There’s a direct correlation between excellent customer service and business growth. We’ve seen in the last year how customer expectations can change rapidly, sparking a scramble for organisations to adjust their customer service offerings and CX strategy accordingly to avoid being left behind by more agile competitors.
Artur Nowakowski, chief technology officer of ContactCenter4ALL, argues that those who do not act now to deploy a strong digital framework for customer service and CX risk significantly falling behind the curve. He draws on over 15 years of experience in the contact centre market to share his predictions for the year ahead – from truly intelligent customer routing through to the value of building strong industry partnerships.
We’ve seen a significant proportion of businesses across every major industry make significant progress on developing digital solutions over the past two years, mostly as a short-term reaction to pandemic disruption. Customer service has been a priority – and Africa is well-placed to meet this demand for first-class CX, with South Africa being named the most favoured offshore CX delivery location in 2021 in the Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey, and Egypt too breaking into the top five.
According to Gartner, more than half of researched customer service leaders have identified “growing the business” as a service priority for 2022. But the move has brought to the fore challenges such as how to deliver modern customer experiences on legacy systems, the complexities of supporting long-term hybrid working and considerations of how to deploy advanced capabilities such as granular reporting.
Compliance with recent legislation, such as the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) which came into effect in 2021, also poses a fresh challenge around data security.
Proven platforms are vital to meet CX demands
Today’s digital communications platforms such as Microsoft Teams are providing a strong framework on which to build contact centers that are future proof and capable of delivering on these service and technology focused challenges – but there is still more to be done for many organisations.
Looking at the year ahead, I see three key focus areas that will feature high on the agenda of any contact center leader – and they will need to act rapidly to stay ahead of more agile competitors in the digital CX race:
Ease of deployment and operation – but scalability essential
There are multiple challenges ahead for both organisations that acted quickly during Covid disruption to embrace digital solutions and those that are still assessing how to move ahead with digital transformation of service operations.
Deployment method remains high up this list. It is clear the mass shift to hybrid and remote working has not been a short-term fad – it is here to stay. In a recent survey by Old Mutual, more than half of respondents now work from home at least some of the time. Business leaders must ensure their technology and digital infrastructure is as flexible as their workforce today. This inevitably requires a shift to the cloud.
Cloud-based solutions offer a vast range of benefits over more ‘traditional’, on-premise deployment options. Looking beyond ease of access for remote and hybrid workers, cloud-native contact center platforms provide an opportunity for IT departments to comfortably scale operations up or down without major disruption – say, during seasonal peak times for customer service demands.
These cloud solutions are typically faster to deploy than on-premise solutions, allow for greater cost control via easy addition or removal of specific features or add-ons, and offer a far greater a level of cybersecurity provided by the cloud host – vital during these times of increased cyberattacks and highly damaging ransomware.
The good news for those companies that have been hesitant to make the leap to cloud is that they need not lose their existing hardware and software investments – migration from on-premise to the cloud is a seamless process, especially when tapping into cloud contact centre vendors that offer extensive migration support.
Keeping the human touch while solving customer queries first time, every time
We’ve seen the rise of technology such as automation and self-service platforms change the way many customer service operations are delivered, but the ‘human touch’ of a service agent in a one-to-one customer interaction will still be vital going forwards.
Beyond simply offering basic personalisation features, contact centres must be able to ensure customers are being served by the most relevant, informed agent available at the time – preferably as soon as possible.
This has previously required numerous transfers, hold periods and a mixture of warm and cold transfers that can often create a disconnect in the customer experience. Here’s where skills-based routing will save the day: automatically identifying available agents and their specific skill-sets, and transferring inbound customer queries accordingly – cutting wait times and keeping customers happy and engaged in the process.
As the number of available service channels – from WhatsApp and the ever-popular phone call through to live chat forms – continues to broaden, having this flexible routing that can direct queries based on specific events will truly help contact centres stand out from less flexible competitors.
Tech partners can make or break contact centre ambitions
Deploying a cloud contact centre solution is more than a one-off rollout process – it should be an opportunity to establish a long-term partnership between the tech vendor and buying organisation.
When selecting a contact centre software vendor, strength and capability of solution is just one criteria for consideration – strength of vendor expertise is equally critical. This should cover everything from local presence and market knowledge through to post-deployment support and solution development.
Microsoft experience is not enough, you need a partner that understands the CX business
At CC4ALL, for example, we focus on and excel at delivering contact centre solutions to specific markets such as Europe, North America, Africa and Australia – helping organisations in these regions deploy advanced software without investing significant time or capacity of their own.
By fully developing a contact centre solution in-house, this means future development of new features and capabilities is purely customer-driven, helping continuously enhance a solution to meet emerging agent and end-customer demands. At CC4ALL, this takes the form of a partner board to help shape their overall vision of the contact centre of the future.
Act now for digital contact centre maturity
It is clear that digital innovation and customer demands will not stand still post-pandemic. Organisations looking to establish a lasting reputation for excellent customer service will need to act immediately to put in place a framework for a long-term digital contact centre presence. Identifying the right partner to deliver on this ambition will only make the process so much easier.
Opting for a contact centre software partner than can integrate into existing, leading communications platforms such as Microsoft Teams will put contact centre leaders in a strong position for the future – whether this is adopting further capabilities such as powerful real-time analytics from the same portfolio, or reaping the rewards of ongoing feature development – all securely delivered anywhere in the world via the cloud.