Almost half of Australia is back in lockdown and when people are uncertain, they pick up the phone.
Never has there been a more important time for contact centres to deliver fast, reliable and effective customer service, particularly as non-essential services shutter their doors and work-from-home mandates come into force around the country.
During last year’s round of lockdowns, many contact centre agents struggled with the siloed processes resulting from disparate technology systems, which made it difficult to resolve customer queries at a time when support was desperately needed.
Already this year, gaps in service delivery have been revealed, with health staff in Central Queensland, through no fault of their own, receiving mounting levels of abuse from customers calling through to book in their vaccinations. This follows last year’s incident of a supermarket chain in Australia shutting down almost all of its phone lines due to the verbal mistreatment of its customer service agents.
In recent times I have witnessed a trend of customer contact leaders investing heavily in public-facing digital products to address perceived service gaps and improve the customer experience. These same technologies have not flowed through to the agent experience, creating a digital divide where agents are still handling customer enquiries with analogue tools and outdated processes.
My neon-lit message to contact centre leaders is to not let the agent experience fall by the wayside. Just look at the research. A recent Gallup study found that satisfied employees are three times as likely to solve customer issues and problems than employees that are less engaged or motivated.
We need to equip our agents with the right tools to optimise their experience, support their own wellbeing and deliver value to customers. To do this in a way that is quick and accurate, as well as knowledgeable and personalised, they need the right technologies in their corner. If agents are burdened by digging through mountains of data or switching through multiple applications to find the answer to a customer’s question, this becomes a Sisyphean task.
Contact centre leaders should leverage AI and machine learning to enable agents to use their time effectively and provide engaging customer resolutions. For the example, the integration Google Cloud AI capabilities with our core contact centre platform both saves time (for agents and customers) and creates sophisticated interactions by pairing employees with digital co-workers that automatically convert human voice interactions into actionable outcomes by feeding data to agents when they need it.
These digital co-workers can take on the time-intensive tasks of collating, analysing and interpreting data, so that agents can allocate their time towards the interpersonal elements of customer interactions. This can include transcribing interactions in real time, so that agents do not miss important information while typing notes during calls. Digital co-workers can also determine the times of day employees are less productive, and recommend they switch from doing real-time tasks to emails or training sessions, supporting their wellbeing and ensuring there is no compromise to customer service.
Contact centre agents should also be empowered by the rest of their organisation, with customer centricity traversing every team and blurring the lines between sales, marketing and customer service departments. This ensures everyone is ready to pool their skills together to solve enquiries, and that subject experts can be efficiently called upon to answer questions in their remit. One of our customers recently successfully employed this by transporting the routing engine from their contact centre into the back office, which added a layer of prioritisation, allocation and accountability to the support tickets sent to subject experts in the back of the office.
If the current lockdowns in Australia have proven anything, it’s that the future of the workplace cannot be proven. What we can be certain of is that customers will continue wanting fast, reliable, personalised and insightful answers to their questions, and contact agents will need the right tools in their arsenal to meet the challenge.