The contact center of the future is already here. COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation in unprecedented ways. With social distancing norms in place and with many contact centers undergoing changes in structure and operation, it has become clear that while automation technology will be the gamechanger, the human experience is also crucial to making a successful customer experience in this new-age contact center. This dynamic will keep your customers coming back to you instead of turning to your competitors. Here are several ways to make sure that your restructured contact center is providing the best customer experience possible.
When the COVID-19 pandemic happened, the crisis resulted in increased contact volumes and subsequently, led to the lack of immediate availability of trained agents. Even trained contact center agents were grappling with the onslaught of contacts and concerns. Now that we have slowly adjusted to the new normal and are more familiar when it comes to working with a remote agent workforce, the biggest priority is to reduce wait times and to empower at-home agents.
While we can equip at-home agents with the right technology, security systems and hardware fairly easily, they also need to be trained to work alongside an IVR that can reduce contact volumes and wait times significantly. If we enable customers to self-serve, then we have another opportunity – to raise the level of customer satisfaction and go the extra mile.
Are you operating in a smart, lean and profitable supply chain that gives you a better bang for your buck? A cash to cash cycle time, also known as cash conversion, is a great metric to drive this kind of efficiency and turnaround time. Simply put, cash to cash cycle time is the number of days from the time you acquire your inventory to the time your customers pay for your product. The slower this cycle moves, the costlier it gets to produce your product. If this timeframe reduces, then this is good for the supply chain and it also means that your operating capital is not being tied up in the hands of others.
In general, 30 days or less is the optimal cash to cash cycle time, irrespective of industry. Cash to cash cycle time is important, especially for small and medium enterprises, as they are strapped for liquidity. If an SME pushes the cash to cash cycle time to 60 days, it needs to borrow money to pay for the next stash of inventory. This metric gives you some excellent ways to spruce up the supply chain – for instance, identifying pain points across the chain, options for immediate payment from customers, inventory optimization and better data management.
Now more than ever, working on customer experience metrics is important. Customer satisfaction scores and average sales per agent aside, average handle time and agent utilization time are two important metrics to prioritize when restructuring a contact center. Another important metric is the call abandon rate, which is the number of abandoned contacts divided by the total number of inbound contacts. Working remotely is slowly becoming a mainstream scenario and organizations can find ways to upscale this opportunity.
Apart from speed and productivity, self-service options for customers can make a huge impact on the bottom line. Chatbots enable contact centers to scale their customer service at lower costs. It is important to offer human interactions and additional value because self-service only works if customers can derive actual benefit from them. To make this happen, data has to be collected and used effectively to deliver the right customer experiences and business outcomes. Having self-service options is good but using AI to give it an edge and to take the self-service experience to another level is great.
Contact centers should leverage technologies like automation and AI which can improve the overall customer experience significantly. This includes applications that can help agents with customer data, IVR systems with state-of-the-art speech recognition abilities, AI-powered conversational tools, smart chatbots and Natural Language Processing tools that can make impact the way a contact center functions tremendously.
Voicebots, for instance, will play a predominant role. Also called conversational AI, these voice enabled chatbots are able to sort out mundane, repetitive calls. The cost savings are also huge.
While knowledge-based authentication questions or KBAs are commonly used in contact centers, they can put customers off big time. KBAs are costly, time consuming and Gartner clients in the U.S. have reportedthat an average of 10% to 15% failure rate can be attributed to KBA that involves users answering personal questions, which in turn contributes to customer dissatisfaction.
Replacing KBAs with passive and multifactor authentication can cut down the dissatisfaction but still maintain safety. To ensure minimum on-hold time, creating a knowledge base, monitoring agent performance through metrics, and expanding the agent’s decision-making authority can reduce on-hold times drastically.
Customers are important but so are your agents. Ensuring a happy environment at work will translate to better success with customers. For an agent, being on the phone means that it is their tone and not their body language that influences customer-agent equation. An employee’s satisfaction will reflect in his or her tone and will impact customer satisfaction. Some great ways to empower employees include:
Virtual meetings: Staying connected and aligned during remote work is important, and frequent meetings have a positive impact on communication and enable seamless collaboration.
Training: Constant training and coaching sessions help agents share ideas and voice concerns. This is also a good way to find out about the agents and their problem areas. Tech support also matters here. The right collaborative tools can go a long way in training and engaging agents the right way. When agents understand that tech can make their work easier, they will be encouraged to leverage it. It is also important to monitor the agent’s voice and computer interactions.
It is important that contact centers adjust to new challenges and look for opportunities in the new normal. Remote centers will become mainstream and the norm, even after the pandemic. Long-term benefits include less operational costs and employee satisfaction. There will still be a huge demand for virtual contact centers and they need to evolve their technologies and strategies to adapt to the times.
Covid-19 may have resulted in drastic changes in the way we do business, live, work and collaborate but the contact center was always headed for a digital transformation. Virtual contact centers were being envisioned much before the pandemic and this crisis will only accelerate the dominance of the virtual contact center and the work-from-home contact center agent. By focusing on the above aspects of a transformed contact center, organisations can truly take their customer service to the next level.
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