"I had to keep repeating my issue." "The agent didn't know who I was even though I've been a customer for ten years." "Are you guys understaffed or something?"
Do these customer complaints sound familiar? With the right contact center solution, you can reduce them or maybe eliminate them completely.
Contact center professionals are under a lot of pressure these days, even more than usual! In addition to managing agents, queues, technology, quality, KPIs, budgets, and internal stakeholders, contact centers are expected to consistently deliver "exceptional" customer experiences (CX).
Satisfying customers is certainly not a new concept. Companies with staying power have been focusing on pleasing customers for decades or longer. But now that most companies are competing on the basis of CX, the spotlight has zeroed in on contact centers. The added attention and elevated role in business strategy often come with an expectation of near-perfect performance.
But contact center professionals know that perfection isn't possible. First of all, your performance depends on people - customers and agents - who sometimes have bad days, memory lapses, distractions in their personal lives, and everything else that makes us human. Second, you're at the mercy of conditions like natural disasters, unplanned promotions, and worldwide pandemics.
But if perfection isn't possible, excellence definitely is. Today's contact centers have more tools than ever to help them deliver satisfying, loyalty-building customer service experiences. A unified, cloud-based CX platform provides the power and flexibility organizations need to address current and future customer demands. An integral part of these platforms is cloud ACDs. No longer only capable of simple, time-based routing, modern ACDs are the engines that power omnichannel experiences. Intelligent, data-driven routing ensures voice and digital interactions are always sent to the most qualified agent and facilitates the personalization of customers' value.
What is a cloud ACD?
A cloud ACD (automatic contact distributor) is contact center software whose primary function is routing inbound and outbound contacts from voice and digital channels such as chat, email, and social media. ACDs are foundational contact center technology and can be found in most customer service operations. When an ACD is cloud-based, it's hosted by a vendor and accessible through a browser. The vendor is responsible for maintaining hardware, keeping the software up to date, and providing security.
What are some capabilities of cloud ACDs?
When I think of ACDs, I picture the Clydesdale horses from the Budweiser commercials because ACDs do the heavy lifting of organizing, routing, and queuing interactions. But I need to update my mental model because today's cloud ACDs also have characteristics of thoroughbred racehorses that enable contact centers to be fast and agile. Below is a brief discussion of some of these capabilities and what to look for in the best ACD software in the cloud.
1. Multiple ways of routing interactions
Modern cloud ACDs give contact centers plenty of options for how to route interactions. Intelligent, data-driven routing optimizes the customer-agent matching process and increases productivity by allowing agents to handle multiple interactions concurrently. Below are some of the routing methods cloud ACDs enable.
Most ACDs can do time-based routing where, for example, the oldest contact in the queue is routed to the next available agent. This is Routing 101, which gets contacts out of the queue but doesn't really optimize CX.
If your contact center handles different types of interactions and/or supports multiple channels and languages, you need to use skills-based routing to ensure contacts are routed to qualified agents. For example, the right cloud ACD will allow you to configure rules so that a service-related chat session from a French-speaking customer will get routed to an agent with the right skills. This is great for CX, but cloud ACDs can do even more.
The best cloud ACDs can perform both multichannel and omnichannel routing. They route inbound and outbound calls as well as digital interactions from channels like email, chat, and text. And they use a universal queue for all interactions to enable omnichannel experiences. This takes CX to the next level, but cloud ACDs have one more routing trick up their sleeves.
Predictive behavioral routing
Industry-leading cloud ACDs leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to match customers to agents based on personality and preferences. Predictive behavioral routing personalizes experiences by routing customers to agents that are more likely to "get them."
All four routing methods can be used simultaneously for sophisticated, optimized routing.
The best cloud ACDs have voice portal capabilities that leverage AI to enable customer self-service. If the system uses natural language processing (NLP), customers can simply say what they need help with. Additionally, ACDs that can be integrated with bots can provide effective self-service experiences that guide callers through steps to resolve their own issues.
