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Do you specialise in Call Centre Technologies? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on Call Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in March we’re focusing on Call Centre Technologies.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Call Centre Technologies and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Mar – Call Centre Technology
Apr – Automated Customer Satisfaction
May – Social Media
Jun – Artificial Intelligence
Jul – Virtual Call/Contact Centres
Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Brexit ‘to widen tech gap between agile businesses and those that will struggle’

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British business leaders do not believe their companies are fully up to speed with developing technologies – with only around half (53%) saying they are fully utilising their technology advantage to win business, run efficient systems and attract the best talent, according to research from ThoughtWorks.

With businesses concerned about how Brexit could have an impact on data protection, changing regulation and supply chain disruption, ThoughtWorks asked a nationally representative sample of 1,026 business owners how fully they used technology to achieve growth and competitive advantage. The findings suggested that many businesses were increasingly concerned that they were falling behind in terms of technological development.

Tech agility linked to post-Brexit growth outlook

For the 47% of businesses that admitted their use of technology was not that sophisticated, 41% said they were trying to improve their business’s technological capabilities but were still in some way behind the competition. Furthermore, 6% of respondents said that their lack of technological development was holding their business back from growing.

Significantly, the level of tech agility of UK businesses correlated directly with how they thought Brexit would impact their business in 2020. Those agile, tech-driven businesses were far more likely to see Brexit as an opportunity to grow – 47% predicting growth opportunities to move into new markets and 19% believing they would be able to grow market share in existing markets. In contrast, those businesses that said their tech maturity was holding them back were far more likely to say Brexit would force them to put growth plans on hold (16%) or to downsize – and to pull out of some key markets (10%). The research suggests Brexit could be a catalyst that widens the tech gap in Britain, between those agile enterprises that will grow in 2020 and those struggling with technology that will fall further behind.

12-month business outlook following Brexit – by state of business tech agility

Fully use tech advantage Tech capabilities hold us back
There will be growth opportunities to move into new markets 47% 13%
There will be growth opportunities in existing markets 19% 11%
Little change – we’ll stick to our plans, we won’t be affected by Brexit 19% 42%
Little change – putting growth plans on hold until the dust settles 7% 16%
There will be downsizing – we are preparing for a loss of business 6% 8%
There will be downsizing – we will pull out of some key markets 1% 10%

Bleak mid-Winter ahead for retail

With the demise of Mothercare, and Marks & Spencer reporting a fresh slump in clothing sales[2], ThoughtWorks’ research shows retail emerging as the sector where fewest business leaders believe they are fully using technology to win business, run efficient systems and attract the best people (35%). Linking tech agility to Brexit outlook again, retail was also the sector where most business leaders said that, in the 12-months following Brexit, they were preparing to downsize and for the prospect of losing business.

Percentage of businesses that said they are fully using their technology advantage by sector

Media & Tech 77%
Financial Services 59%
Health 54%
Manufacturing 47%
Construction 43%
Education 40%
Retail 35%

 While it is perhaps unsurprising that businesses in the media and tech sector were the most likely to say they fully utilised their technological advantage, even here more than a fifth (23%) of businesses admitted that they were behind the leaders in their market and could take steps to improve their agility.

Tech on the Tyne

The ThoughtWorks study also explored business opinion across the UK’s major cities. Whilst London and the South East have traditionally dominated the regions for tech investment – with London companies securing $4.8bn (£3.8bn) in 2018[3] – the new research shows that Newcastle is the city where the highest proportion of business leaders say their business makes full use of their technology assets in terms of winning business, improving systems and attracting the best people (77%). Indeed, London only just beats Birmingham into second place (66% Vs. 65%).

Tech gap in Scotland

While most cities in England and Wales (apart from Liverpool) saw at least half their businesses taking full advantage of their technology assets, businesses north of the border seemed to be lagging behind. Only 47% of businesses in Glasgow – and 42% in Edinburgh – said they were fully utilising their technology advantage. Whilst political considerations around Brexit have been a cause of acute concern in Scotland, the new research suggests tech agility is also playing a big role in shaping business outlook for the period after Brexit – with businesses in Glasgow and Edinburgh least likely of the 11 cities surveyed to predict opportunities to grow into new markets in 2020 (Glasgow 18%, Edinburgh 17%).

