Providing Customer Service Excellence

Comms Business Magazine talks to contact centre suppliers about the roles of customer services excellence and how it fits in to the overall digital transformation journeys being undertaken today.

Customer Service Excellence (CX) has never been so fashionable and for many organisations the primary touch point for their users and customers is their call or contact centre. So where does CX fit within the mix known as Digital Transformation (DX)?

Well we think it’s about relevance; you need to establish you have connection and engagement with your target base to make sure their needs, wants and expectations are understood and being met by your company. Businesses across the globe are undertaking DX journeys to stay relevant and mitigate against disruption but what do suppliers think?

Where does CX fit within the mix known as Digital Transformation (DX)?
Myles Leach, Managing Director of NFON UK, reminds us it was over three years ago that Forrester issued a report entitled ‘Contact Centers Must Go Digital or Die,’ which outlined that firms’ technology and staffing plans are not keeping up with consumer demand for digital customer service.

Leach believes that digitalisation has become vital to succeeding in a highly-competitive market, and the most straightforward way towards digital excellence points directly to cloud technology.

“Modern customer communication services require solutions that are capable of integrating all communications processes into a singular platform, whilst at the same time being adaptable to changing demands.

As technology advances, companies are realising that only cloud services provide the agility they need to adapt –with speed–to new clients, channels and requirements, hence the increasing demand for contact centre services from the cloud.”

Carl Boraman, Director of Strategic Alliances at Tollring, says that ultimately, CX is all about accessibility and insight.

“It is important to make it easy for customers to engage, in the way they prefer, whilst also understanding and reviewing this engagement to ensure it is effective. For many organisations, this translates to funnelling every customer interaction via a formal call or contact centre but that is not always an option.”

Ian Bevington, Marketing Manager at Oak Innovation, says digital transformation is an activity and involves a significant change to the business model using technology as an enabler.

“The impact usually extends far beyond the contact centre to include many other aspects of the business, for example, supply chains, manufacturing processes, workflow, go to market and support. Customer Experience is outcome based, narrower in scope and underpinned is people, process and technology working together to achieve an improved outcome.”

Lisa Clark, Vice President of Contact Centre Product Management at 8×8, says that contact centres play a pivotal role with over 78% of businesses today leading on CX engagement.

“With the Digital Transformation (DX) driving business growth it is of utmost importance that a customer has real-time qualitative access to CX resources and the relevant data they provide, helping them through this transformation, and avoid disruption. The most effective way to do this is with a contact centre solution.”

Edward Winfield, UK Sales Director at Content Guru, asserts that in the contact centre, Digital Transformation (DX) and Customer Service Excellence (CX) should go hand in hand.

“However, organisations often consider the two as separate entities, creating major pain points surrounding the customer lifecycle, data management and agent engagement. Organisations must design their digital strategy to enhance and elevate their customer service offering, and the contact centre is at the heart of this transformation. So, how can contact centres overcome these obstacles to deliver a seamless, end-to-end customer journey?”

Are contact centres solely focussed on ‘processing calls’ and ignoring the need to secure valuable data on how customers view the products, services and likeability of the company?

Ian Bevington at Oak Innovation, says that organisations that truly embrace customer experience take a customer first view and that when it comes to securing data, the leadership team have ultimate responsibility.

“They must assess risk and make informed decisions about where and when to invest in people, process and technology. High-profile breeches over recent years have resulted in more focus on managing risk and compliance. As suppliers of compliance technology, we must be engaged at the highest level to operate effectively.”

“The era in which contact centres were solely focused on processing calls made between 9 and 5 on a weekday are now long gone,” says Gary Bennett, VP Sales, EMEA, Enghouse Interactive.
“In today’s digital age, data is the new gold and businesses today increasingly look at it as a precious resource. Lots of organisations today are using data analytics and insights within their customer-facing operations to predict and anticipate what the customer is going to do or what is the best step to take next.”

Lisa Clark at 8×8 says contact centres are not focusing on just processing calls, they know they need to do it.

“Capturing valuable data is important to any business, and paramount in any customer engagement. It helps businesses differentiate from the competition, it influences and drives a better conversation, a better engagement, and it can change the opening position, helping resolve any uncertainty.”

Colin Gill, Product Manager at Akixi, muses that perhaps that used to be the case but today, contact centres have moved on from being purely a call processing department and are learning to listen to their customers.

“It’s no longer enough just to improve your call rates – the content and quality of those calls matters just as much when looking after customer service.

Further alignment between the call centre management team and service and account management teams, marketing, etc. will result in useful insight being shared across the whole business to make service and process improvements. Capturing and understanding the voice of customer the can add significant value.”

Tim Mercer, CEO at Vapour Cloud, says that in many contact centres, it’s still a numbers game.

“This is understandable to a certain extent, especially in businesses with SLAs to meet. Their priority is to answer – and deal with – calls as quickly as possible.

But organisations with this mind set are overlooking some key opportunities, such as it may be possible to handle an individual’s query more efficiently by triangulating data from various sources, including calls, social media mentions, SMS and more.

