Enghouse discuss key themes emerging from the crucible of COVID
As the British High Street sadly reminds us, the way businesses and their customers interact and communicate was transformed forever in 2020. E-Commerce thrived however, and customer success and support became dependent on new channels when face-to-face was removed from the equation.
While the year ahead may hopefully be less tumultuous, there will still be technological evolutions which introduce new ways of working that appear just as pivotal as those we have recently experienced — only in a good way. Enghouse’ Group VP of Marketing and Alliances, Jeremy Payne, had this to say about the impact of change on the way we work with customers.
The contact centres of the near future will remain virtual/remote or at the very least hybrid — we simply won’t be cramming large numbers of cubicles into enclosed spaces anytime soon.
While remote work suits many agents very well, it can create issues in monitoring stress and wellbeing, such that could easily be seen in body language across a physical building, however. “A lot of people feel pretty frazzled at the moment, and that delineation between home and work life has got very blurred. But, instead of line of sight observation of body language, we can use natural language processing in real-time speech analytics to identify when someone is under pressure, becoming emotional, or in need of whispered or direct intervention on the call,” Payne explained.
But it needs a light touch, especially when the supervision is taking place in the intimate environment of someone’s own home. “If you’re sat in your bedroom and you feel like someone’s watching what you’re doing, whether you’re doing it fast enough, well enough… There’s nowhere for that cortisol generated to go and dissipate. And smart organisations are going to have to figure this out, and learn to support the human side a little bit better.”
As contact centre roles become location-independent and all the relevant software is cloud-based and equally flexible, careers have the potential to become more specialised and rewarding — reflecting the diverse range of customer interactions now delivered in this way, instead of face to face.
So agents will develop specialist knowledge in products and regulatory frameworks around areas like finance, or telemedicine — a space Enghouse understands well. “Video conferencing and data has to follow strict security protocols and compliance, under frameworks like HIPAA in the States,” Payne explained.
Different channels will also enable different specialisation, and experts will emerge who are so good at (for example) creating engaging video walkthroughs for social media, or solving complex travel disruption problems, that they’ll become sought-after contractors in their own right, hiring out to a range of clients who need their specific skills on a fractional basis.
As high-street retail struggles to recover from rolling lockdowns and tries to recapture market share lost to e-commerce, the contact centre will in some ways move on to the shop floor – with staff ready to instantly look beyond their local inventory to satisfy a customer need. Brands already getting this right understand that no local branch can stock every long-tail item on its shelves, but they’ll be quick to locate exactly what the customer needs.
This ability to loop in different expertise and resource wherever it is located will be underpinned by UC excellence in customer support in all industries. While bots automate away the routine enquiries, the more intricate and challenging issues will require many different kinds of input to resolve — but this can now be done with the tools we have.
“Using these collaboration platforms, the ability exists for different people in different departments and potentially different regions, countries, and organisations to come together in one virtual space and place, to collaborate and solve a customer’s problem”
“That’s where you need technologies, like MSTeams, and Slack and unified communications to bring that all together. So the skill sets you need are going to be different, and the approach will be more holistic — putting the customer at the centre of it, at all times.” Payne concluded.