“Your call is important to us. Please hold for the next available agent.” You wait. And wait. You listen to smooth jazz for 50 minutes and consider hanging up, cutting your losses.
Sadly, this is a pretty common scenario. Call centres have evolved to contact centres with multiple touch points for communication, but the customer experience is, oftentimes, still lacking.
But thanks to a perfect storm of emerging technologies (like artificial intelligence), growing channel diversity and ever-increasing customer expectations — is Gen Z going to pick up a phone and wait on hold for 50 minutes? — things are changing.
The first-ever Enterprise Contact Center & CX Survey by Enterprise Connect Research says this space is heating up with the adoption of emerging technologies — such as analytics tools, automated IoT feeds, AI-based bots and VR/AR — along with new strategies to boost the customer experience.
Moving to mixed cloud models
It’s not just about cloud anymore. “For modern enterprises, decisions that impact customer engagement aren’t limited to whether they run their contact center on premises or in the cloud — that’s just one part of the 2,000-piece puzzle. Today, a wide array of technologies, factors, and strategies can affect the quality of a customer engagement,” says No Jitter’s Michelle Burbick in a blog post.
But, while infrastructure choices aren’t the only factor affecting CX, Burbick says they’re “a good place to start.”
More enterprises are taking a cloud or hybrid approach, or turning to a managed service provider, for their contact centre needs — especially those looking to grow their business, either through remote call agents or new locations outside their traditional contact centre.
Of the 165 contact centre professionals surveyed, 30 per cent maintain an on-premise contact centre, 22 per cent use a pure-play cloud provider or contact-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS), 11 per cent run their contact centre in a data centre managed by a third party and 20 per cent use a mix of models.
Embracing artificial intelligence
While enterprises are embracing a range of mixed models when it comes to cloud, they’re also starting to embrace artificial intelligence — though not, perhaps, as much as they could be.
AI capabilities have found a “sweet spot” in the contact centre, according to the survey, though at this point the most widely used “AI-like capability” is analytics and reporting (at 67 per cent) followed by intelligent IVRs at only 33 per cent.
In other words, AI is mainly being used to help enterprises understand how their contact centres are performing. A much smaller percentage are using AI to boost the customer experience, such as using chat bots to help with self-service queries or route calls to the most appropriate human agent.
AI has the potential to dramatically improve the customer experience. For example, through voice analysis, it could recognize if a customer is stressed, prioritize calls and provide tips to agents on how to best to handle a call.
And this market is growing: A report by MarketsandMarkets suggests the global AI call centre market will skyrocket from US$800 million this year to US$2.8 billion by 2024.
Increasing channel diversity
While there’s some concern that robots will take over human jobs, it’s more likely that chat bots will take over routine, mundane queries while human intervention will still be required for more complex queries (including those that require empathy) — meaning the two will complement each other and improve overall productivity.
Indeed, Art Schoeller, vice-president and principal analyst with Forrester, predicts that “increasing channel diversity and automation will make interactions more complex, requiring highly skilled agents and intelligent processes to assist them.”
Contact centres allow customers to reach out through multiple channels, including phone, email, chat, text, social media and mobile apps. But they’re also embracing new channels such as next-gen Rich Communications Service (RCS) for multimedia texting, according to the Enterprise Connect Research survey.
The survey also found that almost 30 per cent of respondents support messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Apple Business Chat, while 24 per cent support video chat.
Evolving the customer experience
A recent TechTarget article says multichannel contact centres are evolving to become “experience centres.” That means instead of trying to resolve an issue as quickly as possible, the focus is on first-contact resolution and customer satisfaction.
You may be one of those organizations dabbling in AI or experimenting with new channels to improve the customer experience. Even if you’re not quite there yet, moving to cloud and supporting unified communication and collaboration tools can provide a foundation to evolve from a contact centre to an experience centre.