Percentage of businesses taking full advantage of their technology and percentage predicting growth opportunities in new markets for 2020 – by city

City % Fully using their technology advantage % Predicting growth opportunities in new markets during 2020
Newcastle 77% 34%
London 66% 40%
Birmingham 65% 40%
Manchester 59% 35%
Nottingham 59% 41%
Cardiff 58% 40%
Bristol 56% 36%
Leeds 51% 26%
Glasgow 47% 18%
Edinburgh 42% 17%
Liverpool 37% 30%

Luke Vinogradov, Digital Transformation Principal, ThoughtWorks, said: Surrounded by change and uncertainty, organisations are realising they may not be taking full advantage of technology. Some have yet to start, others have focussed narrowly on digital customer experience, because it’s very visible and actually it’s a great first step. However, modern digital businesses already at the top of their game know that the kind of capabilities that have driven their success don’t stop there.

Across the organisation, making tech work for you means making choices. New ways of working can align your whole business around customer value; data can help you to build engagement and advantage; platform thinking and a test-and-learn approach will maximise the impact of your investments; and a delivery mindset will help you cut through the complexity and get things done. All of these digital capabilities can help you keep up – the right balance will ensure you get ahead.

As a trusted partner for many leading organisations on their digital transformation journey, ThoughtWorks can help you make the right choices, not only addressing today’s challenges but giving you the capabilities you need for a confident future.”

Tech set to ease CX frustrations in 2020

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Three key issues – taking advantage of Conversational User Interfaces, ensuring effective customer Journey Analytics, and addressing the impact of Peak Voice with augmented solutions – will become even more critical in 2020 if brands are to become more consistent in delivering brilliant customer experiences, says Sabio Group’s Chief Innovation Officer, Stuart Dorman…

More and more CX teams now recognise that pursuing a broad omnichannel customer engagement strategy hasn’t actually enabled the kind of best-in-class customer experiences they were looking to offer. That’s why in 2020 we’ll see an increased emphasis on the shaping and refinement of smarter customer journeys – ones that will help direct people towards the channels and resources that are more appropriate for what they’re trying to achieve.

However, being able to deliver this level of engagement at scale is always going to be challenging. And with Conversational User Interfaces fast becoming the dominant way for customers to begin their engagement with organisations, it’s essential that projects are not only designed and driven by CX operations specialists but also regularly optimised with the latest Journey Analytics tools to identify process and customer experience improvements. At the same time, organisations also need to recognise the increased complexity of voice interactions and provide agents with new levels of augmented support.

Here are our 3 key areas of focus for 2020:

  1. Conversational User Interfaces (CUI) – while it’s comparatively easy for an IT team to use open framework tools to build simple chatbots, it’s a much harder challenge to craft comprehensive virtual assistant solutions that can support a range of customer needs while still delivering high quality service at scale. Achieving success here requires organisations to look beyond key technology components such as speech recognition, natural language understanding and text-to-speech, and instead focus more on ‘the Art of CX’ such as the UI design aspect, the language used and the ongoing refinements that can only come from deep operational engagement.
  2. Journey Analytics – Despite the relative maturity as a technology, it’s surprising how few organisations take advantage of analytics tools to really understand the end-to-end customer journey. Getting this right is complex, however the benefits – whether in terms of identifying where demand is coming from, gathering and analysing customer intent, or refining processes to improve the digital experience – can be significant. Effective journey analytics also help to close the loop with other key CX processes. For example, it’s great to have a contact centre with demand fully optimised, but less good if you don’t know where those calls are coming from in the first place.
  3. Peak Voice – with customers experiencing continually improving self-service options thanks to innovations such as the Conversational User Interface (CUI), organisations are reporting a consequent reduction in voice traffic volumes. However, as the industry moves beyond Peak Voice, the actual complexity of calls coming into contact centres is increasing, along with handling times, as agents are left to deal with the interactions that can’t be resolved through self-service alone. This is placing greater focus on continued improvements to the CUI, as well as the introduction of augmented voice services that effectively add a digital channel in parallel with voice to allow agents and customers to share content during interactions.

