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Map, measure, modernise: Key factors shaping the future of the contact centre

The contact centre industry is growing at a pace – but customer demands and expectations are changing all the time. So, what are the key factors shaping the future and helping businesses to modernise, and how are they impacting on performance?
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Mapping the customer journey to understand the customer experience

These days, the quality of the customer experience is a top priority and for many organisations the contact centre is at the heart of customer interaction. That’s why it’s important for contact centres to have a thorough understanding of the experience customers are having, and if necessary, modernise. They need to be clear about the impact of the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a company over the lifetime of the relationship, as well as the customer’s feelings, emotions, and perceptions of the company over the course of those interactions. This is where creating a customer journey map can make all the difference.

Customer journey maps enable companies to chart the customer’s course, from their point of view, as they interact with the business – whatever the channel, department or touch-point, and whatever the reason for making contact. The map illustrates what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling at each stage of the journey – and it enables organisations to identify make or break moments that can define the nature of any future relationship and modernise.

Take the customer service experience, for example. The customer journey does not begin and end at the contact centre. A customer will tend to get in touch with the contact centre when they have a question or a problem, and this is the start of their customer service journey. What happens next? Will they call, email text – or even post a message on Twitter? And then what? In optimising the customer experience, companies must gain a deep understanding of how and why customers react in certain situations and what makes them choose certain communication channels. And businesses must also ensure that it’s as easy as possible for customers to make contact, whatever the channel.

Customer journey maps are not linear or static, and because they can involve departments across the organisation, they’ll need to be created in collaboration with all internal stakeholders, and then validated by customers themselves. The chances are that the catalyst for the customer making contact at the beginning of the journey was an upstream issue to do with the product, or the product instructions, or the sales process. So, all the relevant departments need to be involved in the mapping exercise so that any upstream issues can be identified and resolved before they become downstream problems in the contact centre.

Measuring customer effort to identify opportunities for process improvement

To gain a clear understanding of the customer experience, companies need to focus on the current customer journey. With this understanding, an ideal future state can be designed and a transformation plan created. In creating this ideal future state, the time and effort a customer needs to put into getting their issue resolved is a key indication of the quality of the customer experience and a measurement of satisfaction. Based on the underlying principle that service organisations create more loyal customers by reducing customer effort, the Customer Effort Score (CES) is becoming one of the most important metrics in the contact centre.

CES can be expressed in a number of different ways, based around customer response to questions such as, “How easy was it get your issue resolved fully?” (scoring on a scale of 1-5, or 1-7, or easy / difficult / neither, for example). There are of course other signals of customer effort, including wait time and repeat calls, which contact centre managers should be able to pick up from their system analytics and reports. Reducing customer effort and improving CES can help to transform the customer experience and increase loyalty – and this is where technology can help modernise.

How to modernise the contact centre to optimise the customer experience

Within the contact centre, new technologies and the need to provide customers with a consistent, high quality experience across multiple channels is concentrating the focus on self-service. Companies increasingly want to offer customers a more engaging, more responsive service, 24/7, so they’re looking to leverage the power of automation to help deal with routine enquiries, while making live agents available to handle more complex or sensitive issues.

Many customers choose to, and expect to be able to serve themselves. A recent study from desk.com shows that most Millennials will actively avoid customer service engagement that involves human interaction, preferring instead to opt for self-service solutions such as online FAQs, forums and chat services. And it’s a generational trend that looks set to continue – which means that automated customer service technologies will have an increasingly important role.

In order to meet a growing demand for self-service options, customer-centric businesses are investing in technologies that will increase the capability and availability of self-service. In fact, a 2017 survey by CCW Digital says that self-service will be a key investment area for 89 per cent of companies. Customer expectations for effortless service and the continuing drive for operational efficiency put developments in self-service high on the contact centre agenda.

In an automated contact centre, the agent of the future is an always-there, 24/7 virtual digital assistant that can handle high volumes of routine queries across any channel, while delivering a much more personalised experience than traditional contact centre automation tools.

It seems that companies genuinely want self-service to play a much bigger part in customer interactions, with the CCW study reporting that 47 per cent of businesses intend to allow self-service to handle and resolve more issues, while 41 per cent, will offer self-service options in more channels. Interestingly, the survey also says that 21 per cent of businesses prioritise making self-service language more natural, and 13 per cent will elevate customer service through the adoption of artificial intelligence. Clearly then, these companies are not using self-service simply to qualify customers before moving them to a live agent – they’re seeing it as a front-line resolution option.

According to Gartner, by the end of 2018, digital customer assistants will be able to recognise individuals by their voice and face, across multiple channels – so it’s an exciting era for businesses that are serious about customer service. Voice recognition is currently more advanced and is already transforming the customer experience. With biometric authentication, for example, customers use their voiceprint to prove their identity, access other services and complete transactions. This minimises customer effort, reduces call-handling time and cuts the risk of fraud.

The latest speech and text analytics technologies can now also analyse the mood and voice of customers across every type of interaction, which opens up a rich vein of insights that can help refine the customer experience and build stronger customer relationships. The continuing evolution of real-time face recognition technologies will also add considerable value in this area over time.

For more information and tips to ensure your Contact Centre remains up to date, download our guide to Future Proof Your Contact Centre.

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