Optimising the contact centre experience for the post-pandemic consumer

David Evans, head of product management, Vonage, outlines the innovations that will ensure contact centres are well placed to add value to the customer journey.

Whether shopping online or offline, there’s no doubt today’s consumer expects a frictionless shopping experience – whether ordering food on an app, enquiring about stock levels, or making a complaint. The switch to virtual living necessitated by the pandemic has only increased these expectations, and the typical UK adult now spends an average of 4 hours per day online.

With this increase in online traffic and in the number of customers reaching out virtually, it is vital that the industry as a whole now turns its attention towards optimising the contact centre experience. Every touch point with a customer represents an opportunity to generate revenue, grow the company’s reputation, and build loyalty, and contact centres play a crucial role in delivering these objectives.

Customers expect to be able to contact a company from a channel of their choosing at a time of their convenience, and 76 per cent of people surveyed in a 2020 study by Salesforce expected consistent interactions across departments regardless of the communication method or entry point.

One of the best ways to optimise these interactions is to automate the process where possible. Automated responses and call routing allow customers to select from a range of options, with the added benefit of zero wait time. Agents are freed from answering simple questions such as opening hours and parcel tracking, and can instead use their knowledge and resources to help customers with more complex needs.

Contact centres can also learn a lot from innovations in retail. Ecommerce vendors have thrived during the pandemic, and this is partly due to their willingness to trial new methods to draw in and retain consumers. Retailers have been tapping into conversational commerce; communications tools that allow customer-facing brands to initiate personalised conversations with customers. Conversational commerce includes everything from bots and voice assistants, to chat apps and integrations with popular messaging services including Messenger and WhatsApp.

Conversational commerce platforms such as Jumper.ai give brands the ability to follow the customer on every step of journey without being intrusive – sending discreet nudges and providing a unified method for purchasing and aftersales. Contact centres too can harness these technologies to connect with customers and deliver solutions efficiently.

In connection with this, chatbots are one of the most exciting developments to arise from the automation and AI revolution, and can be instrumental in delivering the next level of customer service. With a chatbot, customers are able to resolve their own queries, while gaining the benefits of a personalised and interactive service.

In the past, building and hosting a chatbot would have required a developer team and financial investment out of reach of many smaller firms. But companies today can partner with vendors to access a huge range of communications APIs and complementary technologies, including pre-built or custom chatbots tailored to individual needs. For contact centres, this is a game changer in terms of filtering and analysing customer needs prior to engagement with the agent.

As an industry we’ve learned a great deal from the pandemic and subsequent shift in consumer habits and preferences. With the addition of these new innovations and a constant focus on delivering excellence, contact centres are well placed to provide the support and customer experience that will add value to the customer journey across the board.

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