Today’s businesses are dealing with many post-COVID-19 pandemic challenges that are impacting customer experience (CX). Like the global supply chain, which is a mess and about to get worse. People are buying more, but manufacturers and shippers are struggling to keep up and prices are increasing.
But we have fewer team members, and they are trying to cover more roles. Plus, people are still leaving their jobs. The people who are staying want to work-from-home (WFH) at least part of the time.
Employees are likely pushing the limits of work hours, doing the best they can to address the growing need for a positive CX.
Yet it’s challenging to find ways to improve CX while reducing costs and decrease both employee burnout and customer churn.
Technology is also changing rapidly and it’s tough to keep systems up-to-date and secure so that people can provide the experience your customers are looking for.
As business leaders, we sometimes need a reminder that we don’t need to do everything ourselves. Running a business is already a huge job. So where do you start to make changes to impact the CX?
Adapting to the New Normal
People expect more from their work environments today. They want intuitive tools to chat, have a meeting, instant message, collaborate, and quickly find and share technical and company information or tap into the expertise of co-workers.
The pandemic-driven WFH mandate made IT scramble to get employees remotely working in any way possible. It’s important now to consider extending work-from-anywhere communications and collaboration capabilities to retain your best employees. It is also now time to clean things up and make sure what is deployed is secure as part of your long-term digital transformation plan.
Customers don’t care where your employees are. They just want the help they want, when they want it, and on the medium they choose. And they only want to search for or ask for it once. Giving employees the ability to communicate and collaborate from anywhere is therefore a key to providing a positive CX.
New Tech and Issues
Hybrid work is here to stay for most businesses. I can tell you from hosting live interactive lunch and learn video calls every month that we talk about this a lot, and it is already happening at most companies.
Employees are using email and Slack/Teams in the office and continuing conversations after hours from their homes.
They may be using these same tools to get quick updates from other employees, or they may have set up technology they found on their own. Maybe they have created shared folders of manuals on a server at the office or created an account at an online file storage platform that they can access from home and share via messaging with other salespeople, support, or customers.
However, in many cases employees have been deploying these tools without the knowledge of their IT departments, which could lead to a host of security issues. Known as Shadow IT, this practice is here to stay, so it needs to be addressed.
As the CEO of a technology consulting company, my team and I address every day how to help unify the pieced-together, rogue communications happening inside companies. Often, we are trying to help solve these problems for companies that have not yet embraced a completely digital approach to customer service.
And it’s our experience that most of their customers—most people—would prefer to use simple, self-service options like articles, chatbots, or IVR before seeking help, by phone, from a live person.
Still, many companies remain stuck in a voice-only world when it comes to customer service and support.
So, what do you do if this is where you are starting from? If you already have a few people on the phones or even a small contact center dealing with this, it might be tempting to throw 10 different tools at the problem. One of your team members may suggest a piece of the technology puzzle and another team member may want something else.
This goes on almost everywhere. But if you don’t have good tool integration, everyone answering those customer service phone calls is going to experience tool fatigue. There is a high risk, then, that they will burn out pretty fast. That also means your customers’ experiences will be impacted negatively.
Plus, how do you know the best way to provide service for a client, the way that they want? Service requests may come into your business on web forms, via text messages, email, social media, voice calls, and lots of other channels.
Often, these requests can be addressed by providing better online resources or deploying virtual agents. Chatbots are now so closely mimicking human interactions that your customers may never know they aren’t interacting with a human, which could be great for you.
Artificial intelligence (AI) in bot form takes care of many problems quickly, and if the customer requests, the interaction can easily involve your human team.
Therefore, it is not one or the other in terms of AI versus human interaction. It is a delicate blend of the two based on your customers’ needs, your agents’ abilities, and your company’s ability to support the solution.
CCaaS and UCaaS
To ensure that a contact center agent or a small company’s tech support person and the customer each has the best experience, you need the right tools. You also need to figure out how to empower anyone speaking to customers with the ability to answer questions quickly and correctly the first time.
That means, at a minimum, giving your employees the solutions needed to support your customer engagement. These solutions are best accessed on-demand from the cloud. Contact Center as a Service or CCaaS, rather than on-premises installation, delivers benefits of maximum flexibility, mobility, omnichannel uniformity, minimal onsite IT resources outlays (OpEx rather than CapEx), and superior business continuity.
CCaaS solutions can help in many different ways, from cloud-based automatic call distribution (ACD), IVR, and agent optimization to voice transcription and keyword analysis. With no agent involvement, a platform can instantly suggest answers based on what the customer is saying. Or it can deliver on-screen suggestions to agents in real-time as they speak to customers and in historical form for review and analysis later.
Alongside CCaaS, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is another option to support collaborative communications between your team members. The same benefits outlined for CCaaS also apply to UCaaS.
Here’s how UCaaS can work:
- Steve answers a tech support call about a repair using a particular auto part. Since repair is not his specialty, Steve texts Brittney in the parts department.
- Brittney is away from her desk, so she instant messages her colleague Jo from a mobile device and asks for help.
- Jo receives a secure message on a tablet on the shop floor and answers Brittney via messaging. Brittney texts the repair advice to Steve, where it appears on his desktop.
- Steve tells the customer the information on the repair while still on the phone and offers to email a support guide, which he grabs from the company’s server. The caller confirms they have everything they need.
All communications happen securely and quickly. The team gets the information to the customer during the call. They access tools that are easy to use from anywhere. Everyone: the customer and employees are on their way to having positive experiences.
Several platform providers integrate UCaaS and CCaaS in a single unified tool, which can combat tool fatigue even more powerfully. And imagine being able to securely collect all customer data on every communications channel, making it actionable and searchable for your team, in the moment and historically.
Find a Trusted Advisor
Finding the right technologies can get complicated, but many companies are still trying to do everything themselves. Getting your talent away from the everyday maintenance of things and getting them to do higher-level business engagements is what Packet Fusion advocates and what Trusted Advisors do.
Again, technology is key. Some treat “technology” as a cost center. But that viewpoint needs to be changed. Technology is an investment and while it should reduce costs for you over time, it will immediately provide a better experience for both your customers and employees, thereby reducing the chance of burnout and cutting down on churn.
Companies can act as your Trusted Advisor. They offer free services to help you understand your problems and find and implement the right solutions and allowing you to focus on your business.
A Trusted Advisor is an extension of your team, understanding the ins and outs of everything from your business process to helping formulate technology roadmaps. They take that knowledge and act as a liaison between you and all of your vendors.
Your Trusted Advisor can identify your specific challenges and the tools you may already have. Then they should also share how best to integrate existing tools with the right platform chosen for you to build on.
Your Trusted Advisor should also provide input on workforce management (WFM) and staffing. How many people should be providing customer service day-to-day, and how can you predict staffing changes? This knowledge can help you reduce team member churn and provide your managers with actionable data.
This data is more than likely not available today from your existing platform. But with any new CCaaS or CCaaS/UCaaS combined platform chosen, WFM should be an option for the collection and analysis of data and the ability to streamline visualizations to allow managers to properly schedule their human resources and provide a more positive CX.
Finally, and most importantly, your Trusted Advisor can help determine the optimal solution for you and your customers.