Author: Gayathri (G3) Krishnamurthy, Product Marketing Director, NICE inContact
I'm sure most of us want to bury the year 2020 and never think or talk about it again. The pandemic lockdowns altered the business landscape as consumers changed their buying habits, businesses pivoted to survive, and so many companies permanently shut their doors.
It's tempting to put 2020 behind us and move on, but before you permanently put it out of mind, you should consider some of the critical lessons learned about the past year and use the information to guide your 2021 contact center investments.
An effective look back needs to include answering the question, "Were we as prepared as we could have been for the impacts of the pandemic?" Granted, it would have been difficult to predict this particular scenario, so maybe reword the previous question to, "Is our business prepared to handle the unexpected?"
Part of business continuity is ensuring all functions in your organization, especially the contact center, are resilient, flexible and agile. This will ensure your organization can respond better to any crisis, regardless of the specifics. In 2021, contact centers should invest in their own resiliency by increasing agent support, implementing digital channels and embracing the potential of AI-powered bots.
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Your agents are your greatest assets, playing a critical role in satisfying customers. You probably sent them home to work at the beginning of the lockdowns and many may still be there. Have you made remote agents part of your permanent operational model like many other contact centers?
The transition, while needed, was not perfect for many. Agents stoically handled technology glitches, changing plans, and not having everything they needed to do their jobs. But enough time has passed that these initial bumps should be smoothed away. At-home agents should have necessary tools and still feel like they’re part of a team.
To make sure your agents are cared for and positioned for success, consider the following investments. Prior to the pandemic, some organizations had embraced a remote agent model, but many others had only dabbled in it and still others had work from home (WFH) pilots on their long-range road maps. The pandemic forced the hands of the more reluctant contact centers and those future pilots became immediate, full-scale implementations.
It turns out that contact centers (and many agents) really like the remote agent model. In fact, the 2020 Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark revealed that 70 percent of contact centers expect they will continue to have agents work from home after the outbreak.
A key to making this model work is providing at-home agents with access to all the applications they use when they are on-site at the contact center facility. This can include their agent desktop, CRM, knowledge base, performance dashboards, quality monitoring tools, scheduling applications, and more. If these are all in the cloud, giving agents access is quick and straightforward, especially compared to making on-premises software available to remote workers.
Your customers want to interact with you on digital channels. Are you meeting those expectations? NICE inContact consumer research has shown that 90 percent of consumers say they are more willing to do business with a company that provides more ways to communicate. Further, digital channels like email and chat have strong preference scores and others are gaining ground, especially among Millennials and Gen Z.
There's an imperative for digital-first customer service that many contact center leaders recognize. In fact, digital channels are gaining favor among decision-makers, with chat and SMS experiencing the highest YOY increases as preferred interaction channels. But these gains aren't just limited to agent-assisted digital channels. Self-service digital channels are also experiencing gains, led by mobile apps.
Customer demand isn't the only reason to implement digital channels. There are also very practical reasons to go digital – it can help contact centers manage demand and provide more agility as part of business continuity plans. Most digital channels, unlike voice interactions, don't require real-time responses. This means agents can respond to, for example, emails when phone volume slows down.
This characteristic was particularly helpful at the start of the pandemic when phone volume and wait times were high – customers who couldn't get through on the phone could send an email or a message on Facebook Messenger and eventually receive a response without having to wait in a long phone queue.
Digital investments are all critical, but they need to be implemented on the right platform to ensure maximum success. In fact, 66 percent of contact centers who are not using cloud today are planning to accelerate their move to the cloud as a result of the pandemic. They recognize the flexibility cloud-based solutions provide.
A cloud platform allows agents to onboard quickly and seamlessly work from home. Additionally, when your contact center software is in the cloud, adding and integrating new digital channels is a snap. And the open nature of cloud platforms makes integration of AI capabilities much easier compared to on-premises solutions.
Start 2021 off right with a decision to invest in agents, digital channels, bots, and a cloud platform to ensure your contact center is prepared for the unexpected.
About NICE inContact:
NICE inContact works with organizations of all sizes to create customer experiences that create deeper brand loyalty and relationships that last. With NICE inContact CXoneTM, a cloud customer experience platform, we combine Customer Analytics, Omnichannel Routing, Workforce Optimization, Automation and Artificial Intelligence, all on an Open Cloud Foundation to help any company transform every single customer interaction.
Published: Friday, January 29, 2021
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