The Contact Center of the Future: Embracing Culture and Advanced Technologies to Enhance Customer Experience
By Jeff Beelman, Contact Center Solution Architect, General Dynamics Information Technology [NYSC: GD]
Calling a company’s customer service line might require navigating a series of cumbersome questions by pushing numbers on phones, repeating answers that voice recognition technology doesn’t understand, or not being able to connect with a human, who can help with your request.
These encounters are why customer experience initiatives are on the mind of CEOs and CIOs across the country. They understand that delivering a better customer experience, and reducing customer effort, will minimize customer frustrations, improve retention rates, drive loyalty, and ensure more efficient use of their contact center resources.
Organizations should align people, processes, and technology and drive the design of the contact center around customer needs, wants, and expectations. Making these changes and understanding your customer and how they want to do business, employee adoption will increase and customers will be less frustrated.
The key is for organizations to develop the right technology and processes to support success of Customer Service Representatives (CSR). These changes cannot be siloed in contact center operations but should be applied across the enterprise–from contact center operations to sales, marketing and IT–to create a seamless, consistent experience across the organization.
Development of personas and Customer Journey Maps (CJM) are keys to contact center design. Personas represent core customer groups, containing basic demographic information, desired customer outcomes, key pain points and their wants/needs, as well as a name, face, and quote to help bring them to life. This information builds empathy, especially for groups, like IT, that might never see the customer. Personas also can be used to better understand CSRs and why they require certain capabilities to succeed in their job. CJMs are visual depictions of key interaction points across the customer lifecycle from a persona’s perspective. They provide understandings of how customers interact with the organization across key channels and with people in critical points of the journey that might never touch the contact center, such as when a customer calls the contact centers because they can’t find information on the website.
To support its objectives, the contact center of the future must deliver an omni-channel experience, enabling customers to self-serve, as well as access services and information for their preferred touch points, such as voice, email, chat, and mobile.
A number of advanced technologies are now being adopted by contact centers to help organizations improve personalization and make it quicker and easier for customers to get the answers they need. These include:
AI ensures that today’s most advanced contact center systems will drastically and continuously improve CX
• Cloud—The cloud is dramatically transforming the contact center ecosystem by enabling organizations to quickly and cost-effectively scale to meet changing demand. In addition, by moving contact center operations to the cloud, organizations can sustain a fully redundant system to support 24/7 operations, eliminating outages and shut downs caused by routine maintenance, systems issues or updates.
The distributive nature of the cloud also helps contact center managers address staffing challenges. Contact center staff can be located anywhere and work anytime, which assists in determining where to place resources and providing better business continuity and operational efficiencies.
• Analytics—Historically, contact center metrics focused on how long it took a representative to answer a call, how long callers waited on hold, what the abandon rate was, and the length of the interaction time. Now organizations must consider more than just the efficiency of the contact center. To improve the CX, they need more data on customer outcomes and a better understanding of the effort a customer had to invest into their inquiry and how the customer was feeling at the time of their inquiry.
Analytics advancements enable organizations to examine CX more deeply. Integrated analytics and customer journey details provide actionable insights for contact centers to optimize services–from improving processes to better align with the customers’ desired journeys to deploying proactive communications. Analytics are central to enabling organizations to continually improve services and meet changing expectations.
• Artificial Intelligence (AI)—Use of chat bots and cognitive virtual assistants mean customer contact is increasingly managed by machines. Advances in AI have primed these virtual assistants to tackle a range of front-line customer inquiries and learn as they go. AI enables them to become attuned to the nuances in human natural language and to respond not just to the content, but also to the tone of a caller’s voice or writing style.
Remember how frustrated you got the last time a mechanical voice couldn’t decipher your question and asked you to repeat yourself over and over again? AI ensures that today’s most advanced contact center systems will drastically and continuously improve CX. They will recognize customers’ emotions and detect frustration and direct them to appropriate resources. And as artificial speech becomes better and more natural, eventually virtual assistants powered by Artificial Intelligence will be indistinguishable from human representatives.
As AI helps smoothly handle more inquiries, providing quick answers to customers’ simple questions, live representatives will be freed to devote their attention to the more complex queries.
• Voice Recognition: Digital voice recognition technology is transforming telephone systems. New advances in voice biometrics promise increasingly personalized service by giving contact centers the ability to recognize an individual by voice as if it were an audio fingerprint. Current validation and verification processes create a negative customer experience and increases handle time, which is costly to organizations.
Voice biometrics is transformational, providing callers with faster identification. This reduces call handle times because it eliminates the need to ask a series of questions or for a password, PIN, account number, and other information the customer may not remember or have immediately available. Costs also are reduced through this personalization because current and past journeys are recognized, enabling enhanced self-service options or intelligent call routing to a CSR best matched to resolve the caller’s inquiry. Voice biometrics also is being adopted to address security concerns of the release of personally identifiable information and fraudulent activities.
Developing an internal culture that insists on exemplary customer service combined with adoption of advanced technologies for improving contact center reliability and customer interaction, are vital to improving the CX in the contact center of the future.