In some ways, the difference between great customer experience and bad customer experience is tiny. In other ways, it’s huge.
The coronavirus pandemic has put that difference in sharp relief. Customers across industries – banking, online retail, hospitality to name a few of the especially hard-hit – need to make contact with brands, but these brands have had a limited supply of agents available due to work-from-home (WFH) requirements and a lack of preparation. Indeed, few of us thought a pandemic would cause this much upheaval across the globe. Every company is now rethinking how they can meet and exceed customer expectations in this new environment. They must understand their key customer journeys and what changes they can consider “low-hanging fruit” to be successful in the coming months.
Many enterprises are revamping their business continuity planning with a focus on call centers that are balanced geographically and that enable people, processes and technology that facilitate secure work-from-home capabilities. Striking the right balance here is part of the challenge. A sound call center workforce should include at least 25 percent WFH capability with 100 percent able to move to WFH within 24 hours in the event of an emergency. This means being able to quickly disperse standard equipment with security features for laptops or desktops, webcams and remote monitoring, all of which may still be on the “to do list” from just six months ago.
Many organizations also are finding omnichannel strategies can flatten the demand curve by providing flexibility for customers to engage via the channel of their choice. This includes the blending of AI technology and human agents to augment capacity overall and keep customer wait times low. And if organizations can recreate positive agent experiences with automation, they can ensure best-in-class customer engagement. Customer-experience software and services company 7.ai has seen a 300 percent increase in the number of clients turning to digital channels on top of traditional interactive voice response (IVR) technology to help with significant spikes in customer demand.
Call centers are optimized when they decrease the strain on the customer, reduce the cost to serve and creating memorable interactions. Digital messaging is quickly becoming the go-to channel and first line of defense for call centers in the COVID era. This should be the primary way for consumers to interact with your company. Since asynchronous digital messaging eliminates the need to wait for a live agent, both the volume of voice calls and the wait time go down. Digital messaging tools allow the customer to return to the conversation at their convenience and have the benefit of picking up where they left off.
These capabilities allow organizations to deal with spikes and troughs in demand and enable a more balanced response rate at a time when call volumes allow. As a precursor to automation via chatbots, digital messaging further enables a reduction in manned contacts and alleviates the long wait times many organizations have experienced during COVID.
I conducted a short series of video conversations about customer engagement with PV Kannan, founder of customer-experience software and services company 7.ai. Check them out here.
Video 1 - Is COVID Driving Digital First?
In this video, PV Kannan and I focus on the effect the global pandemic has had on enterprises deploying digital-first strategies in the contact center. Listen in as we discuss lessons learned from the pandemic and what has worked so far.
Video 2 - People vs Technology - Getting the Right Mix
In this segment, we discuss how to strike the right balance of artificial intelligence and human interaction for optimal customer experience in the contact center.
Video 3 - Using Automation to Streamline the Customer Experience
Listen in as PV Kannan and I continue our conversation in the third of this three-part video series on customer engagement. We discuss how to use automation in the contact center to streamline and enhance the customer experience.
Join me for a webinar in which I continue the conversation with PV Kannan in search of ways to successfully implement automation in the call center and move toward the future of customer engagement.
About the author
Wayne is an automation pioneer, initially starting out as an early adopter of RPA in 2010, creating one of the first Enterprise scale RPA operations. His early setbacks at Telefonica UK, led to many of the best practices now instilled across RPA centres of excellence around the globe. Customer centric at heart, Wayne also specialises in Customer Service Transformation, and has been helping brands in becoming more Digitally focused for their customers. Wayne is an expert in Online Chat, Social Media and Online Communities, meaning he is perfectly placed to help take advantage of Chat Bots & Virtual Assistants. More recently Wayne has concentrate on Cognitive & AI automation, where he leads the European AI Automation practice, helping brands take advantage of this new wave of automation capability.