The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work, and many companies are moving to implement some of these changes on a semi-permanent (i.e., hybrid) or permanent (i.e., remote) basis. The transition to remote work is an increasing priority for knowledge workers, and with cloud-based technology, even distributed customer contact centers are a viable solution.
But changes in where and how employees work also mean additional demand on contact centers. People are spending more time at home and using more services that require them to connect to contact centers. This leads to more, and increasingly complex, customer contact encounters. To navigate this new world, contact centers must adapt to changing requirements for work models, communication preferences, customer demand, and representative response.
Changing work models
With the sudden shift forced upon workplaces in early 2020, the business world learned most of its fears about remote work were unfounded — and discovered some unanticipated benefits. Remote and hybrid work models are increasingly popular, and some companies, including members of the Fortune 500, are divesting themselves of expensive office spaces and moving knowledge workers to permanent remote status.
This new normal makes for different demands on contact centers. Some are driven by the nature of remote work; others are the result of innovations in contact center technology. Fortunately, cloud-based contact center solutions allow companies to meet new demands with little, if any, interruption.
In this remote work world, cloud solutions provide employees with more flexibility, and even companies with “in-house” contact centers can realize some of the savings other industries are experiencing by limiting real estate and facility expenses.
Changing customer contact behavior
Remote workers have more time to deal with contact centers, and if they’re struggling to solve work-related challenges, more urgent issues with which to deal. Waiting on hold isn’t as much of an imposition when the phone can remain on speaker while the customer goes about their day, and chat options don’t impose on work time when customers can respond to messages between tasks.
Customers who work from home have more flexibility to address any number of problems. While this may make your company’s customers more forgiving of long hold times, it can also reveal your contact center’s weaknesses.
AI-enabled systems and chatbots enhance contact center capabilities to reduce long hold times and keep your representatives in reserve for more complicated customer issues. This can, in turn, pose new challenges for reps. Customers who do get through to a live rep will have issues that may take longer to resolve and require more knowledge, skill, and patience from your front-line employees.
In short, the pandemic has increased contact center volume. Customers either have time to spend and consider resolving product and service issues a good investment of their time, or they need access to customer contact resources to resolve work-related challenges.
Keeping up with the state of change
AI is here to stay — and among the most significant changes your company will encounter because of increased contact volume. The technology is steadily improving to resolve more complex problems. Contact centers that incorporated AI in response to the pandemic experienced significant boosts in both agent and customer satisfaction, including:
- A 69% increase in contact center employee satisfaction.
- A 68% efficiency boost in contact center operations.
- A 66% improvement in center productivity.
- A 61% increase in customer satisfaction.
With these dramatic improvements in mind, AI is increasingly essential to the success of your company’s customer contact center.
Other trends to embrace include an increasing role for data analytics, integration with customer relationship management (CRM) and other enterprise software systems, advancements in customer self-service options, and cloud-based, omnichannel communication centers.
As more companies embrace the benefits of remote and hybrid work models — and overcome any obstacles to retain employees in a highly competitive talent market — the new normal looks likely to endure. And the availability of scalable, cloud-based contact center solutions means even small- and medium-sized companies are expected to adopt the advanced communication technologies enterprises are already running.
To learn more about cloud-based customer contact solutions for your business, visit nccdata.com.