Keep your contact centre up to date with these industry best practices.
Contact centres are the corporate touchstone for customers, and how customers are treated at this critical juncture will affect their entire customer experience. Getting it right is undeniably important, but with so many options, how does a company do that in this day and age of technological revolutions? The 2019 Contact Centre Global Survey revealed that 76% of executives were planning to invest more in artificial intelligence (AI) into their contact centres in the coming years.
Nashua Communications experts Clint Hyland and Elmarie Turner shared what in their experience contact centres must do to stay relevant:
1. Do not shy away from technology
If the technology can make your contact centre more efficient or improve operations then you should seriously consider it. Being a tech-savvy company will also gain you ‘cool points’ in the market. A caveat is that you must be careful what technology you adopt, and shouldn’t take up something new for the sake of it.
Before its adopted, Hyland believes that technology should meet the following criteria:
- The reason to apply or add technology must always be to improve.
- Technology should make the agent/consultants work easier.
- Technology should improve the customer experience, be it by the ease of use, accessibility, time saved or any other substantive benefit.
With the various options that the customer will have to contact the company, Hyland advises that you use a technologically advanced multi-media handling contact centre so as to handle the various ways the customer will contact the company. The contact centre should be able to adapt permanently or temporarily as required by the environment or business. Basically, it needs to be versatile and flexible.
As part of your decision-making process, Turner advises that you try the technology internally first, that way you get to see what works and what doesn't. It also gives you the chance to fix any hiccups before the technology is introduced to the customer. Hyland explains this point further and insists that all changes to any customer-facing contact centre must be thoroughly investigated and tested before production as this could immensely impact both the survival of the business as well as the impressions of the customers. You can talk to contact centre technology provider Nashua, it will advise you on any trend along with its application and suitability.
When it comes to handling all the available technology out there, keeping it simple and organised is the best plan, according to Turner. The customer must be able to see all the options available to contact the company, thereafter using the options should be a simple and well thought out procedure. Furthermore, keep the following tips in mind:
- Bots and Live Chat create more communication options for customers who prefer not to be frustrated by contact centre queues and IVRs
- Everything happens quickly and is driven through monitoring and measurements
- With MicrosoftTeams or CIRCUIT technology – your contact centre can be one of the first contact centres to have Face to Face conversations or chats with the caller/ customer. This will remind the caller that he/she is dealing with a company that is keeping up with the latest technology.
- Call centre agents can be taught to assist with more than just logging a call because of technology change – it drives efficiency and productivity as well as creates the opportunity for agents to grow
- Because of the latest technology, available technicians logging on as Remote Agents can assist in high call volumes
2. GET EVERYBODY INVOLVED
Policies and new practices are ultimately ineffective if the entire organisation isn’t behind it. The direction and goals should be clearly understood by everyone in the organisation and they must believe in them too. A good idea is only as good as its application, so if the people meant to execute the idea are not on the same page as you, it won't work.
The contact centre agents will be at the forefront of the customer experience. As Hyland puts it, “Drive agent happiness to drive agent passion to drive customer satisfaction”. The contact centre agents must keep in mind to always:
- Display professionalism in their work
- Understand that they are a critical part of relationship building and commit to always present the company in the best light e.g. smile when talking to the customer, the customer will hear the smile.
- Honesty really is the best policy. Authenticity in statements and actions is even more important in this virtual world.
- Enthusiasm can go a long way in easing a customer’s concerns. They will readily believe you are glad that they called, that you are actively handling their query and that you have the solutions to their problems.
Although contact centre agents should be the focus of policy buy-in, you will need other departments (Technicians, Trainers, SDMs, Project Managers, Sales, Accounts) to promote the contact centre to their customers, to ask for feedback from their customers and to give feedback to the contact centre manager. In the end, Turner says that you should deliver the service that you expect when you call a contact centre.
3. BE CLEAR ON YOUR KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS (KPIS)
Essentially, what are the metrics you will use to determine customer satisfaction? Defining these KPIs from the onset will enable you to mark progress or highlight problem areas. At their core, contact centre KPIs never really change, no matter the tech you use it is still imperative to measure the client’s experience:
- Are customers getting what they need from the contact centre (abandoned calls, average speed to answer, first contact resolution)
- How efficient is the contact centre (average handling time, cost per call, transfer rate)
- Is the contact centre adding business value (revenue generation, sales conversion, customer retention)
- Agent management (attrition rate, absenteeism, agent quality)
4. CENTRE THE CUSTOMER IN EVERYTHING
At the end of the day, the customer should gain better experience from your program. The needs of the customer can easily get drowned out in all the tech enthusiasm and pursuit of efficiency.