Additionally, individuals want to be able to begin the conversation on Twitter or live chat, pick up with someone on the phone without any repetition of the dialogue, send emails to exchange relevant details and receive an SMS confirmation when the matter is closed. With secure, multichannel contact centre platforms that automatically scrape comms logs for the data they need, this is extremely straightforward.”

Significantly, do contact centre solutions readily support this data and analytics task?

According to Carl Boraman, Director of Strategic Alliances at Tollring, to generate consistently excellent customer experience, organisations need tools that help them to manage ‘live’ situations as well as longer term trends.

“They also need to look wider than a formal contact centre. Typically, however, contact centre solutions are very focused on delivering live data, i.e. what’s happening now or in the last hour – and only limited to within the formal contact centre. Live wallboards are useful for meeting key SLAs but true insight and understanding of customer experience can only be gained from looking at a range of different performance metrics, over longer periods of time, and across all parts of the organisation.”

Ian Bevington at Oak Innovation, observes that organisations are moving from a traditional call centre view with siloed technology and quantitive metrics, to a business wide view in which the quality of interaction is of primary importance.

“These changes are driving better management information, decision making and business outcomes.”

Lisa Clark at 8×8, says that for the most part contact centre solutions do support this data and analytics task.

“It’s essential to ensure that the data is stored correctly, especially with the shift to public cloud. Data sovereignty and integrity is important to all contact centre customers, with awareness driven recently by the changes in GDPR and its legal implications. Customers should look for a supplier that can provide the most value and in- depth analytics including speech recognition where appropriate.”

What do you consider the biggest pain point being experienced by Call and Contact Centres today?

According to Carl Boraman at Tollring the key issue seems to be balancing the priorities.

“The traditional problem of balancing cost versus performance has become even more complex because customer experience has been added to the equation. Customer experience is harder to measure too, so managing these three almost equal priorities is causing an increase in demand for solutions that deliver reliable insight into all three focus areas.”

Oak’s Ian Bevington points to issues with compliance when he says, “Organisations must interpret regulations, make informed decisions and put the necessary resources in place to ensure adherence.

The best organisations use new and updated regulation as an opportunity to review practices, drive improvement and secure a competitive advantage. Too many organisations remain on the back foot, with partially compliant solutions and a residual risk.”

‘Poor Systems Integration,’ says Gary Bennett at Enghouse Interactive.

“Most customers want to have their query resolved or issue addressed by the business as quickly as possible with as little time or effort expended on their part as possible. That means that anything that causes friction or costs time across that process is going to negatively impact the customer experience and the business itself. Unfortunately, call and content centres still struggle to deliver omnichannel and multichannel customer interaction effectively. This is generally a problem caused by poor systems integration.”

Lisa Clark at 8×8 has worked out that if you are succinct you can get three issues in the same breath!

“The digital transformation itself; the shift of customers’ expectation to be able to access a multitude of communications channels. Secondly, awareness; keeping up with current changes in compliance and security and lastly, data availability; being able to find the solution that can provide the data that is needed. Not just for the agent answering the customer’s query; but the reviewable data on the agent after the query that they are meeting customers’ expectations.”

“Workforce continues to be a challenge,” says Colin Gill at Akixi. “The retention, motivation, training and resourcing of call and contact centre staff. The equipment or solution itself can also be a challenge in terms of its scalability and flexibility for the business. Is it able to easily scale as the business grows or as call fluctuations and peak periods add pressure?”

According to Iain Sinnott, Head of Sales at VanillaIP, there are two markets here and they need to be considered separately; those who believe they have a contact centre operating in their business and those that don’t.

“For those that don’t, and this will cover a huge chunk of the SMB market, it is important to understand that the customer experience challenge is no less but the teams supporting it are based in hunt groups with simple help desk and sales desk structures. They most likely run the same structure as they did before the internet became more dominant and before customers became part of the ‘message first society’.

Customers increasingly don’t want to queue (I’m sure they never really did) and so expect an instant answer with the ability to resolve issues via chat – perhaps whilst they are at work and unable to make personal calls. These small businesses need to understand that Cloud Solutions now exist and can transform the way they communicate with their customers, and prospects, without changing the team that deliver that contact or having to pay a fortune to re-equip the business.

VanillaIP have launched a chat queue management system that doesn’t require traditional ‘agent’ services, so a simple transition to a multi-media customer experience need not be expensive.”
Nick Thwaites, CEO at Braxtel says the biggest challenge is agent recruitment and retention.

“Always has been always will be. Now this is magnified as the ‘Multi-media’ agent takes longer to train and subsequently add real value. The current trend in AI and media blending with analytics requires a more significant investment by the Contact Centre in its agent but of course this is balanced by the returns available through this mire valuable human asset.”

Ed Says…

As Colin Gill at Akixi says, it’s no longer enough just to improve call rates – the content and quality of those calls matters just as much when looking after customer service.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine