Responding to COVID-19's impact on CX with digital tech
By Karl Reed, Chief Solutions Officer at Pivotal Data
As the frontline communication channel between businesses and their customers, contact centres had to adapt early and fast to rapidly changing consumer engagement trends caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Operational agility and business continuity became strategic imperatives in a sector scrambling to find ways to respond to an unprecedented situation.
The need to maintain social distancing forced a wholesale transition to remote working, remote shopping and remote socialising. The growing comfort and ease with which consumers now use online platforms to communicate and transact means most engagements now happen via digital channels.
As more customer interactions, commerce and sales and marketing functions moved online, away from physical spaces and face-to-face interactions, the customer contact centre's relevance and value to the business became more important than ever.
The modern contact centre has effectively become the primary touchpoint to successfully connect with customers, which means the stakes for customer contact leaders have never been higher.
Disruptions to supply chains and restrictions on movement and travel also caused a spike in consumer service queries and complaints via contact centres. The way businesses handled these higher call volumes have influenced consumer perceptions and brand loyalty. Those that failed to meet customer expectations have suffered higher levels of churn.
And in our new world, where same-day delivery, instant transactions and on-demand service have become the norm rather than the exception, businesses will increasingly compete for share of pocket based on the customer experience (CX) they provide.
Consumers now demand more empathetic, personalised experiences across all touch points. Given that CX impacts purchasing decisions now more than ever, contact centre operators must find solutions that adequately address changing customer behaviours and preferences around engagement, while also working to reduce customer effort and any friction in the customer journey.
Basically, every strategic decision related to people, processes or technology must improve CX.
As vaccination rates continue to rise and lockdown restrictions ease, contact centre operators will need to take stock and plot their way forward in this dynamic new marketplace.
Determining which pandemic-fuelled trends will remain and how these will permanently change the way contact centres operate will become non-negotiables to maintain relevance and operational excellence in a post-pandemic world.
Answering these questions will guide contact centre digital transformation roadmaps and inform agent training and skills development in a new era of automation and digital-first engagement.
Contact centre operators must partner with technology providers that offer the most adept solutions to meet the new demands around hybrid workforce enablement, and can orchestrate seamless omnichannel customer engagements to meet evolving channel preferences and craft memorable customer experiences.
Enabling these capabilities requires a broad solutions set that leverages accurate customer data to guide customer-centric experience design, inform every customer interaction and empower agents to perform.
In this regard, knowledge management solutions powered by AI can supply agents with in-depth, accurate and relevant data in real time to provide a 360-degree view of the customer.
Presenting this data in a user-friendly manner via a consolidated and intuitive dashboard empowers agents to meet the needs of today’s omnichannel customers, which boosts customer satisfaction and delivers optimal contact centre performance.
Additional technology priorities for the modern contact centre should include automated self-service options, which serve as a pathway to greater convenience.
Solutions that improve integration across touch points and multiple channels will allow consumers to seamlessly and quickly transition between channels and devices without any loss in context or relevance.
However, in an environment characterised by channel and device fragmentation, the ability to right-channel customers to the best possible environment to meet their needs and preferences is imperative to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
Beyond digital transformation, an experienced and competent specialist solutions partner should also provide advice and guidance on operational strategy, as evolving trends and influencing factors will necessitate a fluid and agile approach to contact centre modernisation.