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Digital Transformation: Will your contact centre ever close its voice capability? (pt1)

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

Operational Efficiency and Digital Transformation


You implemented web chat, Social Media channels, and the now fashionable messaging because you were promised Digital Engagement would drive operational efficiency, reduce costs, shift contacts away from voice and improve customer experience. The reality is your Digital Engagement capability leaves your exec team only seeing additional cost, complexity and increasing contact volume across your business. How did that happen?


Will Voice Ever Go Away?


I don’t know about you but when I’m really unhappy with the service a brand provides me, I still pick up the phone - email, chat and messaging just don’t cut it. In fact, many enterprises continue to prioritise a phone number as the escalation path. If I want to self-service first, humans assume humans can also fix our problems better. This concurs with studies we’ve seen where over 60% of all customer complaints and tricky service conversations will default to your voice channel. The flip side is that for short ‘need to know now’ type interactions, I’ll use web chat or messaging as I don’t need to carve out big chunks of my busy day to get an answer.


The reality then is voice won’t be disappearing any time soon, but for some problems and people, the preference will diminish. If we can start looking past a one-size fits all approach, then we can start making technology work for us and be closer to what was promised.

Start with the outcome desired by your customers and, in context of their value to your business and your strategic business goals, what is the best experience you can offer to get them there. If the answer for some remains Voice channel, then so be it. Embrace that.


Staffing


Call centres have a long heritage of delivering call handing support for customers and the general operational metrics have been in place for many years. They are well understood and managed.


This gives us a challenge as we evolve our Digital Transformation strategy. We’ve all heard how targets of ‘answering a call within 3 rings’, or having a ‘call queue of less than 2 minutes’ have been used to drive behaviour and align outsourcing contracts and bonus structures.

Now over the past few years our call centres have become contact centres, taking on responsibility for new digital channels like web chat, messaging and Social Media. As mentioned above we’ve been told that channel shift and operational efficiencies would deliver cost reduction and higher CSAT / NPS.


Customer Services Directors are being re-badged as Customer Experience Directors but, invariably, managing customer experience against legacy customer service metrics. No wonder many digital engagement projects have created complexity, cost and negative KPI impact. So, what has gone wrong?


The answer – Absolutely nothing!


Well not from a technology perspective anyway. The issue is that the expectations set when initiating a digital engagement strategy didn’t factor in an appreciation of latent demand, the complexities of multi-channel operational staffing and the strategies needed to move customers to a digital first / mobile first strategy.


Here’s a few experiences to look out for when you next visit your favourite brand, this will help us understand the implications in context of staffing:

- Web chat

o How easy is it to find?

o Does it know what you are trying to achieve?

o Is the agent actually empowered to answer your query?

- Voice

o Are you greeted personally?

o Does it feel like you’re going to get to help quickly?

o Does it know that you’re call is an escalation of another event/failure in service?

- Email

o Are you confident it will even get answered?

o Do you get a response that leads you to believe your question was understood?

o Is it a natural conversation?


Now there are many nuanced reasons for these experiences ranging from budget ownership, to legacy operational processes, and expectations set in various simplified ROI models. However, there have been 2 general truths:

1. Digital channels have been bolted on the side of the contact strategy, often seen as an inconvenience, rather than absorbed as a cornerstone for an evolved customer engagement strategy

2. Contact volume – Making it easier to connect to a brand will drive volume and, depending on how the programs are architected, will actually increase the number of repeat contacts.


If you look at staffing and budgets from the customer journey / customer outcome perspective, channels become irrelevant when they are formed to deliver on overarching engagement strategy. Today they are siloed across voice, digital and social rather than integrated across customer journeys.

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