[Tribune] Contact center flexibility: the challenge of 2021
This article was originally published by Ludovic Guelblum (Avaya International).
The evolution of the "contact center as a service", via a solution hosted on a cloud, is helping customer services to meet highly scalable specifications.
When we look at what has actually happened in terms of customer experience over the years and how organizations are evolving, it's clear that the way the contact center operates and influences the customer journey has changed fundamentally. New technologies have taken a leading role in the way companies interact with their customers and collaborate with their contact center agents. But beyond these technologies, it is the flexibility they bring that now opens up a new field of possibilities to be explored.
Increased flexibility for a better quality of life at work
According to Gartner's recent Magic Quadrant for the as-a-service contact center market, by 2022, the as-a-service contact center (CCaaS) will be the preferred model of adoption for 50% of all contact centers. That's an increase of about 10% over 2019, and it will only increase over the years. Given the digitalization of businesses and the shift to e-commerce, we can easily envision over 85% enrollment in 2025.
Beyond the technical benefits, this cloud-based model supports all interactions via any channel, improves business resilience and gives everyone the ability to work from wherever they want, while improving work-life balance.
One can only imagine how much easier it would have been to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, from an economic point of view, if this flexibility had already been acquired in companies before 2020. Let's take the lesson: the business world, and contact centers, are capable of reinventing themselves.
A more flexible way to collaborate both internally and externally.
The benefits of greater flexibility in a contact center are not just for the agent. Flexibility also allows a company's employees, regardless of department, to work alongside contact center agents, improving internal collaboration to better serve customers.
The customer experience nowadays goes far beyond simply answering questions. It requires a complete understanding of the customer's journey, including the contact center, sales and marketing. Agents and other people in contact with the customer must have total flexibility to get the right information (or, failing that, go out and get it) to provide highly personalized and timely information that will satisfy their customers.
It is no longer a question of how an agent handles a customer request within the contact center, but how customers can move seamlessly beyond the contact center into all departments and industries, using a wide range of touch points and types of interaction. Bringing flexibility to the contact center is all about offering it to the customer. This is the reason why many tools and best practices used in the contact center can be leveraged elsewhere in the customer journey, such as conversational intelligence.
More flexibility in processing
Intelligence is exactly what the customer who calls is looking for. According to a study released by Accenture in March 2020, customers prefer a live interaction: 58% of customers prefer to solve urgent or complex problems by calling support rather than using other modes of interaction. Contact center agents must be able to handle these difficult inquiries, frequently changing processes, and emotionally charged customer interactions, especially in today's crisis environment. But they must also embody the culture of the company, as strategic messengers who increasingly provide very high value-added services.
To keep pace with these changes, flexibility at the organizational level is here again necessary in order to find solutions to provide each agent with the time and skills needed to respond to these new and more demanding tasks. In this respect, the help of artificial intelligence may prove to be relevant. Indeed, it is increasingly used to carry out low value-added tasks and serves as a support for a successful relationship between the customer and the agent, based on key business knowledge (communication history, conversation patterns) and characteristics (feeling, reliability, emotion). Freeing the agent from repetitive tasks, setting up bots for a 24/7 reactivity on simple questions, there are multiple ways for a greater organizational flexibility of the processes.
Companies have understood the need for innovative contact centers that integrate well with their existing systems. The question that still stands today is how they will exploit the resulting flexibility. Will they take advantage of this to undertake a profound transformation of their organization, by automating some of their tasks? Will they be able to have more confidence in their employees by entrusting them with more strategic missions? The major challenge for the years to come is this: to transform the flexibility gained through new technologies into even more fertile ground for human relations.