Brian Atkinson at Five9 considers how customer experience has been impacted by the pandemic and the move to remote working
Remote working on a mass scale was previously deemed unthinkable for a contact centre industry steeped in legacy tech. Customer service capabilities have been tested like never before as lockdown forced businesses to shut up shop, all while consumer demands have remained relatively unchanged.
But contact centres have proved they are more than capable of becoming the front door to customer interactions during this time, largely thanks to new technologies. The cloud, AI and automation have not only enabled a smooth work from home set up, but they have also empowered staff to provide the best service possible to customers.
This is crucial in times of disruption – the very nature of which requires cool, calm, and collected responses to customers who may be panicked by the situation and seeking answers and reassurance. When unplanned events occur, be they natural disasters or a global pandemic, being able to respond quickly and with empathy makes all the difference. Call volumes may surge, but it’s more critical than ever to provide customers with the type of exceptional and uninterrupted service they demand and deserve.
Empower your contact centre agents
The key to good customer service is agents who feel empowered and energised to give it their all. But the past year has not been easy – remote working has meant learning how to get to grips with new communications platforms while dealing with the stresses of sharing the same workspace as partners and children. Tech which can seamlessly disappear into the background is one less headache for agents, making their jobs easier when they are lacking on the usual familiar structure of the office.
The cloud provides this all-important, flexible foundation on which executives can quickly and easily deploy new technologies remotely – offering omnichannel options, scalable staffing, intelligent routing, easily accessible data, and AI-assisted capabilities. Key to enabling the level of digital transformation we’ve seen in the past year, it also empowers agents with intuitive, easy-to-learn and use tools that put the technology in the background and let the agent focus on the customer.
In particular, cloud-based contact centres can be integrated with other applications to provide a historic, real-time view of the customer’s engagement within the organisation – all on one single desktop. This empowers a truly omnichannel experience where customers can choose the channel of their choice to connect to the contact centre, start and stop communications on various devices, and never have to repeat their story. The agent knows their story, preferences, what’s been done and what is needed to address their needs – all before they even introduce themselves.
The introduction of intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) is also doing much to ease pressure on staff and improve customer service. This automation can answer basic inquiries to reduce average wait times for customers while freeing up time for agents to focus on more complex or urgent cases, reducing frustration on the part of everyone.
A more human experience
Making customer service feel easy and seamless is what makes customers happy. The cloud provides an effective platform to achieve this, maximising responsiveness from businesses at any point in time, regardless of location.
Likewise, the easier and more streamlined work is, the more emotionally available agents are to provide uplifting support with a caring attitude. This is crucial for delivering a more human connection with customers – especially at a time where people have felt more isolated than ever before.
Businesses that make their customers feel known, respected, and valued will go a long way to keep them happy and build up their loyalty. Technology can do much to support this – ensuring agents know who they are, can meet them on their channel of choice, can enable them to pick up where they last left off on a different channel and, ultimately resolve their issues quickly and to their satisfaction.
The sky’s the limit
With the right technology in place, great customer experience can happen anytime, anywhere. Whether it’s a fire, flood, snowstorm, or any other situation out of our control, the flexibility which cloud technology provides, allows business to continue as usual and ensure a high level of customer service is maintained.
The pandemic has shown that even for sustained periods of disruption, contact centres can continue to meet customer demand – wherever and whenever. IVAs can free agents to focus on the most important calls during the daytime, but these can also operate 24/7, meaning customers can address their concerns and communicate at a time which suits them. Moreover, technology, that enables remote working, is also allowing contact centres to open the talent pool up to geographic regions and different time zones. This enables customers to get in touch with customer service whenever and on whichever channel suits them – doing much to create a more personalised experience.
Remote technology is also empowering employees in other ways. It’s not implausible to imagine an agent being able to work from an exotic location and not just from their office.
Delivering CX from anywhere
At a time where disruption has never been more widespread, cloud technology has enabled the contact centre industry to thrive. Despite a surge in call volumes, customer needs have been dealt with quickly and effectively, all while delivering a more human experience. The past year has proved good customer service doesn’t have to be routed to the traditional contact centre. A more flexible and agile approach can do much to empower agents, while resulting in greater convenience and satisfaction for themselves and for customers alike.
Brian Atkinson is Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Five9
Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com