How to create a ‘customer-first’ contact centre

Devang Sachdev
Director, Product Marketing & Solutions
Twilio Inc.
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Gone are the days when the mission of the contact centre — to serve the customer’s needs — was relegated to the background while other departments sought to grow accounts at all costs. Today, top contact centres put the customer first, and they’re the ones driving businesses’ long-term health.

In fact, nearly nine out of 10 respondents to Deloitte’s latest Global Contact Center Survey cited ‘customer experience and expectations’ as the top driver of contact centre growth. Meanwhile, ‘growth of business’ fell out of favor, with 43% citing it as a primary growth driver in 2017 compared to 78% in 2015.

But how, exactly, can marketing and customer engagement leaders reconfigure the contact centre to prioritise the customer experience? Four strategies stand out:

1. Make it malleable.

No two contact centres are the same. Customer needs, contact centre workflows, preferred channels, and more differ even between companies that sell similar products. Make sure any call centre software you select for yours has a host of features that are easy for team members to program and customise.

Customisation shouldn’t require you to dispatch developers for every little change, either. Visual builders and wizards empower those who use the software to tweak it according to real-world workflows. Marketers, supervisors, and others should be able to modify routing logic, change messaging, and switch interface designs.

For example, our firm, Twilio, recently helped National Debt Relief (NDR) upgrade its legacy contact centre with a call centre software solution that could grow with the company. With more than 1,300 employees, the debt-management firm knew it needed to migrate to a more user-friendly system, but it worried about disrupting the business.

Working alongside NDR’s development team and a customer engagement partner, we provided communications that integrated with the company’s existing CRM system. The result? NDR’s call centre software brought in new channels and custom workflows, not unnecessary interruptions.

2. Give customers their choice of channel.

Despite their increased focus on the customer experience, too many contact centres maintain a ‘call first’ mentality. Consumers today are weary of spam callers, and while few companies can support a full-fledged SMS marketing strategy, nine of out 10 consumers want to communicate with brands via text messaging. Similarly, 77% like to communicate with brands via email, and 80% reach out to brands for service on social media.

The bottom line is that today’s consumers expect to communicate with brands on their own terms. Effective customer engagement requires that contact centres take an omnichannel approach, delivering consistent and personalised messaging no matter what channel the customer chooses. Companies that get omnichannel communication right enjoy customer retention rates that are 91% greater than their peers.

Fortunately, there are application platforms that make it easy for contact centres to plan for today’s communication needs as well as tomorrow’s. Today, the top channels may be email and phone, but tomorrow, they could be social media platforms and voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa.

3. Apply automation.

In customer service, efficiency is everything. Think about the last time you explained a problem to a customer service representative and were then transferred to someone else and had to start all over. Why didn’t they bother to communicate internally about your issue?

Forward-thinking contact centres recognise the customer friction created by such experiences. That’s why they’re using contextual intelligence to inform all elements of the contact experience, from live agents to interactive voice response systems. Some have even turned to ‘conversational assistants’, which can determine customer intent and point users towards the most appropriate course of action.

These intelligent assistants might look like simple chatbots to customers, but in fact, there’s more going on underneath. Conversational assistants use cognitive computing technologies like natural language processing and machine learning, enabling them to learn from each customer interaction. What’s more, they can accomplish more complex tasks than chatbots, freeing real representatives for ‘human required’ tasks and improving the overall quality of service.

4. Prioritise reliability.

An hour of downtime in a business week might not sound like much. However, at an enterprise contact centre, dozens or hundreds of customers could have reached out in that time period. Given that nine in 10 customers will turn to a competitor following a bad experience, a single hour of technical difficulties can have a real impact on a company’s bottom line.

The need for always-on customer communications is a significant driver behind the communications-platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) movement. At present, 60% of businesses undergoing digital transformation are struggling to meet customer expectations around 24/7 communications availability.

CPaaS platforms and cloud-based call centres APIs make it easy for contact centres to be ‘always on’. Thanks to data centres around the globe, they can connect calls in ways that reduce latency while maintaining call quality. What’s more, companies that use cloud contact centres don’t need to negotiate contracts with carriers in each area of operation, and industry research indicates that CPaaS can reduce operational costs by as much as 30%.

Most contact centre leaders know that today’s business environment calls for a focus on the customer experience. That doesn’t mean, however, that they no longer care about business growth. Rather, they’ve come to realise that focusing on customer engagement is the best way to drive that growth. By modernising their contact centres with the customer in mind, they’re delivering a differentiating customer experience and reaping the business benefits that come with it.

About Devang Sachdev

Devang Sachdev

Devang Sachdev is a Director of Solutions at Twilio. Devang helps businesses find new ways to engage customers and improve their customer journey. Originally a hardware developer and technology policy specialist, Devang has previously led product teams at NVIDIA focused AI and machine learning. Devang has a MS Computer Engineering from University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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