3. Easy integrations
The self-service capabilities discussed above are only possible if the cloud ACD can be integrated with other systems, such as knowledge bases and back-office applications. Additionally, ACDs can be integrated with other contact center tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) applications. When your ACD is in the cloud, these types of CX-enhancing integrations are much simpler than trying to integrate on-premises ACDs.
4. Unified agent desktops
Many ACDs have interfaces that allow agents to manage their calls. The best cloud ACDs provide agent desktops with features that go well beyond call management. A unified agent interface enables agents to manage their interactions from all channels within a single desktop tool. It can also include other applications, like CRM systems, so everything an agent needs is right at their fingertips. Additionally, agent tools such as schedules, knowledge bases, and performance dashboards can be integrated into the desktop, making it an invaluable tool for managing everything work-related.
5. Supervisor tools
Good cloud ACDs have features that allow supervisors to participate in interactions. The least intrusive form of participation is whisper coaching, where a supervisor can provide instructions to agents without the callers hearing them. The next level of participation is "barge in," in which a supervisor can join the conversation with the agent and the customer. Finally, the supervisor can completely take over the call if the need arises.
6. Easy to access operational data
It's important to remember that ACDs are the source of many key operational statistics including volume, average speed to answer, abandons, handle times, hold times, transfers, and more. Good cloud ACDs make this data readily accessible in real-time through reports, data feeds, and integrations with other systems, such as forecasting software.
7. Easy to configure
Older ACDs can require vendor support for configuration changes that can take several weeks to implement. This negatively impacts contact center agility. In contrast, modern cloud ACDs have drag and drop design studios that empower end-users to make their own configuration changes in a matter of minutes or hours rather than weeks.
How cloud ACDs can help contact centers avoid common customer service failures
All of these features of cloud ACDs enable contact centers to deliver the great CX customers expect and value. Contact centers can be proactive about the customer service they provide instead of always reacting to negative customer feedback such as the following.
"You made me talk to an agent even though my issue was very simple"
This is a smart customer that knows you should be offering self-service for people who want to resolve their own uncomplicated problems. It might surprise you to know just how many consumers favor self-service solutions.
- 70% of customers use self-service channels during their resolution journey
- 84% of consumers are more willing to do business with companies that offer self-service options
- 73% of customers prefer to visit a company’s website before contacting customer service
- 68% of customers would rather use self-service channels — like knowledge bases or customer portals — for simple questions or issues
Your customers have spoken - they want self-service options. If you're using the right cloud ACD, you can successfully meet these expectations. ACDs that easily integrate with other applications and leverage AI to create smart, conversational interactions can create satisfying self-service experiences. Even better, it's a very budget-friendly solution.
"I was transferred multiple times, which wasted my time "
Treating your customers like hot potatoes by bouncing them around the contract center is a really good way to frustrate them and harm your relationship. People want to know that organizations value their time and their business. Additionally, they want customer service experiences that are easy, which includes being sent to the right agent on the first attempt. What will happen if a contact center doesn't meet these expectations? An American Express study revealed that consumers will tell fifteen people about a bad experience.
An ACD's primary job is to route calls to the right agent the first time. High transfer rates or frequent customer complaints are an indication that either your ACD isn't configured correctly or it's time to upgrade to the right cloud ACD. Given all the ways industry-leading cloud ACDs can route interactions, high transfer rates should be a thing of the past.
"The agent solved my problem but completely lacked personality"
Even when you promptly connect a customer to an agent with the right skills to resolve their issue, that doesn't guarantee an optimized experience. For some people, making a personal connection with their agent is an important element of satisfying CX. This feedback could indicate that the agent needs to work on their soft skills, but it could also just mean there was a personality conflict. This issue can be solved if your cloud ACD has predictive behavioral routing capabilities.
