Every minute of every hour, every day, consumer-facing companies are bombarded with questions, requests and complaints, especially during a lockdown.
And the proliferation of digital channels through which people interact with brands – social, text, email, voice or chatbot – has created a perfect storm for those mastering customer service.
“Everyone now wants to communicate how they want to communicate. Everyone also expects a meaningful interaction with a brand on their preferred channel. Baby boomers still prefer to speak to a contact centre agent, while Generation Z will try a chatbot and are happy to get a response via text,” says Neil Titcomb, managing director for UK and Ireland at Odigo, a leading contact centre-as -a-service (CCaaS) provider.
“We live in a multichannel world; it’s why brands increasingly need a joined-up, multichannel response.
“Consumers have rising expectations, even more so if they’re younger. They demand that issues are resolved instantly, not in hours or days. They expect a personalised, informed and intuitive experience, which is primarily digital first. Right now, 90 per cent of companies are failing to deploy anything like this level of customer service. They have a one-size-fits-all, first in, first out approach and that’s not working.”
Legacy systems have a lot to answer for, especially among large organisations, with many still utilising outdated platforms. They receive thousands of inquiries logged on to ageing customer relationship management systems. Then there are disparate data sources that don’t talk to one another. Some can have as many as eight different information sources on customers, their products and processes, from call centres, to online queries, to those managing social-media feeds.
Achieving channel-less approach to customer service can be a huge ask for enterprise-level companies. Redesigning IT services is a task that can often be too big to tackle, especially with millions of customers and thousands of call centre staff to please. This is why smaller, challenger brands offer better service with seamless, connected systems.
“The coronavirus pandemic shone a light on how many brands couldn’t service customers effectively. It highlighted how little intelligence they have on consumers and their lack of ability to deal with people’s issues effectively, especially when not in the office. Many businesses don’t have that agility or insight. This is a wake-up call,” says Titcomb, whose company works with 200 clients, including EDF, La Redoute and DHL, providing channel-less customer engagement solutions, and serves more than 400,000 agents worldwide.
“Yet good customer service is all that people will judge a business on. Corporations can make quick wins by deploying the right systems. It’s not difficult to identify and verify customers, but it’s harder to understand why they want to contact you, what frame of mind they’re in and determine how to handle them.”
The challenge is how do you gather all the information together and have a “single source of truth” on the customer? In recent years, software as a service from the cloud, deploying the latest technology, has helped, presenting contact centre staff with a single view of the customer via a state-of-the-art dashboard.
“The greatest frustration people face is when a call centre representative doesn’t know enough detail on the customer. This can lead to ‘blind’ transfers so they have to explain the issue again or the agent doesn’t know they’re calling for the third time today. This is because the relevant information is not made available to the agent at the time they need it most. The fact is the customer experience is won and lost at the agent desktop,” says Titcomb.
“The agent desktop is often invisible to management teams and the customer, however for the frontline agent it’s fundamental. Its content can make a huge difference to the public image of a company and how its ‘shop window’ is portrayed. That’s why we focus critically on the design of our agent desktop. It is vital to orchestrate the customer experience in one place.”
It is one thing to deploy CCaaS technology, but with all innovative technology, it is how it’s designed and configured and ultimately used by customer service staff that matters.
“It is our job as experts in technology, customer behaviour and psychology to give businesses proactive guidance on what they should be doing and how best to deploy solutions. That’s why we have an experience services division. It’s designed for business optimisation, analysis and consulting, which we’re evolving all the time,” says Titcomb from Odigo, a Capgemini brand recognised as a market leader in CCaaS solutions.
With increasing pressure on companies to deliver exceptional customer experience, it’s no wonder this issue is on the boardroom agenda. The customer interface is no longer seen as a run-of-the-mill IT change project. It’s increasingly a priority; get it wrong and shocking contact centre experiences make headline news.
Personalisation is so crucial that customers will pay more for it; it shows engagement, forms bonds and drives efficiency
“Consumers will pay a premium for a better, personalised service, which is frictionless, engaging, intelligent with smart self-service tools, where augmented systems and contact centre staff not only understand who I am, but what I want and why. We can now use artificial intelligence and sophisticated speech tools, sentiment analysis and biometrics to achieve this. It’s getting cleverer all the time and moving at pace,” says Titcomb.
“Personalisation is the golden ticket to creating improved customer experiences. Very few companies do it well. It’s possible now and the impact is enormous. Today, the opportunity to stand out from the crowd is huge. Businesses can achieve higher customer retention, lower churn and greater productivity if they get this right. The return on investment is massive.”
As the future unfolds, younger generations will call a business as a last resort. A lot of customer engagement is increasingly digital, managed through mobile apps, chatbots and self-service. Brands will have to move with the times, whether they like it or not.
Find out more about world-class, cloud-based contact centre solutions at odigo.com