The name of the game for today’s modern enterprise: resiliency.
Today, almost every type and size of business across all industries must navigate global supply chain disruptions, economic turbulence, and record-setting employee resignations – all happening against the backdrop of the lingering global COVID-19 pandemic.
That is why business continuity is so critical for businesses to stay afloat, let alone competitive. Businesses must become more agile and adaptable across the organization, and the contact center is no exception.
One key example of agility we’ve seen over the past couple of years is the shift to remote work. To no surprise–most employees want to keep working from home (WFH), at least part of the time.
Contact center agents are no exception to this trend. However, their desire to continue to WFH has put their employers in a tight position.
Business leaders don’t want to force agents back into the office and risk losing them since they have an immense impact on customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue.
Before the pandemic, agents traditionally worked in extremely controlled environments with high-end telemetry technology.
So, now organizations must figure out how to manage technical issues from afar: while also offering the kind of consistency across network environments needed to ensure business continuity and a high level of positive customer experiences (CXs).
Soon, the holiday season will be upon us, and organizations all across the board are still struggling with supply chain disruptions. Consumers are going to start flooding the phone lines demanding to know where their packages are at or why their parents in Wisconsin didn’t get their gifts on time.
This is an especially critical moment when brands must resolve issues swiftly and effectively or else get pummeled on social media and lose a large portion of their business forever.
Having your all-important contact center run by people out of various locations makes an already difficult situation even much harder to manage.
A Loss of Visibility and Control
A presiding concern for many at-home agents and their employers is reduced voice quality and connectivity issues.
That’s because many of them are working on personal laptops with headphones and limited Wi-Fi.
So, you’ve got customers dialing in already frustrated, and the frustration only grows because now they’re dealing with dropped calls and echoes and static and all kinds of other call quality issues.
On top of the voice quality and connection issues, companies don’t have the remote infrastructure in place to diagnose problems, determine root causes, and quickly implement fixes before they become massive problems.
Ones that damage customer satisfaction (CSAT), net promoter scores (NPS), top-line sales, agent productivity, and much more, resulting in greater churn and a suffering business.
How to overcome these hurdles
There are three main components of a successful contact center operation.
- Adding new self-service channels to relieve agents amid heavy call volume.
- Automating repetitive manual tasks wherever possible.
- Adopting a continuous CX testing approach to ensure the technology is working properly for all of your remote agents.
1. Implement Self-Service Channels
Post-pandemic, the industry is still moving toward a “virtual first” structure for customer support interactions.
Research shows that 56% of people prefer contacting a brand through messaging apps or online chat rather than by phone.
Such self-service channels are ideal for providing customers with immediate answers to frequent questions. So, if you want to get a better handle on increased call volumes without having to hire more agents, this is a key area for investment, particularly now with the U.S. facing a recession.
Automation is essential for seamlessly meeting customer expectations…
It’s also important to offer customers self-service options for a successful omnichannel approach to CX where they can choose which channel is most convenient for them.
By offering customers self-service channels, such as automated phone responses and chatbots to help with routine inquiries, companies can reserve skilled agents for complex customer queries that require personal attention.
This move and new ability can also cut down on spending if you’re able to achieve excellent CX with a smaller contact center. Then, this money can be invested back into the company to bolster other functions that impact business continuity.
2. Embrace Automation
The human element will always be critical for delivering stellar CX, but the agents’ skills must be continually supported by technology and automation to drive maximum efficiency.
Automated CX reduces friction, helping customers reach satisfactory–and even loyalty-building–resolutions more quickly and easily.
When automation is deployed within the modern-day contact center, that translates into more control in the customer’s hands and even more cost savings in the pockets of the contact center.
Automation is essential for seamlessly meeting customer expectations in the face of continued external uncertainty, especially when you’re heading into the busiest time of the year with the economy forcing you to do more with less.
This is where chatbots and IVR systems can be of tremendous help, bringing greater efficiency, higher quality interactions, and overall gains in customer satisfaction. But you still need to give customers the option to quickly escalate to human agents to solve more complex issues.
Manual IVR testing, an infamous consumer of time and money, is another ideal candidate for automation, which can generate many hours’ worth of increased productivity every week.
The time automated IVR testing saves can also be invested into other critical operations to improve an organization’s business continuity.
For instance, many organizations are making investments to retrain contact center agents to help drive sales in addition to managing customer support.
