Using Technology To Deliver Contact Centre Trends Post Covid-19
Contact centres that had resisted tech upgrades for years could not continue to do so in 2020 due to the speed of the spread of Covid and the immediate effect it had on our normal working lives. The carefully thought out plans to ensure growth and development of each business that were to be enacted over years had to be realised within weeks to ensure we could, at least, survive the pandemic. Now there appears to be a clear path to getting through this crisis; we can look at how technological advances can aid us in the following projected growth areas:
● Working From Home (WFH)
● Improved Data Security and Analysis
● Increased Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
● Resiliency in Technology and Processes.
We will look at how the investment in technologies, such as cloud platforms and process automation, can allow contact centre providers to achieve this required growth..
In 2020 most companies were seen to take actions to survive the pandemic rather than rolling out a planned WFH strategy, and the adoption of Cloud Contact Centre solutions allowed them to do this quickly. The use of cloud technology was already widely used to reduce infrastructure and data storage costs, but was now required to deliver the flexibility to allow the majority of the workforce to continue to carry out their activities from their homes.
The continued development and use of cloud solutions will be necessary as we move on, as many people will have enjoyed and seen the benefits of WFH and there will be no going back. This will also provide one of the greatest advantages to contact centre providers, allowing them to attract and hire the most suitable staff available, whilst not being limited by location. The use of Virtual Call Centre (VCC) technology, available via the cloud, has allowed a level of site independence for the agents working remotely, permitting them to work from anywhere at any time.
Contact centre managers are looking to ensure data security for their clients in a cloud environment, whether that data is moving or at rest, and they must realise that this is a responsibility that they share with the cloud provider. The limitations of the security within the cloud must be augmented by the protections implemented at the agent platform level or endpoint.
This can present complex problems, such as knowing exactly where that data is, who is accessing it and via what platform. Contact centres must therefore have a full understanding and trust in the cloud providers having state-of-the-art security capabilities, possibly across different clouds.
The requirement to comply with data protection regulations, such as GDPR in Europe, means that contact centres need to know who exactly is accessing their data, the level of risk their data is exposed to and the level of protection they need to provide to that data.
To maintain data security, contact centres must be able to distinguish between normal activities within their cloud and the suspect behaviour of individuals or the threats of malware.
As well as utilising the cloud infrastructure to store the large volumes of data produced, we must ensure we have efficient administration of and fast access to this data to allow the required analysis of this data by remote staff. This analysis is key to contact centres gaining valuable business insights and retaining control of operations by analysing the performance of agents and the processes they are using over time.
The delivery of Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered applications to agents can be easily achieved with the adoption of a cloud solution and this can be used to assist them in their interaction with customers by providing all available, relevant data on that customer. This can take the form of transcribing and analysing the conversation with the customer to present the agent with answers to the questions posed to them in real time.
The move to improve the resiliency of business models may prove to be a necessity this year, particularly as its implementation could allow us to overcome any further global disasters. Cloud computing can assist us in achieving aspects of this resiliency, such as providing flexible and integrated technology platforms and delivering the efficient Work Force Management (WFM) applications required to handle the challenges of working with remote staff.
Flexible technology platforms can allow the scaling up and down of operations, as required, without the need for increased capital spending. Agents can swiftly be hired or redeployed via the integration of applications such as Learning Management Software (LMS) to allow the rapid retraining of staff and the use of WFM applications, which allows you to retain overall control of your remote operation.
The availability of LMS applications can also ensure the continued development of remote staff and should assist in the motivation and retention of skilled and ambitious team members.
Many of the challenges associated with contact centres operating a WFH model can be met by using cost effective automated processes provided by solutions such as WFM applications or VCC software. The scheduling of agent availability can be automatically handled by WFM tools delivering the right agent to the right customer at the right time, which can be a key element in improving the customer experience. Managers of remote agents can then have the time traditionally spent scheduling rosters and managing absence available to them, to review and improve business processes and nurture and develop staff.
The automation capabilities provided by VCC software can greatly assist WFH agents with their customer interaction in several ways, such as providing them with data on a customer’s previous interaction with the contact centre allowing a more empathetic approach from the agent. The text of the conversation with the customer can also be automatically transcribed and analysed giving the agent suggestions regarding pertinent questions to ask, and it is these examples of automation that can improve the experience for the customer and the efficiency of the agent also.
The automation features of VCC software can be used to provide advanced analysis alongside standardised reports, e.g. team performance at a glance, real-time statistics and operational trend analysis. These features of the software give the ability to consolidate and analyse large volumes of data rapidly and give precious insights into the operations of a contact centre business.
Analysing customer calls can result in them being routed to the most appropriate agent available, which will result in a more effective use of contact centre resources. Typically, the analysis could take the form of checking whether a customer has previously used another communication channel, such as live chat, to resolve a query, which could indicate they have a more complex issue that may take longer for the agent to resolve. An analysis of the use of different channels of contact can help identify the effect on the volume of voice calls and their duration which again can be used to assign agents with the right skills to those complex calls.
Automated response bots, chatterbots or just chatbots are areas where AI can come into its own, as mentioned previously it can provide customers with smarter self-service options freeing up agents for longer and more involved calls. Whilst AI is important in this omnichannel approach, sometimes being the first point of contact for less complex issues, it must be used effectively to simplify the process for the customer improving their experience and must not be a barrier to contact with an agent.
Contact centre managers must be aware that it is not just the quality of the chat bots that will improve the experience for the customer, rather it is their effective integration with all other communication channels that will achieve this.
Another area where AI can assist is in the realm of voice authentication as this can be used by a contact centre in conjunction with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology to ensure that an agent does not miss essential information communicated by the customer. Voice recognition can also support an agent when they are assisting a customer with communication issues or a disability to ensure they also have an improved experience.
It is the automation of everyday processes that will allow the quickest route to the digital transformation of your operations, and offers a pathway to full business resilience with an increased ability to withstand any further global episodes.
Customer friction points can be reduced with targeted automation, such as having their credentials authenticated and all details of their historical contact presented to the agent at the onset of the call. This approach, along with an automated process to allow the agent to move across multiple communication channels with a particular customer and see the issue through to resolution, should lead to an improved experience for both the customer and the agent. These measures could also reduce the number of agents a customer comes into contact with allowing a relationship to develop, again to the benefit of both parties.
The value of retaining these happier, more fulfilled employees can only add to the resilience of your business by reducing the need for increased onboarding and training.
As nobody truly knows what the future work environment mix will look like and how many people will want to work fully from an office, home, or a blend of the two, contact centres will need to ensure that investments will have to be made in technologies that allow the flexible and scalable development of the business. The adoption of cloud technologies certainly seems to allow for this kind of growth and look tailor made for expansion in the contact centre industry with the growth in remote working and integrated technologies. But it should also be pointed out that whilst there is an anticipation of the growth in the requirement for business processes to be outsourced, the timing, size and pace of this growth is another unknown and investments need to be made using sound business judgement in terms of capital invested.
The growing use of process automation can be a huge asset, particularly in dealing with the earlier levels of customer contact such as live chat, IVR and chatbots and allow the resolution of less complex issues to be accelerated. However, we must ensure that whilst these technologies can improve the efficiency of our processes, we must keep in mind that people need human contact now more than ever and the most successful companies will use this technology to support the vital contact that may be a requirement for some time to come.