We talk to Enghouse about customer service in the ‘new normality’
While 2020 has proven to many that predicting the future is a fools game, there are some emerging trends we can all agree on as the world begins to unlock and restart its economies. One shift which is firmly embedded is the way we interact with consumer brands, having transitioned online. Whatever the future of the high street, increased levels of buying and fundamentally new ways of interacting with brands remotely is definitely here to stay.
And the people delivering that customer service on the brands’ behalf? They’ll probably be working remotely, in many cases from their own homes. We spoke to Jeremy Payne from Enghouse about this shift, and how over the long term, our vision of what contact centres look and feel like may well have changed forever — along with the profiles of the people who work there:
“With technologies like those from Enghouse Interactive we’ve been able to help businesses pivot quickly to remote working, and keep the plane in the air over the last sort of six, eight weeks. But now in the next sort of two, three quarters people will be looking more strategically, how do we restructure things on a more permanent basis,” he explained.
And indeed, ContactBabel’s recent report The Inner Circle Guide to Contact Centre Remote Working Solutions indicated that not only have 84% of survey respondents have moved to a predominantly remote working model, 1 in 6 have seen a rise in customer contact volumes of over 50%.
What this enables, Payne described, is a shift to more flexible and specialist roles and provision of customer service, as professionals involved become domain experts with deep niche specialities they may provide for multiple clients.
“They’ll have higher level skill sets,” he explained, “and be empowered to use empathy and judgement to resolve customers issues creatively within their spheres of expertise”
Not only will these customer service experts be augmented with AI enhanced powers driven by speech recognition and contextual support, they’ll operate competitively within their locus of authority. “I think we’ll see more of a gig economy dynamic, where agents really specialise, and are hired flexibly for their specific expertise — driving agility in the business, and empowering the agents as freelancers,” he continued, even if they’ve always been employed by one organisation before:
“The last couple of months has shown some great customer service people that they were viewed as disposable by large organisations, so this could be the catalyst for them to become masters of their own destiny. To work for perhaps 5 different clients, across multiple virtual teams, using familiar and intuitive software — which they’ll bring their deep subject-matter experience to on a flexible basis.”
It’s a powerful vision for a professionalised and enhanced customer service industry, a million miles from the white-collar factories or offshored outsourcers of the past — and it’s a vision which aligns with a world where many brand’s primary interactions with customers take place increasingly virtually, rather than face to face.
But once brands realise they can hire the best customer service people in the world to work for them wherever they are located, perhaps there will be an important shift in the power dynamic — and we’ll start investing in the people who represent us to our customers in more flexible and appropriate ways.