Expectations around interactions with brands have accelerated in recent years, amplified by the Covid-19 crisis. Though consumers expressed patience in the initial phase of the pandemic, affording contact centres the time to adapt, they were unwilling to accept Covid-related excuses months down the line. They now expect a clean, connected customer experience in which agents, human or otherwise, not only know who they are but are able to seamlessly pick up on prior conversations with the brand, regardless of the channel these particular conversations initially took place on.
Such an experience may sound simple to consumers, but it’s difficult to achieve in an omnichannel environment, where the number of communication channels continues to grow but data continues to be siloed and disconnected. Covid-19 has shone a light on the frailties in the ability of many brands to provide a diverse service depending on a customer segment. Companies are great at using customer and prospect data to profile consumers, calculate their value and create upselling opportunities, but few use it to benefit the consumers themselves.
Siloed, disconnected journeys are not only costly to companies, whose agents are repeating the same conversations with consumers on different channels, but incredibly frustrating for the customers. What happens in the contact centre has a direct impact on an organisation’s brand, amplified through word of mouth and social media. Seven in ten consumers have told someone after a bad contact experience, according to a recent study by CCMA, commissioned by Odigo, a leading provider of cloud-based contact centre solutions.
“What brands should be doing is maximising the data they have to make better decisions as to how consumers are treated in the moment, by giving useful contextual information to the adviser,” says Neil Titcomb, managing director for UK and Ireland at Odigo. “Where there’s been a prior conversation or chat interaction, too often that information is still not available to the adviser so they can’t in any way customise the customer experience. Instead, they are scrambling for relevant information or, worse, having to ask the customer to repeat themselves again.
“Brands need to leverage all the information previously gathered and bring it further up the communication line so that when someone reaches out to a contact centre, via phone or chat, the information and journey is seamlessly transferred. Every brand has lots of data at their disposal, but they don’t actually use it to visibly good effect for the consumer’s benefit.”
Personalisation is now the difference between good and great customer service, but most brands are a long way off achieving it in their contact centres. Many are now successfully communicating with consumers across multiple digital and analogue channels, and know which customer groups tend to use which channel first, but the channel interactions don’t interlock. There’s little in the way of a customer journey, and certainly no personalisation.
Though there is much hype around artificial intelligence (AI), the reality is that three-quarters of contact centre interactions still occur via the voice channel, a statistic not dissimilar to a decade ago, according to the CCMA’s study. There is undoubtedly growing demand for bots that can provide immediate answers – consumers’ willingness to self-serve delivery queries jumping six percentage points in just six months earlier this year – but voice is still king and a third of consumers expect to use their phone for customer service even more in the future.
Brands must also walk before they can run, and simply eliminating disconnected data silos will go a long way to achieving the more personalised experience that consumers now crave. Equally, their customers are unlikely to want to pivot to a totally automated world anytime soon. Only 12% of over-55s told the CCMA study they had recently used a chatbot, and while younger consumers are much more likely to gravitate towards them, 70% of 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed admitted they hadn’t used one recently either.
“Some people would have you believe voice is dead and everybody should be bringing in automation to replace it. We don’t subscribe to that at all,” says Titcomb. “There is lots of opportunity in AI, particularly around natural language, but we’re trying to strike a balance of innovation around using technology to provide a more intuitive, real option to connect to a customer, while still connecting them with the traditional long-standing human live agent.”
Odigo’s contact centre technology facilitates a seamless and efficient omnichannel experience for brands and consumers, and a satisfying, engaging experience for service agents. The platform enables companies to segment customers, for instance, as per their age, product and length of service, and then personalise their journey accordingly. By connecting their data to the Odigo estate, agents get a single view of the customer which connects across all communication channels, linking the whole journey wherever possible.
“We give organisations access to the data to get closer to being able to achieve genuine personalisation, but also give them options in terms of how they can experiment to understand which customers want to do one thing over another. That’s hard to predict, especially when you have customers aged 16 to 90,” Titcomb adds. “For such a long time, customer service was segmented by product or service and there was much less looking into the actual profile and behaviour of the customer or prospect. That needs to change.
“Consumers want a connected experience through the customer journey, and if they don’t get it they’ll go elsewhere. A strong contact centre customer experience is only really achieved when you can deliver it as a service on a consumption basis, and that’s not easy to do as they’re complex, technical services that have traditionally been built bespoke and took many months to deliver. People want Netflix-style consumption and we’re committed to achieving that so everybody can consume the services they want quickly and seamlessly.”
For more information, visit odigo.com