Tackling these three challenges and working to streamline the customer journey will unlock huge benefits for both organisations and their customers in 2020 and beyond. However, brands simply can’t rely on virtual assistant or chatbot systems that only deliver one-size-fits-all FAQ-style responses.

As consumer expectations evolve, today’s conversations need to be tailored to customer understanding, they increasingly have to recognise a customer’s intent and mood, and they also have to be agile enough to recover from errors in dialogue or journey disconnects.

Bringing all these elements together and making it simple and intuitive for customers to get what they need from their interaction is where ‘the art of CX’ can make a real difference.

Top 3 predictions for contact centres in 2020

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Rapid change in the contact industry may seem overwhelming but a great place to start 2020 is with people, partners and technology. That’s the message from Puzzel‘s Thomas Rødseth as we welcome in a new decade…

With so much happening in the contact centre world, the thought of planning ahead can be daunting and 2019 has been no ordinary year.  It’s been one of immense transformation, for example take Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the industry cuts through the jargon and dispels the myths, we are seeing more organisations embrace AI to serve customers and agents. 

Innovative Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools such as chat bots are carving out a great opportunity for contact centres to reduce live assistant responses, leading to huge savings in time and support costs.  With the power to boost agent and customer satisfaction in one go, automation is an agent’s best friend by dealing with routine customer enquiries round-the-clock to improve customer experience (CX) and strengthen brand loyalty. Leaving agents to handle more complex interactions.

This year also saw the launch of Puzzel’s new agent application to remove desktop clutter and to present agents with the right information, without switching screens or resorting to pop-ups.  This single view of customer conversations accelerates an agent’s ability to improve CX all in one place and improves employee engagement into the bargain.

Top 3 predictions for 2020

These are exciting times full of seismic shifts at every turn and for a clearer vision, here are our favourite predictions for 2020:

  1. Agent wellbeing will take centre stage – when Puzzel conducted its recent survey of 100 contact centreprofessionals, an overriding sentiment was that agents are key to delivering a high standard of customer experience.  Happy staff who feel valued are quite simply, better performers.  As a result, we believe that organisations will take greater and more proactive steps to improve agent wellbeing.  These will include clearer communication of expectations, goals and vision coupled with a concerted effort to involve agents in departmental decision-making.  Contact centre leaders will have an even more significant role to play.  They will need to be approachable but lead by example, encouraging collaborative knowledge sharing while making the time to understand the challenges that their agents face and helping out if necessary. 
  2. Smart companies will create collaborative partner eco-systems – cultural wellbeing will extend to the way organisations work with partners.  There will be a definite shift from volume to collaborative working.  Rather than recruit 100s of new channel partners, forward-thinking companies will truly engage with partners that complement their services.  It’s a practical approach that will give companies the freedom to generate new revenue streams in their own way while effectively protecting margins and ensuring their offering stands apart from the competition.  This new collaborative partner eco-system model will provide everything organisations need to build a contactcentre where employees, their customers and the business flourish.
  3. Technology for the hybrid workforce – contact centres are already seeking to blend the best that man and machine have to offer to drive operational efficiencies and customer engagement.  As the trend for combining agent intelligence with automation continues, the focus will be on building a hybrid workforce.  For example, the latest application of Chatbots maximises AI learning from the contact centre and other parts of the business, to provide agents with the real-time knowledge they need to resolve customer interactions.  This new breed of Virtual Personal Assistants or ‘bot buddies’ will give employees an opportunity to boost their performance and grow their careers. 

It’s time to plan for the year ahead. Why not use these 3 predictions as a sounding board to prepare for your best contact centre ever?

