The Modern Contact Center: Minimizing the Pandemic's Economic Impact With Advanced Technology
The arrival of COVID-19 in early 2020 posed serious challenges for many contact center operations. Safety concerns forced organizations to limit staffing in their physical call centers. Some shut down, some managed to reduce shift sizes or distance operators from one another by repurposing additional space, and others sent agents home to work remotely.
While managers scrambled with these adjustments, incoming call volumes went through the roof as contact centers became the principal access point between businesses and customers sheltering at home. The combination of limited functionality at physical contact centers and unprecedented volume acted like a stress test that separated efficient operations from those unable to meet the challenges before them. Not surprisingly, technology became the chief differentiator between those groups.
Organizations with virtual contact centers had a distinct advantage by being able to maintain full staffing and hours with their remote agents and managers. Some on-site contact centers powered by modern, cloud-based platforms were able to shift relatively quickly to remote work.
That's because cloud servers host most of a platform's computing, so agents need only a laptop and internet connection to field calls and maintain contact with their teams. The same interconnectivity lets remote managers monitor operations in real time, allocating resources to clear bottlenecks and maintain flow.
Old-style contact centers experienced the greatest disruptions. Reliant on physical locations, many simply closed their doors. Others survived by piecing together ad-hoc systems for remote agents. As the pandemic wore on, temporary setups were often replaced by more advanced contact center platforms.
As organizations that use sophisticated contact center management solutions can attest, today's systems offer far more than mobility. Digital tools and dashboard visualizations help teams to keep up with demand and streamline day-to-day operations. With greater visibility into the customer journey, operators are better able to resolve requests and concerns quickly, improving the customer experience.
Contact center technology is often improving the customer experience before a customer reaches an agent. Self-help navigation, advanced chatbots, and interactive voice response (IVR) systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI) resolve many customer inquiries, deflecting a portion of incoming contact volume. That gives operators room to focus on queries that require a human response. Deflection tools also help contact centers process today's higher call volumes and may reduce hiring needs.
Communications may reach operators via a range of channels, from voice to text, chat, or social media. Solutions that bridge these historically siloed avenues give agents visibility into customer journeys that cross those media. An incoming call may have originated in a chat on the company's website, for example, or be a response to an email thread.
When an agent can pull up the history and context of a customer's interactions on their screen, they can begin to address the caller's needs more quickly and without the customer having to explain a request or concern they communicated previously. Customer histories also help agents establish rapport and can lead to cross-selling opportunities, meeting additional needs for a superior customer experience.
Finally, contact center solutions open the door to data collection and analysis of operations that involve a myriad of customer touchpoints. Applications range from quality control and improvement to the discovery of sales and marketing opportunities.
While no one knows how long the pandemic will impact contact center operations, the past year has cemented technology's role in delivering a better customer experience through contact centers. It's imperative that companies innovate, utilizing technology management solutions and data analysis tools. With effective platforms in play, agents can provide quality service that's both efficient and key to driving exponential strategic advantages.
Tim Eyre is the chief marketing officer at Aceyus, a contact center solutions company.
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Tim Eyre is the Chief Marketing Officer at Aceyus. As CMO, his key focus is to represent the voice of the Aceyus customer, identify hidden opportunities for new messaging, and lead internal Product, Sales, and Marketing teams in providing actionable solutions for Aceyus customers.
A former VP of Red Ventures and Workfront, Tim has a proven track record in creating innovative marketing strategies that fuel new business growth for B2B SaaS companies, making him uniquely suited to drive customer acquisition and retention strategy for Aceyus. His success in the B2B marketing space earned him the CXO of the Year Award in 2016, highlighting his ability to propel organizations forward in engagement, loyalty, and new business growth.
Outside of the office, Tim is a devoted family man and an all-around sports enthusiast. He enjoys playing football, basketball, and baseball with his kids, and never misses an opportunity to watch the Patriots play. Aside from the world of sports, Tim loves hiking, mountain biking, and traveling the world.