Frictionless engagement with contact centres

Johannesburg, 22 Oct 2020
Read time 4min 30sec
Uffe Jes Hansen, VP MEA, SAP Digital Interconnect
Uffe Jes Hansen, VP MEA, SAP Digital Interconnect

2020 is the year in which the contact centre has come of age, moving from its long-held position as a grudge expense on the periphery of the organisation to taking a central role in the delivery of the superior customer experience needed to drive tangible customer and business value.

That’s the view of Uffe Jes Hansen, VP MEA at SAP Digital Interconnect, who attributes the shift to the changes wrought by the coronavirus pandemic on customers who have rapidly adapted their lifestyles to a new online reality.

“Today’s consumers are not only well-informed, they’re also always connected in some way or another. They thus expect the organisations they interact with to match this in terms of the customer experience they deliver,” he says.

“This means organisations have to be able to enhance customer experience through multiple channels, both online and offline in a way that is seamless, easy and data-driven. It’s what we call frictionless customer engagement.”

Hansen points out that the importance of delivering a great customer experience has long been known. The Forrester report: “Does Customer Experience Really Drive Business Success?” found a strong correlation between excellent customer experience and higher revenue growth for virtually all industry sectors.

Despite this, a 2019 Ovum report noted that fewer than 10% of enterprises had mastered multichannel customer engagement platforms, an essential component of superior customer experience delivery. Progress toward a complete customer engagement capability was being made at “a glacial pace” – by far the slowest of any of the nine digital transformation categories Ovum had researched – despite the fact that this was, arguably, the most important.

Hansen says companies wanting to survive the pandemic’s fallout have to accelerate the pace at which they move to frictionless customer engagement.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean always getting everything right. Things do go wrong: items may be out of stock, shipments may be delayed and customers will expect to be kept informed and updated. This requires an ability to send, receive and manage in real-time, relevant messages that are triggered by customer activity or specific events. The contact centre is at the heart of this,” he explains.

Pekka Porkka, Head of Development SAP Contact Center 365, emphasises that in its central role in the customer experience management process, the contact centre has to be able to support not only multichannel customer engagements across voice, e-mail, chat, SMS and popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, but also cross-departmental interactions.

“Consumers don’t want to have to go through a whole host of different phone menus before being able to talk to a live agent or, while waiting, being advised that switching to another channel will be faster and more convenient. Rather, a callback option should be available,” he says.

“Similarly, if the customer starts on a Web page, it might be useful to offer him an option to click on an audio or video chat window to enable interaction with a human agent or a bot. Also, customers don’t necessarily mind with whom or what they interact with, as long as their questions are answered quickly and efficiently. This might require interactions that go beyond the traditional contact centre.”

Within the contact centre, agents should be able to serve multiple customers simultaneously across channels, with the agent having easy access to customer relationship management (CRM) software and other relevant business applications.

Additionally, the choice of channel should apply not only to incoming, but also outbound, interactions.

“It’s therefore a good idea to have the contact centre integrated with the company’s CRM system which should have stored customers’ communication preferences – some may prefer SMS or social media channels; other will have opted for email and phone calls,” Porkka explains.

In addition, regardless of their preferred communications channel, customers also want their questions to be handled by an employee who is equipped to deal with it. This means that the question, however it is received, needs to be able to be routed to employees across the organisation, even – if necessary – to someone who may not work in the contact centre itself.

Contact centre management itself requires real-time monitoring, reporting and analytics to address issues before they become problems.

“Keeping up with these demands in a post-COVID environment with agents working from home and significantly increased contact volumes, can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, with legacy contact centre platforms.

“Cloud-based contact centre services accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection that provide multiple channels integrated with apps, data and intelligence could provide an ideal solution,” Porkka concludes.

To learn more about omnichannel cloud contact centres, read SAP Contact Center 365 Delivers Enhanced Customer Service or visit the SAP Digital Interconnect Community. You can also get access to a free trial of SAP Contact Center 365.

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