Rise of omni-channel – Deciding how to communicate with a business should be the ultimate customer right – small wonder contact centre technology is the order of the day.
Valur Svansson, Principal Consultant – CX, EX and Emerging Technologies at IP Integration – is witnessing interest in omni-channel CC from all types of businesses but particularly from retailers, financial services companies as well as entertainment and media brands. “These organisations tend to be digitally savvy,” he said. “The likelihood is they have already completed or are part way through their digital transformation programmes, and they understand that they need to innovate to attract and keep clients.”
According to Svansson the sector with the most potential is probably utilities. “Utility providers routinely interact with their customers to collect meter readings, trouble-shoot service problems, renegotiate deals and more,” he stated. “Much of this interaction is still done over the phone. There’s massive potential to shift this communication to self-service apps and the web.”
To deliver the best possible experience, it’s critical that all customer information and interactions are captured and visible across all channels, believes Svansson. “All too often, a customer who has filled in a web form or has interacted with a chatbot will have to repeat the same information if they need to call a contact centre and speak to an agent,” he added. “It’s a waste of their time and doesn’t make them feel valued. It’s a waste of time for contact centres too. One of the main reasons that organisations migrate to omni-channel contact centres is to speed up the time it takes to resolve customer queries.”
When proposing an omni-channel CC solution to prospects an automatic gate opener is that all organisations want to achieve efficiency gains. “If you can explain how to reduce the time to resolution it’s relatively easy to show how you can boost productivity and customer satisfaction levels,” added Svansson.
When done right, omni-channel should integrate seamlessly with all digital channels, including mobile. “Imagine a washing machine owner conducting an online search for a new filter,” explained Svansson. “From there, they go to the manufacturer’s website where they ask a chatbot how easy it is to replace a filter. Then, a couple of days later, they call the contact centre to order a new machine. If the agent knew about their search history they could offer a service instead of a new machine.”
One of the main reasons organisations migrate to omni-channel contact centres is to speed up the time it takes to resolve customer queries
Now that generation Z is in the workforce and has started to amass some spending power, contact centres will innovate further to compete for their custom, observes Svansson. “How often does an 18-year-old use their mobile to make a call? The answer is almost never,” he said. “Contact centre operators need to adopt this mindset, shifting emphasis from voice to self-service digital channels. They also need to bear in mind that this generation has high expectations. They expect digital companies to be proactive, offer instant answers and know their entire customer history. It takes technical expertise to make that happen.”
Automation is the next big thing for contact centres, noted Svansson. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) will take over routine, often mind-numbing tasks from agents to free up their time. This will present technical and human challenges, believes Svansson.
“From a technical standpoint, programming for RPA or digital agents isn’t a straightforward tactical job,” he said. “You first have to analyse the process you want to automate to see if it’s fit for purpose, benchmarking it against industry best practices. If you automate a process that’s imperfect or broken you’re effectively automating your ability to make mistakes.
“From a human perspective, upskilling and looking after agents is a key requirement. While the digital agents will take care of routine tasks, humans will step in when a more personal touch is needed, for example, when a customer is irate or upset, or when the transaction is complex or high value. Training is key, but so too is providing an excellent employee experience where staff feel valued and have a deep sense of loyalty.”
While in the past contact centres have been closely coupled with traditional telephony, in the future they will be more aligned to mobile and apps. “Expect plenty of innovation in this field, especially as brands cater for digital natives who regard their phone as their personal assistant,” said Svansson. “Video is also interesting. While it’s still in its infancy there are examples of video being used as a comms channel in financial services when customers want to open accounts, and in the health sector.
“We envisage plenty of other instances when customers will want to speak to an agent face-to-face, for example, to provide evidence for an insurance claim. This could be very powerful, but will require highly trained, empathetic agents.”
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Published in Comms Dealer 5th September 2019.