The journey to the contact centre of the future starts in the cloud
By Martin Cross, Chief Strategy Officer at Connect.
As competition for customer retention and loyalty intensifies, establishing a point of strategic differentiation through contact centre transformation will become a business imperative.
Against this backdrop, the evolution of the contact centre is accelerating as multiple converging factors exert their influence on engagement and customer experience (CX).
The cloud foundation
A significant factor driving the shift to a future-ready contact centre is the phasing out of on-premises legacy solutions.
As major vendors end support for their outdated systems, businesses will need to find modern alternatives that enable them to engage with their customers at a time when channel fragmentation is reaching its zenith.
Amid an explosion in digital engagement, modern consumers want to interact with businesses through their preferred communication platform or channel. This diversity in options prompted the shift from voice-first to omnichannel engagement capabilities, which proved cumbersome and costly with siloed on-premise solutions.
While the need to integrate channels served as a catalyst for cloud migration, the resultant democratisation of technology through more affordable access to advanced contact centre solutions and less complex deployments in the cloud is driving the next wave of cloud migration.
As operators embrace the contact centre as a service (CCaaS) model, cloud computing will allow contact centres to access cutting-edge technologies that offer greater functionality on a more cost-effective pay-as-you-use consumption model that can scale according to their needs.
The journey to opti-channel
These technologies include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, natural language processing (NLP) and sentiment analysis, which contact centres can use to pre-empt customer needs, automate customer interactions, enhance performance metrics and streamline the overall customer experience.
Operators can start integrating into core systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) applications, customer service management (CSM) and case management system (CSM) platforms, and billing and logistics systems, paving the way for automated AI-enabled chatbots and super-charged, AI-assisted live agents.
These intelligent solutions are shaping the contact centre of the future, as they do more than allow customers to choose their preferred channel through omnichannel engagement.
They ensure your contact centre system to tap into customer data, using engagement histories, known preferences and real-time intelligence to pre-empt customer queries and direct them to the most appropriate and optimal channel to unlock true opti-channel engagement capabilities.
Frictionless, more efficient engagements
With real-time data analysis, the contact centre of the future will be able to anticipate a customer query.
This process can also guide the customer into the contact centre via the most appropriate channel based on their specific needs, preferences and context, which the intelligent solution determines by analysing rich data sets from systems across the organisation.
And if customers enter the contact centre via the least optimal channel, the intelligent solution can transition them seamlessly to the most efficient option. Powered with a single view of the customer, the solution enables personalised interactions with either AI-powered bots or agents.
For instance, AI-based decisioning on call routing allows the contact centre to handle more engagements by protecting agents from contacts as automated intelligent bots can handle common queries or repetitive tasks. As an example, generative AI models can draw from documents to walk customers through various processes or troubleshoot potential issues to transform help desk capabilities.
An AI-enabled solution can also pre-empt a contact via a chat, e-mail or call, identifying possible queries based on customer actions to infer why the customer is calling. By offering conversational prompts, the bot can address the query with the least friction and in the least amount of time to streamline the customer experience.
Automatically moving customers onto the optimal channels and educating them about which channel is best for specific requirements by providing context around the decision can then encourage them to select the same channel again in future for convenience.
Creating super agents
Moreover, offloading contacts to automated channels frees agents to focus on higher priority, more complex or more sensitive tasks that add value to the business and ensure high-value or vulnerable customers receive exceptional, tailored, empathetic service.
In these more complex or more delicate instances, the single view of the customer journey serves to create super-agents. Agents that can see contextually relevant information about the customer in real-time on one screen can solve queries more effectively and efficiently, with the highest levels of customer service.
AI-powered “Agent Assist” will understand the customer's intent and look up responses in your knowledge base, presenting them to the agent desktop and recommending the next best actions, truly super-powering your agents.
Through continuous learning and improvement, every customer interaction will contribute to the wealth of customer data that already exists, allowing AI-driven solutions to continually update and refresh the information agents receive to make the contact centre smarter and more efficient, and enliven future engagements with customers.
Better performance metrics
Whether a customer engages with an AI-powered bot or AI-empowered super agent, intelligent technologies will monitor key metrics in real-time, such as average handling times (AHT), first-contact resolution (FCR) rates and call duration, among others, to make the contact centre more efficient and improve every measure of performance.
AI will continuously review chat logs, e-mail histories and voice recordings, analysing all engagements for contact centre operators to gain deeper insights that can identify bottlenecks, opportunities to automate or high friction areas in the process.
Based on these insights, the operator can implement changes in the contact centre to help improve customer service and unlock operational efficiencies, with AI suggesting journeys that you can automate via conversational AI, improved knowledge articles or better journey orchestration.
Contact centre of the future roadmap
While the vision of the contact centre of the future is compelling, it is not a far-off ideal. There are already products available that can deliver capabilities in all these spaces. Operators can start their journey by replacing their legacy, end-of-life contact centre system.
Implementing a foundational platform that combines the CCaaS system with your CSM, CRM and a workforce engagement management (WEM) system, as well as key enabling technologies such as a knowledge system, conversational, intelligent virtual agents and 'Agent Assist' capabilities, will serve as the foundation from which to start unlocking next-generation capabilities such as generative AI and large language models.
Embracing these technologies will prove vital for operators who want to thrive in this evolving landscape and adapt to changing customer expectations with more efficient and customer-centric contact centre capabilities.