GUEST BLOG: It’s not the technology – It’s the content!

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By Suzy Hyatt, Adexchange

Investing in new Contact Centre technology is essential – but if our customers struggle to use this technology, getting a return on investment can be difficult…

So how do we make sure we get the most out of our technology? The simple answer is Content.

Assuming the technology we’ve put in place isn’t falling over (and assuming our network can take the capacity), if our customers aren’t doing what we want, then the content and customer journey could be affecting our ROI.

The result? Customers being driven back to more familiar (and expensive channels) like the IVR.

Worse still, if the channel we’re trying to drive our users down is really unappealing, they may give up on our brand completely – and go elsewhere.

So why does this failure happen?

1) No appeal

Think of the old English proverb ‘You canlead a horse to waterbut you can’t make him drink’.

A channel of communication must seem genuinely easy to use in order for our customers to even consider interacting with it. This is particularly true when it comes to the relatively ‘new’ channels that customers are less familiar with (think chatbots,portals, speech recognition).

2) Customers try – and fail – to use the new technology.

If we can successfully drive our customers towards our new technology channels, then that’s a great start.  But what happens if they struggle to use the channel once they’ve arrived?

If our chatbot is too robotic, our portal difficult to navigate or our payment platform’s speech recognition poorly tuned – people will give up and revert to a more comfortable channel of choice?

3) No investment in the customer journey

A lot of money is often invested into new technology. Specialist IT staff help to implement it – and highly skilled agents are hired to work on it (where applicable). But investment in the content and customer journey is often unintentionally overlooked. It’s vital the customer facing output (the content) is designed by customer communication specialists – who understand how to increase customer usage and increase ROI.

The Solution

How can we ensure we get the most out of our technology?  As mentioned, the secret lies in thecontentwe chose to wrap around the technology.

Let’s take a couple of examples;

1) A sophisticated speech recognition ID&V platform helps to reduce valuable AHT from busy agents – if used effectively.

We need to think about the following;

  • Are the questions we’re asking too complex? If the user doesn’t understand what we want them to do they’ll be more likely to fail.
  • If repeating the menu, it’s often effective to use different phrasing. This helps to catch people who didn’t understand what we asked the first time around.
  • Do we need the user to have certain details to hand before they begin their automated journey? If so we need to tell them early on – and give them the opportunity to put the system on hold while they go and find what they need (rather than handing them off to a live agent).

We helped a national money lender increase their ID&V success from 35% to 55% – simply by making some changes to the existing audio messages. No further technology investment needed.

2) If we’re keen to increase our web self-service we need to make our portal easy to use.

Remember to ask these questions;

  • What benefit does the channel of our choice give the customer? What’s in it for them?
  • How easy is it for the customer to actually use our portal? What language are we using?
  • Are our other channels too appealing? If so, we need to make our channel of choice more enticing.

We helped a global healthcare provider more than double its portal adoption (from 30% – 61%) by improving the content facing each user.

In short – we can spend millions on new technology, but it’s the customer facing output – the content – that touches our customers. So we must focus on making this customer facing interface as effective as possible.

If you want to get more ROI out of your technology get it touch to see how we can help.

Complex customer issues number one challenge for contact centre employees

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While customer experience continues to be the top priority for businesses, a new report reveals that 56 per cent of contact centre employees cite complex customer problems as their top challenge. And 60 per cent admit their company has left them ill-equipped to handle these problems, leaving agents stressed and unengaged.

The report, The Health of the Contact Centre: Agent Well-Being in a Customer-Centric Era, was commissioned by Calabrio, a provider of customer engagement and analytics software. It surveyed more than 1,000 contact centre employees in the UK and US to uncover the health of today’s contact centres, including agent confidence in the ability to be successful in their jobs, the challenges they face and how technology will dictate the future of the contact centre.

Empowering contact centre employees is more critical than ever as 32 per cent of respondents believe that customer problems will only become increasingly difficult over the next two years, and 45 percent worry customers will expect even more from companies.

