There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has thoroughly changed the way we live and work. One of the most significant events in recent history, the pandemic has emerged as the catalyst for true digital transformation among many companies. Businesses of all sizes suddenly had to switch to cloud technology and applications just to keep the lights on.
Now the UK is preparing to re-open once again, and begin it’s gradual (and cautious) exit from pandemic restrictions, but what does this mean for the contact centre? Now that customers have experienced the full potential of the digital CX landscape, there’s no going back.
Going forward, digital customers will continue to demand the same flexibility that they got during the pandemic when contact centres were forced to go digital to maintain business continuity. However, in the months ahead, it’s also likely that we’ll see some new trends emerging too.
Here are some of the elements most likely to define the post-pandemic contact centre.
The Rise of Cloud Flexibility and Omni-Channel
Flexibility is something that customers demand in the modern CX landscape. We’re living in a world where we now have more ways to reach each other than ever before. Things like video conferencing have emerged as a natural form of communication since the pandemic hit, designed to recreate the face-to-face interactions we crave.
Clients expect to be able to interact with companies through instant messages, SMS, and social media. More importantly, they also want businesses to ensure they get an aligned and contextual experience on every channel. Omni-channel solutions that combine various tools into a single platform are crucial for business productivity, and customer experience.
A cloud environment that successfully aligns your communication backend will make it easier to track the full customer journey from start to finish. The cloud also ensures that business leaders can rapidly add new channels to their communication strategy as customer preferences evolve. In the future, when more AI, IoT, and virtual reality solutions emerge in the contact centre, it’s the companies on the cloud that will be best equipped to transform.
Increasing Demand for Augmented Agents
Before the pandemic, customer sentiment towards virtual agents and AI was mixed. Some companies were offering amazing experiences in the form of chatbots and interactive virtual assistants. Others had yet to fully grasp the demands of conversational intelligence and design a solution that felt efficient and attractive to customers.
During the pandemic, however, AI solutions became an essential part of any thriving contact centre. Companies simply couldn’t manage the sheer demand from their customers with human agents alone. Virtual agents became a useful addition to the team, assisting with things like routing customers to the correct agent and solving common problems through automation.
Virtual agents also offer much-needed support to employees, giving them instant access to relevant information about customers, products, and solutions in seconds. When integrated with contact centre technology and CRM systems, virtual agents can easily pull valuable data in front of an agent, supporting more personalised service. Virtual agents could be the key to supporting and empowering employees in the years ahead.
Rising Need for Self-Service Solutions
Today’s digitally-savvy customers know how difficult it can be to get through to a human agent in a contact centre. When the pandemic sent support ticket numbers soaring in 2020, customers were waiting hours to get solutions to their problems. The result was more clients turning to self-service as a faster solution. Now, more than ever, your customers will expect to have the opportunity to find answers to their questions and solve problems themselves.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of technology available to help contact centres offer this solution. Chatbots can make it easier for customers to track down the right information in FAQ sections and knowledgebases. Virtual and conversational agents can complete tasks on the behalf of a customer, like assisting them with a transaction or making an account change.
Self-service solutions are set to be a big part of the future contact centre, as customers continue to prioritize speed. These solutions will also help to take some of the pressure off the contact centre agent, who will have more time to focus on more complex challenges.
Greater Focus on Analytics and Reporting
Good analytics and reporting have long been crucial parts of running an effective contact centre. With access to the right data and information, it’s easier for business leaders to make decisions that positively impact the customer experience. As we return to the world post-pandemic, many companies will be going through a growth period, where they need to rediscover customer expectations.
Reporting and analytics solutions will help contact centres to track things like customer sentiment, and the preference that different age groups have towards various kinds of contact. These reports can also assist managers and supervisors in tracking the continued productivity and performance of agents in a hybrid environment, where many employees will be working remotely.
An effective focus on analytics and reporting will guide businesses of all sizes towards better CX decisions. What’s more, these tools can also help to ensure that companies are doing everything it takes to remain compliant with the latest standards for security, and privacy.
The Future of the Contact Centre is Here
Today’s contact centres must be flexible, agile, and scalable environments, capable of evolving to suit the needs of customers wherever they are. We’ve come a long way since the contact centre was a room filled with ringing desk phones. The COVID-19 crisis of 2020 is a significant factor in the evolution of the contact centre, pushing more companies to evolve faster than they expected.
The silver lining is that the evolution companies have gone through the past year sets us up for a new era of customer experience. As we move ahead into life after the pandemic, we’ll see a rise in everything from virtual contact centres to omni-channel interactions and AI-empowered self-service.
Welcome to the future of customer experience.