In the last year, the unforeseen effects of the pandemic have been a catalyst for prolific change in how brands and organisations engage with their customers and employees.

The contact centre moved to the cloud and its agents swiftly adapted to home working. Companies across a variety of sectors had to fast track remote operations, and those with existing cloud-enabling technologies in place took the opportunity to enhance and refine their offerings. Many engaged in deeper digital transformation to meet the advanced demands of their customers, who themselves were adapting to the new normal.

One thing is clear – cloud-enabling technology has been at the forefront of allowing business continuity and development. Many organisations are now looking to utilize it for further evolution, hoping to increase agility and robustness for future unexpected circumstances.

Here, Colin Campbell discusses some of the key factors that have shaped the customer service sector over the last year and will continue to lead the customer experience industry agenda.

Customer experience strategy as a vital factor for business survival

The majority of boardrooms are now looking to differentiate their customer experience. Gartner led its 2020 virtual summit with the topic – Developing a “total experience” strategy to create interlinked experiences for customers and employees. Some further findings also confirmed that customer experience is the number one priority for organisations over the next five years – above product and pricing.

Online interactions will continue to increase as personal, low touch, and frictionless digital communications have become the norm and will continue as we look to the future. Therefore, winning customer experience strategies are central to companies’ survival as the customer is front and centre to success. Investing in CX initiatives has the potential to significantly increase your revenue, and organisations with customer-led operation strategies and board-level responsibility will prosper.

Propelling customer service through cloud-enabling technologies

There are many clear advantages of cloud-enabling technology for businesses. Automation, for instance, can propel organisations to the next level of service offering to meet the changing demands of the customer and empower staff to do less mundane tasks.

Olive, part of the Onecom Group, found that the rise of AI in e-commerce resulted in over half of call centre agents feeling more empowered and motivated with 42% of agents feeling more productive.

Companies that are taking advantage of cloud-enabling technologies and automation with intelligent virtual agents, for example, can now offer a 24/7 automation service for better customer service – which was not possible before. Automated tasks now look to harness the power of AI on the continuous journey to achieving great customer satisfaction.

Moving forward, as we plan for a return to the ‘new’ workplace, it’s likely that many contact centres, in line with other industries, will continue to operate flexibly. The future is hybrid – offering choice and flexibility to a diverse and skilled talent pool of agents regardless of location. And cloud-enabling technology will continue to enhance this for both contact centre staff and end customers.

Using remote support tools for protecting employees

Historically, it’s been difficult to enable people to work from home. Now, we have the applications and tools to keep agents working remotely. But just the ability to operate from home is no longer good enough. It’s essential to provide a great employee experience to keep agents engaged in the goals of the organisation and make them feel part of the team. Happy employees make happy customers.

There are many employee engagement and workforce management tools that can enable this through the accommodation of the new virtual home agent. These remote support tools can virtually observe agent activity and assist when required.

It’s important to note that the tools are there to aid and not ‘spy’. Positioned correctly and used appropriately, these can coach and support employees. Furthermore, companies that use these tools can help their agents deliver a seamless frictionless customer experience. The constant support will benefit the business from increased employee engagement, productivity, and most of all, satisfaction.

Obtaining a single view for valued customer experience

Customers need multiple engagement points to connect. Following the premise, brands with a show me you know me approach have a higher chance to meet customer expectations.

To achieve this approach and succeed, it’s imperative to have a single customer view. An enhanced contact centre team, operating as one, from any location, and utilising cloud-enabling technology can create a truly valued customer experience. It also empowers contact centre agents to own the customer relationship and stay ‘in the loop’ about any previous customer interactions – no matter which channels were used.

Additional enhancements, such as the utilisation of subject matter experts − trained resources that are often based in bricks and mortar stores – can further be on hand to offer additional superior insight, if needed. This also presents great upselling opportunities, as brands can potentially elevate a general query to the next level and grasp a new sales opportunity.

Leading a strong customer community culture

Harnessing customer capital is one of the best strategies to implement on the journey to providing an outstanding customer experience. Companies that mine their customer capital are tapping into and utilising their most valuable resource.

Olive recently undertook a large-scale digital cloud contact centre project with one of the UK’s leading financial organisations with a strong customer-driven and community-focused culture. Intending to involve its customer community in the decision-making process from the start, Olive conceived a series of innovation workshops. Customers were invited to engage and debate in what they wanted from their CX and demonstrate possible solutions to meet their needs.

It was the customers who had the final say in how they wanted to communicate. End users became the finance company’s biggest brand advocates and customer champions. When engaged with this community, the business also learnt about what competitors’ products customers were using, thus gleaning valuable insight and a lead on the competition.

To draw a conclusion, customer and employee experience appears as a continuous cycle of improvement on the journey to achieving customer satisfaction. All these elements will continue to drive organisations in their pursuit of achieving excellence at such an exciting time for the industry.

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