By Jeff Singman
According to a recent research report by SalesForce, 84 percent of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. The same study found that nearly 80 percent of customers expect consistent experiences across channels with the same capabilities and contextualized engagement based on earlier interactions. Furthermore, 73 percent expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. They want a personalized experience.
The report also found that 62 percent of respondents now expect companies to adapt based on their actions and behaviors, yet only 47 percent say companies are living up to these expectations. According to these results, companies were already struggling to meet customers’ expectations prior to the coronavirus pandemic. If this is truly the case, how will they fare post-pandemic?
COVID-19 has had an impact on so many areas of our lives: economic, health, education, and business. Many organizations have succeeded in enabling their employees to work from home. But what about the staff responsible for customer success and support? Moving their contact center operations to a remote model can be a costly and logistically difficult challenge, especially for small and medium-size businesses.
A recent study conducted by analyst firm Nemertes Research found that across key verticals such as healthcare (70 percent) and retail (68 percent), employers are planning to allow their contact center employees to continue to work from home following the coronavirus pandemic. So, what does this mean long term for contact centers and their ability to serve their customers remotely? It means there must be an innovative approach to how contact centers succeed in this “new normal.”
Traditional on-premise enterprise contact center platforms may not have the capabilities to provide adequate support for remote employees. Additionally, many of these platforms can’t process omni-channel interactions, or they make it cost-prohibitive to do so. If you already have a conventional on-premise platform in place, upgrading to the latest multichannel features requires additional capital outlays, special training, and expertise, making the platform even more difficult and expensive to manage and scale.
Newer cloud-based contact center solutions can help companies of all sizes avoid equipment cost and complexity, modernize customer engagement, and support remote workers. But many systems target large-scale contact centers, with advanced capabilities such as multichannel communications and chatbots, with a price tag beyond the reach of many businesses. Worse still, many cloud contact center solutions require six-figure professional services engagements just to begin.
But there are solutions on the market that are easy to set up, can integrate with existing contact center platforms, and are affordable. These solutions can enable a company’s contact center employees to offer world-class customer service and support regardless of where they work.
When searching for a modern contact center solution, that solution should empower companies to:
- Eliminate the cost and complexity of traditional on-premise enterprise contact center platforms. Ideally it would be cloud-based, so there’s no need to buy or install any on-site equipment or special-purpose software.
- Eradicate the expensive professional services required to get the contact center up and running. The solution should be easy to deploy and manage, and require no complicated setup, plug-ins, or configuration.
- Deliver an affordable, comprehensive collection of cloud-based communications and collaboration services. You want a solution that delivers immersive customer experiences, including video, screen sharing, social media, and web integration, as well as traditional phone calls. Cloud platforms provide the latest features in real-time with no costly upgrades or downtime.
- Remove the need to buy costly agent hardware or specialized software that you must install on every agent’s computer or laptop. Agents should be able to easily log on from anywhere, engage with customers, and access all features and services.
- Elastically scale and add capacity on demand as business requirements dictate. For example, departments or work groups should be able to temporarily add agents to support promotional campaigns or seasonal traffic spikes.
- Protect and extend existing investments. Look for solutions that give you the option to deploy it as a stand-alone solution or one you can integrate with legacy call center platforms.
No solution is perfect, but those that have these features and functionalities will help ensure that companies not only have satisfied customers, but also happy employees. The Nemertes study also found that there was a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. For companies that keep agent turnover at less than 15 percent, there is a 26 percent improvement in customer ratings, which is huge.
Additionally, allowing employees to work from home offers significant benefits to both the company and their staff. For the company, the most significant benefit includes real estate cost savings. According to national averages, the cost of office space per agent is about $8,300 per year, and a fifty-agent contact center saves more than $200,000 per year in real estate by allowing employees to work from home part-time.
In the Nemertes survey, the reasons companies cited for allowing employees to continue to work from home included:
- Fifty-seven percent of companies said it will improve agents’ quality of life, which could in turn lead to lower turnover rates (and lower turnover rates means happier customers).
- Forty-six percent said it will prepare agents for future disasters. The pandemic made many companies realize they are not ready for a major disaster (such as another pandemic, terrorist attack, or weather event).
- Thirty-six percent said it is better for the environment to allow people to work from home.
- Thirty-four percent said the technology works better than they thought.
The bottom line is that we must rethink the way we work. Having the right solutions will be critical in ensuring the success of the contact center industry moving forward. The good thing is that there are cost-effective solutions available today that will allow the modern contact center to super-charge the customer experience, regardless of where their agents work.
Jeff Singman has been a vice president with Kandy/Ribbon Communications since January 2016. A serial entrepreneur, his experience includes IT, security, telecom, and software solutions, with depth in industries including media, entertainment, financial, and healthcare verticals.