Back in the spring of last year I was asked to write an article for RBCC about the impact of technology in the contact center and suggested that; "the rate at which technology is impacting contact centers is astounding".

That remains the case and any self-respecting contact center will have its hands full right now coping with a veritable customer service revolution.

There are two battles in the contact center.

Firstly, customers are asking to be able to work with contact centers in the way that best suits them, e.g. be it email, SMS, chat etc and, secondly, contact centers have fallen in love with AI and robot technologies and are working feverishly to handle customer service in this way rather than deploy live agents. Let's consider the first of these battles.

This battle is being won by customers, but there is much that contact centers can do to make their victory work for them as well.  The main idea here is to actually value your customers and genuinely treat all communications from them as important.  Are you already doing this? Really? It's certainly part of most corporate mantras, but consider this:

When you and your customers make contact, how do you do it?  Do you force incoming sessions into a queue full of agents and hope there is a good match?  And for outgoing sessions, do you blast out a response to a customer without a personal touch?

If you think about it, many contact centers could rate their customer service in terms of how impersonal they are, not personal!

Contrast this with my local deli.  I walk in the door. Harry sees me coming and is preparing my takeaway before I have said a word.  I swipe my bank card and am out the door in a couple of minutes, followed by a friendly smile.  Of course, many of us have this kind of experience and it helps to make our day!

Take another example.  As a customer, you buy an insurance policy for your car and then a year later you want to renew.  What do you do? You may shop around, but if you got a great service last time, then you may choose to go back to the same company.  You call them up and they switch your call to the agent who sold you the policy. He recognises you by name.  Again, the chances of doing a deal are always better when the personal touch is there.  Or, better still, the insurance company took your details last time and you get a personal email from the agent who sold you the policy asking you to renew.

Let's put these scenarios in context for the contact center.  We are not talking about omnichannel or multimedia.  We are going to take it for granted that both contact center agents and customers have access to, and are familiar with, the many different media such as voice and email that can be used for communication.

The real issue is; can this technology in the contact center be harnessed to effectively allow agents to have their own personal work queues.?  Look at any active session and you are likely to find an agent communicating with someone that they don't know.  How much better the customer experience (CX) experience would be, with a personal touch.

The reality is that most software systems aren't geared to tracking data and knowing how to transfer an incoming customer session to an agent who has dealt successfully with the customer before.  And the same is true for outgoing sessions.

For contact centers who truly believe in CX, expect to see a realignment away from faceless campaigns to personal work queues.  Not only can this give the customer a better experience, but if managed appropriately makes the job of the agent more interesting, and certainly more profitable to both him and the contact center.

Historically, contact centers have been wary about giving agents too much control over their work.  That is going to change as software vendors exploit technology to enable personal work queues to become commonplace.  That may lead to more than a few software vendors having to re-architect their systems.  But these changes are not a question of if, but when.

(Republished by kind permission of RBCC Bulletin. This article was originally published in the RBCC Bulletin, May 2019.)

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