When it comes to reaching customers, meeting their needs, and solving their problems, the technology around today can do almost anything that even the most imaginative customer experience executive could want.
In the real world, however, there are always such things as budgets, customers, culture, and staff to act as a drag on our lofty ambitions.
Over ten years after the Global Financial Crisis, most companies are still mindful of making large investments, and so legacy systems which cannot be replaced must be wrung for the last drop of value. While customers’ expectations are higher than ever given the technological marvels, due to cultural inertia, they are still putting up with poor service from the likes of utilities and telcos. Frontline staff also find it difficult to adapt to the multi-skilled nature of their new work and cope with digital information overload.
The truth is that – two decades into the digital revolution – for most important interactions, where there is a need for human contact, most people still do what they did in 1998; pick up the phone and call the company. While consumers have taken to social media, chat, facetime and other new communication technologies in their personal lives, they are currently not able to interact with most companies using these tools.
This means there exists an opportunity right now for any company looking to go beyond the basics to gain a leap on its competition in 2019. Below are some of the practical steps that companies can take right now to steal a march.
Forget chatbots, let AI loose on your data
Machine learning is the AI technology behind advanced analytics that seeks to derive commercial insight from the huge sets of data now routinely handled by contact centres. Analytics can give companies valuable information about customer and product cycles, and even help pinpoint service issues before they arise so that proactive steps can be taken. At the level of individual customers engagement, analytics and speech analytics can help predict customer behaviour and define personalised solutions and offers that boost loyalty and satisfaction.
The other main use for AI that contact centre and customer experience executives should be looking at seriously in 2019 is the automation of routine and laborious tasks. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) encompasses a whole range of AI technologies that can automate back office processes like data capture, writing and sending emails, running reports, processing orders and payments, and managing case files.
Tag and collate data to deliver omnichannel
The real key to unlocking all the benefits of the digital customer experience revolution is that everything must appear seamless from the customer’s point of view. In a multichannel or omni-channel environment this means that when a customer switches channels – say from self-service to chat to phone – they should not have to repeat themselves or be transferred between departments.
The ability to take a process – generating a custom quote for example – which has to run through numerous customer-facing, back office, and partner integrated systems and have it run seamlessly, even automatically, is not just a boon for customer experience, it is also a great cost saver.
This essentially boils down to having a data structure in place where every piece of information about a given customer is accessible by everyone who needs it, when they need it. It means either all data must be pulled together into a central location, or all the bits and pieces of data gathered by different siloes and touchpoints have to be tagged and linked so that the while data set is interrogable.
From a technical point of view, it doesn’t really matter which of those two options you choose, or what technologies your databases are running. What’s important is that customer-facing or decision-making individuals in the organisation can, at the touch of a button, see everything your whole company knows about a given customer or prospect.
Eliminate siloes by giving agents everything they need in one place
Most companies use a combination of proprietary software, off-the-shelf vertical applications, and other off-the-shelf or legacy software for CRM, marketing, invoicing and other back office processes.
Adding digital channels – in a seamless manner that eliminates data and process siloes – adds another layer of complexity to this picture.
However, by far the most difficult part of being able to leverage all this technology across the business is getting it all to work together. For us that means putting the customer-facing agent (or the automated systems with which customers interact) at the centre of the operation and building out from there.
The place to bring together all the data and systems that human agents need to seamlessly manage interactions across multiple channels is in their desktop application, which provides them with a single user interface for almost anything they need to be able to do.
All applications used in fulfilling business processes are integrated with the agent desktop and workflow software. This means that, using a single interface, agents can generate quotes, manage documentation, follow up and close sales, set appointments, make cold calls, manage the onboarding process, chase up renewals – using whatever digital channel they like and with all customer and product data at their fingertips.
Departmental and channel siloes are eliminated as data is made available in the desktop regardless of where it is stored. Legacy systems are also given a new lease of life and can work with one another, with new digital channels like chat and instant messaging, and with external systems. In our experience companies that eliminate siloes in this way experience productivity improvements, sometimes of 20% or more.
Wouldn’t that be a great goal for 2019?
About Geoff Land
Geoff Land is Managing Director of Infinity CCS (Contact Centre Solutions), provider of dynamic workflow engines that power contact centres across 13 countries. Infinity works with some of the world’s largest contact centre operators such as Teleperformance, Webhelp, HGS and Bosch to deliver customer experience solutions that yield measurable efficiencies.
An experienced CX executive, Geoff has spent his career helping leading some of today’s leading brands transform their businesses. Geoff previously held senior positions at Bright Star Communications (Saudi Arabia), founded Inspire FZE in the United Arab Emirates and has held a number of local and international positions at Nortel Networks.