The best way to serve the customer through the contact centre, according to Turner, is to always remember the reason why this contact centre is there. Servicing people through a contact centre must deliver on:
- resolving problems
- getting them sorted quickly and if possible
- have agents work remotely to be more cost effective.
As Clint Hyland puts it, “always keep in mind that the customer is vital to your business and the contact centre is the face of the business to that vital customer”. For example, although chatbots can be useful customer relations tools, an over-reliance on them can cause the organisation to lose that personal touch that customers have always valued.
5. WORK SMARTER
Data is what drives customer relations today. A contact centre should have easy and simple access to customer data so that agents can handle a situation quickly and efficiently. Hyland’s view on tech is that small, medium and large businesses should not choose technology based on their size but always as an improvement messure - be it a small or a large change.
For small systems, Turner recommends OpenScape Biz and Circuit; while medium and large systems should use OpenScape 4000 contact centre combined with Circuit. Speak to Nashua to find out which option is best for you.
6. GIVE YOUR STAFF TRAINING
No matter how advanced and efficient your technology is, it’s only as good as the staff that uses it. Your staff must be adept at using contact centre technology. Not only must they be able to use the equipment but they will need a thorough script on how to handle any conceivable customer scenario they will come across. A careful balance must also be struck between a regimented script and giving your staff the leeway to solve unique situations. Hyland states that training should be an ongoing exercise, including refresher training on new products and trends.
Regularly training your staff is important, but just as important is keeping them motivated. Here is an expert tip from Elmarie Turner: do an exercise to determine how much training costs to inspire the agents and if that cost can be injected into an incentive or gamification programme, then determine which option’s return on the investment is higher.
Currently, contact centre agents should be trained on Microsoft Skype for Business/Teams and CIRCUIT – to be used as a managed service for Adoption assistance and feedback.
7. DESIGN A CONDUCIVE WORKING SPACE
Along with the investment in staff and equipment, the company will also have to design a contact centre that will energise and motivate. Designing a contact centre is not about buying swanky objects, shiny gizmos or just putting up a new paint job. The contact centre has to be a place of comfort and productivity for the call centre agents. To achieve this the company has to keep in mind that:
- In the year 2020, social distancing and sanitisation will be important design considerations for all workspaces.
- Furnishing the contact centre with ergonomic furniture and the right desk options can reduce the discomfort of being seated all day in front of the screen
- Warm colours around the office can make it less dreary and more pleasant to be in
- Natural light is an easy win; everybody loves sunshine.
- Inspiring artwork and posters can also make the workspace more worker-friendly
- Having rest areas is also recommended as the workers will have their own space to relax.
8. Develop an omnichannel contact centre
Customers want to reach the organisation through channels that they know and are comfortable with. In a highly digitised world, this means a few channels from their perspective but multiple channels when you consider all customers. The organisation must be reachable by phone, SMS text, instant messaging, email, live chat, and social media platforms.
Being available through all these channels is not enough: organisations must provide a uniform, consistent, and unified customer experience. So a customer should be able to reach out on Twitter and have the same query handled through email.
An omnichannel contact centre should do more than provide current channels of communication, it should also be able to add new channels as the customers' needs evolve.
9. IMPLEMENT UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS TOOLS FOR AGENTS
As part of providing a singular customer experience across multiple channels, the organisation will have to replace its communication tools into a single platform. Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) brings all the organisation's communication channels and its resources (such as BI, CRM or ERP systems) into a single source.
Agents should not have to jump between software to access information or communicate with other staff and customers. Everything should be on one platform, voice, video, text, and social media. If you’re using Microsoft Office 365 and Teams, ContactCenter4ALL is a great solution which will give you the ability to integrate all your Microsoft tools into a call centre solution.
According to Gartner, agents use an average of 8.6 different tools, have 23 interactions with their peers, and handle 130.5 different support interactions in a single day. Making these interactions more efficient can lower pain points and increase productivity. This is where UCaaS can be beneficial to contact centres because:
- Customers can pick up an issue with any agent as the agent will have their history and data at hand. Having to re-iterate an issue to multiple customer service agents is a key frustration for customers.
- With all the data available at their fingertips, agents can solve issues more resolutely, which will increase first-call resolution.
- Average handle time will be significantly reduced, as the process will be much smoother. Agents won't have to spend time searching for information.
- It makes it easier to share information and gather insights on the customer's journey, as their path from the first contact to resolution is available on a single platform.
