How has the contact centre market and technology changed?
We recently took a look at the impacts the pandemic has had on the Travel and Retail industries, as discussed in our webinar ‘The Changing Face of the Contact Centre – 1 Year On’, where our panel of industry experts looked back at how the upheaval of the past year has impacted contact centres across various sectors.
Today, we want to take a closer look at how the wider contact centre industry has changed over the last 12 months.
The biggest changes and learnings
Before the pandemic, many organisations had business continuity plans in place that outlined they would be prepared to move their contact centre operations to remote working, if the need ever arose. In reality, the change to remote work wasn’t as straightforward. Many contact centres were behind the curve, especially when it came to the cloud, with technical debt abounding and legacy systems still in place. In addition, too much contact centre technology was dispersed and siloed, with too many different ways of accessing it, from bespoke integrations to personal hardware making the hurdles to remote working even harder to overcome
When COVID-19 struck, many contact centres were forced to accelerate their plans and move away from these siloed, on-premise models to cloud-based systems that would enable them to get agents back to work and serving customers. At IPI, especially early on in the pandemic, we saw a huge spike in the requirement for cloud as well as organisations accelerating their contact centre technology digital transformation plans to meet the immediate need for home working.
Indeed, the biggest learning of the past year has been that business models can and must be able to change and adapt to new situations at the drop of a hat. Organisations have become much more agile, and are looking to drive innovation forward, in particular to meet the new on-demand customer through an on-demand workforce.
The always-on customer and on-demand workforce
We all know that the customer is king. This has always been the case, but never so much as during the pandemic. Demands changed and evolved at such a rapid rate whilst customers took more control of their own customer experience. Indeed, with the likes of Alexa and Siri, self-service facilities have become common-place for many consumers, giving them an insight into how they can shape their own customer journey on a 24/7 basis and across multiple channels.
This is driving organisations to innovate to meet these new, always-on, omnichannel expectations. This includes enabling cloud-based multichannel contact centres that can provide more flexible customer service – moving agents to quick and effective cloud solutions, that allow for fluid and highly collaborative work that can happen from anywhere.
But as today’s employees expect to be always available to meet the always-on customer’s needs, employee wellbeing shouldn’t be neglected. New practices have already been embedded into organisations to support changing working practices, from mental health services to more frequent employee-manager check-ins. It’s important that these practices are retained as, aside from the importance of employee well-being, employee experience is intrinsically linked to customer experience.
Total Experience is the future
The future of the contact centre industry is uncertain, but what we do know is that the Total Experience – the combined experiences of customers and employees – will form part of contact centre strategies.
The agility and flexibility that organisations now need to do business in the post-pandemic world extends to the contact centre agent experience. Like their customer counterparts, agents no longer want clunky, legacy technology that makes their job harder. Innovation needs to be implemented across every touchpoint, from customers to agents.
As many contact centres make the move to new models of working, and become more ingrained with cloud-based technology, there is a real opportunity to furnish agents with the right tools that will not only make their jobs easier, but also help them develop new skills. Indeed, many cloud solutions come with a myriad of features that will enhance both the agent and customer experience. Indeed, automated technology – like chatbots, speech analytics and IVR – can be used to take pressure off agents, giving them support and enabling them to concentrate on the customer.
In addition, organisations are looking to support employees – who are at the heart of a Total Experience – even further. Gamification, for example, is making a comeback, helping to provide automated performance management and greater visibility into engagement, even with everyone working from home.
The breadth of functionality available within cloud offerings means that contact centres can do so much more for both employees and the customer. As the effects of the pandemic across the industry continue to unfold, one thing is clear – that employees and customers have never been closer.
To see what else was discussed on our webinar, you can catch-up here.