There has been a lot of supposition about what companies are anticipating and planning for with their contact centers and a lot of those plans have been accelerated over the last couple of months.
With the impact of the global pandemic, companies are very quickly adjusting to new realities and trying to find the optimal mix of resources, technologies, coverage, customer engagement protocols along with a renewed focus on empathy, to help serve their customers the best way possible.
Rigorous, process-based research helps in innumerable ways by providing the underlying quantitative information upon which to base Customer Experience (CX) focused decisions.
But, there are also a lot of qualitative statements made during that process, that are worth heeding as well.
We spoke with Steve Morrell, the Managing Director of ContactBabel, a global Contact Center focused research firm, to discuss some of the intriguing trends he’s identified in his recently published reports:
Here are some comments from behind the charts, which give more context to the findings represented in the research reports:
Steve Morrell “I am quite surprised how many contact center agents are shown as working from home as of mid-April given that shutdowns started in March. Many organizations I have spoken with were able to get remote telephony & messaging operational very quickly, but their contact centers needed architectural changes which are currently still progressing, as many on-premise based contact centers require significant modifications, additional licensing and more complex network infrastructure to efficiently and effectively migrate to remote services”.
It would seem that many organizations now better understand the limitations of their current technology. A quick and painless transition to remote agents was hampered somewhat for some companies while others immediately understood the value of cloud and added cloud-based agents as a complement to their platform. This Hybrid-Cloud approach gave them the flexibility they needed without the pain of on-premises limitations.
Steve Morrell: “The impact of COVID is all over the board. Volume is skyrocketing for some industries (travel, banking, etc.) and tanking for others. I had a CX leader in the auto insurance industry tell me that no one is driving cars right now, so claims coming into the contact center are way down, but policy adjustments are way up, so agent cross-training had to be quickly put into place to better handle these calls”.
US-Based CX Executive: “A significant portion of the effort to move to remote working was initially focused on getting agents set up on digital channels, as getting telephony working is far harder. Though, the reality is that the demand and need is for voice capabilities, as the calls we are handling, are based on very dynamic personal situations and people are much better at discussing these situations via voice.”
Some other US-Based CX Executives noted how their contact center operations have changed due to the crisis:
US-Based CX Executive: “We are implementing a tactical cloud-based contact center to get people working from home. We were going to do this as a project later this year but we have accelerated it. Coronavirus has proven quite a compelling reason for accelerating this change.”
The consensus is that we are at a significant “tipping point”. Transformation is not on the horizon; it is here now and will only accelerate and morph into a wider range of approaches.
Customer expectations have been raised in-sync with their personal use of technology. With digital engagement now becoming the preferred first step, the customer now receives timely service along with the most communications options. By complementing it with voice and now even video, customers can interact with contact center agents as part of a seamless experience which very closely replicates a face-to-face experience, but without the risk.
All in all, the customer will have even more sway than ever before. With the ability to conduct their business from home or just about anywhere they desire, organizations will now succeed based on how well they treat their customers and prospects throughout their customer journey.
The underlying sentiment from all our interviewees is that while the COVID-19 pandemic is causing massive pain now, it has brought into focus the issues and solutions that contact centers have long been avoiding. This situation has accelerated the speed of the change required to address the new realities.
The key to everything is flexibility – observe people and the adaptability we’re seeing in pretty much every aspect of our lives. Organizations need to keep that in mind as a fundamental operating principle going forward, as the key to future-proofing their operations. Their thinking should be “If it’s not easily adaptable, then don’t do it, as we’ll have to be able to respond to whatever is around the next corner.”
Industry analysis and commentary support the cloud model as the right go-forward platform due to its agility, scalability, and flexibility. The bottom line is that the industry was progressing towards the adoption of digital technologies, migrating to the cloud, increasing their use of remote agent capabilities, and lowering head-count anyway. This is supported in all of our historical data. The pandemic has brought this into view more sharply and has driven us all there much sooner.
Watch this recorded webinar to see Steve present key findings from his recently published North American reports, The Inner Circle Guide to Remote Working Solutions and The Inner Circle Guide to Cloud Contact Centers.