As 2018 comes to a close and we prepare for a new year, three main themes will dominate the reader’s list for 2019: becoming a customer experience hero, improving both customer AND agent experience and improving operational efficiency. With that context, here are five suggested resolutions for contact center leaders in 2019.
1. Ditch your legacy on-prem system
If you haven’t yet moved your contact center to the cloud, you’re doing your company and your customers a huge disservice. As long as you are running on legacy on-prem systems you’ll never be able to keep up with customer expectations. Legacy systems were never built to support the needs of the modern digital consumer, where customer experience is king. Those companies that have made the transition to first-generation cloud offerings have found familiar issues of poor reliability, lack of integration and inflexibility, plus poor call quality.
Cloud-native solutions like Talkdesk give you the ability to innovate and the agility to adapt and evolve. The ROI is clear-cut, and if you’re worried about the change management of disrupting your contact center, there are more seamless alternatives to wholesale “rip-and-replace” of your legacy system. Lastly, moving to the cloud empowers you to achieve the other resolutions listed below.
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2. Empower your agents
Agent churn has always been an issue in the contact center. Traditionally, the agent role was treated as a necessary expense, and agents were not offered much in the way of career upside. But as the contact center has begun to shift focus from cost reduction to the epicenter of customer experience (CX), the agent’s role has become elevated. The agent experience is inextricably linked to the customer experience. And, just as customer expectations continue to change, so do agent expectations. Agents don’t want to act like scripted robots. They want to be empowered to support the customer.
For managers, this has people, process and technology implications. You need to find the right personalities and provide processes that enable latitude within boundaries. And you need the right technology to enable empowerment. It will never happen with outdated, legacy, standalone systems. It requires cloud-native technology that can easily integrate with your enterprise systems to provide a unified customer view. And it requires putting knowledge at your agents’ fingertips to deliver personalized and positive customer experiences.
3. Integrate your CRM and call center
It’s shocking how many call centers still operate completely standalone from the company CRM system. If you’re serious about improving CX and operational efficiency, CRM integration is a must. Without integration, your agents are blind to customer information, forcing them to explain who they are and why they are calling. We’ve all had to deal with that frustration! Agents are hamstrung in their ability to serve the customer in a personalized and efficient manner. This leads to both low CSAT and agent satisfaction. It also blows up your other KPIs, because the lack of integration increases handle times and lowers first call resolution.
The most common reason given for lack of CRM integration usually relates back to legacy call center systems that either doesn’t integrate or do so poorly. This is all the more reason to switch to a cloud-native platform that provides seamless out-of-the-box CRM integration to Salesforce and other common systems. You’ll save money, have happier agents and improve CX.
4. Connect your digital environment to your call center
In today’s digital world, most customer interactions don’t start with a phone call. Customers start with their digital device to find answers and solve problems and only reach out by phone when that fails. So when a frustrated customer who has been trying to self-solve their problem finally makes a call, they expect you to know them and know the answer. But as with the lack of CRM integration, most call centers are not integrated with their digital environment. The result? The agent is completely blind to all the customer had tried to do on their mobile phone or computer. So when the call comes in, they need to start from the beginning to identify the caller and their problem. We’ve all been there, and it’s painful.
Modern cloud-native contact centers like Talkdesk are able to fully integrate the digital experience, providing agents complete real-time context of the customer and their journey, as the call comes in. So rather than “Who are you and what is your problem?”, they can start the conversation with “Hello, Ms. Smith, I see you’ve got a hotel booking problem – let me help you with that”. This leads to more empowered agents, happier customers and shorter resolution times.
5. Embrace AI
In the relatively mundane contact center industry, nothing captures the imagination more than artificial intelligence. Everyone is talking about it. One area, in particular, bots, are all the rage, conjuring visions of “Minority Report” robots replacing agents by the busload.
Here’s the thing: many inquiries that come into the contact center are of the simple, repetitive type that can and should be automated. This is not a new concept – self-service deflection, such as via a knowledge base search, has been around for decades. Chatbots are just the latest technology taking over the handling of these most basic inquiries.
This is where it ties back to agent expectations for empowerment: with simple inquiries being handled through automation, what remains are the complex ones. This requires an agent with a greater skill set and more autonomy. No longer a “bottom rung” role, these knowledge workers will be more valuable, harder to find, more highly paid and have an increased opportunity for organizational growth. So don’t freak out about AI. Chatbots are here to stay. They’re good for the agent and good for the contact center.