- Agent assessments will also be more detailed as every interaction and metric will be easily accessible.
10. UTILISE LIVE ENGAGEMENT BETWEEN CUSTOMERS AND AGENTS
New products, with new specs, made with new parts and using new processes or software are being released every year. So naturally, the average human being's ability to understand, or even name, the inner workings of a product is becoming harder.
Agents are fielding enquiries about that ‘doohickey, inside the thingamajig, that's refusing to do that whatchamacallit!’ These conversations become a frustrating, long chain of back and forth messages because the agent is first trying to understand what is going on and then trying to explain to the customer how to remedy the situation.
Live chats and co-browsing enable the agent and customer to handle the issue in real time. What can't be put into words, can be easily understood and resolved within minutes. Live engagement also enhances the customer's journey through awareness, acquisition, engagement, and retention as they can make quick decisions through every stage which boosts customer satisfaction. Additionally, live engagement improves productivity by enabling the agent to quickly resolve an issue and move onto the next one.
11. BE MORE EMOTIVE WITH AI
AI will be used to better understand the customer's sentiment at first contact and they will be duly processed. Imagine a customer sends a message by text, email, or even through a voice call:
- The AI algorithm looks for keywords, phrases ,and tone to determine the customer's emotions.
- The customer's query is routed, prioritised, and tagged according to the analysis.
- The agent is presented with the information beforehand and is prepared for the customer's needs and emotional status.
The whole process is built to enhance the customer experience and increase agent productivity. An agent that is fully aware of the situation, fully armed with solutions, and delivers in a manner that is in line with the customer's emotions is a boost to the customer experience.
12. TRY AI-ENABLED IVR AND VOICE BOTS
Interactive voice response (IVR) systems have been used to appropriately route customers and are a tool used to reduce call-waiting times. AI will add machine learning and natural language processing capabilities to IVR to understand statements instead of simply giving the user a set of choices.
Voice bots or voice assistants can replace traditional IVRs as they can identify the voice commands and respond to the queries via voice as well as text.
13. TAKE YOUR CONTACT CENTRES INTO THE CLOUD
How does an organisation collect and analyse all that data? How does it give unfettered resource access to agents despite their location? How does an organisation build and maintain such an infrastructure? How does a small organisation afford all of this tech?
The answer is simple, cloud. Contact centres are moving towards cloud technology to increase their capabilities while lowering their capital and maintenance costs. Cloud solutions solve key issues for contact centres such as:
- Scalability and flexibility: using the cloud, organisations can scale up or down with ease and at minimum cost.
- Security: the organisation will not have to invest or maintain its own security protocols, these will be a service provided by the supplier at a low, or no, extra cost.
- Compliance: cloud systems log all interactions on a single platform making collecting data for compliance a simpler process. If regulations change, the provider will make the changes for the organisation and provide training.
14. EMBRACE FLEXIBLE WORK AND REMOTE CONTACT CENTRE
Early in the year, more than half of the contact centres in the United States (53%) had remote contact centre agents. In 2019, 29% of contact centres in Australia were staffed by remote agents. This trend was driven by cloud-based technology.
A Stanford study of a travel agency contact centre showed that agents working from home increased performance by 13%. 9% was from working more minutes per shift because they had fewer breaks and sick days while 4% came from more calls per minute as they had a quieter working environment.
The year 2020 will be defined by the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects on work. During the lockdowns, it will not be feasible to have employees sitting next to each other in offices. Even after the lockdowns, social distancing protocols will make huddling agents in buildings unsafe or unprofitable.
Remote contact centre agents will become the norm. Powered by UCaaS tools, agents will be able to work from the safety of their home. The trend will be driven by;
- The ability to recruit anybody, from anywhere which increases the organisation's talent pool.
- Health and safety concerns linked to the Coronavirus pandemic.
- Agent job satisfaction and retention, as they are wary of social contact and feel safer at home. 98% of remote workers prefer to keep working remotely.
- The need to reduce call-centre costs such as rentals, office ware, and support staff.
- Customer satisfaction from happy, safe agents who value a stay-at-home job.
In the end, these best practices will help your contact centre run more efficiently and keep you at the top of your game - but it’s also about using the ones which are best suited to your business needs. Managing a contact centre in an ever-evolving world requires a strategy that emphasises core values whilst fearlessly embracing change. So, the smart company will always stay informed about new trends and evaluate them according to their values and goals.
Are you interested in seeing what the future has in store for Businesses when it comes to cloud technologies? Click here or on the button below to download our whitepaper on the Future of Cloud, a must read for all tech enthusiasts.