The message is clear: Brands that set themselves apart by creating exceptional customer experiences rise above the competition. Every time.
Consistently creating those experiences, though, requires a holistic approach that incorporates organizational and operational change into contact center architectural design. That’s certainly no easy task—especially amid the daily leadership challenges of improving efficiency metrics, training and engaging agents, and reversing the tide of agent attrition.
In the webinar, How to Design Your Contact Center to Be Customer-Centric, our guest speaker, Forrester Research VP and Principal Analyst Art Schoeller, offers tips, trends and perspective on how you can move toward a more customer-centric contact center. The webinar is part of our series, Elevating the Customer Experience from Your Contact Center, which includes compelling and practical industry insights from a lineup of three of the most influential analysts covering the contact center industry right now. You can access all three webinars in the series here.
In his webinar, Art underscores the challenge contact centers leaders face to constantly balance efficiency and effectiveness while delivering exceptional customer experiences. Here are highlights from the webinar, which may help make that balancing act easier for you.
Exceptional Customer Experience Spans the Entire Customer Journey
Good customer experiences start even before customers buy. Proactive customer service can help guide a customer to the right purchase, set the right expectations, increase their confidence in the purchase and position them on the path to a positive experience once they’re using the product or service.
Throughout the customer journey, customer interactions that drive loyalty are those that are:
- Easy; and
- Achieve a positive emotional reaction.
According to Forrester’s research, the emotional component is important not only for B2C, but for B2B interactions too. Art addressed the path to getting there in terms of automation, augmentation and acceleration.
Automation in the contact center started in the 80s with interactive voice response (IVR), then websites in the 90s, and mobile apps in the early 2000s. Today, automation driven by artificial intelligence (AI) has raised the question of whether increased automation will entirely replace live agents. However, according to Forrester’s research, the perceived threat to human agents has yet to bear out.
The research indicates most contact centers haven’t reduced headcount nor experiencied decreases in interaction volumes as a result of more automation and self-service channels. AI is pushing efficiency in the name of offloading calls, but there still is the matter of effectiveness.
While expectations around what AI and chatbots can do for efficiency are high, when Forrester speaks to contact center leaders about the effects so far, they are not seeing the need for agent headcount reductions.
The real result is this: As self-service and automation powered by AI peels off the simple customer service needs, agents now must be more skilled at what they do. And that creates a greater need than ever for agent enablement.
Automation does have a directly positive effect on customer service when customers have quick and easy needs that self-service can fulfill. And most people start with self-service. But what has emerged as one of the most important benefits of AI on customer experience is how it can augment, not eliminate, what experienced agents do.
During his webinar, Art referred to the “magic moment” when a customer can’t get resolution through self-service and escalates to a live agent. It’s here, he says, brands can differentiate themselves by using AI to elevate the customer experience through personalized interactions delivered by well-trained human agents.
AI that mimics agent actions and frees up agents to create genuine human connections is where that magic happens and contact centers can truly leverage the benefits. Examples of applications include:
- Agent Selection
AI can help match a customer request with the most appropriate agent based on factors such as customer intent and history and with agent skills and personality.
- Agent Assistant
On the front end, chatbots can determine who the customers are and what they want, then try to solve the problem. When the bots can’t go any further, they can keep the continuity and context before passing it on to the agent for a seamless transfer and positive experience.
- Quality Assurance
AI can empower call center recording quality assurance teams to identify trends and pull out the most appropriate coachable calls to elevate, streamline and optimize agent efficiency and effectiveness.
- Workforce Management
Pointing AI at patterns of data can help teams become more effective. For example, AI can provide a workforce management solution to managers to detect a rise in traffic earlier than they could otherwise for optimal effectiveness.
Art also talked about the benefit of AI in capturing and analyzing customer data to identify hot spots where there is a lack of customer satisfaction. For example, through speech and text analytics, AI can detect alarming changes in sentiment to elevate the customer experience game.
Incorporating customer contextual data to try to tune responses to the customer, automate interactions, then escalate it to the agent—across channels—delivers a consistently improved customer experience. Leveraging true omnichannel for customer service interactions that are seamless delivers on the promise of enriched, exceptional customer experience.
The Cloud Helps Deliver on the Promise of Exceptional Customer Experience
According to Dimension Data research, 80.8% of contact centers that are already using the cloud say cloud solutions provide improved flexibility. Art pointed out that, according to research, the move by contact centers to both a cloud and integrated suite of contact center solutions allows flexibility to test and, ultimately, implement solutions that deliver on exceptional customer experience.
It is organizations that set their sights on and then deliver these expectations that differentiate themselves from the competition and become market winners.
Our webinar with Art is packed with details on customer experience insights, as well as more trends, data and best practices for designing a customer-centric contact center.