The plethora of communication options available to customers and an ever-increasing expectation of service excellence mean that contact centres are under more pressure than ever before to effectively manage customer engagement.
Customer service teams need to have the agility and the technology to interact with customers on the customer’s terms – whether that’s on the phone, on Twitter, by email or by video chat.
Capturing every interaction
Top performing businesses are embracing automation technologies within contact centres to centralise information, create a comprehensive picture of customers, and provide a slick, high-quality, seamless omnichannel experience.
CRM technology, for example, has evolved to the point where systems can capture every customer interaction across every channel to accurately track and report on each individual customer journey. With the ability to unify all communication channels on a single platform, agents get a 360-degree view of the customer and can easily access the insights necessary to provide an enhanced customer experience.
However, legacy technology can create challenges and we still see many companies struggling to deliver this kind of enhanced service because each are unable to successfully integrate all communication channels and fail to get a clear understanding of customers’ needs.
On top of this, in order to stay ahead, companies need to continually invest in developing new channels, such as video, website personalisation technology, mobile CRM and social media monitoring tools. Failure to evolve in this way can seriously compromise customer service.
Managing knowledge and agents
Alongside CRM technologies, knowledge management systems are also critical to delivering service excellence. These systems provide a repository of accurate, up-to-date information on products and services so that contact centre agents can quickly search for and access relevant data during the course of a contact and provide customers well-informed answers to questions.
In any business, products, processes and procedures frequently change. Knowledge management systems ensure that contact centre agents are kept abreast of the latest developments and have a detailed knowledge of all the material they need to communicate knowledgeably with customers.
Workforce management software ensures that agents are scheduled and available when customers need them. The software assesses historical trends and projects future demand in order to create schedules that optimise resources to meet predefined parameters like service level goals. It also helps to measure performance and provides feedback on where service improvements could be made.
For example, speech analytics tools used in conjunction with quality recording can help to provide a better understanding of customer requirements and issues. Calls containing certain words or phrases can be isolated and routed to a specific agent.
Likewise, if a customer speaks with frustration or annoyance, the call can be forwarded to a manager or supervisor to deal with. At the same time, e-learning solutions can be built into workforce management software to deliver desktop training sessions to help fine-tune customer service and improve agent performance.
Streamlining customer service
Contact routing has always been a staple of the contact centre with automatic call distributor (ACD) the original technology used support phone call routing to agents. ACDs are now significantly more sophisticated and have the capability to route particular types of contact to agents who have the skills to best deal with them.
Contacts can even be routed to agents working remotely or in virtual contact centres so that customers are more likely to interact with someone who is equipped with the skills to help them. In addition, today’s ACDs support the drive for continuous improvement and are able to provide detailed performance metrics for all kinds of customer interaction.
Technologies that enable customers to help themselves have also been available for many years, but in the past have gained a notoriously poor reputation for contributing to a positive customer experience. With the rapid advance of technology, however, self-service is fast becoming an important part of streamlined customer service.
Self-service technologies, such as voice response, allow customers to receive answers to their inquiries without interacting with a contact centre agent. It enables companies to reduce costs because they need fewer call centre agents – and it helps to improve the customer experience because the customer can interact through their choice of channel.
For example, if a customer has completed an application to join a gym, the system will know the status of the admission process and can automatically provide an update – “your application has been approved and your membership document will be emailed to you in the next 24 hours”.
The customer does not need to navigate multiple menus or speak to a live agent to find out the answer to their question. What’s more, internet and mobile technologies are now expanding phone-based self-service to enable customers to help themselves at their convenience, in whatever way they choose.
Crucially though, businesses need to remember that to compete, each must offer outstanding customer service through every communication channel. While self-service may be an ideal vehicle to address simple queries, customers will still want access to helpful agents on more complex issues.
Adopting a joined-up approach
To truly harness the power of contact centre automation, companies need to create an environment where a siloed, compartmentalised approach to customer management is broken down and gaps between departments, functions and data are joined up.
New contact centre technologies can help to achieve this transformation and drive customer service excellence through innovative applications that are either built into comprehensive new solutions or can be integrated with existing systems.
For more information and tips for creating a seamless omnichannel customer experience, download the free Contact Centre Buyers Guide 2017.