As they adjust to unfortunate economic circumstances, remote work, and digital transformation, brands are scrambling to keep their customer experience intact. For many, this has been a significant challenge. The Q1 climate took a toll on many businesses, demonstrated by market fluctuation and economic circumstances customer experience and financial analysts haven’t seen since the crisis of 07-08. To mitigate these challenging economic times and achieve some semblance of business continuity, contact center solutions have never been more important.
Contact center employees primarily in the Philippines, India, UK, and the U.S. have expanded their repertoire exponentially in the past decade. From aggregating complex customer data, learning code, anticipating customer needs before they call, to studying silence times in conversations and adjusting emotional or empathetic tones, today’s customer service agents are capable of tasks few analysts foresaw in the previous decade.
However, today’s agents don’t always get the credit (or tools) they deserve. With the coronavirus demanding seemingly miraculous shifts across outdated on-premises call centers and today’s cloud-focused, omnichannel contact centers alike, front-line employees are getting even less. But that doesn’t mean the wheel stops turning. As seen in a recent CCW Digital Case Study conducted by our analyst team, the coronavirus could affect well over 5 million businesses worldwide, as of early March. That prediction continues to grow rapidly by the day, as there’s no complete or definitive timeframe of the COVID-19 pandemic’s long-term impact on GDP or the global economy at scale.
We’re seeing many organizations struggling to adapt to the remote era of the contact center. The shift has introduced complications and uncertainties that are hurting the ability of the companies they work for—many of them major multinational banks, insurers, hospitals, retailers and airlines—to extend new loans, change and refund travel tickets, process claims, cancel or fill orders from toilet paper to healthcare, and everything in-between.
In India alone, estimates reach as high as 90% of the 4.1 million workers in the Indian IT and business-processing industry (which generates $180 billion in annual revenue) are working at home after the country announced a nationwide lockdown last week.
In the Philippines as well, where the IT and business process management industry employs 1.2 million people, companies are scrambling to distribute high-speed solutions and contact center tools. Lockdowns beginning in mid-March have made it impossible for many workers to commute, leaving an abundance of organizations who rely on outsourced contact centers (for a lack of better terms), out to dry.
But suddenly moving outsourcing and call-center work to these employees’ homes is a far more daunting work-from-home challenge than in many Western countries.
The question that every customer around the world is asking, and few businesses are answering: “I don’t care where your brand’s contact center is located. How are you going to provide me with the services, products, and communication I need when you can’t get into the office and I can’t visit stores?” The reality is, you shouldn’t have to be in the office or connect with customers face-to face to provide customer-centric service. In fact, customer service can be more productive at their jobs when they’re not in the office, if they have the right tools that is.
Geographic locations are undoubtedly playing a role in the limitations and success of contact centers during the pandemic. However, it shouldn’t – not to the overwhelming extent that it is. The nature of agility is taking place in the Darwinism of today’s contact center. And only ones that can handle remote transformation and AI capabilities will thrive in their adaptation. We wanted to point out: yes, solutions to the most common contact center pain points exist, even in a virtual environment. The question is, are you looking in the right place?
We live in a world where technological advancements such as conversational AI (i.e. chatbots), electronic automation (i.e. remote IVR), real-time data aggregation (i.e. omnichannel analytics), intelligent routing (i.e. automated transfers), and virtual meetings (i.e. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.) are at our fingertips. As digital capabilities advance at an exponentially more rapid pace than mankind has ever experienced before, why are many contact centers not adapting with the solutions providers the tech industry offers?
Indeed remote, virtual capabilities and proactive engagement need to be utilized for efficient communication between businesses and customers.
As CCW Digital Principal Analyst, Brian Cantor recently stated in a CCW Digital article: “Although ‘proactive engagement’ is a very popular topic for customer contact professionals, it is often dismissed as a ‘nice-to-have.’ The pandemic is reminding the industry that it is actually a need-to-have.”
Here are a few that we have recently identified, turning heads in the contact center space.
LivePerson, for example. As seen in VB: “LivePerson, a global tech company that develops conversational commerce and AI software, says it has observed ‘significant’ increases in volume on its conversational platform, which is used by over 18,000 brands, including Sky, IBM, Vodafone, Virgin Atlantic, and RBS. Overall conversation volume has jumped by about 20% since mid-February, with verticals like airlines and hotels experiencing 96% and 130% climbs, respectively.”
That’s a lot of customer volume coming through a lot of enterprise clients, in a little amount of time. Through AI-driven conversational software that can be implemented into a client’s website, they’ve been able to handle the volume across a plethora of omnichannel mediums, including the likes of SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and many more omnichannel chat apps and APIs.
Avaya, has also recently doubled down on their AI capabilities, specifically digital (remote) transformation.
They’ve deployed their software to support over 5 million contact center agents, moving rapidly to enable more than 150,000 remote agents as customers address the challenges presented by COVID-19, Avaya CEO Jim Chirico recently mentioned.
As more and more employees are being ordered to shelter-in-place and work from home, Sharpen Technologies, another “agent-first” omnichannel cloud contact center platform, recently announced the launch of the Sharpen Quick Start program to enable businesses and nonprofits.
The pre-packaged implementation of Sharpen Quick Smart can be up and running within 48 hours since WAH agents need only internet connection and computer to do their job, regardless of geolocation. They’ve even taken it a step further, requiring no initial payment contracts from clients, with the first 60 days of the platform’s deployment free of charge, which brings me to my final point.
Serenova, a leading contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) and workforce optimization (WFO) company, recently announced CxEngage Rapid Response, a program to help large organizations immediately scale their contact centers into the cloud within 48 hours, as well. (That seems to be the magic number).
With CxEngage Rapid Response, clients can quickly implement flexible remote work policies while maintaining continuity for both agents and customers during ongoing pandemonium.
More and more successful customer-centric organizations during the pandemic are extending this offering, while simultaneously investing in their customer’s life-time-value, taking a similar approach to temporary and complementary offerings of industry titans, such as Microsoft and Zoom. Provide solutions now. Reap benefits later, when remote capabilities become an industry norm rather than a “nice to have.”
As Simon Copcutt, our Head of Strategic Accounts recently stated:
“Great to see how so many of the leading solution providers we work with are opening up their products for use at no charge while the planet deals with Covid-19. 8x8, Appian Corporation, NICE inContact, Ring Central, [and] Salesforce,” to name a few more.
Don’t let your traditional call center serve as a plummeting cost center, negatively impacting your customer experience, and Q2 revenue because social distancing or work-from-home policies have shifted your infrastructure. Adapt to the remote age of digital transformation by capitalizing on the right technological advancements and solution providers that will make sure your CX remain intact.
Even in uncharted waters during times of distress and uncertainty, it’s important to stay connected. The CCW Digital community will be here for you, providing you with customer experience, contact center, and digital marketing solutions every step of the way. In remote working environments and challenging economic circumstances, remember to lean on your digital community to come out stronger on the other side.
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