IT departments have always played a key role in supporting various business groups to achieve their business goals. Organizations that realize the competitive value of cutting-edge technology welcome CIOs and CTOs to strategy discussions. After all, they are uniquely positioned to advise about the best way to creatively deploy technology to optimize performance and business results. However, not all organizations have evolved to this level and still perceive IT as enablers rather than strategic partners.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for CIOs to take more visible leadership roles as businesses grappled with quickly moving to a remote workforce model. Technology was the key enabler to successful transitions and CIOs that capably led the efforts are enjoying elevated status, including more credibility with their CEOs. “The improved engagement with the CEO stems from business capabilities delivered by IT during the initial COVID-19 response,” said Gartner's Andy Rowsell-Jones.
But the work isn't done yet. Businesses need to plan and prepare for the post-pandemic world and IT departments should leverage their new status to influence what that looks like. "This goodwill with the CEO will fade quickly unless CIOs can extend it by helping the business deliver on other high-impact initiatives required during the recovery," continued Mr. Rowsell-Jones.
What are the post-pandemic priorities? According to Statista, CEOs identified CIOs top three priorities as:
- Digital transformation (37%)
- Improving the work from home experience (37%)
- Upgrade IT and data security to boost corporate resiliency (29%)
New IT priorities for Contact Centers
These priorities are all highly relevant to contact centers. Let's take a closer look at each.
1. Digital transformation
Digital transformation is a technology-centric approach to transforming operations and customer experience (CX) by applying digital technology in potentially new and disruptive ways. It's a complex, enterprise-wide effort that usually requires significant changes to the organization structure, employee skills, and processes.
The pandemic definitely accelerated digital way beyond what we have seen before. It became much easier to reach larger sets of customers on any new updates with an easy notification or to have customers self-serve rather than be in long wait times to reach agents. The pandemic definitely accelerated Digital transformation in contact centers which is all around how to successfully leverage and integrate digital channels with existing voice channel.
Examples of these convenient digital support options include:
- Chat. Chatting with an agent is one of the most used and preferred support options. Consumers value its speed and convenience and contact centers can serve much more number of customers in a concurrent scenario rather than have a 1:1 conversation through phone.
- Proactive outbound communications. Contact centers that are able to use outbound IVRs to push emails and text messages out to customers about critical issues will please them with their proactiveness and deflect inbound contacts.
- AI-driven bots. Chatbots can help customers with basic questions and transactions, providing self-service convenience.
Recognizing the importance of digital channels, many contact centers accelerated their implementation during the pandemic and they will likely continue to play an important role post-pandemic due to high customer adoption. Those contact centers with cloud solutions had a distinct advantage because adding new channels is simple and quick. IT plays a critical role here to get this done, faster and cloud is definitely the best option. Additionally, the best cloud contact center software provides added flexibility with how organizations deploy their resources.
DSW, credits NICE inContact CXone with helping them weather the COVID -19 storm. When DSW had to close its 500 stores at the beginning of the pandemic, contact center interaction volume increased by 70% as retail customers sought assistance. DSW already supported phone, chat, and email and the flexible CXone cloud platform made it easy to shift volume across channels and reassign agents to the channels needing the most attention. “CXone’s flexibility to grow with our business is huge. If you don’t have a solution that expands with you, then you’re disappointing your customers,” said DSW's Tim Harpe.
2. Improving remote work experience
The pandemic sent employees, including contact center agents, home to work remotely. Nemertes Research reports that 49% of agents worked from home full-time before the pandemic and that number has since jumped to 75%. And the model has staying power - over 70% of surveyed businesses will definitely or probably continue allowing employees to work remotely in the future.
IT groups have felt and supported this shift. Previously, remote workers were responsible for providing their own internet access and often their own equipment, such as webcams, laptops and headsets. IT has since been tasked with providing much of the needed equipment as well as providing services like home Wi-Fi assessments and advice about ISP plans. Additionally, remote workers may need to be outfitted with tools such as speaker phones, executive video conferencing systems, lighting, and backdrops. IT groups should plan to make a permanent shift to continue this level of support in the future.
And, based on their budgeting decisions, it appears that many CIOs already have a handle on this. The aforementioned Nemertes research revealed that IT leaders are increasing their spend on several categories related to remote work, including:
- Video meeting apps (52% plan to spend more)
- Team collaboration (45%)
- Security (45%)
- Video room systems (41%)
- Headsets (33%)
Another critical technical component of a successful work from home model is providing employees access to the systems they need to do their jobs. For call centers that use cloud-based systems, this is simple and straightforward. Agents typically just need a computer, internet connection, and log-in credentials to be ready for business.
Trupanion, experienced this ease of transitioning 900 agents to a remote model in 72 hours when the pandemic hit.
And, ECSI improved call quality and moved agents to Work-From-Home with CXone all in less than 48 hours
Refer to Checklist: Managing Work-from-Home Agents for detailed tips about supporting remote agents.
3. Upgrade IT and data security to boost corporate resiliency
The onset of the pandemic was a real-life test of disaster recovery / business continuity plans and many contact centers were caught flat-footed. Those with antiquated, on-premises solutions often struggled with how to quickly move their agent workforces to a remote model. To overcome this severe limitation, some contact centers immediately switched to cloud-based call center software and had it up and running in a number of days, thus minimizing the impact to customers and the bottom line.
The best cloud contact center software vendors also devote teams of people to ensure the system and data are secure. The expertise and number of resources devoted to security typically surpass what individual contact centers can allocate to the task, making cloud solutions often more secure than on-premises systems.
Industry-leading vendors have structure in place to ensure the success of ongoing security efforts, characterized by:
- Governance. Governance includes the policies, procedures, and personnel that provide oversight to security efforts
- Standards. Standards in place to ensure compliance with PCI, HIPAA, etc.
- Transparency. Transparency regarding their security measures, to include providing assurance instruments to clients.
NICE inContact has a dedicated Trust Office with cloud security experts, tools and processes that provide superior security, compliance and reliability by safeguarding contact centers.
Choosing the Right Technology
To achieve the goals of digital transformation, improving the remote worker experience, and improving business resilience and data security in the contact center, IT leaders should look to invest in an open cloud native contact center platform. Open cloud platforms deploy quickly, scale securely, and integrate easily with other enterprise applications.
Cloud-based contact center software has proven to be the best solution for enabling agents to work from anywhere. Additionally, the ability to quickly deploy new digital channels positively impacts CX during both normal times and times of crisis. And the ability to dedicate resources and apply best practice security measures make the best cloud platforms extremely secure. CIOs should include cloud-based contact center solutions in their post-pandemic plans.
CIOs planning for the post-pandemic world would do well to include the cloud in their business continuity plans. Cloud solutions have clearly proven their ability to keep businesses up and running. And the value extends beyond enabling a work from home model, as cloud solutions also provide redundancy when physical disasters strike.
Organizations choosing a cloud contact center software partner should look for these attributes to achieve their new priorities
- Enable remote agents
- Manage spikes in call volume/seasonality
- Geographic redundancy
- High platform uptime guarantee
- Flexible connectivity options
- Flexible call routing to other geographic locations
- 24/7/365 network monitoring
- Superior support