Identifying New Customer Demands And B2C Communication Trends
The Evolution Of The Contact Center
Business @ the Speed of Thought
In 1999, Bill Gates wrote a book titled Business @ the Speed of Thought. Gates' prediction in the novel highlighted AI and automation’s impact on personal information, cloud communication, and everyday life for consumers.
“Personal companions will be developed. They will connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data. The device will check your email or notifications, and present the information that you need.” In 2020, Gates’ futuristic predictions have finally arrived.
Technological innovation and digital transformation (such as self-service and chatbots, as Gates alluded to) in a channel-agnostic strategy are undoubtedly growing tickets to economic prosperity and business continuity. While economic prosperity seems like anything but reality during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is light to be found after a pandemic, if you know how to find it that is.
The crisis is forcing customer-centric businesses to rapidly expedite digital adaptation and online capabilities to operationalize business continuity – hybrid live and online events, virtual communication, streaming platforms, self-service, cloud technology, social media traffic are all undoubtedly surging. What will happen after the crisis ends and brands resume to normal business continuity plans? Will Zoom disappear? Will Twitter disintegrate? Will customers stop calling businesses via phone? Will the contact center crumble? Of course not.
Adapting to the trends you simply can’t ignore
Take a look at some of the stats we highlighted in a recent CCW Digital webinar with Arise Virtual Solutions on the state of customer service in the contact center.
-3.1M Service Agents Worldwide
-90% of call centers were using on-site technologies (on-premises) as of mid March
-Approximately 80% of companies say they have increased their emphasis on remote work
-80% remote agent retention rate vs 25% in-house
-Contact Volume +1000%
-Agent Capacity Dropped -20%
-Call Duration +62%
-70% Slower Response Times
-Wait Times +27 Minutes
Yes most of these stats are extremely problematic trends in customer service. However, the only constant is change. And what changes you make as a result of these trends are more important than the numbers themselves.
With wait times, call duration and volume increasing - and customer satisfaction scores decreasing at staggeringly low rates throughout the pandemic, many customer-centric businesses are re-defining their communication channels and adapting to new consumer behavior trends. In the customer service landscape, this might not be a terrible thing in the long run.
More marketing and customer service departments are adapting to a completely definitive, omnichannel business continuity plan that incorporates more cloud based channels, providing end-users and consumers with channel-agnostic solutions that create interconnected, micro-customer experiences (regardless of location).
More companies are continuously expediting digital communication software as the coronavirus pandemic puts more pressure on the outdated call center model. LivePerson’s CEO, Rob Locascio informed CNBC of this a few weeks ago.
Expedited digital transformation
“What we ushered in is, really, the death of the call center,” he said in a “Mad Money” interview with Jim Cramer. “I’ve been talking about this for two years and now it’s come and that’s why we saw all this demand, you know, come to us and we’re just doing great with it.”
As most of us are well aware, scores of businesses closed worksites in March and instructed eligible employees to work remotely in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, call center operators at firms deemed essential are one of many categories of workers that continue going in the office to handle work duties. (That’s why traditional, on-site call centers don’t have a future in the market). The effect was witnessed around the world as governments placed their countries on months-long lockdowns.
JPMorgan, for instance, said it would provide “front line employees,” including call center and branch staff, with a $1,000 bonus to aid staff in challenging times. Some legacy call centers have shut down altogether.
“What we need now is to go to automation. [What] we need now is to really change the game and do what we’re talking about: changing these conversations, making them digital, bringing them to messaging and that’s what we’re doing,” explained Locascio, who founded the New York firm in 1995.
LivePerson is one of many solution providers ramping up artificial intelligence-powered mobile and online messaging tools for customer service representatives, which intends to cut back on the notoriously long wait times consumers face in call center queues (especially in a WFH environment that many organizations, such as Google, are extending until 2021 - or whenever there is a vaccine developed). The company, which offers a cloud-based messaging system called LiveEngage, projects that traditional call centers will disappear within a decade. And like I said, it’s not necessarily a bad thing from a long-term, macro perspective.
The conversational commerce company, who counts T-Mobile, Delta Air Lines and Home Depot among its clients, saw sales rise 17.6% in the quarter ending March 31. Nearly all of the United States was placed under stay-at-home orders earlier that month.
As a result of this sudden transformation, leaders are learning how viable many of these options were. In February, many would have scoffed at the idea of converting to a 100% remote workforce, finding it impossible to strategically manage B2C communication or employee engagement. Now, many are questioning whether it makes sense to ever bring the entire workforce back to the office.
Leaders are also learning about the real challenges that come with these opportunities. As you may have guessed from the above stats (combined with the emergence of instantaneous self-service), customer demands are increasing - not decreasing - amid all the change and uncertainty, which means companies have to ensure their digital channels and new agent workflows are ready for primetime.
They are additionally recognizing the importance of reimagining customer engagement as a holistic, ever-evolving, end-to-end journey. They are learning that they cannot simply build CX processes that solve today’s problems for today’s customers in today’s channels. Instead, they have to design their journeys and operations with customer centricity in mind through omnichannel strategies and individualized “micro” customer experiences tomorrow.
For example, as Stacy Sherman, Forbes Contributor, Current Head of Customer Experience at Schindler Elevator Corp and former Customer Experience and Marketing Leader at Verizon told me at our last CCW Digital online event, “..it’s important to use the vast amount of customer insight to make decisions and personalize those experiences. For example, if you consider a [successful] telecommunications company and you go to a website, they know who you are… it’s using that data to serve you up meaningful content so personalizing that content would be knowing you’re an iphone user, showing you iphone accessories, not android accessories.”
That’s an example of a micro-customer experience that today’s omnichannel CX and Marketing departments need to accommodate - not just the Amazons, Verizons, and IBM’s, but every organization that claims to be customer-centric in a digital era.
Who’s prepared for the future - Who’s not
The CX landscape is evolving rapidly and what changes we make will define our success for tomorrow. As CCW Digital Principal Analyst, Brian Cantor said in a recent article: When an overarching commitment to customer (and agent) centricity -- and not just the specific answer to a specific question -- drives CX strategy, it ensures the requisite agility and flexibility.
If, for example, a company defined “agent experience” as “comfortable chairs and 4PM toasts in the breakroom,” it likely had trouble coping with the transformation we are witnessing. If, however, the company committed to real-time communication, gamification, and reducing agent effort, it would have invested in collaboration tools, microlearning, rewards programs, AI agent augmentation solutions, and unified desktops.
The same applies to the customer journeys that Sherman was talking about. Offering self-service for “transactional issues” may have worked yesterday, but it no longer suffices in an era where self-service is the only option some customers have. Companies need to adopt a higher standard for omnichannel engagement -- one that empowers companies to seamlessly support customers however they move through the journey. This commitment will pay dividends in terms of customer satisfaction and operational efficiency, even if marketplace sentiment changes.
No one’s safe from the behavioral economic consequences brought upon by the coronavirus. But adapting to cost-effective CX strategies will give you the best chance at being on the favorable side of financial Darwinism.
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