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Frictionless customer experiences

Adam Wilson, strategic partner director for EMEA and ANZ at Vonage, explains how optimising unified communications can deliver frictionless customer experiences.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted just how important clear, simple, and effective communication is for businesses and the public sector alike. From conveying government updates to coordinating telehealth appointments and online shopping, society has never been so connected online.

However, the rapid increase in the use of virtual services has also thrown into sharp contrast the areas for improvement, and this has been particularly evident in the customer experience across all sectors. With shops and offices closed, businesses have had to rely solely on their online communications and contact centre agents for all consumer interaction.

In January 2021 alone, analysis from CapGemini revealed a 74 per cent year-on-year increase in online sales across the UK, representing a huge number of customers accessing online services. Although we’ve now had over a year to adapt to this sudden influx, many businesses are still struggling to adapt legacy systems and contact centre services to meet consumer demand.

With a growing customer base, friction within the customer service communications journey can become highly apparent. This could be a shortage of available agents to speak with people, a lack of expert knowledge within teams to handle queries and provide support, or simply a confusing interface which makes it difficult for customers to locate the appropriate service.

During the pandemic 75 per cent of US consumers tried a new brand, shop, or method of purchasing. Attracting and retaining these new customers rests on providing an excellent level of service, and as we begin to emerge from the pandemic it’s clear that all methods of communication must step up to meet demand if businesses are to thrive.

Cloud contact centre solutions can help to significantly mitigate these external communications issues; whether that’s by automating call routing, integrating multiple comms channels, or providing dashboard analytics to improve productivity. However, without similar tools for internal communications the customer experience will retain areas of friction. This is where unified communications (UC) comes into play.

UC refers to the integration of collaborative and communications tools across a business into a single, unified solution. UC merges both internal and external communications, allowing customers, colleagues, and customer service agents to use the same platform and interface for interactions. When everyone is using the same system, the margin for errors, delays, and confusion is greatly reduced.

In practise, an integrated UC strategy can be used to ease many of the pain points typically found within the customer experience journey. Agents can utilise single sign on (SSO) to eliminate the need for multiple login credentials, along with a single intuitive directory which grants everyone in the businesses access to the same information. This information sharing is vital for allowing back office staff to assist and support customer experience operatives, particularly in cases where fewer agents are available or expert input is needed.

Research by McKinsey has found that customers are willing to pay 16 per cent more on average for great customer service, and this means that it needs to be a core focus across the business as a whole. Although contact centre agents are the first point of call, for a truly frictionless customer experience internal communications need to be equally as robust. When external and internal comms are aligned, it becomes far easier to direct resources to where they are most needed. This is especially important with a distributed, hybrid workforce, and can help to alleviate some of the pressures faced by frontline customer service staff.

With the switch towards online services showing no signs of abating, businesses must now use this time to consolidate and upgrade their communications offerings. This will ensure that companies can make the most of new opportunities, and compete to win and retain each and every customer.

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