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COVID-19, the New Normal Customer — Experience is King

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COVID has brought around an essential elevation in the importance of the contact centre for delivering the organisations customer experience.

Now, contact centres are considered an essential service, which wasn’t always the case before. Where callers may have been more upset about a poor call in the past – now they want that human interaction, they don’t want to deal with IVR’s, AI’s, and other automations. While wait times may be longer, they value a positive interaction with a caring agent that shows compassion and empathy.

The pandemic is also acting as a catalyst for new ways of doing business remotely, and the changes taking place will last beyond COVID-19. Organisations need to adapt not only to the current conditions but need to support this new normal moving forward.


Defining a new normal...

COVID-19 is changing the scope and the role of contact centres and defining a new normal. Your game plan should address both the current COVID-19 climate and the new normal that this is creating.

  • Use of Contact Centre technology for non call centre teams to boost customer experience and deliver organised outcomes, backed by business intelligence reporting and supporting omnichannel interactions across digital channels.
  • Working Remotely (of course) but productive!
  • Handling traffic surges – don’t miss the business rebound and lose customers!
  • Greater empowerment of employees to better serve customers - Focus on the agent experience and agent enablement
  • ‘Pragmatic’ transformation with simpler automation and better leverage of humans
  • Embracing Cloud Services and consumption models

Let’s deal with some of these points in more detail

Use of Contact Centre technology for non-call centre teams and enabling new business models

We have spoken for decades of expanding the contact centre principles of managed communications to other business use cases and teams. It is finally happening!

new way of working

The pandemic has blossomed new business models. Telehealth is one example. Retail is turning to curb side or in-store pickups to deliver goods more safely. These new models should be underpinned on call centre style of communications and best practices for routing, call handling, making sure appointments take place, and coordinating services – and essentially customer success outcomes.

Omnichannel interactions

omni channel interactions
Now more than ever its not just the telephone, organisations must support communications and messaging and ability to transition conversations between voice, video, and digital channels such as SMS, WhatsApp, FB, Web Call Back, Web Chat etc.

To handle all this properly business is turning to omni-channel contact centre technology. All these message types coming in need to be managed and measured, dashboards need to show their time in queue, how many didn’t get a response. Also what about all these conversations, our agent Jane spoke to customer Bob on SMS but then Jill spoke to Bob as well on Chat – was it the same conversation did each know the others conversation content? This all needs to be handled centrally with a solid and integrated reporting system that delivers this information to supervisors and agents.

Working Remotely (of course) but productive!

In the last crisis during the GFC, the financial crisis provoked a significant halt to remote working. Employees who were working from home were asked to come to the office more as it was seen as a possible reduction in productivity and times were tough - many benefits of home working were questioned! This time, organisations don’t have the choice but to make it work. The first phase of teams being turfed out the office to work at home entailed to a large degree a divert of their phones to mobiles – or maybe a bit better equipping them with laptops and softphones.

But it’s not optimal under any circumstance and organisations have learnt from this and adapting quickly and introducing long put-off investments and uplifts to deploy professional remote working contact centre technologies. Therefore, bringing in much needed principles such as presence, voice recording, dashboards and business intelligence, team coaching and monitoring, omni-channel and much more.

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Handling traffic surges – don’t miss the business rebound and lose customers!

business rebound image

Organisations need to anticipate what’s going to happen as business rebounds and people attempt to get things back to normal as much as they can. There will be a lot of pent up desire and demand - traffic spikes will need an instant reaction.

dashboard demo example

Clients are talking to us now that they want to be prepared for that, they don’t want to find they have lost those opportunities to their competitors, what could be worse is to lose even long standing customers if you cant respond or provide a decent customer experience – people are resetting a lot of norms and now isn’t the time to be complacent.

The modern contact centre offers the best strategies, great features such as immediate call-backs for important calls and deferring call-backs for less important ones. Also, call-backs are easy to manage and allocate, they can be prioritised and also grouped into batches for greater efficiency.

Voice Analytics - Analysing the why calls are surging

We may not fully understand why people are calling. For many organisations this leads them to consider speech analytics, which can transcribe and analyse calls and uncover their intent. This provides the information for how best to manage traffic and either prevent inquiries or redirect them in the best way, maybe to self-service or other omni digital channels.

SMS keeps getting more important

Even more people are using mobile phones while remote and so it’s easy to respond to a call with an SMS message. Once an interaction is in the SMS channel, some basic options and routing can be handled using AI or bots, or conversations can be transitioned to another digital channel – or just call the customer.


Greater empowerment of employees to better serve customers - Focus on the agent experience and agent enablement

customer experience toolbox

Supervisors aren’t nearby to monitor, coach, and help their teams first-hand. Direct visibility of performance isn’t there with remote working. To a large degree this has led to just having to give more trust and empowerment of agents to deal with unforeseen situations. We think this is going to stay, will people want to go back to long commutes, businesses have seen the remote working have merits, so ongoing staff training and agent enablement will be an even more important consideration in the management systems and technology required to train, review and monitor these interactions.


‘Pragmatic’ transformation - simpler automation and better leverage of humans

What does this mean? Well we are all familiar with the term digital transformation, also prior to COVID, more and more talk was around AI, automation and self-serve.

We think there are two drivers for ‘Pragmatic’ transformation’

a) As we said earlier customers now want human interaction, they don’t want to deal with IVR’s, AI’s and other automations. While wait times may be longer, they value a positive interaction with a caring agent that shows compassion and empathy.

b) AI, self-service and automation is expensive, it requires a lot of upkeep, its not for everyone and in fact right now people need to pivot quickly and inexpensively.

brain vs tools

So Pragmatic’ transformation it means ‘yes use technology to improve customer experience and systems’ but ‘do it sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical outcomes’. Instead of a full AI and knowledge base, just small simple steps like asking a caller how best you can direct their call with an IVR, asking for their membership number, having SMS or WhatsApp respond to ask do you want sales or support? These things are practical, they are easy to implement, they are affordable.


Embracing Cloud Services and consumption models

Working from home of course can be implemented with on-premises communication systems. Avaya, for example, announced it had enabled over two million remote workers using mostly on-site solutions. However, the speed at which organisations using cloud contact centres were able to transition their operations to working remotely is worthy of consideration.

But we see very good hybrid models too with many of our customers with on-prem communication systems and contact centre and telephony software services in local virtual servers or even in the cloud and those teams working with all advanced facilities remotely just the same as any cloud contact centre. Actually, these arrangements may well be more flexible allowing for customisations and business process fit that just isn’t so flexible for cloud providers.

premises vs cloud
But we also urge consideration of the many powerful applications and augmentations to the complete communications strategy that use cloud services. Features such as Voice Analytics, Workforce Management, Call and Web Ad tracking, Voice Cognitive services like voice recognition and txt to speech are now all delivered far more effectively from the cloud and via consumption services.

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