Contact centers and customer service teams remain essential touchpoints for dynamic customer engagement. What has changed over the last decade is how companies organize processes and people to deliver gratifying customer experiences and how they manage employee commitment.
There was a time when the preferred way of engaging with a company was to pick up the phone - both for the company and for the customer. Today, contact centers and customer service organizations have transformed into omnichannel centers of intelligent interactions where people, bots and technology work side by side.
Looking ahead, the future of contact centers and customer service will be driven by the following four key elements:
- Channels adopted to engagement context
- Smart interactions
- Happy & enabled employees
- Hybrid use of channels
1. Channels adopted to engagement context
The type of interaction that a customer seeks depends on different variables such as digital literacy, access to digital channels, the type of issue they are dealing with and the emotional context in which the client is reaching out to a company or organization.
Research indicates that digital and asynchronous interactions have now become the preferred model of engagement for digital natives and digitally-adoptive customers. These clients naturally find their way to portals, apps and websites and create user profiles and log-ins without any difficulty. They are able to manage documents, orders, invoices and payments on the spot, using the device of their choice without any help or by using the help functions that are offered.
When these digitally savvy clients have questions or complaints, their first course of action will be to consult the FAQ section on a company’s website, to use social channels to reach out to peers, or to reach out to the company by chatting with a bot or agent. E-mail will still be around but will seldom be the client’s preferential channel. Engaging in a live conversation will be an exceptional event that will only occur when all other channels fail.
These modern means of interaction do not cover clients that are less digitally confident or that do not have easy access to digital channels. This is a growing group of people from all age categories that, as a result of a lack of money or a lack of education, do not participate in the digital society.
In other cases, the use of live support may be triggered by the need to talk to another human being – as was frequently observed during the first COVID-19 wave – or by specific product or service requirements that are associated with personal assistance and the need for empathy.
Customers may display several engagement preference patterns depending on the situation, the product or even the time of day.
2. Smart interactions
The availability of rich customer data combined with a wide range of new interaction tools make smart interactions an increasingly common practice. Direct conversations, telephone calls, bots, algorithms and linked platforms allow for the generation of a single-customer-view across departments and functions.
In addition, companies need to capture a multitude of signals that customers and systems generate in order to predict customer support needs and possible follow-up actions, from buying a new product to launching a complaint or leaving the company as a client. This is crucial to create a seamless, gratifying customer experience and to deliver added value.
Understanding the type of channel to use and the type of experience to deliver are the key drivers for modern contact centers and modern customer service operations.
3. Happy & enabled employees
For too long, contact centers and call centers have been labelled as centers of stress for both customers and employees. In modern contact centers and customer service teams, however, employee stress levels are significantly reduced as a result of better technology, increased empowerment in resolving first-time issues and a balanced mix of routine and more challenging tasks.
Using efficient call routing solutions to match contact and service center agents with the right capabilities and experiences to handle clients with specific needs, is an efficient way to increase first time resolution of issues. This is also increasingly becoming a tool to offer contact and service agents a variety in the types of issues they handle, thus combating bore-out and stress.
An important element to further enable contact center employees is Real Time Customer View - showing all interactions that an organization has had with a client in the past, including an overview of orders, calls, website visits and social media conversations. It requires the development of a contact or service agent cockpit - a virtual console that combines the Real Time Customer View with access to underlying systems to initiate actions, work orders, product exchanges and sending off documentation with a single click, without the need to switch between systems or to engage in complex admin.
As happy employees lead to happy customers, developing an up-to-date data and technology-driven employee experience with sufficient room for gratifying interactions should be on the agenda of every organization.
4. Hybrid use of channels
There are a host of different channels at the disposal of contact centers and clients – from calls and chat apps, to WhatsApp, social media and various customer portals. In today’s digital world, conversations can start via chat, then move to a phone call and be resolved on a digital platform where the consumer orders a product or service.
Customers tend to use all of these channels as they see fit and often switch between them to resolve issues or try to find additional information on products or services. This requires seamless connections between the various channels, customers and conversation tracking tools. Managing these interactions seamlessly and keeping track of the unified customer journey across channels is one of the challenges that companies and organizations are increasingly facing and addressing.
Watch our expert
Are you triggered to learn more about contact centers? Watch expert Patrick Maes reveal the four key drivers for contact and service center efficiency to improve customer satisfaction.