The customer experience industry is in transition. According to a new report, State of Customer Experience 2017, published by West, 88% of customer service professionals expect digital interaction to overtake voice calls by 2020 or sooner. This is great news, as the digital channel opens new opportunities for contact centres to own and improve the customer experience. In fact, 88% of customer experience and contact professionals in our report also believe that the contact centre can, and should, play a key role in defining and proactively managing the customer journey between channels, an area where they are increasingly sharing territory with marketing and sales.

Improving the Customer Experience

Improving the customer experience has become a priority for most businesses. According to a Walker study, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020, so organisations are gearing up to ensure they can deliver. It is in their best interests after all: positive customer experiences convert into sales. And conversely, poor customer experience leads to lost revenue: around £234 billion of lost value to UK businesses in a typical year, according to research commissioned by West in 2016, Converting Customer Experience to Revenue.

Customer behaviour is evolving rapidly, and so are expectations. This presents an interesting challenge for businesses: how to improve the customer experience while respecting the customer’s need for privacy.

Why? Because the key to a better, more personal experience for every customer lies in deriving greater insights from collected data. The more data-driven insights you have about a customer, the better you can address their needs and tailor their experience. But this also means more personal information held on your systems for hackers and cyber criminals to steal. And, with the EU GDPR regulation looming, the costs of a data breach can be high – up to €20m or 4% of annual worldwide turnover, whichever is greater – far exceeding the current maximum of £500,000. In fact, the Payment Industry Security Standards Council has warned that UK businesses could face up to £122bm in penalties when the EU legislation comes into effect in 2018.

Businesses Still Need to Store Your Data

 Brands today are often required to tread a tightrope between respecting customer privacy and using data to personalise customer experiences. Let’s look at outbound as an example or an area that’s highly dependent on the quality of customer data. Nobody welcomes an intrusive call from a contact centre. Cold calling’s success has plummeted since the adoption of mobile phones and number recognition technology, and Ofcom regulations have tightened up on ‘invasive’ outreach. Yet outbound can still be very useful if done right.

Credit control aside, there are numerous ways a contact centre can proactively anticipate the customers’ needs via an outbound contact, whether that is a voice call or an SMS text.

Think of how convenient it is when your bank knows that you recently applied for a mortgage and is able to offer you the best suited building insurance on a follow up call, for example.

Some people, however, prefer emails or text, and may have requested that they are not contacted by phone on a first instance. If this data is stored and used correctly, then your contact centre platform will ensure agents only approach customers’ via their preferred channel, avoiding invasive contact. But, this can only happen if they have your data stored and available to review.

It is not just outbound that benefits from good use of customer data. The foundation of a successful inbound contact centre strategy – and a quality customer experience – is an intelligent contact flow. Don’t waste time passing your customers around multiple agents who can’t help them – all this achieves is frazzled agents and disappointed customers.

Your contact centre platform should support intelligent data-directed routing that automatically routes calls to the best possible agent, such as the one your customer has previously spoken to, or the one with the right skill set to deal with their specific enquiry.

Remember also that inflexible call scripts can be a big turn off for customers. By using dynamic, integrated customisable scripting you can ensure that your agents have the appropriate response for any customer interaction as well as access to the customer record with full cross-channel interaction history. A dynamic script should provide agents with simple step-by-step guides for straightforward enquiries, but also provide ‘branching’ scripts where necessary, offering a range of options for agents as they take customers through more complex enquiries. Remember though, you are offering guiding principles and prompts rather than entire scripts – no one wants their agent to sound robotic.

How Cloud-Based Technology Can Address the Challenges

So, how do we marry both the need to use customer data in order to meet customer expectations and deliver the experience they deserve, and the duty to keep this data safe? While no solution is completely bullet-proof, and nothing is un-hackable, cloud technology can help with both business goals. On the one hand, a better experience requires better technology. West’s State of Customer Experience 2017 confirms that a cloud-based solution has become the preferred infrastructure choice for most organisations today, as it is best suited to meet their business strategy requirements and future needs.

The Cloud can also provide good security if the migration is done right. A quality cloud provider will have a network of datacentres, and will comply with the international standard for information security, ISO 27001. This standard is recognised globally as the most comprehensive and robust framework for managing businesses security responsibilities. This will also be supplemented by regular intrusion detection monitoring, penetration testing and virus scanning.

Security Also Means Compliance

Another area that has historically been costly for businesses, but that is essential for security is PCI-DSS compliance. This regulation around the storage of cardholder data is increasingly complex, and as it applies to any business that takes card payments it is broadly applicable to many contact centres. Premiums and fines from credit card companies for those that fail to comply, in addition to complex and costly routes for those who seek to implement compliance within their business, have made the whole ordeal prohibitively expensive.

On one hand, there’s often a requirement to record calls for training and quality purposes. However, these recordings are even more important from a compliance standpoint. Most regulations now require a continuous end-to-end recording, but PCI-DSS regulations also stipulate that credit card data cannot be stored. PCI compliance is made much simpler thanks to advanced cloud-based applications. The whole agent conversation can be recorded without interruption, but without having any card information stored on business systems or heard by agents.

Meet Your Customers’ Expectations in All Fronts

The digitally savvy customer is not only changing their behaviours and expectations from a customer experience standpoint. They are also more aware than ever of the potential of fraud, and increasingly aware of the rules with regards to the protection of their data, particularly when it comes to payment cards. If contact centres want to stand out from the competition, security cannot be overlooked.  Many organisations are finding that by migrating to a cloud-based platform, built with multichannel customers in mind, they can improve the customer experience more cost-effectively than trying to patch together legacy infrastructure. And, at the same time cloud-based platforms can offer a far more secure alternative to on-premise software.

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About The Author

VP of Sales and Business Development at West

Enda Kenneally is the VP of Sales and Business Development at West, previously Magnetic North. Enda has a wealth of experience in the communications technology industry delivering against UK, European and Global senior sales and business development roles. By building inspired, dynamic and successful teams, Enda has led three different voice vendors to No one market share positions in the UK. Before joining Magnetic North (now West), Enda worked at Avaya, Excell Managed Services and Mitel Networks.