Throughout the pandemic, people turned to contact centres to get the crucial help, assistance, and information they needed. With shops shut, information offices closed and banks unable to open, customers had little option than to call a contact centre to resolve a broadband issue, defer a mortgage payment, or find out when their online shopping order would be delivered.

From an operational perspective, the COVID-19 crisis highlighted a multiplicity of business continuity. It also showcased capacity challenges threatening contact centres that operate in both the public and private sectors.  In times of crisis, customers want to be heard and understood. Those contact centres that had already made the move to cloud solutions and subscription-based service models were able to rapidly scale up customer support. They’ve managed to seamlessly re-deploy agents to work from home and cope with the surge in calls.

In an era when customer experience has become the key brand differentiator, one thing is for sure. The status of the contact centre’s role as an organisation’s most visible and primary customer touchpoint has been significantly elevated by the coronavirus crisis. Yet, frontline workers undertaking vital roles in contact centres are often overworked and stressed. As a result, staff turnover in the contact centre industry currently stands at around 26%, considerably more than the national average of 15%.

Future brand performance depends on employee wellbeing

More than four percent of the UK’s entire working population is employed in contact centres, so it is vital to ensure these employees feel satisfied – both socially and economically. Yet, in 2021, contact centre agents cited excessive workloads and mundane tasks as the top reason for leaving their jobs.

Organisations that want to improve their employee engagement must prioritise tackling these primary causes of staff attrition. Failure to do so risks unnecessarily losing employees due to burnout, which in turn impacts the quality of service provided to customers.

Indications are that customer demand will continue to rise because the pandemic has accelerated consumer digital behaviours for the long term. To successfully manage the growing volume of inbound interactions and deliver against rapidly changing customer expectations, organisations will need to address the needs of contact centre employees and prioritise them.

Accelerating innovation

Many organisations have made efforts to rethink the contact centre in 2021 and highlight the importance of employee wellbeing. They made crucial steps toward fast-tracking digital innovations to eliminate the repetitive tasks that contribute to high staff turnover.

For example, today’s AI and machine-assisted customer engagement tools make it possible to streamline processes and deliver personalised services to customers, while boosting the capabilities of their human agents.

Using technologies like intelligent chatbots to automate day-to-day issue resolution for customers, many organisations are allowing their call centre agents to focus on more complex queries. They are also using AI to present information to an agent during customer interactions or to automatically complete and update customer records during conversations. The combination reduces the 15-20 percent of time agents spend looking up information on various systems while making it easier for them to resolve customer queries quickly and accurately.

The key point here is that organizations are re-evaluating the use of technology to augment and automate service and support employees. By doing so, they are enabling an agile approach to balancing their supply and demand needs.

Reduced wait times and self-service options that empower customers to solve their own problems is proving a winner for both customers and contact centre employees. Research shows that early adopters of AI report around a 25% improvement in customer experience (CX) alongside a better employee experience.

Flexible working options for employee wellbeing

During the pandemic, many contact centres had to move to the cloud, virtualise their operations and address some key process and people issues to enable remote working at scale. In the process, they discovered new ways to maintain productivity and effectiveness despite operating a new distributed environment.

The past 12 months has been a rapid learning experience for the contact centre workforce too. For many, the virtual contact centre has opened up a raft of new flexible work options that they are keen to embrace going forward.

According to Deloitte, more than one in five UK workers still wants to work from home once lockdown restrictions lift, so remote workforce models look to become a permanent fixture. The benefits of a remote digital workplace give organisations opportunities to reframe their contact centre operations and boost customer satisfaction. It is also compelling when it comes to increasing agent retention and job satisfaction. With the benefit of hindsight over the last year, it seems clear an improved work/life balance and greater empowerment over schedules will lead to happier employees and increased agent retention rates.

It’s time to shift to a better workplace experience

As organisations embark on their ‘build back better’ projects, employee wellbeing is being acknowledged as a key marker for sustained commercial success. We’re beginning to realize that a happy workforce drives higher customer satisfaction, reduces employee churn, and ensures greater profitability.

Now, enhancing workforce engagement depends on harnessing new tools and technologies. This practice gives employees greater flexibility in terms of tackling work tasks and integrating their responsibilities in daily lives.

The past year has presented contact centres with an opportunity to accelerate digital transformation and evolve their contact centres into value-generating engagement hubs. By implementing cutting-edge cloud-powered contact centres that offer AI capabilities, they’ve empowered employees to perform their jobs more efficiently and with much less stress. For many, cascading the lessons learned in the contact centre to benefit employees across the organisation will generate lasting gains.

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