Mapping your contact center strategy to changing customer behavior

Mapping Your Contact Center Strategy to Changing Customer Behavior

For years, marketers like myself have long espoused the benefits of cloud platforms to help businesses gain agility.  Over the past 10 months, the pandemic has accelerated cloud contact center adoption, which is a win for consumers where expectations for exceptional customer experience (CX) continue to rise.  Throughout this year, many of our routines have been disrupted and re-engineered as we adopt to a new normal, we are connecting with each other more often via digital channels. 

How many of you have had a zoom happy hour (or 10) in the last 8 months? 

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On a recent webinar I was hosting, we asked our audience, made up of contact center leaders across multiple industries, to weigh in on how the pandemic has impacted the speed or their willingness to adopt digital channels.  We were not surprised by the answer, nearly 80% said they had accelerated or kept the same pace of adoption of digital.  Why are we not surprised?  Well consider the two points of view.

The Business Point of View

  • I mentioned above that we as consumers are interacting with friends, co-workers and loved ones on channels that we did not frequent before the pandemic.For businesses, there was the pressing need to move contact center agents and other employees into a remote work environment, making drastic changes to their 2020 strategy.But while moving workers home to keep them safe is not insignificant, businesses are also recognizing that their customers are increasingly adopting digital channels themselves.

    The Customer Point of View

  • As we have all moved into accelerating adoption of digital channels, we expect that the changes we make are not limited to our personal interactions, they are also embraced and accepted by the companies we do business with.

Like it or not, customer behavior is changing.  In his book, The Convenience Revolution, author and noted industry influencer, Shep Hyken suggests that “with regard to location, customers want to be able to connect with us at a time and place that matches up seamlessly with everything else that’s going on in their busy day.”  In other words, the days of companies prescribing limited methods to engage with them that don’t take our convenience into consideration are quite simply, gone. 

If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that we interact on the channels of our choice.  Whether exchanging pictures on Instagram, connecting with friends and family on Facebook, or our professional network on LinkedIn.  These digital channels have become a ubiquitous part of our lives and while voice service will always carry significant value, since sometimes we simply need to speak with a live human being, these digital channels represent significant opportunities to allow customers to engage with your business on their terms on channels that are unique to their circumstances.

It happened to me!

I lived through this example recently.  Right before the pandemic hit in February, I was on what would be my last business trip for 2020.  I was flying on Delta Airlines and found myself in a middle seat (everyone’s favorite.)  Normally, this would not be a big deal however, I was wedged between two very large (albeit, very pleasant) gentlemen.  Realizing that in 2 days I was on a return flight, I decided to reach out to Delta. Being in the air limited my choices on how to contact them so I chose to connect via Direct Message on Twitter.

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I explained my circumstances to an agent and let her know that I was currently in the air and could not make a phone call but was not really enjoying my experience.  I let her know that I was hoping to fix that for my return flight if I was in fact assigned to another middle seat (which as it turned out, I was.)  The agent apologized for my bad experience (not necessary but appreciated) and over Twitter, booked me in a comfy aisle seat for my return. 

Naturally, there was a service fee to move my seat which I was more than happy to cover given my very tight seat.  The agent let me know that while she couldn’t take my credit card information over social media, that once I touched down to call and complete my transaction.  When I touched down in Salt Lake City, I called Delta’s contact center and without skipping a beat, the agent that answered the phone knew exactly who I was and why I was calling.  The transaction was completed in under 2 minutes.  I raved about my experience, telling co-workers and friends.  Through this process, Delta had earned a new loyal customer (I had previously flown American Airlines.)   That contextually consistent engagement ACROSS channels made the transaction frictionless and pleasant.  In the end, I remember my tight quarters on the flight out less than I remembered the amazing experience that I had engaging with the brand.  Cool, right?Flight Seats This story precisely showcases the need for multiple channels.  The channel I chose to engage on was dictated by my circumstances, had Delta only offered traditional voice, I would have had to wait until I was in a place I could use my phone.  Now, while it’s true that not every business has passengers trying to engage them while they are 30,000 feet in the air, every consumer has circumstances throughout their day that digital channels alleviate.  Whether you’re in a plane or at home with a screaming child, the ability to connect how you want (or need) to connect is not just a ‘nice to have,’ it’s a must.

I’m not suggesting that traditional voice service and IVR’s are going extinct, far from it.  There will always be a need for human interaction, empathy and person-to-person engagement that a digital channel or self help may not be able to provide.  But by giving your customers more channels to choose from and channels that they can self-manage more transactional engagements, you are also freeing up valuable agent time.  This makes agents more productive as it will greatly reduce (and in some cases, remove) routine transactional requests from their phone queue. 

Take for example, paying an invoice.  Companies that are leaders in driving exceptional CX long ago recognized that for paying a bill, customers often don’t want or need to speak with a person, they simply want to complete the transaction as quickly as possible.  Taking those customers off of the shoulders of a very busy agent keeps the customer happy and frees the agent to focus on more complex requests.

The evolving role of the inbound call center

Agents & Digital

I recently spent time with a dozen or so contact center leaders conducting research on what barriers stand in the way to a digital-first contact center.  I was fascinated to uncover a common denominator that I was not expecting.  It seems, good bad or indifferent, agents are used to their environments, they know how to navigate the silos and work around what’s not working.   As a result, many are resistant to change, making it easy to acquiesce to the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality.  In those interviews however, nearly everyone that identified the agents as a barrier noted that if the platform was user intuitive and the vendor had a solid onboarding program, that they felt they could make the jump to a new platform. 

Take for example, NICE inContact customer, Check into Cash.  The company’s Contact Center Support Manager, Sandra Jacobs explains, “we turned our agents’ world upside down when CXone was introduced.  We had to educate them on a new way of doing business, such as no longer needing to leave messages and trusting the technology to do it for them.  Some of our agents who caught on more quickly would explain to others, ‘this actually makes your job better because you don’t need to do so many tasks manually.’  That internal advocacy really helped adoption.”

NICE inContact’s CXone is the industry’s only contact center software that delivers businesses and public sector agencies a robust platform that includes more than 30 digital channels.  CXone has played an instrumental role in allowing businesses to expand their channel connectivity to customers and transforming their contact centers into opportunity centers. It has also been recognized by leading analysts as the industry leader.

By opening digital channels, not only will you drive increases in customer satisfaction (CSAT), you’ll also realize improvements to key contact center KPI’s and uncover new opportunities for cross sell and upsell of revenue.  After all, the more opportunities and channels you give your customers to connect, the more likely they are to do just that.  Lastly, digital channels will reduce costs on legacy telecom infrastructure like PRI lines and decrease cost per transaction.

Contact centers are going through a renaissance. Yesteryear’s “Call Center,” has transformed into the front line of engagement for businesses and customers and in turn emerged as a profit center for organizations that have recognized its potential. 

As you are building your CX strategies and plans for 2021, it would be wise to consider including digital channels as a top priority.  NICE inContact has developed a Digital Assessment tool to help you quantify the benefits of adding digital channels.  Simply complete the survey and the tool will recommend digital channels for your business based on your goals and will help you gain clarity on what the impact of those channels will bring. 

As always check out the NICE inContact Resource Center where you will find a robust library of data that will help you build your business case.