By Aaron Lumnah, Senior Manager, Marketing Demand Generation
To thrive and survive in today’s ultra-competitive markets, businesses are looking to increase productivity and performance across all areas, including the contact center.
Representing a critical customer interface, maintaining service levels during the COVID-19 crisis was no easy task. When national stay-at-home-restrictions were first imposed, contact center call volumes jumped by as much as 600% in some sectors.
Fast forward 12 months and most contact centers are now more adept at handling the productivity impact created by systemic shocks to their workforce than they were prior to the pandemic. However, as firms prepare for what the next ‘new normal’ will look like, boosting operational efficiencies will prove the key to maximizing service delivery and resource utilization in the most cost-effective way.
Let’s take a look at five ways business leaders are looking to optimize and improve their contact center performance without compromising the customer experience.
1. Enabling remote agents via the cloud
There is little doubt that COVID-19 has accelerated the transition to new technology-led ways of working that have changed the contact center industry forever. Indications are that work-from-home (WFH) strategies look set to continue, as the large on-premises physical contact center of the past gives way to a much more flexible and remote work culture.
According to a 35% of contact center leaders predict their contact centers will become mainly homeworkers in 2021, with a further 58% saying that homeworking will be partly optional and partly compulsory. All of which highlights how employers have woken up to the multiple benefits, and cost savings, made possible when a remote workforce is empowered to manage its own daily work schedule.
Today’s cloud-hosted contact center systems make it easy for dispersed customer service teams to access all the tools they need to perform their job. All of which enables contact center leaders to cast their talent net wider and introduce flexible work options that help reduce agent churn.
2. Investing in digital communication channels
More and more customers are now looking to connect with companies via digital channels, taking advantage of chat, SMS and other interactions to get answers fast. In response, contact center leaders are looking to automate workflows to enable near seamless communications with customers, and proactively manage appropriate follow-ups via any and every touchpoint where a customer engages with a brand.
The rapid shift to online prompted by COVID-19 has readied customers for a contactless approach to service that involves serving themselves before even considering speaking to an agent. Contact center leaders are now leveraging this behavior change and introducing self-service options, alongside automated technologies like chatbots, to handle the bulk of day-to-day customer queries. This helps free up their live agents to handle more complex high value customer support issues.
All of which means firms can handle more customer interactions faster, and more cohesively, without having to ramp up agent headcount.
3. Equipping people with the right productivity tools
With agents working remotely, managers need to ensure they can handle problems on their own; that includes having the ability to transact securely with customers and handle payments.
Recent innovations in AI and machine learning mean that calls can now be automatically routed to the best agent to handle a customer query, together with a detailed display of everything that agent needs to personalize their response. Some systems can even provide suggested prompts that will help the agent navigate to the best solution option for each individual caller, and automatically update customer records with details of the call, actions taken, and next agreed steps.
By streamlining agent efforts, their productivity can be elevated. Plus, armed with the right tools, agents will be highly motivated to perform because they know they have everything at their fingertips needed to take a best shot at success.
4. Building out actionable dashboards
Giving agents access to intuitive visual reporting tools that make it easy for them to benchmark their performance against their targets and track their daily progress can prove highly motivational. This helps especially when agents understand what you’re tracking, and why.
Increasingly, today’s leading contact centers aren’t just focusing on traditional call center efficiency metrics alone. Instead they are also serving up actionable insights on quality KPIs like CSAT, uptime, customer retention, self-service utilization and digital utilizations.
All of these KPIs help agents focus their efforts on honing their ability to solve problems that add up to a better overall customer experience.
5. Continuously train agents to work smarter
Leading organizations are already looking at ways to support agents and equip them with the skills they need to address the more complex customers issues they’ll be dealing with from now on.
With automated chatbots and self-service channels now taking care of the bulk of simple yet repetitive customer issues that used to be part and parcel of an agent’s typical working day, agents need to hone their skills to cope with a more diverse range of challenges.
However, all coaching and training will need to be adapted to accommodate the realities of remote working.. That could mean offering agents access to self-directed online learning resources they can undertake at a time that works best for them,or providing scheduled ‘video’ side-by-sides that delivers tailored one-to-one coaching. It could even include group online training and discussion sessions where everyone gets to acquire new skills and discuss their best practice experiences.
By following these practices, business leaders can go far in improving contact center performance across a broad array of measures, and ultimately drive greater revenue for their organizations.