Through Ken Ume, Product Marketing Manager, Netcall
After weathering the disruption of a global pandemic, most organizations are stabilizing and operating in the new normal, but are we just in the calm before another storm?
Below are some details on the new challenges that are destabilizing contact centers and how to overcome them.
A perfect storm is looming
The big resignation is looming for most UK organisations. Fueled by the pandemic, people are rethinking their career choices, as better opportunities open up for more fulfilling or higher paying roles, or positions that give something back to the community.
Contact center churn has always been an operational fact, ranging up to 25% in the UK, well above the national average of 15%. The pandemic has arguably made things worse. Contact center agents seek job satisfaction, flexibility and better pay, as always. The truth is, there are now more opportunities and reasons to look elsewhere.
The global pandemic may have caused a major shift in social and professional behaviors. It has accelerated the evolution of contact centers. Increased demand, higher customer expectations and increased complexity have made some traditional contact center management practices less relevant. It also brought to light some disconnects, especially with technology, process and knowledge management. Some of the problems have been overcome over the past 18 months. As the headlong rush to stay ahead of pandemic-induced demand slows, we now have to deal with hidden accumulated technical and process debt.
The pace of customer experience (CX) change continues to accelerate. In a recent study conducted by Netcall and Davies, 70% of insurance companies say the pace of CX innovation has increased over the past 12 months. And at the same time, customer’s patience for any disruption caused by COVID is running out (or gone completely). Budgets were flexible at the start of 2020 to get things going fast, but they’re shrinking now.
Often, contact centers are at the heart of all these engines.
What does good look like?
Before you can complete the new challenge, you must first redefine the goal posts. Establish what the ideal contact center would actually look like, as it is likely to be very different from what you were aiming for three years ago. Is it still viable to expect a large room full of people with headsets to handle high call volumes, focusing on wrap times and first call resolution? Is it even beneficial?
It is widely accepted that a distributed workforce is the likely future of all contact centers. For some organizations, even the “distributed contact center” needs to be redesigned. Effective customer results take precedence over internal processes and structures. Disciplines and skill sets typically associated with the contact center are finding new applications, among knowledge workers that are more relevant and likely to help customers. All with the ambition to reduce friction in CX.
The challenge is how to ensure you have the discipline, support and training of the traditional environment. Along with the expertise and experience of customer-facing staff, which may be dispersed in geographic location and job functions. So the new environment looks less like a mega contact center and more like a flexible CX hub. He will be nimble and nimble to leverage the best processes, expertise and insights to drive CX change. Rather, it is a set of skills and technologies that can be deployed to respond effectively to customer demand.
It’s more important than ever to tightly integrate people with multiple, often disparate, legacy back-office systems so they can gather and present what they need, when it’s needed.
How do you measure performance?
Some organizations are already realigning to new internal performance metrics. Today’s empowered customers reject old-fashioned CX surveys, interacting in new ways that metrics must leverage. From the new version of network promoter, customer effort scores, and customer retention rates to capture feedback that frontline employees receive directly from customers. The changes discussed above, along with the shift to omnichannel, have made many traditional metrics less relevant. AI-related technologies offer better ways to measure, analyze and predict future trends. As such, dashboards and reports need to be redesigned.
Take, for example, first call resolution (FCR) to measure agent performance. In a single synchronous call-based environment, this metric has significant merit. However, imagine if you designed an environment where you use digital channels and automation to free up agents from operational and routine tasks, such as delivery status reporting. These tasks often prevent agents from providing excellent service to a customer and the repetitive and mundane nature of recording information in different systems leaves the door wide open to human error.
Automating these tasks is a great way to reduce the workload on your teams. It also allows you to pull data from multiple systems and present the information to the agent when needed. As a side benefit, you’ll also save the time and cost of rework to fix mistakes.
A customer might be happy to start an asynchronous conversation in the evening, knowing they won’t get a response for hours. Other queries can be answered in seconds by chatbots. Average handle times (AHT) can struggle to measure the performance of conversations that are part of a longer engagement, across multiple touchpoints. This can ultimately lead to a detailed conversation with an agent, when the subject becomes complex or sensitive. This can be hours or days after the initial engagement. Traditional FCR or AHT metrics can penalize the agent for the long tail to the final call, or the long call. However, previous touchpoints helped reduce the final agent interaction to a precise location.
A dashboard or report built around these types of metrics can also risk alienating other stakeholders, as it only focuses on “contact center” metrics and reports.
To get the right results and decision-making environment, our metrics, dashboards, and reports should focus on the effectiveness of delivering the right results at the right time, as well as the impact of contact center performance on the rest. organisation.
Traditional contact center reports and metrics still have their place, but they need to be combined with other data to show the overall impact of the interaction. The resulting dashboard then focuses on CX delivery. Automation plays an important role in pulling disparate data into reports and dashboards that show the big picture. It’s not easy and unlikely to be delivered in one step, but the ambition should be to develop a cohesive CX-based dashboard of insights to make decisions for positive change.
What does outside service look like?
Ultimately, providing employees with a flexible interface gives them the information they need to delight customers, whether they’re working from the desk or the kitchen table. The decline of the telephone call has been predicted for years. Some had expected COVID to finally send the venerable chain into terminal decline as other chains gained popularity. Instead, COVID has increased demand across all channels, especially phone. Inbound phone volumes have increased over the past 12 months, according to our research, where 48% of organizations said volumes had increased.
Customers also now have similar service and efficiency expectations across digital and telephone options.
The client has clearly demonstrated that they want to choose the channel based on their engagement or results needs. More than that, they expect to help themselves as much as possible.
To meet this demand, all organizations want to be omnichannel. The same study showed that 99% of organizations across all industries thought they were already omnichannel or had omnichannel ambitions, with a third claiming this as a strong ambition. However, despite the ambition, only 26% of organizations said they were already omnichannel. Many still have a long way to go.
Chatbots and IVR all make it easy for people to serve themselves over digital and phone channels. There is frustration when such tools are used as another level of queue management or diversion between channels. Customers rightly see this as a downside. Organizations should let the customer choose the channel, rather than pushing a particular channel based on cost or resources.
Intelligent automation is also key to transforming the role of chatbots and IVRs in CX change. It can make complex and obscure legacy systems accessible. This allows clients to safely take care of trivial tasks on demand.
When the interaction is complex or sensitive, diversion is essential. When chatbots or automation-enabled smart systems are enabled, triage takes on a new, more powerful meaning. It combines prioritization with response. In addition, their intervention frees up time and mental space for agents to manage complex and sensitive interactions.