Brands will invest more than ever in contact centres in 2022

One of the first casualties of the shift to WFH for many organisations, was good, reachable customer service. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a steep rise in call volumes that coincided with what felt to consumers like the phone being taken off the hook. Despite the pressures caused by the pandemic, many brands began to realise that their contact centres are in fact the heart of being able to stay connected – and finding new ways to connect – with their customers. With the ongoing trend away from bricks and mortar stores and towards digital channels, contact centres are serving as “front doors that welcome customers in, day after day, for whatever they require – from queries about products and services to problem resolution.

Fortunately, forward-thinking organisations that understand how imperative their contact centre is to brand loyalty can also transform how theirs operate, and provide contact centre customer experience (CX) that work for both the customers and employees.

It’s time to make contact centres part of the on-demand economy

During the pandemic and after, agents had to face more calls, channels and complexities while dealing with a kind of job too often considered as repetitive and boring. And in today’s on-demand economy where customers don’t just want service now, but right now, these stress levels are only slated to increase.

According to Forrester research, 53% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question and 73% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.

When customers engage with their favourite brands on any channel, the common denominator with every engagement is the demand for instant gratification. Whether it’s resolving a problem, checking a balance, making an appointment or any other need; customers expect speed, efficiency and a seamless interaction all while expending minimal effort. If agents are feeling burnt out, they’re not going to be able to deliver the kind of service customers expect.

In 2022, brands will realise the value of existing digital technology that will deliver ‘micro-moments’ of instant gratification – at scale on every channel – either through self-service that really works or well-prepared agents. This will have a cumulative impact on a more meaningful, lasting CX.

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Technology will help businesses to enhance engagement levels with contact centre agents

To set agents up for success, they need technology and processes to help them excel and improve the work experience itself. The US Contact Centre Decision-Makers Guide 2021 reveals that 81% of contact center decision-makers agree that multiple copy-and-paste leads to wasted time and errors.

Another 68% said that it’s important to reduce after-call work, while 76% agreed that agents find it difficult to learn new systems. Perhaps most concerning of all is the finding that repetitive work remains among the top three reasons for agent attrition.

The role of AI is pivotal in empowering agents to succeed. Real-time AI can monitor and provide guidance to agents on behaviours and soft skills that are scientifically proven to increase customer satisfaction such as active listening, building rapport or showing empathy. Virtual assistants, for instance, suggest agents next-best action and even recommending knowledgebase articles based on the context of the live conversation, which could be a call or text-based chat messaging.

Other technologies such as agile robotic process automation (RPA) solutions based on AI can reduce human error and save agents’ time by updating back-end systems or completing forms. Leveraging AI and automation at contact centres means giving the workforce the right tools to stay motivated and set up for success while keeping customers satisfied.

Contact centres are made by the agents who staff them

Forward thinking brands are already and will continue to implement AI and analytics solutions that guide employees during interactions and recommend next-best actions. The result of this automation is agents able to focus on what humans are best at – providing better, empathetic experiences to brands customers.

This level of service is important for any brand that wants to create lifelong customers and empower employee success. Investing in a culture of engagement creates employees who are inspired at work, likely happier outside the office and more inclined to stay at their job. This in turn will provide a happy, dedicated ‘front door’ for brands.

Written by John O’Hara, president EMEA at NICE Systems

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