The well-being of contact centre employees continues to decline and, if not addressed, it can ultimately affect their ability to deliver the desired customer experience. A quarter (25 per cent) of respondents say they feel stressed multiple times a week, and more than half (52 per cent) agree that their company isn’t doing enough to prevent teams from feeling burned out.

Kris McKenzie, EMEA General Manager at Calabrio said: “Brands are battling it out to deliver the right customer experience to get ahead of the competition and drive market share. What is clear, however, is if they do not rethink the contact centre strategy, they’re putting the entire customer experience at risk.

“As a cornerstone of the customer experience, brands need to implement the right technology in their contact centre but more importantly they need to focus on the people. In doing so, contact centre staff become empowered to quickly make informed decisions and deliver on the experience that customers have come to expect.”

Download the full report here.

 

Senior business leaders holding back on adopting new technology…

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New research carried out by 8×8 and the Institute of Directors (IoD) has exposed a rift between attitudes of company directors and IT managers when it comes to embracing new technology.

Comparing the views of mid-level ‘hands-on’ IT managers with senior directors across more than 260 UK businesses, the research found 45 per cent of IT managers say their senior business leaders are holding back technology for reasons of ‘self-preservation’, whereby they are reluctant to embrace new techology that will disrupt their own position within their organisations.

In addition, IT managers were found to be far less optimistic than senior directors when asked if their organisation makes full use of the latest technology, with just 34 per cent believing they do, compared with 49 per cent of C-suite respondents.

Kevin Scott-Cowell, UK managing director at 8×8 said: “We frequently hear anecdotal evidence that IT managers face significant opposition from senior leaders when it comes to adopting new technologies such as cloud communications – this research suggests this is something which is widely felt.”

62 per cent of IT managers say UK businesses are too wary when it comes to adopting new technology, such as cloud communications, and only 56 per cent believe senior members invest sufficient resources to stay up-to-date with the latest technology.

An insufficient budget is also a significant factor felt by IT managers when it comes to new technology implementation (35 per cent), compared to just 20 per cent of senior business leaders.

Scott-Cowell added: “Certainly, many senior leaders fear replacing expensive legacy IT systems that they have invested in. Their reluctance to do so in order to preserve the status quo can be damaging to businesses who are losing out on the many benefits to staff productivity and, ultimately, the potential for business growth.”

To read the full report, click here

Inisoft: Happy Agents = Happy Customers…

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Now more than ever, people are the most important asset in the contact centre. Technology has advanced to the point that most simple issues can be resolved digitally, without an employee’s involvement. However, this means that when a customer does need to speak with an agent, issues are highly complex, and customers are often more frustrated than ever. 

Download the Aberdeen Group’s report on “Agent Desktop Optimization: Three Strategies to Maximize Agent Productivity and Customer Experience” which highlights the importance of an agent desktop optimisation programme and how this not only empowers a contact centre agent but also the organisation. 
 

To download the Aberdeen Report, click here

Contact us at: info@inisoft.com

Guest Blog, Darryl Beckford: Merging the new with the old – disruptive technologies for contact excellence…

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Customer expectations have never been higher, and the contact centre has been heavily affected by the rising ‘bar’ for contemporary customer experience, fuelled by rapidly evolving consumer technologies.

But in reality, many struggle to reconcile antiquated operations with strategic digital ambitions. The danger is that without improving the customer experience and breadth of service available through the contact centre, many enterprises will be unable to achieve their core strategic objectives and will leave themselves vulnerable to challenger start-ups.

The right technology deployments such as voice analytics, natural language call steering and voice biometric technology can enable a customer-centric strategy in the modern contact centre. These tools can be used in new ways (outlined below) to drive efficiencies and a better experience now. But what about the future?

As consumer adoption of technology outpaces that of the enterprise, contact centres of the future must harness new modern technologies for the connected consumer to enhance the experiences of both employees and customers alike. These innovative technologies can be merged with current tools, delivering customer contact that supports a disruptive business.

Voice analytics

Voice analytics raised its head about five or seven years ago as ‘the next big thing’, but has fizzled out because the use case pushed by vendors just wasn’t working. While in theory the idea that you could do a Google-esque search of your call recordings to find out what people are saying sounds fun, in reality companies don’t have the time to delve into that detail.

But many companies have invested in this technology, and there are other ways to derive value from it. That way is through using voice analytics to drive consistency and embed change. For example, the use of Quality Advisors to monitor agent calls to ensure the best possible service is widespread, but in contact centres with more than 1,000 agents this can be an expensive and inefficient process. Often there is only time to monitor one or two of each agent’s calls every month.

Instead, contact centres can use voice analytics to listen to all calls answered by agents, and not only give agents a score that is more specific, but can do so on a daily basis. This makes it a lot easier to gather the most out of your workforce, ensuring consistency and empowering personal behavioural change in the contact centre. Most contact centres have good staff who are ambitious, and want to do the best job possible, but they may be inconsistent – and without useful instruction, will remain so. Voice analytics is one way of tackling that in 2017.

Natural language call steering

Natural language call steering can ensure the call reaches the appropriate adviser by automating the caller’s journey, and when done right it can work seamlessly for customers. Using an ‘Open Menu’, contact centres can ask the customer to describe their reason for calling, and use the caller’s naturally spoken response and further clarification questions to route the call. Speech recognition technology in the past was incredibly lumpy, and this is worlds apart. The key feature is that it is low effort, and directs the customer to where they want to go the first time round.

Voice biometrics

Looking back, 2016 has been the year of voice biometrics. Banks such as Barclay’s are beginning to take the potential of the technology seriously, paving the way for other industries to adopt it as a trusted method of verification in call centres. Voice biometric technology can be used to create a unique Voice ID or “voiceprint” from a caller’s voice. This can be used to identify and verify callers to the contact centre, and also as part of a multi-factor authentication scheme for digital and mobile application channels.

Some challenges have arisen as new software has become available which potentially allows a fraudster to spoof a customer’s voice. Biometrics tools will continue to evolve to defeat this “voice hack”, by using additional factors to ensure security.

Right now voice biometrics is seen as being about security, however the future of the technology will actually be about customer personalisation and choice. Since identity verification can now happen without the customer even noticing, voice biometrics make sure customers are treated in the way they ought to be. Ultimately the aim is to allow customers to use their identity to be able to log how they want to be treated, and which channels they like to use.

Voice-controlled technology

The voice-connected Amazon Echo was released in the UK just over a month ago, and is a connected home tool which could change the way that people live in their homes. The Amazon Echo runs on a service called Alexa, a voice controlled personal assistant. Amazon sees the future as smarter, connected and everywhere, and it is my opinion that the real boom here will be in customer contact.

If used properly, voice-controlled tools can drastically improve customer experience, reduce customer effort and reduce operating costs. Customers are really driven by effort, even the extra work involved in having to look up passwords is enough to put customers off. Customer contact involves many different transactions types, from balance check which lasts a couple of minutes to a mortgage application which can last up to 40 minutes. A lengthy transaction would not work on technology like Echo, but short frequent activities such as ‘Check my Balance’ are a sweet spot for Alexa. The customer benefit is huge – chores become a 10 second activity, rather than an obstructive two minutes via the call centre.

The key to this technology is spotting when it will work within the customer journey, and how it can tie into how the customer is attempting self-service. Organisations must start to think in a slightly different way – not necessarily about linear process flows, but understanding what the customer is doing in that specific episode.

Potential for the future

But the potential doesn’t stop there for the technology. In 2017 and beyond, the combination of voice biometrics and other technology is where we will see the most change. If an Amazon Echo device can recognise you from the sound of your voice, then in the future it should be able to offer you things based on your preferences, and services that you’ll be subscribed to. What if you could go to someone’s house, be recognised by your voice, and connect to your own account? It could go even further: the Echo is a dumb device with a speaker, microphone and a processor, but it could be replaced with your connected car allowing you to also access those services, handsfree, whilst on the move.

