Rethink CX: Contact Center Solutions for Tumultuous Times

Freshworks, in collaboration with Micah Solomon, customer experience expert and bestselling author, launched a 5-part webinar series titled ‘Rethink CX’. In this series, Micah will be joined by leading experts in the field of customer service and engagement to help businesses understand how they can adapt their service strategies to the changes in customer behavior.  

In Episode One: Contact Center Solutions for Tumultuous Times, Micah was joined by contact center expert and CEO of the Taylor Reach Group, Colin Taylor. With over 40 years of experience in customer service, Colin is well-recognized as a leader and influencer in the contact center space. He joined us to discuss how businesses can ensure their contact centers make it through the crisis.

Here are the key reasons companies need to rethink the traditional idea of contact centers. You can find the full recording here

Keeping up with contact center trends in the face of COVID-19

It’s important to note that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we all do business. In the webinar, Colin identified three major trends that have dominated contact centers in the last few months, all of which existed previously, but have been accelerated by the current situation:

  • The shift to cloud software
  • Work-from-home culture
  • The incorporation of AI, self-service, and automation

When faced with the pandemic, companies were forced to transition to a work-from-home set-up and to find a way to support remote agents and reduce costs. While some companies that were already working on the cloud took the change in stride, most organizations weren’t ready for this full-scale shift. Several of them faced issues with practical things like network connection, lack of laptops, configuration security, etc. In their search for a way to enable the shift to remote work across functions, companies uncovered the numerous benefits a shift to cloud software would provide them. As their contact centers stabilized and volumes grew, several centers turned to AI, self-service, and automation to help manage the surge.

Optimizing contact center costs

Contact centers have historically been viewed as ‘cost centers’. The need for reduced costs has provided an opportunity for change through the incorporation of new technologies, automation, and the work-from-home movement. In his conversation with Micah, Colin noted that there have been three primary drivers to try and reduce costs: 

  1. Call deflection: In the time agents complete a voice call, they can handle 3-4 conversations via chat or messaging channels. This allows for faster resolutions and invariably brings down call queues. This has been the biggest priority for contact centers, especially in the last few months.
  2. Low-cost locations: Research conducted by Global Workplace Analytics shows that employers can save up to $11,000 per annum and employees could save between $2000 and $4000 by shifting to a work-from-home business model. 
  3. Automation and self-service: With the establishment of remote work, contact centers saw an increase in volumes, and businesses did not have a choice but to build out their self-service offerings in order to be able to deflect calls to other channels. Customers are being asked to try to see if they could find a solution themselves with the help of a free knowledge base, chatbots, etc.

Companies need to keep in mind that while these are all viable ways to reduce costs, there is a right and wrong way to put them in action. Care needs to be taken to ensure the customer experience is not adversely affected by the changes.

The appeal of chat and messaging

As organizations tried to move their customers away from phone calls in order to try to optimize their workload, they stumbled upon the two main benefits of using chat and messaging as customer service channels. 

  1. Higher productivity: As discussed earlier, agents found that it was easier to multitask and ensure customers got help faster when they were able to go back and forth between multiple conversations. It brought down the cost per interaction, with an added bonus of often resulting in a higher CSAT score. 
  2. Comfort-level for customers: Customers use chat often in their day-to-day lives and it’s a channel they’re very comfortable with. Customer service is all about being where your customers are, and by that ethos, it’s key that contact centers are not inconveniencing customers by forcing them to channel-swap.

Managing the surge of customer queries

Our poll during the webinar revealed that most attendees saw an increase in contact center volumes since the pandemic. Colin identified four easy steps contact centers can take to deal effectively with the increasing volumes:

  • Direct customers to digital self-help: Guide callers back to the website and populate that with self-service tips and ideas that will allow them to help themselves
  • Engage on chat: Add chat to your website as soon as possible to improve productivity and reduce the cost per interaction
  • Add IVR self-service: This feature will allow you categorize and sort calls depending on the urgency
  • Use chatbots and voice bots: Incorporate chatbots and voice bots to help mitigate volumes

Putting employee welfare first

On a final note, Colin added that at this time, employees are bound to be feeling isolated and stressed, working in an unfamiliar environment, even if it is their own home. He emphasized the importance of contact centers reaching out to their staff often to make sure they are doing okay and to provide them with the opportunity to get support or coaching if they need to. 

In Episode 2 of the Rethink CX series ‘Superhuman Service: AI-integrated customer service in times of crisis and plenty’, Micah will be joined by Raj Singh, CEO of GoMoment and Pradeep Rathinam, CCO at Freshworks to discuss how (and why) to leverage AI to enhance your customer experience. 

Date: 5th June 2020

Time: 10 AM PST

You can register for the session here

 

External resources:

https://micahsolomon.com/

https://thetaylorreachgroup.com/

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/technology/pages/why-are-some-companies-moving-away-from-telework.aspx