Published on the 23/11/2015 | Written by Carl Price
What does it mean when digital consumers are as knowledgeable as your front-line contact centre agents, asks Carl Price…
Contact centres are in a time of transition, with ongoing success dependent on how they integrate the latest technologies with the right people skills to delight individual customers.
The rise in digital consumer expectations requires consideration of the impact on customer service and the contact centre in furthering and facilitating these heightened expectations.
The aim of customers hasn’t changed. In making contact, they want to complete an intended task successfully (purchasing goods, obtaining information or organising a particular service). What has changed is their absolute determination to complete these tasks as quickly and as conveniently as possible.
The expectation of an improved experience is being shaped by the technologies and contact centre platforms that enable omni-channel communications, ensuring customers receive consistent, knowledgeable and tailored service across each and every channel. The platforms are also facilitating delivery of a broader range of services via the contact centre, along with the assurance of a more coordinated customer experience.
The age of impatience
Offering consumers a choice of channels is now the norm, but paradoxically, as omni-channel convenience has taken its place among consumers, it has also signalled the age of impatience.
Asking digital consumers to navigate time-consuming interactive voice response (IVR) menus or put up with lengthy delays while waiting to speak to a human being is no longer considered acceptable. Nor is it okay to offer phone and email as the only ways to contact customer service.
Customers want the ability to select from a range of communication channels and their choices will differ according to personal preferences and the nature of their need at that moment in time. For example, one customer might choose to use SMS to lodge a query while at work, then web chat when browsing for information at home in the evening. Another, given the exact same circumstances, might choose a completely different set of channels. But both expect their details and interaction history will be available to all agents across all channels, so that they can experience the same level of service with each transaction, regardless of how they contact the organisation.
This places a great deal of pressure on contact centres to get omni-channel strategies and technology platforms right. They must ensure every channel is capable of performing according to expectations. They must also build-in the flexibility to add any new channels that may arise in the future.
Technologies that are changing the contact centre
One way of providing customers the choices they crave is to use a contact centre platform that provides a seamless customer experience across any channel. With this in place, organisations can adopt a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, leaving it up to the customer to select from a variety of channels for everyday interactions and transactions.
Similarly, self-service capabilities that enable customers to take charge and quickly resolve their needs without having to speak to an agent, are extremely popular with digital consumers and are shown to increase customer satisfaction.
We still need people
Digital consumers expect to interact with retailers and service suppliers using their digital devices, and they want all the functionality that a modern digital contact centre platform can offer. But technology alone is not the answer.
Consumers want choice and part of that choice is the ability to interact with other human beings. Without people, phone calls, web chats, SMS and emails remain unanswered. And as expectations rise, the quality – and therefore training and knowledge – of contact centre personnel is becoming more important than ever.
It is the combination of agents and technology that makes the critical difference to customer experience and to contact centre competitiveness. When good agents are empowered with the right technologies, they have the ability to handle complex interactions, encourage new transactions, resolve issues quickly and win customer loyalty. In short, they have at their disposal everything required to delight the customer.
Carl Price is APAC head of marketing at Interactive Intelligence