Like all of you, I am a consumer, a customer and deal with the same organisations, contact and call centres that you do. At the best of times you typically receive an impersonalised average or adequate engagement. We call, push our way through layered menu systems to typically enter a queuing system. We wait (sometimes hanging up out of frustration if the matter is not urgent enough or we can decide to go elsewhere). Upon getting through to an agent, we are asked to identify who we are before they can use our name. We register our requirement, need, request or complaint. Often, we need a follow up call or are promised an escalation as the solution is not presented 1st time on the call.
59% of customers had a conversation with a customer service representative or agent via telephone, making phone calls the most commonly used customer service channel.
We then enter the call back mode where we invariably must chase the business up, call back in, navigate the same menu system, queue, repeat the story to the agent etc. How many of us now expecting a poor experience and putting off the call until a time we have a lot of time available!?
Every year the press gathers in pleasure to report the organisations who are rated worst for customer service, the worst contact and call centres AND every year big brand names for whom CX (customer eXperience), NPS (Net Promoter Score), CSAT (Customer SATisfaction score) and CES (Customer Effort Score) are important are focal points on the list.
Now this is bad enough. I would argue that the system in most instances, certainly as a consumer, should recognise me from my home landline or cellular number. Like the majority, I have few unique numbers and its rare I call from my work desk line, so in the majority a business can use CLI – Calling Line Identification) – something we all take for granted now on our mobiles right!
The answering menu system (IVR – Interactive Voice Response ) could address me by name, “Morning Ian”, making a fair assumption it’s me by my number and the account details they hold already. It could make some smart decisions to help route me – for example, if I only have one product, “(Press 1) if your support call is for your registered products or (2) for anything else” directing my call to the relevant team for that product, instead of presenting me with 4-5 options and sub menus to select my products.
The call can also automatically determine if I have paid or free support levels, if I am overdue on my account payment and accordingly route my call to the correct support team or finance to collect my payment before I am legible for support!
Upon connecting me to the agent, the support person can have the relevant information and case screen popped and/or electronically whispered to them, “this is Ian calling about product ABC and he called yesterday, and we didn’t call him back”. How useful for an agent if not at their desk, perhaps working from home unexpectedly. How much better is the journey for me as the customer and the agent’s ability to now engage with me faster and in a more human and issue relevant manner.
Commonly used practices in customer service, that consumers hate: misuse of automated phone technology e.g. no live person option, outsourcing service abroad, upselling, having to repeat information already given and talking too fast.
Now add in the big complexity. Be it that most contact centres are running on old tech, using old processes to route and queue customers as a number……… How have they stood up to the recent global test of business continuity thrown on us all by COVID and a Work from Home need? How do you take a contact centre or in that vein an outbound call centre, where the processes and management tools are all focused on an office based location and disperse them widely and quickly and at the same time retain a high level of centricity in operations and delivery to customers? How do you do this whilst maintaining processes, security and employee productivity?
In my experience during this period of time and in a need to call into several businesses, how effective has it been? Well, it’s not been a good outcome. I am used to the ‘we’re unusually busy at this time’, ‘you may want to call back later’ through to ‘we cannot take your call at the moment’ and an auto hang up. What has the experience been now and what can I assume from it? Well the contact centres are on Skeleton staff at best and website messages are stating bear with us or don’t call email or submit this form.
It is obvious that in the majority, the workforce in these roles is tied to the physical location, systems, and processes and that the switch to Working From Home has not been an achievable one. Perhaps these businesses never foresaw a need to support this or it was against policy to have such roles working from home for security or political and emotive reasoning. For a contact/call centre the historical default has always been big call floors, wallboards, sub teams, daily huddles and person to person driven motivation on the calling floor.
In the UK alone, there are over 6,000 different contact centres, employing over 225,000 people – around 4% of the UK’s working population.
For a contact centre changing to remote working has significant upheaval as they still rely heavily on legacy infrastructure built around traditional definitions of the field – a physical room of people receiving, and logging calls on a centralized system. Whilst the coronavirus has been a unique experience for us all, it has been an awakening to the world that we are not as resilient as we took for granted. We are not as flexible and as ready as perhaps many expected and with scientists predicting this many not be a one off incident, this is likely a catalyst for an increase in digital disruption and acceptance of change to newer cloud based platforms and technologies, supported by a new breed of work processes.
Contact and call centres have every available option open to them, be it that it will involve change of systems and processes and investment in time, money and training. For example, utilising pure cloud systems such as Salesforce for the data engagement and omnichannel management and Natterbox for the telephony, you can enjoy immediacy of switching between physical device and/or location without loss of function or visibility. Moving to remote call workers also requires a work ethic and easy real-time transparency of who is available and their detailed activity to align with KPI’s. You need to be able to listen in, join calls, transfer to colleagues and capture detailed data regardless of device or location. To have data capture that gives insights into not just activity, but what type of activity, when and who with independently of what the agent enters as additional notes or wrap ups.
62% of remote workers want employers to provide better technology that helps them stay connected with their colleagues
We have been in a period of digital change for years and have seen mass disruption of industries and business over the last decade. For unfortunate reasons, we are about to embark on a more severe disruptive change period, some of which will be driven by necessity, some panic and a realisation that for those surviving this economic challenge that the risk and impact of it happening again surpasses any of the prior barriers to change.
Now is the time to reflect and take action, to invest for a different working and customer service world, where remote working and Work From Home may just become the norm.
This insight is part of techUK's Cloud Week 2020. You can find related news and insights here.