The last 10 years have revolutionized the way we do everything. Innovative brands from Tesla to Amazon have leveraged technology to create new realities for entire industries.
But can you describe a recent exceptional experience with a contact center? Many companies have not changed the way they serve customers in over 10 to 15 years. The technological revolution has missed contact centers, and as consumers, we deserve more.
Time is our most precious gift, and we are done wasting time on hold – pressing one for sales, two for service, yelling “representative” – only to be connected to someone who cannot help, then passed to another agent, and asked to start again.
I want you to imagine for a moment stepping into an Apple or Verizon store. You are greeted by someone; you explain why you are there. Then you are approached again with “How can I help you?” This continues until you’re frustrated and walk out.
We do not tolerate 50 first dates for our in-person shopping experiences. But this is how most of our digital customer service experiences go.
Outdated Siloed Technology = Customer Frustration
Technology has radically changed how consumers interact with brands. Consumer expectations have also changed. Yet the contact center experience remains largely unchanged because it is based on old, outdated, and siloed technology.
Siloed technology creates siloed customer-facing teams. Customer service is disconnected from sales and marketing. Each function is tasked with interacting with customers, but no one shares the same customer data. The result is a disjointed engagement with customers leading to frustration and negative business impact.
Technology is not meant to be siloed. It is meant to be connected and to connect those who use it and those it serves.
…the best CXs are when products and services are performing as expected.
As consumers, we already use technology to connect all areas of our work and personal lives. And connected technologies can bring the same value to modernizing the contact center experience. Not just for customers but also for the agents who help them.
Connected technology creates a connected team who can now work together to solve a customer complaint, while possibly selling them something new, or capturing feedback that may improve a product feature. As a result, agent productivity can be dramatically improved, while the cost to serve can be dramatically reduced.
Four Steps To Creating the Contact Center of the Future
Companies must build a contact center that is designed to provide personalized service and support to every customer, on any channel, at any time. With the technology available today, brands can fundamentally rethink the contact center experience for the consumer and the customer service agent by following four key steps.
1. Embrace a new mantra: “no silos.”
The first and most crucial step for building the contact center of the future is to remember: no silos.
Decades ago, the first contact center technology was created to manage a high volume of calls. Social media, messaging channels, review sites, and email did not yet exist, but many of the systems used for enterprise customer service today are built on this legacy technology.
Lacking the ability to seamlessly integrate modern channels or integrate across departments, customer service agents are forced into a silo. Disconnected teams + disconnected technology = a disappointing customer experience (CX).
Siloed teams and technology can only be solved with a unified approach to creating a contact center. This means that the contact center must be omnichannel. This is dramatically different from multichannel. If you provide customer service in email and you provide customer service on the phone and chat, that is multichannel.
With omnichannel customer service, customers easily switch between channels without any disruption in service. For example, when a customer engages a chatbot on a website and is then routed to a representative, the entirety of the conversation is at their fingertips.
If brands provide a true omnichannel experience, customers can interact in the way that is most convenient for them, and with no disruptions.
2. Harness the power of AI.
Modern customer service happens across dozens of channels and platforms. For enterprise brands working on a global scale, they deal with thousands of direct customer communications each day.
Combine this with the direct engagements consumers are having about your brand online via social media, review sites, etc. and you get a mountain of CX data that no human can capture, analyze, and act on.
The contact center of the future must have artificial intelligence (AI) at its core. A modern, AI-powered contact center will help in three ways.
First, AI can identify common issues or problems, not just in customer service but across the entire supply chain. I cannot stress enough how critical this is. Solve these common problems at the product or service level, and the need for service goes away.
After all, the best customer service is not needing any in the first place. The happiest, most satisfied customers are those who have no reason to call or contact you with a problem in the first place.
Second, AI-powered self-service tools will give customers better answers much more efficiently. Remember, customers don’t really want to call you.
Finally, AI enables better routing within your call center. With AI, customers can be routed on advanced criteria like behavioral traits of the agent, customer profile, or past conversational history to ensure the best outcome.
When a high-priority or complex issue needs to be escalated to a live agent, that agent is given context from past conversations, recommended remediation steps, and tools like Generative AI can develop better, more effective responses.
3. Move from a cost center to revenue center.
The third step to creating the contact center of the future is understanding that the contact center is not a complaint center.
It shouldn’t be the place where customers call to voice frustrations. Instead, the contact center of the future will be your revenue center. It will be an always-open, digital-first store where agents, salespeople, and marketers can seamlessly work together to better serve customers.
4. Treat the disease, not the symptom.
In the future, brands shouldn’t wait for a customer to call or leave a one-star review. They should proactively listen to online customer comments and questions to predict potential issues before they arise.
Remember, the best CXs are when products and services are performing as expected. Brands that truly listen to everything that is said to them, or about them, or their competition: are the ones that will proactively prevent customer service issues.
Designing With Customers in Mind
Contact centers must be designed with customers in mind. Remove silos, power customer service with AI, transform the contact center from a cost center to a revenue center, and offer proactive care.
By breaking down organizational barriers, using cutting-edge technology, focusing on revenue-generating opportunities, and anticipating customer needs, companies can build a connected customer-centric contact center that delivers human experiences at every touchpoint.
If you deeply care about your customers, it can be done. And perhaps you’ll soon be remembered for exceptional CXs.