Digital transformation has been sweeping contact centres over the past few years, and is showing no signs of slowing as we move into the new decade.
As digital channels continue to shape the ways we live, work, shop and communicate, the expectation for businesses to integrate digital channels with their customer journeys is higher than ever before. Customers want to be able to interact with companies with the same ease as they do with friends and family.
There are also differing demands for different generations too, with baby boomers preferring phone conversations, millennials preferring text-based channels like live web chat and WhatsApp and the youngest consumer generation, Gen Z, preferring image and video based communication through video and social media. For businesses with an audience across multiple generations, it’s absolutely vital to implement a variety of different communication channels, joined together by a centralised system which enables a seamless customer experience as customers switch across channels.
But here’s the question: is it possible we have become too focused on digital?
There is a vast array of digital solutions available to help achieve digital transformation in contact centres. So, it’s important to remember that the key to success lies in striking the balance between providing customers with the cutting edge tech they demand, as well as the valuable human support they need.
How the advent of 5G and hyper-intelligent AI will inform the direction of future customer contact
It is no secret or surprise that businesses today are primarily focused on delivering a great customer experience. In fact, research by Gartner shows that two thirds of companies claim to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, making it a more important competitive differentiator than price or product.
Customers expect service to be fast, helpful and convenient. They also want the quality of service to remain consistent across every channel they use, and expect businesses to adopt the same communication methods that they use for day-to-day, personal use.
The roll out of 5G is anticipated to service major cities by next year, with mass market roll outs expected before 2022. Users will have lightning fast connectivity (around 10x the speed of 4G). With this comes a huge capacity for remote streaming, and super-high resolution 4K video calling will become widely available. As well as this, according to Vodafone, 5G uses millimetre wave spectrum, meaning vastly more devices will be supported concurrently: 4G currently supports around 4,000 devices per km², 5G can support around 1 million.
What does this mean for contact centres?
It means that contact centres are going to have to step up to the plate if they want to deliver that all-important customer experience. As we move into the 2020s, one thing we can predict is that the demand for alternative channels such as video calling will increase. Given the increased usage of video calling for personal and social interactions through apps like FaceTime and WhatsApp, it is only a matter of time before customers come to expect this functionality from businesses too.
As it stands, video is yet to become a mass-market adopted channel. Despite this, some trailblazing companies are already making strides with video, taking full advantage of the versatile service it enables.
Bravissimo, a British retailer, are using video calling powered by Talkative which integrates directly into their Mitel contact centre environment. They use video and cobrowse to offer personalised consultations and fittings services for online customers who can’t easily access a store, but still want a face to face experience.
What companies think customers want, and what customers actually want
Whilst there are some companies who are in tune with the desires of their customers, there are still many companies who aren’t, and it’s easy to see why.
The rise of technology in everyday life makes it easy to assume that your customers demand more technology, more automation and more end to end self service than ever before. After all, why interact with a human when you can have a frictionless journey by using cutting edge tech? Swanky new tools and processes have multiple benefits for businesses too. They are a lot cheaper to run, enable you to work faster and empower agents in the contact centre. But businesses need to remember that their digital transformation must consider the human side to ensure their solutions are suited to their customers, hence Workplace Modernisation.
However, there is a growing divide between what companies think their customers want, and what their customers actually want. Although customers do want more tech like automation and self serve, a global PWC study has indicated that as technology increases, customers want and expect more human interaction, rather than less.
Particularly when dealing with customer service queries or queries of a complex nature, many customers still prefer to speak to a representative rather than a chatbot.
Customers will typically get in touch with a company for one of two reasons: they either require information about something, or they have a problem which needs to be dealt with. Both of these reasons fundamentally mean that the customer is inconvenienced by having to initiate the interaction, and want the query solved as swiftly and effectively as possible. Sometimes, being able to self-serve is the answer, but likewise in many cases it’s not. Not giving the customer the option to speak with a real agent during a time of inconvenience can lead to them feeling frustrated, and even put off engaging with your business entirely.
Cost savings are great for the business in the short term, but a poor customer experience will ultimately lead to a downturn in business. These new technologies can help you reduce costs while offering an improved customer service at the same time. A win-win.
With that in mind, deciding which solutions will ultimately work best for your company takes a bit of weighing up. If you’re deciding on a new system, it’s important to consider the following:
1. How does it integrate with my existing systems?
Before implementing a shiny new tech, consider how it will sit alongside your existing systems. If it doesn’t integrate well with your existing systems, this can cause backlogs which can negatively affect your contact centre performance and create a poor customer experience. For example, if you add live chat onto your website and this is managed by your marketing team. If the query remains unresolved, then the customer makes a phone call to the contact centre. Unless these two communications streams are joined up properly the workflows will fall into different places. This will likely result in customers having to repeat themselves, a disorganised contact centre workflow and an inconsistent experience for the end user.
2. What is the value add of this tech for the customer?
The primary function of customer services departments is to help improve the customer experience and journey, so this needs to be at the heart of your decision about what new tech to integrate. It can be easy to get carried away with cutting edge AI or an impressive self-serve system, but if the majority of your audience still want or need to speak easily with an agent then this isn’t the best fit for your company. Consider what value the tech will bring to the customer first before deciding to go ahead.
3. Is this tech facilitating real human connection, or trying to replace it?
AI and tech are incredibly useful, but only if they are being used as part of a strategy which also includes human support. For example, an AI bot is useful for FAQs or simple requests, which can alleviate pressure of agents who can dedicate more time for more complex enquiries. There will always be the need for human support, and it can be detrimental to your contact centre success or even damage your company’s reputation if this isn’t properly addressed.
In the end, digital transformation is an inevitable reality for any forward thinking company, but it is important to remember that people are at the heart of your business. Real, meaningful conversations and personal connections are key to building long term customers, so it is vital to ensure that any new digital systems put in place are there to help facilitate these relationships, not replace them.
This piece was originally written by Patsy Nearkhou as a guest blog post for Britannic Technologies.