That said, shifting away from a manual testing model means laying out a clear path for implementing automation. And that can’t be done without knowing which teams and processes will be impacted by the transition.
In fact, to successfully navigate the path to digital transformation, organizations need a level of visibility into all aspects of the contact center’s operations. Which is only achieved through the continuous monitoring and testing of CX systems.
3. Continuously Test CX to Assure Quality
Staying on top of CX issues and immediately getting them into the development cycle for resolution is critical to business continuity.
CX assurance software helps companies accelerate CX development, increase quality across all digital and voice channels, and assure a seamless customer journey from beginning to end.
CX monitoring tools put contact center systems through extensive performance and load-testing, ensuring the systems work at scale. These solutions can provide companies with real-time insights via desktop or mobile phones, enabling customers to identify issues and troubleshoot problems.
Deploying a solution that provides continuous monitoring and diagnostics software gives organizations granular visibility into agent voice quality, connectivity, and other network performance issues.
For example, one of Canada’s largest banks has fully embraced CX testing innovation.
With 6,000 agents dispersed between four major contact centers and numerous satellites, as well as many agents working remotely during the pandemic, the bank was struggling to gain visibility into contact center issues and needed a unified view of call center operations.
The director of DevOps and engineering transformation needed a better way for IT and the engineering team to monitor call performance and conduct stress tests.
They conducted load testing of the production environment, which enabled them to identify a weak spot that needed to be addressed.
Instead of waiting for an issue to arise, the team was able to find a bug early on and resolve it to prevent it from becoming a real client impact issue in the future.
With continuous CX testing, the bank can now diagnose problems much faster and from wherever the customer support agent is located. By embracing a continuous testing mindset, organizations are able to mitigate disruptions that remote agents experience to help them deliver excellent CX, regardless of their location.
A Whole New World
The flexibility of remote contact centers offers many benefits in today’s global, 24/7 economy amid fears of uncertainty.
Organizations can reach customers in new markets and, conversely, consumers can purchase a much wider range of products from anywhere. However, this also presents a new set of challenges to contact centers that handle incoming round-the-clock customer inquiries.
For remote agents to deliver a stellar CX, they must have access to the right capabilities, data, and analytics—and that information must be there for at-home agents to access from a single system, wherever they are located.
But disconnected and disparate systems that cannot communicate with one another can lessen at-home agents’ productivity and result in inaccuracies in customer data.
For the customer, this often leads to repeating the same information to multiple agents and feeling like a solution will never be reached.
But modern CX solutions that are thoroughly tested help IT assist WFH agents faster and reduces the frequency, severity, and duration of technical issues and enables these employees to provide faster, better-informed resolutions for the customers.
…contact centers remain the front line of communication with the customer.
Companies must examine all the ways their contact centers can assist with business continuity to be prepared during periods of disruption like we are facing now.
Whether the business offers a product or a service, contact centers remain the front line of communication with the customer.
Contact centers, therefore, must be optimized to effectively manage entire databases of customer information, resolve concerns in ample time, and build brand loyalty—all while navigating the nuanced, complex waters of remote work.
The Criticality of IVR Testing
IVR systems are not just important for providing swift, cost-effective CX. They are integral to customer service and employee communications frontlines when disasters threaten and strike by providing essential messages to customers and employees alike.
This goes for companies operating in stricken or targeted areas as well as ones that provide critical services, like communications, health, power, water, transportation, and yes, relief.
IVR is also mission-critical for 911 and for governments, which frees up personnel for disaster preparation and response. So, it is paramount that the IVR systems function flawlessly under the most rigorous conditions.
One of the greatest challenges that companies now face is how to handle the growing complexity of increasingly sophisticated IVR systems. These complex systems need to be carefully monitored and maintained to ensure they continue to deliver the experience customers expect.
As a result, the need for comprehensive IVR testing solutions has also grown significantly. In addition to catching technical errors, IVR testing makes it possible to view the IVR journey from the customer’s perspective and ensure it is as convenient and easy to follow as possible.
Companies may think they have an intuitive system, but without proper testing, you could be leaving users confused and unable to get the answers they need.
Some businesses rely on IT staff to manually test that changes to an IVR have been deployed correctly. However, manual testing is both time-consuming and expensive. Automating the process of IVR testing removes these barriers. With an automated solution, it is possible to test more often and more thoroughly, to ensure performance consistency and catch issues before they affect your CX.