Pandemic disruption no longer an excuse for poor service: Going digital will ensure contact centre continuity
Reliance on traditional phone systems and customer goodwill no longer guarantees business continuity in the second wave of the pandemic, argues Marcel Reuvers, chief executive officer, ContactCenter4ALL. Customer service organisations must prioritise business continuity plans to ensure customer service efforts remain unaffected by future disruptions.
During lockdown, a surge in contact centre demand meant some UK contact centres dealt with an additional 35,000 calls in April alone. Many had to balance increased demand with the rapid transition of workforces to remote working models, and this was often not balanced successfully 62% of surveyed customer service organisations admitted they’d have to better manage remote working in the event of a second wave.
Organisations must step up – customer patience is running out
As the second wave of coronavirus hits, organisations must appreciate consumers will not be as lenient as they were during the first over half of customers expect service to have returned to normal despite pandemic disruption. In the first lockdown, contact centres with poor digital infrastructure survived on customer goodwill and patience, while using the pandemic as an explanation for disruption.
The only way to maintain contact with customers currently is through digital channels, so organisations must turn to a collaborative Unified Communications platform, supported by dedicated contact centre software, to deliver uninterrupted customer service. By embracing a truly digital contact centre, organisations will realise business improvements in four key areas.
- Constant reachability requires flexible solutions
Flexibility is key to achieving continuity during widespread business disruption. Many organisations have returned to a total work from home arrangement. But even as lockdowns ease, social distancing guidelines will likely be in place and most contact centres won’t have the space to accommodate their entire workforce safely. Organisations need flexibility to scale workforces as necessary, and many won’t return to traditional phone systems for this reason.
Employing a Unified Communications platform, such as Microsoft Teams, supported by enterprise-grade contact centre software means agents can operate anywhere, providing they have a stable internet connection. Businesses can transition workforces to remote working using a cloud solution in a single day, with no impact on customer service or ‘reachability’.
- A full-service digital platform means lower TCO, higher value
An advantage of going digital is reduced costs. Compared to traditional telephony systems, total cost of ownership (TCO) of Unified Communications platforms is very low. Instead of phone systems such as PBXs that are inflexible, expensive to maintain and outdated, Teams merely requires a recurring monthly subscription.
Unified Communications platforms not only save money when budgets are limited, they offer higher value than traditional phone systems especially when enhanced with contact centre software.
90% of customers believe one communication channel is not enough. To satisfy expectations, organisations need to offer support via email, live chat, social media and through traditional channels. Combining Microsoft Teams with additional enterprise-grade contact centre solutions unlocks omnichannel capabilities and functionalities not available as standard such as intelligent skills-based routing, supervisor settings and call recording going beyond the scope of traditional telephony systems at a significantly lower price.
- Business continuity concerns employees too
An important element of business continuity often overlooked is the role of employees. Organisations must understand their agents are working remotely, and they need to keep in touch with colleagues as well as their customers. Failure to acknowledge this area of business continuity can negatively impact employee satisfaction and customer experience.
By providing the tools to work optimally, organisations can help employees keep in touch and feel empowered. CC4Teams requires minimal training and is easy to use and manage. This improves employee satisfaction and allows agents to provide quality customer service in difficult circumstances.
- Visualising customer journey and agent performance with enhanced BI
During disruption, it’s essential to visualise the customer journey and identify whether organisations are doing enough. Without sufficient reporting capabilities while working from home, contact centre managers lack valid information about agent performance and how this compares to pre-pandemic service levels.
Combining dedicated contact centre technology with Unified Communications platforms means managers have access to additional PowerBI reporting dashboards to visualise and analyse both real-time and historic reporting data. These additional insights can gauge customer satisfaction versus KPIs and how it could improve. Having this valuable information and being able to leverage it is key to organisational success.
Contingency plans needed now to protect the customer experience
Customer satisfaction dropped significantly during the first wave of the pandemic, and customers could forgive certain levels of limited service in the first instance. While some organisations use the pandemic to justify poor customer experiences, cloud-based contact centre solutions offer organisations the chance to not only match their pre-pandemic customer service, but to improve it.
The author is Marcel Reuvers, chief executive officer at ContactCenter4ALL.