a more flexible workplace landscape.

3. Omnichannel should now be seamless

In common with many other areas of today’s data-driven economy, solutions provided by cloud-based service providers are disrupting the way technology is applied in customer service environments. Businesses are making a strategic move away from traditional on-premise infrastructure and software platforms in favour of versatile ‘as-a-service’ options which broaden the functionality available while reducing the need for big ticket capex investment. Providers who can offer a holistic omnichannel solution are often better placed to meet the strategic and operational needs of customer service teams. Communications now need to be kept consistent across multiple channels, working together with no disparity, to provide a seamless customer experience. This is easily achieved using cloud-based CCaaS with a one-window view where communications are collated in one space, making it easier to navigate across multiple channels.

4. The need to scale-up and scale-out on demand is clear

Even for contact centres that are used to dealing with high volumes, handling spikes in demand can prove extremely difficult using traditional legacy infrastructure. As we have seen in the current pandemic, those working with cloud-based CCaaS across an omnichannel environment are ideally placed to deal with high levels of enquiries and can ensure strong service levels even when demand jumps. For example, screen-pops bring customer data and information on past interactions directly to agents, reducing customer frustration, as callers don’t have to repeat information they have already provided. Intelligent automation can be used to route enquiries to the most appropriate available agent or chatbot, who are also equipped with the right information to engage with the contact. This ensures that customer service is consistently best-in-class, even for contact centres with thousands of seats.

5. Long term cost savings are achievable

Traditionally, the contact centre has been viewed as an area of business in which to save on costs and resources. However, as a result of this oversight, staff turnover continues to be one of the greatest costs to the contact centre industry, which ‘enjoys’ a relatively low employee satisfaction rate and high churn. This is costly and time consuming for contact centre leads and their management teams, so finding ways of reversing this ratio is imperative. Employers should be researching and investing in technology that will make agents’ jobs more streamlined and more rewarding. Making a short-term investment in a CCaaS platform can massively reduce wider costs in the long term.

For example, the introduction and implementation of AI into the contact centre can have a massive impact on the day-to-day agent experience. Many simple enquiries won’t even reach a human agent thanks to AI-driven self-service, therefore automating tedious and mundane tasks, as well as reducing wait times and speed to resolution for customers. Augmenting agents’ ability with AI while reducing channel complexity with effective omni-channel capabilities will have a significant impact on churn if approached with the goal of empowering agents to better manage service enquiries.

A final word

In the midst of the confusion and upheaval caused by COVID-19, it is understandable that businesses may be hesitant about investing in new technology. However, it is clear to see that moving to the cloud is one step in a company’s digital transformation that makes perfect logical sense right now. For businesses operating in the contact centre space, it may turn out to be the make or break in maintaining relationships with their customers during these challenging times. Migrating to the cloud will help to meet the ever-changing demands of the modern business – and societal – landscape now, and into the future.

Find how to move your contact centre to the cloud, click here.

Why VPN is a poor choice for enabling a remote call center staff

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By Steve Bell, TalkDesk

In my previous blog, I stressed the importance of using cloud technology to quickly move call center agents to a safe, work-at-home environment, to continue support for their customers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. In this blog, I explore the challenges and pitfalls of a common alternative tactic many companies are employing to enable remote agents: using Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections to their legacy on-premises phone system.

Decision Time

IT executives across the globe are currently facing the urgent need to remote enable their contact center staff. If you’re still running an on-premises phone system, chances are you already have a VPN network in place to support a percentage of teleworkers – maybe 10 to 20% – for disaster recovery scenarios. So, one reaction might be to extend that VPN network to your entire staff, leaving your on-premises phone system in place.

On the other hand, you know you’ve been wanting to move your contact center to the cloud to take advantage of efficiencies, cost savings and better customer experiences, but haven’t had a compelling event to make the move. If there was ever a compelling event, COVID-19 is it. This is your company’s justification to move to the cloud immediately. Why not embrace the opportunity?

Which of these alternatives – VPN or Cloud – makes the most sense in terms of speed, cost and reliability? Spoiler alert: the right answer is NOT VPN. Click here to discover why.

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