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The “New Normal” for Contact Centres and Business Operations

The way we live and do business has changed significantly. Communication and information-seeking has become a lot faster, more diverse, and incredibly pervasive.  It is now an integral and all-consuming part of our day to day lives.

This change has occurred right under our noses, yet many people are oblivious to it, even though they live the change every day.

The image above represents how most of us now communicate, socialise and do business, day in day out.

But remember what it was like five, ten,  even twenty years ago – when we had landlines, faxes and snail mail? Back then, we couldn’t have imagined that mobile phones, the internet, and social media would evolve so rapidly and change our lives so dramatically.

As we’ve adapted and embraced new technology, our behaviour as consumers has changed too.  Our access to choice is infinite, our expectations are higher, and we are more impatient.

With communication speed and diversity so integral to the way we live and socialise, it’s to be expected that it’s also having a significant impact on the way we do business.

What is no longer normal?

When it comes to doing business, what’s no longer “normal” are the things that people don’t want to do, because their expectations have changed.

Things like:

  • waiting in a queue (physical or phone) to be served
  • using a fax machine
  • completing printed paperwork by hand and posting it in the mail
  • repeating their details and issue to more than one person
  • educating a business about their previous customer history with them

When you factor in how Gen X-ers and millennials have grown up with technology, there’s even more to add to the list of things they don’t like:

  • calling on a phone for customer service
  • not having the option to self-serve where possible
  • not being able to communicate with a business instantly via SMS, chat or social media
  • not being able to buy a product or service online
  • having to chase a business for service – the business should be contacting them

People expect businesses to serve their needs in the way they want them served, not the other way around.

Has business kept up with the new normal?

When it comes to fully adapting to the “new normal”:  some have, and many have not.

Certainly the business world has embraced technology by arming staff with computers, managing their operations with clever software, and promoting their wares online.

But when it comes to customer service and sales, many are still:

  • communicating with their customers as they’ve always done – by phone, and perhaps by email
  • only available between the hours of 9 to 5
  • not truly recognising and treating them as individuals with different needs and preferences
  • delivering a poor level of service, particularly during busy periods
  • marketing to them en masse, instead of offering customised products and services to suit specific needs

This is evident in contact centres that are still using old technology, are not providing customers with more choice in communication channels, and have not extended service availability times.

The contact centres of progressive organisations realise that the customer now controls the business landscape. You must be proactive in communications and deliver the service the customers want using the channels they prefer, if you want to keep them.  It’s simply too easy now for the customer to complain publicly, and to go elsewhere.

The fastest and easiest way to adapt to the new normal

Whether your business has a small customer service / telemarketing team of 4 or 5 people, or indeed a contact centre with 20 or 200 team members  –  today’s technology makes it easy and affordable to deliver the service that your customers expect as normal.

A cloud based contact centre solution (like Premier Contact Point) is actually cheaper to run than a conventional “on-premise system”, and gives team members the ability to communicate with customers via phone, SMS, email, and web chat.

The true value, however, lies in how easy it becomes to deliver the kind of service that customers now expect and consider “normal”.

Here’s what we recommend every contact centre needs to be doing to deliver “normal.”

1.     Offer self-service options for basic transactions

Cut waiting times and unnecessary phone calls by allowing customers to perform basic transactions themselves – like check a balance, make a payment, request a form, request a callback, review delivery status etc. As 65% of people prefer to resolve a problem without talking to customer service, using self-service has become the “norm”, but the system must be easy to use and achieve the desired result.

2.     Recognise that most people use mobile phones

With 84% of Australians using smart phones as their primary tool of communication, they don’t want to run up expensive charges waiting on hold in a queue to get help. In fact, many even prefer not to phone, but to engage through apps, SMS, chat or email.  The Premier Contact Point Mobile Customer Experience service is used for engaging callers before a call, in a queue, during a call, and post-call, for activities such as providing authentication, requesting call back, completing self-service, confirming appointments, sharing links, and making purchases.

3.     Integrate information to improve service delivery

Stop delivering “siloed” information to your teams.  Switching back and forth between multiple windows, and waiting for data to sync while on a call, is not only time consuming and inefficient; it impacts the quality of service provided to the customer. Our engineers integrate Premier Contact Point with your CRM or ERP systems, so your agents have fast access to customer and product data screen-popped right into their agent desktop interface. Two-way integration then enables agents to update customer data to keep customer info up to date in real time.

4.     Communicate with customers their way

Today’s customers want support when they choose, using the channel that they prefer. Ease of contact and first contact resolution are extremely important and is the key to securing satisfaction, loyalty, and brand advocacy.

  • Make it easy for agents to send emails while on a call, with the help of templated responses to speed up the process. For inbound email, use queueing, prioritisation, and routing to direct enquiries to the most appropriate agents.
  • Consider SMS for notifications about accounts, service outages, and special offers – and for enhancing inbound enquiries or confirming details of a call.
  • Engage with visitors using live chat and personalised offers before they leave your website. Agents can instantly launch a voice call to the customer to increase engagement.

Bear in mind, though, that omnichannel doesn’t necessarily mean that every customer likes every channel. Channel preference is often dependent on age, and old habits die hard.

Nor does it mean that consumers abandon old channels as new ones come along. Usage appears to be additive, which means that when a new channel becomes “the norm”, we’ve seen a spread in usage, not a shift.

What will be the new normal for Contact Centres in the future?

Who knows?

As each new cohort or generation comes along with a new channel preference or service requirement, it appears that businesses who want to survive and grow don’t have a choice if they want their customers to remain loyal, and attract new ones.

Business must make the best use of the tools of the day. Tools that are plentiful, widely dispersed and accessible, and cost effective to use. In other words, when it hits critical mass with consumers, then business should adopt it to find another way to communicate with their customers and meet their expectations.

When it comes to customer communications, business doesn’t invent the game. Proactive businesses are those who quickly figure out how to utilise the new communications tools that consumers are already using. They adapt their service delivery and customer experience, to try and get an edge over their competitors. This doesn’t stop with mobile phones; it’s a continuously evolving process. So what’s next on the horizon for businesses to meet demand and deliver an even better customer experience? A contact centre Siri or Alexa?  Or something that no-one has thought of yet?

Whatever it may be, when enough people love it, it will become another “new normal”. Premier has been creating advanced, secure technology solutions in Australia since 1986. We commit considerable resources to ensuring that our technology solutions are robust and retain industry leader status. We help our clients build enduring relationships with their customers by making ensure they are equipped with the knowledge, processes and best practices they need to achieve their corporate vision and objectives.

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