The text of this article originally appeared on the FCR blog on December 5, 2018. Click here to read the original.
If you’ve sat through any customer service technology demos or walked the showroom floor at an industry conference, you’ve undoubtedly heard well-meaning sales folks speak of innovation, disruption, and automation. I’ve heard this spoken of chatbots, in particular, this year. Statements like, “Chatbots will automate X% of your customer interactions” and “Your competition is working on a chatbot as we speak” have been uttered in my presence.
While automation continues to grab headlines in a variety of industries, there’s plenty of innovation happening in this space in other key areas that can improve your customer and agent experience – and in some cases, you’ll see gains in both quality AND efficiency – a rare win-win. There are five such areas where I see significant gains for your contact center by upgrading in 2019 if you haven’t already.
Slack has revolutionized contact center communication. Still, I was stopped dead in my tracks earlier this year when a client asked, “Is there anything out there that’s better than Slack?” Wait, what? I thought Slack had completely disrupted their space. How could there be anything better?
That sent me on a quest to understand how our support teams use Slack (Read Part One and Part Two of my findings here). That exercise led me to a variety of Slack applications, of which there are many. Let me give you a couple of examples of where support teams are gaining some efficiency in Slack.
Those are a couple examples among many possibilities when it comes to integrating Slack with your other support tools. The likes of Zapier and Workato can take this even further.
I already touched on self-help and knowledge base a bit but have more to say on this topic. Gone are the days of the stale FAQ or knowledge base on your website. Sure, if you don’t have a knowledge base, that’s a great place to start – and if you already have a ticketing system, chances are there’s a knowledge base included that you can use.
When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), self-help is where the biggest difference is being made. While this begins to dip a toe into the chatbot waters, small to medium organizations likely don’t have the volume needed to fully automate customer interactions. There’s still plenty of opportunity for AI to help understand what customers need and connect them with faster, better solutions. Here are a few ideas to take that stagnant knowledge base off the back shelf and place it in the spotlight:
I teamed up with my colleague and contact center training expert, Sheri Kendall-duPont earlier this year to share 8 Essential Features for Your Contact Center Learning Management System (LMS). The feature that stands out above the rest for me is, “Provide microlearning opportunities for busy contact center professionals.
We’re busy in contact centers and I’m guessing that the possibility of shutting off the phones for an hour or two for meetings and training is slim to none in your center. How often do we put off training simply because there’s no time?
There’s a better way and it has to do with making the most of those slow times between customer interactions where agents need something to do. With a robust LMS, it’s easy to design lessons that take a few minutes and can be completed in between customer interactions on an individual basis. Lessonly and Hickory are a couple platforms that do a great job at this and have the tracking to ensure that everyone completes the training.
This article from Harvard Business Review on words and phrases to use and others to avoid during customer interactions was particularly insightful this year. The authors found that using “I” instead of “We” language, speaking in specifics, and taking charge of the situation leads to more successful customer interactions. This isn’t particularly shocking but sometimes difficult to quantify.
This is the power of speech and text analytics. Our customer interactions continue to be a huge learning opportunity where we can understand both the challenges and successes in the customer experience. I’ve been particularly intrigued by a company called RapportBoost that uses AI to analyze chat conversations and understand the speech patterns that lead to more sales and/or higher customer satisfaction. Those insights are then used to train the entire team to better engage customers.
2018 has been a fascinating year for popular customer engagement solutions. Just to name a few, Salesforce announced an end of life for Desk.com, Zendesk did a number of things like bolster their reporting with Guide and acquire their own CRM platform, Amazon now offers their Amazon Connect phone platform and doesn’t charge user license fees, and systems like Kustomer are rising up with the promise of getting us closer to a true omnichannel customer support experience.
I don’t have a recommendation on this front yet other than to say that this competition stands to benefit the customers using those products. This means that whether you stay put or adopt a new customer engagement platform in 2019, you’re sure to see more and more AI, better integration, deeper insights, and richer features.
To conclude, it’s been a good year of product demos and I expect the same in 2019. There are plenty of opportunities to beef up contact center technology whether it’s in communication, training, self-help, analytics, customer engagement, and more. As you do so, I urge you to focus especially on your agents and ways to empower and equip them to more efficiently serve customers without sacrificing quality.
Publish Date: January 11, 2019
Charlotte Purvis is a speaker and communication consultant who has influenced an average of one million customer interactions each year for over 20 years. She consults, trains, and speaks on customer service, business communication, and leadership development for global companies, universities, and community organizations. She practices what she teaches as evidenced by nearly 100% of her engagements coming from repeat or referral business.
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