Predictive behavioral routing takes personalization to the next level by better matching customers and agents based on "softer" factors like personality and sentiment. This can result in improved CX and business results. According to Epsilon research, "80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences." The positive impact on CX and purchase intent are likely why Forrester found that 89% of digital businesses are investing in personalization.
"I think I stumped my agent”
Skills-based routing is very effective, but it isn't a guarantee that agents will know how to solve every problem that's routed to them. Sometimes agents freeze up or there may have been a training gap. And some problems are so obscure that very few people in the contact center could solve them.
Hopefully, the supervisors have the answers. Cloud ACDs that have whisper coaching capabilities allow a supervisor to provide real-time assistance to agents when they need help. Sometimes agents just need a quick reminder about policies or knowledge base articles. Features like whisper coaching and barge-in, where the supervisor joins the conversation, decrease transfers, and increase first contact resolutions, which will make your customers happy.
"I'm your biggest customer and you just made me wait forever to talk to an agent"
Oof! You never want to hear that! Fortunately, cloud ACDs can help you avoid these embarrassing missteps. We've already talked about some of the many ways modern ACDs can route interactions. You can also establish rules for VIP customers so they get special treatment, including avoiding long queues. For example, you could flag VIPs in your CRM system, which would alert the ACD to send them to the front of the queue when they call. Or you could give them an exclusive number to call and assign special routing rules to that number.
Keeping your biggest customers happy is important for obvious reasons. In addition, you have a brand image to maintain. Leveraging the sophisticated routing abilities of cloud ACDs will satisfy your VIPs and reassure them that your business has its act together.
"I had to repeat my issue over and over and over..."
This is a common complaint and one that is so frustrating to customers. It adds friction to the customer experience and makes their contact center interaction much harder than it should be. This cycle of customers having to identify themselves and repeat their issues multiple times is often an outcome of being transferred among multiple agents. If you solve excessive transfers with better routing, some of these issues will go away. Some, but not all...
You won't completely eliminate this customer complaint unless your contact center is capable of seamless omnichannel routing. It's likely that your contact center supports multiple channels - maybe voice, email, chat, and self-service? Today's consumers often use multiple channels during the same transaction. A customer can begin their interaction in a chat session and finish it on a phone call. And half of the customers who attempt self-service end up talking to an agent to complete their transaction.
If the different channels aren't integrated and the contact center doesn't use omnichannel routing, these hand-offs between channels can be points of friction that force customers to repeat themselves. Cloud ACDs with omnichannel routing capabilities can make these hand-offs seamless by ensuring the agent has the customer data from the other channels. Plus, in the case where the customer begins in a chat session and transitions to a phone call, the cloud ACD could route the call to the same agent the customer was chatting with.
"The agent took forever and I could hear her mumbling about passwords"
If you look at an agent's screen while they're helping a customer, what would you see? Many agents have to access multiple systems - call management, email management, CRM, knowledge base, ticketing systems, etc. - in the course of resolving an issue. When all these systems aren't integrated, the agent has to toggle through them all, which adds to handle time. To add insult to injury - no single sign-on.
The right cloud ACD addresses this issue with a unified agent desktop that puts the functionality agents need in a single interface. Additionally, a universal inbox greatly simplifies the management of omnichannel interactions. Agents will love the streamlined experience and will no longer grumble about multiple passwords. And customers will appreciate the shorter handle times.
In these days of striving for excellent CX, it's important to use every tool available. The best cloud ACDs can help contact centers improve experiences and avoid service failures through sophisticated routing, smart self-service, and providing agents and supervisors with enhanced capabilities. Additionally, modern ACDs provide contact center leaders with real-time information for better decision-making and empower them to make quick, effective configuration changes.
To see an entertaining example of how omnichannel routing can transform the customer experience, watch Omnichannel Routing - NICE CXone.
And to see the power of a unified agent desktop in action, watch Seamless Omnichannel CX with MAX – My Agent eXperience.