It would not be an overstatement to say that every industry has been disrupted by the widespread adoption of technology. From automobiles to manufacturing and hospitality, technology has transformed businesses everywhere. Technology has also changed customer expectations, and companies are constantly adapting themselves to address this change.
One such instance is the evolution of call centers into contact centers, which has meant that customer issues are not just resolved over phone calls anymore but over any of the multiple channels and devices which customers might choose to connect with.
However, with the adoption of new technologies in contact centers, the problem of ‘abundance’ has emerged. Having too many systems has led to a lack of synergy among them, often resulting in sub-optimal outcomes. Apart from this, the need to provide an omnichannel experience to customers and skill their internal people to adapt to automation are some of the other technology-related challenges that contact centers need to address in the near future.
Let us take a look at them individually.
Multiple technology interfaces in contact centers make even simple tasks laborious, and error-prone. A typical contact center agent has to navigate through multiple screens and applications to complete a single customer interaction. This results in a complex workflow and limits the agent’s ability to deliver swift service.
According to one survey, 46% of respondents report that agents use four or more applications within a call. This increases inefficiencies, drives operational costs higher, and decreases both customer and employee satisfaction.
Moreover, tools and applications are often added on piecemeal to existing systems, further adding to the level of complexity
“Contact center managers need to urgently work on solutions that minimize the number of systems that are in use and find ways to simplify and integrate all of them.”
This will not only bring down the cost of running but also increase the efficiency and response time of the contact center.
Meeting the omnichannel challenge
Consumers connect with businesses for support through a multiplicity of channels today that include phone, website, chat, email, SMS and social media. Businesses have to ensure that they are not only present where their customers are, but the information that they share with them is accurate, and the experience that they deliver to their customers is seamless, across all channels.
As the number of communication channels increases, customers expect support to be delivered faster, and in a more personalized way, and contact centers are struggling to meet with these expectations. Disparate and incomplete customer data siloed across different systems provides contact centers with only a partial view of the customer data. To add to their woes, most contact centers have CRM focused on tickets for individual channels rather than on explicit customer needs across channels.2 This leads to an increase in the average handle and issue resolution time.
“Moreover, customers are often made to repeat their problem a multiple number of times as they use different channels of communication.”
All of this invariably results in an overall decrease in the quality of support service and level of customer satisfaction.
Contact center managers need to look at ways of integrating their current systems into providing an omnichannel solution; where this is not possible, they may need to consider investing in a third party omnichannel desktop solution.
Adapting to automation
Whether we like it or not, automation is here to stay. New technologies, including natural-language-processing (NLP) systems, internet bots, and artificial-intelligence tools, will increase the range and complexity of support tasks that can be handled by machines.
According to a study done by Regalix (‘State of Contact Centers 2018’), automation tools currently handle over 50% of customer queries for only 26% of respondents, but that number is expected to go up to 44% of respondents in the next two years.3
This does not mean that human agents will have no role to play in the contact center of the future.
“Customers still want to be able to interact with a real person when they need help with difficult or high-value tasks.”
Research shows that more than 50 percent of customers want to interact with a human in case of a crisis, or when they need a solution to a problem with a product or service.4 These types of interactions are crucial touchpoints in the customer’s assessment of a business. They also provide valuable up-sell opportunities.
Agents should be trained to work alongside machines and be able to support new channels of communication and engage in high-level problem-solving in the new automated environment.
Contact center managers need to review the talent that they currently have and ensure that agents, based on individual needs, are re-skilled to engage in these types of complex conversations. Investments in training and re-skilling people will need to be made where required, to fill the skills gap.
If technology is shaping the contact centers of tomorrow, it’s also bringing with it challenges that businesses need to address urgently.
- ‘The US Contact Center Decision-Makers’ Guide 2016’, ContactBabel
- State of contact centers 2018, Regalix Research