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Making the Contact Center a Strategic Business Player: Contact Center Trends By Industry

Featuring insights from CCW Australia, Deloitte, and the Wall Street Journal

Matt Wujciak

contact center

According to a Customer Contact Week Australia report, “phone still remains the top channel (74%) where the majority of customer interactions are happening. It’s interesting to note though that other channels such as web, email, chatbots and social media now handle one quarter of all interactions – a significant figure by all measures.”

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Although phone is still king, customers tend to identify phone-related issues like hold times, repetitive questioning and complicated IVRs as their biggest pain points. With the phone functioning as more of a necessary evil than a passionate preference, it should come as no surprise that only 12% of consumers believe brands have made significant improvements to their customer experiences.

Banking in the contact center (Deloitte)

According to a Deloitte financial analysis, traditional contact centers, were ranked the lowest in customer satisfaction levels (46%), among digital CX mediums in the financial industry, like mobile banking apps (61%) and online banking (65%). 

While digital tools like SMS authentication helps resolve simple issues, contact center agents in the finance industry can and should be mastering critical, more important problems. 

As Deloitte describes, “Robo-advisor Betterment recognizes the role of human agents in its contact centers to manage customers’ complex problems. Further, artificial-intelligence-powered systems can separate the ‘wheat from the chaff’ and route only critical or important calls to human agents [based on AI-driven, predictive intent]. Moreover, these systems can augment human intelligence. For instance, US insurer Allstate is using Amelia, a natural-language-processing-based digital assistant, in its contact centers. Through its understanding of customer sentiments and context, Amelia provides information to the contact center agent to better resolve phone-based customer queries.”

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(Identifying complexity of customer needs such as getting a new debit card delivered and redirecting inquiries to human agents at exactly the right time versus paying an overdue bill, handled by IVR and bot technology). 

In 2020, banks want to enhance focus on the human touch and position contact centers as “experience centers” with a relentless focus on customer centricity.

Humanizing the contact center experience will require banks to make bigger, bolder changes to the way they operate this channel. For instance, a customer-centric contact center would reduce emphasis on average handle time and instead target other KPIs triggering the effectiveness of the service provided, such as average abandonment rate or first-call resolutions. 

For example, according to the same Deloitte analysis, Citizens Bank recently increased CSAT scores by minimizing the number of calls it took for a customer to reach a full resolution, valuing this metric (along with the genuine “understanding” component of agent training) over other traditional “efficiency-based” metrics like average handle time. 

Consumer marketing in the contact center (WSJ)

As I mentioned in a previous CCW Digital article, featured earlier this week by NYT bestselling author and CX leader, Shep Hyken, “CX exploded in 2019, as the discipline emerged as its own department and field of study, replacing many traditional marketing efforts across industries… And the customer contact community is more than aware of this reality. In a recent CCW Digital study, contact center leaders declared “experience design” to be their biggest area of focus going forward.” 

The demand for improvement in experience design (which heavily includes the contact center) embodies that stat, going hand in hand with consumer marketing. 

This was made apparent when talking to Alison Lichtenstein, current head of CX design for Dow Jones, at CCW Digital’s last online event.

Dow Jones continuously builds and modifies their consumer persona technology, one of the most effective ways they have differentiated themselves from other fortune 500 financial media competitors like Bloomberg and NASDAQ.

Ali described this to me when explaining how Dow Jones’ WSJ created their CX model. Once they combined the marketing component of brand imaging with the execution of products and services delivered to customers on an interest-based and personalized level, they were able to build detailed customer profiles based on consumer behavior and data aggregation for every WSJ subscriber... a large scale algorithmic approach to individualized customer service.  

“We might have somebody who’s been a loyal Wall Street Journal customer for 20-30 years. Or we could have somebody that is in school and is being given the Wall Street Journal to read from their professor.” 

Every interaction a WSJ customer has with the brand helps define their consumer profile, continuously building on their algorithm. Each detail is recorded to create actionable analytics, helping the WSJ deliver tailored media to consumers based on their preferred touch points, frequency, interests in media topics, and more. The contact center serves as a central hub for brands such as Dow Jones’ WSJ or Barron’s to capitalize on actionable consumer analytics. 

Combining digital and human-centric HR in the contact center

Human resources is another call center topic that’s drastically changing, providing untapped viable solutions for HR departments. 

The continuously emerging idea of human resources call centers are set up to help employees access human resource information, such as benefit and retirement packages and payroll. 

As Ali recently shared in one of her many predictions on the contact center for an upcoming special report:

“Agent Empowerment: Call center agents will continue to have more tools and technology available to support customers; their roles are evolving to be more high-touch rather than transactional, as self-service tools will take care of the low touch items.”

The HR call center is cost-effective for companies by serving as a one-stop-shop to answer employee questions while reducing busy body work the HR department.

As Ali mentioned, it allows for employees in HR to focus on “evolving more high-touch [or difficult human-centric tasks] rather than transactional [tedious work].” Combining HR with a call center enhances employee onboarding processes, smoothens the process of changing employee benefits packages each year, and decreases the time spent by employees looking for information in a variety of places.

As a data system, HR call centers can provide meaningful information such as the frequency of employee calls regarding specific HR topics and the number of calls needed to resolve cases.

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When metrics are available in an at-a-glance dashboard, they’re even more effective. Integrating the system’s metrics with a series of reporting tools can reduce HR calls over time by identifying policies, procedures, and guidelines that needed to be presented more clearly to employees.

While consumers are dissatisfied with the services they’re receiving, the contact center needs to combine digital and human-centric innovation to combat the unmet demand of quality customer experience.