For many years, call centres were the place people turned to for information and advice about new products and services, to query an order and check the delivery date, or to voice a complaint, using the trusted telephone. Now, that has all changed with a dramatic impact on both people and technology.
For a start, consumer behaviour has changed – customers today expect to interact in a number of ways. They enjoy the immediacy of using Chat for enquiries and, with the rise of social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook, consumers want to share information, ideas and their grievances online and on the move. People expect to interact using their PCs, tablets, mobile phones and other personal electronic devices.
In this increasingly multi-channel world, call centres have transformed into contact centres and technology has been forced to catch up. Traditional premise-based technology is no longer enough and has been replaced by the latest cloud-based call centre solutions to support today’s virtualised reality.
So, what does this mean for the people tasked with providing great customer service? On the surface, contact centre agents need to be everything to all people and everywhere! Just take a look:
- Always available, 24 hours a day
The rapid adoption of consumer technology means customers like to be connected every hour of every day and expect the same from the organisations they do business with. ‘Open all hours’ definitely applies to the contact centre making traditional office hours a thing of the past. Fortunately, new technologies such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR), self-service and even automated payments mean customers can get what they want, when they want without having to speak to a live agent.
- Same agent, different hats
It is only logical that the more ways customers can interact with an organisation, the broader an organisation’s customer base will be. Learning to accommodate and positively embrace different age groups, genders and cultural backgrounds is critical to providing excellent service. This also applies to employers looking to create a contact centre team – balance a comprehensive set of knowledge, expertise and skill sets and let technology do the rest. The latest cloud-based solutions integrate voice and social media with customer relationship management (CRM) applications to boost agent productivity and improve customer satisfaction whilst intelligent enquiry routing makes the best use of resources by distributing enquiries to the agent with the right skills, at the right time, and even prioritising VIP customers in a queue.
- Adding real business value
Part of winning customers is truly understanding their needs and making the effort to speak their language. Today’s clever technology can turn the contact centre agent into a customer service ambassador as well as a source of powerful business intelligence. The key is to be able to really hear the voice of the customer and then do something meaningful with the feedback. Embedding speech analytics into the contact centre enables organisations to analyse and search 100% of recorded customer calls in real-time, helping them to identify competitive threats and opportunities and the root cause of customer dissatisfaction. It can also identify dialects, regional accents and slang and be adapted to capture technical and industry terminology in addition to the usual keywords and phrases.
- Keeping all customers on board
Although the trend is definitely steering towards automation and self-service, there will always be a loyal band of customers who prefer the human touch. Although the rise in non-traditional channels is changing the landscape of customer service, the voice channel still dominates, especially for complex or emotive queries. Choosing the right channels for your customers is more critical than ever before to ensure your customers are served appropriately.
Managers are changing too
When it comes to operating today’s contact centres, managers play a critical role in determining the success of their agents. The three golden rules are:
- Supply the right training and make learning fun
With the current shift towards social media and digital communication for customer service, training agents to handle multiple channels is fundamental to future success. What’s more, make learning fun. The latest gamification techniques are all about employee engagement. Agent groups can win points or badges via online games and individuals can even choose to compete against themselves to improve personal performance.
- Age before beauty
Don’t fall into the trap of only hiring young students to deal with social media enquiries. It is often more time-efficient and cost-effective to train existing contact centre staff with well-honed customer service skills and in-depth knowledge of your organisation’s products. Social media can be learnt in a matter of weeks, years of experience take far longer!
- Make the most of technology
Let automation do the hard work leaving agents to focus on delivering excellent customer service. The latest cloud-based technology:
- gives agents the comprehensive data they need to improve decision-making and response times
- empowers them through real-time monitoring of social media to respond proactively to negative posts before they go viral and protect the corporate brand
- helps build knowledge and a sense of community to speed on-boarding of new agent recruits
- improves agent confidence through silent monitoring capabilities and immediate coaching and counselling.
By combining the right training, people and technology, organisations will be rewarded with happy agents in an efficient and flourishing contact centre that saves time and money and keeps customers coming back for more.