If your customer is human, why isn’t your contact center?

The role of the contact center within the enterprise continues to develop and change: on the one hand it is seen as a cost center that deals with difficult customers and their complaints. On the other it is an opportunity that provides great customer insights and plays a critical role in CX delivery.

Today, however, it is the former view that most enterprises’ have of their contact center. There is lack of vision for the future; little investment in systems and processes; and leaders are constantly looking at ways to save money and cut costs.

Creating efficiencies and optimizing spend is always a priority for leaders be they in the business or contact center but often it is done at the expense of the customer and agent experience.

Agents account for 75% of contact center costs so they are usually the first to go in any money saving initiatives[1]. Replaced by self-service and automation technology that has far cheaper overheads which is great for the business. But, what about the person on the other side of the transaction? That very human person who is looking for an easy resolution to their query.

Technology can be a successful substitute for human to human interactions, particularly for simple queries. But, despite all of this, for the majority of people voice is still the preferred channel even if they don’t want to use it: less than 1 in 8 customers want to pick up the phone and call a contact center, yet telephony accounts for two-thirds of customer-initiated contacts[2].

The key is striking a balance between live agents and technology and viewing the technology as an enabler of better experiences not the creator. For many cost-conscious leaders that might be a difficult pill to swallow. Below are a few thoughts on what a rebalance might mean for your contact center:

Meaningful metrics
Today, we see more conventional contact center metrics being used to measure performance such as average handle time and average speed to answer. These quantitative metrics aren’t enabling CX or allowing for the time it takes for agents to effectively resolve customer queries first time.

In order for leaders to realize the value that a CX focus can bring to their contact center measures of success need to become more customer focused such as first-time resolution and customer effort.

This integration of customer centric metrics will be even more important as the queries agents deal with become more technical and nuanced – requiring more time and resource to resolve them.

Content when you need it
A key challenge with self-service is to make sure the systems are as effective as possible to justify the huge set up cost. If customers attempt to find a solution online or ‘zero out’ of a session this results in high levels of traffic to the contact center and more cost.

A strong content and knowledge strategy based on customer centric journeys is critical to self-service success. If a website looks beautiful and functions well but doesn’t provide the answers to a customer’s query it has failed to do its job. Equally, if a customer calls a contact center the agent who answers the phone must have the relevant information easily available to them or risks negatively impacting the CX.

Training for the new world
In 2018 training was the number one agent experience focus for the contact center and as we move into 2019 it is still a key investment area[3]. As self-service, chatbots and automation have taken the place of agents in servicing low effort experiences it means that agents are now having to deal with the more challenging queries that customers throw at them and many are unequipped to do so.

The focus through 2019 is training on more “human” factors but as the contact center is forced to integrate with disruptive technologies such as the IoT training will need to include a highly technical aspect that hasn’t been necessary before.

Balancing the role of technology with your agent base can be a challenge for many legacy contact centers, particularly those that are being pressured on cost saving measures. By striking a balance between tech and human not only can you realize more efficiencies but a better CX that reduces customer effort and boosts loyalty.

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Axim specializes in Enterprise Communications Transformation, from cloud to legacy technology to customer experience.

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