The future of voice biometrics is that these devices will be able to connect you with your services and preferences based on your identity. As the technology that is becoming mainstream begins to connect together and prove itself, it offers a glimpse into a future that is radically different from where we are now.

 

Darryl is a customer contact professional who has mastered the art of delivering low effort experiences for customers across multiple channels. Now head of Digital Acceleration at KCOM, he has considerable previous experience as a consultant, helping many well-known brands create precise, meaningful and repeatable experiences for their customers.

Guest Blog, Simon Pennie: The power of great customer service…

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Businesses spend vast amounts of time, money and resources to build a brand that customers love. But if they fail to ‘put their money with their mouth’ is – by investing in delivering top notch customer service in their contact centres – they risk squandering their hard-earned reputation.

In an era of fierce competition and highly empowered consumers, customer experience is now seen as the new brand battleground. Millions spent on marketing will be wasted if businesses provide a poor experience when dealing with customers directly. On the other hand, brands who get the customer experience right can track the benefits right through to their bottom line: driving sales, acquisition and loyalty. 

Contact centre agents are on the frontline of customer service, acting as ambassadors for a brand. Having the right people and processes in place to handle customers is arguably the most important thing a business can do to get ahead and follow best practice.

 

The right channel for the right situation

An integral part of good customer experience is providing the right mix of channels to fit with customers’ lifestyles and preferences.

Customer service is still an area where person-to-person interaction will often be most effective. Despite the rise of digital and self-serve customer management, 65 per cent of non-face to face consumer contact still happens over the phone and 15 per cent over email. Voice will remain the preferred channel for engagements which rely on empathy and the human touch, so it is essential that brands continue to invest in this area.

However, the rise in technology has opened up new opportunities for businesses to innovate and build new paths for engagement.  Digital channels such as webchat, messenger and Twitter are now essential tools in a brand’s customer experience arsenal.

The trick is to allow consumers to choose how they engage, rather than forcing them to go through a certain channel at a certain point in their journey. Customers will have specifically chosen to make contact through their preferred channel, so being overly prescriptive or expecting them to switch will only cause frustration. Avoiding channel bounce is one of the most important ways brands can optimise customer experience.
Listen and learn from your customers 

As the use of data becomes the norm, consumer expectations have shifted. Today, customers assume every engagement will be tailored to reflect what is known about them as individuals. Furnishing agents with a history of previous interactions with customers will help them better understand the nature of an issue and offer a more personalised service each and every time.

Similarly, brands can draw directly on customer insights as a barometer to gauge the efficacy of their own processes. For example, using speech and text analytics software across calls can help to plot customer frustration or satisfaction. Interpreting this data allows brands to take informed steps to improve engagement – improving resolution rates and boosting satisfaction.

 

Your agents are your biggest asset 

There’s no question that making the most of data and technology can significantly enhance customer experience. But it’s important not to forget that customer service is first and foremost about engaging with a human being – a single consumer with unique preferences and needs.

Businesses need to make sure they are empowering agents with proven processes for managing customers, giving them the flexibility to use their judgement and determine a solution accordingly. Too narrow a focus on handling times or too rigid an adherence to process can often compromise the ability of an agent to reach a resolution or deliver the best possible outcome.  

Creating a contact centre culture where those dealing daily with customers are empowered, motivated and highly skilled will give companies the greatest chance of delivering the best possible customer experience.

 

Winning in the age of the customer 

In the end, it’s the people who represent a brand that are the ultimate differentiator. If contact centres are the beating heart of a brand’s customer service efforts, then the agents that work in them are the lifeblood.  Getting the formula right on the ground allows businesses to truly set themselves apart from their competitors in the age of the customer.

 

Simon Pennie is VP Solution Architecture at Firstsource Solutions, the leading customer experience expert. He works with clients across a range of sectors to provide business-transforming customer insights and deliver strategic customer experience solutions. Simon is an experienced contact centre professional, with over 15 years’ experience in CX and management consultancy. 

 

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