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Over the past twenty years, technologies have grown at an incredible rate, reshaping the expectations of customers and the means available to contact centres to meet them. While channels are multiplying, customers are becoming more demanding and want more immediacy. This trend has been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the growing use of new technologies in contact centres, the cloud and artificial intelligence are radically transforming the world of customer relations.
Providing an excellent customer experience (CX) is now a goal for all companies. The growing use of new technology and diverse communication channels has changed consumers’ expectations and behaviour. It has also transformed contact centres into customer relationship centres putting the agent, whose role and responsibilities have been expanded, at the heart of the operation.
With the growing use of new technologies, the increasing number of channels and new patterns of consumption established during the pandemic, customers have never been so connected or had such high expectations. They want a fast and seamless service with end-to-end support, regardless of the brand. Consumers are using a wide variety of channels such as social media, chat and instant messaging as well as changing their buying habits. Brands have to respond to this challenge and offer them the best service in order to build customer loyalty, regardless of the channel. This means that personalisation is now a must, while traditional voice response remains but only as an entry point to a much more tailored interaction with the customer.
In the digital era, automation is gaining ground in customer relations. Companies now have to provide customers with a variety of autonomous services, such as FAQs, natural language, IVR and bots. Automation will help bring answers to customers’ most frequently asked questions. This is achieved by analysing their requests and identifying the reasons for contact. Depending on the degree of complexity, the request can be processed in a completely automated way (e.g. via chatbot or voicebot) or by the agent best qualified to handle it.
Natural language processing (NLP) capabilities give companies the ability to better manage customer interactions by pre-analysing requests. According to a comprehensive AI and NLP survey of more than 1,000 European business leaders from 12 industries and six countries conducted by independent UK research firm Davies Hickman, 89% of European business leaders are keen to use AI to improve their customer experience. 72% of them also want to carry out projects using NLP. However, 60% of them acknowledge that they do not have all the necessary skills and expertise.
It is easy to think that with the growing use of new technologies and the increasing presence of automation, the human element is being pushed aside. On the contrary — technology allows the agent to take the time to listen, understand and treat customer queries with efficiency and empathy.
The agent’s mission is to create the best customer experience regardless of the channel. They are the voice of the brand and its ambassador. The growing use of new technologies in contact centres not only automates certain requests; it also simplifies the life of the agent by relieving them of time-consuming and unchallenging tasks. While the AI handles simple requests, the agent will handle higher value-added activities, where his expertise and empathy will make the difference. The agent will have to manage more and more complex requests, which requires a strong increase in skills and expertise and a reduced reliance on scripts.
In customer relations, most interactions are now carried out remotely. Consequently, moving to the cloud has become almost indispensable for companies. The cloud allows them to be more agile, flexible and reactive in real time. This technology also gives agents the ability to work from anywhere, which has proven to be crucial during the global pandemic. Another advantage of the cloud is that it allows for the rapid deployment and integration of new channels.
It is necessary for contact centres to guarantee their scalability. For companies that experience traffic peaks and drops, it is now critical to meet demands while keeping costs under control. The cloud provides a robust platform that combines security and reliability with the flexibility to ensure that businesses get the most out of their resources and operational efficiency. With this technology, access to the platform is possible from anywhere, without IT or hardware constraints. This means that the cloud can be deployed in any physical location that handles customer relations, like banks or remote agents.
In contrast to what we may think, the growing use of new technologies and the digitalisation of the customer relationship is not about to substitute the agent. Digitalisation contributes significantly to the development of a business and opens countless opportunities, but it does not replace human agents.
The last few years have shown just how much customers value (and need) such an approach. During the first months of the pandemic, there was a dramatic increase in call volume. Tim McDougal recalled in The Wall Street Journal how “in travel and hospitality, volume was so overwhelming that some contact centres were forced to post messages for customers to call back in 72 hours.” This highlights how in complex or dynamic situations that an agent is often a customer’s first choice as they are better able to handle queries in a qualitative way. That’s why voice channels are still dominant; the 2022 ContactBabel Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide showed that 63.5% of inbound interactions were with a live agent.
The growing use of new technology and the importance of its use in customer service is recognised by many organisations today. Odigo’s Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) solutions can leverage AI-based automation. The company can then focus on the human aspect and interact with its customers to ensure satisfying results.
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